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

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

1. Brace yourself for a literal tonne of Facebook updates (they’re all worth a look)
‘Literal’ was a lie. And for that I apologize. But a quick glance below will soon reveal the need for the dramatic headline; this week might just be one of the busiest we’ve known in terms of sheer mass of Facebook news (that’s worth telling you about).

Ready? Got a coffee? Here we go:

Live Location: the new Messenger feature lets you share your whereabouts with friends and family for an hour. Useful if you’re waiting for someone, but terrible news if you have a habit of saying ‘5 mins away!’ when you’re essentially still in your pjs.

Collection ads: a new shopping ad format that leads with a video or photo and is followed by four product images. These each expand to reveal a catalogue of up to 50 items. Tapping on a specific product will take you to a website/app where you can buy.

GIFs in comments: it was always going to happen – the platform is now testing animated GIFs in comments for its main app. Because expecting us to express ourselves using words is just unreasonable.

In other comments news, Facebook is testing a redesign of the section beneath posts, which introduces a Messenger-style chat bubble layout.

Town Hall: found in the More menu (for US users only right now), the feature presents a list of government reps at local, state and federal level. You can then get in touch with them directly. Facebook will also now offer Election Reminders for local elections.

Groups access for Pages: some Pages can now interact with Groups they are admin of. The update also lets you link to the group from a main brand page.

New ad design: some eagle-eyed users have spotted ads with a headline and description text section that matches the colour scheme of the visual (rather than the usual white background).

I think that’s all… I can’t be sure.


2. Adobe finds way to match one photo style to another – and it’s INSANELY insane
Graphic designers who like thier jobs may want to keep this one quiet.

Prisma – the app that applies artistic filters to photos based on the work of well-known painters – and others like it, have just been seriously outdone by some incredible new imaging tech from Adobe and Cornell University researchers.

This is a whole new level of OMFG.

The tech makes it possible to apply the elements of one photo to another, i.e. automatically alter an image to give it a completely different look.

adobe_image matching 1 adobe_image matching 2 adobe_image matching 3

Just think how much more Insta-worthy that holiday snap would be if the not-quite-as-blue-as-you-hoped sky was replaced by the stunning sunset you drooled over while browsing your favourite travel blog.

This can make that happen.


3. Amazon gobbles up Middle Eastern retail giant
If Amazon was a shark, it would be a megalodon for sure. The Middle East’s largest online retailer Souq would be a great white.

The first is an absolute mammoth (and also extinct, but please ignore that for the purposes of this analogy), the second is not as mammothy but still formidable, and far from a little fish.

The first has just swallowed the second.

Amazon agreed to buy Souq this week for a reported (although unconfirmed) $650 million – a deal that marks its first move into the booming Middle Eastern market.

Souq, launched in 2005, offers more than 8.4 million products across 31 categories and has more than 45 million visits per month. As I said, no small fish.

Amazon SVP Russ Grandinetti describes the two companies as sharing the ‘same DNA’ in that they are both ‘driven by customers, invention and long-term thinking’.

In the spirit of branching out, Amazon has also introduced an outfit-planning feature to its app that lets Prime members upload two photos of outfits they are trying to decide between. After one minute, an Amazon stylist lets you know which one looks better.

Ah brilliant. A totally anonymous stranger with a possibly-not-entirely-deserved ‘stylist’ title telling me what to wear. Just what I’ve always wanted…


4. No more spoilers! Twitter lets users ban words from timelines
Every now and again an update comes along that makes you wonder how you ever lived without it. This is one of those.

Twitter now not only allows you to mute words, phrases and hashtags from notifications (introduced back in November) but also timelines. If you’re anything like me and seem to always be a few episodes of the latest hit show behind everyone else, this will do wonders for your spoiler-related stress issues.

You can mute either indefinitely, or for a month, week or day only.

On a more serious note, the move is one of a few changes the platform is making to better tackle harassment and abuse. Other measures include:

  • Muting ‘eggs’ (profiles without photos)
  • Close behaviour monitoring
  • Action alerts following harassment reports

Twitter also launched pre-roll Periscope ads this week. I know what you’re thinking but it seems it’s true. Yes everyone, someone is still using Periscope.


