Their latest product releases—including an innovative new mobile image search functionality upgrade and their launch of Promoted Video ads—showcases Pinterest’s renewed interest in drawing attention to the platform. But, what’s even more interesting is the “more search than social” evolution they’ve pivoted to.
It’s no secret that Pinterest has remained hyper-focused on separating themselves from other social networks. (We’ve known of their shift toward a more search-oriented experience for some time.) But the platform’s investment in their search experience has never been so prevalent. And considering that Google alum Gunnard Johnson was recently named Head of Measurement & Insights (adding to the list of other former Google employees) Pinterest is now concentrating on perfecting search.
And they’ve clearly thought through how to brand their pivot, so as not to pigeonhole themselves. Their use of the word “discovery” instead of “search” is clever because it highlights the user at the center—seeking out and suddenly happening upon—both sought out and contextually relevant results. And their use of self descriptors, like “catalog of ideas” and “database of taste” sets them apart from both social platforms and search platforms. They seem content on resting somewhere in the middle for now.
But Pinterest’s desire to stay in the gray can be confusing for brands simply trying to navigate, and succeed, on the platform.So, what exactly puts Pinterst in the gray areas between search and social?
1. Self-Discovery & Personalization – Via “personalized recommendations that feel qualitatively different from other services,” Pinterest is able to help users uncover their own tastes, one pin at a time. For example, recommended pins are able to consider all facets of your style (not just one specific pin) to help determine what you’ll want/need next. This makes Pinterest a different user experience than other platforms, but also shows how data-rich it is from an advertising perspective.
2. Actionable Nature – Pinterest has created the ability for “passive searching” to suddenly become active. In a nutshell, the platform is able to seamlessly move a user from casually perusing a fashion influencer’s boards, to finding a look they love, to drilling down to the specific blazer they want to buy, to buying it. In fact, 70% of users who find pins take some sort of action. This is the driving force behind Pinterest’s MPS (Motivating Potential Score) – it’s higher than any other social network, because users who see something go and do. That’s powerful.
3. Long Shelf Life – Like traditional search, but unlike social networks, Pin content is relevant much longer than a tweet or post. The content itself is hosted in a repository that was made for this very reason—to be able to keep things around that you don’t want to forget. This has given way to what I’m calling the “Two-Four Rule,” because 25% of all pinning on Pinterest happens 2-4 months before an event or holiday. Usually people in social are searching for immediate or near-term gratification and the same is true with traditional search. But Pinterest seems to lack the expected expiration date because they have cracked the “intent” code, capitalizing on signals early in the consumer journey.
4. Category-Based Search – In conjunction with its planning nature, the search terms we actually type in via Pinterest are very different from those we use on Google. We search more broadly on Pinterest, using categories as cues – things like “DIY”, “Wedding”, “Home Décor”. This allows us to discover new things and be inspired. On Google, our search gets very specific – “red chair mid century mod” which helps us to narrow down our choices, but Pinterest is about just the opposite: broadening our horizons.
5. Co-Screening – When we think about co-screening (watching some form of TV while on our mobile devices), we think of the usual suspects: Twitter, Facebook, and Snapchat. But new research shows that 45% of Pinterest users are likely to hang out on Pinterest while they’re watching TV. But there’s more: 47% of the time what users see on TV sparks activity on Pinterest. And 64% of Pinterest users say they pay more attention to what they’re doing on Pinterest than what they’re watching on TV and 44% of them will engage with Pinterest for the show’s entirety, regardless of whether it’s on a commercial break or not. This not only says something about the types of pins we create, but also about how people are consuming Pinterest content differently than other platforms.
6. Open API & Image Search – Last year Pinterest announced its open API, allowing brands to provide personalized, curated experiences for users, but few partners have taken advantage of this functionality. The most recent and robust use was Burberry’s recent campaign, which allowed users to answer a few questions to inform the creation of a custom board based on their responses. Another underutilized functionality is its image search capability, rivaling Google’s with the ability for users to upload photos and receive similar pins in response. Via buyable pins, the technology is then there to enable users to actually purchase the pair of shoes they snapped on the T (for instance). Imagine a world where you could upload a picture of what’s inside your fridge and then receive an output of recipes which include only the items you already have?
