From time to time, an anecdote comes across our desks that, as researchers, we find hard to leave alone. A few months ago, one of these opportunities appeared, and we thought it might be interesting to lift the hood, and show you how we dig into tough research hypotheses and decide if and when to write about them. Here's what happened.
Over a period of a few days this winter, we heard from one colleague, then another – 20 in all -- that conversations they'd had IRL ("in real life") seemingly resulted in ads and sponsored posts in Facebook. Given the state of "surveillance marketing," we weren't that surprised, until we read Facebook's T&Cs. There, the company explicitly stated that it wouldn't use data collected from a user's microphone for ad targeting. That's when we got curious.
First, we looked to the obvious: had our colleagues searched for the advertised item after having had the conversation? Had they checked into the same place as their friend, at the same time? Were they on the same network -- and thus sharing an IP address -- as someone who'd searched for the product or service? We rounded up the answers to these questions, and determined that "interest-by-proxy" was an unlikely cause.
The industry was outraged. But who’s really at fault here? Tina Moffett and I break it down like Judge Judy.
For The Defense: Facebook
How long did it take TV to standardize measurement? The social media industry is young and a fast-changing work in progress. Lest we forget, Facebook is only 12 years old and started as a platform for people; metrics was the furthest thing from their minds. But, it’s now the biggest social network serving people, brands, and publishers and is constantly having to prove value to all three. We would be surprised if Facebook was not screwing up along the way. To build their platform, Facebook will continue to mess up and correct, mess up and correct. Instead, let's focus on how Facebook's metrics woes will impact their relationship with marketers (and agencies):
New social media scams and marketing #fails are common fodder for water cooler banter today – even a recent episode of HBO’s Veep ran a joke where the President blames a Chinese cyberattack for sending an ill-advised tweet.
Facebook held its annual developer conference in San Francisco this week. Analysts at Forrester collectively fielded a lot of questions from the media, but most of them focused on bots and the Messenger platform. Here are my top takeaways from the event:
It's still early days for developer tools: Facebook approached F8 with a humble, honest tone and message about the state of its applications, platforms and tools for developers. Facebook didn't over promise. Every executive on the main stage to the breakouts in the "Hacker X" and "Hacker Y" pavilions offered an honest portrayal of where Facebook is today. Where is it? Facebook holds a very strong position in terms of total minutes of use and monthly active users across its various apps and platforms (e.g., Facebook, Whatsapp, Instagram, Facebook Messenger, Oculus, etc.), but they are just beginning to offer tools to developers. Developers of mobile apps want to borrow mobile moments on Facebook's apps/platforms because they don't own enough mobile moments themselves. Facebook is just in the earliest of stages of giving tools to these developers to help them borrow mobile moments effectively.
April 12, 2016: The day Oculus updated its Rift shipment timeframe for customers. As has been widely reported, Oculus customers face widespread months-long delays in the deliveries of their virtual reality headset purchases. To add a personal anecdote, I ordered within the first 5 minutes of the pre-launch window (once the web site started working, which it didn’t at first), and my Rift shipment has been delayed from March 30th to “between May 9 and 19th,” assuming Oculus actually succeeds in meeting its new dates.
While my personal Rift delay is merely an annoyance, the botched launch has real repercussions for the VR ecosystem. Oculus’ delay:
Hurts developers of games and apps. The diversity and depth of the VR developer ecosystem is impressive. While many developers focus on games – logically enough, since that’s a key early adopter demographic – others offer applications ranging from clinical treatments for PTSD to collaboration in virtual spaces. The common denominator? None of these developers are making money if there are no headsets available. And while many apps can be ported to other platforms, Oculus has been the centerpiece of many developers’ high-end VR efforts.
Hurts media startups and innovations. Media, too, sees a potential loss. While some media companies go the route of the New York Times and focus on Google Cardboard phone-based VR, others are counting on developing truly immersive experiences that simulate presence. Studio Jaunt VR has an Oculus app that, again, won’t be addressable until customers receive their Rifts.
What role does mobile play in customer obsession, and how can businesses leapfrog their competition to deliver superior customer experiences? Here are three ways Forrester predicts mobile will change the ways business leaders operate in 2016.
This week Facebook released “Reactions” for two pilot markets: Ireland and Spain. The new reactions available for posts? Love, haha, yay, wow, sad, and angry.
Myself and Forrester analysts Jennifer Wise, Samantha Ngo, Brigitte Majewski across mobile, social, and advertising pow-wowed on this new addition. Here are our thoughts:
Facebook wins from this move. Hello new and granular consumer data. Facebook can continue to optimize its own news feed experience, and grow monetization of its data with improved audience profiles and targeting for ads – on its site, and everywhere else.
Brands may get better sentiment data... Marketers need to go beyond counting likes, so what about counting “angries” vs. “yays” instead? Counts can suddenly mean positive or negative sentiment. Funneling these sentiments into consumer insights can help 1) inform ad targeting with refined consumer preferences and affinities, 2) test emotional story arcs, and 3) fuel retargeting. A clothing retailer could target consumers who react “wow” to dress posts. But the big “if” is: will Brands own Reaction data? We’re hoping yes.
Change is constant, especially with Facebook. Not too long ago it changed its algorithm to allow users to see their favorite content within their New Feeds first. Then it introduced Instant Articles to help publishers create interactive articles on Facebook. This week, Facebook updated its logo and its algorithm again. This update helps users prioritize stories and posts by allowing them to select the friends and pages they'd like to see at the top of their News Feed. And now for the grand reveal...
Facebook will no longer use likes in its cost per click measurement definition.
Yes, you read correctly, Facebook is discounting the value of its likes to the point where it doesn't factor into their click metric.
Why is this happening now?
At the end of the day, ads cost money. If Facebook wants to keep that ad revenue flowing, they've got to connect those ads to the things that drive the bottom line -- items that tie back to business goals, to justify the expense to marketers. Going forward, these clicks will factor into CPC:
Believe it or not, the first quarter of 2015 is officially complete. Between the snow accumulations (especially) in the Northeast, the subsequent melting process, and the ever-evolving social media landscape, we've been busy. One of my takeaways from the social world is that FOMO (fear of missing out) is alive and well across several audiences. Let me recap a few social highlights and share a bit more on my takeaways.
Snapchat carries a 15 billion dollar valuation and reportedly somewhere between 100 and 200 million active users. Is Snapchat for every brand? Most likely not, but it has a measure of appeal for a particular audience. This group doesn't want to miss out on anything and they also like things that are exclusive and momentary. That's probably the draw for Snapchat's massive Millennial audience.
Recently we’ve had a chance to look again at two very conflicting views from HP and Facebook on how to do web-scale and cloud computing, both announced at the recent OCP annual event in California.
From HP come its new CloudLine systems, the public face of their joint venture with Foxcon. Early details released by HP show a line of cost-optimized servers descended from a conventional engineering lineage and incorporating selected bits of OCP technology to reduce costs. These are minimalist rack servers designed, after stripping away all the announcement verbiage, to compete with white-box vendors such as Quanta, SuperMicro and a host of others. Available in five models ranging from the minimally-featured CL1100 up through larger nodes designed for high I/O, big data and compute-intensive workloads, these systems will allow large installations to install capacity at costs ranging from 10 – 25% less than the equivalent capacity in their standard ProLiant product line. While the strategic implications of HP having to share IP and market presence with Foxcon are still unclear, it is a measure of HP’s adaptability that they were willing to execute on this arrangement to protect against inroads from emerging competition in the most rapidly growing segment of the server market, and one where they have probably been under immense margin pressure.