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Facebook Revs Up Its Real-Time Engines At F8

“You probably interact with dozens of businesses every day … but I’ve never met anyone who likes calling a business and no one wants to install an app for every business or service they want to interact with.” – Mark Zuckerberg, CEO, Facebook

Facebook continues to fire on all cylinders in developing new products and experiences for people and marketers alike. The company’s annual F8 developer conference, which just concluded in San Francisco, was the latest showcase. Here are some of our top takeaways for marketing leaders.

1. Real-time service at scale, and a glimpse into AI

In Facebook’s Q4 2015 Facebook earnings call, COO Sheryl Sandberg said “We feel pretty confident that real-time sharing is an increasingly important part of the platform, and one we’ll continue to invest in.” Facebook delivered on this statement at F8 by unveiling real-time and customer-service innovations in its Messenger application. Facebook has many times the audience scale of most other real-time platforms, so marketers should pay attention.

The expectation is that Messenger will become a major portal for customer service. Before F8, some brands have been experimenting with Messenger functionality through low-scale customer service, shopping and engagement tests. The floodgates opened for developers at F8. The understanding is that this is the year of customer interaction and satisfaction through Messenger. Some small percentage of this interaction will be through chat bots, which can now build on the the “Send/Receive” API to facilitate personalized and automated consumer interaction.

It is still VERY early days for the role of bots. Of course, digital chat between brands and consumers is not new. Marketers have used SMS functionality for years, providing offers and spreading information to target consumers who text a code word to a specific number.

While AI in Messenger is rough and evolving, the platform still creates a significant opportunity for brands; a place where your business can provide a high-quality customer experience against nearly a billion people who spend considerable time in the app. A few emerging use cases include having your advertising and customer care teams start to facilitate and experiment with:

Mandate: Integrate Messenger into your customer-service and advertising workflow. Marketers should begin to experiment with more personalized, useful, organic experiences in Messenger. In addition, brands should experiment with bot technologies and learn what creates great experiences. Consumer AI applications like the Amazon Echo are catching on quickly and showing great potential, so getting an early start for your company will create competitive advantage. We look forward to helping our clients scale paid content in the smartest and most relevant way possible once consumers start to engage with them organically.

2. Live video API opens up

Another major development in Facebook’s real-time capabilities includes the release of an API for Live — a live-streaming video product. Any marketer now can stream live onto Facebook from a mobile phone, as well as professional video equipment or even drones. At F8, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg explained Live videos are seeing 10x more comments than asynchronous video, coloring the stat by stating “[p]eople love going live, because it’s so unfiltered and personal.”

Mandate: Test different Live video types, repeat and scale success. Live is an exciting live-streaming product, integrated into an already robust experience with scale. Marketers have more tools than ever to test and learn the best way to use the product, such as deploying different video formats like behind the scenes peaks or live Q&A. There are opportunities to test amateur versus professional style video, and also different lengths. Marketers must analyze Live video metrics – like total unique broadcast audience and drop off — to pinpoint what content, format, length and production quality is best aligned with their business goals.

3. 360-degree video technology released

Marketers looking to pioneer the most exciting video tools available have been watching Facebook’s 360-degree video product closely. The unit allows people to change the part of a video landscape they’re looking at by dragging their cursor or tilting their phones to explore different parts of the scene. At F8, Facebook unveiled a 360-degree video camera and software system that allows marketers to record a panoramic experience and then “auto-stitch” the content into the 360-degree experience people see in their News Feed. Facebook representatives positioned the tool as an early and easy-to-build take on immersive virtual-reality experiences that will soon be available through Oculus. The camera costs approximately $30,000 to buy.

Mandate: Marketers should strongly consider investing in this camera technology and experimenting for first-mover advantage. The 360-degree video format is highly engaging, and poses several use cases in driving brand interaction. Developing best practices for a brand will benefit an evolution towards virtual-reality and other immersive video formats. There also is huge value to gain in adopting the format while it is still novel.

We look forward to working with our brand partners to seize these new opportunities to be more relevant and valuable to their consumers.


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  • Laura O'Shaughnessy, CEO

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