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How to Improve Social Media Posts With Custom URL Shorteners

Social Media Examiner - Tue, 08/23/2016 - 5:00am

Do you want more brand recognition from the links you share on social media? Have you thought about using a branded link shortener? Shortening your links can help you do more than save character space in your posts. In this article, you’ll discover five ways a branded URL shortener can strengthen your social media presence. [...]

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- Your Guide to the Social Media Jungle

A Beginner’s Guide to Content Marketing

Social Media Explorer - Mon, 08/22/2016 - 10:00am

Content is like water. It seems to fall freely from the sky in abundance (think 4 billion drops of content per day raining down on us). When it lands it either disappears into the deep dark crevices of the web or pools in the watering holes of like-minded searchers. Just about everyone searches for and drinks in content everyday to quench a thirst for information or entertainment. Which begs the question: How do you make sure your content doesn’t get lost in the flood?

We took this slippery issue to our publisher Drew Neisser, he of “Cut Through” fame, and asked him for his undiluted perspective. What we got was a deluge of insights on content strategy, creation, channels, measurement and storytelling. We hope you’ll find his clarity as refreshing as a tall, cold, glass of H2O.

Social Media Explorer (SME): What does a content strategy look like? Where should businesses start?

Drew: At the risk of over-simplifying content strategy, here’s a cheeky acronym  — PUSH — that will “push” you in the right direction while your content pulls in customers and prospects.


  • If you’re a brand with a clear purpose, it becomes so much easier to create a simplified content strategy because the content just becomes a fulfillment of that purpose. Ask questions like, “Why am I in business? Why would people want to work at my company and do business with me?” This should be the foundation of your content strategy.


  • Create content that is of value. Yes, it should provide some entertainment but it should also be of use.


  • Brands should consider things like character, archetype, voice, and conflict. It’s helpful to think of content as chapters within a larger story where you don’t give the entire plot away in one post.


  • It’s not about you or your brand; it’s about your stakeholders, customers, employees and investors. You need to have the humility to think about those around you and the stories they want to tell.

SME: How does one make the business case to the boss that content is worth the investment?  

Drew: Content can do at least four things for your business: generate awareness, turn that awareness into purchase intent, encourage repeat purchases, and turn customers into brand advocates.

Assuming you know your current cost per acquisition and the potential lifetime value of a customer, purchase and repeat purchase are the easiest things to put a value on. The differential between lifetime value and cost per acquisition should yield funds for developing a content program. Most businesses will start with purchase intent and prioritize driving traffic and generating leads.

Contrarily, I would say focus on number four, which says to start off with creating content that is of value to customers and let them do the advocacy for you. You won’t lose if your main focus is helping your customers.

SME: How does content fit into the overall marketing strategy?

Drew: It should definitely be integrated from the get go. Content programs fail when they are isolated from all other activities.  This is not a “build it and they will come” situation; you will need media (earned or paid) to get folks to see your content and appreciate its value. Unless you’re very lucky, you won’t have a successful content program without a paid strategy.

SME: Do you need a different strategy for demand generation than customer retention?

Drew: Yes, and by the way, we recommend focusing on your customers first when developing your content program. After you’ve cracked the cost of satisfying the content needs of your customers, then it’s time to think about your prospects. Sometimes the content will be the same but often, prospects need more hand-holding. In that case, you should provide them with info on your product or service, and also on your category in general. Keep in mind that these days, people tend to contact you after they’ve done their homework, which will provide higher quality leads.

SME: How does one figure out what content is working and what isn’t? 

Drew: First, you have to decide on your priority metrics: CSAT, leads, and referrals.  Then, you can look at types of content. We believe all content can be sorted into 8 buckets and then can be assessed accordingly. In most cases, we find that only 3 of the 8 content buckets deliver upon the predetermined goals.

SME: Are more companies moving to outsource their content marketing or are they keeping it in-house? 

Drew: This is the age-old question. Right now, the pendulum is swinging towards doing more in-house, and you can see that in the recent moves of some of the larger companies. When the economy gets tighter, it will probably swing the other way as businesses trim non-core staff. My feeling is that unless you are prepared to build a culture of storytellers, you are better off out-sourcing that need.

SME: Which is more important, quality or quantity?

Drew: I debate with a lot of folks in the industry about this very question. To me, quality always overrides quantity. The truth is that with over 2 million blog posts a day competing for attention, you need to make sure that you are creating content that you are proud of, and that your content is worth someone’s time.

SME: How important is video and how do we create it more cost-effectively? 

Drew: Video is critical, and I think every brand needs to make it a priority for several reasons. For one, Facebook has said it’s a priority so any hope of getting organic reach will be a result of native video on Facebook. Next, you have a whole generation that’s been raised on video, and would rather watch a video than read. So if you want to engage with millennials, then you need video.

The million-dollar question is how do we do this in a cost-effective manner? Some brands have figured out how to do so and are creating short videos that are at once real, relevant, and raw. This proves that videos don’t need to be feature film quality to evoke emotion in the moment.

SME: Is storytelling really a new strategic approach?

Drew: Some of us believe there is a new twist on the old yarn. First, its not about the story you want to tell as much as it the stories that people will tell about you. Second, great storytelling is about conflict, character and plot lines. Conflict is not something you typically see on your standard marketing strategy statement. Plot lines mean that you don’t have to try to tell the whole story at once, which is quite different than traditional advertising.

SME: Do we need to hire professional storytellers?

Drew: There are some businesses where the CEO is a natural storyteller so they’re able to do a lot of this work in-house. But then there are others who say, for example, “I’m not a storyteller. I’m an engineer.” These folks would much rather hire a professional.

IBM is hiring storytellers from Hollywood and Cisco has a comedy writer on staff. At minimum, I believe that companies would be well-advised to teach their executives and employees on the fundamentals of storytelling and how this can make them better communicators inside and outside the organization.

