Category Archives: Google

10 Key Takeaways from F8 2015

Written by: Tom Edwards
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I attended the F8 Facebook Developer Conference 2015 last month, and below is a recap of the 10 key takeaways from the annual developer conference that outline the current and future state of plans of one of the world’s largest tech companies.

F8 2015 Top 10

Current State

The primary theme was that Facebook is a “people first” company. Facebook is now positioning its core offerings as a family of applications that are designed to align with how people are naturally using technology to engage and share.

F8 2015 Current State

It was quickly noticeable that each platform now plays a very specific role in the Facebook ecosystem. WhatsApp will continue to be a modest messaging platform, while Instagram will maintain a focus on simplicity and creative expression. Facebook Messenger is quickly being positioned as the primary mechanism for one-on-one communication, and direct connection to businesses and groups continues to be of great importance for 700 million people who want to collaborate around specific topics.

Meanwhile, the core Facebook experience is focused on further extending its video capabilities while setting the foundation for their future — to support more deeply immersive forms of content, such as virtual reality.

Enhanced Messaging

One of the larger announcements from the conference was the expansion of Messenger as a third-party development platform. This is an important move for Facebook, especially since WhatsApp confirmed during the conference that they will not be providing API’s anytime soon on their product road map.

F8 2015 Enhanced Messaging 1

Third parties can now reach and engage over 600 million active users. With the Messenger Platform it is possible to drive discovery, engagement, and attribution through images, videos, GIFs, and sound clips.

Applications can either be stand-alone apps designed to enhance conversations, or it is possible for a brand application to create a workflow to share content through messenger and deep link into the messenger optimized experience in their native application.

F8 2015 Enhanced Messaging 2

Facebook also announced the beta launch of businesses on Messenger, which is how Facebook envisions brands and consumers engaging directly through enhanced customer service. They hope that this will add value to the consumer through templates that can showcase product details and enhanced order details.

Embedded Video

Facebook users are viewing over 3 billion videos per day, and Facebook took another step toward challenging Google-owned YouTube for market share by launching a new embedded video capability.

The new feature supports view-count synchronization, full-bleed video, and includes social actions in video such as “like” and “share.” Also important to note is that the desktop version is Flash-based and mobile is HTML5.

F8 2015 Embedded Video

In recent Facebook briefings there have been discussions about Q3 introducing sequential storytelling into the fold. This is one area where the current embedded video option is lacking compared to YouTube. YouTube currently has the ability to create annotations, and now has “cards” to create connections between assets.

Importance of Advocacy

With all of the talk about Facebook and their other brands’ lack of organic reach, it was confirmed that for users, the News Feed is still what determines the content that is served. This confirmed that peer-to-peer sharing remains the most viable option for content-centric brands.

Another central theme was tied to the sharing of content and, with that, the importance of creating relevant and engaging content that inspires consumers to share. It is also important to create content that is tailored for the specific audience and to utilize the ideal application from the Facebook family delivery and discovery.

F8 2015 Importance of Advocacy

While most social brand personification strategies have taken a back seat now on Facebook’s primary platform due to the shift toward reach and frequency, leveraging consumer and employee advocates — as well as groups — are still viable means to distribute a message outside of paid advertising.

State of Plug-Ins

Social plug-ins have been a staple of the Facebook ecosystem for years. The Facebook social plug-ins team outlined their intentions to redefine the experience of many of the standard plug-ins in order to create a richer mobile experience.

The first step will be to relaunch Facebook moderation tools to allow greater flexibility and an optimized experience for moderation that includes bulk actions and custom lists — and is being rewritten from scratch.

F8 2015 State of Plug Ins

The team also outlined they are testing a new form of comment mirroring that aggregates comments from external news articles to the Facebook page, and vice versa. This is a significant point to consider, as this will align different audiences and shift the potential engagement that happens on-page.

Instagram

The Instagram team reiterated their focus on being community-first, and maintained that simplicity matters above all else when it comes to their product roadmap and the overall experience of the application.

The team confirmed that the Instagram News feed is 100 percent deterministic, meaning that the content posted from your followers will appear in your feed. Based on this feedback, the idea of potentially adding features such as a “regram” button is not currently part of the plan, as the goal is to keep the experience as uncomplicated as possible.

F8 2015 Instagram

They reiterated that Instagram is not a distribution platform for brands. “Likes,” “follows,” and comments will not necessarily drive additional visibility within the platform due to the deterministic feed and the lack of any type of “regram” functionality. For brands, the ideal approach is to curate against existing behaviors, and create a relationship with passionate fans that showcases their view of the brand as the core asset in order to fuel your branded experiences.

