Facebook has new safeguards for profile pictures, but it’s just a first step

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Facebook is revamping profile pictures to make them safer, starting with India.

The company has launched two new features in India to reduce misuse of profile photos, announced on Thursday. Though the issue is not limited to that region of the world, the problem is prevalent in the country, according to Facebook.

The features include "profile picture guard" and "profile picture design." The guard takes away some of the obvious ways of copying the photo; for example, people will no longer be able to download, share or send the profile picture as a message on Facebook. Read more...

More about Facebook, Privacy, Profile Picture, Tech, and Consumer Tech

Facebook has a new mission—and its Chris Cox’s job to make it happen

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Mark Zuckerberg revealed a new mission statement for his company Facebook on Thursday: Bring the world closer together.

It's Chris Cox's job to figure out how to make that happen.

"We’re about to pass 2 billion people," Cox, Facebook's chief product officer, said in an interview ahead of the summit. "We're taking the opportunity to revisit our mission statement which is important because we’re a mission-driven company. We're going from connecting people to moving closer."

Facebook is hosting its first-ever Communities Summit this week in Chicago, where Zuckerberg and Cox will be speaking to be about 300 Group administrators about the company's new efforts, including five product updates.  Read more...

More about Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, Online Video, Facebook Groups, and Groups

DeepMind Health inks another 5-year NHS app deal in face of ongoing controversy

 DeepMind Health, the division of the Google-owned AI company that’s applying machine learning to medical data in the hopes of profiting from diagnostic gain, has inked another services agreement with the UK’s National Health Service — expanding the deployment of its alerts, messaging and task management app, Streams. Read More

Facebook is embracing YouTube-like stars as it pushes for more video

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Laura Clery lives the Hollywood dream. 

She moved to Los Angeles at 17 to be an actress. She slept on friends' couches and ate their food as she worked to get an agent and learn the ins and out of the industry. She ended up landing the first commercial she auditioned for. 

"I was like, 'Oh, this is easy,'" Clery said with a laugh.

Thirteen years later, she's still laughing. Her career has never been better, but that's not because she's been in movies or in a recurring role on television. 

She's a Facebook star. 

For almost the last decade, if you wanted to start as an online video creator and perhaps one day make it in on stage or on TV, you went to YouTube. The video platform became a bustling marketplace for a wide range of people looking creating everything from makeup tutorials to comedy skits.  Read more...

More about Facebook, Youtube, Snapchat, Vidcon, and Creators

Facebook’s AMBER Alerts system launches in Australia

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Facebook's AMBER Alerts are now available in Australia as part of a partnership with the country's state and federal police, and Australians will now be notified of missing children on top of their News Feeds.

While the instance of abducted children in Australia is low, according to the Australian Federal Police, the system's availability will issue a 24-hour alert to users on Facebook who are in the area of where the child went missing.

"We know that when a child is missing, the most valuable thing we can do is get information out to the public as quickly as possible," according to Facebook's Director of Trust and Safety, Emily Vacher, in an online statement. Read more...

More about Facebook, Australia, Law Enforcement, Amber Alert, and Tech

What We Learned From Spending $100k On Facebook Ads

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For a three-person digital marketing team like ours, the prospect of having a big ad budget seemed like a distant dream. So when we were suddenly given $100K to spend on Facebook ads, we were positively giddy.

And unbelievably nervous.

As a lean SaaS startup, we have to be very wise with our marketing investments. Couple that with our low cost-per-sale ($24/monthly for our starter plan), and you can see that being cost-effective while still spending on ads is a challenge.

In May of 2016, we had the honor of working with Facebook Canada. We received a small grant to kickstart our advertising initiatives, and had the opportunity to spend two full days with one of their ad reps.

Other than working with the Facebook team, we are completely in-house. On one hand this was an advantage -- since we could make changes to the program in seconds rather than days -- on the other hand, we were on our own for creative, landing pages, and analytics.

We ran an early prototype campaign with some decent success. In fact, it performed in the same neighbourhood as our other digital advertising initiatives. Cool beans.

But that was just the start. We'd tasted success, and knew that we were only scratching the surface. So, naturally, we made a pitch to our company's executive team to increase our digital marketing budget so we could prove that Facebook was a viable avenue for growth. Our commitment to the business: generate trials at a cost-effective rate of $50/trial.

Our pitch was a success, and we found ourselves with a considerable ad budget. Now it was real -- it was time to build out an end-to-end Facebook Ads strategy.

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Admittedly, we were quite nervous. Our credibility was on the line.

Here's what we ended up learning from that process, wrinkles and all. Read on to the end to see our results.

Lesson 1: Fully commit resources or your cost-per-acquisition (CPA) will rise swiftly.

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We received our first lesson early on. We had become complacent with the success of our ad creative in May 2016, and tried to replicate that again. Using the same ad creative from AdWords, we launched on Facebook Ads. Initially, it worked. We generated trials at an acceptable rate.

But we mistakenly saw this initial success as a sign that we could set it and forget it. We went back to focusing on our other digital marketing strategies, like creating organic content, while our CPAs gradually rose.

Facebook CPAs have a nasty habit of rising suddenly -- I mean, literally blowing up overnight. One morning, we logged into our marketing dashboard and saw that we were generating trials at twice our target CPA of $50/trial. This was crazy business, and we needed to act fast.

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Fixing this problem took a lot of time and resources, and a few calls with our dedicated Facebook Ads guru (shout-out to the brilliant Mike Empey). The problem was Ad Frequency

What happened was that our Facebook ad frequency had risen so high that our addressable market was seeing ads 3-5 times a day. Ugh. So of course CPAs rose accordingly -- we were irritating people to no end.

We resolved to take two actions: first, we swapped in new creative. In fact, we created 5 new ads to push into market. This had an immediate impact, and gave us a deep understanding of how detrimental ad fatigue can be.

Second, and more importantly, we committed to a new process for our creative. We call it "the conveyor belt." Here's how it works:

  • Week 1: Design and launch new ad creative in 1-3 ad sets. Test and analyze results.
  • Week 2: Push all variations to all ad sets. Turn off old ads. Analyze initial results.
  • Week 3: Pick winning variations from ad sets. Analyze and deconstruct results.
  • Week 4: Assess week 1-3 learnings. Apply those learning to new ad creative.

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The side benefit of this process is that we've tested so many ad variants that we now have a repository of "winning variants" that we can quickly call out of retirement if our CPAs rise.

Lesson 2: Segment your audiences to effectively manage ad set CPAs.

Initially, I think we underestimated the amount of ad sets we'd need to manage. Looking back, I cringe to think we only launched our prospecting campaign with three ad sets: USA, Canada, and Europe (today we manage between 50 and 70 ad sets, depending on ad performance).

We weren't even going beyond some basic audience targeting.

No age specification. No regional targeting. No device targeting. Just a giant ad campaign.

We were confident in our ad creative and landing page conversion rates, but forgot the importance of audience profiling. 

It's no wonder that our results were really hard to interpret. I remember naively saying to Valerie Hamilton, our digital marketing specialist, "Europe is performing well today. What's the story?"

We didn't know. Were women converting better than men? Was a certain age bracket doing better than another one? We had no clue.

And at this point our CPAs were still floating about 25% higher than our target. It would have been a dramatic understatement to say we had some optimization work to do.

We started to analyze our lead generation activities across demographic lines. We used a combination of Facebook Ads, Google Analytics, Mixpanel, and Salesforce data. What we found out was that we did remarkably better with people aged between 24-45. This totally makes sense, too.

Folks older than 45 are typically in a more senior role, and rarely the ones actually building or trialing our product. Instead, they are often the ones marshaling their team to demo our software.

Our first action was to split out this age range and only focus on where we saw the most success. By cutting more expensive CPA audiences, we were able to reduce our CPA.

Since then, we've adjusted our messaging to the >45 crowd by including more language about "their team" and "data transparency." We've also focused a lot more of our ad buys on video assets instead of advertising our free trial.

It's worth mentioning that we had good reasons for avoiding audience segmentation. First, we didn't have the capacity to manage dozens of ad sets. Second, we wanted to keep our addressable market as large as possible and let our learnings help us figure out where to whittle down.

Lesson 3: Geographic bidding makes sense when you know regional lifetime values (LTVs).

The other side of the demographic coin for us was splitting out geographies. Treating Europe as a homogeneous advertising market just didn't make sense for our business at the time (see Lesson 8, where we experimented with world-wide delivery).

While our European campaign was performing well enough, it was clear that we were missing an opportunity. For instance, we knew that leads from specific geographies often convert to customers at a much higher rate, and that their LTV was much higher on average.

In broad outreach campaigns, for example, we saw that we were attracting a high number of leads at $15/trial from Greece and Hungary. But while we have great customers in that part of the world, we've run a number of internal reports that show paid leads from that region convert at a much lower rate.

Despite paying such a low CPA, these leads were not converting and we were paying far too much for them. Internal reports (plus complaints from our sales team) had us digging deep into the data.

This is when the lesson clicked for us; we realized it was okay to spend a lot more on leads from, say, the Netherlands, because their LTV and conversion rates were much, much higher.

By splitting out different geographies, we enhanced our ability to match CPA targets to an appropriate LTV.

Lesson 4: Matching ad creative and landing pages.

This is textbook digital marketing, true. But it was a challenge for our scrappy digital marketing team to prioritize this while managing a $100K budget and driving all the day-to-day campaigns required for a fast-growing startup.

Plus, we could rationalize pushing this aside because our landing page was performing reasonably well.

But when you're spending $100K and your CPAs continue to fluctuate, every conversion opportunity is magnified ten-fold.

With our small team and only one dedicated designer, we needed to call in the big guns. We went with Unbounce, and it's had a measureable impact on our landing page conversion rates, helping us grab an 18% conversion rate for Facebook Ads leads. 

As we design ad creative, we create its sister landing page. From there, we can make tweaks to the page to improve conversion rates. Little things like form position, who we featured in our testimonials, and even which button colours we chose amounted to some big improvements.

Lesson 5: The one-two punch of video advertisement.

We've always been huge users of video to demo the product and create awareness. We've created explainer videos that talk about our primary unique selling proposition and give a glimpse into the product, and these videos have been quite successful in garnering views, holding attention spans, and increasing conversions.

As we launched on Facebook, we put ad dollars behind one particular video. Again, good success, but we felt like we could do better. 

This decision was more on gut feel (it still counts!) that video had a big role to play. I mean, just scroll through your Facebook feed right now. The challenge for us was that we'd committed to the business that we'd generate trials at or below our target CPA for that entire $100K. 

Video doesn't have that wonderful direct line to trial that a prospecting campaign does. So, we took a chance, and our product marketing manager, Chris Wolski, called up an Ottawa video production company we now affectionately call "The Rascals."

We created a fun, 35-second explainer video that we thought would play well on Facebook and Instagram. The fact is that we generated a hundred thousand views before we could blink.

How? People were actually sharing the video with friends and family, even tagging others in the comments section. We noticed lively conversations taking place directly on the posts themselves, as if the videos weren't advertisements at all. Here's that video:

Facebook makes it easy to create remarketing programs by creating lists of users that engage with your video. We set up a list for anyone that watched more than 10 seconds of the video. This was a new cost-effective avenue for generating leads well within our target CPA. Video remarketing leads typically come in at about $30/trial, including the initial video buy.

More importantly, it expanded our reach on Facebook and Instagram exponentially. And we've seen traffic to our site go up as a direct result of these ads.

Lesson 6: Create video specifically for Facebook Ads.

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When we launched on video, we didn't really know what to expect. Lots of views? Engagement? Shares?

As a metrics-obsessed company, we knew we needed to establish a KPI. After doing some research and chatting with peers and the account team at Facebook, we decided on Cost-Per-10-second view.

We chose this KPI to help us drive better video engagement and brand recognition. If someone was interested enough to pass over cat videos and baby pictures to watch 10 seconds of our B2B software video, then we were doing something right.

This KPI has fed directly into our production process, too. We've worked with The Rascals to ensure that each video includes text to account for the fact that Facebook's default setting is to mute video. We've also added captions to the mix because videos on Facebook autoplay with the sound off; a whopping 85% of Facebook videos are played with no sound. We would have had disastrous results if we'd relied entirely on the audio within the video to tell our story.

The overall result has been slashing our Cost-Per-10-second view by 50%. This is huge because it means for the same dollar of spend, we're effectively doubling our reach. And you can bet this metric is front and center on our internal social media dashboards.

Lesson 7: Ask for advice and trade ideas.

I could rant for days about how much we learned from Facebook— they were truly fantastic, and the attention we received ensured we'd be successful. That said, there are no special or secret tricks. You can find everything through a Google search for "Facebook Ads Tips."

Putting all those tips and best practices together into a single campaign, however, is where the real challenge lies.

Throughout the process we sought advice from those who've been there before us, who have been learning from others years before we even thought of going this route. It probably comes as no surprise that our team now pays close attention to what other advertisers do on Facebook. In particular, I think Shopify is a leader in this respect. They do a great job of integrating video.

We've also struck up a friendship with the team over at PageCloud , and have enjoyed freely sharing ideas. Many of those conversations have spawned new ad campaigns and experiments. Which leads me to ...

Lesson 8: Boldly experiment.

We allocated a percentage of our budget towards experimentation. When we heard about a new product from Facebook called World-Wide Delivery (WWD) we sort of rolled our eyes and remembered what we had learned about geographic bidding from Lesson 3.

But our friend Mike Empey at Facebook persuaded us to give it a try. So we did. What did we have to lose?

The experiment was a huge success and with just a small percentage of our daily budget we were able to practically double lead volume. In fact, this contributed to us setting daily trial record numbers for 3 days in a row.

When the dust had settled, we analyzed the lead quality, made adjustments to our copy and landing pages, and added WWD campaigns to our arsenal of ads.

Lesson 9: Advertising is still top of the funnel.

Asking someone to start a trial of your software is a lot like calling a friend and asking them to catch up with you over coffee in an hour. The message is out of the blue and entails a time commitment. No matter what their interest level is, they simply may not be able to do it right then.

As we stressed about hitting our trial CPA numbers, we started to lose sight of what we were really trying to do, which was raise awareness and leave our audience with positive first impressions.

In chasing those numbers, we ended up making a series of small decisions that led to us making a big mistake: we'd cut so much content from our landing page that it had basically become just an image with a signup form.

Sure, that page converted well. But it also pissed people off. Some people were getting so upset that they were commenting on the ads themselves.

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At this point, we'd driven down CPAs to about $10 under our target CPA. Our hands were sore from the amount of high-fives we'd collected and shoulders we'd patted. But in that process we committed an egregious error: we forgot about the customer.

We were so caught up in the metrics that we forgot that leads are people.

So, we did the only reasonable thing. We added essential content back into our landing pages (including video content from Vidyard into every landing page), and worked on optimizing that content so the customer could wring as much value from it as possible.

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Of course, CPAs rose. But our ad relevance and positive scores rose along with it.

That was the kind of customer-centric tradeoff we were willing to take.

Editor's Note: Editor's Note: a version of this post first appeared on Inbound.org, HubSpot's community for inbound marketers. 

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Fan stops traffic to get a selfie with The Rock

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Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson is all about making his fans happy and sometimes that means halting traffic to do so.

The Rock was driving in his pickup after work when a fan pulled up beside him, recognized the actor, and started to freak out.

In a Facebook post, he wrote, "I rolled the passenger window down to say hello and then he REALLY freaked out."

The fan immediately parked his rig in the middle of the road and went to stand next to The Rock's driver side window, which was in the way of oncoming traffic. The actor pulled out his phone to record the hilarious encounter. Read more...

More about Watercooler, Facebook, Usa, Los Angeles, and Fans

10 YouTube Pre-Roll Ads You’ll Actually Enjoy

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You technically can't skip these ads. But you wouldn't want to anyway.

Last year at Sundance, YouTube unveiled a new ad format to brands: the unskippable, six second "bumper" ad. To prove it was possible to cram a compelling story into such a short window, they recruited a handful of creative agencies to test drive the format -- and the results were pretty convincing. 

After that, huge brands like Under Armour and Anheuser-Busch adopted the new six second ad format to tell quick but gripping stories that actually stuck with audiences.

In fact, according to Google, 90% of bumper ad campaigns boosted global ad recall by an average of 30%. That's pretty impressive for taking up only six seconds of someone's day.

It might seem like you can't accomplish much in that amount of time, but with a little creativity, brands can use it to forge an emotional connection with their audience and implant a vivid memory of those feelings in their minds.

Why Six Second Pre-Roll Ads Work

Suffering through 15, 30, or even 60 second pre-roll ads prompted so many head shakes and back button clicks that eventually YouTube added a skip button to their ads in 2009. In theory, though, an ad’s first five seconds are enough to hook viewers and hold their attention for the rest of its duration.

But we all know this rarely happens. Whenever a YouTube ad pops up and shields you from your favorite video, what do you usually do? You immediately glue your eyes to the skip button's countdown clock and wait … until those lingering seconds finally slug by.

Fortunately, the six second pre-roll ad better engages viewers. When YouTube plays such a short ad for them, it's not as annoying as a full length ad. And when brands craft these ads into fast, captivating stories, they can resonate well with audiences.

This lets YouTube sustain their ad business while helping brands create a more enjoyable and memorable user experience for its viewers.

So if you're leveraging YouTube's six second pre-roll ads right now, then hats off to you. If you're not, here are 10 examples you can reference to inspire YouTube viewers faster than a Vine could in 2013.

10 Exceptional Examples of Six Second Pre-Roll Ads on YouTube

1) YouTube

To further promote their new ad format's creative potential, YouTube challenged filmmakers and ad agencies to retell classic pieces of literature in just six seconds.

These are some of the most complex novels ever written. So creatives needed to convey each story's core in a simple yet spellbinding way.

Rethink, a Canadian agency, did just that. Their rendition of Hamlet is clear and concise (we all know that everyone dies when modern day Claudius spams the buy button). But it's also unexpected and funny because it gives us a glimpse of how Hamlet could've transpired in today's digital age.

2) Old Spice

You're probably not surprised that this is an Old Spice ad. But you're also probably laughing so hard you're crying like that guy's armpit.

When you watch this ad, you're so amused that you forget Old Spice is trying to sell you deodorant. And while you're still mid-chuckle, your favorite video begins. It's a seamless transition. And viewers crave that. All advertisers should strive to satisfy their audience, and Wieden & Kennedy, Old Spice's agency, know exactly how to indulge theirs.

3) Chipsmore

I know you fell for it too.

When I first saw the red face of doom, disappointment started spilling over me. But, luckily for us, the Chipsmore's Cookie Guy saved the day.

The thing is, we just wanted to watch the ad. Imagine how someone who wanted to watch a video after it must've felt.

They were probably frustrated at the initial sight of the "broken" video link, then surprised when the Cookie Guy appears, which grabbed their attention. And, finally, delighted when their favorite video starts.

This ad takes its viewers on an emotional roller coaster. And, honestly, who doesn't have fun on those?

4) Road Lodge

This is a prime example of insanely honest marketing.

Road Lodge sets the expectation that their hotel is best suited for relaxation. And not so much for partying.

You might think they're deterring potential customers from their hotel -- and you're right -- they are. But it's actually a good thing because these people would never stay at their hotel in the first place. 

And since their honesty signals confidence, builds trust, and shows that they value their customers' experience more than short-term profits, their target market becomes more attracted to them.

Road Lodge knows that if you're brutally honest about your product or service, then you won't disappoint your customers. This makes it a lot easier to maintain their loyalty.

5) Under Armour

When you play baseball, nothing matters more than your stats. They're a direct measurement of your performance and can even define your value as a person.

Under Armour sought to uproot this belief.

In six short seconds, Droga5, Under Armour’s agency, injects purpose into ball players everywhere, motivating them to place their value in their character instead of their numbers.

6) Mercedes-Benz

Mercedes uses swift video cuts and a roaring engine to engage their viewers' senses. This way, their audience can actually see and hear the intensity of reaching 60 MPH in only 3.8 seconds.

7) Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures used this pre-roll ad to promote the full Jason Bourne trailer, which garnered over 14 million views.

And since the ad is chock full of non-stop action, it piqued viewers’ interest and generated tremendous hype around its trailer release.

8) Burn

Burn’s pre-roll ad is so effective because it’s snappy and visually engaging. And since you can process visuals 60,000 times faster than text, a flaming fist across the face will definitely catch your eye.

The slow-mo effect also makes the ad seem longer, intensifying your viewing experience.

9) Airbnb

Family vacations are the best.

You get to explore incredible places and create timeless memories with your loved ones. Is there any other way you would want to bond with your family?

Airbnb agrees too. So their agency, TWBA, produced a charming ad that showcases the benefits of a family vacation: loads of fun and connection.

10) Geico

The Martin Agency, Geico’s creative partner, deserves a lifetime supply of car insurance for this masterpiece.

“Unskippable” was so refreshingly original, it won AdAge’s 2016 Campaign of the Year. And for good reason too. It sympathizes with your annoyance of pre-roll ads, so it ends before you can skip it. But it's also so unique and witty that you'll actually watch the entire ad.

Geico says this ad is impossible to skip because it's already over. But really, this ad is impossible to skip because it's so clever.

Seen any ads that top these? Share them in the comments below!

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Google Glass is apparently still around — and just got its first update in nearly three years

 Dust off your Google Glasses, those who still have them — the $1,500 face computer is back in the spotlight today with a few updates. In its first update since September 2014, Google Glass got a “MyGlass” companion app update, some bug fixes and now supports Bluetooth. Read More

How Facebook Messenger chatbots are driving social change around the world

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You could say Facebook Messenger was once the social network's most loathed feature. In 2014, the company forced users to download a separate app if they wanted to send and receive messages on their phones, and as a result, Messenger rose to No. 1 in the App Store—but with a dismal one-star rating.

Fast forward three years, and you still need to download the app (sorry). But Messenger has evolved, updated with shiny new features, a discover tab, advanced functionality, and a streamlined desktop version. And while it isn't perfect, it has become something none of us expected: an actual force for social good around the globe. Read more...

More about Facebook, Social Good, Facebook Messenger, Bots, and Facebook Messenger Bots
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