Facebook Changes the Narrative at F8

Facebook Changes the Narrative at F8

Social media

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

Social media

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.

Advertising on Facebook? Get Ready for Tough Sledding Ahead

Advertising on Facebook? Get Ready for Tough Sledding Ahead

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Facebook has quickly changed from the brand that could do no wrong to the business that spreads fake news. Mark Zuckerberg’s announcement that the company is de-valuing publisher content on users’ news feeds caused a notable drop in its stock value and inspired a CNN article with a once unthinkable headline, “Mark Zuckerberg Is Fighting to Save Facebook.” Facebook isn’t going away. But with the recent admission by former Facebook executives that the social media platform was designed to get its users addicted and that it is ripping apart the social fabric of how society works, 2018 might be the year we see a significant decline in active users.

Although industry analysts have been predicting a reduction in Facebook users for the past few years, the fact that ex-Facebook executives are admitting guilt over the monster they’ve created might finally be the wakeup call that many social media users have been waiting for. If Facebook usage does suffer a significant decline, it’s fair to expect that marketers will also see diminished performance from their Facebook ads. Many advertisers use the Facebook advertising platform as a brand awareness tactic, paying advertising fees based on the number of times an ad is shown versus the number of times someone interacts with an ad. “Reach” (the number of people who saw an ad) is a metric commonly monitored by advertisers, and when the pool of potential audience members declines, so does the effectiveness of their branding efforts.

The most obvious expected drop-off would be among younger members as parents may begin to heed the addiction warning and implement usage restrictions for their children. Currently, advertisers cannot specifically target people under the age of 13 — so there should be minimal effect on paid ad performance if Facebook sees a decline in users age 12 and under.  However, if parents or older siblings start following suit (perhaps by means of setting an example or simply choosing to spend their time elsewhere) the impact could be significant to marketers who have become accustomed to reaching millions of people.

As the Facebook audience narrows, marketers may need to adjust their strategy and opt for conversion-based campaigns versus brand awareness. Measuring the overall effectiveness of a brand awareness campaign is difficult to quantify. But as advertisers start tracking actual results from their conversion campaigns, they may find the cost far outweighs the return and may choose to pull back on their overall Facebook investment.

My advice: keep a watchful eye on Facebook as an advertising platform. Take advantage of the tools we have blogged about (such as Collection ads), but make sure you complement your advertising spend across multiple platforms where it makes sense for your business to be, ranging from Google to Instagram. Get ready for tough sledding on Facebook. For more insight into how to build your brand with digital, contact True Interactive. We’re here to help.

Social Media Remains a Messy Place for Brands to Live

Social Media Remains a Messy Place for Brands to Live

Social media

Let’s face it: YouTube will never be free of controversy. Neither will Facebook. Or Twitter. Or even LinkedIn. Social media is, and will always be, a messy and imperfect place for brands to live. The major platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube continue to roll out more programs to police user activity on their sites in an effort to protect their integrity for advertisers. Recently we saw YouTube do just that by committing to hiring more people to teach computers to police its site, which YouTube hopes will prevent advertisers’ content from appearing next to inappropriate content.

But despite these efforts, we also continue to see signs of how ugly and messy social media can be. The latest reminder is the controversy surrounding the filming of a suicide victim by YouTube personality Logan Paul. Not only was the action itself alarming, but so were the reactions of others on social media, who created a cycle of content that extended the story and sensationalized the news. In addition, the incident drew attention to how difficult it is for YouTube to police its own content.

Of course, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter (the lightning rods for social media critics) need to do everything they can to make their platforms as respectable and safe as possible. But as my colleague Tim Colucci argued recently, YouTube’s ad problems aren’t going away, and neither are Facebook’s and Twitter’s. If you advertise on social media, understand the appeal of social media will always be its openness. On social media, anyone can have an opinion, which means that fringe content will always creep its way on to the major platforms no matter how hard Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube work to contain offensive material.

In 2018, advertisers will need to come to terms with the imperfect nature of social while capitalizing on its many advantages, of which there are many. Let’s remember:

  • Facebook continues to roll out products that make it possible for advertisers to target audiences more effectively than ever before.
  • Twitter remains a strong platform for companies to announce news and support product roll-outs.
  • YouTube continues to be the premier video platform and search tool.

