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Good things really do come in streamlined packages…

Our Social Media Manager, Carol Naylor, has been busy supporting teams around the UK to update and streamline our regional Facebook pages. Carol discusses how the project manages to slim the total down from over 30 to just 13 regional accounts. 

It comes to us all eventually.  One day you’ve got a stable of active Facebook accounts all happily chatting to their target audiences and then gradually demographics shift, projects reach the end of their shelf life, teams get rearranged and suddenly you notice a few of the smaller pages simply have tumbleweed rolling through them.

It’s unavoidable, no matter how strict you make the rules about futureproofing, sustainability, and resourcing. Things change and you can’t anticipate them all.

That’s the challenge we faced at the start of last year. Macmillan’s 33 regional Facebook pages needed a new approach. The organisation of the teams managing them had changed and we needed to adapt to this.  Staff were still eager to use social media but content was harder to plan and page management was getting frustrating. The growth in followers was stalling. It was time to update our Facebook network.

Fortunately, Facebook lets you merge pages.

That wasn’t the whole solution though. We wanted a new arrangement that would be intuitive and accessible for audiences and yet still be manageable within our internal structure. So, we sat down with the regional team heads and a humungous map of the UK and threatened to lock the doors until a solution was found after a lot of head-scratching and cups of tea we came up with a new map of regional pages. It didn’t exactly match our internal structure but that wasn’t the point. It would make sense to our supporters.

Next, we defined the project principles (and drank more tea):

Rationalisation – a more logical organization for accounts and a clear naming structure will make our accounts more accessible to followers.

Consistency – all pages will deliver a clear standard of service, appearance, and content.

Customer Expectations – ensuring that followers can find accounts easily and have a clear idea of what support each kind of account can offer.

One Team – anyone following our Facebook pages will see not only how Macmillan raises funds in their area but also what it does with those funds to support them locally.

Delivering Results – “build it and they will come” is long past. The new pages will have clearly defined KPIs and objectives that go beyond just audience sizes.

Page management was the next hurdle.  But we were starting out with just two pilot pages so we could experiment safely.  A few more pots of coffee (we got bored with tea) and we had a rota that assigned daily management of the page to different teams on a weekly basis. This was overseen by a core editorial team who managed content strategy. This gave everyone the chance to get hands-on experience of managing a Facebook page and avoided the danger of everything falling on the shoulders of a few enthusiastic individuals.

Naturally the new page managers needed plenty of support. So we produced FAQs on how to handle enquiries and complaints, provided sample text to use in the ‘About Us’ sections of each page and produced new branded profile images for all the pages so that they all had a common style. We also set up a page admins group on our intranet for sharing best (and worst) practice.  Doing page merges in groups rather than all at once meant that we had a growing pool of experienced admins who could help any worried rookies.

Initially we were very apprehensive about how the planned changes would be received by the communities following the existing pages. Would they be territorial and resist the idea of combining with other local audiences? Would the appearance of a post from a long-dormant page in their newsfeed simply prompt them to unfollow?  So, we gave followers plenty of notice on each page and started posting content relevant to the whole new patch on pages even before the merges took place. We wanted audiences from the merged pages to feel at home.

Once the pilot groups got going, they got imaginative. They involved local Macmillan professionals, they experimented with strategically sharing content with neighbouring pages, they tried out ‘themed’ weeks with all content related to a specific topic like Volunteering or Corporate Partnerships. They also shifted the focus of the pages away from fundraising to a more holistic view of our work and tried to balance fundraising content with awareness raising information and news about services.

