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A computer algorithm that determines credibility may help in the fight against fake news

Looking to hone your powers of persuasion? Turns out there may be some specific words that can aid in that endeavor.

Science has now suggested that certain phrases lend themselves to an air of authenticity. Researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology pored over 66 million tweets about 1,400 real-world events (including Ebola in West Africa, the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, and the death of Eric Garner in New York City) to determine just what it was that people said that made them sound so … right.

After aggregating these tweets, study participants were asked to judge how credible tweets sounded by calling them “certainly accurate,” “certainly inaccurate,” or somewhere in between. Results were then modeled and divided into 15 linguistic categories including positive and negative emotions, hedges and boosters, and anxiety, The New Web explained.

As Georgia Tech PhD candidate and research lead Tanushree Mitra noted, “There have been many studies about social media credibility in recent years, but very little is known about what types of words or phrases create credibility perceptions during rapidly unfolding events.” But that’s changing. “Tweets with booster words, such as ‘undeniable,’ and positive emotion terms, such as ‘eager’ and ‘terrific,’ were viewed as highly credible,” Mitra said. Conversely, words that are generally linked to jesting and joking — like ‘ha,’ ‘grins,’ or ‘joking,’ made tweets seem less credible.

Curiously, tweets that were retweeted more frequently were often seen as less credible, whereas longer messages were deemed more credible. “It could be that longer message lengths provide more information or reasoning, so they’re viewed as more trustworthy,” Mitra said. “On the other hand, a higher number of retweets, which was scored lower on credibility, might represent an attempt to elicit collective reasoning during times of crisis or uncertainty.”

So what are the implications of these findings? While still in need of some refining, this research could help combat the spread of fake news via social media platforms, a topic that seems increasingly relevant. And if nothing else, well, it’ll make you sound more believable.

Source : http://www.digitaltrends.com/social-media/twitter-credible-tweets/

 

Categorized in Online Research

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) --Social media never played a bigger role than it did in this past presidential election.

Now as we settle into 2017 what role will these platforms play?

Well, for all the talk about how divided this country is, the truth is that when it comes to technology, we've never been more connected.

But the apps we turn to share our lives are changing to better serve the changing world in which we use them.

One is called Signal, the other Confide. Both are fast becoming fixtures on smart phones everywhere.



The apps, both of them free, operate like standard text messaging with one major difference.

Whatever you send through them is encrypted, unreadable, and unretrievable on any device other than the one to which you sent it.

Apps like these are increasingly popular in an age of prying eyes for consumers driven by fear of hackers and government surveillance.

And speaking of government -

"We are seeing some fatigue with politics on those same platforms," Caroline Bean of Digitas Health, a local company that specializes in maximizing a company's imprint on social media, told Action News.

That fatigue is resulting in one of two things: A push for something other than political rants and a need for social platforms to provide something new.

"2017 is a time for the big social media platforms to stay really big - Facebook, Twitter and Instagram - and we'll be seeing how they adopt a lot of the features that the more niche apps and social platforms have specialized in," Bean said.

For now, Facebook remains the social juggernaut.



A recent survey by the Pew Research Center says roughly 8-in-10 Americans who are online use the site, up 7-percent from the year before.

Twitter, too, is seeing a resurgence, driven, in part, by the President, known to use that platform at all hours.

"Politics is changing the way people are on the social platforms right now. Notably, Facebook was used to organize the Women's March," Bean said.

Much more than just a place to post pictures, social media is now a kind of town square in which to rally and organize, and to tell the other side of any given story.

Facebook is doing that with its launch of live video, allowing users to take their followers into their experiences.

Instagram does it through it newly debuted Instagram Stories - a kind of diary of a day, in pictures and videos.

But social media is also turning its "look at me" reputation into something with medical benefits.

"Things like TeleDoc and Doctors on Demand are ways that people can see somebody pretty quickly," Bean said.

They are bringing people who suffer from specific illnesses together for support.

And a trend parents may want to be aware of?

Finstagram, a smaller group within your Instagram world, where only select friends can see a particular set of posts.

