January 22, 2020: TikTok develops feed of curated content; “Just Chatting” replaces “Gaming” as Twitch’s most popular category; Instagram tests, tweaks, and releases four new updates; YouTube announces plans to double originals programming in 2020; Google announces plans to go cookie-less by 2022
Here’s what’s worth knowing this week:
TikTok’s Curated Content Feed
As TikTok works to address advertisers’ brand safety concerns with controversial content on the app, it’s also looking into the possibility of a curated content stream, similar to Snapchat’s Discover section.
According to a new report from the Financial Times, TikTok is considering adding a new highlights stream, which would display selected, original videos from popular TikTok creators, alongside content from professional publishers. The biggest benefit? TikTok moderators would have more control over the types of content surfacing in this section of the app and would be better able to ensure that brands don’t end up having their ads played in between controversial posts — something to which the platform has certainly not been immune.
And in other TikTok news…
In a recent article from Business Insider, marketers have shared their experiences with Creator Marketplace, TikTok’s new influencer marketing tool designed to help brands and influencers connect (spoiler alert: we’re featured). The marketplace, which launched in September, allows marketers to shop for relevant influencers by sharing the gender, age, location, and size of their audiences. One of these creators? Joshua Collins, a 26-year-old socialist trucker running for Congress on TikTok.
As TikTok continues to emerge as a first-mover opportunity for brands looking to connect with Gen Z audiences, brand safety continues to remain one of the primary concerns keeping some advertisers from running ads on the platform. If TikTok does release a curated feed, it likely will mitigate some advertisers’ brand safety woes, enabling TikTok to generate more revenue from brands, which is the ultimate goal now that the platform has seen significant gains in user adoption.
Also aiding in TikTok’s user adoption are the strides that the platform has taken (and continues to take) to facilitate relationships between creators and brands — most recently through its Creator Marketplace. Not only does the Marketplace provide marketers (and influencer marketing platforms) with robust, first-party insights and search capabilities, making it easy and efficient to curate creators for influencer campaigns, but it also emphasizes the overall creator-focused approach of the platform. As we’ve said before, it’s our belief that the agencies, brands, and social networks that choose to be creator-focused will win market share and be able to futureproof their success.
“Just Chatting” on Twitch
Twitch’s most popular category is no longer gaming — in Q4 2019, “Just Chatting” became Twitch’s most popular category for the first time.
WTF is “Just Chatting?”
It’s literally just chatting… that’s right, people like to watch others just talk — especially when they can join in on the fun via chat. In December 2019, not only was the the “Just Chatting” category the most popular on the platform with a total of 81 million hours watched, but it was also watched seven million hours more than the first game listed, League of Legends, and 23 million hours more than the second, Fortnite. Additionally, the “Just Chatting” category showed a month-over-month increase of 14 million hours watched.
What’s going on in the live streaming space?
Live streaming platforms continue to capture a significant share of attention online and show no signs of slowing down. All major platforms (Twitch, YouTube Gaming, Facebook Gaming, and Mixer) have shown year-over-year (YoY) growth in total streaming hours watched – averaging a 12% increase across platforms. Twitch, however, is the clear leader of the group, capturing 61% of market share (based on total hours watched), compared to YouTube Gaming’s 27.9%, Facebook Gaming’s 7.5%, and Mixer’s 2.6%.
What do creators on Twitch want brands to know?
According to Bob Wulff of Wulffden, a popular Twitch account, there’s ample whitespace on Twitch for brands, as there are rarely creative brand integrations on the platform. Most brands who do “partner” with streamers just have a logo on the screen during a stream (think: similar to a brand sponsoring a Nascar driver).
Brands on Twitch shouldn’t be afraid of having a relatively “low” view count as compared to the number of impressions that they can get on other platforms. What makes Twitch unique is how much more engaged viewers are than users on other platforms who may passively scroll past a post, never actually taking in the content. Engagements on Twitch matter far more than views, and recently, the platform has doubled down on prioritizing authentic in-stream engagement through the launch of tools such as Channel Points and Hype Train.
Twitch is becoming a more general live-streaming hub, where non-gaming content has been a major growth driver for the platform, representing 11% of the hours watched in December 2019 as compared to 8% in December 2018.
With minimal brand adoption and an emphasis on other types of content besides gaming, Twitch is a perfect platform for brands on which to activate creators. Brands have the opportunity to partner with Twitch streamers to really understand what resonates with their audiences and how they can become involved in a stream in a creative, non-intrusive way. To achieve this, they need to involve creators as early in the process as possible–ideally around the campaign planning and ideation stage. From there, creators can generate an idea that works for the brand and its community, and provide a full 2-3 weeks for the creation of the content.
Instagram’s Latest Updates in Three Min… Or Less
So many updates, so little time. This week, Instagram has tweaked, tested, and updated a lot of features on its platform, and per usual, we’ve got you covered. Here’s what’s worth knowing:
IGTV Button Gets Dropped: Instagram has officially removed the IGTV shortcut button from the top right corner of the home screen. The platform says it decided to remove the button after observing that relatively few people were tapping it, with “most people finding IGTV content through previews in Feed, the IGTV channel in Explore, creators’ profiles and the standalone app.”
STC POV: While the change itself is minor, the de-emphasis of IGTV in the main app is still significant. From a user standpoint, the biggest implication is that now users will need to dig deeper into the app to find IGTV content — unless, of course, they have the IGTV app, which, based on app download data, seems unlikely.
Our hot take? Why stop with the IGTV button when you can drop the whole standalone app? Where IGTV has yet to take off and new and emerging platforms like Quibi (literally short for “quick bites”) are seriously competing for users’ attention in the short-form video content space, Instagram’s opportunity with IGTV is to facilitate a deeper integration with the feed — not a standalone app — because it needs to be more native to users’ experiences. Otherwise, adoption will certainly decrease.
Desktop Version of DMs: As part of a test, a small percentage of the platform’s global users will be able to access their DMs from Instagram’s website. The direct messaging experience will be essentially the same through the browser as it is on mobile.
STC POV: While bringing DMs to desktop may have minimal benefits for the typical Instagram user, the implications for brands are much more far-reaching. With Instagram becoming a bigger e-commerce player, and as brands continue to leverage DMs as a customer service means, supported DMs via desktop provide those managing brand customer service able to respond faster and more directly to customer requests.
Hiding Fake Images: Back in December, Instagram announced it was rolling out a false information warning feature that used third-party fact-checkers to reduce the spread of misinformation. Now, the feature is labeling some digitally manipulated art as false information and hiding posts from digital artists and photographers from the Explore and hashtag pages.
STC POV: Though the feature is beneficial for stopping the spread of misinformation, for digital artists who largely rely on Explore and hashtag pages to aid in visibility for their work, it also has the potential to be an obstacle. Meme culture, too, however parioded, could also be impacted – whether it be posts turned meme with no consent or blatantly copied memes.
“Maps” Sticker for Stories: Instagram is said to be working on a new map sticker for Stories, which would display users’ locations on a world map.
STC POV: Is it too little too late for location tools or are they making a comeback? Arguably the most popular map function, Snapchat’s Snap Map, has proven to be relatively popular, but other map tools, like Facebook’s map integrations with Facebook Live and Messenger, have come under fire for safety concerns (classic FB). TBD if Instagram’s map sticker will achieve user adoption — it seems like its functionality isn’t much different from the pre-existing location stickers for Stories.
YouTube’s Originals Plan for 2020
YouTube has plans to double its original programming in 2020, focusing specifically on documentaries.
What’s the current status on YouTube’s original programming?
Last May, YouTube majorly shifted its original programing strategy, making all of its previously paywalled shows free and offering both ad-supported (free) and ad-free (subscription) options. Moving forward, YouTube has more than 100 new original projects in the works, the majority of which are non-fiction, like documentaries about Justin Bieber, Michelle Obama, Coachella, and live events, including a four-part reality competition series hosted by James Charles.
Given the platform’s countless controversies surrounding its user-generated programming that have made advertisers and the general public concerned about issues around brand safety, it makes total sense that it would double down on factual, safe content. According to Susanne Daniels, YouTube’s global head of original content, the Originals programming is specifically focused on learning, personalities, music events, and “amplifying the best of what YouTube has to offer globally,” which is informed by the types of programming that viewers watch across the platform.
Google to be Cookie-Less by 2022
Google has announced plans to eliminate third-party cookies from its Chrome browser by 2022, joining the likes of Safari and Firefox in highlighting the importance of data privacy.
If not cookies, then what?
Given Chrome’s 66% monopoly on the browser market, Google’s announcement has evidently raised questions among ad buyers around the future of tracking, retargeting, and serving ads. In an effort to appease these concerns, Google has announced a new set of less invasive solutions for the various things for which cookies are used, further positioning these new privacy controls as a benefit. According to Google, these technologies will make it easier for advertisers to target certain demographics without hyper-targeting down to the individual, ensure that the infrastructures many sites use for logins don’t break, and help provide some level of anonymous tracking so advertisers can see if their ads resulted in sales conversions.
Currently, there’s a battle among browser markers around who is going to define this next phase of the Internet, and more specifically, who is going to define the future of web privacy. There are Safari and Firefox, who both strictly prohibit cookie-tracking, and there are Google and Chrome, who are actively trying to cut down on tracking, but not eliminate it all together — at least not yet (since Google’s business model relies on collecting this type of consumer data). However, the biggest difference between browsers isn’t whether to implement this tech, but when. While Google wants to wait a bit, Apple and Firefox already have taken measures to block third-party cookies.
Regardless of when cookies are gone forever, it’s important for marketers to start thinking about how they can enrich the buying experience beyond the cookie. As we’re continuing to see the industry move towards a cookie-less world, it’s important to consider how programmatic buying practices will inevitably shift. Instead of buying an audience, we could see a shift towards programmatic buying based on direct channels and influencers to reach that same audience. In this scenario, waste is not only inevitable, but also beneficial, as it gives marketers the opportunity to expand to relevant audiences and reach more consumers.