Twitter, Hope, Aspiration, Ambition and Future

Twitter is undergoing a lot of transformation and changes to their marketing strategy to target smaller businesses rather than just making Twitter an open market for large businesses (read big spending brands) through their ad service such as Promoted Tweets and Promoted Accounts, which allows advertisers to promote themselves to relevant users (Xbox and Rockstars Games are the brands to follow on one of the first case studies here).

Twitter’s new CEO Dick Costolo is working on a self-service ad tool, which will allow smaller businesses to advertise on the site on a smaller scale, letting them take advantage of targeting different possibilities such as location and through location based services. This will basically allow businesses to promote ads based on who/where their followers are.

Twitter’s Current Trends
Twitter’s co-founders (Biz Stone and Evan Williams) yesterday appeared at a chat moderated by Business week, addressing issues and vision for Twitter’s future. The short story here is that the co-founders are extremely comfortable with the growth of Twitter and the developments within the advertising space of Twitter. The co-founders, despite met criticism, made it very clear that Twitter clearly labels tweets or trends that are advertising, making it easier for their users to distinguish between what’s what, and what’s not. However, at the same time (funnily enough) they made a point of stating that Twitter is a blend of advertisement and non-advertisement content and it’s a place for commercial content to appear as part of Twitter’s content.

The Upcoming Trends
The great thing about Twitter, which is part of their vision, is to become an indispensible service for spreading consuming information worldwide.  Let me highlight here: consuming information. Well, apart from the fact that the word ‘consuming’ is up to the users to define, another thing mentioned at the chat was this remark: “I want to ask you to name another platform where you can send a message to 5 million people for free”. Well, Twitter CEO, we are in 2010, and new things are developing at a very fast pace, and this attitude is great and at the same time limiting, as 1) they are incorporating advertisement into their consuming informative space, and thus sending a message to 5 million people isn’t exactly 1) easily accessible to all and 2) free for larger businesses who are using Twitter’s promotional services and 2) the next big thing might just take everyone by storm, and being cocky about your services doesn’t exactly make you reek of good karma. I love Twitter, but refuse to believe that it’s the best thing that’s hit us yet; that is still to come.

However the next step Twitter is taking is one I’m very excited about, as it gives marketers amazing opportunities. As Twitter develops and as advertising becomes a more integrated and sophisticated part of their service, targeted advertising becomes accessible and available through advertising based on topics and for example through spread of tweets. The possibility of finding your target audience through that and not necessarily knowing them in the research phase actually becomes a reality and gives and allows space for growth and experimentation in campaigns as they roll out. Yay! Exciting stuff!!

The Newbie On The Block
On to more new things! Another interesting development taking place, and definitely one to watch is Status.net which is an open-source micro-blogging site, but more importantly, an alternative to Twitter. Status.net are partnering up with ABC News Radio, who are ready to jump on to the social media wagon, and promote themselves through platforms that reminisce Twitter, Facebook and applications. Dan Patterson (digital manager for ABC News Radio) is going to put emphasis on the interactive experience, build news distribution and audience engagement. First of all, who hasn’t thought of/isn’t doing that already, and second of all, sounds like a lot of exciting stuff going on at the moment, can’t wait to follow their development!

Instagram’s New Algorithm – What You Need to Know

IMG_8423Nearly 6 years after its initial release and 400 million users later, Instagram is fast-approaching the ad-supported dominance of Facebook. Last week, it introduced its very own algorithm, following in the footsteps of Twitter and its parent company Facebook. Whether this is an enhancement is debatable and many seem to be divided on the matter as it stands. It begins with co-founders Mike Krieger and Kevin Systrom explaining that “on average, people miss about 70% of the posts in their Instagram feed”, which may be alarming to some.

 

Twitter jumped onto the algorithm bandwagon only last month and has received its own amount of backlash from it. The fear that it will destroy live-tweeting and the key reason people love twitter is amongst the concerns. Of course, users tend to prefer what they’re used to on social networks and aren’t very welcoming to change, so this may pass.

Facebook’s introduction of its algorithm, which was due to extraordinary growth, was a much-needed overhaul of the News Feed. The fact that Facebook is bigger than the largest country on earth makes it almost essential for it to filter out unwanted posts and let its users receive the most relevant content. The question now is, does Instagram need it too?

Facebook Instant Articles was also released last year, which is a great way for Facebook to avoid the standard embedded browser mechanics that so many apps rely on. This allows users to view news more fluently by delivering a more native user experience. It also coincided with the release of the Apple News app, which has recently opened its doors to all publishers. The fact that developers are now realising the public’s thirst for news makes things extremely well-timed for the ever-growing amount of algorithms social is seeing. We need news, whether it be world news or friend news, and we need it fast – even if we missed it being posted.

 

What This Means for Brands

From a brand perspective, it is unquestionably going to become more complicated to market on Instagram. There are many visual-based brands that invest a great deal of money into Instagram to be able to reach a specific audience or age group. One example is brands paying influencers to promote their product, which has ultimately made it possible for those influencers to make a living by monetising their audience on the platform. This is achieved with a combination of brand sponsorships from companies, product promotion and follower reach. So how will it affect their livelihood? Companies will be much more demanding when it comes to requesting the influencer’s actual reach once it’s available, which will very likely decrease the amount that influencers are paid. This, in translation, means that influencers could ultimately be forced to take a pay cut with the introduction of this algorithm.

In layman’s terms, brands will be required to pay for their posts to reach their fans. This is especially true if the posts have little engagement, which exactly replicates Facebook’s model as Instagram takes its big brother’s handy advice. A key question here is, will the quality of posts increase due to content ‘needing’ engagement to push through?

Additionally, until now, brands have been supplied with little to no data on their Instagram channels. With this algorithm and a clear business objective from Facebook to increase ad turnover on Instagram, the company knows that advertisers expect something in return. The exchange is a classic eyeballs and actions for paid budgets and to prove delivery of reach and actions, Facebook will need to provide data and show that brands are getting their money’s worth.

 

Implications & Considerations

As general guidance, it may be efficient to stop thinking about news feeds as stories. A profile is a story and will probably always remain that way, but a news feed is a different beast altogether. With the algorithm, your followers might see some of your posts in their feed but far from all, making feed storytelling pretty much impossible. The challenge is to create a valuable brand presence on social that is recognizable without the context of other content.

Another discussion point is how Instagram profiles compare to Facebook profiles for brands. Facebook Pages made it easier to separate personal and brand pages, but Instagram has yet to do such a thing. Will we see something similar in the future? If so, it is sure to bring a great deal more features from Facebook to Instagram, which is undeniably the path we’re on with the two companies. Another thing to start considering is whether Instagram will eventually suppress almost all organic ads, like Facebook does. After all, having an algorithm like this can undeniably camouflage the real reason followers are missing so many posts.

Overall, Instagram is rapidly growing to greater capacities, users are posting more and we ultimately live in an algorithmic world as far as social is concerned. And as Instagram ads are managed through Facebook, they are extremely easy to target to a specific audience, which appealingly makes use of Facebook’s limitless data. These will undoubtedly merge together to form one giant supply of data and algorithms will most likely do the same. So it could be Facebook’s existing model that Instagram slowly turns into. Simply put, like father, like son.