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Is Facebook too big to fail? Let’s ask Yahoo…

Yahoo! used to be king of the hill, but innovation from smaller startups and a failure to adjust led to its downfall. Can the same happen to Facebook?

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It wasn’t too long ago Yahoo! was on top…

So many people believe that Facebook is invincible, while others think they’re just the flavor of the month (or decade, whatever). No matter where YOU are on the spectrum, consider this – Yahoo! has evolved into something totally different than what their core competencies once were. And ironically, their old functions look a lot like Facebook’s (groups/chat rooms, email groups, messenger/email, news streams, and so forth). Yet, here we are, talking about Yahoo’s demise, so what makes Facebook so immune?

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It’s tough to be king

Consider: Almost since its beginning, Yahoo! has dealt with a classic innovator’s dilemma. It got so huge so quickly, it became trapped by its own success. When you have hundreds of millions of mainstream users you don’t want to do anything that rocks the boat.

So what happened? Smaller companies with a lot less to lose because they are/were not yet dependent on big business took the risks and rolled the dice, and eventually those smaller companies (Google and Facebook are great examples) became much bigger companies that ate into Yahoo’s revenues.

It’s good to be king

Now, Facebook may be dealing with the same problem. It can’t, for example, redesign its site in a really cool, modern way that will appeal to users of 2017, because it would annoy the billion users it picked up starting in 2004 that are still using low-end laptops or inexpensive mobile devices (especially in developing nations).

This leaves it vulnerable to startups that can build social sharing tools optimized for tablets, phones, and computers built with today’s technologies. Those startups don’t need a billion users today to keep growing until they can start taking ad dollars away from Facebook.

The good news, says industry insiders, is that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg seems to realize how much his company looks like Yahoo from circa 2005 and he’s doing something about it.

What’s Zuck doing to keep it 100?

Zuckerberg continues to use Facebook’s massive market cap to make stock-rich acquisitions of startups doing the risky, innovative things Facebook can no longer do with Facebook.com.

Zuckerberg, in the last few years, has spent freely, purchasing Instagram, Whatsapp, and Oculus.

Additionally, as lawsuits pop up against Facebook over exposing children to inappropriate content and so forth, the brand responds. Unlike Yahoo whose chat rooms were the source of many pedo cases and lawsuits which ran that function into the ground as Yahoo drug it out over years. That alone points out a culture difference between the two big boys.

Learning from one’s mistakes?

So why didn’t Yahoo do the same thing a decade ago? The truth is, they tried to. But they made one big mistake that Zuckerberg isn’t making: Yahoo execs worried too much about paying the exact right price for big-ticket acquisitions.

Facebook may find itself (heck, maybe it has already discovered) that it’s core demographic grew up. But before said demographic decided to move on, FB can sleep well knowing there isn’t really anyone who can take it’s place.

Facebook has a unique asset that will grow in value over time – the lifestories of millions of people as they themselves wrote them – and it has barely begun to monetize this asset. As for the interfaces, surely there’s plenty of room for innovation on new screens like mobile phones or through entirely new experiences like Paper. Maybe the PC just isn’t where the action is going to be.

Facebook reminds us of Yahoo, but I say the similarities (at this point, anyway) are strictly cosmetic.

#FacebookYahoo

Social Media

Instagram announces 3 home feed options, including chronological order

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Instagram is allowing users to choose how their home feed appears so they can tailor their own experience… and chronological is back!

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Instagram home feed options

Break out the bottle of champagne, because they are bringing back the chronological order in Instagram!

About time, right? Well, that’s not all. Per Protocol, Instagram has announced that they are rolling out three feed options in the first half of 2022. What?! Yes, you read that right.

3 New Feed View Options

  1. Home: This feed view should feel familiar because it’s the algorithm you already use. No changes to this view.
  1. Favorites: This feed view option presents a nice and tidy way to view creators, friends, and family of your choosing.
  1. Following: Last, but not least, is my favorite re-boot, the chronological view of every account that you follow.

Per Protocol, recent legal allegations have been made that Instagram and Facebook have been prioritizing content viewed as harmful in the algorithm and specifically in Instagram. Instagram is widely believed to be harmful to teens. Per the American Psychological Association, “Studies have linked Instagram to depression, body image concerns, self-esteem issues, social anxiety, and other problems”.  They have been under scrutiny by lawmakers and in response are posing the chronological feed as a solution.

However, this won’t fix everything. Even if the algorithm isn’t prioritizing harmful posts, those posts will still exist and if that account is followed it can still be seen. The other issue with this solution is the knowledge that unless Instagram lets you choose your default feed view, they could still cause the algorithm view to be the automatic view. Facebook doesn’t allow you to make the chronological feed your default view. This means you would need to choose that view every time. This bit of friction means there will be times it is overlooked and some may not even know the functionality exists. Knowing this information about Facebook, prepares us for what’s to come with Instagram. After all, Facebook, or Meta, owns both.

