LinkedIn’s making its recruitment tools free to those fighting the coronavirus pandemic

Like many other websites at the moment, the career-oriented networking platform LinkedIn has seen a big boost in traffic as a result of people being asked to work from home and stay indoors overall to slow the spread of the coronavirus, with a bump of 55% more conversational activity between existing connections in recent weeks. Now, to leverage that attention in a way that’s more directly helpful during this health crisis, LinkedIn is introducing new measures specifically around job listings.

From today and for the next three months, LinkedIn says it will provide free job postings for “essential” businesses globally — companies in healthcare, as well as warehousing, supermarket, freight delivery and nonprofits working in support or relief roles — in other words, those providing critical front-line services to keep the economy and society in motion. Healthcare will include companies working in areas like medical devices, medical practice (including hospitals) and mental health care.

Alongside this, LinkedIn is creating an “urgent jobs” board to give these openings more priority visibility. People whose skills match up with those needed for these jobs who visit LinkedIn’s jobs homepage will see the special listings highlighted. Those who sign up for job alerts with matching skills will in turn get real-time alerts of the jobs as they get posted.

The volunteer ads also link up with an expanded Recruiting for Good program to help bring in more people to work with nonprofits in both volunteer and paid roles. And those doing the recruiting will also get three months of free access to LinkedIn’s talent insights tools to figure out where their (free) ads are best placed around hiring trends and more.

Organizations that have already signed up to use these include the American Red Cross of Los Angeles, the CommonSpirit Health hospital network, Doctors on Demand and New York Presbyterian Hospital.

The new initiatives underscore the bigger trend of how tech companies are looking to provide whatever assistance they can bring to the table in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

(Others include Google, which is trying to help with testing, while also providing a landing page for official and local information, while both Facebook and Twitter are trying to stamp out fake news while surfacing links to official organizations for help.)

Recruitment — which has traditionally been LinkedIn’s biggest revenue generator (as part of Microsoft, it does not regularly report financials on its business lines) — has been in an interesting position within that.

On the one hand, recruitment and its counterpart, employment, have been two of the essential levers in fighting this pandemic.

On the clinical front, hospitals and related care organizations are scrambling to keep up with the surge in demand for their services, leading to major recruitment drives to bring in people with relevant experience, in some cases going straight to the ranks of those who may have left the profession and now are being asked to step in again.

In the U.K., for example, some 4,500 doctors and nurses have so far answered an open call to come back into medical service (many will have moved on to other non-clinical or managerial roles in the NHS, or left the public sector, or the profession altogether, not just retired due to age), with more likely to come. And that’s just on the clinical front. We’re seeing a multitude of call outs across other sectors, like technology, to bring in experts in AI and other areas to help design software and hardware to slow the spread of the virus, to alleviate some of the side effects, to identify it faster and maybe even to potentially cure it.

In another vein, the closures of restaurants and public places has put a big shift on to supermarkets and other food providers to beef up their work forces to meet their rising demands. That’s meant that while many people have lost their old jobs due to closures, they are getting opportunities to redeploy elsewhere.

(The same goes for the collective groundswell of people who have emerged as volunteers to help others who are in need, with hundreds of thousands volunteering to help deliver medications or other essential tasks to supplement the work of front-line healthcare providers.)

On another level, beyond addressing the pandemic in a direct way, employment and recruitment have become something of a canary in the coal mine when it comes to assessing how different sectors and the economy overall is faring, and how it will look when the pandemic starts to subside.

We’ve charted some notable developments of hiring freezes, layoffs and furloughs in the tech world already — as well as hiring boosts for those suddenly finding their businesses in huge demand — and the same thing is playing out across other sectors, a trend LinkedIn, as one of the bigger recruitment portals in the world, is well-positioned to see.

“The trend as the virus moves through the world has been a decline in job posts,” said Blake Barnes, LinkedIn’s head of careers and talent solutions. “It’s a pattern we saw starting in China with the first wave of the pandemic.” Positively, he noted that “we have also seen that recovery brings growth as well.”

For now, LinkedIn has set some criteria in place to tailor eligibility. For example, nonprofit organizations that want to be a part of the Recruiting for Good program need to be U.S. 501c3 registered (or the global equivalent), providing disaster response or services for COVID-19 relief​. Hospitals that want to be a part of the Recruiting for Good program (but not for the general critical recruitment drive) need to be in critical areas of coronavirus outbreak (based on impact data) and understaffed and in need of urgent clinical front-line workers for COVID-19 response.

Over time, there will likely be more types of businesses added to the mix of “essential” companies (for example, as a car parts company retools to become a ventilator maker) and nonprofits over time, and also more evolutions in how job ads get seen by people. The main point was to deploy quickly to start work as soon as possible.

“We are keeping a close eye on the situation, but we have already seen a critical talent shortage,” said Barnes. “We’re starting with the obvious companies, but we’re getting these tools to market where they are most needed. But things change every single day, so we’ll be assessing in real time to understand how different sectors are evolving and changing.”


Source: https://techcrunch.com/2020/04/01/linkedins-making-its-job-listing-tools-free-to-those-recruiting-to-fight-the-coronavirus-pandemic/

“Content network effect” makes TikTok tough to copy

Many TikTok videos don’t start from scratch, so neither can its competitors. TikTok is all about remixes where users shoot a new video to recontextualize audio pulled from someone else’s clip, or riff on an existing meme or concept. That only works because TikTok’s had time to build up an immense armory of content to draw inspiration from.

Creators will find themselves unequipped trying to get started on TikTok copycats including Facebook Lasso, and Instagram Reels which is testing in Brazil. Direct competitors like Triller and Dubsmash are racing to build up their archives. YouTube Shorts, which The Information today reported is in development, only has a shot if Google lets users harness the 5 billion videos people already watch on YouTube each day.

This is the power of what I call “content network effect”: Each piece of content adds value to the rest. That’s TikTok.

You’re likely familiar with traditional network effect — ‘a phenomenon whereby a product or service gains additional value as more people use it.’ It’s not just the network itself that gains value, as the value delivered to each user increases too. Today’s top social networks are shining examples. The more people there are on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, the more people you can connect to, and the more material their relevance algorithms can draw on to fill your feeds.

