How Brands Are Responding to IGTV, Instagram’s Hot New Format for Visual Storytelling

How Brands Are Responding to IGTV, Instagram’s Hot New Format for Visual Storytelling

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Sometimes businesses stay successful by defying expectations. A case in point: Instagram’s recently launched IGTV feature. At a time when goldfish have longer attention spans than human beings, Instagram wants its one billion monthly users to spend more time watching longer-form video.

What Is IGTV?

IGTV makes it possible for users (both businesses and people) to upload video content for up to one hour in length, a dramatic change from the one-minute ceiling that Instagram used to impose on video content posted in the main feed of an account. Instagram understands that even though we have short attention spans, people also reward compelling stories. And businesses are already jumping on the opportunity.

The Mobile-First Platform

As Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom announced on June 20, IGTV is engineered for mobile phones. In other words, the format is optimized for uploading and watching content on a vertical full screen, the way people naturally watch content on their mobile phones. As Instagram noted on its own site, by 2021, mobile video will account for 78 percent of total mobile data traffic, but recording video on mobile phones remains a somewhat clumsy experience. By being mobile-first, IGTV wants to be the go-to resource.

How to Use IGTV

It’s easy to use IGTV. You simply tap on a television icon at the top of your screen and follow the prompts to start recording video. In addition, the icon leads you to content that others have created. You can view what’s popular, who you are following, or what Instagram suggests for you. The videos appear like Instagram stories, but the videos last much longer than stories do. Users cannot livestream on IGTV, though.

How Brands Are Using IGTV

IGTV is not an advertising format – for now. The time may come soon when businesses can create bumper ads or banner ads as they can on YouTube. Meanwhile, businesses are already creating content by setting up their own channels similar to the Snapchat approach. IGTV has been especially attractive to media/entertainment brands. The BBC is posting informational content such as an overview of plastics done with amusing Monty Python style graphics. Guns N’ Roses has been uploading scenes from the band’s concerts, such as soundchecks and an inside look at what it’s like for the band to take the stage before a concert. Shira Lazar, who hosts her own internet show, has been sharing you-are-there segments from her travels to events such as VidCon. The content ranges from organic to very slick. More examples include:

  • Health/nutritional/cooking brands and influencers such as Vital Proteins are posting instructional videos on workouts, recipes, and nutritional facts.
  • Make-up brands are showing how-to videos for their products. For example, Sephora shows skin care routines and how to apply certain products.
  • Clothing/Jewelry brands such as Kendra Scott and Red Dress Boutique are posting behind-the-scenes/sneak peaks of their new collections. Kendra Scott recently gave a behind-the-scenes tour of its new jewelry collection. Red Dress recently took viewers behind the scenes of a photo shoot for new arrivals.

It’s also not uncommon to see businesses posting content they had posted already on YouTube. But brands need to be careful: if your YouTube content is not optimized for mobile viewing, it may render poorly on IGTV.

Influencers on IGTV

IGTV has given influencers another channel to share their content. For example, I have noticed influencers are turning their online blog posts into “interviews” where they basically post a video that describes their blog post for that day. In fact, Instagram has called out IGTV’s potential for helping individual content creators become stars as they have done on YouTube.

“[W]e’ve learned that younger audiences are spending more time with amateur content creators and less time with professionals,” Instagram noted on its blog. Instagram indicated that IGTV will connect users with more individual content creators. But clearly, IGTV has quickly become a format for businesses based on my early experiences.

What Brands Should Do about IGTV

To capitalize on the value of IGTV, I suggest brands do the following:

  • If you are creating video content already on channels such as Snapchat and YouTube (or Instagram for short-form video), start using IGTV, especially if you want to connect with the mobile generation. The fact that Instagram now has one billion monthly users should be reason enough for IGTV to get your attention.
  • As noted, be careful about how you re-purpose video created on other channels. Re-purpose content that has been optimized for mobile viewing.
  • Use the launch of IGTV to examine your influencer strategy. As we have noted on our blog, influencer outreach is getting bigger as brands look for ways to circumvent their content being marginalized by Facebook algorithms. IGTV creates more outlets for influencers and brands to collaborate.
  • Learn from others. Do an audit on all the content exploding across IGTV. Don’t limit yourself to businesses in your own industry. Look for businesses that are already doing a great job posting long-form content that tells a visual story.

