Instagram today will begin a new test around hiding Like counts on users’ posts, following its experiments in this area which first began in 2019. This time, however, Instagram is not enabling or disabling the feature for more users. Instead, it will begin to explore a new option where users get to decide what works best for them — either choosing to see the Like counts on others’ posts, or not. Users will also be able to turn off Like counts on their own posts, if they choose. Facebook additionally confirmed it will begin to test a similar experience on its own social network.
Instagram says tests involving Like counts were deprioritized after Covid-19 hit, as the company focused on other efforts needed to support its community. (Except for that brief period this March where Instagram accidentally hid Likes for more users due to a bug.)
The company says it’s now revisiting the feedback it collected from users during the tests and found a wide range of opinions. Originally, the idea with hiding Like counts was about reducing the anxiety and embarrassment that surrounds posting content on the social network. That is, people would stress over whether their post would receive enough Likes to be deemed “popular.” This problem was particularly difficult for Instagram’s younger users, who care much more about what their peers think — so much so that they would take down posts that didn’t receive “enough” Likes.
In addition, the removal of Likes helped reduce the sort of herd mentality that drives people to like things that are already popular, as opposed to judging the content for themselves.
But during tests, not everyone agreed the removal of Likes was a change for the better. Some people said they still wanted to see Like counts so they could track what was trending and popular. The argument for keeping Likes was more prevalent among the influencer community, where creators used the metric in order to communicate their value to partners, like brands and advertisers. Here, lower engagement rates on posts could directly translate to lower earnings for these creators.
Both arguments for and against Likes have merit, which is why Instagram’s latest test will put the choice back into users’ own hands.
This new test will be enabled for a small percentage of users globally on Instagram, the company says.
If you’ve been opted in, you’ll find a new option to hide the Likes from within the app’s Settings. This will prevent you from seeing Likes on other people’s posts as you scroll through your Instagram Feed. As a creator, you’ll be able to hide Likes on a per-post basis via the three-dot “…” menu at the top. Even if Likes are disabled publicly, creators are still able to view Like counts and other engagements through analytics, just as they did before.
The tests on Facebook, which has also been testing Like count removals for some time, have not yet begun. Facebook tells TechCrunch those will roll out in the weeks ahead.
Making Like counts an choice may initially seem like it could help to address everyone’s needs. But in reality, if the wider influencer community chooses to continue to use Likes as a currency that translates to popularity and job opportunities, then other users will continue to do the same.
Ultimately, communities themselves have to decide what sort of tone they want to set, preferably from the outset — before you’ve attracted millions of users who will be angry when you later try to change course.
There’s also a question as to whether social media users are really hungry for an “Like-free” safer space. For years we’ve seen startups focused on building an “anti-Instagram” of sorts, where they drop one or more Instagram features, like algorithmic feeds, Likes and other engagement mechanisms, such as Minutiae, Vero, Dayflash, Oggl, and now, newcomers like troubled Dispo, or under-the-radar Herd. But Instagram has yet to fail because of an anti-Instagram rival. If anything is a threat, it’s a new type of social network entirely, like TikTok –where it should be noted getting Likes and engagements is still very important for creator success.
Instagram didn’t say how long the new tests would last or if and when the features would roll out more broadly.
“We’re testing this on Instagram to start, but we’re also exploring a similar experience for Facebook. We will learn from this new small test and have more to share soon,” a Facebook company spokesperson said.
- The story of SEO and UX began almost 20 years ago with both making a foray into the market in the 1990s
- After years of analyzing data, I found that UX is a critical ranking factor for SEO
- If you’ve exhausted all your SEO techniques but still don’t see a considerable movement on your website or rankings – you’re probably losing at user experience (UX)
- Adobe Research’s Sr. Web Engineer, Atul Jindal condenses years of his experience and observations into this SEO guide to help you win at SEO and search experience
I’ve worked with many SEO and CRO campaigns as well as fortune 50 companies over the years. This gives me access to valuable data that helped me understand what is working and what’s not. Over the years by analyzing data I found that UX is a critical ranking factor for SEO.
The story of SEO and UX began almost 20 years ago with both making a foray into the market in the 1990s. While SEO was widely used as a marketing technique, UX (user experience) concentrated on giving the users an enhanced engaging experience on the website.
If you have exhausted all your SEO techniques but still don’t see a considerable movement on your website or rankings. Then probably you’re losing at User experience.
But it is quite difficult to find UX-related issues on your website. When you’re only looking at your website from an SEO perspective! You need to take a look at your website with your user’s (customer’s) eyes.
In this guide, I’ll explain UX and guide you on how to implement it into your SEO campaigns to get results.
What is UX?
User experience (UX) is the experience of a user with your website/application. An easy-to-use website will provide a pleasant user experience but an unplanned website will have a bad or poor user experience.
UX focuses on the site architecture, visitor journey, desktop, and mobile layouts, user flows. In short, user experience is driven by how easy or difficult it is to navigate through the user interface elements that the website designers have created.
User interface (UI) focuses on the graphical layout of any application. It includes several factors such as fonts and design styles, text entry fields, transitions, images, and animation interface. In short, anything visual comes under the umbrella of UI.
It is important to note that UI and UX are two different functionalities. While UI revolves around design layout, UX is the experience of the user on the website while they are navigating the web pages.
