Agency Partner Joins “Morning After” on CW33 TV To Discuss Social Media Safety

Originally aired live on Nov. 3, 2021, on CW33 TV; by the Digital News Desk
DALLAS (KDAF) — More than 7,000 CEOs have been impersonated by scammers since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.That alarming statistic hits home for many others across the world as the FTC says they measured about 500,000 imposter scams since 2020.

This problem is now affecting our very own Jenny Anchondo as she battles with social media accounts pretending to be her and scamming people out of hundreds of dollars.

Adam Rizzieri, co-founder and chief marketing officer for Agency Partner Interactive, joined our show to talk about the dangers of social media impersonation and what you can do to prevent it.


 

 

© 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. and Agency Partner Interactive LLC. All rights reserved.

Other Resources

Learn more about “imposter scams” today. These are a growing threat and have increased in frequency since the COVID mandates. Individuals and businesses alike are targets and the FTC has proven to be a great resource on this topic.

Click Here to learn more from the FTC’s official website.

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Facebook Forging Forward With Zuckerberg’s ‘Metaverse’

Facebook Forging Forward With Zuckerberg’s ‘Metaverse’

Originally published on Oct. 21, 2021 at Newsmax.com, Written by Marisa Herman

It has only been a few months since Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg teased the possibility of transforming the powerful social media company into an immersive “metaverse” — and the big tech billionaire isn’t wasting any time creating his unprecedented virtual reality world.

Despite months of high-profile problems — including allegations from whistleblowers, lawmakers calling for more regulation, and numerous lawsuits — Facebook announced plans to hire 10,000 highly skilled workers from Europe during the next five years to develop its metaverse. The social media behemoth is also rumored to be announcing a company name change in the coming days to reflect its new focus.

As imagined, a metaverse is a Matrix-like, virtual form of reality where users are immersed in the internet, rather  than looking at it from the outside. The term was coined nearly 30 years ago in the 1992 dystopian novel “Snow Crash,” and elements of the futuristic metaverse have already debuted in popular video games such as Fortnight and Roblox.

Techies view the metaverse as the internet’s next frontier to be conquered and Facebook appears to be moving quickly toward completing its quest to become the first major tech company to take the plunge, offering the masses a space that combines the physical world with an augmented virtual existence.

Chris Haynes, a political science professor at the University of New Haven, said Zuckerberg’s hiring spree shouldn’t come as much of a surprise because Facebook has been looking into a pivot towards the untapped metaverse for some time.

Facebook has said that this new virtual reality is the next generation of Facebook as opposed to [it] just being a social media company.

“This is something that has been a real buzz in the tech world, especially with the COVID pandemic and the inability for people to get out there and interact,” Haynes said. “Facebook has said that this new virtual reality is the next generation of Facebook as opposed to [it] just being a social media company.”

Back in 2014, Facebook spent $2 billion to purchase Oculus, a company behind virtual reality gaming headsets. Since then, the tech giant has invested more money and manpower in developing the next phase of tech, positioning the company to shift away from tools like messenger and toward services like virtual boardroom meetings.

A few months ago, Facebook rolled out Horizon Workrooms, an app that allows users wearing VR headsets to gather in boardroom-style meetings with cartoon avatars of their co-workers. The app is reported to be part of Facebook’s secret “Horizon” project, which, according to The Verge, is an unreleased VR version of Facebook.

This summer, Zuckerberg shared his vision for the metaverse, which he dubbed “an embodied internet,” on “The Vergecast” podcast.

He said the metaverse will be a “big focus” for Facebook and a “big part of the next chapter for the way that the internet evolves after the mobile internet.”

Haynes said the timing of the jobs announcement, however, is no coincidence and comes as Zuckerberg is “attempting to change the narrative and reframe the public image of the company and himself.”

[Facebook] recognizes that they have done a lot of damage,” he said. “One way of shifting the narrative of the news media is to focus on something that is more beneficial.”

Haynes said given the fact that Facebook hasn’t always been completely transparent with its users and the government, the company is betting its public perception will get a boost by touting the benefits the metaverse will bring.

He said the calculus behind the metaverse push is that if there is public buy in for it, the government will back off.

Currently, Facebook is taking heat from users and elected officials on both sides of the political aisle. It has been blasted by lawmakers on the left for not doing enough to manage alleged misinformation posted to the social platform. It’s also been slammed by conservatives who feel the company suppresses the voices of those who lean to the right, including former President Donald Trump. The company is facing a barrage of lawsuits ranging from privacy issues to antitrust concerns, too.

Dallas-based marketing and big tech expert Adam Rizzieri said that, on one hand, Facebook should clean up the mess it faces in the U.S. before it jets across the world to start its new endeavor. He noted the irony in Facebook’s talk about consolidating and strengthening what it has already built even as it builds the metaverse — all while Congress is trying to reel the company in.

But he isn’t surprised to see Zuckerberg brush off the criticism he faces at home for a fresh start elsewhere because “Facebook sees the world as its house” more than it views itself as an American company.

“Anyone who is watching knows that issues within Facebook’s walls are yet to be resolved,” he said. “The focus on the rebrand is an interesting way of ignoring problems that still exist.”

He said Zuckerberg’s move into the metaverse showcases the “power that the company continues to wield” and its desire to “control the future and their destiny in it.”

“Today we are concerned about big tech unfairly wielding its power in our daily online interactions,” he said. “Tomorrow, with the metaverse, we have to be concerned about big tech doing the same in a world that has no boundaries.”

As the physical and virtual worlds become more intertwined, he questions where we will “draw the line of separation between what’s mine and what’s ours?

 

© 2021 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

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Agency Partner Featured In Katy Trail Weekly: Most Disliked Brand in Texas Surprising

Most Disliked Brand in Texas Surprising

Originally published on KatyTrailWeekly.com, Written by David Mullen

A new statistical report asserts that the most disliked brands by state on social media are often not necessarily the ones you might think. For example, Colonel Sanders is not welcome in Des Moines. KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) is the most disliked brand on Twitter in Iowa. In Kentucky, it is Uber. Go figure.

