Instagram’s Snapchat Rip-off & The New State of Social Media

You don’t just take an Instagram. It’s a production. And for those of us who may take thousands of photos of last night’s sky, your gourmet donut, or my dog, only “the best one” hits the gram. And it took time: editing it, deciding on crop or no crop, adding a filter. In a world of oversharing, Instagram was for showing our very best.

Well, not anymore. With Stories, Instagram lets you group ‘grams into one cohesive narrative that disappears after 24 hours. Add text, a sticker, even a doodle, and within 24 hours the story will disappear. Sound like Snapchat? Ding, ding, ding – you are correct.

Stealing features is nothing new for social networks, but it’s rare to see a ripoff this blatant. On social media, people are crying foul. But, it doesn’t matter, really. Does it? As a way of reaching new demographics, the launch of Stories on Instagram makes sense. The posting experience mimics Snapchat, but they’re built right into an otherwise familiar app.

If you’re a Snapchat user, it works just about the exact same way. If you’re not, read on to hear how you use it…

As far as story creation goes, there’s a new “+” icon in the upper left-hand corner of your Instagram display. Take a photo or video from there, and it lives only in your story stream, not in your main feed. In 24 hours, poof, the all the photos in that story disappear. And whatever privacy settings you’ve set for your day-to-day grammin’ will automatically apply to your ephemeral efforts.

watch-instagram-stories-gif

Now for the state of social as such a blatant rip off launches, well this isn’t just about Instagram (and, by extension, Facebook) replicating the next fad in social platforming, though that’s part of it. Today, every major platform is looking to maneuver fast and change course to grow audience. Snapchat and Twitter want to become more accessible. Facebook and Instagram want more shareable, original content. And everyone wants live video.

Clearly, none of the major social platforms feel comfortable with their current status, change is always on their horizon.

If there’s one undefeated truth across this innovation, it’s that everything that is social must converge. It really is just the way the constant pursuit of the next gazillion users goes. And for the most part, the people using these apps benefit. Snapchat stories are fun. And, now you can have them in Instagram, too. Simple.

But, this week, we have seen and heard the app loyalists eye-roll & shame Instagram at what they see as selling out. Platforms become bloated beyond simple use. Social networks suffer from a boxed in sameness. And smaller companies are left uncertain of where they fit into the ecosystem, or if they do at all.

The question is whether, as apps strive to become everything to everyone, they risk losing what made them so unique in the first place. That risk is particularly obvious in an app like Instagram, which continues its domination of the niche for beautiful photography on social media.

It’s sort of concerning to see these apps drop the features and limitations that once made them unique. Take those away and you’re left with little more than a competition for the biggest, best social gathering.

Via The New Yorker:
[…the app’s introduction of an expiring highlight reel is more than a shameless grab for one of Snapchat’s core features. It’s a response to a demand: on an Internet that always remembers, we are fighting for places we can go to forget.]

All Roads Lead to Mobile Messaging

Last week at F8, Facebook’s massive annual developer conference, the big news was bots—specifically on Messenger, Facebook’s messaging app. Messenger has a increasing user base of 900 million users per month – very enticing for companies eager to get their wares in front of customers. Facebook is turning Messenger into an open platform where any company can now build a chatbot that users can talk with. If you’re an airline, you can build a chatbot to book flights; if you’re OpenTable you can build a chatbot to allow reservations, you can even call an Uber – one-touch marketing.

People don’t use a ton of apps, and they don’t download many either. The reason is simple: There’s an enormous amount time spent with learning about a new app, downloading it, signing up for it, and then remembering you even have it. And this is why the rise of the chatbot makes sense.

The promise of chatbots is that from within Facebook Messenger you can do anything you’d like with the speed and ease that would be impossible if you were toggling between numerous apps. Moreover, because you’re already in Messenger, there’s no need to sign up all over again if you’re trying out a new service. Messenger already knows who you are. 

Your Facebook profile becomes the foundation of your online identity.

Once you start a conversational thread, your transaction history is right there, threaded into a cohesive stream of conversation that you and the bot can access.

With 15 million businesses using pages and 1.6 billion people using Facebook, actionable conversations can now come together in threads that are contextual and almost sacred. For the lifetime of the interactions everything stays in one place, unlike email.”

