YouTube’s new social-friendly design goes live

November 24, 2011

With the launch of Google+ the search engine giant has been taking steps to more closely integrate its platforms – and this has now extended to YouTube.

Last week they announced a new design of their video platform and this week it was rolled out to certain users. The revamped design features a new look and places a much larger emphasis on social integration.

The look and feel includes an updated sleeker design which is less cluttered and also easier to navigate. YouTube may be the biggest video sharing platform on the web but its design has never been the most appealing, especially compared to other video sites such as Vimeo. This new design goes a long way to improving this. The design also provides users with more sizing options for their videos and also makes recommended content ‘pop out’ when clicked.

The greatest change, however, is the deep Google+ integration. When logged into Google all the subscriptions and channels you follow are organised into a left sidebar, which makes it easier to see videos that are shared from people within your social circles on Google+. This means it’s simple to watch videos that people who you trust have recommended. There are also recommended content category sections tailored to your needs.

This is a smart move by Google, providing users with a personalised service and integrating their services – and in the long term it should see Google+ grow their user numbers.

How to enable the new design

The new design is currently being rolled out in phases to certain users and will not be available to all video users for a few weeks. However, there is a way you can start using the new design right now.

It’s relatively simple to do and will only take a couple of minutes. When you’re on the YouTube website, you need to open up your browser’s developer tools — Ctrl / Cmd + Shift + K in Firefox; Ctrl + Shift + J (Win) or Cmd + Alt + J (Mac) for Chrome — and input the following code. Alternatively to put it more simply – right click on your mouse, in the pop up box click on ‘Inspect Element’ then click on the ‘Console tab’ and copy paste in the line of code:

document.cookie=”VISITOR_INFO1_LIVE=ST1Ti53r4fU”;

Close the pop up box, reload the site and you should then be viewing the brand new YouTube design.

Top 5 video seeding tips

November 10, 2011

People often refer to the term ‘viral video’. However, without video seeding and organic growth all you have is a video – it is the seeding and sharing that make a video ‘go viral’.

This means that ‘video seeding’ should be an integral part of an online video campaign.  A successful seeding campaign, which is fully integrated across your entire brand’s marketing activity, will get your content seen on social channels and plant it across the web, ensuring it gets in front of as many of the (right) people as possible.

A critical element of any online video campaign is, of course, creating a great piece of content; one that is as ‘watchable’ as possible. There are a number of key considerations. Think about the length of the video (ideally it shouldn’t be over 2 minutes) and understand the intended aim of your video and set out clearly defined KPIs so that you can measure its success. Most importantly, make sure you have created a video that is compelling enough for your fans to want to watch and share with their friends. By completing this check list of online video best practice you’ll be the ideal position to launch your seeding campaign.

Here are our top 5 essential steps to give your video the very best chance of success:

1.       Optimise the videos for search

Whether you’re hosting your video on YouTube, Vimeo, MetaCafe or another video site it is crucial to optimise it for search in order to maximise the number of video views.

With over 13 million hours of video uploaded to the site last year alone, YouTube is by far the most popular video-hosting platform and is the second largest search engine in the world.  It relies on three key signals when ranking your videos within the YouTube search results:

  • Keywords in your title and description
  • Number of video views
  • Video ratings

It is crucial to think about what keywords you use in the titles and descriptions when uploading your video. At the outset you must carry out keyword research in order to uncover niches in the targeted terms.  Use your brand insights to decide upon your keywords in your title, description and tags and ensure each is fully optimised. Here’s a checklist to ensure your videos are fully optimised:

Title:  The title is very important to SEO. Make sure it grabs the attention of your target audience and use high volume keywords. You have 99 characters to optimise your title text so search engines can easily categorise it and your audience can find it. Think carefully about your target keywords, as well as any other keywords you may want to rank for, and choose a title that is popular enough to drive viewer numbers. Another important factor to remember is that before you even upload the video you need to optimise the file name of the video using your keywords.

Description:  The video description should explain exactly what is being shown in the video. You have 5,000 characters in which to describe your video (though keep in mind only about 25-30 characters will be visible in your YouTube search results) and optimise it for key terms. The YouTube Creator Playbook advises putting the most “compelling” information at the beginning. It’s important to avoid key word stuffing, however you must also make it as easy as possible for search engines to find your content – getting this balance right is crucial.

