​The Britton Digital Update—Week of April 2, 2018

​Five minutes to get you up to speed on this week’s digital, business, social media, entertainment, and marketing news

Want to listen to the Digital Update instead? Here’s the extended podcast (on SoundCloud) version. You can also subscribe through iTunes.  

For many years, we were encouraged to to use social media to network and promote brands. Others said “It’s free to be on social media,” although many of us tried to say otherwise. The truth is we pay for social media access. We pay in information and control. We pay with our likes and dislikes, our contacts, our social and political views, and so much more. In exchange, we have an easier way to catch up with old friends, make great networking connections, and even stalk exes. We are only now beginning to see the “real price” we have paid for all of that access.

Other businesses built upon this exchange of information are also beginning to see the price they have paid to access it. Without that information, they are starting seeing a strain on operations. In most cases, these aren’t the companies that abused Facebook’s data sharing (like GSR, the company that collected data on behalf of Cambridge Analytica). They are businesses that—to our knowledge—followed the rules and accessed data that was made available.

This week, Facebook sent users of the dating app Tinder went into panic mode when it began making changes to restrict API access and improve privacy. Facebook doesn’t own Tinder, but Tinder does use the Facebook API to allow users to log in via their Facebook account. That, of course, is common practice. Big deal, it’s only logging into a dating app, right? Well, it become an issue when Facebook impedes access to your product or services.

Marketing tools that access the Facebook and Instagram API to help marketers and agencies view the social media performance of brands also saw partial access revoked this week. Marketers can also upload brand consumer data into Facebook to find Facebook users that similar to customers. That is another area seeing many changes and affecting many marketers.

We have to remember, social media is never free. What we don’t pay through information, we pay through giving up control. When you build your business or marketing on someone else’s platform, you leave your brand vulnerable to change. Facebook owns the platform. If they want to remove API access, they have every right to do so. If they want to reduce reach and make brands pay more to access its users and data, they absolutely can. And guess what? We all agreed to their terms when create our accounts. We all opted in.

Mark Zuckerberg said this week that this is the beginning of a multi-year effort to improve Facebook’s operations. Changes will continue to come. Honestly, this isn’t new. Facebook has tested and adjusted new features and ad types for years. But maybe it’s time to give up some of that access so we can gain back some of the control.

In this update, we give you access to the latest social media, marketing, retail, and digital news so that you can have more control more over your time and productivity. We’ll cover the data and privacy changes already underway at Facebook, as well as the first promotional effort from a brand through Google Assistant, charitable efforts through Alexa, and more!

YouTube Shooting

We were all saddened to hear about the tragic shooting at YouTube offices in California. At the time of this blog, there are still many details of the situation that are still unknown. Officials believe the motive of the shooter, Nasim Najafi Aghdam, was likely related to the recent changes in revenue generated by her YouTube channels. TechCrunch reports that her “personal website and videos make it clear she believed the company deliberately limited the reach of some users, including herself.

We have heard before about other YouTubers facing demonetization after producing videos that YouTube felt was against their terms of service. Often, these videos used racist language or spread hateful ideas. So far, that doesn’t necessarily seem to be the case in this incident as many of Aghdam’s videos were about vegan-ism and animal abuse. We don’t know yet why YouTube restricted her videos. However, violence is not an appropriate way to resolve issues.

Here is another case of us not owning our social channels. The platform—in this case, YouTube—owns those channels. It can monitor, restrict, and remove users according to the terms that we accept when we sign up. And yes, these actions can significantly affect revenue—sometimes in drastic ways. Our thoughts continue to be with the employees of YouTube as the investigation unfolds.

87 Million

That is the new number of potential users affected by the Cambridge Analytica data debacle shared by Facebook. That number is significantly higher than the 30 million Cambridge Analytica claimed were involved and the original 50-million-user figure from Facebook. Facebook admitted that most users affected were based in the United States.

In the past few weeks, a leaked internal memo written by Facebook VP Andrew Bosworth indicated that fast-paced growth justified the shortcuts in safety and privacy. There was also a revelation that a glitch led to Facebook’s storage of unpublished, deleted videos. In addition, Facebook recently admitted that it scans text and photos sent via Messenger. Facebook says that this is for community standards, not advertising purposes. This whole privacy “scandal” seems to be getting worse for Facebook before it gets better.

The good news is it is getting better—at least, for users. Facebook is taking steps to swiftly correct additional policies that have put the company in this situation. The social media giant has issued frequent announcements about the changes. Here are a few that are already having an impact on users, brands, and marketers:

Facebook is confident it can survive this, despite the media’s portrayal of users leaving en masse. Advertising Age reports that “of the top 1000 ad spenders on Facebook, only seven ceased buying ads on Facebook” in the initial weeks after the story broke. The fact that Uber, Yahoo, and Equifax were able to survive their nightmare scenarios seems to be somewhat of a comfort to both brands and investors.

Discounts and Donations

I’ve written several times before about the battle for smart speaker share. For the most part, it’s between Amazon’s Echo and Google Home. In addition to becoming the home hub for voice commerce, there is a significant pool of ad dollars related to voice that is expected to grow by leaps and bounds over the next several years.

Amazon has tested some voice promotions and discounts with Alexa before, but the retailer has yet to open the floodgates for brands. Recently, Google teamed with Target to give discounts through a promotion with its Google Assistant. The $15 discount was activated when you told your Google Assistant to “spring into Target.” The promotion was fulfilled through Google Express, its answer to Amazon Prime. Target told Adweek it hit sales goals early, a good sign for other brands looking to get involved with consumer attention associated with a voice platform.

Alexa had money on the brain—er, neural network—this week, as it unveiled a new feature to make donations directly from your Amazon device. The skill is triggered by the phrase “Alexa, make a donation.” Currently, there are 40 charities to choose from, including the American Cancer Society, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and National Public Radio. The list of participating charitable organizations is expected to quickly expand.

One reason consumers like voice as a platform is it’s convenient and saves time. Anytime you can reduce friction in the spending or shopping process and remove objection opportunities, consumers are more willing to spend without thinking about their purchases (or donations). I imagine breaking news stories like natural disasters or a humanitarian crisis could see an uptick in donations with a simple voice donation process. This could end up being a game-changer for charitable donations in the next few years.

For the rest of the latest news, here’s a compilation of the best news stories that we don’t have time to expound upon but that you should probably take notice of:

If you liked this, check out our previous Digital Update posts or the Digital Update on Flipboard.

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Photos: BMDG

Dave Goode

Dave Goode

My name is Dave B. Goode (yes, it is my real name). If it sounds like a radio name, it is—well, it was. I had a 22-year radio-broadcasting career as a brand manager and morning-show host. I’m an amateur photographer. I love to cook. I am obsessed with social media. I have come to the realization that Chia Pet seeds do not work on a human head and that it is OK to be bald.

Meet Dave Goode