The future looks mobile for Facebook

Facebook mobile

Facebook posted its financial report on July 23 for the second quarter of its 2014 financial year.

The report shows financial pluses across the board for the mega social network in significant areas:

  1. Overall revenue for the second quarter of 2014 was $2.91 billion, an increase of 61 percent compared to the same period last year.
  2. Revenue from advertising was $2.68 billion, a 67 percent increase over the same quarter last year – and around 92 percent of overall revenue reported for the second quarter 2014.
  3. Mobile advertising revenue represented about 62 percent of advertising revenue for the second quarter of 2014, an increase of 41 percent compared to the same period last year.
  4. GAAP net income for Q2 2014 was $791 million, up 138 percent compared to the same period last year.
  5. GAAP diluted earnings per share was $0.30, up 131 percent compared to the same period last year.

Holders of Facebook stock will no doubt be quite happy, like Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder and CEO, who remarks drily:

“We had a good second quarter,” [Zuckerberg] said. “Our community has continued to grow, and we see a lot of opportunity ahead as we connect the rest of the world.”

What struck me most about the numbers as shown in the concise earnings announcement is the advertising revenue growth and the high proportion of that growth  – nearly two-thirds – that comes from mobile.

Facebook mobile advertising growth /via FT

Indeed, the FT reports on Facebook’s earnings with two interesting charts – the one above showing the growing shift to mobile of Facebook’s user base since the start of 2013; and the one below, showing a clear growth trend since mid 2012 of mobile advertising sales.

Facebook mobile advertising growth /via FT

As for the opportunity Zuckerberg refers to, to “connect the rest of the world,” put that in the context of the latest user metrics included in the company’s earnings report:

  • Daily active users (DAUs) were 829 million on average for June 2014, an increase of 19 percent year-over-year.
  • Mobile DAUs were 654 million on average for June 2014, an increase of 39 percent year-over-year.
  • Monthly active users (MAUs) were 1.32 billion as of June 30, 2014, an increase of 14 percent year-over-year.
  • Mobile MAUs were 1.07 billion as of June 30, 2014, an increase of 31 percent year-over-year.

Plenty of room for growth.

(Picture at top via DigitalTrends.)

The big idea from Sprinklr

Social ad spending trends to 2015 - eMarketer

Less than three months after its acquisition of social business pioneer Dachis Group, social media SaaS vendor Sprinklr launches the next stage in its drive to bring greater integrated ‘social at scale’ ability to large enterprises with the introduction of paid social media to its modular infrastructure software platform.

In its announcement today, Sprinklr says the new paid-media capability tightly connects the platform that Forrester Research described as “the most powerful technology on the market” to the $7.8 billion market for paid social advertising.

This new capability enables brands and their agencies to plan, execute, measure and optimize their paid activities on Facebook and Twitter in the same environment as their owned and earned engagement. Combining integrated brand analytics (added via Sprinklr’s recent acquisition of Dachis Group), integrated listening (launched in January 2014), and automation to optimize paid media spend is a breakthrough for brand and direct response marketers. Early clients have reported over 25% increase in ROI as a result of increased effectiveness and efficiency.

In tandem with its enhanced-solution announcement, Sprinklr said it has raised $40 million in Series D funding from Iconiq Capital, Battery Ventures and Intel Capital. Sprinklr says the capital injection will enable the firm to attain a projected growth target of 300 percent year over year.

“Sprinklr has a bold vision for integrated experience management for the enterprise,” said Carey Lai of Intel Capital. “$100 billion of deployed enterprise software is at risk of becoming obsolete because of fundamental changes in consumer behavior and Sprinklr has the capability to capitalize. This is a big idea whose time has come.”

For the full story, read today’s press release – here’s the text:

Sprinklr Launches Paid Social Media Solution and Announces $40M Series D Funding Led by Iconiq Capital

Funding fuels the growth of industry’s first social relationship management infrastructure with integrated owned, earned, and paid capabilities

New York, NY — April 22, 2014 – Sprinklr, the largest independent enterprise social relationship platform provider, today announced the launch of its integrated paid social media capability as well as a $40 million Series D investment from Iconiq Capital, Battery Ventures, and Intel Capital. This new round of funding fuels Sprinklr’s projected growth of 300% year over year, as it enables end-to-end social experience management for large enterprises.

