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TikTok Adds Disney Character Voices to its Text-to-Speech Feature

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This is a pretty cool announcement in itself, but in terms of timing, it’s also a brilliant example of corporate trolling, and clapping back at a competitor.

Today, Disney has announced a new partnership with TikTok which will enable TikTok users to choose from a range of Disney character voices for TikTok’s text-to-speech feature.

So now, instead of that regular, slightly too happy female voice that you hear over and over again in TikTok clips (I’m talking about you ‘Jessie’), you can use C-3PO or Rocket instead, which could be a good way to boost engagement, and will no doubt lead to new viral trends related to characters saying things that they probably shouldn’t.

But here’s why it’s extra great – just yesterday, Instagram announced that it’s adding text-to-speech to Reels, its TikTok replicant, along with its own voice effects tools.

Reels text to speech

Which, of course, trails TikTok significantly, as you’ve been able to add this to your TikTok clips since December last year, and as noted, it’s already a highly used feature in the app. Given this, it does make sense for Instagram to add the same, but it also means that TikTok is leading the way on another key innovation, and with Instagram constantly trailing, that will make it hard for it to win back young users, and become the cool place to be one again.

And now that Instagram finally catches up on this element, TikTok one-ups them straight away.

That was unlikely planned, as the feature has been announced to coincide with Disney+ Day, and couldn’t have been timed to align with Instagram’s feature launch. But still, it once again underlines that TikTok is the leader in the space, and that Instagram is the older, less cool app that catches up on the cool new thing months – almost a year – after it began trending.

And now, TikTok’s already advanced to the next stage, so Instagram’s speech-to-voice is second rate, a day after it’s released.

That is incredibly serendipitous timing for TikTok, and a perfect illustration of why it’s currently the most popular app, especially among younger, more tech-savvy audiences.

If Instagram, and parent company Meta, really want to win back the youth, they’ll need to take the lead in the space once again, and right now, they don’t look close to doing that. Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently announced that the company will primarily focus on younger audiences moving forward, as part of a broader strategic shift to maximize long-term viability. But in the early stages of this new push, those efforts appear to only be focused on messaging, and trying to regain popularity by – somewhat ironically – partnering with TikTok influencers.

That will help increase exposure, but it’s not like anybody’s not aware of Facebook or what it does, so that’s not really going to matter. The question is, will it help to make Facebook, and Meta, more broadly, cool again?

Right now, it feels a little forced, like Meta’s trying too hard to ride the latest trends, and be ‘down with the kids’ in its outward communications.

The real winner for Meta on this front would be leading the next wave of innovation, and becoming the originator of new trends, based on the latest features and user response. Which is a more difficult path, as you can’t control what catches on and what doesn’t in this respect, but Meta can invest in new tools, and it can build features that are not available in other apps.

That hasn’t been Meta’s forte for the last 5-10 years – and oh look, that’s the timeframe in which it’s lost connection with younger audiences.

Facebook usage chart

Facebook originally rose to prominence by beating MySpace, because it was better, it was cooler, and people eventually migrated to the blue app, and its functionality, instead. Instagram then rose to become the next cool place to be, so Facebook bought that, then Snapchat gained traction as the trending app of choice. Facebook tried to buy Snap too, but since then, it’s essentially lost its spot as the leader in creative innovation, with Snapchat’s Lenses becoming the leading trend-setter, in terms of key updates, then TikTok taking over after that.

When was the last time Facebook or Instagram had a must-see, must-use feature that got everyone talking? As noted, Snap Lenses have done this at regular intervals, while TikTok’s also been able to spark new trends with features like Duets, creative AR tools, and yes, text-to-speech.

Getting people talking about, and sharing these experiences is a key step, and Meta, right now, is not the leader in any sense.

It’s interesting to see this illustrated so clearly in one announcement, which, again, was likely not planned that way. Which may make it even more significant in this respect.

Socialmediatoday.com

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Snap making changes to direct response advertising business

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Snap making changes to direct response advertising business

The company posted a net loss of $288.5 million, or 18 cents a share, including $34 million in charges from its workforce restructuring. That compared to a profit of $23 million, or one cent, a year earlier.

Snap ended the fourth quarter with 375 million daily users, a 17% increase. In the first three months of the year, the company estimates 382 million to 384 million people will use its platform daily.

Snap has become a bellwether for other digital advertising companies. Last year, it was the first to raise concerns about the slowdown in marketer spending online and to fire a significant number of employees—20% of its workforce—to cut costs in the face of falling revenue.

The company has spent the last two quarters refocusing the organization, cutting projects that don’t contribute to user and revenue growth.

In the first quarter, Snap expects the environment to “remain challenging as we expect the headwinds we have faced over the past year to persist.”

Investors will get additional information about the state of the digital ad market when Meta and Alphabet report earnings later this week.