Many of the most successful companies and well-known names have become unpopular brands. RAVE Reviews teamed up with research tool SentiStrength to measure the most hated brands across the U.S by state as measured on Twitter. They assessed more than a million brand-related tweets for positive or negative content and calculated what is referred to as the “hate rate” (percentage of negative tweets) by state.

Everyone loves LEGO, right? In six states, the brand is the most unpopular. No data supports if the hate rate coincides with the percentage of parents with young children that walk around the house in their bare feet.

Twitter, as a social platform, doesn’t represent the diverse opinions of states, let alone countries…

“Twitter, as a social platform, doesn’t represent the diverse opinions of states, let alone countries,” said Adam Rizzieri, an SMU and Boston University graduate and CMO at the Plano based Agency Partner Interactive, a marketing company that specializes in working with small business to help them create online experiences to foster growth. “And it is overwhelmingly male and typically more affluent. But that doesn’t mean what comes off Twitter doesn’t matter.”

It is logical that a foreign car brand is most hated in Michigan. But one would think it would be Toyota, Nissan or Honda in America’s automotive center. The most hated brand in Michigan is Ferrari. “I think that might relate to racing fans,” Rizzieri said. “[It could be] throwing hate on whatever [Ferrari Formula One drivers] Carlos Sainz, Jr. or Charles Leclerc had done on the racetrack. Why do so many people hate KFC or LEGO with so much fury? People are two to three times more inclined to tweet a frustration than a positive experience. With KFC, it could be a delivery experience like “They forgot my gravy!”’

In California, surprisingly, Uber is most hated brand, even though the company is headquartered in San Francisco. “People that hate Uber are still going to use the service,” Rizzieri said. “It’s a little unfair. Think about the volume. I think Uber and Toyota share the same thing. They do so much volume and have a ton of happy customers. But because they have so many users, you are bound to do something — or not do something — to piss somebody off.”

Amazon is the most disliked brand in New Mexico, which seems counterproductive. So does Red Bull not charging up Nevada, America’s 24-hour gaming mecca. McDonalds is not a Maine brand, Minnesota is not gaga over Google, Colorado dislikes Disney, Alaska is not hot on Starbucks and Mississippi hates French luxury fashion brand Chanel. Maybe Mississippians meant to say “channel” because they don’t like their TV shows.

Sony is the most hated brand in Texas. That seems odd. One would think that any company not based in Texas would be tied for No. 1 least liked brand.

“I tried to think about that one because I have literally never heard someone [in Texas] say, ‘I hate Sony,’” Rizzieri said. “As a company, at a higher level, it is a multi-national conglomerate. It is a huge corporation. They are a movie producer. They are an electronics manufacturer. They are also a gaming console brand.

“When I think about Texas and Sony and what the connection might be, I go back to the eSports gaming world,” Rizzieri continued. “All of the people competing may be use Sony consoles or the games themselves and are expressing some sort of discontent. You have [Mark Cuban] and Jerry Jones investing heavily in eSports, and you have a big gaming concentration in Houston and Dallas.”

Tesla is the second most hated brand in Texas, despite building a large plant in Austin. Texas is synonymous with oil and Tesla is synonymous with green energy. Oil and alternative power don’t mix.

The thing that people should recognize is that source of the tweet matters tremendously

“The thing that people should recognize is that source of the tweet matters tremendously,” Rizzieri concluded, “whether it is a troll just throwing some hate or if it is Elon Musk talking about what Tesla’s next big investment or next partnership is going to be. When Elon [Musk] tweets something, you know it is going to be really important.

“Think about Disney. Thirty percent of all the tweets on Twitter about Disney were really hateful, mean tweets. In the same year that they had all of this negativity spewing on social media, their share price rose by 125 percent. Negativity on social media doesn’t always matter. What matters most is who is tweeting and what the customer cares about.”

© 2021 Trail Publishing and Agency Partner Interactive. All rights reserved.

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Google’s Ad Ban on Climate Skeptics Is About Politics, Not Environment

Google’s Ad Ban on Climate Skeptics Is About Politics, Not Environment

Originally published on Newsmax.com, Written by Marisa Herman

Google says skeptics of what the company determines to be “scientific consensus” about climate change will be prevented from making money or spreading so-called “misinformation” on YouTube, a major decision that tech experts say is motivated more by politics than sincere environmental concerns.

The tech behemoth announced the policy change in a Thursday blog post that noted the change will “prohibit ads for, and monetization of, content that contradicts well-established scientific consensus around the existence and causes of climate change,” and is slated to affect YouTube video creators, advertisers, and publishers.

Critics immediately questioned whether the move was yet another example of a big tech company working in lockstep with the Democratic Party’s agenda to silence those who have the “wrong” thoughts about a debatable issue.

Steve Milloy, a former Trump EPA transition member and the founder of JunkScience.com, said the forthcoming policy “does nothing but validate what climate realists have been saying for years: It’s not about the climate; it’s about the political power.”

“If what we were saying was wrong, we would have been laughed off the Internet long ago,” he said. “Instead, reality is validating us and public support for climate idiocy is going nowhere.”

The new Google policy applies to any content that it determines calls climate change a hoax or denies that greenhouse gas emissions and human activity have contributed to the overall warming of the earth.

Google’s ad team said a “growing number” of its “advertising and publisher partners” have expressed concerns in recent years about “ads that run alongside or promote inaccurate claims about climate change.”

The company says that advertisers don’t want their ads showing up next to content that denies climate change, and publishers and creators don’t want the content to appear on their pages or videos.

Milloy believes the change, which is set to go into effect in November, will “have no effect on climate realist websites for the simple reason that the ad revenue is pretty trivial.”

I don’t know of any climate realist who blogs for the Google ad revenue…

“I don’t know of any climate realist who blogs for the Google ad revenue,” he said. “We do it because we oppose the abuse of science, especially as it is being used to advance totalitarianism.”

