Facebook Reels: What Brands Need to Know

Facebook Reels: What Brands Need to Know

Facebook

One year after Instagram announced the debut of short-form video feature Instagram Reels, parent company Facebook is joining the party. Reels first debuted on Instagram in 2020 in a clear bid to compete with TikTok. Facebook, having recently announced its plans to test Facebook Reels in the United States, is now figuring out ways to make Reels a more popular feature on Facebook itself (the U.S. initiative is an expansion of testing already launched in Mexico, Canada, and India). As part of the test, Instagram users can cross-post their reels to Facebook.

What do these developments mean for your brand? Read on to learn more.

What Is the Reels Feature?

When Reels rolled out on Instagram in 2020, the video time cap was 15 seconds, but the feature has since grown, and grown again: videos can now be up to one minute long. Using Facebook Reels, people can watch others’ videos, as well as create/share their own reels from the Facebook app. The feature’s reason for being? To allow people to “express themselves, discover entertaining content, and to help creators broaden their reach.” According to Facebook, almost half of time spent on the app is devoted to watching videos. Pair this data with the statement that Reels is growing “especially quickly,” and the test run of Facebook Reels makes a tremendous amount of sense. As CEO Mark Zuckerberg told investors, “We’re very focused on making it easy for anyone to create video, and then for those videos to be viewed across all of our different services, starting with Facebook and Instagram first.”

As Zuckerberg implies, emphasis is on creativity and its possibilities. Facebook Reels users have access to creation tools much like those already available on Instagram: video capture, for example, as well as camera roll import, timed text, and music selection. Editing tools allow people to speed up or slow down their video, and to incorporate augmented reality effects from Facebook or third-party developers. And after creating a reel, users can decide how to share it: with select friends, or the default share, which is the general public. As is the case throughout Facebook, Reels will be recommended to people based on their interests, who they engage with, and what’s trending as popular.

Why This News Matters

Facebook’s efforts speak to deeper trends and resonances. For one thing, the news demonstrates the tremendous sway TikTok holds in the social world. TikTok enjoys approximately one billion monthly active users. Sixty percent of TikTok users hail from Gen Z, soon to become the largest generation. Furthermore, TikTok users of all ages have proven themselves to be ardent fans, spending an average of 52 minutes per day in the platform and opening the app roughly 8 times per day. Eighty-three percent of TikTok users have posted a video. Facebook understands and respects these stats, and is responding accordingly.

The news also underlines the growing importance of video. As noted above, video accounts for  a major chunk of time spent on Facebook. And on Facebook’s latest earnings call, Zuckerberg pointed to Reels as “the largest contributor to engagement growth on Instagram.” In short, videos are hot.

Reels represent a possible advertising opportunity. While Facebook told TechCrunch that Reels on Facebook don’t currently include ads, the plan is “to roll out ads in the future.” Instagram, which has already begun to monetize Reels through ads, is showing what that might look like for Facebook down the road.

Finally, Facebook’s actions underscore the growing influence of individual creators. Consider the fact that in July, the social networking behemoth announced a plan to invest more than $1 billion in creators across both Facebook and Instagram through 2022. The platform’s willingness to shell out that kind of cash speaks to a fundamental belief in influencers’ power.

What Brands Should Do

What do these developments mean for brands? We recommend that you:

  • Embrace video, especially short-form video. Facebook is certainly demonstrating its commitment to the form. And as we blogged earlier this year, apps such as YouTube are launching short-form video options such as YouTube Shorts.
  • Look for advertising opportunities. Reels may not include ads on Facebook yet, but as noted above, the landscape is constantly evolving. What opportunities for advertising on video features exist today?
  • Understand that influencers hold a lot of sway. Consider how you might partner with individual creators to do influencer outreach for your brand.

Contact True Interactive

Pondering the role video might play in your brand’s strategic plan? Contact us. We can advise.

Why and How Instagram Is Leaning into Video

Why and How Instagram Is Leaning into Video

Instagram Social media

Instagram isn’t just about the photos anymore. As reported in The Verge, the social networking service is embracing entertainment and video in a bid to stay competitive with platforms like TikTok and YouTube. This isn’t the first time Instagram has gone head-to-head with TikTok: as we’ve blogged, Instagram launched Reels last August as a means of connecting with TikTok’s Gen Z audience. What do these new changes mean? Read on to learn more.

