Facebook (and many of the social networks) have already been putting greater transparency measures in place in the recent waves of scrutiny and interest. For example, Facebook discussed openly how it deals with abuse and radicalisation, and Canada allowed consumers to see what ads a company is running at any one time.
Facebook’s latest move to be supportive is to help with the forthcoming GDPR regulations. Compared to many overly legalistic guidelines, Facebook’s information does a good job of explaining what businesses using Facebook need to know. For example – and I’m paraphrasing – it essentially says things like “when we do custom audience matching, we’re the data processor, when you decide the purpose of processing data, you’re the data controller”
Now back in January, Facebook approached this from the user perspective, giving consumers the ability to control how they were advertised to and it’ll be interesting to see how this evolves and how the ICO views this. At the moment, the privacy page is very granular, but it’s not the easiest page to reach or customise. I imagine that come May, Facebook will present a pop-up that users cannot click away from, forcing them to review their ad and privacy choices.
Otherwise, they’ll be marketing on the basis of legitimate interest rather than unambiguous consent – and whilst this is still legal, it’s on slightly shakier ground. After all, ‘legitimate interest’ could justifiably be argued based on a link to demographic groups (e.g. you’re 18-21 and list ‘music’ as an interest, so Facebook will serve you music-based ads) but it does rather put the onus for consent back on the advertiser. Since advertisers aren’t in control of the platform, and doing ‘per ad consent’ would be a nightmare, this isn’t a great solution.
In the meantime, if you’re one of the advertisers that contributes to Facebook’s $36bn ad revenue, use this page and know where you stand!
You may have started to hear about a new social network called Vero. The self-described ‘relationship-first social network’ had a surge in popularity recently after saying its first one million users wouldn’t have to pay for a subscription in future, causing mass sign ups, a lot of press headlines about how this may be ‘the next Instagram’, and ultimately creating major service interruptions for the app due to the influx of users.
But why all the fuss? Do we really need another social network? Probably not, to be honest, but Vero’s supposed USP over other networks is a non-algorithm-based feed and a paid subscription model (eventually), meaning it won’t rely on ad revenue and serving users content they don’t necessarily care about. In its own descriptors, it aims to align physical world relationships to the online experience, providing a seamless way to share content with your network. You can read its full manifesto here.
That’s a nice proposition if they can make it work, but whether this will be enough to surge it to mainstream adoption and popularity remains to be seen. For now, here’s my first impressions to help you can decide if this is the network for you.
No advertising and a chronological news feed
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Not just visuals
Vero allows users to post photos, links, and recommendations for music, films, TV shows, books and places, and the news feed actually looks a bit more like Twitter than Instagram or Facebook to me. There’s no option for a free-text post, which suggests you might get less Facebook-esque rants from friends and more ‘meaningful’ content. This could be great for businesses, as it will help the spread of more natural word-of-mouth recommendations but is less good if you happen to follow anyone who starts sharing ‘Fake News’ links. Perhaps it’s just my PR cynicism, but I also think this kind of sharing just encourages more Instagram-influencer style posts that are clearly advertising rather than genuine expression, and if there’s too much of that, I suspect people will tune out.
Prioritise your connections
In line with it’s chronological news feed, Vero helps you prioritise your connections. You can choose to ‘follow’ or ‘connect’ with people, and when you connect with them you can specify if they’re a ‘close friend’, ‘friend’, or ‘acquaintance’. The default setting for a new connection is ‘acquaintance’ and only you can see how you’ve classified connections, which is handy. When you share content, you can also choose who will see it – be it close friends, acquaintances, everyone etc.
Poor identity verification
Vero does use verified ticks for high profile users, but it doesn’t have usernames. It strongly encourages people to use their real name when creating their profile (a la Facebook) and does ask for your phone number and email upon sign up to help verify you, try and prevent false identities, and help you find connections. However, it’s a bit simple and there’s no reason why someone couldn’t make a fake profile – and it seems there’s already plenty on there (here’s looking at you ‘Taylor Swift’), as with other social networks.
Confusing interface and functionality
This is the most annoying thing about Vero for me. It’s a bit hard to use, I don’t like the colour schemes, and it’s just not as intuitive as other social networks (yet). In many ways it is like a re-skinned Instagram, but the explore page (pictured below) makes it hard to find the kind of people I’d want to follow (or perhaps they aren’t on it yet) and I’m finding myself darting between different parts of it trying to work out where to go. The collections section could be useful for curating content once you’re following the right people, but right now the whole thing is a bit of a turn off. I also read that pictures sent to you in private conversations will appear in your news feed (albeit only visible to you), which has a bit too much disaster potential for my liking!
You’ll have to pay for it
Vero users will eventually have to pay a yet to be specified ‘small annual fee’ to join, and Vero will also take a cut from businesses that sell via its ‘buy now’ feature. While constant advertising on other social networks is frustrating, Vero will surely have to knock other networks off their pedestals in order to make its paid subscription model work. Why would I pay to speak to my best friend when I can WhatsApp her? Why would I pay to see content from my favourite musician when I can follow them on Instagram and hear their music on Spotify?
I suspect that Vero may argue that through its app you can do that all in one place, but multiple platforms for this don’t bother me enough right now to be switching entirely.
My Vero verdict
Vero definitely has some positive aspects, but I’m just not sure we need it. I already see the same content from friends on Instagram and Facebook in particular, so I don’t need to like the photo a third time on Vero, surely?
I can see the opportunity for aspiring businesses and influencers – particularly creative artists, musicians, and retail sellers to have another means of selling to consumers, but when Vero doesn’t want to be filled with advertising, this opportunity is unlikely to pay off unless consumers are willing to see all that brand-filled content.
