Tweets May Soon Breeze Past 140-Character Limit

In an effort to better monetize its platform and boost user traffic, Twitter may relax the 140-character limit on individual tweets by no longer counting photos and Web links, Bloomberg reported earlier this week.

The tweak could take place within two weeks, according to the story, which cited an unnamed source who asked for anonymity because the decision had not yet been made public.

CEO Jack Dorsey hinted at the move earlier this year when he tweeted an elaborate screenshot containing more than 1,300 characters.

The company reportedly was considering expanding the maximum tweet size to as many as 10,000 characters.

Raising the character limit would make a stronger case for increasing user engagement on Twitter, Dorsey said.

“We’ve spent a lot of time observing what people are doing on Twitter, and we see them taking screenshots of text and tweeting it,” he said. “Instead, what if that text was actually text? Text that could be searched. Text that could be highlighted. That’s more utility and power.”

Twitter did not begin with a 140-character limit, Dorsey noted. It instituted the limit in order to fit into a single SMS message, which has a 160-character limit.

Link Letters

Links chew up about 23 characters per tweet. Eliminating links and images from the mix would encourage members to post more images and allow them to write in something that approximates whole sentences.

“The move by Twitter is a nice refinement, but not a breakthrough move,” said Kevin Krewell, principal analyst at Tirias Research. “It will make it easier for users to share more content, but doesn’t change Twitter’s fundamental problem attracting new users.”

The company is still having difficulty attracting new users and increasing the utility for existing members.

By not counting photos and links, Twitter will make it less cumbersome for users to post photos with their tweets, said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group. The tools used to shorten links often break anyway, creating more difficulty in generating traffic.

“Removing annoyances should get people to use the service more and for tweets to be more informative and more interesting,” he said.

Traffic Booster

While the move should help increase traffic and help Twitter compete against services such as Instagram, there is a downside risk that it will put a strain on devices used to read longer tweets, said Mike Jude, program manager at Stratecast/Frost & Sullivan.

“A principal virtue of Twitter is its small footprint and easy consumption… This will erode that to some extent, but people like photos, and I think this will be popular.”

Twitter reported an average of 310 million active monthly users during the first quarter, an increase of 3 percent from the year-ago quarter.

twitter-tweet-140-character-limit

H/T: E-Commerce Times

Ignore the Uproar. The Instagram Algorithm Change Is a Good Thing.

Instagram recently dropped the news that it will be adapting a non-chronological newsfeed order, similar to its big brother, Facebook. Instead of sorting posts in a familiar linear order, the new algorithm will weigh in a variety of social signals, such as a number of post engagements. It will also consider content you liked before in an attempt to sort images in the order of “relevancy,” or as what Instagram perceives to be of most interest to you.

Instagram has already carved out its place among top networks for businesses, thanks to its almost exponential growth. What started as a teen photo-sharing app bought by Facebook in then-incredible $1 billion deal, the network is projected to rack in $1.86 billion in revenue this year as its user base growth outpaces general social network usage.

The update, however, has caused a storm of complains. It went as far as to prompt a petition on Change.org asking Instagram to leave its chronological feed alone. The outrage was mostly caused by comparing this change to Facebook’s algorithm. Notorious for discriminating business pages’ content, it upset many business owners when organic post reach plunged to unbelievable lows. In a lot of cases, Instagram was their network of choice because of its chronological order and an unlimited reach of posts.

However, the comparison of the two networks is unfair. Unlike Facebook, Instagram does not separate “personal” from “business” accounts. As of right now, a profile is a profile, independently of its use. So, this move is not discriminatory of businesses (I am looking at you, Facebook).

So let’s examine what this change in algorithm really means and whether it’s as scary as it looks to marketers.

Chronological newsfeed was truly effective only in two instances: businesses posted to Instagram every half an hour or their followers had a very limited number of handles they followed. This cannot be a widespread trend, because according to Optical Cortex data based on 20,000+ Instagram users, average number of people they follow is 822. So, for a majority of brand’s following those images most likely weren’t the first thing they saw; and that chronological order didn’t really matter anyway.

Now what really made a difference, and still will continue to do so, is getting ahead of the game with smart strategies. What you have (to continue) to do as a smart marketer is to focus on quality content that drives engagement.

Instagram was so gracious to let marketers know of its algorithm change before it kicked in. Use the little time that’s left with chronological newsfeed to jumpstart your new marketing strategy. Make an extra push to increase engagement now. Start to finally notice those comments people leave on your images! Respond to them! Use this as an opportunity to strike a conversation.

A lot of people who follow brands and celebrities will deliberately go to the handle to see what’s new. People follow Nike, Lexus or Kylie Jenner, because they know that each new post will be amazing (whatever their definition of amazing is). So, strive to make your Instagram account a mecca for striking visual content. This is the only way to ensure people won’t stop engaging with your content, whatever the algorithm is.

There are also a few other tactics you can employ to stay ahead of the curve. For example, if you are seriously using Instagram to grow your business, you already track and analyze results. You already know when your audience is online. You can still schedule your posts to go out at those times and increase visibility of fresh content.

