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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 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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Why Have B2B Brands Fallen Behind on Social Media?

Take a look at 2016’s most influential brands on Facebook, according to Mavrck: Starbucks, Coca-Cola, MTV and Samsung Mobile top the charts, followed by brands like KFC, Nike and Target. What do these companies have in common? They’re all business-to-consumer.

These days, it’s rare to find a business not trying to make a social media splash. But why is it that B2C companies consistently outpace their business-to-business peers? According to Webbiquity, 88 percent of the B2B crowd uses Facebook—just 8 percent less than their B2C counterparts—so it’s not for lack of trying.

The problem is one of strategy. Because B2C companies like Verizon Communications and Sony Pictures were the early adopters, B2B companies patterned their approaches after their B2C peers.

But while B2C marketers don’t need such a targeted approach to draw new business—anyone can enjoy a Coke or crave KFC—B2B marketers can’t take the same top-of-the-funnel strategy. For niche business services, taking a generalized checklist approach to social media simply doesn’t work.
Why resist the checklist?

With a checklist mindset, social media management becomes a series of tasks: posting daily, responding to customers, adding friends and following clients. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with these practices, unless you’re using social as a channel to find target prospects, you’re missing out on revenue.

B2B businesses that don’t use social to target specific leads or gather buying behavior insights are wasting their time. Intel, for instance, is proof that B2B brands can make social work for them: It has more than 25 million Facebook likes, and it regularly engages other brands with user-generated content to build relationships.

But most B2B companies aren’t like Intel. Rarely do B2B marketers even bother to measure the return on investment from their social investments.

According to Simply Measured’s 2016 State of Social Marketing Report, 61 percent of marketers indicate that measuring ROI is a challenge. Additionally, more than 33 percent say that tying social to business goals is a hurdle they must overcome. Only 9 percent of marketers can quantify the revenue driven by social media.
A better B2B social strategy

The first step to a better social strategy is abandoning the checklist mindset. It’s about choosing platforms strategically, being outward-looking and contacting top-scoring leads before they slip away.

Social media is a lot more than the sum of its separate platforms. Brands using a checklist approach often assume they need a presence on every site, but the truth is that your audience probably uses a couple of platforms and ignores others. If you’re a wheelchair manufacturer, for instance, your clients are hospitals and assisted living facilities, which likely aren’t on Snapchat or Instagram.

Don’t spread yourself thin by trying to be everywhere at once. Use customer segmentation data to predict which platforms they use or, better yet, survey your clients. Learn their pain points, company histories and partners. Spend your social budget efficiently by using these details to speak to their needs on their favored platforms.

By discovering your audience’s social habits, your strategy will naturally become more generous and outward-looking. Social success is all about listening and interacting. Blasting your own message on repeat is like talking about yourself at a cocktail party. The best friends (and clients) are found through give-and-take relationships. Mix up your content with links to clients’ blogs, helpful hints and questions to engage followers. With this approach, you’ll build your brand while answering questions and solving problems.

This is akin to when cocktail partygoers have settled down, taken off their dance shoes and started interacting in small groups. To forge connections with choice clients, use social media signals like hashtags, keywords, brand mentions and influencer mentions to identify target prospects.

Your goal is to offer personalized, resonant content that builds trust. Use Twitter’s direct-message feature to turn public tweeting into friendship. Let’s say, for example, your company provides marketing technology that helps with lead generation. If a marketer shares an article about #leadgen, you might send him your latest e-book about generating leads.

Once you’ve contacted target prospects through social, it’s time to capture their contact information in your marketing automation system for easy follow-ups. Connect your social media activities to your marketing automation or customer-relationship-management system to track socially engaged leads. To see ROI from your efforts, you need to see how many leads have been generated through social media, how many have closed and the revenue influenced by social media.

Social media activity is a great signal of buyer intent and should be a factor in your lead scoring model. Let’s say a lead just tweeted at your CEO. That person has shown interest in your brand, so you can increase his lead score. You could also draft an automated email and send the lead an article written by your own CEO on a similar topic. At Socedo, we’ve found that socially engaged leads have much higher email open and click-through rates than leads from other sources.

Social activity can also indicate when leads are further down the funnel. If a lead just posted about wanting a replacement for a competitor’s product, that’s a hot lead. Alert the appropriate sales representative to follow up and close the sale.

Social media is about human interaction, not a robotic, tick-the-boxes checklist. So ditch the list and craft a strategy around the clients you want to sign, and then get personal with them by starting conversations, sending content and nurturing those leads. You’ll see the difference in ROI almost immediately—and you’ll feel pretty popular, too.