Here is one of our active pages, raising awareness about our live Q&A session on benefits:

Our East of England Facebook page

By the end of the three-month pilots, they had a wealth of experience to share. At that point we took stock and learned some interesting lessons:

  • Audiences were OK about pages being merged.  We’d explained the advantages to them and they understood.  By the end of the project we’d done 10 merges and not one supporter complained about any of them.
  • An established page management team and content plan was critical. One page which wasn’t directly involved in the merge process tripled its follower growth rate after putting these in place.
  • The demographics of our audiences didn’t change despite the shift in content focus. However, once given the choice, they demonstrated a greater appetite for information about Macmillan’s work than for news about fundraising events.
  • Engagement for the combined audiences considerably exceeded the sum of the original wholes.  We assumed at first that the novelty value of a new page might be responsible for this but engagement levels stayed consistent even after the novelty had worn off.
  • One of the reasons for this was that the quality of content got pushed up.  For example, instead of 5 teams needing to find content for 5 pages, they were competing with each other for space on just one page. And since they only had to run the page for one week in five, they had the luxury of time to think about what they *really* wanted to post.

The process we’d established got tweaked with each subsequent merge – some teams had a designated social media person, others all wanted to have a go – but the principles remained the same.

The biggest headache came with the final merges when we lost our contact at Facebook and discovered that the Facebook help pages and community were not as useful as we’d hoped.

Tip – if you’re advertising on Facebook, ask your agency to help find someone who can help you at Facebook, it’s the only way.

And, just over a year after we started, you can see for yourself how it’s all working out:

Stop by sometime and say Hi.

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Ad servers and Google Analytics: who to believe?

Sharing her tips and tricks, Rebecca Buchanan, Digital Marketing Officer, writes about how to analyse Facebook campaigns to achieve the most accurate results. 

Read more +

Social Media: The Importance of Being Aware

Social Media Officer, Hayley Devlin, discusses the importance of awareness days/weeks/months.

As a cancer charity, we see awareness days a lot. October, famously, is for Breast Cancer Awareness. In January, we have Cervical Cancer Prevention Week and in June it’s Cervical Screening Awareness Week. In November, it’s a triple whammy: Lung Cancer Awareness Month, Mouth Cancer Action Month and Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month.

Here’s an example of a Facebook post we ran for Lung Cancer Awareness Month: 


Our Social content calendar features a whole host of ‘awareness’ days and they’re not always cancer related. There’s Deaf Awareness Week in May, Random Act of Kindness day in February and (our personal favourite) World Emoji Day in July.

But why tie in some of these seemingly frivolous days with our content? Shouldn’t we be posting about different cancer types all the time anyway?

Social media is, essentially, just a big conversation. It’s a loud and busy one, and it’s easy for your voice to get lost in the crowd. Awareness days, weeks and months are great because they usually trend, making the conversations visible to people who might have otherwise missed it. As social gets more saturated, reaching new audiences organically (without any spend) is becoming increasingly difficult. The #AwarenessDays are great, because they’re a conversation that lots of people are already having, and present us with the opportunity to add in our two cents, reaching new people along the way.

Of course, cancer awareness days/weeks/months are particularly important to us. They give us an excellent springboard to create content we know will not only be relevant, but that people are also looking for. One of our top performing posts of the year came from Cervical Cancer Prevention Week in January. It had a staggering organic reach of 362,319, was shared 2,048 times and earned 5,115 likes. To put that into context, our top performing post this year was our tribute to Caroline Aherne. It had an organic reach of 549,909 people and earned 6,554 likes. It was also a video, which we know the Facebook algorithm still favours, so the fact that our cervical cancer awareness post did so well is a testament to how important they are. 

Here’s an example of a Cervical Cancer Prevention Week post:


On top of allowing us to showcase our cancer information and support services, the more ‘fun’ days are a chance for us to think more creatively. They give us the opportunity to showcase Macmillan using an angle we may not normally go for. For #WorldEmojiDay, we created a timeline out of emojis to help show how we’ve grown as an organisation since our beginnings. The World Emoji Day tweet had 38,477 impressions, which is more than double our average (average of about 13,000).

Our World Emoji Day Tweet:


On #WorldKindnessDay, we used a quote from the Not Alone Campaign and a tip from The Source to encourage people to share their own tips on the platform. We used #WorldHelloDay to introduce some of the experts we have on the Online Community. We’re always on the lookout for new awareness days to consider for our content planning.

