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Updated: 1 year 29 weeks ago

Pinterest: 46 Government Requests for User Information, 7 Content-Removal Requests in 2H 2016

Thu, 01/26/2017 - 23:30

Pinterest was the first of the major social network to release its Transparency Report for the second half of 2016, but its task is relatively easy compared to those of Facebook and Twitter.

Why do we say that?

Pinterest received a total of 46 government requests for user information from June through December 2016.

In contrast, Facebook reported 59,229 government requests for data in the first half of 2016, while that figure was 5.676 for Twitter during the same time period.

Pinterest said it received 24 subpoenas, two court orders and 20 warrants during the last six months of 2016, all from the U.S., involving a total of 116 accounts. It provided some information on 42 of those requests.

The social network also received seven content-removal requests during the six-month period, all from Russia.

In contrast, Facebook received 9,663 content-removal requests from January through June 2016.

Categories: English

There Is No Salvation for the ‘Facebook Expert’

Thu, 01/26/2017 - 23:00

In the old days of search marketing, it was about tricking the dumb robots–buy links, cloak, spin content, or whatever trick you could pull.

And then came the old days of Facebook marketing (up through 2014), which was also about tricking the dumb robots–arb out placements available only via Power Editor, run weighted average fan acquisition campaigns internationally, pollute a competitor’s remarketing campaigns by sending garbage traffic, scrape Facebook user IDs to generate custom audiences, roll up applications to build your email list, run sponsored stories with messages fans never endorsed, move text to bypass the 20 percent rule and the list goes on.

Sounds like a bunch of mumbo jumbo?

Good–that means you’re not one of the people who are about to get slaughtered. Maybe it’s people on your staff or some of your vendors. Seeing the forest from the trees, the smart Facebook advertiser no longer salivates like happy dogs hearing dinging bells.

Ride the gimmick game from tactic to tactic–and as each trick exhausts, you are a junkie in search of your next fix. As we said before, Facebook has now largely solved the optimization challenge for you.

Choose your business objective, load up your content, connect your audiences–that’s it. Put the money in the machine and Facebook itself does the optimization. But you’re still responsible for your goals, content and targeting.

This kills the single-channel marketer and a raft of Facebook-only companies at the same time. The walking dead who are peddling search-engine optimization, Facebook ads, or other disciplines are starting to realize this. They’re dropping SEO out of their name, rebranding as content marketers and jumping ship.

Keyword <> Facebook interests (2007-11)

You see, keywords were a great start in search-engine marketing. And the first folks to do Facebook advertising were the search PPC (pay-per-click) folks that assumed interests were keywords. Some people even pretended to build software that mapped Google keywords to Facebook interests.

Of course, that didn’t work.

That’s also why you don’t see any legitimate keyword, audience research or competitive tools for Facebook. It was easy with Google, since you could set up a crawler to scan where you ranked and also monitor competitor ads. On Facebook, because every user feed is personalized and behind a login, you have no idea what anyone else is doing or seeing. There is no legitimate competitive ad intelligence tool out there, and I doubt there ever will be.

Back to the consultants and software companies, which had raised funding from venture-capital firms which themselves hadn’t used Facebook. The curtain were hamster wheels, frenetically spinning to extract intent out of things people liked. But what you clicked like on in an indeterminate time past was no proxy for your immediate needs now–a broken toilet, hunger pangs for sushi or the need to buy a wedding gift for an old high-school friend.

You just couldn’t make gold from coal, no matter how many philosopher stones and divining rods you had. The fool’s gold of social was inflated fan campaigns, the bubble of app installs and general nonsense passed off to unsuspecting brands. Back when Facebook had one-dozen offices in Palo Alto, Calif., in 2008 (its food was delicious and still is), I felt we had a new tech gold rush.

But this time, it was data miners, not panhandlers–though the same charlatans existed selling their wares.

We actually did have search ads in 2011 briefly on Facebook. But Facebook pulled them because 99 percent of the searches were navigational, not demand-driven. And, I suspect, a lot of brands didn’t like being sniped on their own terms.