SME: How do we activate employees as storytellers?

Drew: It really requires both a top down and bottom up approach. From the top, executives need to embrace the brand story and become good storytellers themselves. This is made easier when the company’s purpose is clear and the exec can relate that purpose to a personal experience.

Similarly, from the bottom up, employees need to understand what the brand story is, and how they too can become storytellers.  A lot of companies have developed employee advocacy programs, where they give employees content to share within their personal networks.  These programs fall short when the employees aren’t trained on how to turn these messages into personalized stories.  For example, if a company gives its employees content to promote on their own Facebook account and they do not personalize it, the content quickly looks like an ad. It’s crucial that employees know how to make the content their own.


Content marketing: drip or deluge? Let is know what you think by commenting below, or reach out to SME and Drew Neisser on Twitter.

The post A Beginner’s Guide to Content Marketing appeared first on Social Media Explorer.

How to Customize Your Facebook News Feed: What Marketers Need to Know

Social Media Examiner - Mon, 08/22/2016 - 6:00am

Do you struggle to keep up with your Facebook news feed? Interested in an easier way to quickly see what’s most important to you? Adjusting your Facebook settings can help you save time, stay on top of trends, and reach more of your audience. In this article, you’ll discover how Facebook marketers can customize their [...]

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- Your Guide to the Social Media Jungle

Win Free Tickets to Social Media Success Summit 2016

Social Media Examiner - Mon, 08/22/2016 - 5:00am

Want to win a free ticket to the largest online social media marketing event of the year? Social Media Examiner has worked hard to bring you our eighth-annual Social Media Success Summit. This is our best event ever! And we’ve come up with a fun way for you to get involved. First, what is this [...]

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- Your Guide to the Social Media Jungle

Pinterest Rolls Out Promoted Video Pins: This Week in Social Media

Social Media Examiner - Sat, 08/20/2016 - 6:00am

Welcome to our weekly edition of what’s hot in social media news. To help you stay up to date with social media, here are some of the news items that caught our attention. What’s New This Week Pinterest Introduces Promoted Video: Pinterest rolled out Promoted Video, a new way for businesses to “share their ideas [...]

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- Your Guide to the Social Media Jungle

This Week in Content Marketing: A Content Marketing Approach Is Strategic, Actually

The Content Marketing Revolution - Sat, 08/20/2016 - 6:00am

PNR: This Old Marketing with Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose can be found on both iTunes and Stitcher.

In this episode, Robert and I debate a TechCrunch article’s claims that content marketing isn’t actually strategic. We also go inside Accenture’s efforts to become a worldwide leader in content marketing, and explore Facebook’s latest attempt to enhance the ad experience from both sides of the equation. Rants and raves include Blab’s decision to go silent, and the benefits of automated content creation. Lastly, we follow We Energies’ cross-country search for Christmas cookie content in our This Old Marketing example of the week.

This week’s show

(Recorded live on August 14, 2016; Length: 01:01:35)

Download this week’s PNR This Old Marketing podcast.

If you enjoy our PNR podcasts, we would love if you would rate it, or post a review, on iTunes

1. Content marketing in the news
  • How Google Analytics ruined marketing (8:18): Could everything you know about digital marketing be wrong? An article on TechCrunch contends that marketers in the high-tech world are failing to understand the basic principles that distinguish marketing strategies from marketing channels and marketing content, and places the blame squarely on the shoulders of Google Analytics. While there are a few parts of the discussion we do agree with, Robert points out that the author’s overly ambitious argument suffers from some flaws in logic, and falls short of making its case due to a limited understanding of Google’s measurement capabilities.
How to Uncover Critical Content Marketing Insights Using Google Analytics
  • Inside Accenture’s $600 million content business (20:28): Accenture is betting big on its commitment to provide clients with world-class content strategies — including making the decision to open a 10,000-square-foot content studio in New York City last month. According to Digiday, the management consulting firm’s latest moves are motivated by a recent survey, which found that 90% of senior marketers believe that a company’s C-suite — not agencies — should own its content. Robert feels this is a dangerous carrot to dangle in front of marketers, since it positions content operations as a commoditized service, rather than emphasizing the importance of quality in the equation.
This Week in Content Marketing: Get Ready for Content Studios to Become a ‘Thing’
  • Facebook cripples ad blockers while giving consumers more control over the ads they see (29:20): Facebook is implementing new settings that simultaneously make it easier for users to customize their ad experience, while making it harder for ad blockers to work on the site. As reported in AdAge, Facebook’s preferences will now show users which advertisers are targeting them, and present them with the option to stop receiving ads from those brands. While I’m always encouraged when social media motivates advertisers to create better content, Robert views this effort as an uneven exchange, as only a very small percentage of users are likely to access the new controls.

Image source

2. Sponsor (35:36)
  • Content Marketing World: Don’t miss the marketing event of the year, taking place September 6-9, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. Join brands like LEGO, Bank of America, and Google, as well as other industry thought leaders, as they share insights, advice, and practical tips to help you address even your most complex content marketing challenges. Register to attend and use code PNR200 to save $200 off the price of registration.

3. Rants and raves (38:16)
  • Robert’s rant: Robert struggled to comprehend the conclusions drawn in this eMarketer article, in which a study by Forrester Consulting tries to correlate the automation of content creation with benefits like greater engagement, loyalty, and emotional impact. He reiterates his above-mentioned concerns about the growing commoditization of content, and asserts that leaps of logic like this may be responsible for the mistaken impression that marketing success could really be engineered with a set-it-and-forget-it level of precision.  
The Future of Content Creation Requires Humans Not Robots
  • Joe’s rant: Live video chat platform Blab has closed its doors with little fanfare — and even less advanced notice to its users, according to this post on MarketingLand. Beyond the implications this might have on the live-streaming video space in general, I consider it to be yet another in a long line of cautionary tales about the dangers of marketing on a platform your business doesn’t own or control.

