The Trend Report is back! You can all unbate your breath. This month we look at a battle of the bots, group video Snapchats and much, much more.
Smaller social network, smaller hassle
Remember fan clubs? Like, you’d send a little form off in the mail and then someone would send you a newsletter about your favorite teen idol or baseball team or superhero or illusionist? No? Did I lose you at “in the mail?” Got it. Regardless, fan clubs were some of the original social media networks. You were linked to people all over the country (sometimes the world) who shared at least one interest with you. Well, Benji Vaughan of Disciple Media thinks a similar idea may be the key to diversifying the social media landscape. Based on his success creating micro-social networks for artists like Luke Bryan and the Rolling Stones, he wants to roll out a similar platform that will let anyone curate their own cyber communities. Rather than everyone being on the same huge platform, you could join the network for your favorite performing artist and just hang out there and talk about how Trey Anastasio stops in the middle of that one song and just stares at the audience for like a full two minutes and how great that is. And there wouldn’t be any haters around to tell you how listening to Phish makes them want to drive hot railroad spikes into their eardrums. It would just be you and your fellow travelers, grooving on those sweet jams.
Why do we care?
Facebook has been having a bad month. With congressional hearings focusing on the company's control over users' data, regulation is a definite possibility. Which creates opportunity for competitors. And people like Tim Wu are calling for those competitors to engage in better, more transparent operating practices. In the past, techpreneurs tried to carve out market share for the next great new idea. Now everyone’s rushing to create the next great new acquisition. Maybe a little regulation will give the upstarts some confidence to meet Facebook head on. And who knows? Maybe Snapchat will take this as a cue to stop alienating all its users and actually step up to the plate.
Or maybe mothers do know best
That’s the idea behind Chairman Mom, a new site for working mothers. While other sites for mothers focus on things like childcare and advice about kids, founder Sarah Lacy wants Chairman Mom to focus more on the “working” aspect of the working mom. Ultimately, she hopes to recast the idea of being a working woman with children in a positive light, instead of as the career death knell that everyone told her it would be. Her goal is for the site to have “no ads, no trolls, and no spam.” To bypass the infighting found on other mom sites, Chairman Mom avoids features like upvoting and direct messaging — and charges a small ($5.00 a month) subscription fee. The site uses a question-and-answer format, with the staff curating the questions and the community crowd-sourcing the answers. The emphasis is less on having an open forum for discussion than quickly getting a lot of different perspectives on a specific issue in a hopefully civil manner. Wait. Are we still talking about the internet?
Why do we care?
It stands to reason that at least a few of us reading here are working mothers. And a resource that steers clear of the kind of acrimony that has overtaken Twitter and Facebook sounds downright refreshing. But sites like Chairman Mom bear different tidings for brands. If more social sites move to a subscription model, brands may have to rethink their social strategies. Luckily, you can still get everything you need from Google. That is, until they shift to a transactional revenue model.
Time to get AMPed up!
Speaking of Google, as of March, the search giant’s mobile-first indexing began its official rollout. That means that eventually content that has been optimized for mobile will be better represented on Google than content designed primarily for desktop. What’s more, starting in July, Google will be prioritizing pages with faster loading times in its search rankings. Conveniently, Google developed its own Accelerated Mobile Platform (AMP) for publishers to increase their mobile load times. The catch? Instead of clicking through to see the content on the publisher’s site, the user stays on Google. Which hinders sites’ ability to track visits and serve ads to their users. That has a lot of people up in arms. But with Google highlighting AMP pages in search, the trade-off seems worth it. If search really does prioritize load speed, why wouldn’t you want your content on the fastest platform? But is it the fastest? That’s the question developer Ferdy Christant is asking. The answer? Only if they cheat.
Why do we care?
Here at Springbox, we were evangelists for mobile-first design back when people were still downloading music. Heck, we even started a company called Mobile1st. And while it’s never gracious to say “I told you so,” I mean, we totally did. Mobile searches surpassed desktop in 2015 and continue to climb. Mobile user experience has to be excellent to be competitive, and load times are a big part of that. The big platforms are all moving to streamline the way we deliver content. But some of Google’s partners have complained that even using AMP, their pages aren’t showing up in search. In the end, there’s no substitute for making sure your code is clean and performant.
START YOUR LIVE VIDEOS ANYWHERE! ANYWHERE, I SAY!
You know how YouTube lets you select the exact time you want a video to start when you share it? (You don’t? You should check it out.) Well now you can do that same thing on Twitter. But here’s the capper: You can do it with live video. Say you want to live Tweet the entire city council meeting, but you want to specifically post about that one moment when the entire room jazzercised to Pharrell’s “Happy.” No problem! No more waiting for the highlight reel. Now you can break those moments out and post right when they happen!
BACK TO THE FUTURE! SORT OF
Remember when Facebook bought Instagram and changed the feed and everybody went crazy? Well, now they’re changing it back. Okay. Not all the way back. I mean, why make people happy? The new feed will be mostly chronological and will feature an on-demand way for users to refresh the feed with new posts. But before you go carpet bombing Instagram with brand posts, know that the new posts will still be prioritized based on user behavior. Best bet? Instead of making a mad dash to post more often, put that effort into making your posts more engaging. That way, everybody wins.
