This year’s two-day F8 developer conference was rife with interesting and innovative announcements from Facebook. From a brain-computer interface that could allow users to type by thought using optical brain scans, to a wearable device that uses haptic feedback to ‘hear’ through the skin, Facebook packed F8 with ambitious projects to position itself as an innovator on multiple fronts.
Though the event is specifically aimed at developers, many of the highlights will directly impact the business and marketing world. Here are the takeaways that digital marketers should pay special attention to:
Augmented Reality Beyond SnapChat
- New Camera Effects platform: includes Frame Studio and AR Studio (currently in beta) for augmented reality effects
- Effects can be built without coding
After wide coverage of Facebook’s brazen adoption of SnapChat features, Facebook is now one-upping the Snap platform by introducing the the augmented reality Camera Effects platform. The Camera Effects platform has two portions, AR Studio and Frame Studio, and allows your phone’s camera to power new augmented reality experiences. Camera Effects enables artists and developers to build interactive selfie masks and decorative frames (without having to write code!) and AR Studio, which is currently in beta, will soon be able to use location and object recognition to do interact with everyday objects (example: it could recognize a coffee cup and visualize steam floating up from it). In the future, Camera Effects could be used through your own glasses, as it is designed to be compatible with future augmented reality hardware.
Facebook isn’t currently allowing any branding or advertising, unless it is pre-approved, but there will eventually be paid options for businesses to join in on the AR experiences, opening up an entirely new advertising channel.
Virtual Reality with Facebook Spaces
- Facebook Spaces is a new virtual reality application, currently in beta
- Users can create avatars, interact with friends and family through virtual games, visit different locations and more
Mark Zuckerberg previously stated that he believes virtual reality is the future of social interaction. Facebook acquired Oculus in 2014 (side note, if you haven’t seen Mark’s VR demo from 2016’s Oculus Connect, you should check it out here), and now his plans about how to use VR to create a social experience are becoming a reality with the announcement of Facebook Spaces.
Spaces, currently available in beta to Oculus users, is a VR app where users can hang out with friends and family in an interactive environment. If anyone has read Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One they’ll see similarities between the novel’s OASIS and the virtual world that Zuckerberg is presenting – one where you and your friends can escape physical boundaries to visit the International Space Station, answer phone calls through Messenger, or simply play some virtual games.
So, why should digital marketers be keeping an eye on Facebook Spaces? Well the possibilities could be endless – hotels could allow consumers to virtually view rooms before booking, home buyers could virtually walk through a house that they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to visit in person, etc. Perhaps one day virtual stores will appear, that allow avatars to browse available items and make purchases, all while within Spaces.
Additionally, every social platform inevitably creates advertising opportunities, so perhaps this time next year we’ll be seeing virtual billboards in Spaces? Only time will tell, but if Ready Player One is any clue as to where virtual reality can go, we’ll be seeing various ways for brands to profit from Facebook’s VR app.
Updated Surround 360 Cameras
- Facebook revealed updated 360 cameras that allow for six degrees of freedom in 8K quality
Any company investing in video will be interested to know that Facebook revealed two sizes of its new Surround 360 camera – the X24 and the X6 (with 24 and 6 cameras, respectively). The cameras can be used for the creation of both immersive 360 and 3D content in 8K-quality. These cameras offer six degrees of freedom (6DOF), which means that a user can move forward, backward, up, down, left and right within an experience as long as they are using a VR system with positional tracking (like Facebook’s Oculus Rift). These cameras will give businesses the ability to create more engaging, immersive content.
New Messenger Features for Businesses
- Better discovery for Messenger chatbots
- Bots can be added to group conversations for collaborative use
- AI-powered Smart Replies are available for simple tasks such as answering frequently asked questions
- Updated parametric QR codes can be used for wider experiences
Facebook has now made it easier for people to discover chatbots in Messenger by showcasing recently used and trending bots, rather than only offering a search option. Bots can also now be added to group chat conversations, so multiple people can collaboratively build a Spotify playlist, for example.
Chatbots haven’t taken off as quickly some may have expected, but as their AI becomes more natural, there will be plenty of opportunities to interact with consumers in a convenient manner. Chatbots also allow customer service to be 24/7, which is useful as today’s consumer more and more expects to receive speedy responses, no matter the time.
Facebook Smart Replies
If companies can’t invest in full chatbots, they now have a similar solution with Smart Replies on their company Pages. This AI-powered feature can answer commonly asked questions from customers.
Parametric QR codes were also revamped for Messenger, so they now can be used to bring users to a specific experience, rather than just a Facebook Page, person, or bot. These QR codes can be used to provide extra value to your customers – for example, to show a special welcome to event attendees or give coupon codes to people who scan the QR code in a store.
New Facebook Analytics Capabilities
- Omni-channel analytics for insight on the user journey across apps, webpages, Facebook Pages, etc as well as offline conversions
- Custom audiences can be built from omni-channel information
- Automated insights, currently in beta, will actively alert you to trends
- Custom dashboards
Facebook Analytics launched new features aimed at a greater understanding of the full customer journey, across multiple channels. Facebook announced that they were extending omni-channel analytics so that brands can measure interactions that occur on their Facebook Pages along with the activity on their website, bots, and apps. This means that a company now has insight into whether or not a user who commented on a Page post then moves on to purchase an item from the company’s website.
Another update is the addition of support for offline conversions to close the loop between online and offline marketing channels. How does website browsing translate into in-store sales? Now, there’s a window to investigate.
Facebook Analytics is also getting updates in several other areas – the ability to create omni-channel custom audiences, automated insights that can automatically alert you to trends in purchases, customized dashboards that will give your team a clear view of conversions across devices, and more!
What F8 Announcements are you most excited about? Let us know in the comments!