Adam Rizzieri with Newsmax_Will_Trump_Still_Shun_Twitter_if_Musk_Reinstates_Him?

Newsmax: Will Trump Still Shun Twitter if Musk Reinstates Him?

Originally published on April 27, 2022 at Newsmax.com, Written by Marisa Herman

Even though former President Donald Trump is swearing off a return to Twitter, social media gurus aren’t so sure he’ll stick to that promise – if his account is reinstated.

The chances Trump’s account will be reinstated – enabling him to instantly communicate with his 89 million followers – grew significantly after entrepreneur and self-proclaimed “free speech absolutist” Elon Musk purchased the social media platform for $44 billion on Monday.

The world’s richest man vowed to make the platform “better than ever” with new features bolstering free speech.

 

But just how much of a free-speech champion the outspoken Tesla and SpaceX boss really is could be put to the test when it comes to deciding what to do about Trump’s account.

Trump was permanently banned due to a so-called “risk of further incitement of violence” following the Jan. 6 breach of the Capitol.

While Musk hasn’t specifically addressed plans to continue the ban or overturn it once he takes the reins of the company, he has publicly commented on his feelings toward permanent bans in general.

During a recent TED interview, he said he would be “very reluctant” to delete posts or permanently ban users who violate the company’s rules.

 

 

Big tech experts so far are betting on Musk reinstating Trump’s account. And while Trump has said he is sticking with his own platform, Truth Social, politicians have been known to change their positions.

Andrew Selepak, a social media professor at the University of Florida, said that if Trump is allowed back on Twitter, he has “absolutely no doubts” that he will eventually return to his prolific tweeting.

“There is a very good chance that Trump will be allowed back on,” he said. “And if he is allowed back on, he 100% will do so.”

Considering Trump boasted 89 million followers on Twitter and has just 1.6 million so far on the relatively new Truth Social, experts don’t see him abandoning such a large audience, especially if he plans to make another run for the White House.

Selepak said Trump’s political aspirations could dictate what moves both Trump and Musk make when it comes to Twitter.

If Trump decides to run for another term in 2024, Selepak said Musk won’t want to “limit the voice” or get into “any type of battle” with a person who could ultimately be able to sign executive orders or champion legislation that could hurt his other companies like Tesla or SpaceX.

Selepak points out that Musk’s companies have enjoyed tax breaks, incentives, and government contracts and he won’t want to risk any existing relationships his other ventures enjoy with the government.

“If Trump does run, Musk could make the decision to allow him to be back on to not create an enemy with someone who could be in the White House,” he said.

Because Twitter has a longstanding policy about providing world leaders with a presence on the platform, Selepak said Musk could use that argument to easily reinstate Trump.

“Musk could make a much stronger argument to users and everyone else, if Trump decides to run, to give him access back to Twitter than giving it unilaterally before then,” he said.

Ultimately, he believes that Musk’s decision on Trump’s account will come down to what is going to benefit the entrepreneur.

While Selepak doesn’t believe Trump will be able to stay off Twitter if allowed to return, he said there is still a chance he keeps his word.

Because Musk will have the ability to call the shots on what is and isn’t allowed on the site, Selepak said Trump may decide he does not want to be “beholden to Musk.”

Dallas-based marketing expert, Agency Partner’s CMO, Adam Rizzieri agrees that Musk will likely extend the invitation to Trump to return to the platform, calling it a “good business decision for Twitter.”

But he doesn’t necessarily think Trump should accept — if he is serious about getting Truth Social up and running.

He likened a Trump Twitter return to the CEO of Coca-Cola being caught drinking Pepsi in public because the two platforms are “extremely similar in form and function” and are competing for the users.

Stocks tied to Truth Social fell nearly 13% after Musk’s Twitter takeover was announced Monday. On Tuesday, Trump issued a statement highlighting Truth Social as No. 1 among the “Top Free Apps” in the Apple App Store.

Rizzieri said Trump could use a reactivated Twitter account to promote his own venture. But he cautioned that Trump would have to walk a “very fine line” to do so successfully.

“He has to ensure that exclusive, value-added insights are added to Truth Social alone, and Twitter must be nothing more than a teaser for whatever content he is sharing to a Truth Social audience,” he said. “Anything less and he could undermine the growth of his own social platform.”

Rizzieri points out that Truth Social users have doubted Trump’s commitment to the platform because he has only posted once since creating his profile in February. He also noted that Donald Trump Jr. “posts multiple times per waking hour on Twitter,” while he places only two to four posts per day on Truth Social.

Rather than use Truth Social to promote his appearances and news, Rizzieri said Trump’s updates only seem to reach users via proxy updates from his son’s Twitter account or after broadcasts of weekend rallies on TV outlets.

Trump told Fox News Monday that he plans to formally join his own network within the next week.

Still, Rizzieri said Trump’s absence from the platform since its debut has prompted many to question whether they will receive the “direct, real-time access” they had to the former president when he was on Twitter.

Now that Musk and Trump are competing to promote free speech, he said Truth Social’s team will be forced to “dig deep and more rapidly define a unique value proposition that no one else offers.”

“Today, they are a light version of Twitter but without the annoying and unfair politically biased censorship,” Rizzieri said. “It’s a great start. But with a guy like Elon Musk vowing to make Twitter ‘great again,’ Truth Social has to be more innovative.”

As Musk promises to turn Twitter into a “de facto town square,” Selepak said conservatives, who felt their voices were silenced on the platform, will likely return.

He expects that, even before any major changes are announced or implemented, just the news of Musk being at the helm will prompt many users who backed away from Twitter to “change their mind and come back to start using it again.”

A group of House Republicans immediately rejoiced at the news Musk would be taking over, calling on the new social media mogul to “free” Trump.

“Hey, @elonmusk it’s a great week to free @realDonaldTrump,” tweeted the House Republican Conference, which represents 209 lawmakers.

 

If enough “big voices on the right” return, he said the presence of their posts will increase without Musk even having to institute changes to the site’s algorithm, which dictates how users see certain posts on their timelines.

Musk has proposed making changes to the platform’s algorithm in order to increase trust.

“Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated,” he said.

Whether Musk will be able to eliminate “wokeness” from the platform, however, is what Rizzieri called the “$44 billion question.”

“Like President Trump, Elon Musk views wokeness as a virus that has infected Big Tech, the mainstream media, and Netflix,” he said. “The common denominator here is an unelected, ruling class of elitists that all march to the beat of their own drum.”

He said Musk knows that Twitter’s “woke algorithm ignores the mainstream user, giving preference to an out-of-touch class of blue check elites,” referencing the journalists, celebrities, and politicians who are “verified” on the platform.

In order to protect “American exceptionalism,” by “effectively standing up to wokeness,” Rizzieri said Musk knows he has to “allow for good ideas to circulate without unfair censorship.”

He believes that, on Musk’s Twitter, “both good and bad ideas will circulate freely – and the best ones will survive.”

© 2022 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

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Musk's Twitter Swerve Positions Him for Hostile Takeover - Adam Rizzieri Joins Newsmax to Discuss

Newsmax: Musk’s Twitter Swerve Positions Him for Hostile Takeover

Originally published on April 13, 2022 at Newsmax.com, Written by Marisa Herman

In declining a seat on Twitter’s board of directors, experts say billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk is likely positioning himself to take an even bigger role in the social media platform.

Just 24 hours after he invested more than $3 billion to secure a 9.2% stake in the company – instantly making him the company’s largest shareholder – it was announced last week that Musk would serve on the company’s board of directors.

But in a shocking reversal, Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal said Musk had changed his mind – prompting many to question just what Musk’s plans for the company might be if he isn’t using his influence as a board member.

Because he isn’t serving on the board, Virginia-based marketing expert Eric Alonzi said, Musk is in a “good position to enact a hostile takeover” of the company.

“He does such radical things he very well could take over Twitter and have a unique communication channel in his portfolio of entrepreneurship,” Alonzi said. “He might try to create a platform with true free speech.”

Musk’s decision to abandon the plan to join the board could have to do with a financial stipulation that would have limited Musk to owning no more than a 14.9% stake in the company. It could also have to do with something he has been long advocating for on the platform: free speech.

Dallas-based marketing expert Adam Rizzieri of Agency Partner said Twitter’s leadership team “believed it could tame Musk’s involvement by inviting him to the board with the caveat that he could not own anything more than 14.9% of the company.”

“But there was more to it,” he said. “That invitation also included conditions that could have forced Elon to be less outspoken, less free in his speech.”

In ditching the board seat, the Tesla and SpaceX CEO is free to increase his financial stake above that limit or possibly even become the leader of another company.

