This week in social media news: Twitter fixes its allegedly biased search results and Facebook follows YouTube’s lead for dealing with hate speech on the platform.
In other news, YouTube adds social elements to its VR app, Snapchat begins an influencer ad pilot program and LinkedIn adds voice messaging. Facebook adds social video, tackles discrimination and is challenged by a former employee, Twitter questions anyone named Elon Musk, Snapchat signs its first LGBT+ partner and sells commercials in Australia. Meanwhile, China swiftly puts an end to Facebook’s subsidiary.
Also this week: Twitter gives agencies a less-than-subtle push to invest in video and protects its API, Facebook quietly sets up shop in China and Pinterest has the highest customer satisfaction, according to a new study. Snapchat’s payment system comes to an end, YouTube sees how many videos it can cram into a user’s feed and Facebook keeps looking skyward to deliver internet access.
Twitter: ‘We Do Not Shadow Ban’
In a Friday blog post, Twitter denied allegations of purposely making certain users disappear from search results.
Why it matters: Twitter insists that it is a fair and unbiased community forum, dedicated to “healthy public conversation.” However, Republican and right-leaning accounts have long accused social media of censorship—a claim that both Twitter and Facebook deny, but were concerned enough to hold secret meetings with Republicans and conservatives to address the matter. Social media platforms, while admittedly left-leaning, are walking a thin line between censorship and regulation of hate speech, made even more difficult as algorithms react to how other users interact with these accounts.
Details: Earlier this week, several media outlets reported that a number of controversial Twitter accounts may have been demoted in search results. Accounts belonging to Republican Party chair Ronna McDaniel, conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec and others failed to appear in the search drop-down menu, while far-left counterparts were unaffected. In a statement posted on Friday, Twitter explained that the problem stemmed from a glitch but it has since been resolved. The company went on to say that “hundreds of thousands” of accounts were affected, including Democrats and those not affiliated with politics.
‘Infowars’ Host Alex Jones Suspended From Facebook
Citing violations of its policies against hate speech and bullying, Facebook has banned conspiracy theorist Alex Jones from Facebook for 30 days.
Why It Matters: Facebook has been criticized for allowing controversial accounts and posts to remain on the platform, opting to demote them in the News Feed instead. The suspension of Jones’ account is a sign that Facebook could be taking a stance against such content, albeit with a temporary solution.
Details: Facebook has removed four Infowars videos deemed to violate policies against hate speech and bullying. After a review, the company has temporarily suspended Jones’ account. Infowars has also been banned from livestreaming on YouTube for 90 days.
YouTube VR App Gets Social
Beginning Thursday, YouTube’s VR app will be available for Gear VR headsets. A new feature called “Watch Together” has also been added to Daydream View and Gear VR headsets, allowing YouTube users to watch and chat about VR experiences with others in a communal space.
Why it matters: VR adoption has been a slow one but developers are placing their hope in social experiences. A VR headset, by design, shuts off its user from the outside world to allow for immersion and adding a social element back in could be the key to success on the platform. Video, in general, is becoming more of a social experience through livestreams and social media features like those on Twitch and Facebook Watch Party. YouTube recently launched a Premiere feature that allows users to promote an upcoming video ahead of time, then premiere it before a live audience.
Details: The YouTube app is now available on Gear VR headsets in addition to Daydream View, HTC Vive and PlayStation VR. YouTube now hosts 800,000 experiences, including exclusives like behind-the-scenes and action adventures.
“Marketers need to have a real desire for consumers to interact with their brand or IP in VR,” Zeda Stone, head of business development for RYOT told AList. “We will probably get to the point where consumer interaction in social becomes a priority and [will] dictate whether or not VR will succeed in the end.”
Snapchat Promotes Influencers With ‘Storytellers’ Program
Popular Snapchat creators can now be featured on ads that appear on Snapchat’s Discover and Stories, giving them wider exposure to audiences and potential brand partners.
Why it matters: Snapchat has been notoriously behind the curve when it comes to fostering talent on its platform. The company is trying to make up for lost time by launching the “Yellow” incubator program and began inviting popular creators to its headquarters last spring for meetings.
Details: Snapchat has launched a pilot program called Storytellers that places ads across Discovery and Stories sections, TechCrunch reports. The ads highlight popular creators on the app at no charge to them while allowing each influencer to highlight their expertise. The pilot program is limited to a select few creators but if extended to others, could lay the foundation for a monetization platform.
LinkedIn Adds Voice Messaging; Overhauls Control Manager
LinkedIn users can now record messages for instead of typing. In addition, LinkedIn has updated its Campaign Manager to allow for more personalized navigation.
Why it matters: Hearing someone’s voice allows for better inflections and helps avoid misunderstandings that could be interpreted through text. Recording a voice message also allows users to communicate faster. The campaign manager tool lets advertisers customize views, switch between accounts and slims down the ad creation process.
Details: Leaving a voice message is now an option for mobile LinkedIn users, with the feature being added to desktops later on. Users can record a message up to one minute in length.
The refreshed Campaign Manager tool rolled out Thursday with one-click breakdowns of campaign data. Agencies can toggle between client accounts or campaigns and choose which reports they want to see.
