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Ways to Boost Your Social Media Creativity Game

Ways to Boost Your Social Media Creativity Game

You don't have to be Tinder to light a fire under your customer base, with word-of-mouth marketing tactics.
4 Ways to Boost Your Social Media Creativity Game

Leave it to a dating app to demonstrate the instant success

a creative social media marketing approach can bring to a new business. Tinder — the location-based dating service that facilitates matchups between interested parties — used a tactic best described as word-of-mouth advertising in a digital format To successfully launch its app.

In a recent podcast, Tinder co-founder and CEO Sean Rad revealed that the company grew by 50 percent the day after it tested 500 individuals a link to its app. That tactic and other word-of-mouth campaigns grew Tinder's customer base from 20,000 to 500,000 users in less than a month. Clearly, entrepreneurs hoping to quickly reach and grow their own customer bases must embrace social media in all its forms. Social media's free word-of-mouth nature can attract and engage potential customers at a stage in the company's development when advertising budgets are often tight and expenses must be carefully monitored. When building a new business, attracting customers is imperative — and social media is a leading pathway to gathering and retaining loyal consumers.

Reach out and touch your customers.

Consumers love to be engaged, equipped and empowered, Kimberly Whitler, a marketing professor at the University of Virginia, has said. This makes them feel important, as though they have a vested interest in the company. Consumers crave two-way interactions and are flattered to offer reviews of a company's products or services. Why should this matter to a small entrepreneur? Because every customer reached is a potential repeat customer who will tell others about a positive experience. When a startup adopts social media marketing tactics that truly engage its customers, the benefits are plentiful: The company likely will grow its customer base while spending less money on marketing, leaving more funds available to invest in higher salaries for employees and other areas of the business.

Social media marketing done right also helps businesses stay top of mind among their followers. Consumers will recall engaging content, helpful advice or a humorous post. According to MarketingLand, consumers don't want to be lectured or bombarded with ads. Good vibes toward the company result in trust, long-term loyalty, and a positive bottom line.Nielsen reports that 92 percent of global consumers identify earned media as their favorite form of advertising, primarily in the form of recommendations from friends and acquaintances. Those customers trust companies that connect with them in genuine, captivating ways; and they want to establish relationships with them.

Shake up strategies to push the marketing status quo

So, how can entrepreneurs change their marketing strategies to create connections with customers and pack a more social punch? Here are four tactics to try:

Register accounts on all major platforms.

According to Hootsuite, social media can no longer be brushed aside. A business won't succeed without active accounts across several platforms. If social media's word-of-mouth power is not utilized, the chances for promoting a business are largely lost. Get started with accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and more to meet customers where they are. Even companies without a product to sell benefit from engaging on social media. Magic Leap, a private company that is developing a futuristic augmented/virtual reality system, has created interactive content to whet users' appetites for the impact its future product could have on their daily lives. Despite its lack of any imminent product launch announcement to date, the company has still generated about 60,000 likes on Facebook and has attracted 32,000 Twitter followers.

Harness the power of community.

Reach out to consumers — and let them reach out to you and to one another — using social media in order to successfully build community and benefit from positive word of mouth. Yelp, which publishes crowdsourced reviews of products and services, shows how powerful positive reviews can be. If a customer likes the service or food at a new restaurant in town, a good Yelp review will encourage even more customers to flock to the startup's table. Encouraging customers to leave a positively verified review, perhaps through offering a coupon or discount on future services, can help draw in new customers.

Consider for example the case of Uncle Maddio's Pizza. I came across the family-owned pizza joint while traveling with my son's baseball team. Our hungry team searched restaurant reviews on Yelp and found positive comments about Uncle Maddio's. As promised, the food was excellent, the service was top-notch and the staff was personable. Before we left, I learned that a franchise location would soon open in my hometown. The owners started a Facebook page for the new location and promoted "spirit nights" that would raise money for schools and youth organizations. Needless to say, when the new store opened, I took my family there and have returned many times to eat and to support fundraisers there. Positive online and word-of-mouth reviews have led this small business to success.

Associate with other businesses that share similar mindsets.

Strive to connect to businesses that are working toward the same type of high-quality customer experiences you are. Good business practice dictates being tied in with others that have strong search-engine rankings and website presences. Interact with them online, and share each other's content across your social platforms. Many online marketers, such as Neil Patel of Kissmetrics — whom I've turned to for advice on my SEO projects — say posts on social media accounts influence Google and Bing search rankings. Search engine rankings aim to provide users the best possible resources to help them make purchasing decisions and acquire information. These accounts can affect the business's reputation and authority just as easily as they promote the business.

Employ someone who knows how to use social media effectively.

Hire someone who thoroughly knows social media — Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and beyond. This person should be able to moderate comments, post daily messages and answer inquiries. Give this person guidance on what your business is trying to accomplish and a list of what's acceptable to post. His or her goal should be to keep customers informed and engaged in a timely manner. A good social media team can take a business to global heights. Holly Clarke, a marketing manager at Airbnb, says the company has team members in San Francisco, France, Germany and the U.K., along with translators tailoring posts to other areas of the world. Airbnb's #NightAt and #BelongAnywhere campaigns draw in consumers from across the globe to interact with its content.

Entrepreneurs have a lot to think about when starting new businesses, but the use of social media should be a no-brainer. Creative social media marketing tactics, with an emphasis on free word-of-mouth advertising, enable a startup to quickly grow its customer base. Long-term relationships and two-way interactions with those customers will soon follow. Make sure you and your business are creating those interactions, as well.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor
Please click either Link to Learn more about Inbound Marketing.

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PBOC Researcher: Can Cryptocurrency & Central Banks Coexist?

PBOC Researcher:
Can Cryptocurrency & Central Banks Coexist?

 

Yao Qian works in the technology department of People's Bank of China, the country's central bank and financial market regulator. Qian discusses the relationship between digital currencies and bank accounts, proposing a design concept where bank accounts and digital currency wallets coexist.

   cd, vhs

While technological direction, risk control and security measures are all important, the effectiveness of digital currency ultimately relies on its successful application. For a digital fiat currency (DFC) to show vitality and supplement or even replace traditional currency, it has to be user friendly and well received by the public. Currently, the issuance of fiat currency in China follows the 'central bank-commercial bank' system, and most of the social and economic activities are based on the commercial bank account system.

Therefore, if a digital currency can leverage existing IT infrastructure with a variety of applications and services, the costs of promoting digital currency would be significantly reduced and its use would be more convenient and flexible, facilitating the wide adoption of digital currency by the public. In addition, the incorporation of digital currency into existing applications would generate more diversified scenarios, which would contribute to a greater competitiveness of digital currency, providing better services.

Breaking ground

The most straightforward way to leverage the bank account system is to expand the scope of central bank's balance sheet. In fact, claims on a central bank of commercial banks and other financial institutions in the form of central bank deposits have already been digitized. However, should the central bank provide such services to broader counterparties? Should non-financial institutions such as households be allowed to open accounts at the central bank?

