The question of misinformation, and its impact on public perception of major issues, has become a key focus in recent times, with social media platforms seen as the main culprit in facilitating the spread of ‘fake news’, leading to confusion and dissent among the populous.
But we don’t know the full impacts of this. For all the study, all the research, for all the data analysis stemming from the 2016 US Presidential Election in particular, it’s impossible to say, for sure, how much impact social media has on people’s opinions – and subsequently, how they vote.
But it must have an impact, right? These days, it feels like we’re more divided along political and ideological lines than ever before, and correlating with that widening gap is the rising use of social platforms, particularly for news content. There must be a connection between the two. Right?
That’s what makes this new study from Pew Research particularly interesting – as per Pew:
“The current analysis, based on a survey of 12,043 U.S. adults, finds that […] both Democrats and Republicans (including independents who lean toward either party) – in an unusual display of bipartisan convergence – register far more distrust than trust of social media sites as sources for political and election news. And the most distrusted are three giants of the social media landscape – Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.”
In some ways this is both a surprise, and not at the same time. But as you can see, social media platforms – despite now being a more critical news resource for most Americans than print newspapers – are universally not trusted as a source of reliable info.
But social platforms have become a key news pipeline – as noted in another study conducted by Pew in 2018, 68% of Americans now get at least some news content via social media, with 43% getting such from Facebook.
So, despite Facebook now being a leading provider of news content for the majority of people, it’s also the most distrusted news source.
And that does makes sense – there’s a lot of junk floating through Facebook’s network, and as noted, there’s also been a heap of media discussion about political manipulation, Russian interference, etc. But still, with people so distrusting of the info they’re receiving, yet still consuming such at a high rate, it’s little wonder that there’s such confusion and disagreement on the major political issues of the day.
But what’s even more interesting in Pew’s study is that both sides of the political divide distrust social platforms equally, in regards to news content.
So, to recap, more and more people are getting their news info from social media, informing their opinions on the issues of the day. Yet, no one trusts the information they’re reading on social.
So we’re all reading these reports in our News Feeds, and shaking our heads, saying ‘that’s not true’, before realizing that we’re talking to ourselves. And people are looking at us.
Jokes aside, maybe, possibly, this is an example of how social platforms are dividing us. Social algorithm engineers are generally motivated by engagement – if they can show you more content to get you liking and commenting, to get you engaged and active, then the platform, ultimately, wins out. For a long time, a key concern with this approach has been the echo-chamber effect. The algorithms detect what you like, what you’re interested in, based on your on-platform activity, then they show you more, similar content, which keeps you engaged, but may also further solidify one perspective, indoctrinate you into a certain political side, etc.
But what if that’s not the case? If people are universally distrusting of what they’re seeing in their feeds, maybe it’s not the echo chamber effect that we should be worried about, but in fact, the opposite. What if social algorithms actually work to show you more content that you’ll disagree with, in order to spark argument and dissent among users – which, from a functional perspective, is really just engagement and keeping you commenting, sharing, debating, etc.
That would actually align with Facebook’s own findings – in response to the ‘echo chamber’ criticism, Facebook has repeatedly noted that its users are actually shown content from a broader range of sources than non-users, with 26% of the news that users see in their Facebook feeds representing “another point of view”, according to Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg.
But as Facebook exec Andrew Bosworth recently pointed out:
“The focus on filter bubbles causes people to miss the real disaster which is polarization. What happens when you see 26% more content from people you don’t agree with? Does it help you empathize with them as everyone has been suggesting? Nope. It makes you dislike them even more.”
But maybe that’s also the point – if you see more content that you disagree with, that you dislike – that you, indeed, distrust – maybe you’re more inclined to engage with it, as opposed to seeing something that you agree with, then scrolling on through. Maybe, that disagreement and division is central to Facebook’s active engagement, the driving force behind its all-powerful feed algorithm. And maybe, that’s then inciting further polarization, as people are further solidified into one side of the argument or the other in response.
