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I believe the Paper app will hurt Facebook’s mobile revenue..for at least one quarter

There may be some troubling quarters ahead for Facebook. And it’s all due to the new Paper app.   The app itself is a gorgeous combination of Flipboard and fluid design, that’s getting rave reviews from early testers and is poised to push users to more relavant news and less spammy posts from brand.  It’s also ad-free for now.

The issue with the new app is that due to its popularity and engaging nature, it’ll catch on quickly with users especially since one of the options is to allow all push notifications from FB to go directly to paper and bypass the existing FB app, hurting mobile revenue.   As more users start to use Paper over the traditional FB app, the more money FB will lose on getting ads to users within the News Feed.  It may not take them too long to start including ads but the fact that ads aren’t a part of the initial offering is going to hit FB hard very soon.

I love the Paper app and I’m slowly making it my default FB option. However, as someone who’s heavily involved in social media strategy, I like seeing the ads within my News Feed.  I just hope that the ads that eventually come to the News Feed within Paper are more targeted and relevant and don’t ruin the user experience.

I wonder how investors will react to the slow mobile revenues in the future (should it happen) – will they take the Amazon route and believe in FB’s future or hemorrhage the stock due to the dip in mobile revenue?

Download Paper for iOS here

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New year, new predictions. The top 4 social media predictions for 2014

It’s the new year and a fresh start for everyone. These nba teams are starting to win so this year might be a great year.  In the social, digital and technology space, this year is predicted to be a banner year for new technologies but also a step further for marketers when it come to taking advantage of new social and digital platforms. And there also the increase in mobile ad spending. The outlook for all of them is leading to bold predictions from various agencies, experts and brands. I have a few of my own.  Below are my predictions for 2014.

Increase in social media ad spend 

In 2014, expect social ads to explode and get a lot more attention than they currently do. These ads are proving to be a lot more effective than some traditional forms of advertising, like banner ads. No one cares about banner ads, (clicked on 0.2 percent of the time), however social ads like Promoted Tweets show engagement of one to three percent— up to 15 times better.  Each one of these perform much higher than traditional forms of advertisements.

Video sharing will explode the way images did in 2013

Most millennials, the highly sought after target for many brands, grew up watching online video. It’s what they’re used to consuming and now are creating it more than ever.  Short form video platforms like Vine and Instagram have made it easier to create, edit and share video in real-time. And that’s not even including YouTube, the old guard when it comes to sharing video on social.

The signs for an explosion in video sharing in 2014 are all there.  Instagram introduced video a few months after Vine launched, Snapchat was offered $3 and $4 billion for their ephemeral image and video platform, (money they quickly turned down) which boasts users mostly between the ages of 13 and 25 and Facebook is launched video ads within the News Feed.  In 2014, videos will become the new image.

Google+ will grow in size and importance

Google+ has always taken a back seat for brands looking to connect with their users.  Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram always got the bulk of the conversation.  However, that’s about to change in 2014. Google+ has slowly but surely grown the number of active users to over 540 million in 2013 and in 2014, is poised to create more importance in the social space especially when it comes to search.

Google+ is baked into a range of Google products, including important consumer facing products such as Search, YouTube and Google Maps. While brands continue to carve out a presence on Google+, many have noticed higher search rankings as a result of their presence on the platform.

The importance of community building and brand ambassadors will increase

In 2014, brands will be spending much more time building communities with fans who are willing to help them spread the word about their service or product because they love it so much. Brands will have to find ways to build more word-of-mouth traffic because consumers trust other consumers. In a recent Nielson Global Survey, 84% of respondents said they trust word-of-mouth recommendations from friends and families over anything else.

What are some other predictions you’d like to include in the list above?

 

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Thoughts on Snapchat spurning $3 & $4 Billion Offer, Instagram Direct, and Facebook Video Ads leak

Lots of news in the social space but I’ll focus on Facebook taking up the bulk of the headlines these days.  As you’ve probably heard, Snapchat turned down two acquisitions offers. One from Facebook for $3 billion dollars and another rumored offer for $4 billion.

I think Snapchat made the mistake of turning down the two offers because unlike Instagram, they don’t have a marketing platform for brands to pay to use (plus the offer was all cash!). Yes, I know brands like Taco Bell are being creative with the way they target teens but it’s not a platform every brand can use. That’s the biggest issue for any social platform – getting brands to create compelling content and maintain long-term engagement with those users. Snapchat just doesn’t have that right now and if they were to ever implement a paid strategy, it will have to something much different than their current iteration of their ephemeral product.  I wont’ even go into how fickle the 13-25 year old group is.  If Snapchat releases an ad product that disrupts users, you can bet they’ll leave in a heartbeat.

