What You Need to Know About Facebook’s Privacy-Focused Social Network

“The future is private,” is a message most of us wouldn’t expect to hear from the world’s data-hungry and security-embattled social network behemoth.

Yet, privacy and its future in the context of Facebook’s near three-billion-person community was overwhelmingly central in Mark Zuckerberg’s keynote address at the annual F8 developer conference. Held in late-April, F8 was the platform where the enigmatic young founder delivered his big-picture intentions for the 15-year old Facebook – default end-to-end encryption, secure payments and private interactions being just some of the language Zuckerberg used to clarify the new order in a community of 2.7 billion users, most of whom log in every month.

“For the last 15 years, we’ve built Facebook and Instagram into digital equivalents of the town square, where you can interact with lots of people at once. Now we’re focused on building the digital equivalent of the living room, where you can interact in all the ways you’d want privately — from messaging and stories to secure payments and more.” – Mark Zuckerberg, F8 2019

Critics argue that Facebook’s new stance on privacy is merely in response to the data leaks and subsequent scandals which have rocked the company for over a year now. Notwithstanding the risk of scaring away investors, the ensuing privacy and security reputation issues Facebook has had to deal with as a result of being a ruthless collector of your data have undoubtedly spurred the new vision.

Some industry commentators, this writer included, find Zuckerberg’s “the future is private” statement to hold more news value than the new features – some useful social tools, others superficial novelties – also unveiled at F8.

Facebook’s privacy focus: the probable dark side

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the call to address peoples’ growing dependence on technology and superfluous social networks sounds louder. One Silicon Valley insider recently pointed out Facebook’s privacy-focused social network may not be the answer to much-needed reform in the attention economy as total encryption, private interactions and interoperability could facilitate all kinds of dangerous online behaviour.

Tristan Harris, a former Google design ethicist and co-founder of the Center for Humane Technology, advocates for a humane agenda for tech, highlighting the worrying loss of civility social networks have given rise to; an issue he says “is bigger than screen time”. In a recent interview, he emphasised the extraction of human attention, or, “the race to the bottom of the brainstem” where human faculties – attention spans and mental health – are effectively downgraded as machines are upgraded.

Against the background of Facebook’s pivot to a privacy-focused social platform, Harris expressed concern for end-to-end encryption as it is likely to absolve the social media giant of any liability when misuse and criminal actions take place behind the iron curtain of an increasingly fragmented and incognito community — in Zuckerberg’s words “the digital equivalent of the living room”

“Once content is encrypted (in private groups for example) they [Facebook] don’t have to be responsible for disclosing criminal activity to authorities,” said Harris.

Just as the curtains drew on Facebook’s F8 event, Google was preparing for its own developer gig called Google I/O 2019. Like Facebook, the search giant had some bumper feature announcements balanced with addressing privacy-related concerns. As the granddaddy of wholesale data collection, Google is all too familiar with the fine line between being the number one provider of digital products and the trust issues that come with having a terrifyingly intimate understanding of its users. For example, the deep learning data that has made Google Assistant into the sophisticated machine it is, is now stored locally on Android devices (instead of being stored in the cloud). At I/O, Google made sure to point this out; at the very least it should offer some reassurance and ease the scepticism of privacy-conscious users.

At Facebook, in addition to leading product development, the privacy vision will become part of company culture which Zuckerberg says will include, “consulting with experts on the major trade-offs and social issues to find the best path forward, taking a more active role in making sure developers use our tools in good ways, and building out the technical infrastructure to support this vision.”

The privacy vs. illicit use conundrum

 

While being less invasive is what governments, mainstream media and the public around the world have been calling for in the wake of broken trust, Facebook will need to work hard to build a non-exploitative experience to support its privacy mission while actively protecting users at this pivotal point. To safeguard the connected population, Facebook will need to design and build products compassionately and in a way that enables thoughtful and substantive connections while protecting our most vulnerable human instincts.

Fortunately, strong voices such as the Center for Humane Technology are speaking out against the unchecked power of big tech firms: “We envision a world where Humane Technology is the default for all technology products and services. A combination of new design processes, new goals and metrics, new organisational structures, and new business models would drastically reduce harmful externalities, actively supporting our individual and collective well-being.”

If Facebook and Google can deliver on their renewed views of privacy and their products’ purpose in society, social media and the Internet could be a fundamentally different experience from what it is today. I for one hope it will be a future that is private and made-up of digital products and services which favour humanity’s best interests.

What Marketers Need to Know About TikTok

Remember Vine? The 6-second short video sharing platform that took the world by storm? It made entertainers and influencers like the “storytime/Vine guy” – Thomas Sanders – famous. If you have no idea what we’re talking about, treat yourself to a few seconds of pure, unadulterated entertainment…

The reason you’re seeing a YouTube compilation is because Twitter, which acquired the platform in 2013, officially shut it down in 2017. Fierce competition and a lack of brand support meant that it simply couldn’t survive in the ever-changing landscape that basically cannibalised it. But let me tell you – people were sad.

