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‘Gangnam Style’ impact endures a decade after it broke the internet

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When South Korean rapper Psy released ‘Gangnam Style’ a decade ago, few anticipated the scale and speed of its success – Copyright AFP/File DANIEL ROLAND

Qasim Nauman

When South Korean rapper Psy released “Gangnam Style” a decade ago, few anticipated the scale and speed of its success, and how it would help usher in the streaming revolution.

Its madcap music video with the now-trademark horse-riding dance was released on July 15, 2012. It focused on the local, poking fun at Seoul’s wealthy Gangnam district — but within weeks it went global.

By December that year, it had reached one billion views on YouTube. It birthed countless memes and parodies, with the giddy-up dance performed by flash mobs from Azerbaijan to New Zealand.

And “Gangnam Style” showed the music industry what could be achieved through internet platforms and social media, especially by artists outside the West who did not perform in English.

Psy “broke the rules of the game. The traditional marketing and promotional playbooks were essentially thrown out the window,” said Bernie Cho, president of the Seoul-based DFSB Kollective artist and label services agency and an expert on the South Korean music industry.

It showed “the importance, the impact, the influence of YouTube on pop music and pop culture worldwide”.

In 2012, the streaming industry was still in its infancy, providing less than seven percent of global music revenues, according to industry group IFPI.

But the stunning success of “Gangnam Style” — as well as viral videos from performers such as Justin Bieber and Carly Rae Jepsen — showed a new way for acts from anywhere in the world to not only release music but also tap into online ad revenue, find sponsors and get booked for concerts, analysts say.

– ‘Imagine the possibilities’ –

A decade later, streaming is the main source of revenue in the global music industry — 65 percent in 2021, IFPI reported — with content available online via subscription-based services, YouTube, and short-form video apps such as TikTok.

“Gangnam Style” is “an example of the power that a platform like YouTube could have to create interest in a particular video from a lot of different places in the world,” said Michelle Cho, an assistant professor at the University of Toronto who studies Korean pop culture.

“The significance of the video… goes far beyond the content of the video. And it really has more to do with the way that it enabled people to imagine the possibilities of the platform.”

Within months of its release, “Gangnam Style” was the most-viewed video on YouTube. It held that spot for more than three years.

As of July 12 this year, it had close to 4.5 billion views.

Such was the online buzz for “Gangnam Style” and viral phenomena such as “Harlem Shake” that Billboard in 2013 changed how it compiles charts, adding streams on YouTube and other platforms to then-mainstream metrics such as radio and sales.

“My one good job, helping K-pop, was changing the rules of Billboard,” Psy told AFP during an interview in May, pointing to the popularity of Korean acts on YouTube.

– ‘Authentic, original, unique’ –

“Gangnam Style” shook South Korea too, becoming the country’s biggest cultural export and a source of national pride overnight.

K-pop acts had tried to break into international markets before 2012 with some regional success in Asia, but they had failed to make a mark in huge and lucrative Western markets such as the United States.

And then came Psy, who did not fit the profile of polished K-pop idols.

“Industry executives, government officials, pundits, critics, fans… just assumed that the breakout star from Korea would likely be either a boy band or a girl band,” said DFSB’s Bernie Cho.

Psy “proved to everybody that instead of a Korean version of a Western pop star or an international pop star, what the world wanted was something very authentic, original, unique.”

The horse-riding dance was everywhere — performed on prime-time TV in the United States, in an English football stadium, and by Bollywood stars in India.

Then-US President Barack Obama said his daughters had taught him “a pretty good Gangnam Style”.

South Korea is a global entertainment powerhouse today, but in 2012, “Gangnam Style” was the first encounter with Korean pop culture for many audiences.

“It was really influential in perhaps making Korea or Korean music or Korean media more of a common element of general knowledge in lots of places… certainly in the US, but also globally,” said scholar Michelle Cho.

“That knowledge, that… familiarity definitely helps other content gain a foothold.”

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Reports Show that Facebook Usage is Up, as Meta Continues to Develop its AI Targeting Models

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Reports Show that Facebook Usage is Up, as Meta Continues to Develop its AI Targeting Models

While Facebook is no longer the cool app, especially among younger audiences, it remains a key platform for many users, and its capacity to keep people updated on important updates from friends and family is likely to ensure that many continue to return to the app every day for some time yet.

But more than that, Facebook usage is actually increasing, according to internal insights viewed by The Wall Street Journal, which also include some interesting notes on overall Facebook and Instagram usage trends.

