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Facebook’s Next Big Bet Is Making Your Phone’s Camera Smarter

Facebook has gotten us all to share text posts and photos, and is seeing a lot of use of video. Now, it wants to turn is all into live streamers, and use advanced technology to aid our use of our phone cameras: That’s the gist of an outlook that Facebook’s Chief Product Officer Chris Cox gave at the Wall Street Journal’s WSJ.D Live conference in Laguna Beach, Calif. Tuesday.

Cox said that Facebook has already seen 400 percent growth in live streaming since opening it up to all of its users in May. Not all of that is coming from users watching broadcasts of major media brands, he explained, adding that the number of small broadcasters — teenagers that stream to just a dozen of their friends — was a surprise even to Facebook itself.

Key to Facebook Live’s future growth will be technology that adds to the live broadcast experience, said Cox. He showed off one example that Facebook is currently experimenting with in the lab: An app that automatically takes the camera input and in real-time renders it in the style of famous painters like van Gogh using neural networks.

The bigger idea behind experiments like this is to turn the camera into an advanced tool that unlocks live streaming and augmented reality experiences, said Cox. “This is going to help take the technology to the next level.”

Cox was joined on stage by Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, who argued that Live is an evolution of free expression on Facebook, complete with the challenges that come with it. The company has been in hot waters in the past for overzealous removal of content, and suggested last week that it was ready to relax some of its guidelines for acceptable content.

“Facebook is a platform for all ideas,” Sandberg said. “We also want to be a really safe community. Those two things can come into conflict.”

As Facebook is making decision what content to keep on its platform and what to ban, it often finds itself confronted with criticism that it is exercising editorial control — a charge that Sandberg and Cox denied. “A media company is about the story that it tells,” said Cox. “A technology company is about the tools that it builds.”

Source: Variety, article by Janko Roettgers (http://variety.com/2016/digital/news/facebook-chris-cox-sheryl-sandberg-live-1201900331/)

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How to Develop a Social Media-Crisis Strategy

It may be difficult to imagine that a comment on social media, or ad campaign, graphic, misquote or argument could cost your organization immeasurably in terms of sales and brand favor.

But these events do occur, increasingly. With communications now moving nationally and internationally at the speed of IOT, compromises can occur, and it is essential to have a solid social media-crisis strategy in place, and ready to implement.

What contributes to a social media crisis?

Digital marketing teams and community managers deal with small problems and minor incidents on a daily basis. One of the most important aspects of social media management is handling negative or inappropriate comments and images and ensuring channel security and customer-service responses that enhance consumer’s experience and with its brand and your image.

Of course, a social media crisis is something far larger than a negative comment or two. It is an incident where something that your business has said or done has caught negative national or even global attention. Sometimes the brand is not at fault in any way, but is still in a position where it has to defend against a substantial social media public backlash, one that can cost millions in lost sales and customer retention, if your representatives do not handle things in an appropriate way.

Looking for some examples of social media brand crises in 2016? Who could forget the staff member at Kitchenaid who tweeted insensitively about President Obama’s deceased grandmother? The tweet was sent, mistakenly, on the Kitchenaid official account by an internal staffer who thought that he or she was using a personal account.

Kitchenaid respectfully deleted the tweet, apologized to the Obama family and indicated how the error had happened. The company also confirmed that the individual who had made the comment would no longer be managing its social media activities.

That quick and appropriate response probably saved the brand.

In some instances, however, it is not an internal staff member who is responsible for tweeting something offensive, but rather a deliberate hack of the social media account. That happened to Burger King in February 2013, when hackers replaced the burger chain’s official branding with a McDonald’s logo, and began to tweet offensively.

Fans quickly caught on, however, that the account had been hacked, and in subsequent weeks (after Burger King changed its password), the chain’s Twitter account gained more than 30,000 new followers.

Creating your social media crisis plan in four steps

Like any other emergency strategy, a social media crisis plan is designed to offer a quick and appropriate response and funnel correct information to anyone looking to access it, including customers, employees and the media. Here are four steps.

1. Assign a team.

While the best-practices guidelines for your social media crisis plan should commence with your marketing department, the implementation of these procedures will touch a variety of departments, including customer service staff, sales, human resources and senior leadership officials within youre organization. Create a team with at least one representative from each impact department who will be trained to respond, and one back-up person from every essential communication group.

