The American firm said Tuesday it had launched Avatars to India as more social interaction moves online amid a nationwide lockdown in the world’s second largest internet market. The company said Avatars supports a variety of faces, hairstyles, outfits that are customized for users in India.
Avatars’ launch comes to India at the height of a backlash against Chinese apps in the country — some of which have posed serious competition to Facebook’s ever-growing tentacles in Asia’s third-largest economy. On Monday evening, New Delhi ordered to ban TikTok and nearly 60 other apps developed by Chinese firms.
The social giant’s Avatars, a clone of Snapchat’s popular Bitmoji, was first unveiled last year. The feature, which Facebook sees as an expression tool, aims at turning engagements on the social service fun, youthful, visually communicative, and “more light-hearted.”
Users can create their avatar from the sticker tray in the comment section of a News Feed post or in Messenger. Facebook has expanded Avatars, initially available to users in Australia and New Zealand, to Europe and the U.S. in recent weeks.
Scores of companies including Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi have attempted to replicate Bitmoji in recent years — though no one has expanded it like Snapchat.
Over the years, I’ve often referred to our link building work as “campaigns”, which isn’t wrong, but isn’t completely right, either. I think that as an industry we need to alter our mindset to focus on what link building should be: an ongoing, integrated, business-as-usual activity.
Link building processes that work for brands now and that will continue to work in the future need to sit closer to the rest of the business. This means tighter integration with other disciplines, or at the very least, acknowledgment that link building isn’t a siloed activity or dark art like it used to be.
In this post, I’d like to propose how we should think about link building and share some ways to make it more sustainable, efficient, and effective.
The problem with campaigns
I want to start by being super clear on something, and I make no apologies for reiterating this throughout this post: Link building campaigns aren’t a bad thing. My core point is that they should be thought of as one piece of the puzzle — not something we should focus all of our time and attention on.
“Campaign”, in the context of link building or digital PR, implies a few things:
It has a start and an end point
It is a one-off activity
It is about a specific “thing”, whether that be a topic, product, or piece of content
There is nothing wrong with these as such, but link building shouldn’t be thought about only in these ways. If link building is seen as a series of one-off activities, or about a specific thing and with a start and end point, it’s never going to be integrated into a business the way it should be. It will always sit around the edges of marketing activity and not benefit the bottom line as much as it could.
Even if you are reading this thinking that you’re okay because you have lots of campaigns lined up — maybe one a week, one a month, or one a quarter — the core problems still exist, but at a more zoomed-out level.
As digital marketers, we want link building to be:
Taken seriously as a tactic which helps support SEO within a business
Integrated with other areas to allow for efficiency and wider benefits
Fit into the overarching digital strategy of a business
Have measurable, consistent results
Let me demonstrate the final point with the graph below, which is the monthly performance of an Aira client on a 6-8 week campaign schedule:
On the face of it, this looks pretty good. We built over 200 links in 12 months, and were ahead of target in terms of individual campaign objectives.
This graph is the reality of link building campaign execution. We were honest and up-front with clients about the results, and those peaks and dips are perfectly normal.
But it could (and should) be a lot better.
Let’s take a quick step back.
An uncomfortable truth
The uncomfortable truth for many link builders is that a business shouldn’t really need to worry about link building as an intentional, proactive activity. Instead, links should be a natural consequence of a fantastic product or service which is marketed and branded well.
However, companies in this position are the exception rather than the rule, which means that as link builders, we still have a job!
I’d argue that there are only a relatively small number of businesses that truly don’t need to worry about link building. Think of the likes of well-established and popular brands like Apple, McDonalds, Amazon and Coca-Cola. These companies truly are the exception, rather than the rule.
Trying to be an exception and aiming to reach the nirvana of never actively worrying about link building should absolutely be your goal. Putting efforts into areas such as product development, customer service, content strategy, and brand building will all pay dividends when it comes to link building. But they all take time and you need to generate organic traffic sooner rather than later in order to grow the business.
Link building, as part of your larger integrated and robust digital strategy can get you there quicker. I worry that businesses often leave money on the table by waiting for that nirvana to come. They may indeed get there, but could they have gotten there sooner?
The question then becomes, how do they move quicker toward that ideal state, and what does link building look like in the interim? Running campaigns can help for sure, but you’re not really building upward as quickly as you could be.
