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Reddit’s Experimenting with NFT Profile Pictures, Leaning into Audience Trends



Reddit's Experimenting with NFT Profile Pictures, Leaning into Audience Trends

While Twitter’s new NFT profile display option has been met with a decidedly mixed response, it seems likely that we’re going to see more of the same from other platforms, as they look to tap into the rising popularity of NFTs, and facilitate more direct connection to NFT ownership for such display.

The latest platform experimenting with connected NFT profile images is Reddit, with app researcher Nima Owji spotting this alert in testing.

Which is probably little surprise – cryptocurrency was the most discussed topic on Reddit in 2021 and the platform has been testing the waters on digital currencies and transactions for some time, so it makes sense that it would also look to lean into NFTs.

But then again, much of those discussions of crypto, including NFTs, haven’t exactly been positive, with many Redditors highly critical of the space, and the perceived potential of the NFT market.

I mean, there are divisions across the board on NFTs, with most people seemingly firmly in the camp of either ‘these are the future’ or ‘these are total crap’. There are, of course, many flaws and issues with the NFT process, in relation to ownership rights, usage, copying, etc. But at the same time, the surge of attention suggests that there’s something there, and I suspect that there is a core functionality within NFT trading that will expand to the exchange of digital goods on a broader scale, especially in the coming metaverse shift.

Whether that means your $300k Bored Ape is going to be as valuable in a few years, or even months’ time, I wouldn’t be so sure.

Which is another issue. Many NFTs right now are already worthless, but they’re being used in ‘pump and dump’ scams to catch out unsuspecting investors who think that they’re latching onto a bargain – when really, the price of the piece has been artificially inflated by their friends and connections to make it seem like it’s on the rise, when it’s actually not.

That happens in many markets, but the crypto and NFT space is especially open to manipulation right now, due to lack of official oversight and the capacity for traders to obscure their identity.

Add to that the fact that NFTs are taxed as capital gains, and there’s even more motivation for the rich to use them as an offset, in order to reduce their tax burden moving forward.

Which is why there’s such a conflict in the burgeoning crypto market – while ideally, the community impact and traceability of the blockchain brings increased transparency and freedom, away from the interference of traditional gatekeepers and rule-makers, in reality, it also opens up these networks to manipulation. And accountants and investors are swooping on the opportunity.

Eventually, there will need to be some level of oversight and accountability, otherwise billions in tax payments could be lost through crypto platforms and trading. Which Government and regulatory authorities won’t allow. Which is why we’re now seeing crypto being banned in more and more regions, pending further assessment.

Over time, that could see the perceived benefits of crypto reduced, as it comes back into line with other monetary options, and NFTs are in the same boat, with enthusiasm for the space likely to die down as more buyers get burned, and more users call for increased security in their transactions.

But the trading of digital goods, beyond just profile pictures, will be big. It’s already huge in games like Fortnite and Roblox, and younger users are increasingly accustomed with spending money for in-app items, which will become a bigger focus as we all spend more time in expanded digital worlds.

That’s where it seems like the confusion over NFTs stems from – that there is clearly a value proposition there, a real use and value to virtual items. But I doubt the true benefits of such will lie in still, digital images.

Still, it also makes sense for social platforms to lean into the popularity of NFTs, and provide the option for users, and with Instagram also experimenting with its own NFT display tools, you can expect to see more of them coming in future.

Whether you like it or not.

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Cheeky branding wins (and missteps)



Cheeky branding wins (and missteps)


Branding and rebranding is getting more fun, here we look at some of cheekiest brands that have caught our eye – for the right and wrong reasons.

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Google Outlines Ongoing Efforts to Combat China-Based Influence Operations Targeting Social Apps



Google Outlines Ongoing Efforts to Combat China-Based Influence Operations Targeting Social Apps

Over the past year, Google has repeatedly noted that a China-based group has been looking to use YouTube, in particular, to influence western audiences, by building various channels in the app, then seeding them with pro-China content.

There’s limited info available on the full origins or intentions of the group, but today, Google has published a new overview of its ongoing efforts to combat the initiative, called DRAGONBRIDGE.

As explained by Google:

In 2022, Google disrupted over 50,000 instances of DRAGONBRIDGE activity across YouTube, Blogger, and AdSense, reflecting our continued focus on this actor and success in scaling our detection efforts across Google products. We have terminated over 100,000 DRAGONBRIDGE accounts in the IO network’s lifetime.

As you can see in this chart, DRAGONBRIDGE is by far the most prolific source of coordinated information operations that Google has detected over the past year, while Google also notes that it’s been able to disrupt most of the project’s attempted influence, by snuffing out its content before it gets seen.


Worth noting the scale too – as Google notes, DRAGONBRIDGE has created more than 100,000 accounts, which includes tens of thousands of YouTube channels. Not individual videos, entire channels in the app, which is a huge amount of work, and content, that this group is producing.

That can’t be cheap, or easy to keep running. So they must be doing it for a reason.

The broader implication, which has been noted by various other publications and analysts, is that DRAGONBRIDGE is potentially being supported by the Chinese Government, as part of a broader effort to influence foreign policy approaches via social media apps. 

Which, at this kind of scale, is a concern, while DRAGONBRIDGE has also targeted Facebook and Twitter as well, at different times, and it could be that their efforts on those platforms are also reaching similar activity levels, and may not have been detected as yet.

