For the second time in the two years since rolling out clickable ads, Instagram is updating the look of what people are supposed to click. This time the Facebook-owned photo-and-video app is tweaking ads’ call-to-action bars to better blend in while still standing out.
Last year, Instagram made its ads’ clickable element more obvious in an effort to make people more aware of the option and assuage advertisers’ concerns with the app’s direct-response options. A few months after replacing its ads’ call-to-action button with a horizontal bar that ran along the entire bottom of an ad’s photo or video, the company set the bar’s background color to switch from white to blue after four seconds to draw more attention to it.
Now, instead of blue, the bar will dynamically change to the main color contained in the ad’s photo or video, the company announced on Monday. Instagram will change the color of the call-to-action bar to better coordinate with the primary element of the native ad that grabbed the user’s attention.
According to an Instagram spokesperson, the redesigned look is meant to ensure that an ad’s photo or video is its standout element and to make people’s feeds feel more natural. It may also ensure that Instagram can insert more ads into those feeds without making them look overloaded with ads.
The blue call-to-action bar had been the most obvious signal that a post was an ad, though it only turned blue after a post was on screen for at least four seconds. By making the call-to-action bar feel more like a part of the photo or video, the difference may not be so obvious to people swiping through their feeds. If that proves true, then Instagram may be able to insert more ads — and relieve Facebook’s ad-load pressure, which is expected to decelerate the company’s ad-revenue growth this year — without overdoing it.
The release of Blade Runner 2049 has once again inspired us to imagine what it would be like if the distinction between artificial life and humans all but disappeared. Once something else is almost as ‘real’ as us, the idea of what it means to be human is challenged.
Neuroscientists know already that such a scenario is disturbing to us – thanks to a phenomenon known as Uncanny Valley. In the experiment, when people were faced with robots that looked very robotic (think flashing lights and metal), their response was fine. But the more human the robot became, the stronger their antipathy, discomfort and even revulsion – and the spookier it seemed.
In studies we measure the degree to which anything is human in terms of how it looks, how it moves and how it responds. In all cases the more artificial anything seems, the more easily we cope. Of course, once the difference between us and artificial life is undetectable, our response is exactly the same. At which point, the tables will turn – an enduring theme in Blade Runner – and it will be the robots who struggle with the idea of who they are and what it means to be human.
Dr. Daniel Glaser is director of Science Gallery at King’s College London
When is the last time that you read something from beginning to end?
Be honest with yourself.
Marketers are notorious for skimming or – even worse – blindly sharing things that we haven’t read.
I remember Rand Fishkin talking about this phenomenon once during a keynote. He shared Moz’s killer Twitter stats along with his disappointment that they didn’t directly correlate to their blog traffic.
The reason? People were sharing Moz’s posts without ever reading them.
This isn’t the fate that good-intentioned marketers want for our work.
Is Your Content Turning off Your Audience?
We spend a lot of time creating good content in the hopes that someone (or ideally lots of someones) will find value and take action. For the record, I feel the same way so please feel free to tweet at me if you’ve made it this far.
There are a lot of tips out there for what makes good content. But what types of content turn people off? What’s causing them to skim, ignore, click away, or even bounce?
Truthfully, there are a ton of ways that you can turn off your audience with your content, and many of them are easy mistakes to make.
Here are some of the glaring culprits that you should work to avoid in your content.
1. Your Content Is Boring
You don’t have to write an Oscar-worthy saga every time you take to the keyboard. But you do need to think about your reader and whether they are going to be interested in what you have to say.
If you dump some text into a document with no point, or angle, or hook — you’re going to lose them.
If creativity doesn’t come naturally to you, but you have a lot of subject-matter expertise to provide, jot your thoughts down and go back over what you wrote at the end.
The headline and introduction are critical to pulling in the reader. Ask yourself:
Did you really sell your point?
Will your audience be excited to read what’s next?
If your content needs some work, try spicing up your introduction and key points with some of these writing best practices:
Data and visualizations: Humans like to use all of their senses. Data will help your readers follow along.
