U.S. government weighs social-media snooping to detect Social Security fraud

U.S. government weighs social-media snooping to detect Social Security fraud

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Getting followed on social media could soon gain a new meaning for workers applying for Social Security disability benefits. The Trump administration is working on a plan to let the Social Security Administration (SSA) check up on claimants on Facebook and Twitter in order to root out fraud and abuse in the disability program.

FILE PHOTO: A sign is seen on the entrance to a Social Security office in New York City, U.S., July 16, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

It is the latest move in a push by critics of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) to crack down on alleged fraud and abuse. Conservatives have long argued that cheating is rampant in the program, and in recent years convinced Congress to fund expanded efforts by the SSA on anti-fraud efforts.

The idea of social media surveillance is getting a push from the conservative Heritage Foundation. Such monitoring already is done in some fraud and abuse investigations. For example, in 2014, the SSA’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) utilized social media reviews to help arrest more than 100 people who defrauded SSDI out of millions of dollars. Investigators found photos on the personal accounts of disability claimants riding on jet skis, performing physical stunts in karate studios and driving motorcycles.

The SSA now is looking at expanding social media monitoring capability to front-line agency staff who work with claimants in the initial stages, before any investigations have been initiated.

The idea already is drawing fire from disability advocates. They argue that social media profiles can offer misleading evidence, since dates when photos were shot are not always clear and because not all legitimate disabilities prevent participation in activities that might seem suspicious.

“The proposal to allow disability adjudicators to monitor or review social media of disability claimants is an unjustified invasion of privacy unlikely to uncover fraud,” said Lisa Ekman, director of government affairs at the National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives.

The prospect of such governmental surveillance is as disturbing as it is eyebrow-raising. Consider that workers and employers split a 1.8  percent payroll tax to fund SSDI. Now, in return, the SSA may be empowered to snoop around their Facebook profiles. And it is premised on a questionable assertion – namely, that SSDI really is plagued by rampant fraud and abuse.

For starters, let me stipulate that SSDI is not a perfect program. One of the biggest problems is the staggering backlog in appeals cases, with applicants often waiting more than 600 days for decisions on claims. That problem stems from a history of unwise slashing of the SSA budget by Congress in recent years that has left the program dramatically short-staffed.

Fraud and abuse do exist in the program, and it should be weeded out to protect taxpayers and legitimate claimants. But any program this large – public or private-sector – is sure to be a target for people bent on taking advantage, and critics often argue by highlighting sensational cases.

Mark Hinkle, acting press officer for the SSA, notes that the agency uses data analytics and predictive modeling to detect fraud, and has created new groups dedicated to detection and prevention. Asked to comment on plans for expanded use of social media to detect fraud, he confirmed that SSA investigative units already use social media, and that the agency  has “studied strategies of other agencies and private entities to determine how social media might be used to evaluate disability applications.”

He added, “Social Security does not currently pursue social media in disability determinations, and we don’t have other information to provide at this time.”

DISABILITY FRAUD IS RARE

Program statistics do not support the allegation that SSDI is riddled with fraud and abuse.

In the government’s fiscal-year 2018, the SSA’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) reported about $98 million in recoveries, fines, settlements/judgments, and restitution as a result of Social Security fraud investigations. The OIG states that most the recovered funds were from recipients of SSDI and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), a means-tested welfare program for low-income seniors, blind and disabled people.

That sounds like big money. But in fiscal 2018, the SSA paid out $197 billion to beneficiaries of SSDI and SSI. And keep in mind that the recovered $98 million was for benefits paid out over several years, not just in 2018.

SSA data shows that the rate of overpayments for all its programs was well under 1 percent of benefit payouts in each of the last three fiscal years – and not all improper payments are fraud. More often, overpayments occur due to administrative delays at the SSA in making adjustments to benefit amounts due to errors and paperwork snafus.

A federal government list of programs at highest risk for making improper payments compiled by the Office of Management and Budget does not even mention Social Security.

Considering all that, I asked Rachel Greszler, a research fellow at the Heritage Foundation who studies Social Security, to justify the foundation’s steady drumbeat of accusations that SSDI is plagued by fraud and abuse.

