Social Pulse, Week of 11-9

Every week I keep tabs on what’s trending, new technology and consumer habits that impact the social web. These are summed up in a round-up called Social Pulse. Sign up to get this in your inbox every Friday here.

What Does 2021 Hold for Digital/Social? This week there is lots of discussion online about what the future of digital and social look like under a Biden administration. Short answer: focus on privacy, data, antitrust, and China will still be a focus, including potentially revoking Section 230, the section of the Communications Decency Act that shields internet companies from liability for the content that they host. Perhaps there will be movement on net neutrality. And look to Twitter to be more aggressive at deactivating troublesome accounts.

2021 Social Media Planning Calendar: It’s not quite the new year, but it’s never too early to start planning Q1. Social Bakers have published a 2021 calendar you can combine with your own brand moments and hashtag holidays that you care about. It integrates with Google Calendar, plus it can be downloaded as an .ics cal to upload to your platform of choice.

Parler’s Rise to #1: In the last week a relatively unknown social network called Parler has rocketed to the #1 spot for app downloads, beating out Zoom, Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube. Parler calls itself “an unbiased social media focused on real user experiences and engagement,” with “free expression without violence and no censorship.” And it is growing in popularity as Twitter and Facebook start enforcing new moderation policies as some conservatives look for alternative social networks to connect. Just like any other emerging social network, brands should consider registering their brand handles to inoculate against trolls or squatting.

Give Your Social Team a (Virtual) Hug Today: In the relentless news cycle of 2020, social media pros are first responders, and it’s been a nonstop crisis almost the entire calendar year. Yet the importance of their work is often invisible and sometimes underappreciated. Journalist Marta Martinez has a highly recommended read called “The Social Media Managers are Not Okay” that spells out the essential role of a social team in 2020.

Key quote: “Social media managers are making important — and very public — decisions all the time. They need to respond to news and conversations quickly to be effective. The public voice and image of companies, media outlets, public figures, and institutions are in their hands at a very delicate time. Yet their job is still often seen as something anyone could do, or left to those who are just getting started in their careers… It is an essential job. We need to have more infrastructure and awareness of the fact that we’re in service to our audience.”

Payola in the Spotify Era: With the news that Spotify will begin allowing artists and labels to influence recommendations if they accept a lowered “promotional recording royalty rate” for the resulting plays, a new generation is learning the definition of payola, and how it has artificially influenced the music industry for decades. There have always been creative marketing solutions behind the scenes, but this is one to watch – especially as the music industry tends to “break” trends before they move to other categories, influencers, and publishers.

Twitter’s Carousel Ads are Here (Organic, too!): This week Twitter introduced a new Carousels format. Brands can now add up to six images or videos in an ad, they can run organically or promoted, and like other carousel ads, and although every brand is different, they are expected to perform extremely well. For example, Carousel ads on Facebook and Instagram reportedly drive 10 times more web traffic for businesses than the counter single-image ads. And a Facebook study showed Carousel ads drove a 72% higher click-through rate than single images. Read more about the announcement here.

Business Reads of the Week: McKinsey’s 2020 Holiday Seasons in a Pandemic Report; 6 skills employees will need in the post-pandemic workplace; It’s time for brands to double down on activism; The Battle for the Soul of Digital Freedom Taking Place Inside Your Printer

Quick Hits:

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Brand Reputation Management and Parler

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Best practice digital brand reputation management means monitoring and controlling your brand across the social web, no matter where it shows up.

In the last week a relatively unknown social network called Parler has rocketed to the #1 spot for app downloads, beating out Zoom, Instagram, TikTok and YouTube.

Google Trends for “Parler” over the last 12 months

Parler calls itself “an unbiased social media focused on real user experiences and engagement,” with “free expression without violence and no censorship.” And it is growing in popularity as Twitter and Facebook start enforcing new moderation policies and some conservatives look for alternative social networks to connect.

