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White House Gives TikTok Till September 15th to Sell its Business: Here’s What You Need to Know

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What an eventful weekend for the team at TikTok HQ.

To recap the current situation – earlier this month, following the Indian Government’s decision to ban all Chinese apps, including TikTok, in its nation amid ongoing border battles with Chinese forces, US President Donald Trump said that he too was considering banning the app as part of punishment for the COVID-19 outbreak.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo later clarified that the Government was indeed considering banning the app, but less so as a form of punishment, and more due to concerns that it could be used as both a surveillance and propaganda tool for the Chinese regime. That concern is not unfounded, with TikTok’s parent company ByteDance having in the past worked with the CCP to moderate anti-government content and distribute pro-China material within its apps. 

TikTok has been under investigation on this front for some time, and two weeks after the initial suggestion of a possible ban by President Trump, the US House of Representatives voted to have the app banned from all Government-issued devices, due to the same concerns. TikTok is already banned on all military-issued devices in the US, UK and Australia because of its potential for data tracking.

And then, last weekend happened.

On Friday, reports emerged that Microsoft was reportedly considering an acquisition of TikTok in a bid to separate the app from its Chinese ownership, and quell the ongoing questions about its data-sharing obligations to the CCP. Then late Friday evening, when speaking to the press on Air Force One, President Trump said that he would be moving to ban the app in the US, likely within days.

That set off panic among TikTok creators, with downloads of alternate video apps spiking, while conspiracy theories about the Trump administration’s motivations for a ban flooding the app. 

Was Trump serious? Could he actually institute a ban?

It’s difficult to say, on both fronts, but in theory, he could sign an Executive Order banning TikTok. There are legal complications within such a ruling, and any ban on the basis of potential surveillance or data-gathering would likely extend to all Chinese-owned apps, including WeChat and others (which the White House alluded to on Sunday). But yes, the ban threat could well be real – though speculation has been that Trump was merely using this as a push, at this stage, in order to force ByteDance into selling the app to a US-owned company.

And that does look to be what’s happening – on Sunday, Microsoft published an official statement which both confirmed that it is seeking a buy-out of TikTok, and that it had also arranged with President Trump to continue explorations of a possible purchase of the app.

As per Microsoft:

“Microsoft will move quickly to pursue discussions with TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, in a matter of weeks, and in any event completing these discussions no later than September 15, 2020. During this process, Microsoft looks forward to continuing dialogue with the United States Government, including with the President.”

Trump has since reiterated this deadline, telling reporters that:

“It can’t be controlled, for security reasons, by China – too big, too invasive – and here’s the deal: I don’t mind if, whether its Microsoft or somebody else, a big company, a secure company, very American company, buys it. It’s probably easier to buy the whole thing than to buy 30% of it because they say ‘how do you do 30%?’, ‘Who’s going to get the name?’ The name is hot, the brand is hot. Who’s going to get the name? How do you do that if it’s owned by two different companies? […] I suggested that [Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella] can go ahead, he can try. I set a date of around September 15th, at which point it’s going to be out of business in the United States, but if somebody, whether it’s Microsoft or somebody else, buys it, that’ll be interesting.”

So Trump has said, clearly, that TikTok has till September 15th to become American-owned or it’ll be banned.

There are various nuances within that statement. What if TikTok becomes British-owned instead, for example, while Trump has also left the door open for any other players to step in with takeover offers for the platform, aside from Microsoft.

Trump also noted that:

“A very substantial portion of that price is going to have to come into the Treasury of the United States, because we’re making it possible for this deal to happen.”

Which is not legal, nor constitutional, according to various experts, so it seems like an element that will likely be overlooked. But the bottom line is that TikTok is fine, for now, and it’ll be re-assessed within six weeks.

Here’s a look at some of the key questions about the potential sell-off, and the future of the app.

Will TikTok eventually get shut down?

It seems unlikely. The platform itself is worth, according to some estimates, around $50 billion, and if the option is either to sell it to Microsoft – or someone else – for anywhere close to that amount, or lose out completely, you would expect a deal to get done, one way or another. That seems the most likely outcome, though it’ll be interesting to see if any other suitors emerge that might be a better fit, with TikTok not really meshing with Microsoft’s overall product suite.

