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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 Will See The Rise Of Dark Social

Written by: Tom Edwards
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dark-social

Dark social is the sharing activity that is somewhat invisible to traditional analytics. It’s the culmination of referrals and sharing of content that originates from instant messages, emails containing links, and most recently, the rise of ephemeral social communication platforms such as Snapchat, WeChat, and WhatsApp.

A majority of focus today is on social broadcast platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. With the tides shifting toward ephemeral social communication applications as a key driver of sharing, the attribution data of the share — and all of the value that comes with it — is essentially untapped and, in some cases, simply unknown.

According to a recent Radium One study, 59 percent of all online sharing is via dark social. Furthermore, a whopping 91 percent of Americans regularly share information via dark social methods. This study also showed that 72 percent of sharing is simply users copying and pasting long URLs and either emailing or texting the information.

There are a significant number of conversations — and more importantly, potential intent— from a marketing perspective that are simply being ignored and untapped. Currently, there’s an over-reliance on retargeting. Dark social could represent an opportunity to bring balance to the equation.

What makes cracking the code with dark social in 2015 even more paramount is the sharp rise in adoption of ephemerally charged, socially-centric communication apps such as Snapchat, WhatsApp, WeChat, and Kik. The convergence of social and mobile is here and the percentage of content shared through dark social will continue to rise at an exponential rate in 2015.

A few pioneering brands have incorporated sharing functionality with the Facebook-owned WhatsApp, which has over 400 million users sending 50 billion messages a day. FTW, a USA Today sports site, introduced a WhatsApp sharing button to its mobile experience recently, and almost immediately saw shares from WhatsApp climb to 18 percent of the site’s overall sharing activity. Furthermore, 53 percent of shares came from “dark social” vs. 47 percent through traditional social mechanisms.

Snapchat, another ephemeral application, is the fastest-growing social app heading into 2015. With a user base of 100 million active users, 60 percent of whom engage with the app 22 times per day, Snapchat represents another dark social platform that should be considered in 2015. This is especially true with the upcoming strategic partnership model that will incorporate multiple media outlets into the platform. This will convert the experience to include more content from external networks and publishing partners.

And there’s Wechat, with a global audience of 600 million users, 180 million outside of China. It is the fifth most-used smartphone app worldwide. All of these essentially represent the next wave of dark social that will quickly raise dark social sharing’s current percentage of 59 percent of total sharing even higher in 2015.

Outside of the applications listed above, there are many more that are growing quickly, including Kik. Even Apple’s AirDrop is being used to share images and messages with school-age kids.

And there are more on the way — hybrids of the hybrids — like Mark Cuban’s Cyber Dust, which essentially combines elements of WhatsApp and Snapchat, boasts high levels of privacy and security, and is, as Cuban recently commented,  “troll-proof.”

Moving forward, there are ways to begin building a dark social strategy. In addition to simply relying on URL-shortened links, brands can employ advanced Google Analytics against long-form links.

It’s also important to consider what integration options are available from the social communication providers themselves, the type of data and analytics available, and how these will be aligned with existing measurement framework.

Taking these steps will ensure that while we’re testing and learning, we can begin to formulate how these platforms will go from experimental to a reliable part of the marketing mix.

Understanding how content is shared when not immediately visible will be a key metric in 2015. Dark social is on the rise, and the more we can harness its power, the faster we can build connections and leverage intent to drive conversions.

Headlines & Stuff

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

Twitter Strikes Billboard Deal For Real-Time Music Stats
Twitter has struck a deal with Billboard Magazine to serve up real-time stats on the top trending music. The charts provide real-time ranking on the most-shared tracks in the U.S. during the past hour. Filters present a real-time feature to search and view the most-shared tracks in the U.S. over the past 24 hours, with a weekly summary for both Trending 140 and Emerging Artist charts. More than 1 billion tweets were sent about music in 2013. Seven of the top 10 most-followed accounts on Twitter are musicians.

Facebook Cuts Down Automatic Updates in Your Friends’ News Feeds
Facebook announced this week that from now on fewer “Implicit stories” will make it into the News Feed. That’s Facebook’s way of describing automatic updates from third-party apps. From the Facebook Blog: “We’ve found that stories people choose to explicitly share from third party apps are typically more interesting and get more engagement in the News Feed than stories shared from third party apps without explicit action.”

Psy’s Gangnam Style Nears 2 Billion Views
K-Pop legend Psy’s “Gangnam Style” is nearing the two billion mark, almost double Bieber’s “Baby,” which is in second place. It is the undisputed champion of YouTube’s most watched videos list. Though music videos became a thing of the past on television, they continue to see huge success on YouTube. Twenty-nine out of the 30 most watched YouTube videos are music videos.

Global Social Media

Twitter will hit nearly 400mm users by 2018, with over 40% in Asia-Pacific. 
eMarketer has released a forecast of Twitter users worldwide and projects that the social network will have nearly 400 million users by 2018, with over 40% in the Asia-Pacific region. By the end of this year alone,  AsiaPac will account for 32.8% of all Twitter users, exceeding its 23.7% share in North America. This is despite the ban on Twitter in China, which represents the region’s largest portion of internet users. India and Indonesia are strong markets for Twitter. Both countries have seen user numbers increase by more than 50% this year, becoming the third and fourth largest Twitter populations, at 18.1mm and 15.3mm users respectively,  passing the UK for the first time.

