Why Facebook is walking a paid v. organic tightrope

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What many social and digital marketers will know, is that Facebook have been making some serious algorithm changes which will quite seriously affect how users interact with brands and exactly how that relationship works. One of the specific changes in recent weeks, is the auto-playing video ads on mobile newsfeeds. Ultimately, Facebook wants more tailored and more relevant content for its users, helping it to challenge its great rival, Google. Mostly, in the interim, however, it wants companies to pay more to be seen.

 

This is a particular problem which leaves Facebook between a rock and a hard place. Users need more relevant content to engage with a site, content is more than, and should be more than the number of likes a post can receive. To prioritise content like this, means that the same posts from the same pages will constantly show to the user, this adds little or no value to the page, or the like – making engagement meaningless. Brands however are spread across a wide range of activities, many rely on memes and ‘light’ content to survive and to engage with their fans. While Edgerank tries to remedy this, it still means more money needs to be pumped into a page.

 

So while on one hand you have users show the beginnings of Facebook fatigue, for want of stronger, more relevant content, on the other hand you now have brands who suddenly need to pay more to be seen. While this does force brands to become more relevant and enforces some kind of content optimisation, the problem is that Facebook offers no ‘organic’ alternative, in the same way to Google. There’s no guarantee that good and optimised content will go to the top, and even if it does, it’s finite. Google organic search means that a page can remain at the top for quite some time, based on the relevancy of its content.

 

While as a marketer, it makes my job more difficult, requiring me to dig down much more into my analytics to make sure that content is constantly relevant, and reduces the ability and latitude to post in a more ad hoc manner for engagement, as a user, it ultimately benefits. The harsh reality is, that while many brands are funny and do rely on engagement on short posts or ‘memes’ there’s a badly needed exercise within Facebook to clean up the newsfeed. Google might be the big competition in Facebook’s mind, but increasingly younger users are going to other platforms, like Twitter and Kik to find answers and network. These are not spaces where relevant content is more rewarded, but places where it doesn’t always matter so much.


While brands and agencies might not like it (the idea of asking for more money is never nice), Facebook is changing its algorithm to stay as relevant as possible in a market increasingly moving towards a more contextual and content oriented search method. Users when loading Siri or Google Now, expect content to be relevant, they expect that the first page or the answers these apps come up with to be exactly what they wanted and have content that relates to this. In order for Facebook to stay competitive in this space, it has to make brands think about what they say and better understand who their users are.

Facebook buying WhatsApp, the ‘Sink or Swim’ strategy

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Heads are still swivelling from the monumental sum of money which has been put against WhatsApp in the last 24-hours by Facebook ahead of their purchase of the company.

To put it in perspective, as I touched on in a previous post; WhatsApp has been valued at $19billion, with 50 employees is now worth more than both Sony, United Airlines and Gap all of whom have significantly more resources. Not only that, but it’s 450 million users now send more messages per day than the global population send SMS. It’s also comfortably now bigger and more valuable than Twitter.

But there’s some key things to take out of this purchase, Facebook is facing a tough future, one in which smaller more niche social networks are starting to steal its thunder and most importantly, revenue base. The giant now, more than ever is facing a battle to remain relevant in this new social landscape. Part of the strategy to remain relevant is nothing new, Google, Apple and Yahoo! have been doing it for a long time; go on a spending spree.

Mark Zuckerberg made an intelligent move when he bought Instagram, it was an investment which is still to bear fruit – but one which ensures that Facebook has a future separate to its own platform, continuously able to target the young consumers that are spending online and communicating there natively. The purchase of WhatsApp is the next step in marketing to an audience which just never took to Facebook Messenger, or the Facebook phone.

Ultimately, Facebook aren’t just trying to reach users, they’re trying to reach people like me, those who spend money advertising to the users, to make their $19billion investment back and turn a tidy profit. There’s an argument that such huge investments can be harmful to small networks, but WhatsApp has the benefit of already turning a profit. The prospect of this marketing opportunity isn’t exactly unappealing.

