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.
NBC Announces New Streaming Service
Joining the likes of Amazon, Netflix, Disney, CBS and many others is a new streaming service from NBC Universal. The unnamed service will be ad-supported and free for cable and satellite subscribers, and NBC plans to include its library of content as well as new original programming.
NBC wants to get as many people into the platform as early and as fast as possible, hence the free, ad-supported nature of the service. Users will be able to pay to get access to an ad-free version, and if users don’t have a cable and subscription service, they can pay for access to shows like The Office and Saturday Night Live for $12 a month. NBC still plans to license out some of its content to others, like Netflix.
The proliferation of content walled gardens seems to be continuing in 2019 as it started to in 2018. Everyone is getting into the game as we expect even Apple to launch a service later this year offering original programming. The question now is just how many services the market can bear and when users will say enough.
For NBC, it seems the biggest benefit is ad inventory and capabilities for advertisers. It now has a place alongside its television networks that it can offer advertisers as a way to reach NBC content viewers in a more targeted way.
Facebook Working on Meme App for Teens
Facebook is always ready to launch new experiments to go after teens from Slingshot to Lasso to IGTV.
The latest experiment is dubbed LOL. LOL is a feed of GIFs and funny videos in the categories of Animals, Fails, Pranks, and For You. The content is organized in a feed that auto-advances as clips are finished. It’s designed for a lean-back content consumption experience, and users can react to each of the clips with “Funny,” “Alright” and “Not Funny” buttons.
The app is currently being tested by about 100 high school students, and Facebook has confirmed the tests are in the very early stages.
As teens turn their attention to Stories on both Snapchat and Instagram, LOL would give Facebook another place to drive teens in a less ephemeral, more feed-like and more monetizable format.
Teens matter to Facebook. They are spending less time with the social network, which is why it's launching multiple experiments to see what can bring them in. The risk of an entire generation sidestepping Facebook is too big to take.
LOL may never see the light of day, but that’s not the point. The point is while teens have given up on Facebook, Facebook hasn’t given up on them, and it’s not ready to put all of its hopes into Instagram.
Facebook Launches Community Actions
Facebook is looking to tap into its users’ penchant for political organizing on its platform with the launch of Community Actions. Community Actions connect users to local officials with petitions for actions they’d like to see taken.
The feature works by letting users create a petition, tag organizations or politicians and then recruit others to support the cause. Supporters can then discuss the petition, organize events and create fundraisers in the same place as the Community Action.
Facebook’s treading on the territory of sites like Change.org with this feature, but it’s also turning a user behavior common on its platform into a feature. Facebook’s been used to organize everything from the Women’s March to calls for Netflix to pick up cancelled shows. It’s also in line with Facebook’s other features that better allow political candidates to connect with voters and Town Hall, which connects constituents to representatives.
All of that being said, Facebook has also been shown to be used for ill, like the spread of misinformation. Facebook says it will be using humans and algorithms to make sure the feature isn’t abused, but Facebook’s said that before.
Facebook Launching Cross Messaging Between Platforms
Facebook is making plans to allow its users to cross-message each other between Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp. Its full messaging suite of tools will be able to talk to each other, meaning people who exclusively use Messenger will be able to message those who exclusively use WhatsApp. The apps will support end-to-end encryption, but there’s no detail on when this ability will launch.
Launching such an integration would give Facebook the ability to boost engagement across all three platforms, and each of the platforms will become more interlinked from an advertising perspective.
This move would be significant because of the rapid pace of messaging growth among users and competitive services. As Facebook looks to compete with Apple’s iMessages and Google’s messaging initiatives, this positions Facebook nicely as a messaging suite that allows users to reach almost anyone.
There is, however, legitimate concern that this goes against Facebook’s past commitments to keep Instagram and WhatsApp largely separate from the rest of its ecosystem. Efforts like this degrade each platform’s independence. It’s likely no coincidence that these changes are happening shortly after the founders of both WhatsApp and Instagram left Facebook.