Finally, watch IGTV closely for opportunities to advertise. It’s only a matter of time before Instagram opens up the platform for advertising. First things first: get comfortable creating content on IGTV, and get ready to engage your audience. Contact True Interactive for more insight into how to use apps such as IGTV to create more engagement.

 

Facebook Seeks Transparency with View Ads

Facebook Seeks Transparency with View Ads

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You might have heard that Facebook is testing an advertising format that makes it possible for businesses to see other businesses’ Facebook ads. And you might be freaking out. If so, relax. Facebook is becoming more transparent, but not at the expense of advertisers.

Here’s the context: Facebook recently discussed the testing of a new feature known as View Ads. With View Ads, anyone visiting a brand’s Facebook page can see all of the ads connected to that page regardless of who the brand is targeting with the ads. In other words, if you are a brand, your competitors can see all your ads and vice versa.

Facebook is reportedly rolling out the feature more broadly this summer. Regardless of the timing, brands should expect Facebook to implement more measures such as View Ads. Facebook has to become more transparent as a response to myriad controversies surrounding manipulation of the platform during the 2016 presidential election and mounting concerns about the platform’s trustworthiness.

Being able to view your competitors’ ads should not change your ad strategy, nor should the fact that competitors can see yours. The only reason to view competitors’ ads is to fine-tune your own approach so that your brand stands apart. But if you keep the focus of your attention on your customers and take care of your people, your competitors’ Facebook ads won’t matter. In addition, measures to make Facebook more transparent will ultimately help businesses that advertise on Facebook. Transparency is needed to build trust. And Facebook has a trust problem, to say the least.

For more insight into Facebook View Ads, check out my recently published column in Adweek Social Pro Daily. And contact us to understand how to build your digital brand.

How to Succeed with the Smarter Instagram Feed

How to Succeed with the Smarter Instagram Feed

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Instagram recently made its algorithm smarter and explained to TechCrunch how the algorithm works. The headline: Instagram uses machine learning to make its feed more personal to its users. This change is good news for brands on Instagram that enjoy high levels of engagement and inspire passion. The news is bad for brands that rely on one-way messages.

By applying machine learning, the Instagram algorithm literally learns from the behavior of its users to serve up more relevant content on their feeds instead of sharing content in chronological order. If you tend to like posts about cats from the cat lovers in your Instagram universe, Instagram shares more cats. If you tend to like posts from country music star Chris Stapleton’s account, you’re going to get more Chris Stapleton posts higher up in your feed. Meanwhile, accounts you follow passively without liking very much appear lower in your feed.

Here’s how Josh Constine of TechCrunch summarized the three main factors that determine what appears more prominently in your Instagram feed:

“Interest: How much Instagram predicts you’ll care about a post, with higher ranking for what matters to you, determined by past behavior on similar content and potentially machine vision analyzing the actual content of the post.

Recency: How recently the post was shared, with prioritization for timely posts over weeks-old ones.

Relationship: How close you are to the person who shared it, with higher ranking for people you’ve interacted with a lot in the past on Instagram, such as by commenting on their posts or being tagged together in photos.”

This change is especially great news for media/entertainment brands, such as accounts that support musicians and movie releases, which tend to create stronger, more loyal fan followings than brands in other businesses. Selena Gomez, who enjoys 138 million followers, is going to become an even more dominant force. Media brands such as National Geographic, and sports brands such as FC Barcelona and the NBA, which also enjoy millions of followers, are also likely enjoying an uptick in popularity.

But you don’t have to be a sports or media brand to capitalize on Instagram’s algorithm. The key is to create engagement by posting great visual content and by getting fans involved with your page. It’s also important to post often, for as TechCrunch noted, Instagram is placing a higher priority on more timely content.

The algorithm change may also convince more brands to work through personal influencers with large followings given the increased focus on content from accounts where Instagram perceives a closer relationship with followers.

It’s absolutely a bad idea to post content just to keep the lights on. Instagram is pushing less interesting content out of the way in favor of brands and people who work harder to make Instagram more interesting, including the use of tools such as looping Boomerangs and engaging written calls to action to go with your visuals.

For more insight on how to succeed on Instagram, contact us. We’re here to help.