So what does all of this mean for brands? First, bring your search team into the conversation. If people can’t find your content, or your content can’t find people, you’re not taking advantage of what the platform is capable of. Second, content needs to follow all levels of intent, from “just browsing” to “ready to buy.” Don’t hyper-focus on one end of the consumer journey. And lastly, don’t over-think the community angle of the Platform. Yes, friends are sharing and sub-communities are connecting. But, unlike platforms like Twitter and Facebook (where sharing is a key KPI of success) focus on moving people from awareness to consideration as the sweet spot. If they are pinning, you are winning.
If you’re not building mobile-first videos because you can’t stomach the additional production dollars, you’re doing the same thing users are doing in their feeds—not listening. In fact, 85% of Facebook video is watched without sound.
And with video consumption on the rise across all social platforms, mastering the ability to create video that works with or without sound is key to success in the feed. Instagram’s video consumption has increased by 40% in the past 6 months, and Facebook is reporting that the shift to video consumption is bigger than our shift from desktop to mobile. Pause and take that in.
Yes, you’re probably feeling a little overwhelmed. “We didn’t budget for this!” you’re thinking. Unfortunately, the data makes it even clearer that stuffing your :30 and :60 minute TV cuts into a pair of social skinny jeans isn’t the way forward. It’s time to learn how to live in an “audio optional” world.
To succeed in our already inundated feeds, follow these seven best practices for social video:
1. DON’T BET ON CAPTION FUNCTIONALITY
Because of auto-play functionality, videos are mostly consumed with the sound off, so creating videos that make sense to users without sound is imperative to not only capturing their attention to watch the entire video, but also to ensuring recall. You might argue that Facebook has a nifty new caption functionality within its platform, but those captions aren’t always accurate and there’s no creative control over the text placement. Additionally, other networks (namely Twitter and Snapchat) don’t have this capability.
2. THE SHORTER THE BETTER
Focus on stories that can be told very quickly. If you’re working from a TV spot, think about your spot in vignettes. Are there parts that can be told more quickly, or segments that can be removed, leaving the story intact?
3. DON’T BURY THE LEAD
In social, keeping your video’s point a mystery for too long will hurt you. People just won’t watch. I’m not saying you have to give away the whole ice cream truck, but you do need to give out some free cones in the form of some type of action or expected result. Often brands will put the end result in the first 3 seconds (the time that’s needed to count as a view), include some sort of title card, and then work back up to the end in the meat of the video. Additionally, videos that feature people in its opening moments generally drive more qualified video views (meaning users who are actually interested in the content, who watch through to the end). However you decide to approach it, the video’s focus should be clear in the first few seconds, otherwise you’ll lose the user.
4. ACTION, THEN BRAND
Your brand doesn’t need to be front and center throughout the entire video. But, if you’re running any kind of brand awareness study alongside your creative, you’ll want to make sure that, no matter what, you include your brand within the first 3 seconds. That counts as a view, so it’s either that or #forgetaboutit. Again, you don’t need to create an overlay (though you can), but you could subtly place your product, or insert “XYZBRAND presents”, but make sure it’s in the beginning of your video. Obviously, it’s better to start with some sort of action to capture the user, so if you can get your brand in there, great. If not, add that title frame in there before the 2.5-second mark and you’re golden.
5. CREATE CLEAR STORY ARCS
One caveat. No matter how you reveal the focus of your video, storytelling always wins. Videos with clear story arcs (e.g. a beginning, middle and an end), are more memorable and according to Twitter, drive lifts in purchase intent. So if you’re working with longer form video (meaning 1-minute plus), think of ways to first capture the user and then build a story that maps to the storytelling arc you learned in 3rd grade.
6. TEXT OVERLAYS
Okay, you don’t need to go as far as captions for your videos, but there are definitely creative ways you can incorporate text overlays into your videos to help move the story along more quickly and in an engaging way. Take this Wrigley’s ad for example.
Here’s the TV ad:
Here’s the Facebook ad:
Though we don’t have the entire video playing here, you can see that they’ve taken the same concept from the TV ad and shortened it significantly and added the “Will he dare? Skinny Dip” text overlay, to give a better idea of what the user is viewing. It also does a great job of getting the branding in early!
7. GO LIVE
Last but not least, when it’s feasible, consider going live with video. It doesn’t make sense in all scenarios, but when it can be tied to an event IRL (in real life), it’s one of the most engaging video formats. Facebook reports that its live videos receive 10x more comments than regular videos and Twitter reports that Live video on its platform drives the highest levels of favorability in online video.
Driving consumer action.” This is the core of Instagram’s advertising strategy. And it’s this mantra that has advertisers everywhere paying extra attention to the platform’s Action Overlays, launched earlier in March 2016. Recent data supports the notion that media on the platform can aid in perception, awareness, and ad recall (2.8x higher than Nielsen’s norms for online advertising). But will this new overlay feature improve these already impressive metrics? Or is this a roadblock that will put users off in the long run?
The rationale behind these “Action Overlays” is straightforward: they take advantage of the tapping behavior users are already accustomed to on the platform. One tap to turn the volume on a video, two taps to heart and scroll on, etc. This week, Instagram added more information to the overlay, which previously only supported “go to website” or “go to app store.” It will now provide the advertiser’s Facebook Page name and the display or destination website URL selected at set up.
How It Works
According to Instagram, “if you’re running action-based ads, the updated overlay helps drive valuable traffic to your website or app. The overlay is automatically included on all photo and carousel ads, so there’s no action needed to include the overlay in your ads. You can go into Ads Manager and manually edit your campaigns to include a specific display URL. If there’s no display URL listed, it will automatically default to the ad’s destination URL.”
Similar to organic content where a single tap on a photo displays additional information, a single tap on ads helps consumers better understand what action they’re supposed to take from the ad. For advertisers, the overlay confirms a user’s intent to drive offsite—ensuring high-quality traffic is going to your website, mobile app or the app store. Another plus? Instagram doesn’t charge for the initial tap on the ad that reveals the blurry overlay, only the tap on the URL that takes people to your site.
What’s in it For Brands?
Because the feature is relatively new, the jury is still out on how consumers are perceiving the blur. Early Instagram data suggests higher rates of overall engagement, but the impact on ROI is still unproven. However we remain positive for one simple reason. When users are able to more clearly see where they’re headed upon click, advertisers are eliminating accidental click-throughs and decreasing their Cost Per Acquisition, Cost Per Download, or other ‘cost per’ metric.
An added bonus: If you do happen to be running a brand study on the platform, this overlay branding could actually end up aiding your brand recall/awareness metrics as well. The more times a user is able to see your brand’s name (even if it’s with a URL), the more likely they are to remember it down the line.
Oh how timely.
Right after #PiDay (the number that never ends) and in the midst of the biggest tech nerd gathering of the year, Instagram announces “See the Moments You Care About First”. Read: Algorithm. What they want you to read: Relevance.
Now, for all of us in advertising, it’s no surprise that Instagram would change a user’s feed from reverse chronological to personalized. What’s interesting is that this change comes after Instagram’s ad revenues have increased from $0 in the beginning of 2015 to a projected $5.3B by 2017. A very different approach than its mama bear Facebook took – i.e., implementing an algorithm and slowly removing organic reach from brands to rapidly increase the need for paid Facebook ads. Only time will tell what this will mean for Instagram’s overall revenue, but my only assumption points to more money, more problems.
These observations aside, there are a few other implications for this algorithm (other than our impending necessity to allocate paid dollars) to consider in the coming months:
STAND OUT OR GET LEFT OUT
Millennials are already visiting Instagram around 10X per day – it seems crazy, but I have to tell you it is OH so true. Even so, users miss, on average, about 70% of the posts in their feed. So by optimizing the posts you see first based on your historical interactions with the people and brands you follow, the 30% of posts you do see should be the best ones. And if users are seeing the best, you’d assume they would stay on the platform longer. The longer users stay on the platform, the more ads Instagram is able to serve. The more ads Instagram is able to serve, the more important it is for your brand’s ad to stand out.
QUALITY OVER QUANTITY
Though Instagram is one of the most popular social networks, it’s always been my perspective that it’s a platform more concerned with quality than quantity. Whereas tweeting regularly is important to keep your followers interested, and posting at least daily on Facebook helps maintain a brand’s reach and overall engagement, frequency is of less importance on Instagram. It’s a network that is all about beautiful photography, artwork, fashion, food, etc. And, aside from the Kardashians, the accounts that are followed the most are the accounts that maintain that standard. With their feed change, this difference will become even more important. Brands MUST focus on quality to elicit the highest engagements per post. This is what will keep them top of feed and top of mind for users versus posting every day.
REPURPOSED FACEBOOK & INSTAGRAM ADS
Now, Facebook will tell you that you can use their ad platforms interchangeably, publishing the same ad across both Facebook and Instagram. But this feed change tells me otherwise. If we’re constantly looking at the best of the best in our feeds, then the only conclusion I can come to is that the ads we see would need to be pretty supreme. They will need to be beautiful, be platform-first, and they’ll need to focus on a user’s Instagram habits. Because what are they on the platform for? Inspiration, beauty, exploration. It’s not the same as Facebook, and so it’s important that your production dollars and time are spent focusing on the nuances that make it differ from Facebook.