Facebook already allows a hugely granular method of advertising and promotion, largely there’s still a problem of reporting and results – simply put, investment from large brands in social advertising is still in its infancy and the idea of paying for your content to be seen by fans doesn’t always appeal, especially compared to a more robust AdWords by Google, who allow for much more detailed tracking and reporting, as well as revenue where that’s important.

WhatsApp from the point of view of brands who want to advertise is pretty cool, there’s a lot Facebook could do with the service, beyond integrating it with pages, perhaps even allowing for a Snapchat like broadcast from pages – it would have to be carefully managed, but I suspect that the WhatsApp user base won’t be as ardently opposed to this as the Instagram community is, simply because its a younger market and to a large degree are less affected by advertising on an app. Facebook is following Google into the idea of contextual search and advertising, WhatsApp could fit in quite neatly with that.

Ultimately, we won’t see for quite some time what will be done with the messaging service. It could be expected that it will remain fairly separate for the time being, like Instagram – Facebook doesn’t want to rock the boat, but they will eventually look to unify their services when the buy-in exists; a customer base who are used to the idea of these services being interlinked – rather than the current mature users who are more comfortable with the idea of separate apps for separate networks.

Facebook buys Whatsapp; the figures

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By now, most people will be well aware that Facebook has announced its intention to buy the popular messaging service, Whatsapp. The unprecedented sum of $16 billion comes hot off the heels of the recent Viber purchase by Rakuten for $900 million. Ultimately both buyouts will begin changing the face of social messaging, and what exactly this means for brands and consumers is still unclear.

While the figures may seem astronomical, especially compared to the $1 Billion paid out for Instagram, there’s some interesting stats behind Whatsapp which might make things a little more appealing, especially as Facebook looks to get that investment back.

– Whatsapp has circa 450 million active users per month, a number which easily outstrips even the likes of Twitter or Linkedin

– 70% of these are active on any given day

– Messaging volume is starting to outstrip global SMS with users sending 16 billion messages per day.

– Whatsapp has a small team of around 50 people and while it charges long term users a dollar a year, it has raised $20million previously in fudning.

– The buyout isn’t strictly straight forward, only $4 billion will be in cash, with the other $12 billion being Facebook shares, which I would imagine come with strict contracts to ensure that there’s no selling rush, harming the overall share price.

– The growth of the platform is, frankly, phenomenal – in October 2012, Forbes ran a piece describing it as the most popular network we’ve never heard of, with only 100 million users. A trend of growth that shows no sign of slowing.

Over the next day or so, I’ll look more at what this means for advertising and brands – it will definitely be exciting, particularly as it allows Facebook to capture a new market it singularly failed to with Facebook Messenger.

It also leaves Kik as pretty free to be snapped up by Google, or go down the Snapchat route, potentially becoming a serious competitor as users flee the platform due to the often, negative effects of a buy-out.

[OPINION] Why the Facebook Phone won’t Work

News is already buzzing about the new Facebook smartphone which is rumoured to be making a release, sooner rather than later. While it’s generating a lot of interest, the big question is, will it sell? I predict, probably not, and for some very fundamental reasons.

Facebook Phone

Concept designs for the Facebook Phone

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The Nokia N8 that stole my heart.

Everyone remembers Nokia as the handset we all owned, it was the ultimate cool symbol before phones got smart and is still renowned for their solid build and durable nature. In fact, you’ll still see many people wandering around with the old 3210! But while we remember the 3210, Nokia has come on leaps and bounds, launching it’s new flagship smartphone the N8 earlier this year.

Nokia 3210

The Nokia 3210, one of the old reliables

I’ve had the chance to play around with the N8 and I have to say it’s an impressive phone. All that I knew and loved about Nokia came flooding back, the N8 really is a winner and I almost considered swapping my iPhone for it (almost).

