The year in Facebook updates, some pretty powerful maps, grouchy organ donors and creatively ambitious shelter pets all light up this month's trend report.
MTV decides to try something new and appeal to the youth.
Noted purveyor of reality TV about pregnant 16 year olds and 16 year olds who are spoiled and unbearable, MTV has decided to take its content to where 16 year olds actually live — Snapchat. While they’re certainly not the first media company to covet Snapchat’s young user base, at least they’re doing it on Snapchat’s terms. To coincide with the platform’s recent expansion of its Shows feature, MTV is augmenting its previous forays into the Snapverse with two programs made specifically for the Snapchat format. The first, a reboot of “Cribs,” a show that was popular when most Snapchat users were living in actual cribs, launched on June 6, with “Girl Code” to follow in July. In a nod to the Snapchat audience, the celebrities showing off their refrigerators full of Vitamin Water this time around will include YouTubers and social media stars. The network has shown its ability to pivot in the past (the “M” actually stands for “Music”), and its digital team has high hopes for the success of this latest partnership.
Why do we care?
As more publishers and networks vie for Snapchatters’ attention, and with more features like Shows launching all the time, it’s going to be a waiting game to see what cream rises to the top of the already crowded Discover feed. But MTV’s bespoke approach seems to be a step in the right direction. According to Variety, shows that are conceived with the vertical format and Snap Stories-like sequencing built in perform much better than long-form programming that has been retrofitted into Snap nuggets. Now MTV just has to hope that people still want to peek inside of other people’s houses. (Of course they do.)
Bots go boutique
The chatbot craze may have petered out somewhat on the big brand front, but maybe that’s not who they were meant for. Now small businesses can get in the bot game with a minimum of fuss and resources. Seeing an opportunity to democratize the bot market, R/GA teamed up with bot makers Reply.ai to build a bot that builds bots for the botless. It’s called BotBot. The setup is automated and incredibly simple. Now, everyone from craftspeople to delivery services to restaurants can automate their ordering process, and they can set the whole thing up from their phone.
Why do we care?
Up until now, the tech behind chatbots was cost preventive and unwieldy for all but the largest brands. And it didn’t work that well. Bigger brands have more variables, more products and more steps in the user journey for the bots to trip over, whereas smaller, more specialized brands often have a much simpler experience but lack the manpower or resources to streamline and scale their e-commerce ventures and customer response process. For an entrepreneur who wears all the hats, responding to every inquiry may take their attention away from production. Now, they can pawn off some of those functions to BotBot. Meanwhile, I had to get rid of my Roomba because it scares my kid. No bots for me. RIP Mandrake.
Is social media hurting your brand?
“Think before you post” may apply to more than just late-night drunkbookers. Temple University’s Fox School of Business recently published a study that found that over-posting can lead to unfollow rates of almost 300%. While the sample size was infinitesimal, the study’s conclusions confirm what we’ve been saying all along: social media isn’t about short-term sales boosts, it’s about strategy.
Why do we care?
Even though social media has been around for over a decade, many brands are still confounded by it. Now more than ever, with new platforms and features popping up constantly, it’s paramount that brands tailor social media content to their users. Every platform is a different flavor. They have their own unwritten rules (in addition to the written ones). And if you aren’t doing effective community management, you’re losing customers, period. Here’s a great idea! Why not hire a digital agency with expertise not only in social media but also in strategy? Seriously. Why not?
Speaking of social, turns out teens need it. Bad.
While it may be tempting to punish misbehaving teens by cutting them off from social media, a study shows that such limitations can have adverse effects. While parents may think of social media as equivalent to phone use or TV viewing, experts point out that its imprint is much more widespread and multifaceted. Teens rely on social media not only for communication but for keeping up with current events and often for receiving essential information from teachers and coaches. What’s more, many of the teens questioned in the study ratcheted up their social media use after reinstatement of their privileges.
Why do we care?
This is just more evidence that social media is an aspect of modern life too significant to ignore. That goes for parents, the electorate and especially brands. For a generation that’s grown up never knowing a world without it, social media seems as integral as indoor plumbing. And as its influence on the way we interact with the world becomes more multifarious by the minute, brands should be actively searching for the right way to engage. Now excuse me while I check my Instagram feed.
YOUR WEEKLY PLATFORM UPDATES
ALL THE FACEBOOK UPDATES FROM THE LAST YEAR IN 3...2...1...GO!
Another week, another Facebook update. That’s how it’s felt over the course of the past year. As the ‘book continues to battle fake news, they’ve been dropping tweaks like Wile E. Coyote drops anvils. It can be hard for the everyday user to keep up. Well, now you don’t have to. Fast Company has been kind enough to compile every update from the last year in a handy timeline, including the original announcements from the Facebook team. So, grab some popcorn, sit back and pore over the exciting saga of the world’s largest social network going from being labeled as anti-conservative to being blamed for getting Trump elected to frantically trying to hedge all their bets. Could this be the sequel to The Social Network? Somebody get Aaron Sorkin on the horn.