Twitter’s Troll Police Struggle to Separate Humans from Bots

Twitter’s Troll Police Struggle to Separate Humans from Bots

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Tweeting with the Cyrillic alphabet might get your Twitter account suspended. According to The Verge, Twitter users from Bulgaria report that their accounts are being suspended simply because the users are tweeting in Cyrillic. So what gives? Well, Twitter has been cracking down on trolls and Russian bots in the wake of negative publicity about how sites such as Twitter are being manipulated by Russian-managed bots. And since Cyrillic is an alphabet used by Russians, “the very use of the alphabet is being treated as a red flag,” speculates The Verge.

In other words, a Twitter bot-busting algorithm might sweep you into its net along with suspected bots just because you have the temerity to use an alphabet used by untold number of human beings. Unfortunately innocent users are paying a price. As The Verge noted:

Innocent users are able to recover their accounts reasonably quickly after a suspension, but then Twitter still treats them like digital outcasts, showing “tweet unavailable” messages when they respond to a conversation thread and also muting them from sending notifications to others. If you want to know what the term “shadow banning” refers to, well, it’s basically this sort of treatment. It’s especially troublesome because when someone affected by it reaches out to Twitter’s support and help services, they’re told that their account isn’t banned and everything is fine. Except their friends can’t receive any notifications from them or see their contributions to group conversations.

Twitter has a long road ahead of it as the platform attempts to balance the need for free speech with the abuse of trolls. In a recently published column for Adweek Social Pro Daily, I discuss Twitter’s struggle to protect its site from trolls without trampling on innocent users. The experience Twitter is having with users of Cyrillic is the latest illustration of Twitter’s struggle. Will Twitter hire enough competent people to manage its troll-policing algorithm, though? The company is just beginning to enjoy a financial turnaround, and the costs of hiring more editors may be unacceptable to investors. For more insight into Twitter’s troll problem, check out my column and contact us to discuss how to build your brand on social.

Facebook Changes the Narrative at F8

Facebook Changes the Narrative at F8

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The 2018 Facebook F8 Developer Conference created an opportunity for Facebook to change the narrative about the embattled company. At the annual event, Facebook usually unveils new products and a glimpse at the company’s future. This year’s event just happened to occur only weeks after CEO Mark Zuckerberg spent two days on Capitol Hill defending the company’s approach to data privacy. So you can be sure Facebook was eager to inspire coverage about something besides Mark Zuckerberg going head to head with angry legislators and trying to assure investors that Facebook is improving its approach to protecting user data.

And Facebook delivered with a slew of announcements and demonstrations that reminded Facebook watchers of its commitment to connecting people through an ever-evolving social platform. Highlights included:

  • FaceDate, a dating feature in which Facebook members can make their profiles to non-friends who opt in to look for someone to date. With FaceDate, Facebook is reinforcing its core mission of connecting people, a mission that Facebook periodically updates as it did last year with the rollout of the “bring the world closer together” mantra. It looks as though Facebook wants to bring the world closer together one person at a time and in relationships that go beyond friending. It’s a reasonable move that doesn’t stray too far from Facebook on its best day: connecting people.
  • Augmented and virtual reality: Facebook has been marching down a path of creating augmented and virtual reality experiences for some time, as manifested by the purchase of VR firm Oculus in 2014. In 2016, Mark Zuckerberg placed AR/VR at the far end of a 10-year roadmap. Facebook F8 showed that Facebook appears to be right on schedule. The company released Oculus Go, a lightweight, relatively affordable VR headset that liberates VR from the confines of a stationary computer. Oculus Go is important because it’s supposed to make VR more affordable while delivering a reasonably high-quality VR experience. Meanwhile, on the AR front, Facebook showed off progress with its AR camera for interacting with AR content in the real world. Among other announcements, Facebook disclosed that AR is coming to its Messenger platform.

Facebook also embedded AR into the actual F8 experience, such as with an AR scavenger hunt in which participants looked for objects using their devices. Through the hunt, Facebook tested with the camera (accessible from inside Facebook) by, in effect, relying on F8 attendees as the test group. Although there is nothing inherently new about an AR scavenger hunt, the hunt gave Facebook a chance to test target-recognition technology, which unlocks AR effects without requiring you to tap on your camera app. The feature is not yet available and so F8 amounted to a beta test.

