What happens when over 150 people meet beneath the Tower Bridge with cameras in hand and Temple Coffee in the other? Don’t be alarmed: You’re probably just at an Instameet, the most epic photography event in your community. And when you find yourself climbing a tree or staring out into the sunrise because a few photographers asked you to, then you know it’s the real deal.
On the weekend of March 21 and 22, 2015, all kinds of Instagrammers participated in the World Wide Instameet 11. Instameets are planned to connect local creatives and help people build community, explore, and share their art with the world by using the official hashtag #WWIM11 (and locally via #WWIM11Sac).
There were quite a few meets going on in the Sacramento area during the WWIM11 weekend. I went to the one that started at 7:00 am on a Saturday. Some called it crazy; I called it worth it, especially when it involves a beautiful sunrise and doubled as a fundraiser for Charity Water. (The free Temple Coffee and Bakers Donuts helped too!) This particular meet was hosted by Faith Mari, Dinelia Noel, Society Church, and City Scout Sac, all ‘grammers and organizations that I definitely fangirl over.
In this safe place, everyone is celebrated as a story waiting to be told. Everyone brings something valuable to the table. It’s humbling to connect with world travelers, adventure enthusiasts, hand-letterers, baristas, designers, musicians, and bloggers (just to name a few), all in one place because we have a shared love of creativity. Better yet, how awesome to see things from someone else’s perspective. I mean, how can the guy next to me make his coffee cup look like a superhero, while I made mine look like… a coffee cup? It’s pretty inspiring, to say the least.
It’s no secret that I’m an Instagram enthusiast and tech-lover for life. But when we separate likes and followers from our humanity, we’re able to really meet a person face-to-face (no clicking required) and look them in the eyes when we speak the words from our heart (rather than sending them ten of my favorite heart-eyes emojis). It’s the little connections we make in these meets that turn the bigger picture into something grand for our lives.
Jayla Lee is an Assistant Account Coordinator at Appency, and loves grammin’ about her adventures. (Does the Farmers’ Market count?)
When computers were the size of rooms, being “into computers” took a great deal of dedication; you had to learn how all the components fit together, how to diagnose problems on your own, and how to replace parts. Computers were not something to be taken lightly. But now that computers are literally lightweight, carried around in watches and tablets, the barrier to entry is much, much lower.
In days past, to share an internet video you had to download it, burn it to a CD, physically hand it to a friend, and hope they had the right software to read the CD and play the video. Now, sending a video takes about three taps, so simple a child could do it.
Back in the day of the nineties and early 2000’s, using an Apple product meant you were special; you chose something outside the mainstream. This special community bonded at events like Macworld and online at places like TUAW. After the advent of the iPod and, more importantly, the iPhone, the Apple community became less and less of a community as tech became a lifestyle auxiliary, not a lifestyle itself. People were content to merely be consumers rather than consumer-brand ambassadors; the teenagers who craved an iPhone wanted one because of its cultural status, not for its computing power.
The business side of this shift away from the tech lifestyle is finally becoming clear. IDG’s Macworld | iWorld Expo shut down after its 2014 show, citing lack of interest. More community-focuses sites like TUAW and Joystiq were rolled into the broader “tech” site of Engadget at the end of January; the parent company AOL said they were “simplifying the portfolio of brands.”
On the consumer side, App Annie’s 2014 retrospective had a great deal of insight into the kind of apps that experienced the most growth. Importantly, some of the apps that had the greatest success in 2014 were messaging apps, travel and transportation apps (many of which landed new partnerships and investments), and mobile streaming apps (which both increased downloads and increased in the number of new streaming options from content creators like the NFL and MLB).
People are downloading apps not just to have them and pass time, but to access real-world tools. Consumers want to send messages through WhatsApp, get a Lyft to their Airbnb, then watch Netflix, and they want it all to happen seamlessly.
As tech moves away from a niche market and becomes integrated into every-day life for everyone—not just an elite few in Los Angeles, New York City, and San Francisco—the technology we choose will have to be higher-quality, with better user experiences. As tech becomes subsumed by overall consumer lifestyles, rather than being its own lifestyle, we’ll all benefit, but first we have to adapt.
Sara Kewin is an account executive at Appency. She is not wondering where her hoverboard is, because that sounds unstable and scary.