It was a clever, effective parlor trick.

In the same way you could cloak the search engines (show them one thing, while showing users another), with Facebook ads, you could programmatically bid high and low every 60 seconds. Thus when you created the ad at the high bid, it would get priority in the auction.

But when the system came around to bill you, it would notice the lower CPM (cost per thousand impressions) bid, assume there was an error and credit you back. The ad geeks called this optimization, but I called it cheating.

Facebook going through the ‘teenage years’ (2011-14)

With Power Editor and the Facebook Ads API (application-programming interface), the geeks got a ton of tools to play with. The number of ad types grew to more than 30, depending on how you counted them. Multiply that by the hundreds of thousands of interest targets (we got a list of 300,000 from Facebook at one point), partner targeting (offline behavioral data), custom audiences, and demographic data and you have billions of combinations possible.

The complexity created huge niche opportunities, as well as room for consultants to sell into the confusion. Facebook was able to “move fast and break things,” which conferred advantage to folks who could exploit cracks in the system before they were fixed.

For example, a number of companies found that they could spin up thousands of ads at low bids. And the ad algorithm wasn’t smart enough to know, allowing you to game the system. Many of the software companies that manage Facebook ads still rely upon this mass multiplying.

Even if you could get the targeting spot on, trying to do CPM and CPC (cost per click) bids against a range of placements was too hard.

So optimized CPM solved this issue by not only bidding to the business objective, but subselecting within the broad audience you’ve chosen. This solved the problem of needing to micro-target (you reading this?) and of conversion optimization. It meant the system could automatically learn who your best customers are and find more of them for you–lookalikes, for example.

Now if only they could create your content for you–use PostPlanner, Canva and your customers to curate and create for you, meanwhile. Every piece of content, which includes every organic post you’ve done, necessitates a different audience, too.

In the Google ad world, you create content that exists only for advertising and can live forever.  Set it and forget it.

But on Facebook, it’s the opposite–there are no ads, just organic posts that you amplify. You throw fuel on the fire once you find that something is working. The “always-on” post was perhaps my favorite ad, since it would just promote your most recent post. But that died, largely because not all posts should get promoted, like when you’re notifying the community of a problem.

There is still no good solution for this issue, so you need a human to watch this every few days. You can simplify their work by predefining the audiences they can choose from–saved audiences and various custom audiences.

Facebook ads as a young adult (2015 and onward)

I suppose if you’re old enough to drive a car and get your own place, you’re an adult. But maybe if you’re not old enough to drink or possess maturity in other subjective areas to be truly “grown-up.”

Likewise, Facebook integrates with only a few systems that you’ll need–your content-management system and your customer-relationship-management solution. Facebook is a platform that connects the two, matching people with content–you just happen to need to pay to do it–social postage, if you will.

Assuming you can get the content (Facebook posts, blog posts, photos from customers, reviews, etc.) and users (emails, app users, pixeled users, check-in users, etc.) piped in automatically, you still have to deal with specifying the business logic of sequences. In other words, you have to chain out content delivery according to the customer persona and where they are in the funnel.

The current batch of marketing automation companies out there do this nascently via drag-and-drop flow charts.

I’d argue that even if Facebook were to create the ultimate version of Power Editor, there is no way it will succeed in asking customers to build duplicate funnel logic within Facebook. It will have to integrate with the marketing automation companies to replicate the same logic into Facebook. Same users and content–just delivered beyond just email, which is what’s currently happening.

The marketing automation companies are really just email automation companies, since they don’t extend across all marketing channels yet. I predict three more years before Facebook is truly able to help mainstream small business owners. The delay is less about their technology, which is already robust enough, but about partners that need to integrate platforms and about educating marketers what Facebook is and isn’t.

Google was founded in 1998 (2000 for AdWords), so that’s 17 years. And I’d argue that it is too hard (at least its ad platform) for most businesses to use.

Facebook was founded in 2004 (2007 for ads), so not bad for only 10 years. Facebook ad optimization is a human psychology and finance problem, not a geek optimization problem.