‘Watch Party’ Goes Live For Facebook Groups
Watch Party has come out of private testing and is now available to Facebook Groups, the company announced Wednesday. The feature allows a host to stream a pre-recorded or live video while interacting with audiences.
Why it matters: If you think Watch Party sounds a lot like Twitch or YouTube’s Premiere feature, you’d be right. The difference is, Facebook’s users can select pre-existing videos and allow friends or Group members to suggest new ones as well. Video is Facebook’s next big ad-generating push that would encourage users to spend more time on its platform—and Facebook isn’t shy about copying its competitors.
Details: Facebook Groups can now host a Watch Party with its members. A host selects a pre-recorded video or begins a livestream and invites members or friends to watch together. Facebook is also testing the ability to hand the feed off to another Facebook user and let viewers suggest additional videos.
Twitter Battles Scammers Using Elon Musk Display Names
Anyone who changes their display name to Elon Musk will have their accounts automatically locked, requiring an extensive verification process before the account can be used again. The move is Twitter’s latest efforts to curb scams on the platform, particularly those around fake cryptocurrencies, an effort announced back in March.
Why it matters: Scammers always seem to be a step ahead, but Twitter has honed in one of their most popular methods. Twitter has not confirmed whether other celebrity names will trigger the new process as well.
Details: Cryptocurrency scammers have taken to changing their name to Elon Musk, the SpaceX and Tesla CEO, before replying to one of Musk’s many Twitter posts with links to “get in on the ground floor” by purchasing a cryptocurrency no one has heard of . . . because it’s fake. To curb this behavior, Twitter will now lock any user that changes their display name to one of these common offenders.
Facebook Tackles Discrimination On Ad Platform
After considerable pressure from the State of Washington and other groups, Zuckerberg’s social media giant has vowed to eliminate the ability to exclude target advertising groups based on race.
Why it matters: Facebook allows advertisers to select target groups based on a number of factors including race and family status. This means that renters and other groups can discriminate as well based on the same criteria. Facebook has vowed to amend its platform within 90 days so this discrimination is no longer possible.
Details: On Tuesday, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced that it will close its ongoing investigation into Facebook’s discriminatory advertising practices, as the social network has signed an agreement to fix the problem within 90 days. The agreement is legally binding in Washington but Facebook says it will implement changes nationwide.
“Facebook’s advertising platform allowed unlawful discrimination on the basis of race, sexual orientation, disability and religion,” said Ferguson in a statement. “That’s wrong, illegal, and unfair.”
PinkNews Is Snapchat’s First LGBT+ Discover Partner
UK LGBT+ outlet PinkNews launched a Discovery channel on the Snapchat app Wednesday.
Why it matters: PinkNews has been featured on Snapchat’s Discover feature in the past but not on a regular basis. This partnership will allow the site to target younger LGBT+ users and provide them with stories and features on a weekly basis, while allowing Snapchat to show off its inclusiveness.
Details: PinkNews has around five million readers with large audiences in both the UK and US. With the launch of its new Discover channel, the site hopes to reach audiences as they are “testing the boundaries of their sexuality.”
‘Pick A Side,’ Exiting Chief Security Officer Urges Facebook
Facebook’s former chief security officer Alex Stamos urged his colleagues to drive positive change in the company and fight back against a “growth at any cost” attitude.
Why it matters: The internal memo shows that while Facebook keeps a brave, non-apologetic face on the outside, there are (or were) employees that feel strongly against the company’s practices.
Details: Facebook gives the outward appearance of remaining neutral on issues by refusing to ban fake news deemed non-violent and allowing harmful content such as those who deny the Holocaust. While Mark Zuckerberg and his constituents staunchly defend their practices, Stamos urged the company to take a stand.
“We need to be willing to pick sides when there are clear moral or humanitarian issues,” he wrote. “And we need to be open, honest and transparent about our challenges and what we are doing to fix them.”
The internal email, obtained and published by BuzzFeed, also urged the company to respect user privacy and listen to people when they say a feature is “creepy.”
Snapchat Offers Non-Skippable Ads To Australian Marketers
After a successful test in the US, Australian brands can now bid on six-second ads that run during Snapchat Shows.
Why it matters: Snapchat began testing six-second ads called “commercials” during its TV-like Shows format in April. The ads were sold exclusively to US marketers but the service will become available to those in Australia and other regions.
Details: Following a testing period in the US, Snapchat has added “commercials” to its suite of options for advertisers in Australia. Beginning in August, over 100 selected Snapchat brands partners and advertisers will have access to the service across Australia, USA, Canada and the UK.
Twitter’s ‘Agency Playbook’ Nudges Marketers To Video
Twitter has released a guide for agencies that includes strategy, case studies and internal statistics to help achieve success for clients on the platform. While the “Playbook For Agencies” reviews everything from organic engagement to managing client expectations, Twitter continually redirects the attention to “video view” campaigns.
Why it matters: Video makes up half of Twitter’s ad revenue, making it an obvious sell to agencies. During its Q1 earnings call, Twitter vowed to improve its core ad offerings and placed a large emphasis on video, especially on live streaming and brand partnerships.