These questions have triggered a lot of discussions. The Bank of England, the European Central Bank (ECB) and the Sveriges Riksbank have already studied this topic. Ben Broadbent, deputy governor of the Bank of England, has pointed out the concerns of commercial banks who worry that it would result in a transfer of deposits from commercial banks to the central bank, thus causing the entire banking sector to shrink. In fact, this is also a common concern of the regulators. Zhou Xiaochuan, governor of the People's Bank of China (PBoC), made an incisive yet illuminating comment on this issue, stating:

"The technological route of digital currency can be either based on bank account system (account-based) or not based on bank account system (non-account-based), and the two approaches may co-exist and operate at different layers."

However, there are various interpretations on how to implement the design idea. I would like to share some of my thoughts on this.

Digital currency attributes

To offset the shock to the current banking system imposed by an independent digital currency system (and to protect the investment made by commercial banks on infrastructure), it is possible to incorporate digital currency wallet attributes into the existing commercial bank account system so that electronic currency and digital currency are managed under the same account. The management of digital currency and that of electronic currency have some similarities in areas such as account usage, identity authentication and money transfer, but there are also differences.

Digital currency should be managed in compliance with the standards on wallet design specified by the central bank. The wallet is similar to a safe box which is managed by the bank based on an agreement with the customer (eg it requires both keys from the customer and the bank to open the safe box). All the attributes of digital currency and cryptocurrency would be preserved to enable customized application in the future.One of the merits of the aforementioned approach is that it leverages the current 'central bank–commercial bank' system for currency issuance.

Digital currency, categorized into M0 (a measure of money supply in a central bank), is the liability of the currency-issuing bank (referred to as the issuing bank) and is not on the balance sheet of the bank providing the account (referred to as the account bank). The approach would not lead to the commercial banks being channelized or marginalized because customers and their accounts are still managed by the account bank. Unlike money transfer, digital currency does not completely rely on bank accounts and the ownership of digital currency can be verified directly by the issuing bank, so as to realize peer-to-peer cash transaction via

Digital Currency Wallet on user's end.

Two types of issuance

The issuing bank could be the central bank or banks authorized by the central bank (as in the Hong Kong dollar issuance model, for example). Determining which model to follow should be based on an actual situation. This article is only for the purpose of academic discussions. Below is an elaboration on the two models. In the first one, the central bank is the only  issuer of digital currency, and in the second one, banks are authorized by the

Central Bank to issue Digital Currency.

It should be pointed out that the issuing banks are interconnected with the central bank and among themselves on an infrastructure designed by the central bank. Whether the infrastructure should be migrated to a distributed ledger

Architecture would be a huge topic for the Industry.

Designing a new kind of wallet

To follow the customer-centric strategy of commercial banks, digital currency wallet ID fields could be added to the bank account to enable the account-based and non-account-based models to co-exist and operate at different layers. The wallet serves as a safe box and is not involved in activities such as day-end counting and reconciliation, so as to minimize the impact on the existing core banking system.

The ownership verification of digital currency relies on the issuing bank. The combination of traditional bank account and digital currency can significantly enhance the bank's KYC and AML capabilities. The digital currency wallet should be designed in compliance with standards specified by the central bank. The wallet at the bank end is 'lighter', as it only provides security control measures and features at the account level. The wallet offered by the application service providers at the user end would be 'heavier', as the functions of such wallet would extend to the presentation and application layers. At the user end, the role of smart contracts can be played to the fullest and it would also become one of the core

Competitive Advantages of the Application Service Providers.

Wallets meet accounts

Imagine a scenario where earmarked subsidy is distributed by a central government authority to enterprises or individuals through multiple levels of government. It would be very difficult to track the distribution of the money in the traditional way because it heavily relies on data reported by the local governments at various levels, which usually leads to mis-match between information and cash flow due to poor execution or the lack of procedural compliance. With the traceability of digital currency and support from access management of smart contracts, the authority would be able to directly oversee the distribution status without relying on other parties. Misappropriation on the part of local governments would be prevented and the money would be assured for dedicated purposes.

If digital currency wallet attributes are not embedded into the bank account system, government agencies at various levels and all the beneficiaries would have to activate and use digital wallets, which would make the adoption of digital currency very complicated as it requires the selection of physical media of digital wallet and the involvement of various parties. Moreover, the central bank would have to deal with users directly. On the contrary, by leveraging the com And by using existing accounts, the user experience would remain the same in a sense that users can enjoy digital currency service through existing channels such as bank counters,

Online Banking and Mobile Banking.

  

Summary

In a digitalized world, the economic and financial implications of the digits should by no means be confused simply because they are presented in the same numeral form. The same digits may represent different types of assets – a notion that we should keep in mind when designing digital currency. In terms of the conversion of physical currency into M1 or M2, it's easy to distinguish between physical form and digital form. However, the digital M0 money supply may make people ignore such a distinction. Does the faster conversion between digital assets mean that the distinctions between different types of digital assets are disappearing?

Fan Yifei, vice governor of PBoC, once wrote:

"Digital fiat currency would certainly be influenced by [the] existing payment system and information technologies, but it should be distinguished from [the] current payment system so as to focus on service delivery and play its role in replacing traditional currency. Theoretically, the payment system mainly deals with the portion of current deposits in 'broad money', while the digital currency serves as part of M0 money supply."

By incorporating digital currency attributes into the commercial bank account system, the DFC is integrated into the 'central bank-commercial bank' system by leveraging existing financial infrastructure. More importantly, this approach takes into account the role of digital M0 in commercial banking system and enables digital currency to either operate independently or run in an environment where bank account and digital wallet co-exist and operate at different layers.

This approach ensures clear division of duties and clarifies roles of different parties, where the issuing banks are responsible only for digital currency itself, the account banks conduct specific business and the application service providers enable the realization of functions. With the adoption of other measures, for example collecting management fees (which practically means negative interest rate), the emergence of 'narrow banking' would be less possible.

The incorporation of digital currency attributes is also an innovative step for the commercial bank account system. Commercial banks would be able to not only provide digital currency services based on existing infrastructure but also explore new service models that leverage features of digital currency, which will enhance their service quality and competitiveness. This article is only a beginning of a series of discussions.

Further studies may focus on standards of wallet design with possible questions to think about as follows:

  1. How to set differentiated currency usage cost and asset pricing policies so as to strike a balance among banknotes, DFC and commercial bank deposits during the transition period?
  2. How to build an ecosystem that involves the central bank, issuing banks, commercial banks, wallet service providers, payment service providers and digital currency users?

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor
Please click either Link to Learn more about Bitcoin.

Markethive

Russians and Koreans are the biggest payers to the global ransomware hackers

Russians and Koreans are the biggest payers to the global ransomware hackers

  

                                     There for the taking, but who's watching?
Users with infected computers in Russia and South Korea are so far the two biggest ransom payers to the hackers who mounted a global ransomware attack, called “Wannacry,” yesterday, according to new data from Chainalysis, a provider of software that works with banks, law enforcement agencies, and bitcoin companies to analyze the blockchain for financial crimes.

