The Global Source for Social Media Researchers

SMRA Blog 

<< First  < Prev   1   2   3   4   5   ...   Next >  Last >> 
  • 20 May 2019 4:42 PM | Kathy Doering (Administrator)

    Ever heard the term Big Brother is watching? What you are about to read regarding your smart phone and specific apps may alarm you.

    We use apps constantly without thinking twice about what information or knowledge they may be gathering about us. But do you know that some smartphone apps are used to track our every move? Thanks to tiny pieces of code that millions of developers use to make their lives easier, an array of companies gets free access to data they can employ to understand your habits.

    When we browse the web through Google Chrome, for example, vast arrays of companies follow us. That’s why the ads that appear on the right side of your browser are usually related to searches you have recently conducted.

    On your smartphone, tracking is generally performed through the use of a “software development kit” or SDK—a set of tools that help developers debug their code or hook into useful services. But other SDKs help advertisers and marketing companies peer into your private life. Take the iHeartRadio app for example: Last fall, Medium reported that it contained code from Cuebiq’s SDK, which would permit user data to be sold for the purposes of ad tracking.

    Apple just recently launched a “privacy matters” campaign, which is ironic because it doesn’t protect users from trackers embedded in apps that are distributed through the iOS App Store. SDKs also allow Facebook and Google to track users beyond their desktop web browsers and automatically collect information like when you installed the app, each time you opened it, and what you purchased.

    Tracking in SDKs is clearly part of the modern App Store era and there are tons of companies you’ve never heard of invisibly tracking your habits in apps you use every day. Networks like Vungle, Apps Flyer, and Applovin all call themselves “advertising and analytics” platforms. They help developers monetize their apps, and all of them track data to sell to other partners behind the scenes as well.

    In the past, Apple has moved to make it more difficult to identify you by blocking access to unique identifiers and your phone number, but it’s still trivial to correlate an identity via your IP address, the name of a Wi-Fi network, or just matching together the bread crumbs of data they grab about you. Android allows even broader access to identifiers—not surprising, given that it’s built by a company that relies on advertising to make money.

    There’s frustratingly little we can do to combat SDK tracking without intervention from Apple and Google. They should provide operating system controls that show the parties harvesting data inside the apps on our devices or should require third parties to reveal this information. A good example of this in practice can be found in the Guardianapp, which allows users to disable tracking on a per-SDK basis in its settings. Requiring this should be standard for all developers.

    Let’s look at another example…more intrusive, but surprisingly popular among women.

    Ovia, a pregnancy-tracking app, allows users to record private and intimate details of their entire pregnancy journey including bodily functions, sex drive, medications, mood, ovulation cycle, and more.

    Ovia pitches its app to companies as a health-care aid for women to better understand their bodies during a mystifying phase of life. In marketing materials, it says women who have tracked themselves with Ovia showed a 30% reduction in premature births, a 30% increase in natural conception and a higher rate of identifying the signs of postpartum depression. Women wanting to get pregnant are told they can rely on Ovia’s “fertility algorithms,” which analyze their menstrual data and suggest good times to try to conceive, potentially saving money on infertility treatments. “An average of 33 hours of productivity are lost for every round of treatment,” an Ovia marketing document says.

    Employers who pay the apps’ developer, Ovia Health, can offer their workers a special version of the apps that relays their health data — in an anonymous form — to an internal employer website accessible by human resources personnel. The companies offer it alongside other health benefits and incentivize workers to input as much about their bodies as they can, saying the data can help the companies minimize health-care spending, discover medical problems and better plan for the months ahead.

    But some health and privacy advocates say this new generation of “menstrual surveillance” tools is pushing the limits of what women will share about one of the most sensitive moments of their lives. The apps, they say, are designed to benefit the employers and insurers and experts worry that companies could use the data to bump up the cost or scale back the coverage of health-care benefits, or that women’s intimate information could be exposed in data breaches or security risks.

    “The real benefit of self-tracking is always to the company,” says Karen Levy, a Cornell University assistant professor who has researched family and workplace monitoring. “People are being asked to do this at a time when they’re incredibly vulnerable and may not have any sense where that data is being passed.”

    An Ovia spokeswoman said the company does not sell aggregate data for advertising purposes. But women who use Ovia must consent to its 6,000-word “terms of use,” which grant the company a “royalty-free, perpetual, and irrevocable license, throughout the universe” to “utilize and exploit” their de-identified personal information for scientific research and “external and internal marketing purposes.” Ovia may also “sell, lease or lend aggregated Personal Information to third parties,” the document adds.

    For employers who fund workers’ health insurance, pregnancy can be one of the biggest and most unpredictable health-care expenses. In 2014, AOL chief executive Tim Armstrong defended the company’s cuts to retirement benefits by blaming the high medical expenses that arose from two employees giving birth to “distressed babies.”

    “The fact that women’s pregnancies are being tracked that closely by employers is very disturbing,” said Deborah C. Peel, a psychiatrist and founder of the Texas nonprofit Patient Privacy Rights. “There’s so much discrimination against mothers and families in the workplace, and they can’t trust their employer to have their best interests at heart.”

    Federal law forbids companies from discriminating against pregnant women and mandates that pregnancy-related health-care expenses be covered in the same way as other medical conditions. Ovia said the data helps employers provide “better benefits, health coverage and support.” Pregnant women can log details of their sleep, diet, mood and weight, while women who are trying to conceive can record when they had sex, how they’re feeling and the look and color of their cervical fluid.

    After birth, the app asks for the baby’s name, sex and weight; who performed the delivery and where; the birth type, such as vaginal or an unplanned C-section; how long labor lasted; whether it included an epidural; and the details of any complications, such as whether there was a breech or postpartum hemorrhage.

    The app also allows women to report whether they had a miscarriage or pregnancy loss, including the date and “type of loss,” such as whether the baby was stillborn. “After reporting a miscarriage, you will have the option to both reset your account and, when you’re ready, to start a new pregnancy,” the app says. “We’re their companion throughout this process and want to … provide them with support throughout their entire journey,” Ovia spokeswoman Sarah Coppersmith said.

