Tag Archives: Advertising

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Niche social media platforms are hidden gold mines for marketers

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You’ve thrown your marketing power heavily at Facebook — and you’re far from alone. The Sprout Social 2019 Index study reports that 89% of marketers do utilize the social media giant as a brand booster.

Yes, Facebook can get your brand massive exposure — as can Instagram, Twitter, Linkedin and Pinterest; yet, you may find your products and services getting lost in the vast sea of data flooding each of these platforms. Why not try advertising on niche social platforms?

Simply defined, a niche social platform links a community of users with specific interests in common — folks with the same hobbies, interests, or those in the same professional association, group or business.

A niche platform may have a relatively large amount of users, or it could have users that only number in the hundreds. That might not matter, though. What may make advertising for niche audiences worth your while is the fact that a unique or easily translatable appeal can quickly gain a fiercely loyal and highly enthusiastic fan base.

So, what niche networks might most benefit your business? Really, the sky’s the limit — if you can ID your audience and what they’re potentially interested in terms of products and services, there will likely be a social network of like-minded folks you can use paid advertising to reach. Some niche platforms that are known to be of particular interest to marketers include:

  • Kaboodle. For people who love to shop and connect to share information about it.
  • Quora. A Q & A platform that covers every topic you can possibly think of.
  • Goodreads. A book discussion platform.
  • Third Age. A platform that connects baby boomers and senior citizens.
  • Meetup. A site that facilitates users meeting each other socially in real life.
  • Nextdoor. A platform that connects neighbors who may not otherwise know each other.
  • Crafters Community. A site for those who make and create their own goods.

Aiming your message at the right niche platform means the right people will be talking about your brand, reviewing your products, and spreading the word to their friends and family.

So how do you put together a super-successful niche-targeted campaign? Employ these easy and effective strategies:

Think narrow yet be expansive.

If you see a niche social media that is a perfect fit for your product, that’s fantastic. An example might be a site dedicated to living a green lifestyle while you’ve got eco-friendly laundry detergent to sell.

It can also pay off, though, to spread your and dollars to niche sites that focus on wider potential prospects like a Q&A site. Seek to cater to a ready-made audience, but don’t limit your options.

Take a stand on a topic that matters to your niche audience.

Advertising on a site that boasts users with particular political views means that your brand should be OK being identified as having a simpatico viewpoint. Don’t be afraid to stress this in your advertising if it feels appropriate to do so: 70% of consumers surveyedv in the Sprout Social Index study want a brand to do just that.

Be authentic, however.

Don’t simply mouth what you think your potential niche audience wants to hear. 53% of consumers in the Sprout Social Index study want brands to be transparent as well. If you’re playing a role to garner sales, it will backfire.

Offer immediacy.

Step up your efforts to directly answer niche consumer questions about your product and do it swiftly. Niche consumers often like to get into the weeds in terms of what interesting products do in terms of mechanics and they want to know in detail how a specific product will benefit their lives.

Take this into account when writing copy and putting together video and keep your marketing approach as interactive as possible to address concerns and questions in real time.

Don’t underestimate demand.

Even though you are targeting a smaller demographic, if your message hits with niche consumers, they will buy immediately. If they like what you’ve got, they’ll buy often.

Make certain you can deliver with sufficient product stock and that you monitor your niche customers’ feedback carefully so you can continue to give them what they want and need. Earn their trust through great service, and you’ve won over an extremely loyal clientele!

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Surveys: Travel industry apps, sites lag behind speed of new possibilities

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As the sophistication of technology available to us through our personal devices continues to develop and morph at lightning speed, it is not surprising that, according torecently released surveys by J.D. Power, many of the legacy travel apps we use are simply lagging behind their more agile, upstart counterparts.

The 2019 J.D. Power U.S. Travel App Satisfaction Study and the 2019 U.S. Travel Website Satisfaction Study, both released in recent months, show that all travel industry websites — even those operated by digital natives — score substantially lower in customer satisfaction compared to high-scoring websites in other industries, such as credit cards.

“Travel apps and websites have become primary conduits through which consumers experience travel, such as searching for a hotel, booking a rental car and getting real-time flight status updates,” says Michael Taylor, Travel Intelligence Lead at J.D. Power.

“Given the crucial role they play, many travel apps and websites are still too complex for consumers to navigate and do not offer the most helpful information at the right time. One hotel website, for example, requires 29 separate actions across five different pages to make a reservation. That’s not good enough when customers are experiencing simple, elegant, seamless experiences in their banking and credit card apps and websites.”

Past surveys by Phocuswright show that some 61% of travelers usually use a smartphone app to book flights, while some 59% might also book through social media and 81% have used a voice-command assistant to book travel or help them with travel arrangements.

Travel apps lag far behind customer financial apps in satisfaction: Airline, online travel agency (OTA), hotel and rental car apps all trail highest-scoring credit card apps when it comes to overall customer satisfaction. But overall satisfaction with travel apps is lowest for airline apps, which scored 854 (on a 1,000-point scale). This compares with an average score of 872 for overall credit card customer satisfaction.

Travel website performance lags: Similar to satisfaction with mobile apps, overall satisfaction with hotel, airline, rental car and OTA websites is substantially lower than those of credit card, banking and insurance industry websites. As an example, the average overall satisfaction score for rental car websites is 827, the lowest of all travel industry categories. This compares with a score of 863 for credit card websites.

Speed and simplicity matter: Customer satisfaction with travel websites substantially increases when customers say the process of making a reservation was quicker than expected. Still, many travel websites contain multi-step processes and fewer than 20% of customers report a quicker-than-expected reservation experience.

Helpfulness notifications are inconsistent: Helpful notifications provided by a travel app can add upwards of 92 points to overall satisfaction, but the challenge comes with the execution of those notifications. For example, including concise accompanying text such as “tap to view boarding pass” can be much more effective than simply sending an electronic boarding pass with no descriptive text.

Delivery of consistent web and app experiences: While digital native OTA brands tend to deliver the most satisfying website experiences and rental car brands tend to perform better in mobile apps, some top-performing airline, hotel and rental car companies have cracked the code on cross-platform digital satisfaction, delivering strong user experiences and high levels of customer satisfaction across both web and app channels.

Four segments of the travel industry were put under the scope: airline; hotel; OTA; and rental car. The key variables that seem to influence customer choice, satisfaction and loyalty are based on five factors: clarity of information provided; ease of navigation; overall appearance, speed of screens/pages loading; and range of services/activities.

The 2019 U.S. Travel App Satisfaction Study collected 12,410 evaluations from users of airline, hotel, OTA and rental car apps. The Travel Website Satisfaction Study looked at 13,424 evaluations from users of airline, hotel, OTA and rental car websites. Both studies were fielded in August-September 2019.

Travel App Rankings

JetBlue ranked highest in overall satisfaction among airline apps with a score of 872. FlyDelta (865) ranked second and Southwest (864) ranked third.

IHG ranked highest in overall customer satisfaction among hotel apps with a score of 870. Hilton Honors (866) ranked second and World of Hyatt (865) ranked third.

Orbitz ranked highest in overall customer satisfaction among OTA apps with a score of 870. Travelocity (867) ranked second and Expedia (856) ranked third.

Avis ranked highest in overall customer satisfaction among rental car apps with a score of 873. National (863) ranked second and Enterprise Car Rental (859) ranked third.

Travel Website Rankings

Southwest Airlines ranked highest in overall customer satisfaction among airline websites with a score of 849. Alaska Airlines (831) ranked second and JetBlue Airways (829) ranked third.

Choice Hotels ranked highest in overall customer satisfaction among hotel websites with a score of 841. Best Western Hotels & Resorts (840) and Hyatt Hotels (840) ranked second in a tie.

Booking.com ranked highest in overall customer satisfaction among OTA websites with a score of 847. Priceline (846) and Travelocity (846) ranked second in a tie.

