Rabbbits Weeekly: Chasing TikTok
New show from one of the major networks? Plus, other marketing happenings and headlines and things about the æconomy, algorithms, ads, audiences, analytics and attack vectors.
TikTok Eats the Internet
Facebook has Reels. YouTube has Shorts. Pinterest has Idea Pins. Snapchat has a Remix feature (though I see them as one of the proto-TikTok platforms (along with Vine) so this copy feels less overt). Twitter has…I don’t even know anymore. Maybe Fleets? Though that was more Snapchat. So maybe they haven’t caught up to the TikTok decade yet in their effort to ship the entire product roadmap backlog in one year.
TikTok is the apple of users’ eyes. And the target of competing platforms’ new features teams.
Everyone is in a race to TikTokify. Some by folding it into their platform (Idea Pins seem pretty on-brand and in line with what you might expect from Pinterest) to folding their platform into the new paradigm (see: Instagram).
But it doesn’t end with the social platforms. The TikTok train has pulled into Amazon Station. New app features are being tested internally that would basically embed Trend Machine style content in shopping results. The TikTokification of the internet continues.
The third sphere 🕰️ occupies is that of National Security, which makes for an interesting mix.
Oracle is auditing TikTok for ways the Chinese government could interfere. Why does this matter? Well, CSO outlined 3 ways the app could be exploited by Xi & Co.
To augment other data sources to build out files on individuals, which could lead to determining when someone is “of interest”
To inform social engineering attacks to facilitate intellectual property theft
To exert influence via targeted campaigns (state propaganda at the scale of digital)
As competitors grapple with how much to mold themselves to the belle of the ball’s image, the belle itself might have to grapple with what its future looks like.
TikTok has been referred to by many as the spiritual successor to Vine. And, while it seems like a distant possibility now, issues with the app's ties to the Chinese government could make that comparison more accurate than many would have predicted. But if TikTok were to be banned or lose any algorithmic firepower if forced to split from China and operations there, its legacy and impact will live on through all the copycats it has inspired.
The dark horse to keep an eye on is BeReal. If TikTok is the more authentic alternative to Instagram, then BeReal is Authenticity with a capital “a”.
A Word On In-App Browsers
Last week I wrote:
Turns out Meta's in-app browsers are massive data collection tools and can skirt pretty much any privacy measure they want. They say (of course they do) that it's to comply with Apple's privacy measures, but it's a hell of a convoluted way to do that.
Well, TikTok isn’t any better. In fact, it might be worse.
TikTok subscribes to all keyboard inputs (including passwords, credit card information, etc.) and every tap on the screen, like which buttons and links you click.
Of course, they claim it isn’t used. But, more perniciously, unlike other platforms, TikTok does not provide an option to launch in your default browser. You’re locked into the Tok.
Tangent: might there also be hubris involved? It does not seem far-fetched for someone at Meta to think “we’re better than Apple, I bet we could build a better mobile browser than they did.” And then extend this out across all the platforms. Isn’t part of the belief system at all these places that they’re the best at what they do? And what they do happens to be building digital experiences.
Oh, hey, there’s a quote for that. Per Maureen at TikTok:
Like other platforms, we use an in-app browser to provide an optimal user experience
Why does Snapchat always come out of these things feeling the least slimy?
The Ad Market Splits: An Update
A couple weeks back I wrote a segment on the split forming in the ad market as businesses enter recession prep mode and continue their lucha libre match with inflation. Let’s revisit based on a Marketing Dive article that didn’t make it in that post (both were published on the same day, so that’s a fun coincidence).
The list of industries spending more on advertising is not surprising:
These are the sectors that were either closed by pandemic restrictions (movie theaters and college campuses) or got squeezed by supply chain issues (consumer electronics and the chip shortage). Now that they have products to sell, they’re spending to do so.
The sectors that saw a decrease in spend are the ones entering the hangover phase of their pandemic boom cycle,the ones that were still able to be some form of IRL during the pandemic, or are casualties of slowing consumer spending (at the expense of some of the winning categories like travel, most likely).
While it’s been mentioned before, this might be the most succinctly I’ve seen it put:
When the macroeconomic conditions are great, focus on growing faster than the growth of the category.
When the macroeconomic conditions aren’t great, focus on growing market share.
Remember when I mentioned that Demand Side Platform position Apple is hiring for? Intel is coming out that Apple is at least thinking about ads in basically every app they own. Wonder how privacy-focused the solution will be.
Walmart's ad platform is doing great, thanks for asking. Marking the second straight quarter of 30% growth (at least according to them). Their marketplace offering increased seller count by 60% as well. The rest of the business isn't doing too shabby either. Walmart continues to Amazonify as Amazon tries to Walmartify.
The Trend Machine is jumping on the Shopping Ads train, adding fuel to the "TikTok made me buy it" fire. One objective, three formats: video, listing, and live.
Twitter continues the Announcements & Launches World Tour™ with 3 nice ones for advertisers:
Pixel gets a makeover: better / more conversion tracking and easier setup (plus a Chrome extension for troubleshooting, which more platforms should do (looking at you LinkedIn))
Conversions API: use with or without the pixel (is CAPI the new Clippy?)
App Purchase Optimization: go beyond the install
Coming Soon? Collection ads (like the other platforms that have these), Web conversion optimization (a rebuild of the current optimization model), Dynamic product ads (how long until a Shopify integration? (Answer: about three months ago))
Now for the Meta (not so) lightning round:
Finally, Facebook has told advertisers how to improve performance. And they are:
Use the Conversions API in tandem with the Pixel
Use Conversion Optimization
If you aren't using Automated Placements, choose at least 6 placements manually
Level up your creative (the slides say your creative "fuels" who you reach, so that's interesting (also, obligatory Reels mention))
Heed the recommendations in the system
This boils down to: use the robots and give them better food.
