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A Guide To Newly Supported, Modern CSS Pseudo-Class Selectors

Pseudo-class selectors are the ones that begin with the colon character “:” and match based on a state of the current element. The state may be relative to the document tree, or in response to a change of state such as :hover or :checked.

:any-link

Although defined in Selectors Level 4, this pseudo-class has had cross-browser support for quite some time. The any-link pseudo-class will match an anchor hyperlink as long as it has a href. It will match in a way equivalent to matching both :link and :visited at once. Essentially, this may reduce your styles by one selector if you are adding basic properties such as color that you’d like to apply to all links regardless of their visited status.

:any-link {
  color: blue;
  text-underline-offset: 0.05em;
}

An important note about specificity is that :any-link will win against a as a selector even if a is placed lower in the cascade since it has the specificity of a class. In the following example, the links will be purple:

:any-link {
  color: purple;
}

a {
  color: red;
}

So if you introduce :any-link, be aware that you will need to include it on instances of a as a selector if they will be in direct competition for specificity.

:focus-visible

I’d bet that one of the most common accessibility violations across the web is removing outline on interactive elements like links, buttons, and form inputs for their :focus state. One of the main purposes of that outline is to serve as a visual indicator for users who primarily use keyboards to navigate. A visible focus state is critical as a way-finding tool as those users tab across an interface and to help reinforce what is an interactive element. Specifically, the visible focus is covered in the WCAG Success Criterion 2.4.11: Focus Appearance (Minimum).

The :focus-visible pseudo-class is intended to only show a focus ring when the user agent determines via heuristics that it should be visible. Put another way: browsers will determine when to apply :focus-visible based on things like input method, type of element, and context of the interaction. For testing purposes via a desktop computer with keyboard and mouse input, you should see :focus-visible styles attached when you tab into an interactive element but not when you click it, with the exception of text inputs and textareas which should show :focus-visible for all focus input types.

Note: For more details, review the working draft of the :focus-visible spec.

The latest versions of Firefox and Chromium browsers seem to now be handling :focus-visible on form inputs according to the spec which says that the UA should remove :focus styles when :focus-visible matches. Safari is not yet supporting :focus-visible so we need to ensure a :focus style is included as a fallback to avoid removing the outline for accessibility.

Given a button and text input with the following set of styles, let’s see what happens:

input:focus,
button:focus {
  outline: 2px solid blue;
  outline-offset: 0.25em;
}

input:focus-visible {
  outline: 2px solid transparent;
  border-color: blue;
}

button:focus:not(:focus-visible) {
  outline: none;
}

button:focus-visible {
  outline: 2px solid transparent;
  box-shadow: 0 0 0 2px #fff, 0 0 0 4px blue;
}

Chromium and Firefox

  • input
    Correctly remove :focus styles when elements are focused via mouse input in favor of :focus-visible resulting in changing the border-color and hiding the outline on keyboard input
  • button
    Does not only use :focus-visible without the extra rule for button:focus:not(:focus-visible) that removes the outline on :focus, but will allow visibility of the box-shadow only on keyboard input

Safari

  • input
    Continues using only the :focus styles
  • button
    This seems to now be partially respecting the intent of :focus-visible on the button by hiding the :focus styles on click, but still showing the :focus styles on keyboard interaction

So for now, the recommendation would be to continue including :focus styles and then progressively enhance up to using :focus-visible which the demo code allows. Here’s a CodePen for you to continue testing with:

See the Pen Testing application of :focus-visible by Stephanie Eckles.

:focus-within

The :focus-within pseudo-class has support among all modern browsers, and acts almost like a parent selector but only for a very specific condition. When attached to a containing element and a child element matches for :focus, styles can be added to the containing element and/or any other elements within the container.

A practical enhancement to use this behavior for is styling a form label when the associated input has focus. For this to work, we wrap the label and input in a container, and then attach :focus-within to that container as well as selecting the label:

.form-group:focus-within label {
  color: blue;
}

This results in the label turning blue when the input has focus.

This CodePen demo also includes adding an outline directly to the .form-group container:

See the Pen Testing application of :focus-within by Stephanie Eckles.

:is()

Also known as the “matches any” pseudo-class, :is() can take a list of selectors to try to match against. For example, instead of listing heading styles individually, you can group them under the selector of :is(h1, h2, h3).

A couple of unique behaviors about the :is() selector list:

  • If a listed selector is invalid, the rule will continue to match the valid selectors. Given :is(-ua-invalid, article, p) the rule will match article and p.
  • The computed specificity will equal that of the passed selector with the highest specificity. For example, :is(#id, p) will have the specificity of the #id — 1.0.0 — whereas :is(p, a) will have a specificity of 0.0.1.

The first behavior of ignoring invalid selectors is a key benefit. When using other selectors in a group where one selector is invalid, the browser will throw out the whole rule. This comes into play for a few instances where vendor prefixes are still necessary, and grouping prefixed and non-prefixed selectors causes the rule to fail among all browsers. With :is() you can safely group those styles and they will apply when they match and be ignored when they don’t.

To me, grouping heading styles as previously mentioned is already a big win with this selector. It’s also the type of rule that I would feel comfortable using without a fallback when applying non-critical styles, such as:

:is(h1, h2, h3) {
  line-height: 1.2;
}

:is(h2, h3):not(:first-child) {
  margin-top: 2em;
}

In this example (which comes from the document styles in my project SmolCSS), having the greater line-height inherited from base styles or lacking the margin-top is not really a problem for non-supporting browsers. It’s simply less than ideal. What you wouldn’t want to use :is() for quite yet would be critical layout styles such as Grid or Flex that significantly control your interface.

Additionally, when chained to another selector, you can test whether the base selector matches a descendent selector within :is(). For example, the following rule selects only paragraphs that are direct descendants of articles. The universal selector is being used as a reference to the p base selector.

p:is(article > *)

For the best current support, if you’d like to start using it you’ll also want to double-up on styles by including duplicate rules using :-webkit-any() and :matches(). Remember to make these individual rules, or even the supporting browser will throw it out! In other words, include all of the following:

:matches(h1, h2, h3) { }

:-webkit-any(h1, h2, h3) { }

:is(h1, h2, h3) { }

Worth mentioning at this point is that along with the newer selectors themselves is an updated variation of @supports which is @supports selector. This is also available as @supports not selector.

Note: At present (of the modern browsers), only Safari does not support this at-rule.

You could check for :is() support with something like the following, but you’d actually be losing out on supporting Safari since Safari supports :is() but doesn’t support @supports selector.

@supports selector(:is(h1)) {
  :is(h1, h2, h3) {
    line-height: 1.1;
  }
}

:where()

The pseudo-class :where() is almost identical to :is() except for one critical difference: it will always have zero-specificity. This has incredible implications for folks who are building frameworks, themes, and design systems. Using :where(), an author can set defaults and downstream developers can include overrides or extensions without specificity clashing.

Consider the following set of img styles. Using :where(), even with a higher specificity selector, the specificity remains zero. In the following example, which color border do you think the image will have?

:where(article img:not(:first-child)) {
    border: 5px solid red;
}

:where(article) img {
  border: 5px solid green;
}

img {
  border: 5px solid orange;
}

The first rule has zero specificity since its wholly contained within :where(). So directly against the second rule, the second rule wins. Introducing the img element-only selector as the last rule, it’s going to win due to the cascade. This is because it will compute to the same specificity as the :where(article) img rule since the :where() portion does not increase specificity.

Using :where() alongside fallbacks is a little more difficult due to the zero-specificity feature since that feature is likely why you would want to use it over :is(). And if you add fallback rules, those are likely to beat :where() due to its very nature. And, it has better overall support than the @supports selector so trying to use that to craft a fallback isn’t likely to provide much (if any) of a gain. Basically, be aware of the inability to correctly create fallbacks for :where() and carefully check your own data to determine if it’s safe to begin using for your unique audience.

You can further test :where() with the following CodePen that uses the img selectors from above:

See the Pen Testing :where() specificity by Stephanie Eckles.

Enhanced :not()

The base :not() selector has been supported since Internet Explorer 9. But Selectors Level 4 enhances :not() by allowing it to take a selector list, just like :is() and :where().

The following rules provide the same result in supporting browsers:

article :not(h2):not(h3):not(h4) {
  margin-bottom: 1.5em;
}

article :not(h2, h3, h4) {
  margin-bottom: 1.5em;
}

The ability of :not() to accept a selector list has great modern browser support.

As we saw with :is(), enhanced :not() can also contain a reference to the base selector as a descendent using *. This CodePen demonstrates this ability by selecting links that are not descendants of nav.

See the Pen Testing :not() with a descendent selector by Stephanie Eckles.

Bonus: The previous demo also includes an example of chaining :not() and :is() to select images that are not adjacent siblings of either h2 or h3 elements.

Proposed but “at risk” — :has()

The final pseudo-class that is a very exciting proposal but has no current browser implementing it even in an experimental way is :has(). In fact, it is listed in the Selector Level 4 Editor’s Draft as “at-risk” which means that it is recognized to have difficulties in completing its implementation and so it may be dropped from the recommendation.

If implemented, :has() would essentially be the “parent selector” that many CSS folks have longed to have available. It would work with logic similar to a combination of both :focus-within and :is() with descendent selectors, where you are looking for the presence of descendants but the applied styling would be to the parent element.

Given the following rule, if navigation contained a button, then the navigation would have decreased top and bottom padding:

nav {
  padding: 0.75rem 0.25rem;

nav:has(button) {
  padding-top: 0.25rem;
  padding-bottom: 0.25rem;
}

Again, this is not currently implemented in any browser even experimentally — but it is fun to think about! Robin Rendle provided additional insights into this future selector over on CSS-Tricks.

