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American Express Partners With TikTok As Social Media Drives Small Business Saturday

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Small Business Saturday is celebrating its 13th anniversary with a new partnership announced by American Express
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and TikTok. Social media continues to be a powerful driver of sales for small businesses. American Express aims to drive $100 billion in reported consumer spending at small businesses from 2021 through 2025.

The new 2022 American Express Shop Small Impact Study showed that reaching the next generation of shoppers via social media has become essential to small businesses. Sixty-three percent of small business owners say they want to focus on growing their Gen Z and Millennial customer base this holiday season.

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Social media is sacred for ad spending

“Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok, these channels are still highly used by customers, and business leaders realize that. That’s why we see them doubling down their spending in the social media arena this holiday season,” said Gali Arnon, CMO of Fiverr. “Social media-related services on Fiverr have seen increased demand, suggesting that business leaders are eager to tap into these channels to draw in customers and create brand awareness.” Ninety percent of businesses say social media is sacred. Companies have no plans to cut back ad spending in this area for the upcoming holiday season, and 40% plan to increase their spending in this category, according to a nationwide survey of small and medium-sized e-commerce businesses conducted by Fiverr.

Small businesses use social media to stay connected with customers

During the pandemic, many small business owners turned to social media to connect with their community and customers. “We went heavy on Instagram and worked to form a connection with the customer, which we have loved continuing to do,” said Ann Cantrell, retail store owner of Annie’s Blue Ribbon General Store. The retail store in Brooklyn, New York, uses videos, personalized content, and community-oriented posts, not just posts about products. Cantrell discussed how social media, particularly Instagram, has been great for her business and says they are dabbling in TikTok. “Instagram Stories have been very active for us. We just had a $500 sale from a customer in London who was coming to NYC to visit family, and the whole transaction was from Instagram.” Cantrell discussed how social media creates a real connection with her customer base and said, “I think they hear and see my authentic voice there, and that’s what works. It’s one of my favorite parts of the business.”

To&From launched this June as a gifting business and has successfully used social media to drive revenue and community engagement. The gifting market is estimated at $800 billion (excluding corporate gifting), according to co-founder of To&From, Bridget Johns, but has not evolved as much as other retail areas. “The problem is knowing what gifts to buy and remembering to buy them,” said Johns. Solving this problem was the inspiration behind the brand. The use of social media marketing has been very successful, but the challenge is to find the right audience. “For example, we’ve seen a good return from investing in Facebook groups with a specific audience and gift theme. One example is a custom gift list for hockey players. It’s performed very well with targeted ads and in a hockey moms group,” stated Johns.

Small business owners weigh in

Shoppers this year will be more surgical about holiday shopping and will look for value at various price points. “We are optimistic for Holiday 2022 and have thoughtfully curated a wide range of price points for customers to choose from, depending on what they are looking to spend. Customers are worried about inflationary prices this year, but Cantrell believes you can have a good time in her store for $20 and a really good time for $200; the key is to have a wide range of price points to meet the needs of many shoppers.

Cantrell discussed how shoppers are more committed to buying this year when they see something they need. “Whether it’s a birthday present for their friend’s kid or a gift for a co-worker. When they see something they like, they go for it knowing it may not be available later.” Shoppers are more intentional with the stores they shop at and the products they purchase. Johns agrees, stating, “I think people will still spend this holiday, and much of the research shows that the expectation will be flat to up, but I suspect that spending will be much more intentional.”

Shopping trends for holiday

“Consumers are leaning into their values, and how they are voting with their wallets has stood out to me,” said Johns. “We attribute all of our gifts on several dimensions, but outside of relationship/occasion filters, social values is the most used filter on our site.” Trends on the To&From site show that people love finding brands that support their interests, like female-owned businesses, BIPOC-founded companies, or companies with sustainability as a core value.

Trending gifts fall into three categories: gifts that support the values the gifter or giftee cares about, gifts that have a personalization aspect, and gifts for together time. “I think the past couple of Covid years have taught many of us that we actually like spending time with our families, so gifts that reinforce together time have been trending at To&From,” said Johns.

