What Does a Social-Media-Meets-Virtual-Reality World Look Like?

Now that Facebook has placed a $2 billion bet on the future of virtual reality, many are left wondering just what an alternative universe might look and feel like on social media.

Last month’s acquisition of Oculus, Facebook’s second multi-billion-dollar deal in as many months, has likely done more for the perceived value and viability of virtual reality than any moves prior. With Facebook’s resources and obvious interest now at the ready for Oculus, the speed of innovation and go-to-market strategies for virtual reality should rise on all fronts.

Facebook and VR

But why Facebook decided to enter the virtual reality market in such a big way now and what it could possibly be planning is largely unknown. While previous acquisitions like Instagram and WhatsApp served to solidify Facebook’s dominance in social media, its visions for Oculus are even more grandiose.

The company is now playing the long and short game with equal fervor — a mix of offensive and defensive moves that could keep Facebook growing tomorrow and well beyond a decade from now.

"I think in this play for virtual reality and social media, Facebook is trying to overcome a few things that are becoming a glaring pain point for them," says Mike Templeman, CEO at Foxtail Marketing. Declining engagement and the sense of guilt many feel over their time spent on social media both had a big part in Facebook’s decision to buy Oculus, he says.

"When people socialized on Facebook there’s that stigma of you’re not interacting in the real world," Templeman adds. Bringing virtual reality into the picture would boost engagement and remove some of that anti-social stigma almost immediately, says Templeman.

"You would be entering an alternative reality with a social experience," he says. Ultimately, that sense of altered reality could give users a more compelling reason to come back regularly.

Facebook Ready for the ‘Platform of Tomorrow’

In describing his reasons for making such a massive bet on a still unproven technology platform, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said he believes virtual reality is the foundation for a “new social platform.” Now that more than 1 billion people are using Facebook’s mobile apps, the company is “focusing on building the next major computing platform that will come after mobile,” he told investors during a conference call.

"Imagine enjoying a courtside seat at a game, studying in a classroom of students and teachers all over the world, consulting with a doctor face to face, or going shopping in a virtual store where you can explore and touch the products you’re interested in, just by putting on goggles in your own home," Zuckerberg says.

"By feeling truly present, you can share unbounded spaces and experiences with the people in your life. Imagine sharing not just moments with your friends online, but entire experiences and adventures," he adds.

Science Fiction Becomes Social Reality

Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe says the opportunity for a social experience in virtual reality was not something he expected early on, but the potential pairing became more obvious as the platform grew. “Virtual reality definitely sounds like something out of science fiction, but science fiction has a habit of becoming fact,” he says.

Technology’s long dance with history also has shown that those visions of a more connected future go through many changes on their way to becoming reality. As such, what virtual reality may look like five years from now could be very different than what’s possibly today.

"You’re going to see faces, you’re going to be able to move through space and people are going to lose themselves," says Templeman of Foxtail Marketing.

"I think it’s actually a scarier prospect getting into social media… Socializing is what people live for, it’s what they strive to have," he says.

The Makings of a Marketer’s Dream

"We pay right now for a square inch of space on a person’s monitor and we pay really good money for that. In the virtual reality world you’re going to engage with consumers in a whole new way," he adds. "If people are going to be living and socializing in a virtual reality world it’s a marketer’s dream."

Chris Roberts, a senior consultant at the design and development firm Cambridge Consultants, says virtual reality has the potential to bring our interaction on social media closer to real life by fully immersing ourselves in the same environment as the people we’re interacting with online. While virtual reality has tried and failed to get off the ground in decades past, he believes the ongoing advancements in technology will help elevate virtual reality to a more widely adopted platform.

"Your conversations would no longer have to be analog, as they are now, but become digital and occur on multiple levels as participants join the conversation and add facts and opinions to it based on the conversations and discussions at hand," says Alan Guinn, managing director of the Guinn Consultancy Group.

"This is a fascinating topic and is only as limited as one wants to make it," he says.

When people first experience a fully immersive virtual reality world they get goosebumps, says Iribe of Oculus. “You see how big this could be, and how social it is, and the impact it could have on other industries.”

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Facebook’s Declining Organic Reach a ‘Real Nightmare’ for Marketers

Facebook can’t be faulted for following the same path as other mass media channels that came before it with regards to advertising, but there are many marketers who are still hoping for something different this time around.

Over the past couple weeks numerous reports have surfaced indicating a sharp decline in the organic reach of Facebook posts. The slowdown is nothing new. In a short pitch for ads in April 2012, Facebook calculated the average organic reach of page posts at 16 percent of all fans.

So what’s changed? A survey last month of more than 100 brand pages by Ogilvy concluded that “it’s only a matter of time” before the organic reach of content published by brands is “destined to hit zero.” The analysis found that organic reach of those brand pages was hovering at 6 percent, marking a 49 percent decline over a four-month period.

The organic reach of brands with more than 500,000 likes was barely hitting 2 percent in February, according to the Social@Ogilvy report.

"Right now we’re very mad at Facebook," Dave Martin, Ignited’s senior vice president of media, said earlier this week at the Mobile Media Summit. "The reason we’re so mad at Facebook is because Facebook won’t allow us to share content with our followers and fans as we could a week ago."

Pay for Play? No Thanks

The pay-for-play option isn’t exactly paying off in spades either, he says. Now when Ignited purchases ads for its brand clients on Facebook it “takes longer and costs more than it ever has and our engagement scores go down,” says Martin.

