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ByteDance Adds Restrictions on Access to TikTok Data by Chinese-Based Staff


While TikTok has seen a massive increase in usage over the last year, many remain skeptical of the app due to its questionable moderation and data practices in times past, and its perceived exposure to the Chinese Government. 

Are those concerns valid? It’s difficult to say – definitely, various intelligence agencies and governments still harbor some doubts, and defense staff in several nations have been banned outright from using the app due to fears that it could be used to track their activity.

Really, any app that’s Chinese owned is going to come under scrutiny – and that’s probably fair when you look at the regulations under which they operate.

But can TikTok provide enough assurance that its data are practices are safe?

This week, ByteDance has taken another step in that direction with a new, internal change that will stop Chinese-based staff from accessing TikTok data.

Enligt PingWest:

“According to sources, the new internal policy means that those employees who are currently in China, working on apps and services for the home market, are now largely stripped of access to “sensitive data” of ByteDance’s slew of overseas products, including but not limited to TikTok.”

That means that data on users outside of China is now largely not available to Chinese staff.

That’s what incoming Tick tack Chief Information Security Officer Roland Cloutier said that he would do back in April, as part of his first steps in the role:

Our goal is to minimize data access across regions so that, for example, employees in the APAC region, including China, would have very minimal access to user data from the EU and US.”

But of course, “very minimal” is a relative term – a criminal only needs “very minimal” access to my bank account to rob me of everything I have. In this respect, any access at all will likely maintain a level of concern – until TikTok can say, definitively, that it will not provide any TikTok user data to the Chinese Government, under any terms, it’s difficult to see it shaking off the stigma. An LA-based transparency center, an American CEO, new data practices – all of this won’t alleviate the underlying issue, that TikTok, because it’s owned by a Chinese company, will need to provide data to the Chinese Government on request, as per China’s cybersecurity laws.

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The requirement in question, specifically, is detta:

“Article 28 of [China’s] Cybersecurity Law states that network operators, have to provide “technical support and assistance” to government offices involved in protecting national security.”

So, Bytedance, if requested, would need to provide assistance to the Chinese Government as required, under law in that nation. Some Chinese-based social platforms have been under even more strict monitoring than this, with Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent all being forced, at different times, to integrate police-embedded cells “in which employees hand over sensitive information without due process”.

The concern that TikTok data might end up with the Chinese Government, based on the evidence, is valid, and should be something that’s taken into account by all that use the platform.

But as noted, TikTok has been working to dilute this. Aside from the above-noted changes, TikTok has also repeatedly underlined that it does not store American user data in China, further limiting any potential exposure. More recently, a Bytedance spokesman even said that the company was now incorporated in the Cayman Islands, as part of another effort to distance itself from such concerns.  

But despite all this, on reading the evidence as it stands, it still seems that it is possible that Bytedance may have to share some TikTok data, in some way, with the Chinese government, if requested. That, combined with questionable processes around måtta (which TikTok says it has resolved) and odd reports of accessing people’s microphones when they’re not using the app, contribute to the ongoing concerns that using TikTok comes with a level of risk.

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How relevant that risk is to you specifically will come down to your judgment, and the information you choose to share in the app. At present, there remains some concern, though TikTok is clearly working to reduce data exposure wherever it can. 



Hjälper det att lägga ut memes på sociala medier för att öka trafiken till din webbplats? [Studie]


Does Posting Memes on Social Help to Increase Traffic to Your Website? [Study]

Does posting memes help to increase traffic to your website?

This is a key question, which really relates to all kinds of engaging social media posts – because while these types of trending updates very clearly garner Likes and comments, do they actually benefit the stats that really matter to your business?

I mean, Likes and followers are great, but what you need is conversions, relative to what that means for your business. For SMT, we’re working to get as many people to read our posts as possible, and as you’ve likely noticed, we’ve recently been trying out memes as a way to boost engagement, and see what that gets us in this respect.

So what have we found? Here’s a quick overview of the initial results of our meme experiment.

First, a quick bit of background…

We’re always looking to try new things, and test out the latest trends and processes, and not just because it might help us generate more traffic and build community, but also, because that’s what we write about. If we’re going to write about it, we need to know and understand it as much as possible, in order to ensure that what we’re communicating is correct, and makes sense for our audience.

In this respect, we’re always testing new approaches, apps, tools, etc.

In terms of posting, last year, we tried out polls on Twitter and LinkedIn, and question posts on Facebook, to see if they would help drive more engagement. And they definitely did – these types of audience-prompting updates garnered a heap of Likes and comments. But when we cross-checked this against Google Analytics tracking, we didn’t see a big uptick in sessions or users visiting the site.

That’s not to say that these aren’t valuable, but they weren’t shifting the needle in any significant way on our key metrics. At the same time, too many polls can get annoying. In our experience, they’re an interesting tool to use, in moderation, but not a massive driver of our ultimate aims.

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Yet, at the same time, our social traffic, like all platforms, tends to have ups and downs – and in a down period this year, we decided to try something new to freshen up the feed and give our audience something else to engage with, and maybe lighten the mood a little at the same time.

Enter memes

The inspiration in this instance came from SEMRush, who’ve also tested out memes as a means to boost engagement, and build community.

SEMRush’s experience saw them significantly increase their social engagement by posting timely, on-trend, niche memes. So we thought we’d give it a try, to see if that helps drive more interest in our articles.

The first step, of course, is creating relevant, engaging memes. Which is not always easy. Many of our memes never made it out of test phase, with some clearly failing when viewed in the templates.

Some that we’ve posted also haven’t connected in the way that we’d hoped.

But this is the game – if you’re going to post memes, you’re going to have hits and duds, and you just have to live with it. I imagine it’s the same as a comedian, some of the jokes work, some don’t. But ideally, more of them get a laugh than not.

Which, luckily, our memes have.

On average, the memes that we’ve posted are generating around 135 Likes on Facebook, which has helped them generate significantly more reach than our average post, while they’re also performing strong on both Twitter och LinkedIn.

And they’re fun. The way I view them is like the comic section of the traditional newspaper, a light-hearted moment between the news updates and informational elements.

The increased engagement obviously has some benefits in boosting algorithmic reach (if people engage with one of your posts, the algorithm is more likely to show them more), as well as building community around the SMT brand. But the key question is – ‘do they actually get more people clicking through to the site?’

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In our case, when comparing our overall social media performance against the previous 3 months before we started posting memes, we’ve seen a 12% increase in sessions from social, and a 16% increase in users.

That’s not a massive shift, but when you’re working with the ebbs and flows of referral traffic, as well as changes in analytics due to shifting data regulations, any increase is positive, and a double-digit jump is definitely worth the effort.

This is only around a month of data, so it’s not definitive, and there are also other factors to consider that could influence the results. But the numbers, thus far, suggest that it is worth sticking with – and as noted, it’s fun too, adding a little more relatability to our presence, as opposed just the latest news.

A few other notes:

  • Some commenters are going to take your memes literally, no matter it is that you post. There’ll always be a couple of comments like ‘well, actually, the reality is that…’ Yes. We know. These are not meant to be literal, they’re a moment of light-heartedness in amongst our regular, marketing strategy-focused news updates.
  • We’ve found that more general memes work better than trending ones. A couple of memes where we’ve tried to tap into news events, like the changes to Twitter verification, haven’t done as well as jokes about more common social media marketing experiences. This also, of course, relates to the memes themselves, and whether they’re actually funny, but in several examples, trending topics haven’t been as big a hit.
  • Every meme is a bit of a risk. You’re trying to find commonalities with your audience, and some things that you might think are common might not resonate. You need to know your niche, and know your community, which takes some experimentation – and a lot of research (I’ve been writing about social media trends for eight years)
  • One guy on LinkedIn keeps saying that he’s envious that we’re able to get these memes approved by management. For those that don’t know, SMT is an editorial team of two (2) people. Approval, in this sense, isn’t exactly a barrier.
  • Does it take a long time to come up with them? Not really. We usually do them in batches or around 10 at a time, then schedule them out on different days/times across FB, Twitter and LinkedIn. We can make 10 or so in, maybe, a couple of hours, once every week and a half or so. Not a major commitment.
  • We’re currently scheduling around one meme a day on each platform, again, taking that newspaper comic approach. Maybe we miss a day here and there, but that’s the general aim, as something to keep that engagement flowing, and keep the entertainment value up.
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Look, it’s not necessarily a walk in the park to keep coming up with funny memes – and it may be that we run out of ideas at some stage and suddenly it becomes a lot more difficult. It’s also not for everyone. Coming up with a (relatively) clever joke that fits a meme template doesn’t always come easy, and there are days when you just don’t have it, no matter how hard you stare at the screen.

But for a minor time commitment, it does seem, at least at this stage, like this may be a good way to help engage your audience, which can also drive direct traffic benefits.

We’ll post another overview of our meme experience three months in.


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