For two days, Facebook succeeded in repositioning itself as a media company shaping the future of social experiences. Some of the news coverage reflects the kind of narrative Facebook wanted to tell at F8:

Never mind that Facebook’s AR and VR experiences still come down to providing developing tools disconnected from consistently good content. What matters is that Facebook changed the narrative. For a larger rundown of everything Facebook announced at F8, go here. And contact us to discuss how to build your brand on Facebook.

Instagram Escapes the Techlash (So Far)

Instagram Escapes the Techlash (So Far)

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Somehow Instagram has remained unsullied by the fear, uncertainty, and doubt that has gripped social platforms lately.

YouTube keeps getting slammed for allowing brands’ ads to run on extremist channelsTwitter continues to wrestle with the challenge of balancing the need for free speech against the ugly reality of people using the platform to spread hate and harassment. And we all know what kind of a year Facebook has been having with Mark Zuckerberg needing to appear before Congress amid concerns about the privacy of its users’ data.

And Instagram? The platform keeps making headlines of a different sort, ranging from news about product updates such as Focus portrait mode to gossipy stories about the activities of the influencers and celebrities who live on Instagram. I’m going to go out on a limb here and speculate that CEO Kevin Systrom will take articles accusing Tristan Thompson of using Instagram to cheat on Khloe Kardashian over the kind of news coverage his boss Mark Zuckerberg has been getting.

Against this backdrop, I’ve added my own perspective for Adweek Social Pro Daily. My article, “What Instagram Carousel Ads for Stories Mean to Brands,” discusses a recently released feature that makes it possible for consumers to purchase products through a carousel of branded video and product images. As I note in the article, Carousel Ads are not original to Instagram – Facebook launched them first – but Instagram is the perfect platform for the format because Carousel Ads are tailored for mobile users in the visual age. And in the United States, only Snapchat rivals Instagram for as the de rigueur platform for the mobile, visually savvy consumer.

The Carousel Ads for Stories format means more opportunities for brands to engage with consumers and rely on Instagram as an ecommerce platform. For more insight, check out my article and let us knowhow you’ve been using Instagram for digital marketing and commerce. We’re here to help.

Mark Zuckerberg Faces Congress: Social Media Grows Up

Mark Zuckerberg Faces Congress: Social Media Grows Up

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I have heard Mark Zuckerberg’s Congressional appearances this week described as the moment when social media began to grow up. And there’s no doubt that the world’s largest social network has started to sound more committed to acting more responsibly with the data of its two billion members, judging by Zuckerberg’s remarks and his prepared testimony. Assigning a $40,000 bounty for the reporting of data abuse certainly makes Facebook look determined to get more serious about addressing data indiscretions.

But despite Facebook’s stated commitment to get better at protecting its users, a simple fact remains: social media is a messy place for brands to live even as social media platforms grow up.

Amid the publication of determined testimonies and bounties, I know these things to be certain:

  • Facebook will not be immune from data abuse. Mistakes are going to happen. Determined and unethical parties are going to look for cracks in the seams. What we can expect to be different is Facebook’s reaction to problems when they happen. There remains an important distinction between a platform having airtight security and a platform that acts rapidly to address problems when they occur. Will advertisers and users appreciate the difference?
  • Facebook won’t be the only platform that experiences abuses of its terms and conditions. As I noted on our blog, YouTube has been hiring more people to train computers to police abuses on its site in order to prevent the kinds of embarrassing incidents that rocked the network in recent months, such as brand advertising appearing alongside inappropriate videos. But YouTube continues to experience lapses, such as a report about ads for adult content appearing on the site, hackers targeting popular music videos, and advocacy groups charging YouTube with illegally collecting personal information from children.
  • Facebook users will complain about data abuses and some will even #DeleteFacebook. But how many will stay off the network permanently after they realize that there’s nowhere else to go?

I’m not saying that brands should simply be patient. Brands and users should expect more vigilance out of all their social networks, including Facebook, Google, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and all the others we call home. But we need to be realistic. These networks, especially Facebook, remain free because they accept advertising. And to play ball with advertisers, they’re going to share user data – which, when done well, brings about a better user experience. But with the sharing of data comes potential for abuse. And let’s not forget these free platforms are pretty much open to anyone who meets their soft requirements, and advertisers have to accept the consequences, both good and bad.

Advertisers, buckle in. You’re in for a bumpy – but profitable – ride. Remember, these networks offer rewards to those who understand how to use them for targeted, timely advertising. Contact us. We’ll work with you to do just that.