Instagram Stalls, Time to get Worried?

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As Instagram rolls out it’s battle tank to increase revenue, usage statistics are tanking. Which is sort of ironic since the whole idea was to innovate and get more advertising money.

The dearth of technology is tied to innovation. Instagram has been slow to the finishing line since it was purchased by that behemoth, Facebook. People are sharing less on Facebook and for Instagram, people spend less time on it than in previous year.

Advertising on Instagram got a whole lot easier in 2016, namely, anyone with a Facebook account can buy adverts now on Instagram. It is basically the same way you buy Facebook advertising. No different except that you get to put your adverts up within a user’s newsfeed.

Not long ago, Instagram started to ditch its show me everything newsfeed to adopt a tuned algorithm. They will show you more of what you like….or suggest users that have similar post which you like and at the same time, take into account the number of likes and views of your particular post and tell the world where you stand. What do you make of it? Well, it is really to justify what you pay for. If your advert or post get shown to an audience, you get to see how many times it has been viewed. It cuts both ways.

Metrics are everything but results are a wee bit subjective.

Instagram is Spreading its Wings

If you happen to like posting stuff, Instagram now helps you to get discovered. Content consumers may not have an idea on who to follow so this clue might be helpful when users who have similar post you like are often suggested. Herein lies the problem.

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With 80% of its users now from outside the US, up from 75% last fall, Instagram’s growth has relied heavily on its popularity in overseas countries like Japan, Germany, France and Indonesia.

Marketing overseas got easier but not all of them speak English. So Instagram has introduced instant translations for post for users to read. 

This two prong approach sort of solves the problem but it doesn’t quite solve the engagement problem. People are using Instagram less as it is so yesterday, and this has gotten Instagram worried of course, and as a brand advertiser, you should be too.

If you don’t catch enough eyeballs, then where should you be?

Time to Get Worried?

Instagram has also hit 300 million daily active users. While 300 million is impressive, CNBC reported that Instagram usage has actually dropped 23.7% between this year and last . So even as Instagram is reaching a wider daily audience, its users are spending less time in-app. Less time means less revenue for Instagram and this is how it plays out.

The immediacy of an advertising campaign doesn’t mean you should be throwing more dollars at Instagram but to spread that reach wider on both traditional and online advertising and not rely on social media alone.

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That’s because the Daily Usage has tanked for Facebook and Instagram. People don’t post as much anymore or for that matter share or check their newsfeed to the point Instagram has to send you suggestions on who to follow and what to follow in terms of interest and pages.

Since the adverts are targeted, advertising can be directed at a particular profile but this will not stop ads from running meaninglessly when users scroll pass them. Do I recall what I just saw that was inserted into my news feed? Nope. Nor do I care since whatever advertising that was directed at me wasn’t of interest to me.

Videos got Longer on Instagram

Posting video is being extended to a whole 1 min. However Twitter has countered this allowing videos up to 140 seconds long with Vine. Wow. Would you be bored?

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The fight for video time is apparently getting longer for these two competing platforms but Twitter still lacks punch. Instagram is more social media while Twitter is more conversational. Even when Twitter can stand up on its own with the combination of Vine and Periscope, it can be a bandwidth hog if you’re not too careful with your mobile data.

This is what is keeping people from streaming on mobile. Data is expensive and viewers would rather watched the saved videos on Wifi.

Collective Engagement is the Key

The only reason why Starbucks would set up another shop a block down the road from the first one is location. If that is the case, then a collective engagement is what you are after should you have a social media strategy.

I find it pointless to pit Instagram with Twitter and Vine, or Google+ with Facebook. It is a collective engagement (the sum of its total) that you are interested in because duplicating content on all your social media platforms bores the hell out of people. Why should I follow your Instagram feed if you post the same stuff on Twitter? Or for that matter on Facebook or Google+.

Return on Investment Explained

ROI is very simple to explain in advertising terms. The aim is always thrice the amount of return on whatever you have spent in promotional activities.

