Here’s how social video will evolve in 2018


Over the past few years, the internet has evolved from a text-based medium to the new TV. Cisco estimates that video accounts for 69 percent of all internet traffic in 2017. When the next-generation wireless network, 5G, hits in 2019 and 2020, we can expect that number to grow as more consumers are able to enjoy high-bandwidth video on their mobile devices.

With that growth comes complexity, though. Today’s marketers have to grapple with variables like video length, placement strategies, and ever-present threats from tech giants that traffic in video.

Looking ahead, marketers will face quite a bit of change in 2018 as the market evolves. Here are seven trends that will impact social video in 2018:

1. Six-second ads will gain more currency. Though advertisers have experimented with short-form ads for some time, Google gave its blessing to the format in January when it challenged advertisers to tell their stories in six seconds flat. Since then, Fox also began running six-second ads during NFL games. Talk all you want about decreasing attention spans, the real draw of six-second ads is that they are good for nudging consumers deep in the funnel towards making a purchase. A quick reminder ad can be all you need to get that consumer to take action. That’s why I expect to see a lot more of these ads next year.

2. More advertising on Netflix. Yes, there are ads on Netflix. The company began running promos for its shows this summer. In addition, Accenture has spoken about how it would like to use its digital product placement technology to infiltrate Netflix shows. (A Coke can be superimposed into Orange Is The New Black, for instance.) We’ll see a steady increase in advertising on Netflix in 2018 in part because Netflix is now creating shows at such volume (it planned to release 1,000 hours of new shows in 2017) that it will be hard to make viewers aware of such content without promoting it on the network. With around 52 million subscribers and possibly 100 million by 2020, it will be harder and harder to resist the lure of advertising in 2018. I predict at some point there will be two versions of Netflix: premium ad free and a cheaper iteration with ads.

3. More midroll. While Google got behind six-second ads, Facebook put its weight behind midroll — ads that run in the middle of a video à la TV. What took them so long? While preroll ads might prompt a viewer to flee, with midroll, you are reaching a viewer who is already engaged in the content. The interruptive nature of advertising can be mitigated via effective targeting. If you’re in the market for a new washing machine, then you really won’t mind seeing an ad for one. In addition to backing from Facebook, the reason we’ll see more mid-roll advertising in 2018 is because of consumers’ increasing resistance to ad messages. As more consumers turn to ad blockers and reject preroll, brands will see midroll as a vehicle to reach consumers who are already engaged in content and are more likely to sit through an ad message.

4. Continued consolidation of third-party verification of metrics. With so much ad fraud, marketers are right to be skeptical and ask for third-party verification. In the last year, I’ve seen more consolidation in this area as most have used Google’s DoubleClick, Moat (which is now part of Oracle), or Integral Ad Science. Overall, marketers will continue to be skeptical of their digital advertising partners. That’s a good thing, since such skepticism will weed out the charlatans and fraudsters and allow the ethical companies to prosper. The consolidation of third-party verifiers means that verification will improve and the industry can start winning back marketers’ trust.

5. Amazon will throw its weight around. Amazon has the best consumer data in the business, but advertising has always been a sideline because its main business — retail — has been so good. That’s changing. The company is looking to hire some 2,000 execs in its new New York Office, and most of those jobs will be in advertising. In addition, brands like Geico and Hyundai, who don’t sell their goods on Amazon, have recently come around to advertising during Amazon’s telecasts of Thursday Night Football. In October, the company also began inviting merchants to create product videos to run on Amazon.com to compete with YouTube this holiday season. The idea is to keep consumers from straying elsewhere to get product info. Expect Amazon to continue to tighten its grip next in 2018.

6. More personalization. Personalization is an ad industry mantra that’s more spoken about than executed upon. Video in particular has been tough to personalize since it isn’t customizable the way a banner is. But as addressability and video technology continue to improve, expect to see more efforts at personalizing content in 2018. That could mean more relevant videos or even videos addressed personally to you, like this ad for Alien Covenant on the UK’s Channel 4 that addressed consumers by name.

7. The introduction of 5G. The next-generation wireless network will make its debut to the world during the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympic Winter Games in February and we’ll see sporadic 5G implementations throughout the year. The industry will need to prepare for a sea change, though, as higher-speed wireless’ long-term effects become evident. 5G will be a catalyst for everything from mobile VR to cord cutting to even greater consumption of mobile video. Smart marketers will spend 2018 laying the groundwork for 5G by boosting their VR efforts and taking advantage of the continued erosion of linear TV.

What else? It’s impossible to predict how much advances in AI will affect the marketing world and whether 2018 will be a breakthrough year for other game-changing technologies, like IoT. The only constants will be the continued evolution of technology overall and its effects on how consumers experience brands.

James G. Brooks is CEO and Founder of GlassView.

