Ideating and building strategies is often much more fun than presenting your plan and being pressed by the question, “what am I going to get from this?” Today, we go through two approaches, including a free tool, to forecast spend and conversion potential for paid social campaigns.
Read more at PPCHero.com
Every business wants as much customer feedback as possible. That’s why we obsessively measure NPS (which barely has any statistical validity) and run surveys (which, in addition to being biased by definition, can negatively impact customer experience) like it’s the end of the world.
But the feedback we really want is different. It’s genuine, quick and easy to get, and structured enough so we can analyze it effectively. That’s where social listening, or social media monitoring, comes in.
Social listening is the process of monitoring mentions of keywords (for example, a brand name) or key phrases across social media and the Internet at large. Think of it as a way to measure people’s awareness of any subject – and their opinion on it – without having to ask questions.
More and more companies are adopting social media monitoring every year, and social listening tools are also evolving quickly. Even though they’re called social media monitoring tools, many apps go beyond social media and monitor the web at large. Finally, they analyze the data in order to provide you with insights you can learn from and act on.
In this post, we’ll look at the best social media monitoring tools you can use in 2020.
Awario is one of the best options in terms of bang for the buck. With pricing starting at $ 29/month, it comes equipped with many features of Enterprise-geared tools: sentiment analysis, topic clouds, Boolean search, and more.
In terms of coverage, Awario monitors Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Reddit, news and blogs, and the rest of the web. Let’s look at what makes Awario stand out.
Awario lets users measure dozens of social listening metrics, such as sentiment, reach, share of voice, key themes, top countries, and more. On top of that, you can use the tool to identify your biggest influencers and compare several brands side-by-side against crucial metrics for benchmarking and competitor analysis.
Boolean search isn’t for every brand. If your company name isn’t a common or ambiguous word (think Apple or Tesla), you’ll be just fine by simply feeding your brand name to the tool.
However, social listening has plenty of benefits beyond brand monitoring: from lead generation and PR, to doing research for your content strategy, this is where Boolean search comes in handy. It’s an advanced search mode that uses Boolean logic, letting you create flexible queries of any complexity to make sure you only get relevant results, whatever your use case may be.
Awario offers a free 7-day trial. Pricing starts at $ 29/mo for the Starter plan (with 3 topics to monitor and 30,000 mentions/mo) and goes up to $ 299/mo for Enterprise.
Although TweetDeck isn’t a specialized social media monitoring tool, it definitely deserves a place on this list.
First of all, TweetDeck is free. Second, it lets you run Twitter searches using its powerful filters. And third, it combines the search functionality with everything else you’ll need to manage your Twitter presence.
Monitoring and scheduling in one tool
TweetDeck lets you schedule tweets, manage your DMs, and track mentions of your company on the network. You can set up as many searches as you need and reply to tweets right from the dashboard by connecting your Twitter account to the app.
Customizable column layout
Another great thing about TweetDeck is its column layout where you get to choose what each column shows. For instance, you could have your Twitter feed in one column, your DMs in another, and your social listening search in yet another one.
TweetDeck is free.
Talkwalker is an excellent social listening tool for digital agencies. The software collects the latest mentions of your brand and offers detailed analytics on your social media presence.
The tool’s social media coverage is pretty impressive, on top of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube, the platform also monitors Flickr and Pinterest.
In addition to monitoring mentions, Talkwalker will give you insights on people who mention you, including your audience’s gender, age, interests, and geography.
Talkwalker’s Enterprise plan offers an ability to monitor images and videos, this way you’ll be notified whenever your logo appears in an Instagram photo or YouTube video.
Pricing starts at $ 9,600/year for 10,000 mentions/mo.
Mention is a social media tool that’s primarily geared towards agencies and big brands, although they do offer plans for smaller businesses. Mention’s focus is on real-time monitoring – if you sign up and create an alert, you’ll only see mentions from the last 24 hours. Historical data is available under custom plans.
For businesses that like to have their analytics in one place, Mention offers API access, letting you integrate it into your own tools. If you’re not into coding, Mention offers an integration with Zapier, letting you automatically send mentions to a Google Spreadsheet, set up Slack notifications, and more.
In addition to social media monitoring, Mention lets you search for industry influencers across Twitter and Instagram; on top of that, it finds influential websites that you can partner with or guest post on.
Mention’s pricing starts at $ 29/mo for its basic Solo plan, which lets you monitor one topic. For bigger brands, the app offers custom plans which start at $ 600/mo.
That’s our list of the best social media monitoring tools for the coming year. Each of them has its own unique pros, so I do hope you’ve found one that’s a perfect fit for your use case and budget.
This is a sponsored post from Awario. Awario is a social listening and analytics platform trusted by over 5,000 companies worldwide. The tool gives brands access to meaningful insights on their customers, industry, and competitors through real-time social media and web monitoring. Awario monitors social media networks, news websites, blogs, and the rest of the web in real time, crawling over 13 billion pages daily to ensure you never miss important conversations that spark out online.
The post Top four social listening tools for 2020 and why they’re great appeared first on Search Engine Watch.
As an estimate, 3.499 billion people that make around 50% of the earth’s population are active social media users. Of that, Facebook alone has over 2.375 billion active users. WhatsApp, an instant messaging app by Facebook, has more than 1.6 billion users.
