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New Media

The Tide Effect: Loyalty Isn't Just for Brands

If you're a media company either trying to emerge or survive in the current content-saturated and attention-limited landscape, you might want to be a little more like Tide. The laundry detergent.

As far as marketing goes, it's historically been really hard for laundry detergent brands to convert customers, and Tide has been killing the game for decades. In fact, there's a 38 percent chance the clothes you are wearing right now were washed with Tide. And while history was on Tide's side (the whole invention of the washing machine really gave them a good boost), there's still a lot to be said about Tide today. It's dominated a quarter of the market since 2013.

It's an extreme case of brand loyalty. And it's also what media companies should be striving for, too.

From Click Americana.

Branding has made quite a lot of evolutionary growth over the past few years. What was once delivered through newspapers and television is, of course, now distributed through social. That means it's an even playing field, where everyone has a shot at the top spot. (Still, Tide has over 4 million Facebook fans.)

So now that any passion, hobby, or ambitious content creator can go viral at any moment, it's important to nurture what happens after that viral hit. Media companies should treat their followers as customers, and value them as such. Because it's that Tide-like loyalty that carries through every platform shift and algorithm change.

Repeat Viral Reach

There are so many tombstones in the viral moments graveyard. You remember "Damn, Daniel!", but not where you first saw it. You also can't remember which live stream you watched April the Giraffe finally give birth on. If you're reading this several months after publish, none of this will even make any sense.

It's kind of crazy to think that now it's relatively easy to have a viral moment, but it's keeping your name around that's the hard part.

Viral moments are essential because they open the door to more loyal readers. An excellent example of both the perfect viral moment paired with long-lasting audience building is PAPERMag.com (powered by RebelMouse). Even though it was awhile ago, you probably still remember when they broke the internet with their Kim Kardashian cover.

It was a viral moment that brought huge new eyes to their brand, and they've since done more highly successful #BreaktheInternet campaigns. PAPERMag.com also has an even bigger reputation for their covers, even within their digital audience. Covers featuring Miley Cyrus, Blac Chyna, and Kylie Jenner have also brought the publisher repeat viral reach.

PAPERMag rules repeat viral reach.

Think of that repeat-viral-reach life — publishers like The Dodo, The Washington Post, and BuzzFeed see it all the time. They've got Tide-like loyalty and aren't even selling anything tangible. It's tough to grasp how to build a loyal audience this way because most viral moments aren't forced and happen organically. But you have to make sure your content is set up for viral success.

The Strategy

The recipe for loyal audience building is complicated, but it can be broken down into three very important ingredients:

Content: No surprise here — you're going to need content to achieve that viral reach and keep people coming back. 62% of millennials believe online content builds loyalty for a brand.

If you're a brand and think content marketing isn't for you, you're behind. If you're a media company and aren't thinking of yourself as a brand, you're losing too. Everyone needs content, and that content needs to keep your readers (or buyers) returning for more. We've got some pretty strong feelings about what drives shareable content.

ProTip: Content doesn't mean just your own stuff. Practice the law of reciprocity and share content from others every day. The algorithm gods will thank you for that, too.

Experience: This is the most important ingredient. Your content has to be able to travel across platforms seamlessly. That means when you have a piece of content with the potential to go viral, not only has it got to traverse all relevant social channels quickly, but it also has to do it via mediums like Google AMP + Apple News. It has to be visible.

Not just visible, but easy, too. This means no intrusive ads, slow load times, or irritating imagery and messaging — even if these things are threaded into what is otherwise great content, it's disastrous.

Think of each publishing platform as a gateway to awareness for return traffic to your site. Each time a viral moment surfaces, that content will bring new awareness to your brand. It's at that point when your new followers have a chance to learn more about who you are. If they've made it to your site, then they should be met with the same ease as the social experience. Your content should be binge-worthy. This journey from a viral moment to site visit is essential and has to be repeated to add layers to your following.

Reputation: This part should come more naturally. If you've mastered both content + delivering that content through a quality experience, then you've established storytelling, relatability, and consistency.

A Pew Research Center report from February found that 56% of readers are able to recall the source of content they've found online. And the more links people click, the more likely they are to remember the source. Which means they're more likely to visit again.

It's a competitive landscape to build a reputation, and it starts with that one viral moment. That's your chance to make a connection, and to build on that moment is similar to climbing a steep hill. The viral moment should be a good experience that piques a user's interest, so they eventually know you by name, and know exactly what to look out for when you pop up in their feeds. That's when you've reached loyalty with your audience.

It's not an easy hill to climb, but the big payoff justifies the long game. Just look at Tide.

New Media

Love, Hate, Belief, Disbelief: What Drives Shareable Content?

Curating viral content isn't easy. If it was, we'd all be doing it and there would be an infiltration of (even more) salt baes and polarizing political GIFs.

But there's a reason why certain types of content get the viral engagement every publisher craves. And it's not as simple as post + pray. Meaning you can't just post something and hope to the social gods you go viral. There's more data behind it. First, you have to understand what makes content viral. Then, how it spreads.

And at its core, it boils down to emotions.

Take a minute to think about the type of content that makes you want to click that "Share" button. You're definitely feeling something — maybe it's just amusement, maybe you're inspired, or maybe it's even rage. But it's enough emotion to make you want to share it with your own followers, so they too can experience what you have. That domino effect yields those crazy-high engagement numbers.

The emotions that perpetuate this notion to share lie somewhere on the quadrant of virality, where love/hate + belief/disbelief are strong enough to trigger some sort of actionable measure. It may seem like a simple idea, but mastering this is what truly takes your content from cute to sexy, and from shared to virally shared. It's what prompts new audiences to engage and become obsessed with your brand.

Quadrant of virality.

There's a reason why companies like BuzzFeed + UNILAD get thousands of shares on Facebook. It's not because they're guessing. They've tapped into our emotions, even if it's just pure distraction. Each of BuzzFeed's properties caters to a specific niche audience who's addicted to the content they post.

Even BuzzFeed's home page is categorized into "lol," "wtf," "cute," and "omg" — essentially slang terms for love, hate, belief, and disbelief. Here's a look at how each one of those emotions spread on social.

Love

Negative news seems to dominate the feeds (thanks, 2016). After all, it's naturally more attention-grabbing and fear-invoking — the same reason why your local news station's daily lineup leans more toward the grim side of things. It's easy to get caught up in the negative news phenomenon, but too much negativity can turn off your followers. Which is why there's been a recent pull toward positive storytelling, and an audience that's asking for it.

Virality + social sharing have a close relationship with positivity. Research presented by Fractl revealed love, happiness, and admiration as the top emotions that generate higher social shares.

Fractl's study shows positive emotions drive social shares.

RebelMouse property HooplaHa has adopted this appetite for positive, solution-focused news. They deliver only uplifting content, calling themselves the "antidote to bad news." So far it has granted them stellar engagement + a loyal following. The video below of Mark "The Dog Guy" Imhof garnered over 2K likes, 1K shares, and hundreds of comments. (When in doubt, go with dog content.)