This is the crux of my worry and problem with running link building campaigns and allowing our strategies to lean on them too heavily:
When the campaigns stop, so will the links.
I know, I know — Aira launches campaigns all the time.
Yes, we have launched many, many link building campaigns at Aira over the years and have been nominated for campaign-specific awards for some of them. I’ve even written about them many times. Campaign-led link building has a very valuable part to play in the world of link building, but we need to reframe our thinking and move away from campaigns as the primary way to generate links to a business.
Driving the right behaviors
It’s not just about results. It’s about driving the right behaviors within businesses, too.
Putting link building in the corner of a one-off project or campaign-led activity is not going to encourage habitual link building. It will drive behaviors and thinking which you don’t really want, such as:
Link building is a line item which can be switched on and off
Internal processes have to bend or break in order to accommodate link building
There is little desire or motivation for wider team members to learn about what link builders do
Link building is an isolated activity with no integration
Link building results aren’t consistent (you get those huge peaks and dips in performance, which can bring into question the marketing spend you’re being given)
Working under these pressures is not going to make your life easy, nor are you going to do the best job you possibly can.
I worry that as an industry, we’ve become too focused on launching campaign after campaign and have gotten too far away from effecting change within organizations through our work.
As digital marketers, we are trying to influence behaviors. Ultimately, it’s about the behaviors of customers, but before that point it’s about influencing stakeholders — whether you’re an agency or in-house SEO, our first job is to get things done. In order to do that, link building needs to be thought of as a business-as-usual (BAU) activity. Campaigns have a place, but are part of a much, much bigger picture. Link building needs to get to the point where it’s not “special” to build links to a content piece, it’s just done. If we can get there, not only will we accelerate the businesses we work with toward link building nirvana, but we will add much, much more value to them in the meantime.
Link building as a BAU activity
It is my firm belief that in order to mature as an industry, and specifically as an activity, link building needs to be understood much more than it currently is. It still suffers from the issues that plagued SEO for many years in the early days when it truly was a dark art and we were figuring it out as we went along.
Don’t get me wrong, we’ve come a long way, especially since April 2012 (can you really believe it was over eight years ago?!) when link building began evolving into a content-led practice thanks in part to the Penguin update.
But we still have further to go.
We need to get out of the corner of “launching a campaign” and train our bosses and clients to ask questions like, “How can link building help here?” and “Is there a link building opportunity in this activity?”.
A case study
The best way I can explain this shift in thinking is to give you a real example of how we’ve done it at Aira. I can’t give you the exact client, but I can give you an overview of the journey we’ve been on with them, supporting an SEO team that is relentlessly committed to getting things done — the perfect partners for such an initiative.
I should also point out that this has never been easy. We are on this journey with a number of our clients, and some of them are barely into it. The examples here show what happens when you get it right — but it does take time, and the reality is that it may never happen for some businesses.
Where it started
One campaign. That was it. One shot to get links and show the client what we could do.
This was back in 2016. We were lucky in that the client trusted the process and understood why things had gone wrong on this occasion. So, they gave us another chance and this time did a great job.
From there, the project grew and grew to the point where we were launching scaled campaigns like clockwork and getting links consistently. All was well.
Then I was asked a question by someone on the client’s team:
“What’s the evolution of our link building?”
Whilst link building is never far from my mind, I didn’t have a mental model to answer this straight away with any conviction — particularly given what I knew about this client and their industry. I took some time to think about it and consolidate a bunch of observations and opinions I’d actually had for years, but never really made concrete.
Side note: It’s often hard to take a step back from the day-to-day of what you’re doing and think about the bigger picture or the future. It’s even more difficult when you’re growing a business and generally doing good work. It can be hard to justify “rocking the boat” when things are going well, but I’ve learned that you need to find time for this reflection. For me at that point in time, it took a direct question from my client to force me into that mindset.
I confirmed that our existing model of link building for them was something that was likely to continue working and adding value, but that it should NOT be our sole focus in the coming years.
Then, I explained what I’ve talked about in this post thus far.
I told them that our work wasn’t good enough, despite them being one of our happiest, most long-standing clients. We were getting hundreds of links a month, but we could do better.
Running campaign after campaign and getting links to each one would not be good enough in the future. Sure it works now, but what about in two years? Five?? Probably only partly.
