Facebook Gives Verified Profiles Its Mentions App With “Live” Streaming And Posts Just To Followers

Facebook Gives Verified Profiles Its Mentions App With “Live” Streaming And Posts Just To Followers

Journalists might start sharing a lot more of their links to Facebook, as now they can finally opt out of spamming their friends and instead only post to their public followers.

Today, journalists and other Verified Profiles on Facebook are getting access to the Mentions iOS app previously reserved for Verified Pages, as we reported they would. It includes Periscope-esque Live streaming and Reddit AMA-style Q&A features normal users don’t have. But it’s the newfound ability to only post to followers, not friends, that could have the biggest impact on Facebook.

Making Self-Promotion Less Awkward

IMG_2427Facebook launched its Twitterish Subscribe feature in late 2011, allowing average users to rack up followers who aren’t their friends, but would see their public posts. The problem was that to share to your followers, you also had to share to your friends. I railed against Facebook to change this.

For many journalists like me, this was uncomfortable. People didn’t necessarily become our friends because they wanted to blasted with all our articles and videos. But that is why people follow us. Only being able to share public posts to all of them at once made it look like we were trying to use our friends just to gain traffic.

This created a serious chilling effect on journalists sharing what they’ve created. While on Twitter, most feel no remorse about posting links to their work. But on Facebook, some like me would only share their most important or widely accessible work.

Facebook, The Direct News Source

Now journalists with Verified Profiles and anyone else with the distinction will be free to share as much of their work as they want just to their followers without thrusting it on their friends. In the Mentions app when composing a status update, Verified Profiles can use an audience privacy selector to post publicly and be visible to everyone, but only appear in the News Feeds of followers, not friends. They can also still use the standard public posting to everyone’s News Feed.

IMG_2431I know that I plan to share a lot more of my TechCrunch articles to my Facebook followers now. As a whole, this could make news on Facebook seem much more personal. Rather than primarily coming from Pages representing the outlets, the journalists themselves will be better able to transmit current events.

Facebook Mention manager Vadim Lavrusik concurs, telling me “You probably have content that only your followers will be interested in, and one of the things we really hope this will enable is…to actually nurture that audience by being able to target content specifically to them…actually speak to that audience.”

This could help Facebook in its quest to compete with Twitter as a social news hub. The more readership it can drive with the News Feed, the more that news outlets become reliant on Facebook. That makes them more likely to adopt programs like fast-loading Instant Articles, or buy Facebook ads.

Mentions For More (Not All)

Facebook launched Mentions in July 2014, but only made it available to Verified Pages like news outlets and popular bands. It allowed for more nimble monitoring of mentions, comments, and wall posts, plus made it easy to jump in to the discussion of big trending topics. The only truly unique feature was Q&A. But without much more, it wasn’t exactly critical.

Screen Shot 2015-09-10 at 11.13.35 AM

But with last month’s launch of Facebook’s mobile live stream broadcasting feature “Live” that competes with Periscope and Meerkat, Mentions became a lot more important. The feature is only available in Mentions.

Live lets VIPs start a live stream broadcast that appears in the News Feed of their followers and triggers a notification for fans who’ve recently interacted with them. Viewers can respond in real-time with comments that appear overlaid on the broadcaster’s screen.

IMG_2430Afterwards, the streams turn into saved videos that people can watch on Facebook unless the broadcaster deletes them, unlike Meerkat where streams disappear immediately and Periscope where they’re only replayable for 24 hours. Broadcasters also get analytics on their streams.

Lavrusik tells me “Live’s been going really well. Particularly, why we wanted to make this available as quickly as possible is because we have a lot of demand from journalists.” The company even published some tips for live streaming. [If you want to check out my first Live stream where I discuss the impact of these changes on Facebook, click here.]

While it’s still only on iOS, now Verified Profiles will be allowed to log in to Mentions. Lavrusik says Facebook is constantly adding more accounts to the Verified Profiles program and there are currently “thousands”. Journalists, celebrities, and public figures can apply to be verified here.

Instagram Ads Go Global, Including New 30-Second Commercials

Instagram Ads Go Global, Including New 30-Second Commercials

Instagram is done experimenting and is ready to ramp up ad revenue. It’s making three big changes today to attract marketing dollars from around the world and other ad mediums. Finally, Instagram will make back the money Facebook spent buying it.