If you had to choose between using two identical social networks, you’re probably going to pick the one with more friends or creators already onboard. Network effects raise the switching cost of moving to a different network. Even if it has better features, fewer ads, or less misinformation and bullying, you’re unlikely to leave a robust network behind and decamp to a sparser one. That makes scaled social networks difficult to Disrupt. All the top ones have been around for almost a decade or more.

Except for TikTok. The Chinese music/video app has managed to demonstrate a new concept of “content network effect”. In its case, each video uploaded to the app makes every future potential video more valuable. That’s because all the content on TikTok serves as remix fodder for the rest. Every song, dance, joke, prank, and monologue generates resources for other creators to exploit. It’s a bottomless well of inspiration.

Remixability, the ultimate creative tool

TikTok productizes remix culture by making it easy to “use this sound”. Tap the audio button on any video and it becomes yours. Click through and you’ll see all the other videos that use it. TikTok even offers a whole search engine for sorting through sounds by categories like Trending, Greatest Hits, Love, Gaming, and travel. Sometimes remixes are based on an idea rather than an audio. #FlipTheSwitch sees couples instantly swapping clothes when the light flicks off, and has collected over 3.6 billion videos across over 500,000 remixed versions of the video.

You can even duet with the original creator, sharing your video and theirs side-by-side simultaneously. A solo performance becomes a chorus as more duets are hitched together. Meanwhile, remixes of remixes of remixes provide an esoteric reward for hardcore users who recognize how a gag has evolved or spiraled into absurdity.

Other apps in the past have spawned video responses, hashtags, quote-tweets, surveys, and chain letters and other ways for pieces of content to interact or iterate. And there’s always been parodies. But TikTok proves the power of forging a social app with content network effect at its core.

Facilitating remixes offers a way to lower the bar for producing user generated content. You’d don’t have to be astoundingly creative or original to make something entertaining. Each individual’s life experiences inform their perspective that could let them interpret an idea in a new way.

What began with someone ripping audio of two people chanting “don’t be Suspicious, don’t be suspicious” while sneaking through a graveyard in TV show Parks & Recs led to people lipsyncing it while trying to escape their infant’s room without waking them up, leaving the house wearing clothes they stole from their sister’s closet, trying to keep a llama as a pet, and photoshopping themselves to look taller. Unless someone’s already done the work to record an audio clip, there’s nothing to inspire and enable others to put their spin on it.

TikTok’s archive vs the world

That’s why I wrote that Mark Zuckerberg misunderstands the huge threat of TikTok after the CEO told Facebook’s staff that “I kind of think about TikTok as if it were Explore for Stories”. Facebook and Instagram found massive success cloning Snapchat Stories because all they had to do was copy its features. Stories are autobiographical life vlogging. All you need are the creative tools, which Instagram and Facebook rebuilt, and people to share to, which the apps had billions of.

But TikTok isn’t about sharing what you’re up to like Stories that typically start from scratch since each user’s life is different. It’s micro-entertainment powered by content network effect. If TikTok competitors give people the same video recording features and distribution potential, they’ll still be missing the archive of source material.

Facebook’s Lasso looks just like TikTok but it’s failed to gain steam since launching in November 2018. Instagram Reels smartly copies TikTok’s remixing tools, but if the Brazilian tests go well and it eventually launches in English, it will start out flat footed.

When YouTube launches Shorts, as The Information’s Alex Heath and Jessica Toonkel report it’s planning to do before the end of the year, it will be buried inside its main app. That could make it impossible to compete with a dedicated app like TikTok that opens straight to its For You page. Its one saving grace would be if YouTube unlocks its entire database of videos for remixing.

Thanks to its position as the default place to host videos and its experience with searchability that Facebook and Instagram lack, YouTube Shorts could at least have all the ingredients necessary. But given YouTube’s non-stop failures in social with everything from Google+ to YouTube Stories to its dozen deadpooled messaging apps, it may not have the chef skills necessary to combine them.

Other social networks should consider how the concept applies to them. Could Facebook turn your friends’ photos into collage materials? Could Instagram let you share themed collections of your favorite posts? Remix culture isn’t going away, so neither will the value of fostering content network effects. With video consumption outpacing professional production, remixes are how the world will stay entertained and how amateurs can contribute creations worthy of going viral.


Source: https://techcrunch.com/2020/04/01/content-network-effect/

LinkedIn’s making its job listing tools free to those recruiting to fight the coronavirus pandemic

Like many other websites at the moment, the career-oriented networking platform LinkedIn has seen a big boost in traffic as a result of people being asked to work from home and stay indoors overall to slow the spread of the coronavirus, with a bump of 55% more conversational activity between existing connections in recent weeks. Now, to leverage that attention in a way that’s more directly helpful during this health crisis, LinkedIn is announcing new measures specifically around job listings.

From today and for the next three months, LinkedIn says it will provide free job postings for “essential” businesses globally — companies in healthcare, as well as warehousing, supermarket, freight delivery, and non-profits working in support or relief roles — in other words, those providing critical front-line services to keep the economy and society in motion. Healthcare will include companies working in areas like medical devices, medical practice (including hospitals), and mental health care.

Alongside this, LinkedIn is creating an “urgent jobs” board to give these openings more priority visibility. People whose skills match up with those needed for these jobs who visit LinkedIn’s jobs homepage will see the special listings highlighted. Those who sign up for job alerts with matching skills will in turn get real-time alerts of the jobs as they get posted.

The volunteer ads also link up with an expanded Recruiting for Good program to help bring in more people to work with non-profits in both volunteer and paid roles. And those doing the recruiting will also get three months of free access to LinkedIn’s talent insights tools to figure out where their (free) ads are best placed around hiring trends and more.

Organizations that have already signed up to use these include the American Red Cross of Los Angeles, the CommonSpirit Health hospital network, Doctors on Demand, and New York Presbyterian Hospital.

The new initiatives underscore the bigger trend of how tech companies are looking to provide whatever assistance they can bring to the table in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

(Others include Google, which is trying to help with testing, while also providing a landing page for official and local information, while both Facebook and Twitter are trying to stamp out fake news while surfacing links to official organizations for help.)

Recruitment — which has traditionally been LinkedIn’s biggest revenue generator (as part of Microsoft, it does not regularly report financials on its business lines) — has been in an interesting position within that.

