Social media and the campaigns that drive brand success are nothing without the people who make things happen!
Each week we profile one innovative industry executive and get them to answer 12 questions. Then, we share their insight with you!
You loved it, so we are back with another 12 Questions Podcast. Today, we have a chat with Snapchat genius and CEO of Fanbytes, Mr. Timothy Armoo. And it’s time to dig in! Let’s get started with getting to know a little bit about Tim!
If you are choosing to read along… get ready! It’s a long one, but a brilliant one!
Otherwise, you can listen to the podcast here:
Hi! As Linleigh said, I’m Tim, and I’m the 22-year-old CEO of Fanbytes; a self-service Snapchat advertising platform. We help brands do everything from their creation, distribution, and optimisation of Snapchat campaigns, working with a variety of big brands such as Go Pro, Adidas, and Disney.
About Social Media in General
1. If you had to pick what is your personal favourite social media platform to use?
I feel like that is quite biased.
And why do you think it’s your favourite?
For a number of reasons. The first one is that I think it’s the first true social media app which actually enables everyone to be their own broadcaster in a way that other platforms don’t. I think by its very nature, it is also very opt-in as opposed to Twitter, Instagram and/or etc. where I go on the platform to watch something or check out something and then just get swamped into a sess pit of information and things I don’t actually care about.
The fact is, that with the Snapchat being able to opt-in is something I really value, because it highlights this overarching idea of curation. So, on one hand it lets anyone be their own broadcaster but you also have a curated feel. But thirdly, I also feel it is quite a personal thing. My Snapchat is home to the least amount of friends compared to my other social networks. But I feel like because of that, Snap enables me to be my raw authentic self, as opposed to other social platforms where there’s often a pressure to come up with this fabricated idea of who you are. So for those 3 reasons I think Snapchat very much so.
2. Which social platform is used most by your brand/agency?
We are a B2B company. So our clients are not necessarily 16-year-old girls. Therefore, we actually use LinkedIn quite a bit. We actually do use our own social media platforms like Snapchat as well quite a bit when we are trying to display the culture of the company. I think again when we talk about Snapchat being fairly personalised, and it being very in-depth way to look at things in a way which other social platforms aren’t, then it’s a really good way to display company culture. And therefore, it is those kinds of things which we are then able to perhaps syndicate onto other platforms, like LinkedIn.
We have been known to do this well… I think it’s quite an interesting trick we do, where we always kind of create cool content on Snapchat and sure we can distribute it on there, but also we might post it on LinkedIn or something like that. And it is that fusion of having this platform, specifically tailored on things that are rawer and more personal content and cutting it into a place that is typically professional in nature, causes a lot of shock value. And it actually leads to people engage with us quite a lot. So, I think it’s a combination of both Snapchat and LinkedIn within the company.
So you quite like that like that disruptive approach?
Yeah, I think at the core of our company… So just a bit about the company – as I mentioned, at the top, I’m 22. The average age of our team is 21. So, we recently hired a 19-year-old to join – so at our core we have this sense not needing to follow the norms. And what we have come to find is that the results just… happen when you’re truly disruptive! While we might not ALWAYS be disruptive on LinkedIn, we are known to do so and that says a lot about us as a company.
For example, a couple of months ago there was a big mean going around of a guy called ‘Salt Bae’ I don’t know if you heard, but this guy was sprinkling salt and making steak in a completely outrageous way, so from that we took the original meme a step further, memeify all our content on LinkedIn around that, creating that shock value. It is that disruptive nature it lends itself very much to us, for example creating content on the Snap and then syndicating that out to other platforms.
3. In your opinion, what is the future of social media, and which platforms do you think will lead the way?
I think if you traditionally think about social media right now it shares 3 main things. Firstly, there isn’t much personalisation in social media right now. I go on my Facebook newsfeed and my Twitter newsfeed and I see this barrage of random stuff which I don’t particularly care about.