MarvelChamp.Kabam.IG.SeptemberFirst, today Instagram ads become officially available in 30 more countries including Mexico, India and South Korea, and will be on sale globally by the end of September. After users in core markets proved loyal despite having ads injected in their feeds, all 300 million people who use Instagram will now see ads. And instead of only working with big brands, Instagram is opening up ads to businesses of all sizes.

Second, Instagram is now courting television and online advertisers with more standardized formats and buying options. Instagram will allow advertisers to run 30-second video ads, rather than just 15 second ones, and use landscape dimensions instead of just squares. Landscape and portrait mode came to users last month, though Instagram’s James Quarles told me it wouldn’t be technically feasible to expand the video length limit to 30 seconds for non-advertisers. This means businesses can easily port their television commercials into Instagram ads.

Instagram is also debuting a new buying option called Marquee that lets advertisers “own a moment” and reach a huge swath of the user base quickly. This is ideal for big product launches or movie releases where brands want big first-day sales. FOX will run the first marquee for its new TV shows, including Scream Queens, seen above.

And third, Instagram is luring advertisers from a wider array of industries to its ads with improved calls to action. These include travel, entertainment, ecommerce, and retail. After testing “Shop Now”, “Install Now”, “Sign Up”, and “Learn More” options, these direct response formats that can link outside of Instagram will open to all advertisers.

Commerce and app install ads will make the photo network more valuable to merchants and developers who want an immediate return on investment. All these formats and placements will now be available through Facebook’s self-serve ad interface, Ads API, and Power Editor, which allow extremely granular interest and demographic targeting.

Fox Marquee

To prove the ads work, Instagram cites some examples:

  • Gilt Group’s campaign drove an 85% increase in app installs
  • Furniture retailer Made.com saw a 10% increase in order value versus its benchmark
  • Game developer Kabam was able to acquire users who played longer and spent more

Facebook’s Acquisition Comes To Fruition

Really, this was the moment Facebook was imagining when it acquired Instagram. Of course it wanted to continue connecting people through photos the way it did with its social network. But on the business side, Instagram held the promise of applying Facebook’s advertising technology and connections with brands to another massive audience. It took three and a half years, but that moment has finally arrived.

Instagram’s Quarles tells me “it would take us years to build that advertising stack on our own.”

It comes down to scale.

Instagram Ads

Advertisers, and in turn, investors, want scale. Facebook already has a ton of it with its nearly 1.5 billion users. Instagram adds another 300 million. This is the scale Wall Street desperately wants Twitter to achieve.

Now, when an advertiser wants to reach a huge audience, all they need is to buy through Facebook and they can push an ad to people on both Facebook and Instagram. With that scale comes efficiencies in sales and backend infrastructure. Each extra dollar earned costs Facebook less.

Now all Instagram has to do is not show so many ads that users get annoyed, change so much that they feel lost, or stay so stagnant that the app gets stale. As long as Instagram doesn’t lose its cool, it will become a massive money-making machine worthy of mention on Facebook’s earnings calls.

Instagram favored growth for its first five years. Now it’s all grown up and ready to be a bread-winner.

Facebook Equips Business Pages With Mobile Storefronts For Shopping And Services

Facebook Equips Business Pages With Mobile Storefronts For Shopping And Services

Likes ≠ Dollars. Facebook wants Pages to actually earn money for the 45 million small businesses that use them. So today Facebook is upgrading Pages with a tabbed mobile layout that lets them display storefront “Sections” where users can “Shop” for products or view a list of “Services” the business offers. The company is also making calls to action on business Pages, such as “Call Now,” “Send Message” and “Contact Us,” bigger, more colorful and more prominent beneath the cover image.

11891347_684775194985827_1052862395_nThe “Shop” section will include Buy buttons powered by Facebook’s partnership with Shopify so users can check out without leaving the social network. Facebook is also testing Buy buttons that link out to a business’ traditional website.

These changes are the biggest made to Pages since 2012. They build on Facebook’s recent announcement of new messaging capabilities for businesses and badges for companies that respond quickly. Today’s updates could make Facebook Pages a utility, not just a presence for businesses.

COO Sheryl Sandberg opened the press event for the updates at Facebook’s second Menlo Park office by saying “There’s nothing small about small businesses.” But she explained that building a mobile commerce experience is tough and expensive, especially for small businesses. That’s why Sandberg talked about SMBs using Facebook to do mobile business easily, for free.

