Conspiracy theorists are nothing new, and according to Donald Trump, “I’ve heard these are people that love our country, and they like me.” He doesn’t seem to get that these groups are really dangerous. There’s a new, emerging message of change, inclusion and decency.
The Iowa caucus got off to an inauspicious start, but it officially kicked off the 2020 Presidential race. Let’s take a look at how people are getting their election-year news. Facebook and YouTube are the most-used social sites for accessing news—43% of US adults use Facebook and 21% turn to YouTube for their news.
TikTok’s popularity is fueled by the fear of missing out (FOMO) and what seems to be an insatiable desire to be seen, to have an audience, if only for a moment. TikTok promises that you can “watch endless videos customized specifically for you. A personalized video feed based on your preferences.”
But incidents over the past year have caused privacy experts to question how data from TikTok is being collected and used, and whether it’s being censored by the Chinese government.
A “disinformation-for-profit machine” is Elizabeth Warren’s description of Facebook. Salesforce’s Marc Benioff said the social network “needs to be held accountable for propaganda on its platform.” Politics and social media are inevitably intertwined. Who’s accountable? Apparently no one.
Linkedin Company Pages can be an overlooked resource–a chance to post article and posts about your company. Upload images, videos and news. Linkedin remains the career and corporate platform. Use the company page just like your Facebook company page.
Google has finally thrown in the towel on Google Plus. No surprise here. Google launched their social media application in 2011 to compete with Facebook and it never really gained traction. By 2018, Google Plus was little more than an afterthought. But you really have to wonder why all those smart people at Google couldn’t make this work. They’re calling it quits after a data breach.
What were those circles all about anyway?
When Google Plus came out, we created accounts and gave it a try, but it wasn’t fun because, well, no one else was using it. No one really engaged. Apparently 90% of user sessions lasted fewer than five seconds. Compare that with addictive sessions on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
But there’s more to this story than just an application that no one wants to use
Google chose to sunset Google Plus over an issue with bigger implications. According to The New York Times, “security vulnerability exposed the private data of some 500,000 users.” Google didn’t tell us about the application’s security issue when it was discovered because it didn’t appear that anyone had gained access to user information, and the company’s Privacy & Data Protection Office decided it was not legally required to report it.
If you’re not paying attention, data security has become a very big deal
The decision to stay quiet raised eyebrows in the cybersecurity community, as it comes against the backdrop of relatively new and stricter rules in California and Europe that govern when a company must disclose a security episode.
Up to 438 applications made by other companies may have had access to the vulnerability through coding links. Outside developers could have seen user names, email addresses, information about occupation, gender and age. They apparently did not have access to phone numbers, messages, Google Plus posts or data from other Google accounts.
Google was concerned about damage control
Now, according to The Wall Street Journal, a memo prepared for senior executives by Google’s policy and legal teams warned that disclosing the problem would expose the company’s vulnerability and invite regulatory scrutiny. CEO Sundar Pichai would likely be called to testify before Congress in the same way that Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg did after its security breach. Google had planned to announce the disclosures, but moved up the announcement date when it learned of The Journal’s article.
In May, Europe adopted new data protection laws that require companies to notify regulators of a potential leak of personal information within 72 hours. Google’s security issue occurred in March, before the new rules went into effect. And yes, this applies to Google—it’s a global company.
California is getting serious about information accountability
California’s strict new privacy law goes into effect in 2020. In the event of a data breach, consumers can sue for up to $750 for each violation. It also gives the attorney general the right to pursue companies for intentional privacy violations.
What’s next? A hearing about whether tech companies are filtering conservative voices in their products. The Republicans are going to be all over this one.
It’s been a tough year for Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook
Facebook’s data wound up in the hands of Cambridge Analytica, who used the information to target voters during the 2016 election. Facebook allowed Microsoft’s Bing search engine to see the names of virtually all Facebook users’ friends without consent and gave Netflix and Spotify the ability to read Facebook users’ private messages. Facebook downplays the data privacy breach, claiming that it never granted access to user data without permission.
You really can’t overestimate the value of user data
Personal data has become the most prized commodity of the digital age, and it’s traded on a vast scale by powerful companies in Silicon Valley and beyond. For those who may not understand what this is all about, it’s hard to overestimate the value of user data. Data helps us understand consumer buying habits, and it’s worth its weight in gold. It helps companies know how to market to whom. Facebook users make it easy by happily providing detailed information about their lives as they fill in fields with their new job titles, education levels, marital status, interests, hobbies, etc. This information can all be exported and shared with other companies.
Sharing consumer data: How this works
Let’s say you just got engaged, so of course you added this to the Relationship field of your Facebook page. The average couple spends $25,000 on their wedding, so there’s a lot of money to be made here. Now think of all the vendors that service the wedding industry—florists, bakeries, hotels, caterers, photographers, dress designers, wedding planners, etc.
The more upscale (You’ve already identified your education level, community and job title, which are affluence indicators), the more interested these vendors are going to be. They want to identify those couples who are most likely to be spending upwards of $25K so they can begin marketing to these potential new wedding clients.