    Much of this information is viewable only by the worker. But the company can access a vast range of aggregated data about its employees, including their average age, number of children and current trimester; the average time it took them to get pregnant; the percentage who had high-risk pregnancies, conceived after a stretch of infertility, had C-sections or gave birth prematurely; and the new moms’ return-to-work timing.

    Ovia data is viewable by the company, their insurers and, in the case of Activision Blizzard and other self-insured companies, the third-party administrators that process women’s medical claims. Ezzard, the benefits executive at Activision Blizzard, said offering pregnancy programs such as Ovia helps the company stand out in a competitive industry and keep skilled women in the workforce coming back. The company employs roughly 5,000 artists, developers and other workers in the United States. “I want them to have a healthy baby because it’s great for our business experience,” Ezzard said. “Rather than having a baby who’s in the neonatal ICU, where she’s not able to focus much on work.”

    “As a clinician researcher, I can see the benefit of analyzing large data sets,” said Paula M. Castaño, an obstetrician-gynecologist and associate professor at Columbia University who has studied menstrual-tracking apps. But a lot of the Ovia data given to employers, she said, raises concerns “with their lack of general clinical applicability and focus on variables that affect time out of work and insurance utilization.”

    Ovia says its “fertility algorithms,” which analyze a woman’s data and suggest when she would have the best chance of getting pregnant, have helped 5 million women conceive. But the claim is impossible to prove: Research into similar promises from other apps has suggested there were other possible explanations, including the fact that the women were motivated enough to use a period-tracking app in the first place.


  • 7 May 2019 7:50 PM | Kathy Doering (Administrator)

    Finally after years of criticism, Facebook announced that it would stop allowing advertisers in key categories to show their messages only to people of a certain race, gender or age group. The company said that anyone advertising housing, jobs or credit — three areas where federal law prohibits discrimination in ads — would no longer have the option of explicitly targeting people on the basis of those characteristics.

    Facebook has been accused of allowing advertisers to unlawfully discriminate against minorities, women, and the elderly by using the platform’s ad-targeting technology. The settlement resolves five separate cases that had been brought against Facebook over discriminatory advertising since 2016, following a ProPublica investigation that revealed Facebook let advertisers choose to hide their ads from blacks, Hispanics, or people of other “ethnic affinities.” Lawsuits soon followed. The most recent case was an EEOC complaint by the American Civil Liberties Union in September, alleging that Facebook allowed job ads to discriminate against women.

    This is significant because Facebook’s massive revenue primarily comes from ads, which are so lucrative because of their microtargeting capabilities. In 2017, according to its annual earnings report, the company made $39.94 billion on ads alone. Its total revenue for that year was $40.65 billion, meaning ads accounted for roughly 98% of revenue.

    But when a company or advertiser shows an ad only to certain people, it excludes a protected class of workers. And that’s illegal under federal law. “It is a game-changer,” says Lisa Rice, the executive vice president of the National Fair Housing Alliance, whose lawsuit against Facebook was among those settled Tuesday. “The settlement positions Facebook to be a pacesetter and a leader on civil rights issues in the tech field.”

    “We think this settlement is historic and will go a long way toward making sure that these types of discriminatory practices can’t happen,” Sheryl Sandberg, the company’s COO, said in an interview.

    As part of the agreement, Facebook will build a designated portal for advertisers to create housing, employment, and credit ads, which will not allow targeting users by age, gender, zip code, or other categories covered by anti-discrimination laws. Microtargeting options that appear to relate to these protected categories will be off-limits as well. Any advertiser that wants to run an ad on Facebook will be required to indicate if their ad is related to one of these three things. According to The Washington Post, Facebook has said it will make these changes by the end of the year.

    “Housing, employment, and credit ads are crucial to helping people buy new homes, start great careers, and gain access to credit. They should never be used to exclude or harm people,” Sandberg wrote in a post announcing the settlement. “Getting this right is deeply important to me and all of us at Facebook because inclusivity is a core value for our company.”

    Advertisers that deliberately and repeatedly avoid the new portal when placing ads in the three regulated areas will probably face consequences, though the company said it had yet to determine those.

    Pauline Kim, a professor of employment law at Washington University in St. Louis, praised the changes but cautioned against overstating their significance. “Taking the explicit ability to discriminate off the table is an important first step,” Professor Kim said. “But I don’t think it solves the problem of the potential for biased serving of ads.” Ms. Kim said, for example, that an employer could place an ad that it intended to show to both men and women, but over time, Facebook’s algorithms could begin to show the ad primarily to men if it determined that men were much likelier to click on the ad. “It’s within the realm of possibility depending on how the algorithm is constructed,” Professor Kim said. “You could end up serving ads, inadvertently, to biased audiences.”

    Sandberg acknowledged the limits of the policy changes and said Facebook had committed to working with the other parties to find additional ways to root out discrimination. The parties will discuss progress on that front every six months for three years after the changes are rolled out.

    “In addition to being a historic settlement of five separate lawsuits that will change practices on Facebook and other platforms, it’s also notable that we agreed to continue to study the algorithmic effect of ads with Facebook,” said Anthony Romero, executive director of the A.C.L.U.

    Facebook is also removing thousands of so-called interest segments, including some that advertisers could use to reach people by characteristics like gender or age, for ads in the three regulated areas. For example, to show how advertisers could keep certain groups from seeing housing ads on Facebook, the National Fair Housing Alliance once created a fictitious ad that excluded groups like “corporate moms” and “stay at home” mothers.

    Those segments would no longer be available for targeting by housing, employment and credit ads once Facebook carries out the proposed changes.

    Despite some of the expected pushback, civil rights advocates are applauding and they are confident Facebook will follow through. The company has agreed to twice-annual meetings with the groups, as well as ongoing trainings with outside experts on these issues. Facebook has agreed to let the NFHA, the ACLU, and others conduct independent testing of its ad sites to make sure Facebook does what it says it will.

    “If any advertiser was trying to skirt or circumvent the system, we have methods for finding that out and we’ll be able to bring that to the attention of Facebook,” says Rice of the National Fair Housing Alliance.


