The next wave in storytelling is short-form video

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Social video apps are nothing new. However, these video tools have been slow to gain widespread enthusiasm from brands as a serious content distribution channel — until now.

Meerkat and Periscope put instant video into the hands of the masses, but now we’re finally seeing the rest of the major social networks catch on and make it not only easier to create video content, but also painless to share.

Even traditional social networks are now encouraging brands to mix their storytelling efforts with more social video features. These social apps are making it dead simple to master the art of video storytelling quickly and win the attention of consumers with minimal effort.

So creating video content is easy. But how can you get audiences to actually pay attention? The following apps are stepping up their game and enabling brands to share more creative, authentic, instant video than ever. Here’s a look at why your brand should invest time in social video and how to use it to dominate your storytelling efforts.

Stream Periscope videos directly in your Twitter feed

Have you attempted a live stream on Periscope yet? If not, now is the perfect time because Twitter has decided to incorporate Periscope streaming directly into its feed. While this feature is only available on the iOS app, Periscope streaming directly on Twitter means your mobile audience will no longer have to click a link and open the Periscope app to watch your video content. Any live video stream shared to Twitter will automatically play within the feed. So how can your brand use this new feature?

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You can now stream authentic “personal” messages to a much larger audience and build trust with your customers. Because it can be difficult to build up an audience on a separate social network or app, livestreaming within the Twitter feed also makes it simple for your audience to see your video. Your Twitter audience is now your Periscope audience. Your followers no longer need to use the app, or even have a Periscope account.

The time for Snapchat is now

Snapchat’s video traffic is surging. According to a January 2016 report, more than 7 billion videos are viewed through the app per day, which rivals the 8 billion video views Facebook is receiving (keep in mind, Facebook has around 15 times as many users). Most of Snapchat’s video views can be attributed to its “Stories” feature, which allows users to post photos and video clips to their friends for a 24-hour period.

Creative companies that find ways to push their content onto Snapchat are reaping the benefits and building some serious followings. By offering behind-the-scenes and exclusive content, brands are keeping their followers engaged. One way your brand can get started on Snapchat is by sharing your own unique Snapcode (like a QR code) on all of your other social channels and invite your audiences to follow your Snapchat Stories.

Bonus: You can also personalize your Snapcode by adding an animated selfie that will be shown to other Snapchatters to make it easier for them to recognize you.

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Another way to gain a quick following is to tease your Snapchat Stories videos on your other social channels alongside your username and a strong call-to-action. Growing an organic following on Snapchat will take some work, but using these strategies can help speed up the process.

Go ‘Live’ on Facebook

Like Twitter, Facebook recently gave brands the ability to stream live video to their verified Pages from the Facebook iOS app. Any verified page can launch a live event from within the iOS app by tapping “Publish” and then “Live Video.” The number of viewers and names of other Pages tuning in will be displayed alongside a live stream of comments.

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Above: An example of Facebook Live Video. Click the image to view the recording.

Image Credit: Facebook

The best part is the videos will appear in your followers’ news feeds, and your fans can also subscribe, which will enable notifications for them anytime you launch a live video stream. Another bonus: Unlike Periscope or Snapchat, which remove your video streams instantly or after 24 hours, Facebook live videos can remain on your Facebook Page indefinitely.

For Instagram, focus on curation

Instagram recently released a new Periscope-style video feature that allows users to view a curated collection of video clips from major events. This could be holidays, award shows, sporting events, and even concerts. While this may sound similar to other video apps, Instagram’s video feed does come with a twist. Rather than a live stream, the best clips are curated and put together into one feed that is accessible through the “Explore” section. This provides a new way for users to experience the best of events and big moments as they happen.

For now, the videos are curated by Instagram employees, but your brand can still try to get in on the action by using the appropriate hashtags. You can even use this feature to put your own creative spin on the most popular video clips.

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Rock band Sigur Rós took advantage of this by launching an “ever-evolving” video, which collated their fans’ Instagram photos and videos for a continually updated music video. Fans simply tag their content with a designated hashtag to join in and their content gets added to the video. This interactive concept could be duplicated by any brand with a large following, continuously updated, and then shared on Instagram with a branded hashtag.