Tags: Tagging your videos allows you to choose a range of words or phrases that will help search engines and your audience to find your video. The key to using tags effectively is to choose unique keyword phrases that you think people would use to search for your video. As a rule of thumb around 5-10 tags for each video is best practice. One tip that may also prove useful is to include any misspellings of your brand name.

In order to assist you with this YouTube has an extremely useful Keyword Tool which allows you to view search volumes for individual words, analyse the demographics of people searching for them and generates suggestions for you.

2.       Use social bookmarking tools

Submitting your videos to social bookmarking sites like Reddit, Digg and StumbleUpon is an extremely useful way to set in motion your video seeding campaign. During the initial launch of the campaign these sites can help to drive increased traffic to your videos.

Submitting to these sites will also help your video get indexed faster and will help to optimise your video by providing additional inbound links and improving video search engine ranking.

However, as a brand you must be extremely careful how you promote your video. If the audience think that you are simply pushing out a video while offering no value this may be seen as spamming and could result in a backlash from online users.  One way of avoiding this is to use Reddit’s sponsored links, which allows brands to upload content while avoiding accusations of spamming.

3.       Maximise organic growth

For brands social media is all about creating compelling content that has great viral potential, content that fans want to talk about and share. The more creative and innovative you can be the more inclined your audience will be to share your content and engage with the brand.

Make use of the viral nature of social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Google+, as well as leveraging your other marketing channels such as your website and newsletters. By creating an integrated strategic marketing approach and optimising all of your channels will greatly increase the exposure of your video.

This will also bring with it optimisation benefits. Google use the number of links to your video to determine its position in the search rankings, so by encouraging people to share your videos across the social web you will also boost your SEO results.

4.       Use advertising

While organic growth and manual seeding are powerful ways to boost the number of views your video receives social advertising is also an extremely effective way to reach specific audience groups.

Strategic advertising can be run on video sharing channels themselves such as YouTube who offer a range of options, such as promoted videos as well as ‘InVideo Ads’.

Facebook’s advertising platform also offers a powerful and highly targeted way to promote your video. With the ability to target by age, sex, location and also by interests it provides an invaluable way to promote and drive traffic to your video channel.

5.       Blogger outreach

Blogger outreach is another extremely effective strategy when running an online video campaign. Working with prominent bloggers you can connect with targeted groups of consumers who you know are interested in your offering and are receptive to your messages – this will guarantee your brand word of mouth recommendations across key communities.

With access to influential, relevant and trusted influencers you will be able to successfully drive traffic to your video and leverage the passion and enthusiasm of the target audience and amplify the reach of your video.

Optimisation + great content

‘Optimisation’ is key when it comes to video seeding. When you have uploaded your video you must optimise the key words so that search engines can easily find it. Then, in order to optimise the reach of your video, you must use social advertising and social bookmarks. Finally you must optimise the power of your message by leveraging trusted influencers on blogs, Facebook and Twitter.

These tactics will help to maximise the chances of your video being seen by as many people as possible – and are key to helping it go viral. However, it’s also vital to keep in mind campaign effectiveness will be limited unless you have a great piece of video content which people want to share and engage with in the first place.

So, when launching your video, remember that it requires the perfect combination of great content, measurable objectives, a comprehensive seeding strategy together with continuous optimisation. Only then are you giving it the very best chance to go ‘viral’.

Top 5 Twips for Twitter success

November 3, 2011

Twitter has grown more in the last 9 months than in the last 5 years. This staggering growth is fantastic news for brands. Twitter is a platform which offers a range of opportunities to brands, with companies having used Twitter in innovative and effective ways to increase online visibility, communicate key messages, provide customer service, promote themselves and, most importantly, engage directly with their audience.

Working with brands and developing a Twitter community we have found that people who follow brands on Twitter are more likely to both buy and recommend those brands’ products. Indeed over 50% of users are more likely to recommend a brand to a friend after following them on Twitter.

This ability to increase customer loyalty means brands must be ready to take advantage of the opportunities Twitter provides. Yet, it is not a simple or straightforward process – building an audience on Twitter requires you to both attract and continuously engage with your fans and build a longstanding relationship with them.