Rizzieri points out that Musk owns four times more shares of Twitter than founder Jack Dorsey and has the liquid capital to “do as he pleases,” considering his billionaire status.

“Out of desire he could choose to buy the entire company, even going so far as to remove it from public trading and take it private,” he said. “This would free up the company from regulatory burdens and allow some truly significant changes to take place.”

While Rizzieri believes Musk is more focused on his other business ventures, he said he wouldn’t rule out the possibility.

Andrew Selepak, a social media professor at the University of Florida, agrees that Musk’s decision to turn down a seat on the board of directors is a savvy move that will allow him the freedom to both increase his stake and protect his own presence on the platform.

Selepak said that the more of a financial interest Musk owns in Twitter, the harder it will become for the company to censor the self-professed free speech advocate – who’s now not only the company’s largest shareholder but even, potentially, an outright owner.

While a board seat would have certainly afforded Musk a powerful voice, Selepak said he would have been only “one of many voices.”

“By not taking a seat on the board, he can purchase more of the company and become an even louder voice,” he said. “This gives him the ability to say whatever he wants and not be worried about having his content taken down, or suspended, or de-platformed.”

According to a new document filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission Monday, in addition to his new financial options, Musk is also able to express his opinions about Twitter freely and is allowed to “change his plans at any time, as he deems appropriate.”

If he became a director, Musk likely would have to adhere to the board’s corporate governance, which would have required him to act in the best interests of the company and its shareholders.

Rizzieri said Musk, who “calls it as he sees it, often via a tweet,” didn’t want to bend to the requests of the board.

Musk also has a history of flouting corporate governance. In 2018, he faced securities fraud charges after inaccurately tweeting that he had secured funding to take Tesla private. He agreed to pay a $20 million fine and step aside as the car manufacturer’s chairman for three years.

Shortly before Musk’s ownership in Twitter became public, he publicly criticized the platform’s commitment to free speech and even pondered creating his own rival platform, tweeting the musings to his 81 million followers.

Last month, he created a poll asking his followers whether they believed Twitter adheres to the principle of free speech. An overwhelming majority – 70% of the more than 2 million Twitter voters who chimed in – selected “no.”

Over the past week, he posted a series of tweets making suggestions for the company, taking jabs at the platform, and even tossing out a few jokes.

He suggested the company he just sunk millions into was “dying,” considering that celebrities with massive followings, such as Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber, rarely tweet.

In another snarky post, he suggested deleting the “w” in Twitter in a poll, which garnered support from 57% of his followers.

He then got into a conversation with former Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos after he asked users whether Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters should be converted into a homeless shelter “since no one shows up anyway.”

In a way, Selepak said, Musk was sending Twitter’s employees a message that there is a “new sheriff in town,” which he called a “pretty strong move for someone who just purchased into the company.”

While he also deleted some of his posts, it is unclear what role – if any – they may have played in his decision to walk away from the board seat.

Agrawal announced Musk’s change of heart in a lengthy statement he shared on his Twitter page. He said he and the board were excited to work with Musk and, even though he isn’t taking his seat on the board, they will “remain open to his input.”

Alonzi said he wouldn’t be surprised if Musk is just trolling everyone with a “charade,” pointing out he has leveraged tweets about crypto positions that “made him richer” before he ultimately reversed course.

But even without a clearly defined role, Rizzieri said Musk is already shaking things up.

He said just the “idea” of Musk’s involvement in Twitter “sent a positive shock to the market, boosting Twitter’s value.”

“The market knows that Twitter, as is, needs change,” he said.

Rizzieri said the fact that some of Twitter’s internal team has responded negatively to Musk’s presence in the company shows that those working for the platform are “happy with their woke status quo.”

“Contrary to boosts in value, an opposite reaction was detected within the emotionally fragile ranks of Twitter’s employee base,” he said.

He pointed out that some employees flagged Musk’s tweets as “in violation of their HR policies” and asked if Musk would have to adhere to the rules.

Several current and former employees told The New York Times they were concerned about Musk’s tweets criticizing the company considering he has no knowledge of the internal operations. While many were relieved that he wouldn’t be taking a board seat, they told the newspaper they are fearful of what he could do next.

“Even without him on the board and without implementing any actual changes to the platform, Musk’s current involvement in the company has put it on the defensive and already prompted the resignation of many of Twitter’s more politically extreme employees,” Rizzieri said. “Already, that’s a positive return on investment for Twitter, its shareholders, and its users.”

© 2022 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

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Adam Rizzieri with Newsmax Discussing Twitter and Elon Musk

Newsmax: Musk’s Free Speech Fight May Hit Entrenched Resistance at Twitter

Originally published on April 6, 2022 at Newsmax.com, Written by Marisa Herman

It took billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk fewer than 24 hours to muscle his way onto Twitter’s board of directors after securing a 9.2% stake in the social media platform Monday morning, instantly making him the company’s largest shareholder – and one not content to remain a “passive” investor.

The Tesla and SpaceX CEO’s nearly $3 billion surprise investment came just weeks after he began increasingly criticizing the platform over a dubious commitment to free speech, at one point even mulling the creation of his own rival platform in posts that went out to his 80 million Twitter followers.

Before his role on the board was announced Tuesday, Musk was already flexing his fresh influence, asking Twitter users in a poll if they wanted to see the platform add an edit button – a function long desired by users but that the site has never implemented.

After his board term, which is set to run through 2024, was made public Tuesday, Musk hinted that he would be swiftly pushing for changes.

“Looking forward to working with Parag & Twitter board to make significant improvements to Twitter in coming months!” Musk said in a tweet, referring to Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal.

But while social media experts never would have expected Musk to take a backseat role in the operations of a social media platform for which he’s now the largest shareholder, they question just how much of an impact he will actually be able to make considering he’s still not in the driver’s seat of the organization.

His board seat certainly affords him a degree of influence, but Big Tech experts don’t expect Musk to parlay that into becoming the new CEO of Twitter anytime soon – mostly due to Musk’s preoccupations and interests in his other ventures, which include Tesla, SpaceX, and The Boring Company.

Tech and media expert Victoria Mendoza, who serves as CEO of MediaPeanut, an online digital media community, said Musk’s investment in Twitter shows he’s, at the very least, banking on an “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” strategy in order to have a “voice” in the company.

Mendoza also doesn’t see Musk taking over as the face of the platform, but she thinks he “definitely wants to be part of the decision-making process,” pointing out he’s unlikely to have “spent that much cash without wanting something out of it.”

She said Musk’s involvement “could provide a huge headache” for Agrawal if he puts pressure on the company to make changes to its controversial policies on free speech.

Publicly, Agrawal welcomed Musk to the board tweeting: “Through conversations with Elon in recent weeks, it became clear to us that he would bring great value to our Board.”

“He’s both a passionate believer and intense critic of the service which is exactly what we need on Twitter, and in the boardroom, to make us stronger in the long-term,” he added.

But experts question how cordial the relationship will remain.

Dallas-based marketing and big tech expert Adam Rizzieri noted that Musk’s decision to get involved in Twitter came after founder Jack Dorsey stepped down from the role of CEO and Agrawal took over.

He said that the move from Dorsey to Agrawal signaled “more of the same” was ahead when it comes to “censorship, unimpressive business growth, and more virtue signaling from a notably progressive, often hypocritical leadership team.”

Twitter has faced criticism from Musk and conservatives who feel the platform unfairly censors its content and users.

Last month, Twitter suspended the account of The Babylon Bee, a satirical site, for jokingly naming Rachel Levine, the transgender assistant secretary for health, “Man of the Year.”

The Babylon Bee’s CEO, Seth Dillon, tweeted that Musk contacted him about the suspension and even “mused on that call that he might need to buy Twitter.”

Rizzieri said Musk’s decision to invest in Twitter is his attempt to respond to a “societal pain.”

“This is typical of great entrepreneurs,” he said. “They start with a big problem and then reverse engineer the solution. Society’s problem is that mainstream social media companies unfairly censor free speech, and he believes he can solve that.”

Society’s problem is that mainstream social media companies unfairly censor free speech…

Musk’s move on Twitter was well received by conservatives, many of whom saw the investment as the key to stopping the censorship of right-leaning opinions – and potentially even reinstating former President Donald Trump to the platform. Trump was booted off Twitter following the breach of the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, due to what the platform called a “risk of further incitement of violence.”

“Now that @ElonMusk is Twitter’s largest shareholder, it’s time to lift the political censorship,” tweeted Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo. “Oh… and BRING BACK TRUMP!”

