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TikTok Stands Firm as White House Makes September Deal Deadline Official

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It’s now official. Well, official as it can be.

On Thursday evening, The White House issued an Executive Order, signed by US President Donald Trump, which will effectively see TikTok banned in the US if it is not sold to a US-owned business by that time. 

The Order details the case against TikTok, including claims of potential censorship and its process of gathering “vast swaths of information from its users”:

“This data collection threatens to allow the Chinese Communist Party access to Americans’ personal and proprietary information – potentially allowing China to track the locations of Federal employees and contractors, build dossiers of personal information for blackmail, and conduct corporate espionage.”

TikTok has already been banned from US military-issued devices for this reason, while the Senate this week passed a bill that will see the app banned from all Government-issued devices.

“TikTok also reportedly censors content that the Chinese Communist Party deems politically sensitive, such as content concerning protests in Hong Kong and China’s treatment of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities.  This mobile application may also be used for disinformation campaigns that benefit the Chinese Communist Party, such as when TikTok videos spread debunked conspiracy theories about the origins of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus.”

Last September, The Guardian published leaked details from TikTok’s moderation guidelines, which included instructions to censor videos that mentioned Tiananmen Square, Tibetan independence, or the banned religious group Falun Gong. TikTok said that these guidelines were never used for TikTok, but were designed for the Chinese-specific version, Douyin, and were outdated either way. Since then, various claims have been made about TikTok censoring content like videos about the Hong Kong protests, though on investigation, nothing has been proven.

As noted by tech analyst Ben Thompson, proving such would be difficult due to the way TikTok’s algorithm is constructed, but the concerns clearly remain regardless. 

But TikTok, in its response to the EO, did not hold back in criticizing the US Government’s approach.

In a statement on its blog, TikTok said that it was “shocked'” by Executive Order, which it claims has been issued without any due process.

“For nearly a year, we have sought to engage with the US government in good faith to provide a constructive solution to the concerns that have been expressed. What we encountered instead was that the Administration paid no attention to facts, dictated terms of an agreement without going through standard legal processes, and tried to insert itself into negotiations between private businesses.”

The latter point relates, of course, to US President Donald Trump saying that “a very substantial portion” of the price eventually paid for TikTok, if it does indeed get bought out by a US company, will need to come to go to the US Treasury for facilitating the deal. Whether that’s legal, or even possible, remains up for debate.

TikTok also reiterated its commitment to transparency, outlined recently by new CEO Kevin Mayer, and refuted concerns around its Chinese Government links.

“We have made clear that TikTok has never shared user data with the Chinese government, nor censored content at its request. In fact, we make our moderation guidelines and algorithm source code available in our Transparency Center, which is a level of accountability no peer company has committed to. We even expressed our willingness to pursue a full sale of the US business to an American company.”

Clearly frustrated by the process, TikTok finally notes that it will seek all forms of recourse in combating the US Government’s order, if it comes to a possible ban. 

“This Executive Order risks undermining global businesses’ trust in the United States’ commitment to the rule of law, which has served as a magnet for investment and spurred decades of American economic growth. And it sets a dangerous precedent for the concept of free expression and open markets. We will pursue all remedies available to us in order to ensure that the rule of law is not discarded and that our company and our users are treated fairly – if not by the Administration, then by the US courts.”

The tone of TikTok’s messaging resembles the recent statement from Mayer, in which he criticized Facebook, and other tech players, for their actions to impede the app’s growth. And really, backed into a corner, there’s not much else TikTok can do – sure, taking on the US Government to secure the future of your app in their jurisdiction seems risky. But TikTok does have some valid points – unless the US Government has intelligence beyond what’s been shared publicly, the case against TikTok on several fronts is based on unsubstantiated fears.

That doesn’t necessarily make them less plausible, but in a legal sense, they may not hold up.

So, what comes next for TikTok? Well, first, we wait to see whether Microsoft buys it out, which, despite being the clear front runner in a potential race for the platform, is not a given

At present, Microsoft is pushing to buy TikTok in its entirety, which analysts estimate will cost it between $10b and $30b. But is TikTok really worth that? The app is popular now, but it’s arguably in a similar position to what Vine was at peak, when Vine had 200 million US users. TikTok has about half of that, while the app also recently lost 200m users in India, and has much smaller user bases in other markets. 

Overall, you’re looking at paying $30 billion for a platform with, maybe, 300 million users right now, and no defined path towards full monetization, nor an effective eco-system to pay its top creators – who could generate more revenue for their content on YouTube or Instagram (which just rolled out its TikTok-clone ‘Reels’ in more markets).