2. Delegate and designate.

Define the core message that your brand needs expressed in the event of a negative online backlash or public relations fallout. The most successful businesses in the world, in a state of emergency publicity, fall back to their core values to assure the public, customers, shareholders and employees of their commitment and integrity.

Delegate core spokespeople for your brand. Controlling who comments on behalf of your business is essential to resolving the problem. Letting multiple employees comment, perhaps inappropriately, can fan a small flame into a forest fire, from a public relations perspective.

3. Document it.

Your crisis strategy for managing communication through social media should be thoroughly documented, and there should be printed copies available in key areas, as well as digital ones. Keep in mind that some social media crises can stem from a corporate hacking incident (like the event with Sony in 2014), in which case intranet and other resources may not be immediately available. Have a back-up location specifically separate from your main network.

4. Practice the plan.

Having a social media crisis strategy buried somewhere in the marketing archives does little to ensure that your response will be prompt when it’s needed. So, practice it twice per year, and ensure that as staff members change in key roles, new staff are trained with the appropriate protocols

The ability that a brand has to pivot in the face of a public relations problem determines its ability to find a fast resolution, and minimize collateral damage to the brand and its reputation. With luck, your business may never need it.

Source: Enterpreneur, article by Pratik Dholakiya(https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/282934)

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How marketers are distributing 360-degree videos beyond YouTube and Facebook

When you read The New York Times’ technology section today, you will see an ad from Google at the top of the page featuring a 360-degree video clip on the left and a still image with a “Come Explore” button on the right. Clicking on the button, you will be directed to an in-browser 360-degree series titled “The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks.”

There, you can watch a glacier recede at Kenai Fjords in Alaska, fly over an active volcano in Hawaii or ride horseback through the Bryce Canyon in Utah.

This is one of the latest examples on how marketers and advertisers are tackling the distribution issue in virtual reality: pointing people to a 360-degree video experience with a teaser clip or display ad on a big publisher. Viewers don’t have to buy a headset, download a separate VR app or go to YouTube.

Jack-In-The-Box, for example, promoted its Brewhouse Bacon Burger last month with a contextual ad on Twitch linking viewers back to a 360-degree video around its juicy burger. Sarah Bachman, vp of mobile strategy for Horizon Media, the agency behind Jack-In-The-Box, declined to disclose how her team measures the campaign as she is not authorized by the brand.

Still, it’s unclear if serving teaser content on a major publisher can truly help brands extend the reach of their VR efforts. At the moment, there is no single scaled VR solution, so it requires a varied but deliberate distribution plan and lots of testing, said Bachman.

The prevailing approach for distributing VR content is through a mobile app like Google Cardboard or via YouTube and Facebook. The former requires downloading the app, which is an additional barrier to consumer adoption, while the latter requires embedding the content back on a website. This amounts to a broken 360-degree experience, explained Michael Rucker, co-founder and chief operating officer for VR company OmniVirt that provides the technology for the two campaigns above.

“Publishers should be able to power VR experiences right on their own media property as they have been investing in this space. But rendering a 360-degree video across all of a publisher’s different platforms is a difficult technical challenge,” he said.

Teaser content on major publishers aside, agency Arnold Worldwide has been testing out the organic reach of new distribution platforms like Littlstar (via an unpaid partnership) and Samsung VR (think of both platforms as the VR equivalent of YouTube) since this past April in its “Instant Caribbean Vacation” 360-degree video experience for Carnival Cruise Line.

“On these two platforms, we are focused on organic views only right now. That, in part, will help justify any paid media support we opt to put behind those platform placements down the road,” said Sean Will, vp and director of digital production for Arnold Worldwide. “Content-wise, I think we need to build more embedded interactions. For example, Google has created some nice experiences with its street map technology, like the VR tour of Dublin.”

Since those methods could help consumers get more familiar with 360-degree videos, brands are less hesitant to invest in VR. The distribution issue of real immersive VR experiences like Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, however, still remains unsolved, according to Dave Meeker, vp of agency Isobar’s U.S. operations.

“Remember, 360 is just an entry point to VR. If a brand wants to do VR, there’s no clear path to success at the moment. The question is, do I go for scale, or do I go for big impact?” he said. “We are still at an early stage, but the potential is absolutely here. We are not limited by the technology, but we are limited by the adoption of the technology.”