All bitcoin transactions are permanently recorded on the blockchain, and anyone can view them. Chainalysis crunches these transactions and assigns them to clusters of “entities,” which could be bitcoin exchanges, wallet providers, or bitcoin miners. The firm found that the hackers, who ask for ransom to be sent to three bitcoin addresses, had received a total of nearly $23,000 so far in dollar terms, converted at the point the transaction was made. The two entities that sent the most money to the hackers were bitcoin exchanges serving the Russian and Korean markets. “If you look at the infection rates, a lot of it is in Russia, so [the data] is complementing that,” says Jonathan Levin, a Chainalysis co-founder. “Given that we know the infections are also in Russia, I would say, it’s Russian users.”

Analysis by information security firm Kaspersky Lab showed Russia had the most infections, although South Korea doesn’t appear among the top countries. Here’s the list of where ransoms originated from via Chainalysis:

Counterparty name Counterparty category US dollar value of bitcoins sent
BTC-e.com exchange $4,270.66
Bithumb.com exchange $2,163.48
Bitstamp.net exchange $2,012.15
Kraken.com exchange $1,917.03
Poloniex.com exchange $1,627.24
Unknown uncategorized $1,526.32
Coinbase.com exchange $1,043.04
CoinPayments.net merchant services $849.30
Unknown uncategorized $774.25
CoinOne.co.kr exchange $684.05
LocalBitcoins.com exchange $670.84
Gemini.com exchange $627.97
MaiCoin.com exchange $627.79
Unknown uncategorized $576.62
CoinJar.com exchange $550.05
BitPanda.com exchange $375.71
Bitfinex.com exchange $313.63
Korbit.co.kr exchange $312.10
Bittrex.com exchange $295.78
Unknown uncategorized $294.16
Unknown uncategorized $253.50
Unknown uncategorized $205.33
BitoEX.com exchange $168.11
Xapo.com hosted wallet $165.39
Circle.com exchange $101.01
Bter.com exchange $91.42
Yunbi.com exchange $60.14
Unknown uncategorized $45.28
Paxful.com exchange $44.24
Huobi.com exchange $43.28
Hashnest.com mining pool $20.88
OKCoin.com exchange $15.07
Unknown uncategorized $14.56
Unknown uncategorized $9.60
HaoBTC.com mining pool $7.21
Unknown uncategorized $5.82
AlphaBay Market Tor market $5.41
Unknown uncategorized $2.80
ANXPro (Payout wallet) uncategorized $2.07
Silk Road Marketplace Tor market $1.85
  Total $22,775.16
Source: Chainalysis

There are a few caveats to the data. Levin points out that the payments attributed to “Tor markets,” the term Chainalysis uses to describe darknet markets, are probably “noise” generated by his analysis, and should be ignored. The low payment amount also suggests that it’s unconnected to the ransomware. Each entity could be using thousands of addresses, and it’s Chainalysis’ job to group them accurately. For instance, Levin says that one exchange, Poloniex, uses 376,000 bitcoin addresses, all of which have been clustered by Chainalysis, allowing correct attribution.

Additionally, just because a payment is from an exchange that serves Korean or Russian customers doesn’t necessarily mean the infected users are indeed in Korea or Russia—although it’s a reasonable inference. Lastly, little is known about BTC-E, the exchange at the top of the list, except that its operators are anonymous, it’s one of the longest running exchanges in bitcoin, and it notoriously doesn’t perform the identity checks that regulated exchanges must comply with, and it deals in the ruble-bitcoin market.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor
Please click either Link to Learn more about Bitcoin.

Markethive

80% of all Bitcoins Will Have Been Mined In a year From now

80% of all Bitcoins Will Have Been Mined In a year From now

The world of Bitcoin

is in for quite a reality shock in about a year from now. As most people are well aware of, a number of bitcoins being mined every day are much compared to a few years ago. What is even more intriguing is how the vast majority of BTC has been mined already. In January of 2018, 80% of all 21 million BTC will be mined and brought into circulation. A significant milestone that should not be overlooked by any means.

Inching Closer To 80% Of All Bitcoins

It is quite interesting to think about how far bitcoin has come since its inception. With a  hard limit of 21 million BTC to be generated by 2140, a lot of people assume there are still a lot of coins to be mined for the next few years. While that is true up to a certain extent, we are getting closer to 80% of the finite supply being brought into circulation already. Said milestone will take place roughly 365 days from now. It remains a bit unclear as to what this will mean for the price per individual BTC, though. Asa mining becomes more difficult and less profitable unless continuous new investments take place, the price per existing bitcoin should go up in value. Moreover, with “only” 4.2 million coins to be generated after January 2018 = over the course of nearly 122 years – the demand for bitcoin should increase as well. However, neither of these factors are a given, as the cryptocurrency market does not operate like more traditional models.

At the same time, the 80% milestone could force some miners to shut down their operations. We have seen some major mining difficulty spikes over the past few weeks, and that trend will continue for quite some time. A higher mining difficulty requires more hash power and electricity to mine the same amount of bitcoin. For a lot of miners, January 2018 may become a good time to call it quits once and for all. Should that happen, however, things will become even more intriguing. If there were fewer miners, it is expected the mining hardware manufacturers will take an even larger stake in the bitcoin mining process. Companies such as Bitmain and Bitfury have brought a lot of mining hardware online over the past few years. With more energy-efficient hardware still being developed, it is not unlikely a certain degree of centralization will occur in the mining world.

One of the lingering questions being asked aloud is whether or not we will ever see 100% of bitcoin’s entire supply be mined to begin with. The final 5% could prove to be challenging, as the trade-off between costs and earnings will make it seem far less attractive to do so. It will take a very long time to mine the 21st million BTC, that much is already a given at this point. In fact, most people alive today in the bitcoin world will never that happen. The coming year could become a very important one for Bitcoin as a whole. Albeit there are no guarantees or certainties, once 80% of the supply is mined, things will change eventually. Whether that will be in positive or negative fashion, remains unknown at this point. We live in very exciting times, especially when one has grown fond of the concept of bitcoin and cryptocurrency.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor
Please click either Link to Learn more about Bitcoin.

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Update on Blockchain and Beyond: The Future of Distributed Ledgers

Update on Blockchain and Beyond:
The Future of Distributed Ledgers

         inShare

Distributed ledger technology (DLT)

may have started off as the basis for bitcoin, but it already promises to be much more than a cryptocurrency. That’s why treasury and finance professionals need to pay attention, experts said at a panel discussion at Faster Payments 2017, the US conference and exhibition event organised electronic payments association NACHA.

Christopher Mager, CTP, managing director and head of global innovation for BNY Mellon, said that his bank is collaborating with other financial institutions on several proofs of concept, include Utility Settlement Coin, which aims to digitise fiat currencies for exchange on a distributed ledger. BNY also is one of the several banks working with SWIFT on its nostro account reconciliation POC, which is part of the global payments innovation (gpi) initiative,

he said.

