From bots to brain: Facebook's F8 2017 developer conference

Our round up of this week's social media news and insights:

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From bots to brain: Facebook's F8 2017 developer conference

Facebook has been holding its annual F8 developer conference, and while there was little in the way of new products, the company demonstrated its involvement in new technologies from virtual reality to internet drones, and brought its vision of how it plans to connect us all into some focus. One major area of that focus is turning a phone camera into a mainstream augmented reality platform, with CEO Mark Zuckerberg using his keynote address to voice his conviction that it's the camera, rather than goggles or glasses, that will drive the future of AR. A future that Facebook plans to lead. The other major focus is artificial intelligence. Across the various Facebook services, AI is keying onto facets like the use of bots, which are already running over two billion customer conversations for businesses each month. F8 saw the company adding features to its core apps alongside plans for new ones, but one partnership will make it a bit more fun: Giphy in nearly everything. The GIF-based company is now integrated in Facebook Live, Camera and Messenger. Having one of the deepest libraries of GIFs on the web will set it apart for users looking to add something fun to a photo or Facebook Live stream. Meanwhile, Facebook is now working on technology to allow our brains to control computers directly and is developing “silent speech” software to allow people to ‘type’ at a rate of 100 words per minute. "We are not talking about decoding your random thoughts,” assured Facebook's Regina Dugan. To this end, the company intends to build both the hardware and software to achieve its goal, and has enlisted a team of more than 60 scientists and academics to work on the project Dugan's presentation was the highlight of the conference, and drives home that Facebook is much more than a social media service. The company's ambitions reach far beyond connecting us with posts and pictures, and into the very way we interact with one another.

PR and Marketing in Social Media

Foot Locker campaigns celebrate global sneaker culture

Foot Locker has launched two campaigns across social media which highlight the global sneaker culture. #MySneakerStories sees influencers for the athletic footwear retailer and ‘sneakerheads’ sharing their personal stories on what the shoes mean to them across Foot Locker’s Instagram accounts. The retailer is also tagging select product images with #GloballyApproved to show the launch product is available at Foot Locker outlets worldwide. ‘Social media is the primary arena for where our customers are able to catch a glimpse of the many different styles and sneakers available around the world, and we wanted to encourage that conversation,’ revealed Foot Locker’s vice president of brand marketing, Jed Berger. The retailer has also placed Sneaker Selfie stations in select stores in London, Paris, New York and Toronto, where customers can have pictures taken in photo booths to be uploaded to social networks. ‘We know sneaker culture relies heavily on social media for its reach, but the in-store experience is still very much part of the overall experience,’ Berger added.

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Young Women remain loyal to Snapchat as Stories boosts Instagram

The latest numbers from Episode - the mobile storytelling network and platform - show that despite talk of a substantial shift of users from Snapchat to Instagram, girls and young women do not seem to be leaving. Episode polled 50,070 of its viewers, who are mostly females aged between 13 and 25, and 69 percent said their Snapchat usage had not declined since Instagram Stories went live. “[It’s] a promising sign that the app’s core Gen Z audience is still engaged and doesn’t seem to be swayed by the surge in users from older audiences,” said Michael Dawson, Episode’s head of studios. “Based on the data we are seeing, young consumers are still keen on Snapchat.” Talk of a shift was sparked when Instagram reported it now has 200 million people using its Snapchat-like Stories feature on a daily basis, while Snapchat counts 158 million daily users. Some reacted by saying Mark Zuckerberg had "officially crushed Snapchat" or tweeted things like, "RIP Snap. But Facebook won't detail exactly what goes into calculating Instagram’s metric, and in any case, comparing Instagram Stories’ numbers with Snapchat’s is to equate apples with oranges Meanwhile, there are other findings from Episode’s data: Seven percent of respondents stated that they, on a daily basis, send between 50 and 100 snaps (Snapchat’s vernacular for messages), while 9 percent of them send more than 100.

Tumblr launches video chat app

Tumblr has unveiled a standalone video chat app with a twist. Cabana is more than just a place where friends can get together and talk, it lets users ‘hang out with friends and watch videos’ online. The product is a collaboration between Tumblr and incubator Polyvore Labs – both of which are owned by Yahoo. The app is designed to let a group of up to six users video chat simultaneously and stream YouTube videos while they are talking. The social network describes it as a ‘digital couch’ and revealed the concept ‘tested really well’ with 13 to 18-year-olds, but stressed it was not just for teens. Tumblr chief executive David Karp imagines Cabana being used by one member of a group to introduce their friends to ‘that ridiculous or totally insightful incredible video’ they’ve found, and then be able to see their reaction. ‘That is a pretty differently shaped network than Tumblr is today,’ he added. Cabana offers Tumblr an opportunity to expand its reach by connecting people in a different way. While the social network is organised around strangers with shared interests, the new app is about bringing together groups of people who know each other well. It will be run as a completely separate product, with users needing to find their friends all over again by looking up their phone numbers.

Snapchat unveils 3D World Lenses

Snapchat is rolling out an augmented reality feature which will allow users to turn their surroundings into a living cartoon. By tapping the camera screen when using the rear-facing camera, people can access the new World Lenses - including a rainbow, flowers and cloud – and are able to move around them in 3D. The Lenses will be updated daily and it is reported the social network is looking at ways to develop the technology so the camera understands what objects the filters are placed around or on top of. The latest update is Snapchat’s biggest push into augmented reality technology to date. It is no longer just about selfies but allows users to share and view the world as they see it, via a smartphone app as well as its video-camera tool Spectacles. Snap, the company behind Snapchat, now describes itself as ‘a camera company’, rather than a social network or app. ‘In the way that the flashing cursor became the starting point for most products on desktop computers, we believe that the camera screen will be the starting point for most products or smartphones,’ Snap’s IPO document published in February revealed.

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