Since we have a better understanding of the two, let us further understand how we can successfully implement UX into an SEO campaign.
Why does UX matter in SEO?
In recent years, Google has changed its ranking criteria. There was a time when Google was looking for the keyword reparations in your content or the number of backlinks that your website has.
But now the scenario has been completely changed. Google is becoming more user-centric day by day. They are using artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), natural language processing (NLP), and other kinds of latest technologies to understand, evaluate and provide the best of the best results.
Google has introduced the EAT concept as well as metrics like search intent, page speed, mobile-friendliness, dwell-time are ranking factors to rank on Google. All these factors are part of a rich user experience.
A rich user experience is a factor that creates the difference between the first and second positions. Providing a rich user experience is always helpful for visitors and encourages them to stay longer and engage more on your website. That sends positive quality signals that show your website the best result to Google. And as a result of that Google rewards you with top spots.
How to implement UX into an SEO campaign?
As mentioned above, SEO and UX share common end goals – audience engagement. SEO will answer a person’s query, while UX will take care of their navigational queries once they reach the webpage.
Today, it has become imperative to include the two while designing SEO campaigns or any digital marketing strategy. Google is constantly evolving its user experience and merging effective SEO strategies to give the audience a more meaningful experience.
An excellent example of UX and SEO design is IKEA. We all know what IKEA stands for, but their website forms a story at every step. It guides the user to the correct landing pages and keeps them engaged. The color palette, their tags, and categories make a user stay longer and engaged on the website.
Source: IKEA designed on Canva
Empathy plays a vital role in optimizing your web pages with the right combination of keywords. Those days are no more with us when the exact keyword matches were enough to rank well. Today, it is about putting yourself out there and thinking from a bigger perspective.
Google has done a great job over the past five years of getting away from ranking signals that can be spammed easily such as links and keyword stuffing.
In other words, understanding your audience’s buying intent and analyzing their search queries will lead to refined and sustainable results.
Let us understand the three most critical factors that influence the SEO + UX ranking.
Understand your audience
It is probably one of the trickiest parts of running any successful campaign – Understanding the target audience.
Most companies spend a considerable amount of time researching the audience before concluding who will be their right target. It is why we have spent a sizable amount of time highlighting its importance.
We have often heard of marketers, businesses, and content creators emphasizing the importance of the right target audience. While sometimes it is more or less commonsensical to grasp the audience’s pulse, there are times when you need to explicitly ask:
- Who is my target audience?
- What do they want?
- What they are searching for?
- How are they looking for the information?
- Did my searcher bounce right away?
- Was there any action taken on the link?
These are key questions, Google’s algorithm takes into consideration to understand whether search results are aligned to the searcher’s intent.
For example, Airbnb works on an inclusive design model that concentrates on improving readability across all platforms. Their target audience is clearly defined – travel enthusiasts, people looking for holiday home options, and people looking for holiday hosting solutions. Their focal point has been improving the user experience by leading them to the right landing pages. They coupled it with catchy CTAs that probed the user to take an action. Whether you are a host or someone seeking an extraordinary travel experience, their comprehensive holiday solutions pave the way to make booking a holiday faster and easier.
Source: Airbnb. Designed on Canva
Once you understand your audience completely, it can lead to a page getting clicks and some action taking place if you are on the first of Google search results.
UX helps the audience stay glued to the page while SEO honors their intent to click on the page’s keyword and land. Everything you do, your focal points are always around the satisfactory experience of the users. From addressing their color preferences to the layout and messages, you have to build everything that caters to your customers.
Another critical factor in understanding the audience is the user’s intent. It would help if you addressed it while carrying out a detailed audience persona such as informational, navigational, transactional, or commercial purpose. In each case, the queries have to be predefined to understand the user’s need.
Understanding the intent of potential visitors landing on your web page through search is another crucial factor that makes up for an effective UX and SEO strategy. If your website is not fully optimized with the right set of keywords, there is a bleak chance of it ranking on Google or even leading to any action.
For example, imagine searching for the keywords – “How to wear a bowtie?”
The most logical conclusion is that your search will lead you to a tutorial or a video, right? If the same set of keywords are used by an ecommerce site selling the bowtie, your query will remain unanswered. You may conclude that the website using this keyword is not worth visiting in the future because they apply ‘click-bait’ words to lead a consumer to their website.
But if the person lands on the right page with the instructions clearly outlined, they stay to learn, thus increasing the dwell time and may browse the website for more information. Here your keyword has played a vital role in leading the consumer straight to the tutorial.
Google keyword planner, Moz keyword explorer, Keywordtool.io, Ahrefs Keywords explorer, or SECockpit are some practical tools used widely to search for the right keywords.
The best way to select the right keywords to fit your SEO strategy is to iterate the keywords you need ranking. Search relevant topics based on your business to portray and understand how the user intent affects keyword usage.
In short, keyword research, before setting up SEO campaigns and merging them with UX, help you evolve with changing market trends.
Designing a website without optimizing it for search engines is a waste of time and vice versa. Both these aspects work together and need to be carefully considered right from the beginning.
