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Instagram Now Supports Landscape and Portrait Photos

The latest and greatest digital news updates.

Think Outside the Box: Instagram Lets You Go Landscape, Portrait

Instagram announced a new update that will allow the app to support landscape and portrait photos. The update is designed to help users post photos that don’t normally fit into the Instagram box shape by tapping on the format icon and adjusting the options to fit portrait or landscape images. This will allow users to fit a “full” image into an Instagram post without having to crop the image or create a border. Within the profile grid, they will still appear as a cropped square.

YouTube’s New Gaming Platform Already Looks Like a Big Hit with Advertisers

Google has launched an app that aggregates more than 25,000 different gaming channels in order to help gamers easily find content from popular creators like PewDiePie and TwoSync. While gaming has historically been a niche advertising space, its recent shift into the mainstream means some surprising big-name brands are leveraging the new app. Best Buy, Stella Artois, and Taco Bell are all among the first wave of big-name advertisers seizing the opportunity.

SlideShare Rebrands as “LinkedIn SlideShare,” Adds a Pinterest-Like Clipboard Section

Since its acquisition by LinkedIn, SlideShare underwent rebranding to become more deeply integrated with the professional platform. In its latest update, users will be able to “clip” slides from presentations and save them to a customized clipboards section. Once complete, the board can be made public and searchable, and shared on social media.

Snapchat Adds Mashable, IGN, Tastemade to Discover Feature

Snapchat added three new media outlets to their Discover feature that allows brands to tell their own stories to the masses. The Snapchat Discover feature, which is now located prominently at the top of the Stories page, already features outlets such as CNN, Buzzfeed and National Geographic. Previously, when Snapchat added new outlets to Discover, they cut other outlets. In this update, they didn’t, which shows the platform’s intentions to further grow the feature.

New Ways to Optimize for Google Search (Friday5)

Google is smart. It knows what users are searching for and which process they go through to find search results. As the Google algorithm is constantly evolving, it is better at understanding user search intent, and in turn, prioritizing content engagement more than ever before.

As we advise clients on how to design online content for their websites, we need to help them understand how to optimize that content for search engines helping them drive more traffic to their content. Traditionally, this optimization focused on variables such as keyword targeting, anchor text, meta data, user experience/multi-device and the like. However, we have to think past these traditional variables of optimization and start putting a bigger focus on how the end user will engage with the content.

Here are five new variables to optimize for Google’s changing algorithm:

1. Relative CTR

What is this? Essentially this means getting people to spend more time on our client’s websites than their competitors’ websites. This involves understanding what a user wants to see in a search result and optimizing content to clearly answer their question and compel them to visit our client’s website. Once new content is published, Google often gives a window of testing on page one to determine how effective and engaging content is with searchers. If content is highly engaged, it will likely remain at a high ranking, but otherwise it will drop off of page one results. This provides an opportunity for repeated publication on the same topics/keywords until we can successfully engage with an audience.

2. Beating Competitors on Engagement

Google is no longer gameable. In the past, people have tried to trick Google’s algorithm by driving fake traffic to websites to show high volumes of traffic or keyword stuffing content trying to ensure a high ranking in organic results. Long gone are the days when this was acceptable practice – it now leads to Google punishing your content and rankings. While there are a number of factors that go into beating the competition on engagement, the end all, be all, is to know your audience and create high quality, engaging and interactive content that will capture their attention and compel them to visit your website.

3. Give People What They Need

Google’s ultimate goal is to deliver content to searchers that fulfills their needs and does not require them to return to the search process. For example, is a user searches for “What is SEO?,” the ideal search result would contain the definition of search engine optimization rather than a technical document that details SEO practices. Google’s advanced algorithm is key here because it is able to understand user intent based on related words, phrases and themes and then deliver this content to users.

4. Amplification and Loyalty

The top 10 percent of content receives all the social shares and traffic. From a ranking perspective, Google does not care about raw shares and numbers from social, but overall engagement. They want to see social actions that result in returning visits and loyalty. Understanding what our audience shares and engages with is increasingly important so that we can focus on this content and improve it.