“Dubai and Singapore are the two countries where they’ve embraced the technology throughout the whole ecosystem—banking, corporates and the government”

“2016 was a lot of proofs of concept, 2015 was a lot of talk about how blockchain is different from bitcoin. But now we’re in the world of reality,” said James Wallis, vice president, payments industry and blockchain, global industries for IBM. He said IBM and Northern Trust launched in Europe a distributed ledger that services the private equity market. Wallis added that the trade finance community is keenly interested in DLT. “Last I counted there were at least a dozen trade finance initiatives in the world, and at least two of those are looking to go into production this year,” he said.

Beyond process improvement

Microsoft is one organisation that is using DLT for trade finance. However, panellist Peter Hazou, director of business development for Microsoft, is more interested in blockchain’s potential beyond trade finance and payments. “It’s the smart contracts, how it connects to people, how it changes in a transformative way for the better—not just a simple process improvement to do the same old, same old,” he said. “That’s where the thinking has to go.”

Wallis agreed, noting that while there is validity in process improvement, “you’ll see uses for DLT that you can’t even think of today.” However, the success of DLT will hinge on the willingness of the different players in the ecosystem to collaborate. “It involves a level of sharing that hasn’t really existed before,” he said. Collaboration is happening. IBM and SecureKey Technologies have teamed with Canada’s largest banks on a digital identification solution that uses DLT. “The banks are collaborating to share, on a blockchain, data about clients,” Wallis said. “It will enable Scotiabank, for example, to offer a loan much quicker. You apply on your mobile phone, you authorise your other bank to provide information in a very secure way, and you can get the loan approved instantly.”

Interoperability and regulation

For DLT to truly advance, there needs to be interoperability between competitors, Mager noted. Currently, there are a number of digital ledgers that are emerging, such as Hyperledger’s Fabric, R3’s Corda, Ripple, and more. “You’ve got a lot of ledgers out there that don’t talk to each other,” he said. “Until interoperability occurs, or one of them emerges as the leading code base, that’s going to impair the network effect.”

The other missing piece is regulation. Thus far, regulations around blockchain and DLT apply only to digital currencies. Regulators have yet to tackle distributed ledger as a book of record. This creates a legal quandary: Is settlement that happens on a ledger final and legally binding? “That hurdle has to be overcome before you’ll see large scale enterprise applications with a distributed ledger underpinning them,” Mager said.

Once standardization, regulation and interoperability are sorted out, the use cases for distributed ledger technology are potentially endless

Regulators in the United States and the UK have largely taken a wait-and-see approach to blockchain and DLT, given that they don’t want to stifle innovation. However, some governments have been a bit more proactive. “Dubai and Singapore are the two countries where they’ve embraced the technology throughout the whole ecosystem—banking, corporates and the government,” Wallis said. “In Dubai for example, one of the proofs of concept was around trade. It was two banks, an airline, a shipping company and the port authority trying to figure out what a new ecosystem might look like.”

DLT tomorrow

Once standardisation, regulation and interoperability are sorted out, the use cases for DLT are potentially endless. Whereas there will be “low-hanging fruit” like Know Your Customer (KYC) and digital identity management, Mager also sees much more exciting prospects, such as a convergence of technologies. “The Internet of Things and DLT have a lot of potential overlaps,” he said. “Smart contracts and artificial intelligence have a lot of potential overlaps. I think you’re going to see a convergence of these technologies emerge in the coming years.”

Hazou agreed, noting that DLT has hit the collective consciousness. But it’s just one of many technologies. “Advanced analytics, predictive analytics the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence—there are so many profound technologies that are going to interact,” he said. “It’s a matter of how one navigates this brave new world.” “I think that’s a matter of thinking through what the potential use cases are, and experimenting with it.”

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Markethive

How to Create SEO Friendly URLs

How to Create SEO Friendly URLs

URLs. They’re one of the most basic elements of SEO. Yet they’re vitally important.

In fact, Backlinko reports that URLs are a significant ranking factor.

More specifically:

  • URL length is listed as #46 in Google’s top 200 ranking factors
  • URL path is listed as #47
  • Keyword in the URL is #51
  • URL string is #52

So when you put it all together, URL optimization is kind of a big deal. And it seems simple enough. Enter a few words into the URL slug, throw in a keyword or two and you’re good. Right? If only it were that easy. In reality, there’s an entire science behind proper URL optimization. But after tons of research and a lot of trial and error on my end, I’ve come up with what I think is a rock solid formula. It covers all of the bases and aims to satisfy both search engine bots and of course human users. In this post, I’m going to explain the science behind creating URLs for maximum SEO as well as the logic behind each tactic. So let’s get to it.

Choose a top level domain

Let’s start from the beginning. There’s an infographic from Search Engine Land that covers the ins and outs of friendly URL  structure. One thing they point out is that using a top level domain (TLD) is usually your best bet. This simply means that it’s ideal to use a “.com” domain rather than “.biz,” “.pro,” “.tel,” etc. Now I’m not saying that you’re doomed if you use anything other than “.com” for your domain. In fact, TLD doesn’t directly impact rankings. But what it does tend to do is increase trust for human users.

And this is huge. When people trust your domain, it’s going to trickle down and have a positive impact on your overall SEO. I realize that making this point doesn’t do you a lot of good if you already have a domain other than “.com.” I also realize that it’s simply not realistic to be able to land your brand name with a “.com” domain (there were over 124 million “.com” domains of 2016), but it’s something to keep in mind if you’re choosing a domain in the future. This post offers some insight on what you can do if the domain name you want is already taken.

HTTPS is ideal

Online security is a huge issue these days. With cyber crime and identity theft on the rise, Internet users want to know that they’re using a secure connection. Just look at how the monetary damage reported by cyber crime has increased from 2001 to 2015.

It’s dramatic.

As a result, I really recommend using HTTPS rather than HTTP. If you’re unfamiliar with the difference, HTTPS stands for “HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure,” which is the secure version of HTTP. This simply means that information on a website is encrypted, which heightens security significantly. Here’s an illustration of the difference between HTTP and HTTPS.

Not only does this keep your visitors at ease, it has actually become a ranking signal. According to Searchmetrics, “HTTPS is becoming more relevant and even a ranking signal for Google. Encryption is primarily important for sites with purchasing processes or sensitive client information to increase trust and conversion rates.” And in my opinion, this is likely to become an even bigger ranking signal in the future.

If your site hasn’t yet received an SSL certificate, I suggest taking care of this ASAP. This is especially true if you actually process customer orders and capture sensitive financial information online. You can learn about the details of this process here. There are several companies you can choose from to buy an SSL certificate. One of the top providers is Namecheap. First, you choose a plan to buy. Then choose the number of years you want your SSL certificate to last.

Then confirm your order.

 

Once it’s activated, you’ll need to install your SSL certificate and update your site to use HTTPS. This is fairly technical, but you can find pretty much everything you need from this resource. It will walk you through step by step.