In Snapchat’s defense, it’s hard to sell when you’re the hottest platform in the social space but they need to be realistic on their potential.   They did hire Emily White, who was responsible for Instagram’s recent ad product (which wasn’t that difficult to come up with. I mean it’s an image-based platform, so brands will obviously share images. The greater success was not getting too much negative feedback on the ads.), so maybe she can come up with something for Snapchat.

So what does Facebook do once they get spurned? They come out with a competing product. They tried this against Snapchat in the past with Poke, which was a massive failure.  But this time they rolled it out on Instagram called Instagram Direct, which I think may end up hurting them in the long run. As I said on Twitter, turning Instagram into a messaging platform will further push younger users away from FB. We know they’re already making the move, so this is just another step in that direction.

Instagram Direct isn’t exactly a competing product against Snapchat. Messages don’t disappear and it still lacks some features but it shows how important messaging is becoming to Facebook.  And it’s also clear what their strategy looks like against competitors, get acquired or face the wrath of Facebook’s size (which may not mean much if users don’t move over). 

The final Facebook news this week was the leaked presentation about their upcoming video ads.  While I predicted something like this coming to Instagram (some variation of this already exist if you share Instagram videos on FB, the mobile version of the News Feed auto-plays Instagram videos), this leaked presentation confirms that it’s on the way on Facebook.  Users will get the videos in the News Feed but sound will be turned off so it’s not distracting users as they scroll through the feed.  I think Facebook will make a ton of money from video ads but they may also lose users in the process. Its one thing to ignore sponsored posts with images but a video will push users off the platform even more. Again, that’s just my perspective but I have been right in the past.

 

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Facebook updates News Feed algorithm again to cater to news sources but may have long-term consequences with other brands

Facebook is changing the content game again with it’s latest announcement that they will be catering to news sources who share links on Facebook pages in favor of memes and images that are not ‘credible’ sources for content.

This is a completely different strategy for Facebook, as they battle Twitter for real-time news. Twitter has become the go to source for real-time news but Facebook is also hoping to cut into that pie. It’s going to be really hard for them to make this transition. Twitter is as real-time as it gets and as it continues to grow, it’ll be even a bigger source for news. The most recent example is Paul Walker’s death. When his death hit the airwaves, it was Twitter that first revealed that something might have happened. I didn’t see anything on Facebook. It wasn’t until his publicist came out with the official statement, did I see anything on Facebook.

The other rumored change is that Facebook may introduce a new tool that’ll let users bookmark content to read later. Combine this with the News Feed change and it becomes a two-fold approach, sharing more news sources but also giving users the opportunity to save the links. Should the latest rumor come to fruition, it’ll make Pinterest a competitor to Facebook again. Pinterest’s bookmarking service has seen tremendous upside and leading to interesting engagements numbers.

I know I’ve been very critical of Facebook and rightfully so but these latest changes aren’t going to make brands happier even though it could lead to higher revenues for Facebook. Those revenues may not be sustainable long term as brands will continue to get frustrated at Facebook for making paid media the only way to reach all fans on it’s platform.

Developing competing products are also a sign that Facebook is no longer the innovator, instead the copycat (The Poke app is a clear example of that). It’s becoming the Microsoft of the tech world, playing catch up. We’ll have to wait and see how it plays out for Facebook but competitors are nipping at their heels and it’s no longer Google+ and the likes of Path. They’re getting serious competition from apps that are diluting their core products.

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Why can’t there be a social network that pays users for their data? Google+ I’m looking at you!

This is going to be a little out there but I seriously think there’s got to be a way to make a sustainable social media business by paying people for their data.  I don’t know why I’ve been thinking about this the past few days but a company like Google can easily turn Google+ into a service where they pay users to continuously be active and engaging on the platform.  