Despite the fact that Facebook owns a majority of leading social networks, there are many other social platforms where users love to engage and spend time. YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and TikTok are some of the most popular, non-Facebook social media platforms at present.
Marketing on social media is quite different from traditional marketing. In 2018 alone, $ 74 billion were spent on social media marketing worldwide. Why? Because social media marketing yields better visibility and ROI than traditional and TV advertising do.
This blog covers six new and proven social media marketing strategies on the following key areas. Implementing these strategies, you will be able to bring in new customers, build strong relationships and trust, and win back customers that seem to have been lost forever.
Start creating Instagram stories
As mentioned earlier, Instagram has over a billion users. And, roughly, half of its users use Instagram Stories every day.
And that’s where you have a chance to cash in via your Instagram Stories.
Considering the fact that you can build your audience and convert them through your stories, you should have a separate dedicated strategy for your Instagram Stories.
If you too are planning to use Instagram Stories, here are some of the best practices to create Instagram Stories that get views, engagement, and clicks –
- Add hashtags (#)
- Tag your location
- Run polls and encourage users to participate
- Use trending stickers and icons
- Follow the right image and video formats so your stories look good on mobile screens
- Put your popular updates, content, and stories in highlights
- Add links to stories
- Place strong CTAs
If you have a verified business account or more than 10000 followers, you could also set up your shop on Instagram. And then, you can promote your products through your Instagram Stories and ask watchers to take the desired action to buy.
Get started with YouTube Ads
With its 1.9 billion users, YouTube is the largest and most active video social network. At an average, its users spend at least 40 minutes every time they open YouTube.
If you are a YouTube user, you are already aware of YouTube ads being run before and during the videos you are playing.
Imagine your ads being shown to users chosen strategically based on whether they fit into your buyer definition.
Wouldn’t that be a great way to boost visibility and awareness?
You can target users – or show your ads to specific users – based on their Google search and YouTube watch history. Put simply, if a user has searched for a product or term on Google, and you have a product that falls into that category, you can choose to show your advertisement to that user.
YouTube reaches more people than any TV network in the world. Using YouTube Ads could give your brand massive visibility and your sales a big boost.
To set up your video ad campaigns, you will need to create attractive and meaningful videos to engage and delight your audience. Here is a complete guide to create and run your video ads campaign on YouTube.
Increase your reach with Facebook Ads funnel
Facebook’s more than two billion users access the platform eight times a day, either through web or mobile. That makes it the most active social network as well.
Given that, it becomes a platform with plenteous sales and marketing opportunities.
But, to be exact, Facebook is not a place where a user is ready to buy. It is certainly a platform to make a user a loyal customer that not only will buy from you in the future but will also spread your brand through the word of mouth.
If pitched right, Facebook Ads offer higher returns on investment meetings, and in most cases, surpassing your ad objectives and expectations.
The most important element of your Facebook ads is your content, which could be a blog post, infographic, video, live webinar, or eBook. The focus should be on producing quality content that you can pitch your audience.
You can also create the same content in multiple formats so that you can convince people at different stages in different ad formats through different ad sets. Creating and promoting segmented content by targeting it your lookalike audience is the basics of Facebook Funnel marketing.
Remarketing is probably the best feature of Facebook Ads. You could expose your brand (through your ads) to potential audiences multiple times till the time they make a decision.
TikTok Ads for a specific audience
TikTok rose to fame after a revamp, followed by the takeover of Music.ly a couple of years back. This Chinese social network allows users to create 15-second videos while lip-syncing on popular soundtracks, music, movie dialogs, and famous personalities. This fun app is largely popular among teens and those in their twenties.
The platform is available in 150 countries and in 75 languages. On Apple AppStore and Google Store, TikTok is one of the most downloaded free apps.
TikTok is an attractive marketing platform, especially if you have products that interest teens and tweens.
Of 500 million, 26.5 million are from the United States and 43% from India. 66% of its audience is below 30 years. These stats tempt marketers to use TikTok marketing to promote their brand.
IGTV for more views and actions
IGTV is probably Instagram’s best feature from a marketer’s standpoint. Earlier, it was a standalone app.
Back then, using it was an uphill battle for marketers and a confusing affair for the user. It was challenging for marketers to generate engagement and views on their videos.
Now, things have turned easier.
What’s more interesting is: Users can now see IGTV previews on their Instagram feed. And by tapping the preview on their feed, they can move to and watch the video on the IGTV tab which is existent within the app’s interface.
Your videos are also shown in the search or discover section on Instagram – which gets you more views from users interested in videos, products, and services like yours. Strategic use of IGTV gives your brand a chance to showcase your product videos in an interactional manner and stand out.
With that, Instagram and IGTV offer a completely different approach to reach and convert. So gear up and create IGTV specific videos to deliver quality and value, and to gain more views and engagement.
Here are seven useful tips to get started with IGTV marketing
- Create videos in Instagram-friendly (vertical) format
- Keep your video content short and crisp – full of information
- Choose different backdrops or locations to shoot your video. (it helps create visual interest for the audience)
- Conduct game shows and interviews (make sure they are relevant)
- Add subtitles to your videos (and make it easier for users, who watch videos with the sound off)
- Use pop-up texts to send important messages during the video
- Design your cover photo showcasing your title and keywords
Live video marketing
To make your marketing efforts perform, you will need to be different. Social media has transformed how businesses are run. The dominance of video-sharing platforms such as YouTube, Vimeo, SnapChat, and TikTok has ignited a new trend within social media.
