Hard knocks in content marketing, lady-investor digital weaponry... and basically the week that Facebook got a wakeup call.
1. Influencer marketing is so 2014. I was just having yet another conversation about how the size of an influencer's audience is now much less relevant that the extent of their expertise. As social platforms continue to reinforce a pay-to-play model that requires brands to fork out extra money to reach not just new audiences, but the audiences who already follow them, influencers actually become much less relevant. Still good for PR on some level (possibly?) but brands are seeing diminishing returns on the extra production money required for these individuals since you can't reach their audiences without a media budget anyway. That said, the expertise of the "influencer" in content for luxury brands or for the more progressive audience has always been fairly important. People aren't stupid - they know when they are being sold to, and instead of feeling like someone's trying to dupe them into buying something, they really want a trusted voice to help guide them, or they want a unique story or experience to make their own. It seems that this reality is starting to trickle down into mass-market advertising and now youth marketing, as well.
No sooner did I finish my latest debate-meeting on this topic, than this article about the influencer market-collapse appeared in my inbox. I laughed because I actually do work in one of the converted loft spaces they mention (among other similarities), but also because I've been backing away from influencer marketing adamantly since the price-to-quality ratio became so absurdly weak. I'd rather work with great talent - experts - and audiences would rather see their work, as well. Quality content has legs. What works well is talent who knows the publishing channel well, who has a great relationship with the audience, and whose primary objective is to make great content that suits both. Popularity without talent is limited. The charlatans looking to make a quick buck are getting booted off their free ride.
That said, every social platform now seems to have its own influencer agency (accessible at a premium - like Niche for Twitter), and on the other side, independent influencer networks are now maturing into media companies. Fullscreen just rebranded as Fullscreen Media, and is offering subscription services and a branded content studio now, with the caveat that their work must create "real value" for brands. Hopefully quality becomes a key tenant in content development (and an understanding of brand briefs wouldn't hurt), because there's a lot of great emerging talent being hidden in the noise out there...
2. Internet video views is an absolute bullshit metric. The analytics are wildly unstructured to paint an astronomically large picture that just doesn't reflect reality, and it isn't rated like TV, making comparisons misleading at best. If BuzzFeed's best content-view metrics were counted as they are on TV, their NewFronts pitch (which was last week) would be laughable.
Did you know that Facebook counts a video view at 3 seconds of play, even though Facebook videos auto-play in your feed? It's really fun getting stuck in a feedback loop that tells you your view-rate is amazing, when people are really just trying to scroll away from your content as quickly as possible without missing the next post on whatever Trump did today.
Although, you might not see that on Facebook's Trending Topics...
3. This was a really interesting week at the intersection of social platforms and the world of journalism because a former Facebook "editor" came forward (via Gizmodo) to report that Facebook's editors suppress conservative trending topics. After the report, conservatives went wild, Zuck said "whoa, let's talk about this," and released a 28-page document of guidelines for the Facebook Trending Topics team, the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee (R-SD) demanded answers, and then the public began to realize that - holy shit - social platforms have human editors. Which means there could be editorial impartiality. As the NY Times put it:
Last week’s debate surrounding Trending Topics gave users and critics a chance to analyze the Facebook platform, which has established significant reach, in new ways. Social networks like Facebook have been widely seen as impartial systems that reflect users’ ideas, preferences and relationship back at them. But suddenly, the companies were viewed not just as tech companies, which the public is broadly endeared to, or as media companies, which are regarded with deep skepticism by much of the public, but also as something in between.
This might not be such a big deal if Facebook wasn't the modern master of media distribution, but it is. And that implies a level of ethics in impartiality and transparency over how we get our information. A public that has access to free and unbiased information is a key component to democracy.
So the conversation is important. But the impact will also be important, and the answer is not in relying exclusively on the algorithm and voiding human guidance. Humans love an echo chamber that feeds back their own opinions and beliefs. Who doesn't like affirmation? The problem is that we tend to cluster around people who enable our beliefs, so an algorithm would reinforce the "echo chamber" because (of course) Facebook's model is built to serve you the content you're most likely to LIKE.
As usual, Ezra Klein puts it best:
Behind the panic over echo chambers are three simple observations. First, people like news that confirms the opinions they already hold. Second, the internet makes it easier for people to find news that confirms the opinions they already hold. Third, the algorithms running in the background of Google's search engine and Facebook's News Feed are constantly trying to serve users content — which includes news — they will like, and that will mean serving them news they already agree with.
4. In other news, Google is readying for a major push into VR next week. What's cool about their approach is that they are going to make VR accessible in their existing products (think about VR in Maps or Search... so cool), but the biggest point is that they are opening the doors to VR that Facebook has not. Google is positioning their VR products to make it accessible to view AND to make. Where Facebook (Oculus) has selected apps to play its curated content, Google is pushing to build a library that can scale as YouTube did with video. The end goal from both angles is that we will interact with VR in the real world, but along the way, Google is giving amateurs a chance to participate in the revolution.
5. Speaking of the revolution, Sallie Krawcheck is leveraging her hefty resumé to bring us a robo investment tool designed specifically for women: Ellevest. For all the information, including the depressing details of women's finance that this roboadviser takes into account, see this Money article. I currently use Betterment, but will be taking this system for a test drive. I'll report back.
6. Speaking of lady cash, there appears to be one legit way for women to earn on par, or even MORE than men... HBR just published a piece reporting that "high potential women" working in organizations with diversity goals can earn anywhere from 100-120% the salaries of their male counterparts. Guess who is making a major commitment to diversity? The ad industry, starting with JWT! Line up, high potential ladies.
7. Actually, maybe start networking? That word sends shivers down my spine, but I'd like to start enjoying it. Here are tips to make networking easier from HBR:
- Focus on learning, not schmoozing
- Identify common interests (might require some advanced research or Google-stalking)
- Think broadly about what you can give (you'll be more confident if you know you can give mentorship, advice, access, etc)
- Find a higher purpose for what you're trying to achieve for your team, clients, or community
8. And, ladies, once you get those jobs, and you're no longer walking around in your tiara, your bridal veil, or painting your nails, you might have a use for these new emojis that show not just men, but women in professional situations. I hope they have a lady firefighter one. I have a special use for that. You know it's real when gender equality impacts emojis.
9. If you're not fashion-obsessed, don't bother reading this. But if you are, so behold! Rocket scientists are coming together to construct high heels that are actually comfortable, AND NOT HIDEOUS. They are going to be pricey, but probably cheaper than a surgery for bunions (and not much more than Jimmy Choos)! This Atlantic article explains everything from the origin story to the semiotics of heels, to the contradictions in perception of women who wear/don't wear them.
10. The food industry is so exciting right now! Two things from this week: Whole Foods is starting a new grocery model called 365 to stay ahead of the competition. It will feature fewer, more exclusive foodie products but will keep prices down by optimizing for pre-packaged products (ie, no butchers) and using more robots. Also, Eco Practicum just finished training their third annual crop of food activists in NYC (I really wish this program was online and scalable). This is coming up as a new report emerged last week challenging the efficacy of urban farming plans, so we definitely need more people out there working through these problems.
11. Beautiful things can happen when the human touch is combined with technology, and I guess that's the theme of the week. Beyond journalism's evolution and the state of modern urban farming, the Met is hitting on a timely topic with ManusxMachina ("man and machine"), documenting the evolution of haute couture with technology. It's on through August 14.