Sprinklr’s launch of paid media tightly connects the platform that Forrester Research named “The most powerful technology on the market,” to the $7.8 billion market for social paid advertising. This new capability enables brands and their agencies to plan, execute, measure and optimize their paid activities on Facebook and Twitter in the same environment as their owned and earned engagement. Combining integrated brand analytics (added via Sprinklr’s recent acquisition of Dachis Group), integrated listening (launched in January 2014), and automation to optimize paid media spend is a breakthrough for brand and direct response marketers. Early clients have reported over 25% increase in ROI as a result of increased effectiveness and efficiency. The module is expected to be generally available to all clients in six weeks.

“The social age demands that brands manage experiences across every touchpoint – every team, department, division and location. Paid media is at the core and is the most expensive part of creating brand experiences” said Ragy Thomas, CEO of Sprinklr. “The launch of paid and a 40MM series D, led by the smartest source of money on the planet, sets Sprinklr up to continue on our tremendous growth path.”

Iconiq Capital, a global multi-family wealth management company, led the round with participation from existing investors Battery Ventures and Intel Capital.

“Very few companies have ever been on Sprinklr’s current trajectory,” said Neeraj Agrawal of Battery Ventures. “The introduction of an integrated paid media module ahead of schedule positions Sprinklr as the go to provider to replace existing point solutions in social for large businesses tired of playing the role of a system integrator.”

“Sprinklr has a bold vision for integrated experience management for the enterprise,” said Carey Lai of Intel Capital. “$100 billion of deployed enterprise software is at risk of becoming obsolete because of fundamental changes in consumer behavior and Sprinklr has the capability to capitalize. This is a big idea whose time has come.”

Enterprises interested in learning more about this integrated capability can contact Sprinklr for a demonstration immediately. Existing clients can gain access to the integrated paid module by contacting their success manager.

Sprinklr is also hiring around the globe. Explore opportunities in Sprinklr’s New York, Austin, Delhi, Bangalore or Kiev offices here.

About Sprinklr

Sprinklr’s infrastructure software is how brands manage social experiences across every touchpoint. Unlike tools and platforms, Sprinklr is the only true integrated social relationship infrastructure. Called “The most powerful technology in the market” by Forrester Research, Sprinklr accelerates the social maturity of a brand, from just ‘doing social’ to being social, at scale. Sprinklr’s cloud software and strategic and analytic services enable the enterprise to innovate faster, grow revenue, manage risk and reduce operational costs. Founded in 2009, Sprinklr is headquartered in New York City and serves more than 450 brands worldwide including Microsoft, Intel, Virgin America, IHG, and 4 of the top 5 US banks. Visit www.sprinklr.com @sprinklr #SocialAtScale.

The thrill and heartache of BlackBerry: employee perspectives

BlackBerrys

Whether Canadian mobile technology company BlackBerry has a viable future or not is still a big unknown.

The company fell from grace during this year as sales of its smartphones plummeted in the face of competition from Apple and Android devices, plus a collapse in confidence in the company,  in the brand and in its leadership, and a knock-on effect on its lucrative software and services business.

The cost was catastrophic. Calling BlackBerry “a company in crisis” would be an understatement.

While some reports now talk about success with its BBM messaging service, others paint a dire picture of a company whose market share in hardware devices had all but collapsed by the end of the third quarter 2013 in key markets – to near zero in the US, China, Spain and Japan, for example, as the Guardian reports, also highlighting one ray of sunshine in one market: the UK.

Meanwhile, interim CEO John Chen affirmed in an open letter last week that BlackBerry Ltd is “very much alive, thank you” as it rebuilds itself as a niche player concentrating on the enterprise market.

Whatever the future for Blackberry, its past is a rich library of compelling memories and stories told by employees, former employees and others with strong connections to the company from its founding as RIM in 1984 to the present day.

You’ve heard the massaged and nuanced PR stuff from company leaders past and present: now hear the unfiltered stories of employees.

Such stories have been captured by Bloomberg Businessweek magazine in a feature report that paints a picture of the people of BlackBerry and their perspectives of their lives and connection to BlackBerry:

Over the last two months, Bloomberg Businessweek spoke to dozens of current and former BlackBerry employees, vendors, and associates. Here is their account of the thrill of BlackBerry’s ascension – and the heartache of watching its demise.

It’s a series of powerful vignettes of people and their experiences. It brings BlackBerry into life – it’s about ordinary people, not inanimate objects like phones – as it presents a timeline of events in the mobile-device marketplace, from its early days and, especially, over the past decade, as seen from the perspective of people who made up the once-12,000-member workforce.

