What’s the deal with Libra? Facebook’s new currency explained.

Are you aware that Facebook is planning to launch its own currency? Yes, you read that right. As if the mega-rich company doesn’t already print money.

In June, the social networking monolith announced plans for ‘Libra’ – a new digital cryptocurrency a bit like bitcoin (but more secure apparently).

Backed by global partners including MasterCard, PayPal, Visa, eBay, Facebook, Lyft, Uber, Spotify, Vodafone Group, Mercy Corps and Women’s World Banking, Libra has been styled as a fee-free way to send money across borders – a cheaper alternative to Western Union and the like.

Facebook says that Libra (aka ‘zuckerbucks’) would also allow millions of people around the world who don’t have bank accounts or credit cards to transact online. So far, so democratic – but what do Libra’s detractors say?

Well, there’s the small matter that Facebook is already under investigation in the US over its privacy practices. Let’s face it – the platform doesn’t have the greatest track record when it comes to people’s data. Launching a new currency that could potentially destabilise the banking system (according to some experts) may not be the best move for a company already attracting intense scrutiny from regulators.

Even though the response from the powers that be has been skeptical to say the least, Libra may well be up and trading in the next 12 months. The plan is for Facebook to build the technology and for the aforementioned partners to help fund and run the system. To propel the launch of Libra, Facebook is hoping to raise $1 billion from current and future partners.

Libra’s technical specs

So Libra is built on an open-source blockchain called the Libra Blockchain and is reportedly backed by a portfolio of assets that secure its value. The independent ‘Libra Association’, which is made up of all sorts of businesses and non-profits, will govern the currency and have final decision-making authority. Facebook will have just one vote among many.

In contrast to bitcoin, Libra is a ‘permissioned’ system, with access to the ledger (the blockchain) granted to only a few trusted entities. Bitcoin’s ledger, on the other hand, is basically a database maintained by a computer network. Some are saying Libra is more of a digital currency than a cryptocurrency.

It sounds like they’ve thought everything through to us, but the question remains whether Facebook can get its 2.38 billion users on board with Libra.

Posting a few family photos is one thing, but trusting a social media company with your hard-earned cash is quite another – even if they do have some legit partners on board. Let’s see what happens in the next few months!

Sketch Corp.

Like, what’s going on? The Instagram social experiment everyone’s talking about

If you’re into Insta, you’ve no doubt noticed your feed is now mysteriously devoid of numbers – or at least you may have heard the media commentary surrounding the latest Instagram social experiment. First, it was showing posts out of chronological order, and then it was a raft of rumoured algorithm changes… Now, as of Thursday 18 July, the Facebook-owned photo-sharing platform has removed the number of likes from people’s posts.

Everyone in the Insta eco-system has been affected, from your mum who gets two hearts per gardening post, to social media influencers with hundreds of thousands of gushing followers.

For now, the no-likes ‘trial’ is only impacting accounts in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Ireland, Italy, Japan and Brazil. While you, the ‘likee’, can still see how many people have liked your post, no one else can see your magic number – unless they can be bothered to go through the process of counting every single ‘liker’.

Why this Instagram social experiment? Why now?

While there are many (possibly conspiracy) theories doing the rounds, the official line from Instagram is: “We want people to worry a little bit less about how many likes they’re getting on Instagram and spend a bit more time connecting with the people that they care about.”

The move has been widely applauded for the positive impact it may have on mental health.

With many Instagram users (especially young people) purporting to experience feelings of inadequacy and anxiety after using the platform, there’s no doubt the mental health concerns are real. The pressure to always show the best version of yourself and the constant culture of comparison to other people’s perfect lives/families/bodies/careers/holidays/cars/clothes can indeed have a negative impact on self-image. As can seeing shots of everyone hanging out without you when you’re an insecure and impressionable teenager. You see, it works on a macro and micro level.

Some of these negative consequences can also be attributed to the weight Instagram places on popularity – by that we mean the number of followers a person has and how much engagement their content generates.

One of the theories circulating is that the Instagram social experiment has nothing to do with mental health at all – it’s really a bid to get users re-engaging with parent company Facebook (which you’ll notice hasn’t removed likes from its posts).

Neon sign showing an instagram notification with no likes in a blog post about Instagram removing likes in Australia by Sketch Corp.
Image credit @kpbiglife

Please, won’t someone think of the social media influencer?

While many are saying the move is a step in the right direction for mental health, of course you can’t please everyone… especially not the social media influencer who leverages likes for lucrative deals.

Some critics say the Instagram social experiment is really a ploy to get small businesses investing in paid advertising rather than collaborating with social media influencers, who are currently raking in big bucks from sponsorships.

Many a successful social media influencer has built a business on their ability to engage a large audience that brings in paid partnerships. It may be a crude measure, but one of the key metrics these ‘brand partners’ use to determine which influencers they work with is the number of likes they get.

Australia and New Zealand Instagram Manager Jeff McBride has addressed this, saying the Instagram social experiment won’t affect measurement tools like Insights or Ads Manager. Be that as it may, it’s difficult to see how brands are going to gauge engagement at a glance when scrolling through the accounts of potential ambassadors.

While the Instagram social experiment may have a positive effect on mental health in some corners of society, it may lead to economic pressures for others. Some influencers may have to find a new revenue stream or even change careers. One thing’s for sure: it will be interesting to see how the social media influencer scene changes (if it even does). You just never know with Instagram.

