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.
Facebook Announces Voice-Activated Home Device
Facebook’s getting back into the hardware game with a new voice-activated device for the home called Portal.
Portal is designed to compete with the likes of Amazon Echo and Google Home. The device has been in the work for a considerable amount of time, but considering the year Facebook’s had in regards to privacy concerns, it decided to hold back on announcing it.
Portal works as one might expect. It has a camera, screen and microphone, and it will respond to requests from users by tapping into Amazon’s Alexa technology. Apps including Spotify, Newsy, iHeart Radio and Facebook Watch will be available for the device. Third parties like Spotify will be able to run ads, but Facebook will not run ads on its content for now.
The device has user tracking to follow them around a room, so they don’t have to stay in front of the device when video chatting. The device can also swivel between horizontal and vertical orientations. It will cost between $200 and $350, depending on if you get the 10 inch or 15 inch screen.
One thing Facebook is stressing is privacy, and it’s offering specific instructions to users on how to disable the mic and cover the camera. In addition, audio and video will not be stored on Facebook’s servers.
Facebook’s had limited success when it comes to hardware. After all, the Facebook Phone never made it off the ground, so it’s going to be interesting to see just how much consumers are ready to embrace Portal. But it’s not Facebook’s hardware track record that should be the biggest concern.
Facebook has serious reputation issues when it comes to data and privacy, so after the year Facebook’s had with data leaks, user data breaches and misuses of personal data, it remains to be seen just how eager consumers will be to let a Facebook listening device into their homes.
Google Covers Up Security Flaw
This week we learned that a Google+ leak exposed the personal data of as many as 500,000 users. The leak occurred in the spring, but Google kept it quiet in an effort to avoid additional calls for regulation at a time in which Facebook was in the hot seat for the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
Google did state that it found no evidence that user data had been misused, but after the flaw was revealed Alphabet shares fell 2.3% to the lowest intraday price since July.
As a result of the flaw, Google+ is going to shut down, not that it had a massive and active user base. Google is also undergoing an investigation to make sure no data that was part of the flaw was misused.
This news comes just over a week after Facebook announced that 50 million accounts were breached, and while calls of regulation have died down, there’s little stopping them from rearing their heads once again. That would likely make working with digital platforms more difficult for advertisers, and it may increase the likelihood that regulations like GDPR will continue to expand in power.
Snapchat Gets into Premium Content
Snapchat’s getting into the premium content game with plans to make television-quality shows made for mobile phones.
Snap announced that it will be launching 12 original, serialized shows called “Snap Originals.” These shows will live within the app’s Discover section, and they’ll be more familiar than you might think. They’ll work a lot like television series users might be used to with scripts and storylines that carry through from one episode to another. The major difference is that they’ll be shot vertically in true mobile-first style. They will also include six-second, unskippable ads.
Premium content is something Snap’s had for some time, but its partnerships with publishers like NBC and ESPN have been unscripted up until this point. Snap says those shows are currently keeping users coming back with the number of users watching shows each month tripling since January, so it sees an opportunity to double down.
Clearly, Snap sees that its current slate of shows are performing, so there’s a case for expanding into even higher-production content. Still, this seems like Snap (and everyone else for that matter with things like IGTV) are looking at YouTube’s success with younger audiences and trying to duplicate it. The thing that YouTube’s done though has primarily rested on the shoulders of user-generated content, not premium content.
Whether or not premium content is the answer to Snap’s sagging user numbers (at least in the eyes of Wall Street) remains to be seen, but it's a bet Snap is clearly ready to go all in on.
News Quick Hits
Facebook will soon offer first-party cookie options for advertisers using the Facebook tracking pixel. This means advertisers won’t need to use third-party cookies to measure their Facebook campaigns. The announcement comes at a time in which browsers have become more aggressive in preventing tracking by third-party cookies.
Google had its Made By Google hardware event, and it released quite the slew of announcements. The first is the announcement of the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3XL. The phone comes in three colors and boasts one of the best smartphone cameras in the market. It includes Night Sight, which generates pretty incredible nighttime photos. They also announced Pixel Stand, which is a charger that stands your Pixel up to make it work like a home assistant. The coolest announcement was Google Duplex, which calls places to make reservations for you. It also has a call screening service that answers numbers you don’t recognize and asks who’s calling. It generates a transcript of the interaction so you can decide if you want to answer or not. They announced the Google Pixel Slate, which will replace the Pixelbook as Google’s tablet offering. Finally, they announced the Google Home Hub, which is a digital home assistant that has smart home control integration built in. It can be used to video chat with family, watch YouTube videos as well as view Google Photos.
Twitter has announced that it is removing Moments from its iOS and Android apps because the feature is not seeing a lot of use. The curated stories feature had its own tab, which is valuable real estate that Twitter can use to launch other features users may come back to more often.
AT&T is planning to launch a streaming service in Q4 2019 that leverages WarnerMedia’s library of content. The move will be one of the first major efforts by AT&T following its acquisition of Time Warner in June.
Facebook removed 559 pages and 251 accounts run by U.S. citizens to spread misinformation in the United States. Unlike previous misinformation campaigns, the people behind these are domestic players. Their motivations are different as well. They were trying to generate revenue by driving clicks to their accounts and pages, not influence an election. They did so, however with politically driven content.
Facebook has updated the numbers on the hack that hit millions of users. Now, the number of users is 30 million, which is much lower than the 50 million originally stated. Facebook will be notifying users who are affected. The bad news is that 15 million of the 30 million affected users had quite a bit of information scraped, including contact information, usernames, gender, locale, relationship status, religion, hometown, current city, birthdate, device type used to access Facebook, education, work, the last 10 check-ins, website, people or Pages they follow and 15 most recent searches. The remaining affected users had less information scraped.