Messaging Monday

by: Veit Irtenkauf

Meta is working on a Twitter competitor. Should you care?

March 20, 2023

Meta Instagram P92 to take on Twitter

In a recent statement, Meta confirmed they are working on project "P92", a competitor to Twitter. They plan to use ActivityPub, the decentralized service powering Mastodon and other federated services. It would become part of Instagram, thus adding a Twitter-like social network component to Instagram.

This project makes a lot of sense. Twitter is vulnerable. The creators that left and went to Mastodon have to deal with two major issues: Consumers don't know Mastodon and thus creating an account is a huge hurdle that is slowing down Mastodon's adoption. An Instagram-based service would solve both issues immediately. And that would create a big headache for Twitter.

In a previous post, I recommended that brands start to explore a presence on Mastodon. I'm doubling down on this recommendation. Given what we know today, I'd expect a launch of Meta's "P92" would accelerate the exodus of brands and advertising dollars from Twitter. Brands need to be ready for that.


Should WhatsApp weaken its end-to-end encryption in the UK?

March 13, 2023

The UK Online Safety Bill is a new set of laws to protect children and adults online. Once passed, it will make social media companies more responsible for their users' safety on their platforms. This is a big challenge for companies that cannot decrypt and thus police content on their servers, such as end-to-end encrypted messaging services like WhatsApp, Signal or Telegram.

Technically, checking content is doable. Since WhatsApp traffic is end-to-end encrypted, it would need to happen in the WhatsApp app on your phone before a message is sent, even if you are offline or in airplane mode. Today, AI-based photo editing software often sends out new AI models with each update; while these are hefty downloads, these models could be integrated into WhatsApp's mobile app. However, processing time and battery life would become an issue, esp. on low performing handsets, and that would impact usability. Who would want to wait for the app to perform a multi-minute scan of a 100MB movie before it can be sent?

The bigger challenge is on the business side. WhatsApp would be liable that its content checking works. In social environment you use content moderation teams, but here it would have to be done in the WhatsApp app in real-time by algorithms, which won't be anywhere near perfect. Even more problematic would be for WhatsApp to use regular content moderation. For that it needs to break the encryption on their servers, which they won't do since that is the key value proposition to many of its users.

Given this, it's understandable that WhatsApp would rather exit a market than weaken its encryption, esp. since the UK is not WhatsApp's biggest market. It will be interesting to watch what WhatsApp will do, if similar laws would be passed in the EU, Latin America or India, which are much larger markets for them.

Source: BBC.

Meta is rolling out its subscription service. Should you pay?

February 28, 2023

If you are a brand, the short answer is Yes. You want to subscribe.

Chances are that your customers are trying to interact with you on Facebook. Not just publicly; in many countries, Facebook Messenger is the #1 messaging service, so your customers are there as well. They want to know that they are communicating with a you on Facebook and not some impersonator, since even if discouraged, Messenger conversations often are more sensitive.

When WhatsApp launched its verification process ("green checkmark"), the most urgent escalations I had to deal with were brands being denied the WhatsApp verification badge. Brand image and brand defense matter a lot to brands, hence they are willing to pay. Other benefits (such as access to support or more visibility across Facebook) to Meta's subscription matter as well, but verification is by far the most important aspect to the new subscription service.

Note that at this time the new Meta verification does not cover Instagram and is only available to users in Australia and New Zealand.

Should you move from Twitter to Mastodon?

February 21, 2023

If a brand supports its customers via Twitter, or runs campaigns on it, predictability is one of the keys to success. Unfortunately, Twitter today is not a textbook-case of predictability. As a result many key users and influencers have left Twitter. Most are heading to Mastodon. Should you?

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The short answer: Try it out and develop a plan. Do your research and perform some tests to gather hard data to aid a decision, even if you decide to not move forward.

On Twitter and other social media channels you get both organic and actively generated traffic. You can easily move the traffic you direct to Twitter today by replicating your campaigns on Mastodon and then ramp down Twitter as your customer become more comfortable interacting with you on Mastodon. In addition, change your Twitter CTAs on your website and in your campaigns to Mastodon CTAs to get traffic redirected. Be aware, though, that users have to create Mastodon accounts before they can interact with you. That introduces friction and thus a potential loss of engagement. A measured approach with lots of checks is the smartest way to start this transition.

It won't be easy to address organic traffic. There's a history of your brand operating on Twitter and therefore an expectation that you are listening and be responsive. It will take time to move organic traffic away from Twitter.

To complicate the move: In both the brand defense and customer care use cases, the likelihood is very high that you want to move the conversation to a private channel. Twitter has that capability built into its platform; Mastodon does not support private messaging. You will need to channel switch Mastodon customers for private conversations, which will induce even more friction. Good targets for a switch would be your chat channels or other messaging services. QR codes in Mastodon replies may be a good way to initiate that switch. Keep experimenting and measure to see what works.

Whatever the outcome will be, it is time for brands to get their research done and their plan ready.

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