Excellent interview; thanks @johnsmibert and Adam Fraser! Business strategy should drive social strategies! http://buff.ly/2eZ44x5
— Tamara Schenk (@tamaraschenk) November 2, 2016
By Adam Fraser
Twitter has released its Q3 2016 results to the stock market.
Nothing spectacular but a solid set of results, with moderate growth in revenue and users, and an announcement around job cuts to drive better future financial performance. The stock market liked what it saw with shares increasing around 5% when the results were announced.
If you want to dive into all of the detail, you can check the financials, investor presentation (also broadcast via Periscope!), shareholder letter and investor conference call. If you want the key highlights here are 10 key takeaways:
- Monthly active user (MAU) numbers grew slightly to 317m from v 313m last quarter (up 1.3%) and 307m a year ago (3.3% growth); the steady growth is encouraging but the pace remains insignificant compared to other social networks – Facebook continues to grow in the tens of millions while Twitter crawls in single digits
- 21% of Twitter’s MAUs (67m) are based in the USA; user numbers in the USA are broadly flat with most of the growth coming internationally
- Attempts to drive greater engagement and more regular usage on the platform are working, with Daily Active Users growing at 7% on prior year v 5% last quarter and 3% in Q1
- Mobile MAUs were 83% of users, indicating Twitter sits in between Facebook ( 90%+ mobile users) and LinkedIn (approx 60% mobile users) for mobile penetration
- Revenue at $616m was 2.3% up on the prior quarter of US$710m and 8.3% higher than a year ago; this exceeded market expectations and the shareholder letter detailed a number of areas where the ad platform was working better
- The breakdown of revenue for the quarter was broadly consistent with recent periods, with just under 90% of revenue coming from advertising and circa 10% coming from data licensing/other (the ‘big data’ aspect has huge potential for Twitter). Video ads are the most popular and effective form of ads on the platform
- Total ad engagements grew 91% year-over-year
- Twitter made a loss of US$103m for the quarter but also discloses “adjusted EBITDA” which showed a profit of US$181m after adjusting for stock based compensation, depreciation and amortisation. Twitter ended the quarter with US$3.6bn in cash.
- Live streaming video represents a key strategic growth area for the business; audience numbers for Thursday Night NFL games (3m viewers) and the Presidential debates (3.3m viewers) have been encouraging; Twitter has signed more than a dozen live streaming partnerships with the Melbourne Cup this week streamed in Australia for the first time
- Making it easier for new users to sign up and understand the platform remains a key focus: to this end, the service is being refined in 4 key areas being onboarding, home timeline, notifications and tweeting
With steady growth, cost rationalisation (9% of the workforce will be cut) to stabilise financial performance and some exciting developments in streaming video, this was a reasonable set of results from Twitter. However with underlying losses and the continuing strength in other social networks (Facebook and Snapchat in particular) leading to fierce completion for ad spend, challenges remain for the network everyone loves to talk about. Jack’s influence has been a positive one since he came back as CEO a year ago, but the takeover rumours will continue with overall performance (and the market cap) at these levels.
By Adam Fraser
I was lucky enough to attend a recent conference run by Brandwatch in the UK – Now You Know Europe.
Brandwatch is the worlds leading social intelligence company (with whom EchoJunction partners in the Australian market) and the conference provided a fantastic update into both future developments in the Brandwatch platform as well as social intelligence trends more broadly and case studies of brands effectively using social listening,
So many insights in a jam packed 2 days, but my 5 headline take aways were:
- Social listening is maturing; in the early days it was all about tracking brand mentions (something which of course remains important) but the leading brands are now also using social listening as a form of market research to deepen understanding of customer insights and customer psychology. This could relate to the brand but also more general topics of consumer interest (eg buying a first home, drinking coffee, eating ice cream, 5G technology, Brexit etc). Some great case studies were presented around this.
