The 5 biggest takeaways from Mark Zuckerberg’s appearance before the Senate

Screen Shot 2018-04-12 at 8.47.49 AM.pngMark Zuckerberg made his highly anticipated debut before the Senate today during a marathon five-hour hearing before a joint session of the Commerce and Judiciary committees. Zuckerberg remained calm and level-headed throughout, and senators were mostly polite and deferential as they sought to understand how Facebook had inadvertently allowed the profiles of up to 87 million people to be collected by the political data-mining firm Cambridge Analytica.

In the weeks leading up to the hearing, Facebook made a series of announcements designed to demonstrate that it took the data leak seriously and was working to prevent it from happening again. Zuckerberg referred repeatedly today to these changes, which include making privacy shortcuts easier to find, restricting the data shared with developers when you log in using your Facebook account, labeling political ads and making them available for public inspection, and launching a bounty program to reward people who find examples of data misuse.

Facebook also sent Zuckerberg and his chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, on a media tour to answer questions and hone their talking points. By the time today’s hearing began, Facebook had done what it could to ensure the day would feel light on news. Meanwhile, many senators still struggle to understand basic questions about how Facebook collects data and makes money. (Hint: not by selling that data to advertisers.)

Here are the five most notable developments from today’s hearings.

Zuckerberg had to confront Facebook’s monopoly power. When Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) asked Zuckerberg to name his biggest competitor, Zuckerberg couldn’t name one. He was pressed repeatedly on Facebook’s large size, and at one point, he was asked whether Facebook was too powerful. Zuckerberg demurred. “It certainly doesn’t feel like that to me,” he said in response to Graham’s monopoly question. Senators do seem to be grappling with Facebook’s massive power in a way they haven’t before. But it’s not clear they have any coherent strategy to increase the amount of competition in the social media marketplace.

Read the full article here. 

Understanding The Difference Between ‘Micro-Influencers’ and ‘Mega-Influencers’

Have you ever read a post by your favorite blogger, or seen a product recommendation from them, and snapped it up right away?

This is influencer marketing in action.

By utilizing the voice of well-connected people in your niche, you can reach an audience that’s relevant, and already engaged, in order to increase sales.

And given that research shows that some 75% of consumers are more likely to buy something based on a reference on social media, it’s easy to see why influencer marketing is heating up.

Pinterest Now Up to 1.5 Million Advertisers, Announces Expansion of Quick Promotion Tool

We’ve said this before, but businesses should not overlook Pinterest as a potential source of traffic, especially those within the B2C sector.

The platform has been slowly building out its search and discovery tools, implementing better ways to connect consumers with products. And those efforts are working – Pinterest recently reported that some 90% of weekly Pinners use Pinterest to make purchase decisions.

Sure, comparatively Pinterest’s 200 million monthly active Pinners trails behind the likes of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, but those that do use it come with higher purchase intent, which is a key element to note in your consideration.

And it does seem that more brands are catching on – this week, Pinterest has reported that it’s now reached a new milestone of 1.5 million active advertisers.

To celebrate, the platform has announced some new ad options – first off, Pinterest is expanding access to its quick promote option on Pins.

As explained by Pinterest:

The “Promote” button on each Pin helps businesses create an ad in as little as 9 seconds. Up until now, this button was only available to advertisers in the US. In the coming weeks, we’re rolling it out to business accounts in Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand and the UK.” 

Pinterest has also announced the hiring of Matt Hogle as their Global Head of Small Business. Pinterest says it’s seen a 50% year-over-year increase in small businesses advertisers on the platform, and Hogle’s dedicated role will be to develop new programs designed to maximize opportunities for smaller operators.

The new additions also coincide with the first anniversary of Pinterest’s ‘Propel’ ad assistance program, which provides organizations with one-on-one support to boost their Pin campaigns. Pinterest says that they’ve seen big success with the program, with companies using Propel seeing up to 3x more clicks on their ads, and 15% lower costs per click (you can read a case study on how contact lens company Hubble used Propel to boost their Pin efforts here).