Source: Digiday, article by Yuyu Chen (http://digiday.com/agencies/marketers-distributing-360-degree-videos-beyond-youtube-facebook/)

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PayPal is shutting down its Windows Phone, BlackBerry, and Amazon apps

PayPal is thinning the number of mobile operating systems supported by the company’s flagship app down to just two: Android and iOS. The PayPal mobile apps for Windows Phone, BlackBerry, and Amazon’s Fire OS will be discontinued as of June 30th.

It’s fairly common to see these decisions for Windows Phone and BlackBerry, but a little less regular to see a company of PayPal’s stature just up and abandon Amazon’s fork of Android, which runs on Kindle Fire tablets and the failed Fire Phone. PayPal doesn’t offer much of an explanation for the decision, but claims it’ll lead to better apps for the remaining platforms. “It was a difficult decision to no longer support the PayPal app on these mobile platforms,” said Joanna Lambert, PayPal’s VP of consumer product, in an announcement on the company’s blog. “But we believe it’s the right thing to ensure we are investing our resources in creating the very best experiences for our customers.”

PayPal is quick to point out that despite being left without a native app, affected users will still have full access to PayPal’s mobile website for account management and money transactions. There are other options, too; BlackBerry users can still send peer-to-peer payments with PayPal through BBM. And on the Windows side, Outlook.com users can enable the PayPal add-in to send payments right from the email app.

“We remain committed to partnering with mobile device providers, and we apologize for any inconvenience this may cause our customers,” Lambert said. PayPal claims that putting a sharper focus on just the two apps will allow the company to “innovate and make enhancements to PayPal’s mobile experiences to give our customers the best possible ways to manage and move their money.”

Source: The Verge, Article by Chris Welch (http://www.theverge.com/2016/5/25/11777422/paypal-killing-windows-phone-blackberry-fire-os-apps)

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Facebook Just Bought This Hot Virtual Reality Startup

Facebook continues to build its virtual reality business. The social networking giant acquired a small startup called Two Big Ears, which specializes in audio technology that Facebook will incorporate into its own VR projects.

Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

Based in Edinburgh, Scotland, the startup was set up to assist companies like video game businesses better incorporate so-called spatial audio in their products. Spatial audio refers the idea of replicating sound in a live, three-dimensional space using a combination of amplifiers, speakers, and sound processing technology.

If a person straps on a headset and is transported to a virtual beach, the audio one receives from the headset should give an accurate presentation of the scene. The ocean waves should sound closer or farther away to a person depending on where one may be standing in the virtual environment. Any hiccup or latency in the audio could create a disorienting experience and ruin the feeling of immersion.

Facebook did not explain in detail how it plans to incorporate the technology into its Oculus Rift headset or related software, but a Facebook blog post by the startup’s founders said that the team “will be working with the Oculus team to combine our expertise and create best in class VR audio.”

Additionally, the startup’s audio software suite for VR and 360 video, called Facebook 360 Spatial Workstation, is now available for free to download via Facebook.

From the blog post:

Starting today, our pipeline for cinematic VR and 360 video, including the authoring tools, encoder and rendering engine are available for free via download below. We’re excited to be able to continue developing great tools for a larger number of people across the world. 3Dception for Games will no longer be a separate product but we will be working with the Oculus team to combine our expertise and create best in class VR audio. Existing Pro customers will continue to receive support in accordance with your current agreement for the next 12 months.

The move makes sense for Facebook as it attempts to convince developers to build apps and software for Facebook’s own Oculus software suite. Both the Facebook Oculus Rift and the Samsung Gear VR headset, which is co-developed with Samsung, are powered by Facebook’s Oculus software.

Samsung counted more than one million Gear users in April, indicating a growing popularity of virtual reality devices. Yet, although the Oculus Rift has generated relatively positive reviews, there’s still a lack of media and software available compared to mobile phones or desktop computers.

Facebook is trying to make it easier for developers to build software tailored for VR and its Oculus software, and giving coders tools to better incorporate sound technology is one way to entice them.

Source: Fortune, Article by Jonathan Vanian (http://fortune.com/2016/05/23/facebook-just-bought-this-hot-virtual-reality-startup/)

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