Since users spend one-third of their time watching online videos, video marketing has now become an integral part of any successful social media marketing strategy. And for that reason, 87% of marketers use video to market their content and brands.
Evidently, every brand and marketer seems to be doing video marketing. So, now is the time to take a step further and indulge in live video marketing.
Live video is the future of video marketing. People love watching live videos more than pre-recorded videos, as it is more trustworthy. Users know that there is no editing involved and what they are seeing is true and unedited.
According to a survey, 80% of customers would be more interested in watching live videos rather than reading blogs, web pages or customer reviews. Videos are easy to digest, and live videos add a dash of reliability to easy understandability.
If you haven’t started a live video, put together a live video marketing strategy for all social networks that support live streaming.
Since you are managing multiple platforms, you would not want to spend all your time navigating from one platform to another. It makes perfect sense to introduce a social media marketing tool in your process. Not only will it save your time, but also streamline your process and makes it easier for you to analyze and develop future strategies.
The success of your social media strategies relies largely on the experience of the user first on your social media and second, on your landing page. This definitely includes, but is not limited to, the content, the navigation, the design, and the call to action.
To supercharge your social media marketing efforts, you could consider working on the SEO part as well. People still use search engines to find products and services they need. Installing an SEO extension on your website, you can improve its SEO-readiness and performance on search engines.
To end with, here is what you should focus on
- Select the right platform(s)
- Set your goals
- Identify your target audience
- Share what your audience likes to engage
- Make your social media strategies flexible
- Be consistent
- Never leave a chance to interact with the audience
To identify what’s working and what’s not, you should keep a watchful eye on the performance and outcomes of your updates and social media ads. Make necessary changes in your social media strategy as and when needed.
I hope the ideas suggested in this article help you curate an effective social media marketing strategy for your brand. If you have some questions or if you would like to share something, drop a line in the comments section below.
Birbahadur Singh Kathayat is an Entrepreneur, internet marketer and Co-founder of Lbswebsoft. He can be found on Twitter @bskathayat.
The post Six social media marketing strategies that work and convert appeared first on Search Engine Watch.
In today’s brand landscape, consumers are rejecting traditional advertising in favor of transparent, personalized and most importantly, authentic communications. In fact, 86% of consumers say that authenticity is important when deciding which brands they support. Driven by this growing emphasis on brand sincerity, marketers are increasingly leveraging user-generated content (UGC) in their marketing and e-commerce strategies.
Correlated with the rise in the use of UGC is an increase in privacy-focused regulation such as the European Union’s industry-defining General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the along with others that will go into effect in the coming years, like the California Consumer Protection Act (CCPA), and several other state-specific laws. Quite naturally, brands are asking themselves two questions:
- Is it worth the effort to incorporate UGC into our marketing strategy?
- And if so, how do we do it within the rules, and more importantly, in adherence with the expectations of consumers?
Consumers seek to be active participants in their favorite companies’ brand identity journey, rather than passive recipients of brand-created messages. Consumers trust images by other consumers on social media seven times more than advertising.
Additionally, 56% are more likely to buy a product after seeing it featured in a positive or relatable user-generated image. The research and results clearly show that the average consumer perceives content from a peer to be more trustworthy than brand-driven content.
With that in mind, we must help brands leverage UGC with approaches that comply with privacy regulations while also engaging customers in an authentic way.
Influencer vs user: Navigating privacy considerations in an online world
When Medal.tv first launched on the scene, the company was an upstart trying to be the social network for the gaming generation.
Since its debut in February, the clipping and messaging service for gamers has amassed 5 million total users with hundreds of thousands of daily active users. And now it has a $ 9 million new investment from firms, led by Horizons Ventures, the venture capital fund established by Hong Kong multi-billionaire Li Ka-shing.
“We’re seeing sharing of short-form video emerge as a means of self-expression and entertainment for the current generation. We believe Medal’s platform will be a foundation for interactive social experiences beyond what you can find in a game,” says Jonathan Tam, an investor with Horizons Ventures .
Medal sees potential both in its social network and in the ability for game developers to use the platform as a marketing and discovery tool for the gaming audience.
“Friends are the main driver of game discovery, and game developers benefit from shareable games as a result. Medal.tv is trying to enable that without the complexity of streaming,” says Matteo Vallone, the former head of Google Play games in Europe and an angel investor in Medal.
It’s a platform that saw investors willing to fork over as much as $ 20 million for the company, according to chief executive Pim de Witte. “There are still too many risks involved to take capital like that,” de Witte says.
Instead, the $ 9 million from Horizons, and previous investors like Makers Fund, will be used to steadily grow the business.
“At Medal, we believe the next big social platform will emerge in gaming, perhaps built on top of short-form content, partially as a result of gaming publishers trying to build their own isolated gaming stores and systems,” said de Witte, in a statement. “That drives social fragmentation in the market and brings out the need for platforms such as Medal and Discord, which unite gamers across games and platforms in a meaningful way.”
