Pinterest blows up the real-time search game, SNL makes a play for the kids and Facebook pumps up the volume this week in the Trend Report.
Facebook wants to be your Valentine
It should come as no surprise that on the heels of its big Friends Day promos, Facebook decided to celebrate Valentine’s Day by allowing users to send digital “cards” straight from their timeline. The social media giant had a group of artists and illustrators from New York and London create a series of readymade Valentine’s cards and Messenger filters so that they can continue to “reach people where they are," according to Alicia Dougherty-Wold, the social network’s content strategy lead. The Valentine's Day cards join a string of personalized greetings on Facebook for events like the "Year in Review" and Chinese New Year and attempt to capitalize on the 25% bump in engagement seen during last year’s Valentine’s season. But lest you think they’re ignoring the lovelorn, Facebook Business also has tips for brands wanting to engage with the recently single.
Why do we care?
Facebook continues their quest to become more than just a social network with “experiences” designed to exploit their vast stores of user data. But these ploys have enjoyed mixed results. While it may be too early to gauge sentiment about the (fairly innocuous, if a little dorky) Valentine’s cards, descriptions of the dancing figure in the “Friends Day” video have ranged from “cheesy” to “creepy” to “a bizarre animated monstrosity.” While it’s tempting to jump on the increased-engagement-bandwagon, brands should probably show some restraint until it’s clear how users are responding to all of these unasked-for features.
Saturday Night Live goes Snap
Riding the crest of its recent ratings swell (thanks to celebrity cameo imitations of Trump and his staff), middle-aged sketch show Saturday Night Live is looking for new markets by sizing down to the (really) small screen. Like many other 40-something year olds who are trying to figure out what the kids are up to these days, the comedy institution is putting some Snap in its step. “Boycott,” a short film satirizing the mad craze to use consumer power to protest Donald Trump, launched on Snapchat Stories last week as part of a larger deal with NBC Universal. The short expands the footprint of the “live” program’s increasing forays into digital video, but whether Snap users can expect these videos to show up as standard programming, not to mention whether they care, remains to be seen.
Why do we care?
As brands circle the Snap waters, looking for an opportunity to join in the feeding frenzy, big, mainstream content producers like SNL could offer insight as to whether traditional fare like this can capture Snap’s mostly young audience’s attention. It’s also worth noting the short’s subject matter. With brands’ political allegiances being scrutinized by consumers, and with the fallout from the recent spate of politically minded Super Bowl ads, brands should tread very lightly in serving an audience that increasingly uses its purchasing power to make a political statement.
Pewdiepie gets his just desserts
YouTube’s premium programming platform suffered a major setback when international phenom PewDiePie published supposed anti-Semitic messages in some of his videos and was subsequently sacked by Google. While the company stopped short of deleting his account or videos, they did cancel the second season of the viral star’s YouTube Red program. And Disney’s Maker Studios is no longer in the PewDiePie business either.
Why do we care?
While influencer content has emerged as a great strategy, especially for smaller brands, it’s important to remember that these creators can be unpredictable. Undoubtedly PewDiePie’s laid-back, amateur approach appeals to a lot of YouTube users (over 50 million, in fact), but brands need to understand that with that fresh content comes a certain degree of risk. Bandwagons can run off the rails.
YOUR WEEKLY PLATFORM UPDATES
INTRODUCING A NEW ANTI-ABUSE FEATURE — WAIT! WHERE DID IT GO?
Twitter continued in its attempts to combat abuse on the platform by launching a new anti-abuse feature … for two hours. User feedback about the new feature, which made it so that users were no longer notified when they were added to lists, was so vehement and negative that the company almost immediately got rid of it. So now you know: not only does Twitter care about you, they listen. Now if they’d just send us a digital Valentine’s card on Facebook.
NEW FEATURE? CALL A CONTRACTOR
Linkedin has introduced a new feature that makes it much easier for contractors to contact recruiters. Now users can discreetly list themselves as contractors, even while maintaining full-time status, making Linkedin a sort of Ashley Madison for professionals. The tool is known as Open Candidates and already boasts 3.4 million users. At the same time, Linkedin is rolling out a general site update in the hopes of making their experience more streamlined.
FACEBOOK KILLED THE RADIO STAR
Facebook is making a big play to be users’ one-stop shop for video, and one of the big updates is auto-playing audio for timeline videos. There’s also an upgrade for vertically oriented videos and a new P-I-P feature, so that users can keep scrolling while a video plays in the corner. Facebook’s also making their videos compatible with Apple TV and Google Chromecast, with versions for Amazon Fire TV and Samsung Smart TV coming in the near future. Deadline quotes Sheryl Sandberg as saying these changes will be important for advertisers. “We’re seeing consumer video exploding on our platform … and that really creates the opportunity for video ads in the feed.” While these may be welcome changes for most users and brands, people who want to discreetly scroll the social network may want to turn off the automatic audio in their settings, lest they blast the latest Katy Perry track in their next team meeting.
PINTEREST IN THE WILD
If you’ve ever been playing Pokemon Go and thought, This is great, but I’d rather be shopping, Pinterest has got you covered. With its new Visual Discovery features, the primarily visual clipping platform has taken things a step further. Now with Lens, you can zero in on items that catch your eye with your phone’s camera and, in real time, the app will suggest matches. See someone with some dope kicks? Boom! Pinterest will find them. What’s more, the app will automatically separate all the elements on the screen and let you search by each of them. It will not only make suggestions about particular items but will detect styles and eras that the image may relate to. Just be careful. The person you’re ogling may think you’re trying to cop more than their righteous fashion sense.
Google? No, really. Google
SPEAKING OF PINS...
Remember those little pins to mark locations in Google Maps? Well, G-Money (as I like to call Google) has added an update to Maps that may succeed in turning it into a social network. Now users can make lists of their favorite locations and share them with friends. Visiting a new city? Hit up your local friends and have them send you restaurant recommendations that are integrated right into your Maps app. You can use Google preset categories or invent your own — like, for instance, a list of all the public ping-pong tables in Austin. I’m not necessarily saying that I’m in possession of said list, but hmu if you’re looking.
WHO’S DOING COOL STUFF?
John Oliver knows that President Trump doesn’t watch his HBO show, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, but he still feels that he has some helpful feedback for the president. The question is, How can he hope to actually catch his ear? Turns out, advertising is the key. Specifically, advertising during the president’s favorite morning news shows. Oliver bought time on all three shows in the D.C. market between 8:30 and 9:00 a.m. and ran an ad directly targeted at the president. His aim is not to criticize but to inform. The ad (the first in a series) parodies a cable staple, the Catheter Cowboy, but instead of having him talk about his medical condition, Oliver has the cowboy explain what the nuclear triad is and how it works “in case,” as the cowboy explains, “you’re the kind of person who might really need to know that.” No word yet as to whether the president saw the ad, but Oliver has plenty of spots in the hopper, so he should have ample opportunity to check them out.
Omar Little may have been President Obama’s favorite character on The Wire, but the actor who played him, Michael K. Williams, worries that he might have trouble leaving him behind. At least that’s the premise of The Atlantic’s new short “Michael K. Williams Asks: Am I Typecast? #QuestionAnswers.” In the spot produced by O Positive, Williams plays four different versions of himself, each with his own point of view and personality. While the very execution of the ad dispels his suspicions, Williams’s different personas don’t let him off so easy. No ready consensus is reached. The tag for the ad, “Question Your Answers,” underscores The Atlantic’s commitment to presenting complex journalism that questions our assumptions and encourages us to do the same. And while the ad makes several passing topical references, ultimately it’s about introspection, a quality it’s easy to lose sight of amid the constant din of political rancor that fills the airwaves these days.
With the politicization of this year’s Super Bowl, both in the ads and around the game itself (given Brady and Belichick’s coziness with the current administration), the Ad Council and the NFL used the Pro Bowl as an opportunity to highlight love. Using the stadium’s Kiss Cam, they focused in on couples that didn’t quite fit the norm, be they same sex, disabled, multiracial or otherwise atypical. The ad ends with the tagline “love has no labels.” The most astonishing aspect of the spot is seeing the crowd react to each of the kisses during the game and feeling the sense of community and togetherness an event like that can foster, if just given the chance.