Category Archives: POV

EXP: Bringing a Human Element to a Digital World

Written by: Chris Salicrup
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Working at a large agency with offices spanning the globe, I spend more time with voices on the phone and faceless emails than I do with the people around me. I recently had the opportunity to participate in an employee exchange program (EXP) where I was sent to work with my peers at another office location. The trip helped bridge the long distance gap and put faces to the long list of names of people I communicate with daily.

via GIPHY

Part of my role is to understand how morale and communication effects efficiency. The EXP is truly an innovative idea that helps solve for some of these issues as our company grows larger. The program gives our people an opportunity to network with team members in a uniquely effective way. Having the opportunity to work in another office gave me the opportunity to learn more about their group’s dynamic, which in turn helped improve the way I will communicate with them in the future. In return, the team feels like they have an ally at home base who is looking out for their interests, as well.

In my short four-day trip, I learned more about my co-workers in New York than I had after two years of working with them remotely. In addition to juicy gossip, I gained an understanding of their communication and leadership styles. Trying to learn a personality when you’ve only ever communicated by email is challenging. Without voice inflection, emails are constantly misinterpreted and unfounded animosity can flourish. Now with a face next to those names, I find myself working harder to better meet their needs. Thanks to this opportunity I have a more keen understanding of the ways that my teammates prefer to communicate. I know when it’s more beneficial to pick up the phone, and when they prefer to have a paper trail to keep up with longer discussions.

As companies continue to grow larger and spread out across the globe, more innovation around culture and morale will be crucial. With increasing difficulties in working environments, such as the open office floor plan, many companies will need to find a system to help their employees cope with their new situations. For us, the EXP is just a small step and a way to help triage more severe communication needs. In addition, we’re looking at ways to more effectively share documents across our multiple offices, and ways to reduce email by implementing chat platforms. We do all of this with the focus of always putting people first, believing that great work will follow. In order to do this, we create an environment where we encourage suggestions for improvements. Often the best solutions come from those who deal with the issues on a daily basis.

In an increasingly digital world, we have to keep an eye on the human element. For large global companies, it’s easy to turn into a machine, quell questions, and enforce redundant policies. It helps to take a step back from time to time to understand how policies affect the group as a whole, as well as how they impact each individual. Without having a face to vent those needs to, innovation is staunched and growth cannot occur. Never be afraid to answer the hard questions; the times when you can’t give a solid answer can help adjust the focus.

Navigating a New Language: Emojis

Written by: Olga Kraineva
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Ninety-two percent of the online population uses emojis. That’s approximately three billion people. The adoption and use of emojis, a visual language that communicates different emotions or scenarios using digital icons, is exciting but also has tremendous implications.

Emojis’ high rate of adoption can be credited to their universality and ability to be understood by all, regardless of native language. Images are also processed faster in the brain than text is, so there are functional benefits to choosing a visual icon over multiple words to describe the same sentiment.

Instagram embraced the emoji trend and documented the following in a company blog post: “It is a rare privilege to observe the rise of a new language…Emoji are becoming a valid and near-universal method of expression in all languages.”

Brands have come to recognize this consumer behavior and have jumped at the opportunity to use emojis to appear hip, approachable, and current. Last spring, Burger King launched a custom Chicken Fries emoji keyboard that was available in the iTunes App Store and Google Play store (other brands and personalities have since followed suit, like Kim Kardashian and Betches). Taco Bell also made their own spin on emojis with the #TacoEmojiEngine instant-reply campaign on Twitter that used over 600 photos and animated GIFs to show how the taco emoji can play nice with the others.

Moreover, brands are integrating emojis casually into their daily posts, just as consumers would. GE used emojis at RSNA, a professional radiology medical device conference, at the end of last year in their social media communication.