As a Communication major at UC Davis, I am exposed to definitions and theories in lecture and expected to regurgitate that information in midterms every few weeks. While all of the information I learn in the classroom is important, there are some things that I will need to know for the real world that I can’t learn from the textbook. The experiences I gained during an internship allowed me to get a taste of what a typical day at work is like.
My winter internship with Appency was the first time I worked in a public relations and marketing agency in a start-up environment. I couldn’t have asked for a more awesome team to work with. From the first day of my internship, I was able to play with new apps before their release and work with the team to develop new strategies to market them better. In addition, I sat in on team meetings and participated in brainstorming sessions to pitch our clients’ apps to.
One of the main reasons why I chose Appency is because it’s a marketing firm that focuses on what most of us smartphone addicts use on a daily basis: mobile apps. With my interest in communications and technology, Appency was the perfect choice for me. The great thing about interning at Appency is that the staff members there really care about their teammates learning something new every day. I learned different strategies on how to find the best media outlets to reach out to, how to run Facebook ads, what tools I could use to search ratings on different apps, and more!
I had an amazing experience these past few months, and I certainly learned more about what it’s like to work at a marketing and public relations firm at Appency. If you’re looking for a fun internship where you are able to learn a lot about marketing in the technology sphere, Appency is the place for you!
Natalie Nguyen is graduating from UC Davis and pursuing a career in marketing and public relations.
Mobile video ads have always been a dream of digital marketers, but the timing has never seemed right: The internet connection is too slow, the targeting is off, they’re not as engaging when they’re not on television. For a hundred reasons, video ads have been slow to hit it big, but they’re gaining popularity now, and for good reason.
How it’s being done right
Some apps have been able to master video ads and prove—and improve—their effectiveness. Newer indie game Crossy Road has proven very profitable for developer Hipster Whale, and the industry has taken notice. Crossy Road made over a million dollars in revenue through incentivized video ads by organizing their in-game economy to strongly incentivize players to watch ads for in-game currency. Because of the nature of incentives, these views tend to be lower quality than other ads, but are very effective at extending reach. However, this method of incentivized video ads can be difficult to properly utilize outside of the context of mobile games.
For apps where an incentive isn’t readily available, there are “playable” ads, which let users “test drive” an app through a virtual emulation. These ads tell consumers about an app and its features, then hand control to the viewer, allowing them to try out the app directly on their phone without having to install anything. Thanks to the use of a virtual server, consumers get a feel for the product directly after viewing the ad, solidifying the link between the ad and the product. mNectar, a provider of virtual ad services, says these playable ads are much more effective than traditional ads.
How Facebook is catching up
With the introduction of video posts to Facebook comes a whole new avenue of engagement for users—between each other, and between users and advertisers. According to a blog post by Facebook, the number of videos posted to the platform has increased by 94 percent. Now Facebook records a massive three billion video views a day for videos uploaded by users. With this burgeoning influx of content and traffic, the news feed has now become much livelier than ever before. In fact, Facebook has begun to catch up to YouTube in terms of shared videos, and evidence shows that it may even be taking users from them.
Given this huge increase, Facebook is set to become the new video advertising powerhouse. While users do see many sponsored video posts and video ads in their feeds, video ads have not yet realized their full potential. Facebook has not quite dialed in its formula for video ads yet, despite their commonality and proven effectiveness in other apps and games. Facebook’s task is to find a balance of organic content and premium ads that is both profitable for them and effective for advertisers, but does not overwhelm organic user content.
Some have questioned Facebook’s staggering video statistics—and for good reason. YouTube is primarily accessed through its own front page and interfaces with Google’s search algorithm, meaning video views do not often happen accidentally. Videos on Facebook, on the other hand, are primarily watched in the user’s news feed, and have not been actively selected by the user. (Any advertiser who has run a CPM campaign will be familiar with the problem of sorting interested eyeballs out from the chaff.) While the auto-play feature is generating views, they cannot all be counted as interested views, and in fact may be shown to users who don’t fit in the target demographics.
To help correct this problem, Facebook has revamped its video view metrics. Users can now see reporting on their videos’ average viewing time, unique views, audience retention, and more. This engagement data will help marketers decide how to structure their video ads, when and where to place critical messages, and track the efficacy of their campaigns. Additionally, Facebook has redefined a view: Now, a view only takes place if a user sees three seconds or more of the video. Because videos are muted in auto-play, enticing visuals are important to getting users to actively view the video.