When these integrations are finally in place, the finance people will be running the show. In undergrad religious studies, we learned about supersessionism. The Christians say they believe everything the Jews do but chide them for missing Jesus. The Muslims say they believe in everything the Christians do but they missed out on Mohammed. I’m not a preacher, so forgive the oversimplification.

When the web started to become mainstream in the mid-1990s, it was dominated by tech weenies. They were called webmasters, if you were around then. And they protected their high priesthoods with jargon, in the typical union-like keep-away played by IT.

Then the marketers came in and took over the web functions, too. And you’re not surprised that the chief marketing officer now outspends the chief technology on technology. The mainstream marketers–even business-to-business and small and midsized businesses–have been blasting Facebook posts indiscriminately.

Facebook stock is way up because of this, but nobody is quite sure what the return on investment is of these efforts.

We’re in the end of this period now.

Now the finance people are coming in. They don’t care about the information-technology or marketing stuff, except to minimize cost centers and not eat too much into profit margins. So the smart marketer must tie Facebook results to profits and losses, which is the only thing that finance people care about.

They are no longer OK with impressions, likes, shares or reach–they want revenue and margin maximization. The Facebook ads geek can talk a good technical game about how novices wouldn’t possibly begin to comprehend the complexity of these algorithms.

They may even be able to talk content marketing and marketing automation. But the people holding the purse strings will tire of this, since they want to know cost and revenue, tied neatly into a forecast. And that is why the Facebook tech weenie or Facebook guru will be dead soon, along with all single-channel marketers.

It’s not just Facebook ad specialists: It also includes social media strategists and anyone professing channel or tool-specific expertise. External consultants who come in for specialized situations–sure, there’s some room for that, but not in-house. Left behind is the ROI-minded marketer that leaves the optimization natively to the networks.

That smart marketer focuses on business goals, sources content in line with personas, and has the systems build audiences automatically.

Categories: English

Facebook Revamps Privacy Basics

Thu, 01/26/2017 - 21:30

Facebook issued an update to its Privacy Basics portal in advance of Data Privacy Day Jan. 28.

The social network introduced Privacy Basics in November 2014, saying at the time that it offered interactive guides to answer the most frequently asked questions by users about how they could control their information on Facebook.

Facebook said in a Newsroom post Thursday that Privacy Basics now features 32 such guides, in 44 languages, adding:

People share their most valued moments on Facebook, and we want to make tips and tools clear and accessible whenever you need them. Privacy Basics gives you tips for things like securing your account, understanding who can see posts and knowing what your profile looks like to others. This is part of Facebook’s overall effort to make sure you have all the information you need to share what you want with only the people you want to see it.

We’re making these improvements as part of Data Privacy Day, held each year on Jan. 28. We’re joining state attorneys general and other policymakers who are sharing their own privacy information on Facebook, along with organizations around the world like the National Cyber Security Alliance, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Center for Democracy and Technology, who are working to raise awareness of how to take charge of your information online. In addition to visiting Privacy Basics, we encourage you to take the time to:

  • Take the Privacy Checkup: You’ll walk through a few quick steps to make sure only the people you want to see your stuff can see it. You can review who you’re posting to, which applications you’re using and the privacy of key pieces of information on your profile.
  • Choose who sees what you post: On Facebook, you can use the audience selector to choose who will see each of your posts–just your friends, everyone or specific people you select.
  • Increase your account security by turning on login approvals: You’ll get a unique security code each time you access your Facebook account from a new device.

Readers: Have you ever accessed Facebook’s Privacy Basics? What are your thoughts?

Categories: English

Facebook News Feed Algorithm: Percent of a Video Watched By Users Given Weight

Thu, 01/26/2017 - 21:00

Facebook announced another change to its News Feed algorithm, this time giving more weight to what percentage of a video is watched by users.

Product manager Abhishek Bapna and research scientist Seyoung Park detailed the tweak in a Newsroom post, saying that one of the reasons for the move was to avoid penalizing longer videos. They wrote:

Today, we’re announcing a change to the way we rank videos in News Feed to adjust the value we give to how much of a video is watched. One of the signals we look at is “percent completion”–the percent of each video you watch–to help us understand which videos you enjoyed. If you watch most or all of a video, that tells us that you found the video to be compelling–and we know that completing a longer video is a bigger commitment than completing a shorter one. As we continue to understand how our community consumes video, we’ve realized that we should therefore weight percent completion more heavily the longer a video is, to avoid penalizing longer videos.

Bapna and Park said the change to the algorithm will “roll out gradually over the coming weeks,” and they addressed its potential impact on pages:

While we expect that most pages will not see significant changes in distribution as a result of this update, longer videos that people spend time watching may see a slight increase in distribution on Facebook–so people who find longer videos engaging may be able to discover more of them in News Feed. As a side effect, some shorter videos may see a slight dip in News Feed distribution.

As always, pages should focus on creating videos that are relevant and engaging to their audiences. Longer videos that people don’t want to watch will not perform better in News Feed. The best length for a video is whatever length is required to tell a compelling story that engages people, which is likely to vary depending on the story you’re telling. You also should look at your video insights in page analytics to understand how your videos perform.

Readers: What are your thoughts on the latest change to Facebook’s News Feed algorithm?

Image courtesy of nicomenijes/iStock.

Categories: English

Unlock Facebook With a Physical Security Key?

Thu, 01/26/2017 - 20:30

Facebook announced support for physical security keys with certain web browsers and mobile devices.

Security engineer Brad Hill said in a Facebook Security note that the option is an alternative to the two-factor authentication solution it currently offers, whereby users receive security codes for login approvals via text messages. He wrote:

Starting today, you can register a physical security key to your account so that the next time you log in after enabling login approvals, you’ll simply tap a small hardware device that goes in the USB drive of your computer. Security keys can be purchased through companies like Yubico, and the keys support the open Universal 2nd Factor (U2F) standard hosted by the FIDO Alliance.

Security keys for Facebook logins currently only work with certain web browsers and mobile devices, so we’ll ask you to also register an additional login approval method, such as your mobile phone or Code Generator. To add a security key from your computer, you’ll need to be using the latest version of Chrome or Opera. At this time, we don’t support security key logins for our mobile Facebook application, but if you have an NFC-capable Android device with the latest version of Chrome and Google Authenticator installed, you can use an NFC-capable key to log in from our mobile website.

Hill also outlined the benefits of using security keys for two-factor authentication:

  • Phishing protection: Your login is practically immune to phishing because you don’t have to enter a code yourself and the hardware provides cryptographic proof that it’s in your machine.
  • Interoperable: Security keys that support U2F don’t just work for Facebook accounts. You can use the same key for any supported online account (e.g., Google, Dropbox, GitHub, Salesforce), and those accounts can stay safe because the key doesn’t retain any records of where it is used.
  • Fast login: If you use a security key with your desktop computer, logging in is as simple as a tap on the key after you enter your password.

Readers: Would you consider using a physical security key to login to Facebook?

Keep Your Facebook Account Safe with YubiKey from Yubico on Vimeo.

Categories: English

Facebook Testing Slideshow Feature in Android App

Thu, 01/26/2017 - 19:45

Some Android users are starting to see the Slideshow feature Facebook introduced for its flagship iOS application last June (pictured to the right).

Slideshow was actually born as part of Facebook’s stand-alone Moments app.

As its name suggests, Slideshow enables users to combine multiple photos and videos into a slideshow, complete with music and a customized title

Phil Oakley of Android Police shared the screenshots below, saying that users in the test group are seeing Slideshow among their “Post to Facebook” options, above “Tag Friends,” and tapping on it brings them to a gallery of photos and videos.

And the social network confirmed to Sarah Perez of TechCrunch that it is testing Slideshow with “a small percentage” of Android users.

Readers: Would you like to see Facebook launch Slideshow for Android?