Two handfuls of those experiences:

Gary Mousseau, eighth employee at RIM and software developer and manager, 1991-2007: I first met [founder and ex-CEO] Mike Lazaridis when he interviewed me. Mike is a very good orator and communicator of technology. He was a convincing-enough soul that I ended up taking a 13 percent pay cut to join RIM. I started in 1991. My first job was to build my own desk. There was no more room for me. They put me in the fax reception area. I was the guy receiving packages. I sat beside the fax machine, which was not fun. It was a small place. It was crowded. We were above a pizza joint.

Jim Estill, member of the board, 1997-2010: In the early days at RIM, people had no idea what a smartphone was. People had no idea what two-way pagers were. But they had such a cool factor. You’d take one out, and everybody would want to touch it and play with it and see what it was.

Chris Key, global account manager and carrier sales and relationship manager, 2001-09: In 2004, I shipped off to India. I became very active in feeding devices to Bollywood celebrities. I recall going to Bombay fashion week, and I took a box-load of BlackBerrys. A friend of mine is an editor for Vogue. She put me in the VIP section, and I drank Champagne and ate strawberries and handed out BlackBerrys to all the celebrities.

Lidia Feraco, senior marketing manager for Latin America, 2005-11: In the Jamaica/Trinidad launch, we did an exclusive campaign where people would come into a discotheque. We would give them temporary henna bar code tattoos, and people could use their BlackBerrys to scan the tattoos to get people’s [personal identification] numbers. People would say, “Scan me, scan me.” And as the evening went on, people would get more risqué and put the tattoos on different parts of their body. So instead of asking, “Hey, can I get your number,” the conventional line in a nightclub, it was more, “Hey, can I get your PIN?”

Brendan Kenalty, customer base management, 2007-10: I was in the loyalty and retention group. People would be, like, “You’re in BlackBerry retention? Why would anyone need that?”

Jesse Boudreau, vice president, BlackBerry software excellence, 2004-08: In four years we went from [approximately] 2,000 to 12,000 people. Having been at Nortel, the politics that get played is exponential. I was starting to see it be like Nortel. There was bureaucracy. There was pointless process. You were getting decisions by committee.

Vincent Washington, senior business development manager, 2001-11: One thing we missed out on was that Justin Bieber wanted to rep BlackBerry. He said, “Give me $200,000 and 20 devices, and I’m your brand ambassador,” basically. And we pitched that to marketing: Here’s a Canadian kid, he grew up here, all the teeny-boppers will love that. They basically threw us out of the room. They said, “This kid is a fad. He’s not going to last.” I said at the meeting: “This kid might outlive RIM.” Everyone laughed.

Ray Gillenwater, managing director, 2007-12: If BlackBerry was going to be serious about consumers, they needed to make a fundamental shift in the way products were thought about, created, iterated, marketed, and sold. This was done but never to the extent necessary. It was always a partial effort. There was a period of time when this could have been corrected, but when it became apparent that HQ and senior leadership were not addressing systemic issues, people like myself left.

Jeff Gadway, current senior manager for product marketing: When you go into the focus groups, and you talk to customers about brands in the technology space, there are brands that don’t come up at all anymore. And then there’s BlackBerry. People have fond sentiments about BlackBerry. If people didn’t have that affinity toward the brand, I would be challenged to really believe in what we’re doing. People want to see BlackBerry succeed.

‘Thrill’ and ‘heartache’ are indeed the sum total of much of these experiences:

Much more at Bloomberg Businessweek: The Rise and Fall of BlackBerry: An Oral History.

I was never a BlackBerry user. I never bought into the “doing my email wherever I am” culture. Yet, today, reading those emotive snapshots, I say: Good luck, BlackBerry.

(Photo at top via the Guardian.)

Related posts:

Twitter on the launchpad #TWTR

We just priced our IPO...

Today, Twitter is on the cusp of becoming a publicly-listed company with an initial equity valuation of $18 billion, according to some analysis.

At 9.30am US Eastern time, 2.30pm GMT, the sound of the opening bell on the New York Stock Exchange will mark the moment when shares in Twitter – at an initial offer price of $26 each and identified by the NYSE symbol TWTR – will become listed on the Exchange and public trading will begin.

It’s worth looking at what it is about the microblogging service (how quaint that moniker now sounds) that makes it, arguably, one of the most valuable tools for communication professionals and marketers, politicians and celebrities – in reality, just about anyone with a Twitter handle – to engage influencers and customers, broadcast news, manage reputations, and drive communication and marketing for individuals, causes and organizations of every type imaginable, in every country in the world.

