‘Inherently thumb stopping’: Engagement-thirsty marketers try out Facebook 3D photos

Facebook’s News Feed is still valuable real estate to brands, despite the platform’s push to make it “pay to play” and the site’s stagnant growth in the U.S. and UK. The latest sign: marketers are posting 3D photos.

The 3D photos, first made available on Oct. 11, make photos taken in iPhone’s Portrait mode appear to have depth. Facebook slowly introduced the functionality to users in the U.S. and the U.K., and is still rolling it out to all users. Anyone on Facebook can see 3D photos, but not everyone can post. Facebook Pages — home to brands and publishers — do not have the feature, and yet some of their administrators have found a workaround.

The spread of 3D photos is just the latest sign that some brands are willing to jump at any opportunity platforms — even the polarizing Facebook –provide to show that they’re innovative. While Facebook essentially killed organic reach earlier this year, being an early adopter to new features like 3D photos has the potential to gain the attention of consumers — free of charge, other than time spent.

Ritas, the Facebook Page for Anheuser-Busch’s Bud Light Ritas, posted a 3D photo on Oct. 13 that showed the company’s “Party with Ritas” box, in partnership with the National Football League. Marni Hamberg, digital brand manager of Ritas, said posting wasn’t “much of a question” as soon as they discovered the format.

3D photos are “inherently thumb-stopping. The visual moves and changes encourage people to tap into and expand more. Long-form video has been declining as attention span [in News Feed declines]. 3D photos is the logical next step as a format that grabs your attention,” Hamberg said.

Facebook’s 3D photos don’t render off the platform, yet

Bite Squad, a food delivery service popular in middle America and available in more than 400 cities, has posted two different 3D photos: one of a Bite Squad employee in uniform on Oct. 16 and another of BBQ from Famous Dave’s on Oct. 19. Craig Key, CMO of Bite Squad, said his team was interested in posting them because of the engagement they already receive from visual posts on social media.

“For our business, it’s you’re hungry and you have a craving immediately. The News Feed is a perfect place to spark that: I do want BBQ, or I do want Pad Thai. My goal is to catch your eyes as you scrolling your feed. Just the sudden movement [of the image] is a way for you to scroll back up,” Key said.

Bite Squad’s second 3D photo on Facebook

Both companies discovered the experience thanks to ad agency Fallon, which counts Ritas as a client. Greg Swan, director of digital and social strategy the Minneapolis-based agency, said while Facebook told his agency brands they cannot access the tool yet, his team discovered that Facebook users who have the ability to post 3D photos on their personal account can do so on Facebook Pages as well. For now, as the feature rolls out to more users, the agency is already studying best practices.

“We learned you need a Portrait-mode iPhone photo, and it has to be emailed, not texted, so the photo retains its metadata. It works best when there is a solid background and the subject can’t be too shiny or white, as it causes bleeds, or too far away. The AI also had trouble with windows or glass and with human hair sometimes,” Swan said.

For now, advertisers cannot pay to boost 3D photos in News Feed as a sponsored post, but a Facebook spokesperson told Digiday that the company is focused on “helping individuals share 3D photos with friends and family as we continue to roll out the feature and listen to feedback. In the future, we think this format could be useful for businesses too, but no specific timing to share.”

Still, brands are interested in paying up once it’s made available. Key of Bite Squad said his company’s 3D photo posts didn’t appear to perform much differently than other organic posts but added that it was hard to compare due to a small sample set. Most of the company’s traffic on Facebook is from sponsored posts, he added.

“We’re dying to get these things in a promoted post. I’m glad we’re experimenting now, and we’re going to keep experimenting,” Key said.


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