Worse yet, because there’s so much uncertainty about the genuine interest of many brands followers, far too many ads are simply “reaching people that don’t even care,” he adds.

"It’s become a real nightmare because your fans and likes can’t even find you in some cases," Martin says. "When I post to Instagram I have a much better idea of how many people I’m going to reach."

The rules have changed and as a result agencies now have to spend more money for their clients on Facebook, says Mike Vaccaro, chief client officer at Digitaria.

He says he wants to believe that the ongoing changes to Facebook’s algorithm are not driven by financial interests alone. Of course Facebook wants to make as much money as it can, but it also wants to give users the best experience possible, he says.

Dancing Between User Experience and Revenue

"It’s their world and we live in it — and we have to adapt to it," says Vaccaro.

While frustrating, these changes aren’t all bad for marketers. The declining organic reach of page posts on Facebook could present agencies and brands with new opportunities elsewhere. On the whole, this is good news for other social networks, says Martin.

"I think we’re going to kind of see a resurgence" in marketing on other platforms, he says. "We’re going to see a lot of advertisers migrating into other channels and testing with more dollars."

Because so many changes to Facebook have been met with concern or outright dismay by marketers, one could wonder how fast the sky is really falling now. However, this latest outrage also enjoys the backing of new data from various research firms.

A Window Opens for Other Social Networks

"Brands and agencies are now openly talking about their discontent. Every day I talk to brands that are disillusioned with Facebook and are now placing their bets on other social sites," Forrester analyst Nate Elliott writes in a research note.

Some marketers are coming to the conclusion that “the paid ads Facebook encourages them to buy often lead to fake’ fans generated by like farms,’” he adds.

Ignited’s Martin shares these concerns. “You can buy fans and followers and likes incredibly cheaply, and the more cheaply you buy them the less they’re worth,” he says. “That can’t be the only thing you’re looking at& I’d rather have 1,000 fans that are worth $50 each instead of a million fans that are worth a penny each.”

The proper response to these changes, according to both analysts and marketers, is to develop a wider social media strategy. The capability to build large communities of engaged fans was a “critical aspect of Facebook’s early appeal to marketers” and many brands have invested millions toward that objective, writes Marshall Manson, managing director of Social@Ogilvy for Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

"Facebook Zero is a reality now facing every brand and business with a presence on the platform," he adds. "Action is required, and specific decisions will need to be made with regard to content planning, paid support for social media activities, audience targeting and much more."

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Google Plus Outperforms Twitter (Really)

Google Plus naysayers, especially those in marketing, may want to give the platform another look, according to a new report from Forrester.
While Google’s answer to the social media boom is still only one-quarter the size of Facebook, its user base is on par with Twitter and even more popular than Instagram or Pinterest, the firm reports.

For all the criticism lobbed at Google Plus, there is still a significant payoff for marketers who engage on the platform. And the benefits go well beyond the widely reported lift in search optimization that few companies other than Google can provide.

Google Plus Doubles the Engagement of Twitter

Forrester looked at the social profiles of 50 leading brands and found that while Facebook delivers the most fans, the companies have also collected an average of 90 percent as many followers on Google Plus as they enjoy on Twitter. Moreover, the engagement rate for those companies’ pages on Google Plus receive nearly double the rate of likes, shares or replies as Twitter.

The average number of fans on Facebook for those top brands surpassed 9.2 million, according to Forrester. Twitter is hanging on to a slight lead in followers over Google Plus with an average of 836,924 followers or about 85,000 more than Google Plus among the top brands surveyed by Forrester.

Despite being called a “ghost town” last month by The New York Times, Google Plus is larger than Twitter and delivers almost twice the engagement rate. In its latest report, “The Case for Google Plus,” Forrester also calculated the number of user interactions with brands’ posts as a percentage of each brands’ fans or followers.

Google Plus Almost on Par With Facebook

Facebook delivers an engagement rate of .073 percent to Google Plus’ .069 percent and Twitter’s .035 percent, Forrester reports. Google’s social network is almost on pace with Facebook despite a significant gap in activity and interest among users.

As of November 2013, each Google Plus user spent an average of seven minutes on the site while Facebook users were enthralled with the world’s largest social site for more than six hours on average, according to Nielsen data cited in Forrester’s report.

A subsequent survey of 60,000 U.S. residents by Forrester found that 22 percent visit Twitter and Google Plus at least once a month, but both are still well behind Facebook’s 72 percent.

With those numbers it’s no wonder why 82 percent of the top 50 brands maintain Facebook fans while only 64 percent maintain a presence on Google Plus. Those brands also post on Facebook 56 percent more often than they post on Google Plus, Forrester found.

That lack of activity among users doesn’t have as negative an impact on marketing pursuits as one might expect. “Google Plus can deliver bigger audiences and deeper engagement than you think — and even offers marketers clear advantages over Twitter,” Forrester analyst Nate Elliott writes in the report.

Elliott encourages companies to begin syndicating content from Facebook to Google Plus and to make a better effort to promote their presence on their home page and wherever else they might include links to other social networks. This missed opportunity is not limited to small or less savvy companies, he adds. Neither Disney nor Nike link to Google Plus on their homepage, but in Disney’s case its Google Plus followers are already engaging more often than its Facebook fans or Twitter followers.

"The bottom line?" Elliott writes. "If you’re not actively marketing on Google Plus, it’s time to start."

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Why CIOs Shouldn’t Worry About March Madness Productivity Losses

The long-term benefits of an engaged workforce can outweigh company losses in productivity during March Madness. Here’s why business leaders should see these 19 days of hoops as an opportunity.

