Author Archive | Jay Dolan

The Wizarding World of Facebook Engagement

Have you seen Facebook’s Harry Potter Anniversary “Easter Egg”?

If you post the words Harry Potter, Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw or Slytherin in a Facebook update, the text will be highlighted in a branded color. If you then click on it, a magic wand will wave across your Facebook newsfeed. It’s a bit of fun for the 20th anniversary of the book series, but it hints at a new age of branded engagement on Facebook.

A Storm of Branded Engagement

Since 2016, Facebook has warned investors that it is running out space in the newsfeed for ads. While Facebook’s investors haven’t seen the full effect of that yet, Facebook has been experimenting with new ad formats across Facebook, Instagram and Messenger. All of these continue to fill the gap and Facebook continues to find ways to grow.

At the same time, for brand advertisers, the holy grail is to get people to engage with your brand and content. This is why Snapchat has been a brand advertising darling. Snapchat users spend an average of 15 seconds playing with a sponsored lens. In a world where we count a successful Facebook video view at 3 seconds, I will gladly take those 15 seconds.

Now layer in the Harry potter reactions. Suddenly, five phrases are taking over the newsfeed with color and a unique reaction. Suddenly, Facebook is learning about who has an interest in this subject and is engaging with it. Having it tied to a beloved book series and movie franchise helps Facebook to confirm its existing data set.

Reacting with Pride

Earlier in June, Facebook launched a different experiment. Users in select countries who like the LGBTQ@Facebook page would gain access to a unique “Pride” Reaction. The reaction can be used on any post or comment, just like the other reactions on Facebook. Facebook even limited the reaction so it won’t work in areas that are hostile to LGBTQ people.

As a member of the LGBTQ community, I can say that people are using the Pride reaction everywhere. It’s almost become a joke to have the pride reaction on everything, even when it doesn’t make sense. If I am Facebook, I am seeing this as a rousing success. A reaction in support of a minority community is driving more interaction and time from users, who are then identifying more LGBTQ content for Facebook. This is especially true compared to the less than stellar results that Twitter sees with its branded emojis.

Monetizing for Engagement

The way I see it, there are two ways this could go:

  1. The Google Doodle Route – Facebook rolls out features like these on a time limited basis. You can use them for a certain amount of time, and then they are “retired.” These are purely for fun and education as selected by Facebook’s editorial team. Overtime there is a new reaction or feature and Facebook will collect user data on them endlessly to better target ads.
  2. The Snapchat Route – Brands pay for the opportunity to have their name or keywords spark a reaction in the app. The branded reactions are easy to imagine. Movies, TV shows, whomever would pay to have those keywords do a specific thing for a certain amount of time. They then get the data on how many people saw it and played with it. Facebook in turn gets a better sense of who actually touches specific brands. While sponsored reactions are harder to imagine (Do you really want to “Coca-Cola” that status?), the reaction could be white-labeled, and the advertiser then finds out who is using it.

Either way is a win for Facebook. They are better understanding people so they can make more money off of them. One option even gives them the opportunity to make both short-term and long term money.

I suspect they will go with the first route. If they keep these features as time-limited and special, it helps get people into the app regularly. It also doesn’t make them seem spammy. Meanwhile, Facebook collects data about what people are actually interested in. Facebook has proven its ability to pivot and think long term. I suspect in a year we’ll look at these two features as pilots for the Facebook of 2018 and beyond.

Google to Stop Reading your Gmail to Serve Ads

G Suite’s Gmail is already not used as input for ads personalization, and Google has decided to follow suit later this year in our free consumer Gmail service. Consumer Gmail content will not be used or scanned for any ads personalization after this change. This decision brings Gmail ads in line with how we personalize ads for other Google products. Ads shown are based on users’ settings. Users can change those settings at any time, including disabling ads personalization. G Suite will continue to be ad free.

Diane Greene writing for the Google Blog.

Glad to see Google making this change, but it’s only one step. Yes, it’s creepy to have ads targeted to you based on your private correspondence. But there’s other valuable information in your email that Google still has access to. Whatever that data is and the value it holds is what’s driving this change.

Poor Twitter for Mac

How bad is Twitter for Mac? So bad that it fails to support numerous featuresintroduced with fanfare by Twitter itself. The new Mute feature, which lets you block out communications from people you don’t want to hear from without blocking them entirely? Not only can you not initiate a mute from Twitter for Mac, but I’ve found that when I mute someone from Twitter’s Web interface, many of their tweets still appear in my timeline.

Jason Snell writing for Macworld

One of the few differentiators between Twitter and other social networks is that it does have desktop apps. But if Twitter can’t support them to include the latest features, or even to work properly, then why continue to support them? These apps represent a huge opportunity for Twitter, if they can get them right.

Twitter removes 140-character limit from Direct Messages

If you’ve checked your Direct Messages today, you may have noticed that something’s missing: the limitation of 140 characters. You can now chat on (and on) in a single Direct Message, and likely still have some characters left over.

Sachin Agarwal writing for Twitter.

Remember that time you needed over 1,000 characters to express yourself in a direct message on Twitter? I sure don’t.

A Ship Full of Former Captains

Twitter added its first woman director, former publishing exec Marjorie Scardino, last year. Other directors include three of its former CEOs (co-founders Jack Dorsey and Evan Williams, as well as Costolo), a VC (Benchmark’s Peter Fenton) and several experienced operating execs (Peter Currie, Peter Chernin and David Rosenblatt).

Kara Swisher writing for Re/code.

Why Twitter can’t get anything done? Its board of directors has three of former Twitter CEOs.

I’m sure they don’t have any conflicts.

The Unbreakable Rebecca Black

Maybe more than any other 18-year-old alive, Black is all of our anxieties about oversharing online made flesh: the fact that more than 350 million photos are shared to Facebook each day and 300-plus hours of video hit YouTube every minute; the nagging sense that kids born into a world where social networking exists are worse off — when it comes to college applications, job prospects, romantic relationships. For most of us, these fears are as vague as they are persistent, a concern filed somewhere in the back of the brain near jury duty and gum disease. But for Black they’re reality. And, as luck would have it, her overexposure came just moments too soon in the history of the viral video industrial complex to translate into anything resembling a sustainable career. When it comes to making traumatic first impressions on the internet, Black is patient zero.

Reggie Ugwu writing for Buzzfeed

If Rebecca Black can make it through high school after Friday, you too can make it through your troubles.

Oh, Reddit

We didn’t ban them for being racist. We banned them because we have to spend a disproportionate amount of time dealing with them. If we want to improve Reddit, we need more people, but CT’s existence and popularity has also made recruiting here more difficult.

Steve Huffman, CEO of Reddit

Don’t worry. All the other racist, sexist and homophobic communities that haven’t caused Reddit trouble yet will still be there for all your toxic waste needs.