Not Just For Square . . . Photos

In a video posted on his Twitter and Instagram accounts, Instagram head Adam Mosseri explained that the platform no longer wants to be identified as a “square photo-sharing app,” rather as a hip general entertainment app driven by video — and algorithms. Mosseri says focus is on four key areas:

  • Creators, where Insta’s recognition of “the shift in power from institutions to individuals across industries” underlines Instagram’s desire to empower its creators.
  • Video, which is, as far as Mosseri is concerned, where it’s at. As he notes, “Video is driving an immense amount of growth online for all the major platforms right now.” His message: Instagram users have spoken. They want to be entertained. To stay relevant, Instagram is making video a tentpole of its offerings. Mosseri promises changes along the lines of users getting full-screen, recommended videos in their feeds, including videos from accounts a user may not already follow.
  • Shopping, to reflect the leap commerce has made from offline to online, a change accelerated by the pandemic.
  • Messaging, to honor the way close friends keep connected now — not by Feed and Stories, as has been the case in the past.

Reactions So Far

Reactions to Mosseri’s announcement have been mixed. Journalists are saying Instagram is responding to the rise of TikTok and YouTube, but as noted in Axios, warn that “[a]s social networks continue growing, they run the risk of overwhelming consumers and losing what made them special and distinct to begin with.”

And while Mosseri specifically names creators as a priority in his video, some creators, specifically photographers, are feeling marginalized and voting with their feet: Digital Photography Review reports that some photographers are defecting to Twitter in order to share their work in a space they feel is more dedicated to their art. Photographer Bryan Minear is a case in point. “In my eyes, Instagram stopped caring about artists and independent creators a long time ago,” he says. Minear, who switched to Twitter as his primary social media outlet in 2019, has found a vibrant photography community there.

Although Mosseri later tried to retract some of his wording — “We’re no longer a photo-sharing app or a square photo-sharing app” drew particular ire — his initial statement has aggravated photographers who feel an algorithm championing entertainment doesn’t put a premium on quality. “Instagram has done nothing but promote video-centric features at the expense of still photographers,” Minear says. “They’ve made it loud and clear that we aren’t welcome anymore.”

What Advertisers Should Do

What does all this mean for your brand? Is this “new” Instagram a good fit? We recommend that you:

  • Re-examine how you use video in your marketing and advertising. Clearly, video is getting bigger: 86 percent of businesses use video as a marketing tool, and 93 percent of marketers who use video say that it’s an important part of their marketing strategy. Instagram is showing where its allegiance lies. If video makes sense for you, Instagram might just be a viable advertising platform for you.
  • Consider the different ways influencers on Instagram are using both video and imagery as you find influencers to partner with. Who does a great job with video? Are they the right fit for your brand?

Contact True Interactive

In short, video is hot. Trying to figure out how to embracing video in your online advertising and marketing? Contact us. We can help.

2021 Advertising and Marketing Predictions from True Interactive

2021 Advertising and Marketing Predictions from True Interactive

Advertising

If 2020 had a few surprises up its sleeve, the year certainly set the stage for 2021. In the months ahead, businesses are poised to transition more boldly to a digital-first economy, which includes a more seamless approach to e-commerce and increased opportunities for engaging with people through immersive experiences such as e-sports. At the same time, businesses will continue to navigate an increasingly complicated consumer privacy landscape. All those trends, and others, will influence the uptake of digital advertising and marketing in 2021. Read on for our fearless predictions for the year:

E-commerce Grows Up

We’ve all heard the same statistic bandied about: in 2020, the pandemic accelerated the shift to e-commerce by five years, according to IBM. But that doesn’t mean the acceleration went smoothly. As we saw during the holiday season, the surge in online commerce has exposed cracks in the seams for many retailers. Sellers struggled with a variety of issues ranging from stocking items properly to following through with orders. Going into 2021, these challenges are forcing companies to integrate all their processes (online, in store, shipping logistics, etc.) more seamlessly. Larger retailers such as Target and Walmart have already successfully expanded services such as curbside pick-up, which make it possible for shoppers to buy online and pick up merchandise at the store without needing to go inside. Going forward, they’ll follow Amazon’s lead and invest more in their own shipping and delivery services to own the order fulfillment process (Target and Walmart already have them – they’re still refining them, though). As we have seen during the holidays, the strain on shipping services such as FedEx and UPS is becoming unacceptable to retailers, and if they lack the resources to build out their own delivery services, they will partner with businesses such as InstaCart.