Tired of seeing weight loss ads on Instagram? Well, FutureTok is tired of being accused of contributing to body image issues, so you can now turn them off in your app settings.
More proof that Facebook's Audience Network is garbage, it inflates your ThruPlay numbers (not in the typical Big Blue way of outright lying, just showing them in ways where the viewer doesn't care at all).
On a related "understand what you're asking the system to optimize for" note, if you run the Mobile Experience (formerly Canvas) ads with a traffic optimization goal, opening the canvas will likely be counted as a link click. So if you want traffic to your site, change at least one of those parameters.
Noticed an interesting option on lead gen ads today:
Beware the budget gremlins:
The chip market continues to slow. I wonder how much of this is due to market re-stabilization in the sector though. Demand severely outstripped supply during and after the first wave of plant closures and predictions of a pandemic-initiated recession. We may be witnessing the supply side of the equation adapt as its crossed back over the demand curve and needs to find the "new normal" (you know, the one we've been promised for more than 2 years now but is really just a myth).
On the pessimistic end of the prediction spectrum, it's the Korean market that's taking the biggest hit right now (thanks Samsung). Korean exports have historically (apparently) served as an indicator of the global trade market. So that's not great.
Right now the signals are pointing everywhere. It's basically a plate of indicator spaghetti. The key may lie in which set of noodles have the most weight behind them.
Apple is moving some manufacturing (iPad, Watch, MacBook) to Vietnam in order to shift reliance away from China. Both suppliers that are testing Vietnam-based production are either Chinese or Taiwanese, so if relations get really dicey I'm not sure how much this shift will help. But it is good news for the Vietnamese economy and more production options are usually good.
After a rally, the Dow Jones dropped a bit on speculation of more Fed rate hikes. I'm not sure how accurate a barometer of the economy as a whole the stock market is, but up-and-to-the-right is usually a good thing if you're worried.
People are desperate to regain normalcy around the holidays. Maybe that’s why Halloween seems inflation proof this year.
Your audience wants to serve themselves, not succumb to a sales team. This report is specific to B2B, but I'd say (based on the automotive industry) it crosses over to B2C as well.
Streaming has overtaken cable in the viewership race.
Do you sell stuff online? Consider including a handwritten note (or high-quality copy of one) in your packages. Just don't include a marketing message or incentive with it.
And please make sure your mobile experience is tip top.
You remember that time I mentioned BeReal? Well, it’s still popular with the youths. Popular enough for Instagram to copy the part of it that isn’t really the point. Like Stories and Snapchat.
New from Meta: turn your Stories into Reels. All Reels, all the time.
Instagram feed photos are getting the Reels treatment. Safe to say, if you’re posting any type of content to The Gram, make sure it’s 9:16 sized.
Shopify is for the influencers, sorry, Creators. They've launched Collabs—a product like Instagram's Creator Marketplace, etc—that allows Creators to find brands they want to partner with. Then use the Shopify owned link-in-bio tool Linkpop and get paid for sales. So it's basically affiliate marketing to help increase adoption of their link-in-bio tool?
You can now get your Facebook Marketplace purchases DoorDashed to your house (in select cities). Classic move of two companies struggling to make money hoping a partnership will be win-win.
Snapchat's audience is fairly unique to the platform, or that's what they'll have you believe at least. It'll be interesting to see if the users stick around as they age into the next phase of their life as the study suggests.
Want your own metaverse? That’ll cost you up to $50k. Do you need your own metaverse? Probably not.
Bye bye clickbait? Google is rolling out the "helpful content update" to their search algorithm this week. It aims to reward content that provides a "satisfying experience" to users and downrank content geared towards search ranking (read: AI generated content). The advice boils down to "write what you know and is related to your site niche," but is worth a read for content creators.
Pinterest all but blamed Google for their recent dip in user numbers:
Diversification of growth channels outside of search engine optimization (SEO) including more personalized notifications and sharing Idea Pin content on third-party platforms.
Oh wait, they did blame Google:
lower traffic from search (largely driven by Google’s algorithm update in November 2021) that have resulted in reduced new user traffic and resurrections
📌 continues its transformation into a shopping platform and Shopify continues its foray into social commerce. A new feature allows for hosted checkout on Pinterest via Shopify. Fewer clicks = more sales?
First our gas prices, then our stamps, and now our Amazons?! The holidays just got more expensive for sellers using Amazon's fulfillment services.
The future of Google is robots.
This weeek's edition of Update Yo Shit: iOS. 2 actively exploited vulnerabilities that could give a hacker essentially full control of your device were patched. Look for iOS 15.6.1. Go ahead and update macOS too while you’re at it.
TikTok is doing some stuff around election integrity on the platform. I'm sure it'll be fine. Worked great for Facebook when they did it. (While this should probably be in the Algorithms section, recent elections made me pick this section.)
Amongst Google's growing pile of regulatory troubles is the claim that the search giant isn't doing enough to counteract deceptive ads. They have until 9/2 to respond or....something will happen, I guess?
DuckDuckGo will start blocking Microsoft trackers after users were less than psyched to find out they weren't already being blocked.
The FTC might create a privacy bureau as part of the proposed digital privacy act working its way through the Congress critters. And they're seeking public comment on the harms of data collection for advertising (a.k.a. the internet's business model (at least in the west)).
People are always the weakest link in the security chain.
my guess is that implementation bugs, paper-thin software infrastructures, and the unquenchable human drive to click on random links will continue to be much more dangerous than any technothriller code-breaking machine.
Alternates & Assorteds
I'm all for alternate search engines, especially ones that focus on a specific niche or feature, so Talk To Books from Google is right up my alley.
If you like this, you might like some of the other things I’m working on. Don’t miss ‘em.