She readily acknowledged that fraud rates are low. “Outright fraud is actually a pretty small component of the program’s problems,” she said. “Most people perceive fraud as a big issue but what they might consider fraud – people receiving benefits when they have the ability to work – is often just abuse of the system by taking advantage of certain rules and structures that allow people who can perform some work to nevertheless receive benefits.”

What constitutes abuse of the rules? An example, she said, would be claiming SSDI and receiving unemployment benefits at the same time, or claiming based on the argument that a disability prevents a worker from performing certain types of jobs.

Greszler and other SSDI critics often point to the rise of SSDI applications and award grants coincident with the rise of unemployment during the Great Recession as evidence of abuse. Some academic research has been done suggesting a cause-and-effect related to the unemployment rates, but this is hardly a settled matter among experts on SSDI.

Heritage has a broader agenda for SSDI reform. This week, it released a paper outlining 16 reforms aimed at improving the program’s solvency and integrity. (herit.ag/2FEBLDF) It includes the plan to use social media surveillance in eligibility determinations, tighter eligibility definitions and replacement of SSDI’s progressive benefit formula with a “flat anti-poverty benefit.” It also urges greater use of private disability insurance, especially among higher-income workers.

This agenda draws its fuel from the fraud and abuse arguments. So any debate about reforms should also include rebalancing our perspective on where the problems are in SSDI – and where they are not.

Reporting and writing by Mark Miller in Chicago; Editing by Matthew Lewis

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What counts as a video view? A refresher on how social platforms calculate video ad views

What counts as a video view? A refresher on how social platforms calculate video ad views

This article has been updated to reflect changes and include video ad view count information from more platforms.

Advertisers allocated a quarter of all digital ad spend — $27.8 billion — to video ads last year, according to eMarketer. video has become big business for social platforms. Twitter attributes more than half of its ad revenue to video, its fastest growing ad format. Video ads also make up half of Snapchat’s revenue, and 30 percent of Facebook’s ad revenue, eMarketer estimates.

Yet, video ad bidding and view measurement and reporting can vary widely by platform. As the market for video ads has grown, many social platforms have expanded bidding options and reporting metrics for video ads. This can all make analyzing and comparing results across platforms a challenge.

We surveyed the major social video platforms to see what counts as a view. For Facebook and Instagram, viewing just 3 seconds of a video of any length is considered a view. For YouTube Trueview ads, it’s around 30 seconds. Others have adopted the MRC standard (see below) or a kind of variation on it. Bottom line, advertisers need to be aware how each of the platforms count and charge for video ad views because they aren’t apples to apples.

A video ad view methodology by platform

The Media Rating Council (MRC) and IAB define a video ad as viewable “when at least 50 percent of the ad’s pixels are visible on a screen for at least two consecutive seconds.” Some platforms have adopted this standard, but many have not.

Here’s the rundown on how the major players count video views:

Google/YouTube: The skippable TrueView ads on YouTube and the Google Display Network count a video view when someone engaged with an ad or watches 30 seconds of a video ad, or the duration of the ad if it is shorter than 30 seconds.

Facebook and Instagram: Facebook and it’s family of apps count a video view for both in-stream and Stories ads at 3 seconds. However, advertisers can buy video ads on either a CPM basis or ThuruPlay basis. When buying on a CPM basis, an impression is counted when one pixel of the video ad comes into view. With ThruPlay, advertisers are charged when a video ad plays to 97 percent completion or up to 15 seconds, whichever comes sooner.

LinkedIn: For LinkedIn’s sponsored content, video views are counted when 50 percent of the ad is in-view for 1 second on desktop and 300 milliseconds (one-third of a second) on mobile.

Pinterest: Pinterest adopted the MRC standard of 50 percent of the ad in-view for 2 continuous seconds or more.

Reddit: Reddit defines a video view as 2 continuous seconds at 50 percent viewability, per the MRC standard. A full video view is counted after a video ad shows for 3 continuous seconds at 100 percent viewability. Advertisrs can bid on a cost-per-view (CPV) or CPM basis.

Snapchat: Snap Ads’ view criteria is 2 seconds for a video view. The platform’s video ads run full-screen with the sound on.

Twitter: Twitter adopted the MRC standard and counts a video ad view when 50 percent of the ad is in view for 2 seconds or more, or when a user engages with a video ad by clicking to expand or un-muting it.

