Facebook, the social network once heralded as a great disruptor of traditional television advertising, has just launched its very own TV product.
Called “Watch,” the social video platform will offer a slew of original content created in partnership with some familiar publishers from your News Feed, such as ATTN, BuzzFeed’s Tastemade and Condé Nast, among others.
Unlike traditional TV, and similar to Netflix, Watch debuts with a focus on personalization and discovery. A Watchlist, unique for each user, will feature prioritized shows you may like based on the shows you already follow. A Discover tab will surface new programming for you to browse.
In the announcement, the company strategically positions Watch in line with Facebook’s revamped mission statement, which revolves around building “meaningful communities.” This positioning is supported by product features that allow people to comment and react to videos as they watch, as well as view other people’s comments as part of the overall experience.
“We believe it’s possible to rethink a lot of experiences through the lens of building community—including watching video. Watching a show doesn’t have to be passive. You’ll be able to chat and connect with people during an episode, and join groups with people who like the same shows afterwards to build community,” Mark Zuckerberg said in a Facebook post.
Facebook believes that the commentary around video is as core to the experience as the content itself, and so it’s categorizing content around things like total volume of conversations (“Most Talked About”), how people are reacting (“What’s Making People Laugh”) and what users’ immediate networks are watching (“What Friends Are Watching”). Moreover, each show will get its own Page where fans can form communities around their favorite programs.
Interestingly, earlier this week YouTube introduced its own social video update to the mobile app: a messaging feature that allows people to connect with friends to discuss video content.
So, what types of shows can we expect to see? According to Facebook: a little bit of everything, including scripted series, live events and reality-style programming. According to Business Insider, BuzzFeed, Tastemade, ATTN and Condé Nast are among the partners who will be producing content and receiving a share of mid-roll ad revenue. Creators and publishers will also be able to natively partner with brands, but the onus is on them to tag the sponsor.
Last year, Facebook reported that the average user spends 50 minutes per day with the platform—a substantial number but less than the 2.8 hours per day the average American spends watching TV and movie content, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. With Watch, Facebook is making a clear play for this attention and hopes that user behavior (and ad dollars) will follow suit.
Practitioners in the marketing world might see the debut of Watch as social media coming full circle. When Facebook once debuted as a viable channel for marketers, agencies and brands responded by building out their social and community practices to reach consumers in a new environment. Over time, Facebook’s slow and steady algorithm updates forced brands to revert to paid social media to reach audiences there.
Watch brings the advertising world back to traditional TV model, except instead of mass media buys with major networks, ads will be served programmatically, customized by viewer and able to be hyper-targeted based on the treasure trove of data Facebook holds for each of its 2 billion users. Crowdtap CEO Matt Britton predicted such a model during his SMWLA keynote, which discussed the possibilities of programmatic TV.
Facebook is rolling out the new platform over the next few weeks. It will be interesting to see if eyeballs follow the update, or if people will continue using Facebook as they do today. Ultimately, it’s the content will determine the user behavior (and ad revenue).
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Facebook’s Controversial ‘Messenger Kids’ App Arrives On Android
Facebook’s controversial Messenger Kids chat app, which first came out on iOS in December, is now available on Android.
Messenger Kids is a dedicated app designed to help children socialize with others, and it specifically targets children ages six through 12. Some detractors saw the creation of the app as a means for Facebook to ingratiate younger users on the platform sooner. In 2017, Facebook saw a decline of teenage users for the first time ever.
The app’s debut also sparked conversations around the influence of technology in our everyday lives, and more specifically, the potentially negative effects it can have on children’s development. Studies have shown that social media can weaken young people’s self-esteem, for example.
That said, there’s no denying the positives that smartphones and technology have brought with them: increased connectivity, for one, although this sometimes can be paired with feelings of loneliness and isolation. It’s a complex issue and one we’ll be exploring in-depth at SMWNYC this spring.
Facebook has gone out of its way to try to ease the concerns of parents about the app, which is designed to let users talk and video chat with their friends and family. According to CNN, Facebook claims that before the app was released, it worked with a committee of experts and more than 250 online safety organizations throughout the app’s development.
Facebook also says that parents have full control over who their kids can talk to and children are able to flag inappropriate content. In an attempt to alleviate concerns even further, Facebook doesn’t automatically turn Messenger Kids accounts into regular Facebook accounts once a child turns 13, so parents are still in full control of when their children are mature enough to handle regular Facebook.
While Facebook has taken some steps to ensure Messenger Kids is a safe environment for kids, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood raises legitimate concerns about how the app may affect young children.
The organization recently wrote a letter to Mark Zuckerberg, which contained input from more than a dozen organizations and approximately 100 health experts. The note references a 2018 study published in Clinical Psychological Science that found social media use is linked to significantly higher rates of depression in teens as well as another study that found eighth grade students who use six to nine hours of social media per week are 47 percent more likely to be unhappy with their lives than their peers who use social media less often.
In a world where on average, kids get their first smartphone shortly after their tenth birthday, the fact that Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Tim Cook, all giants of Silicon Valley, strictly limited or want to limit the amount of time the children in their family spend on social media serves as an additional red flag. However, most parents don’t have the luxury of saying “absolutely not” to technology and are forced to face the reality that their kids are already on social media.
TechCrunch reporter Sarah Perez recently published an article titled, “Why I decided to install Messenger Kids,” which explores why parents are apprehensive about the existence of the app. Many have already tried other messaging options because they don’t want their kids lying about their age for Snapchat access and want to teach their kids how to be responsible online, but they also admit that they don’t know if letting their kids have access to social media is the right decision and fear it could be the wrong one.
For more information on Facebook Messenger Kids, visit https://messengerkids.com/
Join us at SMWNYC (April 24-27) where we’ll explore the tension between community and individualism as part of our global theme, “Closer,” alongside leading platforms, publishers and brands. Claim your pass today.
Unilever Turns Up the Heat on Facebook & Google Over Tech’s ‘Unintended Consequences’
Unilever has issued a stern warning to digital platforms including Facebook, Google, and YouTube: do more to improve transparency and clean up the “swamp” of fake news, exploitative, and socially divisive content, or be cut off from its multi-billion dollar digital advertising budget.
CMO Keith Weed recently spoke at the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s annual leadership meeting held in Palm Desert, Calif. CNBC quotes him as saying, “We need to redefine what is responsible business in the digital age because for all of the good the tech companies are doing, there’s some unintended consequences that now need addressing.”
Two of the most important consequences being referred to include the threatening of safety of users, especially young children, and loss of trust by consumers and companies at large.
While it’s unlikely that Unilever will turn its back on the two largest digital platforms, Weed’s words matter because of the sheer amount of ad budget Unilever holds across its portfolio brands. MediaPost reports that in 2017, the company spent approximately $9.8 billion on marketing and advertising, a quarter of which went to digital.
Beyond the public denouncements, Unilever is also working with IBM to develop a blockchain with which the company can more effectively reduce ad fraud via a record of what media is purchased and how it is delivered.
A separate MediaPost article shares YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki’s response to Weeds comments on Monday. In her own statement at Recode’s Code Media conference, she assured,
“We want to do the right set of things to build [Unilever’s] trust. They are building brands on YouTube, and we want to be sure that our brand is the right place to build their brand.”
Recent efforts we’ve seen in support of this include significant updates to its Creator Program policy. Further, in light of the recent Logan Paul controversy involving a video in which a suicide victim was filmed inside a Japanese forest, the company has suspended running ads on his channel, per Ad Age.
While brand safety is a concern on the minds of many marketers, Unilever’s public comments this week indicate that brands are viewing the issue with a much broader lens, and seriously questioning the role these platforms play in people’s everyday lives, beyond the world of advertising. In this important cultural moment, people are looking to brands and platforms to assume responsibility and be proactive to keep their spaces safe, trustworthy, and suitable for communities.
To further explore the overarching question of how technology, including digital platform giants, can be used to bring us closer together versus further apart, join us at SMWNYC April 24-27. Register today and save 20%.
Facebook’s Next Step in Building Community: $10M in Grants
Facebook has made several important announcements as of late the support its mission to create more “meaningful communities.” The latest? Investment in a newly announced Community Leadership program designed to support its community-building leaders through a variety of residency and fellowship opportunities that offer training, support, and funding.
Here’s how it will work: Facebook will name five “community leaders in residence” and provide up to $1 million each to fund their proposals, in addition to providing them with the opportunity to attend a customized leadership development training session.
Moreover, Facebook will select 100 individuals to join its fellowship program and receive up to $50,000 each for a “specific community initiative.” They’ll also participate in four in-person gatherings during which they will have the chance to meet and collaborate with other fellows.