Mind you, I don’t see us posting about International Dog Biscuit Appreciation Day at any point soon!

To find out more about our awareness days/weeks/months, follow our Facebook and Twitter social media channels.


Snapchat logo with QR code background

Get snap-happy

If you’ve had the pleasure of seeing a dog-face or rainbow vomit lens and felt scared, confused, or indeed delighted, you have Snapchat to thank for that. Social Media Officer, Hayley Devlin explains the who, what, and why of Snapchat – the five-year-old chat app that’s surprised everyone.

Snapchat is having its moment in the sun. Since launching in 2011 the platform has grown rapidly and is hailed as the go to app for teens and millennials. In 2015 Snapchat’s estimated project revenue was $50 million and its creators turned down an offer of $3 billion from Facebook. Not bad for disappearing images.

But why? What is it is about Snapchat that’s taken it from faddy-app to social media powerhouse? And why is it that ‘old’ people just can’t seem to get on board? (As of March 2015 over 71% of all Snapchat users were under the age of 34).
On a personal level, Snapchat is great fun and is a growing platform; in 2015 it had 100 million daily active users. It’s a platform that businesses and organisations simply can’t choose to ignore.
Snapchat is like being the star of your own reality TV show. To me, that’s why so many teens and millennials can’t seem to put it down. Thanks to the ‘My Story’ function, we’ve been able to film our lives in 10 second clips and pictures and leave them for all our friends to see for 24 hours. Snapchat gives users the chance to share intimate/funny/personal moments with the people they care about in a way that feels more personal and private than Facebook or Instagram.
Snapchat is creative. The ‘draw’ feature (the pencil icon that appears in the top right corner when once you’ve taken a picture) allows users to turn their pictures into works of art and ‘face swap’ has turned into a craze. If you haven’t had a play with the face filters yet, I’d highly recommend entertaining yourself for 15 minutes or so. Simply switch to your front facing camera, hold a finger on your face until Snapchat recognises it and swipe through the filters you want.

The real, and new found, power of Snapchat comes when you step away from the personal and begin harnessing it to reach a much wider audience. Some of the biggest players in online news and entertainment produce content for Snapchat’s ‘Discover’ channel on a daily basis. Celebrities such as Chris Pratt, the Kardashian-Jenner clan and DJ Khaled (king of Snapchat) are using the platform to deliver self produced content straight to their fans. Football teams and brands are also on board with the likes of Manchester City, FC Barcelona, Selfridges, Nike and McDonalds all creating content to add to their ‘Stories’ on daily basis. You can even follow the White House.
It’s also being used for good. In India, Rajshekar Patil, Avani Parekh and Nida Sheriff are using the app in a way that allows young people in abusive relationships to reach out to them and get help they wanted to create a helpline that young people would feel safe enough to use. To add them and see for yourselves just search for ‘lovedoctordotin’ on the app.

In February, Snapchat released it’s ‘On Demand Geofilters’ and opened up another way to advertise on the platform. Geofilters are banners you can add to your pictures according to where you are. To access them you have to have allowed Snapchat location access and all major cities, landmarks and universities have them.The Shard with Snapchat Geofilter applied. Text reads, ' The City'.

These Geofilters are free and known as ‘Community Geofilters’. ‘On Demand Geofilters’ give brands the opportunity to pay for and create their own geofilters set to a location of their choosing. Individuals can do this on too, with Snapchat touting weddings as the perfect excuse for something so personalised. With prices starting from $5 they’ve made them affordable and accessible. The process is fairly simply, you design your geofilter, upload it to Snapchat, select the date and how long you’d like it to run, select the location, and send it off to Snapchat for approval or denial. If they deny, they’ll usually give you a reason why.

 It was a no brainer that Macmillan had to have Geofilters for the upcoming London Marathon, so I worked with the creative team to get a few designed. We’ve got four filters being used across the day, so if you happen to be at our cheer points in Monument, Embankment or Canary Wharf, be sure to snap and use our filter. There’s also one at the finish line. You can find them by taking a picture and then swiping left or right until you find ours.