  • 25 Apr 2019 5:09 PM | Kathy Doering (Administrator)

    By: Jim Matorin, SMARTKEING

    Proviso: Last year I harped on the value of marketers understanding their target audience either via conventional demographic categorization or digitally mining for brand advocates to implement influence marketing movements. I will also go on record: I stated that marketers are over processing when it comes to consumer targeting.  Time flies, summer is just around the corner. I still persist marketers will continue to over process when it comes to consumer targeting. Thanks to the advent of 5G (the next generation of mobile broadband) and the utilization of A.I., we will experience consumer targeting on steroids – psychographic profiling.

    A recent survey conducted by eMarketer Retail indicated a small percentage, only 5% of retailers and CPG enterprises are leveraging data in their decision making. Ironic given the survey respondents ranked the importance for better (89%) and faster (79%) insights into customer needs and expectations. Thanks to the expansion of data captured at the numerous consumer technology touch points – transactional purchasing behavior/history, apps, geo-location, etc., smart marketers are in stronger position to make data driven decisions based on enhanced, more effective segmentation. The new wave of segmentation will reflect attitudinal information (e.g., personal interests, life styles, occasion, etc.) layered with traditional demographic buckets (e.g., age, income, education, etc.).   

    I envision the advent of 5G, the next generation of mobile broadband, combined with the utilization of A.I. will enhance consumer segmentation targeting. 5G connections will deliver greater data capacity (instant computing power) and speed than previous generations – 1,000 the data rate of 4G. Consequently, marketers will be able to utilize psychographic profiling thanks to their ability to crunch data in nanoseconds to identify and engage with their target audience via relevant, real time marketing communications.

    My company specializes in the food industry. Detailed below are some examples of future food industry psychographic profiling buckets:

    • Lifestyles (e.g., “on-the-go”) – Snacking behavior, convenience foods preferences, beverage consumption.
    • Situational Eating Behavior – Location and time of day consumers buy food.
    • Health vs. Indulgence – Special diet needs, labeling knowledge, over the top eating experiences.
    • Social Values – Make the world a better place – sustainability, responsible biodiversity sourcing.

    Does psychographic profiling sound complicated? To a degree, except for those companies that invest in the resources, both technology and trained human capital (analysts). They will eventually develop an integrated segmentation methodology, the combination of key consumer profiling factors that drive their sales. However, given what I have experienced throughout the years, a majority of marketers will over process. Over processing is in their DNA. They will end up compiling mountains of data, conduct endless meetings, even go to length to hire outside resources (e.g., agencies) to help find the magic bullet.

    Bottomline: There is no magic bullet. Companies have to seek the marketing formula that works best for them. Execution is a great starting point.






  • 20 Apr 2019 10:01 AM | Kathy Doering (Administrator)

    As we enter into a new political campaign season, it's good to review research on fake news. This article digs and is informative. 

    Americans 65 and older share more fake news than other age groups. Why?

    Fake News

    Credit: Adobe Stock

    Fake news sharing was an epidemic in 2016. But according to researchers, those claims seem to have been exaggerated. In a recent study, over 90% of 3,500 respondents surveyed shared no fake news at all. If most of us don’t think we were sharing fake news, who makes up the 10%?

    The study, published in January from Princeton University, looked at sharing habits for so-called “fake news domains” — outlets that published false stories intentionally designed to look like news articles and mislead the reader. Though sharing this content was still a relatively rare activity, the study found that Facebook users who shared the most fake news — nearly seven times as many articles as any other — were ones over 65. Older Americans shared more fake news stories even when researchers held all other factors constant, including political ideology.

    “Age was significantly associated with sharing more articles from designated ‘fake news’ domains, on average,” said the lead author of the study, Andrew Guess, an assistant professor of politics and public affairs at Princeton. “No matter which way we tried to slice it or how we did the analysis, that finding kept coming up.”

    It’s a Collective Harm

    Facebook has seen a huge growth in older users, according to a Pew Research Center study published in February. Forty-one percent of Americans 65 and older use Facebook — more than double the amount from 2012. Yet even with that growth, Facebook’s practices remain opaque to most of its users: According to the same study, more than half of the platform’s adult users don’t understand how their newsfeeds work.

    Research hasn’t proven much help on that front, either. Because each user’s newsfeed is created by Facebook’s internal algorithm, a mixture of personalized statistics and advertiser priorities, the Princeton study lacked the ability to see exactly what on its respondents’ feeds led them to share fake news stories.

    That confusion creates an opening for potential scammers with political motivations. Guess likened the rise of fake news on social media to the early-2000s trend of email chain letters, which also often involved false or misleading news articles. Email financial scams frequently target older Americans, but Guess noted that an information scam has different consequences.

    “The harm done isn’t on an individual level,” he said. “People aren’t necessarily losing their savings. But there is potentially a collective harm, in the sense that the overall information environment could be degraded and it just adds to confusion.”

    The Emotional Manipulation of Fake News

    The sheer amount of fake news stories online has grown exponentially in the last decade, as coordinated political groups have exploited the behavior of social media users. “Most of the content is reproduced, amplified and spread by people who don’t know that it’s false,” said Kate Starbird, an assistant professor in the department of human centered design and engineering at the University of Washington.

    Over the last decade, Starbird has studied the ways people share news on social media — particularly on Twitter — after crisis events like mass shootings. She didn’t start out analyzing disinformation, she says, but that portion of her work has grown over the years as disinformation campaigns have became more widespread.

    A common characteristic of the most successful fake news stories, Starbird said, is that they play on the reader’s emotions. “When you’re feeling really angry or really upset or really disgusted, that’s kind of a hint that someone’s trying to manipulate you,” she said.

    Starbird particularly noted this phenomenon in the wake of the Paris terror attacks and the Umpqua Community College mass shooting in Roseburg, Ore., both of which occurred in fall 2015 as the U.S. presidential campaign was heating up. Almost immediately on social media, Starbird said, disinformation campaigns worked to ascribe political ideologies to the attacks. In some cases, bogus stories created “false flag” conspiracy theories questioning whether the attacks had even taken place.

    The trend of politically-inflected fake news accelerated through the rest of the 2016 presidential campaign.

