Digital Dash: Facebook’s privacy promises & more

1. Facebook reacts as users recoil, announces stack of data privacy updates
2. Time-saver alert! New feature makes all creative suitable for Instagram Stories ads
3. Over algorithms? Pinterest goes back to basics with new ‘following’ tab
4. 5 reasons consumers care about your brand, in order of importance
5. Spotted: Snapchat ‘Connected Apps’ tab

1. Facebook reacts as users recoil, announces stack of data privacy updates

It’s not much fun being Facebook right now. Ever since the Cambridge Analytica story broke a couple of weeks ago, The Social Network has faced a relentless stream of bad press.

But while Mark Zuckerberg took his sweet time issuing a formal response when the scandal first hit headlines, he’s now acting quickly to announce changes around the central issue – data privacy – to (hopefully) restore users’ trust in the company.

Here’s a breakdown of the main announcements from this week:

Shutting down Partner Categories: Facebook previously let you target users based on specific purchase behaviours or life circumstances, as gleaned from information from third-party data providers (such as Experian and Acxiom) then matched to profiles. This included things like household income, spending tendencies etc. none of which will be available going forward as Facebook has officially shut down Partner Categories.

This could be a pretty big hit for some marketers, especially those in the US and the 6 other countries where Partner category data was available, and also those who don’t have loads of their own data to inform targeting.

Custom audience certification: As revealed by TechCrunch, advertisers will soon be required to self-certify that email addresses to be used for custom audiences were ‘rightfully attained’.

Clearer terms of service: dense, complex T&Cs have been replaced by a new layout that’s clear, concise and super easy to navigate – giving users quick access to privacy information and controls.

App controls: from 9 April, users will notice a link at the top of News Feed, which will lead to an app ‘control centre’. From here, a list of all apps linked to their profile will be visible, and it will be easy to revoke access or remove apps in bulk.

Bots block: Facebook has put a temporary block on new bots being linked to Pages while it completes an audit of existing bots to make sure there’s no misuse of user information.

Custom audience estimated reach block: there’s also rumoured to be a temporary block on estimated reach data for custom audiences. This is due to advertisers potentially being able to identify a single user through a complex process involving cross-referencing custom audience counts.

Restricted data access: people using third-party apps to access information through Facebook APIs (including Groups, Events, Pages and Login) will be subject to lots of new restrictions and approval processes to avoid too much user data being shared.

Notably, Instagram’s Platform API is also being scrapped completely, which will likely cause a lot of headaches for a lot of companies. Anyone relying on third-party apps to help them manage, grow or analyse their Instagram pages could be impacted.

Facebook’s app approval process is also being tightened.

Read more on this and Facebook’s full list of data restriction announcements here.


2. Time-saver alert! New feature makes all creative suitable for Instagram Stories ads

Brands are increasingly seeing the benefits of including Instagram Stories in their paid social media strategy.

But, there’s a problem.

Instagram Stories ads are full-screen experiences, which has meant that creative has to be specially made or adapted to suit – something that’s not always possible on top of producing images or video to fit profile pages, other ad types etc.

Thankfully, Instagram (well, technically Facebook) has stepped in to take that job off your hands.

A new feature in Facebook’s Ad Manager will automatically turn square or landscape creative (images or video under 15 seconds) into full-screen ads for Instagram Stories.

Just like this:

Instagram_full-screen stories creative

Photo: WeRSM

The addition of a pixel-matched background colour makes sure the visual still looks good. The ad’s caption is also used to add interest, appearing in ‘stories text font’ beneath the main creative – although note that this won’t show if the text is over 190 characters or the image is taller than square.

A link can then be added, which people can swipe up to visit.

While this is a cool time-saving tool, I hope it doesn’t discourage content creators from producing powerful full-screen visuals. It’s great being able to quickly make any image suitable for Stories ads, but maximising the available ad space and its appeal to a particular audience should remain a priority too.