In addition, learning from the events of 2020, retailers will likely become more nimble in their approach to advertising and supply chain management in order to adapt to quickly changing shifts in consumer demand. They’re going to do a better job using tools such as Google Insights to adapt their campaigns to consumer behavior. The key will be to ensure their supply chain processes are as nimble.

— Kurt Anagnostopoulos, co-founder

Rough Sledding for Facebook

It may be rough sledding ahead for Facebook in 2021. Do a quick Google News search for Facebook and you will see a slew of articles depicting the challenges the social media giant currently faces. At the top of the list? News that more than 40 attorneys general and the U.S. government are expected to sue Facebook for alleged antitrust violations. And while Mark Zuckerberg has routinely appeared at congressional hearings addressing concerns of privacy, misinformation, and censorship, this latest lawsuit might be a final awakening for businesses who use Facebook as an ad platform.

Adding to Facebook’s already uphill battle is the release of the Netflix documentary, The Social Dilemma, which explores the dangerous human impact of social network platforms as told by tech experts who expose secrets behind their own creations. Many media outlets reported a wave of people canceling their social media accounts after viewing the documentary. Of course, Facebook has slammed the documentary, claiming it’s full of misinformation, but is the damage already done? Even if the documentary did not get all the details right, it has undeniably affected public perception of social media platforms. And if even a fraction of current users de-activate their accounts, this will absolutely have a negative impact on audience size available to advertisers. More importantly, with the continued negative publicity surrounding the biggest social media platforms, are businesses really going to want to ramp spend on Facebook and Instagram? My prediction is no. After a crazy year filled with pandemic fears and general social unrest, I do not believe businesses are looking to invest in platforms embroiled in controversy. And if media spend is pulled from some of the social media giants, it may leave the door open for other search engines or community-based ad platforms to emerge. Stay tuned!

— Beth Bauch, director, digital marketing

Walmart Gains Ground as an Ad Platform

The Walmart marketplace is still very much in its infancy. I believe that 2021 will lead to exponential growth of Walmart’s advertising services, and the company will become more competitive with Amazon in this regard. The current platform is still very small scale and, technically, still in beta or just out of it. Many larger advertisers have not been invited to join the Walmart marketplace because it is still so brand new. I believe that Walmart will enjoy a large jump in advertising on their app and site Q1-Q2 2021.

— Tim Colucci, vice president, digital marketing

Augmented Reality Takes Hold

I think in 2021 we will see more brands invest money into creating virtual experiences for their customers. Augmented reality (AR) was already becoming popular before the onset of COVID-19, but now, given the urgency to shop online during the pandemic, consumers are missing the in-store experience of physically trying on items. And retailers are responding with AR: Warby Parker, for example, has created a virtual try-on for their glasses via their app. My glasses broke this weekend, and instead of going to a Warby Parker store to try on different frames, I could use their app to see what the glasses would look like on me, and felt more confident ordering online. Another brand capitalizing on the opportunities inherent in AR? A make-up line called NARS. They allow you to experiment with their products, such as blush and eye shadow, through a virtual try-on feature. Overall, I think more retail brands will create virtual shopping experiences for their customers in 2021.