Length

Now that we’ve gotten the more technical aspects of URL optimization out of the way, let’s get down to the nuts and bolts.The element I’d like to address first is length, and it’s a biggie.But when you really break it all down, deciding on the length of a URL is quite simple.The shorter the better.According to Backlinko, “Shorter URLs tend to rank better than long URLs.”To prove this, they performed some extensive testing on one million Google search results.Here’s a graph that shows how Google rankings decline as URL length gets longer.

It’s pretty cut and dry.

Notice how the number one position has URLs with roughly 50 characters. But once you move down to the number 10 spot, the average URL has 62 characters. So somewhere around 50 – 60 characters is a pretty good number to shoot for. If you go way beyond (say 80+ characters), this is likely to have a negative impact on your ranking.

How many words should you use?

I personally try to shoot for around three to five words per URL because it’s simple and gives users a pretty clear idea of what a particular piece of content is all about. Here are a couple of examples from NeilPatel.com

See what I mean?

I keep the number of words in these URLs to a minimum, but you can still get a sense of what you can expect to find by clicking on those links. According to an interview with Matt Cutts, this is a pretty good formula to stick with. Here’s a snippet from the interview. The bottom line is that you want to condense the essence of your content into roughly three to five words and try to use a max of 60 characters. If you consistently implement this formula, you should be good to go.

Readability

Like I said earlier, there’s a correlation between user-friendliness and overall SEO.They’re forever intertwined. And this is most definitely true when it comes to URL optimization.Or as Moz puts it, “A well-crafted URL provides both humans and search engines with an easy-to-understand indication of what the destination page will be about.”This brings me to my next point.You should strive to structure your URLs for maximum readability.While I realize that this is an inherently subjective term, I think that this “scale of readability” illustration explains it quite well.

Notice how the first example is short, to the point, and easy to understand? Without even clicking on the link, it’s clear that it contains images of adorable puppies that are confused by a rainbow. So it probably contains something like this.

But notice how the examples get increasingly more confusing. The third example gives you absolutely no idea of what you’ll get by clicking on the link. In fact, it could quite possibly be a nefarious link that will infect your computer with a terrible virus. But let me elaborate just a bit more on the importance of readability. Say that someone links to one of your posts.

While they may initially replace the naked URL with their own anchor text like “cute puppies confused by a rainbow,” there’s a good chance that the URL will be copied into other sources somewhere down the line.At some point, it will probably be ppostedas the original naked URL.If it’s easily readable with http://mydomain.com/puppies-adorably-confused-by-rainbow, it will still be easy to understand regardless.

But if it’s ugly and long winded like http://cdn07.mydomain.cc/9rf7e2/i?HXID+iaj34089jgt30hgqa3&qry=f#loaddelay, no one is going to have a friggin clue what it’s about. I dare you to click on that link. So the point here is that simplicity and clarity are what you want to aim for when creating URLs. If it can be easily understood with a quick glance, you should be good to go. Fortunately, you’re a human, so it shouldn’t be all that difficult to structure your URLs for other humans.

Use hyphens, not underscores

When it comes to putting spaces between words, you have two main choices. You can use either hyphens or underscores. So what’s the best choice? That’s a no-brainer. Always use hyphens. Here’s advice straight from the horse’s mouth. If this is what Google prefers, you can rest assured that it’s the best option.

Use lowercase letters

Okay, this is probably obvious to at least 90 percent of you. But I thought that I should mention it just to be clear. Always stick with lowercase letters. Why? Using uppercase letters can potentially lead to redirects or 404 errors on certain servers. So just don’t do it.

Stop words

Here’s a topic that’s received a substantial amount of debate. To use stop words or not use stop words? That is the question. First of all, what exactly are stop words? They’re words like:

  • a, an, or, but

These are basically “filler” words that connect the essential words that are the backbone of your URL. For a long time, stop words were viewed by many SEOs as an unforgivable sin that simply could not be forgiven. But you know what? It’s really not that big of a deal. In fact, it’s unlikely that you’re going to be penalized for using them. However, they’re not going to do you any favors either. Stop words are basically ignored by search engines and don’t carry any real weight as a ranking factor. So here’s what I recommend when approaching stop words.

Don’t use them if you can help it.

If your URL structure still makes sense and is readable, including stop words is only going to make your URL longer and more complicated. But if you feel like you need to include a stop word for your URL to make sense and more readable then go ahead and include it. The key word here is “readable.” If it makes it easier for people to read, then that’s usually your best option. Just use your best judgment when deciding which route to go.

Use “safe” characters

And here’s another point I need to make. It has to do with using “safe” characters in your URL rather than “unsafe” characters. The easiest way for me to explain the difference between the two is to simply show you a graph from Perishable Press. It’s pretty simple. You’re totally fine using safe characters in your URL. But you definitely want to stay away from unsafe characters. The reason is because they can create issues for browsers, which creates usability issues. Not good.

Use a max of two folders per URL

If you’re unsure of what I mean by “folders,” they’re simply the slashes you see between text in a URL. Like most other aspects of URL optimization, it’s best to keep it simple with the number of folders you use in your URLs.

In other words, less is best.

According to Moz, “It’s not that the slashes (aka folders) will necessarily harm performance, but it can create a perception of site depth for both engines and users, as well as making edits to the URL string considerably more complex (at least, in most CMS’ protocols). Users can still tell what the content is about with the second, restructured URL, but it contains fewer folders. And if you really want to get specific in terms of the number of folders to use, stick with one or two. This makes your URL way more eye appealing, and it’s easier for search engines to decipher the meaning.

Target 1-2 keywords

Ah…keywords. You should have known that this topic would surface at some point in this post. So what’s the best way to handle keywords when creating URLs? Should you still include them? If so, how many can you include before it’s seen as spam and you get penalized?

Well here’s my take on things.

First of all, you should definitely still include keywords in your URL. Although this practice is unlikely to skyrocket you to the number one spot, it should give your ranking a slight boost. And from a user standpoint, including keywords serves a very important purpose. It enables the URL to serve as the anchor text when your content is copied without including anchor text to clarify. This way people can instantly tell what your content is about at a quick glance regardless of where they find the link. Even without anchor text, it’s good to go. This takes the guesswork out of it and will encourage more people to inevitably click on your content.

But here’s the deal.

You by no means want to shamelessly stuff keywords into your URL. This should go without saying. That would be a recipe for disaster. But exactly how many keywords should you target? Is there a specific number? According to Brian Dean of Backlinko and John Lincoln, CEO of Ignite Visibility, you should aim for one or two keywords per. Adding more and “Google will not give you as much credit.” And let’s be honest. Keyword stuffing in any way is never a good thing. You wouldn’t use keyword stuffing in your content, so why would you use it in your URL? In terms of positioning, it’s generally regarded as best practices to include your target keywords located toward the beginning of your URL.

Avoid keyword repetition

Here’s one last little detail. Never repeat your keywords (or any words for that matter) in a URL.

Here’s why.

