Monthly Archives: July 2020

The Most Underutilized Microsoft Advertising Features

July 31, 2020 No Comments

Get the best for your campaigns by testing these underutilized Microsoft Advertising features, as chosen by Microsoft themselves.

Read more at PPCHero.com
PPC Hero

Zuckerberg unconvincingly feigns ignorance of data-sucking VPN scandal

July 30, 2020 No Comments

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg appeared less than entirely truthful at today’s House Judiciary hearing, regarding last year’s major Onavo controversy, in which his company paid teenagers to use a VPN app that reported detailed data on their internet use. Though he may not have outright lied about it, his answers were evasive and misleading enough to warrant a rushed clarification shortly afterward.

Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) was asking Zuckerberg to confirm a series of events last year first reported by TechCrunch: A VPN app called Onavo, owned by Facebook, was kicked out of Apple’s App Store for collecting and reporting usage data while purporting to provide a protective service.

Soon afterward, Facebook quietly began paying people — 18% of whom were teenagers — to install the “Facebook Research” app, which did much the same thing as Onavo, under a different name. TechCrunch reported this and Apple issued a ban before the end of that day; Facebook claimed to have removed it voluntarily, but this was shown not to be true.

Rep. Johnson questioned Zuckerberg along these lines, and the latter repeatedly expressed his unsureness about and lack of familiarity with these issues:

Johnson: When it became public that Facebook was using Onavo to conduct digital surveillance, your company got kicked out of Apple’s App store, isn’t that true?

Zuckerberg: Congressman, I’m not sure I’d characterize it in that way.

Johnson: I mean, Onavo did get kicked out of the App Store, isn’t that true?

Zuckerberg: Congressman, we took the app out after Apple changed their policies on VPN apps.

Johnson: And it was because of the use of the surveillance tools.

Zuckerberg: Congressman, I’m not sure the policy was worded that way or that it’s exactly the right characterization of it… [The policies are explained below.]

Johnson: Let me ask you this question. After Onavo was booted out of the App Store, you turned to other surveillance tools, such as Facebook Research App, correct?

Zuckerberg: Congressman, in general, yes, we do a broad variety—

Johnson: Isn’t it true, Mr. Zuckerberg, that Facebook paid teenagers to sell their privacy by installing Facebook Research App?

Zuckerberg: Congressman, I’m not familiar with that, but I think it’s a general practice that companies use to, uh, have different surveys and understand data from how people are using different products and what their preferences are.

Johnson: Facebook Research app got thrown out of the App Store too, isn’t that true?

Zuckerberg: Congressman, I’m not familiar with that.

Image Credits: YouTube

Of course, the idea that Zuckerberg was not familiar with events that made headlines, took down Facebook’s internal apps for days and prompted an angry letter to him from a senator is absurd. (After all, Facebook responded.)

Perhaps intuiting that this particular claim of ignorance was a bridge too far (and perhaps in response to some frantic off-screen action in the CEO’s barnlike virtual testimony HQ), Zuckerberg took the opportunity to backpedal a few minutes later:

In response to Congressman Johnson’s question, before I said that I wasn’t familiar with the Facebook Research app when I wasn’t familiar with that name for it. I just want to be clear that I do recall we used an app for research and it’s since been discontinued.

Of course, although Zuckerberg may plausibly have been unsure about the name, it’s not to be believed that he was not familiar with the events of that time, as they were both highly publicized and very costly for Facebook. Naturally he would also have been refreshed on them during preparation for this testimony.

That Zuckerberg is unfamiliar with the exact wording of Apple’s rules is possible, even probable, but it was no secret that the rules were changed basically in response to reports of Facebook’s Onavo shenanigans. Here is what Apple said at the time:

We work hard to protect user privacy and data security throughout the Apple ecosystem. With the latest update to our guidelines, we made it explicitly clear that apps should not collect information about which other apps are installed on a user’s device for the purposes of analytics or advertising/marketing and must make it clear what user data will be collected and how it will be used.

Later, when TechCrunch showed that Facebook had been using an enterprise deployment tool to essentially sideload spyware onto teenagers’ phones, Apple said this:

We designed our Enterprise Developer Program solely for the internal distribution of apps within an organization. Facebook has been using their membership to distribute a data-collecting app to consumers, which is a clear breach of their agreement with Apple. Any developer using their enterprise certificates to distribute apps to consumers will have their certificates revoked, which is what we did in this case to protect our users and their data.

So Facebook was the reason, implicitly first, then later explicitly, for these App Store lockdowns. Rep. Johnson put the whole thing quite plainly at the end of his questions:

Johnson: You tried one thing and then you got caught, made some apologies, then you did it all over again. [long pause]… Isn’t that true?

Zuckerberg: Congressman, I respectfully disagree with that characterization.

You can watch the full hearing here:

Social – TechCrunch

The road to recurring revenue for hardware startups

July 30, 2020 No Comments

If you look at the most successful startups today, you’ll find plenty of proof that the hardware-enabled service (Haas) model works: Peloton, Particle, Latch and Igloohome all rely on subscriptions along with product sales. Even tech giants like Apple are rapidly reinventing themselves as service companies.

Yet, if you currently rely on device sales, the prospect of changing your entire business model might seem daunting.

At Minut, we are building smart home monitors (privacy-safe noise, motion and temperature monitoring) and recently made the transition despite the lack of resources on the process. Here are the seven lessons we learned:

  1. It is a question of when  —  not if.
  2. The transition will have company-wide impact.
  3. Your current and future target audience may differ.
  4. Price should reflect the value for the customer. Your revenue should grow with theirs.
  5. Avoid your free offer competing with your premium ones.
  6. Be transparent (internally and externally) about the changes. Over-communicate.
  7. Start the process early, check regularly with your team and set measurable targets.

Why subscriptions are the future of industry (and your startup)

Hardware has one advantage over software: customers understand there is a cost to your product. Now, this allows hardware startups to generate revenue with their first iteration, but it’s unsustainable as the company grows and needs to innovate: the software and user experience need continuous improvement and excellent support, just like in a software-only startup.

That’s why we see most hardware startups eventually launching a subscription model and limit what’s available for free. Even established companies  —  think Strava or Wink  —  often end up having to radically limit free features after years of operations.

Experienced founders and financial markets favor subscription models and recurring revenue. Market valuation multiples are typically much higher for companies that benefit from service revenue in addition to sales.

Gadgets – TechCrunch

Entity Seeking Queries and Semantic Dependency Trees

July 30, 2020 No Comments

Entity Seeking Queries and Semantic Dependency Trees

Queries for some searches may be entity seeking queries.

Someone may ask something like, “What is the hotel that looks like a sail.” That query may be looking for an entity that is the building, the Burj Al Arab Jumeirah.

Those entities may be identified in Semantic Dependency Trees, that answer the question in the query (example below)

Other queries are not entity seeking queries, and don’t look for answers about specific entities, such as “What is the weather today?” The answer to that query might respond to “The weather will be between 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit, and sunny today.”

Actions May Accompany Queries that Seek Entities

Google was granted a patent about answering entity seeking queries.

The process under the patent may perform particular actions for queries that seek one or more entities.

One action the system may perform involves:

  • Identifying one or more types of entities that a query is seeking
  • Determining whether the query is seeking one specific entity or potentially multiple entities

For example, the process may determine that a query of “What is the hotel that looks like a sail” is looking for a single entity that is a hotel.

In another example, the system may determine that a query “What restaurants nearby serve omelets” seeks potentially multiple entities that are restaurants.

An additional or alternative action the system may perform may include finding a most relevant entity or entities of the identified one or more types, and presenting what is identified to the user if sufficiently relevant to the query. For example, the system may identify that the Burj Al Arab Jumeirah is an entity that is a hotel and is sufficiently relevant to the terms “looks like a sail,” and, in response, audibly output synthesized speech of “Burj Al Arab Jumeirah.”

Additional Dialog about a Query to Concatenate an Entity Seeking Query

Yet another addition or alternative action may include initiating a dialog with the user for more details about the entities that are sought.

For example, the system may determine that a query is seeking a restaurant and there may be two entities that are restaurants are very relevant to the terms in the query and, in response, ask the searcher “Can you give me more details” and concatenate additional input from the user to the original query and re-execute the concatenated query.

Identifying SubQueries of Entity Seeking Queries

Another additional or alternative action may include identifying subqueries of a query which are entity-seeking, and using the above actions to answer the subquery, and then replacing the subqueries by their answers in the original query to obtain a partially resolved query which can be executed.

For example, the system may receive a query of “Call the hotel that looks like a sail,” determine that “the hotel that looks like a sail” is a subquery that seeks an entity, determine an answer to the subquery is “Burj Al Arab Jumeirah,” in response replace “the hotel that looks like a sail” in the query with “The Burj Al Arab Jumeirah” to obtain a partially resolved query of “Call the Burj Al Arab Jumeirah,” and then executes the partially resolved query.

Looking at Previous Queries

Another additional or alternative action may include identifying that a user is seeking entities and adapting how the system resolve queries accordingly.

For example, the system may determine that sixty percent of the previous five queries that a user searched for in the past two minutes sought entities and, in response, determine that a next query that a user provides is more likely an entity seeking query, and process the query accordingly.

An Advantage From Following this Process

An advantage may be more quickly resolving queries in a manner that satisfies a searcher.

For example, the system may be able to immediately provide an actual answer of “The Burj Al Arab Jumeirah” for the query “What hotel looks like a sail” where another system may instead provide a response of “no results found” or provide a response that is a search result listing for the query.