    According to the Princeton study, nearly half of the misinformation released during the period played on conservative, explicitly pro-Trump or anti-Hillary Clinton viewpoints, often from domains disguised to look like legitimate news organizations, like “The Denver Guardian” and “abcnews.com.co.”

    Much of it did come from well-publicized Russian operations, which often targeted online political communities ranging from fans of Fox News host Sean Hannity to members of Black Lives Matter. But Starbird said other groups were behind the disinformation, too, including Iran, Hezbollah and the Syrian government.

    How Did We Get Here?

    Why is sharing fake news more common among older Americans? Starbird doesn’t work directly with age demographics in her research, but she has some ideas:

    “Older adults who might have come of age in a different information environment may not be as savvy or have the same skill-set, or even the same training, to be able to manage some of the ways that … misinformation and disinformation come at them online,” she said.

    But other digital media researchers who do work more closely with age populations want to draw a distinction between older users and social media newcomers, which often, but not always, overlap. “I hesitate to conclude this is only an age problem,” said Robin Brewer, assistant professor in the University of Michigan’s School of Information studying accessibility in computing across age groups and other demographics.

    “I think it’s more likely that newcomers are more likely to share ‘fake news’ because they are unable to adequately identify cues that the information isn’t from a reputable source,” Brewer said. But, she noted, “older adults are not new to the internet.” They simply aren’t the target demographic for a platform like Facebook, so they’re more likely to approach social media as newcomers.

    Guess is also hesitant to draw too many conclusions about the culpability of older Americans in spreading fake news.

    “Maybe it’s true that people over 65 have always been more susceptible to political misinformation,” Guess said. “But also it could just be true that this could be a weird feature of the 2016 election.”

    Innovative Fact-Checking Is the Future

    How can social media users address the problem for future election cycles, especially when many sharers of “fake news” have told researchers, including Starbird, they don’t care whether the stories they share are true?

    Starbird believes early detection can still prevent the spread of fake news, because it prevents would-be amplifiers from having to rationalize their actions after the fact (or fake).

    To that end, several colleges and startups are developing real-time fact-checking procedures, powered by everything from crowdsourcing to artificial intelligence, with the goal of catching and flagging disinformation before it spreads.

    And Facebook has gradually instituted new attempts to make its platform more transparent and cut down on fake news sharing. The company is providing more information to users about why its algorithm is generating certain posts in their newsfeeds, and, most significantly, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently floated the idea of creating a new section of the platform dedicated to “high-quality news.”

    Already, some fake-news proprietors who made healthy profits off of Facebook shares in 2016 have had to drastically scale back operations after the site tinkered with its algorithm.

    False or misleading political information existed before social media, and it’s unlikely to completely disappear from the public space. But controlling its spread in the present day requires properly understanding it.

    Put astutely by Guess: “It’s difficult to even get well-trained humans to agree on whether or not something is fake.”

     By Andrew Lapin


  • 11 Apr 2019 9:04 AM | Kathy Doering (Administrator)

    Pew Research most recent stats...

    BY ANDREW PERRIN AND MONICA ANDERSON

    The share of U.S. adults who say they use certain online platforms or apps is statistically unchanged from where it stood in early 2018 despite a long stretch of controversies over privacy, fake news and censorship on social media, according to a new Pew Research Center survey conducted Jan. 8 to Feb. 7, 2019.

    Facebook, YouTube continue to be the most widely used online platforms among U.S. adultsMore broadly, the steady growth in adoption that social platforms have experienced in the United States over the past decade also appears to be slowing. The shares of adults who say they use Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Twitter are each largely the same as in 2016, with only Instagram showing an uptick in use during this time period. (There are no comparable 2016 phone survey data for YouTube, Snapchat, WhatsApp or Reddit.)

    Facebook – which recently celebrated its 15th anniversary – remains one of the most widely used social media sites among adults in the U.S. Roughly seven-in-ten adults (69%) say they ever use the platform. (A separate 2018 Center survey showed Facebook use among U.S. teens had dropped in recent years.) YouTube is the only other online platform measured that matches Facebook’s reach: 73% of adults report using the video sharing site. But certain online platforms, most notably Instagram and Snapchat, have an especially strong following among young adults.

    Instagram, Snapchat remain especially popular among those ages 18 to 24

    Snapchat and Instagram are especially popular among 18- to 24-year-oldsAs was true in previous surveys of social media use by the Center, there are substantial age-related differences in platform use. This is especially true of Instagram and Snapchat, which are used by 67% and 62% of 18- to 29-year-olds, respectively.

    Particularly for these two platforms, there are also pronounced differences in use within the young adult population. Those ages 18 to 24 are substantially more likely than those ages 25 to 29 to say they use Snapchat (73% vs. 47%) and Instagram (75% vs. 57%).

    By comparison, age differences are less pronounced for Facebook. Facebook use is relatively common across a range of age groups, with 68% of those ages 50 to 64 and nearly half of those 65 and older saying they use the site.

    Other demographic patterns related to social media and messaging app use are relatively unchanged from last year. Women are nearly three times as likely as men to use Pinterest (42% vs. 15%). Around half of college graduates and those who live in high-income households use LinkedIn, compared with 10% or fewer of those who have not attended at least some college or those in lower-income households. And WhatsApp continues to be popular among Hispanics: 42% use the messaging app, compared with 24% of blacks and 13% of whites. (For more details on social media and messaging app use by different demographic groups, see the bottom of the post.)

    Majority of Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram users visit these sites daily

    Roughly three-quarters of Facebook users visit the site on a daily basisA 2018 Center survey found that some Facebook users had recently taken steps to moderate their use of the site – such as deleting the Facebook app from their phone or taking a break from the platform for some time. But despite these findings and amid some high profile controversies, Facebook users as a whole are just as active on the site today as they were a year ago. Roughly three-quarters of Facebook users (74%) visit the site daily, including about half who do so several times a day. These shares are identical to those reported by Facebook users in the Center’s 2018 social media use survey.

    Majorities of Snapchat and Instagram users also say they visit these sites daily, though they are slightly less likely than Facebook users to do so. The shares of young adults using these platforms daily are especially large. Roughly eight-in-ten Snapchat users ages 18 to 29 (77%) say they use the app every day, including 68% who say they do so multiple times day. Similarly, 76% of Instagram users in this age group visit the site on a daily basis, with 60% reporting that they do so several times per day. These patterns are largely similar to what the Center found in 2018.

    Other platforms are visited somewhat less frequently. Some 51% of YouTube users say they visit the site daily – a slight increase from the 45% who said this in 2018.

    Use of different online platforms by demographic groups


  • 29 Mar 2019 2:17 PM | Kathy Doering (Administrator)

    Using social media as an alternative around advertising restrictions isn't cool.   From FastCompany:

    Ongoing research shows how tobacco firms market to young people, even as tighter rules on tobacco and vaping in the U.S. are being cast into doubt.

    BY ROBERT KOZINETS

    5 MINUTE READ

    Big Tobacco is increasingly using social media to find new ways to hook young people on smoking, circumventing decades of laws restricting the marketing of traditional cigarettes to minors.

    In major cities around the world such as Rio de Janeiro, Cairo, Jakarta, and Milan, tobacco companies have been holding extravagant events with names like “K_Player” and “RedMoveNow” that were designed to connect with young people. Often featuring alcohol, live music, and attractive hosts, these lavish events spare no expense as they seek find new buyers for their tobacco products.

    The problem? Those partygoers are carefully targeted young influencers, who are encouraged to share photos of their glamorous tobacco-sponsored adventures with friends and followers on social media using appealing hashtags like #iamonthemove#decideyourflow, and #mydaynow. And although the influencers are over 18, their social media followers can be much younger.

    This exploitation of social media’s organic reach is one of the findings from a global research project I’ve been working on since 2016 with more than a dozen different scholars. The anti-smoking advocacy group Tobacco-Free Kids noticed a lot of photos of young people with cigarettes turning up in their online scans of global social media and asked me to look into it.

    My own research focuses on how to rigorously research online culture using natural observational techniques, something that this study definitely required.

    My team’s task was to monitor, report upon, and analyze the programs behind the hashtagged social media posts of young people smoking. What we learned about tobacco company’s current advertising surprised us.

    SKIRTING MARKETING RESTRICTIONS

    Tobacco companies have always had a knack for finding creative ways to skirt regulations intended to curb marketing to young people.

    In 1971, the U.S. Congress banned tobacco ads from television and radio. In response, companies invested heavily in outdoor advertising and magazines. In 1997, the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement banned tobacco on outdoor and billboard ads. In response, tobacco money flowed into sponsorships of sports, music, and other events. These type of event sponsorships were banned, with some exceptions, in 2010, at the same time wider restrictions on youth marketing were also introduced.

    No matter the medium, the messaging was often the same: find ways to reach new and young potential smokers. As documents from the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library reveal, tobacco executives have long believed that the continued survival and success of their companies depends on one thing: convincing young people to buy their products.

    In 2005, the World Health Organization banned tobacco advertising in 168 signatory countries. By 2010, the U.S. had closed a lot of Big Tobacco’s favorite advertising and tobacco loopholes.

    With conventional media mostly off-limits, what was Big Tobacco to do? Like the Marlboro Man, the unregulated Wild West of social media rode to the rescue.

    THE PERFECT MARKETING MEDIUM

    Social media fits Big Tobacco’s advertising needs to a tee.

    At least 88 percent of American youth say they use social media apps like Facebook and Instagram regularly, and the technologies are notoriously difficult to regulate.

    With Tobacco-Free Kids’ financial support, I assembled a growing team of researchers to investigate. Our work is ongoing.

    My team collected a plethora of social media data and also conducted interviews with a range of tobacco brand ambassadors, party attendees, influencers and industry insiders from around the world. What we found was an astoundingly effective use of social media by a range of different tobacco companies to connect with the next generation of potential cigarette smokers.

    While tobacco companies were careful to abide by the letter of the law–the influencers involved in these posts were all of legal smoking age in their countries–social media has a public setting that makes it an effective and largely unregulated form of broadcast.

    Legally, anyone age 13 or over can have an Instagram or Facebook account. Our “netnography“–a type of qualitative social media inquiry that focuses on cultural contexts, social structures, and deeper meanings–only looked at public posts, images that any 13-year-old with an account could see.

    Related:Beware of this new dark pattern popping up in ads and packaging

    TRAINING CAMPS AND POP-UP PARTIES

    Our investigation uncovered a range of promotional activities and a web of public relations and advertising agencies that cleverly leveraged the strengths of social media to keep tobacco advertising under the radar of existing regulation.

    We found tobacco companies in countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines recruiting “nano-influencers” of just 2,000-3,000 followers on Facebook and Instagram and encouraging them to post about their tobacco-sponsored adventures.

    In Indonesia, we found brand ambassador training camps that lasted two full weeks and were run by the domestic tobacco company Gudang Garam. At these camps, young nano-influencers were paid generous fees, taught about cigarette brands images, and then provided lessons about how to better maintain their social media feeds.

    Public relations agencies in Uruguay taught their influencers how to take pictures of cigarette packages in ways that best accentuated their brands, offering tips on lighting, hashtags, and the best time to post them for maximum impact.

    Some companies used Facebook pages to recruit young people to attend their parties. After answering a few questions on the Facebook page, for example, responders were enrolled in a mailing list resulting in invitations to cool pop-up “parties and edgier events.”

    At those parties, young people were greeted by attractive attendants who offered them cigarettes and encouraged them to pose with floor designs modeled after cigarette brand logos. After snapping pictures, they were encouraged to post them on their social media feed using the party’s decisiveness and action-oriented hashtags. The result was unquestionably a new form of cigarette promotion.

    These activities clearly violate the spirit of the existing agreements not to indirectly advertise to young people. You can call it stealth, undercover, or guerrilla marketing if you wish. Whatever its name, this is 21st-century cigarette advertising that reaches millions of young people around the world.

    Related: Tobacco companies beware: Smoking is at an all-time low in the U.S.

    EXPLOITING SOCIAL MEDIA

    Our research has not only helped shine a light on Big Tobacco’s unchecked use of social media, it has also informed a recent petition to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission requesting it to investigate and enforce these novel forms of cigarette advertising.