—Bloomberg News

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Twitter Outlines New Platform Rules Which Emphasize Reduced Reach, as Opposed to Suspensions

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Twitter Outlines New Platform Rules Which Emphasize Reduced Reach, as Opposed to Suspensions

After reinstating thousands of previously suspended accounts, as part of new chief Elon Musk’s ‘amnesty’ initiative, Twitter has now outlined how it will be enforcing its rules from now on, which includes less restrictive measures for some violations.

As explained by Twitter:

“We have been proactively reinstating previously suspended accounts […] We did not reinstate accounts that engaged in illegal activity, threats of harm or violence, large-scale spam and platform manipulation, or when there was no recent appeal to have the account reinstated. Going forward, we will take less severe actions, such as limiting the reach of policy-violating Tweets or asking you to remove Tweets before you can continue using your account.”

This is in line with Musk’s previously stated ‘freedom of speech, not freedom of reach’ approach, which will see Twitter leaning more towards leaving content active in the app, but reducing its impact algorithmically, if it breaks any rules.

Which means a lot of tweets that would have previously been deemed violative will now remain in the app, and while Musk notes that no ads will be displayed against such content, that could be difficult to enforce, given the way the tweet timeline functions.

But it does align with Musk’s free speech approach, and reduces the onus on Twitter, to some degree, in moderating speech. It will still need to assess each instance, case-by-case, but users themselves will be less aware of penalties – though Musk has also flagged adding more notifications and explainers to outline any reach penalties as well.

“Account suspension will be reserved for severe or ongoing, repeat violations of our policies. Severe violations include but are not limited to: engaging in illegal content or activity, inciting or threatening violence or harm, privacy violations, platform manipulation or spam, and engaging in targeted harassment of our users.

Which still means that a lot of content that these users had been suspended for previously would still result in suspension now, and it leaves a lot up to Twitter management in allocating severity of impact in certain actions.

How do you definitively measure threats of violence or harm, for example? Former President Donald Trump was sanctioned under this policy, but many, including Musk, were critical of Twitter’s decision to do so, given that Trump is an elected representative.

In other nations, too, Twitter has been pressured to remove tweets under these policies, and it’ll be interesting to see how Twitter 2.0 handles such, given its stated more lax approach to moderation, despite its rules remaining largely the same.

Already, questions have been raised on this front – Twitter recently removed links to a BBC documentary that’s critical of the Indian Government, at the request of India’s PM. Twitter hasn’t offered any official explanation for the action, but with Musk also working with the Indian Government to secure partnerships for his other business, Tesla, questions have been raised as to how he will manage both impacts concurrently.

In essence, Twitter’s approach has changed when it chooses to do so, but the rules, as such, will effectively be governed by Musk himself. And as we’ve already seen, he will make drastic rules changes based on personal agendas and experience.

Twitter says that, starting February 1st, any previously suspended users will be able to appeal their suspension, and be evaluated under its new criteria for reinstatement.

It’s also targeting February for a launch of its new account penalties notifications.



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4 new social media features you need to know about this week

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New social media features to know this week


Social media never stands still. Every week there are new features — and it’s hard for the busy comms pro to stay up-to-date on it all.

We’ve got you covered.

Here’s what you need to know about this week.

LinkedIn

Social media sleuth Matt Navarra reported on Twitter that LinkedIn will soon make the newsletters you subscribe to through the site visible to other users.

This should aid newsletter discovery by adding in an element of social proof: if it’s good enough for this person I like and respect, it’s good enough for me. It also might be anopportunity to get your toe in the water with LinkedIn’s newsletter features.

Instagram

After admitting they went a little crazy on Reels and ignored their bread and butter of photographs, Instagram continues to refine its platform and algorithm. Although there were big changes over the last few weeks, these newer changes are subtler but still significant.

 

 

First, the animated avatars will be more prominent on profiles. Users can now choose to flip between the cartoony, waving avatar and their more traditional profile picture, rather than picking one or the other, TechCrunch reported, seemingly part of a push to incorporate metaverse-esque elements into the app.

Instagram also appears to have added an option to include a lead form on business profiles. We say “appears” because, as Social Media Today reports, the feature is not yet listed as an official feature, though it has rolled out broadly.

The feature will allow businesses to use standard forms or customize their own, including multiple choice questions or short answer.

Twitter

In the chaotic world of Twitter updates, this week is fairly staid — with a useful feature for advertisers.

The platform will roll out the ability to promote tweets among search results. As Twitter’s announcement points out, someone actively searching for a term could signal stronger intent than someone merely passively scrolling a feed.

Which of these new features are you most interested in? That LinkedIn newsletter tool could be great for spreading the word — and for discovering new reads.

Allison Carter is executive editor of PR Daily. Follow her on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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