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4 Key Elements of Focus for Social Media Marketers in the Second Half of 2023



4 Key Elements of Focus for Social Media Marketers in the Second Half of 2023

We’re just past the midway point of the year, which means that it’s time to start planning your holiday campaigns, in order to maximize your efforts in the lead-up to the key spending season.

And while it may feel a little too early to be mapping out your full campaign strategy, it’s important to note that different consumers begin their shopping journeys at different times.

This is from TikTok’s 2023 Holiday Planner, which is one of several guides that are already available to help shape your approach. 

Looking for other guides and notes to better inform your marketing plan? Check out this overview of key tips, pointers and best practices for your planning.

Social Marketing Fundamentals

The first place to start is our 2023 platform-by-platform guide, which includes overviews of key best practices and tips for all the major social platforms.

These guides provide a full overview of the collected best practice tips, and while social media is always evolving, these serve as solid starting points for establishing the best approach for your holiday marketing effort.

You also need to establish the core elements that will underpin all of your efforts, and this infographic provides some good notes on these points.

There’s also this guide on handy growth hacking tips, which will provide inspiration for your promotion and brand awareness push, as well as this overview of common social media marketing myths:

Also worth noting these tips on best times to post – which will vary by audience, business, etc, but can still help in your initial planning.

Sprout Best Times to Post Report 2023

Finally, this collection of additional hacks and notes could provide you with some inspiration for your content planning:

New Trends

But as noted, social media is always changing, and we’re seeing new usage shifts that reflect a significant change in how people are using social platforms to connect.

In the early days of social media, the opportunity to broadcast your thoughts and perspective was a key lure, but now, we’re seeing more people pull back from this, and opting instead to share more privately, via enclosed messaging groups and private connection.

That’s an important trend to note, which will have an impact on how you look to market your business – because in line with the shift away from public posting is the re-shaping of social feeds into key entertainment sources, as opposed to connective surfaces.

Led by TikTok, every social app is now looking to provide more video content, primarily short-form, vertical video, because that’s what’s keeping users around. And while post engagement remains a key driving factor in algorithmic amplification, it’s important to recognize why people are now using social apps – to be entertained, much more so than to directly engage and interact, with far more sharing now done via DM.

So how does that change your marketing strategy?

Instagram’s added a range of new elements to tap into the rising popularity of DM connection, including lead forms for business profiles, which prompt users to share their contact info in the app.

Instagram lead forms

Instagram’s also launched Channels, a one-to-many broadcast chat feature. And while that’s only available to creators for now, it could soon become a brand consideration also, which would add another way to keep in touch with your audience.

Back in April, Instagram also shared some helpful tips on how brands can make use of DMs to maximize customer connection.

And, of course, there’s also now Threads – which is still in its early stages, but is worthy of attention.

Threads App

On Facebook, Meta’s also added Click-to-Messenger Ads to your Facebook Reels promotion options. Facebook’s also added Lead Gen form for Company Pages, which provides another way to gather contact info via Page visitors, while Meta’s also improving its connective tools in WhatsApp – which has seen big growth in North America of late.

LinkedIn has also launched DMs for Company Pages, adding another consideration for connection:

LinkedIn Company Page DMs

While Twitter’s just launched new restrictions on who can send DMs in the app, which will force businesses looking to use Twitter messages to subscribe to Twitter Blue, or the more expensive Twitter for Organizations.

Twitter’s almost in its own category at the moment, given the raft of changes at the app. But right now, what brands need to note is that Twitter is continuing to push brands towards subscriptions, by forcing brands to pay up if they want to advertise in the app, while it’s also restricting the reach of tweets from non-subscribers, ostensibly to combat spam.

But the main driver appears to be higher subscription take-up – and if you are considering Twitter in your holiday push, you’ll likely need to subscribe to make the most of the app.

The Generation of Generative AI

The other big trend of the moment is generative AI, and how marketers can make best use of AI tools in their process.

We covered a lot of potential AI use cases in our 2023 posting tips overview, including how to utilize ChatGPT, and similar tools, as idea generators for social posts and the like.

