Social Shorts: TikTok’s future, Quora lead-gen ads, Facebook’s India plans
The social media marketing week in review: A round up of news and announcements you may have missed.
TikTok and LinkedIn under one roof?
“Microsoft is in talks to acquire TikTok, the Chinese-owned video app, according to a person with knowledge of the discussions, as President Trump said on Friday that he was considering taking steps that would effectively ban the app from the United States,” The New York Times reported Friday.
The company is in talks with the White House and reportedly negotiating to take over TikTok’s operations in US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
Why we care. Despite its best efforts (see below), TikTok’s attempts to convince U.S. legislators that it operates wholly independently from its Chinese parent company ByteDance haven’t stuck. It’s options increasingly look limited to spinning off to go public or spinning off for acquisition. It’s looking like TikTok may be headed down the latter route.
Microsoft, with it’s focus on the enterprise, might seem like an odd fit for TikTok. But remember it’s also the home of Xbox, The Verge points out in a look at why Microsoft is interested in TikTok. (Microsoft is also about the only would-be big tech buyer not facing antitrust scrutiny in the U.S.)
A U.S. roof would allow TikTok to stay focused on building its creator ranks and fast-growing ad business with one less giant distraction — and help reassure users and advertisers that their data isn’t being siphoned off to China. Like LInkedIn, Microsoft could allow TikTok to run independently while taking advantage of data insights and integrations where it makes sense.
TikTok pulls the curtain back on its algorithm; calls out Facebook’s copycat behavior
TikTok has received even more scrutiny than other tech giants “due to the company’s Chinese origins,” TikTok’s recently-appointed U.S.-based CEO Kevin Mayer wrote in a blog post this week as the CEOs of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google were called to testify in an antitrust hearing.
In an effort to give users and regulators “peace of mind,” said Meyer, TikTok has launched a Transparency and Accountability Center in which experts can observe TikTok’s moderation policies “in real-time” and “examine the actual code that drives our algorithms.”
Meyer also called out Facebook for “launching another copycat product, Reels” on Instagram and made the case that TikTok offers American advertisers choice in the market.
The company announced a $200 million fund for American creators on the platform, with plans to grow it to more than $1 billion in the U.S. and more than $2 billion globally in the next three years to help it compete for talent against YouTube and Instagram.
Why we care. Even as its popularity swells, regulatory scrutiny and action could scare away advertisers and critically harm TikTok’s nascent advertising business. Meyer’s overture of transparency does not appear to have swayed legislators. In a bipartisan move Thursday, two U.S. senators asked the Justice Department to investigate Chinese-owned TikTok (as well as Zoom) over reports it has shared user data with China, a charge TikTok denies. Further, while TikTok should be applauded for exposing its algorithm, its competitors are likely to scoff at its suggestion that “all companies should disclose their algorithms, moderation policies, and data flows to regulators.”
Highlights from antitrust hearings with the CEOs of Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google
- Panel chair David Cicilline of Rhode Island raised concerns that Google “steals content” and uses its ability to surveil vast amounts of data to “identify competitive threats and crush them.” Pichai, again predictably, disputed the claims and said it uses data to improve results.
- Tim Cook of Apple, said the App Store is just another feature of the iPhone like the camera.
- Jeff Bezos was peppered with a surprising number of questions about its marketplace. Bezos said Amazon does have policies preventing internal access to third-party seller data for its own private label brands, but couldn’t say it hadn’t violated those policies. Reps. Pramila Jayapal, Mary Gay Scanlon, Jaimie Raskin and Ken Buck were among those who pressed Bezos on its use of third-party data to inform and market its own proprietary products and brands.
- Val Demings of Florida pressed Pichai on Google’s decision to combine data from web traffic and Google’s properties in 2016 after saying it would not do so when it acquired DoubleClick in 2007. Pichai said users can turn ads personalization on and off and have made it easy to control their data.
- Zuckerberg said the environment has become even more competitive for Facebook since 2012.
Capture leads from Quora ads
Quora has rolled out Lead Gen Forms for advertisers after a few months of beta testing. The forms can contain up to 12 fields and are prefilled with users’ Quora account information. Available fields include:
- Contact Info: First Name, Last Name, Email, Business Email, Phone Number
- Employment Info: Job Title, Company Name, Company Size
- Location Info: City, State (US Only), Zip Code (US only), Country
You can download leads via CSV in the Ads Manager or use the Zapier integration to send leads to Salesforce, Gmail, Marketo or other system.
Why we care. Lead Gen Forms can reduce friction for users looking to engage with your company — whether to download a whitepaper, request a demo or sign up for a newsletter — and increase the number of leads you can generate from Quora ad campaigns. The Zapier integration means you should have no problem pushing that lead data into whatever CRM or email system you’re using.
Facebook’s plan to bring India’s corner stores to WhatsApp
“The real power of digital infrastructure will get unleashed when startups and small businesses come online. In many ways they’re already on WhatsApp but we need to help them connect the dots,” Ajit Mohan, vice-president and managing director, Facebook India told live Mint in an interview.
“It is how we can make it easy to shop from within WhatsApp. Our goal with the investment in [Indian telecom firm] Jio is to enable new opportunities for businesses of all sizes, especially for small businesses across India. The first example of the collaboration would be to help millions of kirana owners [small neighborhood convenience stores] digitize their product catalogue and use WhatsApp to connect with their customers,” he said.
Why we care. The pandemic has wreaked havoc on small businesses while at at the same time accelerated consumers’ shift to digital and the business need for digital transformation. The social networking giant sees big opportunity in becoming India’s digital tether between SMBs and consumers.
Google is also investing heavily in Jio Platforms (to the tune of $4.5 billion). The companies are partnering on an Android-based operating system for new Jio mobile devices with the aim of getting millions of more Indians online: a massive new market for ads and apps.