Data Leak Shows Chinese Firm Compiled Data, Social Media Posts of Millions

Data storage units plugged into an IBM mainframe at the CeBIT technology conference in Hanover, Germany in 2015; used here as stock photo.Photo: Sean Gallup (Getty Images)A Chinese intelligence firm’s database on 2.4 million people—including some 50,000 Americans—was recently leaked, exposing it to researchers.Per a Tuesday report in the Register, Fullbright University Vietnam researcher Chris…

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Data storage units plugged into an IBM mainframe at the CeBIT technology conference in Hanover, Germany in 2015; used here as stock photo.
Photo: Sean Gallup (Getty Images)

A Chinese intelligence firm’s database on 2.4 million people—including some 50,000 Americans—was recently leaked, exposing it to researchers.

Per a Tuesday report in the Register, Fullbright University Vietnam researcher Chris Balding and Australian security researcher Robert Potter co-authored a recent paper on Beijing-based company Shenzhen Zhenhua Data Technology, whose data on millions was obtained by an Australian based firm called Internet 2.0. Balding wrote in a blog post that the leaked database was compiled from “a variety of sources [and] is technically complex using very advanced language, targeting, and classification tools.” The team argued that the data was gathered as a tool for Chinese intelligence, military, and security agencies for “information warfare and influence targeting” (i.e. exposing weaknesses of or ways to influence targeted persons or institutions).

The vast majority of what Balding and Potter said is called the Overseas Key Information Database was compiled from public sources like social media feeds, a practice called data scraping that may violate rules on some sites but is otherwise totally legal in the U.S. But the two researchers estimated between 10 percent to 20 percent of it was culled from non-public sources, though it had no evidence one way or the other as to whether it originated from hacks or somewhere else. Tens of thousands of profiles in OKIDB concern prominent people including everyone from politicians and military officials to businesspeople, celebrities, and criminals; the team wrote the database also contains details on infrastructure and military operations in multiple countries.

What’s less clear is whether Zhenhua’s data is particularly useful for nefarious purposes. According to the Washington Post, which reviewed portions of the database, Zhenhua markets itself as aiming to do business with the Chinese military, though there’s nothing to indicate it has secured contracts with the Chinese government. Experts consulted by the Post gave mixed signals as to whether it amounted to much more than a data scrape.

“There might be gold in there, but this is not something that’s useful enough for military or intelligence targeting,” one cybersecurity contractor for the federal government told the Post, adding Zhenhua appeared to be “aspirational” rather than effective.

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Georgetown University Center for Security and Emerging Technology senior fellow Anna Puglisi, a former counter-intelligence official specializing on East Asia, told the Post the U.S. focuses on “what’s directly tied to what military or intelligence officer, the spy-on-spy stuff like what we had with the Soviet Union” when it comes to China. But she said Chinese intelligence officials have a more “holistic” approach to open-source intelligence and “things like LinkedIn, social media—this seems like an evolution of that methodology.”

University of Canterbury in Christchurch professor Anne-Marie Brady told the Guardian that the CCP and China’s Ministry of State Security already compiles “whole books” of information on foreign targets, but what would be unusual here is “the use of big data and outsourcing to a private company.”

Some of the tools detailed in Balding and Potter’s paper include a tracking system for the U.S. Navy associating social media posts with specific ships, which also contained some (patchwork) information on naval officers.

“The data collected about individuals and institutions and the overlaid analytic tools from social media platforms provide China enormous benefit in opinion formation, targeting, and messaging,” the two researchers wrote in the paper. “From the assembled data, it is also possible for China even in individualized meetings be able to craft messaging or target the individuals they deem necessary to target.”

However, the OKIDB data didn’t include information on what it was used for. The team wrote that they could not find “direct evidence of Chinese agencies using this data to craft information warfare campaigns, messaging, anonymous account usage, or individual influence targeting.” According to the Post, Zhenhua is little-known, but claimed on its website to partner with TRS, a firm that provides big data analysis for China’s military and Ministry of Public Security. Other listed partners included big data and security hardware firm Huarong and a firm Global Tone Communication Technology, which is a “subsidiary of a state-owned enterprise owned by the central propaganda department” and claims to analyse 10 terabytes of data a day for clients.

China has built an elaborate domestic digital surveillance state involving everything from face recognition to content monitoring and censorship, but it’s not by any stretch of the imagination the only actor scraping the web. U.S. firms do too, whether it’s the incomprehensible amount of data sucked up for marketing purposes or shady face recognition companies working with police. Anyone exposed in a prior data breach could find their information resurfacing any number of other places.

“If there’s a silver lining here, it’s we can do to China what they do to us,” House Intelligence Committee member Representative Jim Himes told the Post.

“The report is seriously untrue,” a spokesperson for Zhenhua, identified only as Sun, told the Guardian. “Our data are all public data on the internet. We do not collect data. This is just a data integration. Our business model and partners are our trade secrets. There is no database of 2 million people.”

“… We are a private company,” the spokesperson added. “Our customers are research or

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How to Leverage Paid Social Media With Retargeting

The more people engage with your ad and post, the more likely it is to be seen by people outside your target audience. You can now create Facebook ads targeting people who have visited your site, or even specific pages or posts within your site. This is referred to as retargeting or remarketing.

The more people engage with your ad and post, the more likely it is to be seen by people outside your target audience.

The following excerpt is from Ultimate Guide to Social Media Marketing by Eric Butow, Jenn Herman, Stephanie Liu, Amanda Robinson and Mike Allton, available now via Entrepreneur Press. Order from Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Apple Books.

Boosting your Facebook Advertising efforts is an investment you might want to consider if social media marketing is a big part of your overall marketing strategy.

When you decide to advertise with Facebook, you can either create a new ad or use a status update you’ve already shared.

The ad fee structure is similar to Google in that you can set a daily budget, but you don’t set a bid per click. Instead, Facebook will begin showing your ads; the more interest people show, the less per click you’ll be charged. So it’s in everyone’s best interests to create Facebook ad posts that are interesting and compelling.

In addition to driving traffic, you can use Facebook ads for brand awareness and simply pay for engagement — in other words, likes, comments and shares. The more people engage with your ad and post, the more likely it is to be seen by people outside your target audience.

Related: 5 Ways to Step into TikTok

Unlike Google search ads, which are 100 percent text, Facebook ads can be links, images or even video. You can use a single image or a carousel of images. You can even upload multiple images and let Facebook test which one resonates best with your audience.

You can also set up a remarketing pixel (a snippet of code installed on your website) so that Facebook can track users who have been to your site and allow you to “remarket” to them with an ad specifically targeting them.

Here’s how remarketing works. Once you have a Facebook pixel installed on your site and are driving targeted traffic using Google Ads (and, of course, other means), you are equipped to amplify the illusion of frequency.

With a pixel in place, you can now create Facebook ads targeting people who have visited your site, or even specific pages or posts within your site. This is referred to as retargeting or remarketing.

You’ve doubtless experienced this yourself. Spend a couple of minutes looking at cars on an automotive site, and suddenly every site you go to is displaying ads for that brand of car. Because you showed interest in a brand or product by visiting their site, advertisers smartly wish to capitalize on that interest and keep themselves top of mind.

You can now do exactly the same thing!

When your Google ads effectively capture someone as they’re searching for you or information you have published, they register as a visitor with the Facebook pixel. If Facebook recognizes them as a user and you are running a remarketing campaign that includes someone like them, you can layer brand-awareness or added-benefit advertising on Facebook or Instagram, which will potentially be seen by someone who was already demonstrating search intent and is familiar with your brand. This is extraordinarily powerful and effective.

Couple this technique with problem-solving content, and you now have a means to reach people who you know have an issue and may need help to solve it. That help might include:

  • How-to guides.
  • Answers to frequently asked questions.
  • Case studies.

Let’s say you’re a local attorney specializing in family law. You can write a series of blog posts that answer common questions about divorce, child custody, estate planning and so on, and then use Google Ads to help people who are searching for those answers find your content. You can then place Facebook ads that encourage those people to call you for more information and assistance.

Or let’s imagine you own a wedding dress shop. Same scenario: Create content that answers common questions brides have about their special day, use Google Ads to drive intentional traffic, and then leverage Facebook to make sure those brides know about your gorgeous dresses by placing ads showcasing your latest offerings and retargeting your website traffic.

Related: 5 Tips for Creating Social Media Videos That Get Noticed

Whatever products or services you have to offer, this technique can be implemented, tested, refined and then scaled up.

3 Social Media Hacks to Help Your Content Go Viral

Use these 3 social media hacks to help your content go viral and get more exposure than any of your previous social media efforts.

Hint: Targeting emotions is key.

Whether you own a nonprofit or a social impact company, your cause deserves mass exposure. At times, it can feel challenging to utilize social media to unlock this. With so many competing causes and companies, much of it can feel like white noise. Fortunately, thanks to today’s social media accessibility, it’s easier than ever to get shares and more eyes on your cause’s content. A recent report by Statistica found that 95 percent of young adults follow a brand online. Social media isn’t just for friends and social engagements anymore.

Achieving virality is quite random, but there are a few social media hacks that can get you closer. Used consistently over time, these hacks can — at the very least — garner your cause more exposure than any of your previous social media efforts.

Related: Beginner’s Guide to Social Media Marketing

1. Capture attention right off the bat

Especially if you don’t yet have a big name or a significant following, it can be hard to fight for viewers’ attention. Because the average person has the attention span of a goldfish, they have to instantly be interested in your content in order to engage further. Garrett Adkins, the co-founder of Impact Media, says it’s “all about the first three seconds.”

“It is not the consumer’s job to give us their time. It is our goal and effort to receive it,” Adkins says. “We want to hook someone through a bold statement or intriguing question that both catches the eye and still aligns with the context of our message. It’s an art.”

How can you grab viewers from the start? Perhaps a surprising headline, a cliffhanger or a catchy first line. Your goal should be to make the viewer — who potentially has never even heard of your cause before — to read the next line of your caption or watch the next 20 seconds of your video.

2. Incorporate emotions or ownership into the content

Because many causes are rooted in human emotion, impact-oriented startups have a real opportunity in creating content that targets emotions. One powerful example of this was UNICEF’s fifth birthday campaign. Using the headline, “Every Child Deserves a 5th Birthday,” the campaign asked for viewers to submit a photo of themselves on their own fifth birthday. This did two things: It elicited emotion (especially seeing photos of very young children), and it also incorporated ownership, allowing viewers to contribute their own photos.

It will differ widely for every cause, but consider how you can put viewers in the shoes of who you’re impacting through your organization. How can you give them ownership and make the content interesting and emotional?

Related: A Breakdown of Every Major Social Media Platform for Business Owners

3. Aim to make people laugh

On the other side of the same coin, laughter is a human emotion that’s shareable. If you’ve ever stumbled across a meme or video that made you burst out laughing, you likely shared it with at least one other person. Because social impact companies typically have more serious causes, it can initially seem challenging to create humorous content around the mission.

A marketing campaign that did this well was from Movember, or No Shave November, which encourages men to talk about their mental health struggles through the month of November. Because “it gets better” is a common line in a mental health sense, Movember created a campaign featuring actors from The Office called It gets fuller,” poking fun at growing a mustache and how hard it can be for some. This relatable, funny message still raised awareness for the cause and gained virality.

Get creative with your own ideas using these three guidelines. As long as you target human emotion and aim to capture the viewer right off the bat, you’re in business. It may take a few iterations, but eventually, you’ll create a piece of content or a marketing campaign that gains some serious exposure for your cause.

5 Tips for Creating Social Media Videos That Get Noticed

Using video in your social media marketing can seem daunting, but if you follow some basic rules, you’ll be an expert in no time. If you want to create video that not only gets views, but helps convert sales, follow some of these best practices.

If you follow some basic rules, you’ll be an expert in no time.

The following excerpt is from Ultimate Guide to Social Media Marketing by Eric Butow, Jenn Herman, Stephanie Liu, Amanda Robinson and Mike Allton (each of whom contributed additional reporting to this week’s topic), available now via Entrepreneur Press. Pre-order now from Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Apple Books.

Using video in your social media marketing can seem daunting, but if you follow some basic rules, you’ll be an expert in no time. If you want to create video that not only gets views, but helps convert sales, follow some of these best practices.

1. Get the right equipment from day one

One of the first reasons people often cite for not creating video content is that it’s too expensive to buy the right equipment. Let us help you with that.

Today, virtually everyone in business has a smartphone, and you can use that smartphone to livestream or record video anywhere. In fact, under the right conditions, that video footage can be just as good as anything you’d get with a dedicated video camera. Similarly, most laptops come with a built-in webcam and an audio port to plug in a headset and mic.

Related: 3 Ways to Create Buzzworthy Social Media Images

2. Boost your lighting

The biggest drawback to using a laptop or smartphone to record video is that it is harder to compensate for poor lighting. In fact, if you’re going to invest in anything for recording video, better lighting should be at the top of your list, particularly if you want to record in a dim office.

When you task a camera to record you in poor light, the resulting video is dark and grainy. Conversely, when you’re well-lit, the video is crisp, clear and, most important, your audience can see you nicely.

To that end, the recommended placement of lights is to have two in front of you, on either side of the camera, and one that is directed behind you to eliminate shadows. You’ll find that lights designed specifically for video work can be adjusted and directed more easily than normal household lights, but feel free to work with what you have.

To test your lighting, simply open a video recording program on your computer, such as QuickTime for macOS, and see how your video quality looks. Are you grainy or shadowed? Lit too harshly? Get up and move your lights accordingly and then see how that impacted the quality of the video. If necessary, record yourself briefly and send it to a friend for input.

3. Look ‘em in the eye

Eye contact is effective for establishing a connection with your audience. It’s how you start building rapport. People who never look at the camera risk suggesting to the audience that they cannot be trusted.

That’s not to say you can’t take your eyes off the camera. But the more you can directly look at the camera — making each and every viewer feel like you’re looking at them — the more effective your videos will be.

So practice that! Get into the habit of looking at the camera while you’re speaking. Treat it as though it’s the person you’re talking to. If it helps, imagine it’s a dear friend you’re having a wonderful conversation with.

One trick is to minimize whatever video screen you’re looking at. Make it small and centered at the top of your monitor, so it’s as close to your camera as possible. That way, even if you’re looking at yourself, other guests or a feed of comments from a live screen, your eyes are never far from the camera.

4. Give yourself a break

It’s also important to give yourself time and grace when it comes to creating video content. No one is born knowing how to produce gorgeous videos. It takes many, many hours of practice and experience to get good at it, and even then, like every other skill, it takes a lifetime to master it.

Remember that generally speaking, your audience and viewers are rooting for you! They want to learn from you and connect with you, and they will bear with you as you struggle here or there.

If you’re broadcasting live and say something wrong, just laugh it off and move on. Heck, some of the video clips that have gone the most viral for mine and my co-authors’ 360 Marketing Squad are the blooper reels I inevitably pull out. Those actually serve a wonderful purpose: They show your authenticity, humanity and hopefully your sense of humor.

5. Plan for a test period

Finally, when you’re deciding on your video strategy — where you’re publishing videos and what you’re going to talk about—  also include a time frame for how long you’re going to commit to doing this before you render any real judgment.

It can be discouraging to spend hours filming and editing a video only to publish it and get no views. But don’t let that stop you. Publish the next one, and the next one, and the one after that. Keep pushing out that content and scratching out an audience for yourself. If you’re not sure whether the videos are good, find trusted friends and colleagues who can give you candid, professional feedback, and then keep publishing the videos.

Related: 3 Kinds of Social Media Marketing You Shouldn’t Ignore

It takes a long time to build an audience and even longer to start incorporating feedback and input and get great at making videos. Give yourself sufficient time to accomplish that, and have some reasonable expectations and metrics as a gauge for success.

How to Convert More Prospects on Social Media: A 5-Step Plan

Do you use social media to promote your consulting services? Wondering how to attract and engage prospective customers? In this article, you’ll discover a strategic plan you can model to convert prospects into qualified leads and customers on social media.

Do you use social media to promote your consulting services? Wondering how to attract and engage prospective customers?

In this article, you’ll discover a strategic plan you can model to convert prospects into qualified leads and customers on social media.

convert prospects how to 5 step plan 800 - How to Convert More Prospects on Social Media: A 5-Step Plan

Why You Need an Engaging Sales Funnel on Social Media

In the world of digital marketing, consultants and funnels should go hand in hand. With no tangible products, consultants have to communicate the benefits of their services to justify the price. They can’t simply show a product image or rely on the first emotional reaction.

The simple reason that consultants need a funnel in addition to a website or social media branding is to gain the trust of their clients. With trust-based niches like accountants or financial advisors, people don’t jump on board in just a few minutes; they weigh their options. And while they’re doing that, they’re receiving messages from other consultants.

If you want to stand out in the competitive consulting niche, you have to act differently from the hundreds of consultants who connect with people on LinkedIn and send the sales pitch 5 minutes later. Your sales funnel should be designed to generate inbound leads instead of chasing after uninterested prospects.

Educating your customers and building a two-way conversation can help you create something called an “engagement funnel.” You increase the commitment at every stage of the funnel. Start with a micro-commitment, followed by a bigger step, and build trust and reciprocity along the way. Ask people to engage with your posts, offer to answer one question on social media, and you’ll help them overcome their fear.

Now let’s look at a funnel framework you can model to take care of the main elements of your marketing—awareness, interest, demand, and action—so you can land your ideal clients on autopilot.

#1: Use Your Ideal Customers’ Pain Points to Define Your Positioning

Because consulting is a competitive niche, it’s important to research the market and clearly identify your unique selling proposition (USP). This is the foundation of your marketing campaign so you need this to create a strong message. Your USP will help guide the social media messaging that will resonate with your ideal clients.

Of course, you first need to decide who you want to work with and attract to your business. Despite a common misconception, you can’t work with just anyone. For starters, people need to have the money to hire you. Plus, they have to be motivated enough to take action within a reasonable timeframe.

YMS20 Logo 300 257 - How to Convert More Prospects on Social Media: A 5-Step Plan

Your USP will also help you stand out from competitors who are offering similar or complementary services. The main question you have to answer in your social media campaigns and throughout your sales funnels is, “How can I provide more value than my competitors?”

You can use Facebook ads or even polls on Instagram or LinkedIn as part of your initial market research to identify your potential clients’ pain points. Here’s an example of an effective market research post on LinkedIn:

linkedIn poll research audience 500 - How to Convert More Prospects on Social Media: A 5-Step Plan

#2: Build Awareness With Cold Prospects via Content That Demonstrates Your Expertise

If you look at a sales funnel as a four-stage customer journey consisting of awareness, interest, demand, and action, it’s clear you have to start with the first two stages to get the sale. For this, you need to create the right type of awareness.

One of the most valuable assets in your business is your reputation so it’s important to showcase your results and talent. Here are a few ways to stand out in the crowded consulting market with unique and relevant branding content:

  • Create and publish a blog post or LinkedIn article. This will help you show your expertise and connect with people on a cognitive and emotional level.
  • Publish a book or eBook. This could be the beginning of your funnel and answer your potential clients’ pain points.
  • Do industry interviews. If someone who’s considered a voice of reason and an expert will interview you, you can reach the right audience for free.

facebook ndustry interview post 550 - How to Convert More Prospects on Social Media: A 5-Step Plan

  • Write guest posts. As with everything digital marketing, quality is more important than quantity. If you team up with another business that provides services to your target audience, you can start building an engaged audience.
  • Create learning units for your Facebook group and broadcast live video. If you’re new to social selling, you need to be present and provide value every day to gain the trust of your audience. Adding learning units to your Facebook group is one way to engage with your followers and create reciprocity.

#3: Run a Video Engagement Campaign to Warm Up Prospects

Once you know that people are listening and looking into your content, consider running a video views campaign on Facebook. The main reason this is effective is that it will help you build an audience to retarget. In a way, it’s the first stage of a mini social media funnel.

All you need to do is create a video about the topics you identified as your customers’ pain points. Once you’ve published the video, you can target a video engagement custom audience and pay a couple of cents for each video view at a time if you set the campaign up properly.

Of course, marketing—including social media—should not be a popularity contest. There’s a huge difference between watching a video and engaging with the person, let alone paying for their services. Therefore, you’ll need to add more touchpoints to the social media sales funnel before you ask for someone’s business. That’s the next step of the framework.

#4: Retarget Warm Prospects to Deliver a Valuable Resource

This is the stage of the social media sales funnel where most consultants give up and become impatient. You can’t ask for the sale yet. Just as you wouldn’t ask someone to marry you after a few dates, you need to give your prospects time to know, like, and trust you.

At this stage, you want to offer value that they can’t resist.

From your video engagement campaign, you already know they’re interested in the topic you covered about so why not give them something for free? Offer more value to create reciprocity.

This is where retargeting campaigns come in handy. Whether you’re using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or another platform, the rules are the same: Introduce an offer that delivers huge value but only requires a micro-commitment from the client.

Here are some ways to do that:

  • Create an eBook. This tactic is less popular than it used to be but if the eBook is laser-targeted to your audience and their problems, it can work wonders.
  • Develop a video series exclusive to people who join you. Expand on the topic that interests your audience and you’ll deepen the emotional relationship while creating reciprocity.
  • Offer a free chapter of an eBook. This is my favorite method. Offer your prospects a free chapter, synopsis, or exercise from a book so they can “try before they buy.” Once they get their hands on the information, they can buy the book, which could lead to a resources page that has a funnel attached.
  • Share worksheets and checklists. This content often works better than eBooks because it requires less of a time commitment. People are also more likely to open a document if it will make their life easier and provide practical tips and solutions.

free offer to retarget prospects 700 - How to Convert More Prospects on Social Media: A 5-Step Plan

Of course, you can deepen the relationship if you ask for feedback on the content. In the age of social media, communication should be two-way and take place on multiple channels—email, Messenger bots, and posts.

Pro Tip: If someone downloaded your worksheet, ask them to share their experience. Create a workshop where you and the community can discuss the topic. This will not only create reciprocity and trust but also social proof.

#5: Qualify Your Leads Before Proposing a Meeting or Call

Another common mistake I see when consultants build their own funnels is that they get excited about the interest they’ve created and automatically assume there has to be some demand. That’s not necessarily the case.

In fact, window shopping is more common on social media than on the high street. You’ll find that there will be people who are engaging in wishful thinking or are “freebie seekers.” If you want to save yourself from a headache, you need to find a way to qualify your leads. After all, if you don’t respect your time, other people won’t either.

Offering a free consultation to anyone is like saying, “I’m not that busy; in fact, I am desperate and will work with the first person who walks through the door.” This isn’t the image you want to project.

There are a few ways you can qualify your leads from your digital marketing campaigns, and these steps should always be implemented in your social media sales funnel:

  • Build an application process into the booking system.
  • Ask prospects about a financial commitment. “Are you in the position to invest in your XY development?”
  • Check out the profile of the person requesting a consultation. This is a simple but effective tactic.
  • Ask for a commitment. Make sure the prospect is aware that you won’t do all of the work for them. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a nightmare customer… You know, the one who emails you every day and calls you at 1 am.

You can also find out more about your prospects using a website quiz that will qualify your leads. The example below is from a funnel for a property investment training firm.

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The above survey was designed to provide two different results based on the prospect’s answers. If their responses suggested they were more serious, they were presented with a higher-value offer, while others were asked to read more on the topic and download a special report.

There is also a chatbot version of the same funnel that focuses on people who are engaging with the page.

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Once you’ve qualified your prospects, you can take the next step and propose a call or a meeting with them.

Conclusion

Of course, implementing the tips above will take time. When I build funnels, I work with funnel maps most of the time. Here’s a plan that includes all of the elements of social media engagement funnels we talked about so you can implement them in your consulting marketing strategy:

  • In the first stage, use engagement posts, social proof posts (testimonials, recommendations, etc.), guest blogs, LinkedIn articles, and videos to build an audience for retargeting. Also ask questions to find out more about the audience.
  • In the second stage, retarget the traffic (audience from video views) with more value such as an eBook, checklist, worksheet, or exclusive video to build a deeper relationship.
  • In the third stage, engage with people on a personal level. Ask questions, email them, and if you have a big-enough audience (2,000+), launch a webinar for those who would like to deepen their understanding even further.
  • In the fourth stage, focus on inbound leads and qualification. Get them to take the first step and answer a few qualifying questions before they can book a consultation.

There’s a lot of work to do before you can land a client after driving them down your social media funnel. Let’s assume they’re highly engaged with your content, ask the right questions, join your Facebook community, and even fill out a quiz on your website. They’re fully tuned into your content but there’s still a big gap between being a follower and becoming a customer. You have to build a bridge that’s safe and strong, attractive, and leads them to the other side.

What do you think? How will you adapt this framework to convert prospects into qualified leads and customers for your consulting service? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Rave Under the Kosciuszko Bridge: Are Illicit Parties Endangering N.Y.C.?

Videos and photos posted on social media of a number of parties show few guests abiding by social-distancing guidelines.At a party under a segment of the Kosciuszko Bridge that spans Brooklyn and Queens, many people did not wear masks.Credit…Jimmy EscobarAug. 8, 2020On a humid Saturday night, under a segment of the Kosciuszko Bridge, which connects…

Videos and photos posted on social media of a number of parties show few guests abiding by social-distancing guidelines.

Credit…Jimmy Escobar

author mihir zaveri thumbLarge - Rave Under the Kosciuszko Bridge: Are Illicit Parties Endangering N.Y.C.?

On a humid Saturday night, under a segment of the Kosciuszko Bridge, which connects Brooklyn and Queens, hundreds of people at an illicit gathering danced and swayed to the thumps of hip-hop and electronic music. Some wore masks. Many did not.

Many were attending their first party in months, since the pandemic had forced many venues to close.

“People were just enjoying themselves,” said one of the attendees, Jimmy Escobar, 30, of Brooklyn. “People got locked up for so long, and they finally got to go out.”

New Yorkers, by and large, have adhered to rules mandating social distancing and mask wearing. The diligence has helped keep the coronavirus under control in the city even as outbreaks have raged across the country, primarily in the South and the West.

As the summer wears on, however, mounting reports of parties, concerts and other social events, like the rave attended by Mr. Escobar, are raising fears that New York’s hard-earned stability may be tenuous.

Over the last few weeks, videos and photos posted on social media — at bars, at beaches, at warehouses, at pools, at hotels — show densely packed, mask-free crowds, similar to the Memorial Day weekend gatherings at Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri and in states like California and Florida that are now reeling from virus outbreaks.

The images contrast sharply with the memories of a brutal spring in New York that left tens of thousands dead, disproportionately ravaging low-income communities and neighborhoods with high numbers of Black and Latino people.

“It’s disrespectful,” Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said at a recent news conference about the partying. “It’s illegal. It not only violates public health, but it violates human decency.”

Many of the images show how a segment of the nightlife industry, a crucial piece of New York City’s culture, is desperately trying to revive itself after having been shut down when the pandemic hit.

But other events, which charge for tickets, drinks or other amenities, perhaps illustrate how some people are looking to capitalize on the public’s restlessness.

Osvaldo Chance Jimenez, 44, who has helped organize underground parties in New York City in the past, said the growing number of events risked seeding future outbreaks, which would likely disproportionately affect communities of color, particularly in Brooklyn and Queens where many of the gatherings are taking place.

Mr. Jimenez has used his Instagram account, @hilovenewyork, to draw attention to what he sees as reckless behavior. He pointed to yacht parties where organizers are selling tickets for up to $100, and a requirement at a day club at the Ravel Hotel in Long Island City, Queens, that guests pay between $35 and $50 to take a rapid coronavirus test on site, as examples of what he called “vulture capitalism.”

“It is the arrogance of money,” he said. “These people do not care.”

Lauren Flax, a D.J., producer and artist based in Brooklyn, said people should not be partying yet. Ms. Flax has lost work and is living off unemployment checks and other government assistance. But she said that even thinking about holding a dance party would be irresponsible before there was a better understanding of the virus and better testing technology.

“I don’t think any of us should be thinking about our career right now,” she said.

Asked this week about the rave under the Kosciuszko Bridge, and an illegal boat party with more than 170 guests that was held over the weekend, Mayor Bill de Blasio said the authorities had moved quickly to address a few cases of wrongdoing and that most people were following the rules.

“But where we see something wrong, we got to go in and stop it immediately,” the mayor said.

The New York City Sheriff’s Office, one of the city agencies tasked with enforcing the social distancing rules during the pandemic, has responded to several reports of illegal parties since the pandemic began, including the boat party, Sheriff Joseph Fucito said.

He said the office was trying to take a more proactive approach to stop the parties before they take place.

Dr. Jay Varma, Mr. de Blasio’s senior adviser for public health, said the city had not “seen any large clusters specifically associated with any of these events.” But about 15 percent of people who test positive in the city, and are interviewed by contact tracers, reported being at some sort of gathering outside of their home, city officials said.

City data indicates that while the parties and other gatherings are on the rise, the outbreak does not appear to be worsening. The number of new hospitalizations in a day has not reached 50 in weeks — in March and April, it was routinely higher than 1,000 per day, according to city data.

An uptick in cases also did not materialize after thousands of protesters, many of them wearing masks, gathered for weeks during Black Lives Matter demonstrations across the city.

But the fear, Mr. Jimenez and others say, is that younger people who get infected while attending a party, and who may be less likely to be severely affected by the virus, will spread it to more vulnerable people.

“Things are only going to get worse,” he said. “I feel for my city. I pray that I’m wrong.”

Andrew Rigie, the executive director of the New York City Hospitality Alliance, said the parties should not come as a surprise.

“People will socialize in nightlife spaces, whether you like it or not,” Mr. Rigie said. “You could have unsafe, unregulated nightlife. Or you can do everything you can to have safe, regulated nightlife. But we can’t act as if it’s not going to exist.”

Mr. Rigie said that local, state and federal governments should be providing financial assistance, like rent support, to these businesses and others affected by the nightlife shutdown, and that there should be better guidance and research on how to operate safely.

Some businesses, like the Ravel Hotel, have tried to figure that out themselves, with mixed results. The hotel’s day club, Profundo, which has an outdoor rooftop pool, reopened in late June at 50 percent capacity and required guests to be tested for the virus on site.

The rapid tests used by the hotel were made by Abbott Laboratories, according to Gothamist. The tests, authorized by the Food and Drug Administration for emergency use, were designed to provide results within minutes.

Image

Credit…September Dawn Bottoms/The New York Times

But the F.D.A. had said in May that the tests might be delivering false negative results, raising questions about safety at Profundo.

Then, on July 4, videos and photos posted on social media showed several poolside guests at the hotel not wearing masks, and standing and dancing close together. In a statement, the hotel acknowledged that those guests were “not following directions,” but said that it had “retrained security and staff on how to handle these situations moving forward” with the help of the city.

An F.D.A. spokeswoman said this week that the agency had since worked with Abbott to improve the test. A spokeswoman for the hotel said this week that the tests were no longer being administered, but would not answer questions about why.

Seth Levine, an owner of the Ravel Hotel, said in a separate statement that the site also provides guests with hand sanitizer, masks and printed rules about social distancing. A security team makes sure guests wear masks when moving around the property, he said.

Some guests said they believed that the tests and other measures had adequately lowered the risk of infection or transmission. Joey Sutera, who works in marketing, said he went to the rooftop pool on July 4 with 30 friends.

“We look at New York and there’s zero deaths,” he said, referencing a day last month in which the city did not initially report any coronavirus-related fatalities. “And it’s like, New York has it under control. So, is the reward greater than the risk when we’re young and been locked up for so long in solitary confinement? I think people are willing to take that risk.”

A D.J. performed at Profundo on Monday, and the venue was beckoning guests to gather there this weekend. One of its posts on Instagram offered a free bottle of rosé to some guests who missed celebrating their birthday because of the pandemic. A poolside table was listed at $500 on the hotel’s website.

Mr. Escobar, who attended the party under the bridge, said he was not worried about contracting or transmitting the virus. He did not have symptoms, he said, and a sign at the party told people to wear a face covering. He saw people handing out hand sanitizer and masks.

“If people want to go out and enjoy themselves, regardless of risk, let them do it,” he said.

But Kristina Alaniesse, 36, who has worked as an event promoter and now posts images on Instagram of reckless behavior at parties, said the danger was not only for the partygoers, but the people they interact with later.

“It’s not a time to celebrate,” she said. “We’re not out of the woods.”

How to Create 4 Facebook Custom Audiences That Convert

Want better Facebook ad results? Do your Facebook ads reach the right people at the right point in the customer journey? In this article, you’ll learn how to develop Facebook audiences for cold, warm, and hot prospect targeting and deliver ad creative that reaches hot prospects who abandon their carts mid-purchase.

Want better Facebook ad results? Do your Facebook ads reach the right people at the right point in the customer journey?

In this article, you’ll learn how to develop Facebook audiences for cold, warm, and hot prospect targeting and deliver ad creative that reaches hot prospects who abandon their carts mid-purchase.

facebook custom audiences how to create four 800 - How to Create 4 Facebook Custom Audiences That Convert

To learn how to create audiences for the top, middle, and bottom of your marketing funnel, read the article below for an easy-to-follow walkthrough or watch this video:

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#1: Create a Properly Sized Facebook Lookalike Audience for Targeting Cold Audiences

It’s important to work out what stage of your marketing funnel your audience is in. We’re going to start at the top of the funnel targeting cold audiences. One of the best audiences you can target at this stage are lookalikes.

In its simplest form, a lookalike audience is exactly what it sounds like: You provide Facebook with an audience of your past customers and its magical algorithm will find people most similar in terms of the interests, demographics, and sociographics of your original seed list.

To create a lookalike audience, hop into Ads Manager and click on the Audiences option.

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When the Audiences section of Ads Manager opens, click Create Audience and then choose Lookalike Audience from the drop-down menu.

facebook lookalike tofu step 2 400 - How to Create 4 Facebook Custom Audiences That Convert

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From here, you can either select an existing data source or create a new source audience.

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Some of the most powerful lookalike audiences you can create are based on customers who purchased from you in the past. If you have a CSV file that you can export from your content management system (CMS), click Create New Source and then upload that file.

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For this tutorial, we’re going to keep things simple and imagine we’ve already uploaded a CSV file with the email addresses of past customers.

In the Select Audience Location field, we’ll choose Australia as the location of this audience.

Next, we need to select the number of lookalike audiences to create. Keep in mind that the larger your lookalike audience, the more inaccurate it becomes. The reason is that as they grow in size, Facebook has fewer data points to match with the original seed audience.

A good rule of thumb is to have at least 1,000 emails in your original seed audience list before you create a lookalike audience. The more data you can give Facebook, the better. If you have a lookalike audience of 1%, it will be more relevant than a lookalike audience of 1% or 2%. For this example, we’ll use a 1% lookalike audience.

Once you’ve filled in all of the details about your lookalike, click the Create Audience button. Note that it can take up to 48 hours for your lookalike audience to propagate.

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#2: Build Website and Engagement Custom Audiences to Retarget Consumers Who Viewed Your Offer

Now that you have some audiences to target at the top of the funnel, let’s look at some audiences to create for the middle of the funnel to target people who have more of a relationship with your business.

Website Custom Audiences

Go back into the Audiences section of Ads Manager, and this time, select Custom Audience from the Create Audience drop-down menu.

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Some of the best audiences you can target in the middle of your funnel are website custom audiences so select Website as your source.

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For a website custom audience, you can target everyone who has visited your website in the last 180 days (or less). If you want to get a bit more specific, Facebook lets you target people who visited specific web pages. You can even target people based on how much time they spent on your website.

Let’s say on average, people spend 15–20 minutes (in total) on your website before they make a purchase. You want to retarget them with an incentive-based offer because you know this segment of your audience is the most likely to purchase.

facebook website custom audience mofu step 3 800 - How to Create 4 Facebook Custom Audiences That Convert

Another cool thing you can do with website custom audiences is retarget and build audiences based on people who engaged with the custom events you’ve set up on your website.

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There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to running Facebook ads. I really encourage you to look at your data. Review your Google Analytics to determine which audiences and web pages are performing best. To illustrate, if you know that people who visited your website in the last 45 days are your most engaged audience or most likely to buy, you probably want to retarget everyone who has been to your website in the last 45 days.

To create a website custom audience to retarget those visitors, select All Website Visitors and choose 45 for the number of days. For the audience name, type in “(v45)” (“v” for views and “45” for the duration) and the URL those visitors came from.

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If you want to get more specific, you can target people who viewed your latest promotion. To create this audience, select People Who Visited Specific Web Pages in the last 45 days. Then select Contains and type in the URL. After you name your audience (“(v45) yourwebsite.com” for instance), click Create Audience.

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Because the day-range limit inside website custom audiences is dynamic—meaning Facebook is constantly updating it in the back end—you don’t have to worry about changing or creating new audiences. Facebook does all of that heavy lifting for you.

Engagement Custom Audiences

Another effective type of audience you can target in the middle of the funnel is the engagement audience. Facebook lets you retarget people who engaged with your Facebook page or Instagram business profile.

To build these audiences, create a new custom audience and select either Instagram Business Profile or Facebook Page as the source.

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Let’s say you want to create an engagement audience based on people who engaged with your Instagram business profile. The default is to target anyone who engaged with your business in the last 365 days so it’s very broad.

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If you want to narrow this audience, you can target anyone who visited your profile, people who engaged with the post or ad, people who sent you a message, or people who saved your post or ad.

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Some of the best custom audiences you can target are people who engaged with your business profile most recently. And you can replicate the same strategy and also build very similar audiences based on people who engaged with your Facebook profile.

Pro Tip: If you want to increase the number of people you’re reaching in these audiences, combine your Facebook engagement audiences and Instagram engagement audiences at the ad set level.

#3: Develop Website Custom Audiences to Retarget People Who Abandoned a Cart

Now let’s look at the bottom of the funnel, which targets hot audiences. One of my favorite hot audiences to target is people who abandoned a cart. If you don’t do eCommerce, the equivalent to abandoned carts would be somewhere on your website where a lead is falling off or maybe just before you’ve asked people to fill out your lead form.

What I’m going to show you now is one of the easiest ways to set up a very simple abandoned-cart audience for retargeting. Start by creating a new website custom audience. When you see the website custom audience creation window, select InitiateCheckout from the drop-down menu.

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You want to run ads to people who abandoned their cart in the last day but not people who already purchased in the last day. So change the number of days to 1.

Next, click Exclude People and then exclude everyone who purchased in the last 30 days. They don’t need to see this ad again because they’ve already purchased from you. You also want to avoid a negative brand interaction by showing up in their news feed and offering a discount that’s no longer relevant to them.

The last step is to name your audience; for example, “Abandoned Carts (Last 1 Day).” Then click Create Audience.

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Now that you’re armed with an abandoned-cart audience in the last day, ask yourself what stops people from actually getting out their credit card to purchase your product or service.

One thing might be that shipping is too expensive. In this case, you could retarget this abandoned-cart audience with an incentive-based retargeting creative: “Free shipping 24 hours only” or “Oops, it looks like you left this item in your cart. Use the code FREE SHIPPING in the next 24 hours.” You’re taking away a potential objection along the path to purchase and giving yourself an opportunity within 24 hours to make the sale.

Conclusion

Product, price, promotion, and place are all important variables when it comes to running Facebook ad campaigns. However, all of your careful planning and effort could be in vain if you’re not targeting your ads at the right people. The four audiences above can help you drive the most profit from your Facebook ads at different stages of your marketing funnel.

Remember: One of the most important things with these audiences is that you want to test, look at your data, iterate, and optimize for what performs best.

What do you think? Which of these Facebook audiences will you use to reach consumers at different stages of your funnel? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

More articles on Facebook advertising:

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Warner Music acquires IMGN, a social media publishing platform, for under $100M

It’s a whole new playing field these days for music labels and publishers, and today one of the biggies made an acquisition to help it sharpen up its strategy to better understand what people want to see and hear online today. Warner Music — with a market cap of $15.4 billion, one of the big three…

It’s a whole new playing field these days for music labels and publishers, and today one of the biggies made an acquisition to help it sharpen up its strategy to better understand what people want to see and hear online today.

Warner Music — with a market cap of $15.4 billion, one of the big three recording giants (alongside Universal and Sony) and which owns labels like Atlantic, Elektra and others and has a huge roster of artists that includes the likes of Madonna, Ed Sheeran and Linkin Park — is acquiring IMGN Media, a Tel Aviv and New York-based startup that builds and tracks viral social media content in categories like esports and gaming, ASMR and entertainment.

IMGN used to be called Comedy.com. It widened its remit from simply funny stuff and rebranded in 2017, and according to its site has about 3 billion views per month and has some 40 million subscribers to its content, with some 85% of that classified as “Gen Z and millennials.”

The news caps off several weeks of speculation about the startup. In July, reports in the Israeli press emerged that said IMGN was being circled by Snap for about $180 million; and further to that, a source told us that TikTok was also in the frame, looking at the company at a price tag of around $150 million. In the end, the terms of the acquisition were not disclosed, but we understand the deal was done for just under $100 million.

IMGN was founded in 2015 and had raised about $6 million from a long list of angels and firms, including Rhodium, Dot Capital and Prism Venture Management.

The plan will be to keep IMGN independent of Warner, continuing to develop and analyse viral content across a range of platforms, with founder Barak Shragai staying on to lead the team.

Warner, meanwhile, does not plan to use the platform to simply market Warner artists, but to tap it for more insights into where people are going online these days, and what they want to see, so that it can better target its own marketing efforts accordingly.

That’s not to say that the two will not work together at all. Warner became acquainted with the startup because it had been a customer of IMGN’s.

Warner has a history both of investing and acquiring startups, depending on its strategic interests. In July, for example, it took part in a Series B round for Canadian audio mastering startup Landr. Further back, it has acquired the likes of music concert listings platform Songkick and pop culture site Uproxx — which it also uses to help track trends in the world of music and among its target demographics.

IMGN will continue working with other third-party brands under its new owner. Past customers have included Electronic Arts, Burger King and Microsoft. The Microsoft deal was by way of its Mixer live game streaming platform, and the fact that this Twitch competitor was shut down last month says a lot about the state of the market and how precarious an audience can be.

Not just consumer tastes, but companies’ business strategies, shift all the time. Microsoft pulling the plug on Mixer underscores how IMGN itself can quickly lose a customer, pointing to why ownership by WMG can feel more secure. As for Warner — which is traded publicly these days but still majority owned by Access Industries, the holding company controlled by Len Blavatnik — the fact that Mixer is tracking and building content for a range of platforms gives it more of a bird’s-eye view on that bigger picture, rather than simply relying on data from the platforms themselves, or its own research, to figure out what the world wants to see and hear.

“WMG not only offers us greater investment and support, but an entrepreneurial environment to continue growing our business, with the people running our accounts having editorial independence,” said Shragai. “We’re excited to partner with them as we take our company into the future.”

The bigger picture here is that the music industry has evolved well beyond the traditional, analogue world of publishing and selling physical media, where consumers learned about and listened to new artists and songs over the radio and TV (and read about their favorite musicians or genres in magazines).

With the shift to mobile and digital platforms, there’s now a much wider, and quickly shifting, plethora of places where people discover and listen to music.

And digital platforms themselves — from those focused specifically on audio and music, like Spotify, through to those where music is a side-hustle to continue to capture audience, like Facebook, through to those that are neither but are still huge music destinations, like TikTok — are also getting deeply involved in tracking how tastes are evolving, and where people are going to get their music fix.

So it’s only natural to see labels looking for ways to have more direct access to those insights themselves, bypassing all those platforms — even as they also work with them (and indeed, to help them negotiate better with those platforms, at the end of the day).

Beginner’s Guide to Social Media Marketing

It’s never too late to embrace all of the free social media marketing platforms that are at your disposal. Free Book Preview Ultimate Guide to Social Media Marketing This book takes readers through a 360-degree perspective of social media marketing in businesses. August 15, 2020 3 min read Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their…

It’s never too late to embrace all of the free social media marketing platforms that are at your disposal.

Free Book Preview Ultimate Guide to Social Media Marketing

This book takes readers through a 360-degree perspective of social media marketing in businesses.


3 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Starting a social media marketing plan can be intimidating. There’s Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin, Tik Tok, YouTube and so many more. You need to make posts, make ads, comment on other’s posts, interact with your audience, grow your audience and stay authentic the entire time. It can be slightly overwhelming at first. Marketing on social media is only going to continue to grow, so it’s important to keep some of the below tips in mind to expand your business and grow your brand.

Know your product and your customers

Do you know your product from your customer’s point of view? Answering some of these questions is a helpful way to determine your marketing strategy. By figuring out the personality of your ideal customer, you’ll be able to make posts that appeal to them. 

What do you sell? Why do you sell it? What are you most known for? What is your brand?

In a bio-persona of your ideal customer, what would they be like? Can you create multiple personas and go through the process of buying your product as this customer?

Using these personas, what words, images, or videos would appeal the most to them?

Using these personas, what would attract them to your social media? What would turn them away from your social media?

Related: 7 Social Media Marketing Myths, Busted

Understand each social media platform

Whatever you post needs to be genuine and relevant to each social media platform. Is it a good piece of content for your current following? Is it a competition to get more followers and exposure? Is it a sponsored post to get traffic and conversions? How do your words and images relate to your end goal? Your words should be genuine, well-written, not too long (unless you’re a writer), and interesting. Relate to your audience. Tap into who they are and what they might want to hear.

Remember:

Good pictures, great words

Correct formats for all videos

Related: 10 Laws of Social Media Marketing

Be genuine and relatable. Make it personal and ask questions

Engage and interact – comment on other people’s posts, reply to comments left on your posts

Get help if you need it

You don’t have to go this alone. It’s a lot. That’s why there are experts out there to help. Social media marketing agencies can help with anything from your social media posts, to hiring writers, graphic designers, and videographers to produce high-quality, brand-relevant content. Starting out with an agency helps get things off the ground. You’ve already got a business to run, you can hand over the reins to someone who can lead your marketing.

3 Kinds of Social Media Marketing You Shouldn’t Ignore

Social media marketing is about much more than likes and shares. These 3 kinds of social media marketing should be on your radar if you want to stay current and competitive.

Influencers, paid promotions and the most potent ways to build a customer base without leaving your desk.


5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The following excerpt is from Ultimate Guide to Social Media Marketing by Eric Butow, Jenn Herman, Stephanie Liu, Amanda Robinson and Mike Allton, available August 25 via Entrepreneur Press. Pre-order now from Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Apple Books.

Social media marketing is about much more than likes and shares. Today’s social media landscape extends well beyond posting a thought or meme and hoping it takes off with your audience. These three kinds of social media marketing should be on your radar if you want to stay current and competitive.

Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing is the use of other experts in your industry who already have a sizable audience that respects and trusts them. Regardless of what industry you’re in, there are likely other people in your field who have a more established reputation and audience. Maybe they have larger social followings, are published authors or are a mainstream media celebrity. These are people you can learn from, and it would be particularly valuable to have a relationship with them.

Of course, the obvious benefit to you is that when someone like that shares something you’ve written to their followers, you reach a vastly wider audience. You can’t expect that an influencer will share your latest blog post unless you already have a relationship in place — one where they’ve come to recognize your expertise and look forward to seeing your new content, just like the rest of your readers do.

Related: 5 Ways Marketing Strategy Has Changed Permanently

Social media can be a great equalizer, particularly on Twitter and Instagram, where you can follow anyone you want. Simply find the influencers in your niche, follow them and begin to engage with them naturally. You know — like a real human being who isn’t a stalker.

Reply or comment on posts that interest you, and share posts you think your own audience would be interested in. If the influencer is blogging, become an active reader and engage with them on their blog with insightful comments and questions. That will get you on their radar.

The next step is to begin to include them in your own content by quoting them, linking to their blog posts or including them in roundups, where you ask their opinion on a topic and publish opinions from a group of influencers. Or you could do a live video interview. Instead of being on someone else’s video, broadcast your own and invite a key influencer to be your guest. It’s more work on your part to organize and promote, but it’s also a tremendous opportunity for content creation.

Dark Social Media

One area you can’t measure, but that should be on your radar, is dark social media. This refers to all the ways people can share your content with other people without your knowledge. Examples include emails, text messages and direct social messages. In each of these cases, someone decided to share your content with one or more people, but they did so in a way that couldn’t be accurately measured or recorded.

While it’s unfortunate that you’re unable to track the impact of dark social media, that doesn’t mean you should ignore it. In fact, you should make it as easy as possible for people to share your work this way if they want to. For instance, consider putting email buttons on all your blog posts. Or, better yet, just make sure that your social sharing buttons include an “Other” button that links to email, texting apps like WhatsApp and whatever other choices someone might want to take advantage of.

Within your email newsletters, include social sharing buttons and an invitation to share the newsletter via email along with a note that says, “Did someone email you this newsletter? Make sure you don’t miss another by subscribing yourself.” And make sure all your blog posts have a strong call to action to either read another post, head over to a landing page or at least sign up for your email list so that you can further capture some of those dark social readers.

Paid Social Media

Finally, you should strongly consider incorporating paid social media in your marketing strategy. Every social platform now offers the ability to promote posts, allowing them to be seen by far more people than your existing follower base. But be careful. It’s easy to run up costs without seeing a real ROI. Make sure that you’re using the best platform for your business, targeting the right audience and sending that targeted traffic to the best possible content.

So let’s bring this back to your latest piece of content: Think about who you’re targeting with it. Is there a particular network where they’re more likely to be active? Frankly, one of the least expensive platforms to advertise on is Facebook. It also has the best targeting and sports the largest global user base. So that’s probably a good place to start. But do give Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Instagram due consideration.

Related: CGI-Created Virtual Influencers Are the New Trend in Social Media Marketing

We find that the best content to promote on Facebook is content that’s particularly strong for driving email sign-ups. Perhaps it has a content upgrade or related ebook that readers can download for free, creating targeted leads for your business. A nice Facebook campaign, for just a few bucks a day, can send hundreds of readers and prospects to your blog post and business. What are you waiting for?

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Prince Harry says social media stoking ‘crisis of hate’ – Reuters

FILE PHOTO: Britain’s Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, arrive at the Endeavour Fund Awards in London, Britain March 5, 2020. REUTERS/Hannah McKay/File PhotoLOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Britain’s Prince Harry on Thursday said social media was stoking a “crisis of hate,” and he appealed to companies to rethink their roles in advertising…

?m=02&d=20200807&t=2&i=1528688524&r=LYNXNPEG7600R&w=20 - Prince Harry says social media stoking 'crisis of hate' - Reuters

FILE PHOTO: Britain’s Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, arrive at the Endeavour Fund Awards in London, Britain March 5, 2020. REUTERS/Hannah McKay/File Photo

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Britain’s Prince Harry on Thursday said social media was stoking a “crisis of hate,” and he appealed to companies to rethink their roles in advertising on digital platforms.

In an opinion piece for U.S. business magazine Fast Company headlined “Social media is dividing us. Together, we can redesign it,” Harry said that he and his wife, Meghan, have spent the past few weeks calling business leaders and marketing executives on the issue.

“Companies like yours have the chance to reconsider your role in funding and supporting online platforms that have contributed to, stoked, and created the conditions for a crisis of hate, a crisis of health, and a crisis of truth,” wrote Harry. He did not name any companies.

Harry, the grandson of Queen Elizabeth, called for online communities to be “defined more by compassion than hate; by truth instead of misinformation; by equity and inclusiveness instead of injustice and fearmongering; by free, rather than weaponised, speech.”

Harry and Meghan, formally known as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, now live in Los Angeles after stepping down from their royal roles in March to forge new careers. They moved out of the UK after growing media hostility.

In a speech last month, Meghan urged teen girls and young women to drown out sometimes “painfully loud” negative online chatter with positivity.

Harry in his opinion piece urged companies to use their advertising dollars “to demand change from the very places that give a safe haven and vehicle of propagation to hate and division.”

Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Leslie Adler

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TikTok: The story of a social media giant

Image copyright Getty Images President Donald Trump has warned that he will ban TikTok unless an American firm buys its US operations. So how did an app attract millions of users but come to be seen as a national security risk in just two years?Alone it stands, a red gummy bear atop a dimly lit…

113804009 gum - TikTok: The story of a social media giant

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Getty Images

President Donald Trump has warned that he will ban TikTok unless an American firm buys its US operations. So how did an app attract millions of users but come to be seen as a national security risk in just two years?

Alone it stands, a red gummy bear atop a dimly lit stage, and the unmistakable voice of Adele singing. Then, as the unseen crowd joins in with the next line, the camera pans out to reveal hundreds more gummy bears singing along to Someone Like You.

It’s silly and cute and extremely watchable. And for the fledgling video app TikTok, it did more in 15 seconds than marketing budgets of millions.

Posted in December 2018, it quickly racked up millions of views on the app but – more importantly – was picked up by thousands of copycats on other social networks.

The world was alerted to the app and TikTok has since attracted a vibrant, creative and young audience of hundreds of millions.

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TikTok/@davidkasprak

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The Adele video sparked a trend on social media

TikTok’s origins are different to the fairytale start-up story we have heard before. This is not an empire built by a couple of friends with a great idea in their mum’s garage.

It actually started life as three different apps.

The first was an app called Musical.ly, which launched in Shanghai in 2014 but had strong US business links and a healthy audience in that key market.

In 2016, Chinese tech giant ByteDance launched a similar service in China called Douyin. It attracted 100 million users in China and Thailand in the space of a year.

ByteDance decided it was onto something and wanted to expand under a different brand – TikTok. So, in 2018 it bought Musical.ly, folded it in, and began TikTok’s global expansion.

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Media captionWATCH: What’s going on with TikTok?

TikTok’s secret lies in its use of music and an extraordinarily powerful algorithm, which learns what content users like to see far faster than many other apps.

Users can choose from a huge database of songs, filters and movie clips to lipsync to.

It’s inspired some huge trends like Lil Nas X’s Old Town Road or Curtis Roach’s Bored in the House. Even the BBC News theme tune went viral as Brits made light of daily coronavirus briefings.

Many people will spend most of the time on the For You Page. This is where the algorithm puts content in front of users, anticipating what they will enjoy based on content they have already engaged with.

It’s also where it shows content it thinks could go viral. The idea is that if the content is good it will travel, regardless of how many followers the creator has.

Many TikTok communities have emerged, brought together by the types of content they enjoy.

Other users, including LGBT and non-influencer creators, are on the platform to make informative or funny content for like-minded people.

The growth of TikTok and its sister app Douyin have been rapid.

In July last year the apps already had one billion downloads worldwide, of which 500 million were active users. A year later they were on two billion downloads and about 800 million active users.

The app’s rapid growth has also put TikTok at the forefront of the minds of politicians. What does it mean to have a Chinese app so quickly become a large part of modern life?

Although the accusations are vague, India and the US have concerns that TikTok is collecting sensitive data from users that could be used by the Chinese government for spying. It has been alleged that every major Chinese enterprise has an internal “cell” answerable to the ruling Chinese Communist Party, with many of its agents tasked with gathering secrets.

India initially banned TikTok in April 2019, after a court ordered its removal from app stores amid claims it was being used to spread pornography. That decision was overturned on appeal.

When it banned TikTok again, along with dozens of other Chinese owned apps in June 2020, the Indian government said it had received complaints about apps “stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users’ data”.

The US government opened a national security review of the platform in late 2019, after both a Democrat and a Republican lawmaker suggested it posed a risk.

More recently, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claimed TikTok was among a number of Chinese apps “feeding data directly to the Chinese Communist Party”.

The UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office and Australian intelligence agencies are currently probing the app but haven’t revealed what they are looking for.

It’s of course worth noting that relations between these countries are tense, with the US at odds with China over trade, Indian and Chinese forces involved in border clashes, and the UK opposing new security laws in Hong Kong.

Exactly what TikTok does with data is contested.

We know from its privacy policy that it collects a huge amount, including:

  • Which videos are watched and commented on
  • Location data
  • Phone model and operating system
  • Keystroke rhythms when people type

It was also revealed that it read the copy-and-paste clipboards of users, but so did dozens of other apps including Reddit, LinkedIn and the BBC News app, and nothing sinister was discovered.

Most evidence points to TikTok’s data collection being comparable to other data-hungry social networks such as Facebook.

However, unlike its US-based rivals, TikTok says it is willing to offer an unprecendented level of transparency in order to ease some of the fears about its data collection and flow.

TikTok’s new chief executive Kevin Mayer, an American former Disney executive, said it would allow experts to examine the code behind its algorithms. This is hugely significant in an industry where data and code is closely guarded.

However, the concerns aren’t just about what data is collected, it’s also more theoretical – could the Chinese government compel ByteDance to hand over data?

The same concerns have been raised about Huawei.

The 2017 National Security Law in China compels any organisation or citizen to “support, assist and co-operate with the state intelligence work”.

However, like Chinese telecoms giant Huawei, bosses at TikTok have repeatedly said that if this ever happened, “we would definitely say no to any request for data”.

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Getty Images

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ByteDance founder Zhang Yiming is China’s 10th richest person, according to the Forbes Rich List

Another concern is of the possibility of censorship, or of the app being used to influence public debates.

TikTok is one of the first platforms many young people will come to to share social activism content.

In May it promoted #BlackLivesMatter as a trend. But even as the hashtag drew in billions of views, there were criticisms that content from black creators was being supressed and that hashtags related to the protests were being hidden.

It is not the first time TikTok’s algorithm has been criticised for the way content is chosen.

A report by The Intercept suggested that moderators had been encouraged to deprioritise content from anyone deemed too “ugly”, or poor.

Last year, the Guardian reported that TikTok censored material deemed to be politically sensitive, including footage of Tiananmen Square protests and Tibetan independence demands.

Further reporting from the Washington Post suggested moderators in China had the final say on whether videos were approved.

ByteDance said such guidelines had since been phased out and that all moderation was independent of Beijing.

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Media captionWill TikTok be banned?

Yet the discussions taking place with Microsoft about the possibility of buying TikTok’s US operations show it is one of the most significant technology products in years.

TikTok has emerged as a meeting place for under-25s, whereas apps like Twitter and Instagram are often seen as being for older users.

But for those who use TikTok to have their voices heard, the possibility of a ban feels like a loss.

Downloads of shortform video app competitors Byte and Triller have spiked in the US as users prepare themselves for jumping ship.

But many, it seems, will hang on to TikTok until the very last moment – if that moment comes.