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.
YouTube Recommendations Emphasize Long-Form
Another bite’s been taken out of snackable content. A recent look at YouTube’s algorithm shows that the service has shifted its recommendation algorithm from focusing on short, bite-size videos to longer-form content. That may seem counterintuitive when most video views are happening on smartphones, but 54% of those video views are of content 20 minutes in length or longer. YouTube’s algorithm is only encouraging this behavior.
A recent study from Pew Research Center found the YouTube’s algorithm emphasizes two main factors. First, it drives users to popular creators. Second, it drives users to content that’s long-form, which means it’s at least nine and a half minutes. There’s one simple reason for this shift: advertising.
The longer the video, the more opportunities to insert ads, and creators have embraced the shift with tutorials lasting at least 12 minutes and other YouTube influencers developing content 45 minutes in length or longer. Users are more likely to watch an ad when they’re invested in a long piece of content, but a 15-second ad before a minute long video, for example, seems like an unfair tradeoff, so they move on.
The era of pre-roll dominance is over. Now, we have pre-roll, post-roll and the potential for multiple mid-roll ads in the midst of longer-form content, and all of this is coming about in the age of ad blockers and users being less likely to engage in ad content. This move is purely motivated by monetary reasons, but it also flies in the face of the myth that short, bite-size content is the holy grail. That’s certainly the case for ads, but when it comes to assets designed for people to lean back and consume, the longer, the better.
Facebook Quietly Launches TikTok Competitor
Facebook’s new app Lassois now available to download on iOS and Android. Lasso is Facebook’s take on the app TikTok, which has a considerably large teen user base.
Much like TikTok, users of Lasso can create short videos with music tracks and video editing tools. Users can see what hashtags are trending and add hashtags to their own content. They can also follow popular content creators if they want.
Typically, Facebook’s standalone apps that attempt to duplicate features of existing platforms (e.g., Poke was a Snapchat clone) fail to gain users and fall flat. But that’s really not the point.
This is a play to collect more data on users and to see what they can learn that can be folded into existing, more established platforms (e.g., Instagram got Stories), so I wouldn’t expect Lasso to be a resounding success. Instead, it’s an experiment with two goalsl for Facebook. Can Lasso identify what teens find so alluring about TikTok? If so, how can Facebook capitalize on that understanding?
Snapchat Doubles Down on Friendship
Snapchat has a couple new features and an update to its ecommerce plans.
Let’s start with the features. The first is Friendship profiles. This feature has all of the content from images to videos to links to messages users have sent to friends or groups of friends in an easy-to-find location within the app. Users can also see a friend’s location if they have location sharing turned on within the app’s Snap Map feature. You simply tap a friends’ Bitmoji to access the profiles.
The second feature is Bitmoji Stories, a new set of comic strips starring users’ Bitmojis and the Bitmojis of their friends. These will live within the Discover feed.
Lastly, the ecommerce update. iOS users can now buy t-shirts, phone cases, mugs and other items with their own Bitmoji or Friend’s Bitmojis.
These are some nice updates for Snapchat, and they make sense given how it lives within the universe of social apps. They’re focusing on interpersonal connections, which is what Snapchat really does better than anyone else. Whereas Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are about a lot of things from news to influencers, what makes Snapchat special is the messages users send to their closest friends. Each of these features focuses on that aspect of the app in a different way.
Facebook’s Push into Television Ads Hits Brick Wall
Facebook’s TV advertising ambitions are about to get a little less ambitious. The social network had plans to be able to deliver ads to TV networks and online publishers through connected TV devices. The reason is Facebook was asking for prices that were too high according to advertisers, so the program has been discontinued.
Facebook also discontinued Audience Direct, a test with a group of publishers who were using Facebook targeting data to sell ads on their own websites and apps.
Both programs hinged on Facebook buying inventory at higher rates than publishers could sell on their own, but Facebook then had to sell it to advertisers at even higher rates to make the numbers work in a sustainable way. Facebook also failed to get major media companies on board, as well as Roku.
The hopes were lofty as Facebook was looking to build a video marketplace that could compete more directly with TV.