You see, Vine was supposed to be a social mechanism but it had become a showcase for creativity. Many of the internet’s most beloved entertainers started there and made a name for themselves in their 6-second comedy shorts. Beyond Vine’s death, there was still room for a creative, short video platform – powered by users. However, it needed to do something different to other popular platforms like Instagram and SnapChat.  

The day the Musical.ly died…

Then, of course, there was musical.ly – an app that predominantly captured the hearts and minds of millennials and GenZ. This application allowed users to make short music videos by showing them dance moves and helping them record these moves slowly, then speeding the video up to real time. Music.ly was good at making users look cool and quirky and helping them execute funny content without having to conceptualise it themselves.

It had a lot of users but by that time, over 100 million to be exact, but Bytedance’s other app TikTok was already far exceeding that at an impressive 500+million users, and it was newer. So in the end the two were merged in a bid to build one, strong community.

Here’s a quick glimpse of Liza Koshy dominating on Music.ly which is why she was widely considered the Musical.ly Queen. 

Tik Tok…

Douyin (in China) or TikTok to the rest of the world, is an app that allows you to create and share short, personalised videos. It’s already become a leading short video app in the Western World – most notably in the US. But essentially, it’s also big in Japan and all around the world really.

  • More popular than YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and SnapChat (based on worldwide downloads)
  • 66M downloads in 2018
  • 29% of users open the app every day
  • 275% increase of in-app purchases on average, annually
  • 52-minute average time spent on the app in a session
  • ⅔ of users are under the age of 30
  • 29% average engagement rate

The relevance of this application is clear in the numbers – it’s a platform you can’t ignore as a marketer.

Dance crazes, creative editing and video memes – It all starts on TikTok

If you’re starting to think about what kind of content you can post or get users to generate on TikTok, you have a range of options.

Fun filters. The most popular types of content typically involve using fun video filters that let users transform into animals and other characters, not unlike on SnapChat.
Memes and lip-syncing. This YouTubers react to TikTok challenges video will take a bit of time to watch but it explains some of the weird and wonderful trends on TikTok over the last while.

Other forms of content include, but are not limited to duets and react TikToks, animal ones,clever transitions, timelapses and stop motion animations,  as well as voice dubbing and dance videos.

The logistics

There are a number of new features to entice users and differentiate this popular app but it still has some restraints:

  • Music videos vary from 3 – 15 seconds in length
  • Looping original videos vary from 3-60 seconds

So how can marketers use TikTok to reach their audiences?

We are only beginning to see the potential of brand integration on TikTok. It’s still a young platform for advertising in comparison to stalwarts like Facebook and Twitter – but there are a few foolproof ways to get started on the right track.

  1. Before you do anything, get active on TikTok. Start playing around with a non-branded account and get context.
  2. Run focus groups with your intended audience.It’s easy to fall into the trap of treating TikTok the same way we treat other platforms – but it’s a different beast. Without clear input from the people who use it, you could run the risk of creating content that’s deemed “cringeworthy” which is arguably worse than doing nothing at all. FOcus groups can also give you great inspiration and a competitive edge through user insights.
  3. Formulate a strategy. You can use influencer and content marketing on TikTok too. Start with a strategy that looks at how frequently you will post, what you will post, what audience you are trying to reach, how you will integrate your TikTok content into a greater marketing strategy, etc.
  4. Create great content that’s tailored for a younger audience. Put a lot of effort into the content you create. It needs to be exciting, creative and youthful. Healthy doses of humour and trendiness go a long way too.
  5. Measure your efforts and adapt accordingly. As with any campaign or long-term execution, data and insight will become your most valuable tools for success. Look at sentiment over time, social commentary, the contents of user feedback. We can also assist you with TikTok-specific analytics.
  6. Stay on top of the competition. Make sure you put time and effort into researching competitor efforts on the platform. For example, you can view case studies and award-winning strategies online. View the GymShark TikTok case study here for a good example of an influencer campaign using this platform.

In short…

The best thing about TikTok is that it has so many mechanisms for creating genuinely fun and engaging content. It’s also not going anywhere anytime soon. So, before you start conceptualising and pumping a ton of resources into your marketing efforts on other platforms, consider the potential of trying something new.

Take a leap and start harnessing TikTok to reach younger markets, with a strategic and analytical approach driving the creative execution.

How to Stay Successful on Social Media As Instagram Devalues Likes

The social media space is abuzz with news of how Instagram’s decision to test “devaluing” likes in Canada will affect influencer marketing across the globe. But according to Quartz India, influencer marketing is already losing influence in India due to fakery. The article, published on 1 April this year, is no April Fool’s Day joke…

It mentions that while influencer marketing has definitely emerged at the forefront of social media brand promotion in recent years, it’s already losing some of that sweetness as it’s steadily losing its trust factor – that’s largely due to “the ease with which influencers inflate their number of followers, likes, and comments inorganically.”

These concerns with influencer marketing are not limited to India, though.

An Egg for an Egg: Flushing Out Accounts with Fake Followers

Taking things global, a 2018 study by third-party influencer marketing measurement group Points North Group reveals that up to 20% of all mid-level influencers – those stating to have between 5,000 and 10,000 followers – are likely to be fraudulent, with large firms among the top 10 companies knowingly or unknowingly promoting influencers with fake followers.

That’s why Unilever’s Chief Marketing Officer, Keith Weed, set to retire this year after 35 years in the role, has made a public call for a change to tackle influencer fraud.

real engagement and discovering real influencers - meltwater india

Learn more about identifying and weeding out fake influencers on Instagram in our blog post, How to Spot Fake Influencers on Social Media.”

Suddenly, Instagram’s decision to test the effect of hiding “like counts” and “view counts” from all but the content owner makes more sense, as the move is intended to put the focus back on the photo and video content you’re posting and decrease competition from constantly checking who has more likes.

This isn’t just a condition afflicting a few. If you haven’t yet done so, purely out of interest or otherwise – just Google “Instagram likes” and you’ll get page after page of results for apps that let you “buy” followers, random comments and hearting of your posts, all for a low cost.

These have moved beyond the “empty-egg bot profile” syndrome of early social media fakes. In keeping with the times, follower factories or “click farms” now tend to look like high-quality profiles, including profile pictures, posts, and bio information – that’s really all you need to seem authentic on Insta, making it that much harder for competitors to discover you’ve purchased your likes and followers, according to iDigic.

fake followers on instagram - meltwater india

Ironic then that The Guardian points out likes have already become so devalued that a picture of an egg against a plain white background, from the account @world_record_egg, holds the record for most liked post ever on Instagram.

Taken the current situation into account, would the post even exist if we couldn’t see all those likes? If you’d liked it, you’d know about it. If not, it wouldn’t have made its way onto tech news headlines the world over. It’s the 2019 version of the philosophical question, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”

The #Instalove’s No Longer an Apple-Only Option

Sticking with the “what if” questions, at the time of writing this article, we see 9,110,000,000 results when we Google “Instagram likes.” That’s particularly staggering for a platform that’s only been in existence since October 2010, when it was exclusively available on iOS.

Luckily Instagram has since realised that the “closed-fence approach” of operating system exclusivity wasn’t the best strategy, as those who can’t afford to or don’t want to but a certain handset will not be swayed by fancy apps – even BlackBerry eventually made its handset-restricted BBM messenger service open to all – because India in particular is by no means an Apple-first market. So much so that the latest stats by AppCounter’s Global Stats show iOS at just 2.11% of total operating system market share here, as of March 2019.

And so, enter the loop holes and Creative Commons-ruled world of now, with Scroll In confirming that Indian companies are finally tapping into the digital goldmine of social media influencers – in particular, Instagram was the top choice in influencer marketing among Indian companies in 2018, over Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, WhatsApp and YouTube.

Warc adds that the rising excitement over influencer marketing campaigns in India is highlighted in a new survey of over 500 brands and content creators. The survey in question: Buzzoka’s Influencer Marketing Outlook 2019, shows that despite those fakery doubts, influencer marketing is still definitely on the rise, and unsurprisingly, the key difficulties marketers reported was the huge number of fake followers in the sector, calculating ROI, and the difficulty of finding influencers who have the right fit with your brand.

influencer marketing in india - infographic and statsThis is an excerpt from Buzzoka’s infographic on Influencer Marketing in India. View the full report here.

Curbing the Culture of Validation Vultures

But The Guardian says not to worry – Instagram hiding all those likes from others isn’t a bad thing. It shows the platform’s awareness of its ironic “image problem.”

That culture of validation is now deeply entrenched, but for the often young users who exist for idealised, often manipulated posts, and those who “use comparisons as a stick to beat themselves up with”, this is a step in the right direction.

Just a few weeks ago, the UK Information Commissioner’s Office proposed limiting likes for under-18s as part of its code on age-appropriate online services.

But The Guardian states this was less to do with a focus on the damaging effects of comparing numbers of likes, and more with preventing data collection and targeted advertising with regard to young users. An equally important concern. But I digress, that’s likely the topic of a future article.

So the fact that Instagram’s not designed for virality or viral broadcasting is just what Indian users claim to like best about the platform, in an article titled The India #Insta Story on FactorDaily. “While you can post your pictures and videos, there is no re-share button, which curbs amplification. External links, too, don’t work, making Instagram’s use limited and more likeable among youth” – Instagram’s top demographic across the globe.

That glossy Millennial kiss of approval alone is why, despite knowing the platform is cluttered by fakery – we’re not even talking excessive filter use here – Quartz India confirms that brands across the globe increasingly send their marketing spend to social media instead of traditional platforms like print and television.

Social media is where today’s trickiest consumers spend their time, and where the stickiest marketers thrive – Because Instagram’s all about the quick visual post or Story, where it literally pays to have your brand featured and amongst the fakers there are definitel