Fake news is killing us dead (thanks Facebook)

[cs_content][cs_text]My friend Fritz’s six-year-old son likes to say “I’ll kill you dead!” but of course he doesn’t mean it and won’t act on it (god forbid).
Tim Cook was quoted yesterday in an interview with the Independent saying fake news “is killing our minds” and tech companies should do something about it. I sure hope he will put Apple’s considerable resources behind doing something about it.
Tech giants have the financial wherewithal, and I would argue, moral responsibility to elevate the quality and accuracy of all content they have influence over.
It’s commonly acknowledged that social networks, by prioritising clicks and eyeballs, are creating echo chambers that are killing critical thinking, allowing fake news to thrive.
Here’s an interesting quote from Steve Jobs (emphases mine):[/cs_text][x_blockquote cite=”” type=”left” style=”font-family: ‘oswalddemi-bold’;font-size: 20px;”]When you’re young, you look at television and think, There’s a conspiracy. The networks have conspired to dumb us down. But when you get a little older, you realize that’s not true. The networks are in business to give people exactly what they want. That’s a far more depressing thought. Conspiracy is optimistic! You can shoot the bastards! We can have a revolution! But the networks are really in business to give people what they want.[/x_blockquote][cs_text]Facebook is making it easier to report fake news, but that would require consumers to think critically and be able to identify fake news in the first place. I think it’s time social networks accept they owe society a duty to curate content, because of their tremendous influence. It’s crystal clear why they are reluctant: they want to avoid liability for harmful or illegal content that slips through their vetting. That’s a cop out. If the New York Times, or any traditional media, can accept the risk of being occasionally sued for content they produce or curate, and accept that as a cost of doing business, why can’t a giant social network with billions in cash do that?[/cs_text][/cs_content]

Will private sharing make Facebook irrelevant one day?

In Hong Kong where I live, 98% of active Internet users are on Facebook. If you don’t have a Facebook account some people consider you a social pariah. You certainly miss many invitations to parties.

I joined Facebook in 2008, to share significant moments with my friends and co-workers. How I use the network has evolved. Over the years I’ve posted less frequently, and now I mostly consume news on it, occasionally posting a photo or two. Genuine moments, the sharing of joy at a newborn member of someone’s family, a minute of commiseration over the death of a friend’s pet, are fewer and farther between.

Last week one friend announced (on Facebook) that he was quitting Facebook for good. Separately a business associate announced he was taking a temporary break while he went home to England for the summer.

What’s going on? It might be the rise of sharing in “dark social”–messaging networks such as Snapchat, WeChat, or Whatsapp. For example, I have three Whatsapp chat groups that are more than a year old. One has 256 members, comprising fellow students from my high school year. Another is my Polytechnic year-mates, and a smaller one, my immediate family. Each group is active, in fact one of them averages over 100 messages a day. I have notifications turned off for that group so I don’t wear out my battery. A ton of sharing goes on in those groups. I use Facebook Messenger too, but most of my friends don’t use it unless they have to. (Facebook was smart to acquire Whatsapp.)

I’m also on Snapchat. Snapchat today feels like using Facebook five years ago: you only connect with your trusted network of friends or colleagues, you share genuine moments that don’t feel like humble-bragging (mostly); you are not afraid to be silly and fun. Because after 24 hours…poof! It’s gone.

For work we use Slack, a closed messaging system, for friendly social sharing we use Whatsapp or Snapchat. What do we use Facebook for? My company spends a ton of money advertising on Facebook on behalf of clients, so we knowingly take advantage of how consumers use it to stay close to brands. But what drew those consumers to Facebook in the first place was the social connection, which is gradually weakening.

Is this a threat to Facebook? If it is, what can they do? I’ll address that in another post.

7 Digital Marketing Trends to watch in 2017 and beyond

I’m fresh back from vacation, so it’s time to roll up those sleeves and dive deep into 2017, which will be an exciting year especially now that we’re part of the awesome Ruder Finn family. (In case you haven’t seen the news yet.)

Here’s a look at my predictions for what will matter most to digital marketers in 2017 and beyond.
Dark Social
First coined by Alexis Madrigal of The Atlantic, Dark Social refers to social sharing not on semi-public platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, but messaging platforms such as WhatsApp and WeChat, and of course Facebook Messenger.