5. Pinterest & Samsung team up to bring Lens tool to new Galaxy S8
Siri should watch her back. Details are beginning to emerge about Samsung’s AI assistant competitor Bixby – and it’s looking epic.

Not limited to voice AI, Pinterest-powered Bixby will also use the Galaxy S8’s camera. Claims state that you’ll be able to point it at any object and receive recommendations, ideas and product suggestions instantly – all from within your camera roll.

In a blog post, Pinterest’s head of consumer business development described the integration in detail, stating:

‘Soon you’ll be able to access billions of Pinterest ideas from every corner of your Galaxy S8. Any new pic you snap with your camera, photo in your gallery, screenshot you take, images across the web… they’re all a jumping off point for finding related ideas on Pinterest.’


Update: YouTube ad boycott
It’s all still a bit messy for Google after last week’s mass YouTube advertising exodus, which followed ads being spotted next to extremist content.

The whole situation could cost Alphabet, Google’s parent company, up to $US750 million. Some suggest it might also lead to advertisers demanding more transparency and better tracking from Google and other so-called ‘walled garden’ systems. Read more on that here.


w/c 20th March 2017

1. Google still in the doghouse as advertiser boycott snowballs
So ‘in the doghouse’ is actually a massive understatement.

Last week, The Times of London shockingly reported seeing YouTube ads alongside hate and extremist content, which resulted in some of the UK’s biggest ad spenders including HSBC, Havas UK and The Guardian pulling all ads and blacklisting the company.

Now, a bunch of major US advertisers including AT&T and GSK have joined the boycott, following suit by stopping all YouTube spend and pushing for a guarantee it will never happen again.

Google jumped on the issue pretty quickly after it hit the headlines, with chief business officer Philipp Schindler acknowledging ‘it is unacceptable to the advertisers and agencies who put their trust in us’.

In an attempt to further reassure outraged advertisers, four new preventative measures were also announced. These included:

  • Excluding ‘potentially objectionable’ content by default
  • Allowing advertisers to blacklist individual YouTube channels
  • Tougher crackdown on videos that involve harassment on the basis of ‘race, religion, gender or similar categories’
  • More staff dedicated to reviewing ads and developing AI tools for detecting violations

The updates didn’t do much to halt the revolt though, which seems to only be gaining momentum as more and more advertisers jump on board.


2. Facebook treads on Google’s toes, swoops in on search
All Facebook wants is complete world domination. I mean, is that really too much to ask?

By some miracle, Snapchat managed to dodge being the victim of the company’s unstoppable ambition this week, but Google – the other favourite target – did not have such luck.

As if battling its own self-induced media firestorm wasn’t enough (see above), the search giant also had to contend with the news that Facebook – already its only real advertising rival – is moving into its search territory.

Still in testing, Facebook’s newly enhanced local search and discovery feature lets users search for place recommendations (e.g. ‘shoe store nearby’) to bring up a list of local businesses complete with user ratings, a map and info on which friends have visited.

The expanded listings also include a call to action option (e.g. ‘shop now’) and a quick description of what the business offers, which is auto-generated from user reviews.

fb_local search

The update not only mimics Google, but kind of one-ups it thanks to the addition of data and recommendations from friends. Realistically though, the reigning king of search won’t be too worried just yet: it’s got a complete chokehold on the search scene and it’s going to take a hell of a lot to threaten that. But then again, if anyone can do it…

This week it was also announced that Facebook’s Audience Network is adopting header bidding – a fairly new spin on programmatic ad bidding that lets publishers choose between bids from multiple ad networks at the same time before deciding on the best deal.

This will pit Google and Facebook directly against each other, with publishers being able to ask both ad networks (plus a host of others) simultaneously for the best bid offer from their respective advertiser pools.


3. Instagram hits 1 million monthly advertisers, unveils new features
By all accounts, Instagram’s having a much better week than Google.

The photo-sharing app – which boasts 600 million users – has said that it now has 1 million monthly advertisers too, a 400% increase from a year ago.