"So really this is showing this understanding that generations have that social media is all about sort of your public and private face and they are figuring out ways to show both sides," Bean said.

That's one of the fascinating things about social media, the always shifting, but delicate, balance between public and private.



So a reminder to always think twice before you post and always assume it will be seen by someone you don't know.

Author : Brain 

Source : http://6abc.com/news/special-report-the-changing-role-of-social-media/1759116/

Categorized in News & Politics

Some scientists peer into active volcanoes and try to read rocks. Others sift signals from space or analyse how animals behave. And then there are the cyber-ethnographers, who dedicate their careers to studying the way that people behave online. Some of these digital researchers must surely envy the ‘peaceful’ life of a volcanologist, for, as geologists like to say, one cannot argue with a rock.

Arguments rule the online world — witness the attention given this week to a Twitter row between Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling and journalist Piers Morgan. And although sometimes amusing, it doesn’t take much for online banter to slip towards insults, harassment and worse. That is the grim domain of the Internet troll, and it’s this murky online environment that brave cyber-ethnographers are now trying to study.

This May, it will be a full ten years since the abduction of three-year-old Madeleine McCann from her family’s holiday villa in Portugal and the worldwide coverage that followed. Yet, a decade later, people on the Internet still swap 100 messages or so an hour about the case. Many of these accuse and insult her traumatized parents, celebrating their daughter’s disappearance and gloating over their misery.

Such people are among the basest and most antisocial Internet trolls, and in a paper in Computers in Human Behaviour, psychologists describe how they tried to engage with this troll community, to study their attitudes and behaviour, and to work out what makes them tick (J. Synnott et al. Comput. Hum. Behav. 71, 70–78; 2017). Their research put them in the cross-hairs for several weeks, and the trolls did not disappoint. Once the goal of their study was exposed by others in the anti-McCann community, “you need better English to do a PHD luv!” was among the more polite messages sent in response to questions from “the psychology student studying trolls”.

Things got heated when the scientists tried to introduce some science into the debate. Much of the suspicion towards the McCann family was generated by a claim from the Portuguese police that sniffer dogs had found evidence of a cadaver in their holiday apartment (no charges were brought). When one of the psychologists posted a reference to an academic paper showing that such dogs made frequent mistakes in hot weather, and invited discussion, the trolls were more interested in insults and attacks on the researcher’s motive, labelling them a “shill” and blocking them when they tried to steer conversations back to the findings.

Previous research on trolls has identified key phrases that act as calling cards and draw activity. In this study, the word ‘shill’ — meaning that the researcher was paid by the McCann family to protect its reputation — was a red rag, and led to more and more trolls circling the discussion and piling in.

What can we learn from the study? One powerful theme of the anti-McCann messages is motherhood — and how the trolls argue that they would have behaved differently, both before and after the abduction. Psychologists call this disassociation, and it could arise from an irrational belief that parents who explicitly distance themselves from the plight of the McCann family somehow keep their own children safer. But there were much nastier motives on show, too: although most of the trolls argued that they were fighting for justice, the researchers conclude that this was thin cover for being able to hurl insults anonymously.

There are two other notable points. First, most of the abusive and offensive messages sent and received were against the rules of the social-media provider, yet no action was taken. And second, to ‘not feed the trolls’ has little impact. They are cultural scavengers who feast on alternative facts and false news already in the system, and thrive on condemnation. Rocks are so much easier to deal with.

Source : http://www.nature.com/news/the-dark-side-of-social-media-1.21478

Categorized in Deep Web

Social media gaint Facebook is aiming to go head-to-head with LinkedIn. The world’s largest social network announced today that it has launched several new features on its Web site to make it easier for employers to get in contact with job seekers.

Businesses will be able to post openings for positions on their Facebook pages, while job seekers will be able to browse through openings thanks to a new Jobs bookmark.

"We're focused on building new ways to help make it easier for businesses to interact with the over 1 billion people visiting Pages every month," the company said in a statement. "Businesses and people already use Facebook to fill and find jobs, so we're rolling out new features that allow job posting and application directly on Facebook."