Omnichannel

In recent years, Facebook has increased their focus on shopper and direct response capabilities. They stated that they view omnichannel as the future of commerce, and that they are positioning their cross-channel approach as the ideal for brands.

Facebook highlighted the size of their network, the persistence of logged-in identity, and their cross-platform approach as to why they should be considered as a holistic omnichannel offering.

F8 2015 Omnichannel

A key point of discussion was tied to cross-screen attribution without proxies. With their SDK and conversion pixel, they stated that they have the ability to capture accurate measurement tied to their real users.

Future State

The most intriguing aspect of F8 was the insight into the future of Facebook strategy as outlined by Mike Schroepfer, CTO, Facebook. In his keynote speech, he discussed the three core areas of focus for the near future: Planetary connectivity, natural interfaces, and immersive experiences.

F8 2015 Future State

In the near future, services that scale and planetary connectivity are key areas of focus for Facebook. One of the key initiatives is tied to the Aquila, their unmanned solar drone. The drone is designed to stay aloft for three months at a time, in order to deliver connectivity for remote regions.

Information overload was also an area of discussion for the future of Facebook. The goal is to build contextual systems that deal with information overload. One approach is the use of artificial intelligence built around the concept of convolutional neural nets that essentially create deeper associations between content elements at a faster rate than a simple algorithm.

The last of the three core pillars of the future state of Facebook is tied to the importance of creating and enabling the consumption of immersive content such as virtual reality. One of the crucial direct points was the fact that 3D spherical videos will be supported in the Facebook News Feed. This is setting up for the immersive virtual reality experiences that are to come.

Parse + IOT

Facebook’s Parse was also a primary area of focus. Facebook acquired Parse in 2013. Since then, they have been working to leverage the platform as a service that offers to provide additional rapid development services to mobile app developers, such as user management, push notifications, and analytics at scale.

F8 2015 Parse + IOT

Now with over 400,000 apps built on Parse, the Facebook team is extending Parse to connect Internet of Things experiences. Facebook wants to make it easier for developers to leverage data from connected devices into their applications.

Many other tech heavyweights are investing in IOT data solutions. Apple, Google, and recently IBM have all been vying to unlock the key to leveraging IOT data.

Facebook’s approach is to connect devices and software that share common elements in order to increase the probability of systems working together. This could then lead to Facebook becoming the data aggregator between devices, software, and data used to create unique experiences across devices.

Virtual Reality

Virtual reality played a key role throughout F8 2015. Facebook referenced virtual reality as the next evolution of content experiences.

They showcased different applications from their teleportation stations that showcased what was happening in Menlo Park, as well as their more immersive Crescent Bay demos that showed off the full capability of the Oculus Rift.

F8 2015 Virtual Reality

Facebook also spent a portion of their presentation simply showcasing the physiology associated with virtual reality, and why the timing is now right for progression in the field: The cost of technology to create affordable consumer products is feasible, the experience is compelling, and there is broad industry participation as well as a long-term commitment to advancing the technology.

Facebook did a great job of balancing the short term vs. the future state, while ensuring that they are bringing their developer partners along the way. By shifting toward the family of apps strategy — as well as building toward connected devices and immersive experiences — Facebook is in a position to remain relevant well beyond whatever happens with the core Facebook platform.

 

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360 and check out this post on iMedia Connection.

2015 SXSW Interactive: 5 Things That Stood Out

Written by: Jake Schneider
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Thanksgiving, SXSW, Halloween.

Those are my favorite holidays, in that order. 2015 marks my 9th year attending the annual conference and as TMA’s resident Austinite, nothing excites me more than hearing the words “Film,” “Interactive,” and “Music” categorized under one event within walking distance of my downtown home.

In years past, I’ve seen the transformative launch of Twitter, watched Kanye perform at the Power Plant – now home to Under Armour Connected Fitness – and taken in many great films and parties.

Last year, while there were still significant highlights like Edward Snowden’s session that I found fascinating, the 2014 version felt bloated and unmanageable.

2015, however, felt like a shift or transition probably aided by the fact that there wasn’t one super strong theme that overpowered everything. This led me to be open to the serendipity that is part of the very soul of SXSW.

With that, here are five things that stood out for me at this year’s conference:

1. Meerkat: If there was a clear winner for 2015 SXSWi, it would be Meerkat. Every single human being at badge pick-up was talking about and using the app that allows you to live stream video directly into Twitter.

