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I (Don’t) Want My IGTV

Despite massive popularity, unrivaled cultural relevance and a billion daily active users, Instagram can’t seem to figure out long-form video. Specifically, its “IGTV” platform, which originally launched as a standalone app in June (remember that?) is largely being ignored by users, at least if multiple media reports (New York Magazine, Fast Company) are to be believed. 

Small sample-size? Sure. But the numbers aren’t encouraging when so few show have shown any interest in IGTV.

We don’t have much else to go on. Despite scouring the internet, I couldn’t find a credible reporting of IGTV’s monthly active users (MAUs). Presumably, that would indicate that the number is underwhelming, and as such, it hasn’t been released. I found a random tweet that pegged it around 65 million, but that number is unsubstantiated and seems unlikely. 

Quick, informal polls on my Twitter and Instagram feeds suggested the same conclusion. 

In my own Instagram story and Twitter feed last week, I asked followers, most of whom work in the digital marketing space, if they actually use IGTV. Of 40 responses to my Instagram story poll, only one person acknowledged actually watching the IGTV platform. 

At 2.5% percent, that’s about as effective as a PPC ad. That’s not what we industry types call a great conversion rate.

On Twitter, most replies were “Nope.” Others suggested that they’d only landed on IGTV accidentally.

Instagram launched IGTV to much fanfare midway through 2018, with analysts proclaiming it to be a potential YouTube competitor. That didn’t pan out. Almost a year later, the platform feels like, at best, an afterthought, and at worst, a miscalculation. When the initial standalone app failed to take off, IGTV was more deeply integrated into into the main Instagram experience.

However, IGTV doesn’t seem to be resonating with rank-and-file Instagram users. 

Early on, Instagram was preaching patience. â€œIt’s a new format. It’s different. We have to wait for people to adopt it and that takes time,” former Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom told TechCrunch in August of 2018. “Think of it this way: we just invested in a startup called IGTV, but it’s small, and it’s like Instagram was (in the) ‘early days.’”

A month later, Systrom, along with Instagram Co-founder Mike Krieger, left Facebook, Instagram’s parent company.

So, is IGTV the new Google+? It’s likely too early to tell, but it’s looking that way.

Instagram’s main feed and Stories products have become symbiotic with the influencer community, and IGTV seems tailor-made for brands and influencers to offer longer-form content; videos can be up to an hour long. However, the people who should have the most interest in the new platform, creators themselves, are mostly just repurposing (read: cropping vertically) their YouTube content

Without a clear monetization path, they’re unlikely to continue to put any real effort into the platform. Top talent on YouTube can make six figures or more a month.

IGTV isn’t the first time that Facebook has swung and missed on long-form content. Facebook Watch, which was also positioned as a YouTube competitor, initially was paying content providers, with an estimated budget of $90 million. But as that money started drying up, outside of truly unique content like Tom Brady’s “Tom vs. Time,” “Ball in the Family” or WWE’s “Mixed Match Challenge”, there wasn’t much to see on Watch.

IGTV is not paying content creators, and it still lacks an advertising or revenue-sharing model. (UPDATE: On April 2, AdAge reported that Instagram has started to reach out to advertisers about buying spots on IGTV.)

Far more problematic beyond a revenue model is the main issue for influencers: If nobody’s watching, who’s being influenced?  Is there really a long-form content appetite to be fed on Instagram via the smartphone?

Depending on which gurus you believe, millennials either want “snackable” short-form content, or they actually want long-form content. Go ahead: Google “longform video making a comeback.” You’ll find articles from 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2018 in the first page of results.

Gary Vaynerchuk has embraced the platform, but many creators have already given up on IGTV.

But here’s the thing: Long-form content never went anywhere. With apologies to L.L. Cool J, don’t call it a comeback. Long form content has been here for years. It’s called YouTube. And why is YouTube so successful?

One word: search. YouTube is the second-biggest search engine in the world, trailing only its parent company, Google.

