This Week in Social (Week of September 8)

This Week in Social is a weekly digest of some of the biggest stories in social media marketing news. These stories are the show notes for the Brave Ad World Podcast. Each story is discussed at a deeper level on the podcast.

Zuckerberg Says More Effort to be Put Behind (Read more at The Wall Street Journal)

Mark Zuckerberg declared that Facebook is ready to spend billions in its effort to bring Internet to everyone around the globe at an event in Mexico City.

"…I believe that over the long term, it's going to be a good thing for us and for the world," stated Zuckerberg.

Last year, Facebook launched, an effort to bring the Internet to more people in places like Africa and Asia. Today, 3 billion of the world's 7.3 billion people will have Internet access by the end of this year.

Facebook's mission is certainly a noble one. Bringing Internet to more people means bringing information and connectivity to them as well, but Facebook also stands to benefit. Facebook has 1.3 billion users, and its biggest growth opportunity does not yet have Internet access. Still, that hasn't stopped Facebook from garnering 100 million users in Africa, 80% of which access it through a mobile device.

Perhaps, Facebook's biggest opportunity to expand into these underserved markets is through WhatsApp, Facebook's messaging service. WhatsApp provides simple, low bandwidth communication that Facebook can bring to markets first.

Facebook has deep penetration where the Internet is available, and where it isn't, it has developed a low bandwidth, text-based version of itself. WhatsApp just allows it another way in. Regardless, if bringing the Internet to more people means more Facebook, it's probably a noble cause.

Facebook Brings Changes to Videos and Opens Up Video Ads (Read more at TechCrunch and Digiday)

Facebook is following-up on its acquisition of video ad tech company LiveRail in July and introduction of autoplay video ads by giving advertisers more reasons to think of it as a video platform. The social network announced that it receives 1 billion video views per day, 65% of which are from mobile. With video viewing clearly a behavior users are adopting, Facebook announced that it will start recommending additional videos related to ones you've watched. These recommended videos will not be paid placements. In addition, advertisers and publishers can include a 'call-to-action' link at the end of their videos. Facebook is also finally providing access to deeper video analytics that provide insight on view counts and viewer behavior, but view counts will not just be in analytics.

Videos uploaded by users, Pages and public figures will all show public view counts, giving users an idea of how compelling a piece of content is before deciding to watch. These view counts will display next to like and comment counts.

Facebook also announced that video ads will no longer just be available as premium ads sold for around $1 million and offering high reach and video ad exclusivity for viewers over 24 hours. Video ads will now also be available as traditional units, sold on a CPM or CPC basis. This means video ad units will be available to more advertisers at more affordable rates.

Facebook clearly wants a piece of the nearly $6 billion expected to come from digital video advertising this year, and it's offering more and more reasons for advertisers to focus on it as a video engagement, distribution and advertising platform. This does come with risks. For one, opening up video ads to more advertisers may mean an influx of ads, making each one less effective. To date, Facebook video ads have been viewed as successful. It also comes at the risk of alienating users with autoplay content they didn't want or ask for.

Still, video is a core aspect of where Facebook is going, ant it has its sights set squarely on YouTube.

Twitter Launches Buy Button (Read more at The New York Times)

Twitter has officially launched its test for a buy button. A small percentage of U.S. users will now see a 'Buy' button on tweets from select partners. That button will allow them to buy directly through the tweet. Upon tapping 'Buy,' users will see additional product information and a form to fill in shipping and payment information. Once confirmed, information is sent to the merchant for fulfillment.

Stripe was a key partner in building the button, and initial test merchants include Burberry, Home Depot, RED, Demi Lovato, Parrell and others.

Assuming the test goes well, Twitter's 'Buy' button could offer the network one way to diversify its revenue stream, which currently relies on advertising, by charging a fee for facilitating transactions. Of course, Twitter's test comes with a much rumored 'Buy' feature around the corner from Facebook and Pinterest potentially eying ecommerce itself. Whenever any of these platforms do a full rollout, the opportunity for marketers is clear. After all, this aims directly at the charge that social doesn't deliver on ROI and gives social media last click attribution when it is able to make the sale.

The key will be delivering the right product to the right person at the right time, which may mean relying on Promoted Tweets to stand out in user Timelines.

Apple Introduces New Hardware (Read more at The Verge)

Apple took the stage in San Francisco to introduce new hardware and features. The event kicked off with Apple announcing the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. The screens on both phones are larger than any current iPhone models. The iPhone 6 features a 4.7" screen, and the 6 Plus sports a 5.5" screen. New phones will be available on September 19.

The other big piece of hardware was the Apple Watch, which pairs with an iPhone to bring communication and information to users' wrists.

The other pieces have to do with features. One of the most notable comes with the iOS 8 software upgrade. Notifications on the new operating system will alert users of new content and then allow them to take action, such as posting to Twitter, within the notification. The biggest update related to the hardware is Apple Pay, which uses the new hardware's NFC capability to allow people to sync their payment information to their devices and then pay wirelessly at participating stores — no credit card swiping required. They're also bringing more seamless payment features to online purchases.

There's a lot to discuss behind the features and specs associated with Apple's new hardware, but one of the most interesting angles is the potential opportunities for marketers.

The most obvious is the larger screen-size, which have the potential to deliver more compelling, interesting and engaging ads on mobile devices. The need to adapt to small screen sizes will slowly but surely be gone as consumers adopt larger screen sizes from Apple and other manufacturers who already offer large screens like Samsung.

The Apple Watch and updated notifications show potential for marketers to push messages to consumers. Of course, pushing meaningful content will be essential for success, but the possibility to connect with consumers on their wrists, particularly in a fitness context, is getting closer.

Finally, Apple Pay will bring more attention to Passbook, an app on iOS devices where users can store things like loyalty cards. That's where payment information will reside. With more attention on Passbook, the opportunity for marketers to integrate their loyalty programs and do more with coupons and other promotions becomes a more tangible possibility.

Facebook Cuts Down on Ads Users Don't Like (Read more at Facebook)

Facebook has announced that users will be asked to give feedback on why they hide ads from their News Feeds. The announcement followed a test launched several weeks ago.

Feedback and reasons people can choose after hiding ads range from "It's not relevant to me" and "I keep seeing this" to "It's offensive or inappropriate" and "It's spam." Facebook will gather the feedback, and if an ad receives a significant amount of negative feedback, it will stop showing it.

This change comes with the risk of some ads not meeting their goals, but it also means ads that are irrelevant will get the feedback advertisers need to make adjustment. The challenge for brands, however, will be that Facebook will not notify advertisers which ads are hidden. Instead, advertisers will have to rely on looking at analytics to check performance.

We're seeing Facebook taking steps here to retroactively up the quality of creative on its site. Instagram has laid the groundwork from the beginning that quality is a paramount goal. Facebook seems to want that same standard.

The ideal outcome of all of this is better targeted ads with stronger creative. Although, this will likely come with some frustrations along the way.

News Quick Hits

  • Spotify will start testing video ads beginning October 1 with a handful of brands, including McDonald's, Kraft, Universal and Coca-Cola. The ads will allow listeners to view the ads in exchange for a half hour of commercial-free music. Users can also opt to decline the video ads and listen to standard audio ad-supported music. Spotify has 30 million free, ad-supported service users. However, the current audio-only ads generate less revenue than video, and with U.S. advertisers set to spend nearly $6 billion on digital video this year, Spotify wants in on the action. The video ads will only be available for mobile devices for the foreseeable future. (Read more at AdAge)
  • Facebook's Slingshot app has launched an update that allows Sling senders to remove the requirement that friends reply with a photo or video to unlock the message. While this was a feature that drew criticism from some, it was Slingshot's most differentiating component. (Read more at TechCrunch)
  • The ninth circuit court of appeals has dismissed a lawsuit from several business owners against Yelp, accusing it of exhortation and manipulating reviews. The court noted that not enough sufficient evidence could be provided to support the claim. This means the plaintiffs could file the suit again with adequate evidence. (Read more at SocialTimes)
  • Foursquare has added leader boards based on the types of places a user checks in to Swarm. The feature allows friends to compete even if they don't visit the same places. Users who happen to be number one for a particular category or location type receive a golden sticker when they check-in. This update brings back some of Foursquare's gamification features to Swarm. (Read more at The Next Web)
  • Snapchat settled a lawsuit filed by Reggie Brown, its ousted co-founder. Brown claimed that he came up with the disappearing photos idea and received nothing for it. The conditions of the settlement were not disclosed. (Read more at Forbes)
  • Facebook has started testing a feature that would allow users to set posts to expire. According to The Next Web, some users have post deletion options ranging form one hour to seven days. (Read more at The Next Web)