Facebook needs to tame its overactive algorithm


There are a number of disturbing elements to the Russian election hacking scandal — most notably the fact that a foreign entity was somehow able to use Facebook and other social networks to influence an already stressful U.S. election.

But what has baffled me most about the hacking scandal is that the Russians were able to proceed with their agenda with such ease, while my influencer marketing agency (which has no interest in nefarious global domination) struggles on a daily basis to do even the most basic tasks on the platform.

As the Wall Street Journal noted recently, “Relying on AI can lead to false positives, as when [a] company pulls down legitimate content that its algorithms think might be offensive.”

My firm does a high volume of work on Facebook to amplify our influencers’ content. Brands often hire us to create programs with quick turnarounds and tight deadlines, such as a one-day event or a short-term giveaway. Having that (legitimate) content pulled down because an algorithm suspects it is offensive can throw an entire program off the rails.

We have had to develop an entire document to detail the various “watch-outs” we need to keep in mind in order to take advantage of Facebook’s reach without raising the ire of its finicky and overly critical computer algorithms. These trigger-happy software programs can be incredibly problematic. It has been our experience that Facebook’s software doesn’t hesitate to remove content first and ask questions later.

VentureBeat reached out to Facebook on this, and Facebook maintains that it’s not the case that it will remove content before properly reviewing it. It said it reviews all advertisements before they go live, as per the ad review process posted on its site and that, for other content, it will only pull something down if violates Facebook policies.”

It has been my firm’s experience that while non-ad content can be posted without review, it will indeed get automatically pulled if it flags the algorithm. It will then often be re-posted following an appeal. We’ve seen the same thing on Facebook-owned Instagram. An influencer we work with once had her entire Instagram account shut down following the posting of a piece of sponsored content. It was reinstated after a couple of weeks of desperate emails and phone calls to Instagram headquarters.

You can find the full list of Facebook’s prohibited content here. While the vast majority of these restrictions are understandable — certainly we don’t want people posting ads that promote illegal activities, discrimination, or weapons — many are not that clear cut. The machinations our team goes through in order to get clients’ brands boosted on Facebook are borderline overwhelming. Let’s look at a couple of examples:

1. The tricky word “you”

Facebook prohibits the use of personal attributes within a boosted post. This can be really tricky when promoting a product intended to relieve an ailment. Here are excerpts from two posts that we were looking to boost in one of our programs:

  • Post A: Do you suffer from dandruff? It’s a common problem….
  • Post B: Laura is preventing dandruff now and during the colder months…

Given the strict algorithm, we were only allowed to boost Post B. Post A would almost certainly be pulled down because of the word “you.”

Facebook’s spokesperson said that while the company does allow ads for services that treat medical conditions, they don’t allow ads to imply the reader suffers from those medical conditions (that falls under the company’s “Personal Attributes” policy). Facebook noted that our Post A example wouldn’t make the cut because it implies the reader has dandruff, which is a medical condition.

What frustrates my team in this situation is that our content wasn’t implying anything. It was simply asking the question. If an influencer with thousands of followers poses a question, how is that an implication of anything? These restrictions impact the creativity of our influencers’ content.

2. Medical conditions

The Facebook algorithm is also triggered by mentions of specific medical conditions. Understandably, Facebook prohibits the paid promotion of pharmaceutical products. Unfortunately, this can cause the algorithm to mistakenly flag a post that is related to a medical condition but not related to pharmaceuticals. We recently did a program for a medication-free treatment for depression. The post below, promoting this new treatment, would surely be flagged due to the mention of depression (with bonus flagging for the use of the word “you”):

  • “Let’s talk about depression. If you deal with depression, you are not alone. It is a very real condition that affects people in all stages of life, myself included.”

Facebook told VentureBeat the above post was not allowed because the statement “you are not alone” implies the reader has depression. Our firm feels that the use of the qualifier “if” should make this okay. We do see how the text is off-limits given Facebook’s guidelines, but it still feels like we’re running into roadblocks left and right when trying to do our job — and it’s not as if we’re hacking an election, promoting guns, or selling drugs.

Though the post was honest and authentic, and written by one of our influencers, we couldn’t take the risk of a flag, so instead we had our influencer post the following (less engaging, highly sanitized) statement:

  • “My commitment to wellness has me focusing on happiness this month. One thing that helps is reading inspirational stories about other people who are living their best life.”

3. Pictures with words

Images that contain words have also become problematic. Facebook’s spokesperson said it limits words in images in order to create the best possible user experience and that research shows too much text in images damages the experience. While that’s helpful insight, we have seen a marked lack of consistency on the amount of text that works. Additionally, even if the algorithm doesn’t pull down one of our images, too many words can also impact the performance of the post. As Facebook details here, it has “recently implemented a new solution that allows ads with greater than 20 percent text to run, but with less or no delivery.” Certainly this is not any kind of solution for our clients, all of whom expect better performance than “less or no delivery.”