IGTV, in an effort to differentiate itself from YouTube, launched without proper search functionality. In fact, when you activate IGTV, it opens with static fuzz, like what you would see when you turned on a TV with a cable box back in 1983 and flipped through channels, not knowing what you’re going to get next.

“Because we don’t have full text search and you can’t just search any random thing, it’s about the creators” Systrom explained at the time of the launch. “I think that at its base level that it’s personality-driven and creator driven means that you’re going to get really unique content that you won’t find anywhere else and that’s the goal.”

Search has since been added to IGTV (and it quickly auto-suggests feeds that create IGTV content), but when I opened IGTV over the weekend, I was served up content from ESPN, WWE, Gary Vaynerchuk and The Daily Show. 

This is all content I can find everywhere else, on Twitter, television, Linkedin, etc.

Discoverability is one of the main issues that’s continued to plague Snapchat, and seems to be hurting IGTV as well. With all of the choices we have today, am I going to invest five minutes into a random piece of longform content that an algorithm thinks I want to watch? Possibly.

The likelihood increases dramatically, however, if it’s something I’ve searched out.

With all of the data these major platforms have at their disposal, why do they continue to make such large errors in assessing what their users actually want? Why do they fail in targeting new spaces like Google did with social, or Instagram seems to be doing with long-form video?

In reading about the Google+ failure, one anonymous former Googler said the company was “late to market” and motivated from “a competitive standpoint” as they looked to take on Facebook.

If you’ve never read this infamous tweetstorm from another former Google+ engineer, it describes office politics, siloed teams and a lack of clear vision as major factors in the demise of Google’s failed social network. Here’s the start of that thread:

Given the recent Instagram drama surrounding the founders’ departure from Facebook, it’s likely that similar forces were at play with IGTV.

Whatever the reason, IGTV hasn’t lived up to the hype of last year’s launch, and it may never take off at all. Instagram itself doesn’t seem to be losing steam. But they badly misread the market and their users’ appetite (or lack thereof) for long form content. 

The lesson might be this: You don’t have to be all things to all people.

Or, as Facebook Watch’s LaVar Ball says, “Stay in yo’ lane!”

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Speaking on Instagram Influencers at Digital Summit Phoenix this week

I’m looking forward to speaking Tuesday morning at Digital Summit Phoenix, where I’ll present on Instagram Influencers. I’ll share research and insights from Instagram Influencers about how they like to work with brands, and teach you how to spot fake followings.

For more details, check out the session description below.

Need a speaker at your next digital marketing conference? Let’s chat.


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Burger King’s unique Location-Based #WhopperDetour promotion gives customers a reason to download app

Burger King made news this week by offering up its iconic Whopper sandwich for just one cent on their mobile app. It’s an incredible deal. 

The catch is, you can only get this deal once, and you can only get it at… McDonalds???

In a clever technology/PR stunt, Burger King’s #WhopperDetour promotion geofenced about 14,000 McDonalds locations in the U.S. inside its mobile app. When users get to within 600 feet of a McDonalds, they can activate the one-cent promotion in the Burger King app, then head to the nearest BK to get the deal.

I’m not a big fast food guy myself, but I am fascinated by mobile marketing, and it was a unique promotion that leveraged technology. So I downloaded the Burger King app and tried it out this week to see how seamless the experience would be. And hey, can you argue with a $0.01 Whopper? 

I did a little research in Google Maps to find a Burger King that was near a McDonalds in Las Vegas, and found one about 5 minutes away from me. So I made the drive to Micky Ds.

As I pulled up next door, I re-opened the app and clicked on the promotion. It immediately confirmed that I’d unlocked my #WhopperDetour deal, and then provided me with a link to navigate to a nearby Burger King. 

So far, so good! It then asked whether I wanted Drive-Thru, Dine-In or Take Out. After that, I started to make my order, and grabbed my $0.01 Whopper, and added some chicken tenders and a drink. Total cost: $2.49. Not too shabby.

Except the kicker was coming, and I assumed it would be around the corner: Burger King wanted my data. This was not entirely surprising, but as a new user of the app who downloaded it just a few minutes ago, I will say, it almost caused me to abandon ship. 

After all, why not just have a Big Mac here instead? I’m already 600 feet from McDonalds…

Quite frankly, this is where the promotion may backfire for Burger King. Some people just aren’t willing to give away their data in exchange for a “free” Whopper. The marketer in me was willing to do it to evaluate the promotion, but otherwise, I would have likely just hit the road, or enjoyed a full-price Big Mac and called it a day.

So I started the sign-up process, and hey, there’s a Facebook Connect option. One click. Let’s try that.

Not so fast!

Facebook wouldn’t log me in. So I had to sign up, with a name, email, zip code, password and my credit card info on the next screen. 

(Apparently you can’t just drop a penny on the counter for your Whopper. I had one ready to go.)

Finally, I was able to complete my order. 

Time to drive to Burger King! 

The restaurant I’d picked was about 5 minutes away. The app gives you a direct link to Apple Maps to get you turn-by-turn directions to the store. Nice and easy. Well done, BK.

The app also gives you an hour to go complete the mission, and there’s a countdown clock in the bottom of the screen to let you know how much time you’ve got left to cash in on the deal.

When you get to Burger King, you check in with the red button, which charges your card and lets the store know you’re actually going to pick up your meal.

As I walked in the store, I hit the button, and seconds later, a receipt automatically printed at the counter. 

My app confirmed on screen that Order 86 was being prepared. “We’re preparing your order now. Please give your name to a BK Staff member and let them know you placed a mobile order.”

I told them I had ordered on the app, and the cashier told me it would be a few minutes.

Finally, mission accomplished.

Overall, it’s a clever promotion, and it certainly generated plenty of media attention. It got me to download the app out of curiosity, and spend $2.49 for a quick meal. The location aspect of the promotion worked seamlessly, but the logistics of setting up an account in the app slowed the process down quite a bit, and as I said earlier, almost made me abandon the whole thing, and even made me consider eating at their competitor’s store.

While I appreciate their desire for data collection, in this case, it may have been more effective to just allow customers to claim the deal, and pay however they wanted to when they get to Burger King.

The promotion ends on December 12, and apparently, you can only cash in on it once. According to CNN, 50,000 people have already redeemed the promotion. 

While it’s a little wonky from an execution standpoint, it got people talking about Burger King this week, and it gave customers a reason to download their app, which is not easy to do. Mobile apps have to solve problems and complete tasks to earn a spot on consumer’s home screen.

At least for one day, Burger King got their app on my phone. That’s half the battle.

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Go See America

If you follow my Instagram (http://www.instagram.com/peterstringer), you probably think I travel every week. I wish that we’re the case. If anyone wants to pay me to do that, I’m all ears. But in the last few months, I’ve really rediscovered my love of photography through my passion for travel. I take my Nikon with me everywhere now. While I certainly spend some time editing the shots, they are all my own, and I’m starting to think I actually (mostly) know what I’m doing with a camera (thanks to a lot of trial, error, practice and research.) 

While landscapes are certainly far easier to capture than portraits, or action sports for that matter, and I have incredible respect for professional photographers, it’s been neat to get so much positive feedback on my travel pictures. But more importantly, I’ve consistently heard from many people who see my photos that they “need to travel more.” As I’ve gotten older, I’ve made a point of traveling whenever I can, and I’ve seen much more of America than most people I know. 

Delicate Arch, from my visit to Arches National Park in February 2017.

Look, New York and L.A. are great, and hey if you want to “do Iceland” or “do Thailand” like seemingly everyone in my feeds these days, go ahead. I’d love to see them too. But there’s an amazing country out there between the coasts. Go see our National Parks. I know, they’re in “fly-over states.” (I hate that term.) But if you’re mad about the election, want to Make America Great Again, or don’t understand why the country is divided, you need to see how the rest of America lives. And you’re robbing yourself of some spectacular scenery and breathtaking sights you might not even know exist. I certainly did not grow up with an appreciation of the National Parks. I didn’t go hiking or camping as a kid. But I’ve become passionate about these places now, and I’ve made memories in amazing places like Arches National Park, Red Rock Canyon and Horseshoe Bend that will stay with me forever.

Politics and perspective aside, travel has enriched my life far more than I’d previously imagined it could. I grew up without the resources to travel as a child, beyond a few family trips where we packed the kids into a station wagon and took three days to trek down I-95 from Manchester, NH to Dunedin, FL, stopping overnight in rundown Motel 6s with abandoned pools, and dining at dirt-cheap truck-stops. I stepped on my first airplane at age 17, and it would be four or five years before I’d do it again. 

In the last 10 years, I’ve been on countless flights. I’ve done three cross-country drives and many other thousand-mile-plus loops. If I could give my younger self any advice, it would simply be this: travel more, and do it earlier, and always see something new. Go see the rest of America. I’ve spent way too much money on travel, but I’ve never regretted a dime I’ve spent on a trip.

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5 Tips for a Better Facebook Brand Strategy

When I think of Mark Zuckerberg, the first person who comes to mind is 80s pro wrestling bad guy “Rowdy” Roddy Piper. Piper once boasted about his opponents, â€œJust when they think they got the answers, I change the questions.”

Zuckerberg could make the same claim. Facebook changes the rules every few months, tweaking their algorithm and policies regularly, often without warning or explanation. Once you’ve set your strategy, you can’t go on autopilot, because the rules are likely to change quickly, and before you know it, you’ll be wrestling with your Facebook strategy again.

But there’s no need to submit to Zuck’s stranglehold on your page. Here are five tactics to help you pin down your 2015 Facebook strategy.

Forget Engagement, Start Tracking Reach Rate

There’s a ton of information inside of Facebook’s Insights tool, and if you export the raw data files, there’s even more that you’ll likely never examine.

Three Facebook metrics tend to get the most public discussion: Likes, Comments and Shares. But the first two of those are basically worthless. Post likes are meaningless. OK, not completely, as a post’s likes do impact its organic reach, but realistically, a like is a one-second long, one-click engagement. How valuable is that? Do you remember the last post you liked on any platform?

As for comments, they’re typically considered a “deeper” engagement, since people actually have to start typing (and presumably thinking, but that’s debatable), but most comment numbers are skewed by comment spam. When automated comment spam is peaking (seemingly every other week), it can easily account for a large percentage of the comments on a given post. Facebook is constantly fighting off comment spam bots; as soon as they wipe one out, another one pops up quickly.

On its Insights dashboard, Facebook shows you “Engagement Rate” which their Help Pages define as, “the percentage of people who saw a post that liked, shared, clicked or commented on it.”

But since I’ve convinced you that likes and comments aren’t valuable, “Engagement Rate” is at best a specious number with little insight, and at worst a flawed formula that’s misleading social media managers.

Instead, I think the most important number to track is Reach Rate, which isn’t an official Facebook metric. Facebook only shows raw reach numbers in their reporting, presumably for an obvious reason – reach rates are typically in the single digits when reach is expressed as a percentage of your audience. They conveniently neglect to show you that math.

Still, the number is easy to derive. For each post, divide the organic reach number by your total audience number to arrive at a reach rate. This number will tell you how much of your potential audience you’re reaching, and it serves as a strong indication about how algorithm-friendly your post is.

You’ll realize quickly that certain types of posts, specifically videos and photos, wildly outperform status updates and links. This November, Facebook announced on its own marketing blog that they’ll be cracking down on “promotional” posts in 2015, and if your “content” is really just a blatant advertisement (“Buy now!” or “sign up here”) with little context or relevance to your fans, you can expect that content won’t reach much of your audience.

Track your own custom Share metric

Sharing is caring, as they say. In other words, your fans actually care about your content if they’re willing to share it with their friends. So you should be tracking how many people do this. The numbers won’t be overwhelming, but they can be telling if you give them context.

Share numbers on their own aren’t typically very large, especially as they relate to the size of your overall audience. For the Celtics, since we’ve got 8.7 million fans, 18 shares on a post may not seem like much. But again, it’s not about your audience, it’s about your reach. Fans who never see your content can’t share it.

So it helps to put shares in context with regard to the size of your reach and the content of your post. For the Celtics, with the size of our audience, we’re reaching hundreds of thousands of fans per post. With that in mind, we’ve started tracking “Shares per 10k Reached” to understand what content resonates and what’s getting ignored. We’ve found that content that does better than 1.0 shares per 10k reached is pretty successful. Content that over-indexes can often do 3-4 shares per 10k reached. We consider a post that does under 0.5 “Shares per 10k Reached” to be underperforming on our page.

Want more reach? Upload video directly to Facebook

Facebook made an important sweeping change over the summer. They started auto-playing videos on mobile devices. So when users scroll past timeline posts with embedded videos, the video starts up and entices users to click and play them. Mobile is a massive piece of the Facebook audience; a report from Q2 of 2014 revealed that over 1 billion of their 1.32 billion monthly active users (> 80%) access Facebook from their mobile device, and 30% access it exclusively from their mobile device.

One of the results of this shift is that embedded videos are reaching people in the timeline at a 2-3x greater rate than links to content or typical status updates. At least that’s what the Celtics have seen. And that’s why you saw so many random people’s Ice Bucket Challenges in August, whether you wanted to or not.

Simply put, Facebook is rewarding publishers by giving video more regular placement in your audience’s timeline. The results have been staggering for us. Celtics videos are reaching about 650,000 fans per post and averaging ~75,000 views since we started uploading them directly to Facebook in August. That reach rate (7-8%) is much better than links and status updates that consistently get a 2-3% reach rate. Prior to this change, if we linked off to a video on our own website or YouTube, we were lucky if it was generating a few thousand views based on the referral traffic Facebook was generating.

Recently, we posted a tribute video to former Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo upon his return to play in Boston with the Dallas Mavericks. This video reached over 6.1 million fans (that’s a Reach Rate of over 69%) and was viewed over 1 million times. Obviously, this video is an outlier, but had we simply linked back to our website, the post never would have generated anywhere near that type of referral traffic.

There’s a couple of factors at play here, but the important dynamic to understand is that Facebook is trying hard to keep users on Facebook longer and is incenting brands to generate content to do that. According to comScore, this August, for the first time ever, Facebook beat YouTube on desktop videos delivered. So, here’s the question: Do you care about generating an audience for your that carefully crafted video content, or simply driving referral traffic back to your website?

Tag other fan pages to enhance your reach

Want to reach new fans? Here’s a quick tip: Start tagging relevant entities with large followings in your posts. By tagging other fan pages, you can often reach people who are fans of those pages but not fans of your own. It’s a great way to reach new fans. We regularly tag opposing teams in our posts, opposing players and the NBA itself.

In some cases, small Facebook pages have been able to reach 2-3x their entire audience with posts by using this technique.

Spread your posts out

You can only post so many times a day before your fans will tune you out. What’s the magic number? It’s different for every brand. We’ve tried to stick to four or five posts per day on average. But for each of your posts to reach their largest potential audience, they need time to hit people’s timelines before being replaced by something else from your fan page. If you post at 10:03 am and then again at 10:31 am, that first post is likely to wildly underperform in terms of reach.

I’d recommend separating posts by at least two or three hours each, and preferably, much longer than that. Segment your content calendar into day parts, and give your posts as much time to breath as they can get. Check Facebook Insights to understand when your fans are actually online, and use that to map out when you’re going to post. If your brand has a national or international fan base, don’t be afraid to schedule posts for the wee hours of the night. Just because you’re not awake doesn’t mean your fans aren’t on Facebook.