Hate

We've all seen what happens when strong negative emotions take a front seat. If you haven't heard, the Pepsi ad flub of 2017 is causing quite the viral outbreak all over social. A negative reception to the ad has prompted those not so much in support to share, retweet, and create their own GIFs, and the backlash only continues to grow. This might not be a case of "any press is good press," but it's certainly viral media we can't stop looking at. (See also: The White House Press Secretary using the phrase "Holocaust Centers.")

Backlash to Pepsi's recent ad caused a viral social frenzy.Source: Twitter

Disbelief

Leave it to political news to best tug at our emotions of belief/disbelief. RebelMouse's viral property Axios has changed the way we digest political news. Their mission is to provide a clear, unbiased perspective which they deliver through snackable microposts. Each of these microposts taps into some sort of emotion of disbelief, key to grabbing the attention of their readers and leading to a substantial decrease in bounce rate and an increase in page views.

Belief

Belief can be just as powerful of a driving factor, as seen in the recent addition of the "Fearless Girl" statue on Wall Street. The statue was part of a greater push to pressure companies to add more women to their board in honor of International Women's Day. It gained widespread attention overnight, where pics of women + young girls emulating the statue went viral. It started trending on Facebook, appeared all over Instagram and Twitter, and even got powerful influencers, like Chelsea Clinton, to weigh in. It restored hope + belief in change at a time when many believe women's rights are continually compromised.

"Sometimes, a symbol helps us become whole, and I think the 'Fearless Girl' is having that same effect. She is inspiring everyone at a moment when we need inspiration."Bill de Blasio, Mayor of New York

How Does Content Spread?

Tapping into the emotions of your audience is only half the battle. It's not enough to publish great content. One of our RebelMouse mantras is, "If you put out great content, but nobody sees it, does it even exist?" That's why it's crucial to understand how content spreads. First comes feelings, then comes the data and tech to properly support its growth.

56% of all online adults use more than one of the five most popular social media sites regularly. Which means people live in various places across the social ecosystem. That's why your content should not only live on the platforms, but also easily be able to cross platforms as well.

Resonate with the right audience for serious engagement goals.

The ability to cross platforms with ease requires a greater understanding of the current state of distributed publishing — and how to reach your maximum audience without sacrificing everything to social. Axios founder Jim VandeHei recently attributed much of the new media company's success to a revamped monetization of page views, because the old school method cheapened user experience:

Laws of supply and demand kicked in, and everyone had tons of inventory, and you're throwing it through these third parties, that are giving you a penny an ad, and it doesn't really add up unless you get more and more pageviews. So then you want to do more. the next thing you know, you have something that has no value to the consumer, and so, of not much value as a brand." — Jim VandeHei

Axios has straddled the challenge of monetization + user experience with their provoking and relevant content, but also with the help of RebelMouse's Social UX feature. We've blended the home page experience with social feeds to help platforms + media companies live in harmony.

Because harmony means your followers are happy. Happy enough to drive your engagement.

New Media

Life After Publish: A World Beyond Post and Pray

"More people meant more ideas, greater densities meant that ideas could spread more readily… These developments increased the rate of growth of economic productivity and technological." — Nick Bostrom

We are witnessing an unprecedented change in the way ideas are discovered, created, and spread. The infrastructure for ideas and content to reach audiences at speed and scale today is unlike anything we've ever seen before. Nick Bostrom illustrated the explosion in population and production beautifully in his excellent book titled "SuperIntelligence: Paths, Danger, Strategies."

What's making all this growth possible is not just how many people are alive to create and discover ideas, but population density itself. The densities are what allow for the emergence of ideas, breeding, and sorting grounds that tap the hive mind.

The internet has allowed for an explosion of population density — taking what urban offline environments started and moving it to a step growth change in density. The connections made through every major network from Facebook through to Gmail, Uber, Slack, Snapchat, Instagram, WhatsApp, and YouTube is changing how quickly we can evolve as a civilization. It is mind boggling to think of Facebook's billion daily active users, but we haven't even seen the statistic on the number of total connections between those users. The connections between users, fan Pages, and huge social accounts represent density.

Around 40% of the world population has an internet connection today. In 1995, it was less than 1%.

This has enabled a content explosion that has sent the media world into a frenzy, if not panic.

Ultimately, almost every content creator today is navigating without understanding how to traverse density, which basically amounts to "post and pray" — post to Facebook and the other networks and pray you go viral.

All of our data and focus is on the population sizes of the networks themselves. Facebook's one billion daily active users. YouTube's monthly one billion. The eight billion video views daily that Facebook has gotten too, and Snapchat's rise to seven billion. Snapchat's 100 million actives.

"Smores," BuzzFeed Food — 123M views, 2.8M shares, 1.3M likes (Facebook)

The opportunity for smart content creators is exponentially greater and faster to size and scale today. But understanding the life after publish, the way content and ideas travel through connections, is vital to building a successful business and becoming a breakout hit. There are two types of densities that need to be understood. The two terms "collective density" and "graph density" are ones we are coining here for these purposes.

Collective Density

Collective density works without any social or interest graph. YouTube, one of the largest examples of collective density, doesn't need to know who you are, where you were born, or who your friends are. It works through collective density. The property has had over 10,000 videos that have reached over one billion views. YouTube is sorted through collective density — click stats from the over a billion monthly visitors who spend an inordinate amount of time not just waiting through pre-roll, but clicking through related content and discovering. There is a small degree of interest graph built through related content modules.

"Blank Space," Taylor Swift — 1.4B views, Nov 10, 2014 (YouTube)

Media sites made a step change in growth by embracing collective density. Before stats driving popularity technology was developed and deployed, online media companies were density blind. They were just sorting content by editorial choice. But by releasing most popular units, media companies have been able to tap into collective density and let their readers quickly surface the most important stories to the groups of readers they had captured.

Collective density can add texture and complexity quickly by sorting popularity with categories of content, and adding a graph between the content to get better related content to users. This added texture allows for better increased engagement and consumption as a user begins to click twice, and then many times, to find more content.

In collective density environments, you aim for the big pop culture hit. When content finds its way to the top of the most popular units, it has the potential to reach into hundreds of millions and sometimes over billions.

Graph Density

Social networks have given rise to a new type of density based on social and interest graphs. The growth rates, and step growth rates, of the social networks are what validates so many companies' obsession and belief in understanding and spending on them. Snapchat's growth rate on video views per day, up in a year from two to seven billion views daily, is mind blowing. WhatsApp is now probably recognized nearly as equally as Coca-Cola across the developing world.

But the 600-pound gorilla of idea exchange in today's modern world is still Facebook, the property itself. No other property has so perfectly nailed the combination of a dense graph and machine learning to sort the impact of collective destiny refined through graph destiny (the stories your friends like most, e.g., your friend just got engaged, and so on). The pact with Facebook from the start was clear — this isn't reverse chronological and it isn't editorially sorted either.

"Tyrese Gibson: The Best Halloween Costume Ever," 89M views, 1.9M shares, 1.4M likes (Facebook)

Twitter's most important feature perhaps was under covered — the "While you were away..." module which appears after some hours have passed.

