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.
Google I/O Makes Search More Utilitarian
Google held its annual developers conference this week, Google I/O. The event included a lot on the future of Google like updates to voice assistants, maps and home speaker tech. The biggest implication from marketers has to do with updates to the privacy tools on Chrome and search.
Now, users of Chrome will be notified on websites they visit how cookies they accept will be used, and users will be given more tools to decide which cookies they accept and which they don’t. Obviously, this is a big deal for advertisers looking to track users, but it’s also a big deal for ad platforms that are able to charge more for highly targeted ads. Without cookies, those highly targeted ads become much more difficult, which benefits Google as it still has the ability to track users and deliver highly targeted ads. So while Google is limiting others, it’s still maintaining its competitive advantage.
It is giving users more control to protect themselves from Google tracking by expanding “incognito” mode, however. Now, a toggle is available in Chrome to make browsing anonymous, and the feature has been expanded to search and maps. This means places searched and locations navigated to won’t be associated with user profiles when incognito mode is on.
Search now has an AR component. When users search for certain products, links will display on their mobile devices that make an AR version of that product appear, allowing users to inspect things a bit more closely.
Finally, Google Assistant has gotten an update making it much faster, and Duplex for Google Assistant has gotten an upgrade to do more complicated requests to not only make appointments but also book car rentals.
As with any I/O event, there was a lot revealed. Google is clearly doing what it can to join Apple in limiting web tracking and trying to pay the same lip service as Facebook by emphasizing privacy. That’s going to be particularly interesting as the year unfolds because Google appears to be positioning itself as the arbiter of privacy by placing most of the limits of user tracking on third parties and fewer on itself.
There were some really exciting announcements though. Google bringing AR into search turns what’s been a novelty on Snapchat and Instagram into something more utilitarian to help users, and what Google is doing with Google Assistant show just how impressive that platform is. Amazon should be concerned, and Siri… poor Siri.
News Quick Hits
Facebook is now allowing users to book appointments through Facebook and Instagram. Businesses looking to integrate the feature can edit their profiles to add the “Book Now” action button. Users who book an appointment are automatically moved to Messenger to confirm the details.
Twitter is expanding the ability to tweet GIFs to retweets. Now, when users retweet, they can add reaction GIFs to retweets. Twitter’s had GIFs for some time, and the reason for holding out on allowing them in retweets is likely related to their potential to clutter user timelines. But they’re part of the Internet’s language, so it makes sense to see them make their way into retweets.
Instagram is going to start using Facebook’s third-party fact checking initiative to demote content shared on Instagram that’s factually inaccurate. Currently, the effort is a test for Instagram, but if it proves to lower the amount of misinformation on the platform, it will be expanded. Misinformation will not be removed, but it will not show up on hashtag search pages or in the Explore tab.
Facebook announced updates to the factors that will influence how much videos are distributed across user News Feeds, Facebook Watch and video recommendations. The focus of the factors is intent and repeat viewership, which are tied to three metrics: loyalty and intent, video and viewing duration and originality. Videos that keep users coming back and engaged for an extended period of time will be emphasized, as will videos that are not repurposed videos from other sources.
Google music now has more than 15 million subscribers, some of which are paying and others who are still on promotional trials. 15 million pales in comparison to Spotify’s 100 million total subscribers and Apple’s 50 million paying subscribers, but it’s a start for Google, which has had trouble in the past getting users to actually pay for services.
Spotify is testing an update to its app that puts an emphasis on podcasts. Users in the test have access to two primary and prominent tabs: “Music” and “Podcasts.” The move appears to be Spotify capitalizing on the $400 million it spent this year on three podcasting companies as it tries to diversify user listening behavior from just music to podcasts, which Spotify doesn’t pay royalties on when it owns the companies.