Then again, Microsoft, buoyed by its success with LinkedIn, may see this as it’s time to step into social, and with the additional advertising potential and user data it can attain through the acquisition, it could better position the tech giant to go head to head with the Google’s and Facebook’s of the world moving forward. This could be a major, solidifying move for the company – or it could fall flat, like most of Microsoft’s other efforts when stepping out of the enterprise tech space. But given TikTok’s popularity, seeing it become a total flop would take some significant missteps.

Could Facebook look to take it over?

Maybe – though you have to wonder whether US officials would allow Apple, Facebook, Google or Amazon to acquire yet another significant tech platform, given the four of them appeared before a senate hearing into possible antitrust breaches just last week.

That would appear to go against the whole concept of the hearing – which may be another reason why Microsoft feels emboldened to step in now. It seemingly has to be one of these five that moves to buy out the app, and with four of them under a cloud, the negotiations could be fairly short.

Should you reduce your reliance on TikTok?

Well, yes – but if you’re reliant on any platform, you need to consider the fact that you don’t own that space, and it can be taken from you at any moment. The potential of a TikTok ban is another reminder that you’re operating on ‘rented land’, and the rules can switch, so you do need to diversify your digital presence and remain wary of stacking too much emphasis on one or the other.

Will Instagram’s ‘Reels’ now take off, when Instagram releases the TikTok-like option to US users next month? 

I would say that’s a pretty safe bet, even if TikTok is bought out, because top creators will be looking to reduce their potential exposure and maximize their revenue potential. And if Instagram can offer better ad options, along with a similar, TikTok-type experience, it seems likely that Reels could catch on. Which is probably another consideration that any suitors need to consider in their offers for TikTok.

What about other options – like Byte, from the makers of Vine?

It’ll still be a significant challenge for any other players to take off, especially with the established revenue generation options available on YouTube and Facebook/Instagram.

Byte has pledged to pay top creators, and it’s even been making light of the TikTok/Microsoft news on Twitter.

But the challenge, which even TikTok faces, is building a sustainable eco-system for payments that can compete with other options. That, essentially, requires significant scale. TikTok is probably close to reaching the key threshold on this, its competitors are a distance behind.

I would expect that Instagram will be working to get Reels out as soon as possible, and that it’ll be looking to offer more contracts to TikTok creators in an effort to sink the app while the chips are down. The deep pockets of Microsoft could help to negate this, which means Instagram needs to push on this now, and TikTok has to hope that it can clarify a deal quickly in order to assure them that it will be able to offer payments long term.

Overall, this feels like an inflection point for TikTok, either way. The challenges before it are significant, and even if it’s sold off, it’s future is not certain. 

And then also, what does the Chinese Government think of this, the US President essentially bullying a Chinese company into selling an element of itself to an American business? 

You can’t imagine that sitting well with the leaders in Beijing.

It could be an interesting six weeks. 

Socialmediatoday.com

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Reports Show that Facebook Usage is Up, as Meta Continues to Develop its AI Targeting Models

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Reports Show that Facebook Usage is Up, as Meta Continues to Develop its AI Targeting Models

While Facebook is no longer the cool app, especially among younger audiences, it remains a key platform for many users, and its capacity to keep people updated on important updates from friends and family is likely to ensure that many continue to return to the app every day for some time yet.

But more than that, Facebook usage is actually increasing, according to internal insights viewed by The Wall Street Journal, which also include some interesting notes on overall Facebook and Instagram usage trends.

As per WSJ:

Data gathered in the middle of the fourth quarter showed that time spent on [Facebook] was up worldwide, including in developed markets, over the course of a year.”

Which seems unusual, given the subsequent rise of TikTok, and short form video more generally. But actually, Facebook has been able to successfully use the short-form video trend to drive more usage – despite much criticism of the platform’s copycat Reels feature.

Indeed, Reels consumption is up 20%, and has become a key element in Meta’s resurgence.  

How is it finding success? Increased investment in AI, which has driven big improvements in the relevance models that fuel both Reels and its ads, which are also now driving better response.

On Reels, Meta’s systems are getting much better at showing users the Reels content that they’re most likely to be interested in. You’ve likely noticed this yourself – what was initially a mess of random clips inserted into your Facebook feed has now become more focused, and you’re probably finding yourself expanding a Reels clip every now and then, just to see what it’s about.