IN CASE OF EMERGENCY, OPEN FACEBOOK
Every once in awhile we get to see what Facebook would be up to if they weren’t having to spend all their time tap dancing around the fake-news controversy. In a partnership with UNICEF and the Red Cross, among others, Facebook has launched a resource to help people during natural disasters or other crisis events. The Disaster Maps feature was designed to help aid workers and victims of disasters find escape routes and places to avoid via Facebook’s Location Services. The maps have three components: location density, movement (to track how and where people are relocating) and Safety Check, which allows people to check in to safe havens. Facebook is hoping that in addition to providing a clear and hopefully lifesaving resource for people during moments of crisis, the maps will provide valuable data after the fact for researchers to study patterns that can help future responses.
HATERS GONNA HATE GO BROKE
Just like everyone else, YouTube is mounting efforts against incendiary, hateful speech, but this time the pressure is more purely economic — they’re losing advertisers. After a spate of advertisers noticed their ads being run with questionable content, they bailed, leaving YouTube to massively overhaul how ads were placed. The platform recently enabled tools for advertisers to better control where their content appears, but now they’ve gone a step further. Digital Trends reports that now certain creators won’t qualify for advertising at all if their content is deemed malicious or offensive, meaning they’ll be unable to monetize their content (at least through YouTube’s ad partners). They have also launched a course to help creators make their content more advertiser friendly. Such aggressive measures are bound to have a significant effect. After all, we all know that no one wants to watch content that doesn’t have any ads.
GOOGLE MAPS WANTS TO HELP FIND YOUR CAR
It happens. You’re preoccupied. Your head’s a little cloudy. You know you parked your car on the fifth floor. Or was it the fourth? Or was that at work? It’s all blurring together. Well, now you can enter your parking space right into your Google Maps app and never have to lose your car again. With the latest update, Google Maps will not only let you pin where you parked, but you can make a note about which level of the garage you’re parked on or set a reminder to feed the meter or change sides of the street. Google has been injecting a lot of new features into Maps, turning it into much more than a mere wayfinding app. Pretty soon you’ll be able to program your self-driving car to take the shortest route to the nearest taco, and we’ll have reached the pinnacle of civilization.
WHO’S DOING COOL STUFF?
APPLE (AND LEGO, PARROT, SPHERO, UBTECH, WONDER WORKSHOP AND SKOOG)
Kids coding is one thing. But kids using their iPads to program our robot overlords? That’s cool. Fast Company reports that Apple has expanded the capabilities of its Swift Playgrounds coding-for-kids app to include the ability to program robots, drones and other real-world gadgets. Apple has partnered with the above companies to make their gadgets compatible with the Swift programming environment. The projects can range from simple (a game of Pong that uses a Sprk+ bot as a ball) to more technically ambitious (dancing Lego robots anyone?). Hopefully when the robots do take over the world, forcing us humans into labor camps to mine the precious metals they need for their components, this generation of kids will be able to disable their programming with their iPads, thus saving humanity. At least, those are the kind of expectations I’m putting onto my kids.
[WARNING: Strong language] Organ donation is one of those things that we all take for granted that really seems impossible when you think about it. How can you just take living tissue out of one person and put it in another? Well, we do. So far this year, we’ve done it over 14,000 times from 6,600 donors. Which is amazing. Still, over 117,000 people are sitting on the waitlist. There just aren’t enough donors. I mean what kind of crazy person is going to donate their vital organs after they die? Who even are these people? Turns out, it could be anyone. Literally, anyone. At least that’s the point The Martin Agency is trying to make with their latest spot for Donate Life. By taking a cheeky, NSFW approach to a very serious topic, they’re hoping to bring awareness to a younger demographic — one that may not be thinking about their post-life journey for quite some time and who therefore may not have given organ donation much consideration. Excellently produced and packed with some real star power, the ad definitely grabs your attention. If the message resonates with you, it might be time to put your organs where your mouth is, or...well, you get the idea. I mean, if Coleman Sweeney can do it, so can you.
THE SHELTER PET PROJECT
Tough day? News getting you down? Maybe work’s been crazy. I get it. You need a change of pace. A little pick-me-up. Something to take your mind off all the stress and anxiety of your day-to-day. How about a bunch of puppies and kittens creating their own social posts? For their new campaign, the Shelter Pet Project developed a lab that lets pets create their own posts for the project’s social media accounts. If the pet kicks a ball, it changes the background. If they lick an emoji, it adds it to the post. We all already knew how adorable shelter pets were, but now they can put that adorableness out into the world! And they can do it by just being themselves. If that doesn’t boost adoption rates, I don’t know what will. #adopt #hugs #thankyouineededthis