As digital gaming becomes the social medium of choice for a generation, new tools that allow consumers to share their virtual experiences will become increasingly common. This phenomenon will only accelerate as more events like the Marshmello concert in Fortnite become the norm.
“Medal has the exciting potential to enable a seamless social exchange of virtual experiences,” says Ryann Lai, an investor from Makers Fund.
If you’re planning your 2020 marketing budget, there are a lot of paid media trends you should be considering.
Read more at PPCHero.com
Whenever I speak to Nonprofits (which is something I love to do), I always evangelize the importance of leveraging all of the online technology companies which offer “in-kind” services, especially Google Grants. However, for marketers in today’s world, Google Grants is simply not enough. Identifying with potential donors, volunteers and simple awareness has evolved way beyond the search engines and into our Facebook and Twitter feeds as we all crave instant news, gossip and basic information. In this post, I will discuss not only the steps that have already been taken by Facebook, but also how much more they need to do to fulfill their obligation to assist those organizations in need.
What Facebook needs to Learn from Google
In the early months of 2002, Google relaunched its AdWords platform with a new cost-per-click (CPC) pricing model that made it increasingly more popular and successful with both large and smaller companies. It was this achievement that opened the eyes of both the Google founders and other Google executives, to provide the same opportunity for Nonprofits by giving them free ads on Google.com. In essence, they believed that the Adwords platform would enable non-profits too reach a much larger audience and connect with the people who were searching for information about their specific cause or programs. As you will see below, it has grown by leaps and bounds….
Screenshot from the new Google Grants Blog:
Why Facebook Doesn’t Understand the Opportunity
After seeing the success of Google grants for the past 13 years, you would think Facebook would have a Nonprofit plan already in place to offer Free advertising to Nonprofits. However, it appears that even though they have made attempts to achieve this, it was simply not enough. According to the great article by AdWeek entitled: “Nonprofits Rely Heavily on Social Media to Raise Awareness“, author Kimberlee Morrison mentions that the social media presence is growing significantly for nonprofits. She goes on to say: “The report shows an increase of 29 percent in Facebook fans across all verticals and a 25 percent increase in Twitter followers. What’s more, there are big increases in sharing and likes from sources outside the follower base, so it would be wise for nonprofits to play to that strength on social sites if their aim is attracting a wider user base.”
How Facebook Failed in its First Attempt
Back on November 15, 2015, The Nonprofit Times published an interesting article entitled “$ 2 Million In Facebook Ads Going To Nonprofits” in which Facebook announced in partnership with ActionSprout, that they will distribute $ 2 million in Facebook Ads credits during the holiday season. These Facebook Ads credits (up to $ 1,500 each) will be given out to roughly two-thousand nonprofits. According to author Andy Segedin, he states that “…according Drew Bernard, CEO and co-founder. Organizations will receive credit allotments of $ 600, $ 900, $ 1,200 or $ 1,500 that will be granted from December through February. All applicants will be set up with a free ActionSprout account, Bernard said.“
The article goes on to say: “Bernard hopes that the credit giveaway will help organizations post more and better content on Facebook. The company plans to publish key findings based off of the distribution and use of the credits, but will not move forward with any follow-up efforts until information is gathered. “This is a test to see what we can learn, and with what we learn we’ll all go back to the drawing board and see if there’s something we should do next with this”.
If you are interested in hearing more about the “key findings” of this test, your going to have to wait a little while and also give them your email address. (Not very Philanthropic)
If you can tell by my tone, I am somewhat disappointed by Facebook’s lack of initiative with their efforts to help Nonprofits. In my opinion, they offer a much stronger platform than Google Adwords based on their “intense” targeting as well as their “ripe and persuasive audience”. I am also quite shocked that they could not follow in the footsteps of Google’s 13 years of supporting Nonprofits with their Google Grants Programs. To end insultr to injury, I am also dumbfounded that they not only had to partner with another company but also label their efforts as a test to limited number of Nonprofits for just a couple month. What’s the point of a test, when you know Nonprofits could only benefit from the Free Advertising.
You almost get the sense that this was for the benefit for everyone else, except for the Nonprofit which needs it the most.
In today’s world, there is rarely a PPC Marketing Strategy that does not include or even toy with the notion of creating either a Facebook Ads or Twitter Ads campaign(s) at some point in the strategy life-cycle. Because of this, marketers are developing and testing different audience segments based on interests, household income, marital status, exercise habits, etc… Frankly, it has changed the landscape of online marketing as we know it. In this post, I will talk about the importance of leveraging the targeting abilities within Facebook Ads and how it can benefit your next Google display campaign.
Facebook Ad’s Demographic Targeting Abilities
The targeting abilities in both Google Display and Facebook Ads are similar with regard to Demographics and Topics/Placement. However, truth be told, Facebook is just far more superior to marketers based on their the deeper targeting options and more precise segmentation abilities. So without further ado, lets talk about the similarities and how marketers can harness what they have learned from Facebook and apply to Google.
