Digital Dash: Google’s Reply app & more

1. Google’s Reply app could change how we message forever
2. New ad format from Google AdSense could create 15% revenue boost
3. Facebook’s automatic pixel events are a dream come true for advertisers
4. New Pinterest tools are the best news if you’re obsessed with organising
5. Instagram kicks Snapchat while it’s down with new Direct feature
Bonus bite: Facebook will be removing 20 of its ad metrics

1. Google’s Reply app could change how we message forever, but for better or worse?

While replying to messages might not be the first thing you think of when weighing up your most time-consuming daily tasks, it’s funny how time spent messaging really adds up.

Google sees this as an area it can help streamline.

The King of Search will soon be releasing an app called Reply – a product from its Area 120 division. The AI-powered app – which will work alongside several messaging apps like Facebook, Messenger, Slack and Hangouts – will offer a selection of personalised smart replies to choose from for each message received.

Google_reply 2

Meaning getting back to someone will be as simple as tapping one of the suggested messages.

Google_reply 3

A handful of people have been able to download Reply in beta (Android only) and give it a test run, including The Verge’s Natt Garun (photo cred).

The technology uses AI so is already very cool. It not only understands your incoming message but can reply based on what you’re doing at the time/what you’ve said in the past. For example, it can tell if you’re in the car or on a bike, and respond in line with the information.

But the future for Reply is equal parts impressive and unsettling. Once the app has access to the other knowledge within your smartphone (e.g. maps, calendars etc.), it will have the capability to present you with even more insightful replies like ‘I’m on my way but my train’s delayed. Will arrive at 16:04’.

It could even potentially learn to assess our relationships with the various people who message us, and adapt its replies accordingly.

While this is all good from a time-saving perspective, it’s worth sparing a second to envision a world where message conversations take place between apps rather than people.

It’s actually a bit sad to think that in a couple of year’s time, there might not be any standard ‘how are you?’ questions to ignore anymore.


2. New ad format from Google AdSense could create 15% revenue boost

And in other Google automation news…

Millions of publishers use Google AdSense to place ads on their websites.

Until now, the service would detect which ads would best suit a site’s content, but it was up to publishers to decide how many ads should be shown and where they should sit.

Auto ads, a new ad format that rolled out this week, could signal an end to the remaining manual element of AdSense by automating the entire process, down to individual ad placements within a site.

Auto ads not only optimise ad type in relation to website type, but also use machine learning to identify available ad space and determine where ads are most likely to perform well.

Here’s a breakdown from Google itself:

Google_auto ads

As you can see, another big plus point for publishers is that they only have to embed one piece of code once, to all pages. From there, you can just toggle various features on and off without needing to adjust the code.

Early results suggest Auto ads could be good for business beyond timesaving. Google reported to TechCrunch that ‘publishers participating in the beta saw an average revenue lift of 10 percent with revenue increases ranging from five to 15 percent.’


3. Facebook’s automatic pixel events are a dream come true for advertisers

The automation party just keeps on goin’ this week. Next up is Facebook.

There are many, many reasons why Facebook is a seriously powerful advertising platform.

One of the standout features is the Facebook pixel – website JavaScript that allows sophisticated tracking of website audiences to enable future precision targeting on Facebook/Instagram/Messenger/Audience Network.

Once the pixel is all set up (a fairly simple task), the next step for advanced marketers is adding code to create pixel events (a fairly complex task). When an event is triggered, it enables way more granular data collection, e.g. tracking users who have completed an order.

You can also gather specific information about the user’s activity, such as spend, using parameters.

The problem with events is that, as mentioned above, they aren’t exactly easy to get going with – usually requiring the help of a developer. It’s common for code to be inputted incorrectly, resulting in ineffective data collection.

But Facebook’s here to help with a new feature called automatic events, which will detect valuable event opportunities currently not set up, and put them in place with no additional code required.

An example might be if you didn’t have an event created for when customers added to cart. Automatic events would step in and get this sorted for you.

Automatic events are signalled by a lightening bolt under Events Settings in Events Manager. You can easily opt out by toggling the feature off.


4. New Pinterest tools are the best news if you’re obsessed with organising

Pinterest seems to be in a phase of making fairly small-scale changes that are adding a lot of value for end users.

Last week, we revealed how the company had added @replies to comments – a really useful way to share Pins with other users or invite them into a conversation.

This time round, Pinterest has added new ways to organise Pins, boards and sections.

Here’s what’s new in a nutshell:

Reorder sections
The order of sections within a board can now be rearranged to give users easier access to what they need.


Rearrange Pins
Finally! Pins will no longer be locked down to reverse-chronological order.


Sort boards
You now have various ways to reorder your entire board.

In addition to these new features, you can now also archive a board.


5. Instagram kicks Snapchat while it’s down with new Direct feature

After some very promising recent Q4 results, Snapchat’s luck has taken a bit of a turn.

In short, people bloody hate the redesign, which has now fully rolled out. So much so, there’s a petition calling for the old design to be reinstated and it’s currently got 1,233,899 supporters. It literally went up by 20 in the 10 seconds I was on the site to check.

This has caused Snapchat a right old headache.

To the point the company has had to issue an official response:

Snapchat_new design response

Fair play to Snapchat for swallowing its pride and committing to making some tweaks though.

And if anyone was going to add to Snapchat’s bad week, it had to be Instagram didn’t it?

Having already famously stolen its iconic Stories feature – and made it more popular – Instagram has now introduced new updates to Direct. One of them copies another classic Snapchat feature, and the others one-up it.

When sending an ephemeral message via Direct, users can now decide whether the recipient can:

• Only view it once
• Replay it temporarily
• See a permanent thumbnail of it in the chat log

Instagram_direct options

The first of these will be a real kick in the nuts for Snapchat. After all, the disappearing message has been one of the only defining USPs it’s managed to hang on to. The second and third will also be bitter blows mainly because Snapchat doesn’t yet offer this functionality.

Bonus bite: Facebook will be removing 20 (of its least useful or least used) ad metrics in July 2018 to coincide with the release of its new Graph API. Here’s the full list and explanation from Facebook.