Instead of building an entire mobile website or app, Facebook wants companies to instead rely on their Facebook Pages. That’s why it’s starting to build out Sections specific to different types of businesses.

11891376_1487003528284339_1812527203_nAndrew Chau, the co-founder of the Boba Guys cafe, tells me he started the business’ online presence with a Facebook Page not a website because that’s where it could get “the most eyeballs”. He says he tells people to ‘Check us out on Facebook’ rather than ‘Download our app’ because “they aren’t going to do that”. People don’t necessarily want a whole app just for their local tea shop.

The strategy is similar to WeChat’s platform for businesses in China. Rather than having to build an app, get people to download it, and then get them to use it, WeChat lets businesses create “official accounts” that users can easily follow and buy from.

The first step in this direction is the new sections, Shop and Services. Normally, businesses would have to constantly post about their products or services to make them immediately visible on their Pages. Now they’ll have a prominent, dedicated section where they can sell their products and services.

These sections will get their own tabs rather than burying them down the Page, which makes them easier to find especially on mobile. On the home page/landing page/main tab, Facebook will show a set of highlights from a business’ other tabs. This kind of cross-platform optimization would be tough for a business to do on its own, but Facebook makes it happen automatically.

Send MessageAnd if a business’s services require negotiation or deep customization, that can use a “Message To Buy” button that triggers an instant message conversation between the customer and business so they can hash out the details.

Previously, Facebook announced that users would be able to message Pages for support, and those that responded in under five minutes 90 percent of the time would get a “Very Responsive” badge of honor on their Page. While this might seem like extremely tough metrics to meet, Facebook says 500,000 Pages quickly were able to earn the badge.

To assist with this social customer service, Pages can compose Saved Replies that they can quickly personalize with a customer’s name or situation before sending them. Page admins can also respond to Wall Posts or comments with messages. This helps companies keep customer support in private, rather than becoming a public spectacle on their Page’s wall that could hurt their brand.

If Facebook succeeds here, it will see small and medium-sized businesses directing mobile traffic to their Pages, rather than their websites. This not only makes Facebook more useful for users, but it will act as a gateway to getting businesses to pay for ads promoting those Pages.

When I asked Facebook’s Product Marketing Director for Pages Benji Shomair about this strategy, he told me “Pages are free. The more businesses we have on the platform and the more value they’re able to generate from their Facebook Pages…there could be benefits to our business more broadly.” When I asked again if that meant these tools could boost ad sales, he admitted “Potentially, yeah. I agree.”

The average boutique owner or plumber shouldn’t have to learn how to build an app. Now they don’t.

Periscope Is Secretly Building An Apple TV App

Periscope Is Secretly Building An Apple TV App

Periscope is developing an app for the new Apple TV, according to multiple sources. It will allow users to watch livestreams on their television that are broadcasted from Twitter’s Periscope app. You could consider it a coming of age moment, considering the acquired startup’s website is Periscope.tv

[Update: Confirmed. Apple showed Periscope’s icon on stage during its demo of the new Apple TV App Store.]

Periscope

Tomorrow, Apple will unveil an upgraded Apple TV set-top box that includes an Apple TV App Store featuring apps built by third-party developers, BuzzFeed News previously reported. Games are slated to be a big focus for the Apple TV platform that’s built on iOS, thanks to a multi-functional new remote controller reported by 9to5Mac that includes motion-control. But the Apple TV platform will also support an array of other experiences. Few of the apps have been outed yet, but sources confirm Periscope will be one of them.

Though we can’t confirm the exact functionality of the app, it’s likely to be focused on watching streams. Periscope made videos viewable on the web in June without the ability to broadcast, and the Apple TV app could work similarly. Periscope was acquired by Twitter in January and launched the mobile, ephemeral live-streaming app in April. It now has over 10 million registered users and sees 40 years of watch time per day, its CEO Kayvon Beykpour recently said on a stream.

We don’t have a specific unveiling or launch date for Periscope on Apple TV. Twitter and Periscope did not respond to our inquiry before press time. The app might be previewed in tomorrow’s Apple keynote to show off the potential of the Apple TV software development kit. Apple wants to get developers’ minds swirling with ideas for what they could build.

apple-tv-pacman1

The goal is differentiation in two senses.

Apple wants the Apple TV to do things that other set-top boxes from Amazon and Roku can’t. That means getting developers to take advantage of potential hand-off or multi-screen options afforded by iPhones and iPads also running on iOS.

