Get Ready for LinkedIn Live

Get Ready for LinkedIn Live

Social media

Live, from Sunnyvale, California: it’s LinkedIn Live!

LinkedIn is rolling out a new feature that makes it possible for businesses and people to create live content. With LinkedIn Live, members of LinkedIn’s 562-million-strong community will be able to livestream content just like they can with Facebook Live. Yes, that’s right: now you can do all the things you do on Facebook to create engagement through live video, such as offering behind-the-scenes glimpses of conferences or trade shows, coverage of news stories in your industry, announcements of your own, launches of new products, thought leadership, and instructional content, depending on the nature of your business.

LinkedIn Users Want Video

And your company’s rock stars will be able to do the same. When the feature becomes available (it’s in beta only right now), live video will humanize your brand by making your thought leaders, brand ambassadors, and company executives more accessible and authentic through the power of live video.

In addition, LinkedIn will work with partners such as Wirecast, Switcher Studio, Wowza Media Systems, Socialive, and Brandlive to make video content more polished than what you’re accustomed to seeing on Facebook Live. Microsoft, LinkedIn’s owner, is supporting LinkedIn Live with the Microsoft cloud-computing business, Azure Media Services.

LinkedIn told TechCrunch that live video is the most requested feature among its members, and the use of recorded video has been booming. Pete Davies, the director of product management at LinkedIn, told TechCrunch, “Video is the fastest growing format on our platform right now, and the one most likely to get people talking.”

Late to the Game?

Some have asked whether LinkedIn is late to the game. I think that’s the wrong question. The real issue is how brands will capitalize on LinkedIn Live to create video content that complements what they’re already sharing on platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. LinkedIn is going to offer options to broadcast across LinkedIn as well as to more targeted groups within LinkedIn, which is important because businesses and people will be able to use live video more strategically. Imagine, for example, using live video as part of drip campaign with prospects, or for colleges to recruit talent.

Questions You Should Ask

It may take some time for LinkedIn Live to achieve a bigger rollout. I suggest that businesses prepare now. Start asking:

  • How might I incorporate LinkedIn Live into my existing marketing and recruitment campaigns?
  • Which of my employees on LinkedIn possesses the magic combination of large followers and video savvy to capitalize on LinkedIn Live?
  • Are my corporate social media guidelines properly reflecting the use of live video? They should be if you’re using other platforms such as Facebook, but now is a good time to do a gut check.
  • What upcoming events and news lend themselves to LinkedIn Live? What does your upcoming calendar look like?

More details, including technical information on how to create live content on LinkedIn, will be forthcoming. For now, get ready. And contact True Interactive to build a stronger digital brand. We’re here to help.

Facebook Shares an Advertising Roadmap for 2019

Facebook Shares an Advertising Roadmap for 2019

Facebook

Call it was the meltdown that wasn’t.

As Facebook prepared to announce its quarterly earnings January 30, there was a lot of public speculation that its scandal-ridden year might finally scare away advertisers and members.

The doubters were wrong.

Here’s what Facebook announced:

  • A 9-percent year-over-year increase in monthly active users, with 2.32 billion as of December 31, 2018.

  • Fourth-quarter revenues of $16.9 billion, up 30 percent year-over-year. That number beat Wall Street’s expectations of $16.4 billion.

Facebook is not only weathering months of data-privacy scandals, it is actually getting stronger. At True Interactive, we’ve shared our concerns about Facebook’s scandals and their possible impact on advertisers. We still think it’s important that advertisers watch Facebook closely. The threat of government regulation looms large. The number of fake and duplicate accounts are on the rise, by Facebook’s own admission (116 million fake accounts and 255 million duplicate accounts exist on the site). But advertisers should also be aware of some other numbers:

  • 93 percent of Facebook’s advertising revenue comes from mobile.
  • 500 million people use Instagram Stories daily.

  • 2 million advertisers are now focusing on Stories.

Stories play a big part in Facebook’s growth plans for 2019, which Mark Zuckerberg published in a Facebook post. I have excerpted some highlights and used boldface to emphasize some points that jump out at me:

Messaging is the area that’s growing the most quickly, and this year people are going to feel these apps becoming the center of their social experience in more ways. We’ll roll out payments on WhatsApp in some more countries. Private sharing in groups and stories will become more central to the experience. We’re going to onboard millions of more businesses that people can interact with.

On Facebook, I also expect this to be the year where Watch becomes more mainstream. There are now 400 million people who use it every month, and people spend on average over 20 minutes on Watch daily. This means we’re finding ways for video to grow outside of News Feed so it doesn’t displace the social interactions that people primarily come to our services for.

In Instagram, one of the areas I’m most excited about this year is commerce and shopping. There’s a lot of natural activity happening here, and this year I expect us to deliver some qualitatively new experiences around that.

