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SMT Expert Series: Nick Cicero Discusses the Latest Analytics Trends and Opportunities

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SMT Expert Series - Nick Cicero

Nick Cicero is one of the most experienced and knowledgeable minds in social media analytics.

Nick made data analytics his primary focus with the launch of his company Delmondo back in 2014. Delmondo was the first platform to offer in-depth data on Instagram and Snapchat video performance, and quickly rose to be the leading provider in the space, with clients including Viacom, Red Bull and ESPN. Delmondo was acquired by Conviva in 2018, and now, under the Conviva banner, Nick focuses on real-time measurement and intelligence solutions for streaming video across all platforms.

Given his experience, Nick is uniquely placed to provide insights on the evolving digital marketing space, and the importance of analytics and performance measurement to improve your efforts.

We recently had a chance to put a few questions to Nick, worth noting in your process.

Q. What do you think has been the most significant trend in social media marketing over the last few years?

NC: For sure the growth of video. In the first wave of social, it was all about using text, conversation and images to communicate. Today, nearly all social platforms are video-first. The cost to produce, distribute and consume video has decreased exponentially, and this has now pushed businesses to think about how they position their message to a video-first consumer. 

This isn’t just about media companies or sports teams either. Consumer brands are growing their video output significantly. As measured by Conviva Social insights, from January to June 2021, across more than 2,500 consumer brands, video output on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube is up more than 60% year-on-year. And that’s not even counting the surge in video content published to TikTok.

Q. In terms of data trends, what’s been the most interesting shift over the past 12 months?

NC: Two in particular – first is the growth of TikTok in terms of share of the time spent by social media users. Of the 900 TikTok accounts measured in our recent Conviva TikTok Benchmark report, the profiles gained a staggering 604k new followers, on average, over the past year. 

Conviva TikTok report

Second is the growth of YouTube as a player in OTT/Streaming Video. Among our thousands of customer accounts, we found a 69% increase from Q4 2019 to Q4 2020 in terms of connected TV viewership on YouTube. Today, YouTube is becoming more and more like Hulu or Netflix for a wider scope of content. 

Q. Which types of brands are you seeing perform best on Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat?

NC: Sports and Sports Media accounts have long been some of the best performing accounts anywhere on social, but we saw a shift in the last year as to what was keeping people entertained, and streaming services, as a result, have really taken off.

In our Q1 2021 State of Streaming report we saw that most streaming service accounts grew their total audience by nearly 100% over the last year. Streaming services are building empires of regional accounts, and show specific accounts to increase their brand footprint. This works even better if a show has a nostalgic following – the iCarly reboot on Paramount+, for example, has a massive cross-platform audience of 27.8m, which is more than Netflix’s golden goose, Stranger Things’ audience at 26.4m.

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These shows, their actors, the services are all performing very well on social right now.

Q: What, in your opinion, is the key element of an effective Stories strategy?

NC: Consistency. In our previous Stories research we’ve noted that the brands who are able to grow their Instagram Stories reach consistently always have two things in common – they post multiple times per week, and their Stories are always, at minimum, 6-7 frames long.

One frame Stories here and there simply aren’t going to cut it for brands trying to be competitive in today’s world ruled by social algorithms.

Q: Which platform do you think is underrated in terms of brand opportunities?

NC: While TikTok is the newest platform with tons of opportunities for brands, Snapchat is the most underrated, by far.

In May this year, Snapchat added Brand Profiles, which means you can now get your brand verified on Snapchat the same way that Sports teams, influencers and Discover shows can. 

Snapchat brand profiles

This gives brands something on Snapchat they didn’t have access to in the past – viral organic reach. Currently, only verified accounts show up in Snapchat’s Discover/For You page. As such, a good brand story on Snapchat is no longer limited to just the people who follow you.

Snapchat’s ad products are also highly user-friendly, and very effective.

Q: How significant a role do you expect to see AR play in future social marketing strategies?

NC: I still think that it’s early days, but the potential upside for all the various applications of AR within social platforms is massive.

Today it’s still fairly experimental, but it can be a great piece of the engagement toolkit for user-generated content. We’re also seeing the physical and digital worlds converge through NFTs and the Metaverse, and while a lot of this exists in pure VR or gaming environments, I can see more and more AR applications used as ways to customize an individual’s content creation tools.

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For example, superfans of a brand could be given access to unique, exclusive AR effects. Combined with the social graph, the possibilities are endless.

Q: What’s the most common error you see brands make in analyzing their analytics?

NC: I’d say the most common error we see is twofold.