Repetition is pointless because Google will in no way reward you for using a keyword that appears more than once (what is it 2005?). In fact, this could potentially be seen as a form of manipulation, which obviously isn’t good. Moving beyond that, it’s probably going to make your content look spammy, or at the very least, diminish your credibility in the eyes of search engine users. It just looks ridiculous to have the keywords “canoe puppies” listed back to back between two folders. So stay away from this tactic at all costs.

Conclusion

While it may seem easy enough on paper, the URL optimization process can be quite tricky. There are several variables that must be addressed when structuring URLs to appease both search engines and human users. It starts with the more technical aspects like choosing a top level domain and getting an SSL certificate so users know that your site is safe. You should then work your way down to finding the optimal number of characters and words to ensure that your URL has “human-readability.” There’s also the issue of proper formatting so to not cause problems for browsers.

And of course, you want to make sure that you’re correctly targeting your keywords without teetering on the edge of anything black hat. So yeah, it’s a little complicated. But when you break things down step by step, URL optimization becomes much more manageable. And when you really analyze it, the process largely boils down to a lot of common sense principles that can be encapsulated into three main words. Short, simple, and readable. If you create URLs with these objectives in mind, you should be golden. Can you think of any other URL optimization strategies?

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

 

 

Markethive

Weekly Round-Up and Cryptocurrency Markets Update

Weekly Round-Up and Cryptocurrency Markets Update

  

No consensus was reached last week towards Bitcoin scaling,

in fact, the battle is getting protracted with each camp holding an entrenched status. Quite interestingly, Bitcoin price breached the $1200 line in midst of all the hostility and even went beyond $1300, however it has since reverted to the $1200s. In a related development, Rhett Creighton, a Blockchain engineer, and hacker who was with the Bitcoin Unlimited camp although left a couple of weeks ago has predicted neither Segwit nor Bitcoin Unlimited can activate. Creighton believes since Segwit needs 95 percent signaling to activate, which is impossible, whilst there is no way BU can obtain the super majority hash rate power to launch an attack on a minority chain to take over Bitcoin.  In his opinion a split is imminent.

In an unexpected move, the National Bank of Cambodia has indicated it is working towards a blockchain payment system for its citizens in conjunction with the Japanese startup Soramitsu. The startup is in fact, a subsidiary of Linux Foundation’s open-source Hyperledger project. The most heartwarming news for the week was the revelation by billionaire hedge fund investor Mike Novogratz, that 10 percent of his net worth is in Bitcoin and Ether. The Billionaire was quoted by CNN as saying investing in the digital space was the best investment of his life.

In other exciting news, Litecoin gave hope to the ecosystem when it reached a unanimous decision to activate Segwit soft fork. Charlie Lee wrote on Twitter that this has taken too long for his liking. With a twitter announcement made on Tuesday, the Cryptocurrency Exchange, Poloniex gave an indication it is delisting 17 altcoins. Cryptos that were axed include Boolberry and Voxels among a dozen others. Valery Vavilov, CEO of BitFury stated at the  Russian Internet Forum in Moscow on Wednesday that more 100,000 properties in Georgia have been registered on the Blockchain. It will be recalled that in February, the government of Georgia signed an agreement with Bitfury to register properties on the Blockchain.

Markets Updates (As Of Sunday)

The third week of April saw some reshuffle on the top 10 of CoinMarketCap. As indicated earlier, Bitcoin has been able to withstand all the infighting and it is rising to the respect of analyst and community members. It closed the week at 22:00 GMT with a price of $1216.78. The market leader actually lost 0.44 percentage point. Rising 2.16 percent at 2nd place, Ether was sold for $49.71. It was an improvement of last week’s $48.49 price score. Let’s see how it turns out for the king of Smart Contracts this week. At the third place, Ripple went down by 0.79 percent selling at $0.031222. It was a departure from last week gains.

Meanwhile, Litecoin seems to be cashing in on its prudent decision to come to a compromise to activate Segregated Witness avoiding the needless antagonism that has saddled Bitcoin. At the end of the week, it was sold for $13.49 compared to last week’s $10.71. It also ended the epic battle that has been raging on with Dash by taking over number four from Dash. Selling at $69.19 with a downward trend of 2.79 percent, Dash didn’t have a good week like the previous one. Its $75.23 price then has declined abysmally. Occupying number six with style, Ethereum Classic had a wonderful week dislodging Monero and closing with a whopping 14.78 percent upward score. The $3.68 market price was an improve to write home about.

Monero after losing number six made a slight gain of 0.09 percent to be the 7th most valuable Cryptocurrency. The Exchanges listed its price at $19.98. Number eight is being held by NEM which plummeted 0.14 with a $0.030872 price. It is a great improvement from last week, as it has doubled its price. At the last but one on the top 10 is Augur. It managed a scanty gain of 0.93 and a price of  $11.79. Maidsafe was safe after bouncing back from number 11 to displace newcomer PIVX. Last week PIVX took the spot from the Scotish giant but it couldn’t stand the heat of the top. The market price was $0.232537 and it appreciated by 2.84 percent.

Gainers and Losers

  

Below top 10 to 20,

Decred made a strong statement with a 20.32 upward adjustment. It is at number 11 and appears to be eyeing top 10 glories. Waves deserve a mentioning since it also went up by 18.56 percent at number 17. PIVX went down 19.41 percent to be the biggest loser. Looks like its migration to a new wallet is upsetting its growth. Until next week, always read CCN for all your Fintech news.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Markethive

Blockchain Could Maximize its Potential in the Industry of Trade Finance

Blockchain Could Maximize its Potential in the Industry of Trade Finance

A large number of companies, banks, financial institutions,

Blockchain consortia and even governments have focused on testing Blockchain technology’s potential in the industry of trade finance. Most notably, the Hong Kong monetary authority introduced the development of a Blockchain-based trade finance platform in March. Additionally, IBM announced its long-term strategy to focus its Blockchain development initiative on trade finance.

What is trade finance and why does it need Blockchain?

Trade finance refers to the financing for trade and it always involves a wide range of intermediaries, banks, and third-party services providers that are contracted to facilitate transactions and finance the trade. The most widely utilized method of payment within the industry of trade finance is an open account, in which business partners have their accounts with correspondent banks open for the processing multiple transactions.

Essentially, the aim of banks and companies that are currently utilizing the Blockchain to optimize trade finance operations is to replace traditional and inefficient financial networks with a smart contract-based protocol which can process, update and broadcast transactions in real-time. With Blockchain technology and its ability to secure transactions on a decentralized and immutable ledger, governments and companies are attempting to replace banks and intermediaries with a trustless financial network. Banks are also attempting to develop trade finance platforms based on the Blockchain to cut operating costs and manual verification time.

Joshua Kroeker, the senior product manager for global trade and receivables finance at HSBC, stated:

“As the largest trade finance bank in the world … we were interested in assisting corporates to track transaction flows, reconcile transactions through invoice or purchase order matching and reducing the risk of duplicate financing for the participating banks. This development puts Hong Kong at the heart of a global effort to digitize trade, making it easier, faster and cheaper for businesses.”