Your dreams of a perfect March Madness bracket may have gone bust, but the friendly competition among coworkers in office pools is likely hitting new heights as the tournament approaches the final stretch.

CIOs and IT managers might be concerned about all the social media activity and online viewing taking place over these 19 days of college hoops mania, but the subsequent rise in employee engagement should not be overlooked.

Prior to the first tip-off, the NCAA projected 7.7 million social media comments will be made about the tournament during telecasts. The NCAA also reports at least 1.5 billion online conversations will occur about its corporate partners throughout the tournament. Out of the 189 million viewers expected to watch games on television, online or mobile, 149 million people are expected to watch the tournament on TV at home.

Every year research firms publish fresh data about the money lost due to a dip in productivity during March Madness. With an estimated 50 million people participating in office pools this year, one firm calculates at least $1.2 billion was already lost for every unproductive work hour during the first week of action.

March Madness: Hazardous to Business or Just a Game?

"There are distractions every day at the office, but the first week of the annual men’s college basketball tournament is particularly hazardous to workplace productivity. While March Madness distractions may not alter the nation’s quarterly GDP numbers, you can be assured that department managers and network administrators notice the effect on work output and company-wide Internet speeds," John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray and Christmas, writes in the firm’s latest report.

While it may be hard to overlook those statistics, employers can be reassured that there are positive benefits of March Madness as well. These short-term losses in productivity and revenue can easily be parlayed into long-term gains for companies that appreciate the power of a more engaged and enriched workforce.

"March Madness can be a fun event. People should have fun at work and be fun at work, but being happy doesn’t necessarily mean you’re engaged," says David Fagiano, COO of Dale Carnegie Training. "Engagement is driven on an emotional level so you need to win the hearts and the minds of people. When you win the minds of people you get commitment, but when you win the hearts of people you get belief."

That can quickly translate into an even greater belief in the company’s direction and long-term strategy, he adds. “People are focused on driving objectives that they believe in,” says Fagiano.

Of course, it’s not all about happy feelings and good times. Companies with engaged employees outperform other companies by an average of 200 percent and enjoy net revenue gains as high as 50 percent, he says.

"I think you have to start with the realization that you’re not going to prevent people from sneaking a peak at 2 o’clock tomorrow or whenever," says Fagiano. "I think it’s accepting reality and building camaraderie, which will build a sense of engagement."

Building a sense of teamwork through company brackets during March Madness is a critical opportunity, Fagiano adds. “Control it, use it, rather than being afraid that it’s just going to run rampant.”

His message to IT managers and CIOs is simple: March Madness could impact as much as half of the workforce, but it’s a short window of time that can be capitalized for more long-term benefits.

Camaraderie Is Worth a Little Lost Productivity

SnappyTV CEO Mike Folgner says his company’s pool of brackets is the chatter of the office on Monday mornings. “For me it’s the camaraderie,” he says. “Giving each other a hard time is well worth any distraction or productivity that might result out of it.”

Trying to limit distraction during events like March Madness is a lost cause. “It’s going to happen either way so you might as well get some cultural bang for your buck,” says Folgner.

SnappyTV is tracking the volume of social activity around each game or moment and sharing that data with its customers. The company is also powering many of the social features in Turner Sports’ official NCAA March Madness Live app, showing users the volume of tweets throughout the course of a game and identifying spike in activity around key plays.

Twitter is also promoting social activity around the tournament with a page listing the official handles for teams in the hunt and visual map of the country that shows the top states in which users are mentioning the hashtag #MarchMadness.

You can also follow the NCAA’s March Madness account @MarchMadness and get upset alerts, channel change notices and clips from the tournament’s official broadcast partners @MarchMadnessTV.

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Inside the Shadowy World of Data Brokers

Data brokers operate in the shadows of the Internet. Most consumers are unaware or unsure how to put restrictions of their activity. In fact, one U.S. senator called these companies and their practices ‘the dark underside of American life.’

Most consumers would not recognize the names of the large data brokers that constantly collect detailed information on their finances, health and other personal information. It’s safe to say most people probably have no idea this is happening at all. Those who are aware should be shocked by the extent to which their online and offline behaviors are being sifted through for profit.

career, job, employee retention, employee satisfaction
Image credit: Thinkstock

Call it panning for gold in the digital age.

The World Wide Web has always been a vehicle for advertising, but as the Internet permeates every facet of society from our apps to our appliances its role is expanding in kind. While surfing the Web or updating social apps on our smartphones, we blindly share valuable information about ourselves often without considering the ramifications - or, in some cases, even knowing we are sharing it.

Despite these growing privacy concerns, without advertising the Internet would deliver very few of the experiences many of us enjoy today. Companies need to be profitable to survive, and for most that path to revenue is advertising. While companies like Facebook and Google capture most of their data through consumer-facing products and services they offer for free, outside firms are collecting and organizing virtually all activity elsewhere.

'The Dark Underside of American Life'

As 2013 came to a close, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) issued a scathing report about the role and unchecked power of data brokers. Following a year-long investigation by the Senate commerce committee into the collection, use and sale of consumer data for marketing purposes, he called these companies and their practices “the dark underside of American life.”

"In 2012, the data broker industry generated $150 billion in revenue. That’s twice the size of the entire intelligence budget of the United States government — all generated by the effort to detail and sell information about our private lives," Rockefeller adds.

