As predicted in our 2016 year-end review, 2017 is off to a sprint with new social platform updates that continue to mimic some of the most successful products on other platforms. Across the social landscape, this borrowing of ideas and products has blurred the lines between platform roles, causing marketers to now prioritize the roles of platform features versus that of the platforms themselves. Overall, updates made at the end of 2016 and thus far in 2017 have revealed two trends: 1) Evolved Live Experiences and 2) The Shift to “Features First”.
Evolved Live Experiences
Platforms continue to introduce new immersive formats with live experiences. 2016 revealed an increase in streaming options across platforms for cultural events like sports (the Super Bowl) and politics (presidential debates). 2017 continues to showcase competition amongst platforms to bring live content to their users, but it’s also favoring additional opportunities for brands with new media placements and updated creative opportunities that allow for a more polished and premium experience.
Paid opportunities make the live format more viable (and valuable) for brands
In Q4, Facebook introduced Mid-Roll & Ad Breaks for live video, which allows advertisers to place ads within live content when a publisher initiates an ad break. Similarly, Instagram announced Ad Breaks that allow ads to appear in between Instagram Stories from friends, family and content creators. These ads act more like commercials than normal sponsored social posts as they give brands who do not have the opportunity to capture real-time content a chance to take advantage of live streaming real estate.
Adapted Creative Formats
Facebook Inc. understands that users, brands and publishers are using Live in different ways, and continues to roll out new mediums to tell stories effectively.
- Facebook Audio-Only Units: For brands who may not have access to real-time visual experiences like radio stations, podcasts and published authors, Facebook introduced Live Audio as a way for these brands to share live content that is relevant to their audiences.
- Instagram Live: Knowing that some brands have larger and more engaged communities on Instagram than Facebook, users and brands can now stream via Instagram Stories.
- 360-Degree Live Units: Facebook and Twitter both released 360 Live capabilities, combining two emerging formats to create the most immersive experience currently possible in social.
- Higher Quality Content: YouTube introduced the ability to create high-quality and more immersive live content in HDR, 4K and 360 4K and Twitter announced its Periscope Producer product that allows brands to stream high-quality live content from streaming software, hardware encoders, and professional cameras directly to Periscope and Twitter.
Offline Experiences Online
Other platforms like Pinterest have begun to bring offline experiences online in a way that is relevant for their community. With Pinterest Lens, users can now snap a photo of a product in real life and are served related pins in real-time. While there are currently no ad products associated with Lens, current brand content has the potential of being served as a result of a Lens search and additional marketer and e-commerce implications are inevitable.
The Shift to “Features First”
Over the last few years, social marketers have communicated the importance for platform roles in ecosystem mapping and how they are necessary to best reach client’s business objectives. Though understanding of platform audiences and functionality are important, the roles of platforms are becoming more blurred as they continue to borrow (or steal) products from each other. The most obvious example of this is Instagram’s adoption of Stories last August. The trend continues with Instagram’s replication of Snapchat’s customized Stories – Instagram Stickers – and Facebook’s replication of Snapchat by including a camera within its Messenger product and testing Stories in Ireland.
The progression towards social sameness throughout 2016 pushed platforms to create new and slightly differentiated features, so that most can now deliver against multiple objectives throughout the consumer funnel. For marketers to remain nimble in today’s changing landscape, campaigns and content should focus on feature benefits in conjunction with how the target consumer uses the platform. To reflect this change, we have updated our ultimate platform cheat sheet to reflect the four categories of popular features and the offerings per platform:
Features designed to capture attention through creative and interesting storytelling.
Features designed to elicit action, such as driving to a website or more content.
Features designed to engage people through real-time content and capture cultural events or moments.
Newer, innovative features that offer cutting-edge technology that can elevate the brand as an innovator/first mover within the social space.
This cheat sheet should be used by marketers when deciding which platform to activate on (who is on it), how they should relate to their consumers (how people use it), and what type of content they should create based on business objectives and purchase funnel.
Amy Donnelly, Social Marketing Supervisor at 360i, Valentina Bettiol, Social Marketing Supervisor at 360i and Marie Goldstein, Social Marketing Manager at 360i, contributed to this post.