More Blockchain use cases

On February 7, the government of Dubai went as far to launch an actual pilot trade finance platform based on the Blockchain with IBM to streamline operations between banks and optimize various operations involved in the trade finance industry.

At the time, Ali Sajwani, group chief information officer for Emirates NBD Group, said:

“The bank has always had a culture of innovation and several of the bank’s most successful products and features can be attributed to this forward-thinking mindset. We are excited to participate in the ecosystem on streamlining the trade finance process using the futuristic Blockchain technology, which has the potential of transforming the way we conduct business between heterogeneous entities.”

At a recent event covered by Global Trade Review, Zach Piester, chief development officer of the Blockchain consultancy Intrepid Ventures, and Connie Leung, financial services industry director at Microsoft, reaffirmed the progress being made by organizations in implementing Blockchain technology on existing trade finance platforms. Leung of Microsoft further emphasized the increasing demand for Blockchain technology to fight financial fraud within the industry of trade finance.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Markethive

Zuckerberg realizes the dangers of the social-media revolution he helped start

Zuckerberg realizes the dangers of the social-media revolution he helped start

In early January, I went to see Mark Zuckerberg at MPK20, a concrete-and-steel building on the campus of Facebook's headquarters in Menlo Park, California. The Frank Gehry-designed building has a pristine 3.6-hectare rooftop garden, yet much of the interior appears unfinished. Many of the internal walls are unpainted plywood. The space looks less like the headquarters of one of the world's wealthiest companies and more like a Chipotle restaurant with standing desks. It's an aesthetic meant to reflect one of Facebook's founding ideologies: that things are never quite finished, that nothing is permanent, that you should always look for a chance to take an axe to your surroundings.

The mood in overwhelmingly liberal Silicon Valley at the time, days before US President Donald Trump's inauguration, was grim. But Zuckerberg is preternaturally unable to look anything other than excited about the future. "Hey, guys!" he beamed, greeting Mike Isaac, a New York Times colleague who covers Facebook, and me.

"Hey, guys!"

  

No one at the company has a private office.

"2016 was an interesting year for us," he said as the three of us, plus a public relations executive sat in a glass-walled conference room. No one, not even Zuckerberg, has a private office. It was an understatement and a nod to the obvious: Facebook had become a global political and cultural force, and the full implications of that transformation had begun to come into view last year.

"If you look at the history of Facebook, when we started off, there really wasn't news as part of it," Zuckerberg went on. But as Facebook grew and became a bigger part of how people learn about the world, the company had been slow to adjust to its new place in people's lives.

The events of 2016, he said, "set off a number of conversations that we're still in the middle of".

   

The News Feed team at Facebook headquarters.

Nearly 2 billion people use Facebook every month, about 1.2 billion of them daily. The company, which Zuckerberg co-founded in his Harvard dormitory room 13 years ago, has become the largest and most influential entity in the news business, commanding an audience greater than that of any American or European television news network, any newspaper in the Western world and any online news outlet. It is also the most powerful mobilizing force in politics, and it is fast replacing television as the most consequential entertainment medium. Just five years after its initial public offering, Facebook is one of the 10 highest market-capitalised public companies in the world.

But over the course of 2016, Facebook's gargantuan influence became its biggest liability. During the US election, propagandists – some working for money, others for potentially state-sponsored lulz [mischief] – used the service to turn fake stories into viral sensations, such as the one about Pope Francis endorsing Trump (he hadn't). With its huge reach, Facebook has begun to act as the great disseminator of misinformation and half-truths swirling about the rest of media. It sucks up lies from cable news and Twitter, then precisely targets each lie to the partisan bubble most receptive to it.

After studying how people shared 1.25 million stories during the campaign, a team of researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard implicated Facebook and Twitter in the larger failure of media in 2016, finding that social media created a right-wing echo chamber: a "media network anchored around Breitbart developed as a distinct and insulated media system, using social media as a backbone to transmit a hyperpartisan perspective to the world". After the election, former president Barack Obama bemoaned "an age where there's so much active misinformation and it's packaged very well and it looks the same when you see it on a Facebook page or you turn on your television."

Zuckerberg offered a few pat defenses of Facebook's role. "I'm actually quite proud of the impact that we were able to have on civic discourse overall," he said in January. Misinformation on Facebook was not as big a problem as some believed it was, but Facebook nevertheless would do more to battle it, he pledged.

"I'm actually quite proud"

   

It was hard to tell how seriously Zuckerberg took the criticisms

of his service and its increasingly paradoxical role in the world. Across the globe, Facebook now seems to benefit actors who want to undermine the global vision at its foundation. Supporters of Trump and the European right-wing nationalists who aim to turn their nations inward and dissolve alliances, even ISIS with its skillful social-media recruiting and propagandizing – have sought to split the Zuckerbergian world apart. And they are using his own machine to do it.

Since election day Silicon Valley has been consumed with a feeling of complicity. Trump had benefited from a media environment that is now shaped by Facebook – and, more to the point, shaped by a single Facebook feature, the same one to which the company owes its remarkable ascent to social-media hegemony: the computationally determined list of updates you see every time you open the app. The list has a formal name, News Feed. But most users are apt to think of it as Facebook itself.

If it's an exaggeration to say that News Feed has become the most influential source of information in the history of civilization, it is only slightly so. Facebook created News Feed in 2006 to solve a problem: In the social-media age, people suddenly had too many friends to keep up with. To figure out what any of your connections were up to, you had to visit each of their profiles to see if anything had changed. News Feed fixed that. Every time you open Facebook, it hunts through the network, collecting every post from every connection. Then it weighs the merits of each post before presenting you with a feed sorted in order of importance: a hypersonalised front page designed just for you.

Scholars and critics have been warning of the solipsistic irresistibility of algorithmic news at least since 2001, when the constitutional aw professor Cass Sunstein warned, in his book Republic.com, of the urgent risks posed to democracy "by any situation in which thousands or perhaps millions or even tens of millions of people are mainly listening to louder echoes of their own voices". (In 2008, I piled on with my own book, True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society.) In 2011, the digital activist and entrepreneur Eli Pariser gave this phenomenon a memorable name in the title of his own book: The Filter Bubble.

Facebook says its own researchers have been studying the filter bubble since 2010. In 2015, they published an in-house study, which was criticized by independent researchers, concluding that Facebook's effect on the diversity of people's information diet was minimal. When News Feed did show people views contrary to their own, they tended not to click on the stories. For Zuckerberg, the finding let Facebook off the hook.

Then, last year, Facebook's domination of the news became a story itself. In May, Gizmodo reported that some editors who had worked on Facebook's Trending Topics section had been suppressing conservative points of view. To smooth things over, Zuckerberg convened a meeting of conservative media figures and eventually significantly reduced the role of human editors. Then in September, Facebook deleted a post that included the photojournalist Nick Ut's iconic photo of a naked nine-year-old girl, Phan Thi Kim Phuc, running in terror after a napalm attack during the Vietnam War, on the grounds that it ran foul of Facebook's prohibition of child nudity.

