Trends, news, and analysis: catch up on the week's biggest headlines with the Julius Works Blog's weekly roundup, your cheat sheet for staying in the know with influencer marketing.

News and Analysis:

Influencers on the world stage: Twitch and Ninja host New Years Eve

In 2018, Fortnite took the social media world by storm. The free game, available on a variety of platforms, was so transformative for Gen-Z that it dominated conversations all year. Of the 200 million players, over 60 percent are aged 18-24, with 72 percent of players being male. Ninja, who almost exclusively plays Fortnite, had viewers watch 226 million hours worth of his content on Twitch. Ninja has leveraged this explosive popularity into high-profile brand partnerships, and now, a headline spot for New Year’s Eve celebrations.

Ninja, whose real name is Tyler Blevins, is one of the most popular Twitch streamers, and signed off his year with a 12-hour New Year’s Eve Fortnite stream that aired live in Times Square. He played Fortnite with celebrities, led a “floss” dance to a crowd of revelers, and helped ring in the new year at the famous landmark. His star-studded guests included soccer superstar Neymar Jr., Marvin Jones Jr. of the Detroit Lions, and Mitch Marner of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Julius View:

Though Ninja derives his influence from his Fortnite skill, his popularity beyond his gameplay tells us that social media users are invested in personalities doing what they do best. Whether an influencer plays video games, does their makeup, or travels the world, their followers enjoy their lifestyles so much that they can be called to action by an influencer’s choices – whether that entails playing a game, buying a product, or considering an idea.

Whereas celebrities traditionally occupy coveted spaces with high barriers to entry, like playing professional sports and acting in movies, influencers empower people with a diverse set of skills and interests to achieve popularity – and to connect with people who are just as invested in their interests.

Ninja connects with people whose interest in video games compels them to make investments of their time and money. Through his live-streams, Ninja parlays a core interest for many Gen-Z and millennials into worldwide appeal, a showcase of how influential these common interests can be. Appearing in Times Square tells us that the ubiquitous appeal of video games, and moreover the influencers who play them, can open up many doors for marketers and advertisers in the new year.

Instagram’s “bugged” redesign: When change is unacceptable

Earlier this week, some Instagram users encountered an update to the way they use the social media platform’s Explore page. Their Explore page scrolled horizontally, like Instagram Stories, rather than appearing as a grid. Though Instagram called this update a “bug,” many surmised it was supposed to be a new feature. Whether this is true is irrelevant: Instagram has evidently been testing new ways for users to interact with content, and due to the negative reaction to the horizontal scroll, Instagram reversed the update.

Whether they fix bugs, patch security holes, or add new features, Instagram is routinely updating its app. Most of the time these changes go unnoticed, but the introduction of new features almost always creates controversy. For example, when Instagram changed its post algorithm so it was no longer chronological in March 2018, many users were irate. Though the horizontal scroll “bug” was not official, its brief appearance triggered similar reactions.

The Julius View:

When it comes to growing an app, social media platforms have to balance the preferences of their user base with the desires of their investors. While users want features that deliver them the content they want to see, whether it’s their friends’ posts, influencer content, or the latest memes, investors want a commercially profitable product.

As Instagram, like any tech company, attempts to deliver updates that please both groups, they have to bear in mind their own creative direction as it relates to the overall health of the platform. Ultimately, it’s a company of designers and engineers delicately balancing their own projects with the uncompromising demands of the balance sheet. Consequently, as is common in the world of tech, new features can fall flat.

Users want fresh, creative, and appealing ways to spend their time on social media, but they are resistant to major changes to features they love and flee when they feel a platform has gone stale. MySpace is the perfect example of an outdated mode of social networking, one that once had appeal but overstayed its welcome.

Instagram will continue to try new features to improve user engagement and retention, even while the going is good. Testing features is vital to maintaining the health of a platform and all the business empowered by it.

What’s trending this week?

“Jack Black’s YouTube Channel Nabs 2.5 Million Subscribers In Less Than Two Weeks” Via TubeFilter

“Pet Influencers Are Taking Over Because Human Influencers Keep Messing It Up” - Via Jezebel

“The Worst Influencer Marketing Fails of 2018” - Via Digiday

“Five Key Trends Shaping Influencer Marketing In 2019” - Via Forbes


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