As noted, Pinterest provides a range of opportunities, especially for B2C brands, and their ad options are getting more sophisticated, more targeted, and producing better results. If you’re looking to expand your social marketing program, Pinterest should definitely be on your radar – it takes some time to learn and understand, but the benefits can be significant.

Spotify’s IPO was both a success and an uncertain forecast for the future of music

acastro_180213_1777_0005.0Spotify’s initial public offering today was both a success and a tepid forecast for the future of music streaming. The company’s shares closed today at $149.60, up 12 percent from the initial reference price of $132, but down from a high of $165.90 when shares debuted on the New York Stock Exchange this morning. That gives the Swedish company a market valuation of around $26.6 billion. According to Reuters, Spotify shares slid from the opening high due to lackluster confidence in Spotify’s business model, which itself is a symbol of the future economics of the music industry.

Spotify’s unique IPO approach, called a direct listing and one typical of smaller companies in industries like biotech, involves selling shares direct to the public without an intermediary. “Spotify is not raising capital, and our shareholders and employees have been free to buy and sell our stock for years,” explained Spotify co-founder and CEO Daniel Ek in a blog post yesterday. “So while tomorrow puts us on a bigger stage, it doesn’t change who we are, what we are about, or how we operate.” Spotify is the biggest company to ever go public via direct listing, and the first on the NYSE.

While Ek says Spotify isn’t raising capital with its IPO, the company is certainly in need of some cash. Although Spotify earns $5 billion a year in revenue, it pays out more than three-fourths of that in royalties to labels, producers, songwriters, and artists. The Big Three — Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, and Warner Music Group — control a vast majority of that ecosystem, leaving just a small amount of revenue and zero profit for Spotify to recoup from its 70 million paying subscribers. Though Spotify counts nearly 90 million free listeners, it only makes around 10 percent of its total annual revenue from advertising to those free users.

That puts a lot of pressure on Spotify to ensure investors that it can continue to grow, even as Apple Music closes the subscriber gap. Apple’s streaming product is no less economically viable, but the iPhone maker does not at all rely on it to make money, with the company’s vast and robust hardware ecosystem generating a large majority of its record revenues and profits. Though Spotify is cutting its losses thanks to renegotiated deals with record labels, it still loses close to $1.5 billion a year. Spotify has yet to ever make a profit.

If Spotify cannot find additional revenue streams or find ways to turn a vast number of free subscribers into paid ones, the streaming service may not have a bright future except as a kneecapped extension of the existing music industry, the majors of which own about 16 percent of the company as it stands today. But the music industry needs streaming services like Spotify just as much as much as the streaming services rely on labels. That symbiotic, but at times antagonist, relationship forms the pillar of the current music industry. Whatever happens to music creation and distribution in the future, Spotify will surely play a major part, whether or not it manages to transform into a profitable platform

Snap introduces group video calls for up to 16 people

Snapchat has today introduced a new group video chat feature, letting users chat with up to 16 of their closest friends. If users need more people in the chat (which, for those of us who have large conference calls, sounds awful!), Snap  is also offering group voice calls with up to 32 participants.

The feature is relatively simple. Just tap the video icon in a group chat to get started, or start up a call with a few people and invite new friends to join.

As one might expect, Snapchat’s crown jewel filters will also be available to use within a group video chat.

Folks that aren’t camera ready can easily toggle between voice and video to just voice.

Snap first introduced group chat and video chat in 2016, looking to give people new ways to communicate on the image-first platform. Snap says that the community is making millions of calls a day since launch.

That said, it’s worth wondering about the timing of this new feature, which comes almost two years after the company announced video chat. It’s possible that Snap wants to take advantage of the #deletefacebook movement offering people as much functionality as possible to connect on their platform instead of the incumbent’s.

It’s also worth noting that Snap’s 16-person group video chat is strikingly similar to Houseparty, the video chat app launched by the founders of live streaming app Meerkat.

Alongside the introduction of group video calls, Snap is also bringing @mentions to the platform. Users can now tag each other in their snaps and Stories by simply typing @ before their user name. Users who have been tagged will be notified when they appear in their friends’ Stories.