- Image recognition is coming and will be an increasingly important aspect of social intelligence in the future. The entry level technology has arrived (but remains of limited value today) – the ability to bring up image recognition (eg brand logo) as well as valuable context is the challenge, and Brandwatch is planning on adding this capability to its platform in early 2017
- Social media is evolving to a more private environment (as I previously discussed) – a world of 1:1 or 1:few rather than everything being public. Clearly this represents a challenge for the industry as a whole.
- Never confuse correlation with causation – lots of sessions with big data analytics specialists dissected this topic and showed why high quality, specialised analytics capability is critical to extract maximum value from social intelligence
- Data merging – some of the best brand examples came where social data was being blended with other data – whether internal (eg sales, CRM etc) or external (e.g weather, political, economic indicators) to derive business insights of demonstrable value.
The Brandwatch blog has a much more detailed commentary around many of the presentations and I highly recommend you have a browse.
By Adam Fraser
Twitter is many things to many people but I have long focused on the customer service aspect around Twitter’s functionality.
As previous podcast guest and well known author Joseph Jaffe said:
“It is the greatest customer service tool ever created bar none. And nothing else on Twitter makes sense in my opinion.”
To understand the impact of customer service interactions on customer relationships, Twitter designed a research study in partnership with Applied Marketing Science to figure out the potential revenue benefit to businesses who help their customers via Twitter. The results showed some demonstrable benefits of effective customer service on Twitter.
Some of the key findings were:
- When a customer Tweets at a business and receives a response, they are willing to spend 3–20% more on an average priced item from that business in the future
- Customers are 44% more likely to share their experiences—both online as well as offline—after receiving a response from a business on Twitter
- Customers are 30% more likely to recommend the business, and respond an entire point higher (2.66 vs 3.66) on customer satisfaction surveys
- It pays to reply rapidly. When an airline responded to a customer’s Tweet in less than six minutes, the customer was willing to pay almost $20 more for that airline in the future. Similarly, in the telco industry, customers are willing to pay $17 more per month for a phone plan if they receive a reply within four minutes, but are only willing to pay only $3.52 more if they have to wait over 20 minutes.
- 69% of people who Tweeted negatively say they feel more favorable when a business replies to their concern. (HT to Jay Baer re his book Hug Your Haters)
- Aspect Research found that consumers like coming to Twitter because they perceive it as significantly less frustrating than other customer service channels – even preferring it slightly more than in-person interactions.
Whilst clearly Twitter’s research is self serving, it confirms my fundamental belief on the importance of social listening and social response as foundation aspects of any enterprise social media strategy.
By Adam Fraser
Facebook and Publishers. Happily married? Or just staying together for the kids?
The journey has been an interesting one. Lured by the gateway drug of (free) organic reach to access consumers with their content, (which was subsequently choked via various algorithm tweaks), many publishers jumped fully into bed with Facebook via Instant Articles – publishing directly on Facebook rather than their own platforms. The temptation of the massive audience Facebook can offer (over 1.7bn monthly active users), with a revenue share, proved too great for many. Owned land was abandoned. Rented land was seized.
Alas the honeymoon is well and truly over in this somewhat forced marriage between Facebook and traditional publishers. Further algorithm changes have again hit publisher reach on Facebook, and the shared ad revenue has not been as significant as hoped. With Facebook and Google now utterly dominating the online advertising sector, it’s increasingly clear where the power lies.
An interesting opinion piece in the Guardian “Why Facebook is Public Enemy Number One for Newspapers and Journalists” took this issue further by questioning whether the entire future of journalism was at risk from Facebook’s dominance.
It is a thought provoking article, well worth a read. One extract in particular drives home the point:
“Facebook’s increasing dominance over advertising is causing the laying off of journalists, the people who produce the news that it transmits to its users. The logical conclusion to that process is not only the destruction of old media, legacy media, mainstream media, whatever you want to call it, but the end of journalism as we know it.”
Heavy stuff. The implications are broader for society as a whole as competition lessens in the news media space, with millennials increasingly getting their news via Facebook (algorithmically determined by Facebook).