As you can see from the screenshot below ↓, Google Display provides similar demographic targeting options as compared to Facebook. They allow marketers to choose Genders, Ages and even Parental Status. However, there is one major “elephant in the room” here that skews all of this and that is the dreadful UNKNOWN that we see in all of our data reports. These unknowns are basically people that Google can not identify to be associated with any or all of the targeted options selected. (In Facebook, they have the same problem). The common issue is that not all people want to disclose their information to the platforms, hence making it more of a “ballpark” than a “hole in one”
The Fuzziness with Google Topics Targeting
In Google Display, we have the ability to select specific topics and/or placements where we want to advertise our display banners and text ads. In the screenshot below ↓, I have provided a small example of how we can target the topic(s) of Coffee & Tea. But here’s the catch. In Google, we have an INTENT problem with our ability to choose specific audiences based on these very generalized topics. Meaning, the Coffee and Tea audience found in Google could be anything from Coffee Market Financials to the Health Benefits of Green Tea, but NOT specifically the Coffee and Tea drinkers. It is this little dilemma that forces marketers to add another layer of targeting to try and “hone in” on their preferred audience. That extra layer is called Placement targeting, but there are some extra steps that are needed to get the most out of it.
Extra Effort needed with Google Placement Targeting
Placement Targeting is the closest thing to to Facebook Ads in terms of reaching specific brands or interests that possess a higher level of intent to make a purchase. However, there are some common issues with placement targeting that marketers need to know before they start spending their ad dollars.
- The partnering websites in this network are common Adsense customers. They can vary from being very authoritative and prominent like (CNN, Nytimes, etc..) all the way to suspicious arbitrage sites where all they do is drive up impressions and cost (yes, they still exist)
- Marketers are often missing out on potential site partners because Google’s own search engine is not up to date on listing all of them (meaning, there are great sites that are a part of the Adsense network that are not listed in their directory). This hiccup forces marketers to do their own research to find those sites and they need to be added manually.
The targeting abilities within Facebook Ads have become an absolute “game changer” in the PPC marketing world. It has made such an impact that it’s starting to question Google’s own targeting abilities within the display network. The FBA platform allows advertisers to reach those avid Coffee and Tea drinkers by targeting everything from certain Brands, Flavors, Keurig Cups, Brewing types, etc… However, simply eliminating Display from their strategy is not a wise choice, considering the missed opportunities in reaching that additional audience. If there is one take-away from this article, it is to take what they have learned from Facebook Ads and apply them to their display campaigns.
At first glance launching a new social app may seem as sensible a startup idea as plunging headfirst into shark-infested waters. But with even infamous curtain-ripper Facebook now making grand claims about a ‘pivot to privacy’ it’s clear something is shifting in the commercial shipping channels that contain our digital chatter.
Whisper it: Feeds are tiring. Follows are tedious. Attention is expiring. There’s also, of course, the damage that personal digital baggage left out in the open can wreak long after the fact of a blown fuse or fleeting snap.
Public feeds have become vehicles of self-promotion; carefully and heavily curated — which of course brings its own peer pressures to keep up with friends’ lux exploits and the influencer ‘gram aesthetic that pretends life looks like a magazine spread.
Yet for a brief time, in the gritty early years of social media, there was something akin to spontaneous, confessional reality on show online. People do like to share. That’s mostly been swapped for the polish of aspirational faking it on apps like Facebook-owned Instagram. While genuine friend chatter has moved behind the quasi-closed doors of group messaging apps, like Facebook-owned WhatsApp (or rival Telegram).
If you want to chat more freely online without being defined by your existing social graph the options are less mainstream friendly to say the least.
Twitter is genuinely great if you’re willing to put in the time and effort to find interesting strangers. But its user growth problem shows most consumers just aren’t willing (or able) to do that. Telegram groups also require time and effort to track down.
Also relevant in interest-based chat: Veteran forum Reddit, and game chat platform Discord — both pretty popular, though not in a way that really cuts across the mainstream, tending to cater to more niche and/or focused interests. Neither is designed for mobile first either.
This is why Capture’s founders are convinced there’s a timely opportunity for a new social app to slot in — one which leverages smartphone sensors and AI smarts to make chatting about anything as easy as pointing a camera to take a shot.
They’re not new to the social app game, either. As we reported last year, two of Capture’s founders were part of the team behind the style transfer app Prisma, which racked up tens of millions of downloads over a few viral months of 2016.
And with such a bright feather in their cap, a number of investors — led by General Catalyst — were unsurprisingly eager to chip into Capture’s $ 1M seed, setting them on the road to today’s launch.
Point and chat
“The main idea behind the app is during the day you’ve got different experiences — working, watching some TV series etc, you’re sitting in an arena watching some sports, or something like that. So we imagine that you should open the app during any type of experience you have during the day,” says Capture co-founder and CEO Alexey Moiseenkov fleshing out the overarching vision for the app.
“It’s not for your friends; it’s the moment when you should share something or just ask something or discuss something with other people. Like news, for example… I want to discuss news with the people who are relevant, who want to discuss it. And so on and on. So I imagine it is about small groups with the same goal, discussing the same experience, or something like that. It’s all about your everyday life.”
“Basically you can imagine our app as like real-time forum,” he adds. “Real-time social things like Reddit. So it’s more about live discussion, not postponing something.”
Chat(room) recommendations are based on contextual inferences that Capture can glean from the mobile hardware. Namely where you are (so the app needs access to your location) and even whether you’re on the move or lounging around (it also accesses the accelerometer so can tell the angle of the phone).
The primary sensory input comes from the camera of course. So like Snap it’s a camera-first app, opening straight into the rear lens’ live view.