Inflation pressures taking a toll on spending

“We expect inflationary pressures alongside slowing global growth to weigh on discretionary e-commerce spending, which could continue to be pressured in 2023,” said Dan Schulman, President and CEO of PayPal , in a recent earnings call. “I think that seeing more retailers offer sales more frequently is a telltale sign that consumers are looking for deals, discounts, and other ways to save on purchases. These sales, which have been frequent since October, are a clear testament to the fact that consumers are trying to manage high prices, which are tightening their wallets and ability to spend,” said PayPal VP of Shopping Greg Lisiewski. PayPal recently rolled out its rewards program to help consumers save money in time for the holiday season

Business leaders are aware of the potential negative impact that inflation, the economic downturn, and supply chain disruptions could have on their business this season, according to the Fiverr small and medium-sized business survey. The findings show that more than 1 in 3 business leaders (36%) said the economic downturn and inflation’s impact on sales would be among the most significant challenges they anticipate their businesses will encounter this holiday season, along with competition from larger e-commerce retailers (37%).

Small businesses find it hard to compete with larger retailers

The American Express study showed that 72% of small business owners are concerned about the impact of inflation on their businesses this year. The owners say that the current economy is making competing with larger format retailers harder. Small Business Saturday on November 26 is an excellent opportunity for owners to connect with their customers and communities (#ShopSmall Accelerator).

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On TikTok, Chinese State Media Pushes Divisive Videos About U.S. Politicians – Forbes

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Many of the videos attacked specific U.S. politicians before the midterm elections and pushed divisive social issues, without clear labels disclosing they were coming from state-controlled media.


TikTok accounts run by the propaganda arm of the Chinese government have accumulated millions of followers and tens of millions of views, many of them on videos editorializing about U.S. politics without clear disclosure that they were posted by a foreign government.

The accounts are managed by MediaLinks TV, a registered foreign agent and Washington D.C.-based outpost of the main Chinese Communist Party television news outlet, China Central Television. The largest of them are @Pandaorama, which features cute videos about Chinese culture, @The…Optimist, which posts about sustainability, and @NewsTokss, which features coverage of U.S. national and international news.

In the run-up to the 2022 elections, the @NewsTokss account criticized some candidates (mostly Republicans), and favored others (mostly Democrats). A video from July began with the caption “Cruz, Abbott Don’t Care About Us”; a video from October was captioned “Rubio Has Done Absolutely Nothing.” But @NewsTokss did not target only Republicans; another October video asked viewers whether they thought President Joe Biden’s promise to sign a bill codifying abortion rights was a “political manipulation tactic.” Nothing in these videos disclosed to viewers that they were being pushed by a foreign government.

The TikTok accounts run by MediaLinks do provide some information about the entity behind them: Profile bios for the accounts say, “Material distributed by MediaLinks TV LLC on behalf of CCTV. More info at DOJ, D.C.” But the vast majority of people viewing MediaLinks videos never see this language. According to data posted on LinkedIn by a MediaLinks employee, NewsToks garnered 8.3 million video views between May 8 and July 6, 2022, but only 57,600 profile views during the same 60-day period.

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Moreover, American viewers who did visit the accounts’ bios might not be aware that in this case, CCTV stands for China Central TV, or that this entity is Chinese state media. NewsTokss’s “More info at DOJ, D.C.” disclaimer appears to be an oblique reference to MediaLinks’s foreign agent registration.

Chinese state media entities have long sought to use social media to influence U.S. audiences — they’ve built audiences and bought ads on Facebook and Twitter to disseminate misinformation about topics such as the detainment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang, the 2019 protests in Hong Kong and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. But this is the first report of a Chinese state media entity using TikTok to influence U.S. audiences’ opinions about U.S. politics.


Got a tip about TikTok or ByteDance? Or about Chinese state media’s social media strategy? We’d like to hear from you. Write Emily Baker-White at ebakerwhite@forbes.com or Iain Martin at iain.martin@forbes.com.