News Quick Hits
Facebook is currently testing a feature that allows users to share their Events in Facebook Stories. The test is being conducted in the U.S., Mexico and Brazil. The move underscores Facebook’s desire to drive adoption among users to the two features. Events and Stories have been cited as major priorities for the social network.
Snap Inc.’s CFO is departing the company to “pursue other opportunities.” The decision to leave comes less than a year after joining Snap. The move sent Snap’s stock price down.
After being banned by YouTube, Twitter and Apple, Alex Jones launched a channel on Roku. Roku stated that it does not sell advertising on Jones’ behalf, nor does it have a relationship with Jones. It also stated that it does not censor based on viewpoint. Roku came under mounting pressure from consumers threatening to boycott the service and adopt alternate streaming providers. It was also a bit of a questionable decision by Roku for advertisers. YouTube, Twitter and others partially banned Jones because he undermined the platforms’ ability to offer brand safe environments. Jones created a similar problem for Roku. It’s probably for those reasons that Roku changed course and pulled Jones’ channel.
A new study from Pew Research found that the majority of Facebook users, 74%, do not know Facebook has a list of their interests and traits, and 51% said they weren’t comfortable with this information being compiled. The bright side for advertisers and Facebook, however, is that only 27% said the listings did not represent them very well.
YouTube’s doing its part to protect dumb people from themselves. It updated its guidelines to ban any challenges and pranks that are dangerous or harmful. This means anything that can cause “severe emotional distress” or may lead to “serious physical nature” will be banned from the platform. Currently, videos that fall into this category have a two-month window before YouTube will strike a channel for violating the policy. The latest challenge, the Birdbox Challenge, may have had something to do with it, but I think we can all agree this line was crossed when eating laundry detergent during the Tide Pod Challenge became fashionable.
The FTC is currently weighing the option of imposing a fine exceeding $22.5 million on Facebook. $22.5 million was the highest fine ever levied by the FTC against a company, and that company was Google. Facebook’s fine, however, may exceed that and would come from the revelations following the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Facebook would be fined for violating a 2011 agreement between Facebook and the government regarding privacy.
Google has received a fine of $56.8 million from France’s privacy regulator for violations of GDPR. The fine stemmed from a complaint that Google was forcing users to agree to new privacy policies. Google can appeal the fine.
Netflix users can now share what they’re watching to Instagram Stories. The feature is available within the Netflix app. Once users open the share menu, Instagram Stories will appear as an option. From there, users can share cover art for whatever they’re watching, add GIFs and include stickers.
WhatsApp is limiting the number of people users can simultaneously forward messages to five, down from 20. The goal of the limit is to stifle the spread of misinformation and rumors on its platform. After a test of the limits, WhatsApp found that users forwarded less messages with the limit in place.
Twitter’s website is getting an update that will allow its .com users to access emojis, keyboard shortcuts, improved search and an updated Trends for You section. Some users are receiving opt-in messages to preview the site early.
Viacom has acquired Pluto TV for $340 million. Pluto TV offers ad-supported streams of over 100 channels and says it has 12 million monthly active users. Viacom plans to use Pluto TV to build up its ad business while also expanding its content distribution capabilities.
YouTube TV is going national after being available in 100 markets since its launch two years ago. Those 100 markets accounted for 85% of the United States, but this will enable YouTube TV to be available to the remaining 15%.
Twitter is testing another update to make it easier to follow conversations. This update adds a tag—“original tweeter”—to the user who started a threaded conversation.
LinkedIn is rolling out the ability to target ads to users based on their professional interests. LinkedIn will develop these interests based on the content its users share and engage with on the platform. Currently, LinkedIn is planning to include 200 professional interest categories, such as AI, global economy and customer experience.
Amazon has announced that it's launching six devices called Amazon Scout. Scout is an autonomous robot that will deliver packages in select markets. Initially, the device will be accompanied by an Amazon employee.
Facebook Moments has been around since 2015, but on February 25, it will be no more. Moments was originally launched as a way to manage photos of you and your friends, but it offered no way to share those photos outside of the Moments app.