It’s dangerous to market on a platform your business doesn’t own or control says @joepulizzi #ThisOldMarketing
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The Seductive Power of the Dark Side [Rented Land] 4. This Old Marketing example of the week (53:31)

  • We Energies: For the better part of the last century, We Energies — a utilities provider that services Wisconsin and Michigan’s upper peninsula — has produced an annual collection of cookie recipes. The Holidays Across America cookie book comprises 51 recipes — each one contributed by a resident of a different state (plus the District of Columbia) who has personal ties to Wisconsin. What started out as a simple way to teach families to use the new electric appliances that were being introduced into their homes (which cleverly encouraged them to increase their electricity use, in the process) has grown to serve as the centerpiece of the company’s multichannel community outreach platform. Today, the cookie book is distributed to more than 200,000 community members each year; and We Energies also shares related content on its website, in its email newsletters, and across social media. The cookie book has become such a beloved tradition among families in the community that the annual release of its distribution schedule alone is worthy of local media coverage. By emphasizing a relevant activity that its audience enjoys, We Energies found a way to get people excited about using its service, and to view its value in a whole new light. It’s a great This Old Marketing example of how to enhance customer satisfaction through engaging content.

Image source

The Building Blocks of Engaging Content: Definitions, Measurements, and Advice From Experts 

For a full list of PNR archives, go to the main This Old Marketing page.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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The post This Week in Content Marketing: A Content Marketing Approach Is Strategic, Actually appeared first on Content Marketing Institute.

Forecasting crime in Rio de Janeiro, a new Marvel comic, and an Airbnb to rejuvenate a rural community

TED Blog - Fri, 08/19/2016 - 5:00pm
The TED community has been very busy over the past few weeks. Below, some newsy highlights. Crime forecasting in Rio. Before the 2016 Olympic Games, worries ran high that crime in Rio might affect the mega-event; one reported attack at the Games (which actually might not have happened) grabbed headlines around the world during the […]
Categories: Technology

New Educational 3D Printer From XYZprinting

Printer Industry Blog - Tue, 07/26/2016 - 12:36pm

In the end of June, one of the leading 3D printer producers—XYZprinting—had announced its first education-focused 3D printer—the da Vinci miniMaker. The model is beginner-friendly and aims for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics) education.

The company continues to provide efficient solutions for further integration of 3D printing into the educational environments (from grades K-12 and beyond). The printer allows to print 3D models during the real-life educational process. It will help to develop collaboration and problem-solving skills in the above mentioned subjects, spur creativity and creative learning.

The new device is based on the da Vinci 3D printer product line and features:

  • Auto-calibration providing the highest quality output.
  • Compact, but still appropriate size of 5.9″ x 5.9″ x 5.9″.
  • Lightweight design.
  • Eco-friendly and safe PLA filament, which is bio-degradable, non-toxic, DEHP- and heavy metal-free for user safety.
  • Special solutions for many years of education.
  • Access to the extraordinary XYZprinting Educational Ecosystem including XYZmaker, XYZprinting STEAM, and the XYZ 3D Gallery. It contains all the necessary information teachers and students need to create, design, and learn in the classroom or at home.
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Categories: Industry News

Vine now lets you automatically play all videos in a channel

Venture Beat - Wed, 04/13/2016 - 5:21pm

Vine has added a new button to channels that allows you to watch every video back-to-back without having to manually scroll through individual posts. This “watch” button appears next to the follow button on a channel and performs the same functionality as the “Play All” button that YouTube offers.

This update is available for both iOS and Android.

Apps like Vine, Snapchat, and even Facebook have invested an effort into getting you to watch more videos, and one solution is this “watch” button. While each clip is only six seconds long, it might be enticing enough to make you want to know what else that creator has done. This can certainly benefit Vine stars who put a lot of their resources into the Twitter-owned property. What’s more, if you planned out a series of videos, having a “watch” feature could help share that story with viewers.

With this “watch” button, could we eventually see a miniseries with six-second episodes that you can watch on Vine from beginning to end by automatically going from one clip to the next?

This is the latest option Vine has added to give viewers greater control over their viewing preferences. The app also includes a way to sort clips by oldest to newest, by newest to oldest, and by what’s popular.

While auto-playing videos, if you want to watch over and over again, just tap and hold on the screen.

More information: Get more stories like this on TwitterFacebook

Snapchat now lets you animate emojis within videos

Venture Beat - Wed, 04/13/2016 - 12:00pm

For anyone who loves to add emojis to video clips on Snapchat, the company behind the ephemeral messaging app has released an update that will make things more exciting. The feature is rolling out today for those on Android and will allow you to make emojis move, rotate, and scale automatically with the video. An iOS release is expected “very shortly.”

Emoji stickers until now have been stationary on the screen, meaning that no matter what was happening on the video, it would remain in that fixed spot on your mobile device. Now when you film a video, place the emoji wherever you want in the snap, press down on it, and attach the emoji to get it to stick.

Here’s a couple of examples showcasing the update:

Although it may seem like a minor update, this has the potential to make videos more creative. After all, a stationary smiley face doesn’t really look that good if the body it’s supposed to be “attached” to keeps moving around. Now, the video can look more polished, which in turn can lead to more views, something that Snapchat can use to appeal to advertisers and strengthen its position against rival Facebook.

You’ll need to update your app in order to get this capability.

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WordPress.com bloggers can now include share buttons for WhatsApp, Telegram, and Skype

Venture Beat - Wed, 04/13/2016 - 11:02am

Above: WordPress.com Buttons

Omnipresent publishing platform WordPress.com has gained a triumvirate of new share buttons today, with bloggers now able to offer readers easy options to share articles across WhatsApp, Telegram, and Skype.

Adding to the existing share-button options — which include sharing with the likes of Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit — this latest move makes a great deal of sense for Automattic, the company behind the hosted version of the content management system (CMS).

