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Instagram is Working on a New ‘Bonuses’ Payment Option to Incentivize Reels Creators



It seems that Facebook is still taking inspiration from other platforms as it looks to thwart the rapid ascension of TikTok.

Last November, Snapchat launched its take on the short-form video trend, called Spotlight, which is a feed of short, TikTok-like video clips that live in a dedicated tab within the Snapchat app.

Snapchat Spotlight

The format is very familiar, and Facebook-owned Instagram already has Reels to cover off on this element. But the key differentiator of Spotlight is the fact that Snap is also paying out $1 million per day to the top Spotlight creators, in order to further boost interest in the option.

That’s been an effective approach, with Spotlight now being visited by 125 million Snapchatters every month, and some creators making big money from their Spotlight clips.

It’s been so effective, in fact, that it appears that Instagram is now looking to introduce a similar payment program, with app researcher Alessandro Paluzzi spotting this announcement screen in the back-end code of the app.

Instagram Bonuses

As you can see here, Instagram appears to be testing a new ‘bonuses’ program, which would be focused on Reels promotion.

As per the first point above, the program would enable users to ‘earn bonuses from Instagram’ when they share new Reels content. You would then, seemingly, need to reach certain bonus thresholds in order to claim ‘earnings’ from the program, while there would also be variable bonuses made available to creators.

The explainer notes don’t specifically say that users would earn cash payouts from the program, but it does seemingly align with the Snapchat Spotlight approach, in paying selected creators for their Reels contributions – though apparently based on upload volume as opposed to engagement/quality.

Which, really, is not overly surprising.

Facebook’s product development playbook for the last five years or so has basically come down to two simple elements – ‘CTRL C’ and ‘CTRL V’. Whenever a platform launches something effective, it’s just a waiting game to see when Facebook will copy it, and with its unmatched scale providing the ultimate lure, it’s generally been able to negate and/or blunt competition through this approach.

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I mean, if it works, there’s no reason for Facebook to stop doing it – but then again, in the case of TikTok specifically, Facebook, thus far, hasn’t been able to slow its momentum, with the Chinese-owned short-form video app shrugging off Facebook’s various replications and roadblocks to continue forward on its way towards becoming the next billion-user social media platform.

And Facebook has most definitely tried:

  • Facebook launched its first TikTok clone called ‘Lasso‘ in 2018, with a focus on markets where TikTok had not yet established an audience. The project never caught on, and Facebook shut Lasso down for good in July last year
  • Facebook has had far more success with its most direct assault on TikTok in Instagram Reels, which Facebook launched in India just days after TikTok was banned in the region. Instagram is still looking at how to maximize Reels, with IG chief Adam Mosseri reporting steady progress for the option. 
  • Along with the Reels launch, Facebook also offered some of the top TikTok creators big money deals to post to Reels exclusively instead. It’s unclear how effective that’s been in boosting Reels take-up
  • Facebook has also launched several TikTok-like experimental apps via its NPE team, including music collaborations app ‘Collab‘ and the rap-focused ‘Bars‘, both of which are centered around short-form video clips.

All of these efforts have been launched with TikTok in mind, as part of Facebook’s strategy to slow the growth of the app. But Facebook’s most direct assault on TikTok is actually rarely discussed, and likely not even known about among the general public.

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Back in 2019, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg held a “secret” dinner with then US President Donald Trump, in which the two discussed the many challenges and opportunities within the broader tech sphere.

A key focus of that meeting was indeed the rise of TikTok – as explained by The Wall Street Journal:

In a private dinner at the White House in late October, Mr. Zuckerberg made the case to President Trump that the rise of Chinese internet companies threatens American business, and should be a bigger concern than reining in Facebook, some of the people said.”

That reflects the same sentiment that Zuckerberg shared in a speech to Georgetown University just ahead of this meeting with Trump, in which Zuckerberg explained that:

China is building its own internet focused on very different values, and is now exporting their vision of the internet to other countries. Until recently, the internet in almost every country outside China has been defined by American platforms with strong free expression values. There’s no guarantee these values will win out.”

Zuckerberg specifically noted in his speech that TikTok had been censoring some users at the behest of the Chinese Government, as he underlined the rising concerns related to the expansion of the CCP’s reach through such apps.

What happened then?

In early November, literally days after Zuckerberg’s meeting with Trump, the US Government announced a national security investigation into TikTok, which eventually, lead to Trump pushing for a full ban on TikTok in the US, unless it could be sold into US ownership. That eventually fell flat, but the element that many people overlook is that Facebook started that whole process – it was Facebook that sowed the seeds of doubt with the US Government, which eventually saw the Trump administration almost force TikTok out of business, at least as we know it.

