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.
It’s Time to Get Ready for Facebook’s Clear History Tool
Facebook’s “clear history” tool appears to actually be happening as the social network spent time this week explaining to advertisers the potential implications.
“Clear history” is expected to become available in the coming months, and it will allow users to delete any information about them stored by Facebook both inside the social network but also outside the social network on apps and websites. Facebook’s tour for advertisers this week was meant to explain that data deleted by users will not be able to be used for advertising. Advertisers who have gotten used to Facebook’s targeting parameters will be unable to reach audiences based on criteria they’ve deleted, making features like the Facebook Pixel and Custom Audiences ineffective after being deleted by a user unless he or she visits a website once again to have that pixel reapplied.
Facebook is joining Google in offering such an ability. Chrome is implementing anti-tracking tools and giving them greater control when it comes to cookies.
All of this is happening under the larger context of tech regulation and online privacy protections for users. Mark Zuckerberg’s laid out a new vision for Facebook that he says is about privacy for users, but it can’t be overstated how big of a shift this is for Facebook.
It’s built an advertising powerhouse on the back of targeted advertising. There’s a chance users won’t use the “clear history” feature en masse, which would be great for Facebook and advertisers wanting highly targeted ads. But if they do, it’s going to represent a shift in how advertising works on Facebook. And as Google continues to follow the same path, that shift will be broader to online advertising overall as the digital ad duopoly becomes less targeted.
Google Expands Ad Inventory and Makes Updates to Retail
If you thought Google had run out of places to put ads, think again. Alphabet is combatting concerns related to its slowdown in online ad sales in its latest earnings report with a lot more ways for advertisers to place ads in an effort to protect its ad sales leadership from the likes of Facebook and Amazon.
Now, Google plans to launch ads for retail products across its ecosystem, including Gmail, Google Images, the YouTube mobile app and its voice assistant. Users will also start to see ads in its news feed-based search platform called Discover. Google’s also working to combat Amazon by revamping its shopping service. A new shopping site will show personalized recommendations, and Google has plans to rollout a shopping app.
Google’s digital ad dominance is well-established, but it’s easy to see the tech giant hedging its bets a bit against Amazon. Instead of waiting for Amazon to catch up to it in terms of digital advertising, it’s expanding further into retail with updates to its shopping service.
News Quick Hits
The U.S. Supreme Court is allowing an antitrust lawsuit against Apple to proceed. The lawsuit contends Apple has a monopoly for iPhone apps, which allows it to take a 30% cut of apps sold through the App Store. Plaintiffs argue that this inflates prices because developers have no other way to distribute their software. Apple argues that those fees are necessary to make the App Store run. Apple will fight hard on this as the App Store is about 35% of Apple’s services business.
Google has unveiled a new tool it calls Bumper Machine. The tool is said to be able to “identify interesting, well-structured moments in a longer video” to turn those moments into six-second ads. The tool constructs several options that advertisers can select from. The goal is to minimize production time and resources for creating six second ads. Quality of the creative has yet to be proven.
WhatsApp discovered surveillance software being installed on user devices through an app vulnerability. The cyber attack affected a “select number” of users and the vulnerability has since been fixed. It worked by calling a target device, and whether or not a user answered, the software was installed. The hack allowed attackers to read messages on devices. The software was developed by an Israeli company called NSO Group, according to the BBC.
Twitter disclosed a bug that shared some user locations with Twitter partners even if users had not opted into location sharing. While location information was shared, user Twitter handles and account identifiers were not, making it difficult to link locations to users. Users affected by the issue have been notified.
Twitter’s ready to extend an olive branch once again to developers. After putting restrictions on them years ago, Twitter has announced a new “Developer Labs” program that will allow app makers to try Twitter API updates and to provide feedback to Twitter before they’re fully rolled out. Twitter’s relationship with developers has been rocky at best. Developers built a lot of tools for the platform when it first started and then Twitter put restrictions on them. Then Twitter announced a reset only to sell its developer platform to Google a couple years later. Now, the cycle continues with Twitter ready to show developers that it has their back… for now.
The inevitable happened. Disney now has full operational control of Hulu thanks to a deal with Comcast that values Hulu at more than $27.5 billion. As part of the deal, Disney guarantees Comcast equity of that $27.5 billion when Comcast is finally able to officially sell its stake in Hulu in 2024. Despite that wait, Disney now has control. Hulu will play a role in Disney’s streaming ambitions by providing content aimed at an adult audience, while Disney+ aims to serve families and children.
Facebook announced a new “one strike” policy for Facebook Live. Any user who violates Facebook’s policies, even once, will be blocked from using Live for a period of time. An example of a violation would be a user who “shares a link to a statement form a terrorist group with no context.” The goal is to limit the use of Live for the streaming of terrible actions, like the shooting in New Zealand. Up until this point, Facebook worked to take down such content, but now it’s working to proactively block it altogether thanks to pressure from government officials. Facebook joined Twitter and Alphabet in committing to have rules, algorithms and direct intervention practices to stop the promotion and distribution of violent extremism online as part of an effort by world leaders to curb such content following the events in Christchurch.
Instagram is phasing out its Instagram Direct test app that separated messaging from the core Instagram app experience. The app was introduced in 2017 as a way for users to have focused private messaging conversations, but now those messages will be moved back over into Instagram in the select markets where Instagram Direct was available.