Reaching Out to Enterprise Clients

Facebook's argument is that employers and potential employees are using their site constantly, making it a natural platform for people looking for qualified candidates. That argument sounds particularly pointed with regard to competing social network LinkedIn, which is used almost exclusively when people are searching for work or to network in their industries.

In the last several months, Facebook has been making a renewed effort to appeal to enterprise customers with new features designed with them in mind. In October, the social network unveiled several updates to its Pages service geared toward helping businesses interact more effectively with the more than 1 billion visitors the site receives every month.

"Beginning today, businesses in the US and Canada will be able to post job openings, and their future employees will be able to easily find those posts on their Page or in the new jobs bookmark," the company said. "This new experience will help businesses find qualified people where they're already spending their time -- on Facebook and on mobile."

Simple Functionality

Employers will be able to create job posts through the admins of their Pages. They can then use the new feature to track applications and communicate directly with applicants. After posting jobs, the admins will be able to review applications and contact applicants on Facebook Messenger.

The process is similar for job applicants, the company said. Job posts may appear in their News Feeds, in the new bookmark for jobs and alongside other posts on business Pages. When they click on the Apply Now button, a form will open that is pre-populated with information from their profiles on Facebook. Applicants will also be able to edit their information before submitting it.

None of this functionality may seem all that revolutionary, or provide job seekers with anything they cannot already find on LinkedIn or other job searching sites. What may be the differentiator, however, is Facebook’s status as one of the most frequently visited Web sites in the world. The sheer number of eyeballs Facebook is able to regularly attract may be sufficient to give LinkedIn a run for its money.

Author : Jef Cozza

Source : http://www.newsfactor.com/news/Facebook-Adds-Job-Search-Features/story.xhtml?story_id=1000096XPDCC

Categorized in Social

Do you define your reputation, or does your reputation define you? Do you control it, or does someone else? The good news is that perception can flow in both directions – for example when a business or person works to actively curate their own reputation.

Today reputation and perception of reputation work together. How does perception influence reputation? A minor reputation problem may be magnified by a thousand search or social results and perceived as something more than it should be. The reverse can also be true. Which reputation indicators share the brightest part of the spotlight is defined by a combination of technology like search and social engines, truth, fiction, and opinion.

How to Define Reputation

What is reputation? Reputation (or repute) is the collective opinion others have of a person or an entity (such as a business).

When people talk about reputation they are usually making a decision as to trustworthiness. A good reputation is generally believed to be built on a foundation of opinions of trustworthiness and integrity.

Even though untrue, the information caught fire

But it isn’t that simply anymore because reputation has become more malleable than ever before. Armed with technology, one person can define anyone’s reputation and whether the information is fact or fiction doesn’t play a role.

Wielding Social and Search to Damage Image

For example, during the 2016 Presidential Race, a rumor was posted by someone with a Twitter account some associated with white supremacy. It claimed that Hillary Clinton and John Podesta (her campaign chairman) ran a child sex ring from a pizza restaurant and that evidence was to be found in stolen emails posted on Wikileaks. Even though untrue, the information caught fire and worked against Clinton’s campaign.

rumors-clinton.png

A good reputation is one that enables others to feel trust and confidence but it’s a fragile thing, easily damaged.

Whether merited or not, a person with a bad reputation may have a hard time bringing in new clients, landing a new job, building relationships with others, or even getting elected. The Clinton campaign wasn’t the first to be targeted by political opponents, it happened to Rick Santorum as well when someone likened his name to an excretion.

The more famous the person, or the bigger the company, the harder it can be to bounce back once public opinion has tanked.

Why is Reputation Important?

Robert Greene wrote in his fantastic book the 48 Laws of Power “Do not leave your reputation to chance or gossip; it is your life’s artwork, and you must craft it, hone it, and display it with the care of an artist.”

“Do not leave your reputation to chance or gossip”

Reputation doesn’t encapsulate a person’s or a businesses’ identity, it is a social opinion of that identity. The fact that reputation can shape success means it’s something worth paying attention to and worth managing.

Reputation in Business

From getting a job to obtaining the best employees reputation plays a role. Employers are increasingly searching potential hires’ names online, and it doesn’t take much to be eliminated from the candidate pool. A scandalous picture on Facebook, misguided or maligning tweets, or negative comments online all have the power to thwart a person’s success.

The same is true for business reputation because the search goes both ways. That’s right, candidates perform due diligence the other way too. Prospective employees decide whether or not to work for a company based not only on position and compensation, but how others feel about working there. The site GlassDoor.com is an example of how people rely on the opinions of strangers to decide where they want to work.

It’s more than just employees, opinions can make or break businesses. For example, online reviews are a strong indicator of others opinions whether accurate or not. Check out these statistics from BrightLocal’s 2016 Consumer Survey, for example:

  • 84% of people put as much faith in online reviews as they do in offline opinions.
  • 90% percent of consumers will read less than 10 reviews about a company before deciding whether to give them their business.

Almost every business will be reviewed eventually. Some industries are more susceptible to bad reviews than others. For example, mortgage lenders, debt collectors, and used car dealerships often have an especially tough time online and may want to begin improving how they’re seen online before they even open their doors for business, it’s that important.

The Evolution of Reputation

Long before the president could Tweet directly to the public or Instagram could inadvertently launch a modeling career, reputations were formed based on empirical observations in real life. In tight-knit communities how you acted, how you responded in certain situations, how you spoke and carried yourself all contributed over time to people’s opinions and eventually reputation. It may be that in these communities reputation was more accurately reflected than today. In the middle ages, most people never traveled more than ten miles from their place of birth, so people really got to know one another.

“Falsehood flies, and the Truth comes limping after it.”
– Jonathan Swift

Today, reputation has been commoditized. Jonathan Swift wrote in 1710 that “Falsehood flies, and the Truth comes limping after it.” Online reputations are far more likely to be inaccurate or sharply unbalanced due to the out sized voice naysayers have with the help of technologies that spread rumor at fiber optic speeds. The evolution of reputation is to a large part due to the combined effects of technology and human negativity bias. Negativity bias basically means that people are on the lookout for negativity. Combine this with the way search engines like Google decide whether something should be highly visible or not and you have the recipe for terrible search or social results.

In a world where search and social result visibility often trumps fact, reputation online has become more about “truthiness” than truth due to the rise of new technologies.

Author : Kent Campbell

Source : http://www.business2community.com/human-resources/search-social-define-reputation-today-01774572#3WwmHQz4G7AUVb0A.97

Categorized in Search Engine

Unless you have been living in a ‘content free’ cave (maybe those avoiding Brexit or Trump), it’ll come as no surprise that search significantly drives the buying decision making process. Search marketing, in the context of online searching via sites like Google, is a dominant touchpoint for researching and reviewing everything from cars to cats. According to ‘Search Engine Land’, Google handles at least 2 trillion searches annually. As search is so accessible (with rise to mobile) in providing a wealth of relevant information, buying without an initial Google search is painfully uncomfortable… I dare you to try it.

Google is the number one brand according to the 2017 ‘Brand Finance Global 500’, and is quite honestly a force of its own. So readers may be thinking that ‘Google Search’ is sitting happily on its throne, and maybe it is for now, however there is a new kid in town who is rallying a challenge. Its name also begins with ‘S’, and can be more accurately described as a transition from adolescence to adulthood – welcome aboard ‘Social Search’.

Social media has always been a hotbed for brand awareness, community building and audience engagement, however it is increasingly playing an important role in discovery. From new cooking recipe hacks to undiscovered places to travel, brands are catching on to capitalising in this newsfeed melting pot. Upon attending a restaurant launch in Central London, the Owner proudly announces that the event pictures will be posted on Instagram during the evening. It demonstrates that a ‘searcher’ can access more content on social media than they will through a ‘traditional’ Google search in the first week.

Fake news is regularly out-trending real news and most of our mainstream press is owned by highly biased billionaires with corporate interests. Here's how to support the free media. 

Networks such as Facebook and Pinterest are lapping up the evolved user relationship with search, focusing on creating ‘walled gardens’ to retain users within their comfortable social network setting. It also plays into the hands of the social user, creating a frictionless experience as they interact and engage with friends, followers and brands in one place.

Social media is evolving rapidly, and looking at Facebook’s successful additional features like Marketplace and Facebook Live, it is apparent they’re working hard to retain user content within its own environment. Content is critical to play in search, more recently video, which is why Facebook, Instagram and ironically only this week, Google owned Youtube, have live streaming features to provide immediate and richer engagement to our newsfeeds.

If you’re a business, take note. Social media is surely establishing itself in search, and you can expect to see greater opportunities to advertise in this space. Moreover as social commerce makes a resurgence, with photo-happy Instagram ‘tags’ and Pinterest ‘buyable pins’, it demonstrates an evolving consumer behaviour for brands to capitalise on. So watch this social space!

‘Social Media Business Success’ is a free 2 hour workshop hosted by Unleash Digital Ltd on Sat 25th Feb 9.30am-11.30am, Wimbledon. Secure your place now at https://unleashdigitalsocialmedia.eventbrite.co.uk

Author : Ross Macintyre

Source : http://www.thelondoneconomic.com/news/business/need-know-social-search/12/02/

Categorized in Search Engine

If you are running a social campaign, you have to be analyzing your account's data. To do that, you have to do some data mining. Unfortunately, it is a time consuming process that brands often hire whole teams to manage, rather than entrusting it to a single person.

The good news is that there are tools that make it infinitely easier, and that you can take advantage of to archive your own Twitter data.

1. Twitter's official archive download.

The easiest route to go is always going to be Twitter itself. They allow you to access your own archive of posts, and save them in an easily exported format. This option has been available since 2012, and it is a consistent way to build up a good archive of your tweets in a CSV file that includes all information.

Of course, there are a couple of downsides. There is no way to set what dates you want, and so it will go back as far as it can to create your file. Any time you re-download a new version, you will be overwriting the old one, or else saving it as a separate file with the same old info.

While this is annoying, it is preferable to how it was, when you could only get a short period of tweets before they were lost forever. Progress!

2. BirdSong Analytics.

BirdSong Analytics is an absolutely unique tool that lets you download all the followers of any Twitter accounts. It's a paid tool but I don't think such feature has any alternatives.

The export comes in an Excel format and contains each username, number of followers/following, real name, Twitter URL, bio, number of tweets, date when the account was created, location, Verified status and how many lists the account is included into.

Now, think about all Excel sorting, filtering, searching options: You can now find most followed accounts, search bios by a keyword, sort accounts by location, etc. For example, you can download all people your competitor follows and investigate their habits, sites, etc. Or you can download all accounts that @nytimes is following and get the list of high-profile journalists, their personal sites, their hobbies, etc This is a great database to plan your outreach campaign out.

3. Cyfe.

For a more customizable option, it has to be Cyfe. This is an all-in-one business management tool that allows you to create custom made widgets that work with any number of services, including most social networks. There are pre-made widgets already available for Twitter (among dozens of others), but you can craft your own to catch the data that you need. Getting started is free, but you will want to use their premium service for real analytics gathering.

4. NodeXL.

To go more simple, but very thorough, you could try NodeXL. It is an open source template for Microsoft Excel that works by integrating data pulled from a CSV file into a ridiculously informative network graph. So you could get your archived data from Twitter, input it into NodeXL, and create a breathtaking visual representation of your tweets from any period you like. For a graph junkie like me, this is a very exciting tool.

5. TWChat.

Better known as a Twitter chat room for tweet chats, TWChat also provides you with the option of creating a permanent archive for various hashtags of your choice. Every day, a new archive will be created that shows you how that tag is being used. This is an amazing tool if you are looking to monitor your reputation, or even a specific social campaign.

Using Twitter archives.

Now, there may be numerous ways to use the data; here are just a few ideas:

  • Gary Dek of StartABlog123.com uses Twitter for content inspiration.
  • Anna Fox of HireBloggers uses Twitter favorites as a bookmarking tool, so her archive is her ultimate reading list (she can also share)
  • You can use BirdSong exports to identify niche influencers for outreach campaign or customer research.
  • You can also use hashtag archives for keyword research to investigate which words tend to go in close proximity with the chosen hashtag.

Author : Ann Smarty 

Source : https://www.entrepreneur.com/author/ann-smarty

Categorized in Social

Who uses social media the most? What do social media users shop for? Why do users engage with brands? Glad you asked!

Here are 10 new and surprising stats marketers need to know about social media usage. All of these stats come from Nielsen’s 2016 Social Media Report, which was released today.

1. Women spend more time using social media than men. On average, women spent 6 hours and 33 minutes per week on social networks while men spent 4 hours and 23 minutes per week.

2. African-American adults use social media more than any other ethnic group when you combine smartphone, tablet, and PC usage (39.4 million) – but Hispanic adults are the biggest consumers of social media on smartphones (30 million).

3. Gen X (ages 35-49) spend the most time on social media – 6 hours and 58 minutes per week. Millennials (ages 18-34) came in second, spending 6 hours and 19 minutes of their time per week on social networks.

4. 41 percent of consumers who spent 2 hours or less on social media spent at least $500 on online purchases over the past 12 months, while 38 percent of consumers who spent at least 3 hours per day on social media spent $500 or more.

5. At least three-quarters of U.S. social media users made an online purchase within the last year, but only 46 percent of non-social media users made an online purchase during the same timeframe.

6. Over the last year, 30 percent of people who used social networks for less than 1 hour per day were shopping for travel reservations, such as hotel rooms or auto rentals – and 26 percent of users made a purchase. 

7. During the past year, 27 percent of people who used social media for 1 to 2 hours per day shopped for movie tickets, while 19 percent of users bought tickets online.

8. Over the last year, 28 percent of people who used social networks for 3 or more hours per day shopped for a mobile app, while 19 percent of users made a purchase.

9. About 37 percent of all consumers said they use social media to find out about products and services, while about 32 percent use social media to receive exclusive offers, coupons, or other discounts from brands.

10. Nearly 30 percent of people who use social media at least 3 hours per day said showing support of and engaging with their favorite companies or brands was very or somewhat important.

Nielsen has lots more mind-blowing social media usage stats in their new report. Read the PDF here.

Author : Danny Goodwin

Source : https://www.searchenginejournal.com/social-media-usage-2017/183880/

Categorized in Social

For many, Google+ may still be seen as the punchline to jokes about failed social networks, but the Google product still has a large and loyal following — just not necessarily among the groups you might think.

And, for better or worse, Google is still invested in supporting the network and its users. The company announced Tuesday that it's officially phasing out the site's "classic" design in favor of a redesigned look that emphasizes photos and minimizes the amount of white space. 

The redesign was actually unveiled last year, but up until now the company allowed users to switch back to the old design. That will change on Jan. 24, when all users will be switched to the new look.

Additionally, Google is adding a handful of other new features meant to appeal to longtime Google+ users. The network is tweaking comments so that low-rated ones are hidden from posts by default, adding the ability to zoom in on photos and bringing back its events feature, which allows users to create and share events much as they would on Facebook and other social networks.  

That all sounds well and good (even if the features are relatively basic), but you might be wondering why anyone is still using Google+ to begin with. The truth is that for all its missteps and flaws, Google's social network has remained a popular destination for certain online communities.  

One major group is photographers, who latched onto the network early in its history as a place to share photos and swap tips. The Landscape Photography Community, more than a million members strong, remains one of the most engaged communities on Google+, according to the company. And, over on Street Photographers, 369,163 members share boatloads of photos a day. 

Those may seem obvious, but there are other oddly specific communities that are really active on Google+. Together, The Art of Bread (for bread makers and lovers), Board Games (for board game enthusiasts) and Toy Photographers (primarily close-up shots of Lego men and other tiny toys) make up some of the most engaged communities, according to Google. 

There are also, of course, groups with large followings devoted to more mainstream aspects of popular culture, like Harry Potter fandom, or Pokémon devotees and One Directioners.  

These groups, by the way, are passionate not just about the topics they engage with, but the network itself. (Don't believe me? Just take a look at some of the comments on Google Plus' own profile.) So, while the Google+ jokes will likely keep on coming, don't expect the company's updates, infrequent thought they may be, to stop. 

Author: KARISSA BELL
Source: http://mashable.com/2017/01/18/who-is-using-google-plus-anyway/?utm_cid=mash-prod-nav-sub-st#50rEkH5nfiq8

Categorized in Social

For large swaths of consumers, the right to access free online content is seen as sacrosanct -- and has been hugely influential over their expectations of what the Internet is and what it should provide. But with ad-blocking on the rise, there is little recognition or willingness on the part of the consumer to accept that ads are at the core of this.

Frustration is the principal driver of ad-blocking at the moment. According to our research, almost six in ten ad blockers are in the “Frustrated” group (saying that ads are intrusive, annoying or that there are simply too many of them). Interestingly, four in ten find themselves in the Selective segment -- those who might be using ad blockers, but who also say they engage with some ads or have found brands/products via online advertising. Large numbers of ad-blocker users are still willing to engage with ads, then; the key is that ads need to be relevant and non-intrusive -- a feat that is possible, if far easier said than done. 

While some publishers have simply denied access to ad-blocker users (a tactic that is risky when so many competitors keep their doors open), others have tried to increase engagement with subscription-based models. The obvious problem here is that so many digital consumers remain reluctant to pay for online content that is currently available via ad-supported models. The substantial discrepancies between the numbers using, versus the numbers paying for, music and movie streaming services are stark reminders of this: far more people will subscribe to free ad-based versions of a service than pay for access to the premium tier.

Certainly, that 16- to-34-year-olds are the most likely to be paying for content is a dose of good news, suggesting that this mindset is likely to become more widespread in the future (particularly in light of Apple Music’s decision not to offer a free tier). In reality, however, willingness to pay is linked very strongly to the type of content on offer. Consumers are a lot more likely to be paying for content streaming services like Spotify or Netflix than they are for news Web sites or premium Web services. And this is where Amazon’s Prime service makes sense, bundling an expanding host of services (music, movies, video, commerce perks, food delivery, etc.) under one monthly subscription plan could well be a glimpse of the future. More services could choose to combine things that people will pay for with those they won't, ensuring that both get revenue.

Even so, stand-alone subscription models remain impractical for much online content. And here it is social channels that offer considerable promise. The almost universal reach of social media and the migration of many online activities onto social platforms has essentially positioned the likes of Facebook, Snapchat and YouTube as middlemen between content creators and consumers.

The ability of most of these social platforms to deliver (comparatively) user-friendly cross-device ads using logged-in data is already a clear strength, but the development of social chat bots and their future marketing potential is where the real value of social shines through. With the consent of the consumer, chat bots could re-engage users on a 1:1 basis in a non-intrusive and relevant manner, in an environment largely out of reach of ad blockers and at the cost of the brand or advertiser.

Such an evolution is in line with how consumer behaviours are changing. Look at the channels people say they use when they want more information about a product, brand or service and, while search engines still top the table in all demographics, the age-based splits are revealing. Older groups remain the most wedded to “traditional” sources such as consumer reviews, price-comparison sites and brand Web sites, but younger groups are leading the charge towards “newer” options such as vlogs, social networks and mobile apps. In fact, social networks are not far from toppling search engines as the top destination for 16- to-24-year-olds. No less important is that 16- to-24-year-olds are about twice as likely as 55- to-64-year-olds to be using voice search/control tools on their mobile devices -- almost one in four are.

Of course, pragmatism is essential here. Some consumers will always resist brand interactions in any form. AI and chat bots are still in their nascent stages, and it will take time for them to become sophisticated enough to handle non-basic interactions without any human intervention. And some brands will find a much warmer reception in social contexts than others (dictated largely by the services and content they have to offer).

Nevertheless, consumers are spending more time each year on social networks and on mobile devices, they are (relatively) happy to engage with brands in social contexts when the value exchange is clear, video consumption and search are both set to expand inside the social arena, and AI/bots will only become more and more sophisticated -- facilitating personalized and relevant conversations in a resource-light way. If free is to prevail, things are therefore likely to become still more social in the years ahead.  

Author : Jason Mander

Source : http://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/292596/the-future-of-free-is-social.html

Categorized in Social

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