Source: Social Times, article by Aseem Badshahhttp://www.adweek.com/socialtimes/why-have-b2b-brands-fallen-behind-on-social-media/644509)

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Top 3 Sources To Learn How To Invest In Startups Like The Professionals

Investing in startups used to be the privilege of business angels and venture capitalists. With a plethora of equity crowdfunding platforms now available to a greater pool of angel investors, it’s more important than ever to create resources for new angel investors to access the knowledge of seasoned business angels and venture capitalists, who have been investing in startups for long enough to know the pitfalls. Here are some of the best sources of information on how to invest in startups.

Podcasts

There are several podcasts by investors, usually by venture capitalists. Out of these I’d strongly recommend The Twenty Minute VC, a weekly podcast not to be missed. Unfortunately there are very few podcasts by business angels and even fewer by different business angels willing to share the good, the bad and the ugly rather than just their successes. My personal favourite is, naturally, Angel Insights – a podcast I commissioned when it became apparent how few such resources existed. A great starting episode is the recent How to become an angel investor: The ultimate guide by Harry Stebbings, which brings together the best of the last 50-plus episodes.

Books

There are two books I think are definitely worth a read for anybody interested in investing in startups. The best one I’ve come across in a while from the point of view of a business angel is Angel Investing by David S. Rose, CEO of Gust and Founder of New York Angels. In this book David condenses his experience of investing in more than 90 companies and shares what he’s learned along the way.

Another terrific book is Startup wealth: How the best angel investors make money in startups by Josh Maher, which includes portfolio strategy and lessons learned from great successes and spectacular failures. Finally, a great starting point is the guide How to start up investing in startups – a free PDF guide on the things you need to bear in mind when looking at early-stage investing.

Websites

Although this HBS article won’t teach you how to invest in startups, Six myths about venture capitalists by Diane Mulcahy makes you wonder why on earth you aren’t making the investments yourself directly via one of the investor-led crowdfunding platforms.

The history of angel investing by Tom Britton is a short read that will give you some fascinating insight into business angels; for example, did you know that the term ‘business angels’ derives from ‘theatre angels’, who were wealthy patrons of Broadway and received a share of the production’s earnings in exchange for their patronage?

Source: Forbes, article by Goncalo de Vasconcelos (http://www.forbes.com/sites/goncalodevasconcelos/2016/08/12/top-3-sources-to-learn-how-to-invest-in-startups-like-the-professionals/#55f875d26a22)

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Brands Born Online, Reshaping the Retail Landscape

The world might be a mess, but look on the bright side: Men’s shaving products are much better than they used to be.

Thanks to several online shaving start-ups, razors, creams, gels and other paraphernalia are now cheaper, of higher quality and are more convenient to purchase than ever before. Last week one of the upstarts, Dollar Shave Club, was acquired by the consumer products giant Unilever for $1 billion. For shaving behemoths like Gillette, it is the first skirmish in the coming guerrilla war for men’s faces, not to mention other parts.

This column usually focuses on the technology industry, an area that sounds far removed from shaving. But the Dollar Shave acquisition signals something bigger than a mere improvement in shaving — it also underscores a consumer products revolution that would not have been possible without technology.

Hilarious online ads passed along social networks allowed Dollar Shave to create instant customer recognition — in other words, a brand — far more quickly, and for far less money, than a shaving company could have managed a decade ago. Online distribution allowed it to get products into consumers’ hands without a costly retail presence. In fact, by cutting out on retail, and shipping products to people’s homes on a subscription basis, the company made buying shaving products more convenient than going to a store.

The same forces that drove Dollar Shave’s rise are altering a wide variety of consumer product categories. Together, they add up to something huge — a new slate of companies that are exploring novel ways of making and marketing some of the most lucrative products we buy today. These firms have become so common that they have acquired a jargony label: the digitally native vertical brand.

These kinds of online brands aren’t new. Dollar Shave is five years old, and Warby Parker, the online eyewear company, began selling glasses over the web in 2010. But over the last few years there’s been a proliferation of such companies — into underwear, children’s clothing, cosmetics and more — and the Dollar Shave deal suggests their growing importance. These firms could become an emerging problem for consumer products conglomerates like Procter & Gamble, and they might also spell trouble for television, which relies heavily on brand advertising for its revenue.