On the one hand, recruitment and its counterpart, employment, have been two of the essential levers in fighting this pandemic.

On the clinical front, hospitals and related care organizations are scrambling to keep up with the surge in demand for their services, leading to major recruitment drives to bring in people with relevant experience, in some cases going straight to the ranks of those who may have left the profession and now are being asked to step in again.

In the UK, for example, some 4,500 doctors and nurses have so far answered the open call to come back into medical service (many will have moved on to other non-clinical or managerial roles in the NHS, or left the public sector, or the profession altogether, not just retired due to age), with more likely to come. And that’s just on the clinical front. We’re seeing a multitude of call outs across other sectors, like technology, to bring in experts in AI and other areas to help design software and hardware to slow the spread of the virus, to alleviate some of the side effects, to identify it faster, and maybe even to potentially cure it.

In another vein, the closures of restaurants and public places has put a big shift on to supermarkets and other food providers to beef up their workforces to meet their rising demands. That’s meant that while many people have lost their old jobs due to closures, they are getting opportunities to redeploy elsewhere.

(The same goes for the collective groundswell of people who have emerged as volunteers to help others who are in need, with hundreds of thousands volunteering to help deliver medications or other essential tasks to supplement the work of front-line healthcare providers.)

On another level, beyond addressing the pandemic in a direct way, employment and recruitment have become something of a canary in the coalmine when it comes to assessing how different sectors and the economy overall is faring, and how it will look when the pandemic starts to subside.

We’ve charted some notable developments of hiring freezes, layoffs and furloughs in the tech world already — as well as hiring boosts for those suddenly finding their businesses in huge demand — and the same thing is playing out across other sectors, a trend LinkedIn, as one of the bigger recruitment portals in the world, is well positioned to see.

“The trend as the virus moves through the world has been a decline in job posts,” said Blake Barnes, Blake Barnes, LinkedIn’s head of careers and talent solutions. “It’s a pattern we saw starting in China with the first wave of the pandemic.” Positively, he noted that “we have also seen that recovery brings growth as well.”

For now, LinkedIn has set some criteria in place to tailor eligibility. For example, nonprofit organization need to be US 501c3 registered, or the global equivalent), providing disaster response or services for COVID-19 relief​. Hospitals meanwhile need to be in critical areas of coronavirus outbreak (based on impact data) and understaffed and in need of urgent clinical frontline workers for COVID-19 response.

Over time, there will likely be more types of businesses added to the mix of “essential” companies (for example, as a car parts company retools to become a ventilator maker) and non-profits over time, and also more evolutions in how job ads get seen by people. The main point was to deploy quickly to start work as soon as possible.

“We are keeping a close eye on situation, but we have already have seen a critical talent shortage,” said Barnes. “We’re starting with the obvious companies, but we’re getting these tools to market where they are most needed. But things change every single day so we’ll be assessing in real time to understand how different sectors are evolving and changing.”


Source: https://techcrunch.com/2020/04/01/linkedins-making-its-job-listing-tools-free-to-those-recruiting-to-fight-the-coronavirus-pandemic/

YouTube sellers found touting bogus coronavirus vaccines and masks

YouTube has been criticized for continuing to host coronavirus disinformation on its video sharing platform during a global health emergency.

Two US advocacy groups which campaign for online safety undertook an 18-day investigation of the video sharing platform in March — finding what they say were “dozens” of examples of dubious videos, including videos touting bogus vaccines the sellers claimed would protect buyers from COVID-19.

They also found videos advertising medical masks of unknown quality for sale.

There have been concerns about shortages of masks for front-line medical staff, as well as the risk of online scammers hawking low grade kit that does not offered the claimed protection against the virus.

Google said last month that it would temporarily take down ads for masks from its ad network but sellers looking to exploit the coronavirus crisis appear to be circumventing the ban by using YouTube’s video sharing platform as an alternative digital shop window to lure buyers.

Researchers working for the Digital Citizens Alliance (DCA) and the Coalition for a Safer Web (CSW) initiated conversations with sellers they found touting dodgy coronavirus wares on YouTube — and were offered useless ‘vaccines’ for purchase and hundreds of masks of unknown quality.

“There was ample reason to believe the offers for masks were dubious as well [as the vaccines], as highlighted by interactions with representatives from some of the sellers,” they said.

Their report includes screengrabs of some of the interactions with the sellers. In one a seller tells the researchers they don’t accept credit cards — but they do accept CashApp, PayPal, Google or Amazon gift cards or Bitcoin.

The same seller offered the researchers vaccines priced at $135 each, and suggested they purchase MMR/Varicella when asked which one is “the best”. Such a vaccine, even if it functioned for MMR/Varicella, would obviously offer no protection against COVID-19.

Another seller was found to be hawking “COVID-19 drugs” using a YouTube account name “Real ID Card Fake Passport Producer”.

“How does a guy calling himself ‘Real ID Card Fake Passport Producer’ even get a page on YouTube?” said Eric Feinberg, lead researcher for CSW, in a statement accompanying the report. “It’s all too easy to get ahold of these guys. We called some of them. Once you contact them, they are relentless. They’ll call you back at all hours and hound you until you buy something. They’ll call you in the middle of the night. They are predators looking to capitalize on our fear.”

A spokesman for the DCA told us the researchers compiled the report based on content from around 60 videos they identified hawking coronavirus-related ‘cures’ or kit between March 6-24.

“There are too many to count. Everyday, I find more,” added Feinberg.

The groups are also critical of how YouTube’s platform risks lending credibility to coronavirus disinformation because the platform now displays official CDC-branded banners under any COVID-19 related material — including the dubious videos their report highlights.

“YouTube also mixes trusted resources with sites that shouldn’t be trusted and that could confuse consumers — especially when they are scared and desperate,” said DCA executive director, Tom Galvin, in a statement. “It’s hard enough to tell who’s legitimate and who’s not on YouTube.”

The DCA and CSW have written letters to the US Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission laying out their findings and calling for “swift action” to hold bad actors accountable.

YouTube, and its parent company Google, are shirking their formal policy that prohibits content that capitalizes off sensitive events,” they write in a letter to attorney general Barr.