Beyond the frivolous fun of Geofilters, Snapchat opens Macmillan up to a wider audience. It’s an opportunity to showcase our various challenge events and adds extra buzz to our fundraising events. It gives us the opportunity to run intimate Q&As with our experts that will remain on the platform for 24 hours at a time. We already know that our main demographic is women aged 35-55 and at a time where we’re trying to get younger audiences to care about our cause, Snapchat could be the key we need.

Snapchat how-tos

Find a Geofilter:

  1. Take a photo.
  2. Swipe right or left until you come across an image like the one above.
  3. Press the arrow in the bottom right corner, select who you’d like to send it to and send your snap.

Take a selfie with a filter:

  1. Switch to front facing camera by tapping the camera icon in the top right hand corner.
  2. Hold a finger on your face until Snapchat recognises it.
  3. Swipe through filters (rainbow vomit is my favourite).
  4. Press the circular button to take a picture or hold it down to film.
  5. Tap the arrow in the bottom right corner, select who you’d like to send you snap to and send it!


Three different Snapchat lenses - Aged, rainbow vomit, and scary.

Questions about this post? Leave us a comment below or tweet us @mac_digital. We’d love to hear from you!

We’re getting emotional over the new Facebook emotions

SHOCK! HORROR! GLEE! Oh wait, those aren’t part of the six new reactions Facebook has recently rolled out…

If you haven’t already heard, Facebook is now allowing you to express yourself in new ways. All you need to do is hover over the original like button and choose from like, love, haha, wow, sad and anger. So what does our digital team think of the new update? Here are our reactions to the new Facebook reactions:

loveAlice Hajek, Social Media Officer

I like anything new so I am slightly in love with these new options. I am desperately searching my Facebook feed to find something to ‘love’ but am yet to find the perfect post. We have already seen our supporters use the new reactions on our Facebook ads and it is great to see them in action. I’m really interested to see how this will help with our post engagement and if it will have an effect on our reach.

wowMairead Brodie, Digital Marketing Officer

We knew this was in the pipeline but now that this is in place I am wow’d at what this brings to Facebook- they really sneaked this update on us! I’m really looking forward to seeing how this will work on our sponsored Facebook posts and I’m so glad there isn’t a dislike button.

angerGabriella Okon, Digital Editor

The great thing about a thumbs up is that social media users have evolved to understand it as a multi-faceted expression of emotion. Why must I now think twice (nay 6 times!) before I engage with a post? And can someone please explain to me how to differentiate between a cyber like and a cyber love? If I cyber love one friend’s salad pic, and cyber like another friend’s baby pic, what ridiculous trap of misplaced over-expression have I fallen into? I predict that a global preference of the love heart will see the thumbs up fall by the wayside. And what a shame. Okay ‘pokes’ were always creepy, but a thumbs up was just fine. If it aint broke Facebook…

likeBernard Muscat, Senior Social Media Officer

Today’s release is Facebook’s biggest update on features around users’ emotions since the introduction of the Like button in 2009.  The Like button is still among the Reactions available.  It remains to be seen whether users will experiment more with other Reactions, or whether the emojification of the Like button and its longevity will mean that it remains the most popular Reaction.

hahaHamilton Jones, Digital Editor

I think the new update is going to be great fun! By its nature, social media is the platform we use to share what we find hilarious and silly. With a huge rise in videos on our timelines, it’s no surprise Facebook has added these new emojis… how else are we to express our laughter when watching fail videos if not in tiny yellow pixels?

sadAnnabel Howarth, Digital Assistant

These days we have so many hundreds of amazing emojis going round (my personal favourites is the unicorn) and yet Facebook chose these six?! Humans have many complex emotions and this makes me sad,  we can’t be limited like this, our emotions cannot be confined to just six options. Also-is this just going to give cyber bullies and trolls what they have always wanted?I’m worried..

R.I.P Twitter?

Social Media Manager, Carol Naylor, talks about Twitter’s proposed character limit change. Is Jack Dorsey set to ruin the clarity of our 140-character lives? Or is this a change that we will slowly grow to love?

I heard it on Whatsapp first; one of my team woke up to the news and posted it to the group chat we all share.

Image showing Whatsapp conversation between Hayley, Carol and Alice. Text reads, Hayley - According to the news, the boss of Twitter has 'dropped his biggest hint yet', that the platform is going to drop its 140 character limit (broken heart emoji_ Carol - R.I.P Twitter... Alice - (crying face emoji)

I’m really not a morning person but that certainly woke me up. We’ve all heard plenty of rumours like this before but figured that even Twitter execs would ultimately recognise what made their service so valuable to us. Apparently not.

This is what Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter (@jack) had to say:

Jack Dorsey's tweet

I checked the comments – unsurprisingly there were loads but I could only find one person who approved. So what on earth would lead Twitter to think this was a good idea?

Let’s think it through:

Competing with “the other social media network”
Facebook currently has about three times as many users as Twitter [1]. So clearly it’s the platform to beat. Consequently lots of Twitter’s recent updates have been intended to match features in Facebook. Often this has been at the expense of Twitter’s own culture. Changing their favourite star to a heart symbol brings it a bit closer to Facebook’s ‘like’, even though it totally ignored the way that many tweeters were using the feature – as a bookmark or acknowledgement rather than an endorsement.

And why change your service to be more like the competition when Facebook is already so good at being Facebook?

Greater depth of conversation
It’s true we’ve all complained about the restrictions of 140 characters in the past. And, as Jack Dorsey pointed out, it wasn’t actually an original feature, only being introduced to cater for tweets being made via SMS (which was popular back in the mid/late noughties, remember?). So I can understand the logic here.

But the problem is that we’ve got the hang of it now and we rather like it. In fact we’re quite proud of how clever you can be in only 140 characters. It’s like digital Haiku, and, given consumers’ ever-decreasing attention spans, it’s very appealing. Changing the character limit now is the equivalent of making everyone learn Cantonese in order to post and, once we’ve all mastered it, saying “No, just kidding you can use English”.

Keeping hold of users and content
About a third of all website traffic [2] is referred from Social Media posts. Facebook is the top source in this respect, but Twitter bobs about in the top five. Think about that – you’ve got 21% [1] of all internet users signed up to your service but mostly they just use it as a jumping off point to other web sites. That’s gotta sting a bit. No wonder there’s so much confusion over Twitter’s business plan and how it’s supposed to generate revenue. Facebook doesn’t have quite such a problem and even they’re trying harder to hang on to users with the introduction of locally hosted content like Instant Articles.

Searchable text
This is understandable. At present anyone wanting to exceed the 140 character limit on Twitter has to embed their content in an image to get around it. There are even online services to help you do this. And some of them look pretty cool.

Example of creative way of putting text into Twitter image

However, since most search engines don’t use Optical Character Recognition (OCR), all this wisdom is invisible to searchers.

Lessons from the direct message (DM) limit change
There’s a precedent. Limits on Twitter’s direct messages were increased to 10,000 characters last year – there were no riots, reports of pestilence or other manifestations of the apocalypse (let’s leave flooding out of it for now). In fact this has been really useful for Macmillan by allowing us to offer more detailed support to people affected by cancer. However, that’s largely because DMs are private and we can deal with confidential issues properly without having to leave the platform.

Is there a demand?
Having said that users don’t want this, there’s probably a small contingent that does. We don’t know much about how this proposed change might be implemented but it’s possible that Twitter will adopt Facebook’s technique of truncating a post after a few hundred characters and adding a link to “more”. It’ll require a culture change amongst users but it might still be possible to scroll through headings and just expand content that looks interesting. But, as marketers get the hang of it, how long before tweets just become a succession of click-bait headings? For example, “This woman was cynical about Twitter 140-character limit – you won’t believe what happened next!!!!”