Instagram’s dedication to attracting advertisers over the past couple of years – including adding new formats (e.g. Carousel and full screen ads within Stories) and improved analytics – is clearly working. Businesses are flocking in, which makes a lot of sense when you take into account that the audience is so warm – 80% of ‘grammers follow a company.

To keep its current advertiser friends happy and attract new ones, Instagram discussed some upcoming new options this week, all designed to help boost/prove ROI. Expect in-app appointment booking and even better insights in the near future.

Also new – and VERY exciting for brands – is the broader rollout of shoppable product posts, which had previously only been tested with 20 brands. The feature allows businesses to tag products in a post image, which then link to a product detail page where users can click to shop.

ig_shoppable posts rollout


4. 90% of Facebook Pages using native video, no other platform’s content can compete
It’s no secret that Facebook’s completely and utterly obsessed with video. It’s also not much of a secret – if you’ve been anywhere near your News Feed in the past year – that so are users.

A study from Quintly, which analysed 167,000 profiles and over 6 million Facebook posts, found that 90% used native video (including Live content), compared to 65% in 2015.

Only 30% of profiles used YouTube videos, and Vimeo barely registered on the scale, with its videos being used by a mere 2%. Video shared from all other platforms made up a 7% share combined.

It’s not just that Facebook users are posting more native video content though – that’s not overly surprising. The study also found that interaction rates were far greater for native videos, with a score 106.67% higher on average than for YouTube videos on Facebook.

Looking specifically at the number of shares different types of video gained, native came out tops again – scoring a highest share rate 1055.41% above YouTube content.


5. Google messes with ‘exact match’ selection, makes it literally inexact
Advertisers bidding on keywords through Google have the option to elect for only ‘exact match’ queries.

A couple of years ago though, as reported by Search Engine Land,  the company stopped advertisers from excluding ‘close variants’ of keywords within this selection. The news didn’t exactly go down well but people got over it.

But now, Google’s gone a step further and made it so ‘exact match’ not only includes close variants but also queries including the same words but written in an entirely different order.

This could be problematic in many scenarios. If you’re a manufacturer of warning signs for example, and want to attract people searching for the term ‘stop kids running’, you won’t be anywhere near as interested in paying for people searching for ‘kids stop running’ instead. Mainly because they’ll probably be more concerned with the fitness of a generation rather than the poolside safety of excitable school children.

In a nutshell, the move will lower ad relevancy, which can only have a negative knock-on effect on ROI. Understandably, advertisers are not happy bunnies.


Bonus bite: Instagram users can now save live Stories
Instagram live Stories will no longer *truly* disappear after 24 hours, at least not if the creator doesn’t want them to. By simply clicking the download button after a live broadcast, you can now save it to your phone to watch again later or upload to a different platform.

ig_save live stories


w/c 13th March 2017

1. Will Facebook sink Snapchat? Stories rollout begins
Snapchat created Stories. Instagram copied Stories. WhatsApp copied stories. Messenger copied Stories. And now, Facebook – the company responsible for the above mimicry – has copied stories.

On the back of the Messenger Day release last week – a new Messenger feature that lets users share a slideshow of photos and videos that vanish after 24 hours – Facebook’s finally got in on the action too, launching an identical feature within its main app which is now being rolled out in Chile, Greece and Vietnam.

Screen Shot 2017-03-17 at 08.04.19

With 1.7 billion monthly users, the Facebook app will offer Stories a huge stage when it becomes available worldwide.

And if users respond well to the new addition – bearing in mind that some won’t be as familiar with the concept – Snapchat’s growth could take another hit.


2. Snapchat disappoints marketers, gets bad grades for ROI
In addition to the above-mentioned Stories swiping, Snapchat’s had another setback this week in the form of a series of studies published by RBC Capital Markets in partnership with Ad Age.

The studies, which surveyed 1,600 marketers, have revealed that Snapchat was outperformed by almost every other major platform (including Twitter!) in terms of ROI satisfaction, scoring only 3.43 out of a possible 8 points.

Facebook and Google topped the table with respective ratings almost twice this high.