Easy access to video tools is generating groundbreaking new opportunities for brands and quickly becoming a must-have for any digital marketing strategy. All you need is a smartphone and an audience. Is your brand leveraging video to tell your story? Share your advice in the comments below.


AnishAnish Patel is founder and head producer of Revolution Productions, a boutique video agency that specializes in animated marketing videos and explainer videos.










Facebook turned 12 today, my account turned 9, and I’m in too deep

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Facebook turned 12 today. To celebrate, the company put together a slew of news to keep the spotlight on itself: personalized video and stickers for Friends Day, research that shows Facebook puts us 3.57 degrees from each other, and a prediction from CEO Mark Zuckerberg that by 2030 there will be 5 billion Facebook users (out of 8.5 billion people in the world). These are all mildly interesting (the research one probably more than the others) but it got me thinking about long I’ve been using Facebook myself.

Unsurprisingly, it was Facebook that told me. When I fired up the social network, the News Feed promptly informed me it was my ninth year on the social network:

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It just so happened that I joined Facebook on its third birthday and have been using the service for nine years straight. For three-quarters of Facebook’s existence, I’ve been using it. And honestly, unlike those who claim it is a time-waster or declare they are going to quit, I actually really value Facebook.

When I used the social network in high school, Facebook was a great way to kill time. But when I arrived in university, the communication value quickly became more and more apparent. I still use it for entertainment purposes (When I want to turn my brain off, watch random clips and catch up on what people have been up to), but my main use cases are all about interacting with various groups of people that I would have no other way of keeping in touch with.

As many people have pointed out before, Facebook itself is replaceable — it’s the connections and the sheer number of people on the platform that can’t easily be replicated. Add the fact that Facebook is intelligently acquiring apps and startups rather than merely trying to compete with everyone, and what you really have is the first social umbrella company.

You could delete my News Feed and I would rely on other sites to get my “news.” You could remove my Facebook profile and I would just tweet all the links I normally share. You could remove Events and I would survive just fine.

But if my pick-up soccer group disappeared from Facebook, that would be impossible to recreate. If you deleted Facebook Messenger and all my chats, that would take a long time to rebuild. If you messed with all the photos I’ve uploaded and am tagged in, that would hurt.

Hell, one of my friends refuses to communicate on Facebook. He doesn’t have an account, though he’s always eager to use someone else’s if he can. How do we keep in touch with him? Facebook’s WhatsApp.

Facebook usage in Canada is higher than the global and U.S. averages. I’m sure that plays a part in how much I’ve become invested in the company’s various platforms. But even outside my big little country, Facebook numbers are impressive no matter how you slice them: 1.59 billion monthly users and 1.04 billion daily active users. And those are just Facebook itself, the numbers for Facebook Messenger, Groups, Events, Instagram, WhatsApp, and so on are all equally impressive.

1 in 7 people around the globe use Facebook every day. Zuckerberg is aiming for 5 out of 8.5 in the next 14 years.

Facebook wasn’t even around 14 years ago. There’s no way to even attempt to predict if he will achieve his lofty goal. But right now, the numbers, and of course more importantly my anecdotal experience, shows Facebook is here to stay. What forms it will take in 2030 is anyone’s guess, but Facebook will probably happily inform me I’ve been using it for 23 years.










WhatsApp group chat limit extended to 256 people

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WhatsApp has released an update that increases the number of people you can have in a group chat. Before today, the messaging service limited you to 100 people, but now that has more than doubled to 256.

First noticed by NDtv, this update is available to both iOS and Android app users, but not other platforms like Windows and BlackBerry. You’ll first encounter a notice about the increased limit when you visit the chat section of the Facebook-owned app — a prompt will appear to inform you of the change. There’s no difference in how you create a group chat, except now you don’t have to stop when you hit 100 colleagues you want to talk to simultaneously.

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The move comes just days after WhatsApp announced it now had more than 1 billion monthly active users, and also after the company ended its $1 annual subscription plan.

Being able to add more people into group chats will likely be a benefit to WhatsApp’s growing number of groups currently in existence — over 1 billion. As it has become a popular place for chatting, limiting interest-based organization to 100 seems like a hinderance, but now that you can add more, better discussions could take place.