Indeed, WhatsApp passed one billion users earlier this year, while mobile messaging counterpart Telegram sailed past 100 million. Skype is Skype, and the Microsoft-owned communications tool remains hugely popular on both the desktop and mobile, though it only launched its share button back in November.

Above: Share this

To integrate the new buttons into your WordPress.com site, head to “My Sites,” then “Sharing” in your dashboard, where you’ll now see these three new options.

WordPress.com — not to be confused with the free and open-source CMS developed by the WordPress Foundation, which can be hosted anywhere — hit its 10-year anniversary last August. In those 10 years, it has seen 2.5 billion blog posts across 137 languages. Today, one-quarter of all websites are either hosted on WordPress.com or use the WordPress open-source software.

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2 reasons I’m optimistic about Instagram’s algorithm change

Venture Beat - Tue, 04/12/2016 - 7:32pm


If you’re one of the 400 million Instagram users out there, it’s likely that over the last few weeks some of the brands, influencers, and friends you follow began urging you to turn on notifications for their accounts so that they won’t disappear from your feed. Instagram’s rumored algorithm change, designed to bump up photos and videos from your network that it thinks you’re most interested in, caused quite the uproar. So much so that complaints about the move forced Instagram to make time to publicly respond to the rumors.

What we haven’t seen much of in the media is the good associated with such a possible algorithm change. If history is any indicator, the initial public backlash will subside, and consumers will actually learn to like the change. Whenever a social platform announces a shift, users take to their social channels to voice their opposition. Fast forward just one week, and everyone has accepted the new norm and moved on.

If Instagram adopts the rumored algorithm, the new experience will be in line with likes of its parent company, Facebook, and Pinterest. Instagram’s change would not be unfamiliar and is arguably a move to better engage consumers that want a personalized experience. Influencers, brands, and consumers should be excited. Here’s why:

1. The curated experience

With the addition of an algorithm that uses your Instagram engagement history to deliver content you’re most likely to engage with first, we will be one step closer to social media as a fully curated, personalized experience. No longer will we be subject to information overload when opening up the app. Instead of having to dig for what we’re interesting in, we’ll see photos and videos from our network that are specifically geared toward what we want to see most.

Instagram has found that people miss, on average, 70 percent of their feed. That’s no shock. Maybe you’ve had a busy day at work or are in a different time zone while traveling. The way Instagram works today, you can only see the most recent few hours of posts. If you follow hundreds of accounts, there’s really no way you can possibly keep up with all the content that goes through your feed each day. That’s why having an algorithm determine what content you are most likely to like and re-share will enhance your experience with the app. Now you can feel free to follow back that distant cousin or former coworker without having your feed be a never-ending-stream of photos of people you don’t recognize hanging out in places you’ve never been to.

2. Better targeted, high-quality content

To date, many brands’ approach to social media has felt like a “spray and pray” tactic, pushing out volumes of content and hoping followers engage — or at least pay attention. Right now, all of a brand’s followers see the exact same content stream, even if they are in completely different buyer segments. Wouldn’t you prefer to see content that reflects your relationship with the brand instead? With Instagram’s new algorithms, brands will finally be forced to think about strategy and how they can create higher quality, targeted content to specifically engage their targeted audiences. This starts by understanding those audiences, which should come as a breath of fresh air to all of us consumers.

If the algorithm takes Facebook’s newsfeed approach, which it very may well do, high-quality content that drives engagement – not posting frequency – will drive what you see in your feed. Influencers who have worked hard to create engagement with their Instagram community are likely to come out on top with this change, as they’re already receiving a high rate of engagement per post and understand their followers. That means branded content will have to work hard to land in your 150-posts queue, which in turn means more thought and data being put into brand Instagram content strategies.

Mollie Spilman is CRO of Criteo.

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Everything Facebook announced at F8 2016

Venture Beat - Tue, 04/12/2016 - 3:18pm

This week Facebook is unveiling the future of Messenger, live video, chatbots, artificial intelligence, and Internet-beaming satellites at its annual F8 conference in San Francisco.

Here’s everything Zuckerberg and team have announced so far — check back as we update this list today and tomorrow with breaking stories from our reporters on the ground at the event.

Messenger gets chatbots

Facebook announced that it’s opening up its Messenger platform in beta, allowing businesses to create chatbots for the service. This means you’ll now be able to interact with an AI-powered “representative” from a business right inside Messenger.

Read more

Livestream API opens for developers

Facebook announced a set of partners for its livestreaming product and opened up its live API, which it plans on building out in the next five years.

Read more

Facebook’s Internet-beaming satellite: launching soon

Mark Zuckerberg said the company’s Internet.org program will launch its first satellite in the next few months. According to Zuckerberg, Facebook’s Free Basics initiative has now helped more than 25 million people around the world get online. Facebook also announced a Free Basics simulator for developers.

Read more

360-degree camera / flying saucer

Facebook created (and will open-source) a 360-degree camera to capture virtual reality imagery for its Oculus Rift headset. Along with the camera, Facebook built software to stitch the footage together as a seamless 360-degree video.

Read more

Selfies in VR

Mike Schroepfer, Facebook’s chief technology officer, showed how to take a selfie of yourself and a friend inside a virtual reality 360-degree photo using the Oculus Rift headset.

Read more

Bot Engine: Teach chatbots what to say with AI

Facebook announced the beta launch of Bot Engine, a tool for teaching chatbots what to say in specific types of situations. The technology — which developers can use in association with the Send/Receive API for building Messenger bots — comes from Messenger’s Wit.ai team, David Marcus, Facebook’s vice president of messaging said today.

Read more

Instant Articles opens to all publishers

As promised, Facebook opened up its Instant Articles offering to all publishers, allowing anyone to import their content into the social network and add it directly to a user’s feed.