“Digital Citizens is sharing this information in the hopes your Justice Department will act swiftly to hold bad actors, who take advantage of the coronavirus, accountable. In this crisis, strong action will deter others from engaging in criminal or illicit acts that harm consumers or add to confusion and anxiety,” they add.

Responding to the groups’ findings a YouTube spokesperson said some of the videos the researchers had identified had not received many views.

After we contacted the company about the content YouTube told us it had removed three channels identified by the researchers in the report for violating its Community Guidelines.

In a statement YouTube added:

Our thoughts are with everyone affected by the coronavirus around the world. We’re committed to providing helpful information at this critical time, including raising authoritative content, reducing the spread of harmful misinformation and showing information panels, using WHO / CDC data, to help combat misinformation. To date, there have been over 5B impressions on our information panels for coronavirus related videos and searches. We also have clear policies against COVID-19 misinformation and we quickly remove videos violating these policies when flagged to us.

The DCA and CSW also recently undertook a similar review of Facebook’s platform — finding sellers touting masks for sale despite the tech giant’s claimed ban on such content. “Facebook promised CNN when they did a story on our report about them that the masks would be gone a week ago, but the researchers from CSW are still finding the masks now,” their spokesman told us.

Earlier this week the Tech Transparency Project also reported still being able to find masks for sale on Facebook’s platform. It found examples of masks showing up in Google’s targeted ads too.


Source: https://techcrunch.com/2020/04/01/youtube-sellers-found-touting-bogus-coronavirus-vaccines-and-masks/

What does a pandemic say about the tech we’ve built?

There’s a joke* being reshared on chat apps that takes the form of a multiple choice question — asking who’s the leading force in workplace digital transformation? The red-lined punchline is not the CEO or CTO but: C) COVID-19.

There’s likely more than a grain of truth underpinning the quip. The novel coronavirus is pushing a lot of metaphorical buttons right now. ‘Pause’ buttons for people and industries, as large swathes of the world’s population face quarantine conditions that can resemble house arrest. The majority of offline social and economic activities are suddenly off limits.

Such major pauses in our modern lifestyle may even turn into a full reset, over time. The world as it was, where mobility of people has been all but taken for granted — regardless of the environmental costs of so much commuting and indulged wanderlust — may never return to ‘business as usual’.

If global leadership rises to the occasional then the coronavirus crisis offers an opportunity to rethink how we structure our societies and economies — to make a shift towards lower carbon alternatives. After all, how many physical meetings do you really need when digital connectivity is accessible and reliable? As millions more office workers log onto the day job from home that number suddenly seems vanishingly small.

COVID-19 is clearly strengthening the case for broadband to be a utility — as so much more activity is pushed online. Even social media seems to have a genuine community purpose during a moment of national crisis when many people can only connect remotely, even with their nearest neighbours.

Hence the reports of people stuck at home flocking back to Facebook to sound off in the digital town square. Now the actual high street is off limits the vintage social network is experiencing a late second wind.

Facebook understands this sort of higher societal purpose already, of course. Which is why it’s been so proactive about building features that nudge users to ‘mark yourself safe’ during extraordinary events like natural disasters, major accidents and terrorist attacks. (Or indeed why it encouraged politicians to get into bed with its data platform in the first place — no matter the cost to democracy.)

In less fraught times, Facebook’s ‘purpose’ can be loosely summed to ‘killing time’. But with ever more sinkholes being drilled by the attention economy that’s a function under ferocious and sustained attack.

Over the years the tech giant has responded by engineering ways to rise back to the top of the social heap — including spying on and buying up competition, or directly cloning rival products. It’s been pulling off this trick, by hook or by crook, for over a decade. Albeit, this time Facebook can’t take any credit for the traffic uptick; A pandemic is nature’s dark pattern design.

What’s most interesting about this virally disrupted moment is how much of the digital technology that’s been built out online over the past two decades could very well have been designed for living through just such a dystopia.

Seen through this lens, VR should be having a major moment. A face computer that swaps out the stuff your eyes can actually see with a choose-your-own-digital-adventure of virtual worlds to explore, all from the comfort of your living room? What problem are you fixing VR? Well, the conceptual limits of human lockdown in the face of a pandemic quarantine right now, actually…

Virtual reality has never been a compelling proposition vs the rich and textured opportunity of real life, except within very narrow and niche bounds. Yet all of a sudden here we all are — with our horizons drastically narrowed and real-life news that’s ceaselessly harrowing. So it might yet end up wry punchline to another multiple choice joke: ‘My next vacation will be: A) Staycation, B) The spare room, C) VR escapism.’

It’s videoconferencing that’s actually having the big moment, though. Turns out even a pandemic can’t make VR go viral. Instead, long lapsed friendships are being rekindled over Zoom group chats or Google Hangouts. And Houseparty — a video chat app — has seen surging downloads as barflies seek out alternative night life with their usual watering-holes shuttered.

Bored celebs are TikToking. Impromptu concerts are being livestreamed from living rooms via Instagram and Facebook Live. All sorts of folks are managing social distancing and the stress of being stuck at home alone (or with family) by distant socializing — signing up to remote book clubs and discos; joining virtual dance parties and exercise sessions from bedrooms. Taking a few classes together. The quiet pub night with friends has morphed seamlessly into a bring-your-own-bottle group video chat.

This is not normal — but nor is it surprising. We’re living in the most extraordinary time. And it seems a very human response to mass disruption and physical separation (not to mention the trauma of an ongoing public health emergency that’s killing thousands of people a day) to reach for even a moving pixel of human comfort. Contactless human contact is better than none at all.

Yet the fact all these tools are already out there, ready and waiting for us to log on and start streaming, should send a dehumanizing chill down society’s backbone.

It underlines quite how much consumer technology is being designed to reprogram how we connect with each other, individually and in groups, in order that uninvited third parties can cut a profit.

Back in the pre-COVID-19 era, a key concern being attached to social media was its ability to hook users and encourage passive feed consumption — replacing genuine human contact with voyeuristic screening of friends’ lives. Studies have linked the tech to loneliness and depression. Now we’re literally unable to go out and meet friends the loss of human contact is real and stark. So being popular online in a pandemic really isn’t any kind of success metric.