Apple also wants to define the future of the living room by inspiring developers to do more than just translate their desktop and mobile products to the television. The much bigger landscape screen, more powerful hardware that doesn’t depend on a battery, faster connection speeds, and the versatile controller with touch and voice input all open new opportunities for app makers.

Periscope BroadcastsDone right, the Apple TV platform could transform much more than traditional video content consumption. Gaming, news, social, and other areas could all see a renaissance on the tube.

Seductive third-party experiences could help sell more of the new Apple TV hardware units. Building an audience this way could boost Apple’s leverage as it negotiates deals with traditional cable channels to bring their content to Apple’s forthcoming live Internet TV service. Bloomberg Business says the TV service has been delayed until 2016 because those negotiations were progressing slowly.

If Periscope can expand on the value of its live-streaming app, not just its size, by coming to the Apple TV platform, it could inspire other social developers to start tinkering with television too.

 

Facebook Makes It Easier To Optimize Ad Campaigns Based On Conversions

Facebook Makes It Easier To Optimize Ad Campaigns Based On Conversions

Facebook is unveiling an improved version of its Conversion Lift measurement tool, which first launched in January. Previously, Facebook allowed you to measure whether your ad campaign was actually improving online and offline sales. Now, you can also test different ads to find the best approach.

“When we’ve gotten feedback on the Conversion Lift stuff, one of the big improvements we were asked for was, ‘I want to be able to test more things as I run campaigns, as opposed to just finding out if it worked,’” said Brad Smallwood, Facebook’s vice president of measurements and insights.

More specifically, Smallwood told me that Conversion Lift previously looked at two groups — a group of users who saw the ad and a group who didn’t. It then compared each group’s conversion data (the data can be pulled from Facebook’s Custom Audiences pixel, an in-store point-of-sale system and elsewhere), which should reflect whether an ad actually succeeded in driving sales.

With the improved Conversion Lift tool, advertisers can compare multiple test and control groups. That means they can see which ad units are delivering the best results, compare brand and direct response ads, see how mobile ads are performing compared to the rest of the campaign or compare ads featuring product versus lifestyle-format photos.

For example, website builder Wix compared a group that saw only direct response ads with another group that saw direct response and video ads. It turned out that the combined of formats did a better job of improving premium subscription signups — that group saw uplift of 7.4 percent, compared to the DR-only group, which saw uplift of 6.8 percent.

Also part of the update: Conversion Lift can now look at how ads improve in-app sales, as well, so that app developers aren’t just optimizing campaigns to deliver the most downloads, but instead focus on improving revenue.

You can read more about Conversion Lift in this Facebook blog post.

Facebook Looks To Tackle Personalized Learning In The Classroom

Facebook Looks To Tackle Personalized Learning In The Classroom

Facebook is working to give public school students an education that’s more tailored to their needs.

In a blog post today from Facebook’s Chief Product Officer Chris Cox, the company announced that over the past school year it has partnered with Summit Public Schools, an innovative school system in the Bay Area to improve and test their new learning technologies.

We started by working together to rebuild their tool, called the Personalized Learning Plan (“PLP”), for Summit’s use in the 2014 school year. Last year, more than 2,000 students and 100 teachers spent the school year using it.

Looking forward, Summit Public Schools is planning to open up the PLP it has built with Facebook to other public schools across the country.

For 2015, we’re supporting Summit as it partners with public schools who want to explore personalized learning through a small pilot program. We’ll use feedback from this program to improve the PLP so we can eventually offer it, for free, to any school in the U.S. that wants it.

plp_year_view

Don’t worry, kids at these schools won’t be getting targeted ads popping up while they are trying to do their readings. The PLP is completely separate from Facebook’s main service and you don’t need a Facebook account to sign in. The entire team at Facebook that’s working on PLP is subject to some pretty strict rules to protect student data.

Summit subscribes to the White House-endorsed Student Privacy Pledge<http://studentprivacypledge.org/>, which means that the Facebook employees working on this project are required to handle Summit students’ data in accordance with the Pledge.

This definitely appears to be a pet project Facebook executives, looking to use their company’s technological talent to help improve public education, rather than some massive plan to break into EdTech. Mark Zuckerberg has donated millions of dollars to tackling these problems, but here it looks like the company felt the best way they could help was to look at improving the technologies directly themselves.