— Taylor Hart, senior digital marketing manager

E-sports Dominates

The world of e-sports is never one to stop changing. With e-sports accumulating a total revenue that reached more than $1 billion in 2020 (a $150 million increase from 2019), we can only expect that to continue to rise in 2021. Given the ongoing global pandemic and application of stricter stay-at-home rules, more and more people will turn to e-sports as another form of entertainment. It all starts with streaming services that allow e-sports players to become household names in the gaming industry. Giving these players an opportunity to reach tens, potentially hundreds of thousands of viewers without leaving their home is something advertisers can only dream of. Players will do sponsored streams, with designated ad reads to be presented at certain points during the broadcast. The NFL is also getting involved with Twitch (the biggest live streaming platform), getting some of the big name streamers (e.g., NICKMERCS and TimTheTatman) to watch Thursday Night Football on stream with various advertisers as sponsors. Watch for more professional sports and entertainment services to follow in the footsteps of the NFL and try to reach this large, somewhat untapped market.

— Max Petrungaro, digital marketing associate

Privacy Dominates the Executive Agenda

For years, CEOs and CMOs have treated consumer privacy as a problem for their information technology teams to worry about. No longer. Privacy is rapidly becoming a C-level problem that can damage a company’s reputation if managed poorly. A variety of forces have elevated the importance of privacy in the United States. First off, the state of California rolled out a tough privacy act, the California Consumer Privacy Act, in January 2020, and then made the law more strict in November. Because California is one of the world’s largest economies and is a bellwether state, what happens there will influence how other states treat consumer privacy. In addition, the big technology firms are already under close scrutiny, and the new presidential administration is likely to take an even closer look at their privacy practices.

Speaking of the tech giants – their actions are casting a spotlight on privacy. As widely reported, Facebook has launched a public campaign attacking Apple’s privacy iOS 14 updates, which are going to make it harder for Facebook and other platforms to target users with ads. Meanwhile, Google continues to move forward with its plans to stop supporting third-party cookies on the Chrome browser by 2022 – an action that continues to reverberate across the ad industry. In 2021, businesses will face a year of transition as they navigate an increasingly complicated consumer privacy landscape. The challenge involves more than reacting to changes in legislation and cookie tracking technology; advertisers also need to stay on top of emerging tools such as Verizon Media’s ConnectID, designed to manage ads without the use of third-party cookies. School will be in session constantly.

— Mark Smith, co-founder

More Social Shopping

With the world of online shopping expanding in 2020 due to the pandemic, I predict that 2021 will bring new ways to shop across social. Instagram has already released its e-commerce store to elevate shopping online. I predict that the platform will continue to refine its online shopping tools, even as more social networks follow Instagram’s lead and create additional opportunities for shopping right from consumer smart devices.

— Bella Schneider, digital marketing manager

Online Video Explodes

Online video is going to explode as the number of streaming services expands. I believe we are also going to see a cheaper, monthly subscription option (akin to the base Hulu subscription) that includes video ads as a way to subsidize lower-cost services. It is rumored that HBO Max will offer this option, but I believe we will see similar offerings from Peacock, Disney+/Hulu (which I believe will be combined at some point . . . in 2021?), and Amazon Prime. I think the opportunity for more ad space is going to be too good to pass up as more and more consumers cut the cord OR sign up for multiple streaming services. In addition, I believe we will see other live TV options becoming available from streaming services: cord cutters will still have the opportunity for live TV . . .  plus the ad space that goes along with it.

— Tim Colucci, vice president, digital marketing

Contact True Interactive

To succeed with online advertising, contact True Interactive. Read about some of our client work here.

Photo by Ian Taylor on Unsplash

YouTube’s Bumper Machine: No Substitute for Creativity

YouTube’s Bumper Machine: No Substitute for Creativity

Video

YouTube is helping businesses to capture a person’s attention inside six seconds – which is important at a time when it takes just a few seconds for people to form an impression.  At Google’s annual Marketing Live event, YouTube unveiled a product called Bumper Machine, which makes it easier for businesses to create six-second video ads, or bumpers.

For context: in 2016, YouTube rolled out bumper ads. These consist of quick advertisements (six seconds) that are shown before a person’s selected video. A viewer must watch them before the video begins. By contrast, an in-stream video ad is the sponsored video that plays before your video selection on YouTube (and across the entire Google Display Network). You can skip an in-stream video ad after five seconds have elapsed.

