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What Worked on Social Media in a Month of Coronavirus

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MILAN — With social distancing and home isolation suddenly becoming a reality in many parts of the world, social media has strengthened its grip on people’s daily way of communicating and being informed.

According to DMR Group, which focuses on monitoring, tracking and analyzing data communication activities and public relations strategies for leading brands worldwide, in the period from March 2 to 29, more than 1.4 million posts were released by accounts relevant for the fashion, luxury, beauty and lifestyle industries across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

The study, which monitored a panel of more than 25,000 social accounts, showed that the amount of content particularly spiked in the second week of March — up 7.9 percent — when Italy announced a lockdown, France shut down nonessential commerce and the U.S. declared a state of emergency

In general, Twitter registered the highest number of posts, totaling 608,400 compared with the 436,300 posts on Facebook and 380,300 on Instagram, which remained the most engaging platform.

The “Media and Journalists” accounts were the most active — with around a million posts — with an average increase of 5.8 percent, while celebrities and influencers’ social activity grew only 0.5 percent. As lockdowns corresponded to production and retailing activities closing in many countries, posts by brands and stores consequentially decreased 10.8 percent on average.

Engagement — which in this study comprises the activity of liking and sharing posts, but not commenting on them — mirrored this performance, as media and journalists’ accounts were the only ones registering an increase of 5.9 percent, while celebrities and influencers’ and brands and stores’ engagements were down 1.5 percent and 15.7 percent, respectively. Nevertheless, social personalities engaged 7 billion users versus 814.7 million people interacting with media accounts and 215.3 million ones engaging with brands and retailers.

Out of the whole social activity, the surveyed accounts released almost 243,000 posts with hashtags or keywords strictly related to the COVID-19 emergency, representing about 17 percent of the total content.

In particular, brands and stores dedicated 6 percent of their content to the emergency, corresponding to 2,800 posts that reached 980 million people and engaged with 15.7 million users, mainly on Instagram.

Most of the brand content hinged on fund-raising campaigns and invitations to stay safe at home but in some cases labels pivoted their communication strategies from commercial purposes to a more entertaining approach without even using specific key words linked to the health emergency.

According to DMR, one of the most successful campaigns on social media was Nike’s inspirational message to “Play inside, play for the world,” launched on March 21. The communication further resonated worldwide when many of the celebrity athletes associated with the brand used the dedicated hashtags on their personal accounts. These included LeBron James, Serena Williams and soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo, whose Nike-related posts reached 4.3 million users, 2.7 million users and 112.8 million users, respectively. Therefore, the ambassadors contributed to the success of the campaign, that overall reached more than 248 million users and engaged more than 12 million people.

With brands reducing their influencer marketing campaigns and canceling events, celebrities and influencers used their social voices to support charity programs and entertain followers during the quarantine with live chats, workout sessions and beauty and cooking tutorials.

According to DMR, they dedicated 11 percent of their posts to the COVID-19 emergency, engaging 784.2 million users. Instagram was the preferential platform, as it accounted for 76 percent of the total content, followed by Twitter.

In this category, Italian digital entrepreneur Chiara Ferragni and her husband, musician Fedez, led by example as they were among the first social personalities to talk about the crisis and be proactive in fighting the COVID-19 spread. The couple, also known by the moniker “The Ferragnez” and counting a combined following of over 29.5 million users on Instagram, not only posted content to alert and educate their fans about the emergency but were the first to launch a fund-raising campaign to help Milan’s San Raffaele hospital that collected over four million euros in just few days.

With additional at-home DJ sets and private-life videos provided to entertain followers, in March the couple reached 373 million users and engaged 32.8 million people on social media.

Obviously, among all categories, media and journalists’ accounts were the ones dedicating the highest percentage of their posts to the COVID-19 crisis, which represented 19 percent of the total and reached a potential audience of 6.5 billion users. Contrary to the others, Twitter was their prime platform, accounting for 65 percent of the almost 200,000 posts dedicated to the topic.

As well as to inform, these accounts were also involved in special projects to entertain followers and to help local hospitals and organizations in the fight against the virus.