Chatbots in Kik and other messaging apps work much like this already, with guided options that push your chat along. But “Facebook believes that the future will yield deeper and deeper integrations between the chatbots and the sensors and data on your phone.

cnn-facebook-messenger-bot
courtesy Facebook, via Variety.com

Soon, we’ll see how well consumers engage with these features & developments, which really have been around since the days of IRC, if you think about it. Only users will decide if they really are faster and more fluid than apps; the proof will be in the numbers. With users reportedly sharing less on Facebook each year, it makes sense for them to create a business-friendly platform, with less and less need for Facebook proper.

Snapchat Overview: Why I Started To Snap

Snapchat may not yet have the following of the other more established players in the social space, yet its growth continues as it becomes more influential through its capacity to introduce new innovations that keep the app ahead of the game. Every week there seems to be new features to try out.

Snapchat first made waves with content that would disappear after 10 seconds or less. But where many other apps have hung their hat on their initial premise, and have been unable to hold that initial attention as a result, Snapchat’s gone on to introduce additional, industry-leading functions to keep their primarily young audience base coming back for more – and tapping into an arena where brands need to play.

A bit of history: They introduced Stories in late 2013, geofilters in mid 2014 and the lenses in September 2015. Just last month, Snapchat announced a major revamp of their messaging features. In my opinion, their ability to remain loyal and responsive to their audience needs and interests, and continuously deliver on new features to them, is what keeps the app top of mind, and keeps their users glued to their devices.

Snapchat’s 100 million daily active users are now contributing more than eight billion video views on the platform every day. Per day.

And now… the introduction of new emoji stickers for videos.

via GIPHY

The stickers are like any other emoji, but they move and scale in proportion to the actual video. It’s odd looking – but then again, this is the platform that popularized “rainbow vomit.” Am I right?

Video stickers are interesting and interactive – and you can immediately see how this new feature will be popular among Snapchat’s fan base. Oh, you kids!

Snapchat Unveils New Video Stickers Tool | Social Media TodayAccording to TechCrunch, Eitan Pilipski, an engineer who Snapchat recently recruited from augmented reality company Vuforia assisted in its development. Vuforia is a shop that strives to help brands generate vision-based data and computing, including mapping 3-D objects into real-world video – for example, enabling gamers to overlay 3-D objects into a physical space via their tablet device.

If Snapchat’s other innovations are anything to go by, I’d expect to see other platforms looking to implement similar in the near future, especially if the option continues to be popular among Snapchat’s user base. And, this all coming on the heels of this week’s f8 Conference with the use of bots, AR, VR, and AI, of course.

So, why have I started using Snapchat?

[You can ‘Snap’ me at hotleadsnaps]

Understanding the way people communicate, share news, endorse brands, products and services, and stay engaged is a passion of mine. And Snapchat’s ability to stay on trend and avoid becoming another teen fad that dies out truly does keep my interest. Testing, using, adopting and understanding the latest technology and features is the best way to understand how people will use it, behave around it, and in the end – think of it.

The regularity with which Snapchat has been able to execute new innovations and keep users coming back bodes well for its future. They are never just trying to play catch up. They create its own trends and lead the way, showing how in touch they are with their core users.
Again, it’s not as big as the established players, for sure, but it’s getting there. I suggest you stop ignoring it and pay a visit to ‘Michael Platco’ and his friends to join the party. A list of more Snapchat folks that are killing it can be found via Inc.com here. And for brands that are killing it, check out this rundown.

Messaging Apps Are Changing Social

The way we use social media to share and interact is fundamentally changing with the rise of messaging apps and bots.

Soon we’ll notice most social activity is no longer going to happen in public, instead transitioning to private groups and messaging apps. There will be a significant change in what “social media” is.

This is a change that will challenge everything we’ve learned about social media over the past 8-10 years. Until now, standing out in the timelines and News Feeds have been the main goal of most strategies. Soon these channels are no longer the first place people will turn for discovery and interaction. As one-to-one messaging begins to dominate the social media world, it creates an array of new insights, questions, challenges, and opportunities for marketers.

In a public Q&A session back in November 2014, Mark Zuckerberg said:

“Messaging is one of the few things that people do more than social networking.”

Since then, Facebook have made huge strides in the messaging space, acquiring WhatsApp for $19bn and building Messenger up to 900 million users worldwide.

When you take a look at the data, you can see why Facebook are putting such an emphasis on messaging apps and dark social, (via The Economist):

A quarter of all downloaded apps are abandoned after a single use. Only instant messaging bucks the trend. Over 2.5 billion people have at least one messaging app installed. Within a couple of years, that will reach 3.6 billion, about half of humanity. The market’s leading duo, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, which is also owned by Facebook, are nearing one billion monthly users each. Many teenagers now spend more time on smartphones sending instant messages than perusing social networks. WhatsApp users average nearly 200 minutes each week using the service.

