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.
Twitter Plans More Emphasis on Video Advertising
Twitter reveled new details on its video plans at the Digital Content NewFronts this week.
Now, video content is going to be much easier to find as Twitter will put it at the top of user timelines when they log into the platform, and it’s developed new partnerships with video publishers to create such content. MTV is partnering with Twitter for the Video Music Awards, a series of sports deals are in place and a new channel is coming from the Wall Street Journal. All of these partnerships, will be supported by ad products that advertisers can use to reach program viewers, and Twitter is making efforts in these NewFronts to tailor the publishers, as well as the content from those publishers to the advertisers.
Obviously, Twitter sees video playing a huge role on its platform by inking some big deals with content providers and promising to elevate video even more on its platform. Twitter’s become more and more successful with video, and efforts like this allow Twitter to appeal to advertisers’ desire for brand safe video environments with premium placements. They appear to be striking while the iron is hot as pressure continues to mount on Facebook and Google, while Twitter has remained outside of controversy, for the most part at least.
Facebook Looks to Restart with Redesign and More from F8
This week was Facebook’s F8 developer conference, and the headline of the event is Facebook doesn’t look like it used to. The entire event felt like Zuckerberg laying out a new future for Facebook and its ecosystem with promises for better privacy. Facebook’s had a pretty terrible year and a half from a reputation standpoint, so this event felt a bit like an attempt to restart and refresh.
The most noticeable change is the Facebook app itself. Facebook updated its F logo, and removed the blue from the app to make it feel more modern. It’s also making Facebook Stories much more prominent, giving Groups a centerstage spot on the bottom menu and deemphasizing the feed a bit more. Facebook’s using groups to create more connection on the platform by uniting people based on shared interests, not divisions. This puts groups based on shared interests on the same playing field as content in the feed from friends and family.
We also saw the start of Facebook connecting Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp. Messenger has a new “friends” tab to aggregate Stories, WhatsApp updates and Facebook posts. The whole interoperability of messaging services means advertisers can more easily reach users across Facebook’s suite of apps.
We also learned that a test of removing like counts from Instagram posts is expanding to Canada. The test hides like numbers on posts in feeds to allow followers to “focus on the photos and videos you share, not how many likes they get.” Like counts are still visible to the posters of content, but followers won’t be able to see them. The goal is to improve digital health on the platform.
Speaking of Instagram, users can now purchase products from influencer Instagram posts with a new “shopping for creators” program. The program gives a select group of influencers the ability to add shopping tags to posts, which reveal product costs to users and allow them to purchase directly on Instagram. The shoppable tag is limited to original posts, not promoted ones.
Facebook revealed more information on its upcoming dating service, which will feature a “Secret Crush” feature allowing users to create lists of Facebook friends they’re interested in dating. If two users put each other on a list, Facebook tells them. So yeah... that’s a thing.
Instagram’s camera is getting broken down into three modes: live, camera and create. The create section is new, and it will allow users to create non-image posts. For example, posts can start with a GIF, a poll or another sticker. This means Instagram won’t require users to start with a video or photo to create a post first.
Messenger is going to be made smaller, and its loading speed is going to be much faster.
Finally, we got some updates on Oculus. Oculus will launch two new headsets on May 21 for $399. Oculus Rift S is an update to the existing line of PC-powered headsets. Oculus Quest is designed to be a standalone headset—no PC required.
This F8 was a bit of a reset for Facebook, or at least an attempt at one. Last year’s event came off the heels of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, but Facebook’s reputation has only gotten worse over the year and a half.
That being said, Facebook wants to reset the tone. Zuckerberg noted his privacy ambitions when he stated, “I believe the future is private. This is the next chapter for our services.” But all of that is really about conversations and content being private from personal connections, not Facebook itself. Facebook mentioned nothing of the “Clear History” feature promised last year, and it’s at least months away… if it ever comes at all.
Obviously, the social company has a lot planned on the horizon, and much of it is pretty exciting. Still, it’s difficult to see how Facebook truly progresses forward without doing more to address its past.
News Quick Hits
Snapchat is getting a premium video ad placement offering similar to Google Preferred and Facebook’s In-Stream Reserve. Snap is allowing brands who order upfront fixed rates and guarantees on audience size. Their 6-second ads will then run within Snapchat’s most premium shows, which will be determined based on audience size and committed viewers.
Alphabet’s quarterly earnings missed analyst estimates, a rarity for the company. While Google advertising revenue rose 15%, it rose at its slowest pace since 2015. This sparked fears among investors that advertisers are shying away from Google and looking to partner with other digital partners like Amazon and Facebook. The missed estimates can also be attributed to currency fluctuations.
Hulu used the NewFronts to announce that it now has 28 million U.S. subscribers, up 3 million since January. It also announced a binge-watch ad format. The unit allows advertisers to target users currently binging on a show with ads relevant to their viewing behavior. This format joins another unit based on user viewing behavior that displays when a viewer pauses a show.
Google is launching an auto-delete function that lets users delete their activities and location history automatically every 3 months or every 18 months. The feature needs to be turned on by users, but it does save them from having to manually delete the information. It also adds to Google’s already-available ability to opt out of some data collection.
Spotify has introduced a new ad unit for testing. The ads are voice-enabled, and they let listeners say specific phrases during ads to take action related to the message. When users have their microphones enabled, they can use their voices to respond to prompts. For example, Unilever is advertising a curated playlist that users can activate by saying “Play Now” after hearing the brand message. Pandora has tested something similar, but hasn’t tested it with a brand yet.
Facebook and the FTC are negotiating the terms of a settlement regarding Facebook’s privacy violations. In addition to a multi-billion dollar fine, the deal may include a privacy official at Facebook and an oversight committee made up of Facebook board members to oversee the company moving forward. CEO Mark Zuckerberg may also be appointed as a compliance officer, making him personally accountable for privacy issues. The fine for Facebook likely won’t exceed $5 billion, which is largely inconsequential for Facebook. What they’re talking about with the settlement is some structural changes, which would be more significant. Representatives from the Electronic Privacy Information Center, however, believe the settlement does not go far enough as it does not establish new privacy obligations or have an independent body to ensure compliance.