That seems risky – for comparison, Twitter is currently valued at around $29.8b, and arguably has a much more viable market position and business model. If Microsoft is going to spend so much, it needs to be seeking some solid assurances.

Of course, theoretically, Indian regulators would allow TikTok back into the market if it were no longer Chinese owned – yet even then, there’s no guarantee that users will return to the app if and when it is re-introduced. 

Then there’s also Microsoft’s other business interests in China.

The CCP is reportedly very unhappy with how the US Government is forcing a Chinese company to sell part of its business to a US group. If Microsoft ends up being that group, the Chinese Government could look to punish the tech giant for its involvement. Microsoft has over 6,000 employees in China, though the region’s impact on Microsoft’s overall revenue is minimal, according to the company.

It may have to assess just how ‘minimal’ it really is if it goes through with a TikTok deal.

Is TikTok set for major revenue growth in future? Could Microsoft take it to the next level? Will Instagram’s Reels de-rail the app?

There are still a lot of key questions for Microsoft, or indeed, any potential buyer to weigh up.

And they now have only 45 days to do so. Before the next stage.

Socialmediatoday.com

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Internal Documents Reveal That the New Twitter Blue Has Fewer Than 300k Subscribers at Present

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Internal Documents Reveal That the New Twitter Blue Has Fewer Than 300k Subscribers at Present

Look, I know people have strong opinions about Elon Musk, and I realize that any criticism is going to be viewed as political commentary, even if it’s not (because I’m not American, I can’t vote, I don’t care about Hunter Biden, etc.). But Elon’s paid verification program is dumb, the dumbest move that he’s made at Twitter to date.

And I understand the logic – Elon says that when he came on, the company was losing $4 million per day, which lead to mass lay-offs, and a scramble for revenue generation options.

Paid verification, then, makes sense, while Elon also extrapolated the need for immediate cash into a pathway to combat bots, by using verification as a means to ‘verify all the real humans’ – i.e. bots won’t pay, and bot peddlers won’t be able to afford such at scale.

I get all the moving parts, and optimistically, they may sense.

But realistically, which is the more important ‘ally’ of the two, it just doesn’t.

Because most people won’t pay, especially when you’re offering nothing much in return, other than a graphic of a tick next to their username, while the very act of selling verification ticks erases their only perceptual value, that being exclusivity.

Now, everyone can buy one, so the tick is meaningless, at least as a status marker of some form.

My perspective on this been vindicated, at this early stage at least, by a new report from The Information, which says that, according to internal documents:

Around 180,000 people in the US were paying for subscriptions to Twitter, including Twitter Blue, as of mid-January, or less than 0.2% of monthly active users […] The U.S. number is about 62% of Twitter’s global subscriber total, the document says, which implies Twitter has 290,000 global subscribers.”

That’s consistent with the findings of researcher Travis Brown, who’s been posting regular updates on Twitter Blue subscriber numbers, based on searches of users that show up as ‘blue_verified’ in the back-end.

At present, based on Brown’s figures, the new Twitter Blue program looks to have around 300,000 subscribers, very close to the data The Information has seen.

That would mean that Twitter’s currently bringing in an extra $2.4 million per month via the program, or $7.2 million per quarter. Which is pretty good, that’s extra income at a time when Twitter desperately needs it. But it’s still way, way off from where Twitter wants its subscription revenue intake to be.

To reiterate, when initially outlining his Twitter 2.0 reformation plans, Elon said that he wants to make subscription revenue around 50% of Twitter’s overall intake. That would align somewhat with the aforementioned revenue and bot-battling potential – but in order to do this, Twitter needs to increase Twitter Blue take-up 81x its current state.

300k sign-ups is also only 0.12% of Twitter’s active user base – so to reiterate, revenue-wise, it’s not close to meeting goals, and as a bot disincentive, it’s nowhere near meeting its aims. And while Twitter has just this weekend rolled out Twitter Blue to more regions, there’s just no way that it’s ever going to reach the levels required to make it a viable consideration in either respect.

Which means that all the mucking around, all the impersonation issues, all the gold checks and gray ticks and square profile images and brand logos. All of this has, on balance, been a waste of time.

It’s not nothing – again, Twitter needs all the extra money it can get right now, and a $29 million annual boost in intake will help. But functionally, it’s been a series of blunders and missteps, one after the other.

And now, Twitter wants brands to pay $1,000 a month for a gold tick?

Yeah, safe to say that’s not going to be a roaring success either. And while Twitter will likely get a few more Twitter Blue sign-ups when it removes legacy blue checks sometime in future, that’s still only 420k extra subscribers, max.