The marketers were also asked which platforms they were most interested in advertising on, with 65% choosing Instagram and less than 40% mentioning Snapchat.

So what’s the issue? Why is Snapchat failing to impress and producing decreasing ROI?

According to respondents there are a few key factors at play here, most notably: measurement difficulties, poor targeting and competition from Instagram.


3. Clever clickbait campaign tricks people into reading books
Clickbait is right up there on the scale of annoying things we could all do without.

Just think of all the cool stuff you could do in the time it takes to read a headline, go to the article, begin to read it and discover it’s a complete letdown.
When you also factor in the time it takes to work through the small/medium amount of rage that follows – you’ve wasted a good couple of minutes of your life in total.

Luckily, Dallas-based bookstore The Wild Detectives recently found a clever way to use clickbait for good. The company tricked people into reading literary classics by turning the titles into spammy headlines to get people to click through.

So for example, the headline ‘Teenage girl tricked boyfriend into killing himself’ led people to Romeo and Juliet, and ‘British guy dies after selfie gone wrong’ connected to The Picture of Dorian Grey.

Reactions to the campaign were overwhelmingly positive and the bookstore reports that it drove a 14,000% rise in web traffic and a 150% increase in page post engagement.

In our book, that’s not bad at all.


4. 91% will use internet while watching TV by 2018, says Facebook
Watching TV without a phone, tablet or laptop nearby feels like eating bread with no butter. Or chips with no salt. It’s just not right.

It’s actually hard to remember what life was like when we chatted, worked, read, watched, discovered, learned and listened as separate activities. Where did we get the time?!

According to a new research report from Facebook, we really don’t even need to remember because it’s well and truly a thing of the past. The report states that by 2018, 91% of us will watch TV and use the internet at the same time.

Screen Shot 2017-03-17 at 09.43.20

But it’s not just what we’re doing while watching TV that’s interesting, it’s also how we’re watching. More than 2,000 people were surveyed for the report and the results showed that for millennials, streaming is the preferred way of viewing – and by a clear margin too.

Screen Shot 2017-03-17 at 11.00.25

With all this in mind, it’s no surprise that most of the major digital players are showing serious interest in merging social media with video programming. From Snapchat’s new deal with Vice to Facebook’s hiring of MTV exec Mina Lefevre, and of course the huge rise of video content and live streaming, the shift toward single social screening is already taking shape.

Read more from the report.


5. Publishers get all new options for Facebook’s Instant Articles ads
From next week, publishers will have more control over the ads in their Instant Articles.

Previously, there was a limit of 350 words per ad placement, but this is changing to allow publishers to either manually or automatically place ads every 250, 350 or 500 words.

Product manager Harshit Agarwal announced the updates in a Facebook Media Blog Post, mentioning that monetization solutions were not one-size-fits-all, and that the company recognises that different articles and pieces of content have different requirements.



w/c 6th March 2017

1. Instagram Stories ads now open to all businesses
Just in case you’ve missed how popular Instagram Stories has become (how is it living under that rock?), I’m here to let you know it’s a big deal. 150 million daily users big.

So popular in fact, that Snapchat’s version – which let us not forget is the original – has reportedly suffered a drop in growth since its clone rocked up. You can read more on that whole situation here.

From this week, a new way to connect with users through Instagram Stories is open to all businesses: full-screen Stories ads.

The beauty of this ad format is the quality of the eyeballs you’re getting. The ads aren’t mixed with other types of content, with only a hope of attracting attention. Nor are they one of many competing elements on a screen.

They are native and immersive full-screen content experiences that mimic their organic equivalents. People looking at the Stories section are there by choice, and have come to view that specific style of content only.

All this combined could mean that engagement is much higher than what you’d see with other types of ads.

Stories ads can be set up in Facebook’s Ad Manager or Power Editor. The photo or video used needs to be 15 seconds or less and will appear between organic Stories. Once an ad is placed, you’ll be able to get the same insights as you would with any other ad campaign (with organic Stories, you can only see views).


2. New report: less emails, more opens for marketers in 2017
If your inbox looks anything like mine, your first response to this headline may well have been ‘REALLY?!’.