Privacy concerns have ebbed and flowed with the rise of the Internet for decades now, but the backlash against data collection has grown more recently as consumers wake up to the reality that their personal information is being bought and sold as a commodity. Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s revelations about the wide and almost unfathomable reach of the federal government’s surveillance apparatus has only stoked these flames of discontent.

Recent reports from the likes of CBS’ news magazine “60 Minutes” are shining fresh light on data brokers as well (see video below). During that featured report, Federal Trade Commissioner Julie Brill says “your smartphones are basically mini tracking devices” that supply “the kind of information that really talks about who you are on a day-to-day basis.”

That data may include information like when someone comes home or leaves, the places or establishments they frequent and when and where they swipe their credit cards to make purchases.

"I think most people have no idea that it’s being collected and sold and that it’s personally identifiable about them, and that the information is basically a profile of them," Brill says. "Consumers don’t know who the data brokers are. They don’t know the names of these companies."

Caught in the Cross-Hairs of the FTC

By flying under the radar, data brokers have largely been able to keep consumers at bay. The sheer volume of them, which easily number in the thousands, confuses consumers and matters of privacy all the more.

The largest of these companies — Acxiom, Datalogix, Epsilon and Experian — are bridging together data from the online and offline worlds and selling it to the likes of Facebook, Twitter and others to enhance their respective ad products. The general approach is to group and categorize consumers for marketers’ online ad targeting efforts. Programmatic ads are then sold and targeted based on these profiles, which the industry insists are anonymous and not personally identifiable.

Regulators and legislators across the political spectrum are making it a top priority to investigate these data brokers and enact laws that could curtail their way of business. But as more troubling details about the operation and seemingly unrestricted reach of these data brokers come to the surface, it’s unclear what can or will be done to rein in their most damning practices.

Daniel Kaufman, deputy director for the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, says the agency is currently studying nine data brokers. “They collect an enormous amount of data and they are not consumer-facing,” he said at last week’s GigaOm Structure Data conference in New York City.

"How are they getting their data? How do they make sure it’s accurate? Who are they sharing it with?" Kaufman says. The FTC takes law-enforcement actions, and it doesn’t create regulations. However, he adds that "the commission has been supportive of legislation that would support or improve the transparency of data brokers."

The how, when and where of data collection may be perceived by many as nefarious, but the real debate begins over why. “Quite simply, in the digital age, data-driven marketing has become the fuel on which America’s free market engine runs,” the Digital Marketing Association wrote to members of Congress in 2012. That generally sums up the view of almost marketer today, and the sentiment is even more on point and agreed upon in the world of real-time marketing on social media.

"It’s become an essential part of the marketing mix," says Adam Kleinberg, CEO of Traction, an advertising and interactive agency in San Francisco. Data brokers are “becoming increasingly important because the way digital media is being purchased is moving toward the robots. Programmatic advertising and programmatic media buying is using tools that automate the process,” he says. “You enhance the targeting efficiency by leveraging that data. It’s just gotten to the point in the past few years where 30 to 40 percent of media is purchased that way.”

These profiles are directional and optimized behaviorally, Kleinberg says. The cookies that follow us around the Internet are being used to index us based on behaviors such as what we search, visit, click on or buy. “If you actually saw your data you’d think ‘wow, these people don’t know me at all,’” he says.

"The power of the data in certain circumstances is in the massive quantity and patterning that is possible. When you’re collecting across billions of data points, regardless of its accuracy, there’s going to be groups of individuals behaving the same way," Kleinberg adds.

"There is sensitive data that is collected and sold on you… What’s new is this big data that is being collected and cross referenced with those things," he says. "The reality is that most of this big data is simply being used anonymously to better target you with an ad."

Can Marketers Police Themselves?

While he freely admits “the ability to look at that individual data is a little scary,” he adds that “anyone who’s buying digital media today is buying data.”

From that the debate usually pivots around the promise of self-regulation versus the need for legal protections and regulations. Industry groups like the Internet Advertising Bureau and the Network Advertising Initiative have already developed standards and best practices which member companies must adhere to, but it appears unlikely that will remain their exclusive responsibility. Regulatory agencies and elected officials aren’t subscribing to simple notion that the ends justify the means. Legislation could be on the horizon as they aim for a middle ground.

Sharing the view of the industry at large, Kleinberg says he thinks the responsibility should come from within because regulators don’t have a deep understanding. “I think that the industry organizations are actually taking it very seriously and putting together standards that accommodate reasonable privacy restrictions like allowing people to opt out,” he says.

"I think consumers care less than we think in the moment. They care in the abstract sense," Kleinberg says. "I can’t tell you of an example where data has been abused."

To embolden the case for self-regulation, the industry needs to do more to explain what data means, Kleinberg adds. “The terms data and big data get lumped together as this big sinister beast and a lot of it is not innocuous … it’s anonymized by obscurity,” he says. “We should not rush to judge all of it without understanding that nuance.”

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Tweets About TV Programs Prove Twitter’s Earned Media Value

New industry research, commissioned by Twitter, Fox and the Advertising Research Foundation, reports that social activity around television is still mostly a live event as 72 percent of users who tweet about TV do so while watching a live broadcast.

Now that Twitter is firmly positioned in the public lexicon, it is taking great lengths to extend the reach and value of its platform to enhance television viewing.

TV and Twitter

A new study commissioned by Twitter, Fox Broadcasting Co. and the Advertising Research Foundation concludes that more than three-fourths of users who recall seeing TV-related tweets have taken immediate action by either engaging on Twitter about a specific show or changing the dial on their television to watch a show.