Honorable Mention from Level 3: :empty

A useful pseudo-class you may have missed from Selectors Level 3 is :empty which matches an element when it has no child elements, including text nodes.

The rule p:empty will match <p></p> but not <p>Hello</p>.

One way you can use :empty is to hide elements that are perhaps placeholders for dynamic content that is populated with JavaScript. Perhaps you have a div that will receive search results, and when it’s populated it will have a border and some padding. But with no results yet, you don’t want it to take up space on the page. Using :empty you can hide it with:

.search-results:empty {
  display: none;
}

You may be thinking about adding a message in the empty state and be tempted to add it with a pseudo-element and content. The pitfall here is that messages may not be available to users of assistive technology which are inconsistent on whether they can access content. In other words, to make sure a “no results” type of message is accessible, you would want to add that as a real element like a paragraph (an aria-label would no longer be accessible for a hidden div).

Resources for Learning About Selectors

CSS has many more selectors inclusive of pseudo-classes. Here are a few more places to learn more about what’s available:

Reblogged 1 year ago from smashingmagazine.com

How to Hire Writers for Your Blog

The post How to Hire Writers for Your Blog appeared first on ProBlogger.

How to hire writers for your blog

This blog is based on episode 169 of the ProBlogger podcast.

Most blogs start out as a solo effort, with one person doing all the writing, marketing and social media updates. That’s certainly how I started all my blogs.

But while I still produce most of the content on ProBlogger, it’s a completely different story over at dPS (Digital Photography School). There I have 50 writers and one editor working for me to produce 14 new posts every week.

And I don’t write any of them.

So how did I go from writing all my own content to having a team of writers doing it all for me? And should you be thinking of doing something similar with your blog?

I can’t really answer that question for you. But what I can do is tell you how and why I did it, and point out the pros and cons of doing it.

But first I need to tell you something important.

This isn’t the endgame.

Don’t think you need a team of writers before you can consider yourself a successful blogger. There’s nothing wrong with doing it all yourself, no matter how long you’ve been blogging and how many readers you have. In fact, having multiple people writing for your blog could do more harm than good, especially if it’s a personal blog or one where you’re central to its branding.

But if your blog’s focus is on content and information rather than your personal view on things, then bringing in multiple writers might be worth considering.

The dPS story (stage 1)

When I started Digital Photography School back in 2006, I wrote three posts a week. At that stage I was an intermediate-level photographer and had done a few weddings, and so wrote content aimed squarely at beginners. And while that may seem limiting, I came up with around 200 topics I could write about, which would keep me going for a good couple of years

Back then my goals were to:

  • build my traffic
  • build up my archives
  • rank in search engines
  • hook people into subscribing to my blogs and email lists
  • build my brand
  • build a bit of engagement.

And while they were all important, it was building that engagement that helped me take the blog to the next stage.

The dPS story (stage 2)

One of the things I did to build engagement was to start a Flickr group. It was the perfect place to engage with other photographers. And looking at the photos they posted I could tell that some of them knew a lot more about photography than I did.

And they seemed more than happy to share their knowledge. Many of them read my blog posts and provided great information in their comments.

And it got me thinking. Would they be willing to write guest posts for the blog?

Now I could have sent them all an email saying, “Hi. Would you be interested in writing a guest post for my blog?” But I decided to take a somewhat gentler approach. I simply asked them if I could use their comments as part of a blog post. And most of them were totally fine with it.

I also set up an area of the Flickr group where people could submit tips for me to include in future blog posts. (I made it blatantly clear that’s what I’d be doing with their contributions.) If I was doing a post about portrait I’d ask for tips and tricks, and pretty soon I’d have enough for a post. In fact, some of them were so long and detailed that they became posts in and of themselves.

A lot of the photographers let me use their photos in my posts, and even provided information about the equipment and technique they used to create it. I also got to interview them about various shooting scenarios (wedding photography, landscape photography, etc.)

Some of them emailed me to say how much they enjoyed contributing to the blog. And in my reply to thank them I said that if they ever wanted to write a longer piece I’d be happy to talk about it.

At this point Digital Photography had been running for a couple of years, and there was a real sense of community and engagement on the blog. And because of that, a few people agreed to write guest posts despite the fact I couldn’t pay them. They simply wanted to give back to the community. Later I created a “Write for dPS” page where people could submit their ideas, and soon I had a pool of guest writers who were all willing to contribute one guest post a month.

And this paved the way for…

The dPS story (stage 3)

By now the blog was growing steadily and getting more and traffic. But I wanted to keep the momentum going by increasing our publishing frequency. My aim was to publish 14 posts a week (two each day), which meant I needed a team of writers I could rely on to create great posts week after week.

But that’s a lot to ask of someone who’s been doing it for free. And so I started contacting people who’d written guest posts for us and asked if they’d be willing to write a post a week if I paid them.

We started with two regular contributors, and paid them US$50 per article. They were also allowed to promote their eBooks on the blog, which helped them earn even more.

As the blog got more traffic (and more revenue) we grew our team of writers and started publishing more and more posts each week. We now have a team of 50 writers working together to produce 14 posts a week. Some of them write a post every week, while others write one every month.

As you would expect, some of them become so successful that they no longer have the time to write for us. Which means we need to hire more writers from time to time. And here’s how we do it.

The hiring process

Rather than advertising for a writer whenever we lose one, we hire people in batches. We tend to advertise every few months of so, and typically hire five people at a time.

We start by posting an advertisement on the ProBlogger job board. In that advertisement we clearly state the kind of person we’re looking for. We also ask each applicant to submit a sample of their work to help us make our decision.

A week later we stop accepting applications and start going through them all.

We start by sending those we know aren’t a good fit an email that says something along the lines of “Thanks for applying. We’re really sorry, but we can’t progress your application”. (We use a template to make it as quick and easy as possible.)

We then send an email to those we’re interested in that says, “Thanks for your application. Here’s what happens next. We’ll be in touch soon.”

Nest, we sort these applicants into groups (‘Great’, ‘Good’ and ‘Okay’). We’ll grab as many people as we need from the ‘Great’ group first, and if we still don’t have enough we’ll move to the ‘Good’ group, and so on.

We then tell the people we’ve short-listed about the job – what it entails, what it pays, etc. – and ask them to write a trial post for us (which we pay for). This helps us determine not only the quality of their work, but also what they’re like to work with. Can they deliver on time? Are they high maintenance? Do they understand what WordPress is and how to write for that audience? Will they respond to comments people make about their article?

It’s also a way to see whether their style resonates with our audience – what voice they write in, how accessible their content is, how inclusive they are, how clear they are. And it also gives us a chance to see how our audience will respond to them. Do they get a lot of comments? Do they write in a way that’s engaging and gets lots of shares? You get a real feel for people through this process.

And if we’re happy with them (and they’re happy with us), we hire them.

Hopefully this story will help you find writers for your own blog. But before you start putting out offers, I’d like to point some of the pros and cons of having multiple people contributing to your blog.

The pros and cons of new writers

Let’s start with the benefits. Obviously you’ll have more content to publish on your blog, which both your readers and Google will appreciate. But having multiple writers can also add a variety of personalities and styles of writing to your blog. And any one of them could bring in a new wave of readers.

It also allows you to publish more specialized content. One of the benefits of having so many people writing for Digital Photography School is it now has so much more content that’s written for expert photographers – content I could never write myself.

But there are also a few drawbacks. It takes time to find, select and train new writers. And if you don’t have a dedicated editor in your team, you may find yourself editing every post that comes through as well.

You may also find that some of your readers don’t like a particular writer’s style or personality. If that happens you need to consider whether keeping them on is worth the potential risk to your readership, and even your brand.

And of course, most regular contributors will expect to paid.

Over to you

For those of you who have been thinking about hiring writers for your blog, has this post helped you make your decision? Let us know in the comments.

And for those of you who already have multiple people writing for your blog, do you have any tips or advice you could add?

 

Photo by Museums Victoria on Unsplash

The post How to Hire Writers for Your Blog appeared first on ProBlogger.

     

Reblogged 1 year ago from feedproxy.google.com

How to Make Quotes for Instagram: 11 Apps to Try This Year

When you come across a beautiful sight — be it a beach, a mountain, or your pet’s face — sometimes, it inspires you to think bigger about what certain sights and experiences mean.

For those moments, you might consider posting a photo on Instagram with an equally inspiring quote as the caption. But you could take it even further — and save characters — by posting the photo with the quote.

You’ve likely seen quotes on Instagram posts before, but you may never have created one for your brand’s account. Here’s a recent Instagram quote we shared here at HubSpot:

Posting quote images on Instagram can diversify your content on the platform and humanize your brand a little, too. Everyone could use a motivational quote during a busy Monday morning or a slow Tuesday afternoon, so try out an Instagram quote for your next post with the help of these free apps.

Instagram Text Apps to Make Inspiring Quotes

Featured Resource: 9 Instagram Quote Templates

Instagram Quote Templates from HubSpotHubSpot created a collection of 9 Instagram quote templates for posts and stories – in addition to 13 more free Instagram posts for business. Download the collection of templates today to make Instagram quotes right in Google Slides for free.

1. Canva

iOS, Android, Mac, or Web App

instagram quote using template from canva

Canva’s many features extend beyond text-based pictures and, for that matter, social media. But the mobile app and its gorgeous pre-made templates make it perfect for Instagram quotes.

Using the Canva’s social media post setting, you can draft banners, flyers, cards, and posts of all shapes and sizes using one of millions of pro-level photos for your quote background. Of course, feel free to snap a photo on the go, as well. One you select your image, you can choose from more than 100 fonts, adjust the size and color, and publish.