The site’s architecture is how the pages flow on your website. From the SEO point of view, good website architecture means Google will easily find and index your page. Simply, links should help Google to navigate smoothly from high to low authority pages. Google Search Console has improved a lot since its early days and became highly informative to SEO technicians, helping them to understand how a website is indexed and appeared to Google.
Using H1, H2 tags, headings, taglines, catchy CTAs, and informational menu labels, decide whether your audience will interact with your website or not. Remember- your homepage should not be more than four clicks away.
Mobile-responsive design has gained significant importance for both the user experience and SEO. Over 50 percent of all traffic is now driven by mobile search and sites that are not mobile-responsive will compromise the user experience.
According to Google’s page experience document, mobile-friendly websites have priority access to appear above in search results. Enhancing the readability of your readers by incorporating the right font family and text size is a must-have to consider improving the mobile experience. Having a responsive website with the ability to load faster has on varying screen sizes has become a standard these days.
Bad SEO + UX ruins the entire motive of brand building. It pays well to give importance to the fine attributes today. It includes domain name, informational content, internal links, optimizing meta tags, meta descriptions, image alt tags, headings, and page titles to make the entire experience worthwhile.
Implementing SEO with UX design may seem a little daunting initially; however, it is critical to boost rankings and build a great brand.
Atul Jindal is Sr. Web Engineer at Adobe Research.
Facebook has removed 16,000 groups that were trading fake reviews on its platform after another intervention by the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), the regulator said today.
The CMA has been leaning on tech giants to prevent their platforms being used as thriving marketplaces for selling fake reviews since it began investigating the issue in 2018 — pressuring both eBay and Facebook to act against fake review sellers back in 2019.
The two companies pledged to do more to tackle the insidious trade last year, after coming under further pressure from the regulator — which found that Facebook-owned Instagram was also a thriving hub of fake review trades.
The latest intervention by the CMA looks considerably more substantial than last year’s action — when Facebook removed a mere 188 groups and disabled 24 user accounts. Although it’s not clear how many accounts the tech giant has banned and/or suspended this time it has removed orders of magnitude more groups. (We’ve asked.)
Facebook was contacted with questions but it did not answer what we asked directly, sending us this statement instead:
“We have engaged extensively with the CMA to address this issue. Fraudulent and deceptive activity is not allowed on our platforms, including offering or trading fake reviews. Our safety and security teams are continually working to help prevent these practices.”
Since the CMA has been raising the issue of fake review trading, Facebook has been repeatedly criticised for not doing enough to clean up its platforms, plural.
Today the regulator said the social media giant has made further changes to the systems it uses for “identifying, removing and preventing the trading of fake and/or misleading reviews on its platforms to ensure it is fulfilling its previous commitments”.
It’s not clear why it’s taken Facebook well over a year — and a number of high profile interventions — to dial up action against the trade in fake reviews. But the company suggested that the resources it has available to tackle the problem had been strained as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and associated impacts, such as home working. (Facebook’s full year revenue increased in 2020 but so too did its expenses.)
According to the CMA changes Facebook has made to its system for combating traders of fake reviews include:
- suspending or banning users who are repeatedly creating Facebook groups and Instagram profiles that promote, encourage or facilitate fake and misleading reviews
- introducing new automated processes that will improve the detection and removal of this content
- making it harder for people to use Facebook’s search tools to find fake and misleading review groups and profiles on Facebook and Instagram
- putting in place dedicated processes to make sure that these changes continue to work effectively and stop the problems from reappearing
Again it’s not clear why Facebook would not have already been suspending or banning repeat offenders — at least, not if it was actually taking good faith action to genuinely quash the problem, rather than seeing if it could get away with doing the bare minimum.
Commenting in a statement, Andrea Coscelli, chief executive of the CMA, essentially makes that point, saying: “Facebook has a duty to do all it can to stop the trading of such content on its platforms. After we intervened again, the company made significant changes — but it is disappointing it has taken them over a year to fix these issues.”
“We will continue to keep a close eye on Facebook, including its Instagram business. Should we find it is failing to honour its commitments, we will not hesitate to take further action,” Coscelli added.
A quick search on Facebook’s platform for UK groups trading in fake reviews appears to return fewer obviously dubious results than when we’ve checked in on this problem in 2019 and 2020. Although the results that were returned included a number of private groups so it was not immediately possible to verify what content is being solicited from members.
We did also find a number of Facebook groups offering Amazon reviews intended for other European markets, such as France and Spain (and in one public group aimed at Amazon Spain we found someone offering a “fee” via PayPal for a review; see below screengrab) — suggesting Facebook isn’t applying the same level of attention to tackling fake reviews that are being traded by users in markets where it’s faced fewer regulatory pokes than it has in the UK.
Clubhouse, a one-year-old social audio app reportedly valued at $ 1 billion, will now allow users to send money to their favorite creators — or speakers — on the platform. In a blog post, the startup announced the new monetization feature, Clubhouse Payments, as the “the first of many features that allow creators to get paid directly on Clubhouse.”
Clubhouse declined to comment. Paul Davison, the co-founder of Clubhouse, mentioned in the company’s latest town hall that the startup wants to focus on direct monetization on creators, instead of advertisements.