Social media publishing platforms also welcome the trend and continue to create more emoji integrations for consumers, brands, and influencers alike. Below are some of the latest developments:

  • Twitter:
    • Twitter recently (January 2016) revealed three new integrations specifically for high-profile celebrities, including a special camera feature that lends some inspiration from Snapchat. One hundred handpicked celebrities can overlay emoji-style icons onto their photos, giving celebrities a more premium experience through customization.
    • Auto-response campaigns using certain hashtags to unlock content are also an option – something that our client Lifetime did recently. In promotion for the Toni Braxton movie, fans that tweeted one of three emojis and #ToniBraxtonMovie were delighted with a preview of one of three sneak peeks for the movie. The movie garnered 267K tweets and 3.6MM viewers during the premiere. Nielsen reported it as the most tweeted-about program on television Saturday (January 27, 2016), with an 18 percent share of all Twitter TV activity, and the most tweeted movie for the television season to date.
  • Facebook: Facebook is finally moving past the “Like” button in favor of a full range of emotion choices in response to posts. Called “Reactions,” this new feature debuted on Wednesday, February 24, and allows users to respond to posts with six emotion choices: angry, sad, wow, haha, yay, and love.

Keep in mind, there are also implications for brands that use emojis:

  1. According to a Mintel Research Report, Communicating Through Imagery (2015), “Part of the difficulty lies in the fact that images are inherently ambiguous, which can result in consumers misunderstanding key messages.” This can lead to unintentional offense or other negative consequences.
  2. Millennials – the most frequent users of emojis, claiming to use emojis 75.9 percent of the time – don’t want brands to communicate with them using emojis. Only three percent of respondents of an Odysessy research study said brands should use them. That being said, although they say they don’t want brands to use emojis, they may feel differently moving from theory to practice.
  3. Finally, most standard social listening reporting tools do not support emoji-tracking capabilities as of yet. It’s still difficult to get an accurate account of the impact of an emoji-only campaign, unless you also assign a unique hashtag to the campaign in addition to using emojis.
EmojisD

CNBC, photo by Dimitri Otis | Getty Images

The bottom line is it’s undeniable that emojis are here to stay, and consumer use is likely to continue to increase. Brands should use caution before executing on the emoji trend just for the sake of doing the next buzzy activity, and first evaluate if it makes sense as part of their existing strategy with their consumer at the center.

From Screen to Screen: Redefining Celebrity

Written by: Jordan Lee
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On an average day, there are roughly four billion YouTube video views. Additionally, YouTube is a social platform of choice for teens, with an 82 percent usage rate in the 14-17 age bracket. With this consumption, there are new stars rising.

YouTube stars have really taken off over the past few years, amassing millions of devout subscribers. Young people line up and wait for hours at conferences to meet their favorite YouTube stars. A plethora of management agencies that specialize in YouTube influencers are creating celebrity on their own terms with book deals, TV appearances, and more.

The newest development in this evolution is Grace Helbig and her new show on the E! Network. We’ve seen YouTube superstars appear on shows before, but this is the first time one has had their own namesake for a show. Just two episodes into watching and my husband walked in asking if I was watching YouTube videos on our Apple TV. I essentially was.

4.16.15

Image via eoline.com

While these stars are exploring new formats, don’t expect them to change their voice. In an interview with USA Today Helbig explains how she is going to keep with the format of her web videos and wants everything to be transparent in the hopes that her young audience will follow her to TV.

Anyone with prior experience partnering and/or working with social influencers won’t find this transparency and dedication to voice to be a surprise. Their voice got them where they are, and fans expect consistency. Many of them are leading successful careers on their primary platform and those who wish to partner with social influencers and YouTube superstars should be prepared to let them take the reigns and share their expertise.

It’s important to consider what this means for television. Cable is already in a shaky place because of streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. While the rise of online videos could be a threat, traditional channels have the opportunity to leverage them in a meaningful way in order to survive. E! has definitely taken a huge risk and everyone will be watching to see if it succeeds. The entertainment industry will need to rethink what celebrity partnerships look like, because these social influencers are steadily becoming the new personality powerhouses. Authenticity and transparency will become a mainstay as this shift happens.

