What Facebook and WhatsApp’s updates mean for brands

Not a day goes by when we don’t see one of the social networks introduce something new, phase out a trial feature, or copy their competitor’s latest gimmick (we’re taking bets on how long will it be for Snap to introduce Superzoom…). The last week has been no exception, with Facebook and WhatsApp announcing two changes to their platforms which could have a big impact for brands and consumers alike.


Facebook steps into the light?


You’d have to be living under a rock in the past year to miss the widely reported news about social media’s potential impact on the US elections (and alleged Russian interference in so-called democracy). Quite rightly the social networks have been coming under increasing pressure to react, and safeguard the public from paid propaganda being disseminated through less than transparent means on their platforms.


Step forward Facebook, who last Friday announced a new feature which will allow anyone to see all the ads a Facebook page or group are running on its platform at any time. Heralding the end of what we currently know as ‘dark posts’ (which target an audience with paid posts without ever appearing on the brand page or group), all paid ads will now be publicly viewable by clicking ‘View Ads’ on a page.




As is standard practice in the industry, the new feature will be trialled first in Canada before rolling out to the US and other countries as soon as November. Where things get interesting for brands is in gathering competitor intelligence, as not only will live ads be available to view but a four-year searchable archive will be created from when the feature is introduced. As we currently understand, the ads archive will include information on budget spend, impressions delivered and demographic targeting.


The brands that will benefit most from this feature will be the ones that take action, and use this data to benchmark performance, understand competitor targeting strategies, and adjust or hone their own paid strategy accordingly. Those that will lose are brands who don’t do anything with the data, but potentially allow their competitors to reap the rewards. You can read more about Facebook’s announcement here, and we’d encourage all brand owners to ask themselves if this is an update they can afford to ignore.


What’s up with WhatsApp


Another platform that’s been busy trialling a new feature for most of 2017 is WhatsApp, who revealed (in a support article) that all users will have the ability to delete messages for up to seven minutes after sending if all recipients are using the latest version of the app. The Next Web reported that the feature is due to roll out imminently, to the rejoice of drunk messengers worldwide (you know who you are / sorry mum…).


While we can think of occasions where this might come in useful for those embarrassing or mistaken messages we’ve all sent by accident, it’s an interesting development for one of the world’s biggest messaging apps to make. In a closed environment it’s an easier feature to introduce without major repercussions as the majority of interactions are peer-to-peer, but as brands increasingly jump on the WhatsApp bandwagon we’d urge caution with the delete button.


As discussed above the issue of transparency isn’t going anywhere fast, so woe betide the first brand-led WhatsApp group that makes the mistake of thinking a simple deleted post will get them out of hot water rather than admitting an error. As Facebook steps out of the shadow of dark posts, we may be seeing WhatsApp heading deeper into the darkness…