This shift to person-to-person and closed group sharing is a massive trend, with some estimates claiming over 60% of people share exclusively in Dark Social. Anecdotally we’ve all seen it happen: I now share much more with friends and family on WhatsApp than Facebook. It’s more intimate, you’re not bombarded by sponsored messages, and there’s no danger that your personal conversations are stored and analyzed on a server somewhere.

End-to-end encryption will be the norm, ensuring that private conversations stay that way. Content marketing will rely less on social platforms and more on private sharing, using tracking codes similar to UTM to track every piece of content as it is passed around, whether it’s a blog post, whitepaper, magazine article, or online video.

Immersive Storytelling
It seemed every year was going to be the year VR took off, but in 2016 we might have finally seen critical mass, with the launch of Oculus Rift and the Samsung Gear VR.

Sino Group, a Daylight client, became the first property developer in Hong Kong to create a VR mini-movie, VR@SaiKung, and Digital Domain, another Daylight client began sending out tens of thousands of Google Cardboard VR viewers to fans. You may know Digital Domain as the Hollywood special effects house responsible for the CG effects in blockbusters like Transformers, Avengers, Fast & Furious, and many more.

As VR becomes more mature and accepted, we will see it move in exciting new directions such as short-form dramas.
In 2017 we expect to see Augmented Reality (AR), or Mixed Reality (MR), come to the fore with Microsoft Hololens coming out of development, and while the jury is still out on Magic Leap, it is indisputably one of the most well-funded stealth startups at US$4.5 billion and counting.

Brands will continue to dabble in holograms for campaigns, following the VR model, beginning with OOH activations, gradually moving to individual headsets as they become more popular.

Chatbots
In the same way that robots have taken over much of manual labour, software is gradually taking over white collar fields as well, including digital marketing.

Chatbots, first made popular by Facebook’s launch of their chat API in April 2016, will increase in prominence in 2017 and beyond. Customer service, e-commerce – even Facebook fan engagement – will be more than adequately served by chatbots.

This month, Daylight helped Pacific Place, one of Hong Kong’s most premium retail malls, create their Christmas Chatbot on Facebook Messenger, answering fan enquiries about their Christmas campaign as well as playing simple games.

I’d hate to add another buzzword by calling it Conversational Marketing, but this is a trend we cannot afford to ignore.

Social VR
VR as a way to share unique, real-time experiences with tens of thousands of individuals will start to take off, aided by native support for VR viewing in platforms such as YouTube and Youku.

Digital Domain broadcast the world’s first real-time VR concert on 30 December, featuring Chinese pop superstar Faye Wong. Other events will surely follow, including sports.

With data rates at 100 megabits per second for mobile users, 5G, expected to start rolling out in 2020, will accelerate Social VR even further. We will soon see social chatrooms and completely virtual events where each spectator may be hundreds of kilometres apart, yet share in an experience as if they are in the same room.

Micro KOLs
Influencer marketing has risen in importance and become a key part of any social strategy, but engagement rates are steadily falling. Many Instagrammers and YouTubers have been accused of being shills for hire, eroding their influence and fan enthusiasm.

In 2017 we will see the appearance of Influencer Mapping tools adept at discovering Micro KOLs, who are influencers within niche areas with followers in the hundreds or thousands, instead of hundreds of thousands or millions.

Replacing the brute force approach of paying huge dollars for celebrity KOLs, marketers will migrate to Micro KOLs with a passionate and loyal following within a specific niche.

Predictive Analytics
Analytical tools will emerge that finally achieve the Holy Grail of predicting a shift in consumer sentiment as soon as they happen, giving brands a head start in managing events with a significant impact on their reputation.

While sentiment analysis is nothing new, Asia, with its multitude of languages and geographies, has made it challenging to develop sentiment detection with acceptable accuracy.

With the maturation of Natural Language Processing (NLP) technology combining AI and linguistics, aided by large corporations like Google making their NLP tools available to developers everywhere, we expect to see predictive analytics become an essential part of every marketer’s toolbox this year.

Emotional Conversion
We constantly talk about the necessity for brands to have an authentic voice, but in this post-truth era of media, is that enough?
The story of the year in marketing, of course, was the rise of fake news and how it can lead to individuals making decisions and forming opinions that defy logic and reason.

Emotional conversion is a form of halo effect that leads to perceptions of an individual or brand not correlated with reality. Marketers have pursued emotional conversion since the dawn of marketing; you might even say it’s the essence of advertising.
What’s different today is how social media has polarized opinions via its echo chamber effect. In 2017 we will see a backlash against fake news and its effects. Online tools will emerge that enable consumers to verify the authenticity of any content, on the fly.