5. Instant Gratification

Google’s end goal is to get searchers to accomplish their tasks quicker. They want to see a user’s search, understand what the majority of those searches lead to, and then deliver that result more quickly. Having a page or website that answers a searchers initial query, but does not fulfill their end search need will lead to a decline in ranking over time.

In the end, it’s not about the number of roads that lead to a destination, but the quality of the destination. For SEO, it’s not about the number of links to/from your website, number of visitors to your website or amount of content that you post – it’s about the quality of the content and its relevance to the visitors. Understanding our audience and their end search intent is more important than ever when developing content. With Google’s mission focused on fulfilling a user’s search intent as efficiently and effectively as possible, we must realize that we now live in a two-algorithm world and optimize for both traditional variables and quality user engagement.

Image credit: Google

Twitter Offers Promoted Tweets and Videos Beyond Platform

The latest and greatest digital news updates.

Twitter to Offer Promoted Tweets, Videos Beyond Twitter

Marketers can run Promoted Tweets and Promoted Videos on other mobile apps outside of Twitter. Until now, this functionality was only for mobile app-install ads. With the recent update, promoted tweets and videos will appear via publisher apps such as Slack Radio, Words with Friends 2, The Voice, and Weather Plus.

Facebook Experiment Suggests It’s Going After Medium

Facebook is testing a refreshed design within its largely-ignored “Notes” section. Within the test, “notes” will look similar to blog posts, encouraging users and brands to utilize the platform for longer-form storytelling. At this time, the test does not include a sidebar with page suggestions or advertisements. It is currently being tested amongst a small group and Facebook has not announced plans for a complete rollout. With other recent updates such as Instant Articles, In-Feed Video Streaming and the Embeddable Player, Facebook continues to try and keep users within the Facebook platform.

How Facebook’s Autoplay Videos Are Ushering in a New Era of Silent Storytelling

Nicole Spector of Adweek discussed the impact Facebook is having on autoplay video ads. As described, marketers cannot simply continue to post the same video to multiple platforms, but rather tailor videos to the nuances of a platform’s video features, such as Facebook’s autoplay function. Specifically, videos will need to use hyper-targeting and should work to tell a compelling video visually before considering the autoplay.

5 Things You Should be Thinking about for SXSW 2016 (Friday5)

If your brand is considering a presence at SXSW next March, believe it or not, now is the time to start planning.

Here are five things to consider:

1. Think about SXSW early and often

Sure, SXSW is 202 days away. But hotels are already getting sold out and travel is being planned. The point is that now is the time to start thinking about your plan and activation, looking into venues and developing your strategy.

2. There are more places than ever to plug in

With new additions to the Interactive path (now including Sports, Create, Good and Style) – and to SXSW Film, Music and EDU – there are multiple fronts where your brand can have a presence. Remember that interactive is typically the most crowded space, so don’t forget about the not as obvious opportunities. It could be a great, unexpected way to show up differently.

3. Provide value, not noise

SXSW is large. And noisy. It’s filled with brands that are trying to out scream one another for attention. And because of that, they all get lost in the shuffle. Ask yourself, how can I make the SXSW-goers experience better? In other words, don’t ask what they can do for you, ask what you can do for them. How can you be a beacon in a sea of sameness? The brands that help make the festival experience even better (instead of trying to compete with it) are the ones that win hearts, minds and ink.

4. Think about before, during and after SXSW

Most people are laser focused on the 10 days of the festival (or maybe even just the 4 days of interactive). When you’re developing your plan, it’s important to include a “build” that leads towards the festival, engaging influencers and SXSW-goers long before they step foot in Austin. And after they go home with Texas-sized memories in their heads, how will you keep the conversation going? SXSW isn’t a moment in time, it’s a state of mind!

5. Be targeted, strategic and scrappy

With the thousands upon thousands of people in Austin during SXSW, it’s unrealistic to think you’re going to reach them all. Focus on the people who matter most to you and your brand, and develop a strategy to reach them directly. Also,know that many people come to SXSW to embrace serendipity, so be flexible and scrappy on the ground.

Image credit: SXSW/Diego Donamaria

Pinterest Releases New “Liftwords” System

The latest and greatest digital news updates.