We knew we needed to bridge the gap between different content types:
Content for links (aka campaigns)
Content for traffic (informational and transactional pages)
Content for building expertise and trust
We’d only been focusing on the first one, pretty much in isolation. We’d come up with some relevant topic ideas, build them out and get links. Job done.
This wouldn’t be good enough a few years down the road, because link building would be taking place in a small pocket of a very large organization with limited integration.
It’s now been over a year since that conversation and guess what? Our campaigns are still working great, but we are evolving to do so much more.
If you haven’t taken a look at what else your business is doing and where link building can add value, this is the first step towards better integration, and thus better link building. By the time the conversation above happened, we’d already recognized the need to integrate with other teams within the client’s organization, so we had a head start.
With the help of the client’s SEO team, we started to discover other activities within the organization which we could add value to or leverage for greater wins:
The traditional marketing team had been running campaigns for years on different industry topics. Some of these crossed over with the topics we’d created content for.
The internal PR team had lots of activity going on and had often seen our coverage pop up on their trackers. As it turned out, they were just as keen to meet us and understand more about our processes.
The brand team was starting to review all on-site assets to ensure conformity to brand guidelines. Working with them was going to be important moving forward for consistency’s sake.
With our help, the client were building out more informational content related to their products, with us helping brief their internal copywriters.
All of these opportunities sowed the seeds for a new focus on the evolution of link building, and pushed us to move quicker into a few things including:
Running joint projects with the internal PR team where we collaborate on ideas and outreach that don’t just focus on data visualization
Running ideation sessions around topics given to us by the SEO team, which are also focused on by their traditional marketing team
Building relationships with several subject matter experts within the organization who we are now working with and promoting online (more on this below)
Testing the informational product content for link building after noticing that a few pieces naturally attracted links
Working alongside the PR team to carry out brand-reclamation-style link building
Where we are now
Just one year from that open and honest conversation, we have been able to show our value beyond launching campaign after campaign whilst still building links to the client’s content. This will hold value for years to come and mean that their reliance on campaigns will be reduced more and more over time.
We’re making good progress toward taking our reliance off campaigns and making it part of our strategy — not all of it. Yes, campaigns still drive the majority of links, but our strategy now includes some key changes:
All campaigns (with the odd exception) are evergreen in nature, can always be outreached, and have the ability to attract links on their own.
We are launching long-form, report-style content pieces that demonstrate the authority and expertise the client has in their industry, and then building links to them. (They’re far slower in terms of getting links, but they are doing well.)
We are raising the profile of key spokespeople within the business by connecting them with writers and journalists who can contact them directly for quotes and comments in the future.
We are doing prospecting and outreach for informational content, aiming to give them a nudge in rankings which will lead to more links in the future (that we didn’t have to ask for).
Link building isn’t quite a BAU activity just yet for this client, but it’s not far off from becoming one. The practice is taken seriously, not just within the SEO team, but also within the wider marketing team. There is more awareness than there has ever been.
Content strategy framework
I want to share the framework which we’ve used to support and visualize the shift away from campaigns as our sole link building strategy.
We’ve been aware for a while that we need to ensure any link building work we do is topically relevant. We’d found ourselves defaulting to content which was campaign-led and focused on links, as opposed to content that can serve other purposes.
Link builders need to take a long, hard look at the topics we want our clients and businesses to be famous for, credible to talk about, and that resonate with their audience. Once you have these topics, you can start to plan your content execution. After that, you’ll start to see where link building fits in.
Contrast this with the approach of “we need links, let’s come up with some relevant content ideas to help do that.” This can work, but isn’t as effective.
To help clients shift their strategies, we put together the framework below. Here’s how it works:
Let’s imagine we sell products that help customers sleep better. We may come up with the following themes and topics:
Notice that “Campaigns” is only one format. We’re also acknowledging that topics and themes can not only lead to other forms of content (and links), but also that our KPIs may not always be just links.
If we put together a long-form content guide on the science of sleep, it may not get on the front page of the New York Times, but it may get a slow, steady stream of links and organic search traffic. This traffic could include potential customers for a sleep product.
Once you have a specific topic in mind, you can go deeper into that topic and start thinking about what content pieces you can create to truly demonstrate expertise and authority. This will differ by client and by topic, but it could look something like this:
In this case, the blue circles denote a topic + format which may be link-worthy. While the orange ones denote a valuable execution that aren’t as link-worthy, we may still want to create this content for longer-term link and traffic generation.
