Marketing/Publicity

Cultivate

March 1, 2020

Stoked to reveal that I’m in Music Victoria‘s 2020 Cultivate program! ?

The program is a women-only leadership program for the music industry, and is running in partnership with the Victorian Government. The personal development initiative is designed for mid-career established women in the local music industry.

The first iteration of the program ran last year, with Kate Duncan (CEO, The Push), Dallas Frasca (Director, A Hitch To the Sticks), Katie Besgrove (Co-Owner, Look Out Kid; GM, Barely Dressed Records), Coco Eke (Label Manager, Bad Apples Music) and Sally Mather (Music & Marketing Manager, Corner Group).

I applied last year and missed out to the above incredible women, but actually think it was a blessing in disguise. Over the past 12 months at Bolster, my role has changed slightly to include more management, and I’ve had more leadership training and mentoring internally so that I can jump straight into it at Cultivate this time round.

This year, I will be joined by five other incredible women: UNIFIED Music Group’s Ashleigh Hills; broadcaster, DJ and event curator Danielle Rizk; Sanicki Lawyers’ Moira Mckenzie, Girls Rock! Melbourne’s Shannon Driscoll and Remote Control Record’s Victoria Sweetie Zamora

My mentor will be Shamini Rajarethnam, who is currently CEO of Rationale and has a very impressive backstory. Leadership Victoria has also given me access to Dana Eisenstein, an incredible executive coach.

The three-month program kicked off last Thursday at The Corner Hotel. We met our mentors and coaches, had a few mind-blowing workshops and were treated to keynote speeches from Aminata Conteh-Biger, and the Lord Mayor of Melbourne Sally Capp.

We also collectively brainstormed what seven traits we think effective leaders have to shape the discussions for the next three months. (We decided on empathy, integrity, vulnerability, confidence, kindness, self-awareness and courage.)

The main catalyst for me applying to Cultivate is that I have zero formal training in management or leadership (like, oh say 99.99% of people working in the music industry). As my role develops with Bolster’s growth, I’ve had to manage more people, and it’s in my duty of care to nurture their careers and personal development.

And finally, I also take it on myself personally to be a visible example to younger women of colour in the music industry. When I first started out over a decade ago, I don’t think I knew any women of colour working in any capacity in the industry (no doubt they existed, I just hadn’t met them), let alone in leadership roles. Let’s change this ? 

What ~ insert extremely mundane thing~ are you?!

February 15, 2020

If you follow me on Instagram, then you know I love a good AR filter. Instagram Stories have answered all my deepest and darkest questions. What Northcote Plaza store am I? What electronic genre am I?! What Disney Princess am I?!!! (The bakery, tech house and I didn’t get Mulan so who cares.)

Facebook’s Spark AR filters have actually been around since 2017 (under the boring moniker Camera Effects Platform), but were only available as a beta product for certain profiles. At Facebook’s 2019 F8 conference, the tech giant announced that the AR creation platform would be available for anyone to use.

If this is all gibberish to you… let me rewind.

What is AR, and more specifically Spark AR?

Augmented reality is a type of tech that integrates computer generated perceptual information (i.e. things you can see, hear, feel) into actual reality. Not to be confused with virtual reality which is not integrated with actual reality at all, and replaces it.

Spark AR is just Facebook’s own tool that helps anyone create AR filters. It’s designed to be super simple, and require zero programming knowledge to set up. Some design and everyday logic helps greatly though.

AR is not limited to Facebook though. TikTok have some pretty hectic AR filters, as does Snapchat. Most mobiles these days have the tech built into their native photo apps too.

So what makes Facebook’s Spark AR so special?

Two things.

  1. Anyone can create a filter. You don’t need a degree or a million hours of design/coding skills. The barrier is low and that’s marvellous. This has led to heaps of really unique and niche filters to service all markets and interests. (The reverse of this can be seen with technology that has a really high barrier to learn/access, and these products are generally shaped by its creators and not its users. Leading to one-sided products that lack perspective.)
  2. It’s viral AF. It fits in so seamlessly with the Stories platform to make them fun and easy to consume, share and use.

So how do I make a Spark AR filter?

Download Spark AR Studio. Their site has an entire tutorial section, but there’s also over 100K YouTube video tutorials. This one is pretty good for ‘which XYZ’ are you filters, and here’s one on how to put weird shit on your face.

Confused and have questions, or want to show off your sick ? skills? The Spark AR Community Facebook Group has 55K members, plus a cool mentorship program if you’d like one-on-one help from a pro.

What do I need to keep in mind to make a really good Spark AR filter?

As with literally every marketing exercise, understand what you’re trying to achieve here. The goal of an AR filter is adoption, not directly selling tickets or driving traffic. To be really clear, here is your ideal user journey:

Sees the filter in the wild > hits try > plays around with it > posts it on their Stories > someone else sees it in the wild. Rinse and repeat.

With this in mind:

  • It needs to be easy to understand. What does your filter do? If that’s not clear, people who would like it might not use it because they think its purpose is something else. People who do try it realise it’s not what they thought, and won’t post it.
  • It needs to be so easy to use. If it’s glitchy or has a very small window where it works (especially with filters that interact with the environment and not just your face) then people won’t use it.
  • It needs to be captivating. Is it interesting, funny, amusing, (appropriately) shocking or novel? Most everyday social media users actually have a social media strategy, even if it’s not formalised. (Ask any Gen Zer. They’ll claim to not have a social media approach, but will be able to tell you their content pillars, posting frequencies, their style guide and comment reply policy.) If it isn’t interesting, it won’t meet most people’s unwritten posting rules.
  • Do not tack on other marketing goals here. This is about virality and brand awareness. Don’t make some weird filter to get people to go to your ticketing site or stream your album on Spotify. Don’t brand your filter from corner to corner with logos, URLs and QR codes. They won’t get approved, and even if it did, it doesn’t fit into our AR filter user journey and won’t get shared.

And what should I not do?

You can find their full policy here, but here’s a shorter list of key things to avoid:

  • Anything that a standard social media platform would disapprove. Swearing, nudity, sexually suggestive content, gambling, discrimination and excessive violence. (Funnily enough, violent filters are okay as long as the violence isn’t ‘excessive’.)
  • More than one logo on screen at a time.
  • Spam.
  • Alcohol, drugs and weed. Even if you have a medical marijuana prescription from your doctor.
  • No links, QR codes or URLs. (Besides your main goal is to keep viewers on Instagram.)
  • No hashtags. (I find this one interesting. If you can figure out why, please let me know.)

Okay, I’ve created a really great Spark AR filter. How do I get people using it?

For some bonkers reason, there is no library of Spark AR filters that you can currently search. The Spark AR filter catalogue only allows browsing at this point in time, so discovery from here is very low.

Your distribution plan should be like this:

  1. Use it yourself, so your followers try or save the filter themselves.
  2. Seed it out to other key users. This includes media outlets (perhaps you can book this as part of your publisher deal), artists on your lineup, brands you work with, staff, venues, collaborators, friends or influencers.
  3. Re-share other users using your filter as Instagram Stories. Maybe create a permanent Stories highlight with all of these somewhat permanently. (Obviously they need to tag you. This one only works for promotional filters tied back to celebs, artists and brands because no one is going to tag some random teenager in Adelaide who’s created a filter.)
  4. Or use the filter on other humans using your own profile. You could film fans, punters, people at your venue/festival/gig or complete strangers on the street with the filter, obviously with their permission.
  5. Post on social media (Facebook, Instagram, Stories, Twitter, your blog, wherever). Tell people to go to your profile and hit the filter tab (under your Story highlights, the section where you toggle between your pictures, IGTV and photos you’ve been tagged in). This is the only way to find specific filters at the moment. Screenshot below.

Now go forth and create more Spark AR filters so I can to answer the deep philosophical questions about my identity that keep me up at night. Or just a Disney Princess filter that will finally tell me I am Mulan.

Digital 2020

February 8, 2020

Hootsuite and We Are Social have just published their excellent annual report about how the world uses the internet for 2020. Full report embedded below or here. In the mean time, here are my key takeaways for Australian advertisers:

  • More than half of the world’s population will use social media by mid 2020. Humanity has literally never been this connected.
  • Self-care, mental health and mindfulness is a key priority for all. Internet users are spending less time on the endless vortex that we call the internet scroll/swipe. This is especially with platforms like YouTube, Facebook and Instagram recently introducing wellness tools to encourage breaks from their own platforms. In fact, YouTube delivered a staggering 1 billion ‘take a break’ reminders last year. Less time on social media isn’t bad for advertisers though. Here’s to more mindful and meaningful media consumption replacing brainless scrolls and double taps.
  • 88% of Australians are connected to the internet. There’s 22.3M Aussies that advertisers can talk to.
  • Aussies spend 5 hours and 41 mins on the internet each day, roughly an hour below the global average. Of that time, we only spend 2 hours and 13 mins connected via mobile devices – one of the lowest recorded for the 46 countries listed in this report. This is probably because Australia is a developed country, and data shows that developing countries are far more likely to use mobile internet because it’s easier and more affordable than land line connections.
  • Our mobile connection speed is the 6th fastest listed here (I don’t believe that) but our fixed internet connection speeds are almost half the worldwide average (yeah, that sounds about right).
  • The 4th highest search term on YouTube is ‘video’ ? Aren’t they all videos?!
  • ASMR is still a thing on YouTube. (I don’t get it.)
  • The Google Play and iOS charts show some pretty interesting differences. Games are a top app category for everyone. But photo apps are the second most downloaded app type for iOS users, but much further down at #6 for Google Play users, with tool apps coming in second for them. (There’s actually interesting data on the social, economic and political differences between Android and iPhone users. Despite being a left wing, city-living gal, I buck the trend as a proud member of #TeamSamsung.)
  • The top three most downloaded apps globally are Facebook products – Whatsapp, Facebook and Messenger.
  • Tinder was the top app for global consumer spend. That explains that time I matched with a guy in London who was about to come to Melbourne and kept claiming that he was a free user and the app must have glitched because he swears he’s not that desperate and would never ever spend money on Tinder for that special holiday mode
  • Apparently 38% of global internet users scan a QR code monthly. I find this surprising because I haven’t seen one in the wild for a very long time, but apparently Chinese consumers are behind this staggering stat. (Check out this quaint guerrilla marketing campaign I did with QR codes way back in 2011.)
  • Australia’s ecomm adoption is actually below the worldwide average, at 70% vs 74%. That gets even lower when we look at mobile ecomm, with us sitting at 33% vs. the global average 52%. I do expect to see this increase in 2020, especially with more brands/apps building for mobile first and 5G connectivity making it faster/easier to buy on mobile.
  • Digital advertisers spent $334 billion dollars in 2019, a healthy 12% increase from 2018. Top platforms to spend with were (in order) Google, Facebook, Alibaba and Amazon.
  • The lines between social media and ecomm will get blurred in 2020, and I predict that Australian consumers will soon expect shoppable content to be the norm. (Chinese influencers are trailblazers here though.)
  • Continued improvements to AR tech will also boost ecomm by removing the need to ‘showroom’ before purchasing. Because, hey, I’m lazy and if I can use AR to imagine what a couch looks like in my living room then I’m totally going to do that.

Full report for you to nerd out over below ?

State of Disruption 2019

December 26, 2019

Facebook’s annual State of Disruption Report came out at the start of October, but it’s taken me 2 months to digest because it’s a hefty 72 pages long. Here are three of my fave Facebook tips for building businesses to break industries.

1. EASY PEASY:

Today’s consumers (especially Gen Z) really value their time, and 71% are interested in services that saves them time and effort. Companies can disrupt traditional industries by leaning into it. Case in point: alcohol delivery companies like Tipple charging $30 extra for a bottle of booze to bring it straight to your door/party/office so you don’t have to sober up and stop mingling. (I totally checked the price of Glen Fiddich to compare this. If you ever need to bribe me, you know what to Tipple in my direction.)

2. PULP FRICTION:

Consumers want a seamless, intuitive and easy consumer journey with you. Make it smooth and frictionless because 84% of US consumers said they’d be unlikely to shop with a brand after a neggo experience. As Facebook notes on their Zero Friction Future microsite:

“Every additional step or delay is friction and a threat to business success.”

Zero Friction Future, Facebook IQ

Disruptive offerings don’t always spark confidence in consumers, especially when they’re super new or unheard of. Adding unnecessary friction is only giving unsure consumers an opportunity to change their mind on you.

(Side note – Alibaba took the opposite approach for their Singles Day activity this year. Rather than concentrate on minimising clicks to checkout, they created a brilliant engagement campaign with a pre-sale online concert featuring Taylor Swift to get traffic up on their site before the sale even started. You can read about this via this excellent and very free WARC report here.)

3. LET’S GET PHYGITAL

Some of the best-known disruptors got big by really owning the online space, and shaped their business (and how they disrupted an industry) by digital limitations. Think ThirdLove and how they changed women’s attitudes towards bra shopping, but also used online quizzes to get bra fitting right in lieu of an awkward sales girl with a tape measure.

But disruptors don’t need to stick to their lane. The term ‘phygital marketing‘ has been getting some traction over the past couple of years. It’s all about integrating both marketing arenas for the end consumer.

Mattress disruptor Casper created their ‘Dreamery‘ concept, a space for New Yorkers to book nap sessions on their mattresses. 120-day return guarantees are great, but nothing beats an actual road test. Plus naps are magical.

Cult beauty brand Glossier rose to crazy levels of success through the power of Instagram, but even the iconic cosmetics company has set up two IRL shops to satisfy needs. (That’s a whole other story though – almost feels like their physical stores are a destination for ultra Glossier fans to experience rather than to find new consumers.)

Innovative start ups can start lean and focus on digital to being with, but can use clever physical activations to power up their relationship with consumers as they grow.


Those were the juicy parts I think are actually relevant to disruption and innovation. Read the full thing here if you have an hour spare, but be warned. It’s all incredibly thought-provoking, but a fair whack of it is just dressing up Facebook-owned products as a disruption strategy when they’re not. Leaning into Instagram Stories or setting up Facebook Groups can be smart, but they’re not an integral part of or exclusive to disruptive offerings.

Enjoy, and HMU if you want to learn more about that time I did some marketing work for a Federal Government-funded initiative to foster innovation and disruption in Australia. ?

2019: Year In Review

December 24, 2019

This year was a milestone year for me – 10 years in the music industry. An entire bloody decade. Here’s a list of some things I did in 2019 that stuck out in my head.

  • Celebrated my fourth work anniversary at Bolster. I’m now practically part of the furniture.
  • I tackled my fear of solo vacationing in 2018, but took it a step further this year by going overseas (to New Zealand) by myself for the first time. Stayed in a converted stable on a working deer farm. Fed all the many farm animals. Learnt how to put snow chains on. Saw snow for the first time since the 90s. Went hiking. Sailed across Milford Sound. Discovered that there’s some interesting Kiwi sandwich that’s just pineapple and cheese with mayo. ?
  • Went to BIGSOUND for the 8th time, where I swore to never have another espresso martini for as long as I live.
  • Got over my public speaking anxiety, and…
  • Had the absolute honour of doing public speaking engagements for Bolster in QLD, NSW, ACT, VIC, SA and WA. Next year I’ll have to try to get to NT and TAS ☺️ (Seriously – if you happen to be in either of those areas and need someone to talk about music or advertising, hmu). One particular highlight was my CHANGES talk because it was the biggest crowd I’ve ever talked to. Ever.
  • Bought an $8 phone tripod from Kmart, and discovered the joys of illustration time lapses.
  • Went to Golden Plains for the first time ever. Wore a gold dress (of course). Felt like a shiny bitch. Wondered why it took me so long to get myself to GP.
  • Listened to a lot of techno. A lot.
  • Worked/am working on the largest tour that Bolster has ever advertised with Elton John’s farewell tour. (Think 34 stadium shows.)
  • Stayed in a 100-year old post office in a ghost town for a songwriting trip with Fever Land. Met some beautiful horses.
  • The creative industries job board that I run with my friend Fran hit 700 peeps!

That’s it. Happy holidays and see y’all in 2020! ✨ 

MusicACT Workshop

September 13, 2019

Canberra friends!

I’ll be visiting our capital for the first time in yonks (read: 19 years) to run a workshop. It’ll be a Bolster session for MusicACT aimed at music industry professionals keen to implement digital marketing for the first time. Suitable for artists, managers, labels, venues promoters and other music industry businesses with no prior knowledge on advertising.

We’ll cover off SMART music marketing goals, audience discovery, advertising auctions, budgets, a platform overview and creative best practices.

Best of all, it’s free but spaces are limited so email Shannen to RSVP. More info on Facebook. Hope to see you there!

P.S. I’ll be working in Canberra for a couple of days, so please send through your cafes recommendations. Brownie points if it has excellent scrambled eggs and Wifi!

The A-Z Of New Music Marketing

July 13, 2019

The second iteration of the CHANGES Music Summit rolled into Melbourne last week, and it was incredible. The programming was refreshing, with thought-provoking sessions on offer. The APRA AMCOS networking brekkie was fun (tiny croissants filled with bananas!) and I bumped into lots of Bolster friends across the two-day event. And also never going to complain about learning and meeting new people in a location as beautiful as Abbotsford Convent.

Oliver Hall (Senior Campaign Manager at Bolster) and I were asked to do a talk about the A-Z of new music marketing on day 1 of the conference. It was the largest group of people I’ve ever talked to in my whole life ? but it was wonderful having a speaking buddy with Ollie and our presentation GIF game was on fire ?

Paige X. Cho & Ollie Hall at CHANGES. Picture by Eric Peng.

I’m not going to re-share the full A-Z in this post, but here are three of my faves:

ACTIONABLE INSIGHTS:

Might seem boring to highlight this in a list with fun tech advancements like AR or the rise of dark social, but insights are one of the most valuable things a marketer can possess.

A little context. The amount of data music marketers have is astounding. We have access to Facebook Page Insights, Facebook Audience Insights, Chartmetric, Next Big Sound, Spotify For Artists, Spotify For Brands, Google Analytics, Facebook Analytics, YouTube Analytics and so much more at our fingertips. And you bet that every one of these platforms is also constantly making their metrics more and more nuanced by the day.

Having all of these numbers are great, but it can be totally overwhelming. It’s crucial to not only have the data, but use it to pull out key insights that mean something and take action based on that. As in:

data > insight > action

It’s sick if you know that most of your Facebook fans tend to be online at 10pm, but what use is it if you still post content at 2pm because you don’t work at night? Or knowing your most requested song on Triple J if you don’t turn it into an encore? Or figuring out Adelaide is your top Spotify city but not adding it to a tour because no one tours South Australia? Or having data that shows 90% of your ticket page traffic comes from mobiles, but the mobile experience sucks so mobile traffic only accounts for 30% of final ticket sales?

You get the picture. (If you want to get nerdy about the data > insight > action cycle this is a great read.)

MOBILE FIRST:

When I started working at Bolster in 2015, I noticed that desktop was the top device for most music festival sites. People just liked using their computers to connect with festivals. A year later in 2016, I could see the beginnings of mobile growth. Some festivals started to see more mobile traffic overall, but desktop usage spiked when tickets went on sale (because frankly, some ticketing companies were decidedly mobile unfriendly at the time).

Fast forward to 2019 and mobile takes the cake. Across our clients, the wider industry and just the plain old internet, lots of people browse (for leisure anyway) using a phone. Ticketing companies have improved their mobile UX massively, and we’re seeing mobile as the #1 device for festivals throughout every stage of the campaign.

Yet… I do hear of marketers/brands/businesses prioritising desktop (not clients, but just in my wider networks). The most common culprit is that someone higher up (ahem, a director perhaps) doesn’t understand mobile. Said person approves websites/designs based on what they look like on their 2011 Windows Dell computer using Internet Explorer. Mate. Seriously.

This doesn’t apply to just websites though. Future marketers need to mobile optimise everything a consumer will see online*, including video creative, photos, captions, links, everything.

* Exception to this is if your business/artist has more desktop use, but check your analytics. An example might be a job ad site where people tend to apply for roles on their computer, or maybe the blogging interface for users (not readers) to write long form. CHECK YOUR STATS.

OPTIMISATION: 

I occasionally get asked if I’m worried robots will steal my job… They already have, and I am so fine with it.

Back in 2014, digital advertisers had to pretty manually optimise everything. If I had five campaigns with three audiences in each, and each ad set had three ads… I would have to individually check out each campaign across all three levels and decide what to keep live, kill or tweak. This took up an enormous amount of time.

Facebook and Google have since used machine learning (read: AI) to optimise campaigns for marketers. The platforms can do anything from serving out an ad creative that’s better at selling tickets, or spend more of your campaign budget on the audience most likely to RSVP to a Facebook event. Bonkers.

I’ll let the robots do that happily so I can spend more time doing campaign strategy, channel planning and data analysis.

Here’s to CHANGES 2019, and see y’all at CHANGES 2020! Perhaps with another 26 buzz words rolling around my head at that time.

Pic by Eric Peng.

EMC Connect Melbourne

June 30, 2019

While Sydney is the Electronic Music Conference’s home, the event has also been hosting EMC Connect mini events in Brisbane and Melbourne. I’ve never been to EMC proper before but have heard incredible things. When they asked me to be involved with EMC Connect Melbourne, my answer was absolutely said hell yes.

The Growth Guides: Prioritising Community panel looked at how to build strong online and offline music communities, and what is key for generating support, real engagement and fandom (not just stats). The panel was facilitated by the excellent Arlo Enemark from Xelon Entertainment and Medium Rare Recordings. Joining me on the panel was Jerry Poon from The Operatives (actually a Bolster client), Xander Malual from The Listening Co and Juñor Ondaatje from AUDollars/R.E.A.L Music. Here are some of the conversations we had:

  • What’s your approach when Bolster clients want stats over prioritising a community or real fans? We actually get asked this fairly often. Some clients are hellbent on numbers like post reactions and Facebook fans, but we call these vanity metrics. We’ll always try to uncover the real life business outcomes behind these and focus on these for clients instead and find these vanity metrics follow anyway. (Real business outcomes might include people engaging with website content, clicking out of a Linkfire or purchasing a ticket.)
  • How do you find networks when you know no one? Go out to events, be nice, get to know people, offer to help and ask for help.
  • How do you keep your existing audience but find new people? We all had slightly different answers but my thoughts here… Look at it through two lenses: 1) what will existing fans like, and 2) what will appeal to new audiences? Put that in a Venn diagram. Aim for the middle so you aren’t alienating your current audience for the sake of growth.
  • What to do if you’re an artist and about to possibly get kicked out of Australia due to visa issues? If you’re a bedroom producer (especially if you’re a bedroom producer) you can literally create music from anywhere in the world.

Thanks to EMC Connect for the great conversation. Next panel appearance will be in Adelaide next month!

Indie-Con 2019

June 26, 2019

Returning to Adelaide next month for my yearly AIR Awards visit!

In addition to that the awards, I’ll also be in town for the Australian Independent Record Labels Association’s Indie-Con music conference. I’ll be speaking on the Tech Health for Indies panel on behalf of Bolster, along with my former Shock boss Mick Tarbuk (who know heads up Believe Digital in Australia), Bill Wilson (SVP of Operations and Innovation at Entertainment One) and Jacqui Louez Schoorl (Jaxsta).

Hit me up if you’ll be around for the AIR Awards or Indie-Con and want to be a canape buddy at the awards ?? (I am always that person at events networking but actually just looking out for food trays coming by…)

Conference info and tickets here.

2019 F8

May 18, 2019

Facebook’s highly anticipated and closely watched F8 conference rolled around again this week, and it did not disappoint. Most of the updates were heavily focused around its hero products: Stories, Messenger and Groups.

Here’s what I thought.

Instagram shopping tags for creators: This looks like a win from all angles. The top thing here is reducing friction for purchasing, especially on a platform where you can only link organically from your bio. Currently if a consumer sees a sick outfit on an influencer, likely they’ll need to click on their profile, go to their bio link, hope they use something like Linktree or manually search in their blogs for their outfit deets, open a new browser and start looking for the garment based on some keywords. At which point I’ve already gotten bored and had a nap.

Shopping for Creators is a clear evolution of its current (closed beta) Instagram Checkout feature available for certain American brands, and plugs into the same system. The few creators selected for the trial can only tag Instagram Checkout enabled brands. This sadly means we’re a while away from using this as a way to discover cool new brands from our fave mircro-influencers. Only established brands (e.g. Kylie Cosmetics, Adidas, Nike) and top tier creators (e.g. Kim Kardashian West, Chriselle Lim, GQ, Vogue, Elle) have access. Makes sense though – they need to use high traffic brands and accounts to really see if it’s having an impact.

I can’t figure out if these creators are getting kick backs. No mention of affiliate links but it wouldn’t surprise me if this is an option when it’s rolled out globally. Have a squiz at the full breakdown from the Instagram Business blog.

Instagram Stories donation stickers: The Facebook ecosystem has always been a great space for cause awareness and fundraising, so it makes perfect sense for Facebook to roll out a solution for its hero product of the moment – Stories. Only available in the US for now… I wonder how they’ll curb fraud.

Camera Vs. Create mode for Stories: Exactly what it sounds like – a supercharged mode in Stories when you don’t actually want to share an image, and want to use a countdown or a lot of text. The current Instagram app’s text mode for Stories is pretty shithouse, so let’s see how this fares.

A better Messenger app, built from the ground up: Facebook is rebuilding the architecture of the Messenger app to be faster and lighter and I am ALL FOR THIS. The app has been getting super slow and with some weird bugs (like crazy lag time to add reactions to messages) so this makes perfect sense. Especially with Facebook now having WhatsApp technology on hand.

Lead generation template in Ads Manager: I’ve used lead gen at Bolster before to run competitions and for pre-sale sign ups, but they’ve always been super fiddly. Hoping this new update will make it easier for advertisers (for set up) and consumers (via easy automated questions in Messenger) will reduce friction and increase leads.

Spark AR: This is Facebook’s renamed Camera Effects Platform, which was first introduced at F8 2017. It’s been in closed beta to certain accounts like Gucci and Kylie Jenner, allowing them to easily create interactive, immersive AR filters for Instagram. It’s now open to all so it doesn’t matter if you weren’t born into the Kardashian-Jenner dynasty. Read about the 2019 updates here, or road test Spark AR Studio yourself. (Side note – here’s a great read about AR vs VR.)

Groups: There have been rumours and panicking about this for months now, and it’s true. Facebook is prioritising Groups, but they’re making some changes to the design of Groups to make them even better for users. Groups types will each get different features most relevant to how their communities interact online.

Most of the panic from my networks have been centred around where to shift their marketing attention. They’ve literally spent years growing their Facebook pages to get to over 100K fans and are understandably freaking out. Should they jump ship, set up a group and abandon their page? (No.) It’s still early days but I think the key things are:

  • Continue using a Facebook page as the main hub of direct info from your brand to your consumers.
  • If you have a community and it feels right, set up a Facebook Group and make sure you’re an admin. If your fans have a reason to talk and share, this makes perfect sense. For instance, a video game might have a Facebook page for updates, patches and new releases, but a Facebook Group would be for real users to share walkthroughs, tips and cheat codes. A camping music festival might run a Facebook page to share lineup, date, ticketing and PSA info but have a separate group where staff and diehard attendees are admins. The group could encourage discussion around ticket reselling, themed parties around campsites and cute missed connections posts after the festival. (Ask me about the time I tried to help a friend connect with a girl he met at Golden Plains via a Facebook Group. Like actually.)
  • If your audience doesn’t naturally want to talk about your product, think about other topics that are relevant, feel on-brand and not forced. For instance, consumers might not care enough about toilet paper to join a Facebook Group about TP only, but might be interested in a Group about household tips and tricks, sponsored by said brand. As much as people love stationery, it might make more sense for a fine liner brand to run a Group around art creation.
  • Recognise the role of the page vs. Group, and tailor content types and content schedules accordingly, but be on-brand wherever you go.
  • Don’t freak out about less-than-glossy content on your Group. Facebook Groups are real and authentic, and that’s actually what consumers want. (Look at how Google search terms like ‘BRAND reviews’ and ‘BRAND alternatives’ are on the rise. Consumers want to find out about your brand or product from other consumers.)

The more I think about it, the more it completely makes sense. Facebook is moving away from vanity metrics (e.g. Facebook fan numbers, simple like counts and overall engagement numbers) towards meaningful metrics that show real business outcomes (e.g. deep engagement with humans talking to other humans about things they care about, ecomm revenue).

I actually manage a job board for creative roles in Australia and New Zealand and have been prompted a few times to start using features specific to Groups about employment! If you’re curious – join us here. Lots of music, comedy, film and event roles popping up there.

New Events tab: Look, if you have no Facebook event is it really an event? The app is introducing a new tab to help people discover interesting local events happening near them. All about this.

Facebook Dating: Coooooooool.

Shipping on Marketplace: I love Facebook Marketplace. Gumtree is where I go if I want attention from weirdos, but Facebook Marketplace is my app of choice for actually selling things and making money.

(Also the launch of Facebook Marketplace was very conveniently timed with the rise of Konmari a.k.a. everyday people selling joyless shit. Good work, Facebook.)

The most common ‘no thanks’ reason I get from potential buyers is usually that I don’t offer shipping because payment is so awkward online, so the new shipping option is perfect.

Want to read more about F8? Check out Facebook’s official one-sheeter about their updates, and if you’d like the Bolster touch, the content team wrote about what these changes mean for our clients too.

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