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.
Instagram Shows Growth in Time Spent
Time spent by U.S. adults on Facebook sits at 38 minutes per day, holding steady from the previous forecast. But Facebook time spent is expected to decline in the coming years. Snapchat users spend 26 minutes per day, down from 28 minutes. Instagram is the one seeing an increase. Its users are spending 27 minutes on the platform each day, and that number is expected to climb one minute per year through 2021.
Facebook’s decline is perhaps most interesting. Facebook’s implemented some fundamental changes to its platform over recent months to help users have “time well spent” on the platform, including efforts to reduce the amount of clickbait in user News Feeds. These activities may be contributing to a less sticky experience.mIt also doesn’t help that Facebook has seen declines in its youngest users.
Amazon Acquires Sismek Ad Server
Amazon has finalized an agreement to acquire the ad tech company Sizmek, which includes an ad server and a tool that allows for the personalization of ads called Sizmek Dynamic Creative Optimization. The ad server will be part of Amazon’s overarching digital advertising offering called Amazon Advertising, but the two Sizmek services will remain separate.
The acquisition is part of a larger play by Amazon to compete more aggressively with digital advertising leaders Google and Facebook. This acquisition is a notable move onto their turf, and it adds more speed to Amazon’s advertising plans. It’s been playing in the digital ad space for some time, but an acquisition like this allows Amazon to compete even more directly and scale much faster since Amazon doesn’t need to build the tools itself.
Google knows what people search for. Facebook knows what people are looking at. Amazon knows what people shop for, and this acquisition will be part of Amazon’s pitch to advertisers looking to capitalize on that knowledge. Google and Facebook are huge players that will not cede their leadership positions without a fight, so this will be one to watch.
Foursquare Buys Placed from Snap Inc.
Foursquare made its first ever acquisition in a deal with Snap Inc. Foursquare purchased Placed from Snap Inc., which acquired the company in 2017 to build out its geo-targeting capabilities.
Placed was a direct competitor to Foursquare’s Attribution product. Attribution lets advertisers track foot traffic generated by their digital ad campaigns. With this acquisition Foursquare Attribution will be rolled under Placed, and the two entities will be called Placed Powered by Foursquare. Placed will have 450 measurable media partners, including Snap, Waze, Pandora, Twitter and more. Placed also claims 50% of the Fortune 100 as partners.
The Placed acquisition underscores the fact that Foursquare is no longer a consumer tech company. Sure it offers the Foursquare app and Swarm, but Foursquare’s future is in location-based advertising. That’s the company’s true competitive advantage, and in age where attribution is of growing importance, that’s a good position to be in.
Apple’s WWDC Brings an End to an Era and Privacy Implications
Apple held its annual developer conference, WWDC. The event included the introduction of a new Mac Pro, an updated WatchOS that has an App Store wtith more apps, Dark Mode for iPhones and much more. But there were two announcements that stood out.
The first is we now have confirmation of the rumors that Apple is phasing out iTunes and replacing it with desktop versions of the apps users already have on their iOS devices: Apple Music, TV and Podcasts. iTunes had become bloated, and it was really a relic of an era that needed what was essentially a file management system for iPods.
Now, as Apple evolves from being mostly a hardware company to being mostly a services company, breaking up iTunes into individual experiences that separate those services makes a lot of sense. iTunes was fine when we had to manage files, but now that we have access to the cloud, these apps connect us to the content.
The second announcement with implications for marketers is around privacy as Apple drew a clear line in the sand that it’s in the business of preventing data collection. The upcoming iOS 13 will give users the ability to share their locations with apps once. Every time the app needs access to such information, it will have to ask again. Apple will also be block apps from using Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to identify user locations.
iOS 13 also takes a swipe at sign-in services from Facebook and Google. Now, users have the option called Sign in With Apple, which only shares a user’s name and email address. Users also have the option of concealing their email addresses, generating a random one and having that random address forward messages to the user’s regular email account. As the digital privacy awakening continues to unfold, Apple is positioning itself as a clear choice from the rest of the digital landscape.
News Quick Hits
If you’ve ever wanted to place an order via Instagram Stories (and let’s be honest… who hasn’t?!), you may be in luck. A new “order” sticker has been spotted in the wild. The feature has not been explained by Instagram or even confirmed, but it’s possible that it could be added to Stories and let users pay for products all within the feature. Despite the lack of confirmation, a feature like this would be in line with Instagram’s other social commerce endeavors like the checkout feature that lets users purchase products from within their feeds.
In an effort to compete more directly with Walmart, Target and Best Buy, Amazon is shifting its inventory orders to purchasing stock from big brands like P&G and Sony, instead of acquiring some products from smaller suppliers. This means those smaller suppliers will no longer be able to rely on Amazon for ongoing orders and will instead have to sell their products themselves through the Amazon marketplace. This is a major shift in Amazon’s approach to independent sellers, an approach that’s been in place for 20 years. The move allows Amazon to be less involved with third-party suppliers and puts more of the onus on them, but at the same time it leaves those suppliers scrambling as a reliable source of orders just dried up.
Amazon is giving users the ability to have their Alexa devices delete recordings of their voices from whenever the trigger word is spoken. Users who opt in will be able to say, “Alexa, delete everything I said today,” in order to trigger the deletion once an update is rolled out. Previously, users had to go to a tool on the Alexa privacy website to delete the data, but following moves by Google and Facebook to allow users to delete their data, Amazon was pressured to follow suit.
Google and Amazon appear to be the targets of the latest moves around tech regulation. The Justice Department is ramping up oversight focused on antitrust issues with Google, and the FTC is doing the same with a focus on Amazon. Investigations have not been opened yet, but the claims by the two agencies are a sign that investigations, or at the very least greater oversight, are coming.
Nielsen has announced an expansion of its Digital Ad Ratings audience measurement to 26 more countries for YouTube’s mobile app. Nielsen will help advertisers measure demographics, reach, frequency and GRPs for ads run through YouTube’s mobile app and provide third-party verification for advertisers.
Facebook’s currently in talks with the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) about its upcoming cryptocurrency. The talks are in the very early stages, and it’s not even clear if Facebook’s cryptocurrency is within the CFTC’s jurisdiction.
Firefox is joining Apple in blocking third-party cookies. Safari blocked them in 2017. This makes Google Chrome the only major browser that doesn’t block these trackers.
YouTube is finally taking more significant steps to stop the spread of hate speech on its platform. The approach will prohibit claims of group superiority based on qualities like gender, religion or race, stop YouTube’s algorithm from recommending “borderline” content like conspiracies around vaccinations, and finally, there will be no more monetization opportunities for any creators who push the limits of YouTube’s content policies.
Instagram is officially rolling out an update that lets advertisers promote posts created by influencers on their behalf. The ads allow brands to extend the reach of sponsored content. Users who see the posts will notice a “paid partnership with” tag included with the content.
After falling behind in its cloud services, Google is looking to catchup to Microsoft and Amazon with the acquisition of Looker Data Sciences for $2.6 billion. This will allow Google to sell more cloud storage and software. Looker has been a cloud data analysis and visualization service to date. The deal still needs to be approved by regulators, but it’s likely to go through. That’s important to Google, which has seen growth slowing in its search advertising business.
Details on Google’s cloud gaming service Stadia have been revealed. Users will be able to access the service for $10 per month, but the games they play on the service, for the most part, will be bought within the platform. Notable games available at launch, include Destiny, Rage 2, Final Fantasy XV, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and others.