Of course, another perspective is that when WhatsApp begins charging businesses to use the service, brands could leverage this increased limit to host focus groups, informal and virtual get-togethers, and more.

We’ve reached out to Facebook for comment and will update this if we hear back.

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CEO Mark Zuckerberg predicts 5B Facebook users by 2030

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg on stage at the company's F8 developer conference in San Francisco, Calif.

In an event at Facebook’s new offices yesterday, CEO Mark Zuckerberg told reporters he expected his social network to have 5 billion users by 2030.

According to USA Today, Zuckerberg said: “We want to finish connecting everyone, we’re going to do it in partnership with governments and different companies all over the world.”

USA Today says that Zuckerberg’s goal is to have “5 billion of the world’s 7 billion humans connected to its social network.” Of course, 7 billion is the current global population and that comparison assumes zero population growth over the next 14 years. The United Nations predicts a global population of 8.5 billion by 2030.

Still, 5 billion out of 8.5 billion would be impressive progress.

The prediction follows from Zuckerberg’s oft-repeated mantra that his goal is to connect the world. His efforts to do that include Internet-delivering drones and the controversial Internet.org.

Zuckerberg views the latter as a beneficial way to develop free services that encourage faster Internet adoption. Critics have called it a land grab by a U.S. corporate giant that threatens concepts like Net Neutrality.

 

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It’s a smaller world after all: Facebook research shows 3.57 degrees – not 6 – of separation

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Happy Friends Day, Fellow Earthlings! We have some news on this new Facebook-invented holiday that depending on your view of your fellow planetary inhabitants may be intensely thrilling or tremendously frightening.

According to the modern-day oracle that is Facebook (FB), we are all far less separated than we imagined. At least, that’s the case for users of the social network.

For years, we have been led to believe by the sages of TV and Hollywood that we are separated by a relatively comfortable six degrees. That is, anyone can find a link to anyone else by just tracing a path through six acquaintances

But lo, Facebook cometh to shatter our widely held belief in this myth and replace it with cold, hard data: The number is actually 3.57.

“In honor of Friends Day, we’ve crunched the Facebook friend graph and determined that the number is actually 3.57,” writes Facebook’s data team. “Each person in the world (at least among the 1.59 billion people active on Facebook) is connected to every other person by an average of three and a half other people.”

This is mind-blowing stuff, people, that CHANGES EVERYTHING!

To begin with, so much of our popular culture is going to be turned upside down. The joyous thinking of six degrees gave us the wonder of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. Will Smith even made a movie out of it which was based on a play which was based on some real life events. Somehow, the 3.57 degrees of Kevin Bacon just doesn’t work.

But it also creates a massive existential dilemma for nearly every user of Facebook who had, until now, come to terms with their place in the universe and how they related to the other 1.5 billion users, not to mention the planet’s other 5.5 billion people.

For instance, until yesterday, I could brag with confidence that Barack Obama is a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend of mine. Yo. But today? Is he a friend of a friend of a friend? Or a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend? The .57 makes it all very hard to sort out. Six was such a nice even number. Easy to wrap our heads around.

Also, now I feel more responsible for a greater swath of humanity. I mean, if you’re only 3 people rather than 6 away from me, what is my obligation here? Are we friends? Should I call in to check up on you every now and then? Or Snapchat you? Invite you to our Halloween party? Or what?

On the plus side, I’m much closer to Paul McCartney than I realized, which is cool. On the other hand, Donald Trump is just a digital hop, skip and a jump away friendship-wise.

Shudder.

Now, if you think you’re going to have trouble sleeping at night, there’s a tool to help put your mind at ease. On the blog post, Facebook includes a calculator that will tell you how close (if you’re logged in) you are from everyone else. Me? I’m 2.89.

Zuck is 3.17. (I fell comfortable calling him that since we’re practically related now.) COO Sheryl Sandberg is 2.92.

The thing is that even if you adapt to this bombshell of proximity, you can’t rest easy. Facebook says those degrees of separation are shrinking!

“Our collective ‘degrees of separation’ have shrunk over the past five years,” Facebook’s data team writes. “In 2011, researchers at Cornell, the Università degli Studi di Milano, and Facebook computed the average across the 721 million people using the site then, and found that it was 3.74. Now, with twice as many people using the site, we’ve grown more interconnected, thus shortening the distance between any two people in the world.”