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Meerkat was everywhere around Austin. It felt like SXSW activities and experiences were being streamed all over the place.

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Then somehow (perhaps through the Force), Twitter felt the surge of usage and, in realizing they recently purchased a competitive app called Periscope, put Meerkat in a chokehold by cutting its access to their social graph.

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The significance of Meerkat’s emergence this past week is that streaming content is here and it is embraced. This type of channel opens up doors to publishing experiences and helping users and brands become their own networks.

2. Verizon’s #ATXunite: For those Austinites who attend SXSW, the experience is amazing. For those who don’t, it can be downright frustrating, or so I’ve heard. There are three things we love to complain about in Austin: traffic, crowds, and traffic. Verizon took a different route this year with #ATXunite, a social campaign focusing on aiding Austin locals with survival kits featuring everything from Yeti coolers, Bose ear buds, and Philips Hue light bulbs to exclusive lunch experiences at Franklin BBQ just by following and tweeting Verizon and #ATXunite.

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Verizon nailed it with this activation by bringing the serendipitous experience of SXSW to those locals who can’t or don’t attend. Or, in this case, by bringing it to me and my coworker, Zane.

3. Virtual Reality: We are so close. You remember that part in Jamiroquai’s video for Virtual Insanity where Jay Kay, after spending so much time getting further away from the frame, comes as close as possible and stays there to finish the video? That is where I feel we are right now. So close, and from here it is all mainstream. SXSW definitely had its share of VR experiences and installations. From Interstellar’s setup for their Blu-ray release to Google’s Cardboard viewer, VR showed it is ready and the demand showed that we are ready for VR.

Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 10.06.25 AM

I am, in fact, giddy at the possibilities that VR presents for brand experiences in the entertainment, automotive, fashion, and retail industries.

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There is demand – as you can already pick up Google Cardboard on Ebay.

4. Big Data and Social: Finally Big Data, you have arrived. There were tons of panels on utilizing and the importance of Big Data this year, and rightfully so. Big Data is no longer a nice-to-have, it is a need-to-have. Understanding your audience and gaining that competitive advantage has never been more important to brands. How to make it actionable, how it and Audience Intelligence can work together, how to use it to drive engagement – it was all on display during SXSWi. Audience Intelligence platform People Pattern even made a cool persona infographic on SXSW:3.23-7

5. Curiosity: There were plenty of speakers on hand this year, and the two that stood out most for me both focused on the value of curiosity. The first speaker was TV & Film Producer Brian Grazer, who created Imagine Entertainment with Ron Howard and has created exceptional films like “Backdraft” and “Apollo 13.” Grazer was discussing his book written about his life philosophy of having “curiosity conversations” with different and interesting people every two weeks. He uses these conversations to guide and inspire his work and build relationships.

The second was with Henry Rollins. I’ll be honest: Rollins is a personal inspiration of mine – I was initially just happy to be in the room. He was there attending and promoting his new film, “He Never Died.” Rollins covered his life travels and experiences; however, the gravy was poured when he talked about his life philosophy of how anger fuels his curiosity. The anger is what makes him curious, and the curiosity, in turn, fuels the anger. The result, he states, “makes me want to do stuff and live vigorously.”  I left both of those talks inspired.

Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 10.07.14 AM

I clearly had better seats for Grazer than Rollins.

SXSW has been a great success for me. For anyone that is considering a future trip, I would highly encourage it. There is something for everyone. You’ll leave here more knowledgeable and inspired.

Follow Jake Schneider @jakeschneider

YouTube Rolling Out “Cards” to Replace Annotations

Written by: Hannah Redmond
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This week, YouTube announced the release of a new product called “Cards,” which will eventually replace annotations on videos. Keeping with the trend of mobile optimization across its products, cards will work across screens, including mobile. Currently, in the annotations category only InVideo Programming annotations work on mobile devices.

Source: YouTube Creators Blog

YouTube says this is a response to feedback from YouTube creators for the need of more flexibility with annotations and the need for them to work on mobile. They said in the YouTube Creators Blog:

You can think of cards like an evolution of annotations. They can inform your viewers about other videos, merch, playlists, websites and more. They look as beautiful as your videos, are available anytime during the video.”

There are 6 types of cards: Merchandise, Fundraising, Video, Playlist, Associated Website, and Fan Funding. You’ll now be able to find the “Cards” tab in your Video Editor to create and edit them at any time.

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As mobile media consumption continues to increase year over year (note the graph below on mobile data traffic), it makes sense for YouTube to extend the benefits and functionality of annotations to mobile devices for content creators.