Read more

Antennas for improving Internet access

Facebook showed off its latest unconventional equipment for bringing better Internet connectivity to more people. There are two new projects: the Terragraph antennas for distributing gigabit Internet in densely city environments using both Wi-fi and cellular signals, and the Aries array of radio antennas for delivering wireless signals to devices in rural areas — where you don’t always get 4G LTE connections today.

Read more

Account Kit: Sign in to apps without passwords

Facebook announced the launch of Account Kit, a piece of new software third-party developers can add to apps that will let users sign in with just an email or a phone number — no passwords necessary.

Read more

A ‘Save to Facebook’ button

Facebook is making its “Save to Facebook” button — which adds content to a list of things to look at later — available for use on websites other than its own. Facebook introduced the Save button in 2014, and it has racked up more than 250 million users each month.

Read more

A button for sharing quotes

Facebook announced a new way for users to clip quotes they like on the Web and then share them in a clean and neat way in the News Feed. “We have special content types around songs and albums or fitness, like runs,” Facebook product manager Eddie O’Neil told VentureBeat in an interview. Quotes are just the newest option.

Read more

React Native will support the Universal Windows Platform

Microsoft and Facebook are announcing today that the Facebook-led React Native open source software for native mobile app development is getting Universal Windows Platform (UWP) support. The new UWP development software is available now.

Read more

Facebook’s latest AI experiments

Joaquin Quiñonera Candela, Facebook’s director of Applied Machine Learning, showed off two specific efforts:

  1. Generating captions for the things people say in videos.
  2. Identifying the people who appear in videos, so that they can be tagged, and even associated with specific times in the video, so that users can get right to the moment when a person first appears in the frame.

Read more

Twilio + Facebook Messenger

Twilio has extended its API support to Facebook Messenger, offering developers another medium with which to communicate with users.

Read more

Zuck on the future of VR and AR

Mark Zuckerberg said that virtual reality and augmented reality of the future will be accessible by a powerful gadget that looks like an ordinary pair of glasses. VR and AR are expected to become a $120 billion business by 2020, according to tech adviser Digi-Capital.

Read more

Can Facebook make social VR indistinguishable from real life?

Facebook showed how researchers are trying to make social interaction in VR indistinguishable from real life, so that you can meet with friends or see family members for the first time or go to concerts on virtual dates.

Read more

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Facebook opens its Messenger platform to chatbots

Venture Beat - Tue, 04/12/2016 - 1:49pm

Facebook announced today that it was opening up its Messenger platform in beta to let chatbots into the app. What this means is that you’re now able to interact with an AI-powered “representative” from a business within one of the largest social networks around.

At the F8 developer conference, David Marcus said that product enhancements on Messenger means that more people are using it every day. “People love to interact with businesses within Messenger,” he said. “The future we’re going to build will be even more exciting.”

Before the Internet era, Marcus stated, everything was conversational — you had to actually talk to a person to get what you wanted. Then the Internet allowed interactions at a much larger scale. The mobile era offered stripped-down versions of web content in the form of apps. But we download fewer and fewer apps; meanwhile, mobile web is frustrating, and we still call businesses time to time when we need to deal with urgent issues. In this morass, Messenger offers some good properties: instant and persistent user identity, presented in context.

To date, Facebook says, more than 50 million companies operate on the social network, with more than 1 billion business messages sent every month. This is a compelling reason for pursuing bots within Messenger.

Marcus said that the Facebook Messenger Platform allows developers to build bots for Messenger using its send and receive API: All bots will keep your identity and send and receive text, images, buttons, bubbles, and calls to action. “In order to build a great experience, you need a combination of UI and conversation. We think the combination of UI and conversation is what is going to work,” he explained.

Facebook is offering prominent user controls at the top of every thread that allows you to block specific messages or entire conversations to make sure that “you are always in control of your messaging experience,” Marcus said. There are also discovery tools that can be incorporated into websites, along with password-free login tools, which were announced earlier at F8.

To accelerate development, Facebook has also developed a bot framework built off of Wit.ai.

Some of the bots Facebook users can access are 1-800 Flowers, Hipmunk, CNN, eBay, Disney, Staples, Shopify, Salesforce, HealthTap, OwnersListens, and more. Marcus says the bot engine, documentation, and send/receive API will be available today.

Introducing AI in customer service

Facebook has been investing more resources into Messenger in the past couple of years, especially after extracting it from the core app. And what it has done certainly has propelled a massive uptick in adoption by the social network’s 1.59 billion monthly active users, with more than half of them accessing Facebook purely on their mobile device.

Chatbots are meant to engage customers in a medium that they’re comfortable with, making responses real-time instead of having to trade back-and-forth communications via email or talk on the phone. Bots could also enhance the capabilities of Facebook’s “M” personal assistant. In August, the company claimed that M “can actually complete tasks on your behalf. It can purchase items, get gifts delivered to your loved ones, book restaurants, travel arrangements, appointments, and way more.”

Is this new form of customer service going to stick for brands eager to tap into the massive audience on Facebook Messenger? Some think it’s not the right way to go because it lacks the human interaction that makes customer service personal. Call center software provider Five9‘s vice president of product marketing Mayur Anadkat told VentureBeat, “Complex customer interactions should certainly be left to the live agent who can read the situation and react accordingly.”

He continued, “As brand loyalty and exceptional customer service become the main priority for brands, companies simply cannot afford for bots to completely handle customer service and risk creating a negative experience. With that said, the live customer service representative will always have a place with the overall customer experience.”

However, Yahoo’s senior vice president for product and engineering around advertising and search Enrique Munoz Torres said that companies should embrace bots. He believes that user behaviors have changed. “Users are increasingly more comfortable with conversational interfaces, and they expect that systems will be able to handle complex requests,” he said. In addition, messaging is evolving from applications to platforms.

