There’s no denying it’s been quite the year for Facebook. From security breaches to data scandals, and, more recently, an announcement of the launch of a video calling product, some consumers might not know just what to think about Facebook right about now.
Back at the end of September, Facebook VP Guy Rosen wrote a blog post announcing that there had been a security issue that had affected almost 50 million accounts. Unnamed attackers took advantage of a vulnerability with the system to access millions of users’ accounts.
To follow up on the incident, Facebook sent notifications to 30 million users following the announcement, detailing what personal data of theirs had been accessed by the attackers. This took place during the same week that Facebook announced their intention to launch a new home device.
On October 8, Facebook announced Portal, a $200 camera-and-microphone device for the home, to use for video calling. Understandably, people are skeptical of this high-priced video chat device having access to their homes, in light of Facebook’s recent privacy and data collection scandals.
In this blog, I’m going to go over what exactly the Portal is, explain the reasons why Facebook felt this was a good time to roll out this new device, and discuss its future marketing implications for you and your social media marketing agency.
What is Portal and Why Now?
Facebook’s goal has always been to help people connect—be they friends, family, or even strangers—by creating products and technology that makes communication and human interaction easier.
Their newest effort to achieve this goal is the Portal and Portal+. Portal features a 10.1-inch display and costs $199, while the Portal+ measures 15.6-inch and costs $349. This is a standalone device that can connect with Facebook’s massive address book known as Messenger.
The device promises to use artificial intelligence to create a realistic chat experience. It will follow the caller’s movement in the video by automatically panning in and zooming out, while the audio adjusts sound levels to provide the best user experience.
It’s been reported that Facebook had been planning on unveiling the Portal back in May, but pushed the announcement back. At the time, the company was still reeling from the public outrage over the revelation that UK consulting firm Cambridge Analytica had improperly accessed the personal data of 87 million users and used that data to expose those users with targeted political ads.
With Portal, users will be able to connect with their network through Messenger and Facebook Watch, which is how Facebook hopes to increase rates of engagement and boost the device’s popularity, ultimately increasing sales.
Some critics are scratching their heads at Facebook’s new device, as it is not addressing any particular need that is not already met—particularly as it comes with a high ticket price. Most features that Portal offers are already available from users’ smartphone, tablet, or laptop, and those devices also offer additional services, such as the ability to look at photos and videos or listen to music.
What Are Marketers Saying About Facebook’s Portal Devices?
Marketers are always looking for more direct ways to reach consumers, and there’s no better way to do this than by getting into consumers’ living rooms. With Portal, marketers may have a new way to do just this.
According to Darin Archer, chief marketing officer of e-commerce solutions provider Elastic Path, the biggest challenge “will be in figuring out how and/or when to position one’s brand, products or services in this environment.”
There is also some confusion around where exactly the ad placement will be. As Facebook is ensuring that Portal will be able to connect users on the very popular Messenger app and Facebook Watch, there’s the question of whether marketers will advertise via Messenger chatbots or Portal? Or both, maybe?
This is definitely something for marketers to consider when they’re evaluating their paid ad placement in their marketing strategies.
For now, Facebook claims that the device will not have any ads. However, Facebook can use information it gathers from individuals’ user behavior. That information can show up elsewhere on the internet and other Facebook services.
So far, some marketers are skeptical about users’ reaction to Portal, what with the less than stellar public perception of the company at this time. Though Portal may be a revolutionary technology, there is distrust between the public and Facebook right now that will have to be overcome.
Additionally, it’s likely that other brands will start launching their own smart speaker technology over the coming year. Voice tech is becoming more prominent, and as more and more companies recognize the shift in user behavior, it’s up to marketers to adopt changes in user patterns into our own marketing strategies. No doubt, the new technological possibilities presented by Portal and other similar devices will affect SEO, content creation, and more in coming years.
What is the Takeaway for Marketers?
While it’s not entirely clear just yet how marketers are going to be able to use Portal, there are a few things to keep in mind as the launch of the device approaches:
- Paid ad placement: We know that users won’t be able to browse Facebook on the Portal—instead, the devices will run off of Facebook’s Messenger and Facebook Watch programs. This means that, should the device be successful, we’re likely to see substantially higher rates of engagement with Messenger and Facebook Watch, something for marketers to keep in mind as they’re evaluating paid ad placement in their strategy.
- Data security and transparency is top of mind: The reaction to Facebook’s recent privacy and data collection issues are very telling of the public’s interest in keeping data secure. Consumers have an expectation that companies be transparent about what they’re doing with users’ personal data. With data protection laws becoming increasingly stringent (see the EU’s new GDPR regulations), it’s more important than ever for marketers to be aware of how they’re collecting, storing, and utilizing personal information. You should be working within the framework of these regulations with your current strategy, as it will keep you compliant as more regions adopt their own regulations and will help you avoid a PR disaster down the line.
- Trust is key: It doesn’t necessarily matter if Facebook’s Portal is a revolutionary piece of technology—if the public can’t get over its distrust of the company, the device will not sell. This is a reminder of the importance of trust between consumer and company when it comes to customers’ buying decisions, and why the initial “delight” stage of the buying journey is vital to any company’s success in the long-term.
While Facebook’s Portal presents some major opportunities for marketers in the near future, the success of the device will on depend on whether consumers can regain trust in the company. In the face of two security breaches in the past six months, customers are wary of letting Facebook into their lives in a more immediate way.
On top of this, consumer may just stick to using the features that they can already find on their smartphones, tablets, and laptops, without having to dish out the money to cover the high ticket price of the Portal devices. While Portal is definitely an opportunity to watch and to keep in mind as more information becomes available about how Facebook will manage advertising on Portal, it is unclear as of yet just how much this new device will impact the digital marketing world.
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