Digital Dash (Feb 17): 5 quick-fire stories from this week

Digital Dash (Feb 17): 5 quick-fire stories from this week

w/c 27th February 2017

1. What makes content go viral? Neuroscientists find the secret formula
Going viral is social media’s version of hitting the lottery jackpot – a dream for most, a reality for few. When it does happen, life changes overnight. What makes it happen is something you can’t control.

But what if you could? (note: now talking only about virality, not the lottery. Sorry)

A psychological formula has emerged following new research from neuroscientists at the University of Pennsylvania to explain and predict viral content.

The basic principle is that people assess how interesting content is to them and others, and whether it will improve their social standing or relationships.

Fuelled by these factors, the brain then performs a valuation process, ‘scoring’ the content and determining whether or not it’s worth sharing.

In laymen’s terms, people think:
• Do I care?
• Will my friends care?
• Will sharing it make me look good?

For marketers, a tick in every box is what you want.

The research used functional magnetic resonance imaging (tracks brain activity through blood flow) and data modelling to study the responses of 80 people to 80 headlines and news story summaries. Each story had already achieved varying levels of success online, some earning viral status, some not.

While the scientists found that brain activity was a good predictor of virality, the success rate was only 20%. This result is impressive but goes to show that we still don’t yet have a sure-fire, all-encompassing explanation of what makes posts achieve incredibly high levels of sharing.

Nor do we know how to make our lottery numbers come up. Shame.


2. Facebook algorithm update means Reactions will outweigh Likes
‘Algorithm update’ isn’t the sexiest of terms is it? Which is a shame really because, with Facebook especially, the news it relates to is usually quite exciting. No, really.

Understanding what floats Facebook algorithm’s boat is a big deal for brands – it’s the difference between content getting seen and not getting seen, so fairly important.

Although the innermost workings are shrouded in mystery (cheers, Mark), the company reveal just about enough to let marketers work with the system.

This week, it was announced that all five Reactions – that’s the Love, Haha, Sad, Wow and Angry icons – will become more influential as a News Feed ranking factor than old favourite, the Like.

The theory behind this is that Reactions are a stronger indicator of people’s preferences and feelings than a bog-standard thumbs up.

Incidentally, Facebook also said that Reactions have been used a total of 300 billion times since their launch this time last year, with Love proving the most popular and accounting for over half of all those used.



3. The Huffington Post targets teens with The Tea, an email-only newsletter
Between Snapchat, WhatsApp, Instagram, VR gaming and the rest, it’s funny to think that teenagers still use email. But they do. Think of it as the Will Smith of the digital world – everyone knows it’s quite old but no one cares. It’s still really darn popular.

The Huffington Post thinks email is particularly important for Generation Z, which, according to its own research, is a demographic much more interested in one-to-one type connections than Millennials are.

The company is investing directly in this theory by creating a content series for teenage girls that will exist in inboxes only. Nope, no repurposed website content whatsoever.

And this isn’t even a test; the company reports that the newsletter’s content –celebrity interviews – will stay exclusive to email for the foreseeable future.


4. Facebook tests live video ad breaks, splits revenue with creators
Facebook really wants live video to work out. And all the early signs suggest it will – big time.

But to keep the buzz building, it’s going to be essential to keep the quality of the content really high.

Initially, Facebook tackled this by paying top creators (e.g. BBC and Sky News) and celebrities to broadcast unmissable content. But now live video is well and truly off the ground, financial incentives of this kind have dried up.

The next, much longer-term, strategy is to let all creators monetise live video themselves – by simply tapping a dollar sign while streaming to add in a commercial. The ads each last up to 15 seconds (20 max) and Facebook takes 45% of the revenue, making this a great opportunity for creators to earn a nice little profit, YouTube style.

live video ad breaks

The tool is now rolling out to all pages and profiles, provided you have at least 2,000 followers and have attracted a minimum of 300 concurrent viewers within the past month. To trigger an ad break, you must have been live for four minutes minimum, and there must be five minutes between each subsequent ad.

If you’re as interested in spending money on live videos as making money from them, Facebook is also testing mid-roll boosting with select brands. This real-time update adds to the existing pre-broadcast and post-broadcast promotion options.


5. Snapchat ups its game, launches new AR lens
In the battle for social media dominance, no one can afford to rest on their laurels. You debut a ground-breaking, game-changing new feature, and then before you can say ‘oh hey, look what we did!’, someone else is already doing the same thing.