Media control (and any perceived media bias in news reporting) is not a new phenomenon. Facebook has truly disrupted many aspects of the media sector with many positive impacts. The market has talked. The unintended consequences of the fall out from this for news consumption and independent journalism are still to play out in full.
By Adam Fraser
The Ad Blocking story just got a whole lot more complicated.
You could be forgiven for assuming that the primary reason for being an ad blocking company was to….block ads. On the side of the consumer. Stop those annoying pop ups, pop overs and generally annoying and intrusive banner ads in our digital browsing experience.
To date you would have been right.
Now one of the leading players has changed the game. Adblock Plus has launched a marketplace for acceptable ads. Pardon? Acceptable ads from a piece of ad blocking software?
AdBlock Plus will allow a “white list” of advertisers to get their acceptable ad messages through to publishers. They can play judge and jury as to what is “acceptable”.
Has an ad blocking platform just pivoted into an ad exchange in the blink of an eye? This is certainly a major change for their users who would have downloaded the software with one sole purpose in mind – to block ads.
I have written previously about the potential impact of ad blockers for publishers. Also the cat and mouse game between ad blockers and publishers.
The technology arms race between ad blockers and publishers will no doubt continue. Deciphering the good guys from the bad and who is on which side is getting harder and harder.
By Adam Fraser
As you will know from my Twitter bio, I am a former “numbers man” turned social media obsessive.
As a former CFO I had a lot of experience with investment banking – IPOs, mergers and acquisitions, fund raising, etc. Typically investment bankers are largely remunerated on a success fee basis – get the deal done, or your retainer fee will barely cover costs. A strong incentive to perform.
Advertising agencies have traditionally operated on a much different model, typically featuring share of media buying (with all the potential conflicts and commercial ambiguity that comes with) and consulting services (in essence at labour cost plus a margin).
In the USA there has recently been a shift toward more performance linked remuneration for agencies, but a recent announcement from McDonald’s took this to a whole new level.
That Mcdonald’s ousted its agency partner of 35 years (Leo Burnett) was in itself massive news. As one of the world’s leading brands, with a forecast 2017 advertising spend of US$1bn, this is clearly major news for the agency sector. Crushing blow for the loser, game changer for the winner (Omnicom Group).
However this in itself was not the most eye catching aspect. The remuneration model McDonald’s has negotiated with the Omnicom group is revolutionary. Whilst the precise details have not been revealed it is widely reported to be at zero margin on costs (labour and media buy), with all upside coming from performance based pay (an approach which led to WPP pulling out of the tender process).
Drive brand equity, customer numbers and burger sales and this could be extremely lucrative for Omnicom. Don’t deliver on the business objectives and that’s a whole lot of effort and quality labour devoted for zero margin.
This seems to be a great outcome, from a risk sharing or risk mitigation perspective, for Maccas. If performance isn’t there, they will save significant amount on agency fees. If the agency delivers, they share some of the upside. For Omnicom, this is an exciting but very risky proposition. Whilst brand affinity and advertising are big drivers of McDonald’s performance, there are a whole range of factors which can drive business performance, many of which would seem to be out of the control of Omnicom (think product quality, customer service and pricing to name just a few). Attribution will be extremely difficult in both directions – what caused McDonald’s performance both good and bad? To what extent did Omnicom’s creative and media services actually contribute?
I support the overall principle of aligning interests and encouraging a true partnership approach between brand and agency. The intent is good, but in terms of allocation of risk, the Golden Arches seem to have secured the most favourable outcome here. It will be fascinating to observe how this pans out and to see if advertising remuneration moves further towards the corporate finance fee model over time.
By Adam Fraser
There is quite a kerfuffle over at YouTube.
Whilst claiming its actual policy hasn’t changed but its means of notifying content producers has, YouTube is demonetising videos (ie refusing to show ads, meaning no income for the producers of these videos) which feature:
- sexually suggestive content
- inappropriate language
- promotion of drugs
- controversial subjects
This doesn’t seem either surprising or unreasonable but the situation was not helped by a complete lack of communication with stars of the affected YouTube channels, many of whom have channels with multi millions of subscribers.