 

If Facebook’s prediction that it will have 5 billion users by 2030 comes true, then at this rate the whole world will be practically sitting in your digital lap at that point.

 

But gosh, that’s a lot of negativity. This is Friends Day! So don’t worry about all the creepy lowlifes who are much closer to you than you thought or that vague sense that suddenly the walls are closing in all around you and it’s getting very, very hard to breathe.

Just be happy.

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Facebook debuts a personalized video and stickers to celebrate your friendships

Facebook's iconic sign on display outside its Menlo Park, Calif. headquarters.

Facebook turns 12 on Thursday, an occasion that the company has come to refer to as Friends Day. In honor of its latest anniversary, it has released new tools to help celebrate how close you’ve become with your friends, all thanks to the social network.

The company has begun rolling out a personalized Friends Day video to its 1.59 billion monthly active users that’s similar to its Year in Review videos, in addition to releasing two special sticker packs for the occasion.

“When people connect, powerful things can happen and lives can be changed,” the company wrote in a blog post. “We see this every day on Facebook. Whether it’s an exchange with an old friend that brings a smile to your face or a new connection that changes your life path, or even the world.”

Friends Day Editor Friends Day Promo

In newly-released statistics, Facebook claims that its services have lowered the degree of separation between users — it’s now 3.57 degrees compared to the 3.74 degrees in 2011. The company states this is a sign that in the past five years, we’ve grown more connected together.

With its personalized Friends Day video, a stitched together film will piece together special moments between you and your…well…friends. It’s fully customizable, meaning you’ll have full control over what’s featured in order to avoid certain mishaps from happening again. At the beginning, the first “draft” will include photos Facebook believes you’ll like, but you can tweak it however you see fit.

Once you’re happy with it, you can share it on your Facebook profile. It’ll not only appear at the top of your friend’s News Feed and there will be a link to encourage them to create their own. As this tool is rolling out globally, you may not receive it right away — Facebook said that most people should receive this by mid-day on Thursday.

Facebook has also released two sticker packs for you to share with your friends, showing them that you appreciate them. Called “Best Friends” and “Friendship”, they can be downloaded right from the Sticker Store for free and used right in the Messenger app.

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Instagram now allows 60 second video ads, but you still only get 15 seconds

Instagram Cake

Instagram has begun rolling out an update for its ads that increases the duration of videos that can be recorded. Previously limited to up to 30 seconds, the photo-sharing service has doubled the time to a full minute — 60 seconds. The company admitted that the reason was to better appeal to advertisers to give them the flexibility of creating content to market their products.

The move comes just in time for Super Bowl 50, with some of the first brands taking advantage of this being T-Mobile and Warner Brothers.

In September, Instagram launched video ads for marketers. These pieces of content could be up to 30 seconds long, which was double the length of what an average user could record. This move was made to make sure that brands could fit in an average-length commercial without having to do all the heavy work of retooling their production work.

Now with 60 seconds, advertisers will be able to put more creative resources to tell a story about their product.

We’re in the #BigGame with @ChampagnePapi. #YouGotCarriered

A video posted by tmobile (@tmobile) on Feb 3, 2016 at 8:37am PST

Advertising on Instagram has been something Facebook highlighted during the company’s Q4 2015 earnings. While it hasn’t revealed how much the program contributed to Facebook’s bottom line, chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg has described it as one of the “most important mobile advertising platforms” out on the market today.

She also highlighted during the call that 98 of the top 100 advertisers on Facebook advertised on Instagram during the previous quarter, so the added flexibility of video length is probably going to further encourage these brands to spend more money to market on the app.

But while brands get more time to sell their products on Instagram, you and I will still only have 15 seconds to tell our story.

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WhatsApp passes 1 billion monthly active users

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WhatsApp has joined a growing club of services that can now count having more than 1 billion monthly active users. Jan Koum, the head of the Facebook-owned company, posted on the popular social network of the achievement. It comes just nearly five months after it was revealed that WhatsApp had 900 million monthly active users.

To mark this occasion, Koum also shared that the service has seen 42 billion messages sent through it daily, 1.6 billion photos shared, 1 billion groups organized through it, and 250 million videos shared.