We are all big fans of Facebook at my firm, for both personal use and for its tremendous ability to get the word out on behalf of our clients. But we can’t help but feel frustrated when we repeatedly run into roadblocks as a result of an overactive algorithm.

Facebook serves as a vital piece of our marketing mix. We just wish it would become a bit more reliable. What do the Russians know that we don’t?

Danielle Wiley is CEO of Sway Group, an influencer marketing agency.

Tap tap tap

 We are now walking through a media desert. While access to content is astronomically high, the content that we read is dead, lifeless, and derivative. Yes, I see the irony in posting my criticism of the state of online media on, well, online media, but I want to explore how we got here and what we can do about it. We begin in about 1983. The education necessary to interact with media of that… Read More

U.S. Navy crew grounded after pilot draws penis in the sky

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. Navy air crew was grounded on Friday after using their advanced fighter jet to draw a giant image of a penis in the sky with the exhaust, officials said.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. Navy air crew was grounded on Friday after using their advanced fighter jet to draw a giant image of a penis in the sky with the exhaust, officials said.

Finnish police rap deputy minister for hiding in car boot in government crisis

HELSINKI (Reuters) – Finnish police reprimanded a man for traveling in a car boot to hide his meeting with Prime Minister Juha Sipila during a government crisis last summer, saying this was breach of the traffic code.

HELSINKI (Reuters) – Finnish police reprimanded a man for traveling in a car boot to hide his meeting with Prime Minister Juha Sipila during a government crisis last summer, saying this was breach of the traffic code.

#SproutChat Recap: The Relationship Between SEO & Social Media


Social media and SEO have an almost symbiotic relationship. Having a solid understanding of SEO basics certainly helps your brand in the long run, but knowing how social media and SEO can work together is even more beneficial.

In this week’s #SproutChat, we were joined by Sprout All Star, Lexie Kimball of Netvantage Marketing, to discuss how social and SEO efforts work together and best practices for creating SEO-focused content.

Similar but Different

Social media and SEO play each play separate, yet integral roles in any brand and should be utilized to the fullest extent. Both are based on algorithms that help with ranking, but aren’t quite the same style.

Exposure Is Key

Looking to social media as the platform in which you deliver quality SEO content can help inform your overall strategies. Make sure you are consistently sharing the best content for maximum exposure.

Tailor Content for the Platform

There isn’t one ideal place to put all SEO efforts, but it is important to make note of where your SEO plays will flourish and where your audience lives. There is no point in putting all of your eggs in one basket if your audience isn’t there.

Listen to Your Customers

By understanding the types of conversations your audience is having on across social, you can easily assess what keywords to use in your SEO content. Keeping your finger on the pulse of your customers informs how you might go about tweaking your SEO strategy.

Looking Forward

The relationship between social media and SEO will likely become more dependent as time progresses. As paid social becomes a more realistic future for marketers, search rankings and optimizing on social may start to evolve social media strategies. Both SEO and social teams should emphasize working together for optimal marketing programs.

We’ll be taking a break next Wednesday, November 22, but we’ll see you on November 29 to chat about essential tools for any Community Manager. Until then be sure to join our Facebook community to chat with other folks in the industry.

This post #SproutChat Recap: The Relationship Between SEO & Social Media originally appeared on Sprout Social.

Facebook removes ‘delete post’ option from the desktop web version


Facebook has a long tradition of tweaking and changing its interface, testing new features with a small selection of users to see what works and rolling changes back when they don’t pan out.

But surely the company wouldn’t prevent users from deleting their posts on its social network?

Well, a flurry of complaints across social media today would suggest otherwise.

Dozens of reports suggest that those using the web-based version of Facebook on a desktop machine can no longer delete posts. We have checked this, and it certainly appears to be the case — “hide from timeline” is there, but “delete” is gone.

Above: Where is delete post?

However, the option to delete posts is still available on the mobile website and in the iOS and Android apps.

Above: Facebook: Mobile web

Instinctively, this would appear to be a bug rather than a feature — after all, why would Facebook prevent users from deleting one of their posts? There’s no way this decision would ever be greeted with open arms.

When you visit your Activity Log, a place that lets you review and manage what you’ve shared on Facebook, the option to delete is actually still there — however, the solution is not obvious to anyone accustomed to using the more accessible menu in the upper right-hand corner of the post itself.

Above: Activity log: Delete

So could Facebook be testing this out to see what kind of feedback it garners or, indeed, whether anyone notices? Could it be a cynical ploy to get users to rely more on the mobile app? Facebook now claims more than two billion monthly users, with mobile playing an increasingly pivotal role in the company’s growth, so that’s certainly within the realm of possibility.