“These developments will definitely impact search,” he continued. “Moreover, it can drive users to ask questions that they currently would not enter into a search engine, like ‘What should I do this weekend?’. Having bots be able to address these complex questions, let alone complete the actions in a really comprehensive way, would be transformative. We, at Yahoo, find this problem to be fascinating and worth exploring.”

Taking its place in the bot race

Reports about Facebook chatbots first surfaced in January with revelations of an SDK that allows developers to build these conversational tools within Messenger.

The launch of chatbots and a live chat API comes a year after Facebook launched its Messenger platform. The goal then was to allow people to express themselves in a new way and make their conversations better. The app started off supporting deep linking within conversations, along with 40 third-party integrations that included Giphy, ESPN, Imgur, and The Weather Channel.

Above: Facebook executive David Marcus onstage at last year’s F8, with screens showing the 40 launch partners for the company’s new Messenger Platform. (March 25, 2015)

Image Credit: Facebook livestream

Facebook’s Marcus also revealed an offering called Messenger for Business. With it, users are able to communicate through Facebook Messenger with participating businesses — mirroring what WeChat has offered for a while. Marcus explained that the new service is helping people “communicate more naturally” and can “vastly improve people’s lives.”

Many Facebook competitors have adopted bot technology much more quickly, including WeChat, Telegram, Kik, Slack, Microsoft and Skype, and Line. However, with more than 900 million users on its Messenger service, Facebook’s entry could have a substantial effect on the industry.

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How to livestream Facebook’s 2016 F8 developer conference

Venture Beat - Tue, 04/12/2016 - 10:42am

Facebook developers, it’s that time of year again — the social networking giant is holding its annual F8 Conference. It will be held in San Francisco from April 12-13, and keynote adresses for both days will be livestreamed, along with some of the afternoon sessions. So even if you’re not able to make it, you can see what new products and technology CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his team unveil.

You can view the keynotes right from the F8 website or through the embedded livestream below. The keynotes for both days begin at 1:00 p.m. Eastern/10:00 a.m. Pacific.

Here are the sessions that will be livestreamed:
Day 1 (April 12)

  • 10AM PT: Keynote
  • 12PM PT: Messenger: Connecting People and Businesses
  • 12:30PM PT: Growing Your Business with Facebook Pages
  • 1PM PT: Onboarding and Account Management for Apps
  • 2PM PT: Creating Value for News Publishers and Readers on Facebook
  • 3PM PT: Deeper Insights with Facebook Analytics for Apps

Day 2 (April 13)

  • 10AM PT: Keynote
  • 12PM PT: The Technology Behind 360 Video
  • 1PM PT: Optimizing 360 Video for Oculus
  • 2PM PT: Leveraging Facebook as a Platform for eCommerce
  • 2:30PM PT: Building iOS Tooling at Facebook Scale

F8 is Facebook’s main event for marketing new features and products to developers. In previous years, it was the scene for the launch of the Facebook Messenger Platform, its Audience Network, platform updates, and more. This year, we’re expecting to hear about updates to the Messenger Platform, including the launch of chatbot supports, a new API, and perhaps more publisher-focused features and advertising tools.

Unfortunately there won’t be any Parse news, as Facebook has opted to shutter the service next year.

VentureBeat will be at F8 covering both days’ keynotes live, as well as providing additional reporting and analysis throughout the duration of the conference.

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What to expect from Facebook’s F8 developer conference this week

Venture Beat - Sun, 04/10/2016 - 1:00pm

Facebook’s F8 developer conference takes place this Tuesday and Wednesday at the Fort Mason Center in San Francisco. While the company hasn’t publicly disclosed what it’ll be revealing during its two-day event, here are a few educated guesses about what could be announced.

Bots on Messenger

There has been a lot of buzz in the past few days around support for chatbots within Facebook Messenger. At last year’s conference, the company debuted its Facebook Messenger Platform, which gives developers access to a product with now more than 900 million users. This week, we’ll likely see Facebook launch new APIs that will bring chatbots into Messenger, as well as a plugin for businesses to tap into the product.

Above: Facebook executive David Marcus onstage at F8, with screens showing the 40 launch partners for the company’s new Messenger Platform. (March 25, 2015)

Image Credit: Facebook livestream

Incorporating bot technology into Facebook Messenger isn’t a surprise, especially following revelations that developers had access to a secret chat SDK. This tool is used to develop more interactive experiences within the popular messaging app, giving users the ability to shop, book travel, and more. It also comes as competitors and similar services have thrown their support behind bots, like Line, Kik, WeChat, Telegram, MicrosoftSkype, and Slack. And that’s not all, as Google is reportedly working on a way to incorporate the technology.

But Facebook’s entry into the bot market could be the most significant because of its extensive reach, database of user information, and advertising/monetization capabilities. This will most likely take up the bulk of the first day’s keynote.

Are you down with videos?

Since video remains a high priority for the company, we will probably see some new features around 360 videos, especially as relates to Oculus Rift. Facebook’s official conference app lists two sessions focused on how developers can optimize this video type for virtual reality and how to utilize it in their own apps.

It’s doubtful that we’ll see any new announcements about Facebook Live, especially since Facebook released new features and capabilities just last week. And since its launch in August, the livestreaming service is relatively new, so finding ways for developers to tap into it could be a bit premature. However, there is at least one session at F8 dedicated to a behind-the-scenes look at video streaming on Facebook.

Instant articles for all

Above: An image of a Facebook Instant Article from The Washington Post.

Image Credit: Facebook

Facebook will open up its Instant Articles program at F8,  allowing all publishers and developers to have the social network natively host their content. Publishers of “all size” will be able to tap into this, stepping up the rivalry between Facebook’s Instant Articles and Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages program. This offers publishers the ability to bring their content to a site with not only a mass audience, but also a high rate of sharing. Even better, it’s a site that’s really optimized for mobile devices.