Google said it will use a mix of both automated tools and human reviewers to enforce the policy. It says it will “look carefully at the context in which claims are made, differentiating between content that states a false claim as fact, versus content that reports on or discusses that claim” when it evaluates content.

While Google may be responding to pressure from climate activists to “do more,” critics say the policy is another reason why the publisher shouldn’t be protected by Sec. 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a controversial protection afforded to tech companies that shields them from being sued over content that users post on their site.

Marketing and big tech expert Adam Rizzieri called the new policy “par for the course” when it comes to tech organizations protecting the speech of the “elite, VIP class of users, while rapidly silencing and de-platforming all others.”

“Google routinely allows politically divisive issues to dictate how its platforms operate and what its users can do and say,” Rizzieri said. “Unlike private companies, Google wields the de facto power of a government entity and therefore abuses its power in how it actively silences the free speech of users, spanning from daily users to renowned thought leaders.”

When it comes to YouTube, he said the video platform has already “routinely demonetized or suspended credentialed, industry experts” on other topics.

“They target your average YouTube user, but they also go after thought leaders – including Nobel Prize winners and actual history makers,” he said. “When YouTube’s enforcement teams believe themselves to know more than Nobel Prize winners and legal thought leaders like Alan Dershowitz, we have a big problem.”

When YouTube’s enforcement teams believe themselves to know more than Nobel Prize winners and legal thought leaders like Alan Dershowitz, we have a big problem.

Because policies like these “actively violate the First Amendment rights of everyone,” Rizzieri said big tech companies “should not get to enjoy Section 230 immunities.”

James Taylor, the president of the Illinois-based thinktank The Heartland Institute, says concerns about actions like those taken by Google have led 33 states to push legislation in a bid to combat censorship and free speech concerns. Florida and Texas have already had two of those bills signed into law.

“Google and Big Tech are perpetrating Digital Age book-burning,” Taylor said, adding, “It is now The People versus Big Tech — and they brought it upon themselves.”

Milloy added, “Google’s demonetization is an admission that we are winning, a treasure far more valuable than Google ad revenue.”

© 2021 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

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Trump’s Injunction Request Has ‘Strong Basis for Prevailing’

Originally published on Newsmax.com, Written by Marisa Herman

Former President Donald Trump’s lawyers have crafted an “impressive” legal argument that has a strong chance of convincing a judge to compel YouTube to reinstate his channel, according to at least one attorney familiar with the lawsuit.

In one of his three class-action suits, Trump asked a Florida judge overseeing his case against YouTube to issue a preliminary injunction that would require the company to reinstate his account on the platform, which would allow him to sell merchandise as part of any political fundraising efforts, the New York Post reported.

Trump’s lawyers say they will file similar requests in the suits against social media giants Facebook and Twitter. Trump’s legal team argues that keeping the former president off of the platforms would cause irreparable harm to Trump as a potential political candidate in the future and the Republican Party overall.

“This injunction is so important because quite possibly the midterms are on the line here,” said marketing and Big Tech expert Adam Rizzieri.

Attorney Paul Kamenar, who serves as counsel to the National Legal and Policy Center, said he was “very impressed” with the legal arguments put forward by Trump’s attorneys.

“The legal issues presented are excellent,” he said. “I expect [the injunction] to be granted either by this court or by the appellate court.”

Kamenar expects the forthcoming injunction requests to also have a “strong basis for prevailing.” If the judges deny the motions, however, he believes the appellate court would “look favorably on the appeal.”

In the three separate, yet nearly identical, lawsuits filed last month, Trump claims he has been unlawfully censored by the Big Tech companies. The suits also ask federal judges to overturn the immunity protections afforded to these companies by deeming Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act unconstitutional.

Under Section 230, Internet companies are largely exempt from liability for the material posted by users. The section permits social media platforms to moderate posts that violate their standards or are obscene – if they act in “good faith.” But many conservatives argue the Big Tech titans have gone out of their way to silence their viewpoints on various politically charged topics.

Trump was booted off social media platforms for posts and comments he made following the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol breach. He has been permanently banned from Twitter and is ineligible to return to Facebook for at least two more years. YouTube’s CEO Susan Wojcicki said in March that the video platform would lift its suspension on Trump’s channel when it decides the risk of real-world violence has decreased.

In announcing his decision to file a motion for preliminary injunction, Trump said he is “fighting back” against “Big Tech’s unlawful and Communist-style censorship.”

“The American people, and truth itself, are under attack by Big Tech’s unlawful and Communist-style censorship,” he said in a statement. “We filed a historic class action lawsuit because every American deserves to have their First Amendment Rights protected, not destroyed by leftist radicals in Silicon Valley.”

Since announcing his plan to take on Big Tech, he said more than 85,000 Americans, whose “voices are being silenced and freedoms restricted,” have joined the suit.

“We must fight back,” Trump said. “They are destroying our Country. There is nothing more important than our right to free speech.”

Trump filed the suits with the America First Policy Institute, which was founded by former members of his administration.

The motion for injunctive relief argues that Trump’s First Amendment rights were violated and that YouTube violated Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act.

Kamenar believes that Trump will win on both arguments because Trump’s attorneys crafted a powerful case showing how YouTube is “arbitrarily discriminating against President Trump” with “no rational basis” when compared to how it treats other YouTube users who have been allowed to remain on the platform despite showing violent videos.

According to Trump’s suit, YouTube removed a video about the Capitol breach from his account on Jan. 6. He was indefinitely suspended from the platform on Jan. 27.

Kamenar said the motion points out how YouTube violates Florida’s consumer law by unfairly determining who it lets on its platform and who it kicks off.

“They are arbitrarily applying their reasons in a way that discriminates against Trump and thousands of others conservative voices,” he said.

AFPI Constitutional Litigation Partnership executive director Katie Sullivan told the New York Post that the social media giants have “inconsistently applied their terms and services and their community standards” and “they censor specific voices and thought so that other users only hear one side of a story.”

She pointed out that banning Trump from Twitter, but allowing the Taliban to broadcast from the platform as they took over control of Afghanistan is a “perfect example” of the uneven application of rules.