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By hitting this milestone, WhatsApp joins what appears to be a growing number of apps that Facebook owns with such an enormous reach. The company’s core app is already being used by more than 1.5 billion people monthly and it’s likely that Facebook Messenger will soon be joining the two other services — will Instagram and maybe Oculus be that far behind?

WhatsApp really hit it big time when Facebook purchased the messaging app in 2014 for more than $16 billion. At the time, it only had 450 million monthly active users, but under the leadership of Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, that number has more than doubled in the past two years.

Today’s announcement comes days after Facebook announced its Q4 FY2015 earnings, as well as dropping its $1 annual subscription fee. In the latter, WhatsApp decided to monetize its service by charging businesses instead. Koum described the $1 fee as being something that “really doesn’t work for some people.” The company doesn’t have a firm plan yet on how to monetize the service, but it will likely be around customer support which is very similar to what Facebook has planned for its Messenger service.

This is developing. Please refresh for updates.

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Alphabet passes Apple as the most valuable company on Earth

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Google’s parent company, Alphabet (GOOG), is now the most valuable company in the universe, with a market cap of about $570 billion in after-hours trading after reporting a stronger than expected Q4 FY2015 earnings report. This appears to be the first time Google’s value has exceeded Apple’s since 2009.

Apple (APPL), by comparison, is now valued at $534.66 billion, while Microsoft (MSFT) is worth $432.72 billion; Exxon (XOM), $317.59 billion; Facebook (FB), $327.41 billion; and Berkshire Hathaway (BRK-B), $317.15 billion. Of course, Apple may take back the lead at any moment, as investor confidence swings during earnings season. We’ll update this story if and/or when that happens.

Numerous factors led us to this moment today, including one fear among investors: that Apple’s iPhone sales momentum has peaked, sales will decline, and Apple must to reinvent a new category and find explosive sales to return to its former glory.

In short, some investors think Apple has to do what it did with the iPhone to something else in order to stay on top. Hey, what about virtual reality?

Now’s probably as good a time as any to mention that Alphabet reportedly paid Apple $1 billion to stay on as the iPhone’s default search engine in 2014; Apple reported “the most profitable quarter of any company in history” last year; Apple exceeded that record last month; there are now 1 billion active iDevices as of Q1 2016; and in June, Apple topped Fortune’s list of the most profitable companies in the Fortune 500.

In short, not everyone is worried about Apple.

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Facebook’s News Feed will now surface content you want to see and also engage with

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Facebook has once again tweaked its News Feed algorithm with the goal of improving the articles, posts, and stories that are most relevant to you. Starting today, the social networking company said it’s looking at two new signals: the probability you’ll want to see a story at the top of the News Feed and the likelihood you’ll take some sort of action on it.

In a blog post, software engineers Cheng Zhang and Si Chen explained that the inclusion of these signals came as a result of a survey Facebook conducted its Feed Quality panel. This 1,000-plus member group is tasked with helping the company figure out how to improve the News Feed by sharing their daily experiences. Based on its research, Facebook learned that a better experience was had when stories shown at the top of the feed are ones they are “both likely to rate highly if asked and likely to engage with.”

Perhaps the most active part of Facebook in terms of traffic, the News Feed is the place where we get all of our information about our friends. It’s where photos, videos, links, and general status updates are being shared so we know what our connections are thinking and can respond. But Facebook is always tweaking its algorithm to ensure that we’ll get the right content when we want to see it, especially the most relevant ones.

Among the many tweaks that it has made include enabling you to stipulate which friend you deem to be more important — this signal is used to tell Facebook what updates you always want to see at the top. But if you do this with most of your friends, how can you further filter it? That’s where today’s update will likely come into play.

Previous updates also include putting more importance on status updates and Pages you’ve liked versus those that your friends have liked, and also limiting hoaxes from showing up in the News Feed.

So what will this mean for Pages? Facebook said that “in general, this update should not impact reach or referral traffic meaningfully for the majority of Pages…” but does caution that some may see some effects in traffic. The company also said that Page administrators should avoid encouraging fans to take action such as making numerous clicks because that will result in “temporary spikes in metrics that might then be rebalanced by feed’s ranking over time.”

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