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.
Apple Laying Groundwork for Ad Network
Apple is apparently speaking with Snap, Pinterest and other platforms to give advertising another shot. Following the closure of iAds in 2016, Apple appears to be laying the groundwork for an ‘Apple Network.’ The network would distribute ads across apps in its network. This would be in addition to Apple’s search ads which are displayed in the iOS App Store.
This is a pretty interesting move for Apple, especially considering that it’s doubled down as of late on promising users privacy and not collecting their data. Digital advertising is a data intensive practice, so how Apple aims to compete with more data-centric solutions for advertisers remains to be seen.
Apple Hosts WWDC
The oxygen was sucked out of the tech space this week by Apple, which held WWDC to announce new features coming to Apple software.
Here’s a list covering most of the major announcements:
iOS 12 is going to update Apple’s iPhone operating system with key features like group FaceTime, new Animojis, improvements to Siri and performance optimizations. It also showed off updates that show how it can give users more augmented reality experiences.
That means updates to ARKit, which is getting a 2.0 version. That will allow iPhones to better track faces, more accurately detect 3D objects and create more realistic AR renders. Apple is clearly wanting to be the platform that delivers the best, most robust AR experiences, and it wants developers to create those experiences.
Apple talked about how the new iOS will actually improve performance on new and old iPhones alike. It wants users with older phones to adopt the latest operating system to avoid the fragmentation Android has seen among its users.
Users will have the ability to create avatars of themselves that can come to live as Animojis. Yes, even Apple is getting into the game started by Bitmoji, and it wants to give users more reasons to turn to iMessages over the evermore pervasive messaging apps available in the market.
FaceTime is getting an update that will allow up to 32 people to join a voice chat, which again positions Apple as a strong alternative to apps like Houseparty. Apple is doing everything it can to avoid user attrition from its core experience to mobile apps.
The Apple Watch is getting watchOS 5, which includes new workout types, the ability to challenge friends in fitness and automatic workout detections. Users also get tools like a walkie talkie to make communication through the Apple Watch that much easier.
One big theme from Apple was giving users options to disconnect from technology, so users will have better tools to track usage of apps, the ability to add time limits to certain apps and do-not-disturb modes with more features.
Apple users will be able to create custom commands for Siri by linking activities to queries, so if you say, “Siri, I’m about to work out,” your desired sequence of apps will become available.
it wasn’t all mobile. Apple’s new Mac OS, Mojave, will get some updates like “dark mode,” which dims elements on a user’s screen. It also has new tools to help users organize their files and view them in Finder.
CarPlay is getting more third-party app support, which includes support for Google Maps and Waze.
Finally, the controversy surrounding Facebook’s data scandals was alive and well at WWDC. Apple announced that Safari users will soon be asked opt-in to personal tracking such as what Facebook does through like buttons and Facebook comment sections on websites.
WWDC had a slew of announcements but taking a step back there were two major themes. The first was Apple is working to keep user attrition from its core apps like iMessages and FaceTime to a minimum. That means copying features from some of the most successful platforms out there. The second was on digital health. Apple’s been under pressure as of late from outside groups to do more to cut back on phone addiction. Apple’s added several new features with this latest version of iOS to help with just that by making users more aware of their phone usage.
Facebook to Launch Lip Sync Live
If you can’t beat them, copy them. That’s Facebook’s approach over recent years, which Snapchat has become well aware of. Now, it’s Musical.ly’s turn to be… flattered.
Facebook is launching a new feature called Lip Sync Live, which lets users select a song while in Facebook Live, add a description, choose a mask, change the background and then sing along with the music. It’s basically Musical.ly.
Users’ friends will be able to tap the artist featured in the video and go to the artist’s page. Users will also be able to go live with their friends to lip sync together.
Musiical.ly is now held by a Chinese tech conglomerate, and it’s not as popular as it once was. Still, it has a great deal of cache for 13-20 year-olds. This feature would put some licensing deals Facebook’s been working hard on with music labels over the past year to make music a more central part of the Facebook experience.
Instagram Laying Groundwork for Long-Form Content
Instagram is laying the groundwork to take on YouTube with longer content. The photo-sharing platform will soon offer a section similar to Snapchat Discover that will feature scripted shows, music videos and vertical, full-screen content. Content could be as long as 60 minutes. Along with the launch of longer content in this Discover-eseque section, users will also be able to upload videos that go beyond the current 60-second limit.
The feature is expected to be announced soon.
This move would be another step in Instagram’s quest to copy seemingly every feature offered by Snapchat. Offering a section like Snapchat Discover that has original, high-quality content would make Instagram a destination for more high-quality videos. It also allows Instagram to compete for more video ad dollars with YouTube as the section will likely feature pre-roll and even mid-roll ads, the latter of which is currently offered by Instagram’s parent company, Facebook.
News Quick Hits
Facebook continues to face questions regarding its practices with user data. This week The New York Times revealed that Facebook has data-sharing deals with device makers, including Apple, Amazon, Blackberry, Microsoft and Samsung. Those device makers were able to access the data of users’ friends without consent. Facebook responded to say it disagreed with the Times’ portrayal and stated that it was “not aware of any abuses by these companies.”
Pinterest has launched a new format for video that takes up the entire width of a user’s screen. Up until this point, promoted videos were contracted to a single column in a two-column feed of content. Now, advertisers will get a lot more real estate with the ability to take up the entire width of both columns.
Facebook announced that it is removing the “Trending” section from its service. Instead, it will be replaced with news videos and a “Today In” section that will showcase content from local publishers for users based on their locations. “Today In” is currently in alpha testing with about 80 publishers in 33 different U.S. cities. Those publishers are seeing an 8% increase in outbound clicks.
Microsoft has acquired GitHub a site used by developers to store, share and collaborate on code, for $7.5 billion. GitHub will give Microsoft access to a valuable trove of open-source software in development. The acquisition, however, is not without its detractors. Many are concerned that Microsoft spearheading an open-source platform gives the tech giant too much power.
Facebook is launching seven news shows, including one hosted by Anderson Cooper and produced by CNN and another hosted by Shepard Smith and produced by Fox News. The content will live in a news hub on the Facebook platform with the goal of creating a credible source within Facebook for news and information. Univision and ABC will also be launching shows along with ATTN and Mic.
Facebook’s Audience Network is now tied into new ad exchanges, including Twitter-owned MoPub, Fyber and Max. This will allow Facebook Audience Network to offer more services akin to header bidding, meaning websites will be able to auction ad space in real-time across multiple ad networks.
Instagram has added the ability for users to share the Stories of others when they @ mention them in their Stories. Videos and photos from those who are tagged can be pulled in, and a notification is sent to users who have had their Stories shared. When you share a Story from someone else, it’s actually brought in as a sticker that can be scaled, rotated and positioned as you wish. The original Story creator’s name is included in the content.
Just ahead of E3, Facebook launched fb.gg, a new hub that will curate gaming content being streamed on Facebook. Facebook’s working to attract content streamers by incorporating its Level Up Program that will allow streamers to receive tips by viewers of their content.