Social Media isn’t making the world worse, Advertising is

The news that Instagram will join Facebook to impose an algorithm-curated feed is causing all sorts of hand-wringing, but of course the writing was on the wall the day Facebook acquired Instagram. Why else but to monetize all that Attention from their users, and maintain Facebook’s dominance? (Or prepare for eventual irrelevance, if certain pundits are to be believed.)

The real danger is more insidious, and there is no broad-based solution in sight, at least that I know of. It’s the societal impact of Social Media in our lives, but not for the reason you think.

If you’re a TED talk fan like me, you might have heard that social media networks have created a “filter bubble” that has led to polarization of views and a general decline in civility online (YouTube comments, anyone?) Search engines are guilty of this too: Google searches are highly personalized. Don’t believe me? Have a friend (preferably with a different demographic or cultural background) google the same keyword and compare your results.

This bubble enslaves you in an online echo chamber where you only see content by people that agree with you.  How did this happen? You.

  1. In order to serve ads that are highly targeted and effective, Facebook and other networks must know your interests, political views, travel habits, preferred news sources, and so on.
  2. They know what you like by tracking what content you engage with the most, from tracking your Likes and Shares, to measuring how much time you spend on each post.
  3. In order to keep you on their platform so that you can be available to be targeted by advertisers, Facebook (and Instagram, and Google) must create a content stream/newsfeed that is finely tuned to what you like to see. You stay because your natural desire is to keep consuming content that YOU want to see.

This bubble effectively hides dissonant content from you.

Exposure to diverse points of view is critical to developing a balanced, largely unbiased view of the world, so this filtering of what you see, can polarise you. When the online world meets offline though, people with extremely different POVs can clash, often with severe consequences.

While the social networks are not going to change this state of affairs anytime soon, there are a few things you can do as an individual:

  • Switch your Facebook newsfeed setting from “Top Stories” to “Most Recent” (Find out the settings in other social networks that allow you to do this. Warning: It’s not always possible.)
  • Actively subscribe to news sources with a different viewpoint from yours. If you’re liberal, make sure you include a few conservative news sources in your feed.
  • Spend less time consuming your news online, and more time cultivating a natural curiosity by speaking to people you meet offline. Take an open, non-judgemental stance when listening.
  • Ask lots of questions. Question everything you read.

 

 

Picture credit: NYT

Wrangling Facebook content marketing

Facebook has incredibly high penetration across most parts of Asia, so wrestling with this beast is a fact of life for digital marketers. But their dominant market position also means they don’t always have to listen to you, as any marketer who has opened a customer service ticket with them will know.

Here are some common questions about working with Facebook, and how you can make them work for you.

Understand how Facebook works. This is a massive platform that is tweaked daily, with reams of data in their Insights module that tells you everything you need to know about how your fans interact with your page. Engagement is measured not just by social actions (Likes, Comments, Shares) but by how long they view your post, how long it takes them away from Facebook, and so on.  Video engagement is measured arbitrarily, learn how Facebook defines it. Learn how to interpret the data, and you will have answers to all the common questions you as a marketer need to ask, such as Who is my audience? When is the best time to reach them? What kind of content do they like/dislike? Where are they located?

Accept that you have to pay for exposure. Marketers often forget that Facebook doesn’t work for you. They are not here to help you sell, they are here to benefit from the eyeballs that the Facebook experience delivers, so they can sell ads. For brands, Facebook offers a variety of advertising tools that increase your reach, but at the end of the day, if your content is uninspiring or overly self-serving, no amount of post boosting is going to help you. Therefore…

There’s only one best way to increase Reach. Make better content. It’s that simple. Sometimes I tell people our agency is not really a social agency, we are a content publisher. Want better SEO? Create better content. Want more eyeballs on Facebook? Create compelling content. Want more engagement? Create content that consumers want to share. Hire people that understand how to deliver clickworthy (not clickbait) content. Hire ex-journalists that know how to tell a story. Forget about gaming Facebook’s newsfeed algorithm, instead focus on making content that your audience wants to share, like and comment on. Reach and engagement will take care of themselves. (Mostly, but you still got to pay for advertising, unfortunately, because they have to keep NASDAQ:FB up there!)

 

Photo credit: Brian Taylor for AdWeek