The question, is, how much imperfection and messiness are advertisers willing to accept? The answer depends on how tightly you control your brand’s image. Command-and-control brands will always have a difficult time living on social media. Brands that are comfortable rolling with the punches will flourish. What’s your strategy? Contact True Interactive. We can help you manage your digital brand.

Image source: https://pixabay.com/en/film-filmstrip-you-tube-you-tube-589491/

Why Higher Education Should Take a Closer Look at LinkedIn

Why Higher Education Should Take a Closer Look at LinkedIn

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Facebook, Google, and Twitter have all recently faced backlash ranging from Russian meddling to antitrust violations, video censoring and more. While recent polls have shown that most Americans still have a very favorable view of these tech companies, the recent negative reporting may have marketers looking for other avenues to reach their target market. If you are in the higher education vertical, you might be looking for alternatives, too. I suggest taking a closer look at LinkedIn, which is starting to catch up with Facebook and Google to offer audience targeting tools.

Google and Facebook Set the Pace

The robust targeting measures offered by Google and Facebook have long been attractive to higher education. Google continues to add to its demographic targeting with the addition of household income along with age and gender. Audience targeting is clearly a primary focus as demonstrated by Google’s addition of in-market audiences, which are generated by tracking the online behavior of searchers and classifying them based on their demonstrated in-market behavior and purchase intent. Although in-market audiences are currently only available for display campaigns, they will be coming to search in the near future. Soon, Google will be able to categorize searchers who are interested in pursuing post-secondary education based on their online search behavior.

While Facebook and Google have made audience targeting a strong feature in their platforms, LinkedIn has been slower to make advancements in this area. However, earlier this year, LinkedIn took a significant step forward when the platform rolled out Matched Audiences.

LinkedIn Matched Audiences

LinkedIn’s rollout of Matched Audiences is welcome news to higher education marketers who understand the importance of tailoring their message to specific audience segments. The LinkedIn Matched Audiences include three new tools to reach audiences that matter most to your organization. These include Website Retargeting, Contact Targeting, and Account Targeting.

LinkedIn Website Retargeting

Website Retargeting requires the placement of a lightweight JavaScript code on your website. Once the tag is installed, you can define specific audiences based on pages they’ve visited on your website.

This feature is particularly useful for helping to identify potential students and their program interests.  For example, if a LinkedIn member visits a college website and researches communication degrees, they would become a member of an audience of people who have visited that specific web page, which allows marketers for that college to serve ads specifically tailored around communication degrees.

Not surprisingly, LinkedIn has seen much success with this type of retargeting. Over a period of six months, 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.

Contact Targeting

Contact Targeting offers the ability to market to prospects and known contacts by uploading email addresses or connecting to your contact management platform. Most colleges have extensive lists of prospective students who have requested information, attended open houses, or otherwise demonstrated an interest in the institution. These lists can then be matched through the LinkedIn platform and be used to deliver tailored content and convert prospects.

Account Targeting

Through Account Targeting, A list of company names are uploaded and matched against the nearly 12 million company pages on LinkedIn, which lets you support account-based marketing programs by reaching decision makers at your target companies. Although there might be cases for incorporating Account Targeting for marketing in the higher education vertical, Website Retargeting and Contact Targeting seem to be the better fit for reaching prospective students.

Dynamic Ads

In addition to the new forms of targeting discussed above, LinkedIn also offers Dynamic Ads, which dynamically populate with LinkedIn member profile images and relevant content based on skills, interests, and career history of the individual member viewing the ad.

LinkedIn points to a recent successful use of Dynamic Ads by ESCP Europe, the self-described World’s First Business School with a variety of campuses in different countries.  ESCP Europe was looking to generate high-quality leads for a Master in European Business (MEB) program.  The institution incorporated dynamic ads, pulling in LinkedIn member profile pictures, and invited prospective students to connect. This strategy allowed ESCP Europe to deliver more than two million impressions to potential students and resulted in more than 40 enrollments in less than a month at a conversion rate that was two times higher than its average.

It is important to continually evaluate your marketing strategies to maintain a strong presence in the highly competitive field of higher education. Check out the new features in LinkedIn to see how they can help you reach your marketing goals in the new year. And contact True Interactive to help you manage your online marketing – it’s what we do 24/7.

Photo by delfi de la Rua on Unsplash

4 Ways to Turn Employees into Brand Ambassadors

4 Ways to Turn Employees into Brand Ambassadors

Social media

Your biggest social media advocates might be hiding in plain sight: your employees.