For instance, Vanity Fair Italia was among the first to address the theme, dedicating a cover to 64 Milanese personalities distinguishing themselves during the health crisis with their work and dedication. The issue, which was distributed for free in the Lombardy region, also launched the hashtag #IosonoMilano — or “I am Milan,” in English — that resonated internationally as worldwide personalities posted their portraits with the same lettering on social media. Along with the following issue paying tribute to Italian health-care workers, the magazine’s campaign reached 43 million users and engaged almost two million people.

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Josh Brolin Summarizes Dune 2 in Greatest Instagram Caption of All Time

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Josh Brolin Summarizes Dune 2 in Greatest Instagram Caption of All Time

The Dune: Part Two star took a unique approach to marketing the movie. Dune: Part Two is so close to hitting theaters, and no one is more excited than …

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Reddit’s Exclusive Data Sharing Deal with an Unnamed AI Company Could Mark a Key Industry Shift

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Reddit’s Exclusive Data Sharing Deal with an Unnamed AI Company Could Mark a Key Industry Shift

Is Reddit’s actually data worth $60 million per year?

That’s reportedly how much an as-yet-unnamed AI development company has paid to gain exclusive access to Reddit’s full data set, which will see said AI company incorporate Reddit user responses into its large language model (LLM), with a view to the system providing more human-like answers and insight, and becoming a bigger challenger in online search.

As reported by Bloomberg, after working to restrict access to its data over the last year, in order to stop AI companies from profiting off its content, Reddit has now signed an exclusive contract with “an unnamed large AI company”, which will see that company integrate Reddit insights into its models.

Which is a high price tag, considering that the top tier of X’s API access (200 million posts per month) costs around $2.5 million per year.

So could Reddit’s data be worth significantly more than that, and if it is, does it then make sense for Reddit to provide such on an exclusive basis?

The value of Reddit data is that it provides actual, human usage insight, which can often be of more value than online reviews that can be gamed and skewed by paid responses. That’s getting even worse in the age of generative AI, with some companies now employing AI tools to create human-sounding reviews online, in order to boost their product ratings.

As a result, more and more people have been turning to Reddit to get honest product reviews and performance insight. They’re still using Google, but more people are using the “site:reddit.com” qualifier to glean more specific insights from Reddit communities.

For example, if you were looking for a new hair dryer, you can look up “best hair dryer” on Google to get this:

Or you can add “best hair dryer site:reddit.com” for this:

Google example

The Reddit forum links connect through to actual people’s experiences, and include solid, functional insight from those who’ve used each device. The Reddit responses are also up and downvoted, making it easier to find the best response to guide your search process.

The more specific, personal insight can add significant value to the answers provided, and many people have found that this is now a better, more valuable discovery process than trusting Google results within themselves.

And now, one AI company will get all of this insight exclusively to itself.

That could be a big boost to its business ambitions, with a view to making AI chatbots more of a rival for traditional search behavior. Already, more people are turning to conversational chatbots for online discovery, and with this, whichever LLM can access Reddit data will have an exclusive trove of valuable consumer insights, which it can repackage within its responses.

For example, using the same hair dryer prompt in ChatGPT, the system currently gives me a listing of technical considerations and recommendations based on top sellers. But with added Reddit commentary, it could also provide a more personalized addendum:

“According to users, the best hair dryer for curly hair is the Ella Bella Ionic hair dryer, while those with straight hair tend to prefer the Dyson Supersonic.”

The system could then provide more specific answers based on your requirements, by sourcing that info from subreddit communities.

It’s a significant value-add, which will make whichever company gets this info a far more viable option as a search consideration, though the $60 million per year ongoing price tag is high, and is also at least somewhat reliant on Reddit continuing to grow, in order to maximize its value and utility.

And Reddit is growing. Reddit’s added 20 million more users over the past three years, and it continues to see strong engagement in over 100,000 active communities. The company’s been working to highlight its business value, ahead of a planned IPO, which could come next month, and this deal will now be factored into the valuation of the platform moving forward.

In some ways, it’s possible that Reddit could be limiting its opportunities by signing an exclusive data contract. But that’s why the price tag is so high, and it’ll be interesting to see which chatbot comes out with “Reddit exclusive insights” as a value add sometime soon.

I mean, it seems likely that it’ll be OpenAI, with the backing of Microsoft, as it looks to take on Google’s Search dominance. With the rise of conversational searches, that does seem like a logical investment, and with another data source taken out of the mix, that could also lead to more differentiation in the market.

It could also point to similar exclusivity deals in future, as each company tries to differentiate and dominate with their chatbot tools. Current AI chatbots have been able to scrape vast amounts of data from across the web, which means that their initial models will all be relatively similar as a result, but in future, as information evolves, and new data is required to match search intent, fresh sources will also be required to maintain relevance, and audience interest.

Meta claims to have an advantage in this respect, because it has all of the insights published to Facebook and Instagram to work with, while Elon Musk will view xAI as holding a lead, due to his platform being the leading real-time news discussion app.

But maybe, considering broader trends, Reddit insight is actually the real leader in terms of refining search queries.

And maybe, that will prove to be more important than most think.  



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EU launches probe into TikTok over child protection

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The European Commission said it launched formal infringement proceedings against TikTok over the protection of minors online

The European Commission said it launched formal infringement proceedings against TikTok over the protection of minors online – Copyright AFP KARIM JAAFAR

Raziye Akkoc

The EU on Monday announced a formal investigation into TikTok over alleged breaches of its obligations to protect minors online, under a landmark new law on policing digital content.

It is the second probe into a major online platform since Brussels introduced the Digital Services Act (DSA), after targeting tech billionaire Elon Musk’s X in December.

Brussels is particularly concerned that the video-sharing app owned by China’s ByteDance may not be doing enough to address negative impacts on young people.

A key worry is the so-called “rabbit hole” effect — which occurs when users are fed related content based on an algorithm, in some cases leading to more dangerous content.

The European Commission’s concerns also include TikTok’s age verification tools, which it said “may not be reasonable, proportionate and effective”.

The commission opened “formal proceedings to assess whether TikTok may have breached” the DSA in other areas including “advertising transparency” and “data access for researchers”.

The action comes after analysing a risk assessment report by TikTok and its replies to Brussels’ requests for more information about what measures the video-sharing platform has taken against illegal content, the protection of minors and access to data.

– ‘Spare no effort’ –

Regulators will continue to gather evidence, the commission said, adding that the move empowered it to take further enforcement steps if necessary.

“As a platform that reaches millions of children and teenagers, TikTok must fully comply with the DSA and has a particular role to play in the protection of minors online,” said the EU’s internal market commissioner, Thierry Breton.

“We are launching this formal infringement proceeding today to ensure that proportionate action is taken to protect the physical and emotional well-being of young Europeans. We must spare no effort to protect our children,” Breton added.

TikTok has over 142 million monthly users across the EU, up from 125 million last year.

“TikTok needs to take a close look at the services they offer and carefully consider the risks that they pose to their users — young as well as old,” commission executive vice president Margrethe Vestager said.

The formal probe will focus on four areas: how TikTok assesses and mitigates systemic risks; how the company is complying with protecting minors’ privacy and safety; TikTok’s measures on providing a “reliable” advertisement repository and the steps taken to increase transparency.

TikTok said it was working to protect minors online.

“TikTok has pioneered features and settings to protect teens and keep under 13s off the platform, issues the whole industry is grappling with,” a TikTok spokesperson said.

“We’ll continue to work with experts and industry to keep young people on TikTok safe, and look forward to now having the opportunity to explain this work in detail to the Commission.”

– Risk of fines –

There is no deadline for the completion of the proceedings.

The DSA gives Brussels the power to levy heavy fines, with penalties for violations that can include fines going up to six percent of a digital firm’s global revenues.

The commission can even block platforms in the 27-nation bloc for serious and repeated violations.

The EU law came into effect last year for the world’s biggest online platforms including TikTok and X as well as Facebook and Instagram.

The new rules demand companies do more to police content online, but also expect digital retailers to act swiftly and effectively to protect shoppers online.

The DSA law has applied to all platforms since February 17.

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