To wrap up
Link building campaigns still have huge amounts of value. But if that’s all you’re doing for clients, you’re leaving opportunities behind. Think bigger and beyond campaigns to see what else can be done to move you and your business closer to link building nirvana.
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YouTube just took action against a collection of controversial figures synonymous with race-based hate, kicking six major channels off its platform for violating its rules.
The company deleted six channels on Monday: Richard Spencer‘s own channel and the affiliated channel for the National Policy Institute/Radix Journal, far right racist pseudo-science purveyor Stefan Molyneux, white supremacist outlet American Renaissance and affiliated channel AmRenPodcasts and white supremacist and former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.
“We have strict policies prohibiting hate speech on YouTube, and terminate any channel that repeatedly or egregiously violates those policies. After updating our guidelines to better address supremacist content, we saw a 5x spike in video removals and have terminated over 25,000 channels for violating our hate speech policies,” a YouTube spokesperson said in a statement provided to TechCrunch.
The company says that the channels it removed were repeat or “egregious” violators of the platform’s rules against leveraging YouTube videos to link to off-platform hate content and rules prohibiting users from making claims of inferiority about a protected group.
YouTube’s latest house-cleaning of far-right and white nationalist figures follows the suspension of Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes earlier this month. Some of the newly-booted YouTube account owners turned to still-active Twitter accounts to complain about losing their YouTube channels Monday afternoon.
The same day that YouTube enforced its rules against a high-profile set of far-right accounts, both Twitch and Reddit took their own actions against content that violated their respective rules around hate. The Amazon-owned gaming streaming service suspended President Trump’s account Monday, citing comments made in two Trump rallies that aired there, one years-old and one from the campaign’s recent Tulsa rally. And after years of criticism for its failure to stem harassment and racism on, Reddit announced that it would purge 2,000 subreddits, including r/The_Donald, the infamously hate-filled forum founded as Trump announced his candidacy.
Two big new pieces of news today from the ongoing battle between social media and politics. Both Twitch and Reddit have made moves against political content, citing violations of terms of service.
Twitch confirmed today that it has temporarily suspended the president’s account. “Hateful conduct is not allowed on Twitch,” a spokesperson for the streaming giant told TechCrunch. “In line with our policies, President Trump’s channel has been issued a temporary suspension from Twitch for comments made on stream, and the offending content has been removed.”
Twitch specifically cites two incidents from campaign rallies, uttered by Trump at rallies four years apart. The first comes from his campaign kickoff, including the now infamous words:
When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people. But I speak to border guards and they tell us what we’re getting. And it only makes common sense. It only makes common sense. They’re sending us not the right people.
The second is from the recent rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, his first since COVID-19-related shutdowns ground much of presidential campaigning to a halt. Here’s the pertinent bit from that:
Hey, it’s 1:00 o’clock in the morning and a very tough, I’ve used the word on occasion, hombre, a very tough hombre is breaking into the window of a young woman whose husband is away as a traveling salesman or whatever he may do. And you call 911 and they say, “I’m sorry, this number’s no longer working.” By the way, you have many cases like that, many, many, many. Whether it’s a young woman, an old woman, a young man or an old man and you’re sleeping.
Twitch tells TechCrunch that it offered the following guidance to Trump’s team when the channel was launched, “Like anyone else, politicians on Twitch must adhere to our Terms of Service and Community Guidelines. We do not make exceptions for political or newsworthy content, and will take action on content reported to us that violates our rules.”
That news follows the recent ban of the massive The_Donald subreddit, which sported more than 790,000 users, largely devoted to sharing content about Trump. Reddit confirmed the update to its policy that resulted in the ban, along with 2,000 other subreddits, including one devoted to the hugely popular leftist comedy podcast, Chapo Trap House.
The company cites the following new rules:
Rule 1 explicitly states that communities and users that promote hate based on identity or vulnerability will be banned.
There is an expanded definition of what constitutes a violation of this rule, along with specific examples, in our Help Center article.
Rule 2 ties together our previous rules on prohibited behavior with an ask to abide by community rules and post with authentic, personal interest.
Debate and creativity are welcome, but spam and malicious attempts to interfere with other communities are not.
The other rules are the same in spirit but have been rewritten for clarity and inclusiveness.