Just like any sponsored post on Facebook, users can optimize video ad campaign with a wide assortment of parameters and tools, depending on the campaign’s needs and budget. Using Interest targeting, marketers can focus their ads on groups that have liked specific activities or interests on Facebook, similar to the current targeting available for app install or like campaigns. Audience and Demographic tools help narrow the campaign’s focus to specified groups, like parents or college students. Using these tools can help give a video a wider reach, and track its effectiveness with their analytics tools. Using a fixed cost-per-thousand views style of campaign, marketers can tailor campaigns to any budget without sacrificing effectiveness.
Facebook is a great canvas for advertising, and the rapid growth of their video platform shows off opportunities to engage users in a different manner than YouTube does. The time is particularly ripe for app marketers: COO Sheryl Sandberg said at Facebook’s 2014 Q4 meeting that 65 percent of the site’s video views come from mobile devices. Implementing a video ad campaign and augmenting it with incentives and virtual trials where applicable makes the opportunity even more enticing.
Update: The deadline to sign up has been extended to March 10! Be sure to sign up now here!
Last year, I had the honor of being a judge at the second iteration of the Citi Mobile Challenge, a development contest put on by Citi where developers from all over the world compete in a hackathon-like competition to come up with the best banking-focused solutions to support the next generation of mobile-friendly consumers. Citi has already begun working with some of the 2014 winners to integrate their ideas into real world products and are supporting those teams with funding, resources, and consulting. The team here at Appency is donating consulting time to help some of the winners through mobile marketing tactics such as ASO and app launch best practices.
While the American challenge winners were selected only a few months ago, Citi has already opened the challenge to Europe, the Middle East, and Asia (EMEA) with a brand new contest. Developers have until March 6, 2015 to register as participants. Once registered, developers must get their ideas on paper by March 13. After that, it’s go, go, go: Final concepts will be expected by March 27.
Once finalists are chosen they will be invited to present at one of four demo days at the end of April in London, Warsaw, Jerusalem, or Nairobi. Entries are being accepted from all over the world so developers don’t have to be located in an EMEA country to enter. Some of the best entries to the American challenge were international developers who traveled thousands of miles to pitch their ideas! It’s definitely worth the trip: There is $100,000 in cash prizes up for grabs, plus Citi and its partners like IBM, MasterCard, Uber, and even Appency will provide support and feedback to help hone the final product.
How to Win
As a past judge, here are a few tips on how to win that prize money. To start, you must understand that entries are being judged at every step by Citi employees. It’s only at the last step, the live demo, that the judges will be both Citi employees and outside consultants. To make it past those first hurdles you have to put yourself in the shoes of Citi and their consumers. How does your idea help Citi customers? How does it help Citi itself? If your idea cannot answer both sides of the question, then you need to head back to the drawing board.
Make sure you use the APIs that Citi provides. There are a number of data feeds to tap into that will allow your app to really become a part of the user’s banking life. Think about both consumer customers, and business customers — they expect less entries into the business customer area so the competition will be less fierce in that category.
Design is vital. If you do not have a quality designer on your team, get one. The presentation of an idea can by as vital to success as the idea itself. Both solid ideas and solid presentation are needed to convince the judges that your team and your app have what it takes.
Many entries come from experienced development shops, but I must caution them against shoe-horning banking or Citi-focused features into an existing project unless there is a clear, salient reason to do so. As a judge I saw — and, frankly, didn’t vote for — too many presentations that looked like a pre-existing app with Citi-specific features slapped on in hopes of sliding by and winning. Usefulness is rewarded in this competition.
Lastly, if you do make it to the finals, be sure to practice your presentation several times in front of real people who can give you good feedback. This will ensure your presentation flows well, anticipates questions or criticism, and fits in the limited amount of time allotted. Practicing your presentation in front of people outside your development team can also help prepare you for potential audience questions you may have to field after the presentation.
The chance to have a big brand get behind your work with this level of support does not come around very often so the competition will be brutal. Best of luck to all the entrants, and please feel free to reach out if you have any questions! I am more than happy to give tips to anyone who asks — just shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Aaron Watkins is the founder and president of Appency and was a judge at the 2014 Citi Mobile Challenge. He’s a big fan of apps that work.