It’s time for your monthly dose of social stories and campaigns.

January’s edition has news from Facebook, the British Army, Twitter, Verizon and much more. Let’s get straight into it.

(Don’t to forget to check out Econsultancy’s social media training and Best Practice Guides)

HSBC’s takes a risk with its ‘We are not an island’ campaign

The UK based bank HSBC began 2019 with the bold proclamation that the UK is not an island, in the latest instalment of its ‘Together We Thrive’ campaign.

The content used for the campaign is simple yet effective, using bold font and images to catch peoples attention and highlight the various ways international cultures have an influence on the UK and its inhabitants (e.g. ‘American movie watching’, ‘Swedish flatpack assembling’, ‘Tikka Masala eating’).

Although HSBC’s campaign has received some praise for its ‘bravery’, especially given the timing of the campaign and the UK’s current Brexit debate, others have questioned whether this specific campaign does more harm than good.

Back in October 2018, the bank similarly received some mixed feedback for its Together We Thrive campaign.

Could Facebook be about to merge WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram?

Facebook is reportedly interested in integrating the technical infrastructure of its three big messaging products – WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram.

Bringing its 2.6 billion users closer together, the potential move is likely intended to keep people within the Facebook ecosystem of products and away from competitors. Some speculate it may also be part of a plan that allows further monetization of WhatsApp and Instagram.

The number one question from doubters is how the move might affect the privacy of users, with Marc Rotenberg, president and executive director the Electronic Privacy Information Center, saying the change would be “a terrible outcome for internet users.”

More from the The New York Times.

The British Army’s ‘snowflake millennial’ recruitment drive

The British Army launched its latest recruitment campaign called #YourCountryNeedsYou. The enduring phrase, originating from a First World War recruitment campaign, is being used in an effort to engage the army’s target demographic – millennials.

The campaign takes negative ‘snowflake’ millennial stereotypes (i.e. staying up late and gaming) and finds the positive in them, showing that young people can use the same skills (i.e. stamina and dedication) in the British army.

A series of new posters garnered plenty of chatter on social media, and were followed up with some more serious and hard hitting posters using just black and white and typography.

This bold campaign is a stark contrast from June 2018, when the British Army was accused of targeting vulnerable and potentially low achieving children on GCSE results day to recruit them into the forces.

Facebook’s research app paid its users for their data

According to reports, since 2016 Facebook has been paying people (aged between 13 and 35) to install a VPN app (named Facebook Reseach) that lets it harvest the user’s phone and web activity.

TechCrunch’s Josh Constine writes that the research app gives Facebook “root access to network traffic…so the social network can decrypt and analyze [user’s] phone activity”.

Apple confirmed this is a breach of its Enterprise Developer Program agreement and blocked the Facebook Research app before Facebook voluntarily took it down.

You can read the latest developments at Tech Crunch.

UNHCR kick off 2019 with #StepWithRefugees fitness app campaign

The UN refugee agency has launched a new multichannel campaign to encourage people to ‘step with refugees’ through the organisation’s new fitness initiative.

The purpose of the campaign is to highlight the often huge distances refugees have to travel to avoid violence and persecution and encourages people to collectively walk, jog or run two billion kilometres in solidarity with those less fortunate.

Once individuals have registered on UNCHCR’s dedicated microsite they have the option of manually uploading their progress or syncing their FitBit or Strava which will automatically upload their number of steps onto the running-total style homepage of the site.

UNHCR also recruited its goodwill ambassador, Ben Stiller, for the campaign.

WhatsApp is now limiting message forwarding to five people

In an attempt to curb misinformation, rumours and the spread of fake news, WhatsApp has introduced a limit on the number of people individuals can forward messages to, to five people (down from 20).

WhatsApp has around 1.5 billion users globally and following concerns that the messaging platform was being misused to distribute rumours and fake news at scale, has decided to take a strong stand and change its user experience. The app’s end-to-end encryption makes monitoring what’s shared virtually impossible but this change will enable the company to slow the spread of misinformation.

In 2018 some regions of India temporarily shut down internet connectivity to disrupt the flow of messaging on WhatsApp and mitigate a surge in violence attributed to the messaging platform.

Gillette’s ‘The Best Men Can Be’ campaign may have missed the mark

P&G owned Gillette entered the new year with a divisive marketing campaign called ‘The Best Men Can Be’.

The bold message that Gillette conveys in the ad may have been intended to show the brand taking a stand against toxic masculinity, however, it appears to have inadvertently annoyed its core customers who have been quick to show their disdain on social media.

More opinion on the Gillette campaign.

Twitter will partner with UC Berkeley to improve its use of machine learning

Earlier this week, Twitter announced that it will be teaming up with the University of California (Berkely) to conduct research into improvement of machine learning in “social systems (like Twitter)”.

Twitter’s senior director of software engineering wrote:

“…the consequences of exposing algorithmic decisions and machine learning models to hundreds of millions of people are poorly understood. Even less is known about how these algorithms might interact with social dynamics: people might change their behaviour in response to what the algorithms recommend to them, and as a result of this shift in behaviour the algorithm itself might change, creating a potentially self-reinforcing feedback loop.”

The entire statement highlights the company’s commitment to keeping its platform healthy. By collaborating with UC Berkeley, Twitter “can create a research program that has the right mix of fundamental and applied research components to make a real practical impact across industry”.

Verizon raises money for emergency services through SuperBowl Campaign

Multinational telecoms company Verizon launched a brand new campaign called ‘The Team That Wouldn’t Be Here’ to raise money for First Responders Outreach .

With the help of 12 American Football stars, the campaign focuses on life-changing situations (e.g. car accidents) and the first responders that help to save those involved.

Verizon has also developed its own campaign microsite which acts as a hub for content and donations. Along with AllOurThanks.com, Verizon has pledged to donate a dollar to the First Responder Outreach foundation every time someone posts, shares one of Verizon’s social posts or any campaign content directly from its website onto either Twitter or Facebook, with the hashtag #AllOurThanks.

The video above is the first activation from the campaign with more scheduled ahead of SuperBowl LIII, where the campaign will culminate with one of SuperBowl’s lauded in-game ad slots.

Don’t to forget to check out Econsultancy’s social media training and Best Practice Guides.