Details: In its newly released guide, Twitter says that video views have doubled in the last 12 months, making it the site’s fastest-growing advertising tool. Among other selling points, the company claims that tweets with video are six times more likely to be retweeted than tweets with photos. The company also outlines residual effects of a Twitter video campaign such as more followers and website visits that advertisers would not be charged for.
[Updated] Facebook Creates ‘Innovation Hub’ In China
Facebook is setting up shop in Hangzhou, China despite its site being banned in the region. Update: China has withdrawn its approval and banned any mention of Facebook in the media, a source told The New York Times on Wednesday.
Why it matters: China’s censorship on foreign news outlets means that brands like Google, Facebook and Twitter are unable to engage with the country’s massive population. Despite this hurdle, Facebook [tried] to make its presence known through training and workshops.
Details: Facebook Hong Kong, Ltd. would have served as an “innovation hub” for developers in the region, the company told Reuters on Tuesday. The company has similar hubs in other countries such as Korea, Brazil, India and France.
Consumers Name Pinterest Most Satisfying Social Media Experience
Pinterest offers the best overall experience, according to the 2018 American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) E-Business Report, earning a score of 80—its highest score yet. Twitter and LinkedIn tied for last place with scores of 66.
Why it matters: Pinterest has improved on the ACSI scale for two years running, and respondents are satisfied with advertising on the platform. This is good news for the company, especially if it plans to go public next year.
Details: ACSI reports that customer satisfaction on all social media fell 1.4 percent to a score of 72 out of 100—the lowest of the three e-business categories. Pinterest has doubled its active user base since 2015 and respondents named it the best in terms of privacy (while naming Facebook the worst).
“Privacy concerns, bots, and toxic online discourse have taken their toll on social media,” said David VanAmburg, Managing Director at ACSI in a press release. “But users report they’re even less satisfied with the amount of advertising on social media sites than with privacy protections.”
Twitter Ramps Up API Security Efforts
In a Tuesday blog post, Twitter outlined a series of new developer requirements, including a new portal for managing apps. Eventually, all developers with existing access to Twitter APIs will be required to complete a developer account application in order to maintain their apps, the company warned.
Details: Although Twitter has been working on tools and processes to better stop malicious apps once they’ve become active, they’re now taking steps to prevent access to its API before problems arise. Beginning July 24, any developers wanting access to Twitter’s API must apply for a developer account through a new portal. All applications, both existing and new, will be required to provide detailed information about how they use or intend to use Twitter’s APIs. The default number of apps that can be registered by a single developer account has been limited to 10, with additional registration available upon request.
Snapcash Will Be Discontinued Effective August 30
Snapchat’s inter-user payment system, dubbed Snapcash, will be unavailable after August 30, both Snap and its partner Square confirmed over the weekend.
Why it matters: Having a native payment system in place would give Snapchat an advantage for drawing ecommerce to its platform. The company has already partnered with several brands to create shopping experiences without having to leave the app. On the other hand, eliminating Snapcash may help curb illegal or at the very least, explicit content on the platform, such as offering nudes for Snapcash.
Details: Text unearthed in Snapchat’s Android app code revealed that Snapcash would be discontinued, ending a four-year partnership with Square. Both Snapchat and Square confirmed this news with TechCrunch Sunday, saying that users will be officially notified soon.
YouTube Tests Off-Topic Personal Recommendations
Android YouTube users have observed a new section called “More Recommended For You,” featuring additional videos based on general interests rather than the video just viewed.
Why it matters: YouTube’s algorithm may encourage viewers to stay on the site longer, venturing down a rabbit hole of videos accessible from a single screen.
Details: Once a video has been viewed on YouTube, the site will display related content. If a user is ready to move on to a different topic, they generally have to return to the home screen or conduct a manual search. As spotted by Android Police, the new “More Recommended For You” section offers an alternative based on a user’s interests, no doubt generated from Google data. When we tried the feature on Android, the section also included similar videos and was not limited to different subjects.
Facebook Satellite Would Deliver Broadband To Underserved Areas
According to emails discovered by Wired, Facebook may use a satellite called Athena to deliver broadband internet to rural and underserved areas across the world. If all goes according to plan, Athena would be launched in early 2019.
Why it matters: A quarter of the world now accesses Facebook, but supplying internet access could increase its user base even more. The process would also open communication to people in rural areas with implications for industries like commerce and education.
Details: The social media giant may have abandoned its drone idea, but Facebook isn’t giving up on plans to tap into global areas without broadband access. Using the Freedom of Information Act, Wired obtained a number of emails between Facebook and the FCC that discuss its satellite plans.
“While we have nothing to share about specific projects at this time, we believe satellite technology will be an important enabler of the next generation of broadband infrastructure, making it possible to bring broadband connectivity to rural regions where internet connectivity is lacking or non-existent,” a Facebook spokesperson told Wired.
Editor’s Note: Our weekly social media news post is updated daily. This installment will be updated until Friday, July 27. Have a news tip? We’re looking for changes to and news surrounding social media platforms as they relate to marketing. Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.