But Twitter on Tuesday made it clear that it still has no plans to reinstate Trump’s account.

“Twitter is committed to impartiality in the development and enforcement of its policies and rules,” the company told the DailyMail. “Our policy decisions are not determined by the Board or shareholders, and we have no plans to reverse any policy decisions.

“As always our Board plays an important advisory and feedback role across the entirety of our service. Our day to day operations and decisions are made by Twitter management and employees.”

Whether or not Musk is ultimately able to end Trump’s Twitter exile, Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., tweeted that if Musk could “clean up Twitter and stop online censorship” he would be all for him “taking over the whole damn thing.”

And if Musk’s tweets are any indication of his plans, free speech policies appear to be a priority.

He publicly questioned Twitter’s free speech practices in several tweets on March 26. Musk even tweeted a poll on his Twitter account questioning whether Twitter unfairly censors speech.

“Free speech is essential to a functioning democracy,” he wrote. “Do you believe Twitter rigorously adheres to this principle?”

An overwhelming majority, 70%, of the more than 2 million Twitter voters who chimed in, selected “no.”

Rizzieri believes that Musk’s financial interest in the company has to do with his belief that “free speech is essential” and “still cool.”

“Preserving free speech through social media is a means to an end for him,” Rizzieri said of Musk. “He needs innovation, collaboration, and communication to thrive and promote a marketplace of good ideas. Musk knows that social media plays a big role in facilitating conversations and, with this investment, he’ll promote freedom of speech because he’s passionate about it.”

While Musk’s vision for Twitter involves creating a “public sphere where you have free and open discussion,” Andrew Selepak, a social media professor at the University of Florida, said that achieving that aim is much “easier said than done.”

“A free speech zone, no matter what, is still going to have limitations,” he said.

He points out that Dorsey had been a “huge proponent” of free speech from the platform’s inception, but his initial goals “didn’t happen because there’s a utopian view of what things can be and then there’s the reality.”

He said Musk will ultimately face the same realities that Dorsey encountered when he set out to create a platform that championed free speech, including the competing viewpoints of employees, other shareholders, and users.

And even with a board seat and huge financial stake, Selepak said Musk won’t necessarily be able to unilaterally decide to do things such as reinstating Trump’s account.

“I don’t think people realize that Musk having less than 10 percent of the stock is not going to be this earth-shattering change to the platform,” Selepak said. “Even if he is able to make changes, those changes are going to be limited by the engineers and moderators and everyone who works at the company who are still the same people.”

While Musk’s ability to influence Twitter’s internal operations remains up for debate, Selepak said Musk’s involvement has already had one major impact – it put Twitter “back in the news.”

After Trump was suspended from the platform, he said Twitter has been stagnant and was being overshadowed in the news by stories such as the debut of Trump’s Truth Social, the growth of TikTok, and the decline of Facebook.

“Twitter has not been the social media platform people have talked about,” he said. “People are using it, but not talking about it.”

Now that Musk is involved, he said “it’s going to be a news story and people are going to be talking about Twitter.”

© 2022 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

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Adam Rizzieri Newsmax - Sanctions on Putin Russia-Ukraine War

Newsmax: Big Tech, Business Attempt to Punish Russia Could Backfire

Originally published on March. 11, 2022 at Newsmax.com, Written by Marisa Herman

A flurry of multinational corporations and U.S.-based Big Tech companies have rushed to declare their own economic war on Russia to punish President Vladimir Putin for his invasion of Ukraine — but some experts fear the offensive will actually embolden the Kremlin.

Since the Ukraine invasion began three weeks ago, a growing number of Western companies spanning various sectors — banking, retail, entertainment, Big Tech — have suspended or completely severed their presence in Russia.

While a spate of stringent international sanctions and the closing of airspace to Russian planes has made it difficult for many companies to carry out business as usual in Russia anyway, Atlanta-based marketing and branding expert David Johnson said many companies opted to withdraw from the region to avoid being seen as supportive or even merely neutral amid the military conflict that’s earned Putin global scorn.

Businesses that opt to cut operations in Russia are currently backed by a majority of Americans and risk losing business in the U.S. and other Western countries if they don’t take a stand. According to a recent Morning Consult survey, more than 75% of Americans support corporations severing Russian business relations.

“As public pressure grows to pull out of the Russian market, businesses are balancing the desire to protect employees working in Russia against the reputational harm they may suffer by continuing to do business there,” said Wendy Patrick, an attorney, business law lecturer at San Diego State University, and Newsmax insider.

She points out that when a company decides to sever ties, it is weighing an impact felt by a “range of relevant stakeholders.”

“Contemporary brand management involves recognizing the risk that unpopular or politically incorrect corporate decisions go viral quickly, and can result in social media-fueled boycotts,” Patrick said.

But despite winning consumer support at home, Johnson fears that many companies’ departure from Russia will ultimately hurt ordinary people in the country, and possibly even embolden Putin as the nation loses access and connections to the West.

In response to the growing number of companies pulling out of Russia — a contingent that includes Disney, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and Starbucks — Moscow has retaliated by banning U.S.-based social media companies Facebook and Twitter.

While Putin has managed to control nearly all facets of Russian society since taking charge two decades ago, political expression and non-state media reports could still be found on the internet. That access is fading, however, as Putin reacts to decisions made by TikTok, Netflix, Apple, Samsung, and Microsoft to say “dasvidania” to their business in Russia.

YouTube, which is owned by Google, blocked all Russian accounts from making money from their videos and barred Russian state television outlets from being shown across Europe. While YouTube and messaging app Telegram are still available, tech experts predict they could be the next communication apps tossed by Russian regulators.

“Russia is on course, right now, to be North Korea — that isolated,” Johnson said.

Dallas-based digital marketing and tech expert Adam Rizzieri said he agrees that by pulling American Big Tech out of Russia there is a chance that tensions could escalate.

Putin’s efforts to shut down the free press, however, have been “mostly futile,” with hackers interrupting Russian state television to share antiwar messaging and news of Russian war crimes against Ukrainians. Elon Musk has also chipped in, offering uncensored internet from space.

Rizzieri pointed out that, within hours of Russian missiles destroying Ukraine’s internet infrastructure, Musk’s Starlink service arrived on the ground within 48 hours of a Twitter request.

Without flexing a muscle, Musk used SpaceX to easily, publicly undermine Vladimir Putin,” he said. “Musk has shown how the private sector can be used to mock and undermine global tyrants.”

But if access to the West diminishes, some fear that Russians will fall further victim to Putin’s propaganda, with no other viewpoint present than one which blames the West – and which could ultimately weaken U.S. influence.

To compensate for the missing commerce, Rizzieri said Russia will ultimately develop “government-controlled initiatives” via a “parallel market to try and offer the same goods and services that we enjoy here in the U.S.”

He points out Russia already has Vkontakte, which is essentially just a copy of Facebook.

“Typically, the quality of a knock-off is substandard and the people always find a way to get the real thing,” Rizzieri said. “Somehow, even authentic Levi jeans found their way into Soviet Russia. Socialist markets always allow for a black market to bring in more desirable goods and services.”

Johnson believes companies were forced to take an early stand on the Ukraine conflict because it was “brought into everyone’s living room” via social media.

With the Biden administration initially slow to respond to the growing threat Russia posed to Ukraine, he said multinational companies faced increasing pressure to take a stand from other European countries where they have lucrative contracts.

Rizzieri believes that Ukraine was the “deal breaker” for businesses because the American public “knows that the Biden administration’s weakness makes them directly complicit.”

With Americans seeing a “strong, fearless” leader in Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy – who is “standing up to what many see as an evil, calculated Vladimir Putin” – he said there is a desire to back Zelenskyy’s example of “strong” leadership.

The voluntary corporate withdrawal from Russia is also not unprecedented. In the 1980s, 200 major companies pulled out of South Africa in protest of apartheid. At the time, the U.S. slapped South Africa with congressional sanctions.

When a company decides whether to remove itself from a market over geopolitics, Johnson said they are calculating the cost of making an exit, which is why many of the companies that pulled out of Russia still have a presence in China, which has a long track record of committing human rights abuses against its Uyghur Muslim population.

But Rizzieri said the fact that the U.S. “business and political establishment continues to protect China and other countries with questionable track records is not OK.”

“The idea that Americans are comfortable buying oil from Iran is laughable,” he said. “Eventually the private sector has to stand up to the public sector and say ‘enough is enough.'”

But considering Russia is a “basket case for business,” while China boasts one of the “strongest economies,” Johnson said it is a much easier decision for a company to cut a minor loss by leaving the Russian market than to suffer a devastating blow by exiting China.

