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.
Instagram Testing Storing Credit Card Information
Instagram has launched a new payments system for a limited group of users. Those users can store their credit cards on Instagram to use for purchases associated with booking appointments and making reservations. The move could potentially expand beyond services to goods as well.
The feature is just in testing at the moment, but given Instagram’s steps into ecommerce, the move is expected. Instagram has had “Shoppable Tags” for some time. These allow businesses to add tappable pricing information on pictures that link users to product pages.
Social commerce has yet to be come mainstream, but that’s partly because social networks have yet to make a major push into the space. Storing credit card information would be a big deal, and allow businesses to quickly move users from want to buy in a seamless way. Instagram is just one of many social platforms pushing into this space. Snapchat recently launched Snap Store to sell merchandise and Facebook Messenger has allowed users to make payments since 2015.
Google Hosts Google I/O 2018
Google held its annual I/O conference, which kicked off with a keynote full of new announcements coming from Google.
The announcements included updates to Android, John Legend being the voice of Google Assistant, Gmail getting much, much smarter a more.
Android is getting a new OS, Android P, which features a new look and gesture controls. Users can even set limits on individual apps to combat compulsive phone checking.
Google’s voice assistants are getting six new, natural sounding voices. The noteworthy voice addition is that of John Legend himself. Google assistants are also getting much more conversational. Google showed off an interaction of a Google Assistant calling a hair salon to book an appointment. The conversation was eerily natural.
Google will be launching Smart Displays to give the Echo Show some competition. The device will start shipping in July.
Gmail’s Smart Reply feature got a lot smarter thanks to the addition of Smart Compose. Smart Compose actually drafts emails for users, going far beyond just suggesting words and key phrases.
Google Maps is edging in on Yelp and Foursquare’s territory with a "For You" tab that lets users follow specific neighborhoods to understand what restaurants and businesses are trending with other users. Beyond that, users can make lists in collaboration with friends to decide where to go.
Google Maps is getting augmented reality directions, so users can aim their cameras at a street. From there AR directions will overlay what users see on their phones to guide them to their destinations.
Google Photos is getting smarter and more advanced editing features, including the ability to colorize old photos, separate background objects from those in the foreground and turn backgrounds to black and white.
Google News is now going to be powered by AI to analyze all content published and then organize that content into storylines. Stories it thinks you might be interested in get curated into your news briefing.
The biggest takeaway from Google’s conference is just how advanced it’s getting when it comes to AI. It showed that it is clearly the leader to beat, and, more importantly, it showed just how far Apple has fallen behind with Siri.
Snapchat Redesigns Its Redesign
Following a disappointing earnings report, Snapchat is rolling back its app redesign.
Snapchat rolled out a big app overhaul in late 2017. That redesign was not well received by its users, and they started clamoring for Snapchat to reverse direction from day one.
Now, Snapchat’s listening. Snaps and Chats will go back to chronological order, and Stories from friends will be moved to the right side of the app with other Stories. One thing that will remain from the redesign that sparked backlash is friends’s stories and brand stories will remain separate.
Snapchat’s reverse of direction is significant. In the past Facebook and Twitter successfully weathered user critiques over how the app worked, but backlash over Snapchat’s redesign never faded. Beyond that, Snapchat’s redesign wasn’t generating revenue. It was now making less money per user even though global user numbers were up, according its latest earnings report.
News Quick Hits
Microsoft Cortana and Amazon Alexa have collaborated to allow their voice assistants to communicate with each other. For example, Alexa can be used to order milk and then Cortana can be used to check someone’s schedule or send an email all within the same platform. Having various voice assistants communicate with each other could be a powerful combination that brings voice interactions to another level in consumers’ lives at home, work or vehicles.
Facebook is conducting market research to evaluate the potential of an ad-free paid subscription model. Following Facebook’s data controversy, there’s more internal momentum to pursue such a model. The paid subscription model would not be a replacement for the current free, ad-supported offering, but it would provide an alternative for users who would otherwise prefer not to use Facebook because of privacy concerns and obtrusive advertising.
“Music stickers” have been found in the code for Instagram Stories. It seems Instagram is gearing up to allow users to add songs to their Instagram Stories. Facebook’s been working on licensing deals with record labels, so it looks like the results of those negotiations will be coming to fruition as a way to make Instagram content more interesting.
Facebook just announced a management shakeup this week, and part of that shakeup includes a focus on blockchain. Facebook’s undertaking a new program to understand how the decentralized ledger technlogy known as blockchain could be better leveraged by Facebook. That team is being run by the former head of the Messenger app David Marcus. Marcus’ appointment wasn’t the only leadership change made by Facebook. It also made changes to who oversees all of the company’s apps, Instagram, Internet.org, WhatsApp and more. The leadership changes come after a tumultuous time at the social network following the Cambridge Analytica data controversy.
Facebook is working on a competitive product to Snapchat’s Bitmoji. The feature is called Avatar, and it works exactly like Bitmoji with the ability for users to send stickers featuring avatars inspired by a user’s likeness.
Apple will start selling subscriptions to video services through its TV app, according to rumors. This would position Apple’s TV app as the central place for users to subscribe to content as well as access anything they’ve purchased. The TV app currently looks at what users watch across all of their apps. They can access the TV app to choose their shows, but the app then sends them to a third-party app like HBO Go to consume the content. With Apple reportedly working on a number of original programs, positioning TV as the central point for all video content would help give its original programs more attention.
The original social influence measurement service Klout is shutting down. The service was founded in 2009 and later sold for $200 million. Lithium, the company that acquired Klout, was able to use the platform as a way to build its machine learning capabilities.
Instagram just rolled out a new “emoji slider,” a new poll format that allows users to rate a piece of content by sliding an emoji within the Story. The poll sticker rolled out after Instagram’s first version of polls saw great success.