Iranian Judge Summons Facebook CEO For Breach of Privacy
A conservative Iranian court opened a case against instant messaging services WhatsApp and Instagram while summoning Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg over complaints of privacy violation.  The Zuckster is unlikely to heed the summons, which is asking him to appear in court to “defend himself and pay for possible losses,” after some citizens in the region issued a complaint. On a separate note, Iran recently sentenced eight Facebook users to a combined 123 years in jail for various charges  including insulting the country’s supreme leader on the social network.

Noteworthy Campaigns

IBM Crowdsources Latest Smarter City Effort
In the latest phase of its “People for Smarter Cities” marketing push, IBM crowdsourced digital videos from around the world showcasing how residents would improve their cities. The first phase, known as “Smart Ideas for Smarter Cities,” ran last year and featured IBM-branded structures like benches, rain shelters and ramps that improved or enhanced some aspect of urban life.  This new push was done via partnership with Zooppa, a community made up of 200,000 members, including filmmakers, bloggers and environmental communities. Out of nearly 80 accepted entries, eight winners from around the world were selected. Videos covered a range of topics from repurposing empty spaces and aiding the physically challenged to spurring employment. Awards ranged from $500 to $10,000. The videos are available on the branded People for Smarter Cities site as well as through IBM social channels.

Headlines & Stuff

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

Facebook Buys WhatsApp for $16 Billion
Facebook just spent $16 billion to acquire WhatsApp, spending $4 billion in cash and $12 billion in Facebook stock. WhatsApp is a text-messaging replacement app that lets you send messages to any of your contacts as long as you know their phone number. It is similar to BlackBerry Messenger and iMessage in that it lets users bypass their carriers SMS to avoid texting fees. WhatsApp is one of many similar services, but it’s the most popular with 450 million active users. Chinese competitor WeChat has 270 million active users and Japan’s Line recently surpassed 300 million users.

Facebook Expands Ad Targeting Options
Facebook unveiled deeper ad targeting options this week.  The updates are specifically to the four main targeting categories, which include: Location (marketers can now build campaigns around any combination of geography allowing retailers to show ads to people who live near a brick and mortar location); Demographics (new choices include updates to relationship status, people who have gotten engaged, job title, etc.); Interests (now simplified to allow marketers to just select from one segment rather than multiple); and Behaviors (target by people’s offline and online activities and purchases).

LinkedIn Expands Publishing Platform
LinkedIn members will have the ability to post and distribute long-form content as the professional networking site extends its publishing platform to all users. Members will now be able to publish longer posts to their pages and share those posts with their connections and followers. Others outside a member’s network can start following them from their posts as well. The capability launched this week with 25,000 English-speaking users. It will eventually be rolled out to all users.

YouTube Rolls Out Desktop Redesign
YouTube is starting to roll out the latest redesign to its web interface, while also adding new features to enhance the video-streaming experience. The design is now a center-aligned look, which helps it fit more neatly on screens of all sizes. The desktop version is moving towards looking similar to YouTube’s mobile apps. Updates also include enhancing playlist elements, and allowing users to quickly flip between what’s recommended and popular in ‘what to watch’.

Global Social Media

Ustream Launches Non-Profit Program to Support Citizen Journalism in Ukraine
As demonstrations in Kiev turned into chaos this week, some of the most striking photos came from citizen journalists. Part of this is because Ukraine has cracked down on traditional media. The country’s opposition friendly Channel 5 has reportedly been shut down, making the Internet the only source for many Ukrainians. Because Ustream is frequently used by Citizen Journalists in both Kiev and elsewhere, the company decided to launch its own non-profit program dubbed “Ustream for Change.” With it, Ustream plans to provide free access to its ad-free enterprise streaming services to citizen journalists around the world. The company will also promote the live streams and provide technical support.

Noteworthy Campaigns

Pepsi Integrates Vines into Outdoor Ads
PepsiCo is including user-generated Vine videos in outdoor ads in what it claims to be a “media first.” Pepsi Max is encouraging fans to submit something “unbelievable” they’ve done on Vine using the hashtag #LiveForNow. Select fans will be featured on outdoor screens across the UK starting this month.

Burberry Creates a Custom Fashion Show For Fans Via Instant Messages
British luxury brand Burberry teamed up with WeChat, one of China’s most popular messaging platforms, for a series of branded creative collaborations throughout the year tied to their runway shows. The partnership lets fans customize their runway show experience by allowing them to unlock special WeChat only-audio content, access exclusive details about the inspiration behind the collections, and follow VIP guests during their experience at the show.  The first output of the collaboration was the Burberry Autumn/Winter 2014 womenswear show on WeChat. Burberry followers were able to create personalized AW14  Runway Made to Order plaques through a single text. Fans were also able to follow guests at the show and received exclusive messages, videos and audio from show VIPs.