He said the biggest test will be how companies react if China decides to invade Taiwan.

While businesses are certainly aware of the egregious human rights violations taking place in China, he said “we don’t see [the abuses]” in the same way the Russian war has infiltrated social media feeds nationwide. That is partly because China is digitally isolated from the West, which is what is now taking place in Russia as Putin clamps down.

So, while Russia inspires companies to take a stand for human rights, it’s “business as usual” for businesses with a presence in Beijing.

“The big question is, if China goes into Taiwan, will these businesses do the same then?” Johnson said. “That’s when the rubber hits the road. If China invades Taiwan and their bottom line is affected, how do they react?”

© 2022 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

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Adam Rizzieri Newsmax Russia Ukraine War

Newsmax: Big Tech Allows Russia-Ukraine Misinformation to Go Viral

Originally published on March. 02, 2022 at Newsmax.com, Written by Marisa Herman
Big Tech has emerged as a key player for Ukraine in the country’s bid to repel Russia’s invasion, as social media feeds throughout the world are flooded with dramatic images of bombed-out buildings, heroic troops, and resilient civilians.

But Big Tech companies aren’t just promoting news and images that are sympathetic to Ukraine’s plight. The organizations also have pushed to restrict pro-Russia news sites and censor what they consider blatant misinformation about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attack.

And while the companies may have noble aims, social media experts say it’s also likely the platforms are inadvertently pushing inaccurate pro-Ukrainian propaganda that doesn’t depict the truth on the ground.

While popular social media apps such as Twitter and Facebook are based in the U.S., digital marketing expert Adam Rizzieri said the companies are effectively “no longer American” because they are “owned by international shareholders that only care about profit.”

“In the case of this Russia-Ukraine war, Big Tech has shareholders and users that represent both sides of the conflict,” he said. “So, when it comes to picking a side, they don’t choose Russia, Ukraine, or the United States. They quietly pick the side that aligns with their collective self-interest of making money.”

Rather than reveal a political or geographic bias, Rizzieri said the current conflict has exposed Big Tech’s “inability to make moral decisions related to geopolitical conflicts.”

So far, none of the U.S.-owned tech companies have banned Russian state media from using their platforms – the way in which several of them banned former President Donald Trump during his final weeks in office and beyond – and plenty of unverified pro-Ukrainian posts have gone viral, leaving users sifting through the posts appearing on their feeds to determine whether they are real or fake.

Just one week into the invasion, as social media platforms waffle over what to censor and misinformation has at times flown as fast and frequently as bullets. Andrew Selepak, a social media professor at the University of Florida, said fake or mislabeled posts and those lacking context are dangerous regardless of whether they have a pro-Russia or pro-Ukraine effect.

Because there is “no unifying voice” that “everyone is going to trust,” he said it will be difficult to understand exactly what is going on in Russia and Ukraine, especially because there is no direct U.S. involvement in the fighting.

Since it is very easy for the media to spin a good vs. evil or David vs. Goliath contest between Ukraine and Russia, Selepak said Big Tech companies are backing those portrayals. That could explain why far more pro-Ukrainian propaganda is infiltrating social media feeds – even if much of it isn’t true.

For instance, there have been multiple posts circulating that turned out to be dated or taken in other locations. Photos and videos taken during the 2014 Maidan protests in Ukraine have been recirculated on social media with claims that they depict the most recent Russian invasion, according to Reuters fact checkers.

The team found that the pics, which were posted as a collection of four images, show different scenes with a fiery backdrop. In two of the photos, people are throwing objects that are on fire. A third photo shows a man saluting with his middle finger. The last frame shows a person aiming a slingshot behind a barricade.

Similarly, footage of a military simulator video game, photos of explosions from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the Gaza Strip, dated footage of heavy weaponry firing, and even aircraft animations have been shared as if they are representative of the Russian invasion.

Unverified news stories about the conflict are also going viral on social media. Selepak chalks that up to “confirmation bias,” in which people seek out the information that they want to find.

He pointed out that the sharing of heroic stories of Ukrainian troops, even if they aren’t true, “falls into the narrative of what we believe or what we want to believe, is more likely to spread.”

“We are coming into these stories with a bias we want to believe,” he said.

Conflicting accounts have made the case of the “Snake Island soldiers” confusing. The group of 13 defenders, who were reportedly killed after telling an approaching Russian warship to “go f*** yourself” turned out to be “alive and well,” according to the Ukrainian Navy.

But the deaths of the soldiers stationed on the tiny island in the Black Sea were so believed that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the 13 soldiers on Snake Island all died “heroically” by Russian bombardment. The navy now claims that soldiers repelled two attacks by Russia before surrendering “due to the lack of ammunition.”

Hype around the “Ghost of Kyiv” – an alleged Ukrainian fighter pilot who is said to have shot down as many as 10 Russian planes – is almost sure to turn out false and is likely nothing more than an urban legend.

Photos and videos shared on social media of the ace supposedly in action are likely not authentic images of a Ukrainian MiG-29 fighter pilot. One post is actually footage from a video game and not footage of a Ukrainian airman shooting down a Russian fighter jet.

And as social media platforms appear to rally behind Ukrainian efforts, it wouldn’t be the first time that Big Tech has played a role in Ukraine’s future.

Many credit tweets made by Ukrainian activists and journalists for encouraging Ukrainians to participate in the 2014 Maidan protests, which were sparked by the Ukrainian government’s decision to suspend the signing of the European Union–Ukraine Association Agreement. That decision led to closer ties with Moscow – but also soon inspired protests that ultimately led to 2014’s Revolution of Dignity.

“Seekers of truth cannot believe anything they read these days,” Rizzieri said. “They must seek information from a diversity of reliable sources and then use their best judgment accordingly.”

© 2022 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

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Fox Business: Peloton had no plans for viral ad prior to Sex and the City premiere

Originally published on Dec. 15, 2021 at FoxBusiness.com, Written by Tyler McCarthy

Peloton made lemons out of lemonade in a big hurry after it got some negative attention during the “Sex and the City” spinoff “And Just Like That…”

A brief ad that clocks in at less than a minute was quickly thrown together featuring Mr. Big actor Chris Noth narrated by Ryan Reynolds that seemingly pivoted the attention the brand was getting from the show and refocused it into a now-viral video.

[Spoiler Alert for “And Just Like That…”]

The first episode of the series sees Mr. Big suffer a fatal heart attack following a rigorous workout on his Peloton bike led by real-life Peloton instructor Jess King. After that fateful moment, the company saw its stock drop as people mourned the loss of the fan-favorite character and jokingly or not blamed his Peloton workout.

Mere days after the premiere and the ensuing fallout for Peloton, it was able to work with Ryan Reynolds’ Maximum Effort brand to get the viral ad out that features Noth alive and well on a romantic getaway with King as they express the health benefits of cardiovascular exercise provided by Peloton.

Speaking to Fox Business, a representative for Peloton noted that it had no formal product placement agreement with the HBO Max series. Instead, it was viewed by the company as a casting opportunity for one of its instructors. It didn’t even foot the bill for the bike that was used in the scene.

In addition, the company noted that there was nothing in the works prior to the episode premiering. Instead, it was able to swiftly work with Reynolds’ Maximum Effort agency, which recently acquired MNTN and its new Creative-As-A-Subscription service, which Peloton was an early supporter of. As a result, the lines of communication were already in place and both companies were able to be nimble and get the reactionary ad up quickly.

“Together, we created a video to reinforce the important health narrative that Peloton and cardiovascular exercise are good for you, and help millions of real people lead long, happy and healthy lives,” the company’s statement reads.

This is in keeping with information that Reynolds gave to The Hollywood Reporter in which he noted that he was able to get Noth on board quickly while Peloton and Maximum Effort got the ball rolling on the commercial.

“Chris was in right away but it was a whirlwind. For all of us. I certainly helped secure Chris but Maximum Effort has built itself on challenges like these so, while never ever easy, the secret is practice and not losing heart when challenges inevitably occur.”

“The response has been great,” Reynolds added. “It’s been really satisfying to work so hard so quickly towards something which is this much fun and have it work out. I think people like to see the spirit of Maximum Effort — that we want to have fun and bring people together but not ever at anyone’s expense.”

According to Adam Rizzieri, co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer with Agency Partner Interactive, the swiftness with which the ad was able to capitalize on the conversation surrounding Peloton was key. Although the heat on the company was negative thanks to the show, he thinks the ad was a big, positive chess move for the company.