Similarly, as brands continue to increase the amount of content for the digital space, the consumer’s mobile experience needs to be kept in mind. Marketers need to ask: “How will these cards help my consumer while they are on their mobile device?” There is a difference between “standing out” to a consumer and “disrupting” a consumer’s experience. The trick with these cards will be using them in a unique way to stand out that still adds value to the consumer.

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Source: We Are Social

Visit the Cards Help Center to see more detailed descriptions about, and examples of cards.

Extending Virtual Reality at SXSW 2015

Written by: Tom Edwards
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Another year, another SXSW Interactive is in the books. Each year I look to get inspired, reconnect with publishers and 3rd party partners and look for new or incremental innovation that can add value for my clients. This year, one of the areas that caught my attention was the advancement of 3rd party integration and applications tied to virtual reality experiences.

In 2014, one SXSW exhibit in particular received a lot of attention for creating an immersive Virtual Reality Game of Thrones experience courtesy of Oculus Rift. 2015 did have its share of branded experiences tied to Oculus, see Samsung below, but a majority of 3rd parties were focused on showcasing how they create value through integrating VR and mobile devices as they prepare to go to market.

game-of-thrones-exhibit-oculus-rift-sxsw

Samsung – I had the opportunity to experience the Samsung Gear VR headset while at SXSW. The Samsung Gear VR is powered by an Oculus Rift headset that integrates with the Galaxy Note 4. The approach of serving as an extension of an existing device that can scale through various media and applications is the right approach to allow optimal personalization of experiences through devices and media entities that consumers already consume.

The #GalaxyLife VR exhibit was a rich experience that I definitely enjoyed. My tour featured a Mountain Dew branded snowboarding adventure. There are pros and cons to the experience as it was immersive, although the audio was a bit lacking. If you have not tried the core Oculus Rift experience and this was your first foray into VR it is an impressive experience. For the average consumer, consuming media, be it VR cinema, gaming or 360-degree experiences can all be achieved through the Samsung Gear headset.

This type of VR experience is ideal for branded integrations as the experiences are tied to the mobile device and with the right SDK, it is possible to extend immersive content experiences through the Samsung Gear VR.

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Google – One of the more unique takes on a similar premise to the Samsung Gear VR came from Google. Google Cardboard is a simple, inexpensive way to enjoy VR-based experiences through either Android or iPhone devices. When the Google team handed me the device, it was about the size of an iPad Mini. After a few minutes of folding I had an instant VR viewer that I could view media from VRSE or other Google Cardboard supported applications.

As with most things Google, there are Android and Unity SDK’s available to easily integrate Cardboard into existing VR applications to ensure that it is supported. The experience is surprisingly rich and the fact that it is inexpensive and also supports iPhone VR applications is a plus. Google Cardboard is a great tool to introduce younger audiences to enhanced VR experiences. It definitely passed the test with my crew of 12, 10 and 7 years of age. And with the simple design, I am not concerned about how they would handle the device.

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Intel and 3rd Parties – The SXSW Gaming Pavilion featured multiple extensions of the Oculus hardware with various groups working to create new integrations that could bridge the gap between traditional gaming and VR. Intel and CybertronPC showcased one of CybertronPC’s gaming rigs that supported an Oculus experience. This experience drew quite a crowd as onlookers wanted to catch a glimpse of PC gaming + Oculus.

Photo Mar 15, 4 15 35 PM

Another 3rd party that caught my attention was Sixense’s STEM System. This was a Full-Body Presence VR system vs. just an Oculus Visual experience. The system provides motion controls, haptic feedback and additional spatial awareness in the VR experience to create a full-body controlled experience in game. The demo featured a lightsaber duel, think Microsoft Kinect in terms of open-space, body-controlled motion but with a fully immersive Oculus Rift visual experience.

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We are inching closer to mass consumer availability and I have been impressed how much has been developed within a single year. I still have my doubts as to whether or not Facebook’s Oculus Rift based experiences as they exist today will appeal to the mainstream consumer. We are still at the nascent stage of the technology and I do believe that augmented, virtual reality and digital overlays will become a part of our lives as some point in the next 10 years – it just may not be a bulky headset, it may be something as simple as a bionic contact lens.

Bionic-Contact-Lenses-3

I definitely enjoyed playing with the new hardware and look forward to what the future may bring at SXSW 2016.

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

Google Algorithm Update will Prioritize Mobile Websites in Search

Written by: Hannah Redmond
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Google recently announced that they will be using mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal in driving search results to users, beginning this April.