Here’s how it will work: A user can send a payment in Clubhouse by going to the profile of the creator to whom they want to give money. If the creator has the feature enabled, the user will be able to tap “Send Money” and enter an amount. It’s like a virtual tip jar, or a Clubhouse-branded version of Venmo (although the payments feature doesn’t currently let the user send a personalized message along with the money).
“100% of the payment will go to the creator. The person sending the money will also be charged a small card processing fee, which will go directly to our payment processing partner, Stripe,” the post reads. “Clubhouse will take nothing.”
Stripe CEO Patrick Collison tweeted shortly after the blog post went up that “It’s cool to see a new social platform focus first on participant income rather than internalized monetization / advertising.”
It's cool to see a new social platform focus first on *participant* income rather than internalized monetization / advertising. Excited for the burgeoning creator economy and next era of internet business models.
— Patrick Collison (@patrickc) April 5, 2021
When the startup raised a Series B led by Andreessen Horowitz in January, part of the reported $ 100 million funding was said to go to a creator grant program. The program would be used to “support emerging Clubhouse creators,” according to a blog post. It’s unclear how they define emerging, but cultivating influencers (and rewarding them with money) is one way the startup is promoting high-quality content on its platform.
The synergies here are obvious. A Clubhouse creator can now get tips for a great show, or raise money for a great cause, while also being rewarded by the platform itself for being a recurring host.
The fact that Clubhouse’s first attempt at monetization includes no percentage cut of its own is certainly noteworthy. Monetization, or Clubhouse’s lack thereof, has been a topic of discussion about the buzzy startup since it took off in the early pandemic months. While it currently relies on venture capital to keep the wheels churning, it will need to make money eventually in order to be a self-sustaining business.
Creator monetization, with a cut for the platform, has led to the growth of large businesses. Cameo, a startup that sends personalized messages from creators and celebrities, takes about a 25% cut of each video sold on its platform. The startup reached unicorn status last week with a $ 100 million raise. OnlyFans, another platform that helps creators directly raise money from fans in exchange for paywalled contact, is projecting $ 1 billion in revenue for 2021.
Clubhouse’s payments feature will first be tested by a “small test group” starting today, but it is unclear who is in this group. Eventually, the payments feature will be rolled out to other users in waves.
- The Mobile Experience is critical for all categories when looking at Core Web Vitals (CWV)
- Image compression seems to be a leading challenge for leading brands
- Pages doing well for CWV tend to be informational in nature
- Retail, in particular, could see significant disruption if second-tier retailers receive a boost
- Across all sectors, there is opportunity and time for improvement and preparation as long as issues are addressed as a business priority
- Enterprise Search and Digital Marketers need to prescribe the right course of action to meet core vital benchmarks
- They must also convince the rest of the organization that the efforts will be worth the results
The long-awaited implementation of mobile-first indexing is now upon us, meaning that content visible only on desktop will be ignored from this point on by the world’s largest search engine. Mobile-first has been a priority of Google’s for years as the beat of the user experience drum has grown to a crescendo.
A few short months from now, the Page Experience update as a whole will roll out, too. Page experience “measures aspects of how users perceive the experience of interacting with a web page,” according to Google and consists of five major Search signals.
Hopefully you’re familiar with at least four of these, as they’ve been in play for some time. Mobile-friendliness, safe-browsing, HTTPS-security, and intrusive interstitial guidelines have each been rolled out and updated as Google has sought to keep pace with evolving consumer expectations.
So what’s new?
In May, signals from a new metric called Core Web Vitals (CWV) will combine with these existing four signals for one mega-metric called Page Experience. BrightEdge (my company) conducted a study into CWVs preparedness and mobile-first compliance to determine the potential impact on sites in four major industries. But first, it’s important to understand the CWV opportunity and the relationship between this new set of metrics and the mobile-first index.
Demystifying Core Web Vitals
Before we go any further, note that CWVs are not a guideline that could instigate a penalty if not followed. Cloaking is one such example of a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, and if you’re caught out at it you run the risk of being penalized by Google.
Core Web Vitals, on the other hand, is an opportunity. If you fail to meet the thresholds for each of the three major areas of focus that make up the CWV signal, you won’t get a penalty. But you will miss out on the rankings boost available to those who meet the standards.
And what are those standards?
Meeting one of two of these goals won’t suffice; Google has confirmed that all three must be met in order to see the rankings boost available via CWV. You can read more about these important metrics here.
Core Web Vitals and mobile-first go hand-in-hand for search UX
Safe browsing, HTTPS security, and intrusive interstitial guidelines are fairly straightforward — you’re either in line with the guidelines or you’re not.
Mobile-first and Core Web Vitals are more complex, consisting of a greater volume of moving parts, and therefore are getting the lion’s share of webmaster attention as the May rollout looms. Hosting, site structure, image optimization, and more can all impact how your site loads on mobile. James Parsons recently shared a 28-point checklist of optimizations to work through as you’re preparing for CWVs that every webmaster and SEO should check out.
Mobile-first has an outsized impact due to its influence on local search experience, as well. Considering that 60 percent of mobile searches have local intent, the vast majority of businesses cannot afford to ignore Google’s emphasis on the mobile index. When local consumers are out in their neighborhoods searching for nearby businesses to meet their needs, it’s imperative that the website loads lightning-fast.
