Social Secrets: Understanding the Social Giants and What They Mean for You

Share |

Create content, publish to the Web and distribute links through social media in hopes of driving additional eyeballs. That’s the social strategy for many B2B publishers and most of us are just barely scratching the surface of how to effectively serve readers, particularly as social media is starting to become the one-stop-shop for how readers consume content.

 Last month, Connectiv hosted a webinar called “B2B Content Discovery: What Facebook, Apple and Other Social Giants Mean for You” featuring Tony Vlismas of SimpleReach offering some insight into how each social channel’s publisher-friendly program works and how to use them to maximize audience exposure and revenue.

“Social and mobile have changed the way consumers interact and consume content,” said Vlismas. “As publishers, you need to look at how you can work with those channels to find new readers and drive new revenue. Instead of letting them chop away at your revenue sources, how can you work with them? How do you work with these social sites to increase your revenue and get the analytics you need to understand that traffic—and if content not consumed on your site but somewhere else, how you still get attribution."

Below are some highlights of Vlismas’ take on what publishers should be aware of with several different social platforms. Connectiv and SIPA members can see the full webcast here.  

Google AMP: Vlismas kicked off the talk by focusing not on a social media site, but on Google’s AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) project, which optimizes the load time for mobile pages (research has shown that readers abandon a mobile page if it doesn’t load within three seconds). We’re living in a mobile world and many social programs—including Facebook Instant Articles—are available for mobile content only, so the success of your social strategy depends in large part on how mobile friendly your content is.  

AMP is basically a stripped down version of HTML that focuses on the basics of what you need to run a mobile site, such as photo libraries that are cached to speed up load time. Google says that AMP sites load four times faster than non-AMP sites and rely on 10 times less data to do so. The initial knock on AMP was that if readers share a link from an AMP page that they clicked on through a Google search, the link refers to Google, not the publisher site. Now, “You can use AMP-compliant code with open source CMS like Drupal, you can use an AMP debugger with browsers like stuff chrome and AMP will even host your site, which is good because now your content is cached which makes it even faster,” says Vlismas.

A major challenge for publishers trying to monetize mobile is that once you start adding in “traditional” types of digital advertising—banners, interstitials, etc.—load times slow considerably. “You might think you need those tools because it boosts revenue but go back to the research—if your site takes too long to load, you won’t get the benefits of AMP because readers won’t use it,” says Vlismas. “Also, if you have a recommendation engine that points to additional content on a non-AMP page, you go back to a bad user experience.”

Vlismas suggests publishers can get around this by forsaking banner type ads for native ads embedded into the content and even creating AMP-friendly microsites for those ads. “If you’re working on a direct-sold native app campaign, and a reader clicks on it and it goes to non-amp page, the reader won’t like it,” said Vlismas. “But if you create for your advertiser an AMP-savvy microsite, you can charge more for it.”

Facebook Instant Articles: Facebook Instant Articles is now open to third party analytics reporting such as Omniture and Google Analytics. “This is a big turning point for publishers because now when content is consumed on Facebook, the attribution still goes to you,” said Vlismas.

Instant Articles is mobile-only. “Instead of loading in a Web browser, content is loading inside Facebook,” said Vlismas. “Your content is loading almost instantly due to built-in libraries (called routines in Facebook) so you don’t have to rewrite them on your sites.”

Facebook opened Instant Articles to all publishers last month and stats from its initial trials found that content loads 10 times faster than on publisher pages, with 20 percent more reads and 70 percent fewer abandons. On average, 30 percent of Instant Articles users share content more than other types of mobile articles.

On the revenue side, Facebook lets publishers sell and place their own ads directly or access the Facebook Audience Network. “The added advantage there is that Facebook has great targeting capabilities," said Vlismas. “If you bring your own ads, you keep the revenue, if you use Facebook's targeting, they take a cut."

LinkedIn: While many publishers report lower eyeballs but higher engagement on content distributed through LinkedIn, Vlismas said the big rumor is that LinkedIn is in the process of creating a program similar to Facebook Instant Articles.

Snapchat: Several years ago, Facebook was dismissed as “just a site for teens.” While Snapchat has the potential to follow Facebook’s lead in becoming a marketing behemoth (Snapchat has grown to 100 million daily users in just two years), its business acumen is lagging, with weak targeting options. “Snapchat needs to strike balance between what works for the user but also what works for the marketer,” said Vlismas, who advised publishers to informally experiment with Snapchat, but focus resources on other platforms.    

Apple News: At less than a year old, Apple News has more than 40 million users and launched with 100 participating publishers. Apple News polls readers to get to know their preferences, then “learns” to feed relevant stories.

Apple News had some initial hiccups with delivering accurate reporting metrics (it still doesn’t offer an API for analytics or reporting) and offering an attractive monetization model for publishers. While Vlismas didn’t have a definitive figure, he said that rule of thumb is Apple takes a 30 percent cut of revenue from its partners. One advantage is that Apple makes its iAd app available to partners to create advertising.

Twitter: Most publishers are well versed in Twitter but they should keep an eye on the new Twitter Moments, which features Twitter’s own editorial team curating select tweets (text, videos, polls, images) related to a specific topic, particularly one that’s trending and putting the tweets together to create a story.  Twitter plans to monetize by creating “sponsored moments”—Entertainment Tonight recently did one around an awards show that featured ET tweets.

WeChat: Think social media is already too pervasive? Then check out WeChat, which started as a mobile text and messaging service in China but has since morphed into an all-purpose app with 765 million monthly users using it to not only communicate and get content but also pay bills. “This is where you see Google is starting to go,” said Vlismas. “WeChat is used by over 90 percent of the people in China’s largest cities. On average, a WeChat user reads seven articles a month—that’s the equivalent of a novel.”  

Matt Matt Kinsman is vice president of content + programming at Connectiv, the only association focused on the integrated b-to-b model—including publications, events, digital media, marketing services and business information. Prior to joining Connectiv's predecessor American Business Media in 2011, Kinsman was executive editor of Folio:, the leading information provider for the magazine industry.