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.

The More You Know: Yik Yak

Written by: Jordan Lee
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If you don’t know about Yik Yak, chances are you are a functioning, stable adult. So, what is Yik Yak exactly? It’s a careful formula that combines Twitter, Reddit, and Whisper into one ticking time bomb.

Users are geofenced into a 1.5-mile radius. They then post whatever is on their minds. Annoying professors? Check. Barista who spelled your name wrong? Check. Deep thoughts about time being a flat circle? Check. Other users in the area can then comment or vote on the post. Users are given a numerical score based on their upvotes or downvotes called their Yakarma  it ultimately lets you know how successful you are in the app. Dying to know what’s happening on the other side of town? You can Peek at that area to view the yaks, but not comment or vote.

Peeking at yaks of my former alma mater lets me know more about what’s going on than the alumni newsletter. The anonymity allows users to speak their minds freely. This is especially entertaining at college sporting events, where the yaks flow generously.

However, there has been some debate around the anonymity causing more harm than good. Several schools have noticed issues with discrimination. However, according to Yik Yak these kinds of posts are in violation of their terms and are subject to removal at any time. Plus, Yik Yak has taken measures to quell bullying on the app.

It should go without saying that if something is starting to get banned at schools, its popularity will only grow. With the addition of the national spotlight the app has received and the kickoff of its Spring Campus Tour, there’s nothing left to do but yak about it.

YikYak

Source: Obviously anonymous Yik Yak user

Emotive Robots Key to Unlocking IOT Potential

Written by: Tom Edwards
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Over the 15 years of my digital career, I have witnessed significant technological innovation and massive shifts in consumer behavior based on the impact of innovation. Highlights include the evolution of the personal computer, the now ubiquitous smartphone, and the explosion of consumer-centric social media.

Apple-iPhone-generations

Looking to the near future, the current rate of exponential technological advancement will continue to accelerate, and we are primed for another significant leap forward; the concept of emotive computing is about to enter the lives of early adopters and has the potential to shift our behaviors once again.

During SXSW 2015, the personal side of robots session presented by Dr. Cynthia Breazeal caught my attention. Her session focused on the potential impact of emotive computing as the next wave of computing innovation.

emotive computing

Emotive computing is based on systems and devices that can recognize, interpret, process, and simulate elements of human behavior. The key to the concept is the alignment of both emotion and cognition as the drivers of adaptive behavior.

I have followed Dr. Breazeal’s work at MIT since the late ’90s when I first heard about the Kismet project. Kismet was designed to be one of the first socio-emotive AI. The core focus was to move past simple cognitive skills and align psychosocial elements into the robot’s ability to understand and treat people as people.

MIT Kismet

During the session, Dr. Breazeal discussed the evolution of Kismet to the next iteration of the AI, Leonardo, as well as how emotion + cognition should be the basis of intelligence and adaptive behavior – which is key to creating an emotive AI.

leonardo ai

The advancements made with Kismet and Leonardo have set the foundation for a new type of consumer device that is focused on delivering multiple levels of utility while also demonstrating adaptive behavior.

Reviewing the current landscape of personal robots, we see mostly single utility or cognitively-driven robots. They enhance our lives by the tasks they complete but are weak in their ability to conceive emotional engagement.

personal robots

This is where I begin to consider the current product/market fit for socially emotive AI. When you start to consider the Internet of Things or the Internet of Better Things, there are key components missing that would unlock new levels of value, which would lead to mass adoption. Most of the current ecosystem is comprised of single-utility solutions that are neither interconnected nor adaptive.

Internet-of-Things

Initially, my assumption is that the IOT would benefit from a central hub that is built to scale. The basis for the hub has already been approached by Amazon with Echo. But the current technology tied to virtual assistants is built around search and retrieval based entities with limited capabilities to learn.

virtual assistant

With the rise of emotive computing, it is feasible that the core hub for the connected home could be an emotive AI. Toward the end of her talk, Dr. Breazeal revealed that her current initiative as founder and Chief Science Officer of Jibo is to deliver such an entity into homes sooner rather than later.