Reels has actually been too successful:

“Because ads in Reels videos don’t currently sell for as much as those sold against regular posts and stories, Reels’ growing share of content consumption was denting ad revenue. To protect the company’s earnings, the company cut back on promoting Reels, which lowered watch time by 12%.

So again, while Meta has been criticized for stealing TikTok’s format, it’s once again shown, just as it did with Stories, that this is a viable and beneficial pathway to keeping users engaged in its apps.

You might not like it, but replication works in this respect.

But for marketers, it’s likely the development of Meta’s AI targeting tools for ads that’s of most interest.

Over time, many performance advertisers have been increasingly recommending that marketers trust Meta’s AI targeting, with newer offerings like Advantage+ driving strong results, with far less manual targeting effort.

Advantage+ puts almost total trust in Meta’s AI targeting systems. You can choose a couple of targeting options for your campaigns, but for the most part, the process is designed to limit manual impact, in order to let Meta’s systems determine the right audience for your ads.

Which may feel like you’re ceding too much control, but according to Meta, its continued AI investment is now driving better results.

Heavy investment in artificial intelligence tools has enabled the company to improve ad-targeting systems to make better predictions based on less data, according to the interviews and documents […] That, along with shifting to forms of advertising less dependent on harvesting user data from off its platforms, are key to the company’s plans to overcome an Apple privacy change that restricted Meta’s capacity to gather information about what its users do outside its platforms’ walls, the documents show.”

That’s likely worth considering in your process, putting more trust in Meta’s targeting systems to drive better results. At the least, it may be worth experimenting with Meta’s evolving AI for ad targeting. 

It’s not all good news. Meta also notes that while time spent in its apps is on the rise, creation and engagement is declining, with fewer people posting to both Facebook and Instagram than they have in the past.

That’s particularly true among younger audiences, while notably, usage of Instagram Stories is also in decline, down 10% on previous levels.

So while Meta is driving more engagement from Reels, which draws on content from across the app, as opposed to the people and Pages you follow, that’s also led to a decline in user posting.

Is that a bad thing? I mean, logically, engagement is important in keeping people interested in the app, and Meta also relies on those signals to help refine its ad targeting. So it does need users to be sharing their own content too, but if it can get more people spending more time in its apps, that will help it maintain advertiser interest.

In essence, despite all of the reports of Facebook’s demise, it remains a key connective platform, in various ways, while Meta’s improving ad targeting systems are also helping to drive better results, which will keep it as a staple for brands moving forward.

If you were thinking of diversifying your social media marketing spend this year, maybe don’t reduce Facebook investment just yet.

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Effective Ways To Personalize Your Customer Touch Points Even More In 2023

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Effective Ways To Personalize Your Customer Touch Points Even More In 2023

Will 2023 be the year of personalization? Consumers hope so. For the past two years, shoppers have been craving the personal touch: In 2021, McKinsey & Company noted that 71% of customers expected companies to deliver personalization. In 2022, a Salesforce survey found that 73% of people expected brands to understand their needs and expectations. So, this year is looking like one where personalization can no longer be seen as a “nice to have.”

The problem, of course, is how to get more personalized. Many companies have already started to dabble in this. They greet shoppers by name on landing pages. They rely on CRMs and other tools to use historical information to send shoppers customized recommendations. They offer personalized, real-time discounts to help buyers convert their abandoned shopping cart items to actual purchases.

These are all great ideas. The only problem is that they’ve become widespread. They don’t move the needle on the customer experience anymore. Instead, they’re standard, expected, and kind of forgettable. That doesn’t mean you can afford to stop doing them. It just means you must devise other ways to pepper personalization throughout your consumer interactions.

If you are scratching your head on how to outdo 2022’s personalization in 2023, try implementing the following strategies:

1. Go for full-blown engagement on social media.

One easy way to give the personal touch is through your social media business pages. Social media use just keeps growing. In 2022, there were about 266 million monthly active users (or MUAs) on Facebook, one billion on Instagram, and 755 million on TikTok. Not all these active users will fall into your target audiences, but plenty of them will.