So how are businesses doing at preparing for the Page Experience update? BrightEdge (my company) recently conducted research that compared top sites in different industries to see how vulnerable each is to the May update. We currently have no way to gauge just how impactful the introduction of CWVs to the ranking algorithm will be, and so wanted to both explore preparedness and establish a baseline.
Here’s what we found.
Which sites stand to benefit from the Core Web Vitals boost?
We analyzed over 1,500 URLs across four industries for the purpose of this study:
- Education (253 URLs)
- Finance (328 URLs)
- B2B (302 URLs)
- Retail (689 URLs)
Rather than using the homepage, we selected the URLs responsible for driving organic traffic for each site. For each webpage, we measured Share of Voice for the top 500 keywords in each industry, analyzed mobile page speed performance using the Crux database, and evaluated adherence to Core Web Vitals using the parameters:
- Largest Contentful Paint: Less than 2.5 Seconds
- First Input Delay: Less than .1 Second
- Cumulative Layout Shift: Less than .01
As it turns out, some industries are better prepared than others for the Page Experience update, as reflected in these findings of what percentage of URLs would receive the Core Web Vitals rankings boost if it rolled out today:
- 24 percent of Finance URLs
- 13 percent of B2B URLs
- Five percent of Education URLs
- Less than one percent of Retail URLs
As you can see, there are massive seats at the table for brands that act now to get in line with this impending update. First-movers will enjoy the benefits of this ranking boost when it hits. The full findings can be found here.
- LCP has an impact on user bounce rates and reducing the time to First Contentful Paint can improve conversions by up to 15 percent
- CLS impacts conversion as layout shift annoys users and disrupts their experience
- FID is key in your site’s ability to respond to the action a user wants to take. helps a website respond more quickly to the actions your audiences take
- Enterprise sites built on apps that require a lot of scripts to execute are creating complexity and potentially significant investment to bring in line with CWVs
Here are some of our findings by industry.
- More than 50 percent of pages met all three CWVs criteria on desktop
- Job listings sites like Indeed.com most often met the CWV thresholds
- More than 60 percent of pages met all three CWVs criteria on desktop
- Banking and brokerage sites struggled while informational resources such as Investopedia excelled
- Close to 70 percent of pages met all three CWVs criteria on desktop
- Informational and definition-type pages performed best, while transactional content struggled
- More than 50 percent of pages met all three CWVs criteria on desktop
- Again, informational resources such as Tech Radar and Consumer Reports performed best
It is worth mentioning that in retail, multiple product listings from the same domains dominated share of voice, resulting in a higher proportion of retail URLs being tested. We did not see a single example of major online retailers (Amazon, Target, and the others) winning a share of voice with their homepages – rather, their organic traffic is being fueled by product and category pages.
We hypothesize that page attributes such as hero images of products and promotional pop-ups are driving non-compliance for the largest contentful paint and layout shift.
Core Web Vitals signals and the larger Page Experience set of metrics are sure to be impactful, but they are among many signals that indicate to Google that your webpage offers a safe, positive, and useful experience for the searcher. This is the heart and soul of every update Google makes and should therefore be the driving force in your SEO strategy.
Keep these findings in mind as you prepare for the Page Experience update and implementation of Core Web Vitals as Google ranking signals:
- Mobile experience is impactful and critical to optimize for across all industries.
- Image compression and optimization is proving challenging for many brands, which presents an opportunity for those able to get this right.
- More informational pages meet Core Web Vitals metrics than transactional.
- Retail brands stand to experience major volatility in search results , particularly if second-tier retailers are able to capitalize on Page Experience and receive a rankings boost.
Enterprise digital marketers and SEOs must work now on the right course of action to meet core vital benchmarks, so they are not left behind. How you communicate the potential impact of this upcoming shift to decision-makers to win buy-in is key.
The post Mobile-first and Core Web Vitals: connecting the dots for page experience success appeared first on Search Engine Watch.
Facebook has some thoughts and updates about its News Feed, Siri gets some new voices and Tonal becomes a unicorn. This is your Daily Crunch for March 31, 2021.
The big story: Facebook makes it easier to view a non-algorithmic News Feed
Facebook highlighted features today that should make it easier for users to see a version of the News Feed that isn’t shaped by the company’s algorithms. These include a Favorites view that displays posts from up to 30 of your favorite friends and Pages, as well as a Most Recent view, which just shows posts in chronological order. Some of these options existed previously, but they’ll now be easily accessible through a new Feed Filter Bar.
At the same time, the company’s VP of Global Affairs, Nick Clegg, pushed back against criticism of the company’s algorithmic News Feed, saying that personalization is common and useful across the web, though he added, “It would clearly be better if these [content] decisions were made according to frameworks agreed by democratically accountable lawmakers.”
Speaking of content decisions, Facebook also cautioned Donald Trump’s daughter-in-law Lara Trump today for posting an interview with the former president, who has been banned from the social network.
The tech giants
Apple adds two brand new Siri voices and will no longer default to a female or male voice in iOS — This means that every person setting up Siri will choose a voice for themselves.
Instagram officially launches Remix on Reels, a TikTok Duets-like feature — Remix offers a way to record your Reels video alongside a video from another user.
Spotify adds three new types of personalized playlists with launch of ‘Spotify Mixes’ — Your Spotify Mixes will include artist mixes, genre mixes and decade mixes.
Startups, funding and venture capital
Strength-training startup Tonal crosses unicorn status after raising $ 250M — To date, the at-home fitness tech startup has raised $ 450 million.
Apple invests $ 50M into music distributor UnitedMasters alongside a16z and Alphabet — The focus of UnitedMasters is to provide artists with a direct pipeline to data around the way that fans are interacting with their content and community.
Diversity-focused Harlem Capital raises $ 134M — Apparently 61% of Harlem Capital’s Fund I portfolio companies are led by Black or Latinx executives, while 43% are led exclusively by women.
Advice and analysis from Extra Crunch
Five machine learning essentials nontechnical leaders need to understand — For engineering and team leaders without an ML background, the incredible pace of change can feel overwhelming and intimidating.
What to make of Deliveroo’s rough IPO debut — After a lackluster IPO pricing run, shares of Deliveroo are lower today, marking a disappointing debut for the hot delivery company.
Embedded procurement will make every company its own marketplace — Merritt Hummer of Bain Capital Ventures argues that with embedded procurement, businesses will buy things they need through vertical B2B apps.
(Extra Crunch is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)
Report finds going remote made workplaces more hostile for already marginalized groups — The Project Include report is based on a survey of about 2,800 people and interviews with tech workers and subject matter experts in numerous countries and industries.
The Weeknd will sell an unreleased song and visual art via NFT auction — Abel Tesfaye, the Super Bowl-headlining musician known as The Weeknd, is the latest artist to embrace the excitement around NFTs.
Here’s what you don’t want to miss tomorrow at TC Early Stage 2021 — The event will include a wide range of presentations that span the startup ecosystem.
The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 3pm Pacific, you can subscribe here.
During every economic boom, there are startup investors who appear on the scene from new corners. Some churn out; others earn the respect of the old guard over time.
Jake Paul would be happy to be in the latter camp. Then again, the 24-year-old didn’t become a social media star by being conventional. Little wonder that Paul is now jumping into venture capital with an outfit that’s branded the Anti Fund. Newly formed with serial entrepreneur Geoffrey Woo, the endeavor is traditional in some ways but has a decidedly different point of view, say the two.
Some of the basics: Anti Fund is not a discrete pool of capital but is instead using AngelList’s Rolling Funds platform, which enables investors to raise money through a quarterly subscription from interested backers. Among those who’ve already committed capital are Marc Andreessen and Chris Dixon of Andreessen Horowitz.
Why choose a rolling fund instead of a traditional fund? For one thing, Paul and Woo were drawn to its Rule 506(c) structure, which allows issuers to broadly solicit an offering. Because Anti Fund plans to focus largely on consumer-focused opportunities and next-generation creator platforms in particular, it wants to be “able to promote and advertise our fund,” says Woo, who most recently founded a nutrition-based food and beverage company and earlier in his career sold a company to Groupon.
Paul relatedly wants to ensure his fans can get involved if they like. “I have followers are different reasons, and they want to be involved in what I’m doing. If they’re involved in our fund, then that’s more people rooting for us and our portfolio companies to win. We almost create this army that’s pushing all of these companies forward.”
As for check sizes, Anti Fund plans to invest between $ 100,000 and $ 1 million in one to two startups every quarter. The goal, says Paul, is to be the “biggest rolling fund on AngelList,” investing “around $ 10 million to $ 20 million a year.”
Anti Fund is just the newest effort to come from the world of social media influencers. As we reported earlier this month, the management company of another YouTube star, MrBeast, has dived into the world of venture capital with a $ 20 million fund it assembled with commitments from social media creators. Dispo, a photo-sharing app cofounded by YouTube star David Dobrik also attracted widespread attention and funding earlier this year.
A new startup called Creative Juice just raised funding, too, to provide equity-based financing to YouTube creators. MrBeast, whose real name is Jimmy Donaldson, is among its investors. (It make a lot of sense, suggests Woo, who says that Anti Fund believes firmly that “individuals will become their own media channels.”)
Roughly 10 years into the influencer phenomenon, the trend isn’t surprising. “I think a lot of creators with newfound wealth — a lot of YouTubers or Instagram models — don’t necessarily know what to do with their money,” says Paul, who has already diversified into boxing, making his professional boxing debut last year. “I’m trying to lead the way.”
Neither Paul nor Woo is new to startup investing. Woo has invested in roughly 20 startups on his own, including Paribus, an email widget that saved consumers money and that was acquired by Capital One. Paul, meanwhile, previously cofounded another small venture outfit called TGZ Capital that he says participated in the funding rounds of 15 startups.
One of these is Quip, a seven-year-old oral care company that has raised $ 62 million in funding, according to Crunchbase. Another company backed by Paul is Triller, a social video app that briefly became the most-downloaded free app in the App Store last summer when bigger rival TikTok was facing an uncertain future in the U.S.
Triller has since lost enough of that momentum that talk of going public via a special purpose acquisition vehicle has yet to lead to a tie-up, six months after the company reportedly began exploring the possibility. Still, as a stakeholder, Paul is keeping it in the headlines, including by providing it with exclusive rights to stream a pay-per-view boxing match between himself with former MMA wrestler Ben Asken on April 17.
Interestingly, it’s because Paul moved from L.A. to Miami to train for the fight that he met Woo, a Californian who visited Miami this past January for what was supposed to be a weekend trip and wound up staying. The two say they happened to hit it off at a tech event and, after establishing they had mutual friends, connected over their interest in performance nutrition, with Paul investing in Woo’s newest company, HVMN.
Last month, they decided to partner on Anti Fund, too.
Whether the two succeed as business partners will take time to learn. Certainly, they both have a strong work ethic. Woo has started three companies since graduating from Stanford with a computer science degree. Though Paul makes what seems an inordinate amount of money for creating YouTube videos, he has created thousands of them in order to amass his more than 20 million followers.
It’s also clear that, as with his social media career, Paul is taking boxing seriously. During his most recent fight, in November, he knocked out former NBA player Nate Robinson in the second round. His first boxing match, against fellow YouTuber AnEsonGib in January of last year, also ended in a knockout just minutes into the fight.
Many professional athletes see the fights as mere stunts, given Paul’s famous made-for-video antics, from a short-lived marriage, to disregarding the concerns of neighbors in West Hollywood, to being charged by police last June for criminal trespass and unlawful assembly connected with the looting of an Arizona mall.
An obvious risk is that the best deal-makers in the world will see Anti Fund as a stunt, too, or else that something that Paul says or does will ruffle feathers. As industry watchers know, investors’ excitement over Dobrik’s Dispo dissipated quickly after Business Insider first detailed various accusations of misconduct against members of the Dobrik’s online squad, including an accusation of rape that allegedly took place during a video shoot.
Paul, who finished high school online in order to pursue a career as an influencer, is well aware of the Dobrik scandal. It’s because he has grown up in plain view, in fact, that he’s not concerned about something from his past threatening his future.
“It’s definitely [risky to be in my position]. Your life is put on display when you choose to be a celebrity and specifically a vlogger. But because I’ve lived online, everyone’s seen everything already,” he says.
He also thinks that “VCs and people in the business world understand more and more how to work” with influencers and other celebrities who have enormous followings and are bringing them along as their careers evolve. “At the end of the day,” he says of business dealings, “if someone is a good person and you have a relationship established with them, that’s what really matters.”
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey got called out by Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-NY) for tweeting during today’s congressional hearing on disinformation and extremism. The tech exec’s tweet was likely expressing frustration with the format of the hearing, which once again saw the tech CEOs forced to boil down their answers to complicated questions into simple “yes” or “no” answers — or otherwise be cut off from responding. Cryptically, Dorsey this afternoon tweeted out a Twitter poll with just one question: “?” that had only two answers to choose from: either a “Yes” or “No.”
His post — or social commentary, if you will — did not go unnoticed.
Before Rice moved into her line of questioning, which focused on platforms’ ability to radicalize U.S. veterans’ and military service members, she asked the Twitter CEO about his tweet.
“Mr. Dorsey, what is winning — yes or no — on your Twitter account…poll?,” asked Rice, who sat in front of colorful wallpaper covered with flowers, butterflies, bugs and maybe snakes (??), which we agree was one of the better web conferencing backgrounds of the day — perhaps even besting Dorsey’s decision to Zoom from his kitchen with a cleverly placed blockchain clock behind him. (Because of course it’s a blockchain clock. Of course.)
“Yes,” Dorsey answered simply, in the same monotone he used throughout the hearing, which tends to give the impression of someone who just can’t get worked up over yet another congressional dog-and-pony show.
“Hmmm,” Rice admonished.
“Your multitasking skills are quite impressive,” she snarked, in a tone that did not seem to indicate she was actually impressed.
In case you’re wondering, “Yes” was winning then and continues to win now, with 65.7% of the 65,626 total votes so far, compared with the just 34.3% who voted “No,” as of the time of writing.
— jack (@jack) March 25, 2021
Perhaps there’s some optimism left for social media after all?
Last October as Slack was preparing for its virtual Frontiers conference, the company began thinking about different ways people could communicate on the platform. While it had built its name on being able to integrate a lot of services in a single place to alleviate the dreaded task-switching phenomenon, it has been largely text-based up until now.
More recently, Slack has started developing a few new features that could bring different ways of interacting to the platform. CEO Stewart Butterfield discussed them on Thursday with former TechCrunch reporter Josh Constine, now a SignalFire investor, in a Clubhouse interview.
The talk was about the future of work, and Slack believes these new ways of communicating could help employees better connect online as we shift to a hybrid work world — one which has been hastened by the pandemic over the last year. There is a general consensus that many companies will continue to work in a hybrid fashion, even when the pandemic is over.
For starters, Slack aims to add a way to communicate by video. But instead of trying to compete with Zoom or Microsoft Teams, Slack is envisioning an experience that’s more like Instagram Stories.
Think about the CEO sharing an important announcement with the company, or the kind of information that might have gone out in a companywide email. Instead, you can skip the inbox and deliver the message directly by video. It’s taking a page from the consumer approach to social and trying to move it into the enterprise.
Writing in a company blog post earlier this week, Slack chief product officer Tamar Yehoshua was clear this was going to be an asynchronous approach, rather than a meeting kind of experience.
“To help with this, we are piloting ways to shift meetings toward an asynchronous video experience that feels native in Slack. It allows us to express nuance and enthusiasm without a meeting,” she wrote.
While it was at it, Slack decided to create a way of just chatting by voice. As Butterfield told Constine in his Clubhouse interview, this is essentially Clubhouse (or Twitter Spaces) being built for Slack.
Yeah, I’ve always believed the ‘good artists copy, great artists steal’ thing, so we’re just building Clubhouse into Slack, essentially. Like that idea that you can drop in, the conversation’s happening whether you’re there or not, you can enter and leave when you want, as opposed to a call that starts and stops, is an amazing model for encouraging that spontaneity and that serendipity and conversations that only need to be three minutes, but the only option for you to schedule them is 30 minutes. So look out for Clubhouse built into Slack.
Again, it’s taking a consumer social idea and applying it to a business setting with the idea of finding other ways to keep you in Slack when you could be using other tools to achieve the same thing, whether it be Zoom meetings, email or your phone.
Butterfield also hinted that another feature — asynchronous audio, allowing you to leave the equivalent of a voicemail — could be coming some time in the future. A Slack spokesperson confirmed that it was in the works, but wasn’t ready to share details yet.
It’s impossible to look at these features without thinking about them in the context of the $ 27 billion Salesforce acquisition of Slack at the end of last year. When you put them all together, you have this set of tools that let you communicate in whatever way makes the most sense to you.
When you combine that Slack Connect DM, a new feature to communicate outside the organization that was released this week to some controversy, as people wanted assurances that they could control spam and harassment, it takes the concept one step further — outside the organization itself.
As part of a larger entity like Salesforce, these tools could be useful across sales, service and even marketing as a way to communicate in a variety of ways inside and outside the organization. And they greatly expand the value prop of Slack as it becomes part of Salesforce sometime later this year.
While it began talking about the new audio and video features last fall, the company has been piloting them since the beginning of this year. So far Slack is not saying when the new features will be generally available.
If you’re old enough to remember the outrage that followed Twitter’s decision to replace stars with hearts (aka likes instead of favorites), then you know that Twitter’s user base has strong feelings about how it wants to engage with tweets. Now, Twitter is considering another radical change on this front that could shake things up yet again. The company has been surveying users throughout the month to get input on how they feel about a broader set of emoji-style reactions, similar to what you’d see on Facebook.
“We’re exploring additional ways for people to express themselves in conversations happening on Twitter,” a Twitter spokesperson said of the survey.
Specifically, Twitter’s survey proposed a few different sets of reaction emojis, all of which include the heart (like), laughing face with tears (funny), thinking face (interesting) and crying face (sad).
It then proposed some variations on this basic set, where the “awesome” sentiment could be expressed with either the shocked face or fire emoji, or where a “support” sentiment could be indicated with either the hug emoji or the raised hands.
More controversially, Twitter is considering a way for users to signal a general like or dislike for the tweet with either a thumbs up or thumbs down, a “100” in either green or red to indicate “agree” or “disagree,” or a green up arrow icon or red down arrow icon, reminiscent of Reddit’s upvote and downvote mechanisms.
The survey questions demonstrated that Twitter is aware of the challenges that come with introducing emoji reactions that could imply negative sentiments. It asked the respondents how they would want to take advantage of a downvote or dislike, for example — whether they would use the reaction instead of replying to a tweet, or whether they would downvote irrelevant or offensive tweets, as well.
Twitter also asked how users would feel if their own tweets were downvoted and whether that would discourage them from tweeting in the future, or if they would take it more as “constructive” feedback about their content. (Ha!)
The company clearly understands that the introduction of reaction sets could have a significant impact on how people engage with Twitter content and, potentially, could even lead to a chilling effect on Twitter usage if people became overly concerned about having their tweets downvoted.
That said, the upvote and downvote mechanism — whether as thumbs or arrows or anything else — remains a common way to engage with content elsewhere on the web. This includes not only forum sites like Reddit and others, but also YouTube, Imgur and Pandora, to name a few. A “thumbs up” signal by itself, meanwhile, is even more popular thanks to Facebook’s lead. But today, this like button can also take the shape of an arrow, heart or just a box to click — like when you mark an Amazon.com user review as “Helpful,” for example.
Meanwhile, the use of expanded emoji reactions has become more common since Facebook’s emoji reaction set debuted in 2015. Since then, other social media sites adopted their use, like LinkedIn. Twitter even added emoji reactions to its DMs (direct messages) last year.
Twitter’s survey additionally asked users about how the thought the emoji reactions should be displayed — like whether negative reaction counts should be visible, for instance.
Twitter told TechCrunch the work it’s doing in the space of reactions is exploratory — it’s only running this survey now because the company is thinking about ways people could add more nuance to the conversations they’re having, and how, by doing so, readers would be able to better understand the additional context around those conversations. Plus, Twitter notes that the new emoji reactions would not replace the “heart;” they’re additive.
But although Twitter hasn’t yet built out its emoji reaction set or put it into testing, it appears it’s on the path to do so.
In response to a user’s recent request to test emoji reactions instead of just hearts, Twitter Chief Design Officer Dantley Davis replied, “we’ll have something for you soon.”
We’ll have something for you soon.
— Dantley Davis (@dantley) March 19, 2021
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