June 25, 2019: YouTube tests hiding comments; Facebook and eBay fight fake reviews; Former Snap exec launches online curated store Verishop; Luxury brands turn to WeChat; Slack goes public
Here’s what’s worth knowing this week:
YouTube Tests Hiding Comments
As YouTube continues to face scrutiny regarding its inability to monitor and police hate speech, harassment, pedophilia and other grotesque behaviors that have run rampant on its platform, it has begun testing yet another solution – the removal of comments all together.
Although only currently being tested in India, YouTube has confirmed with TechCrunch that it is testing an option where comments on videos are hidden by default. As seen below, the new Comments button is found between the Thumbs Down and Share buttons, but users will need to manually tap that button to reveal them.
What do Creators think?
“Most creators steer clear of them all together. I like to answer comments after the first few hours that my video goes up, because those are usually comments from my own subscribers. I like this sort of engagement, and I think my audience does too. After a couple of hours YouTube starts to suggest the video to a wider audience, and that’s when the riff-raff comes in.’” – Bob Wulff of Wulff Den
With YouTube continuing to struggle to monitor bad actors and behaviors on its platform, it’s forced to press reset. Notably, this isn’t YouTube’s first time debating whether to remove comments. Earlier this year, the platform turned off comments on videos of children after an increasing amount of pedophilic comments were discovered. Now, with the platform under federal investigation for its alleged violations of childrens’ privacy, it’s likely that YouTube’s latest test is a direct result of the platform looking to avoid another federal investigation.
YouTube’s latest test to remove comments continues to emphasize an emerging trend – that like counts and comments are not only not reflective of influencers’ influence, but do more harm than good.
Platform-specific issues aside, the ongoing conversation around the removal of engagements/share metrics, as well as comments, speaks to the larger problems at hand – social media platforms’ inabilities to monitor this negative, aggressive, and abusive behaviors in a constructive manner. While major social media platforms unable (or unwilling) to police this type of behavior (and decide if they want to remove these features from public view entirely), it also opens up market space for new platforms that do value things like brand safety, authenticity and verified users to gain market share (see below: Verishop).
Facebook and eBay Fight Fake Reviews
Facebook and eBay have been warned to take urgent action to stop fake online reviews that are being used by companies to deceive customers on their platforms.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) reported “troubling evidence” of a “thriving marketplace for fake and misleading online reviews.” Specifically, between November 2018 and June 2019, the CMA discovered 100 eBay listings offering fake reviews and 26 Facebook Groups where people offered to write fake reviews or businesses recruited people to do so.
That doesn’t sound good.
That’s because it’s not. However, the CMA says that after it wrote to eBay and Facebook to inform them of its findings they have both “indicated that they will cooperate.” Facebook also told the CMA that “most” of the 26 closed groups it identified where sellers were soliciting fake reviews in exchange for goods or payment have now been removed.
What’s the CMA saying?
“Lots of us rely on reviews when shopping online to decide what to buy. It is important that people are able to trust that reviews are genuine, rather than something someone has been paid to write. Fake reviews mean that people might make the wrong choice and end up with a product or service that’s not right for them. They’re also unfair to businesses who do the right thing.” – Andrea Coscelli, CEO, Competition and Markets Authority (CMA)
If not evident already, social and e-commerce platforms were not designed for authenticity. In fact, their very design, a relentless pursuit of user growth and engagement, has rewarded the opposite behaviors which is why a culture and economy of fraud persists. As seen with the degree of which fraudulent reviews (and vanity metrics, for that matter) prevail, it’s far too easy to fake these types of behaviors. There were never enough parameters put in place from the start and, as seen with YouTube above, platforms are now relying on human capital to remove bad actors and are largely unsuccessful because the pace at which technology is now able to replicate these behaviors is outpacing eBay, Facebook, YouTube, and Amazon’s ability to police it.
Former Snap Exec Takes on Amazon with Luxe-Focused E-Comm App
Former Snapchat Chief Strategy Officer Imran Khan has launched Verishop, a digital marketplace for luxury goods, with more than 150 contemporary brands across multiple lifestyle categories.
To start, Verishop has launched with 160 brands, ranging from legacy brands like Levi’s and AllSaints to digitally native brands like Fur and Boll & Branch. It plans to expand to 300 brands by the end of the year.
In addition to standard categories such as women’s, men’s, beauty and home, the site also features a Responsible Shop, which offers “an assortment of clean and conscious products that make you look and feel good,” and Tastemakers, a collection of items that are curated by a variety of influencers (who get a percent cut of each sale generated). Verishop is working with seven influencers within its Tastemakers division at launch. Also notable is Verishop’s free two-day shipping, free returns, and 24/7 online customer service (standard by today’s expected e-comm experience).
Tell me more.
Unlike Amazon, the platform does not allow third-party sellers, and instead purchases inventory directly from the brands featured to avoid the issue of counterfeit goods being sold. By comparison, without these types of verification parameters in place, Amazon counterfeits are a problem so complex that Amazon wants brands to fight counterfeits themselves, and entire sub-industries have been created to help brands navigate it.
The digital luxury goods experience is ripe for disruption. Where traditional brick-and-mortar luxury stores are just starting to crack digital in a meaningful way and where Amazon appears to be prioritizing basic goods over luxury, it will be interesting to see how this offering, with its focus on influencers, authenticity, curated product and brand safety, will drive demand from brands and consumers alike.
With a goal of “bringing joy back to online shopping,” Verishop aims to combine social proof with social good, sustainability and authenticity to form an environment that today’s consumers and brands can trust. Where Verishop has the opportunity to succeed is in its ability to offer a higher-quality buying experience for brands and consumers grounded in credibility. By turning to verified brands over third-party sellers and working with influencers to form an authentic community and shopping experience, Verishop is separating itself from the challenges other platforms face (fake influencers, fake reviews, fake product) and has the opportunity to build consumers’ and brands’ confidence in shopping for luxury goods online.
Luxury Brands Turn To WeChat
Speaking of luxury, according to a new report from Gartner L2, 60 percent of the fashion luxury brands surveyed have at least one WeChat store, up from just 36 percent in 2018.
Remind me, what’s WeChat?
WeChat is China’s largest messaging app which, over time, has transformed into an all-in-one ecosystem where users can chat, run errands, hire services and shop for anything and everything.
One (of the many) aspects of WeChat’s business model that brands are particularly drawn to is the ability to set up online shops, which function and operate similarly to independent brand.coms. But unlike Amazon or e-comm site, WeChat is not an online marketplace and there isn’t a central search engine where users can search for any product listed on its platform. Instead, brands must use traditional marketing tactics (i.e., OOH, broadcast, print) in order to ensure consumers are able to find their stores.
How are luxury brands using WeChat?
Luxury brands are especially drawn to WeChat’s service-oriented features, powered by its “mini programs,” which are stripped-down versions of native apps that run within WeChat. As Gartner L2 points out, the rise in WeChat store adoption is linked to the increased use of mini programs by luxury brands, with 69 percent of the luxury brands in the report citing having at least one mini program.
As Pablo Mauron, partnering and manager director for China at Digital Luxury Group stated, “I think WeChat is finally becoming what it’s supposed to be for luxury brands, which is not just a social media app. One [function] could be for customers to buy the product. Another could be for brands to build a loyalty program. Customers can pre-order a product or set up an appointment with the [offline] store.”
Brands are increasingly drawn to WeChat for its all-in-one capabilities. Instead of having to rely on a variety of external partners to handle CRM, customer loyalty, e-commerce, social, and more (esp. exclusively for the nuances of the Chinese market), WeChat supports all of those capabilities on one centralized platform.
Given the breadth and depth of WeChat’s capabilities, brands with consumers in China have the opportunity to think about running influencer marketing programs directly via WeChat. What is particularly interesting to note is that WeChat is one of the only apps the Chinese government doesn’t sensor – which gives brands (and influencers!) more power and a bigger voice than they would traditionally have using another platform.
Slack WORKS To NYSE
Slack Technologies went public under a direct listing last Thursday, setting a reference price of $26 per share, which would value the company at around $15.7 billion. The ticker symbol? WORK.
As the importance of direct messaging and chat continues to grow, there are a variety of innovative ways marketers can use Slack to connect with influencers. Not sure where to start? Form an Influencer Advisory Board and channel which offers all of the marketers in your org easy access to influencers’ POVs and insights. For B2B influencers, Slack channels can serve as an easy ask me anything (AMA) channel to access their POV and insights in a similar way, as an all-access, always-on Influencer-In-Residence relationship.