Which then also relates to TikTok, a Chinese-owned app that now has massive influence over younger audiences in western nations. If programs like this are already in effect, it stands to reason that TikTok is also likely a key candidate for boosting the same, which remains a key concern among regulators and officials in many nations.

The US Government is reportedly weighing a full TikTok ban, and if that happens, you can bet that many other nations will follow suit. Many government organizations are also banning TikTok on official devices, based on advice from security experts, and with programs like DRAGONBRIDGE also running, it does seem like Chinese-based groups are actively operating influence and manipulation programs in foreign nations.

Which seems like a significant issue, and while Google is seemingly catching most of these channels before they have an impact, it also seems likely that this is only one element of a larger push.

Hopefully, through collective action, the impact of such can be limited – but for TikTok, which still reports to Chinese ownership, it’s another element that could raise further questions and scrutiny.

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The Drum | Trump’s Instagram & Facebook Reinstatement Won’t Cause Marketers To Riot Yet, Experts Say



The Drum | Trump's Instagram & Facebook Reinstatement Won’t Cause Marketers To Riot Yet, Experts Say

While the reinstatement of Donald Trump’s Twitter account in November had some advertisers packing up in protest, many will strike a different tune with Meta-owned Facebook and Instagram, experts predict.

Meta Wednesday announced that it’s lifting the ban on a handful of Facebook and Instagram accounts, including that of former US president Donald Trump – who was suspended nearly two years ago following the January 6, 2021 riots at the Capitol.

In a blog post yesterday, Nick Clegg, Meta’s president of global affairs, explained the reasons for the company’s decision, saying that it “evaluated the current environment” as it pertains to the socio-political landscape and security concerns and determined that “risk has sufficiently receded.” As a result, the company will welcome Trump back onto Facebook and Instagram.

The former president will be expected to comply with Meta’s user policies, but, considering his past violations, will face “heightened penalties for repeat offenses,” Clegg explained.

While it’s unclear whether Trump will become an active user on either platform following the decision, media and marketing experts are already sounding alarm bells at his potential return.

In particular, experts are cautious considering recent developments at Twitter. Elon Musk’s turbulent takeover – which has included mass layoffs, dramatic platform changes and the decision to reinstate the accounts of controversial figures like Trump and Kanye West (whose account has since been re-suspended) – has led to an exodus of advertisers. Could Meta’s decision to reintroduce Trump invite a similar fate?

‘Fear, frustration and protest’ could catalyze drawback

Concerns regarding brand safety and suitability on Facebook and Instagram are piquing among marketers. Trump’s presence on social media has long proven to exacerbate the spread of misinformation online. The risks of a potential recession, paired with new political tensions spurred by the 2022 midterms and the anticipation of the 2024 presidential election, may only up the ante.

“Misinformation on Meta’s platforms was an issue prior to Trump’s ban, during the ban and will likely continue to be an issue, even with the new [policies that] Meta has put in place,” says Laura Ries, group director of media and connections at IPG-owned ad agency R/GA. In light of this fact, Ries says, “Advertisers will need to continue to consider the type of content they’ll show up next to when evaluating whether or not to advertise on the platforms, especially as we march toward the 2024 election.”

She predicts that Meta may see some advertisers leave Facebook and Instagram “out of fear, frustration or protest.”

Others agree. “I suspect advertisers will not be pleased with this move and might make reductions in spend as they have done with Twitter,” says Tim Lim, a political strategist, PR consultant and partner at creative agency The Hooligans.

Although some advertisers are sure to pull back or cut their investments, the number will likely be low – largely because the scale and reach promised by both Facebook and Instagram will make it hard for most advertisers to quit. Smaller brands and startups in particular often rely heavily on Meta’s advertising business to spur growth, says Ries.

A ripple, not a wave

Most industry leaders believe Trump’s reinstatement won’t cause anything more than a ripple in the advertising industry. “Marketers who advertise on Facebook and Instagram care about their own problems, which generally [entail] selling more products and services,” says Joe Pulizzi, an entrepreneur, podcaster and author of various marketing books. “If Meta helps them do that, they don’t care one bit about brand safety – unless this blows up into a big political issue again. It might not, so marketers won’t do a thing.”

The sentiment is underscored by Dr Karen Freberg, a professor of strategic communications at University of Louisville, who says: “Facebook and Instagram are key fundamental platforms for advertisers. Marketers may … be aware of the news, but I am not sure if it will make a drastic change for the industry.” She points out that Twitter’s decision to lift the ban on Trump’s account in November caused such a big stir among marketers advertisers that Meta’s decision to do the same may come as less of a shock.

Trump’s return may even benefit Meta’s ads business by giving the company new opportunities to serve ads to Trump devotees, says Pulizzi. Ultimately, he says, Meta “needs personalities like Trump,” who, whether through love or hate, inspire higher engagement. “With Facebook plateauing and Instagram now chasing – and copying – TikTok at every turn, Trump’s follower base is important to Meta, which is hard to believe, but I think it’s true.”

But while some users may be energized by the former president’s return to Meta platforms, others may be outraged – even to the point of quitting Facebook and Instagram, points out Ries. In this case, she says, “advertisers will need to follow them to TikTok, Snap or other platforms where they’re spending their newfound time.”

R/GA, for its part, which services major brands including Google, Samsung, Verizon and Slack, will work on “a client by client basis” to address concerns about Facebook, Instagram or any other platform, says Ries. “R/GA recommended pausing activity on Facebook and Instagram after the insurrection and won’t hesitate to do so again if another incident occurs.”

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