Social Pulse, Week of 11-9

Every week I keep tabs on what’s trending, new technology and consumer habits that impact the social web. These are summed up in a round-up called Social Pulse. Sign up to get this in your inbox every Friday here.

What Does 2021 Hold for Digital/Social? This week there is lots of discussion online about what the future of digital and social look like under a Biden administration. Short answer: focus on privacy, data, antitrust, and China will still be a focus, including potentially revoking Section 230, the section of the Communications Decency Act that shields internet companies from liability for the content that they host. Perhaps there will be movement on net neutrality. And look to Twitter to be more aggressive at deactivating troublesome accounts.

2021 Social Media Planning Calendar: It’s not quite the new year, but it’s never too early to start planning Q1. Social Bakers have published a 2021 calendar you can combine with your own brand moments and hashtag holidays that you care about. It integrates with Google Calendar, plus it can be downloaded as an .ics cal to upload to your platform of choice.

Parler’s Rise to #1: In the last week a relatively unknown social network called Parler has rocketed to the #1 spot for app downloads, beating out Zoom, Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube. Parler calls itself “an unbiased social media focused on real user experiences and engagement,” with “free expression without violence and no censorship.” And it is growing in popularity as Twitter and Facebook start enforcing new moderation policies as some conservatives look for alternative social networks to connect. Just like any other emerging social network, brands should consider registering their brand handles to inoculate against trolls or squatting.

Give Your Social Team a (Virtual) Hug Today: In the relentless news cycle of 2020, social media pros are first responders, and it’s been a nonstop crisis almost the entire calendar year. Yet the importance of their work is often invisible and sometimes underappreciated. Journalist Marta Martinez has a highly recommended read called “The Social Media Managers are Not Okay” that spells out the essential role of a social team in 2020.

Key quote: “Social media managers are making important — and very public — decisions all the time. They need to respond to news and conversations quickly to be effective. The public voice and image of companies, media outlets, public figures, and institutions are in their hands at a very delicate time. Yet their job is still often seen as something anyone could do, or left to those who are just getting started in their careers… It is an essential job. We need to have more infrastructure and awareness of the fact that we’re in service to our audience.”

Payola in the Spotify Era: With the news that Spotify will begin allowing artists and labels to influence recommendations if they accept a lowered “promotional recording royalty rate” for the resulting plays, a new generation is learning the definition of payola, and how it has artificially influenced the music industry for decades. There have always been creative marketing solutions behind the scenes, but this is one to watch – especially as the music industry tends to “break” trends before they move to other categories, influencers, and publishers.

Twitter’s Carousel Ads are Here (Organic, too!): This week Twitter introduced a new Carousels format. Brands can now add up to six images or videos in an ad, they can run organically or promoted, and like other carousel ads, and although every brand is different, they are expected to perform extremely well. For example, Carousel ads on Facebook and Instagram reportedly drive 10 times more web traffic for businesses than the counter single-image ads. And a Facebook study showed Carousel ads drove a 72% higher click-through rate than single images. Read more about the announcement here.

Business Reads of the Week: McKinsey’s 2020 Holiday Seasons in a Pandemic Report; 6 skills employees will need in the post-pandemic workplace; It’s time for brands to double down on activism; The Battle for the Soul of Digital Freedom Taking Place Inside Your Printer

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Social Pulse, Week of 10-5

Every week I keep tabs on what’s trending, new technology and consumer habits that impact the social web. These are summed up in a round-up called Social Pulse. Sign up to get this in your inbox every Friday here.

Get Your Instagram Birthday Icons: To celebrate its 10th birthday, Instagram added an Easter egg to the app that lets you change its home screen icon to the classic Polaroid-style camera icon, Pride rainbow, monochrome, and more. The app update also includes a private map and archive of your stories from the past three years. To unlock these icons, go to Settings and pull the whole menu DOWN. Here’s a quick video demo.

Stories and More Stories: From Snapchat to Instagram and Facebook to Linked, the “Stories” content vehicle format continues to grow in popularity. It’s an ephemeral, accessible, and vertical first format that’s easy to share and easier to consume. This week both Google Search and Slack added Stories to their platforms.