“I mean that’s just low-hanging fruit right there,” she said.

Trump railed against Twitter last week for permitting the Taliban’s presence on the platform while his ban continues to stand.

“It’s disgraceful when you think that you have killers and muggers and dictators and horrible — some horrible dictators and countries, and they’re all on, but the president of the United States, who had hundreds of millions of people, by the way, he gets taken off,” Trump said in a statement.

Rizzieri said Twitter’s decision to allow the Taliban on the platform while keeping Trump off sends the message that Trump is worse than a regime that has killed Americans, beaten women for showing their faces in public, and conducted public beheadings.

When you compare the two accounts and realize a former U.S. president, who was supported by at least half of the country, is banned, while a militant regime is still active, Rizzieri said it is “so ridiculous” and the “definition of hypocrisy” – but that hypocrisy runs rampant in Big Tech.

The lawsuit against YouTube, which also names the CEO of parent company Alphabet as a defendant, additionally claims that the company was forced to ban Trump by Congressional lawmakers, especially Democrats.

Rizzieri said it won’t be hard for Trump’s legal team to prove there is a “strong link” between Twitter’s leadership team and the White House communication team when it files that motion for an injunction. He pointed out that White House press secretary Jen Psaki has said on the record how the White House has an open line of communication with Big Tech companies.

“We are in regular touch with the social media platforms, and those engagements typically happen through members of our senior staff, but also members of our COVID-19 team,” Psaki told reporters during a July press briefing.

She added that the White House was “flagging problematic posts for Facebook that spread disinformation.”

Rizzieri said if Trump’s lawyers can show “with consistency” just how closely tied the White House is with the Big Tech officials who are “making daily censorship decisions,” the case will be a “shoo-in” for Trump and his nine co-plaintiffs.

© 2021 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

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‘Woke” MLB Team ‘Sold Out Fan’ in Racial Slur Flap

Originally published on Newsmax.com, Written by Marisa Herman

A Colorado Rockies fan who just wanted a family photo with the baseball team’s mascot, Dinger, instead was vilified by the home team and excoriated by countless outlets and social media trolls as a racist.

During a Sunday game at Coors Field, an unidentified person alerted the Rockies that they thought they heard a fan repeatedly yell a racial slur while Lewis Brinson, a Black outfielder for the visiting Miami Marlins, was batting in the ninth inning. As it turns out, the fan wasn’t yelling a racial epithet and was just trying to get the attention of the Rockies’ mascot – a purple triceratops named “Dinger,” who is named after a decades-old, common slang term for a home run.

But by the time that determination was made and the fan was fully cleared, the damage was done.

The Rockies issued a statement while still pursuing their own investigation and called the incident disgusting. Tony Clark, a former player who now serves as the executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, condemned “the abhorrent racial animus displayed today.” Multiple national media outlets ran with the story under the same framing – as indisputable fact – without independently verifying the allegation. Headlines and tweets posted by several heavily trafficked outlets and prominent reporters repeatedly lacked any qualifiers – such as “allegedly” or “purportedly” – to indicate to readers that the accusations had not been confirmed.

When the team investigation did wrap up, it ultimately found that the unidentified fan was “indeed yelling for Rockies mascot Dinger, in hopes of getting his attention for a photo, and there was never any racial slur that occurred.”

But that’s likely little consolation for the fan who was “sold out” by the Rockies’ rush to judgement, according to Juda Engelmayer, a crisis manager and president of HeraldPR.

“They jumped into it,” he said. “But they jumped into it irresponsibly. The team has the responsibility of making sure it is right before they do anything.”

Engelmayer said the team was probably quick to condemn the alleged incident with the intent to protect its brand and players. He said the team should have waited, however, and said it was not prepared to comment until the investigation concluded.

“I think the team ultimately did the right thing, but they handled things wrong at first,” he said. “It’s a tricky time we are living in and no one knows how to handle things so they don’t get ‘canceled.’ We are a little too overly sensitive looking for the charlatan, looking for the problem, looking for the sensationalism.”

Ivan Parron, a sports attorney and sports law professor at Florida International University, said that, even though the Rockies ended up facing a stiff backlash for jumping to conclusions, he isn’t surprised by the initial action taken by the team or the MLBPA.

“Unfortunately, in the times that we live in, from a sporting organization standpoint, when it comes to crisis management, they are going to err on the side that will have less backlash if they are wrong,” he said. “It’s sad for this individual that he got caught in the middle of this.”

The sporting world has become the “center of where all of our social issues are laundered through,” Parron said, and that means anything sensational related to sports is “automatically news,” which led to the story going viral almost immediately.

Parron said the fan may have a legal case if he can prove his reputation was sullied, though, proving damages can be difficult. If he does so, Engelmayer said the Rockies ultimately bear responsibility for accusing the fan.

“In my field, you say it takes a lifetime to build a reputation and 30 seconds to destroy it,” he said. “This guy’s face has been all over.”

The fan wasn’t identified in any official statement, however, images of him sitting at the game and calling for the mascot were widely disseminated on social media. While the fan will likely be able to explain the situation to family and friends, Engelmayer said there’s no guarantee the general audience will care – or even hear – about the mix-up.

“It’s not fair and it’s not right,” he said.

Digital marketing expert Adam Rizzieri said he “can’t imagine” how that fan is feeling after being accused of such loathsome behavior.

“I know people who have been canceled for less, literally innocent people.” he said. “It’s what gets people fired and suspended from their jobs. It’s a toxic reality. You never know what can happen to you when you are exposed online.”

Before the Rockies concluded the investigation, several players, commentators, and reporters brutally ripped the fan for what later turned out to be a misheard word.

Some quickly walked back their comments after the probe was completed.

“I personally apologize for jumping to conclusions,” tweeted Adam Jones, a former All-Star player who’s spoken about his own experience being berated by racial taunts from fans while in the outfield. “I felt, and many heard, something vile and nasty. It’s not the case. So I apologize to him and his family. Know when you’re wrong and apologize.”

