This week’s PNConnect Weekly Reading is a great one. Lots of great stories touching on a variety of topics. Not as chock full of news as some recent editions but the stuff in this one is quite good. I highly recommend it.
As I’ve increasingly used Instagram for not just personal photos but also (primarily) for client publishing programs there have been two features that keep coming to mind as being big gaps that are missing in the app’s functionality.
- Multi-account support: It should be easy for me to switch between a personal and professional account with just a couple taps. Don’t make me keep signing out and signing in. That’s a kludgy process. And make sure that Share settings are unique to each account as well. Recently things seems to have taken a step backward on this front and all of a sudden Share settings were at the app level, not at the account level. One Twitter account goes with one Instagram account and the other goes with the other. Let me set things how I want to set them.
- There needs needs needs to be some sort of in-app Share feature added in 2014. There just needs to be. I’m talking about something that would allow me to curate and share photos from my stream with my network. I don’t see how this couldn’t be the Number One most requested feature by brand publishers since the increased exposure that would come through fan curation would likely lead to a huge surge in new followers and subsequent engagement.
The first point also goes for Vine as well. Twitter, which owns Vine, makes multi-account support super easy, with just three screen taps between accounts. But to switch accounts on Vine it requires the full sign-out/sign-in process, which is not very user friendly.
It’s not like Instagram is hurting because it lacks these features. But for users, particularly those with feet in both the professional and personal fields, they would be a huge value add and make the experience much more friendly.
Facebook wants to extend your attention span:
The company is testing a feature that would allow users to save links shared inside Facebook to a list for later reading, according to recently surfaced mobile screenshots. The functionality is quite similar to the popular apps Pocket and Instapaper.
It’s an interesting experiment since it seems to be running somewhere in-between two big initiatives that Facebook has been undertaking.
In one way this appears to be very much in line with the network’s recent appeals to journalists and media. They’ve been making one overture after another to media that Facebook is a great place for them to share their stories and this feature/functionality would continue that, promising writers that even if someone can’t read their story now they can easily save it to read later, all within the Facebook ecosystem.
Along similar lines, it’s part of Facebook’s effort to be more of a “right now” source. They’ve been pushing their real-time data more and more in the last six months as they’ve finally realized that Twitter had trumped them for the real-time conversation, with Facebook relegated to a “maybe sometime later” platform.
But it’s the kind of move that shows clearly Facebook’s myopic view of the online world. If they really wanted to make a dent in things they would make a tool that would allow people to save an article from anywhere on the web into this read-it-later tool. Pocket, which I personally use, is great about this, with a browser button, interoperability with RSS readers like Feedly and Digg and more.
I’m certain that, if this does indeed get rolled out widely, Facebook will follow up six months or so later with data about reading habits as a way to prove out the feature, showing what percentage of reading was done within X many days of it being saved. That will be key to getting publishers to fully embrace this since if it doesn’t translate to more eyeballs for them then there’s little to no value to it.
I’m enormously skeptical of Hulu’s aspirations to be bundled with pay TV services for a number of reasons:
First, with channels like HBO, AMC and others making such strong inroads into original programming it’s hard to imagine them not throwing a fit at Hulu getting in their soup when original content is emerging as core to Hulu’s future success.
Second, Hulu plus would seem to compete with the VOD offerings available from the cable providers, who are going to throw their own fit over additional competition. Both are ways to watch older episodes of classic shows so I can’t imagine the providers sitting still while a subscription-based all-you-can-eat model competes with their fee-per-episode one.
Hulu seems to be trying to walk the line by saying it’s an “online” option for on-demand viewing, but that’s a distinction that’s not going to matter a whit to the audience, who will just see it as another option that’s available at a more competitive price point.
I love these “Classic Moments” cards from Star Wars that pull, obviously, classic moments from the original and frame put in vintage trading card-looking frames. Not only are there still images but a few of them are GIFs, adding a little motion to the cards.
It’s more than just the nostalgia, factor, though. This is a really interesting reuse of existing assets into a new form factor that adds something in addition to pulling on the heartstrings of fan boys and girls everywhere. Looking at the GIFs like the one above of the one below, it forces me to think about those classic moments in a slightly different way. It changes my perspective on them.
In a big way this is about how media consumption has changed. It’s not just about the whole movie, it’s about these small, sharable moments that unite people around a common idea. By sharing that “Wampa Attack” card I’m expressing something about the movie that others may feel similarly about. If others are anything like me they just replayed the entirety of Empire Strikes Back in their heads, with the above GIF as a prompt.
“ If there’s one lesson to take from every major change in how people browse the internet over the last five years — the rise of infinite feeds, the gradual retirement of slideshows and pagination, the explosion of very tall, vertically interactive page layouts — it’s that users hate to click and don’t mind scrolling. Taps are expensive, swiping is cheap. Clicking is a choice, like jumping; scrolling is inevitable, like falling.”