Triller Paying Big $ to Grow: TikTok-cloneapp Triller is bolstering its quality and reach by offering notable creators big bucks to make content dedicated for the platform. Key quote: “Triller offered the creators a deal: Tell your audience on TikTok that you’re moving to Triller, and we’ll give you equity and roles within the company. You can still post on TikTok, they were told, but only if you post on Triller more frequently.” The platform is quite popular with Trumpers, QAnon and Pizzagate conspiracy theorists, although it picked up lots of new users when folks thought TikTok could be banned.

Nvidia Maxine Sets Out to Fix All the Problems With Video Calls: You know when you’re in a video call and the person on the other end isn’t looking directly at the camera, has really bad audio and video quality, steps out of frame completely, or overall it just feels like maybe you should just do a phone call? Nvidia has announced a new videoconferencing platform for developers named Nvidia Maxine that claims to fix all of these problems, and more. Watch a demo here.

A Social Network Rooted in Kindness? A team of former Quora employees are using lessons learned from Twitter in an effort to make social networking fun again, launching an invite-only social network called Telepath. Telepath threads combine the urgency of Twitter with the ephemerality of Snapchat (posts disappear after 30 days). The key differentiator is you must use real names and the network hosts an in-house content moderation team that enforces kindness. Key quote: “Telepath is ultimately in a tug-of-war: Is it possible to encourage lively-yet-decent debate on a platform without seeing it devolve into harassment? Most users assume that being online involves taking a certain amount of abuse, particularly if you’re a woman or from a marginalized group. Ideally, that doesn’t have to be the case.” Join the waitlist here.

Forecast is Public: Facebook is opening its experimental predictions app Forecast to all users. It’s pretty fun to make predictions – and bet – on trending news or world events, or add your own. For example, I added a forecast asking if you believe if the President would pardon a turkey this year or not. What do you think? Download it here.

Happy Birthday @HydraulicPressChannel! It’s been 5 years of publishing videos of a hydraulic press crushing things like gummy bears, duct tape, basketballs, and more. Of course, the channel celebrated by smashing lit birthday candles. So satisfying.  

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Social Pulse, Week of 9-21

Every week I keep tabs on what’s trending, new technology and consumer habits that impact the social web. These are summed up in a round-up called Social Pulse. Sign up to get this in your inbox every Friday here.

Facebook Drops the 20% Rule for Text Ads: Facebook is discontinuing the 20% or less text mandate, explaining that: “…we will no longer penalize ads with higher amounts of image text in auctions and delivery.” The Text Overlay tool has even vanished! Of course, Facebook still asserts that ads with <20% text perform better, and recommends that advertisers “keep your text short, clear and concise in order to get your message across effectively.” But starting immediately, it shouldn’t limit reach if you go over that %.


Google Maps Layer News: This week Google Maps is adding a COVID-19 layer featuring the seven-day average of new cases per 100,000 people for the area of the map you’re looking at, and a label that indicates whether the cases are trending up or down. When you open Google Maps, tap on the layers button on the top right hand corner of your screen and click on “COVID-19 info.” If you don’t have it yet, wait a day and try again. Also this week, the Cherokee Nation’s reservation boundaries are now visible on Google Maps — an overdue acknowledgment of the tribal lands in Oklahoma.


Ghosts are Hot This Year: As we enter “spooky season,” increasingly everyone is dressing as ghosts on TikTok…
UPDATE: It was brought to my attention that this trend has had legitimate criticism from Black people about a TikTok trend where teens walk around in groups with white sheets on. There have been lots of Part 2’s and updates from the initial reports. That wasn’t on my radar whatsoever, or I would have included it. Or perhaps not even shared this trending news item. I apologize. As a white man on the internet, I am trying to learn from my privilege and share work from creators and inclusion of POC each week, but I will admit there are blind spots and I make mistakes. This was one of those. Thank you for flagging. Let’s all help each other do better. I insist.


Forget Alexa, it’s all about Hey Samuel: Amazon is building on the Samuel L. Jackson celebrity voice skill by adding 30,000 (!!!!) more phrases and five times the swear words. And you can now activate the voice by saying “Hey Samuel.” Buy the f*cking skill for your Echo devices for $.99 here.