You can acquaint yourself with today’s Twitter by checking the facts and figures on the company’s new ‘About‘ pages, redesigned and updated this week as the IPO nears.

About Twitter

You can also check any of the myriad online publications, from mainstream media to informed (even just opinionated) bloggers, all with commentary and opinion about any and every facet of Twitter and a business event that undoubtedly will capture imaginations globally from the sound of that bell ringing in New York City.

An article that caught my eye this morning is How Twitter changed the world, hashtag-by-hashtag by BBC News that assesses Twitter’s history, growth and other compelling metrics in a highly-readable timeline form.

Hashtag debut

The specific section on the history of the hashtag is especially interesting as it will give you insight into a tool that rapidly has become highly useful for connecting and measuring conversations, etc, on Twitter, that will help you see why this little symbol (#) is so significant today.

Some quotes from that history (with some added hashtags):

  • Hashtags are now the definitive way to group tweets on the same subject.
  • Hashtags can be a remarkably effective way of making a company change its policy. Whether it’s getting rid of offensive t-shirts, or forcing “gay best friend” dolls to be removed, there’s no faster way for consumers to well and truly kick off.
  • Twitter has cemented itself as a digital soapbox, and a place for #politicians to engage directly with people, making major announcements along the way. It is arguably one of the most effective campaign tools – particularly in reaching voters that are unlikely to pay attention to a party political broadcast.
  • #Newsrooms the world over have taken to social media, using it as both a source, but also a broadcast platform. Newsrooms are awash with positions that simply didn’t exist five years ago. The real challenge, of course, is to make sure what is tweeted is in fact true – and news organisations don’t always get it right.
  • In the English Premier League (#EPL), all 20 clubs are now on Twitter, with more than half of all first-team players having verified accounts. It means that fans are closer than ever to their heroes.
  • #Celebrities on Twitter are huge, and can perhaps be credited with bringing a more mainstream audience to the service.
  • During the uprisings in #Egypt, Twitter was a key channel for protesters to disseminate material, and to also organise gatherings.
  • Television executives the world over are implementing ways to make the most of the #secondscreen – your mobile or tablet – while watching their content. Often this is being seen as a way to fling more adverts at you.

Mainstream activities for something definitely not mainstream just a few years ago.

The #businessmodel has shifted. #TWTR.

Related posts:

The changes that did for BlackBerry

BlackBerrySummarizing the tale of the rise and fall of mobile device and services maker BlackBerry as “changing too little and changing far too late” is probably as good as any way of succinctly capturing the sense of the huge fall from grace of Canada’s biggest technology company, originally known as Research in Motion or RIM.

And a huge fall it is, from almost owning the mobile devices market a few years ago to becoming a bit player in the past year or so as the company’s leadership tried in vain to figure out how to evolve in a marketplace that literally changed in front of its eyes.

Last week, BlackBerry reported a quarterly net loss of nearly a billion dollars, the elimination of 4,500 job positions – almost 40 percent of its global workforce – and its sale to a consortium led by Fairfax Financial, its biggest shareholder, for the fire-sale price of $4.7 billion (about £3 billion, €3.5 billion).

By all accounts, the tipping point for BlackBerry’s crash to the ground was the disastrous sales performance of its Z10 smartphone launched in January 2013. Sales were so poor that the company had to write off $934 million in Q2 – the majority of the overall loss it reported last week.

I remember looking at the Z10 in a marketing display in Selfridges flagship department store in London (pictured) earlier this year.

BlackBerry Z10 on display
Showcasing BlackBerry’s Z10 smartphone in London in March 2013. And nary a customer in sight. / Photo by Neville Hobson.

Very nice, I thought, but hardly a stand-out in a marketplace where the excitement in consumers’ eyes (and, increasingly, business eyes) lay in the iPhone, Samsung Galaxy and a host of other cool brands.

From  the Z10 display, I moved across Selfridges lower mall area to a Samsung stand showcasing Galaxy S3s and other devices. I noted this stand was packed with people, including sales assistants, all touching the devices and talking about them. Contrast that to the Z10 stand – not a single person there, not even a sales person.

A microcosmic experience no doubt, yet such experience must have been repeated everywhere.

Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper has a story this weekend that makes for fascinating but sober reading on the rise and fall of BlackBerry with a comprehensive account of a siloed organization rift with leadership rivalries, dysfunction and eyes off the ball.