Without being a mind-reader, those are all the reasons I can dream up in favour of an increased character limit. It wasn’t so hard to think of all the reasons why it would be bad idea:

Loss of immediacy
For most Tweeters the service is primarily a news source. When a news story breaks we want to know what’s happening and we want to know now. When the BBC reported the death of David Bowie it took them over an hour to get more than a sentence online about it. So I took to Twitter to get more information in the meantime – what kind of cancer was it? What was his ex-wife going to do on Big Brother? Is his son Duncan the one who was christened ‘Zowie’? And I got some of my answers just scanning down my newsfeed. Obviously when the public become the news reporters some errors or agendas will creep in, but that’s not a big problem when you can scan a whole range of tweets to get a general overview. How easy will that be when you have to read through a 10,000 character post to get the information? Even using the “more” link approach there’s no guarantee that you’d see important information first. “Above the fold” is still just jargon to most people online.

The dangers of a walled garden
This is connected to the idea of keeping as much content as possible on your platform – why would users want to go elsewhere and see other peoples’ advertising if you provide everything they need? This worked well for Internet service providers (ISPs) like AOL and Compuserve in the nineties – many of their users would refer to their services as “the Internet” not realising that it was only a small part. It got picked up by Rupert Murdoch and Fox in the early noughties as a political tool – it’s very powerful to be the sole source of news for some demographics. That worked okay for them offline but online users had become more sophisticated and didn’t like being herded. Despite that, both Facebook and Twitter seem to be favouring this tactic; it’ll be interesting to see if their subscribers are happy about that.

Unique Selling Proposition (USP)
Twitter have created a very useful demand online and have been fulfilling it successfully since 2006. It’s not longer a unique service but they still dominate the micro-blogging landscape. Why abandon something that is so fundamental to their offer?

That leads on to the next danger. If Twitter don’t want to cater exclusively for a short-form audience, then someone will. It’s no coincidence that within 24 hours of Jack Dorsey’s announcement, social media channels (especially Twitter) were buzzing with talk about Peach, a new iOS-only app from the founder of Vine that also functions like a walled garden, but is nevertheless being hailed as a challenger to Twitter. No one can tell yet whether it really is a giant-killer, or will go the way of Ello, but there’s always another app ready to step up if it fails.

So I’m not going to give up on Twitter yet but take heed guys, I’m signing up to Peach ….just in case*.

(* – As soon as it comes out for Androids obvs)

[1] http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/01/09/demographics-of-key-social-networking-platforms-2/
[2] http://www.forbes.com/sites/jaysondemers/2015/02/03/social-media-now-drives-31-of-all-referral-traffic/

Thumbs up and thumbs down - pros and cons of introducing long copy to social media

Long copy takes to social

Digital Editor Hamilton Jones sheds light on the introduction of long copy on social channels, weighing up the pros and cons for the Macmillan website.

Since the rise of social media, people have been accessing information online in a completely different way. Driven by short character limits and even shorter attention spans, social media’s fast paced nature has traditionally seen it play a very separate role to that of the website. But that could be about to change.

The past weeks have seen announcements from two major social networks that indicate a move towards long copy on their platforms. Twitter is looking at lifting the 140 character limit across their whole platform, having recently done so for their direct messaging service, while Facebook’s in-built publishing tool, Instant Articles, is currently being tested by major brands worldwide.

The move by both parties invites brands to expand their social presence by sharing much longer pieces of content, content that perhaps would usually have appeared exclusively on their website. The impact this is likely to have could result in digital editorial and social media teams working much more closely to create cross-platform content.

At Macmillan, the Information and Support section of our website contains thousands of invaluable long copy pages for both generic and cancer specific information. By using tools like Instant Articles, we may have the opportunity to share some of this information across our social networks, helping us to reach more people affected by cancer than ever before.

While this may sound like a fantastic opportunity, sharing some of our long copy on social media has its downsides too. By creating a hub of all of our content on our social networks, we are taking users away from our website. While having more traffic on our social platform is a good thing, it also means we do not have as much control over how we interact with and reach our audience. By driving users to our own website we have the opportunity to capture better data and provide them with a more personalised experience.

