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Facebook Spaces Highlights F8 Conference

As I detailed last week, Facebook’s annual F8 conference would bring some news regarding its software and interface plans heading into the future.

Facebook delivered.

Highlighting the conference was the introduction of Facebook Spaces, a marriage between augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), video chat, and 360-degree camera technology. Combined with an Oculus Rift VR headset, Facebook is planning to create a virtual meeting space, where your avatar meets in an online space with your friends. You can overlay photos and graphics into this new interface, adding new, fun dynamics to a traditional video chat.

This thing really is wild, and once again marks Facebook’s dominance when it comes to social media product development.

Of course, there are caveats. The Oculus Rift VR hardware will set you back about $600, which is more than most casual Facebook users are willing to shell out for an innovative new feature. Most of the Facebook user-base is presumably satisfied with scrolling their timelines, connecting with their friends, and updating their statuses the old-fashioned way.

Regardless of how popular Facebook Spaces proves to be, it’s just another sign of the company’s commitment to constant evolution.


Tune-in to Facebook’s F8 Conference

Apple’s annual developer conference has turned into a must-see event; with new product and operating system announcements, it’s an occasion that draws attention from the tech-savvy and tech-neophyte alike.

With Facebook’s 21st Century ubiquity, its annual event has become a similar spectacle—and you can stream it live today.

F8 kicks off at 1:00pm EST, with rumors flying about new platform additions, updates on Facebook’s hardware plans—such as VR—and the developmental trajectory of the social media outlet going into 2018.

Facebook has been all over the news of late, with its utilization in the disturbing developments in Cleveland over the weekend, and the overall role that social media plays in propagating false news stories. It will be interesting to see if Zuckerberg speaks to these issues directly during his keynote presentation this afternoon. That alone will be a reason to tune-in.

Social media is tethered into every facet of society these days, so events like F8 warrant an audience. At 1:00pm EST today, we will see what rumors Facebook confirms, what new ideas they unveil, and how they choose to address the company’s evolving cultural role.

Sky-high Incompetence

Filed under: PR disasters, customer service calamities, damage control.

Yes, we’re talking about what everyone else is talking about: that awful video of a passenger being forcibly yanked off of a United flight in Chicago.

I’ll preface this by saying that I really have no idea about the logistics or reasoning involved in overbooking flights—it seems absolutely arcane from my perspective—so I’ll welcome any input from my in-the-know airline friends out there. But this video was horrific.

After refusing to give up his seat—one that he had paid for—a passenger was removed from his seat, screaming and bloodied, and dragged through the airplane’s aisle. Mortified witnesses captured the entire event, and now United Airlines is dealing with the massive PR fallout.

United’s initial response only fueled the backlash, releasing a boiler-plate-lawyer-reviewed statement in which they lamented that they had to “re-accommodate” the passenger.

Re-accommodate. My word.

As a result, United’s stock plummeted 4 percent Tuesday morning.

 Travel is a stressful situation in and of itself. The mere fact that a possibility exists where you can make it through all of the hoops, stow your luggage, and finally find your uncomfortable seat just to have the airline tell you that you will not be taking that flight is absurd. Security personnel manhandling you on your way out is unbelievable. United will be beating this incident back for a long, long time.

We’ll see how the airline chooses to move forward from here, but suffice to say their decision-making process since the video hit the web has been absolutely tone-deaf. These are the types of PR failures that define a company’s reputation—we’ll see if it affects them in the long-run.

Soda Superiority

Happy Opening Week, everybody! May your team start the first series of the 2017 Major League Baseball season off with a string of wins. May your team endure the grueling grind of the summer and achieve October greatness. May they not be mired in a never-ending rebuild while promoting a brand new ballpark that’s not even in the city where they play.

I’ve said before: don’t raise your kids to be Atlanta sports fans.

But as one of the aforementioned hopeless souls, I have to hang my hat on any triumph I can; and today, that triumph is MLB dropping Pepsi for Coca-Cola as its official soda sponsor.

Yes, this is what it’s come to.

If you’ve spent any time in Georgia, you’ll note the locals’ visceral aversion to anything Pepsi, the knockoff, carbonated-syrup-sugar-water Coke substitute masquerading as viable competition. This marauding brand has dominated the major sports sponsorship market, serving as the official soda for all four major leagues since 2015—and Major League Baseball since 1997.

Coca-Cola’s victory is a victory for all of us endowed with refined palates; those that can differentiate between the sweet, crisp, caramel-tinged goodness of an ice cold Coke, and the equivalent of a sugar-laden silent movie playing on our taste buds that is Pepsi.

Deep-seated vitriol aside, it is amusing watching major conglomerates trade blows for marketing superiority. Whether it’s Apple and Samsung taking constant potshots at one another over commercials or Wendy’s turning Twitter troll toward McDonald’s, the gamesmanship and ingenuity that a brand undertakes when claiming its turf always makes it interesting for consumers. It demonstrates that whether you’re a garage-bound start-up or an established heavyweight, creating and constantly defending your niche with creative marketing and advertising is imperative. Marketing is an evolutionary process, and stagnancy and comfort are the coffin nails in companies and corporations.

So Coke retakes its rightful place as the official soda of America’s Pastime, and PepsiCo takes an advertising L. When your team is headed toward another disastrous season, these are the wins you have to cling to.

Digital Town Halls

With social media playing a mega-sized role in the 2016 elections, it’s a seemingly hand-in-glove fit for Facebook to officially begin playing politics.

Yesterday, Facebook unveiled its new “Town Hall” feature, and this should be good news for concerned citizens and drunken trolls alike. By entering your address [adjusts tinfoil hat] on your Facebook settings and opting-in to Town Hall, you are provided with a list of your local and national representatives and their contact information. Within the feature itself, you can send a Facebook message, email—or if you’re so inclined—place a call to your rep’s office.

It’s a unique way for elected officials to connect with their constituencies in a political landscape where digital engagement is as important as face-to-face interaction. Not to mention if you’ve been monitoring the attendance of traditional town hall events lately, members of Congress appear to have their hands full.

But there’s a catch, of course.

Your representatives must also opt-in to Facebook’s Town Hall, and can choose which contact information—including direct messages—that they would prefer listed.

So before you make post-dinner plans to give your congressman a piece of your mind, make sure they have the Facebook messenger link engaged on their profile.

With campaigns for 2018 elections (…already) looming, Facebook is making a concerted effort to overhaul its interface to promote more political activity. This includes another first: sending geographic reminders for elections.

Facebook has avoided going overtly political for some time, but appears that time has come to an end.