So, how do you attract and keep the audience that you want? Here are our top 5 tips:

1.       Set out objectives

The first and most important question must be: what do you want to achieve with Twitter? Before embarking on any social media activity it’s crucial to have tangible aims in mind and a clear vision of what success means for you. There is no point (and, most importantly, it’s a wasted opportunity) launching a Twitter account with no clear objectives in mind. You need to decide: is it a customer service tool? Is it a promotional tool? Is it simply for brand awareness?

At the outset you must carry out research on your competitors so you can analyse what they are doing on Twitter and uncover the gaps in the market. Brands can use this information to devise a way to differentiate themselves and offer their audience something new.

When formulating your Twitter strategy you also need look at the broader marketing and strategic goals of your business – this will give you an understanding of what you want to accomplish. The most important thing to ascertain is if Twitter is right for your business. If it doesn’t make sense for your company, then don’t use it.

If you decide it is the right platform you must set out measurable goals and KPIs so that when you launch you have a clear focus and are able to measure exactly what you have achieved.

2.       Monitor to understand your audience

When it comes to understanding your audience Twitter is an invaluable source of information and insights. Its real-time search engine provides you with an immediate pulse of public opinion and it’s vital you use this to discover what your audience or clients want. Utilising this information will be invaluable in understanding the public perception of your brand and devising an ongoing strategy that responds to audience needs.

There are also a range of external tools you can utilise to track your brand on the platform. By creating search queries for key industry terms and tracking them throughout the day using a tool such as HootSuite you can uncover and understand the conversations that are happening around your brand.

Utilising Twitter monitoring tools allows you to track conversations about a problem your business can solve and gain insights into what is happening in your industry. You can also understand if one of your customers is making a complaint about you (and respond immediately) as well as receiving direct and immediate feedback on promotions you are running.

3.       TwOptimise your Tweets

Optimising your brand’s keywords on Twitter is crucial to your brand’s social success and must form the foundation of any strategic plan.

Think carefully about your keywords and create a content plan that schedules what you are saying and sets out which key terms you will be using in your posts. Keeping a very clear focus on the core essence of your brand – and the keyterms you will be using – is crucial for optimising your brand for search.

While Twitter is about being flexible and responsive, it’s also crucial to have this content strategy in place so you stay focused on achieving key objectives. This doesn’t mean you can’t vary the type of tweets you are posting but it does mean that you have to regularly publish ones that are on-topic and keyword-rich. This will ensure that your Twitter page ranks higher than your competitors.

There are other ways you can make your brand easier to find for search engines. Your Twitter profile is like any other page Google is indexing, with a headline, body copy and links. Therefore, you must ensure that the copy is keyword dense – while not forgetting that it needs to be compelling enough so that whoever reads it will want to follow you.

4.       Remember: Twitter is a value exchange

Many brands, particularly smaller businesses (but also some bigger businesses as well), are misusing Twitter as a platform to simply push out promotional messages onto users’ Twitter streams.

This is a mistake. At the forefront of your mind should be that Twitter is not about you – it’s about providing something of value to your audience. People follow brands for specific reasons: for example, to receive exclusivity, promotions and be “in the know” (67% of brand followers expect unique content from them). As a brand you need to be offering all of these things – and more – to ensure that people read your tweets and are engaged enough to click on your links and retweet you.

Carry out research to uncover what your audience want to hear about and tweet it. Understand which tweets get the most interaction and refine what you are saying until you have perfected it. You must also follow relevant people and use the features on Twitter, such as hashtags, to engage in conversations and make your brand more visible.

Through all of this you must remain strategic about how you tweet. This means focusing on your brand proposition, providing value and not focusing solely on ‘the sale’. In this way you will develop a style that matches your brand personality and engages with your consumers in a consistent, compelling and helpful way. Such an approach ensures that when your audience need what you offer, you are the brand they choose to use.

5.       Fit Twitter Into Your Social Media Marketing

Your online and social media marketing needs to be integrated and connected and it’s crucial to constantly keep in mind how Twitter fits into your overall social media marketing strategy. This can help to build stronger relationships by offering value across the social web. There are a number of ways to do this.