Entity Seeking Queries and Semantic Dependency Trees

Entity Seeking Queries
Another advantage may be that the process may be able to more efficiently identify an entity sought by a query. For example, it may determine an entity seeking query is looking for an entity of the type “hotel” and, in response, limit a search to only entities that are hotels instead of searching across multiple entities including entities that are not hotels.

Entities in Semantic Dependency Trees

Semantic Dependency Tree

This is an interesting approach to an entity seeking queries. Determining an entity type that may correspond to an entity sought by a query based on a term represented by a root of a dependency tree includes:

Determining the term represented by the root of the dependency tree represents a type of entity.

Determining an entity type that corresponds to an entity sought by the query based on a term represented by a root of the dependency tree includes:

Identifying a node in the tree that represents a term that represents a type of entity
Includes a direct child that represents a term that indicates an action to perform.
In response to determining that the root represents a term that represents and type of entity and includes a direct child that represents a term that indicates an action, identifying the root.

In some implementations, identifying a particular entity based on both the entity type and relevance of the entity to the terms in the query includes:

  • Determining a relevance threshold based on the entity type
  • Determining a relevance score of the particular entity based on the query satisfies the relevance threshold
  • In response to determining the relevance score of the particular entity based on the query satisfies the relevance threshold, identifying the particular entity

This patent on Entity Seeking Queries can be found at:

Answering Entity-Seeking Queries
Inventors: Mugurel Ionut Andreica, Tatsiana Sakhar, Behshad Behzadi, Marcin M. Nowak-Przygodzki, and Adrian-Marius Dumitran
US Patent Application: 20190370326
Published: December 5, 2019
Filed: May 29, 2018


In some implementations, a query that includes a sequence of terms is obtained, the query is mapped, based on the sequence of the terms, to a dependency tree that represents dependencies among the terms in the query, an entity type that corresponds to an entity sought by the query is determined based on a term represented by a root of the dependency tree, a particular entity is identified based on both the entity type and relevance of the entity to the terms in the query, and a response to the query is provided based on the particular entity that is identified.

Mapping a Query to a Semantic Dependency Tree

A process that handles entity seeking queries

This process includes:

  • A query mapper that maps a query including a sequence of terms to a semantic dependency tree
  • An entity type identifier that may determine an entity type based on the semantic dependency tree
  • An entity identifier that may receive the query
  • The entity type that is determined
  • Data from various data stores and identify an entity
  • Subquery resolver that may partially resolve the query based on the entity that is identified
  • Query responder that may provide a response to the query

An Example Semantic Dependency Tree

This is how a Semantic Dependency Tree may be constructed:

  1. A semantic dependency tree for a query may be a graph that includes nodes
  2. Each node represents one or more terms in a query
  3. Directed edges originating from a first node and ending at a second node may indicate that the one or more terms represented by the first node are modified by the one or more terms represented by the second node
  4. A node at which an edge ends may be considered a child of a node from which the edge originates
  5. A root of a semantic dependency tree may be a node representing one or more terms that do not modify other terms in a query and are modified by other terms in the query
  6. A semantic dependency tree may only include a single root

An Entity Type Identifier

An entity type identifier may determine an entity type that corresponds to an entity sought by the query based on a term represented by a root of the semantic dependency tree.

For example, the entity type identifier may determine an entity type of “Chinese restaurant” that corresponds to an sought by the query “Call the Chinese restaurant on Piccadilly Street 15” based on the term “Chinese restaurant” represented by the root of the semantic dependency tree.

In another example, the entity type identifier may determine an entity type of “song” for the query “play the theme song from the Titanic” based on the term “play” represented by the root of the semantic dependency tree for the query not representing an entity type and determining that the root has a child that represents the terms “the theme song” which does represent an entity type of “song.”

Entities from a Location History of a Searcher

The entity identifier may extract all the entities from a mobile location history of a searcher which have a type identified by the entity type identifier, such as hotels, restaurants, universities, etc. along with extracting features associated to each such entity such as the time intervals when the user visited the entity or was near the entity, or how often each entity was visited or the user was near the entity.

Entities from a Past Interaction History of a Searcher

In addition to that location history, the entity identifier may extract all the entities that the user was interested in their past interactions that have a type identified by the entity type identifier, such as:

  • Movies that the user watched
  • Songs that the user listened to
  • Restaurants that the user looked up and showed interest in or booked
  • Hotels that the user booked
  • Etc.

Confidence in Relevance for Entity Seeing Queries

The patent also tells us that the entity identify may obtain a relevance score for each entity that reflects a confidence that the entity is sought to be the query.

The relevance score may be determined based on one or more of the features extracted from the data stores that led to the set of entities being identified, the additional features extracted for each entity in the set of entities, and the features extracted from the query.

