Is there a 'Roaring 20s' coming post-pandemic?

Does Google's latest algorithm mean less traffic for your brand? Will Shop Pay bring new life to Facebook Shop? Or will TikTok jump to the front of the line for social commerce?

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🔎 Search

Google passage ranking now live in US English search results

Google has updated us that passage ranking, as they are now properly calling it, went live on Wednesday, February 10, 2021, in the afternoon Pacific Time for queries in the US in English.

What is passage ranking. “Very specific searches can be the hardest to get right,” said Google, “since sometimes the single sentence that answers your question might be buried deep in a web page. We’ve recently made a breakthrough in ranking and are now able to not just index web pages, but individual passages from the pages. By better understanding the relevancy of specific passages, not just the overall page, we can find that needle-in-a-haystack information you’re looking for.”

Google said passage-based indexing will affect 7% of search queries across all languages when fully rolled out globally.

You can just hear the zero-click searches coming from this change. 

John Mueller gave a lightning talk on SEO for Google Images. 

🗣 Social

Shop Pay expands to Facebook and Instagram

With this integration, consumers on Instagram and Facebook will see Shop Pay as a payment option in Facebook Pay. Shop Pay pre-populates their details and speeds them through the most efficient and secure way to pay on the internet—directly on Instagram and Facebook. Once the purchase is made, consumers can track orders and see the carbon emissions offset from their purchases. 

Last week, we unpacked how Facebook is racing to become an all-encompassing ecosystem - where folks live in the Facebook app instead of just another app on the iOS ecosystem.

That would obviously cut folks like Shopify out of the picture unless, of course, they captured the transaction data somehow... 

Also from the piece:

“People are embracing social platforms not only for connection, but for commerce,” said Carl Rivera, General Manager of Shop. “Making Shop Pay available outside of Shopify for the first time means even more shoppers can use the fastest and best checkout on the Internet. And there’s more to come: we’ll continue to work with Facebook to bring a number of Shopify services and products to these platforms to make social selling so much better.”

But are they? I have yet to see any meaningful evidence of folks buying on social. There is a big push, but will it work? Time will tell. 

TikTok takes on Facebook with US eCommerce push | Financial Times

TikTok is planning an aggressive expansion into ecommerce in the US, where it will go head-to-head with Silicon Valley giant Facebook.

The Chinese-owned viral-video app has briefed advertisers on a number of new features for 2021, according to several people who have seen its plans, such as a tool that lets its most popular users share links to products and automatically earn commission on any sales.

“It’s old-school affiliate marketing,” one senior advertising executive said, adding that video makers would be able to link to any products they liked, even if they were not formally sponsored by the brand.

TikTok, which is owned by China’s ByteDance, is also aiming to roll out the ability for brands to showcase catalogues of their products on the platform, the people said.

The app is also said to be rolling out “livestreamed” shopping, a mobile phone version of television shopping channels, where users can buy goods with a few taps after seeing them showcased by TikTok stars. This follows testing of the live shopping feature with Walmart announced late last year. TikTok declined to comment.

Instagram confirms it’s working on a ‘Vertical Stories’ feed | TechCrunch

Instagram is developing a new feature that could give its app more of a TikTok-like feel: Vertical Instagram Stories. Today, users browse through Stories through taps and horizontal swipes — a feature Instagram adopted from Snapchat. But now, Stories are passé.

I love watching Facebook scramble to determine which of its rivals it should rip off. 

TikTok Sale to Oracle, Walmart Is Shelved as Biden Reviews Security - WSJ

In a court filing, the Biden administration said it had begun a review of the agency action that would help it determine whether the national security threat cited by the Trump administration continues to warrant the ban. The filing by the Justice Department said the request for a delay is unopposed by TikTok and ByteDance.

A really great observation, as we watch the social media incumbents combat the rising stars. 

Pinterest Closes In On TikTok & Snapchat with +37% Monthly Users

Not sure whether your brand will find an audience on Pinterest?

New figures from the visual social network suggest it’s easier than ever before, as monthly average users (MAUs) have increased 37% globally.

Although U.S. Pinterest users have grown slower than its international audience, Americans remain the primary source of Pinterest’s revenue and a goldmine of opportunity for marketers to reach and inspire new audiences.

Pinterest is low-key killing it. 

📺 Video

Google's revenue rises to record on recovery in ad spending | Marketing Dive

YouTube now reaches more 18- to 49-year-olds than all linear TV networks combined, while 70% of its viewers said they bought a brand after seeing it on YouTube, Philipp Schindler, senior vice president at chief business officer at Alphabet, said in a conference call with analysts. Direct response advertising on YouTube continued to grow, while brand advertising maintained a recovery that started in Q3, he said.