The amount of time spent, and the effort put it has to justify the results. The rough advertising reach model is three times the cost in terms of ROI. So if you calculate all your social media time and effort to a daily rate, and if you multiply that in terms of dollar value by three times, this is the actual benefit you should be receiving from this collective engagement on social media for a weekly or monthly expense. If you are not getting that in ROI, then it is pointless to continue social media activities.

This justification is what doomed Facebook’s stubborn approach to organic reach and would happen the same way to Instagram if it is not careful. If an advertising or promotional effort is costing more than what it returns to brands and businesses, then the money would be better spent elsewhere.

 

 

 

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Facebook Live takes aim at Periscope and Meerkat

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Have you downloaded Facebook Mentions? It’s an app for would be celebrities, news and media organizations and just anyone who is remotely famous.

Why is Facebook pulling a stunt like this?

Well, you may have heard of Periscope and Meerkat, two live streaming apps but there are a few more that does similar things….like Twitch, which is opening up to non gamers and smaller players like Mobli, which has a Live Stream option for you to broadcast to an audience.

Facebook clearly thinks it is big enough to game this. So they hired a bunch of famous people and paid them a lot of money for them to live stream their day to day chores for your entertainment.

This is not the end of it. Facebook Live is technically in Close Beta, meaning only people who are truly celebrities will be given a chance to go Live.

The option is also available to brands who wish to connect LIVE with an audience and any Facebook Business Page will qualify but it has to be vetted. So if your FB Page only has 1,000 likes and sells designer aprons, chances are you get booted to the end of the queue if you ever attempted to register for FB Live.

After spending many months researching Periscope. I have found a ton of caveats.

Unlike Snapchat, where a select few gets invited to broadcast a feed that you can view before it disappears into nothingness, FB Live follows closely on the heels of Periscope and Meerkat. The chart below will give you an idea on who is watching what on both Meerkat and Periscope.

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The FB Live stream plays to all your followers, and followers will be informed of a Live broadcast as it happens. This is probably one of the most difficult media channels to master as people have to be subscribed to your notifications and at the same time be able to flip open the mobile app at the shortest moment of notice to watch you do dumb or entertaining things.

This recorded LIVE feed will be kept on your Page timeline forever, but people outside of your FB Page won’t know it exist.

Plans are afoot to make those recorded Live feeds available in Facebook search itself though I haven’t found out how they are going to do this without charging someone for the privilege. All recorded video streaming will be available through the search but knowing humans and their weird taste for entertainment, no one is going to watch a Donald Trump  speech no matter how entertaining it is. What’s more, any search now in FB will yield ZERO recorded live broadcast on your browser search, so the Video search isn’t exactly working at the moment except maybe for the overloaded Facebook app for mobile. Why would you watch video streaming on mobile is beyond me unless you have unlimited mobile data plans.

The close beta will probably become an open beta before going global. How is FB going to monetize this is beyond me but as a content developer, you should be aware of this before doubling down on that spiffy new mobile device and mobile data plan just to go Live.

Streaming right now is only restricted to chosen Facebook Mention celebrities. Each video segment is restricted to only 30 mins. Any more than that means you need a second FB Mentions account or are incredibly famous that FB will bend over to lick your boots.

Moving on to a Live broadcast is pretty easy. You can see the steps here.

One of the other problems with Live Broadcast is the poor quality of the videos. Both Meerkat and Periscope suffer from this. Facebook Live is no different. As for the follow-ship. Those voyeuristic folks who follow you aren’t really that large a number for now.

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If you look at the above chart, you’d soon realize that FB Live subscribers will be dependent on your followers of your FB page. For Periscope and Meerkat, these platforms can be independent of Twitter followers and this means if you have a million Twitter followers doesn’t mean you will automatically have a million Periscope followers.

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Bandwidth is dependent on many environmental factors and since you don’t have a good connection, your videos will be cutting out, jumpy and highly irritating. Even if you broadcast often, you’d might be able to increase the number of followers on your Periscope or Meerkat account without the same number of followers to your Twitter account. The above chart says it all, over a 8 day period, the number of videos you have to produce to keep up the frenzy is pretty high. And because of time zone differences, you won’t be discovered unless you are broadcasting something that is already trending on social media. Unlike FB Live, Periscope only keeps the stream you follow and kept about one day before it disappears. Meerkat on the other hand allows followers to keep the stream by hitting a record button. This means followers who like your stream have the ability to store it forever…until Meerkat gets bought out or closes down.