While as an entrepreneur, the chronological view excites me, I know the reality of it being used is questionable. I would love to know others can see the products and services I offer instead of hoping that Instagram finds my content worthy to share in the algorithm.

As a human being with a moral conscience, I have to scream, “C’mon Instagram, you CAN do better!” We all deserve better than having a computer pick what’s shown to us. Hopefully, lawmakers will recognize this band-aid quick fix for what it truly is and continue with making real changes to benefit us all.

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Social Media

Facebook’s targeting options for advertising are changing this month

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Do you market your business on Facebook? You need to know that their targeting options for ads are changing and what to do about it.

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Laptop on lap open to Facebook page representing ad targeting.

Meta is transforming Facebook’s ad campaigns beginning January 19th. Facebook, which has been infamously battling criticism regarding election ads on their platform, is revising its limited targeting ad campaigns. Per this Facebook blog post, these changes eliminate the ability to target users based on interactions with content related to health (e.g., “Lung cancer awareness”, “World Diabetes Day”), race and ethnicity, political affiliation, religious practices (e.g., “Catholic Church” and “Jewish holidays”) and sexual orientation (e.g., “same-sex marriage” and “LGBT culture”).

These changes go into effect on January 19, 2022. Facebook will no longer allow new ads to use these targeting tools after that date. By March 17, 2022, any existing ads using those targeting tools will no longer be allowed.

The VP of Ads and Business Product Marketing at Facebook, Graham Mudd, expressed the belief that personalized ad experiences are the best, but followed up by stating:

“[W]e want to better match people’s evolving expectations of how advertisers may reach them on our platform and address feedback from civil rights experts, policymakers, and other stakeholders on the importance of preventing advertisers from abusing the targeting options we make available.”

To help soften the blow, Facebook is offering tips and examples for small businesses, non-profits, and advocacy groups to continue to reach their audiences that go beyond the broad targeting of gender and age.

These tips include creating different types of targeting such as Engagement Custom Audiences, Lookalike Audiences, Website Custom Audiences, Location Targeting, and Customer Lists from a Custom Audience.

Here’s the lowdown on how it will happen.

Per the Search Engine Journal, changes can be made to budget amounts or campaign names without impacting the targeting until March 17th. However, if you go to change the ad set level that will then cause changes at the audience level.

If you need to keep that particular ad to reuse, it may be best to edit the detailed targeting settings before March 17th in order to ensure you can make changes to it in the future.

I believe it was Heraclitus that declared change is constant. Knowing this, we can conclude other social platforms may follow suit and possibly adjust their targeting in the future as well.

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Social Media

Hate speech seemingly spewing on your Facebook? You’re not wrong

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Facebook (now Meta) employees estimate its AI tools only clean up 3%-5% of hate speech on the platform. Surprise, Surprise *eye roll*

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Facebook being crossed out by a stylus on a mobile device for hate speech.

As Facebook moves further toward Zuckerberg’s Metaverse, concerns about the efficiency with which the company addresses hate speech still remain, with employees recently estimating that only around 2% of offending materials are removed by Facebook’s AI screening tools.

According to Wall Street Journal, internal documents from Facebook show an alarming inability to detect hate speech, violent threats, depictions of graphic content, and other “sensitive” issues via their AI screening. This directly contradicts predictions made by the company in the past.

A “senior engineer” also admitted that, in addition to removing only around 2% of inappropriate material, the odds of that number reaching even a numerical majority is extremely unlikely: “Recent estimates suggest that unless there is a major change in strategy, it will be very difficult to improve this beyond 10-20% in the short-medium term.”

The reported efficacy of the AI in question would be laughable were the situation less dire. Reports ranging from AI confusing cockfights and car crashes to inaccurately identifying a car wash video as a first-person shooting are referenced in the internal documents, while far more sobering imagery–live-streamed shootings, viscerally graphic car wrecks, and open threats of violence against transgender children–went entirely unflagged.

Even the system in which the AI works is a source of doubt for employees. “When Facebook’s algorithms aren’t certain enough that content violates the rules to delete it, the platform shows that material to users less often—but the accounts that posted the material go unpunished,” reports Wall Street Journal.

AI has repeatedly been shown to struggle with bias as well. Large Language Models (LLMs)–machine-learning algorithms that inform things like search engine results and predictive text–have defaulted to racist or xenophobic rhetoric when subjected to search terms like “Muslim”, leading to ethical concerns about whether or not these tools are actually capable of resolving things like hate speech.

As a whole, Facebook employees’ doubts about the actual usefulness of AI in removing inappropriate material (and keeping underage users off of the platform) paint a grim portrait of the future of social media, especially as the Metaverse marches steadily forward in mainstream consumption.

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