It is also quite intrusive as well. Especially the ads on these platforms. They are very intrusive. Like I go on YouTube and randomly I see and ad coming. But in general, the consumption of social media on these platforms is quite an intrusive one.
Then, there is also this idea of it being very one way. It’s very much people are just shouting at you the whole time. That’s is kind of social media is right now.
So you have these 3 things like mass marketing, fairly intrusive and also very one way just monologue from people. Therefore, I think what’s going to happen, is that it’s going to flip the other way. I think you’ll soon find mass marketing in a much more personalised format and the intrusion become more native.
Even with ads for YouTube for example, so many times before I installed an ad blocker, I would want to watch a video and then, just before I go to watch it an ad shoots up in my face. I feel as social media evolves, even though those branded experiences would be forced to be a bit more native.
The third and final thing though is that it needs to become more of a 2-way conversation. I feel that’s where social media is going, and you can see this with the advent of things like Snapchat.
There are certainly some interesting apps out thought, like House Party is a really cool app and so is Musical.ly, because it’s very much stuff that you are interested in. And the interaction on musically… it’s amazing! I can put out something and know the engagement from my fans or users will be so quick!
So it’s relevant to them essentially.
Yeah, deeply relevant to them. If it was something like Facebook or Twitter and increasingly Instagram, it’s almost like an abyss of content and it’s like oh… okay… that’s not interesting. If you think about social media, it’s almost like you have at the base level of social media. People are creating these microcosms, or little groups of things they are interested in.
I think the kind of app which is able to really enable everyone to create these nice groups is the app that’s going to win.
About Great Social Media Campaigns
4. Please tell us about the one social media campaign you liked the most this year.
I’ve seen a bunch of these. There was one however that was super interesting! So we have spoken about one and I’ll touch on that a bit later, but there’s one that is super recent actually. It was Gucci. For a day or so, they turned everything on their Instagram page to memes. I saw that and I thought that is so outrageous and so not Gucci… that it worked! It sparked talk and then by sparking talk it obviously led to things like sales and etc. for them, and I thought that was really interesting!
I think the one that was I think absolutely perfect, was one Taco Bell did. They had a campaign last year on Snapchat, where if you used their filter, you turned everybody’s head into a burrito. And what I found is that so many people were using it! Perhaps the most interesting thing about it though was the fact that it was an advert for Taco Bell that seamlessly integrated their customers into it. Therefore, not only did it reach their current customers, but also people who perhaps might not have been their customers in the first place – turning them all into the brand ambassadors. In doing so, they did it in a way which was fun and I think most advertising is often seen like oh we have to bear with it in order to get to the fun stuff.
“It has to be corporate first.”
Yeah exactly we live in this weird world where we have software that basically enables us to say we are going to offer this to you, but if you pay us extra, we will take away all the ads. There is this implicit almost admission of guilt like, ‘yeah we know you hate ads but in order for us to survive this we need them’.
For Taco Bell though, this was interesting because their Snapchat Campaign actually invited people to partake in the ad and people voluntarily did so because it enabled them to look cool and have fun! I often think of it as a campaign, but not just any campaign. The themes surrounding it made advertising fun and users actually feel like they are a part of something. And they didn’t mind it so much because it was cool and fun! So, I think that was pretty solid so to me in terms of the last year I think that’s definitely been my most favourite campaign.
5. What about the latest campaign your brand or agency was involved in?
We have done a bunch of really interesting stuff; I think the stuff we have always been able to do… I always quote my favourite by the results. Because, I feel, in general when you think about brand advertisers… a lot of people will give us these very vague metrics as to ‘Hey it raises brand advocacy by so x%’ and etc. but my questions are always: ‘How many sales did it do?’ ‘How many sign ups did it get?’ ‘How many downloads did it drive?’