The company claims that it has already on-boarded a “few hundred publishers.”

Helping developers monetize their work

While the focus of this week’s event is motivating developers to build on top of the Facebook suite of tools and products, it’s also about helping them monetize their work. This means you can expect there to be a few words about updates to the Facebook Audience Network, which debuted in 2014 and extends the social network’s advertising capabilities beyond its site into third-party mobile apps.

Based on a new study the company commissioned, it’s believed that native advertising will be an essential part of the mobile monetization landscape by 2020. Research indicates that two-thirds of all mobile display ads will be native and suggests that advertisers will spend approximately $53 billion on native mobile ads. Facebook said that it has already seen this trend first-hand — its native ad format adoption has grown 10x since Q1 2015 and now makes up 83 percent of its Audience Network.

Above: Microsoft executive vice president of the Windows and Devices Group Terry Myerson on stage at the Build 2016 developer conference in San Francisco, Calif. (March 30, 2016)

Image Credit: Screenshot

Facebook will likely also announce that Windows developers can tap into the Audience Network for their apps. Microsoft executive vice president for Windows and Devices group Terry Myerson revealed the social networking company’s plans last month at the Build developer conference, saying that the Audience Network and mobile app install SDKs will be coming to the Windows platform.

Honorable mentions

This will be the first F8 since Parse was acquired that Facebook probably won’t have any major news about the service, largely because the cloud service is in the process of being shuttered.

Other things that could receive a mention include Facebook’s Free Basics and thoughts on how developers should view the platform after it’s hit some significant road bumps in countries like India. How will CEO Mark Zuckerberg continue to show that his Internet-spreading initiative can move forward?

Above: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg walks to the stage during Samsung’s press conference at the Mobile World Congress (February 21, 2016). Attendees viewed the presentation wearing Samsung’s Gear VR headsets.

Image Credit: Mark Zuckerberg/Facebook

Another big topic is Oculus VR and the company’s next steps in virtual reality. Oculus’ first product has already begun shipping, so Facebook could conceivably reveal sales numbers or speak about what it plans to do next with the technology. At Mobile World Congress in February, an image of Zuckerberg walking to the stage while attendees wore Samsung Gear VR headsets was very telling. Facebook’s CEO is enthusiastic about the power of the technology, and it will be interesting to see if the company shares more of its roadmap.

VentureBeat will be on the ground at F8 this week and will report back on the latest updates and announcements from the event.

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Twitter acquires employee feedback tool Peer

Venture Beat - Fri, 04/08/2016 - 4:35pm

Twitter has acquired Peer, an employee and manager feedback tool launched by former Salesforce COO George Hu, the startup quietly announced yesterday.

Peer sought to reinvent performance reviews and create an environment where employees could monitor their performance continuously — similar to how Uber drivers keep tabs on their rating from ride to ride.

Hu’s original launch announcement, published in 2015, sums up Peer’s mission. As fate would have it, Hu even mentions Twitter directly in the post [emphasis ours].

Peer brings the feedback revolution to work with a fresh approach to continuous feedback and performance … Feedback is social, coming from the people we work most with … Just as Twitter opens up new conversations about what’s happening in the world, and Facebook opens up new conversations around what’s happening in our personal lives, I believe Peer will open up new conversations around how we’re doing at work and how we can get better.

Peer appears to have already shut down following the deal — the company’s site no longer promotes or describes its service.

For now, we’re left with a brief teaser from Hu: “Peer is focused on driving honest conversations. Excited to see the team support the efforts of the world’s greatest conversation platform.”

“Honest conversations,” huh? Maybe this deal is Twitter’s ticket to solving (or at least somewhat reducing) its widespread harassment problem? Surely the company doesn’t just plan on using Peer to improve internal morale? We’ve reached out to Twitter for comment.

Update April 9 10:41 p.m. PT: Twitter later confirmed the acquisition. The company declined to share how Peer’s team and technology will be integrated with Twitter.

However, it appears our hunch was off: We’re hearing that Peer’s ability to analyze morale won’t play a role in combating harassment.

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Facebook now lets verified Pages share branded content from marketers

Venture Beat - Fri, 04/08/2016 - 9:13am

Facebook has announced a change to its branded content policy that will allow media companies, publishers, and marketers to now share branded content across the social network.

Branded content is defined as any post — video, text, or otherwise — that seeks to promote a third-party brand. So if, for example, a rock band was paid by Coke to mention how much they love the fizzy goodness of the carbonated beverage, this content would previously have been prohibited, presumably because things could get rather spammy on Facebook. Plus, such an arrangement would cut Facebook out of the revenue. Now, however, Facebook says that it will allow verified Pages to share some kinds of branded content, including:

  • Promotions
  • Videos or photos featuring third-party products, brands, or sponsors that differ from the Page
  • Endcards
  • Product placement
  • Sponsors’ logos
  • Posts that clearly disclose the content is sponsored or provided by a third-party.

Facebook has launched a new branded content tool — available through the Page composer on desktop and iOS (Android coming soon), Power Editor, Ads Manager, the Marketing API, and in the iOS Mentions app — that publishers must use when posting promotional content. With this tool, the company or celebrity must tag the marketer (the brand that is being promoted), so the post will look a little something like this.

Above: Facebook Branded Content: Lady Gaga

Other forms of branded content will continue to be banned, including pre-, mid-, and post-roll ads and third-party products promoted at the beginning of a video or continuously (five seconds or more) within a video. This extends into features such as graphical overlays and watermarks, which are still banned, as are promotions contained in a Page’s cover photo or profile picture.

So why is Facebook now allowing this? Well, it’s worth looking further at the caveats Facebook has put in place — it is asking that marketers be tagged for a reason. When a branded post is published, the marketer will receive a notification, and they will be given insights into how the post is performing — this includes clicks, reach, engagement, and so on. Then Facebook will offer the marketer further tools to promote the post, which then opens up more opportunities for Facebook to earn from the initiative.