All communities on Reddit must abide by our content policy in good faith. We banned r/The_Donald because it has not done so, despite every opportunity. The community has consistently hosted and upvoted more rule-breaking content than average (Rule 1), antagonized us and other communities (Rules 2 and 8), and its mods have refused to meet our most basic expectations. Until now, we’ve worked in good faith to help them preserve the community as a space for its users—through warnings, mod changes, quarantining, and more.
Reddit adds that it banned the smaller Chapo board for “consistently host[ing] rule-breaking content and their mods have demonstrated no intention of reining in their community.”
Trump in particular has found himself waging war on social media sites. After Twitter played whack-a-mole with problematic tweets around mail-in voting and other issues, he signed an executive order taking aim at Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects sites from being sued for content posted by users.
In a live-streamed segment of the company’s weekly all-hands meeting, CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced new measures to fight voter suppression and misinformation. At the heart of the policy changes is an admission that the company will continue to allow politicians and public figures to disseminate hate speech that does, in fact, violate Facebook’s own guidelines — but it will add a label to denote they’re remaining on the platform because of their “newsworthy” nature.
This announcement comes as advertiser momentum against the social network’s content and monetization policies continues to grow, with Unilever and Verizon (which owns TechCrunch) both committing to pull advertising from Facebook.
Ohanian is leaving Initialized Capital to work on “a new project that will support a generation of founders in tech and beyond,” the firm said in a statement to TechCrunch. According to Axios, Ohanian is leaving Initialized to work more closely on pre-seed efforts.
The new look is much more colorful, and also foregrounds the ability for individual drivers to share their current emotions with Moods, a set of user-selectable icons (with an initial group of 30) that can reflect how you’re feeling as you’re driving.
Amazon warehouse workers in Germany are striking for 48 hours this week, to protest conditions that have led to COVID-19 infections among fellow employees. Strikes began today at six warehouses and are set to continue through the end of day Tuesday.
Normally, the government would process tens of thousands of visa applications and renewals in October at the start of its fiscal year, but President Trump’s executive order all but guarantees new visas won’t be granted until 2021. Four TechCrunch staffers analyzed the president’s move in an attempt to see what it portends for the tech industry, the U.S. economy and our national image. (Extra Crunch membership required.)
Unlike other rush initiatives undertaken by the company once the virus hit, however, the forthcoming Apple Watch handwashing app wasn’t built overnight. The feature was the result of “years of work,” VP of Technology Kevin Lynch told TechCrunch.
Developer and programmer Brie Code has worked at the peak of the video game industry – she was responsible for many of the AI systems that powered non-player character (NPC) behavior in the extremely popular Assassin’s Creed series created by Ubisoft. It’s obvious that gaming isn’t for everyone, but Code became more and more interested in why that maxim seemed to play out along predictable gender lines, leading her ultimately to develop and launch #SelfCare through her own independent development studio TRU LUV.
#SelfCare went on to win accolades including a spot of Apple’s App Store Best of 2018 list, and Code and TRU LUV was also the first Canadian startup to attend Apple’s Entrepreneur Camp program. Now, with over 2 million downloads of #SelfCare (without any advertising at all), Code and TRU LUV have brought on a number of investors for their first outside funding including Real Ventures, Evolve Ventures, Bridge Builders Collaborative and Artesian Venture Partners.
I spoke to Code about how she came up with and created #SelfCare, what’s next for TRU LUV, and how the current COVID-19 crisis actually emphasizes the need for an alternative to gaming that serves many similar functions, but for a previously underserved groups of people for whom the challenges and rewards structures of traditional gaming just don’t prove very satisfying.
“I became very, very interested in why video games don’t interest about half of people, including all of my friends,” Code told me. “And at that point, tablets were becoming popular, and everyone had a phone. So if there was something universal about this medium, it should be being more widely adopted, yet I was seeing really clear patterns that it wasn’t. The last time I checked, which was maybe a couple years ago, there were 5 billion mobile users and around 2.2 billion mobile gamers.”
Her curiosity piqued by the discrepancy, especially as an industry insider herself, Code began to do her own research to figure out potential causes of the divide – the reason why games only seemed to consistently appeal to about half of the general computer user population, at best.