Snapchat won’t let the constant cloning knock the wind out of its sails though, and is bouncing back with a big new feature – augmented reality gaming lenses.

Reportedly already available for some users, the new option asks you to ‘double tap to upgrade filter’ at which point the rear-facing camera kicks in and you can navigate around to locate 5 augmented reality gems. Once you’ve found them all, the upgraded lens gets unlocked.

Snapchat AR gaming lens 2Snapchat AR gaming lens

While this game is quite basic for now, Snapchat is definitely reaching new levels of innovation here.

Tune in next week to see Facebook’s augmented reality gaming lens!

Just kidding.

Actually no, that could happen.


Bonus bite: Facebook’s Inbox arrives
The new Inbox will replace the current Messages tab on desktop, and will feature notifications from Facebook, Instagram and Messenger side by side. It will mirror the mobile version, which came to Facebook’s Pages app late last year.

Here’s what to expect:
Facebook Inbox


w/c 20th February 2017

1. WhatsApp introduces Status, tries to out-Snapchat Snapchat
If Snapchat had a penny for every time Stories was cloned, it might just rethink that upcoming IPO.

Facebook is (unsurprisingly) at the bottom of the latest example, this time nicking the ephemeral feature for WhatsApp. Credit where it’s due though, at least it’s got its own name this time: Status.

Similar to Snapchat and Instagram Stories, Status lets you share photos, videos and GIFs – which you can overlay with drawings, writing and emojis – that disappear after 24 hours.

WhatsApp Status

With so many companies now offering this self-destructing message feature, it’s likely we’ll see users increasingly finding a favourite rather than using them all.

But as WhatsApp is more a messaging platform than a full-blown social network, will it have the edge over others? Maybe. There’s a trump card up Status’ sleeve – updates are covered by end-to-end encryption, just like messages are. And in a digital world where protecting privacy is a (very steep) uphill battle, that could make all the difference.


2. Offline location data just scored Urban Outfitters a 75% ecommerce conversion boost
With insights becoming more in-depth by the day (we see you, Facebook), online behaviour targeting is increasingly effective.

However, online targeting based on offline signals, specifically location, shouldn’t be forgotten, and the results of a recent Urban Outfitters case study – as reported by Marketing Land – highlights just how powerful it can be.

The brand saw some incredible ecommerce results by pushing digital ads to people who had visited its physical stores. These include a 75% conversion increase and 146% revenue increase vs. targeting using online signals only. Not too shabby.

Real-world actions are considered a more reliable indicator of people’s quality as prospects than their online actions – which makes sense. But the issue lies in being able to accurately measure and track offline behaviour/signals and link it up digitally. The strategy which was so successful in this case.

Only recently are features, tools and technologies emerging that could make it possible for brands to do this on a more mainstream level. But it’s clear that the more it happens, the more integral a part of online advertising strategies it will become.


3. Twitter personalises company/customer chats with custom agent profiles
From this week, the name and photo of customer service reps will appear when you Direct Message a company on Twitter. This is designed to reassure you that you’re speaking to a real-life person and not a bot.

Twitter reports that 77% are more likely to recommend a brand if they’ve received personalised support, and this is the latest in a series of attempts the company has made to up its customer service game.

All whitelisted and verified business pages have access to the new feature, and there’s no limit to how many custom profiles can be associated with one company.

Twitter custom agent


4. Facebook’s lead ads arrive on Instagram
If you thought getting blood from a stone was tricky, try getting emails from social media users. It’s not easy… and for good reason. People don’t want to be spammed to death, and an inbox full of unreads is just stressful.

But in general, the smoother and more streamlined you make the sign-up process, the less people will think about the inconvenience, or feel their privacy is being invaded. Which is why Facebook lead ads – the few-clicks-and-you’re-done autofill ad format – are so great.

And now you can run them on Instagram too, thanks to a new placement option.

Note that there are a few key differences between how lead ads will appear on Instagram compared to Facebook. These are:

  • Not all data fields are supported – users may have to self-complete some info (e.g. city or street address)
  • You will have to click through a series of pages to submit details, rather than simply scrolling down
  • Lead ads will only appear on the app, not desktop

All in all, this native data collection tool is a welcome new addition, especially for those who’ve been waiting a while for Instagram to get more advanced from an advertising perspective – which slowly but surely, it definitely is.


5. Cancel the photographer, this robotic photo studio does it ALL
When you think of a fashion shoot, there are certain things that seem pretty essential. A photographer is one of them.