As this personalized feed rolls out, we’re sure to hear some outrage from Instagram diehards. But as with Facebook’s timeline and every other change we see, that is sure to die down. But will our use of Instagram die down as well? Time will tell.
Originally posted on The Huffington Post Blog.
We can agree that when it comes to social media, we’re all panning for real-time gold. We’re tirelessly keeping up with the trends and coaching our clients (or bosses) about the importance of being in today’s conversation – which isn’t necessarily the one we planned on. Reach just isn’t possible without super smart real-time executions that propel our brands into the now, especially when paid dollars aren’t on the table.
But here’s the problem: our highly regulated, bureaucratic world isn’t suited for the quick movements necessary to make real-time possible. And it’s not the fault of the process. There is so much compliance involved that large companies are rendered motionless until they’re given the go-ahead from their legal departments.
But trends die out as quickly as they catch on, and in the time it takes to get something approved, your real-time relevance is gone with the wind.
So, the only times we’re able to hop on a trend or be part of a live conversation is when:
- We’ve anticipated almost every possible conversation, developed messaging that makes sense for each and gotten all of these approved ahead of time. Sounds efficient, right? No. But when it works, it works. For instance, this awesome tweet from Beats by Dre during the 2013 MTV VMAs:
Beats by Dre anticipated a conversation around Lady Gaga’s arrival and capitalized on it. The result? A shout out from Miley Cyrus…organic reach like whoa.
- We’re able to identify a conversation early enough that we have time to not only develop content, but get that content approved both internally and by our client and get it in front of legal with enough time to publish before the conversation ends. Have you rolled your eyes yet? Yes, definitely tough to overcome, but somehow brands have figured out a way to work around it – think Oreo and the #SuperBowl XLVII power outage:
Did you see that? Yep, this singular tweet received over 15,000 retweets. And it came as the result of a LIVE collaboration between agency and client, creative and listening, strategy and account. All branches coming together, likely in one room (the “war room”), to monitor and brainstorm together with their legal reps. It takes a lot of people and a lot of effort, but, in this case, the brandlive/war room approach was well worth it. But is this realistic for every brand?
- The stars have aligned and the current convo magically fits 100% into our scheduled content. We can then simply slap a hashtag on it and publish early. Yes, there are ways to strategize and help make this a reality, but it’s not a model that can sustain itself.Without a hero’s commitment and Oprah Winfrey pockets it’s almost impossible to carry any of these out. No matter the amount of relevance, if there’s no media budget for this extreme effort in relevance, no one will see it. It’s actually likely to get less traction than one of your regular promoted posts.
There’s only one exception that my colleagues and I can agree upon, and that’s Instagram. Not only do hashtags seem to trend for longer on Insta (remember#nationaldaughtersday? Yeah, it lasted for three days), but paying attention to them is actually pretty posh. However, their recent push into the advertising spotlight is likely to change that reality as well.
So what’s the solve? How do we ensure that social is truly interactive when we live in a highly regulated world?
My prediction (and maybe my childish dream), is the rise of social compliance agencies that are dedicated to learning the ins and outs of specific industry regulations and how they apply to social media. Agencies with staff members dedicated to 24/7 support who can deliver short turn around times, and, most importantly, who have their asses covered with the best legal teams in social.
But we’re trying to be real…right?
So, for the purists out there, keep trying to jump over hurdles to win your insta-gold medal. And prove me wrong by getting some ROI out of these extraordinary efforts. Until then, we’ll all settle for as real as real-time can get.
Originally written for & published on Social Media Examiner.
Want to make sure your ads stand out on Facebook and Instagram?
Have you tried Carousel Ads?
While many businesses use Carousel Ads solely to promote products, the ads also provide an excellent opportunity to showcase your brand’s unique narrative.
In this article, I’ll share how to use storytelling in carousel ads to promote your products and stand out from your competitors.
#1: Grab Attention With the First Image
The first rule of storytelling (and advertising for that matter) is to start out strong. Be sure the first image in your carousel ad series grabs attention and makes sense on its own.
Since users may not scroll through all of the images in the series, you want to get your message across right away. Otherwise, you risk confusing your audience and wasting impressions.