The study also finds that of those users who recall seeing tweets mentioning brands, more than half (54 percent) have taken action by tweeting, searching for the brand online or considering a future purchase of the brand mentioned. That elevated brand recognition from TV-related tweets will be integral to Twitter’s effective rise as a complementary advertising channel for brands already investing in TV.

Twitter Wants to Add Value to TV

"We know that Twitter is a complement to TV for audiences, and we’ve seen that running Twitter media alongside TV media drives greater TV ad effectiveness. This new research helps us better understand the role earned media plays in driving cross-channel effectiveness. It’s great to see more evidence that Twitter is driving results for brands and TV networks," Jeffrey Graham, global director of advertising research at Twitter, said in a prepared statement.

Twitter

The study conducted by research consultancy db5, “Discovering the Value of Earned Audience — How Twitter Expressions Activate Consumers,” reports that 76 percent of users who recall seeing TV-related tweets have searched for a show while 78 percent have taken action on Twitter, such as clicking on a show’s hashtag, following the accounts of TV talent or retweeting.

The survey of 12,577 Twitter users also finds that 77 percent have taken action to watch TV show content.

In terms of actual TV viewership as the result of related tweets, 42 percent report making plans to watch the show later, 38 percent watched episodes online and 33 percent have changed the channel to watch the show. This type of immediate action is even more heightened among users who live-tweet during a broadcast.

"This research has allowed us to understand and quantify the real value of the enormous volume of tweets generated by our shows and our brand partners every week," Judit Nagy, FOX’s vice president of analytics, said in a prepared statement. "The level of engagement, activity and perceptual impact we’re seeing from these results far exceeds what we’d expected, and that’s really good news for networks and brands alike."

TV Activity on Twitter is Mostly a Live Event

The research also suggests that social activity around television is still largely a live event that plays out in real-time. The majority of users who tweet about TV (72 percent) do so while watching a live broadcast, 60 percent say they tweet about shows when they are not watching them and 58 percent tweet about shows while watching them on demand or on time-shifted platforms like Hulu, iTunes, Netflix or Amazon.

Actors and other talent from shows are the most preferred source for TV-related tweets with 40 percent of users saying they prefer to see tweets from an actor or cast members.

Meanwhile 26 percent prefer being exposed to tweets from friends and family, and just 18 percent prefer seeing TV-related tweets from the official show handles. The long tail of TV-related tweets reaches beyond Twitter as well, with 60 percent of those surveyed saying they took immediate action on other social platforms.

For the survey, db5 recruited 12,577 users on Twitter.com and the official mobile app over a two-week period. To help ensure a random and robust sample of individuals for its report, the firm says participants were queried within 24 hours of prime time activity on Twitter.

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Yahoo CEO Talks Mobile, Advertising and Tumblr

In a keynote before leading advertising and marketers professionals, Marissa Mayer details Yahoo’s growth on mobile and its new advertising options — and talks up Tumblr.

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — Like her counterparts who have arrived at other older companies, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer prides herself on having pushed her team and the products they build into the world of mobile. For Yahoo the march to mobile always appeared to come begrudgingly over years of fits and starts.

Marissa Mayer

"When I came to Yahoo one of the weaknesses was that mobile was everyone’s hobby and nobody’s responsibility," she said earlier this week at the annual 4As conference. The company now has close to 500 product engineers and managers working on mobile and “you can feel that in terms of what we’re developing,” she says.

Mobile Half of All Monthly Active Usage

Yahoo is tracking at least 400 million monthly active visitors on mobile today, up from 160 million a year ago, Mayer says. That’s out of 800 million monthly active users on Yahoo’s core network, an audience that’s also up 20 percent year-over-year.

While the company still declines to publicize its daily active user numbers, a metric widely adopted by its competitors, Mayer says Yahoo maintains one of the largest audiences in the U.S. with more than 200 million users visiting the site at least once a month.

"We’re also really focused on time spent. We’ve seen time spent growing on the core Yahoo network as well as Tumblr," says Mayer, adding that Tumblr is approaching a 300-percent year-over-year gain in time spent on mobile alone.

Outside of mobile, Mayer is also directing the company’s attention and making large investments in search, mail, social media, native advertising, video and digital magazines.

Yahoo as a Digital Daily Habit

Indeed, Mayer has talked about making Yahoo a key digital daily habit for a growing user base ever since she joined the company in the summer of 2012. Even before she arrived, Yahoo already encompassed finance, news, sports, entertainment, email and search, among others. “All things that people have done every day for the last decade or two,” she says.

While the leading brands and advertising agencies in attendance certainly care about how many users their ads might reach on Yahoo, Mayer says she is acutely aware that “what you want to understand from an advertising perspective is who you’re reaching.”

Yahoo

One way to gain those insights for advertisers is the persistent identity. Mayer has decided to remove alternative log-ins for the site and only support Yahoo accounts going forward, a move that she says gives Yahoo the best chance to do right by its users and advertisers. Persistent IDs also enable content customization and resolve many potential privacy and security concerns, she says.

"Streams are a modern paradigm. People are becoming more and more accustomed to this never-ending stream of information," says Mayer. "What a stream does is allows us to present as much information as the user asks for and present it in a personalized way."

Those streams also play a big part in Yahoo’s burgeoning suite of programmatic advertising options, including an ad exchange and ad manager that will be launching in the coming months, she says calling the offering “the first of its kind in terms of a unified marketplace.”