For me though, my favourite campaign was Emojiant; a messaging app which lets you send musical emoji’s to your friends. What happened was, they wanted to drive downloads. So, our design network / creative team created this fun 10 second ad – a conversation between a guy and a girl. The girl was asking the guy out using musical emoji’s and the guy was thinking about it in emojis… to create this whole message of ‘use this app to get the guy/girl of your dreams.
Our software distributed it to the right audiences on Snapchat, and in 24 hours it became the number trending app in the whole of the US. So much so that at the time in terms of the download numbers, they were more popular then Pokémon Go! They stayed trending for 2 days and even more interestingly enough they invested in our last round. So it is those kinds of things to me that was the best campaign. Primarily because it wasn’t the largest brand in the world but through simple advertising we managed to build a virtually unknown brand to make them the most popular in the US for 2 days! Now that… that is cool. That is what advertising should do. It should drive results in a fun way that actually makes sense to audiences.
And engages them.
Yeah. As a user, it was relevant to them. So, they were trying to target teenage girls. And in doing so, they can definitely empathise with this idea. So for me, I thought, this is amazing! So, I would say that was definitely one of our block buster campaigns.
6. What is the most important thing brands and agencies must keep in mind, in order to build a successful social media campaign?
I think the key thing is to realise that you are talking to human beings. This is something I think is such a general thing. You are talking to human beings; human beings with emotions and human beings who you can actually stir something across.
In our office here there’s this big mantra going on that we believe in the idea of ‘advertainment’. It is kind of our thing. This whole idea in the past sure when eyeballs were the only thing that mattered and it was just reach reach reach… I’ve sat in places where I’ve been with a brand and they were discussing a campaign they did with the last agency that they worked with. They have been like ‘hey what were the results on that?’ and then say ‘oh we got like 30 million impressions… so yeah!’ And while that’s great, how many sales did that drive…
‘We got 500 sales’. Interesting… right? 30 million people saw them, going through their newsfeed. While in reality they got 30 million eyeballs and only drove 500 sales. However, digging into their campaign, you can also see a number of people in the comment section of your Facebook ad telling them to fuck off. So, great… they pissed off a lot of people and that’s primarily because they were treated like a data set. They went in blind saying ‘let’s just launch this ad to a ton of people… surely something will work.’
Example aside, I think, the way in which a campaign should be viewed should be something deeper than just to reach a lot of people. And a lot of people will say that deeper thing is engagement. But, I actually don’t even think it’s that, because engagement means likes, comments and shares etc. You can have a ton of comments and shares but it’s got to be about stirring people to take action like download your app, drive your sale etc. Now that is particularly interesting. So, we harp on this idea of ‘advertainment’; this idea about stoking some sort of emotion in your audience. Because for us, that is what we think actually works for social media campaigns.
Another thing that’s quite interesting is that I think it’s unfair to call social media campaigns, campaigns. I think Gary Vaynerchuk said something like, ‘Social media is just the current state of the internet.’ And, I think that is pretty much right. So the question should be: ‘How do you run marketing campaigns?’
I feel like when brands take this idea and market it to people and stoke some level of emotion, that’s when marketing campaigns will become even better and even more competitive than they already are.
7. In your opinion, which is the most important KPI to watch during a social media campaign?
I am a very straight forward type of guy. I am always asking: ‘How many sales did you drive?’and ‘How many dollars did you drive?’ Therefore, I think at a primary level, your key KPIs should be sales, downloads, and/or sign-ups. On a secondary level however, what you want to do is also -and this is something that we’re trying to think about at Fanbytes– ‘Is there a way to quantify the emotion?’
Nah… I don’t even think it is brand sentiment. I feel that again, is such a big term people put out. Brand sentiment… brand advocacy… like I’ve seen campaigns where ‘brand advocacy’ was up 89% and I am like, ‘So… this is just due to your survey of 200 people?’