Once you pick up the N8 you’re instantly surprised by just how light it feels, weighing less than the iPhone it’s almost featherlight. It is a bit more bulky though, thicker than the iPhone 4 and still again that bit bigger than the 3G. This is mostly from the camera lens on the back, but I’ll get to that soon. On the looks, it’s a real contender. Very sleek and smooth, it looks and feels durable, much more so than any HTC phone or the iPhone. You really do feel like you could chuck it at a wall and pick it up and go on texting.

The Nokia N8

The very solid, very sleek N8!

The screen is slightly smaller than the iPhone, and the difference between the retina display and the N8’s AMOLED capacitive touch screen is noticeable, the N8 display when viewing text heavy websites is not the easiest to read. The screen is responsive though, you can glide around withe relative ease, again it doesn’t feel as smooth as the iPhone but you get used to it and it does feel just as comfortable. You’ll also notice a small feedback vibration at each tap, it’s nice but gets a bit old fast and I haven’t figured out how to switch it off.

The camera is the most impressive piece of this hardware, 12 megapixel it’s truly a monster, the quality is perfect and unmistakeable. Streets ahead of the iPhone, it’s worth the little bit extra bulk on the back. Personally I’m trying to figure out how e camera quality can actually be so good when squeezed into such a light handset, it has some echoes of a Mary Poppins handbag.

The battery is also pretty strong, I’ve been messing around with this for a few days now all on one charge, and it hasn’t made a peep about running even 50% power. WiFi ANC 3G capable with two cameras, one front facing for video calls and 16GB storage natively with room for up to 32GB more using an SD card.

What probably let’s the phone down the most is the software. Sum Ian just never daunt onto the smartphone Market and just couldn’t make the leap over, hence the attempted jump onto Meego with the N9 and the Microsoft deal earlier in the year.

Nokia N9

The Nokia N9, big attempt to refine the N8 design

There’s a lot to like about Symbian ^3, multi-tasking out of the box, a lot of focus given to mobile data with social networks, news feeds and mail all being accessible from the home screen from the moment you switch it on. While it’s a nice operating system, it’s just not as smooth as iOS or Android. There’s a clunkiness you just can’t ignore, and it can feel a little exerting navigating your way around.

The main problem for Symbian is that whereas the other two major OS’s were build from the ground up with smartphones in mind, Symbian is very much an evolution of older systems and seems to be slightly stuck in the days of Nokia’s dominance of the phone Market, before smartphones arrived on the scene. So the whole navigation structure is rigged towards what used to work on button based handsets. Another major gripe I’ve had is a lack of Mac compatibility, which took me a while to work around.

If you’re looking to download apps for your phone, the Ovi Store comes preloaded, and works very similar to the other app stores. The selection isn’t as wide, but it offers everything from apps to themes and ringtones for your phone, and it’s actually pretty easy to get around. There’s no Facebook or Twitter apps, but you can use MySocial, which is preloaded on the phone as a nice alternative.

Nokia Ovi store

The very handy, Nokia Ovi Store with over 1.7 million downloads daily

Overall the N8 is a winning handset. It looks good, feels good and is a joy to use. Mostly let down by the operating system which just doesn’t cut the mustard in the age of the iPhone. If Nokia want to keep ahead, they need to utilise their innovation in software, as it seems to be that the other handsets are using their ideas before they do. NFC Payments on phones are a good example, Nokia patented this ages ago, but there seems to be no plans to implement this on any handsets!

Software 5.5/10 – nice, but not wowed

Hardware 10/10 – solid, sleek and simple

Camera 10/10 – Stunning.

Overall 8.5/10 – great phone, pleasure to use.

Kindle Gets Social with Twitter and Facebook…

It was announced this week that with a new firmware update being brought out for Kindle, Amazon’s popular e-reader, a more social aspect would be introduced in the form of Facebook and Twitter integration.

The move comes as iPad sales continue to rise and challenge Amazon’s dominance in the e-reading market of which it currently has the lion’s share.

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