At the simplest level you must make sure that there is a clearly displayed link to your Twitter account on the homepage of your website.  In addition to this add a link to your account in your email signatures. It’s also best practice to add your profile to popular Twitter directories such as WeFollow, Twellow and Just Tweet It. These directories increase the chances of relevant audience groups finding you as they allow you to put your brand in the most relevant and popular categories.

Another effective way to ensure a ‘connected strategy’ is to link your tweets through to relevant content you have produced on other platforms. Linking through to blog posts will allow you to drive traffic and engage in industry debates with your followers. If you are running a competition on Facebook use Twitter to promote it, and vice versa. This kind of cross platform promotion is a great way to keep your audience engaged and aware of everything you offer.

However, remember that each platform demands its own strategy – so don’t have tweets that are synched directly to your Facebook Page, as hashtags and the way tweets are presented do not often lend themselves well to Facebook.

Your audience is out there

The great news for businesses is it’s clear that if you get all of these elements right the audience on Twitter are very open to having a relationship with your brand. Too many get it wrong and don’t understand why their follower numbers are low or why there is no interaction. However, brands who do provide value and engage with their audience are really seeing the benefits of using the platform. Your audience is out there, you just need to understand what they want – and deliver it.

 

How to create a successful social media strategy

October 31, 2011

For many companies it can be difficult to gain a clear view of the bigger strategic picture when it comes to social media. Businesses often make the mistake of trying to build their strategy around platforms instead of their own unique business objectives.

Yet there are fundamental questions that need to be answered before engaging in any form of social media activity: how does social media investment relate to business value? Is an acquisition or retention model the best strategy for your business? How does your social media strategy align with your business and other marketing strategies? And what are the real costs?

It’s vital to come up with clear answers to these questions in order to devise a comprehensive social media strategy that is integrated with your wider marketing approach. There is very little value in starting, for example, a Twitter account and a Facebook Page with no plan in place to measure success or understand what you want to achieve from it.

A social media strategy is the cornerstone of any successful social media campaign – it will help you understand how social media can best help you achieve your unique objectives and ensure you maximise ROI.

Here is our step by step guide to creating a comprehensive and successful strategy:

Set objectives and goals

It’s vital to establish from the outset exactly what your business wants to achieve from any social media activity; who the demographic audience are you are trying to reach and identify a clear way of quantifying your success. When setting your objectives you must always bear in mind that social media is a long-term commitment.

You need to think strategically about what your business and your audience want from social media and set goals accordingly. For instance, do you want to use social media for brand awareness or to help drive more leads? Try to connect social media goals with the wider goals of the organisation – how can social media help drive sales? How can it help you save money? How can it improve internal communication?

In many instances social media is uniquely positioned to help your business achieve these – but it takes careful planning, expertise and experience.

Whatever you want to achieve from social media – whether it’s improving customer service, increasing leads or growing brand awareness – it’s vital to attach KPIs to all activity you are running so that you have a clear understanding of its effectiveness. These can include but are not limited to:

  • Twitter followers
  • Facebook Likes
  • The % of females versus males within your community

By tracking these metrics over time the results can help you understand the true value of social media and the impact it has on your bottom line.

The social media audit

Once you have understood what you want to achieve from social media you must analyse the online space and your brand’s place within it. Use best of breed monitoring tools – together with expert human analysis – to carry out research and understand your brand’s online presence and share of voice.

This requires a social media audit. The audit is a complex and extensive process but it is essential in providing insights into your brand – the volume and sentiment of relevant conversations in social spaces and what action must be taken. This market analysis also allows you to benchmark yourselves against your competitors and understand how you are positioned in your industry.

Platforms must be analysed and conversations tracked in order to identify business relevant topics as well as potential crises and issues. The result will be that your brand is in a position to establish who your audience are, where they are online and define your objectives to maximise engagement with them.

Finding the most relevant platforms

The growth of social media means there are a wealth of social platforms available to your business, each providing different ways to engage with your audience. However, not every platform will be relevant to your brand. When setting out a strategy you must decide on which of them will be most valuable in helping you achieve your objectives.

You must develop an understanding of which social platforms provide the best way to engage with your audience.  Monitor these sites to see mentions of your brand name, your competitors and specific keywords in order to identify and understand which ones your target audience use and which offer the greatest opportunities for your business.