Facebook executives have acknowledged missteps over the past year
Facebook understands they’ve got to regain user trust, and it requires stronger teams, better technology and clearer policies. One spokeswoman says it has found no evidence of abuse by its partners. Some of the largest partners, including Amazon, Microsoft and Yahoo, said they had used the data appropriately, but declined to discuss the sharing deals in detail. Facebook did admit to mismanaging some of its partnerships.
What’s next for Facebook?
Facebook is facing decelerating revenue growth—they’ve begun to saturate their market, at 1.74B users. Data privacy issues have taken a toll, but Facebook sees big opportunities in private messaging. Stories format and video. Facebook is investing in data privacy and messaging. Augmented and virtual reality represent a significant investment.
This last summer, California’s state legislature passed a groundbreaking bill that will give residents unprecedented control over their data. The law, criticized by pro-business groups like the Chambers of Commerce, will become law on January 1, 2020. Tech giants are racing to supersede the law with more industry-friendly legislation. A lot could happen before then.
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Mark Zuckerberg spent most of last quarter mired in controversy for indiscriminately sharing millions of Facebook users’ account details with third-party vendors. His punishment? Peeling off that ratty tee-shirt, donning his first-ever big-boy suit and tie and testifying before Congress. He was completely MIA for a few weeks as his handlers schooled him in the art of humility. Among his tasks: Explaining to a group of aging politicians that cookieshave no relation to one of America’s favorite desserts. There was clearly a knowledge gap between Zuckerberg and his audience—these legislators had little understanding of the power of data mining or the value of user information.
While Zuckerberg was defending himself to Congress, his team was creating new functionality
At the company’s annual developer’s conference in May, Facebook showcased new visual tools that focus on the platform’s augmented-reality (AR) capacity.
Facebook introduces their new 3D camera
You can now download Facebook’s free 3D camera to your mobile device and take three-dimensional (3D) pictures and upload them to your Facebook News Feed and other apps. The 3D posts provide a whole new layer to images that respond when users scroll past or angle their phones.
Time for a reality check
To try this out, I took a few photos and uploaded them to my own News Feed to see if the camera really worked. I was delighted to see that the new images really do provide an interesting new dimension. The 3D camera has an editing tool so you can filter, enhance, highlight, crop or add text to an image. You can take a new picture or pull up an existing image from your smartphone’s photo library and turn it into one that’s multidimensional. You can upload your new 3D image directly to your Facebook News Feed, Instagram, iCloud Photosharing or WhatsApp applications.
Facebook and VR: enticing us with great new functionality
Facebook is making a significant investment in virtual reality (VR), betting that 3D will be an important component of social communication’s future. While this may be the future, it’s still a long way off. To transition users from their regular social feeds to full VR environments, Facebook will be providing little stepping stones that hint at what the next evolution will be. While the 3D photo may seem like a modest step, the new imaging will make users more interested in how they view images and enhance their own photos. With more than 2 billion smartphone and Facebook users around the world, I’m betting these 3D images will quickly become disseminated across our social channels.
Look for more new tools from Facebook
In the coming months, look for Facebook to introduce visual enhancements that will showcase new ways to engage with Facebook content. Watch Party lets users watch video while chatting with friends.Dating Home enters the online dating space, accessible by clicking on a small heart icon.Facebook is counting on its users to embrace the new functionality that will broaden and enhance our content experiences.
If you’ve been paying attention, you know that Facebook has rolled out a major algorithm change. They’re veiling this as an effort that will take us back to simpler times, to Facebook’s origins, before social exploded, when things were purer, warmer and fuzzier, when it was about connecting with friends and family. According to Zuckerberg:
“We’re making a major change to how we build Facebook. I’m changing the goal I give our product teams from focusing on helping you find relevant content to helping you have more meaningful social interactions.”
The first place we’ll see these algorithm changes will be in our News Feeds. We can expect to see fewer posts from brands and businesses, a greater focus on our friends and family and groups. “And the public content you see more will be held to the same standard — it should encourage meaningful interactions between people.”
So what does this mean?
It means that it just got a whole lot harder to grow your reach on your Facebook page. The classic Facebook engagement tips haven’t changed. If you expect to engage, these are the guidelines:
- Create meaningful, high-quality content. So who decides what is quality content? It must be true. It can be funny or sad and makes us think.
- Add value. I always think of value as providing information that will help someone do his/her job. It informs, educates.
- Get consumers to genuinely interact with you. It’s really, really hard to elicit a response from our audiences, but it happens by building trust and familiarity.
- Avoid clickbait. Clickbait is apparently dead, but I still see it all the time. I get news flashes from a range of news sites. They are all promising breaking news about the Trump administration and Russiagate. Tantalized, I click on this little clickbait morsel, knowing full well that the information I’m dealt likely will be a tired rehash old information.
How Facebook’s algorithms will affect your posts
In the near future, posts from brand and publishers will be scored differently from posts from friends. The score is based on your relationship with the poster, your interaction history, the type of content—all calculated by Facebook’s News Feed algorithm. Facebook is using your engagement history to determine which posts are most likely to keep you clicking. Sound like power tripping? Well, yes.