TikTok, which is owned by Beijing-based ByteDance, is the first foreign social media app to achieve mass adoption in the U.S. It is also the only major social media platform in the U.S. that does not label videos posted by Chinese state media entities, so that viewers know where their content is coming from. Several of the videos posted by @NewsTokss (including “Cruz, Abbott Don’t Care About Us”) were also posted by MediaLinks affiliate China Global Television on YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram, where each post and video is labeled as Chinese state controlled media. (Disclosure: In a previous life, Emily Baker-White, an author of this story, held policy positions at Facebook and Spotify.)

TikTok has said it is developing a global policy to address content posted by state-controlled media outlets. In a statement, TikTok spokesperson Jamie Favazza told Forbes: “We plan to introduce our state-controlled media policy and corresponding labels globally next year as part of our continued focus on media literacy. As we previously confirmed, the global rollout will include China state media.” Forbes previously reported that according to LinkedIn profiles, more than 300 employees at TikTok and ByteDance previously worked for Chinese state media.

The most popular NewsTokss videos available on TikTok today largely focus on divisive U.S. social issues like guns, abortion and structural racism — all topics that were also used by Russian election meddlers seeking to divide Americans and weaken confidence in democratic institutions. These topics were also discussed by fake Facebook and Instagram accounts linked to a China-based election influence operation earlier this year.

But @Newstokss has also found success with other subjects, including conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, Hungarian autocrat Viktor Orban and Russian president Vladimir Putin. In one NewsTokss video, taken from the Conservative Political Action Conference, Orban says “the West is at war with itself,” and “the globalists can go to hell.” In another video, Jones says that the judge in the Sandy Hook trial is “guilty of tyranny” along with “all the rest of the New World Order.” Jones’s media company, Infowars, is banned from TikTok. TikTok spokesperson Favazza said in an email that “violative content has been removed,” including the video of Jones.

TikTok is currently negotiating a contract with the U.S. government to mitigate national security threats posed by its foreign ownership. Some U.S. lawmakers have long feared that the Chinese government could use TikTok to harvest private data about American citizens, or use TikTok’s recommendation engine to influence what they see on the app. BuzzFeed News previously reported that ByteDance had instructed employees working on one of its other apps, a now-defunct news aggregator called TopBuzz, to push pro-China messages to U.S. users. ByteDance denied the claims.

On July 5, TikTok’s Head of Public Policy for the Americas, Michael Beckerman, fielded questions from CNN’s Brian Stelter about national security questions raised by the company’s Chinese ownership. Stelter asked whether the Chinese government might use TikTok to “put a thumb on the scale” in favor of certain political candidates. In response, Beckerman said: “I’m really glad you raised this issue. Look: We are not the go-to place for politics.”

Stelter also asked Beckerman about concerns that the Chinese government could use TikTok to “influence Americans’ commercial, cultural, or political behavior.” In response, Beckerman said, “Yeah, I just don’t see that.”

@NewsTokss posted six videos that day: four about mass shootings (one of which is captioned “A Uniquely American Plague”), and two about police officers killing an unarmed Black man.

The extent of MediaLinks’s operation on TikTok is unclear, but LinkedIn posts by two MediaLinks employees — one current and one former — provide some sense of scale: In addition to the post claiming that NewsToks generated 8.3 million video views within 60 days, the LinkedIn profile of a different, former producer also said that by March 2022, Pandaorama had accumulated more than 10 million views, and The Optimist had garnered another 4.5 million. Neither producer responded to an interview request.

In addition to these three main accounts, MediaLinks manages several additional TikTok accounts that cross-post its videos, including @PandaoramaTrends, @NewsToks (different from @NewsTokss), and @PandaoramaLink, which is now defunct. Two much smaller Twitter accounts, @PandaoramaLink and @Panda_Paws, also contain the MediaLinks disclosure in their account bios. Those accounts and their tweets are labeled by Twitter as “Chinese state-affiliated media.”