In addition to this, it’s worth noting the various ways in which the platforms themselves are looking to integrate these tools, and what that could mean for your process.

Instagram, for example, is testing a new AI chatbot option, as Meta looks to bring generative AI into its apps, while it’s also testing new generative AI prompts for ad captions, as well as background generation tools for ad visuals.

Meta AI ad tools

This is a key area that Meta’s looking to implement generative AI, in helping advertisers make the most of their campaigns, with a range of tools that could essentially automate the entire ad creation and targeting process for you, based on Meta’s own understanding of what works, and who’s more likely to respond to your campaigns.

TikTok’s also launched a new script generator tool, that can map out your entire TikTok campaign creative through the use of generative AI.

TikTok Script Generator

LinkedIn, meanwhile, has added a range of generative AI prompts, including inspiration for job posts, InMails, and even a tool that can come up with LinkedIn feed posts, with minimal input from you.

I’m not personally certain that this is the best way to go, but it could be another way to get inspiration for your content, in order to maintain an active, engaged profile in the app.

In addition, here are some good tips for creating more effective generative AI prompts, to get better results for your needs, along with some key do’s and don’ts of generative AI use.

Video Push

The final key element to consider in your planning is that with the broader shift towards entertainment, video remains a key focus for all platforms.

Meta says that time spent on Instagram has grown by more than 24% since the company launched Reels, and implemented AI-based content matching, while Facebook usage is also rising, driven by the same.

Worth noting, too, that both original post creation and user-to-user engagement on Facebook is declining – so while people are spending more time in the app, they’re primarily watching more video content, not posting to their own feeds, as per the aforementioned shifts.

Again, it’s TikTok that’s changed the paradigm around what ‘social’ media is in this regard, with people now turning to these apps as an alternative to traditional entertainment options, as opposed to a supplementary element. That’s important to note from a marketing perspective, as people now want to see more entertaining content, as opposed to engagement bait or similar.

Following this trend, Twitter’s also set to make video a bigger focus, led by Tucker Carlson’s new show, and the appointment of former NBC Universal executive Linda Yaccarino as its new CEO.

Expect that to lead to a new push for more exclusive video content, which could facilitate more opportunities for video ads, and could see Twitter put even more emphasis on video moving forward.

While on Pinterest, Idea Pins can now include video up to five minutes in length.

LinkedIn also recently shared some video marketing tips.

If you want to maximize your marketing resonance, you need to consider creating entertainment-focused video content, which aligns with the trends of each app. If you can get into these feeds, whether via your own creation process, or by partnering with relevant influencers, that could play a big role in improving brand awareness for the holiday season.

These are the four key elements that you need to factor into your planning for the upcoming holiday push, and it’s worth considering how you can align with each in your efforts.

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With the end of the Hollywood writers and actors strikes, the creator economy is the next frontier for organized labor



With the end of the Hollywood writers and actors strikes, the creator economy is the next frontier for organized labor

Hollywood writers and actors recently proved that they could go toe-to-toe with powerful media conglomerates. After going on strike in the summer of 2023, they secured better pay, more transparency from streaming services and safeguards from having their work exploited or replaced by artificial intelligence.

But the future of entertainment extends well beyond Hollywood. Social media creators – otherwise known as influencers, YouTubers, TikTokers, vloggers and live streamers – entertain and inform a vast portion of the planet.

For the past decade, we’ve mapped the contours and dimensions of the global social media entertainment industry. Unlike their Hollywood counterparts, these creators struggle to be seen as entertainers worthy of basic labor protections.

Platform policies and government regulations have proved capricious or neglectful. Meanwhile, creators’ bottom-up initiatives to collectively organize have sputtered.

Living on the edge

Industry estimates regarding the size and scale of the creator economy vary. But Citibank estimates there are over 120 million creators, and an April 2023 Goldman Sachs report predicted that the creator economy would double in size, from US$250 billion to $500 billion, by 2027.

According to Forbes, the “Top 50 Creators” altogether have 2.6 billion followers and have hauled in an estimated $700 million in earnings. The list includes MrBeast, who performs stunts and records giveaways, and makeup artist-cum-true crime podcaster Bailey Sarian.