Compelling content, influencer outreach, and paid media are important elements of any social media strategy. But too often, businesses overlook or undervalue the role of their own people in building brand advocacy through social media.

Your employees should be your biggest fans. Employees live and breathe the brand every day. Businesses should encourage their employees to be advocates. When you encourage your employees to speak on behalf of your brand, you demonstrate trust in them. And doing so is just smart marketing. Employees probably have a larger presence than your business does – most certainly collectively and sometimes even individually if you employ high-profile people who blog actively and post often on their socials.

But many people do not post about their employer on their personal social media pages. Oftentimes, the impediment is not a reluctance to talk about their employers but rather a lack of understanding of the ground rules for doing so. Still others just need to be prompted with compelling content. In either case, the brand itself can encourage social sharing by playing an active role. Employees need education, motivation, and inspiration from the company to be active brand advocates on social media.

Here are some ways to get started.

Listen to Your Staff

The first step to cultivating employees as brand ambassadors is listening to them.

Employees provide a valuable source of social listening. Their input shared on public social sites such as Glassdoor, as well as their own socials, will make you more aware of how they feel about the brand. Moreover, their input on social channels (including internal ones such as Slack) can provide valuable feedback on your products and services. This information should help you gain insight on what to educate your staff on and if there are any problems. You need your people to be happy and satisfied at work, not only to perform well but to also be brand ambassadors.

Educate Your Staff

Employees want and need ground rules for talking about you on social media. Ground rules are more than a list of dos and don’ts. They empower employees by giving them examples of how to (and how not to) discuss your company. Ground rules are especially critical for publicly traded companies, where disclosing the wrong information at the wrong time can put a business at risk for disciplinary action from the government.

So, create a plan for social media – a plan with guidelines – and educate everyone in the company, not just people in HR and Legal.

You might find it useful to involve an outside perspective, such as a social media expert who takes charge of educating your entire staff on social media guidelines, content, and brand storytelling. Outside voices can provide ideas and lessons learned from a wide variety of businesses, not just yours.

Give Your Employees Something to Share

When you share great content with employees, they’ll share it publicly. But you have to share it rather than expect them to find it. For instance:

  • Do all your employees know about what you post on your own corporate socials, such as your Facebook and Instagram accounts? Do they know you have accounts and where to find them?
  • When an employee achieves something to celebrate, do you let your employees know and link to your own social spaces where you’ve noted the achievement?
  • Do you keep your employees abreast of when your company is in the news?
  • How well do you share your corporate thought leadership with all your employees, such as blog posts and white papers?

Employees are especially willing to talk up your thought leadership when they realize that sharing your branded content will uplift other employees.

Inspire Your Staff

Employees don’t always have time to be brand ambassadors – until you make the process easy. They sometimes feel like sharing content about your brand is a chore – until you make the process fun.

Making content-sharing easy means getting little things right, such as sharing a short link and hashtag for the information you want people to share, as well as links to your socials in every communication (rather than assuming employees remember where to find your socials).

Making content easy to share also means going so far as to explain why the content matters and the value of sharing it. If you want employees to tweet about a company accomplishment, give them tweet-worthy headlines.

You can also make social sharing fun by giving shout-outs to employees who are active brand ambassadors – and by linking to their socials on your corporate socials when appropriate. In both instances, you’re doing what comes natural in social media: rewarding through recognition.

Next Steps

If you’re inspired to do a better job cultivating your employees as brand ambassadors, I would suggest doing the following;

  • Do an audit of your own social media program. Make sure you have your own house in order before you ask your employees to put their socials to work for you.
  • Enlist the help of your employees. Consider creating a small team of highly influential employees and ask them for ideas and oversight of a brand ambassador program.
  • Create a strategy for how you’ll operate. A strategy should include everything from goals to sources of content and approaches for getting employees involved.
  • Have an ongoing mechanism in place to share and get feedback from employees about your program. Learn from them and adjust as you go along.

Developing an employee brand ambassador program can be exciting, rewarding, and fulfilling. When done right, employee brand ambassador programs generate more buzz and excitement for your brand than you could accomplish through your corporate socials. For more insight, contact True Interactive. We’re here to help.

Image source: https://www.pexels.com/photo/adult-chill-computer-connection-450271/