For FB Live, your only option to increase followers is to double down on FB advertising to increase your Page Likes or Followers. There is no other option. FB Live isn’t stand alone and is tied to your FB Page account.

Going forward, you have to ask yourself as a content creator/producer, would people be keen to watch you Live or maybe keep it real with a recorded broadcast on YouTube.

With Live streams, it’s just you and the audience. You cannot do any splicing, cleaver editing, add creative effects or cut to music if you wanted to. So for branding purposes, the scope for content developers is restricted.

What’s more, the experience for your followers is mostly restricted to a talking head (meaning you just doing the talking). So unless you got plenty to say within 30 minutes, which is relevant to your followers, you’re better off not saying anything and just answer questions they might for you, like….your success or failure as a celeb or on the new Portaloo that you are helping to endorse.

Don’t even count the chickens before they are hatched. Live streaming doesn’t automatically guaranteed 150,000 strong audience. I would think you’d be lucky to have 15. Recorded repalys might give you a further 100 to 200 eyeballs but that’s normally how far it goes when you’re not a member of the Kardashians.

Even with Live event broadcast, you might get a few stragglers who would ask you questions on the fly. But in any Live stream, it is just you and your followers where the interaction is via a keyboard. You get to speak to them of course after reading their questions on your mobile device display but I don’t think you should try getting philosophical about it.

Lastly, beyond looking at some famous celebs going Live and chatting to them, you can already engage most of them via Twitter directly. Facebook Live hasn’t got any real benefit except for FB asking money for you to get more followers for your Page. What’s more, with the new emphasis on Video, your YouTube videos will definitely be more interesting to watch.

As a precursor to bigger things to come, Facebook’s investment in Occulus Rift may be the eventual goal. By Live Streaming VR videos, be it in 360 or 180 degrees, you will be giving a new experience to people watching you. This is unfortunately only for the future and isn’t applicable to Facebook Live just yet.

So what is Facebook Live good for now? Nothing much….until Virtual Reality or VR Live videos take off.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Microsoft fluffs its Content App Sprightly

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If April came early, this would have been a nice joke. Microsoft released a content creation app called Sprightly on the Google Play store.

Initially I was mildly surprised that Microsoft Garage would incubate the concept for this app and release it as it is.

Now, it is billed as a really a tool for creating flyers, pricelist, catalog and eCards.

After I took it for a spin, I didn’t know what to say. I had to drown myself in absinthe and feast on rotted cheese to clear the memory of that experience.

I do not know what to say.

Microsoft isn’t the most creative company in the world. After a string of misses, they still do not understand what people want. Which makes me wonder if they are at all serious about content creation.

These are the folks who set the bar for Microsoft Office. Since then, they have wallowed in the mud, stepped on a few landmines and followed a sure path down hill.

Real World Applications

Why is Sprightly so bad?

Let’s say you wanted to create a catalog, of say four items to showcase on your instagram or Facebook page. The first thing you will realize is that you have no control over the cropping of your images, you have to crop your photo to the correct shape before using it on the template.

There are no tools to beautify the image either. So if you didn’t enhance your photo before you took it, you are pretty much fucked.

Then you have no creative control over the fonts used. It is as if the 21st century never happened. It has only ONE font option and you can have any color for that font as long as it is black.

Then you have the sad lack of creative layout for template choices.

I know. Microsoft is as creative as a culinary chef from McDonalds. They recycle ideas from the last century and hope you don’t notice but no one told them they got found out.

Content is all about Catching your Eye

This is where Microsoft gets it all wrong. By coming out with a vanilla grey Sprightly app, they think you should communicate in black and white.

The creative option is as rigid as adamantium. You can’t add borders, or for that matter use a different paper color. It is also is unable to make things attractive to the eye with creatively curated fonts.

All you do with the Sprightly app is to drop in a picture, fill in the descriptions and maybe the price and leave it at that. There is really nothing else you can do with it.

Is it simple to use?

Yes. If all you want is to drop a pix and add a price, yea. But that’s not to say that you can’t do this on other apps.