Facebook, under criticism, reinstated the picture, but the photo incident highlighted the difficulty of building a policy framework for what Facebook was trying to do. Zuckerberg wanted to become a global news distributor that is run by machines, rather than by humans who would try to look at every last bit of content and exercise considered judgment. "It's something I think we're still figuring out," he told me in January. "There's a lot more to do here than what we've done. And I think we're starting to realize this now as well." It struck me as an unsatisfying answer, and it became apparent that Zuckerberg seemed to feel the same way. A month after the first meeting, Zuckerberg wanted to chat again.

The Zuckerberg who greeted us was less certain in his pronouncements, more questioning. Earlier, Zuckerberg's staff had sent me a draft of a 5700-word manifesto that, I was told, he spent weeks writing. The document, "Building Global Community", argued that until now, Facebook's corporate goal had merely been to connect people. According to the manifesto, Facebook's next focus will be developing the social infrastructure for the community – for supporting us, for keeping us safe, for informing us, for civic engagement, and for an inclusion of all". If it was a nebulous crusade, it was also vast in its ambition.

"There are questions about whether we can make a global community that works for everyone," Zuckerberg writes, "and whether the path ahead is to connect more or reverse course." He also confesses misgivings about Facebook's role in the news. "Giving everyone a voice has historically been a very positive force for public discourse because it increases the diversity of ideas shared," he writes. "But the past year has also shown it may fragment our shared sense of reality."

At the time, the manifesto was still only a draft. When I suggested that it might be perceived as an attack on Trump, he looked dismayed. A few weeks earlier, there was media speculation, fuelled by a post-election tour of America by Zuckerberg and his wife, that he was laying the groundwork to run against Trump in 2020, and he took pains to shoot down the rumors. If the company pursues the aims outlined in "Building Global Community", the changes will echo across media and politics, and some are bound to be considered partisan. The risks are especially clear for changes aimed at adding layers of journalistic ethics across News Feed, which could transform the public's perception of Facebook, not to mention shake the foundations of its business.

The solution to the broader misinformation dilemma – the pervasive climate of rumor, propaganda and conspiracy theories that Facebook has inadvertently incubated – may require something that Facebook has never done: ignoring the likes and dislikes of its users. Facebook's entire project, when it comes to news, rests on the assumption that people's individual preferences ultimately coincide with the public good, and that, if it doesn't appear that way at first, you're not delving deeply enough into the data. By contrast, decades of social-science research shows that most of us simply prefer stuff that feels true to our world view even if it isn't true at all and that the mining of all those preference signals is likely to lead us deeper into bubbles rather than out of them.

After the election, Margaret Sullivan, a Washington Post columnist and a former public editor of the Times, called on Facebook to hire an executive editor who would monitor News Feed with an eye to fact-checking, balance and editorial integrity. Jonah Peretti, the founder of BuzzFeed, told me that he wanted Facebook to use its data to create a kind of reputational score for online news.

Late last year, Facebook outlined a modest effort to curb misinformation. News Feed would now carry warning labels: If a friend shares a viral story that has been shot down by one of Facebook's fact-checking partners (including Snopes and PolitiFact), you'll be cautioned that the piece has been "disputed". But even that slight change has been met with fury on the right, with Breitbart and The Daily Caller fuming that Facebook had teamed up with liberal hacks motivated by partisanship. If Facebook were to take more significant action, such as hiring human editors or paying journalists, the company would instantly become something it has long resisted: a media company rather than a neutral tech platform.

In many ways, the worry over how Facebook changes the news is really a manifestation of a grander problem with News Feed, which is simply dominance itself. News Feed's aggressive personalisation wouldn't be much of an issue if it weren't crowding out every other source. By my second meeting with Zuckerberg, Facebook had announced plans for the Facebook Journalism Project, in which the company would collaborate with news companies on new products. Facebook also created a project to promote "news literacy" among its users, and it hired the former CNN news anchor Campbell Brown to manage the partnership between it and news companies. Zuckerberg's tone towards critics of Facebook's approach to the news had grown far more conciliatory.

"I think it's really important to get to the core of the actual problem," he said. "I also really think that the core social thing that needs to happen is that a common understanding needs to exist. And misinformation I view as one of the things that can possibly erode common understanding. But sensationalism and polarization and other things, I actually think, are probably even stronger and more prolific effects. And we have to work on all these things. I think we need to listen to all the feedback on this."

Still, Zuckerberg remained preoccupied with the kind of problems that could be solved by the kind of hyperconnectivity he believed in, not the ones caused by it. "There's a social infrastructure that needs to get built for modern problems in order for humanity to get to the next level," he said. "Having more people oriented not just towards short-term things but towards building the long-term social infrastructure that needs to get built across all these things in order to enable people to come together is going to be a really important thing over the next decades." Zuckerberg continued, "We're getting to a point where the biggest opportunities I think in the world … problems like preventing pandemics from spreading or ending terrorism, all these things, they require a level of co-ordination and connection that I don't think can only be solved by the current systems that we have." What's needed is some global superstructure to advance humanity.

Zuckerberg is arguing for a kind of digital-era version of the global institution-building that the Western world engaged in after World War II. But because he is a chief executive and not an elected president, there is something frightening about his project. He is positioning Facebook – and, considering that he commands absolute voting control of the company, himself – as a critical enabler of the next generation of human society. His mission drips with megalomania, albeit of a particularly sincere sort. Building new "social infrastructure" usually involves tearing older infrastructure down. If you manage the demolition poorly, you might undermine what comes next. In the case of the shattering media landscape, Zuckerberg may yet come up with fixes for it. But in the meantime, Facebook rushes headlong into murky new areas, uncovering new dystopian possibilities at every turn.

A few months after we spoke, Facebook held its annual developer conference in San Jose, California. At last year's show, Zuckerberg introduced an expanded version of Facebook's live streaming service which had been promised to revolutionize how we communicate. Live had generated iconic scenes of protest but was also used to broadcast a terrorist attack in Munich and at least one suicide. Hours before Zuckerberg's appearance, a Cleveland man who had killed a stranger and posted a video on Facebook had shot himself after a manhunt.

But as he took the stage in San Jose, Zuckerberg was ebullient. For a brief moment, there was a shift in tone: Statesman Zuck. "In all seriousness, this is an important time to work on building community," he said. He offered Facebook's condolences to the victim in Cleveland; the incident, he said, reminded Facebook that "we have a lot more to do". Zuckerberg then pivoted to Facebook's next marvel, a system for digitally augmenting your pictures and videos. The technical term for this is "augmented reality". The name bursts with dystopian possibilities – fake news on video rather than just text – but Zuckerberg never mentioned them. The statesman had left the stage; before us stood an engineer. –

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Markethive

The Future of Social Media Marketing

The Future of Social Media Marketing

 

Markethive