Among Us All Around Us: More than two years since its release, the world is playing a “whodunnit” game called Among Us thanks to the growing popularity of party games in a global pandemic, memes, and and Twitch. It’s the third-most-played game on Steam! This week the developers cancelled the sequel this week to continue supporting the initial game. Download Among Us here and play on your phone for free!


iOS14 Hacks: iOS 14 lets you re-do app icons so naturally someone remade them all much worse in MS paint style. And here are some gorgeous new layouts using the new Widgets. And if you have AirPod Pros, test out the new spatial audio by opening your AirPod settings (in Bluetooth menu), turn on spatial audio, and watch this movie. Then, load up The Mandalorian Season 2 trailer in the Disney+ app and practice turning your head back and forth from your phone while it plays. It’s amazing!!


If It’s Boring or Mundane, It Could Go Viral: Landscaping, car detailing, beekeeping, and power washing are mundane tasks finding fans on social media thanks to discovery algorithms. Key quote: “TikTok’s much-discussed algorithm is the big reason these videos have succeeded. Whereas on Instagram or YouTube, you might have to seek these videos out — I certainly have never searched for cool logging videos — TikTok is built around serving up anything its algorithm deems addictive to viewers at large.” The trend is a combination of “oddly satisfying: content, pent up pandemic frustration/boredom, and genuinely interesting human jobs and tasks you wouldn’t ordinary see.


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Social Pulse, Week of 9-14

Every week I keep tabs on what’s trending, new technology and consumer habits that impact the social web. These are summed up in a round-up called Social Pulse. Sign up to get this in your inbox every Friday here.

iOS 14: If you’re an Apple user, it’s time to update your phone! Widgets! New Memojis! And more! Read about all the goodness here. Favorite feature so far? The back tap screenshot.

Young Tech Rises: Young people in Silicon Valley are organizing as a “kind of counterpoint to the Silicon Valley establishment, which its members say is exclusive, elitist and riddled with systemic problems including sexism, ageism and racism.” This includes Gen Z Mafia (creators of Tweetledee, where you can match with your Twitter crush), Eye Mouth Eye (creators of 👁👄👁 that raised money for criminal justice reform), and more. Look for more of this trend as the next generation comes into the tech industry.

Blaseball > Baseball? Real sports are finally back, but that hasn’t stopped the latest season of Blaseball. It’s an online baseball simulation full of fake teams, fake players, and fake betting on virtual games acting out a baseball season – with games every day and post-season on Saturdays. Even if it’s fake baseball with fake wagering, there’s a huge subculture of fandom, fan art, fan fiction, and more emerging for teams with names like Kansas City Breath Mints and Seattle Garages. Sign up here and get in the game!

Hoax of the Week: If you’ve seen your Facebook friends posting sketchy legalese that says something like “Don’t forget tomorrow starts the new Facebook rule where they can use your photo” it’s simply not true. Variations of this have been going around for more than 8 years, and posting statement on your feed will do nothing to invalidate the user agreement you sign to use the platform. If you’re not up for a comment fight when you see these, be sure to report these posts as “False News” so they don’t spread further. And no, Facebook won’t alert your great uncle it was you that reported it.

Smart Glasses > Dumb Glasses: Every major tech company — including Amazon, Apple, Google, Intel, Snap, and Microsoft – are working on smart glasses. Here’s a review of the new Amazon Echo Frames. And this week Facebook shared a first look at their prototype, in partnership with Ray-Ban. We’re entering this really interesting mid-step in smart glasses consumer tech. The pre-AR phase.

Body Positivity Comes to TikTok: There has always been an undercurrent of authenticity backlash to the “success theater” of perfect faces, bodies, and homes on social media. Lately, this trend is bubbling to the surface through a renewed body positivity movement on TikTok. Key quote: “They’re showing what a normal body looks like, and none of us are really used to seeing that in the media. … When we see these sorts of videos online, social media, they’re kind of breaking the illusion that everyone is perfect except us.” Here’s a list of body positive accounts to follow.  

5 Leadership Reads of the Week: 1) Your surge capacity is depleted – here’s what to do about it.  2) Intelligent Minds Like Tim Cook and Jeff Bezos Embrace the Rule of Awkward Silence. You Should Too. 3) 14 Tech Trends To Watch Closely In 2020. 4) The internet of protest is being built on single-page websites. 5) We’re All Socially Awkward Now.