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It’s also worth also noting in this context that Facebook spent more than any of the big tech giants on political lobbying in 2020, increasing its spend by 17.8% year-on-year to $19.68 million, as it seeks to exert more influence over policy decisions related to its interests.

Facebook is doing all that it can to force TikTok out – and while on one hand, it does actually stand to benefit from the rise of the Chinese-owned app, in that it weakens the FTC’s ongoing antitrust case against the company, Facebook also knows that it could lose out big-time in the long run. It was, of course, Facebook that originally usurped MySpace for social media dominance.

Could TikTok eventually be a ‘Facebook killer’?

Realistically, probably not, but trends that take hold in younger age brackets can lead to new habitual behaviors, and with people now reportedly spending more time in TikTok than they are in either Facebook or Instagram, Facebook does indeed have some cause for concern. 

In summary, you can expect Facebook’s replication efforts to continue, and as more platforms find new ways to grow and expand their own offerings, Facebook will keep taking inspiration from those ideas as well, while also pushing for increased Government regulation that works in its favor. 

Such is the benefit of being the biggest, most well-resourced player in the space.

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Twitter Expands its Test of User-Reported Misinformation, Expanding Platform Insight



Twitter Looks to Extend its Keyword Blocking and Mute Options to More Elements

After seeing success with its initial test of a new, manual reporting option, enabling users to flag tweets that contain potentially misleading claims, Twitter is now expanding the test to more regions, with users in Brazil, Spain, and the Philippines now set to get access.

Launched in August last year, Twitter’s latest effort to combat misinformation focuses on audience trends and perception of such as a means to determine common issues with the platform, and what people feel compelled to report, pointing to things that they don’t want to see.

The process adds an additional ‘It’s misleading’ option to your tweet reporting tools, providing another means to flag concerning claims.

Which is obviously not a foolproof way to detect and remove misleading content – but as noted, the idea is not so much focused on direct enforcement, as such, but more on broader trends based on how many people report certain tweets, and what people report.

As Twitter explained as part of the initial launch:

“Although we may not take action on this report or respond to you directly, we will use this report to develop new ways to reduce misleading info. This could include limiting its visibility, providing additional context, and creating new policies.”

So essentially, the concept is that if, say, 100, or 1,000 people report the same tweet for ‘political misinformation’, that’ll likely get Twitter’s attention, which may help Twitter identify what users don’t want to see, and want the platform to take action against, even if it’s not actually in violation of the current rules.

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So it’s more of a research tool than an enforcement option – which is a better approach, because enabling users to dictate removals by mass-reporting in this way could definitely lead to misuse.

That, in some ways, has borne true in its initial testing – as explained by Head of Site Integrity Yoel Roth:

On average, only about 10% of misinfo reports were actionable -compared to 20-30% for other policy areas. A key driver of this was “off-topic” reports that don’t contain misinfo at all.

In other words, a lot of the tweets reported through this manual option were not an actual concern, which highlight the challenges in using user reports as an enforcement measure.

But Roth notes that the data they have gathered has been valuable either way:

We’re already seeing clear benefits from reporting for the second use case (aggregate analysis) – especially when it comes to non-text-based misinfo, such as media and URLs linking to off-platform misinformation.

So it may not be a great avenue for direct action on each reported tweet, but as a research tool, the initiative has helped Twitter determine more areas of focus, which contributes to its broader effort to eliminate misinformation within the tweet eco-system.

A big element of this is bots, with various research reports indicating that Twitter bots are key amplifiers of misinformation and politically biased information.

In early 2020, at the height of the Australian bushfire crisis, researchers from Queensland University detected a massive network of Twitter bots that had been spreading misinformation about the Australian bushfire crisis and amplifying anti-climate change conspiracy theories in opposition to established facts. Other examinations have found that bot profiles, at times, contribute up to 60% of tweet activity around some trending events.

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Twitter is constantly working to better identify bot networks and eliminate any influence they may have, but this expanded reporting process may help to identify additional bot trends, as well as providing insight into the actual reach of bot pushes via expanded user reporting.

There are various ways in which such insight could be of value, even if it doesn’t result in direct action against offending tweets, as such. And it’ll be interesting to see how Twitter’s expansion of the program improves the initiative, and how it also pairs with its ongoing ‘Birdwatch’ reporting program to detect platform misuse.

