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TikTok Tests eCommerce Potential with ‘Small Gestures’ Virtual Gift-Giving Process



TikTok has launched a new initiative called ‘Small Gestures‘ which enables users to send free, virtual gifts from a range of brand partners within the app.

TikTok Small gestures

As explained by TikTok:

By collaborating with our brand partners on this new program, we’re able to give users a platform to feel connected with their friends and family through the small gesture of sending a gift to someone who might need it most. And thanks to our generous partners, these ‘Small Gestures’ are offered free for all TikTok users to send gifts up to three separate times.

Free? Yes – although the gifts on offer are fairly promotional in nature, without playing down their significance.

Among the gifts available in the app are:

  • A 90-day subscription to Adobe Premiere Rush
  • 1-month free DashPass subscription
  • 90-day trial subscription for Pandora
  • 2-month Premium Membership for Skillshare

So, it’s not physical products, they’re the kind of promotional or ‘freemium’ type offers many of these businesses use to get more people onto their books. But still, they are offers nonetheless. And they’re free, so no complaints. 

To send a Small Gesture gift, TikTok users need to search ‘Small Gestures’ on the Discover Page in the app. You then need to tap on the purple banner for the program, and from there, you can select the offers you want to send. Tap on the offer, send it via message, and you’re done.

And while the stated aim of the program is to “provide comfort and “thinking of you” reminders to friends and family while we’re apart”, another element at play here is TikTok’s gradual evolution into eCommerce.

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As we’ve noted previously, short-form video is notoriously difficult to monetize, with virtually no capacity for interruptive ads, and pre-roll promotions easy to skip. That means that TikTok needs to look to alternate promotion options, to both monetize for its own revenue purposes, and also to provide income streams for top creators.

In China, the Chinese version of the app, called ‘Douyin’, has seen significant monetization success via eCommerce integrations in the app.

Douyin eCommerce

Douyin reportedly generated over $122 million in revenue last year, mostly generated by eCommerce – which is more than 2x what TikTok brought in. And it’s clear from TikTok’s approach that this is also where it’s headed.

Already we’ve seen TikTok testing out its own eCommerce tools and external linking options in order to provide more revenue generation options for creators, while it’s also launched an influencer marketplace to promote this element.

TikTok Marketplace

TikTok is also promoting influencers as a more effective outreach option via its own TikTok ads posts.

That makes sense, but it will take more work, and involve a lot more complexity, for TikTok to establish an effective revenue generation stream through UGC and eCommerce integrations than it would to simply insert ads.

That means that it’ll take time, and the longer it takes, the more potential that some of the platform’s top creators will drift off to YouTube and Facebook instead, where they can make big money straight away. And with YouTube also looking to build its own TikTok clone, that could be problematic – unless TikTok can establish its next stage faster.

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Which, maybe the ‘Small Gestures’ process will assist with. 

If TikTok can start to establish transactional processes on the platform, that could help to lead users into new habitual behaviors, which will then connect into its eCommerce push. It’s essentially expanding on the activities that users can undertake within the app – you start with virtual gifts, then the transition into real, purchased gifts feels more natural, and makes more sense within the context of the app.

It’s a small part of the process, for sure, but it provides enhanced promotional opportunities for partner brands right now, while working to highlight the potential of the same systems for the next phase of direct shopping in the app.

As such, it’s a clever promotion from TikTok, and it may help to shape the next phase for the platform.  

The ‘Small Gestures’ initiative is currently only available to US users.

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Meta’s Developing and ‘Ethical Framework’ for the Use of Virtual Influencers



Meta's Developing and 'Ethical Framework' for the Use of Virtual Influencers

With the rise of digital avatars, and indeed, fully digital characters that have evolved into genuine social media influencers in their own right, online platforms now have an obligation to establish clear markers as to what’s real and what’s not, and how such creations can be used in their apps.

The coming metaverse shift will further complicate this, with the rise of virtual depictions blurring the lines of what will be allowed, in terms of representation. But with many virtual influencers already operating, Meta is now working to establish ethical boundaries on their application.

As explained by Meta:

From synthesized versions of real people to wholly invented “virtual influencers” (VIs), synthetic media is a rising phenomenon. Meta platforms are home to more than 200 VIs, with 30 verified VI accounts hosted on Instagram. These VIs boast huge follower counts, collaborate with some of the world’s biggest brands, fundraise for organizations like the WHO, and champion social causes like Black Lives Matter.”

Some of the more well-known examples on this front are Shudu, who has more than 200k followers on Instagram, and Lil’ Miquela, who has an audience of over 3 million in the app.

At first glance, you wouldn’t necessarily realize that this is not an actual person, which makes such characters a great vehicle for brand and product promotions, as they can be utilized 24/7, and can be placed into any environment. But that also leads to concerns about body image perception, deepfakes, and other forms of misuse through false or unclear representation.

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Deepfakes, in particular, may be problematic, with Meta citing this campaign, with English football star David Beckham, as an example of how new technologies are evolving to expand the use of language, as one element, for varying purpose.

The well-known ‘DeepTomCruise’ account on TikTok is another example of just how far these technologies have come, and it’s not hard to imagine a scenario where they could be used to, say, show a politician saying or doing something that he or she actually didn’t, which could have significant real world impacts.

Which is why Meta is working with developers and experts to establish clearer boundaries on such use – because while there is potential for harm, there are also beneficial uses for such depictions.

Imagine personalized video messages that address individual followers by name. Or celebrity brand ambassadors appearing as salespeople at local car dealerships. A famous athlete would make a great tutor for a kid who loves sports but hates algebra.

Such use cases will increasingly become the norm as VR and AR technologies are developed, with these platforms placing digital characters front and center, and establishing new norms for digital connection.

It would be better to know what’s real and what’s not, and as such, Meta needs clear regulations to remove dishonest depictions, and enforce transparency over VI use.

But then again, much of what you see on Instagram these days is not real, with filters and editing tools altering people’s appearance well beyond what’s normal, or realistic. That can also have damaging consequences, and while Meta’s looking to implement rules on VI use, there’s arguably a case for similar transparency in editing tools applied to posted videos and images as well.

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That’s a more complex element, particularly as such tools also enable people to feel more comfortable in posting, which no doubt increases their in-app activity. Would Meta be willing to put more focus on this element if it could risk impacting user engagement? The data on the impact of Instagram on people’s mental health are pretty clear, with comparison being a key concern.

Should that also come under the same umbrella of increased digital transparency?

It’s seemingly not included in the initial framework as yet, but at some stage, this is another element that should be examined, especially given the harmful effects that social media usage can have on young women.

But however you look at it, this is no doubt a rising element of concern, and it’s important for Meta to build guardrails and rules around the use of virtual influencers in their apps.

You can read more about Meta’s approach to virtual influencers here.

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Meta Publishes New Guide to the Various Security and Control Options in its Apps



Meta Publishes New Guide to the Various Security and Control Options in its Apps

Meta has published a new set of safety tips for journalists to help them protect themselves in the evolving online connection space, which, for the most part, also apply to all users more broadly, providing a comprehensive overview of the various tools and processes that it has in place to help people avoid unwanted attention online.

The 32-page guide is available in 21 different languages, and provides detailed overviews of Meta’s systems and profile options for protection and security, with specific sections covering Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp.

The guide begins with the basics, including password protections and enabling two-factor authentication.

It also outlines tips for Page managers in securing their business profiles, while there are also notes on what to do if you’ve been hacked, advice for protection on Messenger and guidance on bullying and harassment.

Meta security guide

For Instagram, there are also general security tips, along with notes on its comment moderation tools.

Meta security guide

While for WhatsApp, there are explainers on how to delete messages, how to remove messages from group chats, and details on platform-specific data options.

Meta security guide

There are also links to various additional resource guides and tools for more context, providing in-depth breakdowns of when and how to action the various options.

It’s a handy guide, and while there are some journalist-specific elements included, most of the tips do apply to any user, so it could well be a valuable resource for anyone looking to get a better handle on your various privacy tools and options.

Definitely worth knowing either way – you can download the full guide here.

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Twitter bans account linked to Iran leader over video threatening Trump



Twitter bans account linked to Iran leader over video threatening Trump

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei meets with relatives of slain commander Qasem Soleimani ahead of the second anniverary of his death in a US drone strike in Iraq – Copyright POOL/AFP/File Tom Brenner

Twitter said Saturday it had permanently suspended an account linked to Iran’s supreme leader that posted a video calling for revenge for a top general’s assassination against former US president Donald Trump.

“The account referenced has been permanently suspended for violating our ban evasion policy,” a Twitter spokesperson told AFP.

The account, @KhameneiSite, this week posted an animated video showing an unmanned aircraft targeting Trump, who ordered a drone strike in Baghdad two years ago that killed top Iranian commander General Qassem Soleimani.

Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s main accounts in various languages remain active. Last year, another similar account was suspended by Twitter over a post also appearing to reference revenge against Trump.

The recent video, titled “Revenge is Definite”, was also posted on Khamenei’s official website.

According to Twitter, the company’s top priority is keeping people safe and protecting the health of the conversation on the platform.

The social media giant says it has clear policies around abusive behavior and will take action when violations are identified.

As head of the Quds Force, the foreign operations arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Soleimani was the architect of its strategy in the Middle East.

He and his Iraqi lieutenant were killed by a US drone strike outside Baghdad airport on January 3, 2020.

Khamenei has repeatedly promised to avenge his death.

On January 3, the second anniversary of the strike, the supreme leader and ultraconservative President Ebrahim Raisi once again threatened the US with revenge.

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Trump’s supporters regularly denounce the banning of the Republican billionaire from Twitter, underscoring that accounts of several leaders considered authoritarian by the United States are allowed to post on the platform.

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