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Why Google Grants Needs To Focus on Mobile Networks

July 30, 2020 No Comments

Google Grants for Mobile AppsDon’t get me wrong, Google Grants is an amazing “in-kind” gift for those qualified 501(c)(3) Nonprofits (especially for those who are utilizing it efficiently). However, times have changed since it’s inception in 2003 and considering the multi-device environment that we live in, Google should consider adapting their Mobile Network as a viable option for Google Grantees. Maybe call it (GrantsMobile)?

In this post, I will discuss the reasons why Google should revamp their Grants program to be more mobile app friendly.

Nonprofits have been “Going Mobile” for a while

The idea that Nonprofits have become “less savvy” as compared to “For-Profit” organizations is simply not true. Even though nonprofits may not have the big advertising budgets as do for-profit companies, they are savvy enough to “fish where the fish are” in trying to increase awareness, volunteerism and most importantly fundraising. In a Capterra Nonprofit Technology Blog article published back in 2014 entitled “The Essential Guide to Going Mobile for Nonprofits“, author Leah Readings talks about the importance for Nonprofits to be more mobile because it creates a wider range of communication between the organization and its members. Readings also states Allowing for online donation pages or portals, or donation apps, makes it much easier for your members to donate—when all they have to do is click a few buttons in order to make a donation, giving becomes easier, and in turn will encourage more people to give.

Need more convincing? In a 2013 article from InternetRetailer.com entitled “Mobile donations triple in 2012(which was also mentioned in the Capterra article) the author goes on to quote from a fundraising technology and services provider Frontstream (formerly Artez Interactive) which states nonprofits that offer mobile web sites, apps or both for taking donations generate up to 123% more individual donations per campaign than organizations that don’t.

Why Google Mobile is Ripe for Nonprofits:

If you have ever done any mobile advertising within Google Adwords (formerly AdMob), you know that the system is pretty robust and is considered one of the best platforms to promote Apps on both Google Play and the iTunes store. Moreover, advertisers can easily track engagements and downloads back to their specific audience that they are targeting. The costs are also much more affordable than traditional $ 1-2 CPC offered to Google Grants accounts which can only run on Google.com.

Here are the Mobile App Promotion Campaigns by Google Adwords:

Universal App Campaigns:

AdWords create ads for your Android app in a variety of auto-generated formats to show across the Search, Display and YouTube Networks.

  • Ads are generated for you based on creative text you enter, as well as your app details in the Play Store (e.g. your icon and images). These ads can appear on all available networks
  • Add an optional YouTube video link for your ads to show on YouTube as well.


Mobile app installs

Increase app downloads with ads sending people directly to app stores to download your app.

  • Available for Search Network, Display Network, and YouTube
  • Ad formats include standard, image and video app install ads

Adwords Mobile App Installs


Mobile app engagement

Re-engage your existing users with ads that deep link to specific screens within your mobile app. Mobile app engagement campaigns are a great choice if you’re focused on finding folks interested in your app content, getting people who have installed your app to try your app again, or to open your app and take a specific action. These types of ads allow flexibility for counting conversions, bidding and targeting.

  • Available for Search Network and Display Network campaigns
  • Ad formats include standard and image app engagement ads

Mobile App Engagement


In Conclusion:

A lot has changed since 2003 with the birth of Google Grants and Google needs to continue to be socially responsible and catch up to their own standards of the online world that they helped create. Nonprofits are now, more than ever, relying on the internet to drive awareness, volunteerism and fundraising. For Nonprofits, as well as everyone else for that matter, are getting their information from Facebook, Twitter, TV, Radio and (still Google) using laptops, tablets and mobile devices and it’s time for Google Grants to adapt to this new world.

Digital Marketing Agency | Google Ads Consultant

How to use trending keywords from current events in content marketing

July 29, 2020 No Comments

30-second summary:

  • Companies can rank for trending keywords by combining content marketing with current events.
  • There are some specific Dos and Don’ts for creating this content in a tasteful manner.
  • Dos include questioning your motives, thinking of clients first, keeping content value-driven, and giving company updates.
  • Don’ts include pretending nothing is going on, posting irrelevant content, abandoning your existing SEO strategy, or giving up.
  • VP of sales and marketing at Strategic Sales & Marketing, helps you achieve SEO value while maintaining sensitivity using trending keywords.

A good content marketing strategy should already be backed up by a list of target keywords or keyphrases your business is trying to rank for. But alongside these evergreen keywords, incorporating trending search terms into content marketing can boost SEO significantly. There’s already plenty of advice for finding trending keywords, but how do we harness their power without being distasteful?

Approaching serious current events in content marketing can be a tricky wire to walk. In 2020 alone, businesses and marketing teams everywhere have struggled to decide how to use keywords related to the COVID-19 crisis, the Black Lives Matter movement, Brexit, increasing climate change, and even a sighting of murder hornets. To avoid embarrassment and truly rank for important trending searches in an authentic way, follow these dos and don’ts.

