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Hey Listen - We Made a Voice App

After months of staying home and not seeing another human being for days on end, it got kind of lonely for me. So with the help of a conversational experience software partner, I built something to keep me sane under the guise of my agency’s first foray into the world of voice activated technology. Well, that’s not exactly what happened.

The real story begins when Doug Grumet and Michael Mish asked me to lead a task force to structure our voice marketing offering. I had to think about it for a bit. Sure, my team was well-versed in optimizing web pages for voiced search results from Google Assistant, but there was another side to voice marketing that we had the opportunity to dive deeper into. Our dev team in Boston had experience building voice applications for clients. You might know them better by their brand names like Alexa Skill or Google Action. These apps are capable of doing a lot of things beyond answering queries and should be thought of as web entities that you can have a conversation with.

Based on the work that team was doing, it made sense to have Jon Bishop, Director of Creative Technology, join the team. He is passionate about technology of all kinds and has a strong sense of how these apps can connect to a client’s existing consumer platforms. He even wrote a blog post about Intelligent Personal Assistants way back in late 2016. Once he and I kicked things off, we started investigating different solutions available to the marketplace. One of the vendors we found had an office right down the street from us – Voicify. They have a platform that allows brands to rapidly deploy voice experiences across any voice assistant device and easily maintain the content. So, we set up a meeting and got a few demos going.

We learned pretty quickly that their platform was going to allow us to create voice apps quickly for our clients with the benefit of being able to publish an app to multiple platforms from one interface. The Voicify Conversation Content Management System™ is an out-of the-box solution that allows brands to create Q&A content and deploy it onto voice-enabled devices with a few clicks. They have done a lot of the development already so that all you need to do is focus on the best content for your voice app. In order to really get to know the capabilities of the platform, we decided to create a voice app for our own agency. To make sure it wasn’t just the brainchild of two dudes, we enlisted the talents of a few other AMP experts: 

  • Sean Adams - who is an SEO Supervisor on my team and helped build out our Q&A structure
  • Rachel MacMunn - who is a copywriter on our Creative team who made sure our content was aligned with AMP’s brand voice
  • Nick Russo - who is on our AMP Marketing team who ensured our agency knowledge was correct

With the team assembled, we went to work on what kind of information we would want on the app and how the responses to users' questions should be structured. Once we had the content set, we were able to bulk upload the inputs and responses into the Voicify platform. After a few rounds of beta testing (within Voicify and on Google), we were ready for deployment.

AMP Agency’s voice application is our proof of concept of developing a presence for our brand on the emerging platforms for conversational experiences. We’re excited to continue to add to our app over time and play around with a machine learning interface. The Voicify platform has more features that we have the ability to add to our app, such as:

  • Text display, images, and video files for screen devices
  • Sonic branding (playing a brand’s jingle as a part of a welcome message)
  • Audio files, which includes changing the voice of our app to one of our employees like Rachel’s
  • Connections to your ecommerce backend for voice initiated sales

These capabilities are all at our disposal and can be used for any brand that wants to partner with AMP to create their own voice app. With our experience, we can shorten the timeline from kickoff to launch.

So have a chat with us! If you have an Alexa speaker, try saying “Alexa, launch AMP Agency.”

With Google Assistant, say “Hey Google, let me talk to AMP Agency.” Then, go ahead and ask us any questions you may have about AMP.

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AMP Agency, a division of Advantage Solutions, has named Michael Mish president. Mish, who joined AMP Agency in 2012, most recently served as SVP, general manager and previously as SVP of business development. As president, Mish is responsible for agency operations, strategy and growth, including strategic acquisitions. Under Mish’s leadership, the agency has experienced consistent year-over-year growth on a national and now global scale. “AMP’s growth is in large part attributable to Michael’s focus on shifting to strategic relationships and evolving AMP’s capabilities to meet the changing needs of clients,” said AMP Agency Founder and CEO Gary Colen. “Michael has specifically focused on the demand for top-tier, growth-focused digital media services, experience design, dynamic creative, data science and advanced analytics.” Mish serves on Advantage's DE&I board, which is supporting a multiyear diversity, equity and inclusion strategy that includes the establishment of employee resource groups, training programs, talent benchmarks and policy recommendations. Working with other senior executive leaders, Mish is focused on developing a positive culture and recruiting diverse talent to the company. “Improving DE&I within the marketing and advertising industry is nothing new,” Mish said. “As a Hispanic leader from humble beginnings, I recognize the need to create opportunities within and outside of our agency. “I want to be part of the change in the industry. At AMP, our core values are Openness, Empathy and Growth. Our leadership team is focused on developing an inclusive culture and recruiting multicultural talent. Not only is it the right thing to do, but diversity of thought and experience will drive breakthrough work for our clients, increase innovation and accelerate our momentum.” Last year, AMP established a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee and developed a pro-bono program, setting a goal of dedicating up to 10% of annual billable hours to support organizations led or owned by Black, Latinx, LGBTQIA+ people or people impacted by disabilities. “We decided our role in solving inequalities is to focus our intellectual capital on growing businesses that support these communities,” Mish said. “When Michael joined AMP, he immediately drove value for the agency and our clients and has always stood out as an innovative and strategic leader,” Colen said. “The larger vision for the agency has consistently been at the forefront of his contributions. I’ve always looked to Michael for opportunities to lead and guide the agency, given his proven marketing genius and passion for growing our clients’ brands with breakthrough work and for growing our people. In his new role as president, I know he will combine these areas of focus to continue to elevate our agency and our people for our clients.” Mish has had an amazing journey here at AMP! View this video to learn more:   Congratulations, Mish! READ THE NEWS:  https://www.adweek.com/agencyspy/amp-agency-elevates-michael-mish-to-president/173862/

This fall, AMP is kicking off its first ever DE&I challenge! We're playing bingo all month long and we invite you to join us. There’s gonna be bingo, there’s gonna be prizes, there’s gonna be education we can use to make our workplace and the world more equitable and inclusive. Get ready to celebrate diversity *and* simultaneously compete with your fellow AMPers for some awesome grand prizes. To play, screenshot the bingo card template in our Fall 2021 DE&I Challenge highlight on our Instagram page, and re-share it to your Instagram Story as you complete challenges. Tag us in pics of you completing challenges for a chance to be featured in our Highlight reel! For recommendations and resources, view our Instagram page and click the link in bio to view the resource list. LINKS: Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/amp_agency/ Resource list: https://linktr.ee/ampagency We encourage our industry peers to join us in taking on the challenge!

In the world of social media, trends, features, and even platforms can seemingly become a phenomenon overnight. One night, you go to bed after scrolling your Instagram feed, and the next morning you wake up to a brand new, intriguing yet unfamiliar app called TikTok. It doesn't take long for this app to surpass all others as the most downloaded app of all time with over 1 billion active users across the world.  Flash forward to the present day where Instagram - and almost every other popular social platform, for that matter - are scrambling to keep up with this new app. So, what makes TikTok so attractive, and can Instagram compete with their look-a-like competitive feature, IG Reels? Well, let’s dive in!    Why is short-form video so popular all of the sudden?  Before we talk about Reels and TikTok, let’s first address why the short-form video nature of both platforms caught on so quickly. For a long while, social media marketers have strategized their content around the fact that the attention span of our followers is short- and we mean short. According to Facebook, marketers only have 0.25 seconds to capture a user’s attention before they keep scrolling.  With that in mind, snackable video content became the name of the game for brands and content creators and opened the door to a scrappier style of content - especially for brands who had typically seen video content as an expensive, high-production-value ordeal.  The lower production value required for a high-performing Reels or TikTok video was key for brands. That, paired with the fact that these platforms became widely popular during a pandemic when creative teams were developing content out of their own homes. Additionally, it opened up a new door for brands and content creators to turn out quick-hit, entertaining content.    What’s the difference between Reels and TikTok?  Now that we’ve covered why short-form video content is so popular across both Reels and TikTok, let’s discuss the key differences between these platforms that have affected how they’ve been adopted by social users.    Reels TikTok The Takeaway The User Experience To navigate to Reels, users must first open the Instagram app, where they will be shown their regular feed from accounts they follow. Then, they will select the Reels icon from the bottom menu to start viewing Reels in a TikTok-esque feed of content that’s been curated for the user by Instagram’s algorithm.  When a user opens the TikTok app, they are immediately shown a curated feed of TikToks the platform’s algorithm has chosen - AKA the “FYP” (for you page). The full screen and vertical swipe feed create a frictionless user experience that makes it as easy as possible to enjoy the app.  TikTok’s unique user experience puts short-form video content curated just for you at the center stage, creating a seamless and simple way to enjoy content. On the other hand, Reels is only a feature of Instagram among many others.  Music & Video Editing Tools Due to copyright concerns, Instagram business accounts only have access to Reels’ library of royalty-free tracks, while content creators have access to a larger library full of popular copyrighted music. While Reels does offer video editing tools, they can be tricky to navigate and their filters and effects are not very extensive.  Music and sound are the cornerstones of a TikTok video, and the app has nailed this feature with its extensive library of music and user-generated sounds available to content creators and brands alike. On top of that, TikTok’s video editing features are user-friendly, and they offer a wide variety of filters and video effects.  TikTok is the clear winner when it comes to music and video editing tools given their extensive music and sound library and editing capabilities.  Platform Purpose   Instagram, home of Reels, is a network-oriented app, where users are used to seeing content from people they are familiar with and have chosen to follow. However, in the Reels section of the app, it takes on a content-oriented approach, serving users content from people they don’t know.  At its core, TikTok is a content-oriented app. It normalized the experience of seeing content from people you don’t know in your feed based on your usage history and learned preference.  While both platforms' short-form video features are content-oriented, Instagram is known for being a network-oriented app. Instagram has offered a similar user experience through their “Explore” page since 2012, so this balance between content and network orientation is something they’ve been teetering for a while.  The Algorithm  Instagram has been less transparent about the Reels algorithm, however, it has provided a few best practices for success. For example, Instagram recommends that Reels content is entertaining, fun, and inspiring, uses the app’s creative editing tools, and leverages the music or sounds provided. Instagram has also shared that content that is visibly recycled from other apps (e.g. contains a TikTok watermark) will also be deprioritized by the algorithm.  Beyond all of the features listed above, TikTok’s arguably largest advantage is its algorithm. The platform’s parent company, ByteDance, has been very transparent about the large investment they made to design the app’s algorithm that picks up on users' personalized interests in record time, contributing to the effortless and enjoyable nature of consuming content on the app.  Overall, TikTok’s algorithm is the first of its kind and unlike anything we’ve ever seen in the social space, which ultimately contributes to its success. We don’t know as much about Instagram’s Reels algorithm, but we can assume it attempts to mimic the TikTok experience while staying true to the app and attempting to keep Reels content unique.     How Brands Can Be Successful on Reels and TikTok To be successful on Reels and TikTok, brand content shouldn’t feel like brand content. Brands need to get scrappy and creative to grab user’s attention and not stand out like a sore thumb among the style of content shared by individual creators. With that in mind, both Reels and TikTok require a unique content strategy within the brand’s larger social strategy. However, that inevitably requires extra time and effort. To decide which of these platforms to begin focusing your efforts on, ask yourself these two questions:  Which platform is your audience on currently?  Which one can you commit to doing consistently?  While there are many benefits of TikTok as discussed above in our comparison of the two platforms, many brands have already established themselves and have grown a following on Instagram, and therefore beginning to utilize Reels has a low barrier to entry. While cross-posting between the two platforms is an option we’ve seen numerous brands take, a carefully thought out strategy for each channel your brand has a presence on is more important than simply having content out there. When it comes to a brand’s social presence, quality is always preferred over quantity.  The social world is ever-evolving - and at the end of the day, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to which platform is best - the answer is unique to your brand’s priorities and your team’s bandwidth to thoughtfully manage the channels on which your brand appears.