But even after the Rockies issued a muted statement clearing the fan of any wrongdoing, social media posts repeating the false racial slur accusation continued to circulate on Twitter and other platforms. Despite social media platforms’ vow to crack down on posts containing “misinformation,” Rizzieri said the truth is it’s “impossible for Twitter to check every post for ‘misinformation.’”

He said Twitter has acknowledged that it “won’t address all misinformation” and that it gauges what posts it will flag based on the “severity” of the content.

While labeling a man a racist seems severe enough to garner some sort of action from Twitter, Rizzieri said the “system isn’t designed to protect one person, and that’s a problem.”

“Twitter is really full of fake news,” he said. “And bad news can spread really, really fast.”

He said people are more likely to fall for and share fake news because it tends to be more “sensational and emotional.”

“The real news is just not that interesting,” he said. “A fan yells at a mascot, who cares?”

Rizzieri added: “People fall for things that aren’t really what they seem. And it’s really a tragedy.”

© 2021 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

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Facebook’s Push Into the Metaverse Is “Next Evolution of the Internet”

Originally published on Newsmax.com, Written by Marisa Herman

Imagine attending a packed Trump rally halfway across the country – without leaving your couch. Or meeting the boss for a team strategy session at a café near the foot of the Eiffel Tower without ever crossing an ocean. Unreachable vistas could be a thing of the past as Facebook aims toward the future with the metaverse.

Tech experts warn, however, that the convergence of real life and fantasy in a metaverse has a dark side that could upend society when it comes to the politics, economics, and policing of the virtual world.

During a recent earnings call, CEO Mark Zuckerberg pivoted from discussing the company’s current financials to focusing on Facebook’s future. And his plans seemingly turn the plot of numerous science-fiction movies into reality by creating a virtual world for Facebook’s 2.8 billion users.

Zuckerberg said the social media behemoth plans to become a “metaverse company” and described the new landscape as a “virtual environment where you can be present with people in digital spaces. You can kind of think of this as an embodied internet that you’re inside of rather than just looking at.”

So, instead of just watching a video of hiking Mount Everest, you could do it — in a sense — either as yourself or a digital avatar version of yourself, feeling all the elements, without leaving home or chancing your own safety. It’s a feat that gamers have been tantalizingly close to experiencing for some time: leaving the real world behind and immersing themselves in a virtual reality.

“This is the next evolution of the Internet,” said marketing and big tech expert Adam Rizzieri. “And it is already happening. This move toward recognizing the metaverse reflects an inevitability of our time. It’s a reflection of where we are with artificial intelligence and how machines are increasingly intertwined with every second of our physical existence.”

Tech experts aren’t surprised that Zuckerberg teased the possibility there’s a metaverse on the horizon. Facebook spent $2 billion to purchase Oculus in 2014, which was the company behind virtual reality gaming headsets, and has invested more money and manpower in developing the next wave of tech that fuses virtual reality, augmented reality, and the real world.

Tech experts say there are several factors that could have fueled the timing of Zuckerberg’s metaverse push: 1) To get investors hyped about what the future could bring for Facebook — beyond its social media platform — to boost its stock; 2) To provide a distraction from the big tech crackdown Congress has deployed on platforms such as Facebook; 3) To give a glimpse into what the future holds when it comes to the next wave of innovation in order to maintain Facebook’s dominant status in the tech sphere.

Andrew Selepak, a social media professor at the University of Florida, said it was a “pretty big PR move” for Zuckerberg to discuss something that is “far out in the future.” But he said it was also a “great way to shift focus during the current news cycle to something else,” especially as Facebook is taking a beating on Capitol Hill.

Rizzieri said Facebook is afraid of “being behind.” While it may surprise some, he said Facebook found itself scrambling to catch up with the shift from desktop computers to mobile devices and early versions of the Facebook app were buggy. He believes Zuckerberg’s metaverse push could be rooted in a fear of repeating the same mistake twice.

Regardless of the motivating factors behind the metaverse push, techies say the Matrix-like environment is already taking over parts of our daily lives.

“We have been promised virtual reality for years,” Selepak said. “A lot of the beginnings of the technology are here and have been around for some time. It’s what’s next.”

Selepak points out that people are already using elements of augmented reality when they use apps like Snapchat and Instagram or even put up a virtual background in a Zoom meeting. He said the coronavirus pandemic likely sped along the development of a metaverse that appeals to more than gamers.

“Virtual reality is just the next step of that virtual meeting,” he said.

Tyrone Evans Clark, a 3-D game artist and programmer, said gamers have been “super invested in metaverse games,” especially amid the pandemic where people could connect without having to meet in person.

He expects the metaverse to mirror the real world in many ways, especially when it comes to politics and economics. He said people will form alliances in the metaverse in the same way they do in real life, based on commonalities, like age and interests.

“Everything will be virtual, including groups that people are already part of in the real world,” he said. “The virtual alliances on a political level will help people understand each other more all around the world, while making explicit agreements and potentially buying and sharing virtual goods amongst themselves.”

While forms of augmented and virtual reality are already integrated in our daily lives, Selepak points out that just what a defined metaverse will be remains largely unknown. He notes that a major hurdle to overcome for Facebook, and other companies interested in the metaverse, is hardware. Clunky headsets will be a barrier for entry for many who want to test out the alternative world.

But despite not knowing exactly what a metaverse will look, feel, and sound like, Selepak knows it will likely be a money maker. If the metaverse takes a page out of the gaming world, he said it will feature tons of advertisements and the ability to purchase goods and services in the virtual world that will line the pockets of the company in the real one.

Not only will Facebook profit financially, Rizzieri said the company would likely become extremely more powerful, especially if it owned all the data associated with users in the metaverse.

“Do we own our own data or does the metaverse own our data?” Rizzieri asked.

While the metaverse could provide a lot of advantages for both the user and private sector, he wonders just how much power big tech would relinquish over its metaverse creation.

