This month I hosted a session at The Guardian’s annual technology and media-focussed conference in London. The aim of my masterclass was to demystify, explain and contextualise Snapchat’s role in the world, and in the marketing mix for brands and agencies.
The presentation I went through is below and whilst lots of the content was delivered verbally, there are lots of useful stats, examples, best practice and case studies for Snapchat marketing in there.
If you have any questions about any of the content, or need professional help with your digital marketing drop me an email or tweet me @willfrancis
Remember Myspace? (I have to say that now when I intro myself to new people — my years working there are still a key part of my career history).
More importantly, can you remember the countless millions of teenagers who learnt HTML so they could ‘pimp’ their pages?
Kids Were Coding on Myspace!
That is unbelievable in retrospect. We got kids learning to handle (if not completely write) code just so they could make glitter fall down their page and have sexier buttons in their ‘contact box’. They knew how to open style tags, albeit simple ones like <b>, and then close them</b>.
Parents of course thought they had finally lost their young. They were witnessing their kids type and paste pure gobbledegook into boxes in some very confusing admin panel. Kids made their Myspace profiles resemble a sort of digital bedroom wall, plastered with a mess of everything they were into, and everyone they were associated with.
Confusing to ‘Olds’
The more I work with Snapchat (in my capacity running London creative digital agency Harkable), the more I’m struck with how this is the first platform since Myspace to appeal to kids largely because it bewilders and even scares their parents.
Even at my tender age I can still remember the sheer confusion the first time I used Snapchat. This of course was closely followed by a more composed, professional criticism of the UX (user experience).
The Thrill of the Dangerous
Just knowing you could send absolutely any kind of photo or video to anyone on Snapchat is in itself exciting.
Everything there is out of the gaze of authority. Seeing their parents’ horror just makes it all the more fun. And so it was on Myspace, you could be anyone and do anything. There were serial killers and sex offenders but we all accepted that the entire human spectrum was represented there, before everyone left for Facebook that is.
Is Snapchat Destined for Decline?
So the big questions looms. Can Snapchat avoid the fatal death spiral that Myspace disappeared into so rapidly? Ultimately the odds aren’t in their favour.
The only reason Facebook and Twitter have stuck around is because:
their general utility — messaging, groups, events, photos, news
their unprecedentedly high levels of adoption across all demographics — i.e. your grandparents use it, people in places with less access to technology use it
integration across the web and the wider media landscape — Facebook ‘like’ buttons on websites, hashtags in TV shows etc
Will my Mum really get on Snapchat before the youth leave for something new? Will it replace current forms of private messaging like email and WhatsApp? Can it really become woven into our other media experiences such as surfing the web and watching TV?
Seems unlikely but then the entire premise of the app would have sounded bonkers five years ago, so don’t write them off completely.
So Many Users, So Little Money
The big challenge for them will be monetisation. They are the classic example of the social media startup having boomed in user numbers, only to be faced with the task of turning that into a profitable business.
They currently sell vertical video ads (portrait video as opposed to the traditional landscape) which are inserted in between Stories and Discover, kind of like TV ads. They trialled sponsored lenses — augmented reality animated overlays for selfie photos and videos — but have discontinued that for now. There’s no self-serve ad buying platform, and agencies are struggling to justify significant media spend because of the lack of any robust analytics, other than reports on views and reach.
Snapchat’s Future Is Not In Mass Market
They’ll need to bring a much more rounded advertising offering with the ability to target ads and report on exactly what the money achieved.
But like Myspace failed to do, they’ll need to keep its core users interested. And rather than trying to attract that wider demographic, it might mean keeping mum and dad a little bit scared of it.
Today I’ve started using social media again after a month-long hiatus. It wasn’t a January detox thing, more just that I got busy writing a book, realised I’d been absent from Twitter, Instagram et al for a while and decided to round it up to a month and see what the effect on my personal, social, professional lives were.
1. I got lots of stuff done
The obvious outcome, but it was having lots to do that caused my hiatus in the first place. Having to burn through stuff every day meant everything else became deprioritised, and having social media pages open soon felt counter-productive.
2. But I still found ways to procrastinate
When researching stuff it’s so hard not to get lost down rabbit holes of fascinating yet useless information. Clicking through news articles, Wikipedia and Google Books can wipe an hour out before you know it. These are ultimately good rabbit holes though, rich with knowledge. For instance, when researching cognac (all will become clear why soon!) I read all about the phylloxera epidemic. Did you know that almost all European vineyards were wiped out in the late nineteenth century by an accidentally imported aphid from America? The only solution was grafting resistant American vine roots onto European ones and consequently there are almost no genuinely ‘Old World’ wines. Pretty useless info but one of many interesting passages in recent history which I lost hours to whilst researching this book.