Though MediaLinks did not reply to multiple requests for comment, the LinkedIn post containing statistics about the NewsToks TikTok account disappeared shortly after they were sent.

 

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Nelson: It's time to leave Smith's 'controversial' media track record behind – Calgary Herald

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If, by some miracle, I were elected to public office, my first action would be to demand a recount.

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Because, as Dirty Harry Callahan once intoned, during the cinematic culmination of Magnum Force: a man’s got to know his limitations.

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Well, it doesn’t need Clint Eastwood to explain mine, certainly not when it comes to any political ambition, even though newspaper columnists have been on an electoral roll recently — first Boris Johnson in the U.K. and now Danielle Smith here in Alberta.

Because there’s a huge gulf between the simplistic solutions column-writing or talk show hosting encourage and the complexity involved in running any sizable constituency. A flair for words and grandiose promises will soon collide head-first with the reality of balancing multiple competing interests and judging endless shifts in the general mood of those you’re expected to serve and not just entertain.

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Yes, it’s a whole different ball game, which Premier Smith quickly rediscovered while settling into her new role.

Speaking days after becoming premier she described the COVID-19 unvaccinated as the most discriminated against bunch in her lifetime. Wow! It sounded more like an opinion page column or an intro to a talk show segment than the usual boilerplate pronouncement from a new leader.

The outrage stirred seemed genuine enough — though some undoubtedly revel in exuding permanent umbrage — and Smith probably deserved the public mauling. After all, she was speaking as premier.

Yet it’s different when opponents constantly regurgitate things Smith wrote or said during her previous media work, an occupation demanding controversy as a job requirement. Sure, people say they want good news and unbiased coverage, but columnists and talk show hosts seeking refuge beneath the bland phrase “on the other hand” soon find themselves rediscovering the joys of covering late-night council meetings or reading the weather forecast.

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Smith is no dummy, so it didn’t take long to understand the flavour had shifted beneath her tongue. (Not being her first go-round on the political carousel, after all.)

She realizes each time announcing anything as premier — and she’s announced a boatload lately — opponents will dig out some earlier statements on that same issue and, given the abundance of her publicly available material, it then becomes the political equivalent of shooting fish in a barrel.  

“Having spent decades in media and hosting talk shows, I discussed hundreds of different topics and sometimes took controversial positions, many of which have evolved or changed as I’ve grown and listened to you,” is how she framed it last week, after a provincewide announcement involving a multibillion-dollar giveaway to soften the effects of rising prices.

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See, it didn’t take long. She’s taking refuge in the politicians’ handy-dandy dictionary — evolving, listening and changing with the best of them. Of course, still being a columnist, I’d have simply said: “That was then, this is now. Get over it.” (Reference that earlier bit about knowing your limitations.)

Meanwhile, Smith also executed a neat political pincer movement upon NDP Leader Rachel Notley — flying so high just weeks ago — by essentially stealing the Dippers’ platform.

Hey, money for families, money for seniors, money for AISH folk, money for food banks, rebates on electricity, taxes axed on gasoline, subsidized low-income bus passes, more cash promised for front-line health-care delivery. It was a smorgasbord of caring, sharing giveaways, leaving the NDP Opposition with little complaining room other than suggesting yet bigger bribes for your future vote.

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And no mention of COVID. While the somewhat inflammatory proposal of a Sovereignty Act was watered down to become the Alberta Sovereignty Within A United Canada Act. (Seems a bit like a kiss on the cheek from your sister after hoping for a hot date with the neighbourhood beauty, doesn’t it.)

Oh well, such is politics. In the end, every participant has one goal: to be elected. Danielle Smith the columnist/radio talk show host is gone. Premier Smith has entered the room.

That was then, this is now. Get over it. (And don’t forget: never vote for me.)

Chris Nelson is a regular columnist for the Calgary Herald.

 

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James questions media disparity in coverage of Irving tweet, Jerry Jones photo – Sportsnet.ca

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