Houseparty, for example, self-describes as a “face to face social network” — yet it’s quite the literal opposite; you’re foregoing face-to-face contact if you’re getting virtually together in app-wrapped form.

While the implication of Facebook’s COVID-19 traffic bump is that the company’s business model thrives on societal disruption and mainstream misery. Which, frankly, we knew already. Data-driven adtech is another way of saying it’s been engineered to spray you with ad-flavored dissatisfaction by spying on what you get up to. The coronavirus just hammers the point home.

The fact we have so many high-tech tools on tap for forging digital connections might feel like amazing serendipity in this crisis — a freemium bonanza for coping with terrible global trauma. But such bounty points to a horrible flip side: It’s the attention economy that’s infectious and insidious. Before ‘normal life’ plunged off a cliff all this sticky tech was labelled ‘everyday use’; not ‘break out in a global emergency’.

It’s never been clearer how these attention-hogging apps and services are designed to disrupt and monetize us; to embed themselves in our friendships and relationships in a way that’s subtly dehumanizing; re-routing emotion and connections; nudging us to swap in-person socializing for virtualized fuzz that designed to be data-mined and monetized by the same middlemen who’ve inserted themselves unasked into our private and social lives.

Captured and recompiled in this way, human connection is reduced to a series of dilute and/or meaningless transactions. The platforms deploying armies of engineers to knob-twiddle and pull strings to maximize ad opportunities, no matter the personal cost.

It’s also no accident we’re also seeing more of the vast and intrusive underpinnings of surveillance capitalism emerge, as the COVID-19 emergency rolls back some of the obfuscation that’s used to shield these business models from mainstream view in more normal times. The trackers are rushing to seize and colonize an opportunistic purpose.

Tech and ad giants are falling over themselves to get involved with offering data or apps for COVID-19 tracking. They’re already in the mass surveillance business so there’s likely never felt like a better moment than the present pandemic for the big data lobby to press the lie that individuals don’t care about privacy, as governments cry out for tools and resources to help save lives.

First the people-tracking platforms dressed up attacks on human agency as ‘relevant ads’. Now the data industrial complex is spinning police-state levels of mass surveillance as pandemic-busting corporate social responsibility. How quick the wheel turns.

But platforms should be careful what they wish for. Populations that find themselves under house arrest with their phones playing snitch might be just as quick to round on high tech gaolers as they’ve been to sign up for a friendly video chat in these strange and unprecedented times.

Oh and Zoom (and others) — more people might actually read your ‘privacy policy‘ now they’ve got so much time to mess about online. And that really is a risk.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

*Source is a private Twitter account called @MBA_ish


Source: https://techcrunch.com/2020/03/31/what-does-a-pandemic-say-about-the-tech-weve-built/

No proof of a Houseparty breach, but its privacy policy is still gatecrashing your data

Houseparty has been a smashing success with people staying home during the coronavirus pandemic who still want to connect with friends.

The group video chat app, interspersed with games and other bells and whistles, raises it above the more mundane Zooms and Hangouts (fun only in their names, otherwise pretty serious tools used by companies, schools and others who just need to work) when it comes to creating engaged leisure time, amid a climate where all of them are seeing a huge surge in growth.

All that looked like it could possibly fall apart for Houseparty and its new owner Epic Games when a series of reports appeared Monday claiming Houseparty was breached, and that malicious hackers were using users’ data to access their accounts on other apps such as Spotify and Netflix.

Houseparty was swift to deny the reports and even go so far as to claim — without evidence — it was investigating indications that the “breach” was a “paid commercial smear to harm Houseparty,” offering a $1 million reward to whoever could prove its theory.

For now, there is no proof that there was a breach, nor proof that there was a paid smear campaign, and when we reached out to ask Houseparty and Epic about this investigation, a spokesperson said: “We don’t have anything to add here at the moment.”

But that doesn’t mean that Houseparty doesn’t have privacy issues.

As the old saying goes, “if the product is free, you are the product.” In the case of the free app Houseparty, the publishers detail a 12,000+ word privacy policy that covers any and all uses of data that it might collect by way of you logging on to or using its service, laying out the many ways that it might use data for promotional or commercial purposes.

There are some clear lines in the policy about what it won’t use. For example, while phone numbers might get shared for tech support, with partnerships that you opt into, to link up contacts to talk with and to authenticate you, “we will never share your phone number or the phone numbers of third parties in your contacts with anyone else.”

But beyond that, there are provisions in there that could see Houseparty selling anonymized and other data, leading Ray Walsh of research firm ProPrivacy to describe it as a “privacy nightmare.”

“Anybody who decides to use the Houseparty application to stay in contact during quarantine needs to be aware that the app collects a worrying amount of personal information,” he said. “This includes geolocation data, which could, in theory, be used to map the location of each user. A closer look at Houseparty’s privacy policy reveals that the firm promises to anonymize and aggregate data before it is shared with the third-party affiliates and partners it works with. However, time and time again, researchers have proven that previously anonymized data can be re-identified.”

There are ways around this for the proactive. Walsh notes that users can go into the settings to select “private mode” to “lock” rooms they use to stop people from joining unannounced or uninvited; switch locations off; use fake names and birthdates; disconnect all other social apps; and launch the app on iOS with a long press to “sneak into the house” without notifying all your contacts.

But with a consumer app, it’s a longshot to assume that most people, and the younger users who are especially interested in Houseparty, will go through all of these extra steps to secure their information.


Source: https://techcrunch.com/2020/03/31/houseparty-privacy/

Facebook launches a global version of its Community Help feature in response to the COVID-19 pandemic

Facebook first launched its Community Help feature in 2017, to give users a way to offer assistance, search for and receive help in the wake of a crisis. The feature has since been used to connect Facebook users after man-made, accidental, and natural disasters, like terrorist attacks or weather events, for example. Today, Facebook is expanding Community Help as part of its COVID-19 efforts. The new COVID-19 Community Help hub will allow people to request or offer help to those impacted by the coronavirus outbreak as well as donate to nonprofit fundraisers.

This is the first time Facebook has launched Community Help on a global scale. It’s also the first time it’s been used for a health pandemic.

The feature will launch first in the U.S., Canada, France, U.K. and Australia, Facebook says.