The struggle for Twitter's growth has perhaps been that it is limited by a different user pact based on recency, which is essentially an unsorted hive mind — the ant trail up close, each tweet marching by. I like the march myself, by the way, and I am a Twitter fan. But the growth rate has been only attached to the simple graph density without the machine-learned sorting.

Companies often miss the opportunities in this graph density because they think it doesn't apply to B2B or that they are too niche to succeed. This misses the opportunity of the graph density — it allows content to spread much faster through groups of people who are like minded or who share common interests.

The key to understanding how to accelerate the spread through graph density is to find the accounts with the largest reach and a matched interest. There are over 70 million Facebook Pages, so without technology to assist an editor, understanding this can be daunting and time consuming.

Athlete Cristiano Ronaldo's Facebook Page, 109M fans

Also, because Facebook (and many social networks) don't clearly show the stats of how content is performing that is not posted by your own Page, there is a blind spot for most editorial teams that would want to understand this but lack the tools they need to be able to.

The New Technology Layer

The emergence of the cross-platform world has become the breaking point for the technologies that media properties and marketers built or bought in the last decade. The problems they were built to solve don't match the opportunities that properties need to thrive. They cost too much and take too much time to build.

So a new generation of technologies are being built. Internally, they are collections of micro services that understand APIs natively and expect keys for data and content to flow in and out and be put into context. The role of these technologies is to help content and ideas gain momentum in the density graphs. They are moving to the cloud and becoming part of the sharing economy. And though that sometimes looks like Salesforce or the Creative Cloud, that means multi tenants host and share the costs in order to accelerate the bigger mission they are on.

The new technology layers also need to extend to domain-owned experiences where the open web tech acts as a Switzerland between the networks to understand data and create efficiencies, but also takes audiences through the funnel from casual to subscriber, and ultimately, to a core of loyalists. This allows a property to begin to build its own density. And density is ultimately what makes something valuable.

There were 255 million websites as of December 2010.

We built RebelMouse in anticipation of all these changes coming. As a result, the properties we power are growing quickly by traversing density across networks and building densities of their own with loyalists passionate about the topics they talk about.

New Media

New Media Companies Are Big Media's Worst Nightmare

The battle of the platforms has brought us to an even playing field.

There's something called the Reddit Bureau of Investigation. It's a subreddit where curious users leverage crowdsourcing to comb through digital clues to solve crimes. In 2013, it was these redditors who tried to find the Boston Marathon bombing suspects. In 2016, it was also rigorous Reddit investigators who tried to find out if Making a Murderer's Steven Avery was in fact guilty.

These Reddit detectives are just your so-called average joes sitting behind computer screens. And while they may have plenty of awful fails in their investigations, they still make national headlines.

Reddit's go-to internet detectives are an illustration of why digital publishing, particularly distributed content across platforms, has given us all an even playing field. It's also why big media companies should be worried.

The Reddit Bureau of Investigation is a social platform that puts users at the forefront.

When digital publishing first became a real thing — as in when we collectively began to agree that it would take over print — legacy publishers had the upper hand thanks to resources that allowed them to make sexy websites and figure things out on their own time. Then newer big media companies, like The Huffington Post, were able to use innovation to set the bar of what publishing would look like in the digital age.

Soon after that, publishers started to lose their content to the platforms. News began to break on Twitter, viral moments would spread through Facebook, and celebrities shared their changing relationship statuses on Instagram. Oh, and people attempted to solve cold cases on Reddit.

This is when true control was taken away from legacy publishers, along with the big media companies who saw themselves as digital revolutionaries — the social experience removed all the old obstacles to getting published. It's why big media companies so vigorously fight so-called content-hostage-perpetrating platforms like Facebook. And it's why they should be trembling in their boots.

Going Viral on a Passion

There's a quadrant of virality we believe in, made of love, hate, belief, and disbelief. It's what makes content shareable. One of those emotions is always tapped when a moment goes viral. Whether it's disbelief in the color of a dress, sadness at the death of a gorilla, or the outrage needed to join together a resistance movement, emotion steers what makes something worth sharing.

Social platforms remove all boundaries from passionate people connecting with their like-minded audiences. Just as Twitter removed the agents and PR reps that once filtered what celebrities and politicians said, the same has happened for the masses. The best part is these passionate people are the new creators and brand innovators.

At RebelMouse, we've helped plenty of these innovators reach viral heights. We helped harness one woman's love of animals to create the now iconic community The Dodo. Our latest property, Axios, is making waves in political circles. Axios was an instant viral hit because it resonates with the passionate disbelief many feel in our current political climate and the chaos surrounding credible news.

We've also launched new media properties like EcoWatch, LoveMeow, and Higher Perspective, which serve the love of environment, felines, and positive thinking, respectively. That passion is met with engagement in the feeds.

Not only are the obstacles that once hindered these brand innovators gone thanks to the ease of social, they now have another tool at their fingertips their legacy and media counterparts should find scary: lean tech.

A Higher Reach with No Hassle

The new era of passionate content creators already knows how to deliver their brand in a message that speaks to their audience on social.

Think of what Airbnb did to Craigslist. They took content that was resonating on a bad interface and made it a beautiful experience. That's what this batch of creative founders are doing with their new media companies — using savvy, lean tech that ditches heavy design for fast + simple delivery.

Bidding adieu to expensive dev teams, designers, and UX teams breaks down even more walls between content and growth. Breaking through these barriers helps grassroots media companies flourish quickly, with little-to-no launch time and often with an instant, huge reach on social feeds.

Screenshot from Fast Company after The Dodo's launch.

Predictive social analytics company NewsWhip found that Facebook Pages with relatable or niche focuses drove higher than average engagements. In February 2017, the top 10 Facebook feeds with the highest engagement overall consisted entirely of new media companies, many of which were born on the feeds. Their websites were a lean afterthought.

From NewsWhip.

The Pages in the graphic above had much higher engagement than mainstream publishers, despite posting far less content. Many of them posted less than 100 pieces of content the entire month.

There's nobody at Pages like The BEER Bible or UNILAD that serves as the star or founder — it's just people using their resources at hand to create something viral and awesome. They could be the same people behind the Reddit Bureau of Investigation for all we know.

It's this potential for explosive reach at any time that legacy and big media companies should take more stock in, and adjust their strategies accordingly. In order to compete, it's crucial to cut expensive dev teams and focus on content creation and distribution.

We recently took this one step further at RebelMouse with our Social UX for Media. We're rethinking the role websites play in the dynamic, inherently social infoscape. We're catching up websites to the feeds. With features like infinite scroll and before-you-know-it's-an-ad unobtrusive sponsored content integration, your site becomes the feed.

RebelMouse's Social UX for Media on Axios.com.

With the birth of our Social UX for Media, instead of asking ourselves, "What's the latest in web design?," we've started asking, "What's the latest on the platforms?" We've tailored our distributed CMS to these platforms to ensure that your content gets the competitive reach it needs.