Longer term, I remain very focused on building technology that brings people together in new ways, including through AR and VR. I’m looking forward to Oculus Quest shipping this spring — the feedback there so far has been very positive.

The numbers tell me this:

  • Advertisers need to understand how to capitalize on messaging. In September I wrote an Adweek column about Facebook monetizing WhatsApp. Clearly, Facebook is going full steam ahead here.
  • If you aren’t using Stories, you’re behind. Stories are now table stakes for brand building on Facebook’s platform, which includes Instagram Stories.
  • Figure out how Facebook Watch plays into your strategy. So far adoption numbers are underwhelming. But these are early days. The success of Facebook Live shows that Facebook knows how to make video a branding platform.
  • Integrate your Instagram with commerce. Brands are getting better at giving users compelling reasons to stop scrolling and buy. Expect new features to make social shopping more of an experience.
  • Augmented reality and virtual reality are branding plays for forward-thinking businesses, but AR and VR still have a long way to go.

Facebook is not as weak as its doubters said it was. Neither is Facebook as powerful as some would have you think. The company has issues. It’s not the cool place for Gen Z to hang out. A potential recession coming up could take a bite out of its advertising revenues. And as I mentioned, regulation is a constant threat. But Facebook remains a strong platform for advertisers with exciting features worth embracing. For more insight into how to succeed with digital media, including Facebook, contact True Interactive. We’re here to help.

Why Netflix Might Embrace Advertising

Why Netflix Might Embrace Advertising

Advertising

Netflix and its boosters are celebrating the company’s first ever Best Picture Oscar nomination for Roma – but the company is also catching fire from investors. Although its fourth-quarter 2018 financial results beat Wall Street estimates for earnings per share, revenue fell below projections.

Netflix also faces other formidable challenges, such as increased competition from streaming services (e.g., Amazon and Hulu), the entrance of new services such as Disney+, and the enormous cost of spending on original content. So perhaps it’s no surprise that Netflix has raised prices. But in recent months, Netflix has also been testing ads between episodes, and its customers have not been happy about this development. The company said that trailer tests were just a way to surface new programs to loyal viewers, claiming it will help members “discover stories they will enjoy faster.”

With pressure coming from multiple sides, how can Netflix increase revenue and expand its subscriber base without losing its customers?

Competition from Hulu

We’ve seen at least one streaming service employ advertising: Hulu. When Hulu first launched in 2007, all content was completely free and supported by advertisements. In 2010, the company launched its first subscription option while maintaining the original ad-supported tier. Then in late 2016, the brand migrated towards a subscription model. Today Hulu offers ad-supported and ad-free pricing tiers.

The ad-supported tier has served Hulu well by increasing brand awareness and expanding its subscriber base. Granted, Netflix does not need to boost brand recognition. However, Netflix (and Amazon, for that matter) could benefit from this strategy if it wants to enter into new markets, which should be a priority for Netflix given the financial turmoil the brand has been recently experiencing.

Providing an ad-supported service plan might sound like a step backwards to Netflix stockholders. If Hulu moved away from it, why would Netflix bother?

  1. Original Content

The creation of original content is perhaps the most dramatic change in the way streaming services operate. Whereas audiences used to turn to streaming services to watch, say Finding Nemo, people now use these services for original movies and shows, a reality that was underscored by Netflix’s Roma being nominated for 10 Academy Awards.

With Disney’s new movie streaming platform launching later this year, it is clear that movie streaming companies no longer want to simply be a content warehouse, storing thousands of movies and TV shows made by third parties. Netflix, Hulu and Amazon want to lure potential customers into becoming subscribers through their exclusive movies and shows. This means that streaming platforms have the bargaining power, as they all have some unique value nobody will find elsewhere.

The quality content matters. Unique content attracts more paying subscribers, which gives Netflix a bigger platform for potential advertising. With 139 million subscribers worldwide, Netflix could easily increase that number by introducing an ad-supported tier. Doing so would also help relieve some of the financial pressure caused by the expensive production costs of original content – around $12 billion in 2018 alone, and expected to grow by 25 percent  to a whopping $15 billion mark in 2019.

  1. Google/Facebook Duopoly

It’s no secret that a large number of companies today are directing a good portion of their ad spend to Google and Facebook/Instagram (and, increasingly, Amazon). Other channels simply cannot match the performance, scale, and targeting capabilities of these tech giants. The growth of these platforms also reflects the strength of the digital advertising industry and suggests that there is room for more businesses to launch advertising based on their built-in audiences. As noted, Netflix has a growing audience with 139 million subscribers – and Netflix aspires to grow more especially outside the United States.