As per WSJ:

Data gathered in the middle of the fourth quarter showed that time spent on [Facebook] was up worldwide, including in developed markets, over the course of a year.”

Which seems unusual, given the subsequent rise of TikTok, and short form video more generally. But actually, Facebook has been able to successfully use the short-form video trend to drive more usage – despite much criticism of the platform’s copycat Reels feature.

Indeed, Reels consumption is up 20%, and has become a key element in Meta’s resurgence.  

How is it finding success? Increased investment in AI, which has driven big improvements in the relevance models that fuel both Reels and its ads, which are also now driving better response.

On Reels, Meta’s systems are getting much better at showing users the Reels content that they’re most likely to be interested in. You’ve likely noticed this yourself – what was initially a mess of random clips inserted into your Facebook feed has now become more focused, and you’re probably finding yourself expanding a Reels clip every now and then, just to see what it’s about.

Reels has actually been too successful:

“Because ads in Reels videos don’t currently sell for as much as those sold against regular posts and stories, Reels’ growing share of content consumption was denting ad revenue. To protect the company’s earnings, the company cut back on promoting Reels, which lowered watch time by 12%.

So again, while Meta has been criticized for stealing TikTok’s format, it’s once again shown, just as it did with Stories, that this is a viable and beneficial pathway to keeping users engaged in its apps.

You might not like it, but replication works in this respect.

But for marketers, it’s likely the development of Meta’s AI targeting tools for ads that’s of most interest.

Over time, many performance advertisers have been increasingly recommending that marketers trust Meta’s AI targeting, with newer offerings like Advantage+ driving strong results, with far less manual targeting effort.

Advantage+ puts almost total trust in Meta’s AI targeting systems. You can choose a couple of targeting options for your campaigns, but for the most part, the process is designed to limit manual impact, in order to let Meta’s systems determine the right audience for your ads.

Which may feel like you’re ceding too much control, but according to Meta, its continued AI investment is now driving better results.

Heavy investment in artificial intelligence tools has enabled the company to improve ad-targeting systems to make better predictions based on less data, according to the interviews and documents […] That, along with shifting to forms of advertising less dependent on harvesting user data from off its platforms, are key to the company’s plans to overcome an Apple privacy change that restricted Meta’s capacity to gather information about what its users do outside its platforms’ walls, the documents show.”

That’s likely worth considering in your process, putting more trust in Meta’s targeting systems to drive better results. At the least, it may be worth experimenting with Meta’s evolving AI for ad targeting. 

It’s not all good news. Meta also notes that while time spent in its apps is on the rise, creation and engagement is declining, with fewer people posting to both Facebook and Instagram than they have in the past.

That’s particularly true among younger audiences, while notably, usage of Instagram Stories is also in decline, down 10% on previous levels.

So while Meta is driving more engagement from Reels, which draws on content from across the app, as opposed to the people and Pages you follow, that’s also led to a decline in user posting.

Is that a bad thing? I mean, logically, engagement is important in keeping people interested in the app, and Meta also relies on those signals to help refine its ad targeting. So it does need users to be sharing their own content too, but if it can get more people spending more time in its apps, that will help it maintain advertiser interest.

In essence, despite all of the reports of Facebook’s demise, it remains a key connective platform, in various ways, while Meta’s improving ad targeting systems are also helping to drive better results, which will keep it as a staple for brands moving forward.

If you were thinking of diversifying your social media marketing spend this year, maybe don’t reduce Facebook investment just yet.

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Effective Ways To Personalize Your Customer Touch Points Even More In 2023

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Effective Ways To Personalize Your Customer Touch Points Even More In 2023

Will 2023 be the year of personalization? Consumers hope so. For the past two years, shoppers have been craving the personal touch: In 2021, McKinsey & Company noted that 71% of customers expected companies to deliver personalization. In 2022, a Salesforce survey found that 73% of people expected brands to understand their needs and expectations. So, this year is looking like one where personalization can no longer be seen as a “nice to have.”

The problem, of course, is how to get more personalized. Many companies have already started to dabble in this. They greet shoppers by name on landing pages. They rely on CRMs and other tools to use historical information to send shoppers customized recommendations. They offer personalized, real-time discounts to help buyers convert their abandoned shopping cart items to actual purchases.

These are all great ideas. The only problem is that they’ve become widespread. They don’t move the needle on the customer experience anymore. Instead, they’re standard, expected, and kind of forgettable. That doesn’t mean you can afford to stop doing them. It just means you must devise other ways to pepper personalization throughout your consumer interactions.