Therefore, I think your KPIs, obviously at a very primary level, are sign-ups, sales, downloads… That makes perfect sense! On a secondary level, use KPIs that measure emotion or how many that you actually move from being indifferent about your brand to actually caring about your brand. And honestly, that doesn’t necessarily have to be good emotions. It doesn’t have to be ‘Hey that was amazing.’
I read this really interesting book, ‘Contagious‘. It is by a guy called Jonah Burger. And a large part of what he talks about, making things spread comes from actually stirring some sort of emotion. It could be anger, it could be humour, and/or it could be joy. Stirring some kind of emotion in there is key.
I feel there is a lot more that needs to be done in terms of how to quantify that. I think it needs to be much more in-depth than just brand sentiment or whatever. I feel like if you are able to get that KPI right and build buzz then that will lend itself to the sales, downloads and/or the sign-ups. So… I guess that is kind of my vague answer to that question.
About the Future of Social Media Marketing
8. What will be the role of social media in the marketing mix of the future?
I think this kind of alludes to an earlier thing I mentioned, where I said social media is literally the current state of the internet. I feel like social media would just be the default way marketing. I actually see it quite a lot from old media brands and we work with a few. These are people you wouldn’t even imagine to even consider social media.
I had a recent conversation with Beano, you know, Dennis the Menace and etc. These guys are a fairly old media brand. They’re trying to come with their whole new way of doing things and to come with a whole new approach. They’re trying to work this whole Buzzfeed for kids type angle.
So a whole refresh really.
Exactly. And if you think about it, they’ve had to change everything they’re doing to be more social media friendly. I feel that just alludes to this point that there isn’t a kind of role that social media will play in the marketing space. I think just in general every single brand will have to be on social media or they die. As a function of that, there’s not so much of a role social media plays in the marketing space, it is more like social media is marketing.
There isn’t that basic level of marketing where social media then plays one part in it. I generally feel like, as the time goes on and phones become more obscure, what will happen is that social media would literally take the place of marketing. Every brand that doesn’t have that and actually have the methodology to engage with people on social media and on phones would just die.
I mean really, even in terms of personal social media channels, you’re marketing yourself to your friends, you are marketing your experiences and etc. So, yes I agree.
I think in general, what social media has enabled everyone to do is, as I said with Snapchat, be their own broadcaster. And in a world in which everyone is their own broadcaster, brands cannot just lump a bunch of money behind an ad and then say ‘I have a bigger mega phone’, ‘I am going to shout more than you.’ Even though, in the past, that’s how it worked. In the past, with print, radio and TV the top spot always went to the person with the biggest budget. Not allowing the ‘mum and pop’ shops down the road to compete with the Unilevers of the world. Unilever always outspent them getting the prime spot in the paper, on the radio and on TV. However now, all of that is changing. Social media levels the plane field quite a bit.
9. What would you say is the biggest obstacle within the field of social media marketing?
I don’t think there is too much of an obstacle when it comes to the earlier adopters of social. However, when it comes to the laggards, what is essentially is happening is, they are using old tricks in a new world. This idea of let’s take something which worked on TV and radio and let’s just put that into social media.
Let’s do one campaign and spread it across.
One of the interesting things though, is we work with some of the biggest brands on Snapchat. And often, we find Snapchat while not typically in their budget is typically taken from TV budgets. In fact, I wrote an article in Campaign Magazine about how Snapchat are evolving into a new form of TV. What is interesting is that brands are essentially taking old media budget and putting it in a new media. But what they are also then doing is transferring that old media strategy of using the exact ad format across all channels. It’s like… No, that is not the point!
Exactly, that is not the native content that needs to go on the platform.
Exactly, so I feel like the biggest obstacle is this idea of let’s use what works on old media and just shift it over.
Do you think that comes to back to the actual budgets that are going into the projects themselves?
Nah, I think the interesting thing about, social media is that the question of budget is slowly becoming less and less relevant. I think it comes back to the idea of how much emotion can you stir in people? And ‘What is the level of interesting creativity that you can use?’ I don’t think so a budget question as it is a laziness in mentality thing.
