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Beware of Relying on Fake Social Media Followers. Ever Heard of 'Shadowbanning'?




A few months ago, Mediakix ran an experiment by creating two new Instagram profiles, one using photos of a local model and one using stock photos. The company then filled both accounts with purchased followers, likes and comments. Before long, each account had secured paid influencer deals with brands, despite reaching a grand total of zero real people.

Related: Forget Hacks — Here Are the 2 Things You Need to Do to Grow Your Following on Social Media

On the one hand, this shows how easy it is to grow your numbers rapidly if you’re willing to resort to fake traffic. But on the other hand, it shows just how big the problem of bot accounts and illegitimate traffic has become for everyone involved — marketers, brands and social media platforms.

While marketers might feel good to see their follower count rise, those who rely on empty traffic will inevitably suffer the consequences. By relying on the automation of inauthentic engagement, including automatic likes, comments, follows and unfollows, the only thing you’ll gain in the long term is frustration. Here’s why.

The new social media standard

Although sniffing out bot accounts remains challenging, Instagram closely monitors services that claim to help users game the system, and it punishes all those involved, users and third-party services alike. Brands that rely on spam accounts to boost followers, or even “like” other content pages to strengthen their own followings, are at risk of being shadowbanned (a Instagram penalty that makes your hashtags undiscoverable).

If that happens, targeted companies have to rebuild their pages from scratch, setting back any new engagement and potentially losing genuine legacy followers while their pages remain hidden.

Social platforms are cracking down — and they aren’t alone. Companies such as Fohr Card are moving to take the initiative. Fohr Card identifies which influencer followers are bot accounts, then reduces its fees to ensure that companies pay only for engagement with real followers.

Related: 5 Tactics To Build Your Social Media Following

This type of monitoring isn’t new. Instagram did a major spam purge in 2014 that impacted even major brands such as Nike, National Geographic and Forever 21. That’s not to say these accounts paid for followers, only that fake followers make up a larger proportion of the Instagram population than you might expect — about 8 percent, according to a Fohr Card press release.

Some social platforms have in place plans to shut down your account f they detect fake followers. While there aren’t currently any legal regulations on this issue, things could move in that direction as social platforms feel increased pressure to prove their credibility.

Even President Donald Trump, who uses his controversial Twitter account to rally political support, fell under scrutiny this summer for suspected fake followers. According to Newsweek, @realDonaldTrump received a suspicious spike in followers in May 2017, which may explain why nearly half of the president’s followers appear to be bot accounts.

Three organic tactics that are tried and true

Despite the obvious drawbacks, some brands continue to drink from the well of fake engagement and continue to suffer blows for that decision. Only real followers help brands build long-lasting engagement — not to mention the fact that only real people will spend real money with your company.

So, if you want to avoid this quagmire, there’s hope; You don’t have to buy followers from Russian vending machines. Thankfully, you can employ the following strategies to inspire organic engagement.

1. Send influential followers free products.

Daniel Wellington, a watch-making brand, relies exclusively on influencer marketing. It began by sending watches — no strings attached — to select influencers with smaller, qualified followings. The watchmaker netted a profit of more than $220 million by sticking to its influencer strategy, even when new paid options were made available by Instagram.

Nothing gets people excited like free swag. You can promote your product, grow your social accounts and inspire followers to talk about your company all at once, just by sending free products to influencers and other people with relevant (real) followings.

Related: 15 Steps to Building Your Online Tribe

2. Promote seeded hashtags.

Herschel Supply Co. created the #WellTraveled hashtag to inspire users around the world to share photos of cool places. Although the company doesn’t provide any consumer travel services, people love the opportunity to share their experiences with others, naturally growing a hashtag that traces back to the brand’s backpacks and luggage.

So, develop a hashtag, associate it with the brand and get people talking — even if the hashtag doesn’t strictly refer to your product. Keep branded hashtags simple and catchy — short, creative and easy-to-spell phrases work best. Once you’ve landed on a hashtag, apply it to a careful curation of posts so that as new followers discover it, they are exposed to a consistent style or aesthetic and start to get a sense of your brand identity.

If you already have a branded hashtag established when you send swag to influential followers, you can encourage them to use it when they post about your product. This will help your branded hashtag spread among the right circles.

Related: 13 Expert Tips to Help You Build Your Instagram Following

3. Create Instagram Stories.

Chipotle recently achieved an astonishing 70 to 75 percent completion rate on a 100-post Instagram Story, according to AdWeek. With the promise of free queso for a year for five lucky viewers, the burrito restaurant chain incentivized viewers to work through all 100 posts, combining reach and engagement to form a highly successful campaign.

Like Snapchat Stories, Instagram Stories streamline content delivery to users, making it easy to put relevant content in front of people who are actually eager to consume it. And now that it’s possible to link back to your website within Stories, they’re a great tool to drive people directly to your ecommerce store. By optimizing Stories to get featured on Instagram’s Explore page, you can gain even more exposure and more followers.