“I really wonder what this is going to look like in real life,” Rizzieri said. “While this definitely drops the ‘fiction’ from ‘science fiction,’ it comes with some extremely globalist, new world order type of scary implications.”

Selepak fears that parts of the metaverse will be dark and even disturbing. He noted the popular virtual world game called “Second Life” made headlines after people used their avatars for acts such as virtual prostitution.

To avoid illicit activity on the platform, like sex trafficking or drug deals that could be planned in the metaverse for real-life meetups, Selepak said the metaverse will have to be moderated and regulated. Currently, Facebook finds itself in a delicate position regarding moderating and regulating content on its social media platform, and experts say the metaverse would be no different.

“Once you have people interacting virtually and 2.8 billion people doing it, you will create a virtual surveillance state,” Selepak said. “Facebook will be monitoring everything everyone is doing in this virtual world.”

While the world will have to wait and see what exactly the metaverse ends up being, Rizzieri said it will ultimately be something we don’t log onto or plug into.

“One day, we will open our eyes and realize, I am totally combining my physical and digital worlds,” he said. “We aren’t going to have a whole lot of decision making behind whether we adopt the metaverse. It’s just going to hit us, and we are just going to find ourselves in the metaverse.”

© 2021 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

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Agency Partner Featured In Newsmax: “Trump Facebook Ban Upheld”

Trump Beats Facebook No Matter How Panel Rules, Experts Say

Originally published on Newsmax.com, Written by Marisa Herman
A panel stocked with anonymous content-moderation “judges” upheld Facebook’s ban of former President Donald Trump while also leaving the door open slightly to have that ruling revised in six months, but no matter what the group ruled, Trump was poised to claim victory – as the vindicated or the victim.
The social media giant, which froze Trump’s account in the wake of the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol breach, cited a pair of Trump posts as having violated Facebook rules and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg claimed Trump’s posts were meant to “undermine the peaceful and lawful transition of power to his elected successor, Joe Biden.” But while Twitter – which suspended Trump on Jan. 6 and booted him from the platform Jan. 8 – acted quickly, Facebook waited until Jan. 21 to announce that the company’s oversight board would render Trump’s ultimate Facebook fate — though that board then kicked the can down the road a bit more on Wednesday morning. The determination by the board also applies to Instagram, which is owned by Facebook.
Few of those experts and analysts who’d been hotly watching the drama play out pretended to know which way the board would rule before the odd 9 a.m. decision – but they all acknowledged how momentous the decision was likely to end up being.
“It’s a big day,” said Andrew Selepak, a social media professor at the University of Florida. “The oversight board is looking at something of great significance. This is obviously something that is vastly different from any decision they have made in the past in terms of size and scope.”
Dallas-based digital marketing expert Adam Rizzieri said the board’s verdict was a tossup.
“It really is a coin toss,” he said. “I give it a 50/50.”
If Trump was reinstated, Selepak predicted the president would do a “victory lap” of vindication against big tech and pressure other platforms that banned him to follow Facebook’s lead.
Aside from Twitter, Trump was also booted from other popular platforms, including Twitch, Snapchat and YouTube. On Tuesday evening, his website launched a new page that allowed one-way communication – in real time – from the 45th president at donaldjtrump.com/desk. Notably, Trump’s posts have a social share tool that allows users to push the messages onto Facebook and Twitter.
But the ban being upheld, however, may have represented an even bigger win for Trump.
Selepak expects a Republican-led backlash to be launched against big tech, which has been increasingly accused of silencing conservative voices.
“Being deplatformed makes Trump a victim of social media and gives him a greater voice against it than if he was simply allowed back on,” Selepak said.
Rizzieri agreed that a decision upholding the ban could add “much fuel to the fire” that already exists when it comes to creating new social media platforms and placing more scrutiny on big tech, in general.
And though Twitter “permanently” banned Trump months ago and YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki said in March that the video platform would reactivate Trump’s account only when it was “safe” to do so, those sites and others may be pressured to quickly re-evaluate their decisions if Facebook goes against the grain six months from now, when the company is due to reevaluate its decision.
“If Facebook indicates that they are going to allow him access to his accounts again, it will be very difficult for Twitter, Snapchat, and YouTube to say we are still not,” Selepak said.
Facebook created its 20-member oversight board through an endowment it funded. The board and its bylaws were put in place last year, and members come from different countries and a range of professional backgrounds – including lawyers, human-rights advocates, former politicians, and journalists.
In the big picture, the board is tasked with determining whether Facebook correctly followed its policies in either leaving up or taking down content or accounts from the platform. Cases, which are either referred to the board by Facebook or from an individual user via a petition, are reviewed and adjudicated by five of the members.
The group of five who render the decision remain secret.
Once the small anonymous group comes to an agreement, their decision must be approved by a majority of the full board. In the case of a major disagreement, the process restarts under a new panel.
Once a ruling is reached, it’s binding, and Facebook has agreed to abide by the panel’s decision. The board may also recommend policies for Facebook to implement. But in the case of proposed rule changes, it’s up to Facebook officials to decide if new policies – or changes to existing rules – should be enacted.
“Irrespective of the decision, Facebook is looking to the committee for a policy recommendation on how they will ban or not ban world leaders moving forward,” Rizzieri said. “That gives the company the ability to say how they will make decisions moving forward.”
One thing social media experts do agree on is that, no matter which way the ruling goes, there will be plenty of scrutiny over the faceless group rendering the decision.
Rizzieri said while the oversight board’s members are generally respectable, educated, and influential people, the fact that only five total members are American could cause pushback. The interpretation of free speech varies among countries – but Facebook is based in America.
“Do we really want decisions that influence how we view free speech determined by this ‘social media supreme court’ that isn’t fully American?” Rizzieri said. “We really have no idea what might influence someone from a totally different country to make a decision about a policy or law.”
So far, the board has mostly reviewed posts made by users that most people don’t know. But in this case, the board was tasked with determining the fate of a former U.S. president who had some 35 million followers when his account was suspended and may run again for the highest office in the land in 2024.
Rizzieri said the board considered the following questions during its deliberations:

  • Did the content violate Facebook’s policies?
  • Did the removal of the content respect human rights standards like freedom of expression?
  • What was the intent behind the post?
  • Did the user understand Facebook’s terms and rules?

