This year’s F8 developers conference took a different tone. And no, we aren’t talking about the introduction of Facebook Dating. Following the Cambridge Analytica scandal, privacy was top of mind a Facebook introduced new features like Clear History, which enables users to better understand how their information is being shared with connected websites and apps and allows users to more easily remove their personal data. Facebook also reiterated their goal of community connection with new efforts to fight fake news and hate speech, improvements to crisis communications, and even the introduction of a blood donation registry in India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. For marketers, three major trends rose to the top: a focus on AR, VR (finally) becoming mainstream, and a continued emphasis on serving relevant content and encouraging sharing.
You get a new AR, and you get a new AR
What it is: In a never ending back-and-forth on ephemeral content domination, Snapchat had recently gained the upper hand with its newly released AR capabilities, which drive direct response and ease face lens creation by developers. In response, Facebook announced two major AR capabilities at F8 that once again levels the playing field:
- Introducing AR Studio for Instagram: Developers can now create Face Filters and World Effects for their Instagram followers. These filters have an opportunity for even bigger reach as Instagram users can also try out filters from friends’ Stories. This seamless sharing is an improvement over rival Snapchat’s Lens Studio creations as they rely on Snapcode usage to be used.
- AR coming to Messenger: With over 8 billion messages sent between businesses and people on Messenger a month, Facebook is rolling out the ability for brands to enhance those experiences with AR. Brands like Kia and Sephora have used the feature to share virtual product experiences with consumers that allow them to try on/out product and purchase through Messenger.
What marketers should do now:
- Consider AR when evaluating Influencer Marketing partnerships: Since AR Studio Instagram Filters can be discovered in friends’ Stories, there is big opportunity for brands to receive earned reach by partnering with the right influencers to promote and share branded filters.
- Prepare for enhanced messaging experiences: While AR for Messenger is currently in closed beta, fashion and beauty brands should plan for ways to activate this feature around key product promotions.
VR could (finally) become mainstream
What it is: When covering 2017’s F8, we acknowledged that virtual reality had yet to gain at full scale. While adoption rates are growing, usage still remains niche. Facebook’s recent F8updates could change this.
- Emphasis on 3D: Facebook announced two updates to their platform around 3D. First, users will be able to take 3D objects from their News Feed and drop them into the Facebook Camera AR with one tap. Also, users will be able to capture 3D moments on their smartphones and share to Facebook.
- Oculus Go available for under $200: With the first standalone headset from Oculus, the Oculus Go, and new features like Oculus Venues that allow you to experience live social events in VR with friends, we could see this an increase in VR purchase and adoption.
What marketers should do now:
- Plan for the new era of immersive creative: While the full opportunities of 3D integration on Facebook are rolling out, brands should plan for ways to incorporate these effects into their content strategy. Fashion brands, for example, could create 3D versions of logos and popular products for users to add to their photos. Or entertainment brands could create the next class of reaction GIFs with 3D flair.
Find and share what you love
What it is: In the wake of the Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal, Instagram has remained largely disconnected from its parent company in consumers’ minds. This is likely due to consumers not knowing that Instagram is owned by Facebook, and also because Instagram is a ‘less personal’ platform. It is a platform where it is common to follow or connect people you don’t know because of a shared interest. This behavior has resulted in two platform updates that will streamline the way users find and share their interests on the platform.
- A more organized Explore tab: Back in December, Instagram rolled out ‘hashtag following,’ which allowed users to follow a specific topic or trend (i.e. #dogsofinstagram) rather than individual content creators on the platform. To further establish Instagram as a place where users can follow their passions, the Explore tab will now be organized into topic channels based on your interests.
- Sharing to Stories: Users have used the Stories format as a digital diary to chronicle their everyday happenings across platforms. Knowing that people are living much of their lives on their smartphones and within other mobile apps, Facebook is making it easier to share your activity within other apps (i.e. Spotify, GoPro, etc.) directly to Stories (Facebook + Instagram). Whether you are an entertainment brand with streaming app or retail brand with digital lookbooks, marketers can use the Stories sharing feature to drive earned reach and authentic credibility around their brand or product.
What marketers should do now:
- Evolve your hashtag strategy: As users begin to opt to follow topics over individual profiles, it is important that brands are using hashtags that increase their chances of being discoverable. Hashtags used should be optimized for user search behavior on the platform and include minimal branding (i.e. #dogsofinstagram vs. #purinadogs).
- Optimize your mobile apps for sharing:Even though Stories is a more unpolished format, users are curating each frame. To optimize sharing, mobile apps should include content that taps into the user’s mood or mindset while using the app content that is created for the vertical Stories format (9:16).
Make it easy for influencers: Influencers have been creating their own ‘Swipe Up’ Stories templates to share products they love with their Instagram followers. Now, instead of creating these templates that may not be aligned with brand guidelines, brands can control some of what is shared by enabling this feature on their mobile apps.
Over the last few years, marketers have been battling a sea of sameness with platforms. F82018 made it apparent that even Facebook’s owned platforms are starting to look alike. For example, F8 announced AR Camera Effects for Instagram and Messenger, a capability already available within the Facebook camera suite. Similarly, Video Chat was rolled out on Instagram, a core capability of Messenger and WhatsApp. With these updates, it is more important than ever to understand where your brand’s audience is active and how they are using each platform.
Contributors: Fitz Maro, Senior Innovation Strategist and Marie Goldstein, Social Strategist