When it comes to sharing, private messaging is already leading the game. “According to a RadiumOne study, almost 70% of all online referrals come from dark social globally. For the UK, this figure increases to 75%.” –Via Econsultancy.

dark-social

Dark social channels include:

  • Messaging apps: Messenger, Kik, WeChat, WhatsApp
  • Email
  • Private browsing & message communities

Messaging apps have now surpassed social networks in terms of monthly active users too, (graph from a Business Insider report):

bi-messaging-apps

The transition from public social media to chat apps could be the biggest change in internet culture and marketing since social media itself. However, how will brands maximize the opportunities presented by messaging apps?

Consumers consider messaging apps as more private than social media and may not react positively to the traditional interruption advertising model where brands pop up in their inbox without permission; though these ads could be coming to Messenger:

Messenger-ad

(h/t Ryan Hoover and Jonathan Tzou for this spot)

One brand that has started to experiment with dark social, and marketing through messaging apps is Adidas, who are using WhatsApp to build hyper-local communities in cities across the world and have previously used Twitter’s DM feature to invite a group of advocates to a private conversation with one of its sponsored players.

Comedy website Funny or Die have also been utilizing Kik to distribute content since early 2015 and have seen some great results:

“It’s amazing how quickly we built up a following on Kik,” Patrick Starzan, Funny or Die’s vice president of marketing and distribution explained in a blog post. ”It took about three months to get to 1.5 million chatters, compared to the two or three years it took to get the same number of people on social networks.”

When we send out broadcast messages to our Kik chatters – usually with links to new videos – we see conversion rates as high as 10%. That’s pretty substantial since we only send out the broadcast messages once a week, whereas we’ll send posts to social networks like Facebook and Twitter five or six times a day and see lower conversion rates.”

Right now, it’s a time for testing and learning to figure out what works and how open customers are to interacting with brands one-to-one setting.

Here come the bots – with the biggest apps, where users are spending the majority of their time, becoming platforms to which other apps integrate to.

“What are bots?”, you ask:

Essentially bots are a way to simulate conversations human users. You can interact with bots for entertainment or to get things done. For example, instead of phoning for a taxi, you can now order an Uber using a Messenger bot.

Unlike apps, bots don’t need to be downloaded, they live on servers, not a user’s device. This means using bots should provide a smoother experience for the user as switching between bots doesn’t involve tapping on another app.

The trend of apps and bots living within larger platforms has already taken off in China, where a large number of brands run bots through WeChat. And yesterday at F8, Facebook announced more about their Messenger bot store, following hot on the heels of Kik, who announced a bot store of their own last week.

According to Wired, bots within WeChat enable its 600m monthly users to book taxis, check in for flights, play games, buy cinema tickets, manage banking, reserve doctors’ appointments, and even apply for mortgages, without leaving the app.

 

What does this all mean for marketers?

Organic engagement on many social channels is in decline, but at its heart, social media has always been about connecting with people one-to-one. That won’t change. What will change is the strategies and platforms we use to connect.

As customers transition to private messaging, it’s essential for marketers to remember that above all else, messaging interactions are opt-in experiences, much like email lists. And with permission also comes a higher set of expectations.

Content delivered through messaging apps and bots will need to be relevant and more personalized than a Facebook post to your whole audience, and oftentimes users will need a reason to open up a conversation or opt in.

The possibilities for messaging apps and bots are endless, and Messenger opening up a bot store could be the most significant launch in the tech and marketing industries since Apple first launched the App Store.

I look forward to the commentary (complete with conflicting opinions) that will come out of these developments. What do you think?

Facebook reveals its 10-year road map in one graphic

Today, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg just showed off the company’s 10-year road map in one graphic at the F8 developers conference on Tuesday. Below is how he sees Facebook’s next 10 years:

 

Screen Shot 2016 04 12 at 1.10.45 PM

Via Facebook

 

“That’s the road map for the next 10 years,” Zuckerberg said. “We are building the technology to give anyone the power to share anything they want with anyone else.”

The focus is on products and revenue during the next three years involves the company’s ecosystems, while video, search, groups, and the family of apps such as WhatsApp, Messenger, and Instagram play out in the next five years.