That would explain why all users, on each side of politics, are almost equally distrusting of the news content they see on social, and Facebook in particular. Maybe, then, social media is effectively a hate machine, an anger engine where partisan news wins out, and accurate, balanced journalism is just as easily dismissed.
It certainly doesn’t help that politicians now label reports that they disagree with as ‘fake news’, nor that many media outlets themselves have shifted towards more extreme, divisive coverage in order to boost traffic.
But maybe, that’s what it is. If engagement is your key driver for success, then it’s not agreement that you want to fuel, but the opposite. Disagreement is what gets people talking, what sparks emotional response and fuels debate. It may not be healthy ‘engagement’ as such, but in binary terms – like, say, active engagement rates which you can show to advertisers – it is most definitely ‘engagement’.
Maybe Facebook’s right – it isn’t reinforcing your established beliefs, but challenging them, by making it easier to be angered by those you disagree with.
Think about this – when you go on Facebook, do you more commonly come away feeling happy with the world, or fuming over something that someone has shared?
Maybe, despite echo chambers, misinformation, manipulation, the key divider is our own inherent bias – and Facebook uses this to incite response, which also, invariably, highlights the cracks in society.
Everyone gets news from Facebook, yet no one trusts it. But they might just share it with the comment ‘fake news’, which then flags their political stance, something that their friends and family maybe weren’t aware of previously.
When you consider these results on balance, they actually make a lot more sense than it may, initially, seem.
Snapchat Publishes New Report into the Importance of Privacy Tools in Facilitating Online Sharing
Snapchat has published a new report which provides some deeper insight into the importance of online privacy, and the key concerns that users have in regards to the content that they share online.
The report, based on a survey of over 13,500 people in 11 markets, uncovers some valuable considerations for both platforms and marketers, and reinforces the logic behind some of the latest social app developments, in regards to increased user control, encryption, and more. It also sheds light on how such controls – or the lack of them – can influence people’s behavior online.
It’s an interesting overview – you can download Snap’s full, 28-page report here, but in this post, we’ll take a look at some of the key points.
First off, Snap notes that both Snapchatters and non-Snap users are concerned about online privacy, with 81% of respondents noting that online privacy is important. At the same time, only 65% indicated that they’re satisfied with their current privacy options.
That’s a key gap in the current digital connection process which underlines the need for increased control measures on this front, and more options, like private messaging and audience controls, to help reassure users.
Which is the next key point – the report highlights the three key benefits of digital privacy, based on responses.
Each aspect facilitates more open communication, and without relevant measures in place, social platforms are not able to cater to these needs.
Self-expression is one of the most important elements, with users feeling more free to communicate when they’re comfortable with the available privacy tools and options.
Indeed, the majority of respondents indicated that privacy concerns impact what they share online, and how they communicate.
It’s an interesting consideration – originally, with the arrival of MySpace, Twitter and Facebook, there was a new sense of freedom and capacity to share your voice, and connect with like-minded people around the world, based on shared interests. Over time, that’s gradually shifted, as more controversies and concerns have arisen from over-sharing or past post insights, which has seen more people become more enclosed once again, and shy away from public sharing.
Which makes sense, but it also means that what we see online is often not representative of the breadth of views out there, because many people are concerned about what sharing their thoughts and opinions could mean, and how it could potentially be used against them. Which is why more privacy controls can open up greater levels of expression and engagement, and why more people are looking to advanced tools, like messaging encryption, to gain that extra level of assurance.
Which is also why Snapchat has been able to maintain and grow its audience, despite rising competition in the space.
Snapchat has always presented itself as a key alternative for more intimate, private discussion, a place for friends to connect, not to broadcast your life to the world. And while that is also more restrictive, in a content sense, Snap’s approach has clearly resonated with a lot of people, and enabled it to carve a niche in the broader social and messaging space.
The report also goes into depth on the full reasons that influence how and why people share on social, and the tools that people rely on to enhance their experience.