Well, prepare to rethink that, because StyleShoots Live – an innovative machine-powered photo studio – has arrived on the scene. And one thing it doesn’t require is a photographer.

Built for brands, in recognition of the huge volume and variety of content they need to produce nowadays, Live is an interactive machine that combines a depth sensor, lighting rig and camera to capture photos and videos in every possible format and dimension you could ask for. From ecommerce and email banners to Snapchat and Instagram posts, Live does it all.

As cool as it is, the machine does have its limitations; it will never realistically match up to the creative genius of an experienced photographer. But for fashion brands that need to churn out a fricking mountain of imagery on the daily, it could prove a little bit of a lifesaver.

Check it out:


Bonus bite: Instagram’s multi-photo posts arrive
Remember a couple of weeks back when we mentioned that Instagram albums were on their way? Well, they’re here. Look:

Instagram multi-photo posts

That is all.


w/c 13th February 2017

1. Facebook video gets avalanche of updates
And by avalanche I mean five. Which is still quite a lot for one week – although admittedly maybe less avalanche, more short snow shower.

Anyway, analogy debates aside, the updates coming in Facebook videos’ direction are 100% worth knowing about. Here’s the lowdown:

Autoplay with sound: firstly, yes you can switch it off. And secondly, no, it won’t happen if your phone set to silent. But in all other cases, ‘sound on’ will be the new default setting for videos, and noise levels will fade in and out as you scroll up and down your News Feed. Advertisers will also get to bid for views with sound, rather than just general views.

Full-screen videos: vertical content will automatically appear in the correct dimensions, and will expand to fill your entire screen.

Facebook vertical video ful screen

Picture-in-picture mode: means you can watch a video on a small pop-out screen (which you can drag and drop to any corner of the display), so you can continue to scroll while the video rolls.

Facebook picture-in-picture

Standalone TV app: Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and Samsung Smart TVs will all soon get a dedicated Facebook app. With this following last week’s hiring of ex MTV top bod Rebecca Lieb – the company is clearly moving towards creating original shows.

Discussions with music publishers: Facebook is in talks with record labels and other rights-holders to make it easier for music videos and soundtracks to appear without breaching copyright rules.


2. Fox uses fake news hoax to promote new movie
Fake news is generally a complete pain. It confuses, annoys and leads Facebook on a right merry dance – and no good comes of it. But fake fake news (nope, not a typo) on the other hand, is a slightly different kettle of fish.

Twentieth Century Fox has cunningly used a fake news hoax to get people talking about its new movie, A Cure For Wellness. According to BuzzFeed, the iconic American film studio set up a bunch of fake news sites featuring click-baity stories relating to the film’s plot.

Fox fake news campaign

In a way, this campaign has all the bad traits of ‘real’ fake news – which essentially centre on it being a massive waste of time – but at least it misled people for a reason, and a reason they might actually be happy about in the end.

The campaign also cleverly jumped on a huge trending topic but brought it down to a more light-hearted level, capitalising on fake news conversation, uproar and hype along the way.


3. Facebook tests new ad-free Explore feed
More Facebook news. And this isn’t even the last of it! Aside from all the video updates, the social media giant is also running a small test of an Explore feature – a new News Feed section that only includes content from publishers.

The idea of this is to show you content you will like (based on what you engage with, who you follow etc.), but might not otherwise stumble across. The feed is filled with popular articles, photos and videos that Facebook deems you’ll find interesting, and – here’s the shocker – it’s completely ad free.


4. Snapchat set to launch first-of-kind unscripted reality show
The fact that Snapchat has felt the need to specify that its upcoming original broadcast – the result of a deal with A+E Networks – is unscripted, just goes to show how confusing the term ‘reality TV’ really is. That’s by the by though.

The important bit to take from this news bite is that Snapchat, like many other social kingpins, is showing serious interest in TV content; the company has recently inked many deals with top broadcasters, including E! Entertainment, BBC Worldwide and New York Times.

The show itself is an eight-part series called Second Chance, and it’s a social network first in the sense that it is an original programme not based on an existing show. The general premise is reuniting couples that have broken up, in an attempt to help them resolve their issues (read: Snapchat’s hoping for arguments).


5. Facebook tests pop-up posts, world wonders why
In amongst all the really cool recent Facebook updates, there are two that could prove seriously unpopular with users. Unfortunately, they’ve both come in the same week.