First, you need to set benchmarks. What’s your baseline engagement, video viewership, average watch time, engagement rate, etc.? What are your benchmark for engagements or video views among your competitors or industry? 

You can’t measure what content works and what doesn’t if you don’t know the baseline. 

Second, once you establish your baseline, you need to categorize your content based on initiatives. These could be your Content Messaging Themes, Video Series, or Campaigns (and there are many other ways to segment content). This way you can identify what social media investments are moving the needle, and which ones aren’t. 

It’s important to remember that while we all set out to be successful with every post we publish, or every interaction we have, you need to be honest about what’s working, and what’s not producing results. 

You can swing for the fences, but to hit home runs in social, just know you’re going to need a lot of chances and you’re going to strike out a lot. 

You can be a solid position player, and be more consistent in your hits, but you might never hit that home run.

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Try to balance these two extremes when you look at the data to adjust your strategy.

Q: Do you think that Facebook will remain the key social platform of focus for the majority of brands moving forward?

NC: From a content creation perspective, I think the primary focus has quickly shifted to other platforms for the majority of brands, with more brands doubling down on paid spending. That being said, their groups are home to rich, vibrant communities, many of these are brand-curated, and there’s still a large audience on Facebook, and these active group/community users are highly valuable.

Also, Facebook’s ad platform, spanning both Facebook and Instagram, is highly valuable, and I don’t see the majority of brands moving away from using the platform for driving conversions.

Nick Cicero is the Vice President of Strategy at Conviva, which leads the way in digital video intelligence. You can follow Nick on Twitter for more of his industry insights.

Socialmediatoday.com

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Instagram Confirms that Videos Under 60 Seconds in Stories will No Longer Be Split into Segments

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Instagram Confirms that Videos Under 60 Seconds in Stories will No Longer Be Split into Segments

Instagram continues its gradual process of merging its video products into one, with the announcement that videos in Stories that are under 60 seconds in length will no longer be split into 15-second segments in the app.

As you can see in this in-app alert, posted by social media expert Matt Navarra, when you update your IG app, you’ll get a notification letting you know that your videos in Stories will no longer be cut up, making it a more seamless viewing experience.

Instagram’s been testing the update with selected users over the past year, as part of its broader process to integrate its video options, in line with the short-form video shift and general engagement trends.

Last October, Instagram retired its IGTV brand, as it combined IGTV and feed videos into one format, while in July, Instagram announced that all uploaded video under 15 minutes in length would be posted as Reels, further aligning its various video formats.

Instagram Reels update

The merging of its video options is aimed at simplifying the app, while it will also, ideally, help Instagram maximize user engagement, by making all of its video content, in all formats, available in more places where users are interacting.

By shifting its video content to a more aligned format, that’ll give IG more video inventory to insert into user feeds, which it’s increasingly looking to do via AI-defined recommendations, as it follows TikTok’s lead in making your main feed more focused on entertainment, as opposed to being restricted to only the latest posts from people and profiles that you follow.

Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently noted that just over 15% of the content in Instagram feeds now comes from people, groups, or accounts that users don’t follow, with its AI recommendations contributing more and more to the user experience. Zuckerberg noted that he expects to see that amount more than double by the end of next year.

Instagram’s been working towards this for some time, with Instagram chief Adam Mosseri noting back in January that: 

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We’re looking about how we can – not just with IGTV, but across all of Instagram – simplify and consolidate ideas, because last year we placed a lot of new bets. I think this year we have to go back to our focus on simplicity and craft.”

The merging of its video formats will ideally facilitate more opportunities in this respect, while also making it much easier for users to understand where to find each different type of content – or increasingly, to not have to go searching for it at all, as it’ll be fed directly into your main feed, whether you follow the creator or not.

Which, of course, is a process that not all users are entirely happy with as yet, but still, Meta remains confident that they’ll come around as its recommendations algorithms continue to develop.

Instagram has confirmed the new Stories video expansion to TechCrunch, explaining that:

“We are always working on ways to improve the Stories experience. Now, you’ll be able to play and create Stories continuously for up to 60 seconds, instead of being automatically cut into 15-second clips.”

That’ll also make it easier to skip through those longer videos that you’re not interested in (as you’ll only have to skip once, as opposed to tapping through each individual frame) – though it may also have implications for creators who’ve structured sponsored content deals based on frame counts, as opposed to Story length.

That’s a relatively easy fix, longer term, with the focus shifting to length instead. But it may add some complications to the process in the immediate future, as the Stories eco-system evolves in line with the new process.

Instagram says that the new, longer video Stories are being rolled out to all users.

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