He said the board also takes into consideration nuances of the language used in the post and any surrounding context. It also took some time to review the more than 9,000 public comments that users submitted about the case.
In fact, that flood of public comments led the board to delay its original 90-day deadline to decide Trump’s fate.
Initial rulings issued by the oversight board earlier this year indicated they weren’t afraid to overturn Facebook’s content-moderation decisions. The board has overturned decisions in five of the seven cases it has ruled on so far.
“This independent oversight board is not a bobblehead nodding an affirmation for what Facebook is doing, just looking at how they judged their first five cases,” Rizzieri said.
Despite that demonstrated independence, if Selepak had to place a bet, he wagered the ban would be upheld.
“If I was to place some Las Vegas bet on it, the easiest thing for the board to do is uphold the deplatforming now that [Trump] is a private citizen,” he said. “What is the justification for lifting the ban? Allowing a private citizen the ability to go back on social media because he has a large following?”
Because Trump is now a private citizen, Selepak said Facebook can more easily justify its decision to uphold the ban by arguing he isn’t entitled to the same leeway as a sitting world leader.
Rizzieri completely disagrees. He saw a decision that allowed Trump to rejoin Facebook as the “path of least resistance.”
“If the decision is one that says we are going to keep Trump off of Facebook and uphold the ban, there will be a lot of attention on who is on that oversight board,” he said.
And if Trump does choose to run for office again, Facebook could be forced to reconsider any ban that may be in place at that time. The company has pledged to not limit the voice of any candidate running for office.
Facebook has typically adhered to its policy of not removing a world leader or sitting official from the platform. But it has taken down posts and suspended accounts of sitting world leaders such as Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
Rizzieri believes there is “no way” Facebook could sustain its ban if Trump were on the ticket in 2024 or became president in 2025.
A new Florida bill, which is expected to be signed into law by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, would actually fine social media companies that knowingly deplatform a political candidate. Under the proposed law, suspensions up to 14 days for rule violations would be allowed, however, and posts that break any terms of service could be deleted.
But the state’s elections commission would be able to fine a social media company $250,000 a day for statewide candidates and $25,000 a day for other candidates if a company’s actions are found to violate the law.
Even if Trump’s account was reinstated, regardless of whether or not he is running for office, Selepak noted he could have faced other sanctions, such as seeing a dip in his posts’ reach.
“There is no guarantee [Facebook] wouldn’t ‘shadow ban’ him or put warning labels on posts and limit his reach and voice,” he said. “These tech companies are very powerful because they can limit anyone’s voice.”
Even if Facebook did reinstate Trump and then use its algorithm to limit the reach of the former president’s posts, it’s something that Selepak said is very difficult to prove is taking place because users have no ability to “look under the hood” to see how the platform operates internally.
“They have the ability through their platforms to downgrade the posts,” he said. “They can do whatever they want to limit the reach of his posts using their algorithm. Posts may not get the reach they had in the past.”
Regardless of the outcome, Rizzieri said big tech can expect Congress to make some noise about how social media companies make content moderation decisions.
Already, there have been several attempts to look at Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which gives social media companies immunity from liability, from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. Democrats want to go after the protection in order to curb the spread of what they say is disinformation, while Republicans rail against alleged censorship.
“Weekly, there is a new effort to overhaul, rewrite, or undercut Section 230,” Rizzieri said. “There is bipartisan support for a change to the overall system, but there hasn’t been a perfect solution proposed.
“Whether Trump is allowed back on Facebook or the ban is upheld, some sort of regulation is inevitable. The real question is: To what extent?”

© 2021 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

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Agency Partner’s award-winning team often contributes expert opinions and perspectives on things that matter. Follow our contributions to the latest news and media topics or head over to the Agency Partner YouTube page to see us on TV and hear us on the radio or podcasts.
If your business is looking to utilize a digital marketing strategy or perhaps you need help with your web design and mobile needs, we’re happy to help! For no risk and no obligation, give us a shot! Make the team at Agency Partner your next call.

mobile_eCommerce_trends

Mobile eCommerce Trends for 2020

Mobile eCommerce Trends for 2020

Expert Tips For Mobile eCommerce Trend

 
As a digital marketing agency that helps several eCommerce sites with their marketing efforts every day, we’re always staying on top of the industry’s latest trends. And in 2020, both eCommerce and click and mortar shopping is becoming increasingly mobile.
In fact, Shopify recently reported that 82% of smartphone users stop to physically consult information on their smartphones when they’re standing in brick and mortar stores about to make a purchasing decision. With the power of mobile devices having such a strong influence on both brick and mortar and online purchases, it’s clear you need a mobile strategy and omni-channel strategy to successfully address both shopping scenarios.
To help you make the best mobile eCommerce decisions possible, here are the top 4 trends we’re seeing in mobile shopping thus far in 2020.

  • If You’re Not Anticipating Omni-Channel Shoppers, You’re Missing Out

Your business doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and neither do your customers. Today’s eCommerce websites and click and mortars need to be using an omnichannel marketing strategy to get their brand message in front of customers wherever they are, whenever they are.
Depending on your business size and brand, you may want to leverage a variety of digital and physical marketing channels, including:

  1. Ads optimized on mobile, especially for Pay-Per-Click and social media advertising.
  2. Remarketing ads for both mobile and desktop devices.
  3. Inbound marketing options such as SEO blogs on content relevant to your brand.
  4. Email marketing such as drip campaigns to prospects and customers.
  5. Out-of-home advertising such as billboards, bulletins, and bus shelters.
  6. TV ads or YouTube pre-roll ads.
  7. Radio ads.
  8. Point-of-Sale displays in physical stores.

When you have a good, omnichannel marketing mix, you can ensure that your customers are seeing or hearing your brand message wherever they are.

  • Simple Mobile Websites with Native Mobile eCheckouts Make it Easier for Customers to Buy Your Products

Today’s click and mortar shopper may be physically holding your product in his or her hand, but want to quickly jump on your website to read detailed product specs or watch a short product video before making a purchasing decision.
This means your mobile site needs to be easy to use, quick to load, and have all relevant information just a tap or swipe away.
When it comes to prioritizing these efforts, it’s clear that increasing the speed at which your mobile site loads takes center stage. Use smaller images so that your mobile website loads faster because today’s shoppers aren’t patient. In fact, BigCommerce found out that 40% of online shoppers will leave a website if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load.
Your eCommerce checkout process should also be as frictionless as possible. For your mobile site, this means it should only take a few taps for your customers to go from viewing your products to purchasing them. 
Thankfully, nearly everyone in the industry has adopted responsive design by now, so pinching and zooming in online carts is a thing of the past. But additional tips to make it easier for your customers to buy from your eCommerce website include:

  1. Allowing customers to create accounts on your checkout site, so repeat customers can simply log in to load their preferred shipping and payment details.
  2. Limiting the number of forms customers need to fill into only the essentials.
  3. Using smaller sized images so that pages load faster. Long eCheckout times increase abandoned shopping carts.
  4. Accepting a variety of payment options that mobile users love, such as PayPal, Apple Pay, and Android Pay.
  • Social Marketing + Social Selling = Big Wins

Shopify recently reported that 55% of eCommerce shoppers bought a product after first learning about it on social media. This data point tells you just how important your social media strategy – both for organic and paid content – is when it comes to finding new prospects and converting them into paying customers who will hopefully keep on coming back for more of your products.
A great social selling technique to explore is shoppable Instagram posts – if that makes sense for your brand. For many eCommerce sites that are targeting Millennials and young GenXers, Instagram is a great social selling platform.
Other social selling tactics include:

  1. Offering special coupons or discount codes exclusively through your social media channels.
  2. Working with Influencers – especially on Instagram – to use your products and post about them with great content, compelling images, and carefully curated hashtags.
  3. If you’re selling to Gen Z, having an Influencer take over your brand’s Snapchat account or sponsoring videos posted by popular YouTubers with a strong following.
  4. Using social media remarketing ads to remind people about your products if they visited your website recently but didn’t make a purchase.
  • Create Mobile Apps that Offer Customer Loyalty Programs

Mobile apps for click and mortars and even strictly brick and mortars that offer customer loyalty programs are now bigger than ever. You’d be surprised what shoppers will download and install on their mobile device to earn a free coffee, get 5% off a purchase, or play on gamified mobile apps.
Everyone from big box stores to gas stations to grocery stores are creating mobile apps in which customers can find deals, redeem a nominal coupon, or get a preview at your click and mortar’s Sunday ads.
And if you aren’t already using mobile apps for a click and mortar customer loyalty program, you need to develop one now. These types of mobile apps give you a wealth of consumer data, allowing you to more accurately create customer profiles for your business, forecast product sales, purchase the right amount of inventory, and make the most timely promotions that’ll fly off your physical (and virtual) shelves.
Contact Us for Help with a Mobile eCommerce Marketing Strategy
Whether you’re having a hard time developing the right marketing mix for the omnichannel or need assistance with your eCommerce website, we’re digital marketing experts who can help.
To schedule a time to talk about your mobile eCommerce marketing strategy and needs, call us at (214) 295-5845 or fill out our online contact form.
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3_proven_ways_to_increase_b2b_leads_through_social_media

3 Proven Ways To Increase B2B Leads Through Social Media

3 Proven Ways To Increase B2B Leads Through Social Media

Tips From Professional Social Media Marketers

Many businesses think of social media as a brand-building tool more than a lead generation one. The truth is that social media can be used to generate and refine leads in both B2B and B2C markets.
With the right strategy in place, you can capture leads on-the-spot and add them into your sales funnel. This article will bring you information on how you can specifically capture more B2B leads from your social media profiles.

1. Choose the Right Platform

There are several social media platforms to choose from. However, you’ll be making a critical mistake by signing up for every social media platform and expecting results.
This is because different types of individuals gather on specific channels. Facebook is an easy choice for B2B marketers because it has the largest following in the world.
Though, many marketers neglect LinkedIn, which is arguably a better-suited platform for bringing in B2B leads. Make sure you conduct extensive research on your target audience before you randomly choose a platform to advertise on.

2. Use Video Content

Video content is a popular form of Content among Millenials. Rightfully so, creating videos for your brand is a great way to showcase your products and services in a digestible manner for your target audience.
For Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, you can produce captivating videos and promote them to millions of users. The main takeaway here is to get creative with how you display these videos.
Don’t waste your time mindlessly drilling into your prospects’ heads about how your products or services are the best for them. Instead, allow your prospects to make their own decisions.
With that said, create videos that show why your offerings can be an invaluable aspect of your prospects’ lives. For example, a software company could ideally create a video that displays the difficulties their customers face without their product and tie in footages of what life would be like for them with their product.
A theme like this, combined with a clever call-to-action (CTA) can encourage your target audience to give your products or services a shot without any direct promotion.

3. Share Links to Gated Content

Gated content is exactly what it is – it’s content that’s only accessible to people who provide some form of credentials. Usually, businesses require people to submit their email addresses to receive a whitepaper or e-book.
This is an example of how gated content works. Fortunately, social media is an incredible way to share your gated content. The best way to do this is to create an enticing call-to-action and offer a case study embedded in the content you’re giving away.
For example, a company selling marketing automation software could structure their social media ad to say, “58% of our clients have reported a 124% increase in revenue of our automation software. Figure out how by grabbing a copy of our case study today.”
Business leaders are always looking for new ways to make money on social media, and an ad like that could be too enticing to pass up. By creating valuable content for your target audience, you can receive quality leads who will provide you with their email addresses so you can convert them at a later date.
Do you want to begin attracting more leads through Social Media with professional help? If so, contact Agency Partner Interactive to learn more about how we can help you.

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