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 Rethinks Meme Content
Instagram may be doing a bit of a mea culpa with the meme community following a massive purge of meme-focused accounts and affecting about 33 million followers. Facebook cited the reason for the accounts being removed as being “multiple violations of our policies, including attempted abuse of our internal processes."
While Instagram and parent-company Facebook had their reasons, they appear to be rethinking their entire approach to meme content in general. Why? Because it gets shared seven times more than non-meme content, especially among young users.
Instagram is in the process of hiring a strategic partnerships manager who will have the job of managing meme accounts and digital partnerships. “We’ve never gone out to this community and given best practices,” stated Instagram’s head of global creative partnerships Charles Porch.
It makes sense why these accounts were removed. Many of them were violating IP by stealing content from others without credit, but it also makes sense why Instagram really, really wants to smooth things over and go so far as to put someone in charge of doing so. This is valuable content to users, which makes it valuable to Instagram, especially given the context that Instagram still has equity among young users. Facebook doesn’t want to lose that.
Facebook Targeting Options Emerge Post-Cambridge Analytica
Facebook is working to come back from the Cambridge Analytica scandal with new options for advertisers that let them target ads without relying on attributes as personal as age, gender, ZIP code and other characteristics. Instead, Facebook is pitching that advertisers can be just as effective by targeting users based on their online behaviors with a new audience tool called Special Ad Audience. Changes like this will prevent advertisers from targeting people based on sensitive information like family status, household income, gender, age and race. Targeting information like that had been abused in the past by advertisers excluding minorities from housing opportunities.
This tool is going to replace “lookalike audiences,” which basically allowed advertisers to upload lists of identified customers and then target ads to Facebook users that shared characteristics with those on the list. This announcement comes off the heels of the drastic and related move in 2018 to remove third-party data providers from Facebook targeting and instead require advertisers to work with those data providers for their targeting directly.
There’s no telling what this is going to mean for Facebook advertising, but it’s clear advertisers will have to start thinking about the platform differently. From one that’s less about niche targeting to one that’s much more focused on broad reach that advertisers and then let the algorithm carry the weight of delivering to the right audience. Facebook’s under a lot of pressure to hold back on targeting options and incentivized to position itself as a broad reach platform. How that affects advertising effectiveness is completely up in the air.
Twitter Removes Third-Party Data Providers from Targeting
This week Twitter revealed that ads had been shown to users based on data collected from online behavior outside of Twitter. It did so by connecting people to email addresses they hadn’t shared with Twitter, so it could guess their characteristics. That misuse of data may or may not have had something to do with the announcement that Twitter will no longer integrate third-party data providers on its platform.
Instead, they’re following the decision Facebook made last year to require advertisers who want to work with Acxiom, Oracle, Epsilon or any others to do so directly, instead of through Twitter when setting up their campaigns. Third-party data from those companies will no longer be on the Twitter platform.
The reason is simple. Platforms are under the scrutiny of lawmakers, so they’re putting more responsibility on advertisers when it comes to working with third-party data providers. Advertisers can go to them, build their target audiences and bring those target audiences to the platforms when building their campaigns. Advertisers also have the option of increasing their focus on developing their first-party data sets.
Facebook News is Probably Coming Back… Again
Tell me if you’ve heard this one before. Facebook is talking to multiple news publishers, including ABC News, Dow Jones, The Washington Post and Bloomberg to do more to integrate news into its service. Yes, once again, Facebook is hungry to be more of a news destination even after cutting back on it last year.
This latest round of talks is intended to drum up content for a new “news” tab expected to launch in the coming months. Publishers would be paid as high as $3 million for their content, specifically headlines and article previews, but if publishers so choose they can have their full content available on Facebook. The news tab is expected to have a pretty prominent position on the platform as a way to fulfill Mark Zuckerberg’s desire to have “more high quality news” on the platform.
Facebook took its foot off the gas when it comes to news content in 2016 when it came under criticism for being a hotbed for the spread of misinformation, and at that time publishers who had become reliant on Facebook for traffic were left scrambling. That’s probably why Facebook feels the need to put a little more skin in the game this time to get them interested.
Even with Facebook’s shoddy news track record, many users consider Facebook a source for news, and Facebook wants their views and engagement. In that context, it’s not too surprising to see Facebook trying to resurrect its news ambitions. This time it’s doing so with a stronger filter for quality and vetted publishers.
News Quick Hits
Facebook is adding “from Facebook” tags to its suite of products to create unity among its apps, so get ready to use WhatsApp from Facebook and Instagram from Facebook. The move is meant to bring all brands under the Facebook umbrella more clearly, but the timing couldn’t be more awkward as Facebook is currently under investigation from the FTC for potentially being a monopoly.
Alphabet, in an effort to comply wit EU regulators, is going to allow rival search providers to be listed as default search browsers during Android device set-ups. There’s a catch, however. Those search providers have to bid to be able to be featured as a choice. The move is meant to quell criticism of Google that it has used its dominant position and the prevalence of Android to stifle competition.
Facebook is surveying customers to make sure advertisers are following through on their promises. Surveys are being issued to users who made purchases after viewing Facebook ads to see if the purchase and the seller met their expectations. The surveys are being conducted in the News Feed, and advertisers found to consistently mislead customers with their ads are being cracked down on by having their ad costs increase and reach decrease.
Instagram is expanding its test of hiding like counts from posts beyond Canada to six more countries, including Australia, Brazil, Ireland, Italy, Japan and New Zealand. The move is intended to improve digital health on the platform, while also cutting down on the market for purchasing likes and faking engagement with artificially inflated numbers.
Is it hot in here or am I just Netflix? Disney announced a bundle for Disney+, which alone will cost $6.99 per month, but with a newly announced bundle users will be able to get Disney+, ad-supported Hulu and ESPN+ for $12.99 per month. All of those services unbundled would cost a total of $17.97, so bundlers save $5.00 per month. Disney is doing all it can to sweeten the deal on its Disney+ service with a bundle priced to match Netflix’s standard plan.
Facebook is moving forward with its plans to integrate messaging across its suite of apps. Engineers have started to rebuild Instagram messaging from the ground-up using Messenger technology. Once complete, Messenger and Instagram users will be able to communicate across the apps. Instagram Direct will continue to maintain its look, but the tech underneath it will change.
Facebook is testing subscriptions for Facebook Watch. The test will allow a handful of publishers like BritBoxTV, Tastemade Plus, CollegeHumor Dropout and MotorTrend On Demand to charge subscribers around $4.99 per month for access to content. Facebook will retain a percentage of subscriptions sold. It can’t be said enough that this is a test, but should this be successful, Facebook could take the approach of Apple TV+ or Roku Channels with the ability to integrate content services like HBO or Showtime under one aggregator. Facebook is letting users do things like watch content at the same time from different places through Watch Party, so they’re giving it their own spin.