Another well known YouTube star Philip Defranco tweeted “Producer just got off the phone with Youtube and it wasn’t a mistake. Feels a little bit like getting stabbed in the back after 10 years”
A number of others took to YouTube to complain about the changes.
Alas, while YouTube may have mishandled the PR and communication aspect of this policy, the story itself is not that surprising. As with traditional broadcast media platforms before, advertisers on YouTube would clearly want control around the content their brand is associated with. This day was always going to come.
As I have previously written, the key lesson remains when you build your (content) house on rented (media) land you always run the risk of a change in the rules affecting your ability to drive the commercial outcomes you were seeking. Ask brands that previously invested significant sums to build Facebook fans only to find Facebook executed a “bait and switch” and then charged those brands to reach those very fans.
As some of its “stars” have just learned the hard way, YouTube is a commercial business entitled to enact any policy decision it wishes.
Extract from New Entrepreneurs
If you can’t beat ’em . . .
News media organizations, already weakened by the loss of audience and revenues, recognized that a growing percentage of their traffic was coming from digital platforms like Facebook, Google, Snapchat, Instagram, Apple News, and other intermediaries. Farhad Manjoo of the New York Times described the situation well with his “The Frightful Five will dominate digital life for the forseeable future“, as did Adam Fraser of Echo Junction with his “The future looks like Facebook and Google“.
See full article here
By Adam Fraser
The pace of change is so rapid, the fragmentation so systematic, it is getting hard to follow who specialises in what and who competes with who in the media landscape.
Traditional broadcast TV investing in streaming video on demand, offering catch up viewing on any device.
Streaming video on demand specialists such as Netflix offering ad free, subscription based offerings of premium content.
YouTube – the leading online video sharing social network – moving into the premium TV, paid market.
Facebook and Twitter moving heavily into live streaming; Twitter acquiring rights to premium live sports content such as the NFL; Optus (a telco) acquiring rights to the English Premier League.
Now in the local market, the original Pay TV disruptor Foxtel – itself subsequently disrupted by everything from Apple TV to Netflix – has made a major strategic shift. In a major announcement, Foxtel is overhauling the pricing strategy for its streaming video on demand player, Foxtel Play, with new offerings ranging between the $9 to $15 range. Bang in the territory of Netflix, Stan and Presto. Significantly cheaper than its set top box facilitated, traditional broadcast packages.
This is a major change; for the first time customers can bring their own device and access Foxtel via a connected TV, tablet or mobile device. No longer any need to install a set-top box or pay upfront and no minimum term fees.
As well as accessing a new more price conscious segment of the market, there is no doubt Foxtel will also self disrupt and cannibalise its own customers. Brave but necessary.
Underpinning all of this fragmentation is the core disruptive nature of the internet, and the separation it facilitates between content and its historical distribution “partner”. What we used to call “TV” can now be defined as video content accessible on multiple devices at a time of the user’s choosing. Video is no longer trapped inside a physical “television” appliance. In the same way “radio” can now be seen as audio content (podcasting) accessible on multiple devices not just a radio appliance and “newspapers” are written content previously only accessible via a printing press, now accessible anywhere.
Foxtel’s announcement is in itself only one small chess move in a decade long game theory playing out in the media sector. The magnitude of the change is another illustration of the fundamental and rapid shifting of the sands in the media landscape.
By Adam Fraser
The world’s largest dedicated video viewing site (and second largest search engine) is evolving.
Facing competition at all angles as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and Musical.ly increasingly focus on its core video offering, it continues to develop.
Addressing the threat from streaming video on demand specialists like Netflix and Hulu it launched a paid premium service YouTube Red (seemingly not going as well as hoped).
Addressing the threat from Periscope and Facebook live it recently announced the launch of YouTube live.