By default chats in Capture are public so it also knows what topics users are discussing — which in turn further feeds and hones its recommendations for chats (and indeed matching users).
Co-founder and CMO Aram Hardy (also formerly at Prisma) gives the example of the free-flowing discussion you can see unrolling in YouTube comments when a movie trailer gets its first release — as the sort of energetic, expressive discussion Capture wants to channel inside its app.
“It’s exploding,” he says. “People are throwing those comments, discussing it on YouTube, on web, and that’s a real pain because there is no tool where you can simply discuss it with people, maybe with people around you, who are just interested in this particular trailer live on a mobile device — that’s a real pain.”
“Everything which is happening around the person should be taken into consideration to be suggested in Capture — that’s our simple vision,” he adds.
Everything will mean pop culture, news, local events and interest-based communities.
Though some of the relevant sources of pop/events content aren’t yet live in the app. But the plan is to keep bulking out the suggestive mix to expand what can be discovered via chat suggestions. (There’s also a discovery tab to surface public chats.)
Hardy even envisages Capture being able to point users to an unfolding accident in their area — which could generate a spontaneous need for locals or passers by to share information.
The aim for the app — which is launching on iOS today (Android will come later; maybe by fall) — is to provide an ever ready, almost no-barrier-to-entry chat channel that offers mobile users no-strings-attached socializing free from the pressures (and limits) of existing social graphs/friend networks; as well as being a context-savvy aid for content and event discovery, which means helping people dive into relevant discussion communities based on shared interests and/or proximity.
Of course location-based chatting is hardly a new idea. (And messaging giant Telegram just added a location-based chats feature to its platform.)
But the team’s premise is that mobile users are now looking for smart ways to supplement their social graph — and it’s betting on a savvy interface unlocking and (re)channelling underserved demand.
“People are really tired of something really follower based,” argues Moiseenkov. “All this stuff with a following, liking and so on. I feel there is a huge opportunity for all the companies around the world to make something based on real-time communication. It’s more like you will be heard in this chat so you can’t miss a thing. And I think that’s a powerful shot.
“We want to create a smaller room for every community in the Internet… So you can always join any group and just start talking in a free way. So you never shared your real identity — or it’s under your control. You can share or not, it’s up to you. And I think we need that.
“It’s what we miss during this Facebook age where everybody is ‘real’. Imagine that it’s like a game. In a game you’re really free — you can express yourself what way you want. I think that’s a great idea.”
“The entry threshold [for Twitter] is enormous,” adds Hardy. “You can’t have an account on Twitter and get famous within a week if you’re not an influencer. If you’re a simple person who wants to discuss something it’s impossible. But you can just create a chat or enter any chat within Capture and instantly be heard.
“You can create a chat manually. We have an add button — you can add any chat. It will be automatically recognized and suggested to other users who are interested in these sort of things. So we want every user to be heard within Capture.”
How it works
Capture’s AI-powered chatroom recommendations are designed to work as an onboarding engine for meeting relevant strangers online — using neural networks and machine learning to do the legwork of surfacing relevant people and chats.
Here’s how the mobile app works: Open the app, point the camera at something you view as a conversational jumping off point — and watch as it processes the data using computer vision technology to figure out what you’re looking at and recommend related chats for you to join.
For example, you might point the camera around your front room and be suggested a chatroom for ‘interior design trends and ideas’ , or at a pot plant and get ‘gardeners’ chat, or at your cat and get ‘pet chat’ or ‘funny pets’.
Point the camera at yourself and you might see suggestions like ‘Meet new friends’, ‘Hot or not?’, ‘Dating’, ‘Beautiful people’ — or be nudged to start a ‘Selfie chat’, which is where the app will randomly connect you with another Capture user for a one-to-one private chat.
Chat suggestions are based on an individual user’s inferred interests and local context (pulled via the phone) and also on matching users across the app based on respective usage of the app.
At the same time the user data being gathered is not used to pervasively profile uses, as is the case with ad-supported social networks. Rather Capture’s founders say personal data pulled from the phone — such as location — is only retained for a short time and used to power the next set of recommendations.
Capture users are also not required to provide any personal data (beyond creating a nickname) to start chatting. If they want to use Capture’s web platform they can provide an email to link their app and web accounts — but again that email address does not have to include anything linked to their real identity.
“The key tech we want to develop is a machine learning system that can suggest you the most relevant stuff and topics for you right now — based on data we have from your phone,” continues Moiseenkov. “This is like a magical moment. We do not know who you are — but we can suggest something relevant.
“This is like a smart system because we’ve got some half graph of connection between people. It’s not like the entire graph like your friends and family but it’s a graph on what chat you are in, so where are you discussing something. So we know this connection between people [based on the chats you’re participating in]… so we can use this information.
“Imagine this is somehow sort of a graph. That’s a really key part of our system. We know these intersections, we know the queries, and the intersection of queries from different people. And that’s the key here — the key machine learning system then want to match this between people and interests, between people and topics, and so on.
“On top of that we’ve got recognition stuff for images — like six or seven neural networks that are working to recognize the stuff, what are you seeing, how, what position and so on. We’ve got some quite slick computer vision filters that can do some magic and do not miss.
