February 5, 2019: Facebook releases Q4 Earnings Report; Apple temporarily bans Facebook and Google’s internal apps; Sony Pictures launches influencer campaign on TikTok; Walgreens pilots “smart coolers”; Vice Media announces plans to lay off 10 percent of employees
Here’s what’s worth knowing this week:
Facebook’s Q4 Earnings: Better Than Expected
Let’s talk earnings.
You got it. Daily active users grew in every geographic area, reversing a downward trend in Europe and a plateau in North America. Average revenue per user skyrocketed at $7.37 – a 21 percent increase from last quarter, and a 19 percent increase from last year. Revenue for the December quarter of $16.91 billion marks a year-over-year growth rate of 30.4 percent.
What did Zuckerberg have to say?
Stories, FTW. As you may remember, last quarter Zuckerberg said Stories would become “a bigger medium than feed has been,” and it’s safe to say he has the data to prove it. On Instagram alone, the Stories feature sees 500 million daily active users and Facebook’s family of apps sees 2.7 billion monthly active users globally using Stories, up from 2.6 billion last quarter.
Talk to me about ads.
Facebook reported that its average price per ad decreased two percent in the fourth quarter, with the number of ad impressions served across its platforms up 34 percent. This growth was attributed to ads on Instagram (both in-feed and Stories ads), along with Facebook mobile News Feed ads. Although Facebook didn’t break out ad revenue by ad product type, it did report that 93 percent of ad revenue from the fourth quarter came from mobile advertising.
Despite Facebook’s (many) scandals, it still had a record-setting Q4. With ad revenue growing 38 percent year-over-year during the holidays, it’s apparent that marketers are still finding Facebook ads relevant. Also, when considering that Stories make up 22 percent of all ad revenue on Instagram (a number that is growing at an exponential pace), it’s important for marketers to get ahead of their Stories strategies.
Influencers, as the content-creating experts that they are, are the foundation of the Stories ecosystem and culture. Marketers have an opportunity to deepen their collaborations with influencers to understand through insights and research how to best integrate and activate on Stories (for owned and paid activations).
When asked about what brands can learn from influencers when creating Story content and strategies, Tara of @tararrized shared, “[Brands can] create engaging content that makes people want to respond! A pretty picture is nice to look at, but often people just click through them. Stimulate them in ways that generate conversation.”
Not Unrelated: Apple Bans Facebook & Google’s Internal Apps
Facebook and Google have been violating Apple’s policies, distributing apps that tracked user behavior outside Apple’s App Store.
First, tell me about Facebook.
To better track what users were doing outside of Facebook, Facebook paid consumers $20 per month for the past three years to download a “Facebook Research” app that allowed the company to see all of their phone and web activity. TLDR; Apple wasn’t happy and did something unprecedented: the company banned Facebook’s ability to distribute internal iOS apps (AKA: Facebook’s employee-only apps). Not good.
What about Google?
Similar to Facebook’s Research app, Google had been running an app called Screenwise Meter in which users were invited to download the app and earn gift cards for giving Google access to monitor and analyze their traffic and data. While Google’s program was more upfront about how it collected data, Apple’s response was the same to both companies, resulting in Apple temporarily banning Google from running its internal apps for employees.
While both Facebook and Google’s internal apps have since been reinstated, these stories serve as a reminder that the ultimate influence lies within devices. Even Facebook is only as powerful as the apps on which it’s available.
It’s also worth noting that if you’ve been doing influencer marketing for a long time, it’s time to revisit your data collection policies and make sure they are up-to-date.
Sony Pictures’ Influencer Campaign on TikTok
Sony Pictures has launched an influencer campaign on TikTok to promote the movie “Escape Room.” Both companies hosted an event in Madrid that challenged 30 influencers and eight TikTok creators to record their experiences of teaming up to solve puzzles that unlocked escape rooms like those shown in the movie, resulting in the creation of more than 75 pieces of TikTok content.
Refresh me on TikTok.
TikTok (previously Musical.ly) is a video creating and sharing app that is quickly becoming one of the most popular apps in the world. All content shared on the app is video (up to 60 seconds) and is a mix of comedy skits, lip syncs, musical parodies, viral video challenges, and duets with other users. While TikTok is extremely popular among Gen Z’ers, celebrity adoption is increasing and older gens have begun dabbling and consuming content.
Are there influencers on TikTok?
You bet. The app has launched a Creator feature that gives influencers on the platform access to analytics, tech support, and brand connections, as well as early access to new features. Verified users have crowns next to their usernames in their profiles.
Are there ads on TikTok?
Yes, one: a singular five-second ad unit (see GrubHub). However, an advertising pitch deck that was recently leaked to Digiday details the various ad formats TikTok is considering testing, including brand takeover, in-feed native video, hashtag challenge, and Snapchat-style 2D lens filters for photos (with 3D and AR lenses listed as coming soon).
With talented users creating highly engaging content, TikTok is emerging as a first-mover opportunity for brands looking to connect with Gen Z audiences. However, like many emerging apps, there’s already an established subculture, so it’s critical for brands to work with TikTok influencers to activate thoughtfully on the program.
Walgreens Is Looking Into Your Shopping Habits With New “Smart” Fridges
Walgreens has begun piloting a new line of “smart coolers” that are equipped with cameras that scan shoppers’ faces when they look at the screens. The first coolers were installed in a Walgreens in Chicago and the next two cities in the pilot program are New York and San Francisco.
Retailers want to know who’s buying what, segmenting shoppers by gender, age, and income so that they can use that data for more precise targeting and personalization. This is why Amazon has continued to expand its physical footprint through its partnership with Whole Foods and its Amazon Go smart-store model. For marketers, this is very much a “test and learn” opportunity, and the opportunities to learn about consumer preferences and behaviors are essentially endless.
Hyper-personalization at scale is coming. As leading retailers like Amazon, Nestle, MillerCoors, and others continue to combine high-tech retail with in-store connections, look for the convergence of data and personalization to drive the enhancement of the customer and influencer experiences. For instance, with this smart technology in place, is there is an opportunity to integrate influencers’ identities to further elevate their shopping experiences? Imagine if an influencer walks up to one of these screens, and the pricing, products available, or packaging changes because of who they are. Now that would be hyper-personalized.
Vice Media Announces Major Layoffs
Vice Media announced plans to lay off 10 percent of its employees, resulting in the elimination of 250 jobs across all departments. The layoffs come at a time when the company looks to cut costs due to a revenue slowdown.
Vice isn’t alone in struggling to hit profit goals. Across the industry, publishers are continuing to struggle with revenue generation, as evidenced by the increasing amount of paywalls and memberships that have been launched in recent months. Just last week, Condé Nast announced plans to roll out paywalls for all of its remaining magazines based on consumer demand and engagement.
Even publishers need to invest in an influencer strategy to break through. While the strategy isn’t the end-all-be-all for publishers, it could save millions in R&D, concept testing, and development before investing in content that too few audiences engage with.