Time spent on FB and some degree of engagement will decline. The exact impacts of the change are not yet known, but what is clear is that Page post reach will decline. How significant an impact that will have on your content distribution and performance will come down to your approach.
Ad prices expected to rise
Here’s the rationale. If people are spending less time watching funny videos and consuming fake news on Facebook, people will be less likely to advertise. Brands and publishers will spend more on Facebook ads to revive their declining organic reach.
The bottom line
Facebook will prioritize posts based on the amount of meaningful discussion they generate. Long responses and replies will do well in the new FB environment.
One more thing: Why did Facebook make this algorithm change? Remember that thing where the Russians spent $300K on political advertising during the runup to the 2016 election? Zuckerberg and other tech titans were hauled before Congress for a come to Jesus. To talk about corporate social responsibility. This well may have been a response. Or not. Zuckerberg is insanely wealthy, but he also has a social conscience. He and his wife started a nonprofit, but rather than make this a 501(c)3, the created an LLC. In this way, they would be free of the constraints on reporting, lobbying and political campaign activity that are imposed by nonprofit status.
Looking back on 2017, I remember a year filled with gut-wrenching political turmoil and anguish, devastating natural disasters, protest marches and the rise of an aggressive right wing. It’s been a year filled with anxiety and dread. We have learned how important democracy, freedom of speech and the rule of law are as they are threatened and undermined on a daily basis.
Completely oblivious to the year’s upheaval, emoji are happily flourishing
Consider for a minute the outrage sparked across social when Google made a cheeseburger emoji with the cheese misplaced. Even the CEO got involved to make sure the cheese would be moved to its proper spot, above the patty where everyone knows it belongs.
Content that evokes an emotional response is more likely to be shared
With clickbait thankfully going extinct, there seems to be an emerging trend in the top content on social media: Content that provokes an emotional response is more likely to get shared.
Examining the top Facebook posts in September, the stats show that the posts with the most shares also had a higher percentage of reactions. And more publishers are using emoji in captions, perhaps to elicit that emotional response. It all goes back to the premise that good marketing tells a story. It reaches people on an emotional level. Clearly, emoji are helping to make that emotional connection.
Charting the growth of emoji
The use of emoji in the top 100 headlines jumped from a mere six in fall 2015 to 28 in fall 2016. At 52 emoji-sprinkled headlines in 2017, it’s clear that this trend isn’t slowing down. The big jump in emoji usage is happening among news publishers. In fall 2015, there wasn’t a single emoji in the top 100 news posts. One year later, in 2016, this number jumped to 10; by the fall of 2017, the number had more than doubled to 24. This stat helps explain their popularity: Four out of every ten millennials would rather engage with pictures than read.
News publishers are catching up to the trends that have been working for viral publishers
What types of stories use emoji from news publishers? Breaking news, hard news and tragedies are less likely to have emojis associated with them. So how do publishers strategically use emoji? Not really surprising—emoji are lighthearted and whimsical; they’re meant to delight and for the most part, they deliver. Emoji developers keep adding to the inventory, and they’re great fun! I like to think of emoji as the print version of adding a sticker to a letter or other document. A bit frivolous and totally unnecessary. Just as there are words and phrases that elicit the best response in your headlines—You need to, The greatest ever, That will rock your, etc.–are inappropriate for serious topics, so emoji are often a bad fit for hard news and serious topics.
Who uses emoji the most?
- Soft news and human interest stories are most likely to have emoji in their headlines.
- Brits may like emoji more than Americans. Daily Mail, The Independent, and BBC News all used emoji in headlines that appeared in the top 100 Facebook posts this November.
As to be expected, happier emoji were generally the most used.
- If we take a look at the Facebook graph of most-used emoji on Facebook, Fall 2017, clearly LOL has pulled into the lead, followed by the ubiquitous heart, clapping hands, etc. Hearts in some form made it on the list a total of five times. Yet clearly, if you’re writing an article that’s intended for a professional audience, there’s no place for a heart, a rainbow or any of the other emojis in Facebook’s top performers.
Emoji from brands
Brands have stepped up and are adopting emoji into their social posts.
- Starbucks and Macy’s are using holiday-themed emoji in their messaging.
- On the Fourth of the July, Bud Light tweeted an emoji American flag composed of fireworks in place of Old Glory’s stars and American flags and beers for the red and white stripes
- Baskin-Robbins is using an emoji ice cream cone in their messaging.
- On World Emoji Day, July 17, NASCAR Tweeted a photographic mosaic of some of the sport’s most famous drivers.
- The Smithsonian, in a tweet about Louis Armstrong, used an emoji trumpet.
Using emoji comes down to a few considerations and knowing your audience. Ask yourself some questions:
- What channels are you creating content for and do emoji make sense in that context?
- What is your brand’s voice?
- What’s your topic? If you’re writing something fun and light, this is the perfect landscape for emoji. If, on the other hand, you’re explaining a complex concept to a bunch of accountants, save the emoji for an audience who will appreciate them. This probably isn’t it.
- What are you looking to achieve with emoji — is it to provide a more succinct message, encourage an emotional response in your audience, or cleverly punctuate your caption?