Patents of the Week: Would you pay $2 to put links in your Instagram posts? Facebook has filed for a patent for that. Although patent filings aren’t a guarantee that new technology will come to fruition, they give us a hint of where we may be headed. Other recent patents of note include: Apple headphones, electronic yarn, watching eSports in VR, and joining meetings on Xbox.

Stream of the Week: The Social Dilemma on Netflix is required watching for any marketer who touches social media or anyone who uses social media (so… everybody?). Former leaders at Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Mozilla share the history and purpose of algorithms, advertising strategy, infinite scroll, and the Like button. After watching, read through this intelligent critique of many of the assertions made by the filmmakers.

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Social Pulse, Week of 9-7


Every week I keep tabs on what’s trending, new technology and consumer habits that impact the social web. These are summed up in a round-up called Social Pulse. Sign up to get this in your inbox every Friday here.

When Your Group Text Thread Becomes Your Primary Social Channel: This week Founders Fund VP Mike Solana tweeted, “the secret chat group culture that’s happening right now is absolutely next level,” pointing to the rise of ‘dark social’ (aka private sharing via text, chat, and microbrowsers) that is exploding in our current state of callout/cancel/accountability culture. I’ve seen this trend coming for some time, predicting back in 2016 that dark social would eclipse public social. A recent study showed 20% of respondents ONLY share via dark channels, and that behavior is only accelerating with the looming election. Brands will need to continue to consider shifts in social listening, targeting, tracking, and tactics like micro-video previews for URLS shared in chat.  


1st Sound Change in 7 Years in John Cage’s 639-Year-Long Song: The world’s slowest musical composition, “As Slow as Possible,” went through its first chord change in seven years this week in Germany. Key quote: “Nineteen years later, there have been 15 note changes, the last coming on October 5th, 2013. For the past 2,527 days, the St. Burchardi organ had resonated the same note, the piece’s longest-held note so far and longest until at least 2071.” You can watch the 4 hour live stream of the key change here.


China’s QVC-Style Social Shopping Goes Mainstream: Although U.S. live stream shopping tends to live in multilevel marketing circles, in China it’s a $66 billion industry on pace to DOUBLE thanks to COVID. Key quote: “Live-stream shopping is a blend of entertainment and e-commerce. Viewers buy goods online from people who show off their latest finds — from lipsticks to laundry detergent — in real-time videos… Hosts can give their fans discount coupons and flash deals in real time, while viewers can click to send their favorite stars virtual ‘gifts.’” It’s a whole different definition of influencer when they are literally selling all day long.


Google’s Personalized Algorithmic Radio Remix: Google Assistant now includes “Your News Update,” which gathers news clips from different outlets and plays them in one continuous audio feed. Key quote: “The goal is to create a seamless 90-minute broadcast—a mix of radio, podcast snippets, and text-to-speech article translations—tailored to an audience of one… Based on Google’s wealth of user data, your particular playlist might feature stories about sports teams you follow or… news from local outlets… Google’s algorithms then hunt for keywords and topics in stories that are most likely to be connected to your interests.” It’s Android-only, with iOS surely on the way.


Would You Quit Facebook for $10/Week? Facebook is commissioning research into how its apps influence “key political attitudes and behaviors during the US 2020 elections,” and will pay Facebook and Instagram users $10-20/week to stop using their apps. You can’t opt in, but you may be invited. More here.


Stop Snitch Tagging! You know when someone is being talked about online and then a commenter @-tags the person so they see it? That’s called snitch tagging, and it’s one of the social web’s biggest pet peeves. Read why here.


Insta of the Week: @tot_for_tot_remakes features a father and daughter remaking classic movie scenes.


Tweets of the Week: Civil War generals as Muppets a definitive thread. The @LooneyTunes intern is at it again. And @CrazyIIIusions asks Is This Drawing a Rabbit or a Duck?

Podcast of the Week: Dissect is back, and this season the focus is “Because the Internet” by Childish Gambino. Dissect’s approach analyzes one album per season, one song per episode. The first two episodes are live now!


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