The way I see it,  Facebook and other social media networks won’t have the long-term sustainability like Google search or Twitter can, so why not make money off of highly engaging audiences by giving them a piece of the pie. I view Google+ in the same way Google views the internet – They help host and crawl the web for highly engaging blogs and then sell AdWords or ads against the content.  Bloggers get paid based how many users actively come to their page, read the content and engage.  Some bloggers are even working with brands to be loyal influencers, making additional money on the side.   Why can’t Google+ be the social network to facilitate the same kind of environment, where users get paid to create compelling content, while still making money of their social following by creating partnerships with brands.   Google can then limit the reach of new fans by getting brands to pay to reach the full potential of their followers, similar to the way Facebook does. The big difference is that users of the channel get a cut of the ad dollars, unlike users of Facebook who get nothing.  I think it’ll go a long towards creating a compelling social network, where users will actively engage, fans will come to read awesome content – otherwise no one will come back, and Google can still make a ton of money. They may not make the billions up on billions they make of search but they can be the “good guys” here, by paying users for selling their data to brands for targeted ads.

I think there’s an amazing opportunity to make just a little less money while still giving users the opportunity to create marketplaces within a social network. Think about the amount of money active Google+ users can make, the same way many Facebook Pages make money from brands – we know this is actively happening. It’s the power of the internet.

In a perfect world, it wouldn’t have to be Google+ but I think they are poised to do something amazing here, while taking Google+ up a notch in a way that leaves Facebook scrambling to react.

 

 

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You’ve got to pay to play in social these days

Gone are the days when you can organically large followings on social via amazing content and organic word of mouth or organic sharing. With today’s big social media channels, in order for a brand to really gain large followings or reach a large audience, paid media has to be an essential part of your strategy. This is in stark contrast to when Facebook allowed brands to reach large portions of their followers without a need for paid media to continue to reach those people. This is the same trend that Instagram and Pinterest will head into once their ad platforms mature and become another paid channel to consider for marketers. 

While Facebook’s platform almost forces brands to pay in order to get any kind of significant reach or even support when something goes wrong with a brand page, platforms like Google+ and Twitter are becoming channels that are ripe for engagement and stealing some of that momentum from Facebook. Google+ has been making steady updates lately and just announced that over 500+ million people interacted with Google+ in one way or another. Google has also some of its functionalities into their core products, Search and YouTube. Twitter is set to IPO this year and has been on a hot streak as a second screen partner for TV viewers.  That’s where they’ll be making a ton of their money as almost every TV show now has a hashtag associated with the TV show.

I’m extremely curious to how Instagram and Pinterest’s ad platforms will evolve. These two platforms will not stand still and stick to their current version of the ad platforms. The other thing to keep in mind is that a lot of these platforms have to capitalize as much of the revenue as possible because we all know these platforms won’t last too long. The driving force behind many of these platforms are fickle users who will leave if something better without advertising cluttering the platform, comes along.

As a marketer, do you feel like you’ve had to increase your paid media budgets? What do clients think of the changes to paid media?

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When will brands learn to engage and not put all your social eggs in one basket

I keep getting this strange feeling that in the next few years, Facebook as a platform will slowly start to decline, especially the relevancy of Facebook Pages.

The more I hear brands attach the word Facebook to social as if that’s the only platform that can do social well, I can’t help but wonder how much they have yet to learn. Just because Facebook is the default platform for brand engagement right now doesn’t mean it’s the only platform to invest marketing dollars in. Whenever I’m in a meeting, I want to scream and tell them the many other options available to them with differentiating benefits. Facebook is also misused so it’s not like these brands are doing it justice.

When a brand throws all of it’s social marketing dollars into Facebook and then follows up with marketing messages instead of actual engaging dialogues with consumers, the tactic behind using the platform loses its value. For those who still don’t get it, social media is part of a marketing tactic, not a channel to spew marketing messages to people. It needs to be weaved into the conversation in a two-way dialogue.

I wish more brands would be open-minded and invest in Twitter, Google+ or vine and Instagram for brands with creative products. Isn’t it better to be the first brand in your category to own that platform and set your own best practice guidelines instead of being another brand on Facebook that is trying to one-up their competition? Of course, none of it will matter, as brands will continue to take the safe route until that platform goes down with their marketing budgets.

All of this is easy for me to say as someone who’s invested in the future of social media but ultimately brands should be listening to their agency partners more often. They hired them for a reason, it’s about time they started listening to their expertise.

It could also be a fault of the agency partners who feel like they need the business so bad they’re not wiling to let the trouble client go or propose changes that may upset the current balance of things. Figuring out problems and providing solutions for the clients are what makes great agencies, not a rotating list of clients every year.

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