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
TikTok is catching up to its competition with forthcoming ad buys
Popular video-sharing app TikTok is slowly ratcheting up its features, introducing native ads to some users when they launch the app. Though it’s apparently in beta, ad testing signals a great leap forward for TikTok, which already claimed to have over 500 million active users globally as of July. For reference, that puts it ahead of Twitter’s 336 million active users.
TikTok boasts an array of fun features that appeal to its younger user base. The New York Times describes it as, “a quirky hybrid of Snapchat, the defunct video app Vine, and the TV segment ‘Carpool Karaoke.’” It offers easy-to-use video editing and a streamlined timeline (without any news). Many laud its simplicity, lack of controversy, and primary focus on user-generated content. For those reasons, its surging popularity is understandable.
The Julius View
TikTok is the next frontier for influencer marketing. The platform still has some growing to do, but influencers have already started flocking to the platform – for example, Jacob Sartorius of Musical.ly fame took to the platform immediately. One thing to look out for as TikTok matures is how it handles privacy and the responsibility of a social media app whose biggest stars are under 18.
Though TikTok set its minimum age to 13, a Chinese newspaper launched an investigation into accounts owned by kids as young as nine who exposed their identities online. Behind its lighthearted and musical veneer are allegations of bullying, child predators, and sexual harassment. TikTok has responded in kind, increasing its number of moderators and tweaking its terms of service to curb inappropriate behavior.
Naturally, these are problems endemic to free social media – there’s no good way to curb underage use and abuse of the platform without limiting features or changing privacy requirements. Every major social media platform has had to contend with these issues. TikTok is no different, and though it’s catching up in terms of monetization, it’s next step forward is moderation.
Influencers can amplify the effect of cause marketing
The annual Bell Let’s Talk Day took place this week, fielding thousands of tweets from influencers and celebrities all over the world. Bell, the Canadian telecommunications giant, donates five cents to mental health initiatives across Canada for every tweet that uses the hashtag #BellLetsTalk. From hockey players to politicians, mommy bloggers and fashion models, influencers from all over the spectrum take part in the event.
Bell’s mental health advocacy is one of the most successful examples of corporate cause advocacy on social media. The ALS Ice Bucket challenge achieved worldwide acclaim, thanks in part to the celebrities and digital influencers who joined in, but the trend was relatively short-lived. Bell’s program has grown each year, attracting more than 1 billion interactions and raising over $100 million for mental health since 2011.
The Julius View
Cause marketing, like Bell’s Let’s Talk initiative, has been transformed by the rise of social media. While Bell’s campaign incidentally benefits from influencers taking part, brands using influencers for their cause marketing have experienced similar levels of success. Causes that genuinely align with an influencer’s beliefs can yield compelling and authentic content, all while focusing the attention on a call-to-action.
Brands like Colgate, National Geographic, and Walmart have used influencers in their cause marketing campaigns to amplify their messages, elaborate their positions, and connect with their audience. Not only can such campaigns improve a brand’s public image, they can effect real, positive change. Bell Let’s Talk is a great example of how social media and the power of influence can make a difference in the world around us.
Controversies abound, but Facebook isn't slowing down
Users and profits are up, but sentiments are down in Palo Alto. This week, Facebook announced that by 2020, it would integrate the infrastructure of Facebook Messenger, Instagram direct messages, and WhatsApp messaging. While it’s presently unclear how this will look, it’s reported that only the infrastructure will merge, meaning each app will remain independent. That means WhatsApp users won’t have to make Facebook accounts, and Instagram DMs will stay on Instagram. Facebook says it’s working on making more of its messaging products end-to-end encrypted.
While the news brought with it a series of questions and concerns regarding logistics, encryption, and unforeseen consequences, Facebook endured another, unrelated controversy. According to TechCrunch, Facebook allegedly paid some iPhone and Android users to install a research VPN that “analyzed phone activity” by providing Facebook with root access to a phone’s encrypted data. Under the guise of a research app, administered through various beta testing services, Facebook obscured their involvement in the program. Designed to harvest data on user habits and trends, the app was apparently in violation of several Apple policies regarding data privacy. Apple removed the app from their app store, shortly after Facebook announced it would take it down.
The Julius View
It seems that whenever Facebook makes it to the headlines, it’s rarely for a good reason. Though the the research app dispute may pale in comparison to the other controversies in which Facebook is embroiled, it’s nonetheless disconcerting for users and brands alike. However, Facebook announced that both profits and users increased last quarter. It seems that despite the crushing indictments levied their way, Facebook still persists as a global leader in social media.
Has Facebook become so essential to daily life that it can weather any storm? Is so much money invested in its success that its failure represents a sunk cost for the millions of companies that rely on it? These questions are difficult to answer, but what’s clear is that Facebook is incredibly resilient in the face of controversy. In the case of influencer marketing, Facebook still holds a vice grip on the industry. A CPC Strategy study last year found that “70 percent of consumers are most likely to hear about new products, services or events from people they follow on Facebook.”
Facebook’s ownership of the crowned king of influencer platforms, Instagram, adds another layer of complexity to the situation. Though Instagram appears insulated from the sheer volume of controversies that Facebook endures, it’s inextricably linked to them. Perhaps it’ll take more than just allegations to rock the boat, but at a certain point the industry of influencer marketing must grapple with the essential question of social media: How does privacy protection alter its effectiveness? If users don’t feel like their privacy is safe on a social network, how can they trust the content they consume?
Have You Listened to Our Podcast?
This week, we aired the first episode of our rebranded podcast, Julius Profiles. Featuring guests from Social Chain, our head of customer success, Danny Palestine, discusses “the art of personalization” in influencer marketing. Don’t miss out on these insights, listen here!
What’s Trending This Week?
“Pitch Deck: How TikTok Iis Selling Ads in Europe” - Via Digiday