3 Targeting Capabilities

Knowledge is power. Think about all the behavioral data and Netflix has on its subscribers. Netflix can offer advertisers advanced interest targeting based on their activity on each platform. By using algorithms and machine learning, Netflix can predict which type of content a specific user may want to consume next. This data could also be used to serve users ads that are relevant, and for marketers, effective. In addition, with the help of pixels, Netflix would be able to collect data outside its environment just like Google and Facebook do, thus providing advertisers with more insights on the consumer behavior outside the streaming services and the customer journey.

It’s too soon yet to know if Netflix will launch an ad-supported tier. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if it does in the near future, as companies built on the “ad-free” premise are now acknowledging their advertising potential and evaluating the cost-benefit relationship of introducing ads to their platforms, just like Whatsapp. Is advertising revenue too tempting for Netflix?

To maximize the value of your online advertising, contact True Interactive. We’re here to help.

A Reckoning for Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg?

A Reckoning for Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg?

Facebook

One year ago, I predicted that Facebook could be facing a tough year due to the steady decline in users and the admission by former Facebook executives that the social media platform was designed to get its users addicted and was ripping apart the fabric of society. For those reasons, I cautioned Facebook advertisers to expect diminished performance from their Facebook ads. And as we enter 2019, we’re experiencing a serious case of Facebook déjà vu.

With the most recent revelation that Facebook gave some of the world’s largest technology companies including Bing, Amazon, Netflix, and Spotify more intrusive access to users’ personal data than previously disclosed, Facebook once again finds itself in hot water. Much of the negative publicity in 2018 focused on privacy concerns about Facebook. A few months back, news broke that Facebook could face a fine of $1.63 billion by the European Union for a massive data breach, and in April, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was grilled by Congress over data privacy concerns. Two questions loom large:

  • Could 2019 be the year Mark Zuckerberg is forced to step aside? Zuckerberg accepting a diminished role is not out of the question given the reality that Facebook has failed to address its problems on its own. What Facebook does not want is tight government regulation, and the company may need to offer up a C-level sacrifice to avoid such an action.
  • Will advertisers scale back? Businesses have continued to advertise on Facebook despite its scandals, partly because Facebook is too big to ignore and partly because there’s nowhere else for Facebook’s users to go. But Facebook is vulnerable to another platform coming along and challenging its dominance – which could change things for users and advertisers.

Advertisers may want to think twice about associating their brands with a social media giant under such scrutiny. Given the current tumultuous state of Facebook, I once again recommend advertisers proceed with caution when it comes to their investment in Facebook marketing and also lower performance expectations.

Google Responsive Ads: What You Need to Know

Google Responsive Ads: What You Need to Know

Google

Google is working harder to woo advertisers as the company faces stiffer competition from Amazon and Facebook. For example, Google rolled out responsive search ads and responsive display ads to make the advertising platform more flexible for brands. It is important that advertisers understand these features and how to maximize their value.

How Responsive Search and Display Ads Work

According to Google, responsive search ads make it possible for advertisers to enter multiple headlines (up to 15) and descriptions (up to four) when creating a search ad. Then Google Ads applies machine learning to automatically test different combinations and learn which combinations perform best. In addition, per Google, advertisers can add a third headline and second description to your text ads, and your descriptions can have up to 90 characters.

Responsive display ads work the same way, with advertisers submitting up to up to 15 images, five headlines, five descriptions, and five logos for a display ad. As with responsive search ads, Google uses machine learning to test different combinations and show the ads that work best. According to Google, “On average, advertisers see 10% more conversions at a similar CPA when using multiple headlines, descriptions, and images with responsive display ads (versus a single set of assets).”

What You Need to Know

Based on our experience with clients, I see some near-term ramifications:

  • Your advertising will become more effective. These formats are exciting because they capitalize on machine learning to scale your advertising content. As Google notes, “Great display ads assist consumers using rich images and useful information. However, showing the most relevant and engaging ads across millions of sites and apps isn’t easy.” Responsive ads are a compelling solution.
  • Organic content pays a price. By making ads more effective, Google will push organic listings down in search results.
  • You need to invest more effort. Yes, Google does do the heavy lifting when it comes to executing on your ads. But to get the most out of this format, you’ll need to come up with more variants of your message and images. (That’s the point of responsive search and display: Google takes multiple inputs to give you optimal results.) In addition, you’ll want to monitor which assets are performing best, which takes time and effort (although Google provides tips for doing so on its blog).

What You Should Do

  • Review your messaging strategy. Having more variants of your content presents an opportunity to review your messaging and differentiators. You obviously don’t want to create content willy-nilly. All your content should support your brand in some way.
  • Learn. The Google blog links I’ve shared above contain a number of tips for maximizing the value of these ads. For instance, with responsive search ads, Google advises that you include at least one of your keywords in your headlines, and create headlines that are relevant to the keywords you’re targeting. Furthermore, provide as many distinct headlines as you can. Per Google, “More headlines gives Google Ads more options for assembling your messages into relevant ads, which may increase performance.”