“Basically we want to perform like Google in terms of query we’ve got — it’s really big system, lots of tabs — to suggest relevant chats.”
Image recognition processing is all done locally on the user’s device so Capture is not accessing any actual image data from the camera view — just mathematical models of what the AI believes it’s seen (and again they claim they don’t hold that data for long).
“Mostly the real-time stuff comes from machine learning, analyzing the data we have from your phone — everybody has location. We do not store this location… we never store your data for a long time. We’re trying to move into more private world where we do not know who you are,” says Moiseenkov.
“When you log into our app you just enter the nickname. It’s not about your phone number, it’s not about your social networks. We sometimes — when you just want to log in from other device — we ask you an email. But that’s all. Email and nickname it’s nothing. We do not know nothing about you. About your person, like where you work, who’s your friends, so on and so on. We do not know anything.
“I think that’s the true way for now. That’s why gaming is so fast in terms of growing. People just really want to share, really want to log in and sign up [in a way] that’s easy. And there is no real barriers for that — I think that’s what we want to explore more.”
Having tested Capture’s app prior to launch I can report that the first wave chat suggestions are pretty rudimentary and/or random.
Plus its image recognition often misfires (for instance my cat was identified as, among other things, a dog, hamster, mouse and even a polar bear (!) — as well as a cat — so clearly the AI’s eye isn’t flawless, and variable environmental conditions around the user can produce some odd and funny results).
The promise from the founders is that recommendations will get better as the app ingests more data and the AI (and indeed Capture staff performing manual curation of chat suggestions) get a better handle on what people are clicking on and therefore wanting to talk with other users about.
They also say they’re intending to make better linkage leaps in chat suggestions — so rather than being offered a chatroom called ‘Pen’ (as I was), if you point the Capture camera at a pen, the app might instead nudge you towards more interesting-sounding chats — like ‘office talk’ or ‘writing room’ and so on.
Equally, if a bunch of users point their Capture cameras at the same pen the app might in future be smart enough to infer that they all want to join the same chatroom — and suggest creating a private group chat just for them.
On that front you could imagine members of the same club, say, being able to hop into the same discussion channel — summoning it by scanning a mutual object or design they all own or have access to. And you could also imagine people being delighted by a scanner-based interface linked to custom stuff in their vicinity — as a lower friction entry point vs typing in their directions. (Though — to be clear — the app isn’t hitting those levels of savvy right now.)
“Internally we imagine that we’re like Google but without direct query typing,” Moiseenkov tells TechCrunch. “So basically you do the query — like scanning the world around you. Like you are in some location, like some venue, imagine all this data is like a query — so then step by step we know what people are clicking, then improving the results and this step by step, month by month, so after three month or four month we will be better. So we know what people are clicking, we know what people are discussing and that’s it.”
“It’s tricky stuff,” he adds. “It’s really really hard. So we need lots of machine learning, we need lots of like our hands working on this moderating stuff, replacing some stuff, renaming, suggest different things. But I think that’s the way — that’s the way for onboarding people.
“So when people will know that they will open the app in the arena and they will receive the right results the most relevant stuff for this arena — for the concert, for the match, or something like that, it will be the game. That’s what we want to achieve. So every time during the day you open the app you receive relevant community to join. That’s the key.”
Right now the founders say they’re experimenting with various chat forms and features so they can figure out how people want to use the app and ensure they adapt to meet demand.
Hence, for example, the chatroulette-style random ‘selfie chat’ feature. Which does what it says on the tin — connecting you to another random user for a one-to-one chat. (If selfie chats do end up getting struck out of the app I hope they’ll find somewhere else to house the cute slide-puzzle animation that’s displayed as the algorithms crunch data to connect you to a serendipitous interlocutor.)
They’re also not yet decided on whether public chat content in Capture will persist indefinitely — thereby potentially creating ongoing, topics-based resources — or be ephemeral by default, with a rolling delete which kicks in after a set time to wipe the chat slate clean.
“We actually do not know what will be in the next one to three months. We need to figure out — will it be consistent or ephemeral,” admits Moiseenkov. “We need to figure out certain areas, like usage patterns. We should watch how people behave in our app and then decide what will be the feed.”
Capture does support private group chats as well as public channels — so there’s certainly overlap with the messaging platform Telegram, which also supports both. Though one nuance between them is Capture Channels let everyone comment but only admins post vs Telegram channels being a pure one-way broadcast.
But it’s on interface and user experience where Capture’s approach really diverges from the more standard mobile messaging playbook.
If you imagine it as a mash-up of existing social apps Capture could be thought of as something like a Snap-style front end atop a Telegram-esque body yet altogether sleeker, with none of the usual social baggage and clutter. (Some of that may creep in of course, if users demand it, and they do have a reactions style feature linked up to add in so… )
“With our tool you can find people not from your graph,” says Moiseenkov. “That’s the key here. So with WhatsApp it’s really hard to invite people not from your graph — or like friends of friends. And that’s a really tough question — where I can find the relevant people whom I chat about football? So now we add the tool for you in our app to just find these people and invite them to your [chat].”
“It’s really really hard not to like your friend’s post on Instagram because it’s social capital,” he adds. “You are always liking these posts. And we are not in this space. We do not want to move in this direction of followers, likers, and all this stuff — scrolling and endless communication.