    Although it might be difficult for governments to keep on top of media in these rapidly changing times, they must do so if they hope to prevent global smoking rates and their consequent health problems from rising once again. Indeed, with leadership change in the Food and Drug Administration, new and tighter regulations on tobacco and vaping in the United States are already being cast into doubt.

    Social media provide an incredible advance in communications that democratize communications in unprecedented ways. However, that openness is easy to exploit by marketers with dubious motives.

    Robert Kozinets is the Hufschmid Chair of Strategic Public Relations, University of Southern California, Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. He received funding support for the research project mentioned in this article from the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit dedicated to reducing tobacco consumption worldwide. This article first appeared at The Conversation.

  • 29 Mar 2019 2:17 PM | Kathy Doering (Administrator)

    Using social media as an alternative around advertising restrictions isn't cool.   From FastCompany:

    Ongoing research shows how tobacco firms market to young people, even as tighter rules on tobacco and vaping in the U.S. are being cast into doubt.

    BY ROBERT KOZINETS

    5 MINUTE READ

    Big Tobacco is increasingly using social media to find new ways to hook young people on smoking, circumventing decades of laws restricting the marketing of traditional cigarettes to minors.

    In major cities around the world such as Rio de Janeiro, Cairo, Jakarta, and Milan, tobacco companies have been holding extravagant events with names like “K_Player” and “RedMoveNow” that were designed to connect with young people. Often featuring alcohol, live music, and attractive hosts, these lavish events spare no expense as they seek find new buyers for their tobacco products.

    The problem? Those partygoers are carefully targeted young influencers, who are encouraged to share photos of their glamorous tobacco-sponsored adventures with friends and followers on social media using appealing hashtags like #iamonthemove#decideyourflow, and #mydaynow. And although the influencers are over 18, their social media followers can be much younger.

    This exploitation of social media’s organic reach is one of the findings from a global research project I’ve been working on since 2016 with more than a dozen different scholars. The anti-smoking advocacy group Tobacco-Free Kids noticed a lot of photos of young people with cigarettes turning up in their online scans of global social media and asked me to look into it.

    My own research focuses on how to rigorously research online culture using natural observational techniques, something that this study definitely required.

    My team’s task was to monitor, report upon, and analyze the programs behind the hashtagged social media posts of young people smoking. What we learned about tobacco company’s current advertising surprised us.

    SKIRTING MARKETING RESTRICTIONS

    Tobacco companies have always had a knack for finding creative ways to skirt regulations intended to curb marketing to young people.

    In 1971, the U.S. Congress banned tobacco ads from television and radio. In response, companies invested heavily in outdoor advertising and magazines. In 1997, the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement banned tobacco on outdoor and billboard ads. In response, tobacco money flowed into sponsorships of sports, music, and other events. These type of event sponsorships were banned, with some exceptions, in 2010, at the same time wider restrictions on youth marketing were also introduced.

    No matter the medium, the messaging was often the same: find ways to reach new and young potential smokers. As documents from the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library reveal, tobacco executives have long believed that the continued survival and success of their companies depends on one thing: convincing young people to buy their products.

    In 2005, the World Health Organization banned tobacco advertising in 168 signatory countries. By 2010, the U.S. had closed a lot of Big Tobacco’s favorite advertising and tobacco loopholes.

    With conventional media mostly off-limits, what was Big Tobacco to do? Like the Marlboro Man, the unregulated Wild West of social media rode to the rescue.

    THE PERFECT MARKETING MEDIUM

    Social media fits Big Tobacco’s advertising needs to a tee.

    At least 88 percent of American youth say they use social media apps like Facebook and Instagram regularly, and the technologies are notoriously difficult to regulate.

    With Tobacco-Free Kids’ financial support, I assembled a growing team of researchers to investigate. Our work is ongoing.

    My team collected a plethora of social media data and also conducted interviews with a range of tobacco brand ambassadors, party attendees, influencers and industry insiders from around the world. What we found was an astoundingly effective use of social media by a range of different tobacco companies to connect with the next generation of potential cigarette smokers.

    While tobacco companies were careful to abide by the letter of the law–the influencers involved in these posts were all of legal smoking age in their countries–social media has a public setting that makes it an effective and largely unregulated form of broadcast.

    Legally, anyone age 13 or over can have an Instagram or Facebook account. Our “netnography“–a type of qualitative social media inquiry that focuses on cultural contexts, social structures, and deeper meanings–only looked at public posts, images that any 13-year-old with an account could see.

    Related:Beware of this new dark pattern popping up in ads and packaging

    TRAINING CAMPS AND POP-UP PARTIES

    Our investigation uncovered a range of promotional activities and a web of public relations and advertising agencies that cleverly leveraged the strengths of social media to keep tobacco advertising under the radar of existing regulation.

    We found tobacco companies in countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines recruiting “nano-influencers” of just 2,000-3,000 followers on Facebook and Instagram and encouraging them to post about their tobacco-sponsored adventures.

    In Indonesia, we found brand ambassador training camps that lasted two full weeks and were run by the domestic tobacco company Gudang Garam. At these camps, young nano-influencers were paid generous fees, taught about cigarette brands images, and then provided lessons about how to better maintain their social media feeds.

    Public relations agencies in Uruguay taught their influencers how to take pictures of cigarette packages in ways that best accentuated their brands, offering tips on lighting, hashtags, and the best time to post them for maximum impact.

    Some companies used Facebook pages to recruit young people to attend their parties. After answering a few questions on the Facebook page, for example, responders were enrolled in a mailing list resulting in invitations to cool pop-up “parties and edgier events.”

    At those parties, young people were greeted by attractive attendants who offered them cigarettes and encouraged them to pose with floor designs modeled after cigarette brand logos. After snapping pictures, they were encouraged to post them on their social media feed using the party’s decisiveness and action-oriented hashtags. The result was unquestionably a new form of cigarette promotion.

    These activities clearly violate the spirit of the existing agreements not to indirectly advertise to young people. You can call it stealth, undercover, or guerrilla marketing if you wish. Whatever its name, this is 21st-century cigarette advertising that reaches millions of young people around the world.

    Related: Tobacco companies beware: Smoking is at an all-time low in the U.S.

    EXPLOITING SOCIAL MEDIA

    Our research has not only helped shine a light on Big Tobacco’s unchecked use of social media, it has also informed a recent petition to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission requesting it to investigate and enforce these novel forms of cigarette advertising.

    Although it might be difficult for governments to keep on top of media in these rapidly changing times, they must do so if they hope to prevent global smoking rates and their consequent health problems from rising once again. Indeed, with leadership change in the Food and Drug Administration, new and tighter regulations on tobacco and vaping in the United States are already being cast into doubt.

    Social media provide an incredible advance in communications that democratize communications in unprecedented ways. However, that openness is easy to exploit by marketers with dubious motives.

    Robert Kozinets is the Hufschmid Chair of Strategic Public Relations, University of Southern California, Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. He received funding support for the research project mentioned in this article from the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit dedicated to reducing tobacco consumption worldwide. This article first appeared at The Conversation.

  • 26 Mar 2019 7:16 AM | Kathy Doering (Administrator)

    The following article was published by Social Media Today and does a good job in explaining the changes.

    Andrew Hutchinson@adhutchinson

    March 20, 2019ET

    It's taken some time, but Facebook has finally announced that it will step up its efforts to limit discriminatory ad targeting by removing a range of specific ad targeting options to better ensure it's systems are not used to limit audiences in an unfair manner.

    The changes relate to housing, employment and credit ads - as detailed by Facebook COO Cheryl Sandberg:

    • Anyone who wants to run housing, employment or credit ads will no longer be allowed to target by age, gender or zip code.
    • Advertisers offering housing, employment and credit opportunities will have a much smaller set of targeting categories to use in their campaigns overall. Multicultural affinity targeting will continue to be unavailable for these ads. Additionally, any detailed targeting option describing or appearing to relate to protected classes will also be unavailable.
    • We’re building a tool so you can search for and view all current housing ads in the US targeted to different places across the country, regardless of whether the ads are shown to you.

    The changes have come about as a result of action taken against Facebook by National Fair Housing Alliance, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Communication Workers of America. After various investigations found that Facebook's granular ad targeting options could be used in a discriminatory - and illegal - manner, Facebook has essentially been forced to shift focus and implement these updates.

    The first discovery on this front was uncovered by ProPublica in 2016, which found that Facebook’s system enabled advertisers to exclude black, Hispanic, and other “ethnic affinities” from seeing ads.

    Facebook ethnic affinities exclusions

    Facebook updated its policies to prevent such usage in early 2017, but still, it was entirely possible for advertisers to continue utilizing such exclusions through Facebook's complex ad targeting system. In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook removed more than 5,000 ad targeting options along the same, anti-discrimination lines, while it also rolled out a new, opt-in agreement process which gave them some legal enforcement option against businesses which chose to utilize such process.

    Facebook anti-discrimination opt in

    But those measures still didn't stop a business from targeting and/or excluding specific audiences - Facebook's latest update takes its efforts a step further, which should significantly limit the capacity of businesses to focus on audience segments in a discriminatory way.

    That said, given the complexity of its targeting algorithm, Facebook can't entirely rule out its system being used for such purpose in some manner. In examining the update for The New York Times, Pauline Kim, a professor of employment law at Washington University in St. Louis, notes that:

    “It’s within the realm of possibility, depending on how the algorithm is constructed, that you could end up serving ads, inadvertently, to biased audiences.”

    Facebook has thus far refused to provide more insight into how its ad targeting algorithms work, which leaves this element unclear, and it is possible that, based on user behaviors, the algorithm could be trained on biased habits and behaviors, facilitating discriminatory ad targeting by default.

    That's an inherent problem with algorithm-defined systems - because algorithms are trained on data obtained from actual usage, they're also tilted towards existing biases within the chosen audience. That means that societal discrimination could still be part of the calculations - if more users within a single category register more interest in a certain thing, they'll logically be targeted as a result, which is already biased based on the sample.

    How, and even if, that can be avoided is still a hot topic among machine learning experts, but even so, anything Facebook can do to limit active targeting in this regard is a positive step. 



  • 15 Mar 2019 8:49 AM | Kathy Doering (Administrator)

    Dark Social is often an overlooked area of data for some brands. We can learn a lot from following brands like Starbucks who go beyond the social media threshold to uncover ways to engage with their customers in unique ways. #socialmediaresearch 

    dark web

    The coffee giant is trying to bring its marketing and product development closer together so it can jump on trends faster and get better insight on what resonates.

    By Sarah Vizard 14 Mar 2019 1:40 pm

    Starbucks on social media

    Starbucks is exploring how it can use private groups and accounts on social media to better engage with consumers around product development and testing as it looks to evolve its social media strategy.

    Speaking at an event held yesterday (13 March) by social media consultancy The Social Element, Reuben Arnold, Starbucks’ vice-president of marketing and product in EMEA, said the moves are helping it have “deeper conversations” with some customers and bring product and marketing closer together.

    “What I’m most excited about [on social media] is some of the possibilities around private groups and private accounts on social media channels,” he said. “When we think about the crossover between product and marketing, it really allows us to have a much deeper conversation with certain customers who really do care about our brand, who can then get much more involved in things like product development and testing, and we can use the audience in a much more meaningful way.”

    The groups are mostly on Facebook at the moment, although Arnold told Marketing Week Instagram is also “starting to take shape”. And while they won’t replace more traditional market research practices, Starbucks hopes this can offer a more natural way of engaging and enable it to go deeper with consumers.

    “Because I look after marketing and product, that really is quite an exciting opportunity,” he explained. “Like a lot of brands, we use trend analysis but social is a great channel to look at where those trends are starting to gain traction. Then through our own audiences it’s about how we create a highly engaged audience.

    The crossover between product and marketing allows us to have a much deeper conversation with customers who really do care about our brand, who can then get much more involved in things like product development.

    Reuben Arnold, Starbucks

    “We do that with online panels but [that] is a less natural way for people to communicate and it’s not so interactive. You can do conjoint analysis on an online panel but I find that when it’s in more of a conversational environment, it allows us to be more dynamic with our questioning and explore what resonates.”

    Starbucks is also using social media to listen not just to what customers are saying about the brand and its products but also trends in the market. For example, with dairy-free alternatives, social media allowed Starbucks to see that the conversation was shifting from a focus around intolerance to one around health and wellness, and then taste.

    “That really helped us think, we need to get ahead of this, particularly given some of our development timelines,” he said, adding: “Listening outside our own channels is important.”

    Measuring the ROI of social

    While investment in social media advertising is increasing, up to 13.8% of marketers’ overall budgets according to the latest CMO Survey, marketers are struggling to measure its impact. Just a quarter (24.7%) of marketers say they can prove the impact of social activity quantitatively, while 39.3% say they are unable to show any impact at all.

    Yet Starbucks won a silver IPA Effectiveness award last year for its social media strategy, which it calculates returned almost £4 in additional profit for every £1 spent.

    “What we were trying to demonstrate is that as a brand it’s about building an audience and building a connection,” said Arnold. “It wasn’t just a one-off big campaign, it was about building a connection with a particular segment audience and then doing interesting and different things each year to continue to engage with that audience and grow that audience base.”

    Starbucks uses econometrics in its more mature markets, including the UK, to judge success, saying it can see a “very direct correlation” between social media activity and footfall in-store and ladder that up to how many products it sold versus how much was invested.

    It also measures brand equity through measures such as follower counts in new markets, and sentiment and engagement in more mature ones. Key, said Arnold, it to set very clear KPIs by market and being focused on who is being targeted.

    “When we launch in a new market like Italy or South Africa, followers is quite an interesting link to brand awareness and brand affinity, whereas somewhere like the UK it’s going to be much more about things like mentions, sentiment, engagement,” he commented.

    “The answer is setting very clear KPIs by market and being very clear on who it is you are trying to target, rather than having broad or general metrics around how many likes, shares or follows.”

    Staying in control of social media

    The scale of social media can make measuring impact difficult. According to a survey of 60 senior marketers by The Social Element, 55% cite a lack of resource versus the size of the challenge as a big concern, while a third are concerned about controlling and engaging with content and 29% feel they have too many channels to manage.

    At Starbucks, this challenge is made greater by the fact the EMEA region covers 45 markets, each at different stages of maturity and with different local needs. To manage this, Starbucks uses a combination of guidelines and guidance, providing local social media managers with content in a toolkit format that can be edited, in a controlled way, for local language and relevance.

    “Our challenge is, how do we show up as a globally consistent brand but also show up in a market in a relevant way? Given most of our communication will be through digital and social media channels, that comes with a lot of risk as we hand over responsibility for activations in markets that aren’t directly operated by ourselves [but by franchisees],” he said.

    “Being clear on what is on-brand but also what is not on-brand is really important.”

    Our challenge is, how do we show up as a globally consistent brand but also show up in a market in a relevant way?

    Reuben Arnold, Starbucks

    For Shell, which was speaking at the same event, holding evaluation sessions is key to ensuring social media is doing the job it is meant to and that ladders up to the business strategy.

    “It’s not about having a social media strategy, it’s about having social support your business strategy and what you are trying to do. People often get confused by the two,” said Lee Goodger, social media business strategist at Shell.

    “Sometimes there’s an expectation that social should be the answer to everything; it can do many things but it can’t do everything.”

    Having a clear strategy, added Tamara Littleton, CEO at The Social Element, can mean brands understand they don’t have to do everything on social and instead focus on what is important to them.

    “People think there is a nirvana of all brands should be monitoring everything that’s being said, jumping into the conversation and being witty and doing positive responses, analysing what’s being said, creating amazing content. All of that is really important but you shouldn’t be doing it all the time,” she concluded.

    “By having that control that links back into the strategy you can be really clear on when is the best time to create the most compelling content, how do you then engage on the back of that, how you use social listening to identify if that was successful. We need to try and slow down and to do that you need good governance and strategy.”


  • 5 Mar 2019 3:36 PM | Kathy Doering (Administrator)
    We had to share this one!  One never knows what they will discover when they monitor social media for brand mentions! 

    The rocker recently posted an ad for Vanity Fair napkins to Instagram, after missing out on the other Vanity Fair's Oscar party

    By Olivia RaimondePublished on March 04, 2019.

    Credit: johnmayer via instagram

    If John Mayer isn't receiving as much love as he'd like from Vanity Fair magazine, at least he is from the napkin brand of the same name.

    Mayer reportedly threw his own "fake Vanity Fair" Oscars party after he was unsure whether he had an invite to the famous annual shindig. Now it looks like Mayer has parlayed that into a new side hustle: inspiring creative for Vanity Fair napkins.

    On Monday Mayer posted an ad for the napkin brand, which was created by them after he discussed the idea on his Instagram Live talk show, Current Mood.

    Apparently, Vanity Fair napkins--which is not affiliated with the Condé Nast magazine, or the lingerie brand--liked it so much that they produced the commercial and posted it to their Instagram with the caption: "Brilliant idea courtesy of #NapkinInfluencer and Creative Director, @johnmayer. "

    The animated ad features a character, who resembles a bearded John Mayer, asking a woman for her number. When she offers to write it on a Vanity Fair napkin, he laments "If you're going to deface Vanity Fair napkins, I don't think I want it anymore."

    Melissa Kinard, communications manager for Vanity Fair, and a personal fan of John Mayer, had seen the video of his faux Vanity Fair Oscars party and his idea for the ad while watching Current Mood.

    "It's obviously very silly. But we thought that would be a really fun opportunity for us to make that come to life," she says. "For us a brand and as a company, this kind of personalization is a key strategy for how we want to communicate with consumers of any kind, so this was a really fun opportunity for us to really take that personalization to another level."

    If Mayer keeps pitching gems like this, then maybe he'll finally earn that official invite to next year's Oscar party. Until then, the Napkin Influencer title will have to do.



<< First  < Prev   1   2   3   4   5   ...   Next >  Last >> 

Copyright 2017, Social Media Research Association. All rights reserved

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software