“This update is something that media companies, public figures, influencers, and marketers have been asking for, as branded content is a growing and evolving part of the media landscape,” explained Clare Rubin, product manager, and Nick Grudin, VP of partnerships, in a blog post. “People will now be connected to more of the content they care most about on Facebook as publishers and influencers gain an incentive to share more quality content — of all kinds — with their fans. We know that many of our partners have existing partnership deals with marketers, and this update gives them the ability to extend their branded content business onto Facebook.”

Branded content is an age-old marketing technique, going way back to the earliest soap operas — they are called soap operas because many of them were sponsored by soap-making companies. But even in the modern Internet age, branded content is common, be it through BuzzFeed advertorials or something else. Brands have long paid celebrities to tweet promotional content, usually bypassing Twitter’s coffers altogether. And Facebook is now allowing the practice too, albeit it with restrictions and an assurance that Facebook will do its best to get its cut.

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Facebook showing live videos in trending topics with new video search coming to mobile

Venture Beat - Thu, 04/07/2016 - 1:38pm

Facebook isn’t done making it easier for you to find live videos on the social network, both on desktop and on mobile. The company announced today that it has updated its search capability to help you discover when someone is broadcasting live. Facebook Live videos that become popular will be listed under the site’s trending topics, and the company is building out a dedicated search experience for its mobile app.

This week, the company launched new features for Facebook Live, including the ability to broadcast right into Groups and Events, and added filters and Reactions. It also debuted a “Facebook Live Map” on desktop that gives people the opportunity to discover livestreams around the world, as well as a dedicated place on Facebook’s mobile app.

As the company continues to double down on its video efforts, it’s looking to Live videos as a great opportunity — but that could be ruined if people can’t discover broadcasts they’ll find interesting. The inclusion of Live videos in trending topics certainly highlights what’s broadly interesting, especially a livestream put on by a celebrity or centered around a major event such as the Republican National Convention, the Olympics, or global protests.

Facebook already sends you a notification when someone you’re connected to or follow broadcasts — and now this notification will highlight what else millions of people may be interested in, extending a video’s reach. The company says a new indicator will appear to let you know when a “relevant Live video is available for a Trending topic.” A “small handful” of Live videos will appear in this area for now.

For mobile, Facebook plans on launching a place dedicated to just featuring Live videos. There will be a search component, but not everyone will have it right away. However, the company explains that you’ll just have to type a few keywords into the search bar at the top of the screen and you’ll see videos that Facebook thinks matter to you. Only public videos and those that have been shared with you will be displayed.

In a way, this capability really formalizes Facebook’s video efforts: It offers a centralized place where you can see a library of videos you’re interested in or have recorded yourself. This puts YouTube squarely in Facebook’s sights, since you can also explore different channels such as recipes from chefs or beauty tutorials — all in a push to encourage original content on Facebook.

Updated on 5:13 p.m. on Friday: This post has been updated to clarify that Facebook’s Live video search component hasn’t been received by everyone yet. In addition, it will display public videos and those that have been shared with you.

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900M monthly users strong, Facebook Messenger gets codes, usernames, and links to help you connect with anyone

Venture Beat - Thu, 04/07/2016 - 10:19am

Facebook Messenger was once a simple private messaging feature within the main Facebook app. But in 2014, the company made the unpopular move of chiseling Messenger out from the main experience, meaning that friends required two separate apps. Then, at its F8 developer conference last year, the social networking giant unveiled plans to expand Messenger beyond simple messaging and into a platform — one that powers myriad third-party services.

Today, Messenger is really starting to take on a life of its own with the news that Facebook is introducing a triumvirate of new features designed to make the messaging app the default communication tool for everyone.

Messenger Codes are, well, codes within the Settings tab in your profile that let anyone else scan from their own Messenger profile to start a conversation. Yes, this could be the end of business cards as we know it, as it negates the need to mess around with pen/paper, misspellings, typos, and all the rest. Messenger Codes equates to instant connections. And yes, it’s just a little bit like Snapchat.

Above: Messenger

And even if you’re not standing next to the person, and you’re not already connected online — making it possible to share one of your little codes — you can share links and usernames directly, either through SMS, in an email signature, or wherever.

Above: JasperMarket

While this all has significant ramifications for personal communications, it will also have a sizable effect on businesses, who will find it easier to connect with customers through the social network now that they will be able to share a Code in an online or offline ad.

Facebook is also now making Page usernames more prominent in both Facebook and Messenger — they will soon show up directly on a Page under the main title, rather than hidden away in the URL. But the username will also be preceded by the “@” symbol, which may cause some confusion if a company is marketing its Facebook username rather than its Twitter handle.

Above: Messenger Greetings

In related news, Facebook is also rolling out customizable greetings, called Messenger Greetings, which are essentially notes from a business that show up in a message thread. A greeting could say something like: “Hi Paul, Thanks for connecting with us, we’re here to answer any questions you may have.”

Today’s announcement comes one week after Facebook and KLM airlines announced a partnership that will allow KLM travelers to receive flight confirmations, boarding cards, reminders, flight status updates, and customer service directly through the Messenger app. While it wasn’t the first commercial company to sign up to Messenger in this way, KLM’s global size and scale made the news a notable milestone in the platform’s evolution, and it will likely be the first of many such partnerships to come to fruition.

If there was any remaining doubt (which there wasn’t, really), it’s clearer than ever that Facebook is vying to own just about every communication conduit there is, and in the process could go some way toward stifling telephone numbers, email addresses, and business cards. But the bottom line is that not everyone wishes to communicate through Facebook, and all this recent news means is that it may become much harder to avoid doing so in future.

Facebook also announced today that Messenger now has 900 million monthly active users (MAUs), up from 800 million back in January. At this rate, Messenger should pass the magic billion mark around July.

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