“I started doing a lot of focus groups and research and I saw really clear patterns, and I knew that if there is a clear pattern, there must be an explanation,” Code said. “What I discovered after I read Sheri Grainer Ray’s book Gender Inclusive Game Design, which she wrote in 2004, in a chapter on stimulation was how, and these are admittedly gross generalizations, but men tend to be stimulated by the sense of danger and things flashing on screen. And women, in her research, tended to be stimulated by something mentioned called a mutually-beneficial outcome to a socially significant situation. That’s when you help an NPC and they help you, for instance. In some way, that’s more significant, in the rules of the world than just the score going up.”
TRU LUV founder and CEO Brie Code
Code then dug in further, using consumer research and further study, and found a potential cause behind this divide that then provided a way forward for developing a new alternative to a traditional gaming paradigm that might prove more appealing to the large group of people who weren’t served by what the industry has traditionally produced.
“I started to read about the psychology of stimulation, and from there I was reading about the psychology of defense, and I found a very simple and clear explanation for this divide, which is that there are two human stress responses,” she said. “One of them, which is much more commonly known, is called the ‘fight-or-flight’ response. When we experience the fight-or-flight response, in the face of challenge or pressure or danger, you have adrenaline released in your body, and that makes you instinctively want to win. So what a game designer does is create these situations of challeng,e and then give you opportunities to win and that leverages the fight-or-flight response to stress: That’s the gamification curve. But there is another human stress response discovered at the UCLA Social Cognitive Neuroscience lab in 2000, By Dr. Shelly Taylor and her colleagues. It’s very prevalent, probably about half of stress responses that humans experience, and it’s called tend-and-befriend.”
Instead of generating an adrenaline surge, it releases oxytocin in the brain, and instead of seeking a victory over a rival, people who experience this want to take care of those who are more vulnerable, connect with friends and allies, and find mutually beneficial solutions to problems jointly faced. Seeking to generate that kind fo response led to what Code and TRU LUV call AI companions, a gaming alternative that is non-zero sum and based on the tend-and-befriend principal. Code’s background as an AI programmer working on some of the most sophisticated virtual character interactions available in modern games obviously came in handy here.
Code thought she might be on to something, but didn’t anticipate the level of #SelfCare’s success, which included 500,00 downloads in just six weeks, and more than 2 million today. And most of the feedback she received from users backed up her hypotheses about what the experience provided, and what users were looking for an an alternative to a mobile gaming experience.
Fast forward to now, and TRU LUV is growing its team, and focused on iterating and developing new products to capitalize on the clear vein of interest they’ve tapped among that underserved half of mobile users. Code and her team have brought on investors whose views and portfolios align with their product vision and company ethos, including Evolve Ventures which has backed a number of socially progressive ventures, and whose managing director Julius Mokrauer actually teaches a course on the subject at Columbia Business School.
#SelfCare was already showing a promising new path forward for mobile experience development before COVID-19 struck, but the product and TRU LUV are focused on “resilience and psychological development,” so it proved well-suited to a market in which mobile users were looking for ways to make sustained isolation more pleasant. Obviously we’re just at the beginning of feeling whatever impacts come out of the COVID-19 crisis, but it seems reasonable to expect that different kinds of mobile apps that trigger responses more aligned with personal well-being will be sought after.
Code says that COVID-19 hasn’t really changed TRU LUV’s vision or approach, but that it has led to the team moving more quickly on in-progress feature production, and on some parts of their roadmap, including building social features that allow players to connect with one another as well as with virtual companions.
“We want to move our production forward a bit faster than planned in order to respond to the need,” Code said.”Also we’re looking at being able to create social experiences a little bit earlier than planned, and also to attend to the need of people to be able to connect, above and beyond people who connect through video games.”
Facebook is expanding the availability of the tools it offers to help game streamers and other online creators make money.
The social network first launched fan subscriptions in early 2018, giving a small group of creators in the United States and the United Kingdom the ability to charge their fans a $4.99 monthly fee for exclusive content and a fan badge for their profiles.
Participation in the subscription program was limited until today. In a blog post, Facebook now says that any creator in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Mexico, Thailand, United Kingdom and United States that meets the subscription eligibility criteria (having 10,000 followers or more than 250 return viewers, and either 50,000 post engagements or 180,000 watch minutes in the last 60 days, as well as abiding by Facebook’s general monetization policies) should be able to sign up to participate.
Facebook is also expanding the availability of Stars, a virtual currency that fans can use to tip their favorite creators. Creators in Australia, Canada, Columbia, India, Indonesia, Italy, Spain, Germany, France, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand, United Kingdom and the United States can now participate.