Quotes: Be careful with these. They tend to get overused and can be a bit cheesy, but there are times when quotes are really useful to selling a point.
2. Your Content Is Insulting
Being insulting is worse than being boring.
Lately, it seems that every couple of weeks, some company is making headlines for making a blatantly insulting remark on email, a blog post, and especially social media.
One of the most well-known examples is DiGiorno’s Twitter incident. They misused the hashtag #whyistayed, which was an open forum for Tweeters to chat about domestic violence, to make a joke about pizza.
Do your research.
Don’t be impulsive.
Follow your gut.
If it feels icky to promote during a sensitive time or issue, it probably is.
3. Your Content Is All About You
Another fast track way to get a bounce or have your readers turn up their noses is to make all of your content about yourself.
No one enjoys listening to someone else talk about him or herself for 15 minutes. The same goes for brand content.
Build content that focuses on the benefits for your customers as opposed to the features of your product or service.
By focusing on “the why” and the value of your business, you can help customers more easily visualize their positive outcomes and experiences.
4. Your Content Is All About the Wrong Person
This is an addendum to number three. While one of the “wrong persons” is definitely the result of focusing too much on yourself, you could also easily make the mistake of writing content that’s specific to an individual who is nothing like your target market.
For example, if Search Engine Journal only targeted its content toward new marketers, their audience would quickly be overwhelmed if there was too much jargon and any advanced content. On the flip side, if SEJ’s target audience was only very experienced readers, too much SEO 101 and basic marketing content would quickly lose them.
Avoid both of these scenarios by doing some customer research and building out detailed buyer personas. Hubspot found that personas make websites 2-5 times more effective — because the content is more relevant and interesting to your reader.
It can also be helpful to map out the buyer’s journey for each of your personas, so you understand the important goals, questions, and concerns your potential buyers have along the way. That way, you can address all of this information with your content.
5. Your Content Is Written for Robots
I get it. As a marketer, you’re pulled in a lot of directions. One piece of content has to accomplish a lot:
Appear in prominent positions on search engines.
Entice people to share on social media.
Get people interested in purchasing from you.
There are also a lot of requirements to technical SEO and, in the past, some of them seemed at odds with writing for humans.
SEO 101: A Beginner’s Guide
Read Search Engine Journal’s guide, SEO 101: Learn the Basics of Search Engine Optimization.
False, incorrect, or unsubstantiated information is going to quickly frustrate your readers.
Be sure to back your claims up by citing an authoritative source.
A few quick statistics and facts from a trusted resource can go a long way in helping to illustrate your point and convince your reader.
Bonus points for making this information more visually appealing with charts, graphs, or other visual aids (like the one above). These will help break up big blocks of text and keep your reader interested in what you have to say (more on this in number eight).
7. Your Content Is Salesy
We all want more leads and revenue. And anyone who has been trained in inbound marketing knows that you should have a relevant call to action at the end of your content that helps move your audience to the next step.
That does not mean, however, that your entire blog needs to be pushy and salesy. In fact, if you do that, you will annoy your readers and they’ll see right through you.
Instead, make helping your readers your number one focus.
It’s best to format website content with short, digestible pieces of information with headlines and bullet points whenever possible.
This is partly because it makes it easier for the reader to skim the content and follow along.
In fact, one study found that users only read about 20 percent of the text on your page.
But digestible formatting is also helpful because a wall of text can be overwhelming. Your readers don’t want to have flashbacks to thesis statements and 1,000-page history books.
Don’t make your audience work for information.
Provide value in a way that easy to absorb. Your audience will be much more likely to stick around and keep reading.
9. Your Content Is Saying Too Much (or Too Little)
Writing in an easy-to-follow format doesn’t necessarily mean that the overall amount of content needs to be a specific length.
In the last few years, we’ve heard a lot about how longer content was better for search engines. However, it’s a big mistake to make long content for long content’s sake. Your audience will see right through it and their eyes will gloss over.