VentureBeat has reached out to Facebook for comment and will update when we hear back.

ST17-001: Securing the Internet of Things

Original release date: November 16, 2017 The Internet of Things refers to any object or device that sends and receives data automatically through the Internet. This rapidly expanding set of “things” includes tags (also known as labels or chips that automatically track objects), sensors, and devices that interact with people and share information machine to machine.Why Should We Care?Cars, appliances, wearables, lighting, healthcare, and home security all contain sensing devices that can talk to other machines and trigger additional actions. Examples include devices that direct your car to an open spot in a parking lot; mechanisms that control energy use in your home; control systems that deliver water and power to your workplace; and other tools that track your eating, sleeping, and exercise habits.This technology provides a level of convenience to our lives, but it requires that we share more information than ever. The security of this information, and the security of these devices, is not always guaranteed.What Are the Risks?Though many security and resilience risks are not new, the scale of interconnectedness created by the Internet of Things increases the consequences of known risks and creates new ones. Attackers take advantage of this scale to infect large segments of devices at a time, allowing them access to the data on those devices or to, as part of a botnet, attack other computers or devices for malicious intent. See Cybersecurity for Electronic Devices, Understanding Hidden Threats: Rootkits and Botnets, and Understanding Denial-of-Service Attacks for more information.How Do I Improve the Security of Internet-Enabled Devices?Without a doubt, the Internet of Things makes our lives easier and has many benefits; but we can only reap these benefits if our Internet-enabled devices are secure and trusted. The following are important steps you should consider to…

Original release date: November 16, 2017

The Internet of Things refers to any object or device that sends and receives data automatically through the Internet. This rapidly expanding set of “things” includes tags (also known as labels or chips that automatically track objects), sensors, and devices that interact with people and share information machine to machine.

Why Should We Care?

Cars, appliances, wearables, lighting, healthcare, and home security all contain sensing devices that can talk to other machines and trigger additional actions. Examples include devices that direct your car to an open spot in a parking lot; mechanisms that control energy use in your home; control systems that deliver water and power to your workplace; and other tools that track your eating, sleeping, and exercise habits.

This technology provides a level of convenience to our lives, but it requires that we share more information than ever. The security of this information, and the security of these devices, is not always guaranteed.

What Are the Risks?

Though many security and resilience risks are not new, the scale of interconnectedness created by the Internet of Things increases the consequences of known risks and creates new ones. Attackers take advantage of this scale to infect large segments of devices at a time, allowing them access to the data on those devices or to, as part of a botnet, attack other computers or devices for malicious intent. See Cybersecurity for Electronic Devices, Understanding Hidden Threats: Rootkits and Botnets, and Understanding Denial-of-Service Attacks for more information.

How Do I Improve the Security of Internet-Enabled Devices?

Without a doubt, the Internet of Things makes our lives easier and has many benefits; but we can only reap these benefits if our Internet-enabled devices are secure and trusted. The following are important steps you should consider to make your Internet of Things more secure.

Evaluate your security settings. Most devices offer a variety of features that you can tailor to meet your needs and requirements. Enabling certain features to increase convenience or functionality may leave you more vulnerable to being attacked. It is important to examine the settings, particularly security settings, and select options that meet your needs without putting you at increased risk. If you install a patch or a new version of software, or if you become aware of something that might affect your device, reevaluate your settings to make sure they are still appropriate. See Good Security Habits for more information.

Ensure you have up-to-date software. When manufacturers become aware of vulnerabilities in their products, they often issue patches to fix the problem. Patches are software updates that fix a particular issue or vulnerability within your device’s software. Make sure to apply relevant patches as soon as possible to protect your devices. See Understanding Patches for more information.

Connect carefully. Once your device is connected to the Internet, it’s also connected to millions of other computers, which could allow attackers access to your device. Consider whether continuous connectivity to the Internet is needed. See Securing Your Home Network for more information.

Use strong passwords. Passwords are a common form of authentication and are often the only barrier between you and your personal information. Some Internet-enabled devices are configured with default passwords to simplify setup. These default passwords are easily found online, so they don’t provide any protection. Choose strong passwords to help secure your device. See Choosing and Protecting Passwords for more information.

Additional Information

The following organizations offer additional information about this topic:


Authors: Stop.Think.Connect. and National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (NCCIC)


This product is provided subject to this Notification and this Privacy & Use policy.

Facebook kills App Invites, the native app Like button and other dev features

 It’s been a while since my Facebook notifications feed was filled to the brim with invites to play FarmVille, but I’ve been reminded every so often at how awful those times were. It seems that tool for growing an app’s audience is not long for this world as Facebook has announced that App Invites, alongside a bunch of other developer integrations, will be sunsetting over the… Read More

Twitter confirms it’s testing a tweetstorm feature

 Twitter confirms it’s testing a feature that allows users to more easily create “tweetstorms” – those series of connected tweets that have grown to be a popular workaround for Twitter’s character count limitations. The feature, which was recently spotted in the wild, offers a new interface for composing tweets, where individual tweetstorm entries can be written… Read More

Facebook releases tools and tips for livestream creators


Facebook is gunning to be the social network for gamers and other passionate communities, and it is releasing a couple of new tools that will help those creators and their videos get noticed more easily.

The Facebook Creator App helps creators manage their presence on Facebook, and the Facebook for Creators site is a central destination to get resources to improve and grow. The Facebook Creator app launches globally on iOS today, and an Android version will be available in coming months.

“Creators around the world are sharing their videos on Facebook to build a community around their passion — whether their passion is comedy sketches, their favorite recipes, or even knitting sweaters,” said Chris Hatfield of Facebook in a blog post. “On Facebook, creators can connect with more than 2 billion potential fans and collaborators, get to know their community, talk directly to fans with Live, and monetize with products like branded content.”

The creator app is a one-stop shop for livestreamers, where they easily create original video, go live with exclusive features, and connect with their community on Facebook. And they can do all of that from their mobile phone.

Above: StoneMountain64 has nearly a million followers.

Image Credit: Facebook

The tool has a Live Creative Kit, which makes it easy to create live broadcasts with a personalized feel. Creators can add intros as openers to their live broadcasts, outros that conclude them, and custom live stickers that viewers can use to interact. The creators can connect with fans and collaborators with a unified inbox, which centralizes comments from Facebook and Instagram, and messages from Messenger. There are also camera effects and analytics about page results.

The Facebook for Creators website provides tips on how to create great videos, connect with fans, and grow on Facebook. The destination will launch with a Q&A with top Facebook gaming creator StoneMountain64, who has a million followers on Facebook.

The PC Gaming channel is presented by Intel®‘s Game Dev program.

‘No cash, Carney?’ Bank of England Governor unable to find wallet

LIVERPOOL, England (Reuters) – Bank of England Governor Mark Carney appeared unable to find his wallet on Thursday while attending a central bank event to promote public understanding of economics.

LIVERPOOL, England (Reuters) – Bank of England Governor Mark Carney appeared unable to find his wallet on Thursday while attending a central bank event to promote public understanding of economics.

How To Build Your First App: 7 Secrets From The Founders

Is this a huge mistake? Will it ever work? Will anyone care?

Anyone building an app for the first time is wondering these things. You’re not alone.

“No one knows what they’re doing. You think people who came before you know everything, but there isn’t one right way to do it. If you make a misstep, it’s not a big deal.”
– Whitney Linscott, CEO & Founder, Bracket Dating

You can and should build an app. Don’t believe me?

I just launched my first app, 19 Minute Yoga. I’m not a developer. I have a degree in English Lit.

A technical background is not required. Do you know what is required?

Tenacity and grit.

It took twice as long as I expected. But I still did it. And I want to share everything I learned, so you can build an app too.

The App Store has generated more than $70 billion in revenue for App developers. Apps are transforming and disrupting business.

You or your company should be thinking about building an app for one reason. Eventually, someone is going to come along and build an app that disrupts you.

After I launched 19 Minute Yoga, I knew I wanted to share some honest insights and takeaways. I jumped on the phone with 10 other app founders, technical and non-technical, to discuss everything from developing your idea to developing your code.

Thanks to the founders who participated and shared their experience:

Building an app can be a rollercoaster and it’s important to know your community and know you’re not alone. Download the apps mentioned here and follow the founders online to learn more about these leading entrepreneurs. Welcome to the community!

#1 Put Your Idea On Paper

Some of the best ideas come from a person creating a solution to her own problem. You don’t have to invent something completely new; you can improve upon an existing idea. Research popular categories and bring a fresh spin to an existing audience. 19 Minute Yoga was born when I realized that I couldn’t find a short, audio-first yoga app–anywhere!

Monika Bhasin, Founder of GLYD, an app that connects travelers with locals, said her initial work was getting her idea validated and that went hand in hand with putting it on paper.

“Write the idea out as an essay. It needs to be simple enough to explain to a 10-year-old.”
– Monika Bhasin, Founder of GLYD

To get started, consider the questions below. Write multiple drafts, as you refine your idea:

  • What makes your idea different?
  • Who is your audience?
  • What are your business goals?
  • How are you going to market and promote the app?
  • What is the simplest version you can build first?
  • How much will it cost to build the first version of your app, the MVP (minimum viable product), to get your first round of user feedback?

In addition to writing about your idea, it’s important to create a visual. Sketch a rough draft of your app. It will help you understand the story you want to tell. Don’t worry about artistic talent (or lack of!).

Suzzane Hayen is CEO & Co-Founder of Let’s Be Chefs, an app that delivers weekly menus and recipes to helps users save time and eat better. When Hayen was developing her idea, she used index cards to illustrate her user experience.

“Start writing things down on index cards. Draw each screen and show your friends. Here’s one screen, here’s the next screen.”
– Suzzane Hayen, CEO & Co-Founder, Let’s Be Chefs

Before you have a formal pitch or brief, simply talking to people will help you develop your idea. Don’t wait until you feel “ready.” My experience is that “ready” rarely happens. Start a dialogue with friends now. Collect initial feedback.

Ask The Pros
If you have the capital, you can hire an agency to help you get started faster. Whitney Linscott, CEO & Founder of Bracket Dating, launched her app to solve the “swipe” problem in dating. When she decided to build an app, she attended a workshop with an app development company.

During the 2-day intensive, Linscott was able to flesh out her concept, along with finer details like user stories. The workshop facilitated her first steps, but Linscott noted, “Just to participate in the workshop was $10K.”

Connect With Your Local Tech Community

Many cities have local developer or app focused meetups. Even if you’re not going to hire a development company, start networking and identify local resources. Search online, talk to people who work in technical fields, and connect with local groups. Maybe there’s a tech Meetup event you can attend.

#2 Tell Everyone

We keep our ideas locked up for too long. Fear of rejection and never feeling “ready” can trick you into keeping quiet. And, sometimes there’s concern that a person might steal an idea. We tell ourselves these stories to let us off the hook–to prevent us from executing. Because executing is hard. Get your notes organized and tell everyone.

This is a collaborative process.

Most importantly —> There should be communication with your key demographic before anyone writes a line of code. Start soft sounding your ideas directly with your prospective users. Stay connected throughout this entire process. Start early. Start now.

Early Feedback Forms
When I first started building 19 Minute Yoga, I recorded a rough version of my first class, posted it on Soundcloud, and collected early feedback through Google forms. I learned what people liked best, what I could do better, and how someone would describe my class to a friend.

See one of my early 19 Minute Yoga “comment cards” here for reference and feel free to steal some of the standard questions. #GeniusSteals

Share your idea with friends, family, and most importantly, the people you want to help–your target market. A survey is a simple way to gather feedback. When Bhasin surveyed her GLYD users, she learned that she was missing some key features, including messaging and following. She realized this would greatly improve the user experience (UX).

Focus & Find Your Niche #DrillDown
Amy Hutchins, Founder & Chief Product Officer at Unearth, a collaboration tool for the construction industry, said “The hardest part was scoping down what we wanted to do.”

Hutchins and her team spent months talking to people in the construction industry. They realized technology could solve many pain points in the construction process, as a vertical it was a huge opportunity.

Know Your Audience
Do your research. Get feedback early and often. Share your idea with people who fit your demographic. Make edits and adjustments as necessary.

When Unearth was conducting early research, they learned a key piece of information about the construction industry–iPads are everywhere on construction sites because the industry wholesale adopted them first.

Ask yourself, is your audience using a certain device or platform?


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#3 Don’t Skip The Boring Stuff

Get your ideas organized and start writing your project brief (here’s a project brief outline). Get specific.

Start with these questions:

  • Why are you building this app? What will the app do?
  • What content (writing/images/audio/video etc.) will be included in the app? What are the key features that MUST be included the app?
  • Design and UX is very important. How does your app look and feel? How easy is it to navigate? Do you have wireframes or any creative design specifications? It’s OK if you’re not a designer, grab a pen and paper and hand draw your wireframe. (I sketched the first version of 19 Minute Yoga on a piece of paper and then we made a prototype with InvisionApp).
  • What type of device (phone/tablet) or platform (iOS/Android) will you build for first? Hint: what does your audience use most?
  • Will your app be used vertically or horizontally?
  • Will your app need wifi to work?
  • If you plan to make money with your app, how will you achieve this (freemium model, ads, e-commerce etc.)?

#4 Find The Right Developer

Building an app with someone is like a marriage. It’s an ongoing commitment and not a one-off project. If you’re a non-technical founder, this is the most important step. Give it the attention it deserves.

You have a few options:

  1. Learn to code  – Invest in training and develop the app yourself or in-house. It’s not uncommon for founders to team up with a spouse or former colleague. One person is the developer–or willing to learn to code on the job–and the other person manages operations and marketing.
  2. Bring on a technical partner – Find someone who either knows how to code or has the technical skills (and interest) in learning to code. Search your local network, LinkedIn, and past employment for partners.
  3. Hire an independent developer or agency – You can outsource development to contractors or agencies (anywhere from $5K- $500K+), but there’s no easy button. Expect to be highly involved. It’s a very detailed process and requires many decisions from you. As you’re researching partners, don’t make your choice based on price alone and don’t pay 100% upfront. Take the time to review apps they have launched in the past. How is the functionality? Does it seem comparable to what you’d like to build?

Also, as a non-technical founder, you’ll benefit from a technical advisor or consultant. I know I did.

Search Everywhere For A Developer
Lori Cheek’s newest app, Networkd helps users create better connections based on location. “You could be sitting next to someone–someone who could be the co-founder you’re searching for–and not even know it,” said Cheek.

When Cheek launched her first app, Cheekd, she had two business-side co-founders, but no one on the technical side. Following her appearance on NBC’s Shark Tank she said, “I needed to pivot my idea if I wanted to succeed.” After hiring one of the most expensive agencies in NYC, she had an app that looked beautiful, “but the tech didn’t work.”

“In the beginning, it was a drawback not having a technical co-founder. Finding a CTO who was invested was the missing link.”
– Lori Cheek, Founder & CEO of Networkd

Cheek reconnected with a developer she had worked with in the past. She said, “We found our CTO on Craigslist.”

Work With Someone You Know
Hayen said that Y Combinator recommends working with someone you already know. Even if it’s someone you haven’t talked to in a long time, search your network for someone who has a technical background (engineers, IT/tech specialists etc.). See if they are interested in partnering and learning to code on the job.

“Search your LinkedIn and start racking your brain for anyone with technical skills,” said Hayen.

Hire Good Communicators
Allison Winston is President and Co-Founder at Kickwheel, the mobile college fair. Winston, who connected with her co-founder on LinkedIn, emphasized the importance of communication skills.

“Hire an engineer who can explain technical things to you. Someone who can talk about what they are doing. If you’re not mind melding with someone, it’s not a good fit.”
– Allison Winston, President & Co-Founder of Kickwheel Co.

Work With Students
Estee Goldschmidt, Co-Founder and CEO at ShopDrop, a guide to the best sample sales in NYC, recommends reaching out to engineering students and finding technical team members at your local university. For example, in you’re in NYC, NYU Tandon School of Engineering is a good place to start.

It Takes A Village
Building a strong team is critical. It takes time to find partners with the right skills and culture fit.

In addition to development skills, you’ll want to consider graphic design, copywriting, community building, customer service, marketing, PR, and more (start thinking about that marketing plan before your launch). Keep networking and sharing your idea. You’ll start to identify the best partners and resources.

 

#5 Build Your MVP

The first version of your mobile app is your MVP (minimum viable product) or “alpha.” This includes only the most important features–the stuff users absolutely must have to use your app. Focus on functionality and UX. You want a simple app that tests your assumptions about what users want and need.

“When you want to throw in the towel is usually when something unlocks. You have to hang in there a little longer than most people. Ride the uncertainty. Embrace the process and never lose sight of the experience equity.”
– Julie Campistron, Co-Founder and CEO, Stop, Breathe & Think

This early testing will teach you a lot.

The process of building an MVP taught me some important lessons. I started with a web-based app, but I could have saved time and money if I had built for iOS from the beginning. The web-based MVP was so buggy that I couldn’t even share it externally. We ended up having to build the entire app over.

The first version of your app won’t be perfect, but it should pass internal Quality Assurance (QA) testing. It needs to have a baseline of functionality before you share it with external users.

QA Testing
Just because the app works on your phone doesn’t mean it works for someone else. QA testing is super important but often overlooked until there’s a problem. In her role, Annie Purcell MSc, Project Manager and Quality Assurance (QA) expert, identifies a broken feature and submits a recommendation on how fix it.

“I put myself in the shoes of the most destructive user possible–to try and outthink ways to disrupt the product before anyone outside the development team gets their hands on a download.”
– Annie Purcell MSc, QA expert

Be sure to test your app across a variety of devices.

Get Feedback Early & Often
At Unearth, a regular feedback loop was established during alpha testing.

“We looked at all the features we wanted to build and prioritized. The most important thing we did was get feedback early.”
– Amy Hutchins, Founder & Chief Product Officer, Unearth Technologies, Inc.

They partnered with alpha users who were willing to provide feedback in exchange for free use of the product. Hutchins said, “People were happy to use it and we set up the expectation that they would have weekly meetings with us to provide feedback.”

With my yoga app, we conducted one-on-one phone interviews and included an optional class review within the app. After completing a class, users could apply a star rating and/or a written comment. Users always had the option to “X” out. This helped us collect early and ongoing feedback.

Tight Timelines Create Lean MVPs
Julie Campistron and Jamie Price are founders of the mindfulness and meditation app Stop, Breathe & Think. Campistron and Price pitched the tech mentors on Apple’s show Planet of the Apps and landed a mentorship with Jessica Alba. After hearing the good news, Campistron and Price were on a tight timeline to launch a version of Stop, Breathe & Think for younger kids. Campistron said, “We wanted to have it live for Planet of the Apps and Jessica Alba. We really limited the functionality. We ended up doing horizontal layout only and we didn’t do account creation. We haven’t had any negative user feedback.”

Stop, Breathe & Think regularly collects user feedback with UserTesting.com. Campistron said, “This service finds candidates based on demographics. They set up the link and the task and the whole process is filmed.”

However you plan to receive feedback, insight into how someone is navigating and experiencing your app is priceless.

Release & Update
After building and testing (and building and testing), it’s exciting to officially release your app into the marketplace. I was psyched to see 19 Minute Yoga in the App Store for the first time. It can also be a little anti-climatic. There’s always something to tweak or update!

 

#6 Connect With Your Community

Invest in PR and community building at least 3-6 months before your launch. Find the social network that fits your goals and connects with your audience. Depending on your industry, you might have a platform specific approach. Goldschmidt’s ShopDrop takes an Instagram-first social strategy, as the photo sharing site has become a powerful tool and  “changed the face of fashion” according to Vogue.

Where does your audience spend time? Research and prioritize.

Create Partnerships
Diane Hamilton is Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Binary Formations, a development company with a suite of apps, including App Store Editor’s Choice, Home Inventory. She said, “The market has changed so much. You have to have a marketing plan now, you can’t just put your app in the store. Build partnerships and find people with the the same target market.” At Home Inventory, Hamilton reaches out to professional organizers, as her app helps users “cut down on clutter.”

Alexis Monson, Founder of Punkpost, an app that sends handwritten cards mailed by artists for you, said they focus on PR more than other types of marketing. Punkpost got featured in the App Store which was “huge.” Monson said, “Some of the smaller blogs have more engaged users and communities. It was surprising at first. They might publish a little less, but their readers are hungry.”

Host Events
Meeting users in person builds community and creates the chance for important conversations.

“We have monthly events, every event has a theme, and we also pull people aside to talk to them about the app. I’m building a product for our consumers, so if they tell me something is not a good idea–that’s important feedback.”
– Estee Goldschmidt, Co-Founder & CEO of ShopDrop

Be Helpful In Small Group Discussions
Hayen said, at Let’s Be Chefs, Facebook has worked the best for them, possibly because she’s “most familiar” with the platform. On Facebook, they do some paid ads and Hayen frequently shares recipes, cooking tips, and answers questions in private groups, especially cooking groups and mom groups. Do a keyword search on Facebook to find groups related to your topic.

Reddit is a great place to engage in subject-specific threads. I have an account for 19 Minute Yoga and I search health and wellness related posts to see how I can help. It’s also fun to participate in Reddit’s signature AMA (ask me anything!). On Reddit, always be helpful, non-promotional, and authentic. Here’s one of my first Reddit comments about the benefits of short yoga.

Invest In Your Marketing Team
Notably, Unearth’s third hire was in the marketing department. Hutchins said, “I’ve been blown away by the value that our content strategist, Nick, has brought to the table–the leads and PR we’re getting from his work. We learn what’s resonating with people.”

 

#7 Listen to Customers, Pivot As Necessary

“Sometimes you need a palate cleanser. Sometimes it’s good to have an idea and try it. Sometimes you decide not to bring it to market. It’s not wasted time. You learn something.”
– Diane Hamilton, Co-Founder & Managing Partner of Binary Formations

Plan for success by staying connected with your community. Have a system for engaging and collecting feedback. You can start with a “help” contact email. As your community grows, you might invest in customer service software. Hamilton uses FogBugz and Punkpost uses a tool from Zoho.

When it comes to software, there are automated options for growing communities, but both founders emphasized the importance of a personal touch. You want your community to know there is a person listening.

As you collect feedback and analyze user data, you’ll make ongoing improvements and updates. You might decide to pivot. After ShopDrop founders identified the most popular topic in their app–sample sales–they re-launched with a new focus to serve their most engaged audience.

In general, don’t be afraid to pivot or roll out smaller apps to test new features. It’s part of the process.

“If you’re passionate about it and you’re willing to spend years working on it, you can do it. I think a lot people get hung up on the tech part because they didn’t go to school for it. It doesn’t matter. You’ll learn.”
– Alexis Monson, Founder of Punkpost

Before Kickwheel, Winston had a 10-year career as a teacher. When she was ready to make a move, she immersed herself in learning about technology and studying the industry. Some of her favorite resources include Chaos Monkeys, a book The New York Times called an “indispensable 360-degree guide to the new technology establishment” and the podcast Masters of Scale with Reid Hoffman, a legendary Silicon Valley entrepreneur and investor.

Winston, now President & Co-Founder of an app with more than 1.2 million installs said, “I was not going to let being a non-technical person stand in my way.”

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Stay tuned for our behind-the-scenes podcast for more info on how to build an app. 

 

 


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