Now leaked stories show it is planning a launch later this year of Backstage – a way for video channel owners to facility further community like discussion. Publishers will be able to share polls, text posts, videos, images and links with followers, who will be able to share, reply and follow a stream.
Sounds suspiciously like a social network.
Despite being lumped in with the social networks, YouTube has never actually been that social to date. The comments sections were often spam infused and there was rarely a true sense of community.
With this somewhat belated move, YouTube moves towards the strategic direction of a Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
The idea seems sensible and on the right track but as the whole Google Plus story shows, execution is always key and Google’s track record in this area is not encouraging.
With Instagram recently shamelessly copying Snapchat in its launch of stories, Facebook’s move into live, Twitters adoption of so many features seen elsewhere and now YouTube’s announcement the sense grows of all social networks converging.
Launching a major new social platform to compete with the major players would now seem very very difficult (think Ello’); niche offerings like Musical.ly seem to have the best chance of breaking through before the big boys copy the same functionality.
YouTube’s plans are a step in the right direction. Time will tell whether this is a move too late.
By Adam Fraser
The cat and mouse games between publishers and ad blockers continues.
As I have previously written, ad blockers have represented a growing threat to the business models for online publishers, as consumers increasingly turn their backs on intrusive and unhelpful digital advertising. Recent studies showed 26% of desktop users and 15% of mobile users are using ad blockers.
Now the 800lb gorilla has entered the room. Facebook has announced it will make it harder for ad blockers to determine what is sponsored and what is not sponsored on Facebook. “It will be really hard for ad-blockers to distinguish what is an ad and what is not an ad,” said Andrew Bosworth, VP-ads and business platform, Facebook.
With advertising revenue driving over 95% of Facebook’s income it clearly has a significant incentive to ensure paying advertisers can hit their intended audience on the Facebook platform. Facebook also claims blocking ads impacts the user experience as users want to see relevant ads they are interested in (I find this argument a bit of a stretch).
A form of nuclear arms race continues with the ad blocking sector now expected to respond, having dubbed the changes anti user. “Cat and mouse games are a waste of time,” said Till Faida, CEO of Eyeo, the software-maker behind Adblock plus . “At the end of the day user choice will prevail on the web.”
In a nice PR sleight of hand, Facebook balanced its announcement about blocking the ad blockers by also announcing a range of measures to give users more control around the ads it sees.
In a study commissioned by Facebook, the main reasons consumers use ad blockers are avoiding disruptive ads (69%), slowing down their browsing experience (58%) and security/Malaware (56%). Whilst the underlying consumer demand exists to block ads, the tech arms race will continue; an important battle even for a media company of the strength of Facebook and not one to be under-estimated.
By Adam Fraser
In the ever dynamic world of social media, another week of notable change.
Live streaming platform Blab announced (via Medium) it is shutting its doors. In a somewhat abruptly executed closure, Blab management confirmed that the level of engagement simply wasn’t there to sustain the business.
The platform, which allowed up to 4 users to live video chat – hence a hybrid of Periscope (single user) and Google Hangouts on Air (multi user) – had grown to an impressive 4m users, but management confirmed the engagement was simply not there, with only 10% of users regularly returning to the site. As founder Shaan Puri said “most live streams aren’t interesting enough to justify stopping what they are doing to watch your broadcast”.
A challenge Periscope and Facebook Live will also ultimately face.
Also announced this week was a further dismantling of the Google+ social network with Google Hangouts on Air closing – the functionality to be added to YouTube.
The changes are another reminder of the key underlying principle I have previously written about – these platforms are owned by third parties and can change when and as they see fit. Rented land. A brand does not own or control any audience built in a third party platform.
From MySpace to Ello, Blab to Google+, the reminders are plentiful. Build your business around factors you can control. Utilise social networks to listen to and engage with your audience but don’t confuse this with building your own IP. You may wake up to find they dont exist any more.
Community remains a critically important aspect for brands in the future. Over time I would expect to see more of these digital communities housed on owned media properties rather than curated via a third party social network.