Tumblr Ads Deliver Promising Numbers

Of course no interview with Mayer is complete without getting her latest thoughts on Tumblr, a company Yahoo acquired for $1.1 billion last May, and moderator GroupM’s Chief Digital Officer Rob Norman did not disappoint.

"One of the most exciting pieces about Tumblr is the fact that it’s such an amazing canvas for storytelling," she says. "Tumblr is the home of the world’s creators, but there’s nothing as creative as advertising."

So in that forum of creativity with more than 150 million blogs today, how are ads performing? “The average post on Tumblr gets re-blogged 14 times,” she says. “The average sponsored post on Tumblr gets re-blogged 10,000 times.”

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Why C-Suite Executives Need to Shine on Social Media

Most CIOs and other C-suite executives have at least a LinkedIn profile, but social media requires much more these days. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and others are no longer exclusively personal, but also reflective of your role in the larger organization.

Like it or not, your behavior on social media says a lot about who you are and what you value in your personal and professional lives. Striking the right balance between being savvy and career-minded on social media is more important than ever before.

Social Media and CIOs

While the initial wave of engagement on social media sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter was dominated by early adopters and technology enthusiasts, there is a pressing need now for C-suite executives to enter the fray.

High-level executives have much to gain from their activity on these sites, but experts tell CIO.com that they should follow some general tactics and practices to achieve those goals and elevate their careers in the process.

"Social media is here to stay and it’s getting more dominant all the time in the sense of how our global community is informing itself of everything from invasions in Crimea to new products," says Colin Moor, a partner at career consulting firm Essex Partners. "You can’t ignore this, you have to start to embrace it."

Stop Worrying and Learn to Love Social Media

In his experience working with senior executives on career transitions, Moor says he has seen a wide divergence between seasoned clients who have worked with marketers and others to craft a solid strategy and those who don’t even have a LinkedIn profile.

"There’s still a surprising amount of hesitancy to get on board," he says, adding that his most cautious recommendation for those who have that inhibition is to start with LinkedIn. "Most of your discomfort about the things you worry about will be ameliorated pretty fast," Moor says.

"Today an individual’s LinkedIn profile is equal in importance to the traditional resume," says Moor. "You’re going to be marketing yourself on a 24/7 basis if you’re there. No resume can be that effective for you."

While there are “real tangible benefits of having a presence” on sites like LinkedIn, Moor says the initial phase can be so overwhelming that it “scares most senior executives into paralysis.” There is a full range of comfort levels with social media, but the ice breaker usually comes for latecomers once they see how many of their peers are already deeply involved across these various networks, Moor says.

A Direct Line to the Big Dogs

On LinkedIn, a senior-level executive has the opportunity to connect and communicate directly with top leaders at major organizations in their field. Moor calls those moments a “real eye opener,” particularly for those who come to him with no knowledge of social whatsoever. “About 80 percent of our success stories have some networking dynamic attached to them,” he says.

Jobs and career advancement may be the carrot that gets people to join LinkedIn, but the site has grown well beyond that into a more basic business tool for sales, marketing and networking. That reality is compounded by the fact that activity on social media is not exclusively personal, but also increasingly important and reflective of the larger organizations of which they are a part.

"The problem is most employees don’t really know what they’re doing. They’re not presenting themselves particularly well on social," says PeopleLinx CMO Michael Idinopulos.

Attorneys and sales representatives with unimpressive profiles can quickly destroy the credibility of their employers, he says. Employers and employees are both rising to the occasion as they grasp the importance of a smart strategy for social media, but most have no idea what they should be doing to improve their profiles and outward-facing perceptions, Idinopulos adds.

Performance-Enhanced Social Networking

"I think the biggest difference with these tools is they’re like traditional networking on steroids. It’s not like the activity itself is fundamentally different. People have always met each other in social gatherings and exchanged business cards and other information," he says. "What’s new is that people can now do it on a much grander scale than they could before."

Still, the benefits to the employer are usually secondary. “It is quite role-dependent, but in the end it all comes back to personal brand. Regardless of what my specific job is, I as an individual will benefit from having a compelling and personal brand on social networks,” says Idinopulos.

"You would never show up for work or a work meeting with your shoes untied and your clothes messed up. It’s kind of shocking that people are still willing to do that online," he says.

Must-dos and Don’ts on Social Media

Idinopulos and Moor shared the tips they give clients for the successful use of social media. First and foremost is building a compelling and complete profile. Then it’s time to build a relevant network of people you actually know who would return a call from you, for example.

After making those connections, the primary objective should be to engage your network with valuable content. At least half of the content shared should not be about you, they advise.

"I think the biggest mistake people make on social is social narcissism, just talking about themselves nonstop," says Idinopulos. "It’s just like any social interaction. People are not interested in people who only talk about themselves. Just don’t try to dominate the conversation and make it all about you."

These opportunities are made possible by a fundamental change: Professional marketers are no longer the only professionals with access to business marketing tools, he says.

"That means that the way companies represent themselves, their product, their service, their talent, their brands, all of that is moving to a much more decentralized model where the world revolves around the individual employee instead of revolving around the marketing department."

Source cio.com

Facebook Rolls Out Video Ads, Takes Aim at TV Networks

After months of testing, Facebook launched its premium video ad product yesterday. The opportunity for a massive windfall in new revenue helps explain why Facebook was so deliberate in testing the efficiency and reaction to the ads.

Facebook finally launched its video ad product yesterday in its quest to bring more TV ad dollars into the social graph. After numerous delays, Facebook appears confident that the new auto-play video ads won’t disrupt users’ flow on their news feeds.

As TV advertising budgets move online, Facebook stands to be a major beneficiary of that shift. That undeniable opportunity for a massive windfall in new revenue helps explain why Facebook was so cautious and deliberate in testing the efficiency and reaction to the ads prior to a wider rollout.

Facebook says its working with a select group of advertisers for now and that users will begin seeing the ads in their news feed on mobile and desktop over the coming months.

Facebook Keeps Ads on Mute

The 15-second video ads will automatically play without sound as they appear on the screen and stop once a user scrolls past them. The ad unit also includes a full-screen view with sound that users can access by clicking on the ad.

Defaulting to a muted auto-play video ad follows the same advertising approach taken by Instagram and Facebook hopes it’s enough to not turn off too many users in the process. Facebook officially began testing the premium video ads in December.

In a pitch deck that Facebook presented to large advertisers at the time, it highlighted data that showed Facebook reaching a higher percentage of 18 to 24 year olds in the U.S. than each of the four major TV networks. With an average reach of 70 percent during primetime viewing hours, Facebook beats the scale of those networks by at least 9 percent or as much as 15 percent, according to the widely leaked presentation.

Facebook also claims to have a greater reach than TV networks among 25 to 34 year olds by as much as 160 percent during daytime hours and up to 38 percent during primetime.

"It’s just all about the reach and being able to give them really good insight into who they’re reaching," says Seth Shafer, research analyst at SNL Kagan. Facebook’s average daily and monthly audience numbers are large enough to get the attention of any advertiser, but the company’s ability to also target and segment those audiences is what sets it apart, Shafer adds.

Hey, I Saw That on TV

Indeed, much of Facebook’s playbook for video ads follows the same framework that advertisers are already accustomed to on television. It’s primarily those TV ad dollars, an industry that approached $70 billion in the U.S. last year and almost $200 billion globally, that Facebook has in its sights.

TV networks are “already eager to place big investments around their fall season,” but the film industry has been less enthusiastic, David Lawenda, head of Facebook’s global marketing solutions, said last month at the Digital Entertainment World conference.

"Premium video ads are bought and measured in a way that’s similar to how advertisers already buy and measure ads on TV," Susan Buckner, product manager at Facebook, writes in a blog post. “The ads are bought based on targeted gross rating points to reach a specific audience over a short period of time. Delivery is measured by an independent third party, Nielsen online campaign ratings (OCR), and advertisers only pay based on what Nielsen OCR measures.”

Gross rating point is a metric used by advertisers to measure the size of an audience reached within a certain window of time. Facebook’s video ads fall under that practice with deeper targeting capabilities that will enable advertisers to slice and dice the groups of users they reach with any particular campaign.

The auto-play video ads will reportedly cost anywhere from $1 million to $2.5 million per day, but Facebook hasn’t confirmed those numbers. Shafer of SNL Kagan isn’t making any projections about how much revenue Facebook stands to gain from video ad sales, but believes the company’s mobile advertising product is a good benchmark.

Video Could Be Good (Very Good) to Facebook

Over the course of 18 months, Facebook went from zero revenue in mobile to a roughly $1.2 billion per quarter business today. “I can’t see any reason that video ads wouldn’t do at least that,” says Shafer.

Facebook’s meticulous approach to its video ad offering will go beyond the initial launch and execution. The company has tapped Ace Metrix to assist in reviewing all ads before they get the green light. “Ace Metrix will allow us to objectively measure the creative quality of the video in the Facebook environment, and highlight performance indicators for advertisers such as watchability, meaningfulness and emotional resonance,” Buckner says.

In what she describes as a “limited introduction” with a “smaller number advertisers,” Facebook will continue taking steps to ensure that video ads are high quality and delivering the best experience possible.

"They’ve taken a lot of pains to make it as painless as possible," Shafer adds. While Facebook can barely blink without getting negative reactions from at least some of its 1.2 billion users, there has yet to be any correlation with a drop-off in usage following the introduction of new ad products in the past.

Source cio.com

Social Media Getting More Spontaneous and Less Personal

Deliberate status updates are losing luster as quick, impromptu, short-lived activity on social media gathers momentum. If the first phase of social media was a massive effort to share our online identities, this current wave is all about fleeting encounters.

Social media is a fickle activity. The more we do it, the more our practices, attitudes and aspirations for its use change. While users generally play to the audience they’re reaching on these channels, they’re also gravitating from one outlet to another to stay fresh and engaged with the growing world around them.

The era of developing our own deeply involved digital profiles mixed with a buffet of social updates canvassed with media is slipping. Detailed status updates are losing luster as quick, impromptu (and even short-lived) activity on social media gathers momentum. Deliberation is giving way to anonymity and more ephemeral activity.

For every Friendster and MySpace of the world, there’s a Facebook nipping at its heels ready to take it down. Although Facebook has become what is undeniably the largest and most powerful Internet-based communications medium ever, it’s success has given rise to the likes of Twitter, Snapchat, Secret and dozens if not hundreds of others. So much so in the case of WhatsApp, that Facebook was compelled to buy the rapidly growing company for as much as $19 billion.

Many of today’s hottest social apps serve a more spontaneous function. Snapchat gives its users the capability to share photos in real time and set a time limit for how long those “snaps” appear (no more than 10 seconds) before, the company claimes, they are removed from the recipient’s device and Snapchat’s servers.