Make engaging with your social followers one of this year’s goals. People spend a lot of time on social media. It’s where many of them “live,” so it only makes sense that it should be a place to drive personalization.

One quick way to ratchet up your company’s personal touch on social media is to personalize all your retargeted ads. Quizzes can also offer a chance for personalization. Simply set up an engaging quiz and allow people to share their results. It’s a fun way to build brand recognition and bond with consumers. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with going very personal and answering all comments. Depending on your team’s size and the number of comments you receive, this might be a viable option.

2. Leverage AI to go beyond basic demographics.

Most companies rely on customer demographic information to bolster personalization efforts. The only trouble with this tactic is that demographics can’t tell the whole story. It’s impossible to get a lot of context about individual users (such as their lifestyles, personal preferences, and motivators) just from knowing their age, gender, or location. Though demographic data is beneficial, it can cause some significant misses.

Michael Scharff, CEO and cofounder of Evolv AI, explains the workaround for this problem: “The most natural, and therefore productive, personalization efforts use demographics as a foundation and then layer in user likes, dislikes, behaviors, and values.”

You can leverage AI’s predictive and insightful capabilities to uncover real-time user insights. Scharff recommends this technique because it allows you to stay in sync with the fast-moving pace of consumer behavior changes. He adds that AI can be particularly beneficial with the coming limits to third-party cookie access because it can be a first-party data source, allowing you to maintain customer knowledge and connection.

To flesh out your organization’s strategy, look to other companies that have gone beyond demographics. Take Netflix, for example, which constantly tweaks its AI algorithm to help improve personalized content recommendations. Bottom line? Going deeper than surface information makes all the sense in the world if you want to show customers you know them well.

3. Keep your data spotless.

The better your data, the better your personalization efforts. Period. Unfortunately, you are probably sitting on a lot of unstructured or otherwise tricky-to-use (or impossible-to-use) data. One recent Great Expectations survey revealed that 77% of data practitioners have data quality problems, and 91% say that this is wreaking havoc on their companies’ performance.

You can’t personalize anything with corrupt or questionable data. So, do your best to find ways to clean your data promptly and routinely. For example, you might want to invest in a more centralized data system, particularly if the personalization data you rely on is scattered in various places. Having one repository of data truth makes it easier to know if the information on hand is ready to use.

Another way to tame your data is to automate as many data processes as possible. Reducing manual manipulation of data lessens the chance of human error. And you’ll feel more confident with all your personalization efforts if you can trust the reliability and health of your data.

4. Go for nontechnical personalization.

It’s the digital age, but that doesn’t mean every touchpoint has to be digitized. Consumers often react with delight and positivity when they receive personalization in decidedly nontech forms. (Yes, you can use tech to keep track of everything. Just don’t make it part of the actual personalized exchange!)

Consider writing handwritten thank-you notes to customers after they’ve called in for support or emailed your team, for instance. Or send an extra personalized gift to buyers who make a specific number of purchases. These interactions aren’t technical but can differentiate your customer experience from your competitors’ experiences.

A groundbreaking Deloitte snapshot taken right before the pandemic showed that people were hungry for connection. By folding nondigital experiences into your personalization with customers, you’re showing them that you see them first as valued humans. That’s compelling and appealing, making them more apt to give you their loyalty in return.

Putting a personal spin on all your consumer interactions takes a little time. It’s worth your energy, though. You’ll wind up with stronger brand-buyer connections, helping you edge ahead of your competitors even more.

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Planning for 2023: What Social Media Marketers Need to Win in 2023

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Planning for 2023: What Social Media Marketers Need to Win in 2023

January is, for many, a month of reflection, goal-setting, strategizing and planning for the year ahead. 

In line with this, we’ve kicked off the new year with a series of articles covering the latest stats, tips and strategies to help social media marketers build an effective game plan for 2023.

Below, you’ll find links to our 2023 social media planning series, which includes:

  • Content strategy guidelines to help you define your brand’s content mission and set SMART goals
  • Organic posting tips for Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat and Pinterest 
  • Explainers on how to research key topics of interest in your niche, understand the competitive landscape, and help you find your audience and connect with them where they’re active
  • A holiday calendar and notes on the best days and times to post to each of the major platforms

 

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