Vanity Metrics #14

"Snatched", or "No Good Feature Goes Unstolen"

I hope everyone is safe, sane and not completely sedentary. As the social media marketing world continues on, the trickle of news worth sharing really picked up this week. Let’s get to it.

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The Big Stuff

“Good Artists Borrow, Great Artists, Steal” - probably no one.

It’s unlikely a person ever said that great line everyone loves to quote, but the act itself is still very much real: A platform develops a new feature, garners great attention, and is quickly copied by everyone else. The feature we’re talking in this story is, uh, Stories. Vertical video was considered the mark of an amateur from the dawn of smartphones, due largely to the world’s largest video sharing platforms (YouTube) only offering landscape orientation. Then came Snapchat.

Snapchat not only snapped up a huge portion of 18-34-year-olds when it debuted way back in 2012, but it also did something new: vertical images and video as it’s primary format. By 2013, Snapchat had introduced “Snapchat Stories”, and by conforming to the way people naturally hold their phones, the format was a quick hit with users.

Let’s get to the “great artists steal” bit #1: It’s 2016, and Instagram just straight up yoinks Snapchat Stories, rebrands it with the clever name “Stories” and begins its inevitable march towards completely changing the dominant social media format forever. Today, just about every social platform has a vertical video “stories” format, but no one comes near the usage and revenue of Instagram Stories. Stick a pin in that statement, though.

Steal #2: Muscial.ly, or as you might know it, Tik Tok. Without diving into the history, Tik Tok combined the vertical format of Snapchat, the discovery, editing and effects of IG Stories, and the short form chaos of Vine to grow into the behemoth it is today. Once again, the big platforms are scrambling to imitate Tik Tok’s magic sauce by duplicating features and effects on their own platforms.

Steal #3, incoming: This week, YouTube quietly confirmed it’s working on its own version of Tik Tok videos, Shorts. While YouTube already has it’s own version of “Stories” that may or may not be seeing much uptake outside of it’s largest creators, Shorts has the major advantage of being able to let users draw on YouTube’s huge pool of licensed music to create their own videos (sound familiar?).

With a platform this popular and a pool of content this deep, could YouTube become a major competitor to Tik Tok? Maybe. The user-base is there. The assets are there. The advertising network is already there. Expect to see something more public by the end of 2020.

In conclusion, time is a flat circle. Steal or be stolen, y’all!


The Small Stuff

  • Instagram may be quietly testing monetization for IGTV videos, meaning it could come to market sooner than later.

  • Facebook is rapidly pushing out feature updates to Live, including a way for non-Facebook users to join, and opening up “tipping” features for more creators. Facebook and WhatsApp have seen a 50% rise in video and audio calls and livestreams in the last two months…

  • Facebook has also rolled out “Quiet Time” to help you stop spiraling down the fake news rabbit hole. Pause the app and notifications.

  • Snapchat also reports usage is way up, and they’ve provided an update to Forbes on how users have pivoted towards 1:1 features and home-based interests.

  • Quibi is out, and the early reviews are not exactly positive. The content is “underwhelming” and the app itself locks out any sharing (no social features, no screenshots). One user described it as, “an out of touch Hollywood trying to co-opt social apps”. Ouch. Note: I haven’t tried it yet, and without a social tie-in there won’t be much coverage of this app going forward.

  • Tried Facebook’s dating app? Worked out for you!? Why not let Big Blue run your whole relationship next!! Facebook has unveiled Tuned, a messaging app just for couples, “Partners can connect their Spotify accounts, set moods, send photos and postcards and voice memos, and play around with stickers and reactions”. And yes, Facebook data tracking applies. Who asked for this? Is “Facebook’s Splits” the next app? Time. Is. A. Flat. Circle.

  • Remember Foursquare? The location tracking-service announced a merger with audience data harvester Factual to form Foursquare Labs. In a not-at-all-creepy statement this week, “location data is a leading candidate to replace cookies after they disappear. Offline visitation patterns are also intent signals not unlike search. Notwithstanding privacy advocates’ concerns, location data will ultimately be woven into almost every non-search campaign in one form or another — for targeting, attribution or both”.

Got a recommendation for good content to dive into? Drop links to videos, chats, and podcasts in the comments. See you soon!


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.