Of course this list will include sites such as Twitter and Facebook – however, there will also be specific blogs and forums which will be suited to your business as well as niche sites where passionate fans of your brand congregate.

The global nature of social media also means that you need to be aware of networks in particular territories. For example, in China you will be using Renren instead of Facebook.

Stakeholder buy in and resources

When identifying these platforms, the resources available – both in terms of finance and staff – must be at the front of your mind. Social media requires a lot of time in order to sustain meaningful relationships with your audience across multiple platforms.

You need to get buy in from staff throughout the organisation – from management through to the people who will be involved in the day-to-day implementation of your social media activity. This means demonstrating the impact of the strategy and the tangible ways it will benefit the entire organisation.

Develop a roadmap to social media success

With your priority platforms chosen you can then start to put in place a roadmap for defining and managing the customer experience. This includes clearly outlining how you will engage on each platform that has been selected, what content will be used to populate each site and how you will maximise engagement with your audience.

Central to this is the creation of a content plan. Your content plan will include a content calendar, tone of voice document, brand guidelines and social media guidelines which will encapsulate your brand narrative. This process requires time and resources but these strategies are crucial in helping to create relevant content that you can publish to bridge a connection between your business and ensures you will build an active and engaged community.

Having a comprehensive communication plan in place ensures that you can interact with your audience in a timely and relevant manner and means that you are ready to deal with any potential crises or challenges that occur. It also provides a clear strategy for future social media success.

Continuous optimisation

Having a strategy in place is a crucial foundation for a successful social media programme – but it is just that, a foundation. It is essential to continuously measure and evaluate your social media activity in order to maximise the success of the programme.

You will have already established metrics and baselines that are relevant to your business goals. By tracking the performance of your activity in relation to these KPIs you can gain insights which will be invaluable in fine tuning your social media programme.

The good news is that social media provides the tools to accurately track and monitor your programme – and you must use these findings to optimise the programme and ensure that your social media activity is performing as effectively as it possibly can. This not only leads to social media success but is also vital in contributing to the overall objectives of your business

Facebook rolls out new metrics for Pages

October 13, 2011

Facebook has recently released a new set of tools in order to give marketers deeper insights into how well their Pages are engaging and reaching Facebook users. Facebook have promised that these new analytics will help page owners better understand engagement on their brand pages – and, ultimately, make those Pages more useful to brands.

The Facebook Page Insights tool has now been expanded to provide marketers with additional information about their audience. Now, not only will marketers be able to understand the number and ‘Likes’ and impressions on their Page, but they will also be provided with more detailed information such as Friends of Fans, which is designed to show the maximum reach, and Weekly Total Reach, which combines the total exposure to the brand, either via paid or non-paid activity. Most interestingly to brands could be the ‘People Talking About This’ metric which is designed to show conversations happening about a brand across Facebook.

Are ‘People Talking About’ your brand?

The ‘People Are Talking About This’ metric will perhaps prove the most appealing to brands. This metric is based on the total numbers of ‘Likes’, shares and comments relating to a Page during the previous 7 days.

It takes information including the number of people ‘Liking’ your Page; the volume of people ‘Liking’, commenting on, or sharing, the content you have posted on your wall/Page and how many users answered a question you posted, who have RSVP to your events or checked in at your location.

The most important thing to note about this metric is that it is not only visible to the administrators of the Page – it is also visible to page visitors as a public facing metric.

The number appears on the left hand side of the page under the total number of ‘Likes’ and is calculated through an algorithm which analyses ‘Likes’, comments, shares and other Facebook actions to do with your Page. The aim is to help your fans understand how engaging a Page is, in a way, giving Facebook users a transparent version of Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm.

It’s all about engagement

These tools and metrics reflect the company’s increasing emphasis on the value of ‘sharing’ and the weight Facebook place on engagement between brands and users. Facebook mark a continuation of their growing belief that the amount people share on Facebook and how much they engage with a brand Page as a stronger indication of the value of the Page than simply the total number of users.

These new metrics will force brands to develop a truly effective engagement strategy in order to leverage the power of sharing and use peer recommendations as a brand marketing tool. Pages have never been just about the number of ‘Likes’ and this metric helps to further reinforce this idea.