For example, in Progressive’s #ActYourAge carousel ads, the first image immediately stands out.
It uses a white background, which is very different from normal photography on the platform, and has a man playing with a baby’s mobile (also known as a carousel). The picture is so unexpected and kooky, the user can’t help but read the line below: “Dump your parents’ car insurance company. #ActYourAge.”
While your first image shouldn’t rely on any of the others to get its point across, it should still be intriguing enough to get users to swipe through to the end.
#2: Make Them Swipe
With any story, the point is to keep the reader engaged throughout and ultimately to read through to the end. Just as authors want to keep their readers interested, the same is true with carousel ads.
Once you’ve hooked the user with the first image, encourage continued engagement with the other images. This gives your brand more exposure and increased recall.
This carousel ad by Tesco Foods certainly elicits the “I can’t stop swiping” response. To see the entire photo users must swipe through all of them. This is a great example of drawing a user through a story and, in this case, a very delicious-looking one.
Test out this concept for your brand. Use Photoshop’s splice tool (or play with pictures in your favorite design program) to cut separate images from a larger one.
#3: Create a Scene
Relating to your audience and evoking emotion are the other important parts of storytelling. To do these, provide the context necessary for users to feel like they’re right there with you. Place them at the scene.
Choose photos carefully to create imagery for carousel ads. Then write copy to draw in your audience.
The TV series Wet Hot American Summer did a great job getting their audience members to envision themselves at Camp Firewood. Pictures show the characters hanging out and doing things with their friends. Plus the image and copy pairing is so clever that users not only picture themselves there, they also remember how they felt when they attended summer camp years ago.
Obviously it’s easier to set the scene when you’re advertising something with a plot, like a television show or movie. However, for products and services, figure out how your brand fits into your customers’ lives and create a scene that demonstrates it.
For example, if you’re advertising a shirt, rather than show still images of it, think about the lifetime of the shirt. It goes from fresh and new in a package to being worn to being cleaned to being borrowed by a friend, etc. Photos that showcase a story create a plot, which evokes emotion from your customers.
#4: Think Sequentially
The order of events is essential to story comprehension. A well-edited sequence provides a natural pace to the story within your ad. Help move your users through your story.
Showtime did a great job incorporating natural sequence into its recent ads around the second season of Penny Dreadful. In just four photos you can tell the story is about a man on the run. He shoots someone, says goodbye to his girlfriend and runs away to a church.
Keep in mind that sequence doesn’t necessarily mean chronological order. It just means every action captured leads to a reaction.
#5: Incorporate Visual Variety
In videography, visual variety means shooting multiple shots of the same scene from different locations, angles, distance and so on. Choose an assortment of images to build a story and ensure visual interest.
In this jean ad from Target, each shot has a role in painting the big picture. It brings the audience into the design studio, shares what the studio is like and displays what kind of jeans are being made.
Most feature films show multiple images to set the scene. This is something you can easily do with carousel ads.
#6: Consider the Platform
No matter what your story, if you want to stand out, think about the channel first. Look at the platform’s audience, whether it’s Facebook or Instagram, and what they expect out of it. Then design an ad that speaks to them.
For example, Buick hit it out of the park on Instagram with these ads about its new 24-hour test drive service. The photography is beautiful (an Instagram must), and it uses a popular photo filter. Buick is also leveraging some of the top content categories that receive the most engagement by users on Instagram: fashion and fitness.
Develop a channel-specific story that makes the best use of the platform, and increases engagement with your intended audience.
#7: Leave Your Audience Wanting More
If there’s a place to break the rules of storytelling, here it is: do not give a conclusion. Rather than offering a natural ending, lure users into clicking the “learn more“button, so they can finish the story on your custom landing page.
For example, Sour Patch Slurpee takes viewers through the first four images of a Sour Patch Kid story. So much excitement is generated that users want to see what comes next. After they click, they’re directed to a landing page that extended the “party” to its audience. This custom landing page asks users to share their #SPKSlurpeeSelfies.
The purpose of carousel ads is to increase awareness and engagement. However, the ultimate goal is to get the audience to continue the experience and click through to a landing page. When that happens, you’re able to establish a relationship, continue the interaction and possibly capture your users’ information.
With today’s cluttered ad space, it’s getting harder to really stand out. If you want to build a breakthrough carousel ad, start by creating an engaging story that takes your audience along for the ride.
What do you think? Do you use storytelling in your carousel ads? What techniques are most effective? Which brands’ ads really stand out?