So what does this mean for Macmillan? Well, watch this space! Over the next few months as these changes roll out across Twitter and Facebook, and perhaps more widely across all social channels, it will be interesting to see how we, as a digital team, adapt to and embrace these changes.

Thoughts on this?
Tweet us @mac_digital or leave a comment below!

Facebook logo

Facebook changes

Social media manager Carol Naylor tells us about some of the 25 changes planned for Facebook. Follow Carol on Twitter for more social media insight. Find Macmillan Cancer on Facebook to see what we make of these changes over the coming months.

At F8 last month Facebook (FB) announced 25 updates and new features which they are rolling out for developers and the public. Over the last few years FB has bought up a lot of smaller platforms (Instagram, Oculus Rift etc) and now they clearly feel that it’s time integrate to them more openly with the main FB service.

Many of the updates are bug fixes or improved tools for developers. However, there were several announcements which got everyone’s attention especially:

Making Facebook Messenger a platform in its own right and opening it up to third party developers

For anyone who hasn’t used it, Facebook Messenger is a direct messaging service that sits within the desktop version of FB (which is itself a platform for apps). However on mobiles Messenger is provided as a separate download. Like many other instant messaging (IM) apps, people are increasingly using it as a way to avoid incurring SMS charges.

The updates mean that developers can now customise Messenger, add tweaks and even new functionality.  Within reason this could mean anything but it will certainly include sharing a wider range of content formats, customised emojis etc.

Facebook’s main aim with this is to let businesses talk direct to their customers. It’s not clear what restrictions will be in place to prevent spamming but the examples given included letting companies answer enquiries and tell customers when their orders have been shipped. This is good news for smaller e-vendors who can tap straight into FB’s existing customer base without having to grow an audience for their own service from scratch.

For any organisation – businesses or charities – this is an opportunity to get a well established white-labelled messenger app with a ready-made audience. They can brand it and possibly connect it to other apps they provide.

Used together with some of the other updates announced (see Real Time commenting below), this might also encourage more websites to accept Facebook logins as well as their own registrations.

Of course there are some caveats. Given the number of competing platforms in the IM market, it’s wiser to see how the take-up for this goes.  FB messenger might be a giant-killer and become an essential download for everyone’s devices or it might be another one-day wonder.

Real time commenting

FB users can already use their FB login to comment on articles from affiliated external sites (e.g The Huffington Post, Buzzfeed etc) but the synchronisation between the affiliates’ own servers and all of FB’s servers has always been a bit patchy. Now comments will be updated in real time which makes it more attractive to websites and users alike.  This is another encouragement for websites to accept FB log ins as well as their own registered users. Since comments on FB-affiliated web pages are visible to the commenters’ FB friends this helps improve the web page’s reach within the FB community* (see update below)

As with any commenting option the downside is needing to moderate any pages which allow comments. Any complaints about comments would go to FB but, as with FB pages, comments would have to be properly managed by the web page owners. 

Facebook Video can be embedded on external pages

Until now YouTube has been the host of choice for a lot of video content simply because it allowed users to embed its content in their own pages. The downside was the poor quality of comments which has generally prevented much community-building via specific channels. Even YouTube’s brief dalliance (via Google+) with making users give their ‘real’ names had a negligible effect.

Now Facebook is going up against YouTube and it has a more established community ethos that will work in its favour.  Even if that weren’t already the case, the bulk of FB users give their own names and are now sufficiently invested in the platform to make loss of access far more of a penalty than getting kicked off YouTube.

