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.
Snapchat and Pinterest Build on Camera Equity
It seems fitting that one week after Apple announced new iPhones that put a huge emphasis on cameras that Snapchat and Pinterest would announce new camera features of their own—no hardware update required.
Snapchat launched a new camera mode that turns selfies into 3D visuals. The feature gives Snaps the ability to be moved around to allow viewers to see different dimensions of a visual. Of course, users can add other elements to those 3D photos through the use of lenses and animations.
Looking beyond Snapchat to Pinterest, it updated its Lens product capabilities to be able to identify 2.5 billion fashion and home products. The feature lets users snap a photo of objects to bring up related pins. Now, users will see shoppable Pins related both fashion and home items. This is the first time stoppable pins have been brought into Lens search results.
The features in and of themselves are nothing major, but they do show how the camera is proving to be a differentiator. Snapchat continues to innovate in the space staving off the likes of Instagram as much as possible, while Pinterest is using the camera to compete with Google when it comes to search. The camera is an innovation opportunity, and these platforms are leveraging it.
Facebook Announces Portal TV
It’s not just streaming services trying to take over people’s TVs. Facebook’s getting in on the game with its new Portal TV.
Facebook refers to it as a “smart video chat” device that owners can connect to their TVs and video chat with friends. Portal TV has the ability to pan and zoom in on people who are talking automatically. The $149 device also allows users to stream content, similar to the Roku, Apple TV or Chromecast. It was announced with two other Portal devices, one is an updated version of the original Portal and the other is the Portal Mini, which if you didn’t guess, is smaller.
Clearly, Facebook has not given up on Portal, despite the fact that it's only shipped an estimated 300,000 of its original Portal devices globally, which is significantly lower than competitive devices. Much of that has been attributed to a lack of trust in Facebook. Users aren’t clamoring to invite a Facebook device with a camera and microphone into their homes. Facebook is trying to allay those concerns by saying that Portal uses AI that runs locally and not on servers, but that doesn’t appear to be helping matters much.
Tech has seen a precipitous decline in trust over the past several months, and just a few weeks ago, it was revealed that Facebook was having contractors transcribe audio clips of users without notifying them. Apple was in hot water for similar practices. These platforms are going to continue doing that, but now it appears they’re taking steps to notify users of the practice. That’s probably not going to do much in terms of making people more comfortable with Facebook or Portal, but while users haven’t given into Portal, Facebook hasn’t given up on it.
Facebook Reveals Details of its Content Board
Facebook announced the launch of an independent content oversight board back in January. The objective of the body would be to make irreversible decisions on what posts will be allowed and what will be taken down. Now, we have some details on the body.
First, it will start reviewing cases next year, and it will be made up of 11 people with a total supporting staff of 40. Ultimately, this board will have the final say on what content is permitted on the platform. They will also be able to provide feedback on Facebook policies, which will then require Facebook to write a public response to. They’ll need to explain why they did or didn’t implement a recommendation from the board.
Facebook claims the board will be completely independent, free of “actual or perceived” conflicts of interest and made up of a “broad range of knowledgeable, competencies, diversity and expertise.” The board will be paid by a trust with trustees unable to fire members of the board. That will give members some distance form Facebook itself.
When it comes to content, Facebook is essentially describing a Supreme Court of sorts with an independent body given the final word on decisions. The goal of the board is to identify content decisions that can serve as precedents moving forward, so while it won’t be reviewing everything by any means, it will be reviewing content that represents a broader category.
The details of the board came about just ahead of a congressional hearing on violent content that included Facebook and other platforms. It sounds reasonable but as with anything in regards to Facebook, the actual implementation will prove to be far more complicated.
Facebook Introduces Three New Ad Units
Facebook announced some new ad units that are pretty exciting. The goal of the new units is to create more interaction between brands and Facebook users by “changing digital advertising from a one-way push communication to an an ongoing dialogue powered by creativity.” The ad units include a video poll ad, augmented reality (AR) ads and playable ads, so let’s break them down.
Video poll ads take what Facebook did on Instagram with poll stickers to Facebook. The ads are pretty simple in that they allow brands to showcase a piece of content and then pose a question to viewers. All brands will have access to these ads this month.
AR ads will enter open beta this fall. These ads allow users to interact with brands through AR by, for example, trying on makeup. The units lean into the face filter behavior users have already adopted within Stories.
Finally, playable ads allow users to play simple games within the Facebook News Feed. These can, of course, be used by developers to preview games and motivate downloads, but brands like Vans are also using them to create interactive, playable experiences.
Standing out in the feed is harder than ever. Brands are constantly working to create content that gets users to stop and pay attention, and success is measured in seconds. These units invite participation and some investment from users, and with the right creative wrapper, they will stand out. The question is just how much people will stop and invest attention in these units. Early tests show promise.
News Quick Hits
Apple held its major device announcement event. One of the highlights was an update on Apple Arcade. The service will charge users $4.99 a month and will give them access to 100 games. Apple Watch Series 5 was revealed with a big emphasis on heart monitoring and longer battery life. The iPhone 11 was announced with an updated camera. Apple also has the iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max. iPads are getting their own operating system and will no longer be using the same as iPhones. Finally, Apple gave some more details on its video subscription service Apple TV Plus. It will cost users $4.99 a month for access to ad-free exclusive service shows, so even though the event talked about new hardware, services really took centerstage.
Snapchat users can now share tracks, playlists, albums and podcasts from Spotify in their Snaps and Stories thanks to a new integration available on both iOS and Android. Users who receive a Snap with Spotify content can swipe up to open it within Spotify.
The streaming wars are no joke, but jokes are proving to be valuable ammunition. This week Netflix gained global rights to all 180 episodes of “Seinfeld” starting in 2021, just in time to help the video streaming service weather the loss of streaming mainstays The Office and Parks and Recreation to NBCUniversal, which announced details on its new streaming service Peacock. Peacock will launch with 15,000 hours of content, including some new shows like a Saved by the Bell reboot, a new adaptation for Battle Star Galactica and a series starring Demi Moore based on the book Brave New World. Another competitor HBO Max secured the rights to stream The Big Bang Theory and Friends.
Facebook Live, Watch Party and Creator Studio received some helpful updates. First, Facebook Live now allows for broadcast limited to page administrators only, which is helpful for things like rehearsals and other tests. Along with that update, Facebook doubled the maximum length of live videos from four to eight hours. Second, Watch Party now has a scheduling feature for Pages to build anticipation and allow those who want to watch to sign up for notifications. Watch Party also has new metrics, including Minutes Viewed, which shows the total amount of watch time during a Watch Party and Unique 60s Viewers, which shows the number of people who viewed a Watch Party for at least 60 seconds. Finally, Creator Studio has new loyalty insights, including one that will give each video a performance score based on its ability to drive one-minute views, average minutes watched and retention.
YouTube is now going to be selling Masthead ad placements on TV screens. The ads will allow YouTube to tap into the cord cutter market more with prime placement when users access YouTube on their TV screens. The ads can be purchased as cross-screen or single-screen buys and will be sold on a CPM basis. A study conducted with Media Science stated that YouTube ads generate 10% greater recall lift than linear TV ads.
Airbnb announced that it plans to go public with a direct listing in 2020. Last time Airbnb was valued, it was at $31 billion, and Q2 revenue was just over $1 billion. Another sharing economy company plans to make the leap. We’ll see if it fares better than its ride sharing counterparts. At least it’s not in the midst of a price war.