⚖️ Legislation

Targeting Big Tech, Maryland becomes first state to tax digital advertising - CNN

The digital advertising provisions of Maryland's new tax law could raise an estimated $250 million in its first year, with revenues being earmarked for education. One of the policy's chief proponents, Senate President Bill Ferguson (D), is a former teacher for Teach for America.

In a Facebook post Friday morning, Ferguson said the bill is targeted at companies that make more than $100 million a year selling digital advertising, a threshold that large technology companies like Facebook and Google would easily surpass. Facebook and Google generated $84 billion and $147 billion in digital advertising revenue last year, respectively.

🏬 Brick & Mortar

How Can Design and Experience Save Retail Stores? | ArchDaily

People around the world experience the ease of ordering whatever they want at a click of a button from the comfort of their own homes. But data shows that more than 88% of items added to carts for checkout are abandoned, meaning that there is significant hesitation towards buying everything online. Shopping in person, and getting to see, touch, and smell the items you want to buy is something that technology is still a long way from replacing- and architects and interior designers know this. They’re taking on the challenge of leveraging data and design to bring one of a kind, unique stores that will draw you in to spend money, in a time where retail needs to find ways to be more competitive and more cutting edge. Shopping of the future will be more stimulating than ever. It’s not just about the bottom line of sales but will be emphasized as a social experience where you’re interested in more than just the items on the shelves.

Most retail stores are traditionally designed in a roll-out fashion, with one design being duplicated across multiple sites which results in cost-efficient construction, but repetitive design experiences. In moving away from this trend, architects are creating stores that are one-of-a-kind and unique in their designs. 

🔒 Security

iOS 14.5 Beta Directs 'Safe Browsing' Traffic in Safari Through Apple Server Instead of Google to Protect Personal User Data - MacRumors

Safari on iOS and iPadOS includes a built-in feature called “Fraudulent Website Warning.” As Apple describes it, having the feature enabled will prompt Safari to warn users if they’re visiting a suspected phishing website, or in other words, a website attempting to steal your data such as username, passwords, and other information.

In order to provide this feature, Apple relies on Google’s “Safe Browsing,” a database/blocklist of websites crawled by Google of websites that it deems to be suspected phishing or scam. In practice Google sends Safari a list of hashed prefixes of URLs that it determines to be malicious/phishing, Safari then checks the website you’re trying to visit against the list from Google. Any match in hashed prefix will cause Safari to request the full URL link from Google, and by using the hashed prefix, Google never sees the website’s URL you’re trying to go to.

While Google doesn’t know which specific URL you’re trying to visit, it may collect your IP address during its interaction with Safari. Now on iOS/iPadOS 14.5, that’s no longer the case. As confirmed by the Head of Engineering for WebKit, Apple will now proxy Google’s Safe Browsing feature through its own servers instead of Google as a way to “limit the risk of information leak.”

🦠 Coronavirus

L'Oreal sees post-pandemic 'roaring 20s' driving cosmetics rebound | Reuters

“People will be happy to go out again, to socialise,” he said at a presentation of the company’s results. “This will be like the Roaring 20s, there will be a fiesta in makeup and in fragrances,” he said, referring to the 1920s post-war economic boom, when people wore daring fashions and partied.

He said strong sales in China, where many COVID-19 restrictions have been eased, offered a sneak preview of what the rest of the world could expect. L’Oreal said its sales in China were up 27% in 2020.

If accurate, this concept could obviously extend well beyond cosmetics. 

🤷🏻‍♂️ Just For Fun

The Best Work-From-Home Cities for 2021 | PCMag

Our number-one remote-working town in the US is Chattanooga, known as "Gig City," which rolled out a citywide fiber network in 2010. As we recounted in a 2018 story, Chattanooga has been pushing hard to attract tech workers and companies based on its affordable real estate, business-friendly administrations, and widely available broadband internet. In 2019, according to the Census, 6.8% of Hamilton County, TN residents worked from home, compared with 5.7% of all Americans.

"In 2020, it was evident that Chattanooga has been able to attract talent from major cities and companies. I've run into folks who work for Spotify, Stripe, Netflix, et al. The quality of life was a major reason many of these folks moved from places like NYC, SF, LA, and more," venture capitalist Santosh Sankar of Dynamo Management Co. in Chattanooga told us.

Hey, that’s where I live! 🙃

Is This Beverly Hills Cop Playing Sublime’s ‘Santeria’ to Avoid Being Live-Streamed?

Assuming that Fair wasn’t just trying to share his love of ’90s stoner music with the citizens of Beverly Hills, this seems to be an intentional (if misguided) tactic to use social media companies' copyright protection policies to prevent himself from being filmed.

Instagram in particular has been increasingly strict on posting copyrighted material. Any video that contains music, even if it’s playing in the background, is potentially subject to removal by Instagram.

Most people complain about these rules. Beverly Hills law enforcement, however, seems to be a fan.

Well, that is something. 

👋 Holla!

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