Categories: English

Twitter Launching Explore Tab for iOS, Android Apps

Thu, 01/26/2017 - 19:20

Twitter introduced a new Explore tab Thursday, where users will be able to find trending topics, Moments, search and live videos.

The social network confirmed last October that it was testing its new Explore tab in its iOS and Android applications.

Product designer Angela Lam announced in a blog post Thursday that Explore will begin rolling out for iOS users Thursday, with Android to follow “in the coming weeks.” She wrote:

There are many ways to see what’s happening on Twitter. Outside of your timeline, trends show you what topics are being discussed right now, Moments capture the most popular stories so you can catch up and search helps you find anything and everything.

Until today, you had to go to a few different places to find each of these experiences. As part of our continued efforts to make it easier to see what’s happening, we’re bringing all of these together. Very soon, you’ll be able to find trends, Moments, search and the best of live video, all within the new Explore tab.

Over the past year, we’ve been exploring different ways to make it simpler for people to find and use trends, Moments and search. During our research process, people told us that the new Explore tab helped them easily find news, what’s trending and what’s popular right now.

Although Lam stressed, “Nothing is going away,” Moments appears to be the big loser in this update, as access to the feature was moved from the toolbar at the bottom of the apps (replaced by Explore) and toward the bottom of the new Explore tab.

Readers: What are your initial impressions of Twitter’s new Explore tab?

Categories: English

Twitter Launches Stickers, Hashtag-Triggered Emoji for Lunar New Year

Thu, 01/26/2017 - 18:00

Twitter released new stickers and a hashtag-triggered emoji to celebrate the Lunar New Year. With this update, users can share the Year of the Rooster emoji by tweeting one of the supported hashtags associated with the occasion.

From now until Feb. 12, when users tweet hashtags such as #HappyLunarNewYear and #ChineseNewYear, the Rooster emoji will automatically appear after the hashtag. A complete list of the supported hashtags is available here.

Elsewhere, Twitter application users can add Lunar New Year stickers to their photos by adding a photo to a tweet and tapping the smiling face button in the bottom-right corner of the screen to access the stickers menu. From there, users can choose from four stickers in the #LunarNewYear category.

Twitter’s stickers act as visual hashtags, meaning that users can tap on a sticker on a picture to view other public pictures that contain the same sticker.

Readers: Will you use these hashtags in your tweets?

Categories: English

Hugo Barra to Lead Virtual Reality Efforts at Facebook

Thu, 01/26/2017 - 17:30

Facebook has a new lead for all of its virtual reality efforts: vice president of virtual reality Hugo Barra.

Barra had been vp of international with Chinese electronics company Xiaomi since September 2013.

Prior to Xiaomi, he served as a product management director at Google, working mostly on its Android team.

He was a co-founder of mobile speech-recognition software company LOBBY7 in 2000. LOBBY7 was acquired by ScanSoft in 2003, and ScanSoft became Nuance Communications two years later, with Barra holding several product management, product marketing and business development positions with that company.

Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg welcomed Barra to the company in a Facebook post (embedded below):

I’m excited that Hugo Barra is joining Facebook to lead all of our virtual reality efforts, including our Oculus team. Hugo’s in China right now, so here we are together in VR. It seems fitting.

I’ve known Hugo for a long time, starting when he helped develop the Android operating system, to the last few years he’s worked at Xiaomi in Beijing bringing innovative devices to millions of people.

Hugo shares my belief that virtual and augmented reality will be the next major computing platform. They’ll enable us to experience completely new things and be more creative than ever before. Hugo is going to help build that future, and I’m looking forward to having him on our team.

Barra added in his own Facebook post (embedded below):

I’m excited to share my next adventure as I return to Silicon Valley—in a couple of months, I’ll be joining Facebook as vp of virtual reality (VPVR!) and lead the Oculus team. Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun always says that the highest calling of an engineer is to make technology breakthroughs quickly and readily available to the widest possible spectrum of humanity. That will be my mission at Facebook, and I look forward to building the future of immersive technology with Mark Zuckerberg, (former Oculus VR CEO and leader of its PC VR group) Brendan Trexler Iribe, (Facebook chief technology officer) Mike Schroepfer and the visionaries in the Oculus team.