Because everyone deserves to go viral on a passion. It's now on publishers to brace for impact.

New Media

4 Ways to Break Down Big Data + Build Customer Loyalty

These days there isn't a headline or piece of content on the whole wide web that isn't influenced, in some way, by data. In fact, for companies whose success depends on courting and converting customers online, big data is now (arguably) the most important competitive advantage to gain in the digital marketplace. Just look at the tooth-and-nail battle between social platforms like Facebook and Twitter for marketing dollars. Though active user figures are important, it is the maturity of each platform's ad product — that is, its ability to leverage data to enable brands to engage with consumers in relevant and authentic ways — that determines revenue potential.

The Key: Make Big Data Little Again

Big data isn't just here to stay, it's here to take over. However, as paranoid email subject lines and viral social media posts continue to prove, it's still a delicate issue for the masses. To harness data as a tool for repeat engagement and customer loyalty, it must be wielded carefully and adeptly. I had the chance to speak with several industry leaders about this very subject. Over the course of our conversations, we identified four essential steps for achieving this — segmentation, information, optimization, and protection. Watch the full conversation below or download a copy of the complete transcript here.

1. Segmentation

The collection of big data is no longer the monumental task it was just a year or two ago. There are now countless intuitive platforms and tools in the market that mine, organize, and report data for companies large and small. It's where you take the data from there that matters today. Before you rush off to content and messaging, however, there is a critical step that is often delayed or skipped completely — segmentation. For larger companies, the concept is a familiar one. Michelle Killebrew, Digital Marketing Program Director at IBM, illustrates:

"You can imagine there are hundreds of solutions across IBM's portfolio," she says. "And the majority of the personas in our database are IT related. So how do you define which brand has the right to touch that person with the next best message?" Michelle continues. "We have so much data that we can slice and dice in so many different ways. I think it's not only about looking at how can you personalize that next interaction, but drilling into the database and trying to figure out who that ideal segmentation is."

It may seem obvious, but leveraging behavioral data alone does not drive loyalty or lead to sustained growth. Assigning these behaviors to unique subsets of consumers assures that future messaging and content streams are pure and, more importantly, relatable. For some marketers, segmentation can be done effectively on a one-to-one basis. For most of us, it must be done at a group level. Either way, it's important to realize this is an ongoing, dynamic process that will continue to evolve and change as your company grows.

2. Information

In many ways, segmentation and information are parallel processes that rely upon each other. As behavioral data rolls in (from your website, email marketing campaigns, social content, etc.) it both guides the process of segmentation and dictates the content and messaging that will ultimately be served to those segments. Philippe Von Borries, Co-Founder and CEO of Refinery29, relies on this concept of informed content more than most:

"[The most important thing is] being able to, through technology, through data, continue to build content that actually speaks to the person and their behavior on Refinery29, what they're interested in, and to provide them with more of that content," he explains.

The lesson? Keeping your messaging and content focused on your most vital consumer segments allows you to keep your eye on the prize. Von Borries continues:

"For us it is really about building an incredibly respected voice for women throughout the world. [You want to make sure that] people don't come through the side door who really don't connect with your brand."

At Refinery29, the numbers back up the theory. 46% of page views come from just 34% of the site's visitors who visit Refinery an average of nine times per month. More impressive still, only 12% of traffic goes directly to the home page, while 50% of the traffic comes in through email. Personalized content drives loyalty. Loyalty drives business.

3. Optimization

All of this data may be black and white, but your consumers rarely (read: never) are. The third step in leveraging data to build customer loyalty is perhaps the most important of all — optimization. You've no doubt heard the concept of "test, learn, optimize" before. In fact, you've probably heard it today. It's the strategy used by virtually every successful content marketer in previous years, and has only gotten more effective as the world of big data has evolved. Von Borries prefers the term relentless testing, which he describes as "continuous, continuous, continuous iteration and testing on everything from headlines to images to stories themselves."

In effect, optimization is simply the process by which segmentation and information must happen. As time goes on and larger swaths of data become available, the people you choose to speak to and the content you use to speak to them with will become more relevant, more authentic, and ultimately more potent. It's this veritable feedback loop that continually strengthens the bond between company and consumer, ensuring repetitive engagement. Once started, it can never be stopped.

4. Protection

But it's all for naught if your customers don't trust you with their data, as Jeannie Chu, Director of Brand Marketing and Communications at American Express, is quick to point out. This is where protection comes in. "For us, the ability to test and learn is amazing," she explains. "But I think we also have to balance that with the security and trust people have in us." For American Express, one of the world's largest and most recognizable financial institutions, this is especially important.

"If it's on our dot-com, it could be a security breach for us," Chu continues. "So [while] it is about testing and learning and leveraging and mining data as much as possible, there is [also] that 'make sure we send out guys to check the security camera of the data server somewhere in Israel, because we care' piece." It is a fragile issue, and a notoriously difficult one to handle. For American Express, it all comes down to communication and education. "You trust us because we are really crazy about keeping it secure. I have to take about 30+ trainings a year and I'm in Marketing… it's weird," Chu jokes.

Don't Forget the Human Touch!

While the proper use and handling of big data is essential to achieving growth and customer loyalty in the modern digital world, Killebrew, Von Borries, and Chu were all careful to point out one missing piece — the human touch. Chu put it best:

"I don't want to say that data isn't important because it's kind of the cornerstone of how we make decisions," she caveats. "But there always has to be the person that says, 'Okay and the editorial lens is this.' At the end of the day, if we tell good stories then hopefully I can tell you about a Global Assist product or the insurance on your card and you won't say, 'That's boring.' And hopefully you'll retain that someday when you need it."
New Media

The Path to Distributed Publishing (Part 1)

The way people have found content on the internet has gone through some very clear phases. Understanding our history is vital to understanding the present and being able to anticipate the available paths of the present into the future.

Should we talk about AOL?

The internet's first phase of consumer addiction started with text only terminal programs like Lynx, the pre-image internet of pure text hyperlinks. People learned to publish HTML files and how hyperlinks worked. It was the first raw layer of the internet that everything else is still built on top of.

As quickly as it developed, attempts were made to help other people find what had been created. Yahoo! became a winner by quickly organizing a very broad taxonomy for roughly "everything," and by giving human editors simple software to choose links for each category as Mosaic emerged (images on web pages!). Yahoo!'s efforts paid off and they became the central rainmaker.

A relatively small attempt at logical taxonomy was put together, and human category editors became the key path to content on the internet. If you didn't know who the category editor was for your space, you found a way to get to know them. Getting key placements in those categories could change a business dramatically.

Yahoo! categories.Source: http://bit.ly/2aR6Zef

As the open web sprawled, Google emerged to organize the world's information. In a very short time, the tiny informational reach of the human category editors was made irrelevant. We learned not only how to search, but an industry developed in the years after to optimize for better distribution in this new world order. The SEO industry became massive as it controlled the new lifeblood of content to its path to an audience.