“The drastic fall of Peloton’s value seemed to be a perfect visualization of Mr. Big’s death – they both fell unexpectedly and rapidly,” he told Fox Business. “But some great marketing is playfully turning an on-screen loss into a win. As we approach the peak of holiday shopping I think this could be extremely timely for Peloton relative to its competitors. At this stage in the game, it’s all about brand awareness, pricing, and fulfillment.”

Rizzieri concluded: “In just 38 seconds, Peloton tees up holiday purchasing ahead of New Year’s resolution season, complete with a toast from “Mr. Big” stating, “to new beginnings.”

© 2022 Fox Business. All rights reserved.

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Twitter New CEO Parag Agrawal - Adam Rizzieri Newsmax

Newsmax: New Twitter Boss Agrawal a ‘Puppet’ for ‘Establishment Leadership’

Originally published on Dec. 02, 2021 at Newsmax.com, Written by Marisa Herman

Many Twitter users — even some of the most vocal critics of founder and outgoing CEO Jack Dorsey — are worried about just how “free” their speech will remain once Parag Agrawal takes the helm of the microblogging behemoth.

Dorsey on Monday announced he was stepping down immediately and would be succeeded by Agrawal, the company’s chief technology officer. The news almost immediately sparked concern among social media experts who sounded alarm bells about the potential for more onerous and widespread censorship and speech crackdowns under the new regime.

“He isn’t a guy who cares about the First Amendment or the Constitution,” digital marketing expert Adam Rizzieri said.

Agrawal certainly hasn’t done himself any favors given previous statements like his Nov. 2020 boast: “Our role is not to be bound by the First Amendment … focus[ing] less on thinking about free speech, but thinking about how the times have changed.”

Agrawal, who first joined the company in 2011 as an advertising engineer, wasted no time after taking over, rolling out a new policy that almost assuredly will limit speech on the platform.

Just one day after Agrawal stepped in as the new boss, Twitter announced a ban on sharing images or videos of private individuals without their consent.

Twitter outlined the new “private information” policy in a vague — but concerning — blog post.

“When we are notified by individuals depicted, or by an authorized representative, that they did not consent to having their private image or video shared, we will remove it,” the company explained. “This policy is not applicable to media featuring public figures or individuals when media and accompanying Tweet text are shared in the public interest or add value to public discourse.”

Rizzieri swiftly speculated that the new policy potentially spells the end of the many viral memes — especially if they’re conservative — that would likely be banned from the platform under the new policy. He also worried about how the change could lead to additional censorship of important issues such as elections or public health.

“If that conversation isn’t allowed to flow freely, it’s a problem,” he said. “It’s going to make Twitter even less competitive than they already are.”

Andrew Selepak, a social media professor at the University of Florida, said the new policy announcement may actually have been timed to take some of the focus off Agrawal as he settles in.

“The timing of it takes attention off of him and puts it on the platform,” he said. “It could have been purposefully timed.”

Selepak noted that Facebook has used similar distraction tactics when in the hot seat. Whenever the media was deep into a news cycle about Facebook’s potential role in the Jan. 6 Capitol breach or privacy issues that may threaten users’ data and anonymity, he said the company has tried to change the focus.

The most recent such shift, amid a “whistleblower’s” testimony to Congress, was Facebook’s shift toward the “metaverse” — an idea of what the “new” internet would look like.

But Selepak pointed out that if the new Twitter policy is applied fairly and judiciously and can be used to prevent people from being “doxed,” or exposed maliciously, it will have “tremendous value.”

But he said questions such as “who” it will protect and “how” the policy will be used, still don’t have clear answers.

Ultimately, he said it will be Agrawal who will be the one answering why “one person is protected from being doxed and another person isn’t protected.”

Overall, Rizzieri doesn’t expect too much of a change due to the switch from Dorsey to Agrawal.

“Dorsey leaving Twitter has been a long time coming,” he said. “It’s not actually a big change here just because this CTO really is kind of Dorsey’s bobble head.”

He doesn’t foresee Agrawal bringing forth innovative ideas that will provide a better experience for users or strengthen the growth of the company from a business standpoint.

“I don’t think he will do anything positive for the company,” Rizzieri said. “I don’t see growth with its current structure.”

Considering Twitter is mostly an “echo chamber for liberal elitists” and conservatives who do use the platform already “expect to be attacked,” he doesn’t believe much will change under Agrawal’s leadership.

Rizzieri said the fact that Dorsey showered his successor with a glowing endorsement and highlighted his involvement in the company over the past decade indicates that the new face is merely a “puppet for Twitter’s establishment leadership.”

Selepak also agrees that Agrawal’s unanimous support from Twitter’s board of directors and praise from Dorsey should be “taken with a grain of salt.”

“The decision was made not to hire a business person to run the company,” he said. “The person in charge of the company is an engineer.”

He pointed out that Agrawal brings the perspective of “how can we make this platform work better?” to the table and hasn’t been forced to figure out how to make the company profitable or how to navigate a PR crisis.

“There’s going to be a lot more scrutiny on him and what he has said in the past and what decisions are made,” Selepak said.

Rizzieri also found it interesting that Twitter gave Agrawal the nod for the top job.

Typically, if a company wants to implement change and innovate, he said they tend to bring in an outside person to take charge — not someone who has been employed by the company for a decade.

With Twitter execs touting Agrawal’s involvement in “every critical decision Twitter has made,” Rizzieri said it is important to take a close look at the outcomes of those decisions.

He pointed out that Agrawal was around for the company’s decision to ban former President Donald Trump from Twitter while allowing terrorist organizations like the Taliban to have an active presence and also was a key leader when Twitter was determining what posts are considered “misinformation.”

And despite complaints of conservative voices being silenced under Dorsey’s leadership, Dorsey did openly promote free speech. When confronted by lawmakers, he was more apt to fight back on the grounds that the government should not serve as social media’s “free speech police.”

Since Agrawal hasn’t had to be the face of the company, i.e., figuring out how to market it to new users, showing consistent profitability under his leadership to shareholders, or discussing things that are “political in nature,” Rizzieri said what kind of leader he ends up becoming really “remains to be seen.”

“It is easy for him to talk big words when he isn’t in the driver’s seat,” Rizzieri said. “Now that he is, he will be responsible for what he says. His first meeting with Congress will be very telling.”

 

© 2022 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

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Facebook Rebrand to Meta - Adam Rizzieri Agency Partner in the news

CMS Wire: Facebook’s Rebranding Embraces the Metaverse, But Not Everyone is Convinced

Originally published on Nov. 4, 2021 at CMSWire.com, Written by David Roe
During the recent Connect 2021 Facebook conference, CEO Mark Zuckerberg introduced Meta. Meta, he told, the audience, is a significant re-branding that brings together all the Facebook apps and technologies under one new company brand. The focus will be to bring the metaverse to life.

The Facebook Founder’s Letter

He also explained that the metaverse will feel like a hybrid of today’s online social experiences, sometimes expanded into three dimensions or projected into the physical world. It will let you share immersive experiences with other people even when you can’t be together.

In a Founder’s Letter he went further: “Our mission remains the same — it’s still about bringing people together. Our apps and their brands aren’t changing either. We’re still the company that designs technology around people. But all of our products, including our apps, now share a new vision, to help bring the metaverse to life. And now we have a name that reflects the breadth of what we do.”

He even pushed the metaverse ahead of the original offering that has generated a business model worth billions. From now on, the letter reads,  we will be metaverse-first, not Facebook-first. That means that over time you won’t need a Facebook account to use our other service.”

Premature Rebranding?

Is that wise though?  No sooner had the conference wrapped then major question marks started appearing in a wide range of posts and articles. Denise Lee Yohn, in the Harvard Business Review, for example, argued that the rebranding as a metaverse-first company is pre-mature at best and even foolish in its attempt to distract from the criticism the company has recently faced in the US and Europe.

“The metaverse,” she wrote, “is not well-known or understood, so it’s confusing. But the most critical issue with this rebranding is that the new brand has been introduced without any substantive change at the company. She pointed out that Zuckerberg explained that it was time to adopt a new company brand “to encompass everything we do”.

But that’s just not true, she argued. “The vision behind Meta is still just that, a vision. Facebook’s decision to rebrand is an ill-timed move.” The real problem, she added, is that Facebook is re-branding before its vision is a reality. Right now, social media remains the core of the company’s operations and revenues.

By adopting a brand name that is based on future potential capabilities and a platform and products that, by Zuckerberg’s own admission, may not be offered for a decade, the company sets itself up to confuse people at best; at worst, it will disappoint people and further degrade their trust in the company. So is the rebranding a mistake?