At True Interactive, we’re working with clients to plan and execute advertising with these and many other tools. We’ll report our learnings on our blog. Watch for our posts, and contact us if you need help with your online advertising.

Coming Soon: A $1 Trillion Holiday Shopping Season

Coming Soon: A $1 Trillion Holiday Shopping Season

Retail

Get ready for a strong holiday shopping season. eMarketer has raised its 2018 holiday shopping forecast, with total retail spending growth expected to be 4.1 percent, up from eMarketer’s previous prediction of a 3.8 percent growth rate. The 2018 season will approach $1 trillion in spending, or $986.77 billion to be more precise. In addition, eMarketer says that retail ecommerce will grow at 16.2 percent, with that growth being driven largely by mobile.

“We expect that the 2018 holiday retail season will be one of the strongest in recent years,” eMarketer said in the October report, Holiday Shopping 2018. Reasons for a strong season include:

  • A strong economy that will fuel spending.
  • A lengthy shopping season, with 32 days occurring between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the longest possible calendar between these two landmark dates. “This will give shoppers ample opportunity to complete more of their holiday shopping online,” noted eMarketer.
  • The growth of mobile. “The other key growth factor is the extent to which mobile is fueling consumers’ ecommerce migration” said eMarketer. “Mobile now drives nearly two-thirds of online shopping activity, according to research firm comScore, and is inching ever closer to a majority share of ecommerce spending. Although shoppers are still much more likely to shop than buy on mobile, they are increasingly comfortable transacting on smartphones, thanks to more seamless, optimized experiences on both mobile web and apps.”

The prospect of a stronger holiday season is good news for retailers and consumer electronics firms. Per eMarketer, “Consumer electronics will prove popular during the 2018 season, particularly with an ever-expanding slate of voice-activated and connected home products hitting the market. Apparel and accessories will continue its online migration, while the toys and hobbies sector promises to get more competitive.”

The companies in the best position to thrive:

  • Have strong mobile commerce operations.
  • Capitalize on an expected intense period of spending around Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Black Friday is no longer a single-day event. The day really begins on Thanksgiving now.
  • Effectively invest in advertising across the digital world, with a focus on Google, Amazon, and Facebook.

To make sure you benefit from the holiday spend, be sure to check out some recently published resources from True Interactive:

  • Advertiser Q&A: Amazon Sponsored Ads,” a post from Samantha Coconato that discusses one of Amazon’s popular advertising products for businesses that have a presence on the platform.

At True Interactive, we’ve been actively working with clients to create successful holiday advertising campaigns online. Contact us if you need assistance with yours. We’re happy to help.

Photo by Anna Dziubinska on Unsplash

Why WhatsApp Matters to Advertisers

Why WhatsApp Matters to Advertisers

Marketing

WhatsApp is one of the most rapidly evolving and exciting apps on the market. The platform recently launched several new features for iOS users, such as status search, notification extension, and suspicious link detection. And with more than 1.5 billion users, WhatsApp is also arguably the most popular messaging app in the world. These points are all well and good, but does WhatsApp matter to advertisers?

Short answer: yes.

As I discuss in a new Adweek Social Pro Daily column, Facebook is making some big moves to monetize WhatsApp. For instance, the newly released WhatsApp Business API (application-programming interface) will make it easier for companies to communicate with current and potential customers through end-to-end encrypted messages. Businesses will now be able to send customized notifications with relevant non-promotional content such as shipping confirmations, appointment reminders, or event tickets, all at a flat rate. According to Sale Stock, a company that uses WhatsApp to deliver product recommendations, order updates and customer service, customers read 90 percent of delivered messages.

My column discusses in more detail how and why Facebook is monetizing WhatsApp. Meanwhile, I believe businesses need to understand how WhatsApp can help them improve both their branding and online commerce strategies. Consider this: people spent 85 billion hours in WhatsApp in the past three months — versus 31 billion in Facebook.

Although Facebook Messenger has a larger base of users in the United States, WhatsApp dominates the messaging app space in countries like Malaysia, Singapore, Spain, Turkey, Brazil, Chile, and Mexico. In those countries, users rely on WhatsApp to share pictures, videos, as well as breaking news. As I discussed in a previous column, WhatsApp is also used around the globe for informal business, connecting local buyers with sellers.

Local businesses in the tourism and restaurant industries are already adopting this tool to connect with customers and prospects. Larger business-to-business and business-to-consumer companies (especially those with interests in the markets mentioned above) should consider implementing WhatsApp in their business development and PR efforts, as the app’s popularity seems to be as high as its potential of driving business.

WhatsApp is wide open for businesses. Contact True Interactive to learn how you can win on WhatsApp.