By focusing on engaging with your target audience rather than just on volume the end result will be a win-win situation for both brands and users. Users will see the quality and value of Facebook Pages improve, while brands will, ultimately, have a more engaged Facebook community who feel an affinity with the brand.

Storify expands its social media curation offering

October 10, 2011

Back in May we reported about Storify and discussed how it will be extremely interesting to see if social media curation platforms would get adopted by the mainstream in the same way blogs and Twitter have.

It was clear that Storify was an intriguing concept but it needed to ensure it was recognised as the place to go when major ‘events’ occur.

Recent months have shown that Storify and social media curation has grown up. It is becoming recognised as a popular and leading service that a number of brands and publications are using to promote content and tell stories, just like blogging. If you haven’t yet used Storify, it allows you to aggregate social media content from Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr and other platforms to quickly and easily build stories.

The White House, The Guardian, Mashable and The New York Times are just some of the prestigious institutions which have used Storify to drag and drop social media content into an attractive and easy to read timelines.

So how has Storify grown up?

  • Growth in User Numbers

In the week beginning 5th September 2011 Storify reached a new peak at 46,493 connections and the top story of that week had over 288,000 views. The previous peak was at 43,000 with #ukriots in August 2011.

Some examples of recent popular stories include REM breaking up and streams of photos and updates of events on the 10th anniversary of 9/11.

These stories highlight the breadth of topics that Storify can help showcase. Storify provides a resourceful and appealing way to aggregate conversations and content about an ‘event’ that has gained a lot of attention and is a useful way to display the range of opinions and thoughts in one central hub.

  • Storify now helps with Search Engine Optimisation

Storify also helps with search engine optimisation. Co-founder Xavier Damman claimed that this has been the company’s most-requested feature from users. Storify now allows their content to be published out onto the servers of the most popular blogging platforms – such as WordPress, Tumblr, Posterous and Drupal – using XML-RPC to push permanent, search engine-friendly HTML.

This change means that content will live there permanently, will be indexed by search engines  and will help boost search engine optimisation.

  • Slideshow and new offerings

Newspapers and other publications will now be able to use Storify to post the same social media stories in a slideshow format as well. All stories on Storify – there are over 100,000 of them – can now be viewed as a slideshow.  You can do this by either adding “/slideshow” to the end of the URL or choosing “slideshow” from a drop-down menu within the embed option.

This option will enable Storify to continue to grow. As Damman states “We are using our own API to do the slideshow,” he says. “Anyone can develop a template for displaying a story, this is something that is really new.” This will be of great interest to brands and publications looking to communicate content in new and interesting ways.

It’s this fluidity, flexibility and willingness to listen to users which will see Storify grow and thrive, offering brands the chance to get involved, optimise content and strongly enhances the storytelling offering that brands can provide to users.

RIP Steve Jobs: 1955-2011

October 6, 2011

‘You’ve got to find what you love.’

Steve Jobs, the co-founder and chairman of Apple, died on Wednesday at the age of 56.

He leaves behind a phenomenal legacy, his name synonymous with innovation, inspiration and technology.

He was an icon, a visionary and an innovator whose passion and skill allowed him to take his dreams and make them a reality. He was a doer who had an innate understanding of what the market needed even when the market itself didn’t even realise they needed it.

For that reason he has had a massive impact on the world around us. When he returned to Apple in 1997 (having been forced out of the company in 1985) he oversaw their product development, leading a decade of unparalleled innovation. In this time period we saw the launch of truly iconic products that really have changed the way we live, including the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad.

The exceptional success of these products took Apple from near-bankruptcy to the world’s second most valuable company. It was not just financial success: these products have redefined the music, mobile and personal computing industries – and Jobs also transformed the film industry with his animation studio Pixar.

Few entrepreneurs have had as much impact as Steve Jobs. As President Obama stated this morning “Steve was among the greatest of American innovators – brave enough to think differently, bold enough to believe he could change the world, and talented enough to do it.”

He was an inspiration to everyone. As Jobs himself stated: ‘Stay hungry, stay foolish’.