At Huffington Post, where I was CTO, we built software to help teach writers how that universe worked, and how to make small changes to the way they put stories together to win. They told the same story, but they also learned to think about how humanity at large searched, and then how to become a top three result in that search. Google was the undisputed rainmaker, and companies like HuffPost that figured out SEO learned how to drink under a waterfall. Those who learned to build around the new rules of this landscape won constantly.

The Huffington Post home page, July 2009.From the Wayback Machine: http://bit.ly/2b4d1oF

The new phase changes the landscape completely once again and radically displaces Google. We are well past the beginning of this phase — the new paradigm is now much stronger and more powerful. Facebook has organized the world's information in a way that Google could never have been able to. Facebook has rendered Google's search technology to look as irrelevant as Google made Yahoo's categories. What was built into the very core of Facebook was essentially an AI agent for each one of us. It was crude ten years ago compared to what it is now, but it worked.

While Facebook's core positioning is social, the data and software they possess contains all the clues for nearly 2 billion people's interests. And every minute it learns more. Google's tech was focused only on the content that was being created. Facebook's tech sees beyond that to the person reading and sharing that story. The vital leap from Like to Reactions seems to be successfully completed, so the complexity and texture of the data becomes even more effective.

The hyperlinked, interests-based profile.From Mashable: http://on.mash.to/2b4dUxm

The shift to mobile has finalized our relationship with search. We expect content to come to us now, and it does. It isn't just our friends that Facebook has learned from — through Pages, Facebook has learned about our interests as well. Oddly enough, it is sort of a return to human category editors — but this time, instead of a few thousand, there are 85 million and growing daily. Winning on social today often takes the type of awareness and relationship building with other humans leading key categories like it did in the Yahoo! era. But it has to be conducted at a scale that can only be possible through technology. As the interest graphs of social networks have established a clear ownership of the path to content for consumers, a new industry is evolving.

It's called Social Media Optimization (SMO), and it goes beyond learning how to publish into networks to understanding how to optimize for distribution on these networks. Facebook's core offering to solve that problem has been very useful tools to pay for reach. But the core product that we all grew to love Facebook for, and is the single pillar of its success, is in the main column, not the ad slots.

That same single column of UX exists, in a way, as massively parallel universes — different content for each of us. The new waterfall is quite a bit bigger than anything we've ever seen before. When a single piece of content starts to find itself showing even in a tiny percent of the waterfall, a new company worth hundreds of millions can bloom from that in a very short time.

Map of Facebook Live broadcasts (Giphy).From Product Hunt: http://bit.ly/2aR8DfF

The role of Social Media Optimization will be to help people understand how to adapt to this new world as it evolves. One of the most significant core landscape shifts to understand in order to be able to optimize at all is the shift to distributed publishing.

The Google era pushed traffic to the open web. The core business metrics always included page views and unique visitors. Every optimization in this website-centric framework was to act as a funnel to the website. The landscape shift leaves those that stick to what they learned in the Google/website era in a very bad position. The reason this change is happening is because people are tired of clicking from that super-fast Facebook native app to a browser app to load a web page. We all flinch before clicking a link now. This is because we've seen what it's like to get content on the app.

The slideshow became the listicle, and then became the readable video. And the readable video has very long legs. It's a slideshow with no clicks needed, and a listicle without the scroll. It's lazy, it moves fast, and I don't need to hear it. And it plays right there without going anywhere. Instant Articles also keep people inside of Facebook where they prefer to be. Snapchat's emergence offers even less hope for the open web. Like Instagram, Snapchat is thriving by rendering links out unnecessary.

Instagram Stories, 2016. From TechCrunch: http://tcrn.ch/2aR9NrS

Distributed publishing is the solution for this new paradigm. It is one of the first steps of Social Media Optimization. It means publishing fully packaged content to every medium possible. Publishing teasers to stories is simply not enough — the entire story has to be consumable without leaving the platform and medium it's published to. This changes even how we think about email, where people again would rather just read more in their native Gmail app than click through to get more out.

So, let's take a look at how this shift affects what we know today. Check out The Path to Distributed Publishing (Part 2): What It Means for Websites + Tech.

New Media

2016: The Year We Watched (and Read) All the Videos

A lot has happened in the social sphere this year — but the rise of video, especially readable video, is the most impactful content shift of 2016. It's part of the the mobile takeover. This year, mobile is responsible for 65% of digital media time, making desktop a "secondary touch point," according to Marketing Land.

Videos are super easy to watch on mobile, and, so far, they've morphed into two very friendly beasts.

Two Big Social-Friendly Beasts

Friendly Beast #1: Live — The rise of live video on platforms like Periscope and Facebook put the power of audience growth into the hands of the creators for the first time ever.

Whether it's a brand, company, social influencer, or anyone with just an ounce of ambition and an Internet connection, they have the ability to go live instantly. That ability includes the potential to reach a larger audience than daytime TV, if not more. This power used to be owned exclusively by large networks, people with extraordinary circumstances, or just the straight up rich and famous. No longer.

In 2016, we saw this new opportunity impact everything from citizen journalism to a mother with a Chewbacca mask.

Video is not reserved just for YouTube and Facebook, either. The explosion of Snapchat and the creation of Instagram Stories gives us more opportunities for social success through distributed video content.

Friendly Beast 2: Readable — If it's not live, you better be able to read it. Brands like NowThis birthed this format and it's now the makeup of social feeds on nearly every platform.

This strategy works because it feeds the attention span of the modern scanner. Since sound is optional, viewers can consume readable videos everywhere (on their phone mostly), but also at work, in waiting rooms, etc. The dynamic nature of media-rich content makes the videos not only easy to digest, but easy to share.

Bonus: With no narration, readable videos are easy to create. Unlike big-budget news videos, simple GIFs, photographs, and amateur footage are acceptable forms of b-roll.

BuzzFeed's digital food empire, Tasty, features cooking videos with no sound. Each one racks millions (this one has 10M+) of views.

The Players

Anyone with content, period, can get in on the video game. Here are some benefits we've seen from the major players in 2016:

Brands: 84% of professional marketers and 55% of small business owners have produced or outsourced a video in the last 12 months. 76.5% of those marketers and small business owners have experienced results from those efforts. (Adweek)

E-commerce: 90% of users say product videos are useful in their decision-making process. (HubSpot)

News outlets + media companies: One-third of online activity is spent watching video. More video content is uploaded to the internet in 30 days than all three major U.S. networks combined have created in the past 30 years. (HubSpot)

An Easy Place to Start

If you haven't even dangled your toes in the water of video yet, Facebook is the #1 place to start and the place where most of your focus should be.

It's the biggest social platform and where the bulk of your audience lives. Facebook has 8.4 times the impact on marketers and small business owners compared to other social platforms. It's also super simple to track insights and success.

We Can Help

If you're still perfecting your video content skills, you can still benefit from video content through sharing. Facebook's algorithm favors shared content and it's an automatic engagement boost, at zero cost.

Our proprietary technology helps fuel organic growth on any CMS (Wordpress, Drupal, etc.). We've built in features to our platform which make sharing more strategic.