“We’re seeing the traditional notion of a creator evolve as comedians, artists, fitness instructors, athletes, small businesses and sports organizations use video and online events to connect with their audience,” wrote Product Marketing Director Yoav Arnstein, Product Marketing Director and Head of Creator & Publisher Experience Jeff Birkeland. “To better support our partners, we’re improving the tools that help creators earn money and manage their presence on Facebook.”
Beyond subscriptions and virtual currencies, the company says it’s giving creators new ways to make money through advertising, including image and post-roll ads in short-form videos (60 to 180 seconds), as well as ads in live videos.
Lastly, Facebook says it’s improving the Creator Studio tool with features like Comment Insights (which show how comments on posts can affect engagement and audience size) and the ability to log in using Instagram credentials.
Fractl has produced thousands of content marketing campaigns across every topic, and for the past seven years, we’ve been keeping track of each and every campaign in order to refine and improve the content we produce on behalf of our clients.
In my last post for Moz, I explained how to set realistic digital PR expectations for your content based on your niche. In this topic, I want to dive a little bit deeper into the data and share insights about how the source of your content can be just as important in determining how your content will perform.
In this analysis, I looked at 1,474 client content campaigns across six different data source categories:
Publicly available data
It’s important to note that there are countless other data sources that we use for content campaigns every day at Fractl that are not mentioned in this article. In this analysis, each category has at least 20 campaigns, while some categories have several hundred campaigns.
It’s also important to note that averages were collected by excluding upper outliers. For campaigns that went “viral” and performed well above the norm, we excluded them in the calculation so as not to skew the averages higher.
In addition to sharing link and press averages, I will also be walking through how to produce pressworthy, sharable content from each data source and providing examples.
Managing expectations across content types
Across the entire sample of 1,474 campaigns, a project on average received 24 dofollow links and 89 press mentions in total.
A press mention is defined as any time the content campaign was mentioned on a publisher’s website.
There were some individual data source category averages that were on par with the sample average, while other categories deviated greatly from the sample average.
Publicly available data
For almost any niche out there, you can bet there is a publicly available data set available for use. Some examples include data from the CDC, the U.S. Census, colleges and universities, the WHO, and the TSA. The opportunities really are endless when it comes to using publicly available data as a methodology for your content.
While free data sets can be a treasure trove of information for your content, keep in mind that they’re not always the simplest to work with. They do require a lot of analysis to make sense of the massive amount of information in them, and to make the insights digestible for your audience.
Take for example a campaign we produced for a client called Neighborhood Names. The data was free from the US Census, but in order to make any sense of it, our researchers had to use QGIS, Python, text-mining, and phrasemachine (a text analysis API) just to narrow it down to what we were looking for.
And what were we looking for? Looking at neighborhood names across America seems boring at first, until you realize that certain words correspond to wealth.
I was the outreach specialist for this project, and by using the wealth angle, I was able to secure two notable placements on CNBC as well as a press mention on MSN. The project quickly made its way around the internet after that, earning 76 dofollow links and 202 total press mentions by the end of our reporting period.
Unlike scouring the internet for free data, using a survey as a methodology can be more costly. That being said, there is one major advantage to using a survey to shape your content: you can find out anything you want.
While publicly available data will tell a story, it’s not always the story you want to tell, and that’s where surveys come in.
Of course, when it comes to surveys, anyone can create one without paying attention to research method best practices. That’s one of the problems we need to address. With “fake news” in the forefront of everyone’s minds in 2020, building trust with journalists and editors is of the utmost importance.
As content creators, we have a responsibility to ensure that content is not only attention-grabbing and entertaining, but also accurate and informative.
Survey campaigns, in particular, require you to analyze responses through a rigorous methodological lens. When collecting data for surveys, be sure to pay close attention to ethical upholdance, data validity, and fair visual representations.
From my own personal experience, germ swab content campaigns are the most fun, and often, the most disturbing. Fractl did some research a while back about the emotions that make content go viral, and oftentimes, germ swab campaigns hit all of the right emotions in the viral equation.
Negative emotions like disgust are often evoked when reviewing the results of germ swab campaigns. Our study found that when negative emotions are paired with emotions like anticipation or surprise, they can still achieve viral success (internet viral, not germ viral). What is more surprising than finding out the airplane tray table is dirtier than a toilet seat?