National ranked highest in overall customer satisfaction among rental car websites with a score of 841. Enterprise (836) ranked second and Budget (827) ranked third.

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How long-form content can help boost your digital marketing profits

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When it comes to content marketing campaigns for 2020, the length of your copy, blog posts and content matters like never before. Long-form content — generally defined as 1,000 words or more — is a great way to engage your potential and existing customers.

The benefits are great: Pew Research Center reported that online readers spend more time on 1,000-word pieces than on shorter ones.

What’s more is that, according to a study from BuzzSumo and Backlinko, long-form content yielded 77% more backlinks than shorter copy or posts. Additional research from BuzzSumo showed that online copy of 3,000 to 10,000 words tends to get the most consistent social media shares. When you add long-tail keywords to your long-form copy (i.e., search engine phrases that consist of 3-5 words and target niche audiences for your marketing), you can reach consumers you never reached before.

Longer-form content is also infinitely adaptable. You can reformat copy into:

Podcasts. Using influencers to reemphasize the message in your copy is a particularly effective way to do this.

E-books. Republishing your content and updating/lengthening it even further as warranted can be very fruitful.

Multiple posts. You can spin the ideas and concepts from long-form blog posts into additional articles, focusing more in-depth on ideas you touched on in an original post.

Platform messaging. Post a single longer-form piece on all of your social media outlets and you up your chances of your copy going viral.

Really, the possibilities are endless. So how can you master long-form content production and enjoy the boost to your bottom line? Put these simple and powerful strategies into motion:

Solicit expert contributors. Long-form content means that accuracy is key. Seek out quality content contributors who work, sell, or teach in the field your copy covers and let them provide intricate factual backup and endorsement for your products and services. This gives your posts authentic legitimacy and will help gain consumer trust.

Allow your writers to really get into the weeds. Don’t skimp on working with experienced, skilled contributors who know how to write in clear, concise, absorbing detail. This will enhance the quality of your long-form content and help your audience truly grasp why your products and services are specifically relevant to them.

Reemphasize products you’re trying to push in your copy. Long-form content is the perfect platform for revitalizing and rebranding older items you offer. Why is your established product better than ever? What changes have you made to improve it dramatically? Or conversely, why is this product a reliable favorite for all time? You have the word count to cover these essential points.

Get descriptive. Use fun, lively language repeatedly in long-form copy. Make your content engaging, colorful, and adjective-rich — it will pay off with interest, shares and sales.

Don’t edit so much as shape the flow of your contributor’s copy. Trust your writers’ talents and allow them to dictate long-form content as much as possible. When you give them the freedom to get more technically and creatively descriptive, you’ll love what they come up with — and your job in signing off on their posts will become easier in the long run!

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3 church social media tips to encourage engagement

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Social media is a required communication channel for churches. It’s free to set up, which is great — and almost your entire church membership is already on it!

You only have two things to do: get your congregation to “like” your account on each of your platforms and then keep them engaged so that your posts enter their feeds, which are all controlled by the platform’s algorithm. Easy? Not really.

How do you get them to follow your page? Basically, you need to keep reminding your congregation that you have Facebook, Twitter and/or Instagram accounts and why they should follow you. Then you need to post content that would interest them (this runs very differently from what most churches are posting — promotional content 100% of the time is not the answer).

Once you have followers, here are three tips that will encourage engagement to affect the algorithm and allow your audience to see more of your content:

1. Delay responses but do it promptly.

You want to ensure you’re replying to almost every comment on your posts. This says you’re a “real person” and that you’re listening and caring about them. Comments don’t come easy so always reward them with a response if it makes sense — or at least a like. Be genuine and caring. But don’t respond all at once.

If you have several comments on a post (this is your goal), comment on a few as they come in; then wait to comment on a few more later in the day. I then usually leave one at the end to comment on the next day. Each time you respond you “activate” the post and it pops up in the feed again to gain a larger audience. It doesn’t guarantee that everyone sees it — but it helps!

2. Make posts about them even if they’re about you.

Every church has content that feels good to post because it’s about you. But never post if it makes you look like you’re bragging or boasting about you. Always make them the king of the post.

Spin all your posts so they feel great about what’s happening. Promotional posts often feel like you’re doing a ton of events, but if you don’t convert it over to benefits of why they should attend, they’ll mainly ignore it as an ad. Consider the 80/20 rule here: only 20% of your posts should feel promotional while 80% feel entertaining (something they will enjoy). This is based on the TV ratio for ads per show that we’re all very comfortable with.

3. Make comments to stimulate response.

When you’re commenting as we discussed in No. 1, do the same thing as we discussed in No. 2. Make all comments about them but take it one step farther: do whatever you can to get them to reply to your comment. This can be as simple as adding a question at the end of your comment to ask their opinion or getting them to give more information on their comment. Again, be genuine and caring!

Basically? Do whatever you can to generate a conversation. Use all your engaging conversational skills on each of your channels. Don’t think you carry on a good conversation in person? Then you probably are the wrong person to run your social account.

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Trend alert: Social media communities are a powerful digital marketing tool

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As a marketer, you want your audience to trust and respect the products and services you’re offering. An excellent way to do this is by fostering an authentic sense of togetherness with your existing customers — and then inviting new and potential customers into the circle.

Creating a brand-owned social media community is a lot easier than you think. How do you do it? With common sense and humanity. Begin with these key steps:

Encourage your team members to use their own individual social media presences and talk about the benefits of your products.

This way, your audience will get acquainted with them, see your brand with a human face, and grow comfortable with the messages your folks are putting forth to them. Let your customers DM, tweet and talk to your team members in real time, and factor in daily response windows so your employees can respond directly and in a friendly and welcoming manner.

Show gratitude.

When your community members contribute testimonials or advocate for you on social media platforms or your site, thank your audience for their patronage and loyalty and in your copy. Put your money where your mouth is by offering regular coupons, discounts, free items and other convenience-driven incentives to show the, how much their loyalty means to you.

When your customers share the fact that they received an incentive from your company, repost their message so other customers see you’ll do the same for them.

Ask for the unvarnished truth.

Stress to your audience that, as happens within every group or family, constructive criticism can strengthen a relationship. Ask for their feedback actively and express your appreciation via personalized tweets or responses. Also, tell them clearly how you plan you use their input, whether your social media community is integrated into your website or is a separate entity unto itself.

Focus especially hard on customer service solutions to keep your community happy.

A study from Conversocial found that 54% prefer to use social media messaging avenues for their customer service needs, which is more than elect to use email or a company phone number.

The study also shows that 75% of people surveyed want a text response back within an hour; 43% of those folks think that a response under 10 minutes should happen, and 10% feel entitled to an answer instantly. Consumers are very impressed when a complaint or question they have is dealt with by a real live human.

Additionally, the survey showed that nearly 68% of respondents cited a positive customer service interaction as a reason they would seek to do business with a brand again. Providing prompt answers and actions builds unity quickly and intensively — make sure your customer service team is up to the task.

Monitor your progress with social media suites.

This way, data regarding your customers’ experience with you can be easily checked for quality control, plus you can integrate your ad accounts over multiple social platforms. Warmth, capability and a sense of responsibility — that’s how you build your community and keep it strong!

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4 ways to grow your audience as a startup

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Gaining traction as a startup is a true challenge. How can you attract a loyal audience when you’ve only just entered the market? It’s tough work, but it is by no means impossible.

By carefully selecting the right platforms, being consistent, staying active with your current audience, and more, you can reel in a strong audience in no time. Even for a startup, this challenge can be tackled easily. In this article, I will detail four actionable ways to grow your audience in the startup stage.

1. Find Your Platforms

In order to grow your audience when you’re first starting out, the very first step is to research who your target market really is. Who are you targeting to sell your products or services to?

Do you have a revolutionary IT solution that can benefit multinational corporations? Or are you a small boutique selling sustainable clothing solutions to women? Ask yourself who you are trying to reach, and then tailor your next decisions towards that target market.

Once you’ve narrowed down your target market, you’ll want to find the platform that your audience is most active on. For example, a boutique targeting young women will most likely turn to Instagram as their platform of choice but could also benefit from an active presence on Facebook, Pinterest, and more. On the other hand, a more technical service may find its niche on LinkedIn.

Also, look into what platform can showcase your product or service best. Instagram is known for its easy story functionality and useful B2C shopping capabilities. So, if you’re targeting consumers directly, Instagram may be the best place for you. Restaurants, bars, and other storefronts can significantly benefit from Facebook as it allows you to easily showcase your hours and helps you feature an about section, menus, and more.

Overall, you’ll want to find the platform that fits your audience’s needs and allows you to differentiate your business.

2. Post Killer Content

No post and no piece of content should go to waste. Once you find your platform, every post needs to be catered towards your audience. Yes, you want to sell your products and services, but it’s crucial to gain the trust of your audience before pushing your products as a startup.

Your content should be educational, useful, and entertaining. Repost articles that are useful to your audience. Create content about the common questions your followers are asking. Resonate with your audience and establish yourself as a trusted authority within your space.

You should write compelling articles and post content that shows your brand personality. Create a relatable space for your audience to join.

By gaining your audience’s trust instead of solely pushing your products, you’ll grow your audience significantly. Not only will your audience trust your brand, but they’ll become brand-loyal, coming back time and time again for your products or services.

3. Be Consistent and True to Your Brand

Consistency is key for startups. Establishing a brand identity is hard when you’re just getting on your feet, but it’s crucial to grow your audience.

Create a posting schedule that keeps you on track to post consistently. For startups, it’s great to really expose your personality, so posting once every day or two or consistently posting to your story is a good idea. Follow your schedule so your audience can become accustomed to your brand.

Be sure to use the same tone in all your content. This is crucial for consistency. If you’ve used a casual, relatable tone throughout your past posts, stick to this. If your product is more technical and you would benefit from a professional tone, stay true to that. Confusion will only cause your audience to lose trust in you. Consistency can go a long way for startups.

4. Stay Active with Your Audience

Last, but most definitely not least, stay active with your audience — even if you’ve grown to a significant size. Engagement is a great way to ensure trust in your brand.

If your followers are reaching out in your comments, respond in a timely matter. If they have questions about your startup, answer them. You want to relate to your followers and treat them not only as potential customers but as friends. If you’re feeling up to it, you can also follow a few of your followers back.

One of the most important engagement activities you must do with your audience is to address negative concerns immediately. No brand is perfect, and startups tend to run into a lot of flukes. If someone reaches out to you on social media, comments on one of your content pieces, or directly contacts you with concerns, be sure to follow up immediately and address their concerns. React positively and avoid defensiveness. There’s bound to be hiccups in any startup. It’s best to truly address the concern, dissect how it happened, and devise a course of action to prevent it from happening again.

These four strategies are crucial to start growing a significant audience on your platforms, no matter your industry. Best of luck on your startup journey!

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What designers should know about buying habits for home furnishings

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What people put in their homes says a lot about who they are and what their homes mean to them. And how people shop for what they put in their homes says a lot about what they value and how they decide what will go into their homes.

For designers seeking to market their services to homeowners, understanding their buying habits can provide insights into how they are likely to go about choosing an interior designer.

One of the most personal purchases consumers, especially female consumers, make when furnishing or refurnishing a home are decorative textiles. More than function, items such as curtains, drapes, decorative pillows and throws contribute to the personality of a home — its ambience, drama and aesthetics. They also are fashion items that reflect the homeowner’s sense of style.

For his master’s thesis in textiles at the North Carolina State University, graduate student Rhong Zhang wanted to learn more about consumer behavior in the $25 billion U.S. home decorative textiles industry. Since women account for close to 80% of all household goods purchased, and are the predominant purchasers of fashion items, he chose to focus his study on female consumers. In addition, he selected his sample to distinguish any differences in the buying habits of the three main generations (in population size) in the U.S., i.e., millennials, Gen X and baby boomers.

Using an online survey, Zhang queried respondents as to their buying behavior when purchasing decorative home textiles (curtains, drapes, decorative pillows, throws, table cloths and table runners). He also sought to determine how certain personality traits — namely, price consciousness and fashion consciousness — affected their choices. A set of demographic questions was included to gather information on generational affiliation and other characteristics.

Among the findings, several should be of particular interest to interior designers. Not surprisingly, most respondents conducted online searches to gather information about the products they intended to purchase. Of note, however, is that a substantial majority of respondents said their preferred information source was online reviews — ahead of both in-store displays and company websites.

Pinterest came in fourth, ahead of both Instagram and Facebook. Millennials were most likely to trust online reviews over company websites, while baby boomers gave precedence to vendor information over consumer reviews.

In choosing decorative textiles, consumers placed a higher value on their aesthetic qualities (color, pattern, style) than on their utilitarian qualities (durability, comfort, ease of cleaning, price). Respondents who were deemed more fashion-conscious paid little attention to price. Baby boomers paid more attention to brand, while both millennials and Gen Xers wanted quality aesthetics but at an affordable price.

Because of the high aesthetic and sensory value involved in purchasing decorative textiles, consumers were more than two times as likely to shop for these items in a physical store than online. Observes Zhong, “Consumers like to search online for decorative home textiles due to the convenience and variety of products. However, the final purchase will usually be processed offline.”

For interior designers seeking to attract homeowners as clients, the study provides some noteworthy takeaways. When renovating or remodeling, consumers are more likely to be preoccupied with aesthetics than price. Nonetheless, some are more price-conscious than others.

With most consumers conducting their own research first before making a commitment to buy or hire a professional, having a portfolio of quality images on Pinterest and Instagram is a must. Consumers expect to see a visually interesting, clear, easy-to-navigate and informative website, but, especially among younger homeowners, they will pay more attention to what others are saying about you on social media channels than what you say about yourself.

You need to cultivate online referrals or testimonials and monitor your online reputation vigilantly. Expect clients to want to be involved in the purchasing process where aesthetics are concerned and be patient; they are sifting through a lot information they probably are not very familiar with.

Lastly, try to determine early on whether the client is more fashion-conscious or price-conscious. This will make the proposal and budgeting process less stressful for you both.

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How to use digital twin technology to revolutionize your marketing approach

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Digital twin technology can be an incredible boon to any online marketer. You may have heard of the term before, but you might not be sure what the technology entails or how you can use it to your marketing benefit.

So, what exactly is a digital twin? It’s essentially a near-real-time replica of an item or a person’s online entity. This is data that can be applied to a digital product profile so you can monitor how your customers choose, use and accept (or reject) your product as you update or tweak it to better meet their needs.

Quite simply, digital twin technology can provide a wealth of crucial info that can help you boost your sales, anticipate trends and determine consumer preferences, so you can adjust your approach to those adjust your approach to serve those preferences.

Here’s what you need to know about the technology and how to utilize it.

According to data from Forbes, digital twin technology employs sensors to collect info about a physical item. That info encompasses key facts, including what is happening with the item in real-time and how it works. Then, the components that use these sensors are hooked up to a cloud-based analytical system to process the info. The info is then analyzed for business applications and other crucial contexts.

Digital twin technology is exploding in terms of its benefits for marketing. A study from Grand View Research projects that the digital twin marketing dollar is expected to hit $26.07 billion by 2025. You can create a digital twin of nearly anything and use it for study, innovation or to develop changes or improvements to that twin.

For instance, creating a digital twin of the software you sell means you can be as creative intellectually and technically as you wish when it comes to testing changes. You can truly gauge, without guesstimating, how the new ideas you’re developing will appear and function in the real world. It’s as hands-on as virtual reality gets.

How to use digital twin technology to your marketing advantage

Per Challenge Advisory, because a digital twin is an exact copy of the product you’re selling, you can use a twin as a precise template for the entire life of that product.

For example, as you monitor your product’s evolution to usage, you can immediately recognize what aspects of the product are wasteful and quickly cut the fat so the product is less expensive to produce. This, in turn, makes the time needed for processing the product on a large-scale basis shorter.

This is especially key if you are manufacturing mass-market packaged goods. Then, you can also track your product through its stages of development, at the factory stage, and as it moves through the supply chain.

Your managers can instantly have an accurate bird’s-eye view of your product’s progress both physically and from a technologically. Lastly, retailers receiving your product to sell it can tap into the same digital twin technology you use for data on product availability and pricing, immediately passing that info on to the consumers who buy what you’ve got to sell.

Digital twin technology can also give you a “customer replica,” an avatar, if you will, of your consumer. Using the technology to assemble a twin from the data your customers provide online to you — while scrupulously respecting and protecting their privacy — gives you perfect insight into their desires, needs and requirements when it comes to product features and what they want your product to do for them specifically.

Some of the immediate marketing advantages a digital twin has when it comes to consumer preference include:

  • tracking your customers’ buying histories;
  • tracking their specific preferences for sizing and color choice;
  • tracking sales dips when a customer abandons a product for your competing brand, and finding out why they abandoned it; and
  • helping your staff do a better and more efficient job in identifying and responding to consumer complaints and suggestions.

All of this is just the tip of the iceberg! With digital twin technology, if you can dream it, you can do it. A digital twin is the ultimate editing tool — the technology is available at a wide variety of price points and innovative application specifics to fit your needs. Let your imagination lead your innovation — and watch your sales soar!

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Does Facebook’s anti-censorship policy ignore violence?

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Facebook’s political ad policy has been recently clarified, and its connection to rising Islamophobic violence is very important. Facebook retains an anti-censorship position in relationship to political ads while claiming to ban hate speech, but this remains an unclear distinction with many loopholes.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg presents his ad policy as securing free expression and allowing users to make decisions. This denies Facebook’s centrality as a U.S. and global news source. It also ignores how remote communications technologies uniquely foment hatred and need to be approached with that awareness.

Fake news and hate speech are the concerns here, with any number of special interest groups running ads that circulating in news feeds, frequently consumed as fact. This upcoming presidential election faces the possibility of $3 billion spent on digital ads, which is more than politicians will spend on ads themselves.

Twitter’s decision to ban political ads and Google’s decision to distinguish between political and issue ads while limiting microtargeting indicate that social media platforms have options. It’s hard to imagine Facebook’s controversial decision isn’t motivated by profit, as there is so much money to be made selling political ads, especially in a highly anticipated presidential election like the upcoming U.S. one.

Data-mining lies at the heart of Facebook’s political ad infrastructure, as microtargeting approaches base ad circulation on user data algorithms set to very specific groups. If Facebook decided to limit this microtargeting, there would be less of a data demand, cutting down temptations to steal data, as we have seen in the Cambridge Analytica case and a recent Facebook developer employee breach.

To be fair, it’s too early to know how social media impacts users’ election/political decisions overall. The past few years have increased public awareness of fake ads and news. Average Facebook users are much more likely to scrutinize the ads that flow through their highly specialized news feeds now, and more users know they have a microtargeted profile.

Censorship patronizes users’ sense of independent decision-making capacities. One hallmark of American individualism is people’s highly private relationship to voting. Many U.S. residents would find it insulting, given this staunch notion of voter independence, that fake ads can sway an election. It is still unclear what role Facebook ads, or any representations of issues, play in elections.

What’s clearer is how politically targeted social media hate speech, in particular, has impacted real-world violence. Here, Facebook links to Myanmar’s Rohingya massacres cannot be ignored. The Guardian reports that the far-right internationally uses Facebook to organize real-world political power, and the company profits from this speech.

While the far-left and far-right can both engage in “hate speech” per se, the Trump era climate favors the right — and this hatred is monetized by Facebook’s anti-censorship ad policy. This is the case, even as Zuckerberg feigns concern for hate speech impacts, and purports a willingness to censor those expressions.

How does the company define hate speech?

Overt hate speech, advanced almost solely by far-right racist/Islamophobic groups, plays a unique role here. While social media is lauded for increasing communication, its remoteness creates an original dilemma.

More people are brought together in communication, but the remote style of internet communication can encourage hateful expressions. When coupled with other factors, this can lead to social violence in places like Myanmar and China — and the U.S.

Zuckerberg’s own commitment to free speech denies how remote communication facilitates hate group actions, and experiments in crowd governance and control. The monetization of expression is not the issue here; it’s the monetization of hate speech, via permitted forms of online expression.

Zuckerberg’s position denies the Trump-era climate of permissive hatred and leads us down a path far from free speech where real-world violence limits targeted groups’ safety and autonomy: a problem if you are a member of a targeted online group.

Even U.S. voters who value individual political autonomy and don’t require patronizing corporate censorship should be able to understand that remotely communicated hate speech can cause violence. Zuckerberg acknowledges this as much, claiming the company removed 7 million instances of hate speech in 2019’s third quarter alone. Forty languages represented in the company’s speech algorithm isn’t sufficiently monitoring a social media world with more than 7,000 global languages.

That’s one problem with the company’s fledgling hate speech position. Another asks how the line between political ad and hate speech will be drawn this election season. Twitter answered this by eliminating political ads, and therefore, central moral responsibility for unsavory electoral outcomes or violence.

Many Facebook users, including employees, want political ads controlled in such a heated election season — especially because microtargeting requires entrenching on data privacy as a rule.

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A tale of 2 year-end reviews: YouTube vs. Spotify

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Heading into the end of 2019, the team behind YouTube’s annual Rewind video had a lot to make up for. Their 2018 year-end video, “Everyone Controls Rewind,” has the dubious honor of being the website’s most-disliked video, earning more than 10 million dislikes from users in a little over a week.

Loaded to bear with celebrities and references to (non-YouTube) internet culture, “Everyone Controls Rewind” has been cited as an example of what happens when a platform falls far out of sync with its own users.

This year, YouTube played it safe with “For the Record,” a video montage celebrating the biggest creator moments of the year. The reaction so far has certainly been more positive than last year, but that isn’t saying much: As of this writing, “For the Record” sits at 2.6 million likes to 6.1 million dislikes, with critics panning it as a glorified countdown video that pales in comparison to the more creative Rewinds from past years.

Meanwhile, Spotify has a year-end feature of its own. The music streaming site recently unveiled its annual Spotify Wrapped, a personalized review of each user’s individual listening habits broken down by season, genre and artist, even going as far back as a decade.

The response from the internet has been huge. Chances are you’ve already seen Spotify Wrapped links posted all over your social media, and for good reason.

Impressively styled and designed for sharing, Wrapped reminds us all how music brings us together, even when our tastes differ vastly. The most brilliant piece is at the end: Premium subscribers receive thanks for being a part of the platform, and for free users, why, there’s even a special discount price to bring you into the Premium fold.

What did Spotify do right that YouTube seems to be struggling with? There are many factors at play (including residual anger from last year’s disastrous Rewind video), but one major difference can be found in the approach each platform took.

YouTube’s Rewind is a yearly showcase of community trends, highlighting the most-viewed videos and creators. There’s a problem in that, though: With millions of users watching more than 1 billion hours of video daily (by YouTube’s own estimates), it’s inevitable that many viewers will not appreciate or even recognize many of the names and moments featured in the year-end celebration. That’s a lot of people left out of the party.

Compare that to Spotify Wrapped, which offered each user a data-driven look at their own habits and interests over time. Listeners are reminded of how much value they get from Spotify before being pitched on the perks of a Premium subscription.

Though it will be some time before the numbers come in, it’s a likely bet that Wrapped will help Spotify continue its streak of boosting subscriber numbers every quarter. As a platform that has struggled for years to turn free users into paying customers, YouTube could stand to take notes.

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