If you are scratching your head on how to outdo 2022’s personalization in 2023, try implementing the following strategies:

1. Go for full-blown engagement on social media.

One easy way to give the personal touch is through your social media business pages. Social media use just keeps growing. In 2022, there were about 266 million monthly active users (or MUAs) on Facebook, one billion on Instagram, and 755 million on TikTok. Not all these active users will fall into your target audiences, but plenty of them will.

Make engaging with your social followers one of this year’s goals. People spend a lot of time on social media. It’s where many of them “live,” so it only makes sense that it should be a place to drive personalization.

One quick way to ratchet up your company’s personal touch on social media is to personalize all your retargeted ads. Quizzes can also offer a chance for personalization. Simply set up an engaging quiz and allow people to share their results. It’s a fun way to build brand recognition and bond with consumers. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with going very personal and answering all comments. Depending on your team’s size and the number of comments you receive, this might be a viable option.

2. Leverage AI to go beyond basic demographics.

Most companies rely on customer demographic information to bolster personalization efforts. The only trouble with this tactic is that demographics can’t tell the whole story. It’s impossible to get a lot of context about individual users (such as their lifestyles, personal preferences, and motivators) just from knowing their age, gender, or location. Though demographic data is beneficial, it can cause some significant misses.

Michael Scharff, CEO and cofounder of Evolv AI, explains the workaround for this problem: “The most natural, and therefore productive, personalization efforts use demographics as a foundation and then layer in user likes, dislikes, behaviors, and values.”

You can leverage AI’s predictive and insightful capabilities to uncover real-time user insights. Scharff recommends this technique because it allows you to stay in sync with the fast-moving pace of consumer behavior changes. He adds that AI can be particularly beneficial with the coming limits to third-party cookie access because it can be a first-party data source, allowing you to maintain customer knowledge and connection.

To flesh out your organization’s strategy, look to other companies that have gone beyond demographics. Take Netflix, for example, which constantly tweaks its AI algorithm to help improve personalized content recommendations. Bottom line? Going deeper than surface information makes all the sense in the world if you want to show customers you know them well.

3. Keep your data spotless.

The better your data, the better your personalization efforts. Period. Unfortunately, you are probably sitting on a lot of unstructured or otherwise tricky-to-use (or impossible-to-use) data. One recent Great Expectations survey revealed that 77% of data practitioners have data quality problems, and 91% say that this is wreaking havoc on their companies’ performance.

You can’t personalize anything with corrupt or questionable data. So, do your best to find ways to clean your data promptly and routinely. For example, you might want to invest in a more centralized data system, particularly if the personalization data you rely on is scattered in various places. Having one repository of data truth makes it easier to know if the information on hand is ready to use.

Another way to tame your data is to automate as many data processes as possible. Reducing manual manipulation of data lessens the chance of human error. And you’ll feel more confident with all your personalization efforts if you can trust the reliability and health of your data.

4. Go for nontechnical personalization.

It’s the digital age, but that doesn’t mean every touchpoint has to be digitized. Consumers often react with delight and positivity when they receive personalization in decidedly nontech forms. (Yes, you can use tech to keep track of everything. Just don’t make it part of the actual personalized exchange!)

Consider writing handwritten thank-you notes to customers after they’ve called in for support or emailed your team, for instance. Or send an extra personalized gift to buyers who make a specific number of purchases. These interactions aren’t technical but can differentiate your customer experience from your competitors’ experiences.

A groundbreaking Deloitte snapshot taken right before the pandemic showed that people were hungry for connection. By folding nondigital experiences into your personalization with customers, you’re showing them that you see them first as valued humans. That’s compelling and appealing, making them more apt to give you their loyalty in return.

Putting a personal spin on all your consumer interactions takes a little time. It’s worth your energy, though. You’ll wind up with stronger brand-buyer connections, helping you edge ahead of your competitors even more.

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Planning for 2023: What Social Media Marketers Need to Win in 2023

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Planning for 2023: What Social Media Marketers Need to Win in 2023

January is, for many, a month of reflection, goal-setting, strategizing and planning for the year ahead. 

In line with this, we’ve kicked off the new year with a series of articles covering the latest stats, tips and strategies to help social media marketers build an effective game plan for 2023.

Below, you’ll find links to our 2023 social media planning series, which includes:

  • Content strategy guidelines to help you define your brand’s content mission and set SMART goals
  • Organic posting tips for Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat and Pinterest 
  • Explainers on how to research key topics of interest in your niche, understand the competitive landscape, and help you find your audience and connect with them where they’re active
  • A holiday calendar and notes on the best days and times to post to each of the major platforms

 

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