Essentially, this program won’t drive a sudden influx of direct removals, eliminating offending tweets based on the variable sensibilities of each user. But it will help to identify key content trends and user concerns, which will contribute to Twitter’s broader effort to better detect these movements, and reduce their influence.

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Twitter’s Latest Promotional Campaign Focuses on Celebrities Who’ve Manifested Success Via Tweet



Twitter's Latest Promotional Campaign Focuses on Celebrities Who've Manifested Success Via Tweet

Twitter has launched a new advertising campaign which is focused on ‘manifesting’ via tweet, highlighting how a range of successful athletes and entertainers made initial commitments to their success via Twitter long before their public achievements.

Through a new set of billboard ads across the US, Twitter will showcase 12 celebrities that ‘tweeted their dreams into existence’.

As explained by Twitter:

To honor these athletes and other celebrities for Tweeting their dreams into existence, Twitter turned their famous Tweets into 39+ billboards! Located across 8 cities (NYC, LA, SF, Chicago, Toronto, Houston, Tampa, Talladega), most of the billboards can be found in the hometowns or teams’ locations of the stars who manifested their dreams, such as Bubba Wallace in Talladega and Diamond DeShields in Chicago.”

Twitter Manifest campaign

Beyond the platform promotion alone, the billboards actually align with usage trends at this time of year, as people work to stick with their New Year’s resolutions, and adopt new habits that will improve their lives. Seeing big-name stars that have been able to achieve their own dreams, which they’ve publicly communicated via tweet, could be another avenue to holding firm on such commitments, while Twitter also notes that tweets about manifestation are at an all-time high, seeing 100% year-over-year growth.

Maybe that’s the key. By sharing your ambitions and goals publicly, maybe that additional accountability will better ensure that you stick to your commitments – or maybe it’s all just mental, and by adding that extra public push to yourself, you’ll feel more compelled to keep going, because it’s there for all to see.

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In addition to the promotional value of the campaign, Twitter’s also donating nearly $1 million to charities as selected by each of the featured celebrities.

“Some of the charities include Boys and Girls Club, Destination Crenshaw, The 3-D Foundation, and UNICEF Canada.”

It’s an interesting push, which again comes at the right time of year. Getting into a new routine is tough, as is changing careers, publishing your first artwork, speaking in public, etc. Maybe, by seeing how these stars began as regular people, tweeting their dreams like you or I, that could act as a good motivator that you too can achieve what you set out to do, and that by posting such publicly, you’re making a commitment, not to the random public, but to yourself, that you will do it this year.

Sure, 2022 hasn’t exactly got off to a great start, with a COVID resurgence threatening to derail things once again. But maybe, this extra push could be the thing that keeps you focused, like these celebrities, even amid external distractions.  

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Snapchat Adds New Limits on Adults Seeking to Connect with Minors in the App



Snapchat Adds New Limits on Adults Seeking to Connect with Minors in the App

After Instagram added similar measures last year, Snapchat is now implementing new restrictions to limit adults from sending messages to users under the age of 18 in the app.

As reported by Axios, Snapchat is changing its “Quick Add” friend suggestion process so that it’s not possible for people to add users aged under 18 “unless there are a certain number of friends in common between the two users”. That won’t stop such connection completely, but it does add another barrier in the process, which could reduce harm.

The move is a logical and welcome step, which will help improve the security of youngsters in the app, but the impacts of such could be far more significant on Snap, which is predominantly used by younger people.

Indeed, Snapchat reported last year that around 20% of its total user base was aged under 18, with the majority of its audience being in the 13-24 year-old age bracket. That means that interaction between these age groups is likely a significant element of the Snap experience, and restricting such could have big impacts on overall usage, even if it does offer greater protection for minors.

Which is why this is a particularly significant commitment from Snap – though it is worth noting that Snapchat won’t necessarily stop older users from connecting with younger ones in the app, it just won’t make it as easy through initial recommendations, via the Quick Add feature.

So it’s not a huge change, as such. But again, given the interplay between these age groups in the app, it is a marker of Snap’s commitment to protection, and to finding new ways to ensure that youngsters are not exposed to potential harm within the app.

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Snapchat has faced several issues on this front, with the ephemeral focus of the app providing fertile ground for predators, as it automatically erases any evidence trail in the app. With that in mind, Snap does have a way to go in providing more protection, but it is good to see the company looking at ways to limit such interactions, and combat potentially harmful misuse.

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