3. I felt less connected to people
Much as I loved being left alone to get on with stuff, I started to feel further from people. I realised that I have several acquaintances (ex workmates and the like) who I rarely, if ever see face-to-face. But because we like and comment on each other’s online stuff, it feels just as real a friendship as if we regularly bumped into each other. Some people are really curmudgeonly about this aspect of social media. But what the “if I want to speak to someone I pick up the phone” brigade forget is that I would never pick up the phone to these acquaintances, and sadly, without social media we would fade into each other’s past.
4. I ended up switching off all notifications
To really switch off from social media you have to switch off notifications on your computer and phone. And once you’ve silenced social you may as well stop that iPhone game from telling you when new levels are available and all the other useless distractions we’re subject to, including email. Whether having a coffee with a friend or trying to write so many hundred words before dinner, just doing one thing without distraction felt so good and calm. Try it, it’s pretty liberating to be allowed to forget it all.
5. How much I had to talk about with friends didn’t change
I’ve heard a lot of social media skeptics say that the newsfeed robs you of conversation when you meet friends because you know all about their life already. I think that’s totally untrue and in fact the opposite is more likely. Seeing a few photos from your Italy trip is more likely to spark a conversation rather than negate the need for one.
6. No-one missed me
I know, believe it or not, not one single person messaged me to see if I was still alive, or alright. Obviously I’d seen and talked to the people I know best, but it puts your contribution to the wider world in perspective when you realise that tweets about your everyday life aren’t particularly important. I’ve always been pretty keen on giving value in my content, like useful links and pretty images, but the last month has hopefully made me step up my game!
7. Overall, I still think social media is a great thing
We knew that anyway, but standing back for a second makes us realise that just as the power of books can’t be dismissed by quoting the existence of dross like – How to Poo on a Date: The Lovers Guide to Toilet ,Etiquette, the power of the open internet cannot simply be brushed off with a mention of the pointlessness of Buzzfeed and lolcats. It has opened up previously unthinkable channels for discovering art, connecting with almost half the world’s population, giving a voice to us all and hopefully one day facilitating the prevail of reason and peace.
So many social media sites, so little time. This is my plan for keeping on top of it all, and getting more out of your social media life.
Breakfast – catch up and schedule
Get the latest on what’s happening and find shareable content with Digg Reader for news and blogs, YouTrends for the latest trending videos, Reddit for trending funnies and Twitter for the big conversations globally or in your area. Instantly share the most interesting stuff using Buffer (and its brilliant Chrome plugin), which staggers your updates throughout the day. This keeps your Twitterand Facebookfilled with good content, taking the pressure off in case you have a busy day.
Lunch – respond and engage
This is when everyone jumps on Facebook and Twitter so a good time to check in on the ‘big two’. Use TweetDeck to view Twitter and respond to engagement from your Buffered posts – thank any retweets and mentions with replies or favorites. Then have a scan for any recent developments worth commenting on or adding to your Buffer.
As you’re probably at a computer, this is also a great time to show some love on Pinterest, trawling through your feed to find great images to like and re-pin.
Dinner – longer reads
Chances are you’re in the majority that have flirted with Google+ but don’t use it regularly. I find that people get great value out of it once they start, so get the ball rolling by posting something and actively joining a conversation in a Community relevant to you or on your timeline, every afternoon. It’s a heavily American audience so early evening is a good time to start posting if you’re in UK/Europe.
This time is also when a lot of commuters are bored on the train, reading Twitter, so your Buffer should have a few scheduled slots between 5pm and 7pm. A good time to post links to well-written content (like the best stuff on Medium, for example)
Supper – prime time conversations
The peak of social media traffic in the week is always at around 8pm, in line with TV’s prime time. Conversation on Twitter is largely driven by real-time conversation around TV, so if you’re watching a popular show get tweeting about it with the hashtag, make any witty observations and retweet other people’s. Share relevant bite-sized content on the topic such as memes – as opposed to long blogs or videos.
If you’re really keen, now is a good time to put a few things in your Buffer so you have content going out to followers in other time zones while you sleep.
It goes without saying you should try to maintain your weekday activity where possible, especially the ‘breakfast’ and ‘supper’ ones, but here are some weekend-specific to-dos:
Saturday – capture your moments
Typically the quietest day in social media as people spend the least time at screens on Saturdays, instead opting for shopping, seeing friends and doing stuff around the house. This is however when you’re likely to do your most interesting stuff so take lots of pictures with your phone’s camera app, and then Instagram them both on the day and later. Think of your fun weekend activities as opportunities to capture photos for use throughout the week.