Facebook Is Rolling Out New Privacy Tools. Will It Be Enough?

facebook-data-stats-CONTENT-2018.jpgIn the 11 or so days since the story broke that 50 million Facebook users’ data was exposed through a Cambridge Analytica researcher’s app, executives up and down the Facebook food chain—from CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg’s five-day-late apology tour to vp of global marketing Carolyn Everson’s talking points memo—took to the media to explain what happened, though perhaps later than some would have liked.

One voice, however, has been suspiciously quiet: that of chief privacy officer Erin Egan. No longer.

In a blog post today, Egan and deputy general counsel Ashlie Beringer announced several data settings the company believes will help users better understand what data is being collected and how Facebook users can be a bit more in control of the data they put into the Facebook engine.

“Last week showed how much more work we need to do to enforce our policies and help people understand how Facebook works and the choices they have over their data,” Egan and Beringer wrote. “We’ve heard loud and clear that privacy settings and other important tools are too hard to find and that we must do more to keep people informed.”

“We’ve heard loud and clear that privacy settings and other important tools are too hard to find and that we must do more to keep people informed.”
Facebook chief privacy officer Erin Egan and and deputy general counsel Ashlie Beringer

In a nod to how the company views itself as a mobile destination, the company did a complete redesign of its settings on mobile, stating in the post, “Instead of having settings spread across nearly 20 different screens, they’re now accessible from a single place. We’ve also cleaned up outdated settings so it’s clear what information can and can’t be shared with apps.”

A lot of this thinking, according to sources, was informed by workshops the company has been holding with regulators and privacy experts over the past few months on how to design for privacy. One aspect the company is homing in on is the fact that legal announcements, those dreadful terms and conditions nobody reads but readily accepts, are an eyesore and in a language that’s difficult to parse. By changing how the settings look, the company believes, it can help people learn more about what data is being shared.

Facebook also introduced some tools it calls “Privacy Shortcuts,” basically a “menu where you can control your data in just a few taps with clearer explanations of how our controls work. The experience is now clearer, more visual, and easy-to-find.” Again, this is a more design-centric tool. Users can now add multiple layers of protection. Think two-factor authentication. Users can also now control the ads they see and manage who sees their profile and what they post. This is accessed via a single dashboard, a tool the company calls “Access Your Information.”

At the IAPP conference in Washington, D.C, where chief privacy officers from all kinds of companies gathered to talk about, well, privacy, Facebook’s deputy CPO, Rob Sherman, said that the company has been investing in building improved privacy experiences for a few months. “The things that we’re announcing today,” he said, “are a part of that, but I think it’s part of a broader reflection of the feedback we’re getting. … People are more sophisticated and individualized with what happens with their data, and this is something we want to respond to.”

Of course, all of this doesn’t quiet the voices asking why users’ data was shared in the first place. Facebook’s argument seemed to have been this: The point of Facebook is to personalize your experience, and data control and privacy should be sound and logical. It’s not like we autopopulate your profile with personal interests. That’s on you, buddy. And a lot of people use Facebook to log in to other apps. So, it’s not really our problem if you can’t keep track of what data you’re sending out into the world.

There’s a Silicon Valley logic to all of this. Blame the user, not the platform.

The tools introduced today, the company believes, address a shift in that thinking. So, instead of a user saying, “I didn’t want my data to be used that way,” Facebook is saying, “We want to check with you to make sure you’re good with that, and oh, by the way, you can easily change that if you want.”

Technology moves faster than policy or the law, on the one hand. And on the other, people don’t have as much time to adapt to new technology as they once did—with, for example, previous disruptors like TV and radio. We tend to focus on developing new products and features, not on how to innovate within privacy design. Companies like Facebook have to make sure they offer privacy controls while also educating people as they keep pace with newer technologies.

Egan and Beringer wrote in their post: “It’s also our responsibility to tell you how we collect and use your data in language that’s detailed, but also easy to understand. In the coming weeks, we’ll be proposing updates to Facebook’s terms of service that include our commitments to people. We’ll also update our data policy to better spell out what data we collect and how we use it. These updates are about transparency—not about gaining new rights to collect, use, or share data.”

The talk has begun, and now the answer has to come in action. It’s time.