The churn rate will also be high – because again, a blue tick isn’t valuable anymore if everyone can buy one – and unless Elon and Co. have some magic updates to build into Twitter Blue in future, beyond Blue-only polls or paying to qualify for monetization, I don’t see how this becomes a significant element of Twitter’s overall intake or process.

But maybe I’m missing something. Maybe, because it’s Elon Musk, we’ve missed the point, or the process, and there is actually another pathway to winning on this front that’s not been revealed as yet.

I don’t see it, but I can’t imagine the logistics of flying to Mars either, so maybe there’s more to come.

But I doubt it.



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Housebound Jordanian football fan a social media star

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Amer Abu Nawas was born with osteogenesis, or brittle bone disease, a genetic condition hindering normal bone growth that has meant he rarely leaves his home

Amer Abu Nawas was born with osteogenesis, or brittle bone disease, a genetic condition hindering normal bone growth that has meant he rarely leaves his home – Copyright AFP Khalil MAZRAAWI

Kamal Taha

Having spent most of his life housebound due to a medical condition, Jordanian Amer Abu Nawas’s love of football has propelled him to social media stardom.

Offering analysis of matches from the leading European football leagues to almost a quarter of a million followers, his Facebook page — “HouseAnalyzer” in Arabic — has grown into what he describes as a “big family”.

The 27-year-old was born with osteogenesis, or brittle bone disease, a genetic condition hindering normal bone growth that has meant he rarely leaves his home in Zarqa, 30 kilometres (18 miles) from Jordan’s capital Amman.

“It is true that I have never played football in my life, and have never attended any match, but for me football is everything,” Abu Nawas told AFP.

With no schools in the country catering to his needs, Abu Nawas grew up spending much of his time watching football matches, analysing the teams and playing football video games.

“This always made me feel like it is taking me from this world to a different one,” he said.

His relatives noticed his passion and encouraged him to publish his match analyses online.

In 2017, he launched his Facebook account, which now counts more than 243,000 followers.

– ‘Reach people’ –

Filmed on a phone in his bedroom, Abu Nawas’s videos usually feature him wearing a football jersey, excitedly commenting on matches and news from the world of football.

Discussing leagues from England, France, Germany, Italy and Spain, he sometimes uses a football pitch-shaped board to explain tactical nuances.

One of Abu Nawas’s latest videos reached more than 1.4 million viewers and he has started posting on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram and Twitter.

He said he was grateful for modern technology allowing him to connect with so many people.

“From this room, from this small place isolated from the world, I was able to cross these walls, reach people, communicate with them, create content, and become what I am today,” he said.

He expressed sadness at sometimes seeing people attack each other in comments to his posts, and said his relationship with his followers was “like a family”.

“This family is growing day by day, and I hope it will reach as many followers as possible,” he added.

Abu Nawas’s own family do their best to provide him with a comfortable life.

He is the youngest of three brothers and his father is a doctor and his mother a pharmacist.

Inside his room are shelves with a PlayStation, a computer and plastic baskets keeping items he might need.

On his bed are phones, remote controls, headphones and a long stick used to reach distant items.

– ‘Not an obstacle’ –

“He has his own world, in a room with a temperature of 27 degrees to avoid cold and pneumonia. He can operate anything using the remote control,” his father Yussef told AFP.

He said his son has friends who occasionally visit.

“When he feels bad, they take him out for a tour in a minibus,” he said.

Abu Nawas lamented that in Jordan “nobody cares” about people with diseases like his, and said he wished he had had the opportunity to attend school.

“The conditions for people with special needs are catastrophic,” he said.

“I could not learn because there are no special schools for people like me.”

Last year, the organisers of the football World Cup invited him to attend the tournament in Qatar.

But due to travel difficulties linked to his condition, he arrived late and missed the matches he was scheduled to attend.

Even so, Abu Nawas said it was “the best 10 days of my life”.

“I know my condition, I learned to be content, and I will remain so,” he said.

“Disability need not be an obstacle to success.”

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Stand Out in a Crowded Market By Focusing on Organic Growth

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Stand Out in a Crowded Market By Focusing on Organic Growth

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

My partner and I have seen the power of organic growth, even in a significantly competitive market like fashion. Our company, named BJ Positive Wear, was able to create something captivating to our customers within the last two years. I saw a complete transformation of our business in that time, all due to organic growth and the philosophies that we used to succeed.

Even though we had no idea what to expect, we decided from the very start to go in with organic growth being the ultimate goal. We did not benefit from outside help, so we chose to do this. We knew it would take longer, but in the end, every action brought us one step closer to where we are today.