From a brand and marketing point of view, it’s an exciting development. What we can expect to see is a shift away from people posting things they think people will like towards true self-expression. And genuine, authentic, imperfect content has got to be a good thing, right? As for how many people will like it, well, I guess we’ll never know.

– Sketch Corp.  

DIY website vs. agency website: which is right for your business?

Most agencies will agree that DIY websites have their place – in certain circumstances. For example, when you’re a sole trader with simple services and no marketing budget to speak of. If you’re a decent-sized business, however, DIY websites should be approached with caution. At best, it’s a missed marketing opportunity when you choose not to consult with professionals who create websites for a living. At worst, it’s doing your operation a huge disservice.

Possibly one of the hardest pills to swallow as an agency is when you quote on what will be a beautifully designed, developed and copywritten website – only to hear someone say they could do it themselves on WIX/Squarespace/etc. It’s not the same thing; it REALLY isn’t.

When you want to launch a new website for your business or redo your old one, you’ll need to decide whether to go with a DIY website template or engage an agency to create one for you. This decision would have been a no-brainer five years ago, but now we’re lucky enough to have advanced website builders like WIX, Squarespace, Webnode or Weebly. Even if you don’t know a lick of code, it’s true you can create a decent-looking DIY website. It may not have much depth, but it will look the part (from afar).

The question is, do you really want to go down that road? Also, how much is your time worth? Do you have the patience and inclination to ‘trial and error’ your way through the process? How much does perception matter to you? We recommend thinking it through carefully. Some things are worth every penny. In our opinion, a good flagship website that’s worthy of your business definitely falls into that category.

Frankly, there’s a lot to be said for collaborating with objective experts who see the big picture and want to see your business succeed, who take the time to get to know you and open your eyes to new possibilities. Experienced website designers and developers understand the full potential of content management systems, and they’re heavily invested in completing the project to a high standard – on time and on budget.

strategy in an agency website design

Here are some questions you need to ask yourself before you decide to go for a DIY website or an agency original:

What’s the purpose of your website?

When tossing up between DIY and agency, it’s critical to understand what you need. Perhaps your business is based on pre-existing relationships and you only need a site to verify credibility. In that case, fair enough… A standard brochure-style DIY site is probably a good option. On the other hand, if you anticipate generating new business from your website and you actively want to be found online, you should treat it as an investment and expect a return. Understanding the level of functionality you require is important too. Is there an e-commerce element to how you transact with customers or do you require integration with other systems? How important are these things to running your business?

What about strategy?

When you engage professionals to develop your website, you’re right to have high expectations. Look for an agency that specialises in web design, UX and development. If they’re worth their crust, they’ll approach your project holistically. The first piece of the puzzle should be website strategy. Your agency will want to understand who your site is targeting, and how they can be better served through layout, user journey, graphics and language. They’ll explore where data-capture points can be best positioned for maximum uptake. This sort of strategic planning can make a massive difference to your bottom line in the future, and it’s something you just can’t recreate with a DIY website.

How much do you value originality?

When you’re doing your own website, chances are you’ve chosen a design theme from a selection. While this option is perfect for some businesses, there are certainly limitations with design and layout that can cause issues and frustration. ‘Square peg, round hole’ comes to mind. Website design templates are an interesting point because the truth is that many marketing and web agencies also use standard website design themes – and unfortunately they’re not always upfront and honest about it. Cookie-cutter, lookalike sites are not good for anybody’s brand. If you’re chasing an original site to strengthen your brand, look for an agency that promises custom-designed websites.

How comfortable are you at writing copy?

Opting for a DIY website means you’ll be responsible for creating your own website content – including all the copy. If you’re a bit of a wordsmith or you have one on staff and your website isn’t a key tool in your marketing mix, go for it! In the case that your website will be visited frequently by prospective clients or has a complex value proposition, you may want to pay careful attention to the language you use. Website copywriting is a craft; it’s nothing like writing an essay, an email or even a brochure. Experience and skill are required to communicate what you have to offer in precisely the right way. Particularly with crucial elements like calls to action that encourage your visitor to take the plunge and enquire or buy.

Would you describe yourself as creative?

Some of us have ‘the eye’ for design, which means a good sense of aesthetics and visual balance. Others, not so much… Our designers at Sketch Corp. say you either have ‘it’ or you don’t, and it can’t really be taught. If you’ve always had a flair for this kind of thing, good on you! Designing your own website is the perfect outlet. When creativity in that respect is not really your thing, you may want to take a look at websites or brands you admire and find out who created them. Working with a designer whose aesthetic sensibilities align with your own will lead to a beautiful website you can be proud of.  

Do you have a lot of time on your hands?

When considering a DIY website, it’s important that you’re honest about your skill level and how long it’s really going to take. If you’ve never done this kind of thing before, it will take A WHILE. It’s not the kind of thing you can knock over in an afternoon… Yes, the website-building sites make it seem easy, but it takes time fiddling around with templates, finding images, proofreading and planning. False starts and learning the program should be factored into DIY website projects.

Something that would take you an hour or more would take a professional a fraction of that time. If, for example, it takes you weeks to pull together a 10-page PowerPoint presentation because you can’t seem to get it to ‘look right’, using a website builder isn’t going to be a great experience. Expect it to take ages. If you’re just starting out and you have the time, great! Write it off as an important learning experience. If you’re a busy business owner or decision maker whose time is literally money, the cost of hiring the pros could in fact be much more cost-effective than a DIY website (and that’s just considering the time investment, not the chances of increased conversions online).

– Sketch Corp.