Another reason to dive deep into analytics is to see which hashtags perform the best. Always test which hashtags improve engagement, always vary them to improve your odd of being discovered by a new group of people. Finally, constantly monitor trending hashtags (didn’t you already?) to see if any of the applicable and relevant hashtags are popular, giving you the opportunity to enjoy a remarkable rate of impressions. Yet, don’t go for an overkill. Don’t spam people with irrelevant content and thirty hashtags – that won’t increase your engagement or chances of being lovable.

Plus, while being strategic about your visual content (that has to rock their socks off), you should also become extremely strategic about your captions. It is proven that captions with a call to action are beyond effective in getting desired results. Do you want more engagement? Just ask for it! Foundr Magazine, for example, ends a lot of their captions with “double tap if you agree,” or “tag your friends.” What’s an easier way to gain numerous shares and an audience insight than to simply ask for their opinion?

Businesses that enjoy high engagement rates know their respective audiences very well. They know what type of imagery is catchy, what content needs to serve; and these companies have also figured out a context for consuming this content. They cater to their audience, so the latter wants to stick for the ride ahead.

Finally, don’t shy away from occasional boost. Employ the power of Facebook advertising capabilities on Instagram and target the right people.

So, after all, the change in algorithm might be for the better. If you post amazing content, it’ll be waiting for your followers in their newsfeed even if it was posted a few hours ago. Instagram user survey indicated that 60% of Instagrammers learn about products and services on the network and 75% take action after being inspired by an Instagram post. Now is the time to bring your A-game on.

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H/T: Entrepreneur

Google: 82% Of Super Bowl Ad Searches Happened On Mobile, Up From 70%

Pity the Super Bowl advertisers that didn’t take full advantage of mobile search this year. According to Google, 82 percent of TV ad-driven searches during the Super Bowl happened on smartphones. That’s a 12-point jump from last year, when 70 percent of Super Bowl ad-related searches across Google and YouTube derived from phones.

During this year’s game, just 11 percent of searches related to ads aired during the big game happened on desktop/laptop, and seven percent occurred on tablets.

Overall, the ads drove more than 7.5 million incremental searches during the Broncos-Panthers game, according to Google. That’s 40 percent higher than the lift last year’s Super Bowl advertisers saw in search.

Searches driven by Super Bowl TV ads were at their highest levels during the first two quarters of this year’s match-up. Ads-related searches fell in the second half of the game, in which the score remained relatively tight. Google says this trend reflects what happened during last year’s close game.

google-super-bowl-ad-searches-by-quarter

That contrasts with 2014, when audiences seemingly grew bored when the Seahawks dominated the Broncos, winning 43–8, and searches for ad content rose in the second half of the game.

Looking at the incremental lift Super Bowl advertisers received in brand-related searches on across Google and YouTube, Audi came out on top with its “Commander” ad. In fact, automotive brands dominated the chart. Four of the top five ads driving lift in brand search were from automotive manufacturers: Audi, Acura, Honda and Kia. Universal Studios’ ad for the new Jason Bourne movie rounded out the top five.

most-searched-brands-google-super-bowl

Google also released a set of Google Trends data related to the Super Bowl. While the Broncos dominated the Panthers in search most days leading up to the big game, Carolina actually held sway throughout most of the actual game — that is, until the Broncos walked away with the win

H/T Search Engine Land

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Surviving Google’s New Policy Against Interstitial Ads

Google has spoken — and an important part of the mobile web will never be the same. At least that’s the theory, and certainly the search giant’s intention.

Google sees app install interstitials — those big ads that pop up suddenly on the mobile web and monopolize all of your mobile device screen to prompt you to download an app, rather than let you keep surfing — as too annoying to users. On November 2, the company therefore put in place a new policy to discourage the ads.

According to this policy, Google has since penalized mobile websites that use such interstitials by declaring these websites mobile-unfriendly. According to Google’s more detailed blog post about the policy from September:

Mobile web pages that show an app install interstitial that hides a significant amount of content on the transition from the search result page will no longer be considered mobile-friendly. This does not affect other types of interstitials. As an alternative to app install interstitials, browsers provide ways to promote an app that are more user-friendly.

Google app intall interstitial ad graphic

Graphic of an app install interstitial ad by Google.

Assessing The Policy’s Early Impact

Here at Yozio, my employer, we specialize in growing mobile apps through organic channels. We also considered app install interstitials a very viable option to drive downloads prior to the new policy going into effect. Hence, we’ve been watching its effects closely.

Now that the policy has been in place for a couple of months, we wanted to explore some basic questions: Has Google’s decision actually affected how mobile websites attempt to drive visitors to download apps? And how have some of the most prominent and growth-hacking savvy companies dealt with the change?

To answer those questions, let’s start by understanding the real context for Google’s sudden change — and why app install interstitials may not be that bad after all.

Google’s Rationale For Penalizing Interstitials

Google published the results of an experiment on the effects of interstitials on one of its own mobile websites, Google+, earlier this year. In this study, Google compared the results of showing visitors to the Google+ mobile website an app install interstitial with the results of showing them a smaller and less intrusive app install banner.