The windfalls earned by these social media stars are the exception, not the norm.

The venture capitalist firm SignalFire estimates that less than 4% of creators make over $100,000 a year, although YouTube-funded research points to a rising middle class of creators who are able to sustain careers with relatively modest followings.

These are the users who find themselves most vulnerable to opaque changes to platform policies and algorithms.

Platforms like to “move fast and break things,” to use Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s infamous expression. And since the creator economy relies on social media platforms to reach audiences, creators’ livelihoods are subject to rapid, iterative changes in platforms’ features, services and agreements.

Yes, various platforms have introduced business opportunities for creators, such as YouTube’s advertising partnership feature or Twitch’s virtual goods store. However, the platforms’ terms of use can flip on a switch. For example, in September 2022, Twitch changed its fee structure. Some streamers who were retaining 70% of all subscription revenue generated from their accounts saw this proportion drop to 50%.

In 2020, TikTok, facing rising competition from YouTube Shorts and Instagram reels, launched its billion-dollar Creator Fund. The fund was supposed to allow creators to get directly paid for their content. Instead, creators complained that every 1,000 views only translated to a few cents. TikTok suspended the fund in November 2023.

Bias as a feature, not a bug

The livelihoods of many fashion, beauty, fitness and food creators depend on deals brokered with brands that want these influencers to promote goods or services to their followers.

Yet throughout the creator economy, people of color and those identifying as LGBTQ+ have encountered bias. Unequal and unfair compensation from brands is a recurring issue, with one 2021 report revealing a pay gap of roughly 30% between white creators and creators of color.

Along with brand biases, platforms can exacerbate systemic bias. Creator scholar Sophie Bishop has demonstrated how nontransparent algorithms can categorize “desirability” among influencers along lines of race, gender, class and sexual orientation.

Then there’s what creator scholar Zoë Glatt calls the “intimacy triple bind”: Marginalized creators are at higher risk of trolling and harassment, they secure lower fees for advertising, and they are expected to divulge more personal details to generate more engagement and revenue.

Couple these precarious conditions with the whims and caprices of volatile online communities that can turn beloved creators into villains in the blink of a text or post, and even the world’s most successful creators live on a precipice of losing their livelihoods.

Food influencer Larry Mcleod, 47, better known on social media as Big Schlim, reviews the restaurant Shellfish Market in Washington, D.C.
Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Rumblings of solidarity

Unlike their counterparts in the legacy media industries, creators have neither taken easily nor well to collective action as they operate from their bedrooms and fight for more eyeballs.

Yet some members of this creator class recognize that the bedroom-boardroom power imbalance is a bottom line matter that requires bottom-up initiative.

The Creators Guild of America, or CGA, which launched in August 2023, is but one of many successors to the original Internet Creators’ Guild, which folded in 2019. Paradoxically, CGA describes itself as a “professional service organization,” not a labor union, yet claims to offer benefits “similar to those offered by unions.”

There are other movements afoot: A group of TikTok creators formed a Discord group in September 2022 to discuss unionizing. There’s also the Twitch Unity Guild, a program launched in December 2022 for networking, development and celebration and includes a dedicated Discord space. In response to the rampant bias in influencer marketing, creator-led firms like “F–k You Pay Me ” are demanding greater fairness, transparency and accountability from brands and advertisers.

Twitch streamers are already seeing some of their organizing efforts pay off. In June 2023, after a year of repeated changes in streamer fees and brand deals, the company capitulated in response to the backlash of their top streamers threatening to leave.

None of these initiatives has yet attained the legal status of unions such as the Writers Guild of America. Meanwhile, efforts by the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists to recruit creators have proved limited. Legal scholar Sara Shiffman has written about how SAG-AFTRA provides creators with health and retirement benefits, but offers no resources to ensure fair and equitable compensation from platforms or advertisers. Nonetheless, while on strike, SAG-AFTRA threatened creators that partnered with studios with a lifetime ban from joining the union.

And despite these bottom-up efforts, the tech behemoths refuse to recognize creators’ fledgling organizations. When a union for YouTubers formed in Germany in 2018, YouTube refused to negotiate with it. Nonetheless, you’ll see companies trot out their biggest stars when they find themselves under regulatory scrutiny. That’s what happened when TikTok sponsored creators to lobby politicians who were debating banning the platform.

People of all races and ages pose holding signs that read 'Keep TikTok' and 'My small business thrives on TikTok.'
TikTok creators gather outside the U.S. Capitol to voice their opposition to a potential ban on the app, highlighting the platform’s impact on their livelihoods.
Nathan Posner/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

An invisible class of labor

Meanwhile, most governments have failed to provide support for – or even recognition of – creator rights.

Within the U.S., creators “barely exist” in official records, as technology reporters Drew Harwell and Taylor Lorenz recently pointed out in The Washington Post. The U.S. Census Bureau makes no mention of social media as a profession; it is invisible as a distinctive class of labor.

To date, the Federal Trade Commission is the only U.S. agency to introduce regulation tied to the work of creators, and it’s limited to disclosure guidelines for advertising and sponsored content.

Even as the European Union has operated at the forefront of tech and platform policy, creators rate scant mention in the body’s laws. Writing about the EU’s 2022 Digital Services Act, legal scholars Bram Duivendvoorde and Catalina Goanta criticize the EU for leaving “influencer marketing out of the material scope of its specific rules,” a blind spot that they describe as “one of its main pitfalls.”

The success of the 2023 Hollywood strikes could be just the beginning of a larger global movement for creator rights. But in order for this new class of creators to access the full breadth of their economic and human rights – to borrow from the movie “Jaws” – we’re gonna need a bigger boat.

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Paris mayor to stop using ‘global sewer’ X



Hidalgo called Twitter a 'vast global sewer'

Hidalgo called Twitter a ‘vast global sewer’ – Copyright POOL/AFP Leon Neal

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said on Monday she was quitting Elon Musk’s social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, which she described as a “global sewer” and a tool to disrupt democracy.

“I’ve made the decision to leave X,” Hidalgo said in an op-ed in French newspaper Le Monde. “X has in recent years become a weapon of mass destruction of our democracies”, she wrote.

The 64-year-old Socialist, who unsuccessfully stood for the presidency in 2022, joined Twitter as it was then known in 2009 and has been a frequent user of the platform.

She accused X of promoting “misinformation”, “anti-Semitism and racism.”

“The list of abuses is endless”, she added. “This media has become a vast global sewer.”

Since Musk took over Twitter in 2022, a number of high-profile figures said they were leaving the popular social platform, but there has been no mass exodus.

Several politicians including EU industry chief Thierry Breton have announced that they are opening accounts on competing networks in addition to maintaining their presence on X.

The City of Paris account will remain on X, the mayor’s office told AFP.

By contrast, some organisations have taken the plunge, including the US public radio network NPR, or the German anti-discrimination agency.

Hidalgo has regularly faced personal attacks on social media including Twitter, as well as sometimes criticism over the lack of cleanliness and security in Paris.

In the latest furore, she has faced stinging attacks over an October trip to the French Pacific territories of New Caledonia and French Polynesia that was not publicised at the time and that she extended with a two-week personal vacation.

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Meta Highlights Key Platform Manipulation Trends in Latest ‘Adversarial Threat Report’



Meta Highlights Key Platform Manipulation Trends in Latest ‘Adversarial Threat Report’

While talk of a possible U.S.  ban of TikTok has been tempered of late, concerns still linger around the app, and the way that it could theoretically be used by the Chinese Government to implement varying forms of data tracking and messaging manipulation in Western regions.

The latter was highlighted again this week, when Meta released its latest “Adversarial Threat Report,” which includes an overview of Meta’s latest detections, as well as a broader summary of its efforts throughout the year.

And while the data shows that Russia and Iran remain the most common source regions for coordinated manipulation programs, China is third on that list, with Meta shutting down almost 5,000 Facebook profiles linked to a Chinese-based manipulation program in Q3 alone.

As explained by Meta:

“We removed 4,789 Facebook accounts for violating our policy against coordinated inauthentic behavior. This network originated in China and targeted the United States. The individuals behind this activity used basic fake accounts with profile pictures and names copied from elsewhere on the internet to post and befriend people from around the world. They posed as Americans to post the same content across different platforms. Some of these accounts used the same name and profile picture on Facebook and X (formerly Twitter). We removed this network before it was able to gain engagement from authentic communities on our apps.”

Meta says that this group aimed to sway discussion around both U.S. and China policy by both sharing news stories, and engaging with posts related to specific issues.

“They also posted links to news articles from mainstream US media and reshared Facebook posts by real people, likely in an attempt to appear more authentic. Some of the reshared content was political, while other covered topics like gaming, history, fashion models, and pets. Unusually, in mid-2023 a small portion of this network’s accounts changed names and profile pictures from posing as Americans to posing as being based in India when they suddenly began liking and commenting on posts by another China-origin network focused on India and Tibet.”

Meta further notes that it took down more Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior (CIB) groups from China than any other region in 2023, reflecting the rising trend of Chinese operators looking to infiltrate Western networks.  

“The latest operations typically posted content related to China’s interests in different regions worldwide. For example, many of them praised China, some of them defended its record on human rights in Tibet and Xinjiang, others attacked critics of the Chinese government around the world, and posted about China’s strategic rivalry with the U.S. in Africa and Central Asia.”

Google, too, has repeatedly removed large clusters of YouTube accounts of Chinese origin that had been seeking to build audiences in the app, in order to then seed pro-China sentiment.

The largest coordinated group identified by Google is an operation known as “Dragonbridge” which has long been the biggest originator of manipulative efforts across its apps.

As you can see in this chart, Google removed more than 50,000 instances of Dragonbridge activity across YouTube, Blogger and AdSense in 2022 alone, underlining the persistent efforts of Chinese groups to sway Western audiences.

So these groups, whether they’re associated with the CCP or not, are already looking to infiltrate Western-based networks. Which underlines the potential threat of TikTok in the same respect, given that it’s controlled by a Chinese owner, and therefore likely more directly accessible to these operators.

That’s partly why TikTok is already banned on government-owned devices in most regions, and why cybersecurity experts continue to sound the alarm about the app, because if the above figures reflect the level of activity that non-Chinese platforms are already seeing, you can only imagine that, as TikTok’s influence grows, it too will be high on the list of distribution for the same material.

And we don’t have the same level of transparency into TikTok’s enforcement efforts, nor do we have a clear understanding of parent company ByteDance’s links to the CCP.

Which is why the threat of a possible TikTok ban remains, and will linger for some time yet, and could still spill over if there’s a shift in U.S./China relations.

One other point of note from Meta’s Adversarial Threat Report is its summary of AI usage for such activity, and how it’s changing over time.

X owner Elon Musk has repeatedly pointed to the rise of generative AI as a key vector for increased bot activity, because spammers will be able to create more complex, harder to detect bot accounts through such tools. That’s why X is pushing towards payment models as a means to counter bot profile mass production.

And while Meta does agree that AI tools will enable threat actors to create larger volumes of convincing content, it also says that it hasn’t seen evidence “that it will upend our industry’s efforts to counter covert influence operations” at this stage.

Meta also makes this interesting point:

“For sophisticated threat actors, content generation hasn’t been a primary challenge. They rather struggle with building and engaging authentic audiences they seek to influence. This is why we have focused on identifying adversarial behaviors and tactics used to drive engagement among real people. Disrupting these behaviors early helps to ensure that misleading AI content does not play a role in covert influence operations. Generative AI is also unlikely to change this dynamic.”

So it’s not just content that they need, but interesting, engaging material, and because generative AI is based on everything that’s come before, it’s not necessarily built to establish new trends, which would then help these bot accounts build an audience.

These are some interesting notes on the current threat landscape, and how coordinated groups are still looking to use digital platforms to spread their messaging. Which will likely never stop, but it is worth noting where these groups originate from, and what that means for related discussion.

You can read Meta’s Q3 “Adversarial Threat Report” here.

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