Instagram: version 2.0

September 29, 2011

Last week Instagram version 2.0 arrived, giving the photo sharing app’s 10 million users live filters, instant tilt-shift, high-resolution photos and a much more robust user experience – and in a drive to gain more market share from their competitors, such as Flickr and Google’s Photovine.

CEO and co-founder Kevin Systrom claims these changes are “important to bringing Instagram to masses” and will “take us from 10 million to 100 million users [changing] the game in the terms of usability and efficiency.”

Instagram is already a phenomenon – and these new updates, billed as the biggest change since they launched, will help to boost its appeal even further.

Of the new changes the biggest see the introduction of live filters and tilt shift. This allows you to choose how the photo looks in real time and which lens best suits your subject as you take a photo (as opposed to afterwards).

Other changes include increasing the photo resolution, the addition of some new lenses and greater speed in applying filters (while it previously took the application six seconds to apply a filter, it now only takes six milliseconds).

Instagram and the mainstream

The growth of Instagram is certainly impacting on the mainstream. Other platforms have also taken notice – as we reported here  the big players such as Google, Facebook and Twitter have launched either new platforms or additional functionality to compete with the huge popularity of Instagram.

More and more brands are also recognising the importance of having a presence on Instagram. While the visual nature of the app is obviously perfect for fashion brands such as Burberry, there are opportunities for brands from a range of industries to take advantage of – food, travel and beauty to name just a few.

What brands are doing well on Instagram already? Starbucks currently has over 98,000 followers, asking followers to tag their coffee photos with #starbucks, while Burberry has around 91,000. ABC World News is a great example of how Instagram can be used to communicate breaking news while Jamie Oliver does the same for food. Brands like BMIBaby and ASOS are also doing innovative things within the space and we’re likely to see more brands sign up as the app’s popularity rises.

The mainstream appeal of Instagram is demonstrated by the launch of the first ever UK exhibit of Instagram photos at a gallery – entitled http://myworldshared.com/ – in London in late October 2011.

Yet one challenge still remains – Instagram is still only available on the iPhone. There is no android app yet.  The company continue to stress that an Android version will be created and Systrom recently stated that: “Getting version 2.0 out the door opens up a lot of time to work on new stuff”.

The importance of this was shown yesterday when Flickr launched its Android app yesterday – complete with Instagram-like filters.

Flickr has stolen a march on their main rival and it’s crucial that Instagram quickly develop their Android app before they are left behind.

What the Facebook changes mean for brands

September 23, 2011

F8 has now happened. It was an event that was heralded as one that would ‘change the world of social media’ – and that has proved to be true. The Facebook that we know and love has been transformed – with big changes gradually being rolled out. Here we explore how these changes will affect brands:

Facebook becomes an entertainment hub

Facebook’s motto for the F8 conference was ‘Read. Watch. Listen’ – and that neatly sums up the changes that have been made. They have unveiled extensive changes to the social network  – including key tie-ups with companies such as Spotify, Netflix, Zynga (who made Farmville) and The Guardian to create a new breed of apps, including video, music, films, and TV apps.

Facebook has now become an entertainment hub allowing users to watch films, listen to music and read newspaper articles via an app without ever leaving the social platform.

Maximising engagement through social apps

It is clear that what all these new features are attempting to do is make it as easy as possible for users to spend long periods of time on Facebook. They are doing this by lowering the barriers to connecting with friends and family and delivering more tailored and rich media content.

To this end, Facebook have introduced a ‘Ticker feed’ which shows all updates in real time at the top right hand corner of your newsfeed page.  They also announced a completely redesigned profile page, tagged ‘The Timeline’.

The Timeline

Zuckerberg introduced the new ‘Timeline’ feature which will enable users to give a ‘more complete story’ of who they are. This Timeline is an online scrapbook which he said will “help you tell the story of your life”.

The Timeline presents a stream of information about you.  You are, in effect, creating a profile of ‘who you are’ through the photos you’ve posted, all your status updates and the apps you’ve used. Split into multiple columns, the timeline shows all of your updates in one place on an endlessly scrolling page.

Timeline is currently in beta (you probably don’t want to access it straight away unless you’re a developer as it is currently experiencing bugging issues) and will be opt-in to start. However, it will soon become the new default profile page for all users.