The multipage feature may sound brilliant but is hardly useful.

The flyer option is dead boring. How would you want an flyer that bores the hell out of people when you send it to them?

I suppose the idea behind this app is to integrate a host of services that Microsoft offers online but this addition is by no means cohesive.

You don’t fetch files from your skydrive or import excel files into your Sprightly document.

Maybe I am being harsh here after all, it is Version 1.0. Who knows what might happen with Version 2.

For now, I think that the app is probably suitable for the more geriatric members of Microsoft  who probably think that dropping a picture and adding a description is probably all you want to do when sending out a sales list or catalog.

As insane as it sounds, they might be right but I can assure you, the rest of us will disagree.

 

Epic fails on Content Creation for Facebook Post

 

“Good content always has an objective; it’s created with intent. It therefore carries triggers to action.”

It is no secret that Facebook seems to be the place every brand wants to get into especially when it comes to eyeballs. Every time you send out a post from your page to followers it only gets a 1 percent organic reach. The one percent organic reach is for pictures and links. Video on the other hand gets you more, maybe to the tune of 4 percent in a day.

Facebook defines organic reach in terms of unpaid post that pops up on your newsfeed. This means that you may have a truckload of followers but they won’t see your post unless you paid Facebook to reach out to them.

During my 2 year observation on Facebook post, I run a page which I use to obtain metrics. I have managed to get a 10 percent reach in two days using a very sly method of commenting on other Page post using my Page persona. This is very hard work and for a 10 week old post, I am able to hit a 50 percent reach of my followers.

Recently I took the global car brand from BMW to task.

Obviously they haven’t a clue on what works and I told them to create content when posting instead of just putting up a picture.

Engagement counts to each Posting 

When you post a picture, like the above, telling followers hey, custom job for you mini, why not do this? Then the picture stands alone, without a link or a FB content, then you are in trouble.

Facebook measures each post with an engagement. So if people liked it and clicked on it, then it gets shown to more unpaid followers. This grows and grows but it tops off at 50 percent. When people leave comments on it, it also gets circulated around for longer period. And this is what creating meaningful content is all about.

Brands who are not serious about this should only post pictures only content to Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram. Pinterest is a bit iffy here as its quite nebulous. People collect pins which are pictures with content links but you don’t know if they get viral like herpes when you pass it around. Once you take into account that females like Pinterest more, then you could have more gender specific content created.

Brands like Mini should know this. If they give ideas to people with no wear to start, then it is useless. The picture stops there and without the content to keep it going, it dies. The top picture illustrates this.

Mini should ask itself what the picture is suppose to generate. Eyeballs, likes or Clicks?

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  • There is no URL to lead to a content page but the picture entices you.
  • The introduction creates a expectation that you can get a custom job.
  • It ends with a question, “how would you customise your MINI” without even telling people how it can be done.

This is why brands must have partners.

For the above Mini campaign, it makes sense for Mini to partner Avery Dennison for car related vinyl wraps or Dupont Standox for a full custom paint job.

Once the content is created, both Avery Dennison and Mini can share in the Facebook post, giving the content a longer life span instead of a one off, emotional Like on a page. Facebook isn’t Instagram and vice versa. If your goal is to get people to like the image, then it is in the wrong place. The FB Page algorithm has already killed it for you whereas for Instagram, there is still a chance of getting unpaid eyeballs if the person is already following your Instagram page.

The Difference in Gaining Followers versus Boosting Post

Thanks to the money grubbing ways of Zuckerberg, you have to differentiate between paying for new followers or just reaching out to existing followers.

Reaching out to existing followers of your FB page is through boosting your Post, while gaining new followers is like putting up Ads for your Page to attract new followers. Both are very different and you should never confuse the two.

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Boosting a page is crucial if you want to get content out to the open for all to see. But gaining followers is just the act of getting people to Like your page, and hopefully in the process, get them to subscribe to ALL your notifications. This is secretly hidden away within the Like button and by people who Like your Page doesn’t mean they will get all your notification on content. This is a secret that Facebook doesn’t want to share with you. If you knew how many were subscribed to your Content notifications, you won’t be paying FB to show it to your followers.