There’s been a lot of hand-wringing about how the changes to Twitter, which bring fully-viewable images – and Vines – in-stream as opposed to only being available if you clicked “in” to the tweet, make it more like Instagram or Facebook. But those criticisms don’t quite hit home for me since the experience on Twitter is still massively different than on either of those networks.
For one thing, Twitter allows for easy sharing whereas Instagram has no native “reshare” functionality. For another, in order to do comment or reply to something on Facebook you have to click twice. So there’s still a lot of difference between the networks.
Sure, it’s a big change but along with the fact that you can now Retweet, Favorite and Reply all in-stream as well I’m guessing this will make Tweets even more engaging. And, considering this change was seen as a “gimme” to advertisers, that was likely the whole damn point.
Unlike some others I’m not all that worked up about the revelation that Jimmy Kimmel was behind the “twerking girl on fire” video that so captivated the internet a few days ago. Some people saw it as the beginning of the end of the internet. Yes, I see their point that this was a slight case of deception, but I think this gets a pass because it was used as a bit of performance art on Kimmel’s part. For a couple days he was having a good laugh as everyone on the web talked about this clumsy girl and finally, when he couldn’t keep a straight face any longer, he revealed the truth.
Social media is about authenticity, sure. But this was in the furtherance of a gag and not about pulling the wool over everyone’s eyes in order to sell sneakers or cell phones or something. It wasn’t’ even as much of a deception as the LonelyGirl15 situation from several years ago.
I’ll be the first to admit that if a consumer brand – say the maker of fire-retardant yoga pants – had done this there would be a much different reaction. *That* would have been more of a clear cut case of justifiable outrage since that’s a brand – which despite what some consultants will tell you are *not* people – intentionally deceiving the public for marketing purposes. But Kimmel is one of our appointed court jesters and so gets a pass. It wasn’t mean-spirited, it wasn’t a sales message and it wasn’t anything many brands haven’t tried in the past to far worse results.
I’ll respectfully disagree with Ben Elowitz’s piece at AdAge where he says brands should stop worrying about being publishers because, if I’m understanding his thinking correctly, it’s hard. The gist of his argument is that it’s tough, if not impossible, for a brand to have a point of view on the news of the day and since that’s what publishers are supposed to do – opine – it’s not worth creating original content and they should stick to curation.
That’s shortsighted in a number of ways.
First, a point of view about the world at large – or even the industry at large – is absolutely not required in a brand publishing program. If you’re a brand you do not need to comment on every industry story out there. There are plenty of times to step up to the plate when the story impacts you – that’s part of the curation element – and plenty of times to just use what’s written about the industry or even your brand as information to use in the future, not something that *has* to go on official profiles.
Second, his idea of “content” is uniquely ad-centric, which is a whole different ball of wax. Yes, ads take forever to create but that just forces us to ask two questions: 1) Well isn’t that part of the problem and 2) Not everything is an ad, meaning there’s lots of room for lower hanging fruit to be plucked that can go a long way to filling up a brand publishing program.
Elowitz tries to duck criticism that he’s swimming against the stream here by acknowledging that at the outset, but that doesn’t mean he actually has a point. If anything the notion that ad content is hard to create lend makes a stronger case for more PR-focused, soft-news-based publishing programs than anything else. You can create a month’s worth of social media publishing for less than one ad, which is a long and drawn out process. And the publishing program gives you more bites at the apple that is people’s attention, so there are more opportunities to either convert or convince people than in a single ad. And if something doesn’t work? You iterate it right out of the program.
Publishing programs *are* hard, don’t get me wrong. They take a dedicated team and a lot of attention. But as people’s online social behavior continues to move toward one of signaling affiliation with the brands they and their peers find cool or hip such a program is just that much more important as a way to reach them.
Twitter has posted about the usefulness and benefits of their Promoted Trends advertising products. In short they make the case that promoted Trends help lift brand messaging and create more positive brand advocates.
The primary reason behind that lift is, I think, this: The broader audience Promoted Trends reach means publishers are hitting more people who don’t already have strong opinions about the brand one way or the other. So whereas the normal audience may already be immune to the brand’s social media charms, reaching more people means reaching more people who have a genuine “Oh, cool!” reaction. That would account for almost everything else in Twitter’s findings.
It’s also worth nothing that this study looks almost entirely at engagement factors, not anything relating to actually moving the needle on sales. Some people might point to that as a sign of the weakness in making the connection between social media publishing and making the sale, but I don’t think that’s the case. Or at least it’s not the case any more than it usually is. Social media is partly about selling, yeah, but it’s even more about building up some positive sentiment and engaging with fans, customers and others and not necessarily about selling all the time.
In the wake of Google’s announcement that Google+ posts would now be embeddable elsewhere on the web I published this, my first piece on Medium, about how an embeddable web may not be as great as one built on open links but it’s not a bad second option.
Along with the embeddable option, Google+ can now be published to directly from WordPress.com, TypePad, Blogger and other platforms. That’s a huge win for people who want to share what they’re writing on Google+ but who don’t have the time to manually do so. Yes, I realize that goes against the “personal” tenet of some people’s social media thinking but it’s also a reality and it’s nice to have this option available.