All that said, I’m not going to knock it until I’ve tried it more, and it’s worth a go while it’s free anyway – even if you delete it soon after!
Brands trying to strike up an emotional connection with you is nothing new. However, it’s a trend that’s on the up this year and we’ve noticed major brands starting to take this marketing approach.
However, is the timing off? Are consumers savvier and seeing past this marketing ploy? Many huge brands are getting a backlash online.
Instead of just pointing out the brands that are getting the emotional connections wrong, we thought we would make a great learning exercise by flipping people’s comments into advice for others. We’ve been scouring the web to crowdsource the more level-headed feedback and turn this from groans to guidance.
As highlighted in the picture below, people have stated that Nescafe has a fairly confusing approach to emotive advertising. The online commentary indicates that this creative concept is disjointed from the brand offering and, as a result, it’s left a fair few consumers a bit confused about what the whole thing is supposed to be about.
The learning from all this Twitter chatter is that brands need to ensure that they are being genuine and not deviating too far from the business proposition.
Many banks seems to be using emotive advertising to create a connection between themselves and their customers. Understandably, after the financial crisis and other scandals, many banks need to work on building up trust with customers. Nationwide, for example, is currently using an advert that sees a scarf returned to a Dad by a member of staff. Online commentary suggests that this is straying too far from the service Nationwide actually offers, opting instead to try and strike up an emotional rapport with its customers.
Now the Nationwide advert is very good, but when did banks stop advertising, you know what they sell? — Connaire Demain (@conn1231) July 19, 2015
So what’s the key takeaway here?
It’s important for brands to gauge the mood of the nation before going down the path of striking up an emotional connection. For banks, it may have been too early. Timing is key. Howard from the Halifax adverts knew how to do it.
The advert from travel firm Airbnb has caused a stir on social media. The advert sees a baby walking through a house, accompanied by a voice over and an underlying message of people being nervous about new experiences. Online commentators suggested this was done with the aim of combating the negative view people may have about having strangers live in your home.
Whilst good natured in its aims to reassure users that strangers living in your house for the purposes of a holiday isn’t weird, the approach on Twitter left many people…unnerved.
So what’s the key takeaway here?
The context and format of your message is vital. The advert was largely applauded by the online community, but the phrases taken from the advert didn’t work on Twitter and left Airbnb open to sarcastic comments. It needed more than 140 characters for this to come across well, so brands need to carefully consider the right channel to strike up that emotional connection.
From reviewing online chatter, Facebook’s attempt is probably the closest to getting it right, with a brand focused advert following the story of friendships. Once people had gotten over the shock of seeing a Facebook advert on TV, some began grumbling.
The core annoyance of those grumblers is around Facebook seemingly taking credit of friendship. If anything, the advert just reminded people of how friendships used to work before Facebook.
I love how the Facebook advert presumes Earth was just 6 billion peripatetic loners ’til it invented friendship in 2004
As communications professionals, we know when it’s done right, it works. Take John Lewis as an example; its Christmas advert was wildly popular (and usually gets it right) and helped the retailer to achieve very healthy Christmas sales.
Brands really run the gauntlet when it comes to their advertising and the resulting effect on public relations. With social media providing consumers with an outlet to air their views, getting it right is more important than ever.
I was reading the story about advertisers beating the fast-forward button on TV that got me thinking about the future of TV advertising. With more and more of us taking control of what we watch (we pre-record, we go online, we download episodes and films on iPlayer), are we also increasingly reluctant to be ‘forced’ to watch adverts? Advertisers seem to think so, and have taken the reins to ensure their adverts are seen… but will it last? And could this mean more emphasis is placed on other communications channels, such as social media?
Consumer habits – and the types of information they are happy to digest – are constantly changing. Brands should be – if they aren’t already – looking at alternative approaches for mass dissemination of their messages. You may remember back in 2007 the Cadbury Gorilla ad which went viral on YouTube and to-date, has near to five million hits. This was a great success story for brand that saw an increase is sales as well as positive brand perception.
In the constantly-moving B2C world, PRs also need to be ready to evolve with changing times. In our industry, force-feed tactics have never worked; so will 2011 see a smorgasbord or fine dining approach to serving up great content? Watch this space.
Do you ever strike up a conversation and midway through it, walk away? I bet you don’t in real life, unless you’re a very rude person. Start as you mean to go on, by following it through.
Looking at the three points in my previous blog post about ‘resisting conversations’, I still have a few more questions. Are the brands that are not participating in social media having conversations with their audience, or are they just initiating a conversation and then leaving the audience to work the rest out for itself? Does traditional marketing, advertising and PR not allow the conversation to continue?
Maybe that’s it: if you don’t engage and interact with your audience, are you just an orator telling your audience what you think they want to hear?
Would your strategy be any different from the ancient Romans, like Cicero, who believed that through oration his political thoughts would spread by word of mouth? Perhaps this is where the problem lies. Many brands are comfortable starting a conversation – laying the seed for discussion, so to speak – but when it actually comes down to continuing the conversation, they vanish and hide behind their desks.
Oh how PRs love to have a bash at the advertising industry! Truth is we’re in this together…whilst on the PR side, earned media is highly influential, there is and will always be a place for bought media as well.
Now this blogcaught my eye this morning. Dan Shute interviews Mark Lund, the grande fromage at the COI. Everything he says about the suits in advertising applies completely and utterly to agency PROs as well. Take note, this is a classy training course in client handling, from the comfort of your desk.
Is it time to shape your reputation?
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