Growing a social media following through authentic engagement is harder than buying fake followers, but the rewards are well worth the effort. Don’t take the easy way out. Not only could you get burned by platform policies, but you might also end up torching all of your past marketing efforts into dust. Use these strategies to build a sustainable following that will drive your brand’s social reach to new heights.

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Unilever Turns Up the Heat on Facebook & Google Over Tech’s ‘Unintended Consequences’

Social Media Week





Unilever has issued a stern warning to digital platforms including Facebook, Google, and YouTube: do more to improve transparency and clean up the “swamp” of fake news, exploitative, and socially divisive content, or be cut off from its multi-billion dollar digital advertising budget.

CMO Keith Weed recently spoke at the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s annual leadership meeting held in Palm Desert, Calif. CNBC quotes him as saying, “We need to redefine what is responsible business in the digital age because for all of the good the tech companies are doing, there’s some unintended consequences that now need addressing.”

Two of the most important consequences being referred to include the threatening of safety of users, especially young children, and loss of trust by consumers and companies at large.

While it’s unlikely that Unilever will turn its back on the two largest digital platforms, Weed’s words matter because of the sheer amount of ad budget Unilever holds across its portfolio brands. MediaPost reports that in 2017, the company spent approximately $9.8 billion on marketing and advertising, a quarter of which went to digital.

Beyond the public denouncements, Unilever is also working with IBM to develop a blockchain with which the company can more effectively reduce ad fraud via a record of what media is purchased and how it is delivered.

A separate MediaPost article shares YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki’s response to Weeds comments on Monday. In her own statement at Recode’s Code Media conference, she assured,
“We want to do the right set of things to build [Unilever’s] trust. They are building brands on YouTube, and we want to be sure that our brand is the right place to build their brand.”

Recent efforts we’ve seen in support of this include significant updates to its Creator Program policy. Further, in light of the recent Logan Paul controversy involving a video in which a suicide victim was filmed inside a Japanese forest, the company has suspended running ads on his channel, per Ad Age.

While brand safety is a concern on the minds of many marketers, Unilever’s public comments this week indicate that brands are viewing the issue with a much broader lens, and seriously questioning the role these platforms play in people’s everyday lives, beyond the world of advertising. In this important cultural moment, people are looking to brands and platforms to assume responsibility and be proactive to keep their spaces safe, trustworthy, and suitable for communities.

To further explore the overarching question of how technology, including digital platform giants, can be used to bring us closer together versus further apart, join us at SMWNYC April 24-27. Register today and save 20%.

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Facebook’s Next Step in Building Community: $10M in Grants

Social Media Week





Facebook has made several important announcements as of late the support its mission to create more “meaningful communities.” The latest? Investment in a newly announced Community Leadership program designed to support its community-building leaders through a variety of residency and fellowship opportunities that offer training, support, and funding.

Here’s how it will work: Facebook will name five “community leaders in residence” and provide up to $1 million each to fund their proposals, in addition to providing them with the opportunity to attend a customized leadership development training session.

Moreover, Facebook will select 100 individuals to join its fellowship program and receive up to $50,000 each for a “specific community initiative.” They’ll also participate in four in-person gatherings during which they will have the chance to meet and collaborate with other fellows.

Another key initiative in the works? Expanding Facebook’s “engineering team for community safety,” which is headquartered in London. In particular, the company hopes to double the number of employees focused on such efforts including detecting and stopping fake accounts, protecting people from harm (e.g harassment and scams), and making it easier to report content, by the end of 2018.

Further, Facebook outlined new tools for group admins, including page personalization options (e.g. color and the ability to pin announcements to the top of the page), the ability to create and share group rules; and more features to monitor Group Insights.

Outside of its Communities Summit, but along the theme of ensuring time on the platform is time well spent, the company also confirmed last week it was testing a downvote button that would allow users to provide feedback on comments in particular. The downvote button is being tested within a limited group of U.S. users for the time being.

This is not to be confused with a “dislike” button, but rather a more “lightweight way for people to provide a signal to Facebook that a comment is inappropriate, uncivil, or misleading”—this according to a Facebook spokesperson quoted in TechCrunch.

Here is what the button looks like in action:

Image via TechCrunch.

As the screenshot depicts, the user will have the ability to select whether the post was found to be “offensive,” “misleading,” or “off topic,” the choices aimed to help guide Facebook’s course of action with respect to the particular piece of feedback.

Forbes adds that, the downvote option in its test mode only applies to public posts as opposed to Group posts or the Pages of public figures. It also doesn’t affect the ranking of the post and the number of downvotes a post gets won’t be publicly shared.

These initiatives by Facebook to reverse some of the negative perceptions of its role in society come at a critical time as brands and citizens alike are putting more and more pressure on the world’s leading tech platforms to course-correct their products for the safety of their users. Just this week, Unilever threatened to yank ad dollars from Facebook and Google due to the company’s growing dissatisfaction with their overall impact on society.

“We cannot have an environment where our consumers don’t trust what they see online,” stated Unilever CMO, Keith Weed, to the BBC.

Learn about Facebook’s increasingly complex role in society by joining SMWNYC April 24-27. The conference will offer multiple sessions designed to explore where brands and platforms fit into tech’s future in our world. Register today to secure your pass.

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5 Ways Cryptocurrency Can Help Entrepreneurs in 2018




Cryptocurrency has revolutionized the way we transact value, invest our savings and raise capital with its decentralised digital cash system. Blockchain technology is a once-in-a-lifetime invention; never before in history have we been presented with such a breakthrough in financial technology. In 2018, entrepreneurs are well positioned to become early adopters of blockchain technology.

1. Raising capital

Cryptocurrency has disrupted the way early stage companies raise capital. With initial coin offerings, startups around the world can raise money quickly and cheaply from a wide pool of global investors. The valuation of a company is almost immediately reflected by the market, a process that has traditionally been challenging for early stage businesses. Shares are issued as tokens and tradable almost immediately, bringing large amounts of liquidity to the company.

Related: IPOs Are Boring But You Must Keep an Eye on These 9 Initial Coin Offerings

This new approach to raising capital has changed the world and enabled the best technical talent to build their companies at high speed. In 2014, a teenager from Canada called Vitalik Buterin raised money for his startup, Ethereum, through an initial coin offering. He wanted to improve on Bitcoin’s blockchain and create a platform for people to build unstoppable applications. With just a whitepaper and a vision, he was able to successfully raise $18 million for his new blockchain, which was valued at over $100 billion as of January 2018.

2. Transacting value

Cryptocurrency enables us to transact value between peers without a centralized authority. It provides a cheaper, faster and more efficient alternative to traditional payment networks. As a company, accepting cryptocurrency payments is becoming increasingly efficient, saving on fees and bringing faster settlement. Soon, startups will no longer need to go through the long process of setting up a business bank account to receive and distribute funds. In 2014, became the first retailer to accept bitcoin, receiving over 800 orders worth $126,000 in bitcoin in the first 22 hours. It has since amassed a $403,000 portfolio of cryptocurrency.

Related: 5 Essential Podcasts for Entrepreneurs Serious About Cryptocurrency

3. Investing for the future

For entrepreneurs, cryptocurrency may be the investment opportunity of a lifetime. Never before in history have retail investors had investment access to high growth early stage companies. Traditionally, venture capital funds and private angel investors have held monopolies on access to investment in the world’s best technical talent. Cryptocurrency provides a gateway for anyone in the world to invest in the world’s most exciting technology, allowing retail investors to own a basket of high growth companies. For example, through the decentralized method of blockchain investment, teenager Erik Finnman was able to invest in Bitcoin in 2011, becoming a Bitcoin millionaire at age 18. These types of investment stories would not be possible with traditional private venture capital fundraising.

Related: Why You Can’t Afford to Ignore Cryptocurrencies and Blockchain Anymore

4. Developing on the blockchain

The blockchain offers powerful infrastructure for companies to run their technology and create entirely new business models in a trusted way without a centralized authority. Blockchain technology is already revolutionizing the way startups create value. The Ethereum platform allows companies to build unstoppable blockchain applications quickly and for free. One example of a company leveraging the Ethereum blockchain is OmiseGO, a payments company that is using blockchain to provide banking services for the world’s 2 billion unbanked population. Blockchain technology is a cost-efficient way of building decentralized applications that can scale to a global population.

Related: 6 Cryptocurrencies You Should Know About (and None of Them Are Bitcoin)

5. Joining the blockchain community

The blockchain community offers access to some of the world’s best entrepreneurs, who are actively investing, advising and building upon the blockchain. Telegram, Facebook, WeChat, Slack and WhatsApp groups have proved popular in building communities of decentralized blockchain investors who can communicate with each other on a daily basis. Many large investments in early stage technology companies can be coordinated within minutes, a process that would traditionally take months in traditional venture capital. For example, in 2017, Brave’s Basic Attention Token sale sold out of its $35 million offering within 30 seconds. The blockchain community offers a strong sense of purpose with all members committed to a common goal of advancing blockchain technology to global adoption.

Related: How Digital Wallets and Mobile Payments Are Evolving and What It Means for You

Cryptocurrency provides a platform for entrepreneurs to raise capital quickly, cheaply and efficiently. Entrepreneurs can transact value through the blockchain at high speed with limited setup costs and invest in high growth technology companies at an early stage. Platforms like Ethereum allow entrepreneurs to build decentralized applications to a global audience for free. The blockchain community offers access to some of the top entrepreneurs, engineers and investors in the world and in 2018, cryptocurrency will continue to provide a viable means for entrepreneurs to create value in the world.

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7 Ways to Get Recruiters and Job Offers to Come to You




“You are your own brand, and you need to build that brand and promote it as much as possible. It is important that you start building your brand online, because this is where employers are going to be looking for potential employees,” suggests Dima Midon, an expert from TrafficBox. Use all of the online tools at your disposal, particularly LinkedIn, which is a professional network that allows you to really promote yourself as a professional, and someone who is an expert in your field. This is a great tool for job seekers. Make sure that you keep your profile up to date, especially when it comes to contact information, so when an employer searches you, they will be able to contact you if they are interested in learning more.

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