RebelMouse helps you identify social accounts through a search API you won't find using Facebook alone. You can reach out to your discovered target accounts via a variety of social signals, including a "like" of a recent post, an email, or sharing their video.

In comment sharing: Share video from your targeted social community within a comment of your relevant article. Since you tagged your targeted account, they will be inclined to see where their video was shared.

In article sharing: If you're publishing on the RebelMouse Distributed Content Management System (DCMS), you can also share a target account's video at the bottom of your article.

Bonus: Also on the RebelMouse platform, your own video content is easy to embed within an article. It's also viewable on both Facebook Instant Articles and Google AMP.

If you relate to this bear right now, it's OK. Distributed video content can be tricky at first. That's why you need your Rebels. Download our Guide to Social Media Content Strategy today for more tips.

New Media

RebelMouse’s 7 Facts About Contagious Media + How to Sustain It

RebelMouse Founder and CEO (and former CTO of The Huffington Post) Paul Berry has obsessed about contagious media — and how people consume it — for decades. He chatted with Steve Rubel, Chief Content Strategist at Edelman, for Rubel's podcast on all things storytelling, Content Convergence.

Click here to listen to it for free and get up to speed on ad blocking, audience growth, and the future of media companies and marketing in 2016.

In addition (and only in supplementary fashion!), digest some of the key points in our true gif-listicle form.

1. The Core of Contagious Media Hasn't Changed

When The Huffington Post turned on the lights in 2005, it sparked a launching platform for viral content. Everyone had a tab with HuffPo open at work, refreshing when something big happened to see what the big bold headline would be.

The same thing still happens, but now everyone is refreshing social feeds. Publishers declared the home page dead in 2014, but its gradual death began way before that. It doesn't mean contagious media isn't sustainable, but instead it breathes new life on social.

2. Contagious Media Is Fueled by Belief (or Nonbelief)

Time for a little #throwback: When social media was a lot of shifty chat rooms, RebelMouse CEO Paul Berry and BuzzFeed CEO (and advisor to RebelMouse) Jonah Peretti began a little site called Dog Island. The concept? Register your dog for a one-way ticket to a (fictional) island where it could "live free forever."

The site went viral, making international headlines, and was fueled by two kinds of people: Those who knew it was fictional, but remained bewildered at its existence, and people who believed the island was real and were outraged at the cruelty of pet owners who would give up their best friend to an island of unknown circumstance.

Either way, it was a viral moment that sustained life through belief and nonbelief. The same way your feed is likely dominated today by people impassioned by both belief (a touching holiday story that renews your faith in the modern world) or something Donald Trump said (the opposite of faith renewal, depending on your outlook).


From GIPHY

3. Stories Must Be so Shareable You Can't Stand It

The only way you can spark passion of belief or nonbelief is to give your content creators the tools they need to not only create viral moments regularly, but also sustain them. Contagious moments are on a huge bell curve, and it's only viable if it is shared. Social distribution allows viral moments to resurface again and again.

Think of when you dip your nose into a great-smelling candle, and it's impossible not to turn to the person next to you and say, "smell this." With content, that should happen five times over.

How do you know what will prompt the curiosity of the masses? Obsess over the dynamic content you see in your feeds every day the pop culture trends, language directions, and the general oddities of day-to-day life that ignite your interest and the interest of the communities you follow. Build your presence to match, and do it at scale.

4. Your Slogan Must Be Your Editorial Thesis — So Hire More Writers

If you want to master #3, the slogan of your brand, agency, or media company must also be your editorial thesis. You have to wake up every day ready to follow through on that message.

The best way to do this is not though a one-of-a-kind interface that requires an enormous, expensive office with a huge dev team, UX specialists, and SEO consultants. Good content comes from good writers who have already mastered the skill of carrying out a thesis. Hire more of them, build out your content strategy, and see audience growth.

And it can be done organically.

5. Cater Your Publishing to Distribution

Tabitha was able to see success because she won the great content race, but she also got part two right: Distribution. There's a saying at RebelMouse that's a spin on an old favorite: If a tree falls in a forest and nobody hears it, does it make a sound? If you have great content and nobody sees it...well?

The traditional content cycle begins during the "before publish" process — which consists of an SEO guessing game that still has value. But at RebelMouse, we believe the story begins after publish.

It's after publish when your story becomes contagious. You build a bigger audience when your story is shared by profiles and pages with large followings. And the good news is that every topic of content already has a big fan base in the land of distributed platforms.

This is where content now lives.

6. There's a Big Human Factor to Distribution

There's a myth out there that writers have seceded to a MacBook and just want to be left to their creative devices, but that isn't true.

Writers are intensely curious and obsess over data just like anyone else. This is why the lines between writers and social media managers must completely blur. Writers should know how to cater their work across platforms, and should be given the tools to manage and tweak a distribution strategy that works.

It's the writer-turned-social expert who knows their content in and out, and can use an editorial eye to reach out and discover new relationships across platforms. RebelMouse products have ways to maximize every piece of content in the social ecosystem.

7. Media Companies Aren't Tech Companies Anymore

Brands are already beginning to transform, and should all become media companies. If you are hiring a huge team to launch a new website, you are doing it wrong. The nature of the website has changed dramatically and decreased in value since 2012. In 2016, democratize and publish in sync with the constant rhythms of the platforms and be everywhere first.

More good news: Becoming a media company can happen not only more quickly, but also at a fraction of the cost. RebelMouse builds and grows new media properties that give your content creators the tools they need to create contagious moments and sustain them on the daily.

New Media

5 Best Practices to Grow Your Audience

The mission of scaling an engaged audience is exciting and rewarding. At RebelMouse, we believe that achieving success isn't an accident, it's a decision. The key is to effectively blend the art and the science in the editorial process. Here are five best practices for growth that you can apply to your strategy.

1. Own Your Identity

Your story makes you unique and allows you to cut through the noise. If all of the branding were stripped from your content, your audience should still be able to tell that it's your company or organization that created it. That's the power of your voice. Be bold, be authentic, and be relatable. Convey how your story connects to the lives of the people you're trying to reach.

Fuel your passion into content that differentiates you and puts you in a position to do your best. You can't cover everything so focus on what will make you stand out. Be disciplined about what you cover and what you don't cover. The internet is a democratized space and the social web rewards quality. It's not enough to get someone to click on your story. You have to create an experience that people love enough to want to share it.

2. Integrate Content Creation + Distribution

A commitment to telling a story should come with a commitment to presentation and distribution that ensures it takes off. Marry your approach to content creation and promotion. This means taking into account where you intend to reach your target audience — the social media platform, an email, or another pathway — before bringing your story idea to life. Headlines designed to drive sharing, dynamic imagery, compelling status text, and subject lines are instrumental in driving maximum engagement.

Social media, email, messaging, and emerging platforms should drive your editorial strategy, as opposed to being an afterthought. Additionally, the device likely being used to consume your content and the context of that interaction should inform your approach to creation.