Do: Question your motives

A national or global news story breaks, new keywords start trending immediately, and the first thing you think is…

If the answer was “Ooo I can use this”, then you may not have the best motives for adding that current event to your content marketing. Stopping to question your motives is the first step to harnessing the power of trending keywords without making a marketing blunder. It should and will take deep thought as to how to approach a trending topic with sensitivity.

Ranking for trending keywords shouldn’t be just about good SEO. Your keyword usage serves as a connection between what is important to both a brand and its consumers. When the great toilet paper shortage of 2020 occurred, bath tissue companies could have easily changed their marketing to fuel the need and push profits even more. But brands like Cottonelle took the exact opposite approach with their #ShareASquare social media campaign and partnership with United Way. Content marketing should always be motivated first and foremost by your business values, not your bottom line.

Don’t: Pretend nothing is going on

Some companies read the news and move right along with business as usual. That’s okay if you don’t have the right motives or anything significant to add value for your audience. However, the conversation surrounding authentic branding is growing, and more and more consumers are wanting to see companies respond to important events with transparency and empathy. 

In a 2019 Deloitte study, 55% of survey respondents reported believing that “businesses today have a greater responsibility to act on issues related to their purpose”. It’s okay to ignore which Kardashian is getting divorced when it comes to your marketing. But issues like climate change, world health, and racism cannot be ignored or you risk alienating consumers who equate silence with complicity. 

Do: Think of your clients first

Any good company already has their customers at the center of their content marketing strategy. Now more than ever, businesses need to refocus their marketing and make sure they are putting their customers’ needs first. This can be difficult in a climate where world events are creating new and different needs seemingly daily.

Consumers are shifting their needs and preferences to new types of content and new ways of engaging with companies. In particular, educational content is gaining popularity and driving “how to” searches. Think of what your clients need to know or hear in order to interact with your business, products, or services. The client always comes first.

Don’t: Provide irrelevant content

Anything you share concerning current events needs to be connected to your business in some way or another. Posting something completely irrelevant or out of the blue may throw off and leave a sour taste with customers and followers. If you can’t tie the content directly to your customer’s needs, then it’s likely not relevant enough to share.

One way to connect your business with seeming-distant trending topics is to think of secondary trending searches still related to your industry or product. COVID-19 has changed the way people live which has led to a wide variety of spiking trends such as gardening or home haircuts. There’s always an authentic way to connect a current event to your company. 

Do: Keep your content marketing value-driven

Even if you’re making a commentary or stating a position or opinion, you still need to add value to your content. Every message should have a takeaway that readers can apply to better themselves or their lives. Sometimes the value is in buying your service or product, but other times the value lies in the emotional connection imparted to the reader.

Think, what does value mean to your clients right now? Nike is a great example of a company providing new value to consumers. With gyms everywhere shutting down, Nike released their workout content for free and ramped up posting blogs to its apps and website. Their latest trend-focused content features celebrities challenging at-home exercisers to various workouts. Creating this value-driven content allows them to rank for many trending 2020 searches such as “at-home workout” as well as various trending athletes and celebrities.

Source: Google Trends

Don’t: Abandon your content marketing strategy

In turbulent times, your audience needs some nuggets of normalcy. A good content marketing strategy will provide the flexibility to adapt to sudden world changes or important events that need commenting on without abandoning the original plan. That being said, you’ll probably need to pivot on a few things, or at least give your audience a heads up about why they may still be seeing the content you already had planned.

Following travel restrictions due to Covid-19, Travel Zoo issued an email and blog statement explaining why they were going to continue on with their email series promoting travel, even when they knew their audience wouldn’t need their services right then. They add that they will be offering the same great content and deals they had planned, so email subscribers will “continue to find experiences that inspire and enlighten, whether in fantastic locations around the world or through something new you can try right in your home”.

Abandoning evergreen keywords for trending ones can lead to a big drop in your overall SEO. Remember, these searches are “trending” for a reason. That means, just as quickly as consumers are finding your recent content marketing, they are moving on to new trends and keywords.

Do: Give company updates

Once you decide to approach a trending topic in a blog, email, or any piece of content, it’s good to give clients company updates related to your first statement. This creates more opportunities for using related trending searches without keyword-stuffing your original content. This also shows consumers that you follow through on your promises which builds customer–brand rapport.

A great example of a constant commitment to this is Ben & Jerry’s Issues We Care About blog. These articles keep consumers interested in the company while ranking their content high in trending search results. 

Ben & Jerry's blog example

Source: benjerry.com

Don’t: Give up

Using trending keywords related to current events is key to helping consumers find your content. Just because it may take more consideration to create does not mean it’s worth skipping. “Going dark” can hurt exposure, engagement, and sales. And even businesses that weather the storm will face further recovery time if their company was out of mind due to lack of marketing.

