The Mix Tape, Vol. 71

Merry Christmas and happy holidays! Welcome to this week’s (early) Mix:

🎄Facebook’s absurd attacks on Apple’s privacy efforts
🎁The end of influencers?
🎅🏻Tell your story through your customers
❄️Florida deftly walks a communication tightrope


Facebook’s absurd attacks on Apple’s privacy efforts

Facebook and Apple aren't exactly competitors.

But I doubt they exchange Christmas gifts, either.

Each company’s financial incentives drive very different perspectives when it comes to the Internet and privacy:

  • Apple: Sells you integrated software and hardware at (sometimes very!) high margins bundled with in-house content and support services (iCloud backup, Apple Music, etc.). Apple advocates for user privacy as a market differentiator because it doesn’t need to track you to sell you stuff.

  • Facebook: Tracks, catalogs, resells, and targets as many of your behaviors and preferences as possible in order to create a profitable advertising platform.

Early next year, Apple will introduce a straightforward user privacy change in iOS 14:

Developers will need to ask iOS 14 users for permission to gather data and track them across mobile apps and websites on an iPhone and iPad soon. Apple had planned to implement these changes with the initial iOS 14 release in September, but delayed enforcing them until early next year.

In other words, your iPhone or iPad will soon give you a heads up: “Hey, this app wants to track your behavior. Are you cool with that?”

If not, apps can’t track you any longer.

Facebook hates this.

Collecting less data reduces the targeting effectiveness—and profitability—of Facbook’s ad platform.

Facebook obviously can’t just jump up and down and scream that users shouldn’t have straightforward privacy controls. Instead, the company is hiding behind a small business advocacy position:

Remember: whenever you hear “personalized advertising” it simply means “we’re tracking you.”

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to protecting digital privacy rights, was not impressed:

Facebook touts itself in this case as protecting small businesses, and that couldn’t be further from the truth. Facebook has locked them into a situation in which they are forced to be sneaky and adverse to their own customers. The answer cannot be to defend that broken system at the cost of their own users’ privacy and control.  

The EFF advocates for a baseline privacy law that puts all online publishers and advertisers on a level playing field.

Today, Facebook enjoys duopolistic control of online ads (along with Google) and is fighting to keep that advantage—and to keep tracking as much of your activity and preferences as possible.

Let’s close this out with words from the venerable Walt Mossberg:


The end of influencers?

If you’re unfamiliar with the influencer concept, here’s a nice definition:

an influencer is someone who has a social following of 10,000 or more. These range from beauty gurus, actors, comedians, podcast hosts, and even game show contestants. The opportunities offered to these influencers range from PR freebies such as makeup and flowers, clothing and jewelry, to house renovations and holidays all over the world.

Influencers make money in several ways. They may be directly compensated for products and services they sell via an affiliate link. They may be paid flat fees for endorsements. Or they may simply get freebies in return for promotion.

Naturally, this creates opportunities for grift, audience deception, and even fraud.

But audiences may be wising up:

Out of a poll of 245 on Tattle Life, one of the commentary websites for influencers, the majority said that they wouldn’t click an affiliate link created by an influencer. One member commented:

“Influencers cannot be trusted. They’re paid to promote a brand, it’s been years since anything people like that put on their YouTube or Instagram were their actual thoughts, or a product they actually use and endorse. If a brand advertises heavily (or exclusively) through “influencers”, I won’t buy it no matter how much it’s raved about.”

I believe affiliate relationships will remain a viable revenue stream for content creators, and an effective acquisition and branding vehicle for advertisers.

Honesty and transparency are critical. Content creators must be clear about their business relationships and the products they promote or endorse.

And for heaven’s sake, they should only endorse products and companies they use and trust.

Not that hard.


Tell your story through your customers

First rule of effective marketing messaging:

The customer is the hero.

Not you.

The customer.

Pictured above: your customer. Not you.

Website platform Squarespace put together a unique and interesting presentation about how six of its customers found success in 2020.

The interview-and-case-study stories, presented in an engaging visual format, detail how small businesses pivoted during the pandemic, with help from Squarespace’s tools, of course. The story of Good Move, an NYC-based dance studio, was one of the featured businesses:

HOW DID YOU KNOW WHERE TO START?

I didn’t wait until we had the perfect product. I saw people hurting, emotionally, physically, financially, and set to the task of setting up ways to connect with them as quickly as possible.

SO WHAT WAS THE FIRST PIVOT?

We were one of the first studios to create an online platform after the shutdown. I think our clients were really grateful for that, they saw how hard we worked to be there for them, and they were patient while we continued to improve the online offerings.

Great idea. The stories are interesting and inspiring, with Squarespace customers featured as the heroes.


Florida deftly walks a communication tightrope

You may have heard about Florida Gator basketball star Keyontae Johnson, who collapsed on the court during a game at Florida State on December 12.

Fortunately, Johnson has been released from the hospital. He has an inflamed heart, and his athletic future is uncertain.

The comms team in the Florida athletic department, which has worked closely with Johnson’s family to provide updates, deserves kudos for its communication strategy and execution.

Florida’s strategy is primarily empathetic to Johnson and his family while also addressing the concerns and needs of fans and media.

Further, both parties want to use the situation to help educate others that may have faced or will face a similar situation.

Well done.


Thank you for reading and sharing.

Please hit reply if you have questions, comments, or open rebuttals. (Or just want to say hi.)