3. Unlock the Power of Data

Data provides powerful insight into how people connect and engage with your content. Incorporating analytics into an editorial workflow isn't about chasing clicks: It's about empowering your team to create the best possible user experience. The goal is to deliver the right data to the right person in the right format at the right time.

The life of a story begins when you hit "Publish." Being aware that a story is going viral in real time gives your team the opportunity to maximize performance by scheduling posts to social media, sending email + messaging blasts, and optimizing an overall approach to distribution that amplifies growth. At higher levels, analytics can uncover user behavior patterns on what works well in terms of story ideas, presentation, and promotional strategy. Data is a universal language of feedback that empowers you to build an audience around a meaningful editorial product.

4. Drive Performance with Technology

Leveraging an innovative publishing platform fuels efficiency, as well as growth in terms of scale and engagement. Tools that align with an editorial workflow save your team time. A system that connects to the larger internet ecosystem allows you to maximize your impact. This applies to content discovery, creation, promotion, and performance. Functionality that enables you to pull in and push out stories in a unified experience enables your success.

Technology that's adaptable is the secret sauce in the recipe for growth.

5. Embrace Evolvability

Treat developments in the way people consume content as an opportunity to get ahead of the curve. You can see the rise of a new social platform as either daunting, or a chance to reach and engage with your audience in a new exciting way. It's all about perspective. Create a culture that promotes experimentation and values new ways of doing things.

Embracing evolvability means not having to play catch-up, and instead puts you in a position to innovate. Plus, it makes the process more fun. And the experience of creating something you're proud of and deliberately connecting with your target audience is fun. That's the magic of the internet.

New Media

The 2017 Rebel Mindset

At RebelMouse, we love the crazy, fast, ever-changing world of the internet. Founded by Paul Berry, the original CTO of The Huffington Post, and backed by new media experts from BuzzFeed and Buddy Media, we have an avant-garde view of how publishing works.

Check out these 10 statements that define the RebelMouse mindset for 2017, designed to get you psyched to share your stories with the world.

1. Growing an engaged audience isn't an accident.

It's a decision.

2. Be tech savvy, not tech heavy.

To unlock traffic and revenue growth at speeds we've never seen before.

3. Embrace an integrated approach to content creation and distribution.

Social isn't an afterthought, it drives editorial strategy.

4. Data = Amazingness.

Put that awesomeness into the hands of your content creators.

5. Blur the lines and raise the bar.

Editors, writers, and social media managers have the power to implement change — empower them with analytics to fuel growth.

6. The life of a story begins after you hit publish.

Go beyond post and pray.

7. Going viral means creating something worth sharing.

It should be an experience people love. It doesn't mean abandoning substance.

​8. Take a format-agnostic approach to content creation.

It's time to embrace the beyond-words era.

9. Ad blocking is a cultural movement.

In an increasingly banner-blind world, ads should (and can) add value to the editorial experience.

​10. Experiment and learn with every story.

Evolvability is your competitive advantage and adaptable technology is the secret sauce.

Do you agree? Does this sound like the way you want to approach media? Contact us to learn more and let's start working together!

New Media

Facebook Instant Articles Check In: Feature Still Essential for Publishers

The relationship between Facebook + publishers is complicated — chalk it up to the modern-day romances of Ross + Rachel, Carrie + Mr. Big.

And just like Ross needed Rachel and Carrie needed Mr. Big, we need Facebook.

As publishers, content creators, community managers, and marketers, it's something we've got to figure out. The platform has surpassed Google as the primary driver of referral traffic. 40% of Americans get their news from Facebook.

From The Huffington Post.

Those stats aren't necessarily shocking anymore. The platform is a behemoth, but still, there's something kind of amazing that Facebook has done with Instant Articles. The feature launched to all publishers nearly one year ago, so by now you most likely already breathe a sigh of relief when that headline you want to read more about has the lovely lightning bolt. And in turn, you probably become frustrated when you tap an article on Facebook + the slow load time annexes your phone.

Since its soft launch in 2015, Instant Articles have been widely adopted, and we would be lying if we didn't say it's a trend we're happy is here to stay. But it continues to be a contentious point for media companies and brands who aren't ready to let Facebook take more control.

It's easy to become frustrated with platforms. They wine-and-dine your content while you play third-wheel. And there's no way you're going to get a second date in your part of town. But Instant Articles are also making sure your relationship is a happy one, because a good user experience means loyalty for your brand.

But Instant Articles has had a tough go at romancing publishers.

If you're not taking advantage of Instant Articles yet (and there's still some pretty big holdouts), you're missing some serious unearthed potential. Here's a brief rundown of the rocky road that got us here + why you should table your platform woes on this one.

FB's First Publishing Platform

ICYMI, Instant Articles is Facebook's mobile-only, native publishing platform formatted and optimized to load almost immediately. This is big considering the average human attention span is approximately 8 secs. We like to read things, but only if they load fast. Not to mention IA gets a front seat in the EdgeRank algorithm. Minimal wait time = happy users.

Initially, Instant Articles launched in 2015 with a handful of publishing partners, including BuzzFeed, The New York Times + National Geographic. At RebelMouse, we worked with Facebook closely to create a seamless integration with our publishers, including PAPER Magazine + The Dodo. Then, the platform launched Instant Articles to all publishers during the F8 conference in Spring 2016. Since then, the user experience has paid off:

Still, there were some sharp growing pains as soon as Instant Articles went live. The obvious "Wait, what?" moment came from the shift in inbound marketing. On the surface, Instant Articles seemed to be just (more) hosted + hijacked content that never left Facebook. How could brands justify converting their content to Instant Articles with what seemed like little to nothing in return? This was the source of deep-rooted unknowns that both publishers and the major social platform had to come to a meeting place on. In the past two years, Facebook has worked with publishers to clear up doubt.

Smoothing Things over with Publishers

The turbulent relationship between FB Instant Articles + publishers can be broken down into two big bumps: editorial freedom and monetization.

Editorial Freedom: Brands, new media companies, and especially members of the news industry, were worried about Instant Articles taking away the ability to control design. Not only was Facebook taking control of content, but it was getting rebranded to all fit the Instant Articles aesthetic.

This made everyone in the industry nervous. Facebook is the hub of customer acquisition where readers begin the traditional marketing funnel. It looked like the platform was hijacking the ability for any brand or media company to stand out. This uniformity was even credited with playing a role in 2016's fake news fiasco.


Customer advocacy starts with awareness. Where else can you grab the attention of millions?

To combat this issue, Facebook set up HTML and RSS feeds to display articles with fonts, layouts, and formats to match publishers' editorial look and feel.

And on a larger scale, to preserve journalist integrity for news outlets, Facebook created The Facebook Journalism Project. The FB Journalism Project is a collaboration between the platform and journalists to produce new products, training, and tools to expand IA's creative capabilities. Most notable for publishers are story packages where uber-engaged readers can see multiple stories at a time to help users discover more of the publisher's content.

Monetization: Facebook has received the world's longest side-eye from publishers for hosting their content, and potentially making money off it too. When Instant Articles dropped, many publishers feared it would be the final nail in their page view coffin.