Times are tough, there’s no doubt about it. But when it comes to keeping your business running in the face of global catastrophe, you cannot give up, especially on your marketing. Rather, content marketing and reaching clients and consumers at home requires your doubled commitment. You can make your content a place people turn to for wisdom and perspective—all while scoring those trending keyword SEO points.

Gregg Schwartz is the VP of sales and marketing at Strategic Sales & Marketing, a lead-generation firm based in Connecticut.

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Search Engine Watch

Facetune maker Lightricks brings its popular selfie retouching features to video

July 29, 2020 No Comments

Lightricks, the startup behind a suite of photo and video editing apps — including most notably, selfie editor Facetune 2 — is taking its retouching capabilities to video. Today, the company is launching Facetune Video, a selfie video editing app, that allows users to retouch and edit their selfie and portrait videos using a set of A.I.-powered tools.

While there are other selfie video editors on the market, most today are generally focused on edits involving filters and presets, virtually adding makeup, or using AR or stickers to decorate your video in some way. Facetune Video, meanwhile, is focused on creating a photorealistic video by offering a set of features similar to those found in Lightricks’ flagship app, Facetune .

That means users are able to retouch their face with tools for skin smoothing, teeth whitening, and face reshaping, plus eye color, makeup, conceal, glow, and matte features. In addition, users can tweak tools for general video edits, like adjusting the brightness, contrast, color, and more, like other video editing apps allow for. And these edits can be applied in real-time to see how they look as the video plays, instead of after the fact.

In addition, users can apply the effect to one frame only and Facetune Video’s post-processing technology and neural networks will simultaneously apply an effect to the same area of every frame throughout the entire video, making it easier to quickly retouch a problem area without having to go frame-by-frame to do so.

“In Facetune Video, the 3D face model plays a significant role; users edit only one video frame, but it’s on us, behind-the-scenes, to automatically project the location of their edits to 2D face mesh coordinates derived from the 3D face model, and then apply them consistently on all other frames in the video,” explains Lightricks co-founder and CEO Zeev Farbman. “A Lightricks app needs to be not only powerful, but fun to use, so it’s critical to us that this all happens quickly and seamlessly,” he says.

Users can also save their favorite editing functions as “presets” allowing them to quickly apply their preferred settings to any video automatically.

In a future version of the app, the company plans to introduce a “heal” function which, like Facetune, will allow users to easily remove blemishes.

Image Credits: Lightricks

The technology that makes these selfie video edits work involves Lightricks’ deep neural networks that utilize facial feature detection and geometry analysis for the app’s retouching capabilities. These processes work in real-time without having to transmit data to the cloud first. There’s also no lag or delay while files are rendering.

In addition, Facetune Video uses the facial feature detection along with 3D face modeling A.I. to ensure that every part of the user’s face is captured for editing and retouching, the company says.

“What we’re also doing is taking advantage of lightweight neural networks. Before the user has even begun to retouch their selfie video, A.I.-powered algorithms are already working so that the user experience is quick and interactive,” says Farbman.

The app also does automated segmentation of more complex parts of the face like the interior of the eye, hair, or the lips, which helps it achieve a more accurate end result.

“It’s finding a balance between accuracy in the strength of the face modeling we use, and speed,” Farbman adds.

One challenge here was overcoming the issue of jittering effects, which is when the applied effect shakes as the video plays. The company didn’t want its resulting videos to have this problem, which makes the end result look gimmicky, so it worked to eliminate any shake-like effects and other face tracking issues so videos would look more polished and professional in the end.

The app builds off the company’s existing success and brand recognition with Facetune. With the new app, for example, the retouch algorithms mimic the original Facetune 2 experience, so users familiar with Facetune 2 will be able to quickly get the hang of the retouch tools.

Image Credits: Lightricks

The launch of the new app expands Lightricks further in the direction of video, which has become a more popular way of expressing yourself across social media, thanks to the growing use of apps like TikTok and features like Instagram Stories, for example.

Before, Lightricks’ flagship video product, however, was Videoleap, which focused on more traditional video editing, and not selfie videos where face retouching could be used.

Facetune has become so widely used, its name has become a verb — as in, “she facetunes her photos.” But it has also been criticized at times for its unrealistic results. (Of course, that’s more on the app’s users sliding the smoothing bar all the way to end.)

Across its suite of apps, which includes the original Facetune app (Facetune Classic), Facetune 2, Seen (for Stories), Photofox, Video Leap, Enlight Quickshot, Pixaloop, Boosted, and others, including a newly launched artistic editor, Quickart, the company has generated over 350 million downloads.

Its apps also now reach nearly 200 million users worldwide. And through its subscription model, Lightricks is now seeing what Farbman describes as revenues that are “increasing exponentially year-over-year,” but that are being continually reinvested into new products.

