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Unless you’re living under a rock, you’re most likely aware that Hulu’s newest program—The Handmaid’s Tale—is blowing up. Not just because of its intense relevance in today’s world or because of how brilliantly the producers adapted Margaret Atwood’s original novel, but because Hulu single handedly (even if by accident) revolutionized the way on-demand services drop their new shows, playing right in to the science of how and why we watch.
Instead of publishing the entire show at once (as is the current on-demand viewing services model) Hulu opted to drop just 3 episodes last week, with the promise of a new episode each week thereafter. The producers feared that if audiences attempted to binge on this show they might suffer from the deep dark depression inherent in the show’s message. If you’ve watched it, you’ll understand. But they knew that to create an avid and interested fan base, they needed more than just the pilot.
They played right into the principles of supply and demand. If you have too much supply, your demand drops. How many of you have decided to wait on a new series just because it seems like a mountain to overcome? Or because you’re just not in a binge-watching headspace? I know I have.
And on the opposite side of the spectrum, how many of you have watched one episode of a show only to discover your partner’s asleep beside you, and then you just don’t have the energy or drive to re-watch it again before moving on? Or, maybe more likely, in the midst of the thousands of different shows and movies that exist, you forget about that one episode you watched that one rainy day and about the series entirely.
But three episodes IS completely manageable. It’s not enough for a binge, but it’s just enough for me to get into it and to NEED to see the next episode. Hulu somehow discovered that optimal supply to drive incremental demand. And the proof is in its rave reviews and social chatter. In fact—it’s still holding strong a week after the premiere, with words like “timely,” “distressingly,” “warning,” and “terrifying” taking top spots in conversation, according to 30db.com.
So why does this change the game?
1. It prevents social chatter from spoiling it for those behind. Now, when people decide to binge watch the entire season, they won’t ruin it for the rest of us. Because they can’t binge end-to-end until much later. And, parsing out episodes over time keeps people speculating in between releases, increasing the longevity of the show in the social conversation (and likely the amount of total conversation).
2. It changes viewing habits, again. As advertisers, we’ve all struggled with the on-demand nature of video today. How can we make our mark when we have no idea how regularly our advertising is viewed? And how do we prevent over-messaging when users binge watch? With this new three-drop model, media planners will need to rethink the way they buy and flight media.
3. It could signal the beginning of a new wave of on-demand advertising. We know there’s an audience for all of these hit on-demand shows, and we know they receive a hell of a lot of attention, but what the advertising world is lost on is how to take advantage of this. Without commercial breaks or the weekly habitual viewing that ensures frequency, it’s a hard opportunity to pitch. But, The Handmaid’s Tale could set a groundbreaking precedent for all of our on-demand video services that would eventually enable more guaranteed & regular viewing and thus more solid opportunities for advertisers across the board. The three-drop system could ensure both the content consumption publishers need and the habits & frequency advertisers require to make an impact.
It’s too soon to tell how advertisers will run with this, or even if other on-demand services like Netflix and Amazon will adopt this new style. But it’s clear that the choreography of a show launch has major implications for both audiences and advertisers. One that I’m actually getting behind.
Photo credit: Hulu
This week, the social world was rocked by Twitter’s announcement that it will be shutting down the Vine app. Stunning, because it still has 200MM monthly users. And, sad, because it substantially shifted the way we think about short form content creation.
That said, the transition will be slow. First, vine.co will continue to live on as a six second video library. Second, and maybe most importantly, the way Vine worded their announcement leaves much open to interpretation: “…we’ll be discontinuing the mobile app.” No mention of Twitter’s intentions for its Vine employees and Vine, the company. So, does Twitter have something up its sleeves? Maybe.
We know Twitter has been refocusing on live video and entertainment, reframing the way users view the platform and the way brands think about it as a part of their media mix. Partnerships with the NFL, livestreams of the 2016 Presidential Debates, even new broadcasts with Bloomberg and Cheddar point toward a much larger shift for the platform that could indicate Twitter’s intention to incorporate Vine’s core functionality into its own. Thereby allowing the same creation to take place, just in a different place. Only time will tell.
So, what should your brand do in reaction to the announcement?
- SAVE EVERYTHING. Twitter won’t make any fast and furious moves because they know creators and brands alike have invested quite a bit of energy into their existing content. But, if you haven’t already, save everything. Just in case. Save your profile information, save the videos themselves and save the captions you wrote as well. It’s video that can probably be used again, maybe even on another platform.
- NEVER FORGET WHAT MADE VINE GREAT. Vine changed the way we think about “snackable” content, debunking the myth that :30 and :60 seconds were a requirement to entertain and inform. So, remember that all you need is six seconds (and maybe even less) to capture someone’s attention and engage. Apply this thinking to some of the videos you create moving forward, because the principle is true across most social networks.
- LOOP DAT DOOP. Aside from the shift from what’s now considered “long-form” video, Vine also taught us to loop. Some things are so exciting that we just need to see it again and again, to either admire its genius or figure out what its genius is. Either way, the barrier to inspire users to hit the replay button themselves is much too strong to overcome, so consider making videos that loop for other channels. And then riff off of the looping technology to help form interesting creative.
- BE STRATEGIC. This may seem obvious, but think before you repost your Vines elsewhere. Be strategic about where you post and when you post your old Vine videos. You might naturally want to post everything on Instagram this minute, but that could be off. Maybe your Vine would be better served as a Snap ad or a Twitter GIF. Yes, you probably should consider posting your hotdog Vine on Twitter during the MLB World Series. But, you may want to wait to post that vine you created about skiing until later this year or early next. Context is everything, so try as hard as you can to keep your anxiety at bay and plot out what content you’d like to reuse and how to reuse it in a meaningful way for your audience.
- CONTINUE TO INNOVATE. One of the things that was so special about Vine was the crowdswell of support it received early on and the brilliant ways these creators approached the medium. From comedy, to stop motion, to magic, to artistry, and memes, Vine inspired the inspiring. Even though the mobile app may be going away, its mantra to innovate must remain, and it’s up to us to ensure it does.
Only time will tell what Twitter’s next move will be, but let’s have a six second moment of silence to honor the creativity of the app that made short-form video even more snackable.
Originally published on theDose.
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.