A somewhat similar feature, Help Map, was recently introduced by the neighborhood social network and Facebook competitor Nextdoor, but it hasn’t yet seen widespread adoption. In part, that’s because Nextdoor isn’t making the new addition as obvious as it could be — it’s currently buried in the “More” tab instead of being a central focus in the app. Also, the Help Map simply allows people to list themselves as being able to offer assistance to someone in need or as being in need of aid.

Facebook’s Community Help hub, meanwhile, builds on Facebook’s earlier efforts with Crisis Response, which connected multiple tools in one place.

The COVID-19 Community Help feature will be found within Facebook’s existing COVID-19 Information Center, which is live in over 30 countries.

Launched earlier in March, the COVID-19 Information Center today sits at the top of the News Feed and connects users to authoritative health information from global health authorities along with curated posts from politicians, journalists, and other public figures.

Since its debut, over 1 billion users have accessed the information shared by health authorities on the Information Center and through the educational pop-ups on Facebook and Instagram, the company claims. More than 100 million people clicked through to learn more from the sources directly.

Before today’s official launch, the COVID-19 Information Center tested Community Help in select U.S. cities. There, local users have been posting requests for help — like those about a hospital in need of masks or volunteers to help distribute food. Others shared their free assistance being offered — like free meals for hourly workers now out of a job or free virtual workouts for those missing their gym routine.

This now continues as the Community Hub launches across the supported markets. However, it will now exist as its own destination, which includes fundraisers. It will also include additional categories, like Food, Baby Supplies, Toiletries, and Business Support — the latter which allows local businesses to ask for help and respond to offers for help.

Facebook also clarifies that users will be able to post or comment in reply to posts about offering assistance, as either an individual user or as a Facebook Page. And both individuals and Facebook Pages will be able to share posts to let others know what they need.

In addition, the COVID-19 Community Help hub will fundraise through two COVID-response efforts: the UNF/WHO COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund Facebook Fundraiser and the Combat Coronavirus with the CDC Foundation Facebook Fundraiser (U.S.-only), where Facebook is matching donations, up to $10 million to each fundraiser. While not available today, Facebook will soon allow people to seek out and donate to local fundraisers, it says.

Facebook says the COVID-10 Community Hub will arrive in more countries around the world in the next few weeks, starting first with higher-risk countries across Europe and Asia-Pacific.


Source: https://techcrunch.com/2020/03/31/facebook-launches-a-global-version-of-its-community-help-feature-in-response-to-the-covid-19-pandemic/

Snapchat preempts clones, syndicates Stories to other apps

If you can’t stop them, power them. That’s the strategy behind Snapchat App Stories, which launches today to let users show off their ephemeral content in other apps too. The first partners will let you post Stories to your dating profile in Hily, share them alongside [music] videos in Triller, watch them while screensharing in Squad, or give people a peek at your life in augmented reality network Octi. Developers can now sign up to add Stories to their apps.

Snapchat’s Stories format has been widely cloned, most famously by Instagram and Facebook, but with versions in various states of development for YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn, SoundCloud, and more. Snapchat hopes to retain some grip on Stories and dissuade more copycats by letting developers bake the original version into their apps rather than building a bootleg attempt from scratch.

If you need Snapchat to share Stories to popular apps, that could boost content production plus subsequent viewership and ad impressions inside of Snapchat, remind people to shoot Stories, and make sure having a Snapchat account stays relevant. “We definitely think there’s a potential for monetization in App Stories but not yet” Snap’s VP of partnerships Ben Schwerin tells me. For now, Snapchat isn’t injecting ads into alongside Stories into other apps, though that’s clearly the plan.

“There are certain platforms out there that have decided they want to invest in building their own Stories product and their own camera, but it’s not a trivial thing to do. It takes resources and time. We think we can help developers do that” Schwerin explains. “Getting more people out there, regardless of age or where they live, comfortable using Stories probably makes them more likely to be able to pick up and enjoy Snapchat.”

Snapchat initially announced the plan for App Stories at its Partner Summit exactly a year ago. Unfortunately, its second annual developer conference that was set for this week was cancelled due to coronavirus.

Though advertising spend may be reduced, at least the app has experienced an increase in usage while everyone shelters in place. That includes third-party apps built on its Snap Kit platform that lets developers piggyback on Snapchat’s login, Bitmoji, and camera effects.

“We continue to see incredible growth from established apps like Reddit and Spotify and TikTok, and from startups that are really building from the ground up on Snap Kit like Yolo” Schwerin reveals. “People are spending more time at home and less time with friends. We’re seeing increased usage of Snapchat.”

Snap Kit has allowed Snapchat to rally would-be copycats into a legion of allies as it fights to stave off the Facebook empire. That strategy combined with a high-performance rebuild of its Android app for the developing world led Snapchat’s share price to grow from $11.36 a year ago to a recent high of $18.98 before coronavirus dragged it almost all the way back down.

Now, when people shoot a photo or video in the Snapchat camera, they’ll get options to share it not just to their Story or Snap Map and the crowdsourced community Stories, but also to their Story within other apps integrated with Snap Kit. Users will see options to syndicate their Story to products equipped with App Stories where they’re already logged in.

Unlike on Snapchat where Stories disappear after 24 hours, they default to a 7-day expiration in other App Stories. That relieves users of having to constantly post ephemeral Snaps to keep their dating or social app profiles stocked with biographical content.

In Hily, Snapchat Stories partially replaces the homegrown version it’d spun up in the meantime to show potential dates off-the-cuff looks at people’s lives. In Triller, users can tap on a content creator’s profile pic to see biographical Stories instead of just their polished music videos. In Squad, users can co-watch Stories along with other things to screenshare. And in Octi, users can see someone’s Snapchat Story amongst other hidden content revealed by its augmented reality camera.

One app missing is Tinder, which Snapchat originally previewed as its launch partner at the App Stories reveal last year. Tinder is using Snapchat’s Bitmoji stickers, but may have gotten cold feet about Stories. The fact that Snap is only now launching App Stories, and still hasn’t officially launched Ad Kit that lets it inject its ads into other apps and split revenue with developers, shows it’s taking time to adjust to its platform strategy after years of shunning outside integrations. It still won’t reveal the revenue percentage split it’s applying to Ad Kit.