Readers: What are your thoughts on Barra joining Facebook?

Categories: English

Why Facebook Is Loading Faster on Chrome, Firefox

Thu, 01/26/2017 - 17:00

Have you noticed improvements in speed when accessing Facebook via Google Chrome or Firefox? If you have, here’s why:

Infrastructure engineer Ben Maurer and software engineer Nathan Schloss penned a detailed blog post about how Facebook worked with Google and Firefox parent Mozilla on performance improvements, specifically in the areas of browser caches and revalidation.

Maurer and Schloss defined revalidation as when browsers repeatedly request the same content, such as logos or JavaScript code that are reused across multiple pages, and they discussed how they tweaked the browsers’ expiration times and validators for that content so that unnecessary time and bandwidth was not devoted to downloading the same content over and over.

The results of Facebook’s work with Google and Mozilla were:

  • Both Chrome and Firefox recently launched features that make their caches significantly more efficient both for Facebook and for the entire web.
  • Facebook was able to reduce static resource requests made to its servers by 60 percent, giving those servers more CPU space to load the rest of the web page.
  • Due to examining and improving reload button behavior, Chrome in particular went from having 63 percent of requests being conditional to 24 percent of them being conditional.

The blog post went into heavy detail, and some highlights follow:

To stop unnecessary downloads, HTTP servers can specify an expiration time and a validator for each request that can indicate to a browser that it doesn’t need to download until later. An expiration time tells the browser how long it can re-use the latest response and is sent using the Cache-Control header. A validator is a way to allow the browser to continue to re-use the response even after the expiration time. It allows the browser to check with the server if a resource is still valid and re-use the response. Validators are sent via Last-Modified or Etag headers.

A not modified (304) response is sent if the resource has not been modified. This has benefits over downloading the whole resource again, as much less data needs to be transferred, but it doesn’t eliminate the latency of the browser talking to the server. Every time a not-modified response is sent, the browser already had the correct resource. We want to avoid these wasted revalidations by allowing the client to cache for longer.

Revalidation raises a difficult question: How long should your expiration times be? If you send expiration times of one hour, browsers will have to talk to your server to check if your resources have been modified every hour. Many resources like logos or even JavaScript code change rarely; every hour is overdoing it in those cases. On the other hand, if your expiration times are long, browsers will serve the resource from cache, potentially showing users out-of-date resources.

To solve this problem, Facebook uses the concept of content addressed URLs. Rather than our URLs describing logical resources (“logo.png,” “library.js”), our URLs are a hash of our content. Every time we release our site, we take each static resource and hash it. We maintain a database that stores those hashes and maps them to their contents. When serving a resource rather than serving it by name, we create a URL that has the hash. For example, if the hash of logo.png is abc123, we use the URL www.facebook.com/rsrc.php/abc123.png.

Because this scheme uses the hash of the contents of a file as the URL, it provides an important guarantee: The contents of a content addressed URL never change. Therefore we serve all of our content addressed URLs with a long expiration time (currently one year). Additionally, because the contents of our URLs never change, our servers will always respond with a 304 not-modified response for any and all conditional requests for static resources. This saves on CPU cycles and lets us respond to such requests quicker.

Chrome’s and Firefox’s measures have effectively eliminated revalidation requests to us from modern version of those browsers. This reduces traffic to our servers but, more important, improves load time for people visiting Facebook.

This was a tricky issue because we were asking to modify long-standing web behavior. It highlights how web browsers can, and do, work with web developers to make the web better for everyone. We’re happy to have such a good working relationship with our friends on the Chrome and Firefox teams, and are excited about our continuing collaborations to improve the web for everyone!

Readers: Have you noticed any improvements in Facebook’s performance on Chrome or Firefox?

Image courtesy of temizyurek/iStock.

Categories: English