FB probably won’t overtake YouTube but it might lead to a clearer identity for each platform with short, amateur clips for friends appearing on FB where they can be discussed safely and more sophisticated editing aimed at a wider audience staying on YouTube

For charity Facebook users this offers exciting options aside from the obvious advantage of making their FB content more widely shareable and hence increasing its reach. At present a lot of organisations upload their video content on both FB and YouTube since YouTube allows embedding but doesn’t have a very useful community while FB tends to discriminate against links to YouTube and doesn’t allow embedding itself. The result has been no single base for video content and reluctance on the part of some charities to showcase content from supporters on YouTube where comments can often be negatively personal. Also, splitting views between platforms has made it much harder to get accurate analytics and assess the impact of videos.  Hosting content from supporters exclusively on FB whilst making YouTube the home for organised campaign material might help solve this problem.

Spherical (360 degree) video

Buying Occulus Rift wasn’t cheap so it’s surprising that FB has taken a while to start showcasing this.

For most charities 360 degree video will probably still be a novelty medium for some time until the required headsets become more widely used. Without those, users only see a large images which they can scroll around and which bend to offer some imitation of perspective. However 360 degree stills and videos have been lurking in the background for a long time. With the increased popularity of drones, the medium has become “all-round” and now with a boost from FB it definitely has a chance to become properly mainstream.

Standard backend ‘brains’ (SDKs) for the Internet of Things

This is the thing that has me most excited although it’s still early days for widespread use.  FB are aiming to provide a standardised set of tools that will talk to any internet-connected item. At present this operates with Arduinos (little circuit-board computers) but if it works they’ll have to include more popular platforms. The important part is the attempt at standardisation – with a standard set of tool and rules, the whole concept becomes more viable commercially and could open up to more rapid development.

Without going off into a whole essay about the Internet of Things, this offers a lot of exciting possibilities for helping people affected by cancer.  Obviously patients stuck at home owing to the effects of treatment have been able to get support online for a long time – eg. home delivery of groceries etc. But being able to connect all kinds of devices to the internet can offer better support for  remote monitoring (if a person becomes ill or falls etc) and more targeted care, advice and information.  People will also be able to access online services without having a computer or even knowing how to work one.

Looking outside the home, connectivity will no longer be reliant on a mobile phone and people will be able to use a range of other devices – e.g. watches, cameras or dedicated gadgets to go online when it is most convenient for them. 

Updates to Liverail advertising

Nothing too dramatic here but handy for Digital Marketing, especially for small businesses. Liverail is a company that sells advertising space on web pages. FB owns the company and will be giving it access to FB data for targeting adverts. This means audiences even outside FB can be segmented and targeted more cost-effectively.  Additionally the ads will now work on mobile as well as desktop.

Analytics for Apps

This is great news for organisations that have invested in developing FB applications allowing them to apply the same levels of performance and metrics to their apps as they do to all their other online activity.

One for the Facebooks…

I came across this and thought it was a really interesting way to use the new Facebook timeline. It was created by McCann Digital Israel for Israel Anti-Drug Authority and shows the Facebook page of a fictional addict, Adam Barak. We see his life and his lost chances because of his addiction, pictured side by side.

You can view the Page here:


In more lighthearted Facebook news Heineken created their own ‘Social Christmas Tree’ in Singapore. The Heineken Social Christmas Tree was designed to broadcast Christmas greetings exchanged on Facebook. Using the Facebook app, people could send their friends a festive greeting by tagging them on their customised virtual tree. A video recording of the broadcast was then sent to the person and shared with your friends on Facebook as well.

Here’s a video to show how it all worked:

Pretty nice I think (but how long ago does Christmas feel now!).

Ice cream served with a smile

Unilever launches the world’s first smile-activated vending machine, rewarding great grins with delicious ice cream.

The new smile-activated vending machines

Ice cream makes people smile all over the world, and now an innovative vending machine is making Unilever’s consumers even happier, by dispensing an ice cream in response to a grin, then uploading the photo to Facebook.

The industry-leading vending machines are part of Unilever’s ice cream mission: encouraging people everywhere to share moments of happiness. Read the full article here

Check out the video below… This is a great marketing campaign for Walls, directly associating Walls ice cream with happiness. The integration with social media is an added-bonus too for customer engagement and recommendation.
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