Sunday – putting time into bigger content pieces
In opposition to Saturday, Sunday is traditionally the busiest day online, particularly in the mid-afternoon post-lunch lull. It’s when the most people are online, they have the most time and are most relaxed – meaning the best content to put out here is long-form content such as blogs, articles and videos. It’s also when you have the most time to properly produce and promote it. Write a blog post or record your video blog or podcast in the morning, post it in the afternoon and then take the time to promote it across all your platforms. Beyond putting links with great hooks such as questions or counter-intuitive statements (e.g. Why Drinking is Good For You, Could Drinking Really Be Healthy?) generate conversation where possible through reaching out to passion centres of the topic e.g. tweet at influential people in that sphere asking them what they think, go to the Google+ Community or sub-Reddit and ask people there what they think. Remember to not take a promotional tone, but a human and conversational one.
Twitter – follow new people, @mention influencers and keep an eye on your Buffer analytics to learn what’s working and what’s not. Use ManageFlitter to find new people to follow and clean out your Following list if bloated.
Blog – at least one post per week, but always as many as you can manage. Use Google Analytics to see what worked and where traffic is coming from.
Pinterest – find new boards and people to follow to keep your feed fresh. Pin cool stuff from around the web (sites like Tumblr, FFFFOUND!, editorial and interest-specific sites).
Review your blog theme and any widgets you’re using. Is everything up-to-date? Is your bio still true or relevant across all networks? Do you still have links to sites you’ve abandoned?
Use ManageFlitteror Klout to chart your growth on Twitter and in social media over the year.
Most of all, have fun and enjoy it. I don’t get round to all of the above but now I’ve actually written it down in this post I’m going to start trying! Let me know any useful habits of yours in the comments below!
Today, the movie TPB AFK (The Pirate Bay – Away From Keyboard) will be premiered online, free to download and even re-edit under a Creative Commons Licence. Filmmaker Simon Klose has spent the last four years following the founders of The Pirate Bay through its legal struggles, technical issues, and ongoing battle with some of the most powerful corporations on Earth. There’s a good interview with him on The Verge.
The Pirate Bay is still the go-to place for downloading movies, songs, software and literature, all for free, for millions of internet users worldwide. Even in 2013 it is still the only means of obtaining much of the major studios’ catalogues because of the relatively small selection still available on streaming services. But the Swedish site also stands for something more than freeloading off the creative industries, they have been fighting the much wider cause of net neutrality – the idea that the internet should be the same for everyone and not controlled or selectively throttled by ISPs, corporations or governments.
2012 saw the tipping point for online movie watching. More movies were watched legally online than on physical media such as DVD and Blu-Ray, which is a huge story for services like Netflix, LoveFilm, Sony Playstation et al. But even though the movie industry is finally waking up to the reality of the digital age, The Pirate Bay and sites like it still offer the convenience of choosing a film and knowing you can download it in full for free within an hour. I’ve always been a big believer in the convenience factor being much more significant than many people consider. Whereas most observers assume illegal downloaders just love a free ride, successful businesses such as Netflix, Kindle and iTunes show that if you just make it easy people will pay the price of a couple of coffees for a film, book or album because it’s still very good value for money. There’s also the quality assurance and nice feeling from supporting art too of course.
Hopefully, 2013 will see entertainment media even easier to access legally and give us less reason to resort to torrenting, proxy IPs and illegal streaming services etc, so the idealists behind The Pirate Bay can get on with the really important business of campaigning for an open internet. Worldwide. Neutral. Forever.
The Independent listed their ‘voices of 2011’ today, highlighting the non-celebrities on Twitter who are ‘setting the news agenda’. Pretty stoked to learn that I’m included in the Technology list. Being listed alongside the other eight in that list is an honour indeed 🙂
Here’s the presentation I gave this week at The Hospital in London, showing my take on how the digital world is changing and why this constant change shouldn’t scare us but rather is an endless source of opportunity.
Here’s the presentation I gave and below is the full video of my talk:
On 10th March 2011 Facebook will upgrade all pages for brands, companies and organisations to a new version of Pages, bringing the design in line with personal profiles which were upgraded in December 2010. For details about the changes read my last blog post here.