How this is good news for brands – a new class of apps

Zuckerberg also explained that Facebook was focusing on making a ‘new class of Open Graph applications’. These apps mean that users can access content such as music and newspaper articles directly within Facebook and let users share what they listen to, watch and read with friends.

This is great news for brands. Based on the ‘Like’ social plug-in developers can now customise ways of sharing their content with new created ‘Listened’, ‘Watched’, and ‘Read’ buttons which will see content posted in users’ timelines or the newly developed live ‘ticker’ stream. So a user’s friends will see the latest music their friends are listening to on Spotify for example, or the film they’ve just watched on Netflix.

The result is that brands have gained an important new way to target Facebook users through advertising. So, by utilising these new buttons – which tells advertisers what musicians, films or publications not only a user likes but also what their friends like – advertisers are being given even more insights into the make-up of their audience. So advertisers on Facebook’s Ads API or those who work with Facebook’s Sales team will be able to reach relevant consumers who might not have directly Liked a Page.

To give an example, rather than just targeting a user who has Liked Lady Gaga’s Facebook Page, brands will be able to target anyone who shared one of her songs through Spotify or any of their friends who clicked ‘Listened’ on a story about her.

These changes will also have an impact on Facebook’s Sponsored Stories ad format. Marketers will now be able to target Sponsored Stories to people based on the content they have shared from apps, such as Netflix or Spotify.

The potential for this type of granular targeting is huge for brands. Though at launch, it is only music, video and readable content that will feature these new feedback buttons, David Fischer, Facebook’s VP of global marketing solutions, told All Facebook  that the site is considering releasing more, including a ‘Want’ button for products. This will provide unique opportunities to more and more industries, such as ecommerce, with shopping brands gaining ‘Wants’ on new products they can promote on Facebook.

Brands need to be more engaging than ever

Facebook also introduced a new ‘lightweight’ sharing feature, in order to give its users the ability to share more things without cluttering their friends’ newsfeeds.  This means that all ‘lightweight’ information will be shown on the Ticker feed only. So status updates, photos and posted links to articles will be shown on the newsfeed, while Likes or your score on the latest game will be shown on the Ticker feed in real time.

This is to ensure that your newsfeed contains only the most valuable and relevant content. For brands this means that they must have a robust and effective strategy in place to deliver compelling content that will engage fans and optimises how much they interact with you.

The changes announced at F8 provide a challenge to brands – but also opportunities. They must create truly compelling content that fans want to engage with. This is all about increasing your Facebook EdgeRank – in the face of these new updates it will be vital to alter and optimise engagement strategies and ensure your brand is one that fans want to see in their newsfeeds.

New Media – Photovine

August 23, 2011

As part of their concerted effort to provide a more “social” offering, Google has launched a new photo sharing iPhone app called Photovine.

The idea behind Photovine is to use photos to tell stories through “vines”.  These “vines” are a collection of pictures around a caption. For example, if you go to watch Take That you can start a “vine” called ‘Take That Manchester Show’ and publish a picture of the concert. People following you can view this and also ‘join the vine’ by posting their own pictures.

Until now, the app has been in closed beta testing with a very limited number of users. However, it is now open for all to sign up.

Who will use Photovine and why?

Photovine will be aimed at everyone. The amazing popularity of Instagram (last week they surpassed 150 million photos being shared) has demonstrated the mass appeal of the photosharing services and Google has come up with an interesting concept that aims to differentiate itself from its competitors.

The idea of a grouping photos and encouraging people to add to a collection is a great way to drive engagement and is something that will spur users into action.

 

Photovine also helps to guide users who may be unsure about what photos they want to post – by giving them a theme or topic to follow, which makes it easier for them to get involved. This inclusive guided experience could encourage more people to post their own images.

The fantastic look and feel of the app – something that Google is not generally very good at – also means Photovine can compete with Instagram.

The Future

Photovine seems to have everything in place to be a huge success. The concept is original and the app looks great. It also features everything you would expect from a social network, with friend finding and sharing features on Twitter and Facebook. You can also chat with your followers, setup a profile, add captions and texts to your pictures.

The biggest challenge for Google may be getting enough users using the app to make it viable and ensure the ‘Vines’ concept works  -  though with the launch of Google+, integration between these services looks like a win-win situation, facilitating the growth of both platforms.

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