May 22, 2019: Facebook updates News Feed algorithm to include survey data; Credder uses social proof to drive trust in publishers; Instagram revamps Explore; YouTube forms DTC council; General Mills dedicates one-third of marketing budget to influencer marketing
Here’s what’s worth knowing this week:
Another Week, Another Facebook News Feed Tweak
Facebook is making yet another change to its News Feed, this time updating its algorithm to improve post ranking by incorporating data from surveys about who you say are your closest friends and which links you find the most worthwhile.
Did you say “surveys?”
We sure did. Last year, Facebook began surveying hundreds of thousands of people to uncover who they’d most like to hear from and what types of content they’d like to see. These insights and patterns in user behavior were then factored into the algorithm to improve the quality of post rankings. Also notable: FB is keeping in mind that preferences are continuously changing, and that who you want to hear from today may not be who you want to hear from next year. As such, FB outlined plans to continuously update its prediction models based on these user interactions.
You bet. Facebook is also rolling out a tool that lets people see and manage their off-Facebook activity. This will include a list of the apps and websites someone visits that use Facebook Business tools such as the pixel, DSK, and API. If a consumer disconnects their off-Facebook activity, the data and targeting options powered by these tools can’t be used to reach someone with ads.
This ladders up to the conversation that’s been going on for 6+ months, starting with Apple (and then Chrome) saying that they’re going to go cookie-less, enabling users to opt-out of tracking.
Oh, and group managers beware of the next big thing in trolling: “Zuccing”.
For starters, algorithms based on automated behavior signals and triggers are still only so good; they all require self-reported data and direct feedback from the users themselves to optimize the experience. Similar to this recent algorithmic Facebook update, we too believe that there should be a balance of empirical data and qualitative feedback to understand the full picture. This is why we developed custom influencer properties that allow marketers to customize their own influencer databases, influencer profile data, and research to deliver the influencer experiences most relevant to their brands. For more on these features, you can check out our product overview.
With privacy and data controls only getting stricter, and as more platforms go cookie-less, the other question that remains is: how will paid media efficiencies and targeting be affected? This is yet another area in which working with influencers comes in handy. If you have thoughtfully uncovered the demographics, psychographics, and interests of the influencers’ audiences, influencer marketing becomes a future-proof strategy to engage those audiences. This includes, but is not limited to, using influencers (bloggers, in particular) to help build a first-party cookie pool (Facebook has a first-party cookie pixel) for re-targeting, as well as working with influencers at scale over five-to-seven campaigns (or five-to-seven creatives within a campaign) to maintain effective reach and frequency in instances of compromised campaign amplification.
Fake News? Have No Fear! Credder Is Here.
Credder, a new startup, is trying to solve the problem of determining if a news publication is trustworthy with reviews from both journalists and regular readers.
Credder’s mission is simple: to accelerate the news industry’s transition from a click-based to a credibility-based economy. To do this, Credder asks journalists and regular readers to create reviews (Think: Rotten Tomatoes or Yelp, but for news publications). These reviews are then aggregated into an overall credibility score. So when you encounter an article from a new publication, you can check its scores on Credder to get a sense of how credible it is.
As a society shifting away from institutional trust and towards distributed trust, the idea behind Credder makes sense. Moreover, using this concept of social proof (in this case, reviews) to build consumer trust is not a new concept, but rather something that we’ve seen leading brands optimizing for at scale.
For instance, just last week, American Express acquired Resy, a CRM and reservation-based platform that syndicates with a variety of third-party platforms and provides restaurants with ratings, reviews, and survey data from their consumers. This deal will allow Amex to offer its card members incentives (points, rewards, etc.) for not just reviews, but also surveys, research, and other insights. We wouldn’t be surprised if, in the future, user- and influencer-generated content becomes incorporated into the mix in some way.
Instagram’s Exploring with IGTV and Shopping
Instagram is rolling out some updates to its Explore tab, designed to showcase more relevant trends and guide users toward its IGTV and on-platform shopping options.
For starters, Instagram Explore is getting a redesigned navigation bar with shortcuts to Shopping and IGTV first, followed by the usual topics like Travel, Food, and Design. Tapping on the shortcut for Shopping reveals category filters for specific products like Clothing, Beauty, and Home Decor. For IGTV, tapping on the shortcut opens a new vertical scrolling discovery grid (in contrast with its old horizontal scrolling).
Yep. Stories will also appear in the Explore grid alongside the photos, videos, and shopping posts.
What’s Instagram saying?
“[Explore is] the home for Instagram’s big bets. These changes signal the future strategic direction we’re taking with Explore.” – Will Ruben, Instagram Product Lead for Discovery
It makes sense that Instagram continues to look to Explore as a test-and-learn opportunity for its “big bets.” Each month, more than half of Instagram’s one billion users use Explore. While some may argue that the Explore feed is increasingly resemblant of Pinterest (and we don’t disagree), it’s worth noting that Instagram is consciously creating completely divergent experiences for “Shopping” and “IGTV” within this feed. Given the platform’s overt investment in the development of those offerings (and the potential revenue that they have the opportunity to drive), it makes sense that Instagram would want these two experiences to be separate.
In this trend, as we continue to see Instagram aggregate like content together, whether that be IGTV, Stories, or posts, it’s likely that Instagam’s bigger play here is surrounding IGTV monetization. Specifically, this would include giving the producer the ability to sell space around the bigger IGTV tile in Explore and having that content be contextually relevant.
YouTube Goes DTC-Friendly
YouTube has formed a “DTC council” to communicate with top DTC brands and understand how to attract more of these brands to advertise on the platform.
A council? Sounds exciting.
In April, 20 executives from some of the top DTC brands were invited to YouTube’s headquarters for the kick-off meeting. Nicky Rettle, YouTube’s director of performance advertising, led the meeting, in which YouTube attempted to hear directly from brand execs about the types of audiences that they’re looking to target, how priorities like raising brand awareness and driving sales compare, and what types of ad products would make it easier to spend more money with YouTube.
After spending a full day walking through YouTube’s roadmap and discussing broader challenges that weren’t specifically related to the product, what Rettke heard loud and clear was that DTC brands are focused on performance metrics. According to Rettke, “[While] they care about perception of their brands, it ultimately comes down to driving new customer acquisitions, subscriptions, and purchases. That’s the key metric.”
So what’s Youtube doing to help?
Since making it easier to create multiple versions of creative using minimal resources was a top priority for DTC brands, Google has invested in several new ad formats for YouTube, such as Discovery campaigns and new ways to create these ads with features like Bumper Machine.
With DTC brands allocating the majority of their ad budgets to Facebook and Instagram, it’s no surprise that YouTube wants in. Despite its ongoing challenges with brand safety, YouTube presents an alternative opportunity for DTC marketers to diversify their channel strategies.
By bringing together its target audience (in this case, DTC execs), YouTube is able to gather actionable insights around these marketers’ priorities and, as a result, is able to reposition its strengths (e.g. customer viewing data, ability to reach a mass audience that’s willing to discover new brands) as a necessary tool for DTC brands to target new customers. Similar to YouTube, brand marketers have the opportunity to bring together their target influencers and form councils to inform research, development, ideation, and strategy to better impact their audiences at large.
General Mills Goes All In On Influencer Marketing
General Mills is spending up to a third of its digital budget for some brands on influencer marketing.
You have my attention.
You can thank Arjoon Bose, the head of marketing for General Mills’ natural and organic business, for that. Speaking at a conference early last week, Bose said that General Mills decided to “embrace and commit” to influencer marketing when it set up its organic business unit, which is dedicated to its growing range of organic and health-focused brands.
In order to develop authentic and effective influencer marketing, General Mills has six simple criteria: the three Ts – truth, transparency, and trust – and the three Rs – reach, relevance, and resonance. Even with these clear goals, Bose mentioned that there are “many ways to skin a cat” when it comes to recruiting and activating influencers, but he believes that handing over control and letting influencers “be [their] own creative director[s]” is key. Additionally, Bose spoke to the importance of owning relationships, specifically citing the swift rise in the number of brands’ developing in-house influencer marketing teams as a solution to nurturing long-term relationships.
Measurement. More than a quarter of advertisers recognize that measurement is their biggest obstacle when it comes to paying influencers, and it’s safe to say that Bose didn’t shy away from that topic during the discussion. While acknowledging the initial challenges that come with measurement, he also spoke to the value of long-term partnerships with influencers when it comes to addressing measurement needs, stating, “The move toward longer-term partnerships will make measurement easier, as brands will be able to begin optimizing their briefs and content based on the performance of their influencer partners.”
Can we just say a big “YAS” to everything Bose said? From prioritizing micro-influencers over macro- and mega-, to owning the (long-term) influencer relationship and diversifying measurement strategies, Bose sheds light on how all brands have the opportunity to think about influencer marketing.