Jibo is being touted as the first “family robot” and positioned as a support and an enhancer to humans. The IndieGoGo crowdfunded robot raised over 2.2 million dollars and the first run is currently in production. Jibo can see, hear, speak, learn, assist, and relate to individuals, and is going to be the first mass-produced emotive AI.

Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 4.35.10 PM

Jibo is also going to be built on a comprehensive developer ecosystem. With toolkits and a full SDK available, the focus is on creating a scalable content delivery platform.

Jibo SDK

I have talked a lot about how the IOT needs to be navigated with the consumer at the center, and I have shared my view of the #databaseofyou as the key to unlocking marketing value from the IOT, but little did I know that the database would actually reside within an emotive AI.

Evolution of Social Marketing Future - Tom Edwards

From a marketing perspective, I am very interested in the adoption and advancement of Jibo. If an emotive AI becomes the primary hub for the connected home, then it also becomes a potential content delivery platform that is the key connection between brands and consumers in the connected home.

By leveraging the full SDK and potentially certifying content, brands could provide contextually valuable experiences delivered through Jibo, or potentially new skills that extend the utility of the robot.

This is obviously speculation on how to potentially leverage emotive computing to create marketing value, but it is important to begin understanding that a significant shift is coming and that it may have just arrived in a small robotic form.

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

The More You Know: Cyber Dust

Written by: Sarah Shapleigh
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Cyber Dust

The world of social media is a constant cycle – as soon as people get comfortable and used to the way things are, a new movement begins. Prior to the launch of Facebook, people would communicate online via email or instant messaging, with ambiguous usernames like GreenBayFan56 or CutieKate16. Then, with Facebook, people were no longer anonymous and hidden behind these online identities. They used their real names and provided specific details about their lives online.

Now as we move into 2015, a new movement is taking shape. As people share more and more personal information online, there is a growing level of skepticism about the security of that information. People are starting to shift back to the anonymous days of the pre-Facebook era. This is evident in the growing popularity of networks like Snapchat, Whisper, Secret, and more.

SnapChat CD11

There are many companies trying to emulate the success of Snapchat and Secret. One of the latest ventures comes from entrepreneur Mark Cuban with his app, Cyber Dust. Cyber Dust is a cross between WhatsApp and Snapchat, with privacy and security being the main priorities. Similar to WhatsApp and Snapchat, it allows users to communicate directly with friends using disappearing text, photos, or emoticons.

Upon opening the app for the first time, users are greeted with a welcome screen emphasizing the simplicity and security of Cyber Dust. As creator Mark Cuban explains, “I wanted to have a means of communication that is analogous to face-to-face – where you can speak openly and honestly. That is why we created Cyber Dust.” The main screen echoes this sentiment stating, “Every spoken word isn’t recorded, why should your texts be?” In Cyber Dust, messages delete based on their length, and last from 20 to 100 seconds.

Screen Shot 2015-03-17 at 1.24.38 PM

Cyber Dust also shares their data policy with app users, which reemphasizes the data privacy issue.

CD5

Once you have created an account, the app lets you connect to social networks or scan your contacts to find other people who use the application. Once you have added some friends, you are able to start sending messages.

There are three different types of messages you can send: dusts, group dusts, and blasts. Dusts are messages between you and one friend. Group dusts let you message with a group of up to 12 people. The group dust is a new phenomenon because it not only lets you send a message to a select group, but also allows everyone in the group to see each person’s response. Blasts let you send messages to all the people you select. Blasts also let you add a location by choosing your current location or a nearby place. If a user taps the location, they will be taken to a map view and can also be directed outside of the app.