Similar to other social networks, Parler has a feed of recent posts to scroll through. Those posts can be up to 1,000 characters, include photo and links, likes and comments, and a “Discover News” tab. And you register with an email, phone number, and password.

There are significant issues with social networks that thrive on lack of moderation and letting hate speech or blatant lies run rampant. For example, the 2016 social network Gab, which was linked to anti-semitism and radicalization among alt-right groups. But as communications professionals, let’s hold our noses a sec.

Regardless of how you feel about Parler and why the platform is exploding in popularity, it’s important for brand stewards to identify social networks that are emerging in popularity and then proactively register their brand handles to inoculate against their misuse.

And if you didn’t register an account at Parler’s launch in 2018, it may already be a headache. For example, a quick search shows many major brands – like Snickers, Bud Light, and Best Buy – currently have active users on Parler using their handles. Meanwhile brands like Home Depot and Sony have locked down their handles and aren’t stressing this week.

If this sounds like a repeat of the scenario we found ourselves in with MySpace, Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram handle squatters, that’s because it is! If you don’t proactively register your brand handles on new platforms, once they become popular you may realize someone who doesn’t represent your brand has beaten you to registering your account. And now you have to fix it, which is often more of a pain than just proactively registering it.

I sometimes get grief from brands at my insistence they register their brand name on major and minor platforms. And I already got pushback from this recommendation from a peer, insisting that brands showing any interest in Parler just legitimizing the platform.

But it’s exactly because we don’t know which new social networks are going to pop that you should be diligent at policing your brand reputation — whether you agree with their politics or not. There’s a chance Parler won’t be around next year. But today it’s the #1 downloaded social networking app, so there’s a chance it could be the next big thing.

And just to show nobody is perfect, I will admit to you that I didn’t get @gregswan on TikTok, and am still unhappy about it. @swangreg just isn’t the same.

Note: you’ll never be able to register all the variations of your brand to stop trolls from being trolls or squatters from using variations of your brand name, but certainly locking down your primary account name is a best practice across any popular social network.

Parler’s User Agreement documentation states “Any content that you post to the Services must satisfy all of the following criteria… 4.3 The content does not infringe the intellectual property rights (such as copyrights and trademark rights) of any other person or entity.” This seems to indicate a brand profile being used as a handle by someone who isn’t the trademark holder should be able to get it back.

I reached out to Parler this week to see how brands should engage to recapture their brand handles, and they gave me specific direction below…

How to set up your brand on Parler:

  • Register: you need to include a phone number when you register a new account, so be sure you’re using an email address and phone number you can access years from now in case you need it. If you have multiple brand names/taxonomy, register multiple accounts (e.g., HomeDepot, HomeDepotStores).
  • Set up your account: assuming you are just registering the account to protect your brand equity and not be an active user, do not upload a profile picture or write a bio. You want the account to look taken but also dormant.
  • Save the password/credentials somewhere safe: you never know when you’ll need to refresh your profile, or even turn it on for advertising – depending on what the future holds for this new platform, its users, and your brand. Be sure to adhere to best practice password keychain protocols!
  • Monitor: add Parler to your community management team’s list of places to monitor for brand mentions. Volume may be low or nonexistent, but it’s better to do a quick check and know about an issue than be surprised down the road.

How to get back your account from a squatter:

  • Email Parler: Parler told me they have a dedicated team for issues with impersonators and fake accounts. Email and and explain who you are, that you own the trademark ID, and would like access to your account.
  • Flex that trademark ID #: Other social networks require you to supply your trademark ID number, and sometimes they require someone from the brand (with a brand email address) supply it. It can’t hurt to go ahead and get that number to have it ready.

Overall, it’s important to remember that there are always new social networks, and most of them never achieve mass. There is a strong likelihood that Parler won’t be around this time next year. But maybe it will. And it doesn’t hurt to register a brand handle on any platform when you first hear about it. That simple move can save you time and headaches if you work ahead.

See you on the internet!

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