In the announcement, Google’s Webmaster Central Blog stated:

Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results. Consequently, users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices.”

That means mobile-friendly and mobile-responsive sites will earn better positioning in Google’s mobile search engine results, and sites that are not optimized for mobile will see less mobile, organic traffic.

This all makes sense. More and more people access the web on mobile devices, and it’s Google’s job to return to you what is user-friendly and relevant, or you won’t come back. The problem is, this will impact small local business owners the most, as many don’t have marketing departments or budgets to create responsive web sites, yet many of their customers rely on Google search to find local services. Google does aim to provide many robust resources to help developers prepare and optimize websites. You can even test if a site is mobile ready according to Google.

Google has been recommending responsive web design for years now, but this is the first time they have officially announced that it will have an impact on search as a result.

 

SMWNYC: Day 1 Recap

Written by: Sarah Shapleigh
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Last week I had the privilege of attending the Social Media Week conference in New York City. It was overwhelming and enlightening at the same time, and I walked away so energized and excited about the career path that I have chosen.

“Measuring Attention and Intention, with The New York Times.”

In my first session, Michael Zimbalist, SVP Ad Products and R&D at The New York Times, discussed the evolution of digital advertising. Previously, advertising promised intention – a user action (usually a click) is a proxy for intent to purchase. Google developed AdWords, which allows you to target users based on their intentions.

Now, with the rise of video advertising and social media, digital advertising has shifted. Essentially, it has become a method to capture people’s attention. This migration from the bottom of the purchase funnel to the top has completely changed the game for digital advertising. Marketers now need to shift their focus to storytelling, leverage social marketing, and use different measures of success. Overall, Zimbalist argued that attention is a deliverable in its own right and that marketers who use content to win consumer’s attention will have a distinct advantage when the time comes for those consumers to take action.

SSA1

“From Fans to Advocates: How to Build Community and Grow #BrandLove”

The second session I attended was presented by HootSuite. HootSuite’s Jeanette Gibson, VP Community & Customer Experience, and Dr. William Ward, Director of Education Strategy, shared best practices and real-world examples of how a strong community of fans and followers can be a powerful tool in activating others to get involved and fall in love with your brand.

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Gibson started her presentation by sharing some statistics, including:

  • It costs 80% less to retain a customer than to acquire a new one
  • 25% increased engagement on community sites can result in 25% increase in revenue
  • 92% of companies view customer service as one of their top priorities
  • 60% use customer service as a competitive differentiator
  • Yet, few companies deliver an outstanding experience

In order to grow brand love, brands must leverage stories, experiences, and momentum in order to inspire fans by curating experiences and stories that surprise and delight.

Gibson then went on to break down the steps necessary to seed brand love: Relationships, Add Value, Engage Employees, Advocacy, and Insights.

SSA3

Gibson and her colleague, Dr. Ward, discussed the HootSuite Ambassador Program and how it has been helping drive their business. The HootSuite Ambassadors have the opportunity to connect with other likeminded industry leaders as well as advocate HootSuite’s products/services, share HootSuite content to their networks, provide regional insight and feedback, and create a stronger regional presence for HootSuite both online and offline. Ambassadors also strengthen the support community by providing 1:1 support in online forums and chats.

HootSuite often gamifies the experience for their ambassadors. One way they did this was by initiating a 60-day race to see which ambassador could answer the most support questions in exchange for an incentive (the most requested was a LinkedIn recommendation).

The HootSuite ambassador program is one way that HootSuite is using their existing community to spread the word and grow brand love.

“The New DIY – Drones, Makers, and Bots: A Fireside Chat with Martha Stewart and CEO of The Barbarian Group, Sophie Kelly.”

I was extremely excited to attend my last session of Day 1 – and see Martha Stewart in person. I was also interested in learning about the evolution of the DIY industry. Pinterest and Etsy have made incredible technological advances that have impacted DIY and spurred what has become known as the Maker Movement. Referred to by Fast Company as “one of the most disruptive new trends in the entire economy,” the Maker Movement has created a collaborative world where makers can access technologies to prototype, create, and iterate faster than ever before.

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Martha Stewart talked about her love of technology and how it has impacted both herself personally and her business. She emphasized, “we have to evolve as quickly as technology is evolving around us.” Her passion for technology has never wavered, from buying her first IBM computer in 1982 (with a table attached to it) to playing with her personal drone collection on her farm with her grandchildren.