There are some interesting insights and considerations here, which, as noted, largely reflect the latest social media innovations in improved audience controls, evolving private messaging tools, safety functions, reporting and more.
Without these elements, people simply won’t share, and won’t engage online at the same rate. And as we move into the next stage of digital connection, where we’re likely to spend even more time online, and potentially expose even more of ourselves, such measures will remain critically important in order to keep people safe.
You can read Snapchat’s full ‘Global Perceptions of Privacy’ report here.
New Report Underlines the Importance of Social Media in Connecting with Gen Z Consumers
To glean some insight into the shifting state of customer expectations, Qualtrics surveyed 9,000 consumers, across a breadth of age brackets, to measure the variance in importance on a range of measures between Gen Z, Baby Boomers and everything in between.
The findings highlight some key considerations for all brands – first off, the data indicates that Gen Z is the most likely to be upset by a negative interaction with a company.
“Gen Z is the generation least likely to report being happy with their customer experience (on a scale of upset to delighted). Gen Z was the most upset by their interactions with federal agencies (only 13% gave a positive rating), followed by investment firms and airlines. Gen Z gave the highest ratings to social media and retail stores.”
Gen Z consumers have grown up with social media and eCommerce, and they increasingly expect brands to cater to their specific needs, while they also know that they have both the means to publicly criticize a company due to negative interactions, and the capacity to easily switch, with a simple online search providing a range of competitor brands.
That’s increased their expectations around customer service and response, and it’s important for brands to consider this in their engagement and actions.
Younger consumers also value public health response, with Gen Z respondents twice as likely as Baby Boomers to stop purchasing from a brand because they felt their safety measures were insufficient. Which also works the opposite way too.
Gen Z consumers also put more emphasis on brand values – potentially a side effect of the social media era – with younger shoppers almost three times as likely as Baby Boomers to say that they were very familiar with the brand values of the products they choose.
With brands now able to communicate more about their business online, that’s opened up more capacity for consumers to also get an understanding of their stances and approach, and that expanded capability to connect with a brand on a deeper level can be a very powerful draw to generate stronger bonds and business.
Indeed, for Gen Z consumers, maintaining a social media presence was the second-highest ranked way for brands to maintain relevance. No other generation ranked social media presence in the top three.
If that insight doesn’t underline the importance of building and maintaining a social media presence, I’m not sure what will – younger consumers want to feel more connected with every business that they buy from, and social media is the key linkage that facilitates such for this group.
There’s a range of additional insights in the full report from Qualtrics, which you can check out here. Some key considerations for marketers, especially those looking to connect with younger audiences.
Instagram Adds New Stickers and AR Features to Celebrate Lunar New Year
Instagram has added some new features to help users celebrate Lunar New Year, including new, themed stickers and a custom AR effect.
As you can see here, the new stickers commemorate the Year of the Tiger, with art by Hong Kong-based Ophelia Pang. The stickers provide a simple way to mark the event, which will be celebrated from January 31st to February 15th.
In addition, Instagram’s also added a #MyLNY2022 AR effect, which provides another way to engage with the celebration.
There’s actually a range of Lunar New Year effects available in the app, which you can find by using the search option at the end of the effects carousel.
Instagram released a similar set of Lunar New Year tools last year, which is part of its broader focus on maximizing engagement around cultural events.
As explained by Instagram chief Adam Mosseri:
“When it comes to celebrating cultural moments, we want to be a platform where creators showcase their work.”
Showcasing creativity is where Instagram is increasingly looking to align itself, as it works to differentiate the app from TikTok, which is more based on communal expression and meme-based sharing. If Instagram can put more focus on creative output, specifically, that could be a way to lean into the rising Web3 movement, in which, theoretically, creators could be better rewarded and celebrated for their work.
These Lunar New Year tools showcase the art of some creators, but the larger vision for Instagram is that it may be better placed to provide a platform for more artists in the same way, which could help it regain its momentum in the face of the TikTok challenge.
You can check out Instagram’s Lunar New Year tools in the app.
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