Like its other apps, Facetune Video will monetize by way of subscriptions. The app is free to use by will offer a VIP subscription for more features, at a price point of $ 8 per month, $ 36 per year, or a one-time purchase of $ 70.

Facetune 2 subscribers will get a discount on annual subscriptions, as well. The company will also sell the app in its Social Media Kit bundle on the App Store, which includes Facetune Video, Facetune 2, Seen and soon, an undisclosed fourth app. However, the company isn’t yet offering a single subscription that provides access to all bundled apps.

Mobile – TechCrunch

YC alum Paragon snags $2.5M seed for low-code app integration platform

July 28, 2020 No Comments

Low-code is a hot category these days. It helps companies build workflows or simple applications without coding skills, freeing up valuable engineering resources for more important projects. Paragon, a member of the Y Combinator Winter 2020 cohort, announced a $ 2.5 million seed round today for its low-code application integration platform.

Investors include Y Combinator, Village Global, Global Founders Capital, Soma Capital and FundersClub.

“Paragon makes it easier for non-technical people to be able to build out integrations using our visual workflow editor. We essentially provide building blocks for things like API requests, interactions with third party APIs and conditional logic. And so users can drag and drop these building blocks to create workflows that describe business logic in their application,” says company co-founder Brandon Foo.

Foo acknowledges there are a lot of low-code workflow tools out there, but many like UIPath, Blue Prism and Automation Anywhere concentrate on Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to automate certain tasks. He says he and co-founder Ishmael Samuel wanted to focus on developers.

“We’re really focused on how can we improve developer efficiency, and how can we bring the benefits of low code to product and engineering teams and make it easier to build products without writing manual code for every single integration, and really be able to streamline the product development process,” Foo told TechCrunch.

The way it works is you can drag and drop one of 1200 predefined connectors for tools like Stripe, Slack and Google Drive into a workflow template, and build connectors very quickly to trigger some sort of action. The company is built on AWS serverless architecture, so you define the trigger action and subsequent actions, and Paragon handles all of the back-end infrastructure requirements for you.

It’s early days for the company. After launching in private beta in January, the company has 80 customers. It currently has 6 employees including Foo, who previously co-founded Polymail and Samuel, who was previously lead engineer at Uber. They plan to hire 4 more employees this year.

With both founders people of color, they definitely are looking to build a diverse team around them. “I think it’s already sort of built into our DNA. As a diverse founding team we have perhaps a broader viewpoint and perspective in terms of hiring the kind of people that we seek to work with. Of course, I think there’s always room for improvements, and so we’re always looking for new ways that we can be more inclusive in our hiring recruiting process [as we grow],” he said.

As far as raising during a pandemic, he says it’s been a crazy time, but he believes they are solving a real problem and that they can succeed in spite of the macro economic conditions of the moment.

Enterprise – TechCrunch

Why You Should Take Connected TV Seriously

July 28, 2020 No Comments

Connected TV allows for greater reach, better targeting, increased measurement, and more control over frequency capping than traditional TV advertising.

Read more at PPCHero.com
PPC Hero

10 Reasons why marketers use data to make budgeting decisions

July 28, 2020 No Comments

30-second summary:

  • Bear in mind that no marketing strategy has ever succeeded without the complex mix of data analysis and smart budgeting decisions.
  • Marketers face the tough challenge of data-driven decision-making to craft the most profitable and effective marketing plan possible.  
  • Budgeting is a crucial part of any marketing strategy.
  • Because of the growing benefits of using big data to bolster marketing strategies, expenses spent on analytics are expected to climb 200% over the next three years.
  • Here’s a quick look at 10 ways that enable you to use data for crafting profitable marketing plans. 

Creating a marketing strategy isn’t just about rolling out advertisements— marketing has evolved with the times. No longer are businesses confined to print and radio advertising, but they now also have a multitude of online options to choose from, like pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, paid search, and paid social marketing. 

Bear in mind that no marketing strategy has ever succeeded without the complex mix of data analysis and smart budgeting decisionsMarketers can use data to identify problems or issues in campaigns and budgeting. Data are also a fundamental factor in understanding SEO, developing software, and interpreting customer feedback, among other aspects of online marketing.  

Data complexity is one of the biggest challenges for marketers right now. Marketers face the tough challenge of data-driven decision-making to craft the most profitable and effective marketing plan possible.  

Planning ahead: Budgeting in the context of marketing strategies 

What makes a successful marketing campaign lies in the money it reels in for the company. You can tell that your promotional strategies are working when traffic and direct sales are rising. This can be determined by your return on investment (ROI), that is, when the money you invested returns a profit. 

This is why budgeting is a key element of any marketing strategy. No successful business sets goals without first considering if they can afford to take them on. Whether you’re a start-up or a long-time business, your current budget influences your future financial goals and gains.  