Another key initiative in the works? Expanding Facebook’s “engineering team for community safety,” which is headquartered in London. In particular, the company hopes to double the number of employees focused on such efforts including detecting and stopping fake accounts, protecting people from harm (e.g harassment and scams), and making it easier to report content, by the end of 2018.
Further, Facebook outlined new tools for group admins, including page personalization options (e.g. color and the ability to pin announcements to the top of the page), the ability to create and share group rules; and more features to monitor Group Insights.
Outside of its Communities Summit, but along the theme of ensuring time on the platform is time well spent, the company also confirmed last week it was testing a downvote button that would allow users to provide feedback on comments in particular. The downvote button is being tested within a limited group of U.S. users for the time being.
This is not to be confused with a “dislike” button, but rather a more “lightweight way for people to provide a signal to Facebook that a comment is inappropriate, uncivil, or misleading”—this according to a Facebook spokesperson quoted in TechCrunch.
Here is what the button looks like in action:
As the screenshot depicts, the user will have the ability to select whether the post was found to be “offensive,” “misleading,” or “off topic,” the choices aimed to help guide Facebook’s course of action with respect to the particular piece of feedback.
Forbes adds that, the downvote option in its test mode only applies to public posts as opposed to Group posts or the Pages of public figures. It also doesn’t affect the ranking of the post and the number of downvotes a post gets won’t be publicly shared.
These initiatives by Facebook to reverse some of the negative perceptions of its role in society come at a critical time as brands and citizens alike are putting more and more pressure on the world’s leading tech platforms to course-correct their products for the safety of their users. Just this week, Unilever threatened to yank ad dollars from Facebook and Google due to the company’s growing dissatisfaction with their overall impact on society.
“We cannot have an environment where our consumers don’t trust what they see online,” stated Unilever CMO, Keith Weed, to the BBC.
Learn about Facebook’s increasingly complex role in society by joining SMWNYC April 24-27. The conference will offer multiple sessions designed to explore where brands and platforms fit into tech’s future in our world. Register today to secure your pass.
Facebook Is Testing Emoji Status Updates In Messenger
Attention emo kids: The away message might be making a comeback soon.
TechCrunch reports that Facebook is developing a feature called “Your Emoji” that would allow users to overlay an emoji of their choice on their Messenger profile picture for 24 hours.
The goal of the update? Make it easier for users to keep friends and family up to date on their everyday lives and facilitate more IRL hangouts by providing a means for broadcasting your status as available or open to plans to your friends. Slack users will already be familiar with this feature, as the company introduced similar functionality back in April 2017.
News of the test was initially broken by the WhatsApp blog WABetaInfo in a tweet, which contained a screenshot of the test and was shared with Social Media Director for the The Next Web, Matt Navarra.
NEW: Facebook’s Messenger has a hidden ‘Your emoji’ feature
— Matt Navarra (@MattNavarra) February 6, 2018
A Facebook spokesperson has since confirmed the test with TechCrunch: “We’re testing the ability for people to add an emoji to their profile photo in Messenger to let their friends know what they’re up to or how they’re feeling in the moment. We’re interested to see if people enjoy this feature, but we don’t have any additional information to share at this time.”
For now, tests of the tool are being restricted to Messenger’s “Active” tab, though it may very well expand elsewhere across the platform should the feedback be positive. Given the Messenger app currently boasts 1.3 billion monthly active users, it’s a logical place to start and arguably the best source for the most well-rounded response as to whether or not the tool would be widely received if globally rolled out.
Moreover, it is a move that ties in with Facebook’s recent announcement that it would be identifying and working on several ways to effectively tie Messenger into Facebook’s overall mission of building “meaningful” communities, whether that entail helping people more easily spend time together when they’re apart and unable to meet in-person or, make more plans to hang out IRL.
Not to mention, who among us wasn’t feeling simultaneous sentiments of loss and nostalgia when we learned that AIM would be shutting down last December? Killing two birds with one stone, Facebook could not only achieve its own business objectives but fill a void the vast majority of millennials were left with upon saying goodbye to AIM.
To hear more about Facebook’s 2018 plans and to further explore our global theme “Closer,” which will grapple with the intensifying conflict between community and individualism, join us at SMWNYC April 24-27. Register today and save 20%.
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