‘Static FBML’ tabs, with which you could quickly add extra tabs containing basic HTML to show text, images and videos are being phased out so that you won’t be able to create them after Thursday. This means adding a simple Welcome tab like the ones above which introduce new visitors to your Facebook page (and encourage them to click ‘Like’) is about to get a little complicated. Here’s my step-by-step guide to the easiest and quickest way to create a ‘Welcome’ tab:
Create an image 520px wide and a maximum of 800px high with your Welcome message on. As in the examples above this can include a strong call to action to ‘Like’ the page. You can start with this very basic Photoshop template and save in a new folder called ‘welcometab’.
Open your text editor of choice (Notepad+ for Windows, TextWrangler for Mac perhaps?). Add the following code into a new document replacing my ‘http://yoursite.com/welcometab/IMAGENAME.jpg’ with the address of your own image:
<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Transitional//EN"
<html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml" xml:lang="en">
<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html;
margin:0; padding:0; border:0;
<img src="http://yoursite.com/welcometab/IMAGENAME.jpg" alt="Click 'Like' to get started" border="0">
Save this as fbwelcome.html in the ‘welcometab’ folder and upload the folder and its contents to your FTP.
Visit facebook.com/developers. If it’s your first time here you’ll need to add the developers app, which you’ll be prompted to do. Then hit the ‘Set Up New App’ button in the top-right of the page.
Name your new app ‘Welcome’, click ‘Agree’ and hit ‘Create Application’.
On the next screen describe your app and add icons for it. The icons are important because without them you will see the default ‘gears’ logo next to the app’s name wherever it appears around the site. You’ll need a 16px x 16px image and a 75px x 75px image:
Enter your other details such as email address and support URL and then click ‘Facebook Integration’ in the left-hand menu…
This is where you point to your iframe. In the ‘Canvas’ section just enter your iframe URL in ‘Canvas URL’ e.g. ‘http://yoursite.com/welcometab/’, select ‘iframe’ in ‘Canvas Type’ and move onto the bottom half of the page…
Enter the name as you want the title of your Welcome tab to appear and then in ‘Tab URL’ enter ‘fbwelcome.html’ and click the ‘Save Changes’ button:
You’ve now created the app and should find yourself on the app developer dashboard looking at an overview of your new app:
Click ‘Application Profile Page’…
On this page click ‘Add to my Page’ in the left-hand menu and in the overlay that appears click the ‘Add to Page’ button next to any of your pages to add your new app:
Anything to add? Think there’s an easier way? That’s what the comments are for 🙂
On 10th March all Facebook Pages – i.e. pages which are not for personal accounts but for brands, businesses and organizations – will be upgraded to a new style consistent with personal profiles, with a picture gallery across the top and ‘tabs’ now linked to in the left-hand navigation menu as opposed to across the top. You can manually upgrade now at facebook.com/pages/status
The key things you need to know if you run or contribute to a page are:
Use Facebook as your page
This new feature allows you to take on the persona of your page as opposed to your personal identity. You can go around liking, commenting and interacting as the page.
One way you can exploit this is through joining conversations on similar pages. So if you’re a guitar shop you could go and join in conversations about guitars on Fender or Jimi Hendrix’s page to gain exposure in relevant communities. I expect to see this feature abused in the near future and it will be interesting to see how Facebook deal with this.
Notifications and a newsfeed
Once you’ve switched to using Facebook as your page, when you click the Facebook logo or ‘Home’ you will see a newsfeed as normal, but now it won’t be your personal one containing updates from your friends but rather the page’s newsfeed containing updates from other pages you have liked whilst using Facebook as that page.
You will also see different notifications. Again, instead of your personal ones they will all relate to activity on the page you are using Facebook as.
Photo gallery at the top of the page, ‘tabs’ and liked pages on the left
Once you upgrade the first thing you will notice is the new layout. You have the photostrip at the top just like on your personal profile which displays photos you have uploaded as that page (it does’t include photos uploaded to your wall by users), and the ‘tabs’ (can we call them tabs now? Maybe they’re ‘subpages’ or just ‘apps’) are linked to on the left, with pages you have liked (whilst using Facebook as your page) listed below. You can also feature any number of admins who run the page should you wish to bring out some human personality into the page.
Iframes and the death of FBML
This is in my view the biggest change by far, but a technical one and so possibly the least discussed amongst marketeers. In short, your existing Static FBML tabs will be safe (and updatable) forever, but after 10th March you will not be able to add the FBML app to create new ones. You will have to create a Facebook app and insert an iframe into it. Sounds scary, but whilst definitely more time consuming than the old Static FBML tabs it’s a bit easier than it sounds. I’m currently writing a tutorial just for you, so hang tight and stay tuned 🙂