I mean, we work with some big brands and sometimes as a 22 year old I go into a board room with two to five people where everyone is over the age of 45, and more often than not, they say we will take some budget from the TV and we will put it on Snapchat. Kind of like, because it worked in 2005 it must still work now.
So, no I think it’s less of a budget thing and more of a laziness in mentality. But once you have people who actually want to embrace it, and it will take a while when you think about the laggards in the space, but eventually they will get it and it will start to make sense to them. They will start to realize that you do need a bit of different strategy when it comes to social media.
So then you think with the younger generations coming into the workplace and being further involved that will make it a lot easier?
Yes, by far. That is why I say eventually it will change. It is primarily an age thing.
For example, I credit quite a lot of our success here at Fanbytes to the fact that as a company we are a very young. Combined with the fact that we are quite, a large part of our success has been the fact that we are young people who use the platforms and functions and understand the consumption habits.
So as time goes on, and as more young people get into the fold, especially into the agency role I think the old mentality will start to shift.
10. If you had to give one piece of advice to someone who has just started out in the industry, what would it be?
So as I mentioned, Fanbytes is my third company. My second company was when I was 17 and I actually sold that company in like 11 months… just before when I turned 18!
But I think my general business advice would be aggressively learn. Everything that you want to know in the world has been done by somebody, somewhere so just learn how they did it.
I think that is actually something similar that I would tell somebody who was trying to get to the social media game. It is a vast landscape and the way in which you actually win, is not by just reading a bunch of stuff, it’s like being a practitioner. I think that’s quite a bit thing.
So many people say things when really, they just read it on The Drum, or a Campaign Magazine. You need to practically do it to understand it. Don’t try and jump into the social media game unless you can say you are a practitioner, you have an account on these platforms and you are very familiar with the intricacies of them.
Every day I spend like an hour at least, sometimes two, not doing anything for Fanbytes, but literally sitting down and combing through Snapchat features. I know what is going on the discovery channel; I know the little tricks to get further engagement, or what words I have to use to get my Snap to go viral in Snapchat– which isn’t known for being a viral ecosystem.
Fundamentally, if you need to be able to understand what makes these social media platforms tick at a practical level.
I was recently on a panel at a conference where someone on stage said something, and I was like, ‘Uh…sorry bro, I call bullshit on that’ because it just was not true. In principle it sounded true, but the facts didn’t bear it.
I feel like in general with social media you get so many snakelike salesmen coming in and saying, ‘I have 10 years of doing this’ but what happens is that at the end of the day, the people who win are practitioners who just understand the intricacies of what they do.
So if I were talking to the 18 year old me, and I think that this is the very problem I had before because the company I sold was a business publication, Entrepreneur Express. And how we made money was from display advertising i.e. like banner ads, very simple, very obvious. But because I was 17 and had just sold a company, I had this mentality of ‘What can anyone tell me about advertising?’
I remember the first year of Fanbytes, I was saying stuff out of my ass because I was like ‘this sounds like it could be true’, ‘I read this in this article’, ‘I read this in Marketing Week and therefore it must be true.’
However, it was when I started taking the timeout and saying ‘I’m actually going to practice and see all these things through’, that I started seeing those things I thought to be true were not at all.
For example, many people think Snapchat is only good for brand advertising so it’s impossible to do direct response advertising because there isn’t like a click view function. It is true, there isn’t like a click-view function, but did you know that there are certain things you can say in your caption which will get people to go to your site? Did you know that you could also create these custom snap codes specifically which will draw people to a custom site that you built?
We work with a few big e-commerce brands and I always ask them: ‘Did you know this?’ and they are like, ‘Well, we didn’t know that, we just thought because there wasn’t a place where you could click and go directly…’
But, did you know you can create custom Snap codes that people can screen shot and go directly there?