This is why it is important for Brands to reward followers with physical items. It could be a keychain, a unique sticker or even a goodie bag.

 

Good Content means a Long Shelf Life

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In difficult economic environments, the first thing big brand budgets get cut are those in advertising. It makes sense because like brand advertising, no one is going to notice when the economy faces difficulties. Selling to a exhausted market is like selling ice boxes to eskimos. This is where meaningful content comes in because of its long tail nature.

Useful content gets recycled and used for a very long time. And for Facebook post, this is perfect. It is a slow burn process. Since Facebook algorithms work in the way that you only pay for what you are getting, it makes perfect sense to engage people with such post if you don’t intend to pay for them.

What’s more I am all for featuring unique content.

People are not going to be grateful if the SAME content they see appears in their Twitter, Facebook and Instagram feeds. This is another bad habit that Brands do partake in.

For the follower, what good is it to follow your favourite brand page on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram when they see the same stuff all the time? Makes no sense. Followers could just subscribe to just one and leave the rest out. But here, you need them to follow you because….you have unique content for each social stream.

On Facebook alone, you need to have at least 35 content Likes or Comment Engagements before Facebook gives you another 1 percent organic (unpaid) reach. This is a tough proposition.

So when it comes to a bull market, advertise. In a bear market, you create content with a long shelf life. That way, you brand stays in shape for the long haul and when the bulls come around again, you have your long tail content to thank. People will remember the brand and that’s what counts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

YouTube Red to remedy Content blocked with AdBlockers

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One of the problems faced by content creators these days is that more and more people are blocking ads that helps fund content. For example, a lot of the stuff you watch on YouTube is advertising funded, but if you use a ad blocker, then content creators are going to suffer.

This is apparently the line taken by Apple, which in its war with Google (who also owns YouTube) is launching adblocking as a native option for iPhones. This means, ads won’t be showing up where content is displayed.

This is bad news for you, as a content creator if you are relying on eyeballs to help support your content creation efforts. However it won’t affect you if you happen to be video blogging about your own business and the content you display is basically a means to promote your own business online.

This is why Google has introduced YouTube Red.

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Now, Red sounds terrible as a name. It smacks of communism and China but in reality, it’s just another portal to get you to pay for content. It is a channel to monetize content for creators which isn’t new. Vimeo has similar subscriptions for content in its PRO service where you can sell your content in return for a fee of US$200 a year.

For Red, YouTube will pay you for the eyeballs you attract on your channel but your channel will not be available to free to view public streams. The other thing is that your content is distributed on a pay to view by hour basis of a subscriber. This means that YouTube takes 45 percent of the subscription revenue while the remaining 55 percent is distributed to content creators base on the number of hours a viewer spends on your channel. So if say a subscriber views your channel 10 hours a month out of 20 hours in total, you get 50 percent of the revenue.

YouTube Red also opens up the possibility of funding for your content creation. So if you have a channel which is valued, you might get some cash tossed your way to produce even more content.

At launch, the new YouTube service will carry a few unique channels not found on ‘free to stream’ public channels. These include…

  • Scare PewDiePie: a reality-adventure series
  • Sing It!: a scripted comedy that lovingly satirizes the reality singing competitions
  • Fight of the Living Dead: famous YouTubers trapped in “a frighteningly realistic zombie apocalypse”
  • A Trip to Unicorn Island: feature-length movie gives fans a look inside the life and journey of Lilly Singh on a 26-city tour

Some pundits have pointed out the caveat to all this is that fans who are not subscribed to Red, won’t be able to view your channel anywhere in the world.

For the majority of YouTube fans, who have been fed a steady stream of free content, the thought of paying for a subscription sounds too Netflix.

We do not know at this stage if the content you watch on Red is sharable to other social networks and if they are not, then there is no chance of your channel ever being promoted outside of the YouTube universe. This is a chicken and egg issue as if you’re not already famous on YouTube with millions of views, chances are you are not going to get noticed on Red.

So it has to work both ways, for subscribers to view their favourite content that is now found on YouTube Red, they have to subscribe, otherwise they won’t be getting their fix anytime soon.