“THE PURCHASE IS COMING FROM INSIDE THE PIN!”
Your Pinterest feed is about to get a lot more retailer-y. Since February of last year, the visual search platform has been offering a service called Shopping Ads to a limited number of partner retailers. The ads function much in the way an in-store display does, guiding shoppers to particular products. Then users can click through to purchase right from the pin. Thanks to great results in beta, Pinterest has decided to expand the feature to hundreds of retailers. And with positive return on ad spend and a highly engaged user base, this could be a real win for brands.
GROUP VIDEO CHAT? AW, SNAP!
So, you’re planning your trip down to the 5SOS show with 16 of your friends, but you want to see what everybody is wearing and what they would look like with dog ears and noses. Don’t worry! Snapchat’s got you. Now, you can subdivide your screen into up to 16 squares, cram all your friends onto your phone, doll ‘em up with lenses and add in text during the chat. Snap wasn’t the first platform to roll out group video chat, but with its young user base, it may be the most poised to capitalize on the trend’s youthful cachet. Sure, Facebook may have actually beat them to the punch with their own Messenger-based app Bonfire, but nobody under, like, a hundred is on Facebook anyway.
HEY, THAT’S NOT COOL.
Remember when we talked about bots taking over the world and then force-feeding us ice cream? Well, things have gotten a lot weirder since then. How weird? A pro-Trump CG (and possibly AI) Instagram “personality” hacked and declared war on an Instagram influencer, who, that’s right, also happens to be CG. As in, not real. The aggrieved party’s name is Lil Miquela, a Brazilian 19-year-old who claims to be a musician and has a million followers. Because of course she does. Who am I to criticize? I follow half an onion in a bag on Twitter. Thank you, internet, for this idyllic Utopia we now live in.
The attacker is named Bermuda, I guess, and her Instagram account, bermudaisbae, features photos of a young and very confident CG blonde woman and the tagline “The earth isn't getting hotter but I am.” Oh, Bermuda. You’re irrepressible. Bermuda’s issue with Lil Miquela seems to be that she’s not being up front about the fact that she’s just an avatar, a fact that is readily apparent to anyone who’s had even the most minimal exposure to actual humans or, really, reality of any sort.
But Bermuda has beef. And she’s not afraid to commit cybercrime to get it out there. A cynic might see the hack as a bald ploy to hijack the visibility of her much more popular and innocuous counterpart in order to jump start her own notoriety, but who wants to live in a world where we cast aspersions on the intentions of our computer-rendered internet tastemakers? One day, they’ll be all we have left. Instagram has so far been silent on the controversy, leaving us with this possibly brief window to relish the thought that our reality has been corrupted beyond repair. Like, say, the Windows machine your grandparents downloaded all those unknown attachments onto. Maybe it’s time for a restart.
BUT THIS IS
OGILVY & MATHER HONG KONG
Sometimes a change of perspective is all you need to break open the everyday world into an explosion of possibilities. Or in this case, an explosion of fried chicken. KFC is pretty proud of its hot & spicy fried chicken, but they needed a way to show it off to the Hong Kong market. Enter Ogilvy & Mather Hong Kong with some deft photo compositing. The agency took images of billowing smoke (from race cars, a space shuttle launch, etc.) and replaced them with fried chicken. And the results are remarkable. I’ve never stared so intently at fried chicken. Because usually I can’t wait that long before stuffing it in my mouth.
Speaking of perspective, nothing resets your point of view like literally being off-planet. We depend on satellites for so much of our day-to-day existence, but do we ever stop to think about what they think of us? Well, Benjamin Grant does. Or, not really, but he does use satellite imagery to trace the impact that humans have had on Earth. The project is called Daily Overview, and the images are stunning. From such a distance, the often incidental tableaux take on an abstract quality. From the strange blue mosaic of potash ponds to the multicolored dashes of shipping containers at Port Newark, the images Grant selects turn our behaviors and processes and structures into vehicles for meditating on consequence and the ways in which we so often ignore it — in our discourse, our industry and our consumption. Especially in a time riven by so much acrimony, it can be refreshing to be transported outside of one’s usual point of view.
“Let her work.” That’s right. It’s 2018, and we still have to remind men to behave themselves just so a woman can do her job. As more and more workplace harassment comes to light, women in especially vulnerable professions are taking it upon themselves to speak up. After numerous instances of harassment and assault, many captured on camera, a group of 52 female Brazilian sports journalists created the campaign #DeixaElaTrabalhar, which is Portuguese for “Let her work.” It’s no secret that the testosterone-driven world of male athletics can be a miasma of sexist attitudes, but antics that were once seen as merely inappropriate are now being recognized as the crimes they are. And these journalists have had enough.
A video made for the campaign features many of the women speaking out intercut with footage of athletes groping and kissing them while on the job. The hashtag has taken off on Twitter, and several prominent athletes have voiced their support for the campaign. But while locker rooms and sidelines and ringsides might seem like especially fraught spaces for women, workplace harassment happens in every industry and in every country around the world. This campaign is a call to men everywhere to get out of the way and #LetHerWork.
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