Adam Rizzieri, chief marketing officer, at Addison, TX-based Agency Partner Interactive agrees. He believes that the rebrand is premature and even disingenuous. Facebook’s core business is online advertising fueled by user data that it collects on its social media apps.

This business model is what allowed the company to present an incredibly strong third-quarter earnings report. Social media is exactly what they do. “Yet here we have Mark Zuckerberg trying to distance himself from the business model of social media, in favor of a hypothetical concept of an evolved internet that won’t exist for about 10 years,” he said.

The ‘Meta’ Name

Facebook as a company is more than the big blue social media platform. Facebook is also Instagram, WhatsApp, Oculus, Portal, and other hardware devices, Andrew Selepak at the University of Florida, told us. Changing the company name to Meta allows the company to highlight that they are more than one product or service in much the same way Google changed its name to Alphabet and Google became a subsidiary of the company along with their other properties like YouTube.

“The rebrand to Meta makes business sense especially as Zuckerberg plans to get the company to shift away from focusing on two-dimensional social media platforms to the three-dimensional environment of virtual reality,” he said.

He argues, however, that Meta is a terrible name for the Facebook rebrand. Facebook is years away from creating the virtual environment that Zuckerberg is promoting and virtual reality has been a long-overpromised idea that has never been realized.

Although Facebook does have the money, engineers, and resources to put toward creating a true virtual reality environment that is used by more than just tech enthusiasts, they are years away from completing it and even further away from it being adopted by large numbers of people.

“The Metaverse is currently science fiction rather than science reality and the name is confusing as premature,” he said. “By trying to change the media narrative of the company during a public relations nightmare after the Facebook whistleblower, maybe Metaverse as a name change is a bit appropriate with Zuckerberg as a real-life Marvel supervillain.”

Addressing Facebook’s Competition

There are other problems too, according to Chris Apaliski senior director of paid social at Austin-based performance marketing agency Adlucen. Facebook is just responding to the world around it and its own image in the wider social world. Facebook has evolved over the years.

It started from a limited platform for students to connect to each other and has now turned into a media powerhouse and one of the world’s biggest advertisers. But Facebook still faces threats from competition and needs to shake the image of being the “senior platform” of sorts — with an age demographic that gets older. Rebranding and retaining a focus on the Metaverse enable Facebook to be an early adopter in that space and once again lead the charge in social innovation.

Apaliski points out that Mark Zuckerberg has talked about being the first into the space and how he believes the metaverse can be the next evolution of the mobile web/web 3.0. He has also expressed the desire to continue to innovate in the AR/VR space, as well, including the Oculus purchase. “The metaverse is the next natural step to create structure over Facebook’s book of companies (FB, IG, WhatsApp, Oculus, etc.) similar to the approach Google wants to take with Alphabet,” he said. “A rebrand enables Facebook leadership to continue to focus on this future.

There is also significant opportunity for advertisers in the Metaverse and the digital world. “As we look toward these digital evolutions (Metaverse, NFTs, etc) the most innovative companies will get on board. Simply put — advertisers will find their way into anything,” he said.

What Kind Of Metaverse?

David ‘Ed’ Edwards is VFX product manager at motion capture leader at UK-based Vicon. He says arguments about whether, or even if, there will be a metaverse is redundant as they are already with us. However, he says the delivery timeline of a single ‘Metaverse’ will be a question of strategic benefit to its prospective creator. If one organization pins its future on this concept and wishes to capitalize on it before anyone else, it could even be unveiled within a couple of years, or even sooner.

He cites Facebook’s Oculus as a very obvious thing to focus attention on regarding the company’s ambition to pioneer the metaverse, given its significance in the history of VR (and entertainment, more broadly) and the overall nature of its acquisition by Facebook. “I can’t imagine Facebook won’t explore every opportunity available to make Oculus a central part of their metaverse experience to validate that level of investment,” he said. How significant a component it ends up being, I think will ultimately be the consumer’s decision.”

How Bright Is Meta’s Future?

The future is not all bright and there are many people that remain unconvinced about Facebook’s rebranding and the metaverse in general. Mike Davis, founder and president of the Internet Accountability Project, and organization that lobbys to make big tech companies accountable for their actions.

He says the rebranding is Facebook following in the footsteps of Big Tobacco after the industry was exposed for its toxic and deadly impact on society. Philip Morris got caught preying on kids, so they became Altria. Facebook got caught preying on kids, so they became Meta. But consumers and legislators should make no mistake: this is the same company that lies to its users, Congress and government regulators.

Facebook is also taking a page from the Google playbook when it renamed itself Alphabet to delay antitrust scrutiny and prepare for the day they were inevitably broken up. Facebook is in a crisis of its own making and renaming itself won’t stop Congress and federal law enforcement from updating and enforcing our antitrust laws, according to Davis.

Final Thoughts

Many people in the market have yet to come to terms with Facebook’s business model. Arguably, this is why it has been so difficult for lawmakers to adequately regulate the industry and address privacy concerns. “To ask the market to now conceptualize a real-life version of The Matrix is completely unrealistic,” Rizzieri added. “For those who don’t get the business model, they are now more confused and increasingly apathetic to big tech’s dominance. For those who understand the model, the idea of a Facebook-controlled metaverse should be scarier than the latest Halloween movie.

© 2021 CMS Wire. All rights reserved.

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Nexstar Media: “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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Newsmax: 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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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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Newsmax: 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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Newsmax: 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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Newsmax: Twitter Misinformation & ‘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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Newsmax: 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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Gizmodo: Facebook Wants Your Thoughts and Prayers

Facebook Wants Your Thoughts and Prayers
Originally published on Gizmodo.com, Written by Shoshana Wodinsky

Facebook’s found a new way to capitalize on the thoughts, prayers (and data) from the religious side of its user base. On Thursday, the company confirmed that it’s begun expanding a new feature called “prayer posts” that will let members of particular Facebook groups literally ask for (and offer up) prayers for other folks on the platform.

A Facebook spokesperson confirmed that the feature’s been in testing for “over a year” before quietly rolling out to the masses over the past few months. Back in April, Robert Jones—who runs Public Religion Research Institute in Washington DC—was one of the first public faces to actually ask the company what the hell these posts actually were.feature-facebook-post

His question wasn’t picked up by mainstream outlets at the time, but more than a few religious-facing newswires jumped on the story and got Facebook to confirm that Prayer Posts were indeed being tested on a select few groups, though the company wouldn’t elaborate on which groups they were (hint: probably users who are religious).

At the time, Nona Jones—who has the baffling role of leading “Global Faith Partnerships” for the company—told one of these religious outlets that the idea for prayer posts stemmed from the need to “build community,” with users over the course of the pandemic. It’s not a coincidence that Jones was seeing this post in the lead-up to Easter when churches were expecting to see their attendance to be sliced to a fraction of what they’d expect in the pre-covid era.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic we’ve seen many faith and spirituality communities using our services to connect, so we’re starting to explore new tools to support them,” a Facebook spokesperson told Gizmodo.

He added that the feature first debuted in select groups in the US in order to “give people the option of requesting prayer from their Facebook Group,” if they choose.

The company did not answer questions on whether any of the data from these posts would be used to deliver targeted ads at users based on their group-praying habits.

Looking to Use Social Media To Your Advantage?

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.

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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.

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.

sm-and-business

Social Media for the Small Business (Toolkit Included)

SOCIAL MEDIA HACKS FOR THE SMALL BUSINESS
A Simple Guide for the Small Guy or Gal

When you think of the internet today, you think of “social media,” don’t you? They weren’t always so interchangeable. One came before the other, but one forced the other to evolve. And with that, so did we.

Current Social Media Platforms in Order of Popularity:

social-network-ranking

As of Jan. 2021, according to a report published by Statista, Facebook alone recorded at least 2,740,000 active users. Not far behind were Youtube and WhatsApp, with Messenger, Instagram, and WeChat trailing behind. Tik Tok ranked seventh.

Where we can now find limited storage online for free due to services like cloud computing, there was a time when intellectual property as we know it, used to be stored somewhere physically, and there were costs associated with that, too. So much has changed since. Our livelihoods and businesses now depend on social media as a tool to keep bread and butter on the table, especially evident after the year that we just had.

This pressure to hop on the bandwagon that is the internet today has only grown since it’s debut, and it’s not stopping anytime soon.

Last it was recorded, about five million people were actively using social media, and that number continues to rise at exponential rates.

DATE NUMBER OF USERS % WORLD

POPULATION

INFORMATION

SOURCE

December, 1995 16 millions 0.4 % IDC
December, 2000 361 millions 5.8 % Internet World Stats
December, 2005 1,018 millions 15.7 % Internet World Stats
Sept, 2010 1,971 millions 28.8 % Internet World Stats
Dec, 2015 3,366 millions 46.4 % Internet World Stats
Dec, 2020 5,053 millions 64.2 % Internet World Stats

But, fret not. As your friends who keep constant watch over the digital market, we’ve compiled a list of tips, tricks, and tools for making social media work for you. Before we go on to overwhelm you with the facts, allow us to first remind you that everyone, every company, every small business that influences us today, had to start from somewhere.

Where to Begin:

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to be everywhere at once. Start with where you are and with the audience you have today.

Say you’re on Instagram and it’s where you’ve found the most potential thus far, develop that before you branch out and add another network under your management. Professionals will go ahead and secure usernames and URLs in advance to not have to deal with the hassle of obtaining them later on. It’s also good marketing as it shows consistency across platforms.

Some general rules to keep in mind (maybe your bylaws, too):

Do Not: Treat people as leads.

Do: Yes, you want the close, you want the deliverables, the hard sell, but don’t miss out on the social aspect of social media. People hop online to take a break from their day, to find inspiration in a quote, a meme to share with loved ones.

Think: How are we engaging with our followers? What tone do we have online? Is there a big holiday coming up that we can prepare content for in advance, maybe a “Happy #NationalBringYourCatToWork Day?” tweet for the Twitter feed?

Do Not: Leave leads unattended.

Do: Follow through on the conversations you’re having. Socializing is important, but so is the service you’re providing, and studies show that 71% of users are more likely to buy from a company following a positive online experience. The whole appeal behind social media is the instant gratification that it delivers; you don’t have to wait to hear back from your audience. Set up a poll, they’ll tell you exactly how they feel and how they want it. Study those interactions.

Consumer data adds to any company’s intelligence, especially if they can make sense of it.

Think: Are we user-friendly? What’s our response time online? Where are we getting the most impressions for? Where are we seeing the least amount of engagement? Should we be allocating our resources elsewhere?

Do Not: Post to post.

Do: Create S.M.A.R.T. goals.

Social media can feel like a chore to the best of us, especially when we’re scrambling at the last minute for content or guilt-posting for not being active enough. And the smaller you are, the more hats you might find yourself wearing at work. Sales and general business goals are good to keep, but neglect creating a social media strategy and you’ll feel disconnected, unaligned with your goals.

Posting for the sake of posting is like shooting in the dark, but having a SMART outcome in mind will help keep you on track to achieve your desired goal.

Think: Do we have a digital marketing strategy in place? How much time can we afford to put aside for social media use each day? Is there a minimum and maximum we can set for day-to-day interactions? For example, one might choose to devote 15 minutes of their day to like and respond to 10 comments in total, with 5 re-shares spaced throughout. Is there a system here that I’m missing, that I could maybe automate for ease of use in the future? Would templates come in handy here?

These are all great questions to have answers to, especially as resources tend to trim down the smaller a business goes.

Do Not: Ignore search engine optimization (SEO).

Do: Optimize, optimize, optimize!

When was the last time you clicked on ‘Page 2’ of a Google search? Exactly. The web has a variety of algorithms at work, all unique to the browser or search engine you have running, not to mention that those backend formulas are also constantly undergoing updates.

Think: Are we using the right hashtags? Is our meta data clear and concise? Have we claimed our Google My Business (GMB) listing yet? What’s our page download speed looking like? Can we do better?

Next, as promised, the toolkit!

“A big business starts small.”

-Richard Branson

Since small businesses come in different shapes and sizes, each unique to the solution they’re offering, it’s only fair that we offer a few selections for you to explore in case one or even two out of four of our options don’t fit. Frankly, the internet is full of amazing resources just like these ones, but we hope this serves as a place for you to start…

We’re also on standby if you’d like to chat! Okay, here we go:

For Content Inspiration or Social Media Monitoring:

For Managing and Scheduling Posts:

For Graphics:

For Photos:

For Tracking Analytics:

Most of these programs come free or low-of-cost, so they’re perfect for entrepreneurs with a tighter budget, but as your business grows, you might find that these tools no longer deliver due to their limited capabilities. At that point, it might be time to look at marketing ROI instead.

As always, we’ll be here for that conversation. In the meantime, feel free to explore our resource pool here.

big-tech-taking-over-small-business

Are Small Businesses at the Mercy of Big Tech?

Short Answer: Yes.

We all experience the web in different ways, but what happens when the web outsmarts us?

Where there’s a problem, there’s someone out there with a solution, or an idea of some magnitude that requires nurturing, maybe they need access to the right resources before they can move to the development phase. Big Tech offers that, and more; yet “Do they really?” is the question on Congress’ floor.

Over the last decade, there has been growing concern surrounding large tech companies and their anti-competitive practices, like buying out the small guy with rivaling potential. Why would a company as big as Facebook, for instance, need Instagram? Did they have a good enough reason for the merge, and can they prove their intentions weren’t to stifle the opposition?

The U.S. government is shifting that burden off of themselves and onto these tech titans, with Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) spearheading the effort.

“When you start deliberately buying up what we call nascent competitors for the purpose of dominating the market, then you stop that innovation that might develop,” said the newly appointed chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Antitrust Subcommittee. “No one has a chance of having a new product when they buy them all up and are the monopoly provider.”

Klobuchar’s bill seeks to revamp present antitrust laws that have been, in her perspective, ignoring the needs of the modern day consumer.

The Past

In truth, these laws were made decades and decades ago to combat the issue of corruption in business and politics. Big firms in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s would consolidate and form one giant entity called a “trust” company, an example of this being the oil industry that merged into Standard Oil Trust, or the tobacco industry coming together to represent the American Tobacco Company. As these enormous trusts banded together, so did their bank accounts.

The real problem wasn’t that they were rolling in dough, it was the threat that their partnership posed to entrepreneurship and competition, not to mention their growing influence over government affairs.

The Present

But where this concern once existed with retail, it has now permeated across a market that is digital, a territory that, to note, won’t be as easy to regulate, especially if Big Tech has also contributed to the success of many of those consumers.

Facebook makes for a good example as very recently the Federal Trade Commission and 48 attorneys general called for the tech giant to be broken up, alleging that the company was “suppressing, neutralizing, and deterring serious competitive threats” in order to establish more dominance online.

On the other hand and in their defense, Facebook has brought about much needed exposure to the smaller players, especially during the pandemic. If anything, the number of users soared as business owners everywhere were forced to get creative. There’s a whole hub of tools that the social network has made available, for free, from taking your store online to making consumer data work in your favor.

And studies from Pew Research Center report that roughly eight-in-ten adults go online daily, with three-in-ten of them being constantly plugged into the world of social media a reach that exists in plain, virtual view for anyone looking to capitalize on that. It gets more tedious when we factor in the role that artificial intelligence plays in accessing, storing, even selling consumer data.

As Big Tech continues to expand, so does their power and influence over the individual and the economy:

Consider the effects that a casual tweet from the “Technoking” Elon Musk had over the market back in February, to be able to make money with “One word: Doge.”

Or consider Amazon, and the convenience it brings for both buyers and sellers everywhere. For the consumer, there are more options and cheaper buys; for retailers, there are cuts to overhead costs and the hassle-free experience of delivery. It’s an empowering platform, until, as critics of the retail giant bring up, the math paints a different story.

According to a study done by ProPublica in 2016, Amazon’s search engine algorithm was set up to bury bargains from independent merchants and utilize sales data to decide which products to create their own versions of, ultimately competing with the very sellers that operated on the platform.

The Effects On SMBs

Scott Galloway, a professor at NYU’s Stern School of Business and author of The Four, a book about digital monopolies, warns of this developing concentration of power that Big Tech has and how it’s the reason for “infanticide” in small firms. “If they’re not stopping (innovation), they’re the main cause behind the slowdown in American startup creation.”

While Congress has been more willing to have the conversation, the pace at which technology is taking over has only accelerated. Some would argue that this gap between inaction and action, respectively, is increasingly killing the economy. By the time any legislation is passed, statistics suggest there’ll be more casualties on the enterprise front.

Maybe another question to consider here is whether there needs to be any government intervention at all.

When these leading tech companies are offering immediate access to vast markets, ability to target ads, budget-friendly and reliable infrastructure, why would startups want to look anywhere else when the framework has already been laid out for them? Developers can reach hundreds of millions of customers overnight via Apple’s and Google’s app store; brands can rent out Amazon’s and Google’s cloud-computing power; Facebook and Instagram might be the smoothest, cost-effective marketing tool in the history of everdom.

That also explains why Congress has yet to come to a consensus over this matter; it’s no easy feat to go against Big Tech, and then there’s the problem of whether our legislators are intellectually equipped to be making those decisions for users of technology.

The Future

One thing is for certain: the small business owner can use more support.

Is the answer here to break companies up? Should they be prevented from buying out up-and-coming ventures, just because they have the capital to do so? Whatever comes of the resolution, Klobuchar’s antitrust bill may be a better place to start than any.

For a market to remain a breeding ground for exploration and innovation, it’s essential that there’s the room and the resources there to foster those ideas.

It might be safe to say that Big Tech is much like that room, a Pandora’s box that’s full of the bells and whistles that appeal to many of its clients, but a box is also just a box: it’s restrictive. And Klobucar’s proposal to put more resources toward smaller agencies could be the backbone that the entrepreneurial spirit of today needs.

As she puts it,

“You can’t take on trillion dollar companies with bandaids and duct tape.”

Work With A Reputable Web Agency

Agency Partner Interactive is a world-renowned web agency that empowers many of its users to lead with more autonomy in the field. To learn more about how we can help you, call us today at 214-295-5845 or contact Agency Partner for more information.

lead-generation-tips_

5 Ways to Generate Leads with Your Website

Expert Tips For 5 Ways to Generate Leads with Your Website

If you market using pay-per-click, social media, and many other online methods, your website is the backbone of your business. Your website is the destination you redirect every ad and potential customer to.

Online marketing strategies work best when paired with an appealing website with clear and preferably concise guidance on what action you want visitors of your site to take. The clearer you make your desired action, the more likely visitors are to convert.

In this article, we will discuss five ways to generate leads using your website.

  1. Create a welcoming homepage

Just as you would into your home, you should welcome visitors to your website – both new and repeat visitors alike.

Your homepage is often a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it’s one of your most frequented pages. On the other hand, it’s also one of the easiest places to lose visitors.

The homepage is your first impression. It’s a good rule of thumb to keep content and information on this page concise, clean, and compact.

Consider creating a welcome gate. To keep things welcoming yet clean and compact, it should slide out of the way after a few seconds, and there should be a way for users to dismiss it if they would like to.

You can use your welcome gate to tell users about your services and other offerings. You can also use it to point them in the direction of other informative pages and/or ask them questions and provide them with actionable options based on their response.

At Agency Partner, we use our homepage to tell visitors about our business, provide a little background info, and advertise our services.

  1. Keep your messaging fresh

Businesses are multifaceted. Rarely if ever, does a business offer one singular service. If this applies to you, then rotating your messaging regularly is absolutely crucial.

You want visitors to know about all the services you offer but putting mountains and mountains of text on pages isn’t the most effective way to get your message across.

Try an interactive, changing banner. This often displays as the main tagline with one or two words switching in rotation.

You can use an interactive changing banner to touch on the ways your services help the audience(s) you serve.

For example, Agency Partner helps businesses with digital marketing services, strategy and consulting, app and web design, search engine optimization (SEO), and much more.

  1. Offer a lead incentive.

Visitors to your website have no real reason to give you their email or any other contact info. Offering a lead incentive, otherwise known as a lead magnet, gives visitors a tangible reason to share their information.

Lead incentives are usually digital products like e-books, worksheets, tip lists, checklists, free trials, etc.

Once you provide visitors with something of value, they are usually more than happy to give you their information in return. When they do, you can keep in touch with them and begin the process of nurturing them as leads.

  1. Incorporate live chat

In today’s society, people like things to be quick, but we still enjoy genuine interaction with another person; using live chat software on your website provides a good mix of both.

Live chat allows you to talk to visitors and address their concerns before they have the chance to click away. And it’s a proven way to keep customers happy and increase conversion rates.

If you can’t be online 24/7, you can connect with customers by using chatbots that respond instantly and take care of the inquiries that come up regularly.

  1. Grab visitor’s attention before they go

When people are about to leave your website, you’ve got a short window of time to grab their attention and keep them engaged.

While regular pop-ups should be kept simple, you can use more detailed exit pop-ups to promote a specific part of your service and/or products to convince people to stay on your site or at least to share their email addresses with you.

Bonus

Let Agency Partner help you.

If you need help generating more leads from your website, drop us a line and let Agency Partner help you, your website, and your business all reach their full potential.

Whether you want a simple consultation to discuss ways to improve your marketing efforts or you would like a full analysis and overhaul of your marketing strategies, we are here to serve you.

Not big on reading? That’s okay. Watch “5 Ways to Generate Leads with Your Website.instead. Using the power of Artificial Intelligence, we turned this blog into a video for you. Check it out below!

 

 

 

 

 

mobile_eCommerce_trends

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

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.

Not big on reading? That’s okay. Watch “3 Proven Ways to Increase B2B Leads Through Social Media?” instead.

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How Do Social Media Influencers Make Money?

Tips From Professional Social Media Marketers

The 21st century has introduced new forms of celebrity, most notably that of the influencer. From the Kardashian-Jenner clan to bloggers covering niche interests like travel, fitness, or fashion – influencers are filling up our Instagram feeds. These influencers have turned their popularity, and social media marketing savvy into full-blown careers. 

Becoming a paid influencer usually requires a significant amount of working for free with little return on investment (ROI) to gain a following and become an attractive partner for brands. How influencers make a living may seem mysterious, but the components are simple once you break it down.

What Does it Mean to be an Influencer?

Influencer is a catch-all term that belies the amount of work required for success. While what you see on Instagram is based in reality, it’s important to remember that the glamour and carefree lifestyle is presented only after taking dozens of photos, selecting the ones conveying the influencer’s image and brand, and editing and filtering them before  posting.

These are not accidental lifestyles. Achieving influencer status requires hard work, planning, plus some talent and luck. Like any unconventional lifestyle, the cost-benefit analysis must be considered. Brittany Kulick left a traditional career in marketing  to start The Sweet Wanderlust. “I’m working harder than I ever did when I worked a traditional job,” she admits, “but I wouldn’t trade it for anything! I love sharing travel tips, hidden gems, and itineraries with my readers and getting to work from anywhere in the world.” 

Successful influencers essentially run their lives as a small business. “While my Instagram feed is full of me frolicking on gorgeous beaches and eating amazing desserts,” says Kulick, “many don’t know what goes on behind the scenes to make this lifestyle happen.” It’s crucial to learn and implement best practices for gaining traction online including Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Website Design, and so much more. 

Diversifying Revenue Streams

Even successful influencers need more than one way to earn. The most efficient among them join together two or more revenue streams in their social media marketing strategy. Even those who make Hundreds of thousands of Dollars Per Post still need to make plenty of organic content, or risk coming across as a sell-out.

Successful influencers produce a combination of organic content and sponsored content. Influencers must be careful – if they aren’t discerning in accepting partnerships, they could undermine the trust and potentially lose some followers as well as sponsors(more followers = more sponsorship potential).

Selling products, whether digital or physical,  produced by the influencer alone, or in collaboration with brands, is an obvious way to capitalize on your brand, Kayla Itsines is a perfect example of someone who has turned social media clout into a veritable empire, with over 11 million followers on Instagram, and a successful line of digital fitness products such as eBooks and a workout app. Physical products can be anything related to your social media marketing strategy, for example, T-Shirts with Cute Slogans, or Kitchen Products inspired by a love of food and travel. 

Partnering with brands, either as a brand ambassador or with a sponsorship deal, helps influencers leverage their likes. Brand ambassadorships are long-term relationships, often with a monthly paycheck and expectations to feature a product or service a certain number of times per month. Short-term sponsored content may be a single Instagram image of you using their product, a blog post review, or a series of posts. Both brand ambassadorships and sponsored content have specific rules regarding disclosure, and it’s essential to be mindful of that as both a producer and consumer. 

Branching out into other forms of media, such as podcasts or webinars, can help grow your audience and share your knowledge. Podcasts can be monetized through premium subscriptions, and once a webinar is created, it can be sold countless times and transformed into a passive income stream.

Many Influencers use affiliate marketing, which rarely pays the rent, but  provides a supplemental income. Most also work as freelance content creators, utilizing their skills and popularity to find clients. 

While savvy Influencers have perfected the formula of doing what they love and making a living at it, it certainly isn’t as easy as it looks! If you want to influence more people  get in touch with us here at Agency Partner Interactive, and let’s form a successful partnership today.

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