Publishers around the world seemed to think the content was surprising, too. This campaign performed above the norm for a typical content campaign earning 38 dofollows and 195 total press mentions — and this was before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Participatory methods are campaigns that require active participation for the methodology. These are unique ideas — no two are alike. Some examples of campaigns that fall under the participatory methods category are when we had team members do a 30-day squat challenge, asked respondents to draw brand logos from memory, or when we literally drove from D.C. to NYC with a dash cam to record traffic violations.
These campaigns have a certain level of risk associated with them. They require a lot of upfront effort and planning without the promise of any return — and that’s scary for clients and for our team who put in tremendous effort to pull them off.
As you can see from the chart above, however, these ideas collectively performed right on par with other campaign types, and even better than survey methodologies for both the number of dofollow links and press mentions. In order to reap big benefits, it seems you need to be willing to take a big risk.
Social medIa as a data source is almost a no-brainer, right up there with survey methodologies and publicly available data sets. Unlike participatory methods campaigns, you don’t have to leave your computer in order to produce a campaign based on social media data.
Through our seven years of content creation, Fractl has produced campaigns based on data scrapes from Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Reddit, and more. From this experience, we know firsthand what kinds of social campaigns work and which ones fall flat.
The best thing about using social media as a source for content is that it can be applied to all verticals.
The biggest lesson we’ve learned from producing content based on social media data is that the methodology is typically subjective, so you need to keep the project lighthearted in nature in order to earn major coverage.
For example, we produced a campaign for a client in which we looked at Instagram posts with the hashtag #sexy and a geolocation. From this, we were able to glean the “sexiest” countries in the world as well as U.S. states.
While it would be impossible to learn what the actual sexiest places in the world were, (what does that even mean?) we were able to produce a fun campaign that used geo-bait to appeal to lighthearted publishers, like Glamour, E! Online, Women’s Health, and Elite Daily.
Make sure that no matter the topic, whatever you produce contributes to an ongoing conversation. Statistics that don’t point to anything meaningful won’t be relevant for writers actually trying to add to the conversation.
Client data is often the most underappreciated data source for content marketers. You may be sitting on a wealth of actionable industry insights and not even know it.
You might think of internal data as only being useful for improving your internal processes at work, but it can also be valuable outside of your organization.
Unlike publicly available data, internal data is never-before-seen and 100% unique. Journalists eat this up because it means that you’re providing completely exclusive resources.
Think of this article, for example. This article is filled with data and insights that Fractl has gleaned after producing thousands of content marketing campaigns.
An added bonus of using internal data to craft your content is that, according to our analysis, it performs on par with surveys. Unlike surveys, though, it’s completely free.
No matter what methodology you’re using or vertical you’re creating content for, it’s important to realize that as content creators, we have an ethical and moral responsibility to create with an audience in mind.
With “fake news” on the forefront of everyone’s minds, building and maintaining trust with writers and editors is of the utmost importance.
All of the content you produce and promote must be assessed through a rigorous methodological lens to ensure that content is accurate and informative as well as eye-grabbing and entertaining.
Regardless of your methodology, if you don’t take the proper steps to make sure your data sources are accurate, you are contributing to the fake news epidemic.
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Games and esports analytics firm Newzoo released its highly cited annual report on the size and state of the video gaming industry yesterday. The firm is predicting 2020 global game industry revenue from consumers of $159.3 billion, a 9.3% increase year-over-year. Newzoo predicts the market will surpass $200 billion by the end of 2023.
Importantly, the data excludes in-game advertising revenue (which surged +59% during COVID-19 lockdowns, according to Unity) and the market of gaming digital assets traded between consumers. Advertising within games is a meaningful source of revenue for many mobile gaming companies. In-game ads in just the U.S. drove roughly $3 billion in industry revenue last year, according to eMarketer.
To compare with gaming, the global markets for other media and entertainment formats are:
Podcasting: $863 million 2020 advertising revenue (there is no good data on subscription and live events revenue in podcasting, but it is fair to estimate it at a fraction of the total ad revenue figure)
Of 7.8 billion people on the planet, 4.2 billion (53.6%) of whom have internet connectivity, 2.69 billion will play video games this year, and Newzoo predicts that number to reach three billion in 2023. It broke down the current geographic distribution of gamers as: