Philosophical query: If Facebook steals every single Snapchat feature, will the platforms eventually share one consciousness? It seems like we’re about to find out. Also, fake news and London’s giant mammary dominate social conversation.
Fake news gets a boost from bots.
You know fake news is a big deal when 60 Minutes (famous for its own fake news scandal) does a segment on it. In a comprehensive report, the (actual) news giant explores how so much spurious content can make its way into the public consciousness. Apparently, there are three major contributing factors — people with ideological skin in the game, people doing it just for the hits (and the ad revenue) and people who aren’t people at all. That is, they’re bots. For a few hundred bucks, anyone can buy thousands of fake social media profiles from Russian (or Bangladeshi or Filipino — it’s just fun to pick on the Russians right now) bot farms. They’re programmed to like certain posts, and can, for instance, cause a post to be retweeted 4,000 times in a matter of seconds. Then regular (actual) people pick it up and run with it. Of course, it’s probably someone from the first two groups who’s footing the bill for these little internet helpers. These folks aren’t actual influencers. They’re provocateurs who are doing the equivalent of carpet bombing the social conversation to distract people from how fraudulent their practices are. And it’s working.
Why do we care?
Fake news has been a thorn in Facebook and Twitter’s sides since the election, and the president continues to couch unflattering reports as fake to discredit his detractors. But bots have been wreaking havoc on social media for a while now. It’s the combination of the two that has really created a vortex of tainted influence. As platforms employ more and more strategies to minimize fraud and abuse (a particularly aggressive move by Instagram to delete over 18 million fake accounts was known as the “Instagram Rapture”), their publishing and advertising protocols will likely see frequent overhauls as well.
People are learning healthy eating from Instagram.
Everyone knows that the purest use for Instagram is as a delivery system for food porn, but did you know that it was making you healthier in the process? Turns out that healthy living and wellness brands are finding a foothold through influencer content on the pictorial platform. The community aspect of Instagram allows users to put their weight behind meal planning brands like Whole30 and fitness brands like ModelFIT that use social encouragement to help their users achieve their goals. Users regularly exchange recipes and tips for keeping healthy, and that kind of UGC often loops in healthy lifestyle brands along the way.
Why do we care?
While some of the larger brands are still struggling to crack the influencer code, these smaller niche brands have been able to capitalize on influencers and their communities of followers in a very organic way. While most of these brands are oriented less toward products than services, their ability to share beautiful imagery has brought them above the Instagram fray, where there are bevvies of users ready to engage. Even with the food scene growing ever more indulgent (bacon-wrapped doughnuts, anyone?), healthy living has seen a surge in interest among millennials. And Instagram is where the conversation is happening.
Publishers ditch scale for some sick vert.
While Facebook works hard to become every social media platform at once, publishers are going in the opposite direction, shedding some of their scale- and search-based strategies for more specific, niche verticals. About.com, NBC News, the New York Times and Huffington Post have all launched sites for new verticals in the past year. As users grow more sophisticated in how they use media, the way they interact with content has become more specialized. For advertisers, this means a more relaxed opportunity for engagement without chasing the rapid turnover of the news cycle. Now instead of wading through cursory posts about a billion different topics, users can zero in on their specific interests and find content more suited to their needs. Now, all we need to do is find a new job for Jeeves.
Why do we care?
According to Digiday, “Publishers are doing everything they can to get away from low-CPM programmatic advertising and try to sell advertisers directly on higher-ticket formats like sponsored content, native ads and video.” This would seem to reinforce the idea that content is king (or queen or, I don’t know, at least viceroy), especially in the digital landscape. But great content isn’t enough. Brands need to understand their users first and meet them where their interests lie. Now, if only there were a digital agency that executed on that exact principle.
YOUR WEEKLY PLATFORM UPDATES
FACEBOOK GOES TO TOWN (HALL)
Have you been feeling like badgering your elected officials but were too busy to look up their phone numbers? Who even are they? Facebook knows. And they’re going to hook you up. With the introduction of a new feature named Town Hall, Facebook is hoping to make its reputation as a conduit for political discussion amount to more than just racist posts from people you barely knew in high school. They want to put you in direct content with your representatives and have made doing so as effortless and pain-free as possible. All you do is enter your address, and Town Hall will figure out all of your representatives, from city council members to President Trump, and offer to put you in contact with them. You can follow their Facebook pages or message, email or call them directly. In this era of Indivisible and other activist movements, Facebook has put the power right at your fingertips. Just don’t expect to get into a long chat thread about Kimye with Trump. So far, he’s keeping his own counsel and sticking to Twitter.
WELCOME TO SNAPCHAT INSTAGRAM FACEBOOK STORIES!
Not content to merely buy Instagram and turn it into a Snapchat clone, Facebook has introduced another Snapchat feature on its own platform. (You get a Snapchat! You get a Snapchat! Everyone gets a Snapchat!!) And it’s a big one. With the launch of Facebook Stories, users can now add filters, frames and AR features to their photos and videos and post them to their profile as stories. If that sounds familiar (and a little desperate), Facebook is banking on some big guns to help them stand out from the pack, including integrations with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Power Rangers. Now you can intentionally post a picture of yourself that makes you look like a smack-talking raccoon.
AND NOW BACK TO POLITICS
After learning that law enforcement had been using their data to conduct surveillance on protesters, Facebook updated their data policy for developers to explicitly forbid the practice. The policy change includes Instagram, and Twitter has taken similar steps to thwart surveillance-based data mining. The policy change comes at a time when Facebook continues to make more and more data available to advertisers so that they can better target their efforts. The ACLU and Color of Change (both of whom helped in drafting the new policy) commend Facebook’s move, but it will be interesting to see if the social network can have its cake and eat it, too, or if the policy change will amount to little more than talk.
¡VIVA LA PINTEREST!
Pinterest continues to introduce new features that make things easier for their users to find what they’re looking for, and now they’re doing so in Español. Since Spanish is the second-most popular language in the world, Pinterest thought it might be a good idea to gear some of its features toward an audience that potentially numbers over 400 million people. In addition to launching Explore (which hips users to trends and picks from influencers near them) in Mexico and Argentina, the site now features a Spanish-language blog. While they’re at it, maybe Pinterest could teach my maps program to stop pronouncing Chicon St. “chicken.”
GOOGLE GETS IN ON THE POLITICS CRAZE WITH DIAL-A-CONGRESSMAN CHROME PLUG-IN
Taking things one step further than Town Hall, there’s now an extension for Chrome that lets you call your congresspeople right from your browser. According to Slate, “If you’re reading an article that mentions any member of the House or Senate, the browser extension will highlight that person’s name.” Then you have only to hover over their name to see the phone number for their DC office. The extension is called Dial Congress and in practice lives up to its name. So next time you read an article that makes steam come out of your ears, don’t wait until you’ve had a reasonable cool down period; immediately launch your ire toward (probably) deserving ears. It’s the American way!
WHO’S DOING COOL STUFF?
GEORGIA (THE COUNTRY)
He may be merely a handsome Dutch travel aficionado whose name sounds like he could be a Bond girl, but Jesper Black was given a king's welcome when he disembarked from his plane in Tbilisi, Georgia, on his way to visit friends. What Black couldn’t have known as he deplaned was that the country of Georgia had calculated that he was their six millionth visitor, and in keeping with such an esteemed designation, they decided to show him the time of his life. He was picked up by a personal driver and spirited away to a private dinner with the prime minister of Georgia, Giorgi Kvirikashvili, at which there were traditional dances and other Georgian entertainment, not to mention a menu of Georgian delights selected by popular online vote. The entire production was conceived and executed by Georgian agency Windfor’s. If you’re looking for a pick me up, watch the case study video. A lot of work went into showing this one guy a nice time, so you might as well enjoy it, too.
PURDUE PHARMA (MAYBE)
What would you do if you produced and sold one of the most addictive opioid products in the world? How about sponsor an app to help people get off of opioids? No? Well, that’s what Purdue Pharma, maker of Oxycontin, the hillbilly heroin, is doing. Purdue is partnering with Geisinger Health System in Pennsylvania to distribute wearables and apps integrated with Apple’s ResearchKit platform to help patients log their symptoms and opioid intake so that doctors can better regulate their prescriptions. Ultimately the goal is to curb abuse by better managing the supply of Oxycontin that is being prescribed to these patients. Overprescribing and medication hoarding have contributed greatly to the opioid epidemic, and Purdue believes that they can find a solution through data. While cutting supply should cut into the gray market Oxy trade, as long as the pill is on the market and demand remains high, people will find a way to get it, even if they have to break in to pharmacies to do it. But at the very least, Purdue should get some good press out of it, which comes in handy when your product is partially responsible for coroner’s offices running out of storage.
It’s time to talk about the elephant in the room. Only, this time the elephant’s a giant breast. And the room is London. To raise awareness about and promote acceptance of breastfeeding, creative agency Mother London erected a giant inflatable mammary atop a roof in the Shoreditch area of London. The inflatable was deployed on Mother’s Day in the UK as part of Mother’s #FreeTheFeed campaign. The agency also plastered the streets with flyers that read:
Across the UK thousands of mothers feel watched and judged when feeding in public be it from a bottle or from a breast. This is a celebration of every woman’s right to decide how and where they feed their children without feeling guilty or embarrassed about their parenting choices.
Happy Mother’s Day
Whether or not the stunt fostered the kind of support they were aiming for, there’s no doubt that people took notice (even if not all the responses were terribly mature). While the giant exposed breast may seem inappropriate to some of our Puritanical sensibilities (I considered flagging the link as NSFW), that’s exactly the point. It should be SFW. Or SF the subway. Or SF really anywhere. And that’s the conversation Mother London wants us to be having.