Social and emerging media update from Callahan

Your periodic briefing on key emerging media and technology trends our team is watching at Callahan, along with key platform updates and details of upcoming events.

In this update:

  • Facebook – Vertical video and “sound on” auto play
  • 360-degree photos and video
  • Should we advertise on Snapchat?
  • Facebook user numbers
  • Key trend: Artificial intelligence and voice interfaces
  • Global Pet Expo

Facebook – Vertical video and “sound on” auto play

Facebook just announced several updates to how videos will be viewed in mobile news feeds. For advertisers, the most relevant of these updates is an emphasis on vertical video formats and a move to “sound on” video auto play.

Vertical video formats work well on mobile devices as, very simply, we hold our phones in a vertical position most of the time. With Facebook’s latest update, vertical videos are optimized to completely fill mobile screens. This larger-format video rendering drove higher brand lift than horizontal or square videos in 70% of tests Facebook conducted. Vertical video is a format we are watching closely at Callahan, and we’re capturing raw video in both vertical and horizontal video orientations to make sure we’re optimizing for both mobile and web.


Moving videos to auto play with “sound on” is a major change for Facebook. If users have the volume on their phone turned up, audio will fade in and out as they scroll through videos. Users will be able to disable this within the Facebook App settings. Because of how and where many videos are watched, it is likely that a majority of videos will still be viewed without sound. We do not recommend any changes from current audio optimizations, and we continue to recommend the use of on-screen text or captions to optimize for muted viewing.

360-degree photos and video

Now is a great time to embrace 360-degree photo and video. The format is supported by all major social networks, and creating 360 content is becoming increasingly affordable. From the consumer side, many new 360 cameras are hitting the market at the $200 to $400 price point. This makes content easy to capture and share with no real technical expertise required. From a brand side, the quality expectation is of course higher, though it’s still an affordable technology and one that drives depth of engagement.

A 2016 study by Socialbakers using content published by the 500 largest media and company Pages on Facebook, found that 360 photos gained—on average—45% more interactions than conventional photos.

Here at Callahan, we recently saw success by taking infographic-style creative and rebuilding it as an immersive 360 photo for use in a paid Facebook promotion. It was a great example of effective 360 content achieved through a creative approach, rather than a technology investment, and it’s an approach we’d recommend experimenting with. Ensuring, of course, the content fits the format and that 360 enhances its value to both brand and consumer.

Should we advertise on Snapchat?

It’s a question we are asked often at Callahan. Right now the answer is typically no.
Snapchat still offers no self-service ad platform, so other than purchasing a branded geo filter (which could be great when tied to a special event), advertising opportunities are still limited and typically cost prohibitive. We’ll be watching for self-service opportunities to likely arrive post IPO.

Image of Snapchat LogoIn the meantime, Snapchat has been hitting audience growth challenges. Daily active user growth declined significantly in the last two quarters of 2016, with only 3.2% quarter-on-quarter growth in Q4. This compares to 14% quarter-on-quarter growth in Q1 of 2016, and 17.2% in Q2. A contributing factor has likely been aggressive competitive attacks from Facebook, especially with the launch of “Stories” on both Instagram and then in the Facebook App itself. The sharp decline in Snapchat growth correlates directly with the launch of Instagram Stories. One hundred and fifty million people are already using Instagram Stories every day, and that roughly equates to Snapchat’s entire user base.

Facebook user numbers

While Snapchat growth has been slowing, Facebook reported strong numbers in its 2016 Operational Highlights. Facebook now has 1.86 billion monthly active users. That’s a 17% year-over-year increase. Importantly, of those 1.86 billion, some 1.74 billion are mobile users. That’s a 21% year-over-year increase, so for any content or experience you deliver on Facebook, if it’s not mobile-optimized then the experience is only optimized for just 6% of users.

Key trend: Artificial intelligence and voice interfaces

In the last brief I published, I talked about a near-future optimization of content for AI analysis, and how Facebook was already using AI to help deliver the right content to the right people.

Since then, Facebook launched AI-powered image search, further demonstrating why it’s important to think about how AI will understand elements in your creative. Using Lumos technology, Facebook’s image search initially allows users to search by object descriptions and will match results based on photo content, regardless of how a photo has been tagged or captioned. Soon, this same AI search will expand to recognize actions. Eventually, it will expand from photos to video. Right now, this AI search is limited to content shared by you and your personal network, but watch for it to expand to include page content.

Image of Amazon Alexa trade show boothAI, along with voice interfaces, were dominant technologies at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada this year. At the show, AI was integrated in devices ranging from home appliances to wearables to health monitoring to, of course, self-driving cars. Perhaps the overall “winner” of CES this year might have been Amazon’s Alexa. The voice-interfaced assistant was integrated in everything from Whirpool’s new range of connected appliances, to Ford vehicles, ADT’s home security system, Brink’s smart locks, Samsung’s robotic vacuum cleaner, televisions from Westinghouse and Element and an array of connected home devices, wearables and health care accessories.

In addition to these technical integrations, we’re also seeing interesting brand integrations with Alexa Skills – an API that allows third-parties to create apps that tap into the power of Alexa’s voice interface. Did you know you can now use Alexa to order from Pizza Hut or Starbucks? An interesting question to consider: how can an Alexa skill be utilized for your brand?

Global Pet Expo

Finally, for any clients attending Global Pet Expo in Orlando in March, I’ll be attending for a third year as one of the featured speakers in the Global Pet Expo Academy Seminars. I hope you’ll be able to join one of my sessions on Thursday, March 23:

9:15 AM: Rethinking social media to achieve more meaningful results

12:30 PM: Get the most from Facebook advertising

3:30 PM: Emerging media and technology trends and your customers

See the full session descriptions here.

And for anyone not attending, I’ll be exploring the vast expo halls searching out interesting pet tech trends and innovation, and sharing live on Twitter here.

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