First there was the whole videos autoplaying with sound malarkey as mentioned earlier, and now, pop-up posts that appear at the bottom of your News Feed (similar to a Messenger chat) every single time someone either comments on your post, tags you in a comment, or replies to your comment. It will look like this:

Screen Shot 2017-02-17 at 10.49.28

As easy as it is to see how this new feature could be pretty annoying, Facebook says that fans have been asking for “an easier way to participate in conversations on a post while they are still in News Feed”.

Considering that you’ll also be able to hide or mute the notifications, this perhaps won’t be a completely unwelcome new feature – but we’ll watch closely to see how users react if/when it comes out of beta.


w/c 6th February 2017

1. Google manages to upscale teeny-tiny image using just AI
For those who don’t know, an 8×8 pixel image is bloody small. It’s 64 blocks of colour that bear virtually no resemblance to, well, anything when zoomed in. Imagine the snaps from your very first camera phone, but so much worse.

In the past, there wasn’t much you could do if you were working with an ultra low-res image. But the team at Google Brain – Google’s deep learning research project – has made a major breakthrough.

Using AI, Google Brain has sharpened 8×8 pixel celebrity photos using ‘hallucinations’ – added information and elements based on what the machine has learned from a library of pre-existing reference visuals.

The process is still in its infancy – in quite a major way, and what it means in tech terms is more impressive than the end result right now. Take a look below to see for yourself.

google 1

While the machine has done a good job of making the photos look more detailed, the constructed images essentially depict a… different person. So although we’re not quite at the stage of using AI upscaling to identify criminals in grainy CCTV footage yet, that’s definitely where this is headed.


2. Facebook’s Q4 results kick serious ass
Dear anyone who thinks Facebook is on its way out, you’re wrong.

The unstoppable social media giant has reported a monster end to 2016, with growth in share price, revenue and active users.

Facebook now has 1.86 billion monthly active users (MAUs), and even more incredibly, 1.23 billion daily active users (DAUs). That’s over 1/7 of the world’s entire population. What the actual f?

Unsurprisingly, mobile was a dominant revenue force and accounted for 84% of total ad revenue during the quarter.

Facebook expects that ad revenue growth will slow in 2017 though, as the supply of ads begins to outweigh the available space. Which is crazy in itself. But with Messenger, Instagram and Audience Network opportunities all opening up for advertisers, don’t expect this digital juggernaut to come crashing down to earth anytime soon.


3. Pinterest strengthens search, can now identify products in a photo
Last week, we let you know about Pinterest’s search ads for brands. This week, the company made another batch of important search updates:

Lens – users simply look through their camera, and Pinterest’s Lens tool will instantly identify objects that appear in the image. People can then easily search for similar items by tapping on a tag.

pinterest 1

New visual search feature – when viewing a product image, other items within it will appear in a product callout, making it easy for users to skip between them and shop the entire look.

pinterest 2

Instant ideas – a small circle will appear at the bottom of each pin, which when tapped, will connect users to additional content and ideas related to that topic.

pinterest 3


4. Super Bowl 51 report: URLs take trophy from hashtags for ad use
Forget the Patriots and the Falcons for a second because there was another major battle happening during last week’s big game: the hashtag vs. the URL. And it was the good old URL that got the win for use in TV ads.

Hashtags have been a huge part of campaigns for a while now, but according to this Marketing Land report, they were used in only 30% of game-time ads this year. Which is down from 45% in 2016. URLs beat this by scoring 39%.

We’ll be watching closely to see how this potential trend plays out during the rest of 2017.


5. 58% have abandoned cart on mobile after starting to pay – will buy now, pay later save the day?
Getting people to the ‘add to basket’ stage is a big win for online retailers. When those people then actually start to pay, it’s pretty much party time. But when they begin the payment process, then do a runner before completing? Yeah, that’s just the worst.

And it happens a lot on mobile.

In fact, a new report states that 58% have done it. And 21% of those said it was because the payment process was too long.

This is a relatable problem, to be fair. It’s not exactly fun typing out account/card/delivery details on touchscreen keys ¼ of the size of your fingertip.

But in a bid to combat the problem, some retailers are turning to third-party buy now, pay later providers – giving customers the chance to simply tap a couple of times to confirm their buy, then settle the bill in a quick and easy way, and for little or no additional cost, at a more convenient time.

Whether this pays off or not still remains to be seen, but it’s definitely something we’ll keep an eye on.