But through Instant Articles, publishers who serve their ads on the platform keep 100% of the revenue. If publishers are using Facebook to serve ads through their Audience Network, Facebook takes 30%.

The Facebook Journalism Project also enhanced monetization flexibility with customized ad experiences at the article level. The platform recently increased ad frequency — now ads can appear every 250 words rather than the previous 350. The platform also partnered with ad tech company Polar so native ads could be served just as display ads within Instant Articles. Around that same time in March 2016, Facebook introduced video ads within articles as well.

"We've really heard it loud and clear that [publishers] want a deeper level of collaboration, not just in partnerships but in product and engineering." — Facebook's director of product, Fidji Simo


A Nod to the Future

Still, several big-name publishers are holding off on adopting Instant Articles. The idea of forgoing reader data and losing full control of their distribution remains disturbing to big-time legacy names like ESPN + Bloomberg.

Despite any hesitations, it doesn't change the fact that people spend an average of 50 minutes on Facebook a day. The platform has captivated the eyes of 1.8 billion users around the world. That number will only keep thriving. With innovative features like Instant Articles, the platform can reach even more people around the globe by speeding up content delivery.

But mostly, Facebook's user number continues to grow because the platform does a great job of churning out innovative ways to keep people on their site.

It's now on publishers to adjust their strategy to the current climate. We've seen publishers like The Washington Post convert all their articles to Instant Articles — a factor that helped their engagement + reach jump 68% over the course of one year. Other publishers like BuzzFeed, Vox, and The Huffington Post use Instant Articles most of the time.

According to web analytics company Parse.ly, FB holds the top spot for site referral traffic.

But Instant Articles is just one small way that Facebook has continued to control the global audience. Since then, the platform has launched its algo-happy live feature to all mobile + desktop users, ads in messenger, and its latest Snap-like alternative, FB Stories. Also in 2017, the platform has taken its first steps to reinvent the way we watch television too.

Facebook delivers to its users a better, faster experience that's multidimensional and engaging. The user is smarter than the old model of site-driven traffic sponsored by display ads and pop-ups. And that's why they live on the platforms.

So even if you are the grumpiest of Facebook users, acknowledge that at the very least, the platform is treating your followers right with user experience. The more quality time spent engaging with your brand means the more loyal your fans become. And in the end, a better experience also means better ROI — and yep, a better internet.

Header image from VentureBeat.

New Media

Why This Cautious Social Media User Is Excited About Live Video

2016 was not just the year of video, it marked the explosion of live video on every major social media platform. Facebook launched first with live video one year ago back in March 2016, where the format quickly became popular among users. Google announced support for 4K live streaming on YouTube. And, as 2016 came to a close, Instagram rolled out its version of live video Stories while Twitter, which owns Periscope, decided to finally bring live-streaming functionality into its main app.

The spread of live video should surprise no one given the engagement stats: People comment 10x more on Facebook Live videos than regular videos.

Facebook Live Video

So far it seems live video isn't just another trendy phase that will eventually fade out, but that it's actually here to stay. I certainly hope this is the case. And this is coming from an overly cautious social media user.

First, a Bit of Context...

Here at RebelMouse, our software is built around social media, so naturally we all talk about and communicate via social channels all day. While others are forced to sneak-surf social media at work, it simply comes with the job for us.

That said, personally, I'm a cautious social media user. I tend to browse more and post almost never. While social media is chock full of the hilarious (shout out to Anthony "Spice" Adams) and inspiring (thank you, NatGeo Travel), most of the content is mind-numbing fluff; if I spend more than 15 consecutive minutes on social, I typically regret it. And, while I enjoy updates from friends and fam, we all tend to overshare on social, which will probably come back to seriously bite us in years to come. While I'm not naive enough to think hackers, government trackers, and interested parties in between don't have multiple ways to find my personal information, why should I make it easy by laying it all out on a profile page?


But again, being on the cautious side of the social spectrum, I think a live video takeover is just what we needed.

Here's why:

It's More Personal

I wrote about using Facebook Live when it launched earlier last year, and my first tip was to be strategic but, more importantly, embrace spontaneity. While high-quality videos are fantastic, the intimacy of a live video resonates with viewers and can help you come across as more authentic to viewers.

You have an awesome, important moment that you want to share? Go live! Chances are, if you're feeling inspired, a portion of your audience will tune in and judge the content's genuineness vs. its video quality. With the proliferation of technology and various options to "connect" online, it's still easy to feel socially detached and miss real-time, face-to-face human interaction. Live video is one way to maintain the personal touch in our increasingly digital, mobile world.

It Balances the Fake

On the topic of authenticity, what's up with the fake news phenomenon? As someone who believes in the power of staying informed and who started her career at journalism's gold standard, The New York Times, I'm slightly horrified that blatantly false or misleading editorial can permeate so thoroughly and potentially influence crucial events like, you know, the U.S. election.

Yet, personal agendas have always been pushed through traditional media outlets under the guise of news. By its nature, news that you watch on TV or read online automatically becomes subjective once it's curated to fit a time slot or a home page. The key distinction between news that comes from CNN vs. news conjured up from a teenager's room in Macedonia is control. The internet and social media give anyone the tools to publish and amplify content, fake or otherwise, hence the source of the current hysteria. Perhaps one person's fake news is just another's colorful fiction, and should be consumed as such? It is, at least, a harsh reminder for mainstream media to do better.

Either way, if you're looking to sidestep the fake fodder, live video from trusted friends, news sources, and brands could become a key solution to connect to more honest moments. As the top destination for news discovery, Facebook took heat for being a key perpetuator of fake news. This year, as the social platform tweaks its News Feed algorithm in an attempt to bury fake news, don't be surprised if live video views spike in direct correlation as Facebook encourages and rewards more original and more authentic content.

We Need More Citizen Journalism

While Twitter currently struggles to find its way, I will always have a deep appreciation for its origin as a platform for citizen journalism, where tweets and crowdsourced hashtags literally launched social movements. So I support any technology or device that helps amplify the real stories of everyday people that would not otherwise garner attention.

There was no more real moment than when Philando Castile's final moments were live streamed after being fatally shot by Officer Yanez during a traffic stop. With 3.2 million Facebook views in the first 24 hours, people were compelled to watch a moment that was, at least, incredibly disturbing and, at most, criminal. The video forced many to turn a hard side-eye, passionately question, and compare notes about other potential abuses of power that may have been systematically carried out right under our noses. And while social live streaming has certainly been used for more sinister purposes, it all helps shed light on what's happening locally and in different corners of the world.

I, for one, want exposure to it all — the good, the horrific, the inspiring, and the opposing views — in order to self-reflect and so that we can collectively understand our reality. Brands and media companies will certainly find a way to wield live video to promote specific content or products. And, given the attractive engagement stats, it behooves them to test away. But I hope live video continues to be a tool widely leveraged by the masses, so that I can further learn more about the world I live in.

So, Yes to More Live Video on Social in 2017

Absolutely, yes. You may not find me in front of the camera live streaming at a party (not yet, anyway), but I'll most likely be watching. :)

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