3. Over algorithms? Pinterest goes back to basics with new ‘following’ tab

Last week, we talked about how Instagram was updating its algorithm, moving away from engagement-based ordering and back towards a more chronological – although still algorithmic – system.

This week, Pinterest has also announced a change to its home feed. Actually, it’s more of an addition than a change.

A new ‘following’ tab is being rolled out over the next couple of weeks, featuring a feed made up exclusively of content from people and boards that you follow, in the order they are saved.

This will sit alongside the regular home feed, which is run by the Pinterest algorithm that’s called ‘smart feed’ and works on a ‘best first’ not ‘newest first’ basis. It contains a mix of Pins and Repins from people and boards you follow, related Pins, and Pins from your interests. Pins are ranked on quality, which is determined by a few different factors.

Pinterest_follower tabAn algorithm-free feed is a real novelty at a time where all the major social networks use complex (some more than others) algorithms to present you with a selection of content it predicts you’ll like most.

Of course, this isn’t a bad thing per se. In fact, it’s designed to enhance the user experience. And while it often does, some people don’t like the lack of control they have over what content they see.

Pinterest says that, in talking to users, it’s learned that some enjoy recommendations while others prefer to curate the feed themselves.

The following tab addresses this mix by providing two feeds – one that puts users in the driving seat, and another that features a broader range of inspiration. The best of both worlds.

From a marketing perspective, this could be great. If a user follows you or one of your boards, it’s very likely they’ll see a lot more of your content. On the other hand, if the following feed really takes off, your exposure to new audiences could be limited.

This is definitely one to keep an eye on.


4. 5 reasons consumers care about your brand, in order of importance

A study of 2,000 US consumers by mobile-location data company Blis has revealed some interesting insights about the relationship between consumers and brands.

Blis points out that the consumer landscape has changed dramatically in the past decade, since the 2008 recession. It notes a shift in power in favour of consumers, who it says now feel much more in control of their own choices thanks to being able to research, price check and shop around so easily using their smartphones.

Coined the ‘conscious consumer’, Blis identifies that we now shop smarter, understand our value to brands and expect to be rewarded for our loyalty.

The below ‘new consumer hierarchy of brand needs’ diagram identifies what’s important to the conscious consumer and in what order.

Blis study_consumer heirachy of brand needs

Photo: Marketing Land

As you can see, quality ranked as the top concern, with 64% of participants identifying this as the most important feature from a brand, even over price, which came in second.

The middle two tiers are products of the digital age, with quick/reliable delivery and returns really important – and expected. Retailers not offering this are unlikely to get the sale.

While not crucial to the purchase decision, Blis suggests that brand authenticity and trustworthiness do still play a key role – especially in terms of medium and longer-term consideration.

In another section of the study, it was revealed that consumers are much more forgiving of brand mistakes (e.g. messed up deliveries) if they like the brand.

In some ways, this supports the findings of another consumer study from last week’s Digital Dash, which highlighted the importance of good communication from brands, even about bad news.


5. Spotted: Snapchat ‘Connected Apps’ tab

While social media users worldwide are freaking out over their data privacy thanks to Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, Snapchat has decided it’s the perfect time to test a new ‘Connected Apps’ feature…

Nope. This isn’t a late April Fool’s joke.

Mashable spotted the new tab in the latest Snapchat beta version. Right now, clicking takes you to a page that only features the text: ‘These apps are connected to your Snapchat account. Choose an app to control what it has access to.’

Snapchat_connected apps

Photo: Mashable

Although the timing is very weird, there are two reasons this could be a good thing. Or at least a not-so-bad thing.

1. Allowing third-party companies outside of Bitmoji and Shazam to link up with Snapchat could really boost its value to users who would benefit from upgraded integration with other apps.

2. The only insight into the potential new feature – the wording outlined above – clearly makes users’ control over their data a focus. If Snapchat is going down the route of giving third-party companies access to users’ personal information, let’s just hope this is a sign that it’s learned from Facebook’s mistakes by making transparency and control an absolute priority.