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When thinking of the biggest players in the tech world people tend to gravitate towards the likes of Apple, Google, and of course Facebook. However one company often overlooked by the Western world is Tencent, the Chinese tech giant who rose to decidedly dominate China’s social media market with their ever-popular mobile messaging app WeChat. Well now nobody can really argue that they don’t have a place among the aforementioned companies as Tencent shares closed 2.4% higher in Hong Kong on Tuesday, valuing the conglomerate at around $522 billion. Facebook, for comparison, is currently worth approximately $519 billion.

Tencent’s success can admittedly be attributed at least in part to the fact that many of their rivals, such as Facebook and Twitter, are blocked in their home country; though credit must also be given to the company themselves who have found success not only with their own products and subsidiaries, but also a number of overseas investments. These investments include acquiring a 12% stake in Snap Inc. and 5% in Tesla, to name just a couple prominent examples.

As previously stated Tencent is best known for being the company behind the popular mobile messenger WeChat, which currently boasts close to 1 billion users who rely on the service for tasks ranging from basic communication to making payments and so much more. The company have made a point of turning WeChat into a widely-comprehensive service in order to increase its appeal and usefulness, and this has proven to be a wise strategy. Despite their success however they do still pale in comparison to Facebook in terms of worldwide users, the latter remaining the world’s most popular social network with around 2 billion users.

In spite of their smaller user base Tencent have nonetheless managed to overtake Facebook as far as market value is concerned, bolstered as they are by their forays into the mobile gaming and video streaming markets. Investors are betting big on the company’s success in these fields, as evidenced by the doubling of Tencent’s share price over the past year.

This sharp rise in market value led to a milestone moment for Tencent, as they have become the first ever Chinese company to surpass $500 billion – a fact sure to disgruntle those over at Alibaba, their greatest Chinese rival which currently has a value of approximately $480 billion.

It must be stated however that Tencent still have a battle on their hands if they are to overtake the giants of the Western tech world such as Apple, Google’s parent Alphabet, and Amazon, which are valued at $870 billion, $710 billion, and $543 billion respectively.

Think back to the last significant milestone of your life, be it a wedding, a birth, a graduation or any other moment you consider to be important. Did you share it on social media?

According to the Q4 2017 Sprout Social Index, 79% of people have shared a life milestone on social media and 1 in 3 would mention a brand when doing so. I’m sure you have noticed too that these posts, given how they cover moments and accomplishments deemed significant, tend to achieve a high reach, plenty of likes, and a lot of comments and interactions as compared to the typical day-to-day status update. This presents marketers with opportunities.

When mentioning brands in these posts the index asserts that 1 in 3 individuals (34%) simply want to thank the brand for being part of the moment (rising to 41% among Millennials), while 50% are in fact taking the opportunity to recommend the brand to friends, family, and followers. Given how recommendations from friends and family remain the most credible form of advertising for 83% of today’s consumers, it is somewhat unsurprising that as many as 48% of the survey’s >1,200 respondents have made a purchase for a milestone after seeing it on social media. By properly utilising this influx of user-generated content in their social strategies, companies can gain much benefit from these mentions.

As for which platforms people turn to in order to find recommendations when planning major life events more than half of consumers (51%) use Facebook, ranking it above any other source. Following closely behind are Pinterest (42%) and YouTube (34%), likely due to their personality-driven and highly visual nature. Instagram, despite also possessing a highly visual nature, is used in such a manner by a surprisingly low 24% of consumers, though this figure does somewhat-expectedly rise to 35% among Millennials.

The key for marketers is to ensure that their brand/product is on the receiving end of these positive mentions and recommendations, allowing them to better tap into the massive pool of consumers who congregate on these prominent social media platforms. You may want to consider the use of incentives to motivate consumers to share in such a way, such as popping into the occasional comments thread to offer discount vouchers to those who have praised your brand. It is also essential to remember however that the defining trait of these platforms, as the name suggests, is ‘social’, and so it is important that you actively try to connect with your audience rather than spamming them with generic- copy-and-paste responses that reek of disingenuous interest.

In the wake of recent controversy surrounding the platform’s verification of an account associated with a prevalent white supremacist rally organiser, Twitter has announced a major overhaul to its verification system that with leave a number of once-verified accounts without the treasured blue tick.

The announcement was made in a string of tweets posted to the @TwitterSupport account on November 15th. Twitter had previously admitted that while they had initially created the verification system to “authenticate identity and voice”, it has become widely interpreted as an endorsement of the views expressed or the figure behind the account. The more recent string gave an indication of their intended remedial actions, stating that the verification system will change and as a result some users whose behaviour “does not fall within these guidelines” may be unverified.

Within their announcement Twitter acknowledge a few failures on their part; for example verified accounts have long been given visual prominence on the side, which added to the perception of endorsement. They also failed to act soon enough to remedy the situation and only succeeded in making matters worse by opening up the verification process to public submissions. As a result they have stopped accepting any public submissions for verification while they work towards correcting the aforementioned issues.

Their full statement can be viewed in the tweets embedded below:

While Twitter themselves did not outright announce the handles of any accounts that were likely to lose their verification status, Gizmodo reports that the overhaul is already beginning to take effect with accounts belonging to the likes of known white supremacist Richard B Spencer, alt-right activist and journalist Laura Loomer, and former EDL leader Tommy Robinson among those already stripped of the blue tick. That list is only set to grow further as the newly-updated guidelines take hold, but whether this will ultimately have the end result Twitter are hoping for remains to be seen.

Beijing Bytedance Technology Co. remains largely unknown to most western consumers, but that may soon change as the Chinese tech giant, which has a reported worth of around $20 billion and is both the creator and distributor of the ‘Jinri Toutiao’ news aggregation app, has acquired the popular social video network for an undisclosed sum, although various sources cite the figure as being somewhere between $800 million and $1 billion.

Founded in Shanghai in 2014, soon found popularity among Western teens, allowing users to sing along karaoke-style to their favourite songs before expanding their services to include live-streaming capabilities in response the shifting consumer demands. Five months ago they expanded again, this time making deals with Viacom, Hearst and NBCU for original content provided by popular channels such as MTV and E! Entertainment; appropriate choices given the generally youthful nature of their user base.

Bytedance’s flagship app, Jinri Toutiao, aggregates news and videos from hundreds of media outlets and has according to Bloomberg become one of the world’s largest news services in the span of five years. The two apps will continue to run as separate platforms, Bytedance have said, although they are sure to each incorporate features from the other as the workforces mingle and exchange ideas for future growth.

It remains unclear exactly how this shake up will affect both companies. One thing however is certain; by combining Toutiao’s 120 million-strong user base with’s own 100 million, you are left with a serious player in the social media scene that is sure to give the likes of Snapchat at least some cause for concern.

Social media now dominates many aspects of modern life, particularly among the youth, and as such it is of vital importance that we understand the true scope and possible effects of this cultural and technological phenomenon. To this end the Australian Pathological Society (APS) recently compiled a new report, titled ‘Digital Me’, which sought to identify how adults and teenagers make use of such platforms and explore the effect of social media and digital technology on Australians’ wellbeing.

The report surveyed 1020 adults and 156 teenagers on their use of social media and its subsequent connection to their wellbeing, finding that teenagers throughout Australia are spending as much as 1,200 hours on social media apps and platforms annually, amounting to full 50 days or approximately one-seventh of the year.

It also emerged that adults are nearly as bad, spending around 950 hours each year browsing through popular social media platforms such as Facebook and YouTube.

However it is of course among potentially-impressionable teenagers that this is considered more of an issue, especially as 60% of parents admitted to never monitoring their child’s online activities and communications. While the majority of Australians do report a positive online experience overall, the link between an increased reliance on social media and in increase in cyber bullying, as well as subsequent drops in self-esteem levels, is worrying and cannot be ignored.

Even more alarming is the fact that according to the survey, 15% of teenagers reported being contacted by strangers daily, and nearly 10% said they actively communicated with, or responded to, strangers daily. This alone invites some rather disturbing possibilities.

APS spokeswoman and community psychologist Dr Lyn O'Grady advises that parents take a more active role in the digital lives of their children, whilst being careful not to be overly severe lest their son or daughter act out in rebellion. Instead, open communication and a lead-by-example approach are the recommended methodology.

“Social media is an asset for teens, but they are less able to identify risks and more likely to act impulsively compared to adults,” Dr O'Grady asserts.

“[They] need boundaries, rules and the guidance of parents to help them make good decisions - just as they do offline. If [parents] become too controlling they lose that opportunity to influence.”

Among teens, 29% said they had been a victim of online bullying via social media platforms in the past year, but the survey also revealed that the issue extends beyond children and teens and in fact affects adults too, with one-in-five Australian adults experiencing online bullying in the past year. Furthermore those adult respondents who were classified as heavy mobile phones users, which amounts to 54%, were found to be more likely to use their phones immediately before bed, which research has shown has a negative impact upon sleep. They were also far more likely to check their phones within minutes of waking up.

These individuals are more likely to check their phones while walking, while eating, while in the company of others or even for no discernable reason at all, and this constant state of connectivity has been linked to bullying, trolling, and low self-esteem among adults just as it has with teens.

Among adults the worst culprit in terms of damage to self-esteem appears to be Instagram; 21% of Instagram users were classified as having low self-esteem, as compared to 13% of non-users. Overall, heavy mobile phone users in both age groups admitted that they felt an increased pressure to look good online, and this is likely the source of many of the aforementioned issues.

Img: Screenshot - Pippa Akram 

Last week, social media consultant Pippa Akram (@Social_Pip) took to Twitter to share a screenshot of an as-yet-undiscovered update to the Instagram app, which was apparently being trialled unbeknownst to many on a few select accounts.

The update in question, first reported by The Next Web, allows users to follow individual hashtags rather than just accounts on the Instagram platform. While this may seem like a minor addition it is sure to prove useful for those with an interest in more-niche topics, as well as journalists and other researchers looking for information and imagery relating to a particular subject.

Having said that the update will likely be enjoyed by users from all walks of life, as Instagram have been criticised of late for the manner in which their algorithms prioritise content, which this additional avenue of ‘following’ may go some way towards alleviating as it allows users to better tailor their feeds to their own interests.

It is worth noting however that given the popularity of some hashtags, if you were to follow the entire thing your feed would soon be drowned in such content, which likely motivated Instagram’s decision to limit the feature to “top posts and recent stories” as indicated by the tooltip within Ms Akram’s screenshot.

There is no word as yet on any official release date for the additional function, with Instagram themselves declining to comment, and the feature remains visible on just a small number of accounts (my own unfortunately not included). We will however endeavour to keep you updated as more news emerges.

On November 9th Facebook proudly announced their latest PR stun humanitarian effort, dubbed ‘Community Boost’, which will travel to 30 US cities during 2018 in an effort to “work with local organizations to provide digital skills and training for people in need of work, to advise entrepreneurs how to get started and to help existing local businesses and non-profits get the most out of the internet.” The aforementioned US cities will reportedly include Houston, St. Louis; Albuquerque, Des Moines; and Greenville, South Carolina, among others.

In explaining the reasoning behind this initiative Facebook cited research conducted by Morning Consult in partnership with the US Chamber of Commerce Technology Engagement Center and Facebook themselves, which indicates that “62% percent of US small businesses using Facebook said having digital or social media skills is an important factor in their hiring decisions - even more important than where a candidate went to school.”

Additionally as much as 80% of US SMEs reportedly stated that Facebook helps them to connect with people in their local community, and one-in-three assert that the platform has helped them to grow their business.

According to Facebook the ‘Community Boost’ program will provide assistance in the following areas:
  • If you’re looking for a job, we’ll provide training to help you improve your digital and social media skills.
  • If you’re an entrepreneur, we’ll have training programs on how to use technology to turn an idea into a business or show you ways to create a free online presence using Facebook.
  • If you’re a business owner we’re going to offer ways your business can expand its digital footprint and find new customers around the corner and around the globe.
  • If you’re getting online for the first time or you want to support your community, we’ll provide training on digital literacy and online safety. And we’ll also help community members use technology to bring people together, with features like Events and Groups.
The thing is, for all of Facebook’s talk about providing a comprehensive digital skills training program, there seems to be a heavy focus on their own platform rather than the digital landscape as a whole. This, as noted by Josh Constantine of TechCrunch in a summary I whole-heartedly agree with, makes the entire endeavour seem a little too self-serving to be interpreted as true altruism.

Despite this however the initiative has been welcomed by representatives of the included cities and states, with Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner commenting, “We’re happy to welcome Facebook to Houston to boost our residents’ digital skills and make sure our vibrant community of entrepreneurs and small businesses gets more out of the internet. I’m glad that Facebook recognized that one of the first five cities to benefit from this program should be Houston, the most diverse city in the nation, the largest economic engine of Texas and a proving ground not only for innovation in tech, energy, medicine and space exploration but also for mom-and-pop small businesses that reflect all the cultures of America and the globe.”

Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry also praised the program, stating, “As the City of Albuquerque is the second most digital city in nation, we are excited and welcome Facebook to Albuquerque for its new community boost! This initiative will help train our residents in developing key skills to help them thrive in our ever evolving digital world. We look forward to working closely with Facebook in coordinating the weeklong event to ensure Albuquerque and New Mexico small businesses are aware and can participate to the fullest extent. We hope this will help bring more tech skills and better job opportunities to our wonderful community.”

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