September 5, 2019: Facebook develops new messaging app; YouTube and Facebook move away from vanity metrics; YouTube fights problematic content; Pinterest stops spread of health misinformation; IGTV comes to Facebook
Here’s what’s worth knowing this week:
Facebook’s Attempt to Resurrect AIM?
Instagram by Facebook is developing a new messaging app called Threads that will allow Instagram users to quickly send messages, photos, and videos to those on their “close friends” lists.
Threads, which is being designed as a companion app to Instagram and an extension of its ‘Close Friends’ feature, invites users to automatically share their locations, speed, and battery life with friends. It will also still give users access to Instagram’s creative suite of tools to send more typical text, photo, and video messages. Users can opt-in to automatic sharing, in which allows Threads to regularly update their statuses, information about their locations, and more.
Threads isn’t Instagram’s first rodeo when it comes to standalone messaging apps (#tbt & RIP to Direct, which it shut down earlier this year). However, the development of Threads comes as Facebook continues to work towards combining the messaging functions of its Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram apps, and as Zuckerberg continues to emphasize the role of private messaging in the future of the company.
Although Threads hasn’t officially launched yet (TBD when it will), marketers can begin to plan for its launch by surveying and briefing influencers who have expressed interested in experimenting with the platform, developing ideas to activate, and build an organic brand presence (i.e., branded groups). Marketers can start by creating an invite-only branded group of influencers on Threads to understand (or co-create) the rules of engagement and set the groundwork for the first breakthrough campaign.
YouTube and Facebook Next to Part Ways with Vanity Metrics
Let’s start with YouTube.
Starting in September, YouTube will officially roll out abbreviated public subscriber counts for all channels. For instance, if a creator has 133,017 subscribers, viewers will see that count as 133k (see chart below). When the change was first announced back in May, YouTube said it was hoping to make subscriber counts consistent across its desktop and mobile apps. In an update last week, YouTube also mentioned “addressing creator concerns about stress and wellbeing, specifically around tracking public subscriber counts in real time.”
It’s worth noting that YouTube’s change to abbreviate subscriber counts also applies to the platform’s API, meaning any app that uses YouTube subscriber counts will lose access to the full listing. This means that, come September, any influencer marketing platform (or any platform, for that matter) that has an integration with YouTube will lose first-party access to creators’ full subscriber counts and changes over time. If you care about subscriber actuals, they’ll have to be sourced from creators directly.
Hey YouTube, we’ve got questions.
Whereas 10k is the sweet spot for the number of subscribers that creators need on YouTube to apply for monetization on their videos, what does the abbreviated subscriber count mean for creators on the cusp of this number (think: creators with 9,501-9,999 subscribers)? Based on YouTube’s new subscriber logic, it would appear that creators falling within range would be granted access to monetization options, since their subscriber counts would fall under the 10k bucket.
As well, in the short-term, this may impact creators’ brand partnership potential for brands looking to collaborate with creators with a certain range of followers – brands partnering with influencers solely based on their follower counts are doing it wrong.
Let’s hear what creators are thinking about this change.
The majority aren’t happy. As Martyn Littlewood of @inthelittlewoods stated, “I appreciate some channels capitalize on live subscriber counts for “who will reach x first” but that’s such a minority of users. Even if you change the channel page numbers, PLEASE leave the API untouched as many of us use third party sites to track trends, growth and patterns of other creators and ourselves to figure out where to steer our own content and what people are actually viewing, it’s such valuable information.”
Facebook’s had enough with Likes too.
In typical Facebook fashion, the platform is now saying that it, too, may remove “Like” counts on News Feed posts. Similar to Instagram’s hiding Likes test (which is now live in seven countries), the creator behind the post will still be able to see a complete list of people who have Liked his/her/their post, but the number won’t be displayed publicly.
As platforms continue to move away from vanity metrics towards meaningful engagement and more robust analytics, the results are not only changing behaviors but changing ecosystems.
For Facebook, at least for the time being, it’s important to note that “Likes” still matter – especially when considering the fact that they still factor into the News Feed algorithm and are still included in its API data. The move away from Likes on Instagram could be based on the widespread adoption of Stories, in which minimal vanity metrics (only impressions/views) are provided. With less people engaging with the feed in general, is the net effect of no Like counts negligible enough based on how Instagram user engagement is trending? Tbh too soon to tell if this is a convenient PR move, a prioritization of users’ health, or will be replaced by something else entirely (e.g. purchase counts).
On the other hand, YouTube’s move to abbreviate subscriber counts quite literally changes the ecosystem to de-prioritize the importance of subscribers, especially given that these new counts are applied to API data.
Our hot take? This is a good thing. As we’ve been saying for forever, influencers can provide so much more than the number of followers that they have or engagements they generate. They are subject-matter experts, entrepreneurs, and brand builders, whose knowledge and content should be leveraged across your brand to drive value – not just their subscriber counts alone.
YouTube’s Plan to Fight Problematic Content
As YouTube continues to be scrutinized for its inability to police its platform, it has begun making changes to its policies. The latest? Changes to community systems, removing thousands of accounts, and rewarding creators who play by their rules.
Let’s talk changes to systems.
After YouTube’s community contributions feature was misused for a harassment campaign on the platform, YouTube changed its rules around contributed translations. Under the new rules, contributed translations won’t be published to YouTube until the channel owner has manually approved them. Previously, the platform allowed for the enabling or disabling of community contributions for certain videos, but now all translations will need to be approved by the creator of the video.
What about the removal of channels?
Since YouTube implemented changes to its hateful content policies in June, YouTube’s teams have removed more than 100,000 videos and 17,000 channels, which is more than five times the amount of accounts removed in the previous three months. Notably, YouTube claims approximately “80 percent of those auto-flagged videos were removed before they received a single view in the second quarter of 2019.”
We continue to see the ongoing issues that platforms like YouTube face with monitoring hateful content and the evident limitations of machine learning. Since YouTube, specifically, can’t seem to monitor its own content, it’s now placing more of the responsibility on creators.
Additionally, according to a blog post from YouTube’s CEO Susan Wojcicki, the removal of harmful videos is just one of the many steps that the company takes to fight problematic content on its platform. The platform also rewards trusted, eligible creators by setting a higher bar for what channels are granted ad privileges and enabling new revenue streams for creators that play by the rules. The platform also looks to raise more authoritative voices, especially when people are looking for news and information during breaking news moments, by bringing top news sources to more than 40 countries and continuing to expand that number.
Not Unrelated: Pinterest Stops the Spread of Fake Health News
Pinterest will now surface reliable information sourced from various scientific organizations whenever someone searches for vaccine-related terms such as “measles” or “vaccine safety.”
The spread of misinformation is contagious.
Earlier this year, Pinterest made headlines for its bold decision to stop returning search results for vaccine-related search terms as part of an effort to stop the spread of misinformation. Now, Pinterest is going directly to the source, working with leading public health organizations to help educate the public.
Pinterest continues to be a leader in the fight against the spread of misinformation. Compared to other social media platforms, the company is taking more of a hands-on approach to misinformation problems and specifically breaking the cycle of the inaccurate viral posts that point people towards even more misinformation. We see here a continued emphasis on sourcing content from credible sources – whether it be national organizations, governing bodies, nonprofits, and/or news organizations directly – while also throttling or removing bad actors.
IGTV Comes to Facebook
What’s up with IGTV?
It’s no secret that IGTV has struggled to take off, with the standalone app ranked at No. 159 in the app store (Instagram is No. 2). Since its inception, creators have largely rejected IGTV, claiming that the time, energy, and monetary investments to create new, non-repurposable assets for a social media platform with no monetization options wasn’t worth it.
What changes has Facebook made to IGTV?
Syndication to Facebook: Discovered in a leaked prototype, Instagram appears to be developing a new feature that would allow Instagram users to post their IGTV content to Instagram, Facebook, and Watch simply by toggling a switch labeled “make visible on Facebook.”
Upload experience changes: Users now have the ability to select the 1:1 crop of IGTV thumbnails for their Profile Covers, in addition to the ability to edit which 5:4 sections of the IGTV videos show in the Feed. Additionally, IGTV will now auto-populate Instagram handles and tags on IGTV titles and descriptions, and will support the ability to upload longer video from mobile (up to 15 minutes).
When it comes to IGTV adoption, formatting and distribution are only two of the (many) issues. The real complications that Instagram is facing when it comes to IGTV adoption is that not enough creators are creating original content for IGTV and are often repurposing content from other platforms. The result? Poorly cropped and imported web video, rather than content designed specifically for the platform.
Prioritizing longer and more episodic content isn’t necessarily going to help creators who are used to creating 15-second IRL video. To drive meaningful adoption, Instagram needs to take steps to make it easier for Instagram Story creators to make higher quality, long-form, episodic content.