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Stewart shows image of her farm taken by one of her drones

Stewart talked passionately about her American Made initiative, which spotlights the next generation of great American makers, including entrepreneurs, artisans, and small business owners. As part of the American Made initiative, there is an annual contest that invites makers from around the country to submit a homemade item that falls into one of four categories: crafts, design, food, and style. The executive editorial team at Martha Stewart Living magazine serves as category judges and Martha Stewart serves as the head judge with final say. Stewart’s American Made program drives home her view that DIY can be a painter with a paintbrush or someone with metal in their garage or a photographer with their iPhone. Stewart was clearly passionate about this program and the community of makers around the country.

When asked one thing that people don’t know about her, Stewart replied that she was one of the first investors in Google. She also invested in a home grocer company that she described as a “total flop.” However, it looks like Martha Stewart ended up just fine.

Stewart looks forward to what’s next for the Maker Movement for her brand. Her immediate plans revolve around international expansion of the Martha Stewart brand. She recently visited China, because the middle class is “100 million and growing and they need stuff, and to be able to afford it.” Providing quality products at a price they can afford will take the Martha Stewart brand to the next level.

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MakerBot 3D printer and Martha Stewart products on display

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Martha Stewart products on display

The session ended with a drone jousting tournament between Stewart and Sophie Kelly, CEO of the Barbarian Group and moderator of the session. After a valiant effort by Kelly, Stewart came out on top. As Kelly put it, “Of course you won, you’re Martha Stewart!”

See video below:

 

 

Headlines & Stuff

Written by: Christy Wise
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Here are some cool things we read about this past week:

Facebook and Twitter Lock Horns in Post-Super Bowl Battle of the Statistics
Facebook and Twitter released a barrage of data this week to claim the title of most popular social network for spectators watching the Super Bowl. Facebook boasted that 65 million people chimed in about the game. Twitter reported 28.4 million game-related tweets, compared with 24.9 million last year.  Facebook claimed that 676,000 people per minute commented or liked someone’s comment after the game-ending interception. On Twitter, the same play generated a surge of 395,000 tweets per second.

Twitter Launches Vine Kids
Twitter recently created its first child-friendly app – Vine Kids.  The main feature is the same, six-second looping videos, but the focus is clearly for children with animated characters leading them through the experience.

Nielsen Pitching New ‘Tweets Per Impression’ Metric to Entertainment Marketers
Nielsen has begun engaging movie studios and TV networks on a new metric — tweets per impression (TPI) — that gauges the social impact of entertainment marketing efforts. TPI maps the number of impressions a commercial has on TV against the number of tweets referencing that particular impression just minutes after the commercial airs.  While TPI isn’t limited to the entertainment industry, there has been significant interest from studios, which can adjust their TV advertising plans in real time based on input from the metric.

Tweets Will Return to Google Search
Twitter has reached a deal with Google to add tweets back to Google’s search results later this year. Google previously had to crawl Twitter’s site for tweets, but now the company will provide the data directly to the search engine. As part of the new arrangement, tweets will appear in search results as soon as they are posted.

Twitter Expands Promoted Tweets
Twitter has announced plans to expand Promoted Tweets beyond its own borders. Flipboard and Yahoo Japan have signed on as the first platforms to participate in Twitter’s newly syndicated ad network.  Twitter’s syndicated ads will be seen by users within Twitter content sections on third-party properties, as well as within third-party content areas.

Global Social Media

China Tightens Its Grip on the Internet
Over the last two weeks, China has been further tightening its grip on the Internet, blocking several tools that allow users inside the country to escape and circumvent what’s popularly known as the “Great Firewall of China.” Some popular Virtual Private Networks were the latest victims of the censorship system, with many reportedly unable to use them to connect to censored websites.  Though China has always been aggressive in trying to control the Internet, this new crackdown is seen as unprecedented.

Noteworthy Campaigns

Gap Debuts Love Story ‘Micro-Series’ on Instagram
Following Gap’s noirish brand campaign from David Fincher, and quirky holiday ads directed by Sofia Coppola, the brand has launched a “micro-series” on Instagram to promote its spring collection.  “Spring is Weird” is a 12-part love story starring actor Paul Dano and “Marcel the Shell” creator Jenny Slate. The 15-second episode will roll out each week on Gap’s Instagram account. The story will also be featured on dating websites and apps. Followers of #APerfectFit will also get special offers for trying the brand’s form-fitting “Resolution Denim” featured in the series.