According to YouTube, More than 90 percent of viewers say they have discovered new brands or products on YouTube. And as we’ve discussed on our blog, these ad formats give businesses the ability to target audiences and measure results. Not only can you target customer segments, but you can see how many of them interacted with your site, subscribed to your YouTube channel, made a purchase, or watched another of your YouTube videos (other than the ad you just showed them). Advertisers can can also see how much of the video ad an audience has watched. Doing so allows advertisers to determine if a video ad is too long, how much of the video a person watches before deciding to skip it, or see what percentage of viewers are tuned in for the entire video ad. All of these results can be determined the very next day.

But not every business has the resources and budget to crank out bumper ads. So at Google’s Marketing Live event, YouTube announced Bumper Machine, which generates six-second videos from longer video assets. Per YouTube,

Bumper Machine relies on machine learning models that are trained to identify interesting, well-structured moments in a longer video, like those that contain product or brand information, human faces, motion or contrast. It organizes these moments and brings them together to generate several different six-second ad variations for you to pick from, all in a matter of minutes. Before saving your new bumper ads, you can adjust them with simple edits.

Here is an example of how GrubHub took a 13-second ad and used Bumper Machine to create the 6-second version:

That’s right: Bumper Machine can configure your own bumper ad by figuring out what elements of a longer ad will work best in the bumper ad format – without human intervention. During a Q&A with viewers watching the Marketing Live event, YouTube product managers Ali Miller and Nick Rose answered some immediate questions:

Does Bumper Machine replace video editors and creatives?

No. One great way to use it is to gain inspiration for what you actually want to finally build as your bumper ad. You can take a look at what six seconds can do with a video and then build a customizable version of the video with all the expertise and creativity that professionals bring. But if you lack a budget and resources, it’s a way to get started with bumpers right away without spending on video production.

What was the insight behind Bumper Machine?

The six-second slot has taken hold as a way to create a compelling narrative. Bumper machine does the heavy work to help you create a six-second narrative

Is a six-second ad enough?

A six-second ad is an effective for telling a quick story. If you can fit in a single message, a joke, or an example of how a product is used, then a six-second bumper is a great way to get a message across. Also, it’s advisable to work with existing formats together to get the best results, such as skippable 30-second ads and True View to increase effectiveness, reach, awareness, and ROI.

With Bumper Machine, how does machine learning examine contextual relevance to determine a coherent message?

YouTube uses machine learning to identify the elements of the ad that will tell a story inside six seconds in the most engaging way — such as close-ups of someone’s face or a brand message. Then YouTube puts the content together to create a cohesive message.

What You Should Do

At True Interactive, we’ve been urging advertisers to adopt a video ad strategy for some time. Think of Bumper Machine as the video equivalent of your own Alexa skill, or an easy-to-use tool that enables an effective way of storytelling. Machine learning makes the formatting of the asset easier – but you still need human judgment to ensure that your ad captures the essence of your brand and is consistent with how you’re telling your story on other ad touch points (which I call creative parity, or consistency).

As with Google’s AI-fueled ad products, I suggest you view it as a tool to help, not as a substitute for actively managing your creative. For more insight, contact True Interactive. We have extensive experience with online advertising and are ready to help.

YouTube Fights to Keep Its Platform Safe

YouTube Fights to Keep Its Platform Safe

Video

YouTube once again finds itself in hot water.

Recently, businesses such as Disney and Nestle pulled their ads from the platform after a concerned YouTuber called attention to the number of predatory comments and videos targeting children. In response, YouTube terminated more than 400 channels and tens of millions of comments and then announced on February 28 that it will ban comments completely for most videos of kids. In addition, YouTube said it is “continuing to grow our team to keep people safe.” But just as it seemed the uproar was beginning to die down, YouTube was hit with more ugly incidents:

  • The resurgence of the Momo Challenge on YouTube – a viral hoax that reportedly encourages self-harm – caused YouTube to demonetize all videos about Momo.

Events of recent days are not the first time YouTube has found itself in the news over the posting of inappropriate content. Two years ago, I blogged about how YouTube’s lax reviewing standards and an easy monetization process resulted in mainstream ads appearing alongside disgusting content such as videos created by extremist groups. Although YouTube has vowed repeatedly to devote more resources to policing its content, obviously the platform is not completely safe.