For you and me, this is a boon. By cutting out the inefficiencies of retail space and the marketing expense of TV, the new companies can offer better products at lower prices. We will get a wider range of products — if companies don’t have to market a single brand to everyone on TV, they can create a variety of items aimed at blocs of consumers who were previously left behind. And because these companies were born online, where reputations live and die on word of mouth, they are likely to offer friendlier, more responsive customer service than their faceless offline counterparts.

“We think it’s a unique moment in history where you can create brands that can be scaled quickly thanks to technology, but you can still maintain a one-to-one connection that delivers an elevated level of customer experience,” said Philip Krim, chief executive of Casper, which sells mattresses online.

 

Mr. Krim and four friends started Casper two years ago after studying the traditional mattress industry. They discovered it was plagued by inefficiencies and annoying gimmicks. Customers had to trudge to a mattress store and awkwardly prostrate themselves on numerous surfaces before choosing one to use for a decade. There were too many choices and brands, and mattresses were expensive.

With Casper, you simply buy the mattress online and it’s shipped to you in a comically small box (the compressed foam expands into a full-sized mattress, like a magic trick). You have three months to try it out, and if you don’t like it, the company will come pick it up free.

Casper’s business model offers a break from the annoyance of offline mattress shopping. It also works out for the company. Casper advertises on social networks, on Google, podcasts and a variety of other places online; the ads are creative, convincing, targeted and cheap. By selling directly rather than through retail middlemen, the company also creates a connection with customers that allows it to test and develop new products — it now sells sheets and pillows, too.

After two years in business, Casper is on track to book $200 million in sales over the next year, but its success isn’t ensured. Precisely because the internet has lowered barriers to entry, Casper is facing a surge of new mattress start-ups like Helix Sleep, Tuft & Needle and Leesa, among others.

Of course, competition could be great for consumers if it continues pushing down prices for all mattresses, and if these companies invest in better products and customer service. But competition could result in evaporating profits, too. Remarking on the Dollar Shave deal, Ben Thompson, an analyst who writes a tech-business newsletter called Stratechery, predicted widespread “value destruction” across many consumer product categories. He also warned of doom for TV, which “is not only threatened by services like Netflix, but also the disruption of its advertisers,” he wrote.

Value destruction could be on the table. But there’s another view that new online brands could unlock profits through products aimed at people who are not well served by incumbents.

Consider Walker & Company, a start-up founded by Tristan Walker, an African-American entrepreneur who argues that traditional shaving, hair care and cosmetics companies have neglected the potentially multibillion-dollar global market of nonwhite customers. Mr. Walker’s first brand, Bevel, creates men’s shaving products that promise to reduce razor bumps, which disproportionately affect black men. He plans to create several more brands, including products for women.

Unlike Dollar Shave, Mr. Walker does not aim to compete with traditional consumer product companies on price alone. “We want to build a very profitable business,” he said. He will do so, he said, by fostering a deep, lifelong connection with an audience that is getting wealthier and more influential — and whose influence, thanks to social networks, can now be tapped.

“Global culture is led by American culture, which is led by black culture in the U.S. — look at music, dance, et cetera,” he said. “So if we’re catering to an audience that are the most culturally influential demographic group in the world, we can use the internet to promulgate our message across the board, whether it’s Twitter, Facebook, Instagram — and that gives us amazing leverage.”

Walker & Company declined to provide sales numbers; a spokesman said revenue had grown 300 percent over the last year.

I spoke to several other online start-ups that echoed the idea of serving untapped new markets. One was Primary, a year-old clothing company founded by Christina Carbonell and Galyn Bernard, former executives at Amazon. Primary makes so-called essentials for children — logo-free pants, shirts and other clothes that don’t shift according to fashion trends. Basically, it offers a way for parents to find specific clothes they like, then to buy the items in several colors and sizes as their children outgrow them.

“We’re offering a solution to busy parents that’s just not out there in the marketplace,” Ms. Carbonell said. “It’s not about some new style every day, it’s something you can count on.”

It’s striking how few of these online companies could have taken off in the presocial age. At the very least, they would have been sunk by the inability to target ads to the demographics they’re aiming to serve.

“Look at Dollar Shave,” Andrew Bosworth, Facebook’s vice president of ads and business platform, told me. “They were just trying to reach men. If they’d started advertising on TV, they definitely would have wasted half their money.”

Source: The New York Times. Article by Farhad Manjoo (http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/28/technology/these-stores-didnt-develop-websites-they-started-there.html?_r=0)

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