Learning how to wisely allocate your resources can both save and earn you a lot of money. Businesses that don’t consider their budget when crafting a marketing plan may find themselves in over their heads, spending too much on unnecessary things without getting the necessary kickback. Businesses may also end up in debt and with lower customer satisfaction if they fail to plan their budget smartly.  

Using data to cash in on your investments 

One way to plan your marketing budget wisely is to base it on data. A data-driven approach to crafting marketing strategies can help you make smarter budgeting decisions 

Because of the growing benefits of using big data to bolster marketing strategies, expenses spent on analytics are expected to climb 200% over the next three years. Marketers can use a wide array of information to create suitable marketing and budgeting plans. This includes data analysis about their audience, competitors, and their own past business efforts. 

All these data-crunching can seem daunting at first, but there are simple ways to explain how using data can help you make better marketing and budgeting decisions. The 10 tips below will teach you how to use data to craft a profitable marketing plan: 

1. Identify your financial goals 

First, set your financial goals, both long-term and short-term. How much revenue do you want and how many sales would it take to reach it? How do these objectives tie in with your brand vision and values? Although a good measure of business success is profit, don’t forget to stay grounded in your company’s mission and your consumers’ needs. 

To identify your financial goals, look back at your previous short-term and long-term goals and how much of these you have achieved. Also, take into consideration your current financial standing before making any grand projections of your business in the future. 

2. Refer to your sales funnel 

Knowing where your consumers stand is a fundamental part of marketing strategies. This refers to a sales funnel, a series of steps someone has to make to purchase your product. An example of this would be asking yourself how much money you spend on acquiring new customers and if your efforts pay off. 

You can use analytics software to set up funnels that show the process that your audience goes through before deciding to buy your product. This can help you prioritize your budgeting decisions to focus on boosting conversion rates.

3. Review past campaigns 

Using analytics, you can also review past marketing or SEO campaigns to see where you succeeded and failed. An example of this is comparing data from your various modes of advertising. This can help you see what’s most effective, in terms of reach and conversion.  

4. Check out the competition 

You can also use data on your competitors to find out what marketing strategy is most profitable in your industry. Check out your competition’s advertising methods, and investigate how much they invest in certain areas. This can help influence your own budgeting planning process, in terms of focusing on what works for your industry. 

5. List down your projected costs 

When setting a marketing budget, you need to outline your projected operational costs. Data on previous expenditures and present prices of services like web hosting, professional fees, ad pricing are crucial to correctly calculating your projected costs.  

6. Set an achievable schedule 

One aspect of creating a marketing strategy is setting an achievable timeline. The amount of time you will spend developing a campaign can also influence the budget planning process. Generally, the less time you spend, the less money you’ll spend too; an overdue project is likely to go over the budget.  

Ensure that when scheduling, you’re giving enough leeway for your team to prioritize important aspects of the campaign and respond to unexpected situations. You can use information from past marketing plans (that is, resource availability vis-a-vis the time needed to complete planning), to determine how much time you usually spend. Then base your new timeline on this, considering new factors, if any. 

7. Use scenario-building tools

If you’re daunted by the amount of data you have to consolidate and interpret when budgeting, you can use scenario-building tools to run multiple budget scenarios. Scenario-building tools will show you various virtual spending situations that can assist you in your real-life budget planning process. 

Using this data-driven approach to budgeting, you’ll be sure to make better budgeting decisions with regard to choosing the best budget scenario that will drive maximum ROI. 

8. Focus on the right platforms

Speaking of what works in your industry, make sure you’re investing in the right platforms. The proper platform depends on the product you offer and the market you cater to. What marketing strategy reels in the most conversion or leads for your business? Is it e-mail marketing or is it social media and PPC? 

For example, collecting data regarding social media use, that is, who uses which platform, how much time they spend on a specific site, and other sorts of granular data can help you determine where to place your advertisements. Promoting on a website that your market regularly visits turns a bigger profit than on platforms irrelevant to your consumers. 

9. Consider predictive analytics

You can also utilize the power of predictive analytics which uses historical data and machine learning to foresee your brand’s future performance. It sounds complicated, but you can actually use analytics tools to help you make sense of the vast amounts of data.  

Based on your own historical data, predictive analytics can help you detect future business and security risks, optimize campaigns, and improve budgeting decisions 

10. Measure your performance regularly 

Aside from trying to predict your brand’s performance, you can also use analytics to tell how your users are currently responding to your campaign. Using social media analytics and social media listening, you’ll be able to see how your audience perceives your brand. This information can help you optimize your campaign to respond to user feedback and reach your target goals. 

A data-driven approach to budgeting decisions can help propel your business forward by utilizing the best mix of resource allocation to drive maximum ROI. Don’t let the complexity of data analysis and analytics scare you into thinking that they’re too hard to understand and analyze. In a world where data is considered as the next oil by business leaders, you’ll be glad to have analytics in your arsenal. 

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