Whisper and the latest Silicon Valley phenomenon Secret let you anonymously share text with a photo or pre-loaded background. These apps are all incredibly simple and designed around the premise that you will share more when you are unassociated with you identities and perhaps even less afraid to share too much.

"Mobile lends itself to much shorter, much more snack-able and fleeting encounters of all types," says Rebecca Lieb, analyst at Altimeter Group. “We’ve gone from the broadcast model to the PC model, now we’re at the mobile model… and it’s changing the way content is created and consumed.”

Any quick glance at your timeline on Secret will attest that these apps don’t live in a vacuum either. The long-form and feature-heavy experience of Facebook shares little in common with the simpler and more intuitive impulsiveness derived from apps like Snapchat. Perched from its headquarters 400 feet from the boardwalk in Venice, Calif., Snapchat reportedly spurned a pair of acquisition offers last fall from Facebook and Google for $3 billion and $4 billion, respectively.

The growing inclination to use more of these spontaneous apps is driven by a trend that goes beyond social media, says Lieb. Living in what could be termed an attention-deficit society, “we definitely tend to be in the Cliff Notes version,” she adds. Social activity on Whisper, Secret, Snapchat and others is not just fleeting, but also unpreserved.

"There’s a trend towards we don’t need to keep it, it can go away," Lieb says. "We’ve had this expanding social graph, maybe we’ll have a contracting one."

Spontaneous Apps No Threat to Facebook

While the popularity of more spontaneous apps is rising, analysts are by no means writing off Facebook and its ability to remain relevant and in high demand. “I don’t know that Facebook needs to combat this. It is additive. I don’t think Snapchat represents a threat to Facebook,” says Lieb.

Seth Shafer, associate analyst at SNL Kagan, says there might be valid reasons to predict Facebook’s demise, but its audience base and number of active users keeps growing without fail.

"People still seem pretty willing to juggle multiple accounts and services and apps, and aren’t necessarily deleting their Facebook account to spend more time on Snapchat or Vine," Shafer says.

Facebook’s Instagram and WhatsApp acquisitions certainly exemplify a growing comfort or willingness on its part to own and operate complementary properties that may not have to be fully integrated after all. If the first phase of social media was a massive effort to bundle our online identities, this current wave is all about the unbundling of those menus upon menus of features.

Twitter Carves Out a Role

"We live in a world where we know there are going to be multiple social services. It’s not the case that one app or one use case wins over the other. Each one carves out a use case and tries to do that job better than anyone else," says Twitter CEO Dick Costolo on the company’s latest earnings call. Users see Twitter as "the place to go for real-time, in the moment conversation and discovery," he says. "We’re the only platform that’s public, real-time, conversational and distributed."

Costolo tells investors he doesn’t have “any particular religion about whether that means we need to land at one of the continuum or other on specific use case apps or not. I absolutely think that it could be the case that there are capabilities we want to integrate into the core service that we think could do better if they had an accompanying single-use app to go alongside them.”

Costolo’s point about there being multiple winners in this space is already shaking out well for companies like his, Facebook, LinkedIn and others. While controversy, drama, breaking news and second-screen interactivity may reign supreme on Twitter, social media users often turn elsewhere for validation on a more personal level. Where are you most likely to announce your coming nuptials or the arrival of a newborn? Facebook. Looking for a new job and seeking to expand your professional network? LinkedIn.

Social Media and Deep Thoughts Don’t Mix

Social media isn’t always cause for celebration or dismay, of course. By its very nature, there will always be expectations unfulfilled. Even the most personal updates may not render the validation expected by users who opened their heart or cried into their beer while sharing their thoughts or latest achievements.

"There’s no way to make something more personal than putting yourself in the story," says David Berkowitz, CMO at New York-based agency MRY. But because the social conversation is happening more instantaneously, people who share their inner-most thoughts in longer formats shouldn’t expect many people to read or engage.

"The real-time dimension is not to be sneezed at," says Lieb. Despite these changes that favor the fleeting moment, Berkowitz argues that users are putting far more effort into building their profile and outward appearance than ever before.

Social Media: No One Knows Why

"This is something that people are manicuring, even optimizing on a daily basis," Berkowitz says. "Now people have options that they just didn’t have before … this is such a work in progress" in which billions of people are effectively learning by doing. "Most people, if they’re really pressed to it, probably don’t know why they’re really doing this in one place or another," says Berkowitz.

"There’s really nothing sacred right now, so it’s possible that anything we think of as permanent and enduring, may or may not be able to make that leap and stay relevant," he says. "There’s always been this push and pull of how much of this water cooler effect people want" with social media.

While Facebook and Twitter have grown from consumer-facing sites that now also deliver key business and marketing tools for brands, their younger counterparts are still leaving those options on the table. Some brands have begun experimenting on Snapchat, but there’s no indication that it will move beyond the trial-and-error phase soon.

The company’s executives have hinted that future revenue may come in the form of in-app purchases and some form of native advertising, but nothing has been announced yet. These apps are all determined to focus on growth for the foreseeable future, but if they follow the trends they could just as quickly become tools for marketing as well.

Social media gives users the tools to create customized media and entertainment, but ratings for major live events on television have never been higher. In today’s world and tomorrow’s, social apps “all have to figure out what itch they scratch,” Berkowitz says.

Whether that’s keeping things extremely private, anonymous and fleeting, or a combination of all three, the growing popularity and efficacy of spontaneous social apps is well underway.

"There’s room for several players in this space," says Berkowitz. "But nowhere near how many players are in the space right now."

Source cio.com