But, the 10-year game involves more ambitious efforts to be made in technology, such as artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality (VR), and augmented reality (AR), and new connectivity offerings, such as drone-delivered internet service.

F8 is taking place at Fort Mason, San Francisco, and the company is expected to announce a bunch of new products and features.

Social May Win At Volume. But, What About Influence?

Research shows social media is often less than 5% of all Word of Mouth on a particular subject. With the many different ways to look at this, we decided to focus on volume over impact – with the recent topic of Scottish Independence, as well as the focus on Millennial culture and digital behavior.

After a robust social media blitz that indicated a potential separatist landslide, Scotland decided to remain a part of the United Kingdom. Appinions did some digging and noted that news versus social means different formats lead to different impact. Sometimes social can win the volume game, but still lose on the influence game; social can be efficient but not effective.

Above data via Appinions

The win at volume gets tremendous contribution from Millennials. In the last decade, this group is a paramount focus for brands and organizations. Rising into adulthood at the start of the century, their impact has proven to be a major focus to take fast action toward, from the White House and the auto industry to global and social issues.

As we start to plan our trip to Hollywood next month for the WOMMA Summit we reviewed our “A-Ha!” moments from the April 2014 WOMMNext event. Our attention returned to this data point: Millennials spend close to 18 hours per day on their smart devices (via Crowdtap). But for brands, Word of Mouth still overtakes all that time spent when it comes to influence and impact. Despite Millennials’ time in the digital space, still 84% of these Word of Mouth impressions from Millennials result from offline conversations, the majority being face-to-face, according to the latest research from the Keller Fay Group.

Escalate sees program-specific results that support the assertion that social media, while not a tactic to be ignored, is perhaps not as revolutionary a marketing innovation as some would have us believe. Through our experiential programs, we learned that:

  • Face-to-face recommendations for a client brand were 15X more likely to include desired key brand messages than social media recommendations.
  • Analysis of a one-month spike (>2X the next-highest month that year) in digital “buzz” about a client brand found that 80% of all digital “conversation” was, in fact, neutral in tone (for example: on Twitter, a simple re-tweet without a meaningful personal comment; a shared Facebook post with no point of view from the consumer)

As much as the research can be revealing, Millennials are still a very digital generation and sharing online is a part of their makeup. But, it’s not the only way they communicate, and far from the most common…or most effective. All marketing touch points need to be considered. Social is just one of them. In order to reach Millennials and make their way into their conversations, brands need to be as authentic and transparent as they possibly can. Otherwise, no matter what the the format, they’ll tune it out and the message can die. Brands need to consider all the channels, especially the real world.


image via WOMMA

As Millennials are increasingly tapped into digital media, the question isn’t whether they hear a brand message, but if they’ll listen, and talk about it with their friends.

The Importance of the Hashtag

We recently were asked by a client to explain the importance of using hashtags. It was a good challenge and it really got us thinking about how we track and measure the effectiveness of our programs both from a live and in-person standpoint, as well as from a social media and virality standpoint.

Everywhere you look, hashtags are being used. Their use in social media messaging helps to sort, classify and call attention to what you’re saying online. Hashtags empower your messages, making them part of a global multi-platform conversation.

The hashtag has been a key topic for many social media insight stories, and also the butt of many jokes. One of the most famous blew up the internet last September thanks to Jimmy Fallon, Justin Timberlake, and let’s not forget Quest Love – see infamous video here.

And yes, Ladies and Gentlemen, “hashtag” is now in the 2014 Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, along with Selfie, Tweep and 147 other New Words.

While brands are still getting the hang of hashtags, they tend to change them often (as much as with every tweet) and really only get away with that because they don’t have to care if they have a follower base in the millions. But when you are hoping for outreach in the tens of thousands (a normal marketing campaign goal for most brands and agencies) then hashtag tracking and consistency becomes something of an important factor.

But don’t lose sight of how other hashtags play a role in your campaign results. It is not just your hashtag you need to track, but other hashtags that might make a difference. For instance, anything from your competitors hashtags surrounding a similar campaign to common misspellings of your hashtags.

Being able to track and consolidate as much historical and real-time hashtag data is also important. And being able to pick out major influencers (the empty vessel of a celebrity for instance; big reach, low impact) from your campaign hashtag is a primary concern for analytics down the road. Not to mention the competitive analysis with the aforementioned competitors, who most likely didn’t take all variables into account.

So remember to #InsertHashtagHere.