I believe everybody could benefit from focusing on organic growth in a competitive market. If you’re unsure where to start, I will share with you what we did to achieve our success today.

Related: How Thinking Like a Designer Can Unlock Organic Growth

Why organic growth matters

You might not think much of it, but organic growth is the ultimate powerhouse for success. Organic growth is an important area of focus because it encompasses various areas of outreach and focuses on genuinely connecting with the audience you want to reach with your business.

Back in the days before the internet, organic growth was increasingly difficult. People had to do traditional marketing, create posters, billboards and more. Today, my partner goes on social media and shares content.

Social media has so much power, and many people I see and talk to in the business world don’t even grasp the full potential of it. For our firm, social media was what ultimately made us powerful and gave us the organic growth we wanted. You can have the same, and it comes with a few specific steps that we took as we embarked on our journey to success.

Create conversation

One of the essential tips is to create conversation. Organic growth is about engaging with the audience and making them feel a part of what you are doing. Your customer is the ultimate source of direction as a business. Even if you start with an idea for a specific product, you need to listen to the customer and see if what you have to offer is going to benefit them or not.

Create these conversations, and focus on what they say. Even if it is entirely different than what you might have expected, your customer is the ultimate tool for you to spearhead any decision to allow you to further expand and experience growth as a business.

Present value and transparency

Transparency is one of the most valuable tools in any business. If you want to succeed and capture any audience demographic’s attention, you need clarity in your messaging. You must lay out the value for your specific product or service to the audience. Customers like honesty. This is something that I have come to appreciate as a co-founder.

People want to hear exactly what you have to offer. So, don’t leave a mystery. Instead, present your value and be transparent in your messaging. This is what ultimately creates organic growth, but it also leads to another essential aspect of how we were able to achieve our success.

Related: How Transparency In Business Leads to Customer Growth and Loyalty

Differentiate and remain competitive

One of the ultimate tools people often do not tap into is the potential for every social media user today to understand their competition. Everything is publicly available, and there are no surprises. If you find yourself in a position where you are genuinely struggling to remain competitive, point out where you think you can defeat your competition.

When we were focusing on creating our clothing business, we wanted to create something meaningful. Additionally, we wanted to create something that would ultimately stand out compared with every other company we’d seen in the industry. This eventually led me to differentiate and focus on innovating what was already in our market. If you want to succeed, take it from us: You need to determine and figure out what your competitor offers that you can beat and defeat.

Organic growth accelerates when you become a creator

Organic growth is ultimately the most meaningful because it allows you to create conversation and value while remaining competitive with your competition. But there’s something else that many people often forget.

There are multiple kinds of organic growth facilitators in this world. Some people stick to diversification, while others focus on offering something of value that is a necessary product to people. Finally, some people, like our business and myself, become creators.

Why creators stand out and defeat the competition

You can choose any path you’d like to accelerate organic growth, but ultimately, I see the most value in becoming a creator. As a creator, our business built something that truly did stand out compared to other competitors. We focused on innovation first, then differentiated and ensured that there would be immense value offered in whatever we did in the industry. As a startup, I can offer you so much advice, but this is ultimately one of the most important: If you want to see success, inspire people, and become a creator of your own.

You have the power to create value

Creators are essential and stand out because we build value with our products. We value each service we offer, and new business models will be created. We create a massive following and see our company take off in ways we never thought possible. Organic growth accelerates when you are a creator, and this is because you find a way to inspire people.

Be an underdog and stand out

People like a success story. Everybody wants to root for the underdog, and quite honestly, my business was the underdog, but we were also extreme innovators in what we were able to do. If you want to see success in the industry you are part of, then I urge you to consider what you can create to stand out.

Related: 4 Surprisingly Simple Ways To Stand Out From Your Competition

Revisit your ideas and improve them

If you have already begun a product, differentiate yourself and re-envision what you’ve already done. I guarantee you that when you think of something impactful and creative, others will see it and flock to you and your business. They will believe in your mission and see you as inspirational.

Focus your success on your organic growth

No matter your path, you need to consider certain factors if you are a startup. Remaining competitive and finding a way to differentiate yourself honestly is the ultimate goal of organic growth.

For us, especially with how significantly our business grew in such a short time, we don’t owe anybody anything, and it’s a risk we took. We chose to put everything into creating something nobody had ever done, and even in the end, it was far more tiring and more prolonged than we ever envisioned. Still, I promise you that the journey will be worth it in the end.

Hopefully, I provided you with the insight and inspiration needed to take that leap and take a risk. No matter what business you run, I hope you present something nobody has ever seen before, but also attempt to inspire people to follow you, no matter where your journey takes you.



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