Just When You Thought You Knew Everything About Hashtags…

Written by: Rita Mogilanski
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You may be surprised to learn that there are very specific and different rules for using hashtags on each social platform. This red, yellow, and green guide will explain how lenient and indulgent one should be when including hashtags in a post.

  • Red = Steer clear of using hashtags
  • Yellow = Use hashtags sparingly
  • Green = Go hashtag crazy.

FB logo Facebook
Red. Stop. Move away from “shift” and “3” keys. Hashtags should not be a priority on Facebook. When applicable, tag a partner page instead of using a hashtag. Hashtags should only be implemented when it complements a call to action as part of a larger, cross-platform campaign.

Twitter logo Twitter
Yellow. Twitter is the birthplace of hashtags and still their most natural home. Tweets with hashtags get two times more engagement than tweets without, and 55% more retweets. However, using MORE than two hashtags in a tweet actually decreases engagement by 17%, so use them wisely.

YouTube logo YouTube
Green. Feel free to go hashtag crazy. Hashtags (in the tagging section) on videos are important for search and discoverability. Use at least 3 tags on videos to increase the likelihood that users will find your content.

GPlus logo Google+
Yellow. Like YouTube, Google+ is a platform that is important for search. Google will automatically tag certain posts with relevant and popular hashtags. Hashtags can also be added to comments on a post. It is often good practice to tag or add search terms used for paid SEO and webpage strategies on Google+ posts as well. Use one or two hashtags that will help users discover content.

Instagram logo Instagram
Green. Instagram is home to #ThrowbackThursday, #TransformationTuesday, and other alliterations that allow users to post baby pictures. #There #seems #to #be #a #hashtag #epidemic #on #Instagram, but believe it or not, these people have the right idea. Hashtags are the primary way to find and browse new content on Instagram, and data has shown that interactions are highest on posts with 11+ hashtags. While over-hashtagging is distracting and considered poor etiquette, do not hesitate to include as many hashtags as are relevant to the post to increase discoverability.

Tumblrlogo Tumblr
Green. Like YouTube, hashtags are hidden on the back-end on Tumblr. This allows users to post more hashtags that cover all the aspects of the content. Use 9-12 terms that are both specific and general to completely represent the post content and the interests of the audience. Just remember that only the hashtags that are entered into the tag section will be clickable and searchable.

Pinterest logo Pinterest
Red. Believe it or not, hashtags may harm the reach of content on Pinterest. Clicking a hashtag will actually take you away from the content on the page, and to a list of all posts using that hashtag. This means that you will end up driving users to a list of other similar brands and competing content. Keywords, without a hashtag attached, are a better way to label content and help users discover it.

Vine logo Vine
Yellow. Like Instagram, hashtags are really the main way to find content, and like Twitter, Vine features trending hashtags and topics. It is best to include any and all relevant hashtags, but over-hashtagging isn’t proper etiquette. #DoItForTheVine

LinkedIn logo LinkedIn
Red. LinkedIn is unique in that the platform does not support hashtags at all. They are not clickable or searchable. A hashtagged word will just show up as normal text, and what good is a pound sign if doesn’t automatically hyperlink? Steer clear.

Headlines & Stuff

Written by: Christy Wise
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Here are some cool things we read about this past week:

Facebook to Make Sure the Right People See Publishers’ Posts
Facebook unveiled new tools this week to give publishers a better shot at making sure people on Facebook see their stories. One tool lets publishers target their Facebook posts at a subset of their fans interested in certain topics. Another lets publishers put an expiration date on their posts so that timely stories don’t pop up in people’s feeds after the timely event has passed. A third tool called Smart Publishing identifies a story that a lot of people are linking to on Facebook and, for publishers who opt-in, posts it in the news feeds of people who like that publisher’s Facebook page.

Facebook Adds Call to Action Buttons to Its Pages
This week, Facebook announced seven “call to action” buttons for Pages. Page admins can now select one of seven buttons that use verbs to attempt to get user conversion and appear on the top of the cover photo. The options are Book Now, Contact Us, Use App, Play Game, Shop Now, Sign Up, Watch Video.  Dollar Shave Club has been trying the buttons and said that adding “Sign Up” converted 2.5x more users than previously.

YouTube Offering Its Stars Bonuses
Google’s YouTube is racing to lock up its top stars as rival online video services court them aggressively. Facebook and video startup Vessel, among others, have tried to lure YouTube creators to their services in recent months.  In response, Google is offering some of its top video makers bonuses to sign multiyear deals in which they agree to post content exclusively on YouTube for a time before putting it on a rival service. Bonuses are tied to how well videos perform.