Facebook’s had its sights set on TV ad budgets for some time, and in many ways it’s already made a great deal of in-roads by showing the success of video on its platforms. Watch is next on Facebook’s list to expand its online video dominance, which it shares with YouTube. TV is proving to be a tougher nut to crack, which from a marketer perspective is probably a good thing. Facebook and Google are quite the duopoly (with Amazon attempting to be a third major player), and Facebook getting a strong foothold in TV would only expand its empire that 2018 has shown may have too much influence.
New York Times Releases Damning Facebook Report
The New York Times released a damaging story on Facebookthis week chronicling what company leadership knew about Russian interference and when, how they responded to their PR troubles and how things continued to get worse.
The Times story goes into a lot of detail, but here are a few of the highlights:
The story states that Facebook knew about Russian interference on Facebook as early as spring 2016. This is well before Mark Zuckerberg stated that Facebook being used to sway an election was a “crazy idea.” Facebook actually had a year’s worth of evidence condemning Russia before it came forward.
Zuckerberg had his team evaluate some of Donald Trump’s posts to see if they violated the platform’s policies. He was warned that removing the posts would anger Trump’s supporters, so no action was taken.
Facebook launched an aggressive lobbying campaign to create and share stories that would shift blame and anger away from Facebook. This included a PR firm hired to share negative stories about politicians criticizing Facebook and focusing anger on other players, including Google.
Cambridge Analytica’s use of personal user data made things worse for Facebook but leadership hoped to contain the issue.
Senator Chuck Schumer asked Senator Mark Warner to back off from criticizing Facebook and shift to working with them. Schumer received more money from Facebook employees than any other member of Congress during 2016 elections.
For its part, Facebook has denied it hesitated in addressing and investigating Russian interference, and since the story was released, it’s stopped working with the PR firm it hired to create negative stories.
The story has renewed calls to regulate Facebookand other tech firms. Some congressional leaders have even proposed the idea of breaking up the platform through antitrust action as it’s becoming viewed by more people that Facebook is unable to regulate itself.
Facebook’s moved from one PR crisis to the next in 2018, and one can objectively say, Facebook hasn’t handled itself well. In many ways, it’s responded as many other companies would by playing defense when it has to and going on offense as best it can. But those efforts are really in contradiction to the ethos Facebook seeks to put out there as a company focused on transparency and interpersonal connections.
The eroded trust in the platform is only eroding more, and from a reputation perspective, it’s difficult to see how Facebook comes back from this from a reputation perspective. And yet, even despite the year Facebook’s had, its financial health has not wavered, which may say just as much about the rest of us as it does about Facebook.
News Quick Hits
LinkedIn is testing a feature that lets people and businesses create real-world events on the platform and then invite LinkedIn users to attend. The feature harkens back to something LinkedIn offered as late as 2012 but eventually shut down. Now, after watching users find their own ways to promote events without that original feature, LinkedIn may be bringing the feature back. The feature lists event attendees and then lets attendees post photos, share comments and follow the event as it happens.
We finally have an answer to what has been the biggest business dating reality show in recent memory. Amazon has decided its East coast headquarterswill be split between two locations: New York City and Northern Virginia.
Pinterest has launched a new holiday shopping featurecalled “snow globes.” The ad unit allows retailers to share their products within holiday-inspired promoted pins. The pins are automatically updated to show users products they’ll be interested in based on browsing behavior.
LinkedIn’s Company Pages have been rebuilt from the ground up and are now called LinkedIn Pages. The updated pages will make it easier on businesses managing their presences on the platform with the ability to post updates and respond through LinkedIn’s mobile app. They can also associate their pages with hashtags to help them participate in relevant conversations. Lastly, they can share documents like Word docs, PDFs and PowerPoint Presentations. Previously, they were limited to images, text and video.
Facebook Messenger is rolling out an Unsend featurethat lets users delete messages within ten minutes of sending them.
Instagram has three new features to encourage retailersto use the platform for selling. The new collection feature allows users to save links to products in a new “shopping” section of the app. Shoppable tags are now available for video posts. Lastly, business profiles now have a redesigned shop section to simplify the shopping process.
Uber and Lyft announced loyalty programs this week. Uber has Uber Reward, which rewards customers for taking rides and ordering food. Rewards will be come in a tiered system, starting with Blue, moving to Gold, moving to Platinum and ending on Diamond. Lyft is offering a similar program.