2. Pablo by Buffer

Web App or Chrome Extension

instagram quote using pablo by buffer

Pablo is a simple app that allows you to make quotes for Instagram (as well as Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest). You have the option of choosing among 600,000 images or uploading one of your own; adding header, body, and caption text; uploading logos or graphics; and customizing with a filter.
The options are limited, but the interface is extremely streamlined, making it a great choice for beginners. In addition, you can share directly to the social platform of your choosing or use Buffer to schedule the post for a later date.

3. Stencil

Web App, Chrome Extension, Firefox Add-On, Safari Extension, or WordPress

instagram quote using stencil instagram quote maker template

Depending on the plan you choose, Stencil allows you to create quote images with their 140+ common presets, more than 5 million high-resolution photos (all royalty-free), and more than 1275 templates. Even better, Stencil has partnered with Google Fonts and some of the top icon providers to customize your designs even further.

It also helps you determine if you’re within Facebook’s recommended text limits and whether any of your content might be cut off by common social media platforms.

To make sharing easy, you can send your images straight to Instagram, using their in-app social sharing options, or through their native Buffer integration.

4. VanillaPen

Android or iOS

instagram quote using vanillapen quote maker

Image Source

VanillaPen brands itself as a “powerful tool that will transform your regular posts into creative posters within seconds.” It includes more than 200 templates (with presets to make the design process easier), 86 fonts, and 360 decorative elements. You’ll also have the ability to perform basic design functions such as resizing, rotating, and more. From there, you can export and share to the social media platform of your choice.

5. Fotor

Web App, Mac, Windows, Android, or iOS

instagram quote using fotor instagram quote maker

Fotor is an excellent tool that offers a wide range of templates, fonts, photos, and stickers to rival any of the apps on this list. However, what makes it stand out is its photo editing and retouching capabilities, making its feature set similar to that of Adobe Photoshop’s but simpler. From background removers to blur effects, Fotor can help you create stunning graphics for Instagram.

6. Snappa

Web App

instagram quote templates on snappa

Image Source

With Snappa, you’ll have access to more than 6000 templates and 5 million photos and graphics to use for your designs. It also has basic photo editing capabilities such as background removal, brightness/lightness adjustment, and blurring functionality. You can also repurpose your designs into the ideal image dimensions for multiple social platforms without manually resizing and redesigning for each one. The only downside is that you only get 3 downloads per month on Snappa’s free plan, but there are premium plans available.

7. QuotesCover

Web App

image created using quotescover instagram quote maker

What’s interesting about QuotesCover is that it integrates with a large database of quotes so that you don’t have to supply the text for the image you create. Simply search the database, find a quote, and load it into the QuotesCover editor. From there, it will generate an automatic design, which you can edit with their background options, text formatting tool, stickers, and other design assets. In theory, you can go from zero ideas to full-fledged professional design in just a couple clicks.

8. PicMonkey

Web App, iPhone, Android

editing quote and image for instagram using picmonkey

Image Source

PicMonkey is another one of those tools that can do it all: photo editing (including background removals), graphics, and templates created with the best practices for each social platform in mind. You’ll be able to draw from their library of millions of stock photos, videos, and animations. The big downside to this tool is that you’ll need a subscription to download or share the images you create. However, the plus is that the subscription comes with 1GB of cloud storage (or unlimited storage if you choose one of the premium plans). This allows you to edit on the go, save to the cloud, and access designs on other devices.

9. Word Swag

iOS

word swag instagram quote templates

Image Source

Word Swag helps you create text images that are as edgy as the app’s name sounds. The app uses a special typing engine to create fresh quote designs based on the background picture you’re working with.

Just select (or shoot) your picture, type your quote into the app’s plain text editor, select one of +80 styles, and shuffle through the diverse choices that appear. Word Swag has literally thousands of quote and image options to choose from through a handy integration from Pixabay, a free image gallery.

Keep in mind that the free version places a watermark on the image.

10. Quotes Creator

iOS or Android

quotes creator interface

Image Source

Quotes Creator has a neat feature that suggests quotes to use — including their attributions — to take the work out of creating an inspirational post for you. We also like how subtly transparent the watermark is to make it as distraction-free as possible. This is another easy-to-use app that creates quotes for Instagram in just a few simple steps — with an easy tap to upload to the platform.

Quotes Creator’s stock background options are a little cheesy, so we recommend finding your own and uploading them or using their library of photos.

11. Quote Maker

iOS

quote maker app for instagram quotes

Image Source

Quote Maker is another free app that requires a Pro version to unlock more background and style options, but you can always upload your own background if you feel too limited. You can add neat decals to your brand’s name or a stamp-like effect to a company motto or mission statement.

We recommend exploring the app, but another warning — it can be glitchy if your design and editing actions get more complex. It’s best for simple images, like the one above.

Using an Instagram Post Template for Quotes

The apps above help make quotes for Instagram quickly using templates instead of starting from scratch. When you’re creating content at scale, this can help you reduce the amount of time spent on design and more time focusing on the tasks that matter to you.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in April 2021 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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Reblogged 1 year ago from blog.hubspot.com

How to gain value from broken backlinks

A guide to reaping the benefits of broken backlinks — both yours and your competitors’.

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.

Reblogged 1 year ago from feeds.searchengineland.com

Grist for the Machine

Grist

Much like publishers, employees at the big tech monopolies can end up little more than grist.

Products & product categories come & go, but even if you build “the one” you still may lose everything in the process.

Imagine building the most successful consumer product of all time only to realize:’The iPhone is the reason I’m divorced,’ Andy Grignon, a senior iPhone engineer, tells me. I heard that sentiment more than once throughout my dozens of interviews with the iPhone’s key architects and engineers.’Yeah, the iPhone ruined more than a few marriages,’ says another.

Microsoft is laying off thousands of salespeople.

Google colluded with competitors to sign anti-employee agreements & now they are trying to hold down labor costs with modular housing built on leased government property. They can tout innovation they bring to Africa, but at their core the tech monopolies are still largely abusive. What’s telling is that these companies keep using their monopoly profits to buy more real estate near their corporate headquarters, keeping jobs there in spite of the extreme local living costs.

“There’s been essentially no dispersion of tech jobs,’ said Mr. Kolko, who conducted the research.’Which metro is the next Silicon Valley? The answer is none, at least for the foreseeable future. Silicon Valley still stands apart.’

Making $180,000 a year can price one out of the local real estate market, requiring living in a van or a two hour commute. An $81,000 salary can require a 3 hour commute.

If you are priced out of the market by the monopoly de jour, you can always pray!

The hype surrounding transformative technology that disintermediates geography & other legacy restraints only lasts so long: “The narrative isn’t the product of any single malfunction, but rather the result of overhyped marketing, deficiencies in operating with deep learning and GPUs and intensive data preparation demands.”

AI is often a man standing behind a curtain.

The big tech companies are all about equality, opportunity & innovation. At some point either the jobs move to China or China-like conditions have to move to the job. No benefits, insurance cost passed onto the temp worker, etc.

Google’s outsourced freelance workers have to figure out how to pay for their own health insurance:

A manager named LFEditorCat told the raters in chat that the pay cut had come at the behest of’Big G’s lawyers,’ referring to Google. Later, a rater asked Jackson,’If Google made this change, can Google reverse this change, in theory?’ Jackson replied,’The chances of this changing are less than zero IMO.’

That’s rather unfortunate, as the people who watch the beheading videos will likely need PTSD treatment.

The tech companies are also leveraging many “off the books” employees for last mile programs, where the wage is anything but livable after the cost of fuel, insurance & vehicle maintenance. They are accelerating the worst aspects of consolidated power:

America really is undergoing a radical change in the structure of our political economy. And yet this revolutionary shift of power, control, and wealth has remained all but unrecognized and unstudied … Since the 1990s, large companies have increasingly relied on temporary help to do work that formerly was performed by permanent salaried employees. These arrangements enable firms to hire and fire workers with far greater flexibility and free them from having to provide traditional benefits like unemployment insurance, health insurance, retirement plans, and paid vacations. The workers themselves go by many different names: temps, contingent workers, contractors, freelancers. But while some fit the traditional sense of what it means to be an entrepreneur or independent business owner, many, if not most, do not-precisely because they remain entirely dependent on a single power for their employment.

Dedication & devotion are important traits. Are you willing to do everything you can to go the last mile? “Lyft published a blog post praising a driver who kept picking up fares even after she went into labor and was driving to the hospital to give birth.”

Then again, the health industry is a great driver of consumption:

About 1.8 million workers were out of the labor force for “other” reasons at the beginning of this year, meaning they were not retired, in school, disabled or taking care of a loved one, according to Atlanta Federal Reserve data. Of those people, nearly half — roughly 881,000 workers — said in a survey that they had taken an opioid the day before, according to a study published last year by former White House economist Alan Krueger.”

Creating fake cancer patients is a practical way to make sales.

That is until they stop some of the scams & view those people as no longer worth the economic cost. Those people are only dying off at a rate of about 90 people a day. Long commutes are associated with depression. And enough people are taking anti-depressants that it shows up elsewhere in the food chain.

Rehabilitation is hard work:

After a few years of buildup, Obamacare kicked the scams into high gear. …. With exchange plans largely locked into paying for medically required tests, patients (and their urine) became gold mines. Some labs started offering kickbacks to treatment centers, who in turn began splitting the profits with halfway houses that would tempt clients with free rent and other services. … Street-level patient brokers and phone room lead generators stepped up to fill the beds with strategies across the ethical spectrum, including signing addicts up for Obamacare and paying their premiums.

Google made a lot of money from that scam until it got negative PR coverage.

At the company, we’re family. Once you are done washing the dishes, you can live in the garage. Just make sure you juice!

When platform monopolies dictate the roll-out of technology, there is less and less innovation, fewer places to invest, less to invent. Eventually, the rhetoric of innovation turns into DISRUPT, a quickly canceled show on MSNBC, and Juicero, a Google-backed punchline.

This moment of stagnating innovation and productivity is happening because Silicon Valley has turned its back on its most important political friend: antitrust. Instead, it’s embraced what it should understand as the enemy of innovation: monopoly.

And the snowflake narrative not only relies on the “off the books” marginalized freelance employees to maintain lush benefits for the core employees, but those core employees can easily end up thrown under the bus because accusation is guilt. Uniformity of political ideology is the zenith of a just world.

Celebrate diversity in all aspects of life – except thoughtTM.

Free speech is now considered violence. Free speech has real cost. So if you disagree with someone, “people you might have to work with may simply punch you in the face” – former Google diversity expert Yonatan Zunger.

Anything but the facts!

Mob rule – with a splash of violence – for the win.

Social justice is the antithesis of justice.

It is the aspie guy getting fired for not understanding the full gender “spectrum.”

It is the repression of truth: “Truth equals virtue equals happiness. You cannot solve serious social problems by telling lies or punishing people who tell truth.”

Most meetings at Google are recorded. Anyone at Google can watch it. We’re trying to be really open about everything…except for this. They don’t want any paper trail for any of these things. They were telling us about a lot of these potentially illegal practices that they’ve been doing to try to increase diversity. Basically treating people differently based on what their race or gender are. – James Damore

The recursive feedback loops & reactionary filtering are so bad that some sites promoting socialism are now being dragged to the Google gulag.

In a set of guidelines issued to Google evaluators in March, elaborated in April by Google VP of Engineering Ben Gomes, the company instructed its search evaluators to flag pages returning’conspiracy theories’ or’upsetting’ content unless’the query clearly indicates the user is seeking an alternative viewpoint.’ The changes to the search rankings of WSWS content are consistent with such a mechanism. Users of Google will be able to find the WSWS if they specifically include’World Socialist Web Site’ in their search request. But if their inquiry simply includes term such as’Trotsky,”Trotskyism,”Marxism,”socialism’ or’inequality,’ they will not find the site.

Every website which has a following & challenges power is considered “fake news” or “conspiracy theory” until many years later, when many of the prior “nutjob conspiracies” turn out to be accurate representations of reality.

Under its new so-called anti-fake-news program, Google algorithms have in the past few months moved socialist, anti-war, and progressive websites from previously prominent positions in Google searches to positions up to 50 search result pages from the first page, essentially removing them from the search results any searcher will see. Counterpunch, World Socialsit Website, Democracy Now, American Civil liberties Union, Wikileaks are just a few of the websites which have experienced severe reductions in their returns from Google searches.

In the meantime townhall meetings celebrating diversity will be canceled & differentiated voices will be marginalized to protect the mob from themselves.

What does the above say about tech monopolies wanting to alter the structure of society when their internal ideals are based on fundamental lies? They can’t hold an internal meeting addressing sacred cows because “ultimately the loudest voices on the fringes drive the perception and reaction” but why not let them distribute swarms of animals with bacteria & see what happens? Let’s make Earth a beta.

FANG

Monopoly platforms are only growing more dominant by the day.

Over the past three decades, the U.S. government has permitted corporate giants to take over an ever-increasing share of the economy. Monopoly-the ultimate enemy of free-market competition-now pervades every corner of American life … Economic power, in fact, is more concentrated than ever: According to a study published earlier this year, half of all publicly traded companies have disappeared over the past four decades.

And you don’t have to subscribe to deep state conspiracy theory in order to see the impacts.

The revenue, value & profit transfer is overt:

It is no coincidence that from 2012 to 2016, Amazon, Google and Facebook’s revenues increased by $137 billion and the remaining Fortune 497 revenues contracted by $97 billion.

Netflix, Amazon, Apple, Google, Facebook … are all aggressively investing in video content as bandwidth is getting cheaper & they need differentiated content to drive subscription revenues. If the big players are bidding competitively to have differentiated video content that puts a bid under some premium content, but for ad-supported content the relatively high CPMs on video content might fall sharply in the years to come.

From a partner perspective, if you only get a percent of revenue that transfers all the risk onto you, how is the new Facebook video feature going to be any better than being a YouTube partner? As video becomes more widespread, won’t that lower CPMs?

No need to guess:

One publisher said its Facebook-monetized videos had an average CPM of 15 cents. A second publisher, which calculated ad rates based on video views that lasted long enough to reach the ad break, said the average CPM for its mid-rolls is 75 cents. A third publisher made roughly $500 from more than 20 million total video views on that page in September.

That’s how monopolies work. Whatever is hot at the moment gets pitched as the future, but underneath the hood all compliments get commoditized:

as a result of this increased market power, the big superstar companies have been raising their prices and cutting their wages. This has lifted profits and boosted the stock market, but it has also held down real wages, diverted more of the nation’s income to business owners, and increased inequality. It has also held back productivity, since raising prices restricts economic output.

The future of the web is closed, proprietary silos that mirror what existed before the web:

If in five years I’m just watching NFL-endorsed ESPN clips through a syndication deal with a messaging app, and Vice is just an age-skewed Viacom with better audience data, and I’m looking up the same trivia on Genius instead of Wikipedia, and’publications’ are just content agencies that solve temporary optimization issues for much larger platforms, what will have been point of the last twenty years of creating things for the web?

They’ve all won their respective markets & are now converging:

We’ve been in the celebration phase all year as Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Facebook take their place in the pantheon of classic American monopolists. These firms and a few others, it is now widely acknowledged, dominate everything. There is no day-part in which they do not dominate the battle for consumers’ attention. There is no business safe from their ambitions. There are no industries in which their influence and encroachment are not currently being felt.

The web shifts information-based value chains to universal distribution at zero marginal cost, which shifts most of the value extraction to the attention merchants.

The raw feed stock for these centralized platforms isn’t particularly profitable:

despite a user base near the size of Instagram’s, Tumblr never quite figured out how to make money at the level Facebook has led managers and shareholders to expect … running a platform for culture creation is, increasingly, a charity operation undertaken by larger companies. Servers are expensive, and advertisers would rather just throw money at Facebook than take a chance

Those resting in the shadows of the giants will keep getting crushed: “They let big tech crawl, parse, and resell their IP, catalyzing an extraordinary transfer in wealth from the creators to the platforms.”

They’ll take the influence & margins, but not the responsibility normally associated with such a position:

“Facebook has embraced the healthy gross margins and influence of a media firm but is allergic to the responsibilities of a media firm,” Mr. Galloway says. … For Facebook, a company with more than $14 billion in free cash flow in the past year, to say it is adding 250 people to its safety and security efforts is’pissing in the ocean,’ Mr. Galloway says.’They could add 25,000 people, spend $1 billion on AI technologies to help those 25,000 employees sort, filter and ID questionable content and advertisers, and their cash flow would decline 10% to 20%.’

It’s why there’s a management shake up at Pandora, Soundcloud laid off 40% of their staff & Vimeo canceled their subscription service before it was even launched.

With the winners of the web determined, it’s time to start locking down the ecosystem with DRM:

Practically speaking, bypassing DRM isn’t hard (Google’s version of DRM was broken for six years before anyone noticed), but that doesn’t matter. Even low-quality DRM gets the copyright owner the extremely profitable right to stop their customers and competitors from using their products except in the ways that the rightsholder specifies. … for a browser to support EME, it must also license a “Content Decryption Module” (CDM). Without a CDM, video just doesn’t work. All the big incumbents advocating for DRM have licenses for CDMs, but new entrants to the market will struggle to get these CDMs, and in order to get them, they have to make promises to restrict otherwise legal activities … We’re dismayed to see the W3C literally overrule the concerns of its public interest members, security experts, accessibility members and innovative startup members, putting the institution’s thumb on the scales for the large incumbents that dominate the web, ensuring that dominance lasts forever.

After years of loosey goosey privacy violations by the tech monopoly players, draconian privacy laws will block new competitors:

More significantly, the GDPR extends the concept of’personal data’ to bring it into line with the online world. The regulation stipulates, for example, that an online identifier, such as a device’s IP address, can now be personal data. So next year, a wide range of identifiers that had hitherto lain outside the law will be regarded as personal data, reflecting changes in technology and the way organisations collect information about people. … Facebook and Google should be OK, because they claim to have the’consent’ of their users. But the data-broking crowd do not have that consent.

GDRP is less than 8 months away.

If you can’t get the fat thumb accidental mobile ad clicks then you need to convert formerly free services to a paid version or sell video ads. Yahoo! shut down most their verticals, was acquired by Verizon, and is now part of Oath. Oath’s strategy is so sound Katie Couric left:

Oath’s video unit, however, had begun doubling down on the type of highly shareable,’snackable’ bites that people gobble up on their smartphones and Facebook feeds. … . What frustrates her like nothing else, two people close to Couric told me, is when she encounters fans and they ask her what she’s up to these days.

When content is atomized into the smallest bits & recycling is encouraged only the central network operators without editorial content costs win.

Even Reddit is pushing crappy autoplay videos for the sake of ads. There’s no chance of it working for them, but they’ll still try, as Google & Facebook have enviable market caps.

Video ads are good with everything!

Want to find a job? Watch some autoplay video ads on LinkedIn.

Mic laid off journalists and is pivoting to video.

It doesn’t work, but why not try.

The TV networks which focused on the sort of junk short-form video content that is failing online are also seeing low ratings.

Probably just a coincidence.

Some of the “innovative” upstart web publishers are recycling TV ads as video content to run pre-roll ads on. An ad inside an ad.

Some suggest the repackaging and reposting of ads highlights the’pivot to video’ mentality many publishers now demonstrate. The push to churn out video content to feed platforms and to attract potentially lucrative video advertising is increasingly viewed as a potential solution to an increasingly challenging business model problem.

Publishers might also get paid a commission on any sales they help drive by including affiliate links alongside the videos. If these links drive users to purchase the products, then the publisher gets a cut.

Is there any chance recycling low quality infomercial styled ads as placeholder auto-play video content to run prerolls on is a sustainable business practice?

If that counts as strategic thinking in online publishing, count me as a short.

For years whenever the Adobe Flash plugin for Firefox had a security update users who hit the page got a negative option install of Google Chrome as their default web browser. And Google constantly markets Chrome across their properties:

Google is aggressively using its monopoly position in Internet services such as Google Mail, Google Calendar and YouTube to advertise Chrome. Browsers are a mature product and its hard to compete in a mature market if your main competitor has access to billions of dollars worth of free marketing.

It only takes a single yes on any of those billions of ad impressions (or an accidental opt in on the negative option bundling with security updates) for the default web browser to change permanently.

There’s no way Mozilla can compete with Google on economics trying to buy back an audience.

Mozilla is willing to buy influence, too – particularly in mobile, where it’s so weak. One option is paying partners to distribute Firefox on their phones.’We’re going to have to put money toward it,’ Dixon says, but she expects it’ll pay off when Mozilla can share revenue from the resulting search traffic.

They have no chance of winning when they focus on wedge issues like fake news. Much like their mobile operating system, it is a distraction. And the core economics of paying for distribution won’t work either. How can Mozilla get a slice of an advertiser’s ad budget through Yahoo through Bing & compete against Google’s bid?

Google is willing to enter uneconomic deals to keep their monopoly power. Look no further than the $1 billion investment they made in AOL which they quickly wrote down by $726 million.

Google pays Apple $3 billion PER YEAR to be the default search provider in Safari. Verizon acquired Yahoo! for $4.48 billion. There’s no chance of Yahoo! outbidding Google for default Safari search placement & if Apple liked the idea they would have bought Yahoo!. It is hard to want to take a big risk & spend billions on something that might not back out when you get paid billions to not take any risk.

Even Microsoft would be taking a big risk in making a competitive bid for the Apple search placement. Microsoft recently disclosed “Search advertising revenue increased $124 million or 8%.” If $124 million is 8% then their quarterly search ad revenue is $1.674 billion. To outbid Google they would have to bid over half their total search revenues.

Regulatory Capture

“I have a foreboding of an America in which my children’s or grandchildren’s time – when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the key manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness. The dumbing down of america is most evident in the slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media, the 30-second sound bites (now down to 10 seconds or less), lowest common denominator programming, credulous presentations on pseudoscience and superstition, but especially a kind of celebration of ignorance.” – Carl Sagan, The Demon-haunted World, 1996

The monopoly platforms have remained unscathed by government regulatory efforts in the U.S. Google got so good at lobbying they made Goldman Sachs look like amateurs. It never hurts to place your lawyers in the body that (should) regulate you: “Wright left the FTC in August 2015, returning to George Mason. Just five months later, he had a new position as’of counsel’ at Wilson Sonsini, Google’s primary outside law firm.”

Remember how Google engineers repeatedly announced how people who bought or sold links without clear machine & human readable disclosure are scum? One way to take .edu link building to the next level is to sponsor academic research without disclosure:

Some researchers share their papers before publication and let Google give suggestions, according to thousands of pages of emails obtained by the Journal in public-records requests of more than a dozen university professors. The professors don’t always reveal Google’s backing in their research, and few disclosed the financial ties in subsequent articles on the same or similar topics, the Journal found. … Google officials in Washington compiled wish lists of academic papers that included working titles, abstracts and budgets for each proposed paper-then they searched for willing authors, according to a former employee and a former Google lobbyist. … Mr. Sokol, though, had extensive financial ties to Google, according to his emails obtained by the Journal. He was a part-time attorney at the Silicon Valley law firm of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, which has Google as a client. The 2016 paper’s co-author was also a partner at the law firm, which didn’t respond to requests for comment.

As bad as that is, Google has non profit think tanks fire ENTIRE TEAMS if they suggest regulatory action against Google is just:

“We are in the process of trying to expand our relationship with Google on some absolutely key points,’ Ms. Slaughter wrote in an email to Mr. Lynn, urging him to’just THINK about how you are imperiling funding for others.’

“What happened has little to do with New America, and everything to do with Google and monopoly power. One reason that American governance is dysfunctional is because of the capture of much academic and NGO infrastructure by power. That this happened obviously and clumsily at one think tank is not the point. The point is that this is a *system* of power. I have deep respect for the scholars at New America and the work done there. The point here is how *Google* and monopolies operate. I’ll make one other political point about monopoly power. Democracies all over the world are seeing an upsurge in anger. Why? Scholars have tended to look at political differences, like does a different social safety net have an impact on populism. But it makes more sense to understand what countries have in common. Multi-nationals stretch over… multiple nations. So if you think, we do, that corporations are part of our political system, then populism everywhere monopolies operate isn’t a surprise. Because these are the same monopolies. Google is part of the American political system, and the European one, and so on and so forth.” – Matt Stoller

Any dissent of Google is verboten:

in recent years, Google has become greedy about owning not just search capacities, video and maps, but also the shape of public discourse. As the Wall Street Journal recently reported, Google has recruited and cultivated law professors who support its views. And as the New York Times recently reported, it has become invested in building curriculum for our public schools, and has created political strategy to get schools to adopt its products. This year, Google is on track to spend more money than any company in America on lobbying.

“I just got off the phone with Eric Schmidt and he is pulling all of his money.” – Anne-Marie Slaughter

They not only directly control the think tanks, but also state who & what the think tanks may fund:

Google’s director of policy communications, Bob Boorstin, emailed the Rose Foundation (a major funder of Consumer Watchdog) complaining about Consumer Watchdog and asking the charity to consider “whether there might be better groups in which to place your trust and resources.”

They can also, you know, blackball your media organization or outright penalize you. The more aggressive you are with monetization the more leverage they have to arbitrarily hit you if you don’t play ball.

Six years ago, I was pressured to unpublish a critical piece about Google’s monopolistic practices after the company got upset about it. In my case, the post stayed unpublished. I was working for Forbes at the time, and was new to my job.

Google never challenged the accuracy of the reporting. Instead, a Google spokesperson told me that I needed to unpublish the story because the meeting had been confidential, and the information discussed there had been subject to a non-disclosure agreement between Google and Forbes. (I had signed no such agreement, hadn’t been told the meeting was confidential, and had identified myself as a journalist.)

Sometimes the threat is explicit:

“You’re already asking very difficult questions to Mr. Juncker,’ the YouTube employee said before Birbes’ interview in an exchange she captured on video.’You’re talking about corporate lobbies. You don’t want to get on the wrong side of YouTube and the European Commission… Well, except if you don’t care about having a long career on YouTube.’

Concentrated source of power manipulates the media. Not new, rather typical. Which is precisely why monopolies should be broken up once they have a track record of abusing the public trust:

As more and more of the economy become sown up by monopolistic corporations, there are fewer and fewer opportunities for entrepreneurship. … By design, the private business corporation is geared to pursue its own interests. It’s our job as citizens to structure a political economy that keeps corporations small enough to ensure that their actions never threaten the people’s sovereignty over our nation.

How much control can one entity get before it becomes excessive?

Google controls upwards of 80 percent of global search-and the capital to either acquire or crush any newcomers. They are bringing us a hardly gilded age of prosperity but depressed competition, economic stagnation, and, increasingly, a chilling desire to control the national conversation.

Google thinks their business is too complex to exist in a single organization. They restructured to minimize their legal risks:

The switch is partly related to Google’s transformation from a listed public company into a business owned by a holding company. The change helps keep potential challenges in one business from spreading to another, according to Dana Hobart, a litigator with the Buchalter law firm in Los Angeles.

Isn’t that an admission they should be broken up?

Early Xoogler Doug Edwards wrote: “[Larry Page] wondered how Google could become like a better version of the RIAA – not just a mediator of digital music licensing – but a marketplace for fair distribution of all forms of digitized content.”

A better version of the RIAA as a north star sure seems like an accurate analogy:

In an explosive new allegation, a renowned architect has accused Google of racketeering, saying in a lawsuit the company has a pattern of stealing trade secrets from people it first invites to collaborate. …’It’s cheaper to steal than to develop your own technology,’ Buether said.’You can take it from somebody else and you have a virtually unlimited budget to fight these things in court.’ …’It’s even worse than just using the proprietary information – they actually then claim ownership through patent applications,’ Buether said.

The following slide expresses Google’s views on premium content

No surprise the Content Creators Coalition called for Congressional Investigation into Google’s Distortion of Public Policy Debates:

Google’s efforts to monopolize civil society in support of the company’s balance-sheet-driven agenda is as dangerous as it is wrong. For years, we have watched as Google used its monopoly powers to hurt artists and music creators while profiting off stolen content. For years, we have warned about Google’s actions that stifle the views of anyone who disagrees with its business practices, while claiming to champion free speech.

In a world where monopolies are built with mission statements like ‘to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful’ it makes sense to seal court documents, bury regulatory findings, or else the slogan doesn’t fit as the consumer harm was obvious.

“The 160-page critique, which was supposed to remain private but was inadvertently disclosed in an open-records request, concluded that Google’s ‘conduct has resulted – and will result – in real harm to consumers.’ ” But Google was never penalized, because the political appointees overrode the staff recommendation, an action rarely taken by the FTC. The Journal pointed out that Google, whose executives donated more money to the Obama campaign than any company, had held scores of meetings at the White House between the time the staff filed its report and the ultimate decision to drop the enforcement action.

Some scrappy (& perhaps masochistic players) have been fighting the monopoly game for over a decade:

June 2006: Foundem’s Google search penalty begins. Foundem starts an arduous campaign to have the penalty lifted.
September 2007: Foundem is’whitelisted’ for AdWords (i.e. Google manually grants Foundem immunity from its AdWords penalty).
December 2009: Foundem is’whitelisted’ for Google natural search (i.e. Google manually grants Foundem immunity from its search penalty)

For many years Google has “manipulated search results to favor its own comparison-shopping service. … Google both demotes competitors’ offerings in search rankings and artificially inserts its own service in a box above all other search results, regardless of their relevance.”

After losing for over a decade, on the 27th of June a win was finally delivered when the European Commission issued a manual action to negate the spam, when they fined Google €2.42 billion for abusing dominance as search engine by giving illegal advantage to own comparison shopping service.

“What Google has done is illegal under EU antitrust rules. It denied other companies the chance to compete on the merits and to innovate. And most importantly, it denied European consumers a genuine choice of services and the full benefits of innovation.” – Margrethe Vestager

That fine looks to be the first of multiple record-breaking fines as “Sources expect the Android fine to be substantially higher than the shopping penalty.”

That fine was well deserved:

Quoting internal Google documents and emails, the report shows that the company created a list of rival comparison shopping sites that it would artificially lower in the general search results, even though tests showed that Google users’liked the quality of the [rival] sites’ and gave negative feedback on the proposed changes. Google reworked its search algorithm at least four times, the documents show, and altered its established rating criteria before the proposed changes received’slightly positive’ user feedback. … Google’s displayed prices for everyday products, such as watches, anti-wrinkle cream and wireless routers, were roughly 50 percent higher – sometimes more – than those on rival sites. A subsequent study by a consumer protection group found similar results. A study by the Financial Times also documented the higher prices.

Nonetheless, Google is appealing it. The ease with which Google quickly crafted a response was telling.

The competitors who were slaughtered by monopolistic bundling won’t recover‘The damage has been done. The industry is on its knees, and this is not going to put it back,’ said Mr. Stables, who has decided to participate in Google’s new auctions despite misgivings.’I’m sort of shocked that they’ve come out with this,’ he added.

Google claims they’ll be running their EU shopping ads as a separate company with positive profit margins & that advertisers won’t be bidding against themselves if they are on multiple platforms. Anyone who believes that stuff hasn’t dropped a few thousand dollars on a Flash-only website after AdWords turned on Enhanced campaigns against their wishes – charging the advertisers dollars per click to send users to a blank page which would not load.

Hell may freeze over, causing the FTC to look into Google’s Android bundling similarly to how Microsoft’s OS bundling was looked at.

If hell doesn’t freeze over, it is likely because Google further ramped up their lobbying efforts, donating to political organizations they claim to be ideologically opposed to.

The Fight Against Rising (& Declining) Nationalism

As a global corporation above & beyond borders, Google has long been against nationalism. Eric Schmidt’s Hillary Clinton once wrote: “My dream is a hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders, some time in the future with energy that is as green and sustainable as we can get it, powering growth and opportunity for every person in the hemisphere.”

Apparently Google flacks did not get that memo (or they got the new memo about Eric Schmidt’s Donald Trump), because they were quick to denounce the European Commission’s move as anti-American:

We are writing to express our deep concerns about the European Union’s aggressive and heavy-handed antitrust enforcement action against American companies. It has become increasingly clear that, rather than being grounded in a transparent legal framework, these various investigations and complaints are being driven by politics and protectionist policies that harm open-competition practices, consumers, and unfairly target American companies,.

The above nonsense was in spite of Yelp carrying a heavy load.

Yelp celebrated the victory: “Google has been found guilty of engaging in illegal conduct with the aim of promoting its vertical search services. Although the decision addresses comparison shopping services, the European Commission has also recognized that the same illegal behavior applies to other verticals, including local search.”

The EU is also looking for an expert to monitor Google’s algorithm. It certainly isn’t hard to find areas where the home team wins.

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Reblogged 1 year ago from feedproxy.google.com

Left is Right & Up is Down

Probably the single best video to watch to understand the power of Google & Facebook (or even most of the major problems across society) is this following video about pleasure versus happiness.

In constantly seeking pleasure we forego happiness.

The “feed” based central aggregation networks are just like slot machines in your pocket: variable reward circuitry which self-optimizes around exploiting your flaws to eat as much attention as possible.

The above is not an accident. It is, rather, as intended:

“That means that we needed to sort of give you a little dopamine hit every once in a while because someone liked or commented on a photo or a post or whatever … It’s a social validation feedback loop … You’re exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology … [The inventors] understood this, consciously, and we did it anyway.”

  • Happy? Good! Share posed photos to make your friends feel their lives are worse than your life is.
  • Outraged? Good! Click an ad.
  • Hopeless? Good. There is a product which can deliver you pleasure…if only you can…click an ad.

Using machine learning to drive rankings is ultimately an exercise in confirmation bias:

For “Should abortion be legal?” Google cited a South African news site saying, “It is not the place of government to legislate against woman’s choices.”

When asked, “Should abortion be illegal?” it promoted an answer from obscure clickbait site listland.com stating, “Abortion is murder.”

Excellent work Google in using your featured snippets to help make the world more absolutist, polarized & toxic.

The central network operators not only attempt to manipulate people at the emotional level, but the layout of the interface also sets default user patterns.

Most users tend to focus their attention on the left side of the page: “if we were to slice a maximized page down the middle, 80% of the fixations fell on the left half of the screen (even more than our previous finding of 69%). The remaining 20% of fixations were on the right half of the screen.”

This behavior is even more prevalent on search results pages: “On SERPs, almost all fixations (94%) fell on the left side of the page, and 60% those fixations can be isolated to the leftmost 400px.”

On mobile, obviously, the attention is focused on what is above the fold. That which is below the fold sort of doesn’t even exist for a large subset of the population.

Outside of a few central monopoly attention merchant players, the ad-based web is dying.

Mashable has raised about $46 million in VC funding over the past 4 years. And they just sold for about $50 million.

Breaking even is about as good as it gets in a web controlled by the Google / Facebook duopoly. 😀

Other hopeful unicorn media startups appear to have peaked as well. That BuzzFeed IPO is on hold: “Some BuzzFeed investors have become worried about the company’s performance and rising costs for expansions in areas like news and entertainment. Those frustrations were aired at a board meeting in recent weeks, in which directors took management to task, the people familiar with the situation said.”

Google’s Chrome web browser will soon have an ad blocker baked into it. Of course the central networks opt out of applying this feature to themselves. Facebook makes serious coin by blocking ad blockers. Google pays Adblock Plus to unblock ads on Google.com & boy are there a lot of ads there.

Format your pages like Google does their search results and they will tell you it is a piss poor user experience & a form of spam – whacking you with a penalty for it.

Of course Google isn’t the only search engine doing this. Mix in ads with a double listing and sometimes there will only be 1 website listed above the fold.

I’ve even seen some Bing search results where organic results have a “Web” label on them – which is conveniently larger than the ad label that is on ads. That is in addition to other tricks like…

  • lots of ad extensions that push organics below the fold on anything with the slightest commercial intent
  • bolding throughout ads (title, description, URL) with much lighter bolding of organics
  • only showing 6 organic results on commercial searches that are likely to generate ad clicks

As bad as either of the above looks in terms of ad load or result diversity on the desktop, it is only worse on mobile.

On mobile devices organic search results can be so hard to find that people ask questions like “Are there any search engines where you don’t have to literally scroll to see a result that isn’t an advertisement?

The answer is yes.

DuckDuckGo.

But other than that, it is slim pickings.

In an online ecosystem where virtually every innovation is copied or deemed spam, sustainable publishing only works if your business model is different than the central network operators.

Not only is there the aggressive horizontal ad layer for anything with a hint of commercial intent, but now the scrape layer which was first applied to travel is being spread across other categories like ecommerce.

The more of your content Google can scrape-n-displace in the search results the less reason there is to visit your website & the more ad-heavy Google can make their interface because they shagged the content from your site.

Simply look at the market caps of the big tech monopolies vs companies in adjacent markets. The aggregate trend is expressed in the stock price. And it is further expressed in the inability for the unicorn media companies to go public.

As big as Snapchat & Twitter are, nobody who invested in either IPO is sitting on a winner today.

Google is outraged anyone might question the numbers & if the current set up is reasonable:

Mr Harris described as “factually incorrect” suggestions that Google was “stealing” ad revenue from publishers, saying that two thirds of the revenues generated by online content went to its originators.

“I’ve heard lots of people say that Google and Facebook are “ruthlessly stealing” all the advertising revenue that publishers hoped to acquire through online editions,” he told the gathering.

“There is no advertising on Google News. Zero. Indeed you will rarely see advertising around news cycles in Google Search either.

Sure it is not the ad revenues they are stealing.

Rather it is the content.

Either by scraping, or by ranking proprietary formats (AMP) above other higher quality content which is not published using the proprietary format & then later attaching crappier & crappier deals to the (faux) “open source” proprietary content format.

As Google grabs the content & cuts the content creator off from the audience while attaching conditions, Google’s PR hacks will tell you they want you to click through to the source:

Google spokeswoman Susan Cadrecha said the company’s goal isn’t to do the thinking for users but “to help you find relevant information quickly and easily.” She added, “We encourage users to understand the full context by clicking through to the source.”

except they are the ones adding extra duplicative layers which make it harder to do.

Google keeps extracting content from publishers & eating the value chain. Some publishers have tried to offset this by putting more ads on their own site while also getting further distribution by adopting the proprietary AMP format. Those who realized AMP was garbage in terms of monetization viewed it as a way to offer teasers to drive users to their websites.

The partial story approach is getting killed though. Either you give Google everything, or they want nothing.

That is, after all, how monopolies negotiate – ultimatums.

Those who don’t give Google their full content will soon receive manual action penalty notifications

The value of news content is not zero.

Being the go-to resource for those sorts of “no money here” news topics also enables Google to be the go-to resource for searches for [auto insurance quote] and other highly commercial search terms where Google might make $50 or $100 per click.

Every month Google announces new ad features.

Economics drive everything in publishing. But you have to see how one market position enables another. Google & Facebook are not strong in China, so Toutiao – the top news app in China – is valued at about $20 billion.

Now that Yahoo! has been acquired by Verizon, they’ve decided to shut down their news app. Unprofitable segments are worth more as a write off than as an ongoing concern. Look for Verizon to further take AIM at shutting down additional parts of AOL & Yahoo.

Firefox recently updated to make its underlying rendering engine faster & more stable. As part of the upgrade they killed off many third party extensions, including ours. We plan to update them soon (a few days perhaps), but those who need the extensions working today may want to install something like (Comodo Ice Dragon (or another browser based on the prior Firefox core) & install our extensions in that web browser.

As another part of the most recent Firefox update, Firefox dumped Yahoo! Search for Google search as their default search engine in a new multiyear deal where financial terms were not disclosed.

Yahoo! certainly deserved to lose that deal.

First, they signed a contract with Mozilla containing a change-of-ownership poison pill where Mozilla would still make $375 million a year from them even if they dump Yahoo!. Given what Yahoo! sold for this amounts to about 10% of the company price for the next couple years.

Second, Yahoo! overpaid for the Firefox distribution deal to where they had to make their user experience even more awful to try to get the numbers to back out.

Here is a navigational search result on Yahoo! where the requested site only appears in the right rail knowledge graph.

The “organic” result set has been removed. There’s a Yahoo! News insert, a Yahoo Local insert, an ad inviting you to download Firefox (bet that has since been removed!), other search suggestions, and then graphical ads to try to get you to find office furniture or other irrelevant stuff.

Here is how awful those sorts of search results are: Yahoo! was so embarrassed at the lack of quality of their result set that they put their logo at the upper right edge of the page.

So now they’ll be losing a million a day for a few years based on Marissa Mayer’s fantastic Firefox deal.

And search is just another vertical they made irrelevant.

When they outsourced many verticals & then finally shut down most of the remaining ones, they only left a few key ones:

On our recent earnings call, Yahoo outlined out a plan to simplify our business and focus our effort on our four most successful content areas  – News, Sports, Finance and Lifestyle. To that end, today we will begin phasing out the following Digital Magazines:  Yahoo Food, Yahoo Health, Yahoo Parenting, Yahoo Makers, Yahoo Travel, Yahoo Autos and Yahoo Real Estate.

And for the key verticals they kept, they have pages like the following, which look like a diet version of eHow

Every day they send users away to other sites with deeper content. And eventually people find one they like (like TheAthletic or Dunc’d On) & then Yahoo! stops being a habit.

Meanwhile many people get their broader general news from Facebook, Google shifted their search app to include news, Apple offers a great news app, the default new tab on Microsoft Edge browser lists a localize news feed. Any of those is a superior user experience to Yahoo!.

It is hard to see what Yahoo!’s role is going forward.

Other than the user email accounts (& whatever legal liabilities are associated with the chronic user account hacking incidents), it is hard to see what Verizon bought in Yahoo!.

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Hear me out… Social isn’t about innovation. It’s about who can do it best

Oscar Wilde said “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”—and social networks are really taking that quote to heart.

Case in point: it took less than a year for the big names in social to start developing their own audio chat product to compete with rising newcomer, Clubhouse. Facebook is experimenting with audio features, Twitter launched Spaces last December, and even Reddit is pursuing its own Clubhouse clones.

The reality is nothing that’s new on social lasts forever. Clubhouse struck gold with its unique audio-only format, but it was only a matter of time before one of the more established powerhouses replicated the same feature for themselves.

Hear me out…

For social networks, innovation alone doesn’t guarantee competitive advantage. What matters more is who can make the best iteration of a feature that someone else invented.

Nathan Young, Head of Strategy at Deloitte Digital, sums it up best in his Tweet:

Consider livestreaming, a feature that’s widely available on most social networks. Before there was Periscope there was Meerkat, an app that amassed nearly two million users during its lifespan. In spite of Meerkat’s popularity, however, a common complaint users shared was most livestream links were already dead by the time they clicked on them. On the other hand, Periscope (a livestreaming app Twitter acquired), allowed for stream playbacks. It was that small feature, in addition to Periscope’s accessibility to Twitter’s entire user base, that ultimately contributed to Meerkat shuttering just a year after launch.

Something similar is playing out with social audio. Clubhouse shot to the top of the app charts because it brought something new to the table. It’s a hit with celebrities and “thought leaders,” has a valuation of $4 billion and more than 10 million app downloads. No wonder why other social networks are eager to jump on this new feature.

But we know there’s still room for improvement. Clubhouse is only available on iOS, excluding the more than 2.5 billion active Android users around the world. It’s also completely inaccessible for deaf and hard-of-hearing users because there are no captioning or transcript options available.

On the other hand, Twitter Spaces already has the invite-only app beat on a couple of fronts—despite launching several months after Clubhouse’s debut. Spaces is currently available on both iOS and Android, it’s accessible to anyone with a Twitter account and comes with the option to view captions. So while Clubhouse stands out because of its audio-only functionality, it’s fair to question its longevity once established networks find a way to mirror Clubhouse’s features and make them better.

While a flashy new feature can help social networks initially stand out from the crowd, that competitive edge rarely lasts long. And it’s why networks like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn don’t feel compelled to have to release something from scratch every few years to stay relevant.

The social networks with staying power know it’s more important to spend the extra time creating the best version of a product as possible than it is to be the first to market.

Interested in audio content, but not sure where to begin? Check out this article on podcasts and the tips you need to create effective audio content.

This post Hear me out… Social isn’t about innovation. It’s about who can do it best originally appeared on Sprout Social.

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17 TikTok stats marketers need to know in 2021

While TikTok is newer to the world of social media, there’s no denying its popularity – especially with younger generations. Although TikTok content is more specific with its narrow focus on short, viral-ready videos there are many ways brands can still see success.

However, in order to know if TikTok makes sense for your brand, you need to understand some basic TikTok stats such as demographics and user behavior that can inform what opportunities exist for your brand.

This is why we’ve put together a list of 17 TikTok statistics all marketers need to know for 2021. Take a look to see if you need to get serious about putting together a TikTok strategy for your brand.

1. TikTok has 689 million monthly active users

While TikTok doesn’t nearly have the reach of social media giants like Facebook and Instagram, it is rapidly distinguishing itself with it 689 million monthly active users.

However, this statistic doesn’t include users that are based in China, the home country of TikTok’s parent company ByteDance. This is due to the fact that the Chinese version of TikTok is called Douyin, and its 600 million daily active users users are tallied separately from TikTok’s users.

This means that in total, TikTok and Douyin have 1.29 billion active users across the globe.

2. 62% of TikTok users are between ages 10-29

62%–over half–of all U.S. TikTok users are aged 10-29, proving that the younger generations are the most avid TikTok users. This segment includes Gen Z and younger Millennials, so it’s an important cross-section of social media users.

If your business targets this age group heavily with their products or services, TikTok is probably going to be a great platform for you to use in order to reach your audience. Just make sure you get creative with your content and use trends effectively and authentically.

tiktok users by age

3. 65.9 million monthly active users are located in the US

The majority of TikTok’s users are actually outside the US, which is a significant difference from most other social media platforms. However, the US still boasts about 65.9 million monthly active users. This means both global and US-based businesses can get a lot out of marketing on this platform.

4. The top TikTok user has 111 million followers

The top TikTok user is Charli D’Amelio with over 111 million followers at the time of this writing. The second most popular TikTok user is Addison Rae with 78 million followers.

Charli D’Amelio posts mostly TikTok dance videos and viral trends that her followers love, along with partnering with major brands for influencer campaigns. If you’re interested in trying influencer marketing to reach younger generations, TikTok influencers could be perfect for you.

5. TikTok users spend an average of 858 minutes on the app each month

Studies show that TikTok users are spending around 858 minutes a month and 46 minutes a day scrolling through videos on the app. Because these videos are a maximum of one minute long, that is a lot of consumed content. This means your brand has plenty of potential to show up in users’ feeds as they scroll.

6. In January 2021, TikTok was the second most downloaded app in the world

There’s no denying that TikTok’s popularity is here to stay. In the first month of 2021, it was the most downloaded app across the globe with nearly 62 million installs.

17% of those installs came from China and 10% came from the United States. TikTok was the number 1 downloaded app in the Apple app store and in fourth place on the Google Play store. Overall, these new installs mean that interest remains high, and new users are consistently trying out the platform.

7. Children ages 4-15 spend an average of 80 minutes a day watching TikTok videos

Are you marketing a product for even younger generations than Gen Z? Kids love TikTok, too! In fact, children between the ages of 4 and 15 spend an average of 80 minutes each day (80-160+ videos) watching TikTok content. This means you can easily share content that relates to younger viewers and reach your desired audience – just be sure to create the kinds of content kids and their parents love.

8. TikTok generated $1 billion in revenue in 2020

TikTok generated an estimated $1 billion in revenue throughout 2020 from sources like ads run on the platform. The app as a whole is valued at around $50 billion. TikTok’s growth is expected to continue in 2021, meaning options for brands to use paid ads on TikTok are only likely to increase as a revenue source for the company.

9. 69% of US teens are on TikTok

We’ve already mentioned how popular TikTok is with younger generations, but this statistic proves it. More than 2 in 3 US teens were engaging at least monthly with the platform as of Fall 2020. This makes it the perfect platform for brands who are targeting teens and young adults.

Start creating relatable content that resonates with teens – but first, be sure to do some scrolling through the platform to get a good idea of the content types your target audience creates and enjoys.

10. 29% of US teens say TikTok is their favorite platform

So not only do more than 2/3 of US teens use TikTok, nearly 1/3 of US teens say it’s their favorite social media platform. This means they’re likely spending more time on TikTok than any other platform, giving you an even bigger opportunity to reach them. Plus, this number only increased throughout 2020, growing from 13% in spring 2020 to 29% in the fall.

11. TikTok is available in over 150 countries

The micro-video platform is available in more than 150 countries across the globe, giving brands access to target demographics from all around the world. Global brands should especially take advantage of this platform and the reach it has to offer.

12. US influencers see high engagement rates on TikTok

If you’re looking to create an engaged community and audience around your brand, TikTok is the place to do it. With studies showing an engagement rate of nearly 18% with micro-influencers on the platform, TikTok has a significant lead on Instagram’s 3.86% and YouTube’s 1.63% engagement rates. This could make it the perfect place to implement a micro-influencer strategy. Similarly, the report also showed influencers at larger scales still had the highest engagement rate on TikTok.

influencer engagement rates across platforms

13. 68% of TikTok users have watched another user’s video

On any social platform, some users download the app or create an account without ever actually following up and using it. However, statistics show that 68% of TikTok users have at least watched another user’s video on the platform, showing a strong engagement rate where a majority of users are actively viewing content.

14. 55% of TikTok users have uploaded their own video content

While 68% of TikTok users actually watch content, only a little over half of all TikTok users have actually uploaded their own videos to the platform. This shows that the largest majority of the audience may enjoy simply consuming content on this platform than actually creating their own videos, but there’s still a large user base willing to actively create video content..

15. 37% of users have a household income of $100k+

TikTok’s userbase shows a few different trends in income level. About one-third of TikTok users bring in $100,000 of household income each year, but as noted in MarketingChart’s review of the data, may reflect an overall economic skew in the US population. On the opposite end of the spectrum, 18% of users report a household income under $25k, likely due to the younger users of the platform. As some of our other stats in this article show, brands will need to fine-tune their focus, such as targeting older Gen Z and younger Millennial users who are tuned into the platform and also more motivated to purchase based on social media content.

16. 58.8% of TikTok users are female

Brands with a focus on a target audience of women are in luck on TikTok. TikTok’s user base skews female, with 58.8% users identifying as women.

That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be on TikTok if you target men with your products or services. Because the ratio is close to just half of the userbase, there’s still plenty of opportunity for a wide variety of brands and audiences to connect.

17. 90% of TikTok users access the app everyday

In another tribute to TikTok’s highly engaged community, 9 in 10 users log onto TikTok multiple times every day. It’s always important to see an engaged and active user base on a platform that you plan to market on, and TikTok definitely has that to offer.

Start creating your TikTok strategy

Ready to start marketing on TikTok? Putting together a solid video marketing strategy is the perfect way to get started. Keep these TikTok statistics in mind as you begin creating your content so you know exactly who your target audience will be.

This post 17 TikTok stats marketers need to know in 2021 originally appeared on Sprout Social.

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Social Spotlight: Hilton’s pandemic strategy proves the business value of social

Overview

For more than a century, Hilton has built its reputation on raising the standards of the guest experience. In fact, many of the staple offerings in the hospitality industry today—room service, the minibar, central reservations systems—were once Hilton innovations.

And even though it’s been four decades since minibars made their glorious debut, Hilton continues to innovate. Several years ago, they introduced their Hilton Honors app and Digital Key technology to provide guests with a contactless check in/check out experience. Their Five Feet to Fitness™ offering includes 11 different fitness equipment and accessory options so guests can work out in the privacy of their room. And their recent CleanStay program promises guests more rigorous cleaning and inspection protocols in the wake of the pandemic.

As an industry pioneer, many brands look to Hilton as a shining example of how to address the evolving needs of today’s traveler, and rise to the challenge of reinventing the hospitality experience.

Challenge

While the effects of the pandemic have been devastating across the board, one of the hardest hit industries was Travel and Hospitality. Like most hotels, resorts and other travel destinations, the initial challenge for Hilton was managing the fallout from cancellations.

But as time went on, the challenge became (and still remains) the general sentiment toward travel. In addition to the everyday challenge of standing out among other hotel choices, Hilton also needed to overcome new hesitations and objections about travel during a pandemic. Their business depended on it. So, what did they do? In short, they listened.

Strategy

Hilton’s strategy to inspire renewed trust and confidence in both travel and their brand appears to include three insight-driven pillars: product innovation, marketing creative and customer connection. Let’s unpack each pillar and discover how your brand can use social insights to drive similar business strategies.

Product innovation

During a pandemic, travelers’ priorities change. When they’re searching for a hotel, they care less about amenities and service, and more about cleanliness and protection. In order to compete with the comfort and safety of people’s own homes, Hilton created a program that would ensure the same diligence and care in cleaning their hotel rooms. In partnership with trusted household cleaning brand, Lysol, the brand launched Hilton CleanStay in select hotels.

Most notably, the program featured the Hilton CleanStay seal, a product innovation that let guests know their room was professionally deep cleaned since the last guest—and that no one had entered their room since that cleaning.

To promote the program, Hilton shared the announcement on its social channels, as well as a video showing the cleaning protocols in action. Judging by some of the comments, this program had a direct affect on loyalty and revenue.

Using social to drive product innovation: 

Insights gleaned from social can tell a brand a lot about what their audience is thinking, feeling, wanting, needing, using, doing, etc. Although a desire for clean rooms may have been a no-brainer in the context of the pandemic, the knowledge of which cleaning brands Hilton’s audience trusted most and the desire for a visual cue could have come from social listening.

By listening to social conversations that included keywords like cleaning, hotels, virus protection, etc, Hilton may have discovered the insights that folks trust Lysol, and don’t always trust someone’s word that something’s been cleaned—leading to their choice in brand partnership and the innovation of the physical seal.

With a sophisticated listening tool, your team can set up queries to monitor specific topics and keywords, as well as sentiments toward your brand and others. These insights might just reveal a gap in the market or new opportunity to create something new for your customers.

Marketing creative

In October of 2020, Hilton announced its global marketing campaign, “To New Memories.” The initiative was driven by a customer survey revealing that nearly nine in 10 travelers say travel memories are some of the happiest of their lives, 95% of those who travel are missing it and 90% believe we are currently experiencing a travel memory deficit.

The campaign was created to reignite people’s passion for travel by reminding them of what vacations, adventures and getaways feel like. It appealed to Hilton’s audience’s emotions at a time when they were missing travel and the memories it created the most. Long story short: They used FOMO to inspire desire and action.

Using social to drive marketing creative:

For folks who aren’t as motivated by the promise of a clean room, Hilton went a layer deeper with this campaign by appealing to the emotions of their audience. In order to do that, they first had to find out how their audience was feeling.

While Hilton used an actual customer survey to glean insights around travel sentiment, not every brand has similar resources. That’s the beauty of social listening. You don’t need a lot of time or money to discover what your audience is feeling at any given time. People are telling us everything we need to know on a daily basis through their social activity. We just need to make sure we’re listening.

And when it comes to marketing campaigns, that emotional insight and connection is what will lead to messaging and creative that resonates deeply enough to inspire your audience to take action. It’s the difference between selling them on what you’re offering—and why you’re offering it. The “why” is always more impactful.

Customer connection

With so many folks working from home during the pandemic, Hilton identified an opportunity to provide their guests with a distraction-free environment for more productive remote working. The initiative is called Workspaces and offers day-use rooms that include a spacious desk, ergonomic chair and enhanced WiFi.

To promote Workspaces on social, Hilton asked their followers to send them a photo of themselves in their everyday workspace using #UpgradeYourView, and in return they’d upgrade it to reflect the “travel background of their dreams.”

Even though it was only a day-long initiative, the images created were highly-shareable, and gave the brand the opportunity to engage with their audience, promote their new program and stay top of mind during a decline in travel.

Specific Hilton hotel chains and locations have also mastered the art of genuine customer connection. When power outages in Texas displaced an elderly man from his home, his granddaughter checked him into a local hotel, which the family jokingly nicknamed “Waldorf Astoria.” When a real Waldorf Astoria property—one of Hilton’s most prestigious and luxurious chains—learned of his story, they reached out with a personal invitation to stay with them once travel restrictions lightened up.

Knowing that might be a while, the hotel decided to bring their signature luxury experience directly to him by sending him a Waldorf Astoria “care package,” including a bathrobe, slippers, luggage tag and more to use while he plans his trip.

These surprise and delight moments create lasting connections not only with the guests directly involved, but also with everyone who happens to hear about it. In this case, the story made it onto the local Texas news, giving the hotel some free, brand-building publicity. And of course, the story then makes for great content to share across their own channels.

Using social to drive customer connection:

It would be difficult to stumble upon these moments without a sophisticated social listening solution. People don’t always use your brand’s handle when mentioning you in their social conversations. By monitoring certain relevant keywords, the Rome Waldorf Astoria location was able to bless this man beyond anything he ever expected, and positively impact their brand perception in the process.

Travel and hospitality brands aren’t the only ones who can benefit from surprise and delight opportunities. Any time your team can add value to or solve a problem for members of your audience, you are building your brand and directly impacting your business through customer connection.

And there’s just no better way to do it than with social listening.

This post Social Spotlight: Hilton’s pandemic strategy proves the business value of social originally appeared on Sprout Social.

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Let’s get things straight with the Google page experience update; Friday’s daily brief

Also more on the Google product reviews update rolling, local car inventory displaying and soft 404s seem resolved.

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.

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