At the same time, if you cut your content off and don’t actually answer the question, you will frustrate your readers and they will seek a solution elsewhere.
The secret is to let the needs of the audience dictate the length of your content.
This goes back to the same point that has been made several times here:
Know your audience.
Develop content that helps them make their decisions.
Utility is the magic recipe for preventing your audience from turning up their collective noses.
The Solution: Make Useful & Interesting Content
Sometimes, the idea of being useful is easier said than done.
Start by ensuring you have a deep understanding of your audience. Do your persona research and map out the question and answer process that they are likely to follow along their journey.
If you skip steps, or try to take shortcuts, you’re way more likely to lose or even offend your audience. From long-form website content, to tweets and social posts, putting in the work at the beginning is sure to help you have a quality product in the end.
In a world in which people are increasingly willing to trade privacy for convenience, facial recognition seems to be a new frontier. And the foremost pioneers on that frontier now appear to be the folks at Dubai International Airport.
Airport officials plan to install a virtual tunnel-shaped aquarium equipped with 80 supposedly invisible cameras that will identify passengers as they walk through, in lieu of customs agents looking from your passport to your face and back. The first aquarium will be up and running by the end of next summer, according to The National. Emirates customers will be the first to experience the tunnel, but the airport plans to install more until 2020.
Facial recognition is popping up at more and more airports as a way to streamline the process of identifying passengers ahead of boarding, and it has its conveniences. You don’t have to remember your passport or driver’s license or other forms of ID, and the lines will theoretically move more quickly because people don’t have to stop and wait for an official to check those IDs.
Dubai’s aquariums seem to be taking the relaxation idea to a level no one else has thought of, but the aquariums serve a purpose other than to calm passengers as they head to their planes.
“The fish is a sort of entertainment and something new for the traveler but, at the end of the day, it attracts the vision of the travelers to different corners in the tunnel for the cameras to capture his/her face print,” Obaid Al Hameeri, the deputy director general of Dubai residency and foreign affairs, told The National.
The National reports that travelers will be able to register their faces at kiosks, and those scans will presumably be matched up with what the aquarium-tunnel cameras pick up as you pass through.
If the cameras determine you are who you say you are, you’ll get a green light at the end of the aquari-tunnel. If not, you’ll get a red light, and an official will likely conduct extra screening of some kind.
It’s not clear what Dubai airport officials will do with these face scans after they have them. Do they keep them on file, assuming you’ll return? Do they share this information with government officials in the United Arab Emirates? How about with officials in other countries?
And face scans are just part one of a two-part plan. Soon, these aquariums may also have cameras that scan your irises. Just remember that when you’re looking at all the pretty fish.
Marketers continue to spend more money on social campaigns, and they continue to struggle to appraise what they receive in return for that money.
Measuring return on investment (ROI) was the most commonly cited challenge facing social marketers, according to a study conducted by Simply Measured, a company that sells analytics software for marketers to measure the ROI of their social campaigns.
The social analytics firm surveyed almost 1,000 ad agency employees that span 111 countries and specialize in social marketing, roughly half of whom held the job title of social media manager, marketing manager or director of social media. Of the survey’s respondents who were asked to identify their top three challenges, 61.4 percent picked measuring ROI was picked by 61.4 percent, followed by “tying social to business goals” at 35.5 percent.
Attributing social marketing spend to business results has been an increasing area of focus for marketers, as well as for social platforms. The more money marketers pour into social media, the more they expect to know how that money converts into revenue for their businesses. And social platforms like Facebook have seen this as an opportunity to solidify marketers’ social investments and siphon spend from more established channels like TV and search.
During Facebook’s most recent earnings call (PDF), COO Sheryl Sandberg described the company’s shift in emphasis away from “proxy metrics,” such as video views and brand lift, and toward “sales metrics” because “the more that we can tie ad viewing to sales, the stronger our case is with our clients.”
Engagement before conversions
However, for sales metrics to take hold, marketers need to wean themselves off proxy metrics, such as likes, comments, shares and retweets. And they have not yet.