Here’s an excerpt:

[…] Finally, close to six years after Apple unveiled the iPhone, the long-awaited BlackBerry 10 made its debut at a glitzy launch event in January, featuring singer Alicia Keys as the company’s “global creative director.” It was a minor detail in a much larger story, but the made-up title and meaningless job irked some who wondered why the company was distracting itself with celebrity endorsements while in the fight of its life.

The Z10 device itself won a number of positive reviews. The New York Times’ David Pogue, who previously had predicted that the BlackBerry was doomed, began his review: “I’m sorry. I was wrong.” But eight months later, it’s hard to see the launch as anything other than a total business failure, given the sheer volume of unsold smartphones now written off.

The marketing campaign was confusing and vague: An ad that ran during the Super Bowl failed to explain what made the product distinct. A source close to the board said directors weren’t shown the ad before it ran, and some didn’t understand the content or the slogan, “Keep Moving.” There were no lineups, and no buzz for the product – nothing like the frenzy of publicity that seems to surround the launch of each new version of the iPhone.

Once again, the market had shifted, and there was little demand for the Z10 in an era where sophisticated operating systems were commonplace and phones were getting cheaper. The one advantage the BlackBerry may have had over its rivals – a physical keyboard – wasn’t present in the first model to hit the market.

“The only people still clamouring for a new smartphone from BlackBerry were in it for the keyboard,” said S&P’s Mr. Moorman. “Then they come out with a touchscreen. Anyone who wanted a touchscreen was already gone.”

As it turns out, both Mr. Balsillie and Mr. Lazaridis [the co-founders and co-CEOs] were proven right. It was hard enough to compete in a commoditizing smartphone market. Leading with the wrong product on top of that only made BlackBerry’s task more hopeless. Mr. Heins’s [current CEO] strategic errors only compounded the challenging situation he had inherited.

I’ve seen some people blaming the marketing, PR and other communication for BlackBerry’s woes and ultimate fall.

Contributory factors, to be sure. But if your corporate and leadership foundation is at best shaky, no amount of marketing, PR or other communication will save you.

The Globe and Mail’s story is a compelling one and terrific story-telling. I can see a TV mini-series coming.

“Inside the fall of BlackBerry: How the smartphone inventor failed to adapt”: Globe and Mail, September 26, 2013.

Related posts:

Content marketing requires a sound foundation

What If I Said...Two words I’ve heard mentioned a lot recently are “content marketing.”

I use them myself at times, often in the context of helping people understand the value that can be derived from taking ‘old’ but still valid “content” – case studies, white papers, features, etc – and re-telling those stories in ways that work well in today’s social communication climate, fit measurable business goals and meet the information needs of the people in the marketplace you want to reach out to.

The “marketing” part comes into play when you talk about disseminating the content  – not in the linear ways of old but in the far more dynamic, discoverable and shareable ways of today that extend way beyond your own outlets and embrace third parties and their outlets and channels.

Yet when I hear those two words being uttered, the meaning tends to focus far too much on the “marketing” rather than the “content.” At the same time, rarely do I hear the word “measurable” when objectives or goals are mentioned.

That’s a pity as it puts the cart squarely before the horse, and you (and most definitely your audience) will ultimately be disappointed if you do that. This is true whatever your focus: B2B, B2C, etc.

It’s not about the marketing: it’s everything about the content and measuring its value, ie, to the consumer and sharer of that content and to you as the publisher of it.

This notion was brought to front of my mind again after reading “It’s Time To Demystify Content Marketing” by Will Burns in Forbes online earlier this week.

Burns makes a good case as he goes about his demystification. While his focus is on advertising, I see his arguments valid when applied to every other discipline – marketing, public relations, employee communication, investor relations, you name it.

What really caught my attention in his article, though, are six specific points he makes as the foundation for content marketing:

  • You still need to identify a clear objective for the piece. Content marketing is like [any] other piece of communication and should have a clear business objective.
  • You still need to identify a singular message.
  • You still need to identify a clear target audience.
  • You still need to understand the brand idea intimately so you can assess what the brand would and would not do when you’re reviewing ideas.
  • You still need someone on the outside to produce the content. Outside of the agency, that is. That’s not new and shouldn’t be a worry. Might be a different kind of production house, but the model is the same.
  • You still need a great idea.

I agree – content marketing is a function, a business process, that requires the same thinking applied to its planning as you would for any other communication activity.

That means a plan that addresses or includes all those elements Burns mentions.

As part of the essential foundation for today, one of the desired goals for the content you create, curate and distribute must be that people value it, want it, will talk about it and will share it.

You know it makes sense!

Related posts: