Every movement begins with a moment.
Mark Zuckerberg's F8 developer conference manifested marketing buzz like only Facebook can. In memorandum for next year's conference, I wanted to write an opinion piece on social's three biggest topics — and ultimately define what the term "walled gardens" in 2016 means to me.
1) Messaging apps are being positioned as the harbingers of the next social revolution.
Messengers are the natural next step for social platforms, no thanks to the diminishing effect Moore's Law has on our appetite for consuming mobile storage space and the decrease in value that traditional telecomm services provide. “Look East, young man” has replaced "Look West, young man" as Facebook Messenger's mantra, as it continues to (1) emulate China's hegemonic WeChat and (2) rethink the digital connection between consumer and brand.
2) Bots, especially social plugins, will anthropomorphize brands.
The simultaneous emergence of bot marketplaces across all major messengers — and subsequent ad units like "Sponsored Chats" and "Click to Message" — are destined to bring your brand closer to the target market — at scale. Never before have companies been so readily accessible and holistically goal-oriented to consumer interactions. Yes, chatbots have been a sore subject for some early adopters (re: Microsoft's Tay), but the tech sector has picked up on the scent of monetization. As a result, investments in bot artificial intelligence will yield better experiences.
3) Evolving publishers left newspapers behind. Now, they will look for newsfeeds.
Facebook's Instant Articles and Google's AMP will continue to attract more and more publisher attention as expanded user targeting metrics come standard with social-integrated content at a time when mobile eyes demand seamless consumption.
So big platforms are building "walled gardens" — why do antiquated Victorian landscape devices keep popping up as marketing buzzwords in 2016?
The "wall" component can be thought of as the three tactics numbered above — all integrated services within social platforms that, in addition to preexisting functions, provide enough value for users to stay within the platform's confines and its app. The walls expand when these platform integrations offer marketers and publishers increasingly more valuable amounts of user data that can be used to target increasingly specific markets.
The “garden” is planted with attractive experiences that keep social platform users from wanting to leave — whether its new algorithms that place the most relative content up top or video hubs that serve up engaging playlists with ads sandwiched in. For marketers, the attractive experiences are appearing in the form of immersive ad units that increasingly act like microsites, such as Canvas (now) and branded augmented/virtual reality experiences (soon).
By investing in 360-degree video, live-streaming, virtual reality and messaging capabilities, platforms have planted the seeds for brands and their agencies to create beautiful experiences for target markets in the coming year. But I still wonder what came first — the wall or the garden? Let us know your thoughts below.
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