But it’s true.

Marketers are sending fewer emails and getting better open rates. SendGrid’s 2017 Email Benchmark report says so – and it analysed over 50 billion emails from 100,000 senders so we’re inclined to believe the results.

According to the report, the average email send rate was 9.8 per month way back in 2016 (hey, that’s a long time for digital!). This figure dropped to 8.1 in January 2017.

Open rates went in the opposite direction – rising from 27.3% in 2016 to 30.6%.

The data also showed that eight of the 25 industries were desktop dominant in terms of how people were consuming email last year, compared to only two in early 2017.


3. Is Amazon trying to take down Google & Facebook?

Amazon is an ecommerce beast. Everyone knows that. The online retailer even topped all others for paid advertising results in 2016, generating a whopping 471.4 million clicks. The company’s advertising business though has attracted far less attention.

But things may be about to change.

While headlines have been dominated by Amazon’s ecommerce achievements, drone delivery, dash buttons and cashier-less stores, the company has been quietly building an advertising platform that genuinely has epic potential.

In the not-too-distant future we could be looking at a serious competitor to Google and Facebook. And those are seriously hard to come by.

The truth is, Amazon has something the top two don’t – a gold mine of customer data backed up by actual purchase behaviour. As WPP CEO Martin Sorrell stated during a recent earnings call, Amazon’s dominance of the ecommerce market means it knows more about people’s consumption choices that anyone in the world.

And that’s the exact info that advertisers are chomping at the bit for. It’s also the exact info that Google and Facebook don’t have much of right now, relatively.

When you factor in that Amazon also has a wealth of search, and music and video streaming data – it suddenly becomes obvious that we could be dealing with a game changer here. If this side of the business really takes off, it could signal a whole new era in digital advertising.

Read more from Martin Sorrell here


4. Introducing Trigger – arguably the coolest app of 2017 so far
Twitter is home to some truly epic put-downs, clapbacks and all-out wars of words. And now there’s a way for all that digital hostility to be put to good use.

New Twitter-based app, Trigger, lets you reply to an aggravating Tweet with a donation to charity rather than an array of angry words.

Trigger describes the act as ‘retaliatory giving’. We call it ‘a way to lose your money (but in a way you really don’t mind), instead of your rag’.

To use Trigger, you just need to set up an account using credit card details and your Twitter handle, then wait for someone to say something that really gets your goat. It won’t take long, at least not while old D. Trump has an account.

When the moment comes, simply reply to the offending Tweet with a dollar amount, the handle of a U.S. non-profit and #TriggerGive. Trigger will take care of the rest.

Here’s what retaliatory giving looks like in action:
Screen Shot 2017-03-09 at 13.40.32


5. Facebook City Guides arrive
Facebook knows that people listen to other people. And with this in mind, the company introduced contextual Recommendations last year – a tool designed to make it easier for users to get advice and suggestions from friends.

To build on this, it’s now rolling out a brand new feature: City Guides.

Accessible via the More menu, City Guides present listings of major cities along with a rundown of which contacts have been to each. When you click into a particular city, more information appears and you can even see places friends visited whilst there, along with the ratings they gave.

There’s also a section to let you know where locals go – something highly sought after by anyone not looking for novelty keyrings, pool inflatables or ice cream.

Screen Shot 2017-03-09 at 14.58.55

The new feature seems like a natural move for the company. After all, it already has the data on where people have been (through check-ins, status updates, location info etc.), so why not let it benefit users?

Obviously there’s a business angle here too. Facebook knows that reviews and recommendations are a huge deal online, and the more it can offer these within the platform, the less users will need to go elsewhere (watch your back, TripAdvisor!).

Businesses should take note of City Guides too. The more people visiting, checking-in, rating and talking – the more you’ll feature in the guides.


Bonus bite: Are Facebook Messenger chatbots failing?
According to recent reports, yes. They’re unable to fulfil user requests 70% of the time. As a result, Facebook will be scaling back on these two-way AI conversations, focusing instead on more simplistic systems which present many options upfront for people to choose from (more like a basic website than a chat).

Read more