When showing the banner, Google reported that the number of people installing the Google+ app stayed virtually the same compared to showing the interstitial, while the number of one-day active users on the mobile website actually increased by 17 percent.

Although Google did not mention this study in its announcement of the policy, it’s reasonable to assume that such a directly relevant experiment is related to the company’s decision.

However, the results of the study may not be as clear-cut as they seem at first glance, and Google’s case against interstitials not as simple as it appears.

The Problems With Google’s Experiment

First, this was but one experiment, by one company, for one kind of mobile website and app. Across Yozio’s customers, we’ve seen some who increased installs significantly through optimizing interstitials: by 100 percent for Pinterest and 300 percent for Airbnb, for example.

For other customers of ours, interstitials were much less important. This experience suggests Google should not necessarily draw conclusions from just one test for one app.

Second, the experiment involved an app that Google doesn’t seem to care about: As the post about the study mentions, Google since retired both the interstitial and the banner permanently, preferring to leave users on the Google+ mobile web pages.

Third, if you’re not using one of Google’s apps (or at least an app featuring Google’s advertising), it’s clearly in the search giant’s interest to keep you on the mobile web instead — where you can access its search engine and see its ads much more easily.

It turns out that app interstitials may not be that bad, then, and Google’s reasons for opposing them not that simple. And what if your app does actually offer a better experience for users than your mobile website?

Let’s look at how some of the best companies that now comply with Google’s policy — and still find ways to drive traffic to their mobile app.

Using A New Kind Of Interstitial

One of the most innovative ways to circumvent Google’s new policy comes from — you guessed it — Google itself. This time, it’s for Google Docs, an app that’s decidedly better than its equivalent mobile web experience, and probably more valuable for more users than Google+.

What mobile users see when they arrive on the Google Docs site looks almost exactly like an interstitial, but it isn’t one. It’s the web page itself, only made to look like an interstitial. The navigation menu in the top right corner gives it away.

This is how Google survives its own policy.

This is how Google survives its own policy.

Yelp uses a similar strategy. No longer able to use a separate interstitial, Yelp (not affiliated with Yozio) simply made a mobile web page that looks exactly like one.

In fact, the page looks so much like an interstitial that we ran it through Google’s mobile-friendly test — and it passed with flying colors.

This mobile web page from Yelp looks like an interstitial

This mobile web page from Yelp looks like an interstitial.

Hiding Interstitials From Google

LinkedIn (again, no affiliation with Yozio) uses an equally innovative, but somewhat more sophisticated, approach. While the mobile web version of LinkedIn’s site does not use interstitials, when you request LinkedIn.com in your mobile browser, you’re instead redirected to a new, separate mobile web page. And this does look like an interstitial.

Cleverly, however, LinkedIn has excluded this new web page from Google’s indexing. So therefore, Google can’t penalize LinkedIn for using it, either.

LinkedIn app install interstitial mobile web page

LinkedIn’s special web page cannot be indexed by Google.

Developing Better Banners

Google recommends using App Install Smart Banners in Safari or Native App Install Banners in Chrome to replace interstitials. Unfortunately, these don’t offer much flexibility in design, which makes them a bad alternative for growth teams who need to experiment and iterate. The ability to do that is non-negotiable because it’s by far the best way to increase users, engagement and conversions.

Airbnb (a Yozio customer) is a growth-savvy company and currently experimenting with its own banners as opposed to the ones recommended by Google. We checked — and Airbnb’s site is still mobile-friendly.

It seems Google has left some wriggle room for the experimenters after all.

Airbnb app install banner

Airbnb flouts Google’s recommendation by using a homemade banner.

Beware of making those banners too large, though. We found an example on Zappos’ mobile web pages that ran into trouble in Google’s mobile-friendly test, which stated that the page “appears to have an app install interstitial” and “may not be mobile-friendly.” (Yozio is not affiliated with Zappos.)

Zappos app install banner

Zappos runs into trouble with its workaround.

Is Google Really Putting The User First?

We’ve seen our customers drive tens of millions of installs through organic channels such as mobile websites using app install interstitials or banners. Both can work — it all depends on the user.

Ultimately, understanding the user’s intent and presenting her with personalized content determines the click-through rate and install conversion rate. As Marketing Land editor Danny Sullivan’s excellent overview of Google’s policy explains, the company is ironically declaring war on the same problem it helped to create when it first started to drive users to download apps on its own sites.

By implementing this wide-ranging policy on the basis of questionable evidence, we don’t believe Google is putting the user first this time.

 

H/T: Marketing Land.

How Your e-Commerce Businesses can get the Most out of Facebook

Sites like Etsy, Amazon and eBay have made it easier than ever to open an online store and jump on the e-commerce bandwagon. Now advertising on Facebook is essential for success in today’s e-commerce market. For many online merchants, Facebook is more than a tool to drive sales, it’s a platform to market and sell products, build brand identity and interact with customers. But where and when do you start to place your ads? Who are you targeting and how do you succeed in reaching them successfully? Read more