Of all the firestorms engulfing social media platforms lately, I can’t think of anything that approaches a level of severity than the exploitation of children. But can YouTube stamp out the problem through the measures it has announced?

Meanwhile, as my colleague Kurt Anagnostopoulos noted in a blog post, social media is a messy place for brands to live. No matter what steps YouTube takes, the site will never be free of inappropriate content. I suspect most businesses will tolerate occasional flare-ups so long as they are dealt with swiftly. It’s the pattern of abusive content that causes businesses to pull their ads. For YouTube, gaining and keeping trust will come down to how well the platform stops the flare-ups before a pattern emerges.

For more insight into how to manage your brand in the digital world, contact True Interactive. We’re here to help.

Brands, Get Ready for Video on LinkedIn

Brands, Get Ready for Video on LinkedIn

Marketing

Organic video for company pages is coming to LinkedIn. It’s only a matter of time. Businesses need to be ready to capitalize on the opportunity.

Video content is already a major way businesses and people communicate on the internet. According to Kleiner Perkins, video accounts for 74 percent of all Web traffic, and 55 percent of people watch video every day according to MWP. In 2017, LinkedIn started to catch up to other social platforms that have become more accommodating to video content when the company made it possible for users to create personal videos on its mobile app.

For LinkedIn, the introduction of video meant that its users could create more engaging stories about themselves, especially in a business setting. For example, in a blog post about LinkedIn video, LinkedIn cited the example of the president of an equipment company using video to demonstrate how her company’s forklifts operate.

Since then, LinkedIn has indicated to True Interactive that the company plans to bring native sponsored videos in the feed as part of its 2018 advertising plans. The timing could not be better. On January 11, Facebook announced the company will downgrade content from publishers in users’ news feeds. This move will pressure more publishers to look to other platforms such as LinkedIn to engage people with their content.

Businesses should prepare for video coming to your LinkedIn pages. For example, if you post video regularly on other platforms, create a strategy for cross-posting content on LinkedIn. You might want to start by testing different types of video to see what kind of content creates more engagement on LinkedIn versus Facebook or Instagram although these days the content between Facebook and LinkedIn is converging. LinkedIn used to be a platform for people to post business-related content, but more and more users are posting personal stories that would appear on the surface to be more suitable for Facebook. Businesses that rely on employee ambassadors to humanize their brands with more personal content might find LinkedIn to be an attractive destination for video content.

It also makes sense to earmark a larger LinkedIn advertising budget. LinkedIn will certainly incorporate video into its advertising products to monetize video and create more engagement for brands. Especially with Facebook becoming less friendly to brands, LinkedIn looks more attractive.

As I mentioned in a recent True Interactive blog post predicting 2018 trends, LinkedIn is becoming a more popular platform for companies to build their brands. LinkedIn has been adding a number of features such as Matched Audiences and Website Retargeting to make it a stronger advertising platform. Recently LinkedIn ran a pilot program with more 370 participating advertisers and saw a 30-percent increase in click-through rates and a 14-percent drop in post-click cost-per-conversion with Website Retargeting. Businesses should already be taking a closer look at LinkedIn as part of their advertising and content marketing strategies – and make sure you include video.

For more insight into how to build your brand across the digital world, contact True Interactive. We’re here to help.

Image source: https://pixabay.com/en/video-camera-optics-photography-2562034/

Nuts & Bolts: How to Decide if Paid Video Search is Right for You

Nuts & Bolts Video

Look at any article or blog post on “hot marketing trends for 2016” and you’ll see “video” at or near the top. Do you have a strategy for implementing paid video search in your marketing plan?

The latest post in our “Nuts & Bolts” series delves into the what, why and how of paid video, based on a recent workshop I presented. For example, Forrester estimates that one minute of video is worth 1.8 million words of text in terms of the message being communicated. Can you afford to miss out on that opportunity?

View the slides below from our workshop to learn if a paid video program is right for you right now. If not, discover how to discern when it is the right time. You’ll also get useful tips and links to help you begin – once the time is right. More importantly, you will get advice on how to measure your program’s effectiveness with techniques like attribution marketing.