“Time is changing, my life is changing, my friends and family somehow is changing because life is changing… We’re mobile like your everyday life… the app is suggesting you something relevant for this life [now]. And you can just find people also doing the same things, studying, discussing the same things.”
Why include private chats at all in Capture? Given the main premise (and promise) of the app is its ability to combine strangers with similar interests in the same virtual spaces — thereby expanding interest communities and helping mobile users escape the bubbles of closed chat groups.
On that Moiseenkov says they envisage communities will still want to be able to create their own closed groups — to maintain “a persistent, consistent community”.
So Capture has been designed to contain backchannels as well as open multiple windows into worlds anyone can join. “It’s one of opportunities to make this and I think that we should add it because we do not know exact scenarios right from the launch,” he says of including private conduits alongside public chats.
Given the multiple chat channels in the first release Capture does risk being a bit confusing. And during our interview the founders joke about having created a “maximal viable product” rather than the usual MVP.
But they say they’re also armed to be able to respond quickly to usage patterns — with bits and pieces lined up in the background so they can move quickly to add/remove features based on the usage feedback they get. So, basically, watch this space.
All the feature creep and experimentation has delayed their launch a little though. The app had been slated to arrive in Q4 last year. Albeit, a later-than-expected launch is hardly an unusual story for a startup.
Capture also of course suffers from a lack of users for people to chat to at the point of release — aka, the classic network effect problem (which also makes testing it prior to launch pretty tricky; safe to say, it was a very minimalist messaging experience).
Not having many users also means Capture’s chat suggestions aren’t as intelligent and savvy as the founders imply they’ll be.
So again the MVP will need some time to mature before it’s safe to pass judgement on the underlying idea. It does feel a bit laggy right now — and chat suggestions definitely hit and miss but it will be interesting to see how that evolves as/if users pile in.
Part of their plan is to encourage and nurture movie/TV/entertainment discussion communities specifically — with Hardy arguing there’s “no such tool” that easily supports that. So in future they want Capture users to be notified about new series coming up on Netflix, or Disney’s latest release. Then, as users watch that third party content, their idea is they’ll be encouraged to discuss it live on their mobiles via Capture.
But movie content is only partially launched at this stage. So again that’s all just a nice idea at this stage.
Testing pre-launch on various celebrity visages also drew a suggestive blank — and Hardy confirmed they’ve got more pop culture adds planned for the future.
Such gaps will likely translate into a low stickiness rate at first. But when the team’s ambition is to support a Google-esque level of content queries the scale of the routing and pattern matching task ahead of them is really both massive and unending.
To get usage off the ground they’re aiming to break the content recommendation problem down into more bite-size chunks — starting by seeding links to local events and news (sourced from parsing the public Internet); and also by focusing on serving specific communities (say around sports), and also linked to particular locations, such as cities — the latter two areas likely informed by in what and where the app gets traction.
They’ve also hired a content manager to help with content recommendations. This person is also in charge of “banning some bad things and all that stuff”, as they put it. (From the get go they’re running a filter to ban nudity; and don’t yet support video uploads/streams to reduce their moderation risk. Clearly they will need to be very ‘on it’ to avoid problem usage mushrooming into view and discouraging positive interactions and community growth within the app. But again they say they’re drawing on their Prisma experience.)
They also say they want this social app to be more a slow burn on the growth front — having seen the flip side of burn out viral success at Prisma — which, soon after flooding the social web with painterly selfies, had to watch as tech giants ruthlessly cloned the style transfer effect, reducing their novelty factor and pushing users to move on to their next selfie lens fix.
“As data-driven guys we’re mostly looking for some numbers,” says Moiseenkov when asked where they hope to be with Capture in 12 months’ time. “So I think achieving something like 1M or 2M MAU with a good retention and engagement loop by then is our goal.
“We want to keep this growth under control. So we could release the features step by step, more about engagement not more about viral growth. So our focus is doing something that can keep engagement loop, that can increase our spend time in the app, increase the usage and so on, not driving this into the peak and like acquiring all the trends.”
“Conclusions are drawn from Prisma!” adds Hardy with investor-winning levels of chutzpah.
While it’s of course super early to talk business model, the question is a valid one given Capture’s claims of zero user profiling. Free apps backed by VC will need to monetize the hoped for scale and usage at some point. So how does Capture plan to do that?
The founders say they envisage the app acting as a distribution tool. And for that use case their knowing (only) the timing, location and subject of chats is plenty enough data to carry out contextual targeting of whatever stuff they can get paid to distribute to their users.
They are also toying with models in a Patreon style — such as users being able to donate to content authors who are in turn distributing stuff to them via Capture. But again plans aren’t fully formed at this nascent stage.
“Our focus right now is more like going into partnerships with different companies that have lots of content and lots of events going on,” says Hardy. “We also are going to ask for permission to get access to music apps like Spotify or Apple Music to be aware of those artists and songs a person is interested in and is listening to. So this will give us an opportunity to suggest relevant new albums, maybe music events, concerts and so on and so forth.
“For example if a band is coming to your city and we know we have access to Apple Music we know you’re listening to it we’ll suggest a concert — we’ll say ‘hey maybe you can win a free ticket’ if we can partner… with someone, so yeah we’re moving into this in the near future I think.”
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