Instagram has 300 Million Monthly Users
Instagram announced this week that 300 million people check out the photo-sharing service each month. That’s up from 200 million nine months ago and 100 million in February 2013. There are however, a lot of fake and spam accounts and Instagram has begun deleting them. This means that some Instagram users may see the number of people following them shrink. Instagram will also start authenticating real accounts, starting with brands and public figures.

Global Social Media

Google News to Shut Down in Spain Over  ‘Google Tax’
Google said this week that it will shut down its Google News service in Spain to prevent publishers’ content from appearing on it – ahead of a new law requiring the company to pay Spanish news organizations for linked content or snippets of news. The law goes into effect January 1 and is nicknamed “Google Tax.” The move marks the first time globally that Google will shutter Google News.

Noteworthy Campaigns

General Mills Revives French Toast Crunch in Latest Nostalgia Play
General Mills is now reviving a cereal brand that had its heyday in the late 1990s. The company has announced that French Toast Crunch, launched in 1995 and discontinued in the U.S. in 2006, is now back in some U.S. stores and will be available nationwide again as of January. It seems U.S. fans of the cereal have continued to ask General Mills to bring it back – creating a petition and a Facebook Page dedicated to the cause. Some consumers have even paid big bucks to have boxes of the cereal shipped to them from Canada, where it continues to be sold. The company has responded to requests and launched a marketing campaign in support of the revival. The new campaign includes a 30-second spot, digital video, a new website, and Tumblr, Facebook, and Twitter accounts featuring Miss Cleo, known for her telephone psychic services on TV during the ’90s. News about the brand’s comeback is also generating buzz through the hashtag #frenchtoastcrunchisback.

Headlines & Stuff

Written by: Christy Wise
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Here are some cool things we read about this past week:

Facebook Launches New Places Directory to Rival Yelp
Facebook has quietly launched a new Places Directory, which lets you search for the best destinations in cities across the world. The results are ranked by user ratings and show comments from friends and others in your Facebook network.

Social Spend Will Double by 2018
Social media advertising spending will more than double in just five years, according to a new forecast from BI Intelligence. The group predicts social ad revenues will jump 40 percent from $6.1 billion in 2013 to $8.5 billion this year and 195 percent to almost $14 billion in 2018. Factors driving this growth: increased reach, improved targeting, improved measurement capabilities, and the rapid expansion of programmatic buying options.

Twitter Announces Several New Features
During Twitter’s Analyst Day event, the company promised to launch new services including new messaging, video creation, and content curation features in the coming months. The goal is to make the social network more engaging to new and existing users. Some of the new features announced include: Timeline Highlights, Instant Timeline, breaking news alerts, real-time video editing and sharing (native Twitter video), improvements to private messaging, and more stand-alone apps.

Facebook Debuts ‘Say Thanks’ Video Feature
Facebook launched a new feature called “Say Thanks” that helps users create “video cards” for friends and family. To create the cards, Facebook automatically combines content featuring users and the person they’ve chosen to commemorate. Users can then edit that content and choose from different card themes before sharing them.

YouTube Unveils Music Streaming Service
YouTube launched its new music streaming service this week. Music Key will be ad-free and begin on an invite-only basis with a promotional subscription price of $7.99 per month — discounted from $9.99. YouTube is also adding a music-focused tab that includes favorites and recommended playlists. YouTube’s Music Key also includes a subscription to Google Play Music.

Global Social Media

The Countries Where Facebook Censors the Most Content
As Facebook expands, countries are increasingly interested in making content on the social network disappear. Censorship on Facebook increased 19 percent between the first six months of 2014 and the last six months of 2013. But censorship isn’t distributed evenly. Some countries are more trigger-happy than others. India leads the list with 4,900 pieces of content restricted. Turkey and Pakistan follow closely with 1,800 and 1,700 “pieces of content” removed. Facebook only restricts content when it is “illegal under local law.”

Noteworthy Campaigns

JetBlue Launches Fly It Forward
JetBlue Airways recently introduced a new program called “Fly It Forward” that enables customers to spread goodness from one to the next. The program is inspired by the airline’s crew members and is carried on by customers passing along one ticket on a continuous journey throughout the JetBlue network. To celebrate the launch, JetBlue released a video featuring the first four fliers to participate in the program. The video also calls for the public to submit their own nominations for deserving travelers. Consumers can follow stories as they unfold at jetblueflyitforward.com and help write the next chapter by submitting their own entry through Twitter using #FlyItForward.