Sometimes I even speak to people from other agencies, media agencies, creative agencies, and I say, ‘Did you know this?’ and more often than not the answer is: ‘Oh no, we just thought click-views are on YouTube and Facebook.’
It’s not only about the click throughs.
Exactly, I think I’m kind of giving a super long answer, but I think the gist of it is, Follow the attention. It kind of alludes to this point that I was making earlier about people are stuck in their old ways.
The interesting thing about social media, it’s almost like the landscape of the internet, but if you treat it like a piece of land, always people are building these new huts and these new houses and all these houses are getting different types of attention.
I feel like right now and for a very long time Snapchat will have the attention of anyone between 13 and 21 years old. But an interesting thing is people did not ‘follow the attention’ until it was too late especially in the case of Facebook. People are still just getting their own Facebook pages! And it’s like you have missed the boat! So being, a practitioner and follow the attention. I think those would be the two things that I would give.
11. In your opinion, which is the “ad format of the future”?
That is easy. I think definitely vertical video. It is key I think in terms of I think video because it is one of the most compelling. Going forward, it makes sense in a world where like AOL and all these guys were the kings of text advertising and then you have like picture advertising… I think video is going to be the key one going forward. Vertical video is definitely going to be the key one going forward because I feel like there are a bunch of statistics saying completion rates of vertical video far outweighs horizontal video by like 6.7 times or something like that. Amazing right?! And all because that’s in general, how people consume it.
Yeah, when you have it on your phone why would you want to tilt it and play around with it to watch it.
Exactly, and if you think about the phone being peoples gate way to the world then you have to kind of like create content which is native to their environment. So, I think vertical video short form for sure as peoples attentions spans get lower and lower ads will need to be shorter and shorter.
Another interesting thing, and this is kind of away from Snapchat, but one of the things I am really interested in is GIFs. There is a company called Giphy, and I think if they can get this right, the use of GIFs would be huge, because they are essentially short videos on loop!
Yeah, even on Snapchat there are ways you can create your own by just speeding up the format. I reckon there is an interesting opportunity there. But for me, it’s primarily video because that’s the way the world is really… short vertical video because peoples attentions spans are rapidly decreasing.
12. Finally, tell us one thing someone would NOT be able to find about you from looking at your social media profiles. Are you an open book on social?
Not at all… I am trying to think a bunch of things I don’t know there are a bunch. Like not many people knew that although I was born here in Hackney, I lived in Ghana for 10 years before I returned at 11? Or that I do intermittent fasting? Oh and I am a programmer. I guess that is the interesting one. I am a 22 year old ‘ad man’ but also I can program as well.
Which is good though because of creativity and ….
Yeah now, I don’t do any of the programming. I give it to the people that can program much better than me, but I guess that’s one thing most people would not know about me.
So what did you go to school for initially?
Around here or?
I went to Warrick. The team in general… it’s kind of ridiculous how like nerdy we are. I came from computer science at Warrick my co-founder, Ambrose Cooke also 22, got a Masters in, in Mechanical Engineering from Imperial College.
He actually got a first in his dissertation by building out Fanbyte score algorithm that we use to power our network. So essentially, it is like a piece of software that is able to quantify how engaged or influential a person is in any audience segment. He actually came up with it. He called it was ‘Using Machine Learning to Determine Social Importance’ or something like that.
Our other co-founder was a computer scientist at Nottingham and the other guys came from technical backgrounds as well.
So you have quite a wide range of technical skills.
Yeah exactly right.
How many of there are you now?
Right now, we are 8 people. When people see us in the press or in public they always think we are like 50 people or something, but that is the most interesting part! We are able to do so much more than most people do with like quadruple our head count because we use like ‘tech’ as our thing. So we are not it the world of being an agency we are like technology platform.
Amazing! Well, we certainly are looking forward to staying tuned in! Thank you for coming by Tim! And thank you all for reading/listening!