According to the survey, 57.8 percent of respondents said that engagement metrics were the metrics they used the most to gauge a social campaign’s success, whereas 23.6 percent cited conversion and revenue metrics — e.g., website traffic, conversions and revenue — as their most-used metric to measure success.
Compounding matters, marketers are more interested in analytics tools that enable them to count engagements than they are in conversions. Per the survey, 52.7 percent of respondents said that tracking engagement metrics is the most important feature they seek in a social analytics tool. By comparison, 39.4 percent cited the ability to track conversions as their most sought-after capability.
Perhaps because of marketers’ preoccupation with engagement metrics, social data plays a somewhat restricted role in informing clients’ social strategies. While 61.5 percent of respondents said they use social data to assess campaign performance, only 36 percent said they use social data to measure ROI.
Marketers’ favored social channels
The hierarchy of social platforms that marketers spend the most money on mirrors that of those they use the most in their campaigns. Respondents’ six most-used social networks are the same six social networks on which they spend the most money, and in the same order: Facebook takes the top spot, followed by Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and Pinterest. If it weren’t for 27.1 percent of respondents claiming to use Google+, the mirrored hierarchy would extend to include Snapchat in the seventh position.
While the two charts share the same order, the stats differ drastically. Facebook is far and away the platform that most respondents spend money on. And even though fewer than half as many spend money on Instagram, the Facebook-owned photo-and-video app outpaced Twitter by more than double.
The divide likely has to do with Facebook and, to a lesser extent, Instagram being largely pay-to-play platforms for brands, thanks to their respective algorithms that sort the posts in people’s feeds. In other words, marketers may not feel as pressed to spend money on Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest and LinkedIn because they are able to reach enough people organically. However, that thinking wouldn’t apply to Snapchat, which is typically considered a pay-to-play platform. Snapchat’s relatively small standing may have to do with it being inaccessible to many advertisers, though that has begun to change.
Simply Measured also surveyed agency employees about influencer marketing. Marketers have warmed to incorporating people with large social followings into their campaigns, but not necessarily to the point of dedicating a share of their budgets specifically to this type of marketing.
According to the survey, 54.9 percent of respondents said influencers are an important part of their marketing strategies, though only 18.7 percent said they “strongly agree” that influencers play a vital role in clients’ social strategies. However, 66 percent said they have no dedicated budget for influencer marketing.
The fact that brands are not earmarking dollars specifically for influencer marketing may have to do with the channel serving more of a supplementary than standalone role. Asked how they use influencers in their social strategies, 59.2 percent of the respondents said that influencers serve to extend the reach of campaigns, a role similar to that of PR outreach.
Social analytics software preferences
Finally — and perhaps the least surprising finding in a survey conducted by a social analytics software provider — 52 percent of respondents said they need social analytics software to do their best work. The runner-up resource was “human resources” at 35.7 percent, followed by publishing software at 12.3 percent. For this question, as with the biggest challenges question, respondents were asked to select their top three most important features.
Of the respondents, 47.2 percent said the platforms’ tools are their primary way of collecting social data for clients, followed by 31.1 percent that rely on third-party social analytics tools and 10.4 percent that manually monitor their clients’ social accounts. The remaining 11.4 percent use some combination of the aforementioned methods.
Turning highway pillars into vertical gardens in order to fight pollution and beautify the cityscape is an innovative citizen-led initiative that Mexico City has implemented. Director and architect Fernando Ortiz Monasterio of the Via Verde Project in Mexico City noted that the main priority for creating these vertical gardens was to transform the city and can hopefully change the mood of the motorists who drive by these artistic creations every day.
Among the plants in the vertical gardens are epiphytes which include ferns, lichens, mosses, cacti, bromeliads, and orchids. These hydroponic plants grow around metal frames buffered against highway pillars with fabric to avoid damaging the structure. The Via Verde serves as air filters, regulate heat and can decrease noise pollution. This project has gained international attention and hopefully many other regions will adopt an ecological solution such as this one to combat air pollution while promoting green awareness.