Pinterest’s New “Liftwords” System Sets it Apart From Other Social Platforms

Pinterest-marketing firm Ahology recently developed a “Liftwords” system that helps the platform perform “more like search than social media.” As users often consult Pinterest with shopping or usage queries, the content has a much longer shelf life than on networks like Facebook or Twitter, and keywords play an important role in content discovery. The new “Liftwords” system analyzes trending words and phrases by product or service and automatically suggests them to users writing pin descriptions.

Facebook’s New Video Ads Can Play in Any App

Facebook announced on Tuesday that it’s expanding its autoplay video ad format to third-party publishers that plug into its mobile ad network. Facebook will also offer slideshow-like carousel ads and dynamic product ads that target users based on online purchasing behaviors.

Chat Away: Twitter Removes 140-Character Limit for Direct Messages

On Wednesday, Twitter removed its 140-character limit on the platforms direct message feature. Users can now send messages that are up to 10,000 characters in length, allowing for longer and more detailed messages.

Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook Revealed as Most Popular Networks Among Millennial Teens

A recent study analyzing millennial teens revealed that the smartphone is ranked as the most important device among teens, and on it, they’re using Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook the most. 50 percent of teens ranked Facebook Messenger as the leader, followed by Instagram and Snapchat at 47 percent. This is important to note as brands expand their presence on these particular channels and target younger audiences.

Facebook Introduces Customer Service Features for Businesses

The latest and greatest digital news updates.

Facebook Wants Your Complaints About Businesses

Facebook will soon launch a “Send Message” button directly into ads to bolster the platform as a space for customer service. Businesses can also deal with disgruntled customers via a personal chat, instead of on their main page where other fans can see the dialogue. Page admins can open up a new window, which will include a link to the customer’s comment for reference and deal with the complaint in private. Once the business responds, the customer’s original comment will display a note indicating that it was dealt with. Pages that respond to complaints within 5 minutes 90% of the time will have a “Very Responsive” badge on their page, indicating that they have a verified and effective customer service department.

Hootsuite Welcomes Instagram to Their Dashboard

First in class, and long awaited, Hootsuite announced this week that their platform will now include scheduling and publishing Instagram content. Users will begin seeing an option to add an Instagram account to their Hootsuite dashboard, allowing brands the ability to securely share Instagram accounts, create approval workflows and engage with Instagram audiences.

Taboola Signs 3-year Strategic Partnership with Gannett

This week, Taboola, a content syndication platform, signed a three-year exclusive strategic partnership with USA Today publisher Gannett. The partnership will allow web pages to be personalized so content served will align with the user’s consumption style. The unique partnership will ensure tailored content – even including content based off of consumption behaviors.

Twitter is Testing out a Breaking News Tab in its Mobile Apps

Twitter is rolling out a “news” tab that’ll appear in its iOS and Android apps. When users click the news tab, they’ll be presented with trending stories that appear to be curated from major news organizations like CBS News and The New York Times. Tapping on one of the stories brings a view that shows the beginning of a news story (with a link to tap for the full article) as well as top-related tweets.

Social Paid Media Updates to Know (Friday5)

Digital advertising platforms are constantly evolving to better serve marketers and help drive meaningful impact. Here are five recent updates to mainstream social/digital platforms that will impact current and future strategies and spends on these sites:

1. Instagram ad platform coming soon

As soon as Facebook bought Instagram in 2012, we began wondering about and discussing how they’ll facilitate advertising in the image-centric feed. It currently costs around $250,000 minimum to run a campaign, but that’s changing soon with the introduction of self-serve, no minimum ad options through Facebook’s Power Editor. Come this Fall, marketers with varying social budgets can begin experimenting with photo, video and photo carousel formats in addition to new calls to action, including app installs, driving to a landing page for more information, sign ups and e-commerce.

2. Twitter introduces Ads Editor

This week Twitter announced a new Ads Editor feature for their self-serve advertising platform. The Editor streamlines campaign creation and management by giving the option to download campaigns as Excel spreadsheets, make edits directly within the spreadsheet and upload back to the platform for easy editing. Until now, editing Twitter campaigns was a more laborious, web form-based process involving multiple steps. According to the announcement, Ads Editor is expected to roll out globally to all advertisers over the next few weeks.

3. Pinterest engagement campaigns

Last month, Pinterest announced the availability (U.S.-only for now) of promoted pin campaigns optimized for engagement. These campaigns are based on a cost-per-engagement (CPE) model, charging advertisers for each closeup, repin or click on promoted Pins. They also rolled out an update to their ad platform called Pinterest Ads Manager, which provides topline performance stats across current campaigns and suggestions to optimize Promoted Pins.

4. Facebook updates CPC definition

Along with their latest API release last month, Facebook communicated a change to their definition of cost-per-click (CPC) on the platform to only account for “link clicks,” including clicks to a website, calls to action, app installs, Facebook’s canvas apps or viewing a video on another site. Until now, CPC included any click within an ad unit, including likes, comments, shares, clicks to other sites and the like. According to the announcement, the CPC definition was changed to allow advertisers to better optimize campaigns against specific business objectives and campaign goals. The change will likely cause an initial increase in CPC and a decrease in click-through rate (CTR), though the results will be more valuable to those intending to drive link clicks and not general engagement (likes, comments and shares).

5. Yelp switching from display to native

Following reports from their CFO that its display ad business hindered growth last quarter, Yelp announced intent to sunset its display ad options by the end of 2015. According to MarketWatch, the review site will now focus on a “promoted post” format from businesses on the site, similar to Facebook and Twitter’s native social ads.

Image credit: Brady

Instagram Self-Serve Ads Coming Soon

The latest and greatest digital news updates.

Instagram Self-Serve Ads – Coming to a campaign near you!

After much conversation, Instagram has provided an updated timeline for their new self-service model Ad Platform. While the functionalities were announced weeks ago, Instagram has confirmed that the entire new platform will begin rollout sometime in August and will be fully available in 85 countries in mid-late September. The updated platform will function similarly to Facebook’s set-up, allowing for micro-targeting and smaller spends that had previously been unavailable. For brands already working with Facebook Preferred Marketing Developers, the functionality is currently available in their alpha and beta tests phases.

Facebook to Feature a Standalone Events App – Facebook Events

With 450 million active users to-date, Facebook Events has become one of the most popular features on the social network. Recently, Facebook began sending out alerts to notify users of their events coming up each day to test new features. Now, a standalone mobile app is in the works for Facebook Events to drive awareness of events going on that users have both RSVP’d to and even events they weren’t yet invited to.

Snapchat Drops Yahoo! and Warner Music from ‘Discover’ Tab

Snapchat’s ‘Discover’ tab hosts curated content from some of the world’s best publishers including Vice, Comedy Central, Cosmopolitan, and more. Earlier this week, Yahoo! and Warner Music were dropped from the ‘Discover’ tab and replaced with Buzzfeed and iHeartRadio. While Snapchat has not confirmed why Yahoo! and Warner Music were dropped, some believe it is because they haven’t driven a lot of advertising revenue for Snapchat. ‘Discover’ tab publishers are allowed to sell ad space on their channels with Snapchat taking an agreed upon cut of the revenue.

Best Practices: How to Break the Mold with Visual Storytelling

Jake Athey of Ad Age outlines the best ways to stand out with visual storytelling. Of note, user generated content – but on steroids – is recommended to really break the mold. The article uses examples like Questival and Tough Mudder as events that garner a large amount of user generated content in a short amount of time. Additionally, memes can be activated to tell incredible stories that pictures sometimes cannot, and a clear strategy/North Star is critical in visual storytelling efforts.

Things We Can Learn From Military Public Affairs (Friday5)

Editor’s note: This version has been updated to accurately reflect the USMC’s involvement with Terminal Lance.

Can you imagine being responsible for 3.2 million employees? How about communicating with them? Unless you’re the CEO of Walmart or McDonalds the answer to those questions is probably “No.” The Department of Defense is the largest employer in the world with more than 1.4 million active duty servicemen and women and over 1.1 million National Guardsmen and Reservists (plus 700,000+ civilians). An organization with such scale presents an interesting challenge — how do you effectively communicate with an audience that large? How do you communicate to the public? What do you do when disaster strikes?

Our clients often have those same questions. Here are five things we can learn from military public affairs:

1. Crisis Communications

Seventeen minutes after the first shots were fired on September 16, 2013, at Washington Navy Yard, @USNavy was already tweeting. The Navy became the trusted source on the incident and they were able to control the flow of information for the duration of the crisis. The Navy did such a great job providing consistent and transparent communication that Twitter did a case study on the incident, saying, “Twitter became the news wire on that day; the Navy’s Tweets were the news bulletins.” You’ll find this type of response across all military branches because it’s muscle memory for them as a result of their countless hours of training. They embrace the idea that if you fail to plan, you should plan to fail.

2. Employee Engagement

The United States Marine Corps is known for a great many things, but few point to its humor and irreverence. Watch a show like Generation Kill or read a comic series like Terminal Lance and you’ll see this immediately. Rather than fight that culture and pretend like it doesn’t exist, the Marine Corps has largely embraced it. Last year the Commandant of the Marine Corps, General James Amos, made himself available for a video town hall meeting. They solicited questions from Marines on Facebook and Twitter using #AskCMC and General Amos answered them. Some of the questions were pretty tough (e.g. “How can the Commandant lead the Marine Corps in a reawakening without a ground combat record?”), but they didn’t shy away. Embracing the culture of your organization and communicating in a transparent and authentic way on platforms that your employees actually use is something the military does really well. As communicators, we should take note.

3. Media Relations

If you’ve been to New York, you know it’s pretty difficult to get tickets to Jimmy Fallon. So you can probably imagine how hard it is to get your organization on his show as a guest. When the Navy Reserve was celebrating their Centennial earlier this year, they secured an extremely favorable placement on the show that involved Vice Admiral Robin Braun commissioning 100 new Navy Reserve recruits on live television. Similarly, the Army convinced Stephen Colbert to go through Army bootcamp and shave his head in solidarity while visiting Iraq. Not only was that a huge media sensation, but it also gave the soldiers a momentary taste of home and a huge morale boost. Sure, everyone loves to support the troops, but it still requires strategic planning and execution to identify and pitch creative opportunities. The military has an extremely robust media relations operation that is both proactive and reactive. They are looked to for information during times of crisis, so investing in those relationships during times of need allows them to be proactive in the future.

4. Content Strategy

If it’s true that people “eat with their eyes,” then the U.S. military is a 5-star restaurant. From Army training missions in Afghanistan to Air Force paratroopers jumping from a C-130J Super Hercules over Bulgaria, military public affairs professionals consistently produce compelling images and creative videos to engage employees, family and the general public. Their strategy is simple: Tell visual stories from across the world and leverage the social web to get those stories in front of people back home and abroad.

And boy does it work. Just look at the engagement on the U.S. Air Force or U.S. Army Facebook pages. And in the comments you’ll see proud Americans, nostalgic veterans, homesick active duty, and future recruits all talking together. Understanding your audience and leveraging the resources you have (even if you don’t have cool airplanes) to tell visual stories is key to any content strategy and the military is leading the way.

5. Campaign Planning

On May 13, 2015, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced several groundbreaking personnel initiatives during a speech at the United States Naval Academy. As he was speaking, the Navy was sharing quotes and additional resources in real-time. His team prepared pre-recorded videos addressing each initiative, understanding that there would be additional questions, and drove social traffic to those videos. He also made the full text of his speech available online for anyone to read. It is obvious that SECNAV Mabus wanted to be crystal clear and transparent about his #PeopleMatter campaign and that likely came from months of planning and coordination. Due to the flood of information, Sailors were left with answers instead of questions and excitement instead of confusion. This flawless execution can be applied to any major corporate announcement and is a great reminder that planning across the spectrum of earn media, owned media and social media is extremely valuable.

Joe Scannell is an Account Executive on the Digital Crisis team in Washington, DC. He is also a Public Affairs Officer in the United States Navy Reserve. You can follow him on Twitter for tweets about tech, politics, and Chicago sports.

Image credit: The Joint Staff

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