For Snapchat to gain momentum it needs two things: a constant influx of new users, eager to use its augmented reality camera and Bitmoji wherever they’re available, and more impressions to monetize with ads after Instagram stole the Stories use case for untold millions of older users. App Stories could help with both.

“The proliferation of stories as the primary way to share video content on mobile we think is a good thing” Schwerin concludes. But Snap has sat by idly as it’s served as the R&D lab for Facebook’s product. Now Snapchat needs to own the viewership and the ad dollars that Stories generate everywhere other than Facebook. Just coining the concept doesn’t bring in cash.


Source: https://techcrunch.com/2020/03/31/snapchat-app-stories/

The New Way to Chat With Your Visitors

Marketing has evolved into an omnichannel approach. This means you can no longer just go after one channel to succeed.

Back in the day, companies like Facebook grew into billion-dollar businesses through one channel.

Facebook used email to grow and they did it by having you invite all your contacts to join Facebook.

Yelp was also similar. They grew into a multi-million dollar business through one channel… SEO.

Dropbox grew through social media. If you tweeted about Dropbox, they would give you more space.

These marketing approaches worked well for all of these well-known
companies, but what’s wrong with them?

The law of shitty click-throughs

What worked for Facebook, Yelp, and Dropbox were all great strategies, but over time, all good marketing channels got saturated and stopped working like they used to.

As Andrew Chen puts it, first it works
and then it doesn’t
.

It really is that simple. Sure, those channels can still
drive traffic and always will, but as people get used to them, they won’t work
as well.

Just check out this image below.

Can you guess what that is?

That was the first banner ad. AT&T created that banner ad and placed it on HotWired.com in 1994. And here’s what’s really crazy… out of all the people who saw it, a whopping 44% clicked on it.

Just think about that… that banner ad had a 44% click-through rate.

We can all agree it’s not an amazing banner ad or design, it
just so happens that it was new and novel at the time, so it generated massive amounts
of clicks.

Just like how SEO was more effective earlier on, or paid ads were more affordable and produced a higher ROI, or referral marketing was much more effective. There are a lot of single-channel case studies that worked in the past.

Again, it doesn’t mean any of these channels don’t work, it
just means that they don’t work as well as they used to work.

So how do you survive in a competitive market?

You take an omnichannel approach. You don’t have a choice other than to use all of the marketing channels out there.

Yes, they will be competitive and saturated, but they still
work.

It’s a game of papercuts… papercuts are small and don’t do much damage, but if you have tons of these small papercuts, they will add up and can do some damage.

The same goes with your marketing. If you add up all of these channels that produce a small amount of ROI, it will add up to a big number at the end. But when you look at each channel individually, the results aren’t that sexy. But when you combine them, it looks great.

Start with chat

What do you check more, your text messages or your email
inbox?

I bet you are going to say text messages because you look at
your phone more often than logging into your email inbox.

But here is an interesting stat for you… did you know that
over 6
billion SMS messages are sent daily
?

Now can you guess how many emails are sent daily?

269
billion
!

That’s a big difference.

And do you know how many people visit Facebook each day?

1.62
billion
.

Now the point of me sharing those stats isn’t to try and
tell you that email is better than text. Or that Facebook isn’t as valuable as
text messaging.

It’s more so to show you that they are all massive channels
that people are using each and every day.

So why wouldn’t you try and leverage all of them?

And you can easily do so through free chat marketing tools like Manychat that allow you to communicate to your visitors using text messaging, email marketing, and Facebook Messenger.

Once you have created your Manychat account, go here to watch how to set it up. They have tons of very helpful videos that teach you how to do things like setting up Facebook Messenger bots and connecting your Facebook page so you can start sending out messages.

Now that you are all set up, I want you to use the following templates for your business as I know they convert…

Templates that convert

My team and I have tested out tons of different messaging
for all channels, such as email, messenger and text messaging.

Here are the ones that have worked the best for us…

Text messaging templates

My favorite text message to send someone is:

[first name]?

When someone sends you a text with just your first name and a “?” what do you do? Chances are you respond with… “who is this?”.

Once someone responds with who is this, our sales reps typically
respond with…

This is John from Neil Patel’s team. I just wanted to follow up to see if you have any questions or if we can help you with anything.

It’s simple and it works well and it has boosted our sales
by 4.69%.

Another one that works well is a “flash sales” text message…

Flash Sale: All product on [yoursite] are [x]% off for the next 24 hours. [insert URL]

This one works really well during holidays or anytime you
want to run a promotion. Depending on the size of the business you run and how
big your list is, you will usually see an additional 2 to 3% in revenue for
that month.

And my favorite text campaign is…

Check out this new blog post, [subject of the blog post] [URL]

An example would be… “Check out this new blog post on doubling
your SEO traffic [URL]”

When I send out text message alerts for new posts, it usually increases the traffic to that blog post by another 4%.

Email templates

You’re probably familiar with this email template as you get
it from me every week.
Source: https://neilpatel.com/blog/omnichannel-chat/

What Readers Want During COVID-19: Content Ideas for Every Niche

Posted by amandamilligan

This is a stressful time to say the least. Everything is impacted by COVID-19 in some way, including our work.

Once we’ve taken time to acknowledge how lucky we are to work in digital, it’s time to assess if our current content strategy needs any adjusting based on current events.

Many marketers are finding themselves:

  • Wanting to write about something topical
  • Needing to add more content to their calendars
  • At a loss for how to contribute at a time like this

So, I spent hours using Ubersuggest, putting myself in the shoes of various Americans. I tested a variety of keywords to see which ones have exhibited a trend during the COVID-19 outbreak and might warrant some attention from content marketers.

The results below are for the term “Coronavirus,” so for the other keywords identified, I looked for a noticeable spike in the months of January, February, and March to make sure they matched up accordingly.

My findings reveal potential topic ideas for several primary industries. See if any provide inspiration for high-quality content you can create in the coming months.

    Travel

    I’ll start with one of the industries hardest hit by this pandemic: travel. This was a tough one, as more and more people are understandably opting for driving, walking, or biking to get around, and are no longer relying on air travel or public transportation as trips and work get cancelled. However, I identified a few key opportunities.

