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Biden on TikTok: ‘lol’ or national security worry?

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Joe Biden's reelection campaign is targeting younger voters on social media

Joe Biden’s reelection campaign is targeting younger voters on social media
– Copyright AFP/File Julia Nikhinson

Danny KEMP

US President Joe Biden’s debut on TikTok has caused a stir — not least because the Chinese-owned social media platform is still officially considered a security risk by Washington.

The video posted during the Super Bowl on Sunday was part of an effort by the 81-year-old’s reelection campaign to reach younger voters, and included a reference to the quirky meme of a laser-eyed Biden alter-ego.

But Republicans have criticized Democrat Biden for using an app that is banned on US federal government devices over fears it harvests data for Beijing.

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Even the White House admitted it still had concerns about TikTok on Monday.

“There are still national security concerns about the use of Tiktok on government devices and there’s been no change to that policy,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters after repeated questions about the issue.

The White House said that election rules barred it from formally commenting on campaign matters, but said more broadly that it was aware of fears that platforms like TikTok could spread disinformation.

“It’s a concern that we have,” said White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.

TikTok is owned by Chinese firm ByteDance and has been accused by a wide swath of US politicians of being a propaganda tool used by Beijing, something the company furiously denies.

The concerns “didn’t stop the Biden campaign from joining the CCP’s dangerous propaganda app,” Republican Senator Joni Ernst said on X, formerly Twitter, referring to the Chinese Communist Party.

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“Panic is when the Biden campaign joins TikTok after the White House banned the app from devices a year ago,” added Republican Representative Darrell Issa.

– ‘hey guys’ –

Nevertheless, Biden’s campaign has clearly decided that engaging on TikTok is worth it to win over younger voters ahead of a likely November clash with Republican former president — and social media juggernaut — Donald Trump.

They are also counting on such social media posts to allay voter concerns over Biden’s age, which have mounted since a special counsel report last week described him as a “well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory.”

Titled “lol hey guys,” Sunday’s video posted on the @bidenhq campaign account touches light-heartedly on topics ranging from politics to the NFL championship game.

“I’d get in trouble if I told you,” Biden jokes when asked about a right-wing conspiracy theory that the game had been rigged so pop star Taylor Swift — who is dating Kansas City Chiefs star Travis Kelce — could use her fame to endorse Biden.

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The video then flashes up the “Dark Brandon” meme, an image of Biden with glowing red eyes and a big grin that Democrats use to imply super-powers.

“The President’s TikTok debut last night — with more than 5 million views and counting — is proof positive of both our commitment and success in finding new, innovative ways to reach voters,” Biden campaign deputy manager Rob Flaherty said in a statement.

Jean-Pierre said this exploration of new media partly explained why Biden has held fewer press conferences than his predecessors — 33 in his first three years, compared with Barack Obama’s 66 and Trump’s 52 in the same time span, according to the University of California Santa Barbara’s American Presidency Project.

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Snapchat Explores New Messaging Retention Feature: A Game-Changer or Risky Move?

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Snapchat Explores New Messaging Retention Feature: A Game-Changer or Risky Move?

In a recent announcement, Snapchat revealed a groundbreaking update that challenges its traditional design ethos. The platform is experimenting with an option that allows users to defy the 24-hour auto-delete rule, a feature synonymous with Snapchat’s ephemeral messaging model.

The proposed change aims to introduce a “Never delete” option in messaging retention settings, aligning Snapchat more closely with conventional messaging apps. While this move may blur Snapchat’s distinctive selling point, Snap appears convinced of its necessity.

According to Snap, the decision stems from user feedback and a commitment to innovation based on user needs. The company aims to provide greater flexibility and control over conversations, catering to the preferences of its community.

Currently undergoing trials in select markets, the new feature empowers users to adjust retention settings on a conversation-by-conversation basis. Flexibility remains paramount, with participants able to modify settings within chats and receive in-chat notifications to ensure transparency.

Snapchat underscores that the default auto-delete feature will persist, reinforcing its design philosophy centered on ephemerality. However, with the app gaining traction as a primary messaging platform, the option offers users a means to preserve longer chat histories.

The update marks a pivotal moment for Snapchat, renowned for its disappearing message premise, especially popular among younger demographics. Retaining this focus has been pivotal to Snapchat’s identity, but the shift suggests a broader strategy aimed at diversifying its user base.

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This strategy may appeal particularly to older demographics, potentially extending Snapchat’s relevance as users age. By emulating features of conventional messaging platforms, Snapchat seeks to enhance its appeal and broaden its reach.

Yet, the introduction of message retention poses questions about Snapchat’s uniqueness. While addressing user demands, the risk of diluting Snapchat’s distinctiveness looms large.

As Snapchat ventures into uncharted territory, the outcome of this experiment remains uncertain. Will message retention propel Snapchat to new heights, or will it compromise the platform’s uniqueness?

Only time will tell.

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Catering to specific audience boosts your business, says accountant turned coach

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Catering to specific audience boosts your business, says accountant turned coach

While it is tempting to try to appeal to a broad audience, the founder of alcohol-free coaching service Just the Tonic, Sandra Parker, believes the best thing you can do for your business is focus on your niche. Here’s how she did just that.

When running a business, reaching out to as many clients as possible can be tempting. But it also risks making your marketing “too generic,” warns Sandra Parker, the founder of Just The Tonic Coaching.

“From the very start of my business, I knew exactly who I could help and who I couldn’t,” Parker told My Biggest Lessons.

Parker struggled with alcohol dependence as a young professional. Today, her business targets high-achieving individuals who face challenges similar to those she had early in her career.

“I understand their frustrations, I understand their fears, and I understand their coping mechanisms and the stories they’re telling themselves,” Parker said. “Because of that, I’m able to market very effectively, to speak in a language that they understand, and am able to reach them.” 

“I believe that it’s really important that you know exactly who your customer or your client is, and you target them, and you resist the temptation to make your marketing too generic to try and reach everyone,” she explained.

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“If you speak specifically to your target clients, you will reach them, and I believe that’s the way that you’re going to be more successful.

Watch the video for more of Sandra Parker’s biggest lessons.

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Instagram Tests Live-Stream Games to Enhance Engagement

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Instagram Tests Live-Stream Games to Enhance Engagement

Instagram’s testing out some new options to help spice up your live-streams in the app, with some live broadcasters now able to select a game that they can play with viewers in-stream.

As you can see in these example screens, posted by Ahmed Ghanem, some creators now have the option to play either “This or That”, a question and answer prompt that you can share with your viewers, or “Trivia”, to generate more engagement within your IG live-streams.

That could be a simple way to spark more conversation and interaction, which could then lead into further engagement opportunities from your live audience.

Meta’s been exploring more ways to make live-streaming a bigger consideration for IG creators, with a view to live-streams potentially catching on with more users.

That includes the gradual expansion of its “Stars” live-stream donation program, giving more creators in more regions a means to accept donations from live-stream viewers, while back in December, Instagram also added some new options to make it easier to go live using third-party tools via desktop PCs.

Live streaming has been a major shift in China, where shopping live-streams, in particular, have led to massive opportunities for streaming platforms. They haven’t caught on in the same way in Western regions, but as TikTok and YouTube look to push live-stream adoption, there is still a chance that they will become a much bigger element in future.

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Which is why IG is also trying to stay in touch, and add more ways for its creators to engage via streams. Live-stream games is another element within this, which could make this a better community-building, and potentially sales-driving option.

We’ve asked Instagram for more information on this test, and we’ll update this post if/when we hear back.

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