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With the launch of Portal, Facebook taps into the power of Voice

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Facebook is kicking-off Q4 with what could be the most-wanted product of the 2018 holiday season. Today, Facebook announced Portal and Portal+, two Alexa-enabled, video chatting devices that are designed to help people feel closer to friends and family. Over the past few years, Facebook has made advancements and investments to fulfill its mission of ‘giving people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.’ This mission paired with the smart speakers booming market (16.8M smart speakers, +187% YoY, were shipped last quarter) make Facebook’s interest in video chatting hardware a natural fit.

Portal and Portal+ are currently available for pre-order at portal.facebook.com and there are rumors of a major marketing campaign in the works. Facebook will face some stiff competition including the 6.73M Google Home speakers and ‘tens of millions’ Alexa devices sold during the 2017 holiday season. However, Portal and Portal+ will include an unprecedented AI-enabled Smart Camera, it will be an authentic extension of users’ social networks on Facebook and Messenger, and will offer more interactive experiences via premium content (Music + Facebook Watch content) and augmented reality effects.

What This Means For Marketers:

With 19.7% of US adults owning smart speakers, they are moving from “new technology” to an accepted and expected part of our digital marketing ecosystem. Portal, in particular, is challenging social marketers to adjust their strategies in new ways:

  • An Alexa-first consumer journey: Since Portal will be Alexa-enabled, it is important that brands have a strong Voice strategy to conquest any potential opportunities to educate consumers. For example, last holiday season consumers looking for cooking-related advice via Alexa increased by 9X YoY. If you’re a food brand, you’ll want to make sure your brand has the opportunity to populate as a key ingredient in what users are searching for. (Note, all video and Voice calls will be encrypted using Portal, meaning there are no current or foreseeable retargeting opportunities based on what people are talking about on Portal.
  • Defining the role of Voice and video: Over the past few years, Facebook has preached the importance of video in bringing the world closer together and their introduction of Portal is no different. While Voice technology is a key feature of Portal, it is currently only being used to convenience users. Video however is being used to create more meaningful and impactful experiences between consumers. Using Portal’s video capabilities, brands may have the opportunity to be a part of entertaining consumers and fostering greater interaction between family and friends. While this clear definition between Voice and video will live authentically within Portal, it is also something to consider as other platforms build out their audio/Voice capabilities.
  • Optimizing for a connected ecosystem: Both Google and Amazon have evolved their smart speakers into smart ecosystems and it is likely that Facebook will do the same. With consumer interaction at the desktop, mobile and now Portal-level, it is likely that consumers will come to expect more seamless experiences on the platform. For example, if a user is watching a video on Facebook, they may come to expect to share that video via a chat experience on Portal. For marketers, we are challenged with creating experiences that can be enjoyed by a single individual as well as many.
  • Forecasting Portal’s Future:

    Portal’s success remains to be seen, but its collaboration with Alexa and first-to-market augmented reality and artificial intelligence capabilities are promising. Below are a few ways we predict Portal will evolve.

  • More integration with Messenger and Facebook: As of now, Portal is Facebook Inc.’s way of making your Messenger and Facebook connections more real and ‘felt’ by users. However, if users adopt Portal more widely, it is possible that there may be further integration between Facebook’s personalization and Alexa technology. We foresee that Facebook will want to create personalized recommendations based on how they’ve wanted to use AI assistants in the past. What remains to be seen is how this mission for personalization can be married with Amazon Alexa.
  • Branded Portal Experiences: Portal is launching features that are authentically set up for brand integration (i.e. premium video content, Facebook’s Spark AR platform, Story Time, etc.). Depending on usage, it is possible that these capabilities will expand to include ads (potentially as a part of the video content distributed via Portal) as well as interactive gaming capabilities similar to what rolled out on Messenger in August. As of now, future Portal users will be able to engage in branded augmented reality filters made using Facebook’s Spark AR platform as well as branded Facebook Watch channels.
  • Heightened sensitivity around privacy: With Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal and last month’s security breach, the use of Portal will likely be under a lot of scrutiny (from the industry and users) when it comes to privacy. As Portal rolls out to users, it is likely that their promise to privacy will be paramount as they have already shared their precautions in having a single-tap disable feature, a built-in camera cover, and a four- to 12 digit passcode.
  • As marketers, there is no doubt that the smart hardware landscape is becoming difficult to navigate. That is why we’ve put together the below cheat sheet comparing Facebook, Amazon and Google for reference. You can also reference 360i’s Voice Playbook to learn more about optimizing your brand’s Voice strategy.

    Contributors:
    Marie Goldstein – Senior Social Marketing Strategist
    Amy Donnelly – Social Marketing Supervisor
    Geoffrey Cook – Associate Creative Technologist
    Alexis Moses – Innovation Technologist