Screen Shot 2015-03-17 at 1.20.05 PM

The overall functionality of the app is very similar to Snapchat, where you have a list of friends you can send “snaps” to or you can share your snap story with your full list of friends. Users also have the option to “pin” their own sent messages in order to remember the conversation. If you pin a sent message, it will remain at the top of the chat room until you leave.

Screen Shot 2015-03-17 at 1.21.06 PM

Cyber Dust gives you the option to follow celebrities including founder Mark Cuban (blogmaverick.com). Cyber Dust users that are on iOS devices also have the ability to take screenshots since it is a key function of the device; however, the app will send a notification to the other user (as seen below). 

CD10

Overall, Cyber Dust is very similar to Snapchat but one of the main advantages is that you are able to share pictures from your photo library, whereas on Snapchat you need to take pictures within the app itself. Instagram launched its video capabilities with these limitations; however, a little over a month later, they announced that you could upload videos from your phone’s media library and share to Instagram regardless of when they were captured.

Cyber Dust taps into the anonymous messaging trend and brings a few competitive advantages to the table, including the group dust feature and the ability to use photos from your phone’s photo library. However, the social app landscape is constantly changing. With the Snapchat hack last October, Whisper being attacked for tracking personal data, and even the Sony email hack, people are starting to get nervous. Time will tell whether some of these security/privacy breaches are enough to drive people away from these messaging apps for good.

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.

Photo Mar 15, 1 24 36 PM

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.

Photo Mar 17, 9 51 05 AM

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.

Photo Mar 15, 4 20 07 PM

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

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.

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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:

 

 

SMWNYC 2015: “The Evolution of Social TV”

Written by: Rita Mogilanski
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SMWNYI attended Social Media Week in NYC last week and was impressed by the massive turnout. Each year, more and more people attend this conference as more agencies, platforms, products and brands try to keep up with the ever-changing space. One particularly noteworthy session (besides the fireside chat with social media celebrity Pete Cashmore) highlighted the evolution of social TV and featured panelists representing research and analytics agencies, as well as major television networks.

3 key takeaways from the session:

  1. “Social” and “TV” should not be considered two separate entities.

Television has always been naturally social. It has consistently been the main topic of conversation around the “watercooler,” even as the watercooler moved from the office to the Internet. Advertisers and content creators should not split “social” and “TV” from each other. Social TV as a concept revolves around making TV content appropriate for social platforms or including elements that encourage social conversation. Realistically, all content should be driving conversation and connecting fans with each other and with the cast members. Compelling TV content should be everywhere, influencing conversations in real time from the TV screen or from the second screen.

  1. Analytics and measurement tools need to adjust how they are assessing viewer data.

Qualitative measurements are becoming more important than quantitative measurements. The sheer number of people who are talking about your show in real time on social is not as important as the sentiment of the conversation and figuring out the emotional connection fans have. Did the majority of fans enjoy the episode? Will they return for the next episode?

The future of social TV measurement tools is moving toward a standard to assess all the different social platforms. Twitter is currently the main platform where real time marketing is being measured, but moving forward there will need to be a metric that takes all platforms and quality of social conversation into consideration to provide one standard of measurement. Additionally, with the new TV viewing habits of binge watching on weekends and watching TV online, networks may have to change how they look at each viewer. Traditionally, networks valued live viewership, but the viewer who watches five episodes in a row on a Sunday may be more valuable than one user who watched the show live.

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  1. Leveraging talent is the best way to reach fans.

Celebrities are naturally influential and can reach millions of users with just one click of the “retweet” button. Booking talent specifically for episodes paves the way for organic participation, as talent will want to encourage users to watch them on the show. Giving talent on a show a guide to how they can promote themselves on social, as well as plenty of content to promote on their channels, will help drive natural conversation.

Social TV is moving so fast that networks are scrambling to keep up. The traditional way of measuring viewership is slowly evolving. Those of us looking at social data to inform content need to keep sentiment in mind over volume, and look for ways to seamlessly integrate social to drive natural conversation.

List of panelists: http://socialmediaweek.org/newyork/events/evolution-social-tv/