    Travel insurance

    While it had an increase in the summer months, interest in the topic of travel insurance has risen back up again. Perhaps those who have to travel want to make sure they’re covered if they get sick, or maybe those who canceled travel want to see what their insurance covers.

    In either case, people are looking for information about travel insurance and how it can help them.

    Train travel

    It seems that train travel falls into an ambiguous category that people are asking about. I’m not here to say whether it’s safe or not (as that is obviously not my area of expertise). As we’ve all heard, it’s best not to travel at all, but perhaps your brand can offer some clarity in this regard and offer alternatives.

    Virtual travel

    For everyone stuck at home but still grappling with wanderlust, how can they still explore from the couch? Virtual travel seems to be gaining popularity as more people find themselves stuck at home.

    Work and education

    In some cases, companies and schools have gone from in-person to virtual nearly overnight. It’s been a huge shakeup across the board, and relevant topics are trending accordingly.

    Homeschooling

    Many kids are home from school, and their parents are suddenly and unexpectedly in the position of teaching them. They’re sure to have a lot of questions! Note how the search level now is the same as the summer months, when kids are also home.

    Free online courses

    With all plans essentially cancelled as a result of “social distancing,” people are looking for ways to spend their time at home. If you offer online courses, consider amplifying them and explaining their value. If you don’t, consider whether it makes sense to create one.

    Working from home tips

    Executives and staff alike are looking for advice on how to improve productivity while working from home, perhaps for the first time. Consider creating content with suggestions on how to set up a home office or maintain a schedule while dealing with at-home distractions.

    How to stay focused

    Whether it’s because people are working or studying at home for the first time or because they’re anxious and distracted by the developing events, more and more people are struggling to stay focused. Can your brand offer anything by way of motivation or tools for focus and efficiency?

    Entertainment

    Everyone’s at home either trying to distract themselves from the stressful reality of the world or looking to cure their boredom. As a result, online entertainment is on the rise. Can you offer the entertainment itself, or maybe guides on how to choose the best entertainment?

    Free streaming

    We’re stuck with digital for now, and people are looking for new media to consume. What can your brand provide? Also trending: “cheap digital games” and “best multiplayer video games”.

    Learn to play piano online

    Some folks are using their newfound free time to work on hobbies and skills they haven’t had the chance to pursue in the past. Can your brand teach them anything?

    Best online shopping deals

    This is particularly interesting to me. Keyword rates for this term are as high as they were over the holidays. I’m wondering if people who still have disposable income will pass the time online shopping, while others who are more financially impacted will cut back, leaving things at a net equal?

    Finance

    Aside from the health and safety of the population, finance cuts most to the emotional core of this pandemic. Many people are laid off or can’t work, and financial worry is skyrocketing. What can you do to provide guidance or relief?

    Unemployment

    Many people are unexpectedly looking to file unemployment, and plenty of those people have no idea how to do it, how much money they’ll get, or how to get that information. Informative guides and tips could be hugely helpful in this area.

    Budgeting tips

    With layoffs and pay cuts, people are scrambling to find new ways to save money. Also trending with the same graph results: “How to invest money wisely” — most likely because of the fluctuating stock market. Can you provide insight?

    Relationships

    When tensions run high, it’s important to pay attention to all the relationships in your life, meaning several subtopics in this vertical can be of vital importance.

    At home date ideas

    Couples stuck inside are looking for ways to keep up their romantic lives. Does it make sense for your brand to provide dating or relationships tips at an unprecedented time like this?

    Reconnecting with friends

    Physically, we’re all practicing social distancing, but we shouldn’t be virtually disconnecting from the people in our lives. It looks like people are wondering if they should take advantage of this free time to reconnect with old friends. Can your brand offer advice on the topic, or possibly a forum for those connections to happen?

    How to make your parents understand how you feel

    There are a lot of jokes going around about Gen Zs and Millennials trying to convince their Boomer parents to stay inside. But the jokes are for a reason: Many people are having tough conversations for the first time with family that they aren’t entirely sure how to navigate. Could you provide some helpful tips to approach these conversations?

    Health and fitness

    Health is, unsurprisingly, a vital category right now. Rather than getting into some of the most obvious things (like hand washing, hand sanitizer, etc.), I’ll try to cover some other popular topics that might be useful.

    How to get health insurance

    Similar to “unemployment” above, this is probably a response to people losing their jobs who are now unsure how they can get health insurance. What other concerns might these people have that you can help with?

    Indoor workouts

    People might have to stay home, but they’re also trying to stay healthy. How can you assist them in this endeavor?

    Also trending: “how to start running”, indicating that solitary outdoor exercise is key, too.

    How to strengthen immune system

    People are concerned about their health and want to do whatever they can to protect themselves from COVID-19. However, only dive into this subject matter if your brand is a legitimate medical expert. False information can damage lives.

    Also trending: “healthy diet”.

    Journaling

    Don’t forget about mental health, which is also being affected by the pandemic. People are stressed, anxious, worried, and, well, scared. Does it make sense for your brand to provide guidance on how to emotionally or mentally approach this day and age?

    Also trending: “meditation”.

    Home and family

    In many cases, entire families are at home, every day, for the first time since the kids were old enough to be in school. That can lead to some interesting challenges.

    Natural cleaning products

    In an effort to keep the house clean, people may be looking for guidance on the best type of supplies to use. Could you make a list of the most effective products?

    Also trending: “organic cleaning products”.

    Family recipes

    Everyone’s at home for all their meals and trying to avoid restaurants, so they probably need more recipes in their arsenal. Maybe your employees have favorite family recipes you could share with your readers.

    Games to play with kids

    Parents are used to this over the summer, but not when it’s sprung on them for an indefinite period of time. How can your brand give them ideas and tools to entertain their kids while they’re home?

    Also trending: “family conversation starters”.

    Conclusion

    To round out this study, I want to show the results for “uplifting stories.”

    If you’re not responsible for delivering breaking news or important COVID-19 updates, look for opportunities to amplify joy, gratitude, hope, or any other positive emotion. People are looking for health and safety updates, but they’re looking for inspiration, too.

    Consider how any of these topics might apply to your brand, do some further exploring in the Moz Keyword Explorer, and focus on creating a content plan you feel confident in.

    Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!


    Source: https://moz.com/blog/what-readers-want-during-covid19