I’m a bit conflicted about putting out a newsletter right now. On one hand, I feel the need to “get out the way”: there’s a lot on people’s minds right now, and most of it focused on the immediate needs of friends and family. On the other, people are doing their best to focus on things other than the pandemic by reading, watching and chatting. If Vanity Metrics can provide you with a bit of a distraction from your worries, stimulate your thinking, or just give you something to talk about with friends and colleagues, I’ll continue to publish as appropriate. As the industry as a whole operates on low-power mode, there may not be enough content to gum up your inbox weekly, so let’s play this one by ear.
The Vanity Metrics back catalog is free and available for you to browse, comment and share. Here’s a round-up from the last two weeks. Let’s get to it.
The Big Stuff
Ryerson University’s Social Media Lab has launched a new COVID-19 misinformation web portal for Canadians, though much of the information is useful to any social media user. The aim is to spotlight misinformation trending on social and to gauge it’s spread.
Twitter, who drives a lot of growth, and ad revenue, from event coverage, is in a bit of a financial panic now that events like The Olympics, pro sports, CES, E3, Euro Cup, even summer blockbuster season, are ostensively off. With no one wanting their ads beside pandemic news, the company is scrambling to meet its new financial goalposts set to keep CEO Jack Dorsey in power…
Facebook is also struggling, but not from a financial perspective. According to The New York Times, a 50% jump in usage coupled with its 45,000 employees now working from home is uncharted territory they aren’t built for. Coping with the flood of fake news, new users, and a huge jump in network-intensive usage (video/voice calls), has them struggling to keep the entire network from a meltdown.
Instagram will start downranking posts fact-checked as misinformation. Until now, false-information-labeled posts were still given equal billing in your timeline. The move applies beyond COVID-19 posts to any fake news, but will specifically eliminate pandemic-themed accounts from Explore and follower recommendations.
Tik Tok has also donated $10M to the WHO’s Solidarity Response Fund for healthcare workers.
Facebook is reporting a 70% jump in video chats over the last week. It’s taxing the system. “We’re just trying to keep the lights on,” said Mark Zuckerberg.
WhatsApp appears to be integrating web search capabilities into chats. Misinformation has become a huge issue in the app as of late, so being able to quickly comb google to confirm links and videos is a good addition and comes on the heels of two new features designed to help fight fake news related to COVID-19.
The Small Stuff
Facebook may be introducing video selfies as verification for new accounts. It’s been spotted in the wild, but no confirmation from FB just yet.
With the rise of open video chats for work and for socializing, beware of trolls. Having been involved in one of the video chats in this story I can say, make sure you know what your admin controls are before you start.
Of course, I’d be the one not at my seat in the screenshot.
Instagram has launched Co-Watching. Similar to Facebook’s “Watch Party”, Co-Watching lets groups view photos and videos together over a video chat.
What dance challenge is this? The Intercept obtained documents that show ByteDance directed TikTok moderators to suppress, among other things, “ugly” and “poor” looking users to help drive new users. Tik Tok has responded, saying many of the policies in the document were no longer in use or were never enacted in the first place.
Instagram seems to be sniping features from Snapchat again. This time? Disappearing messages.
I’d expect this feature to get pushed out fast: Facebook is testing (with Sephora) new Custom Audiences ads to link to your FB and Loyalty Program memberships. “Once connected, members will be able to track the status of their brand loyalty account via Facebook, while they'll also be able to earn points for their on-platform activity, get member discounts on purchases, and have any points for online shopping linked back to their customer ID.”
Bonus for Your Phonus (or anything with a camera)
Are you craving a little social in your semi-social life right now? Casey Newton and Hunter Walker have been hosting regular #WHFHappyHour video meetups for tech and social media professionals. Each hangout so far has included interviews with journalists, updates and just a good opportunity to hang with someone other than your cat.
@sarahfrier discussing her new book, No Filter: The Inside Story of Instagram on #WHFHappyHour
Got a recommendation for good content to dive into? Drop links to videos, chats, and podcasts in the comments.
Ryan LaFlamme has worked in social media marketing and advertising for longer than the job had a title. He formed the independent social consultancy Hub and Spoke in 2016, and can be found hanging out on Twitter @ryanlaf Now accepting new clients and speaking engagements.