Other metrics to consider

Many platforms show additional engagement metrics and view counts. For example, Google offers quartile watch time metrics, along with an extensive list of video ad metrics that includes click performance, engagement performance, and reach and frequency.

Facebook reports 2 second, 3 second, 10 second and ThruPlays, regardless of which bidding option you choose. It also reports watch time metrics, showing showing how often 25 percent, 50 percent, 75 percent or 100 percent of a video ad was watched.

Redditr reports views at 25, 50, 75 95 and 100 percent of video length at any viewability as well as the number of times a video ad was watched for 3, 5, and 10 seconds in aggregate at any viewability.

In October 2018, YouTube began counting an ‘Engagement’ to a TrueView for action ad whenever a user clicks or watches 10 seconds or more when using maximize conversions or target CPA bidding — down from from 30 seconds. Those ads are still charged on a CPM basis, however, when using maximize conversion or target CPA bidding strategies.


About The Author

Amy Gesenhues is Third Door Media’s General Assignment Reporter, covering the latest news and updates for Marketing Land and Search Engine Land. From 2009 to 2012, she was an award-winning syndicated columnist for a number of daily newspapers from New York to Texas. With more than ten years of marketing management experience, she has contributed to a variety of traditional and online publications, including MarketingProfs.com, SoftwareCEO.com, and Sales and Marketing Management Magazine. Read more of Amy’s articles.

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Seven best tools to find influencers on social media

seven best tools to find influencers on social media

seven best tools to find influencers on social media

Influencer marketing has been one of the hottest marketing tactics for a while. It only seems logical that we had influencer marketing long before the invention of social media.

The internet simply made influencer marketing much more targeted and available even for smaller brands.

Blogging and vlogging on social media allow influencers to find a loyal audience even in the most niche categories. Even if the product you market is not very exciting — say, power drills — you will always find a blog, a YouTube channel, or even a Pinterest profile dedicated to it.

Whether you work in a social media marketing agency or an inner marketing department of a specific brand, at some point you will need to find influencers for your campaign. You can turn to a talent agency, however, it would be much more cost-efficient to use an influencer marketing tool. The only challenge is to choose the right one. This list will help you to do exactly that.

Also read: Top social media trends for 2019

Awario is primarily a social listening tool. It allows you to monitor brands, competitors, carry out social selling and, of course, discover influencers in a chosen niche.

Also read: What is social media listening (and how it can help your SEO)

You can find influencers with Awario by monitoring keywords across social media and websites (it monitors Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, blogs, and news articles). All you need to do is choose the keywords related to your industry (for example, “gadgets”, “fitness tracker”, “headphones” if you’re looking to promote a new tech) and put them in Awario.

It gathers social mentions and articles with your keywords and analyzes their authors to find the most prominent voices in a chosen industry. It ranks influencers and platforms based on their reach and number of followers or daily visits, depending on the source.

Using a social listening tool for influencer search gives you a lot of flexibility. You can discover influencers in your industry, see who works with your competitors or the influencers who already mentioned your brand. Besides, you can use it for multiple purposes to enrich your business strategy at every stage, from marketing to product development.

Pricing

Influencer search is included in all plans as well as in the free trial. Plans start at $29/month.

Followerwonk interface

Followerwonk specifically focuses on Twitter and is essentially a Twitter analytics tool which can be used to discover influencers on the platform.

It also uses your keywords to find influential Twitter profiles, but this time it doesn’t monitor social mentions i.e. tweets, and searches based on Twitter bios, names, URLs and locations.

One of its most useful features for influencer marketing is the ability to compare Twitter accounts with each other. It can be used to find influencers who have the audience with similar interests and at the same time, doesn’t overlap with your own audience.

Besides, it analyzes your Twitter followers and segments them by their bio, location, and who they follow.

Pricing

The pricing depends on the number of followers of the accounts you want to analyze. With the accounts which have 25,000 followers and less, you can get the tool for free. If you need to analyze bigger influencers, you can buy the cheapest plan for $29 or invest in a more expensive one.

Klear is a tool specifically dedicated to influencer marketing, which uses a wide range of social data to find influencers. It even has some social listening features which allow you to monitor competitors and analyze the success of their influencer marketing campaigns.

Using sophisticated algorithms and machine learning, Klear divides influencers into over 60,000 topic categories and offers deep analytics about their audiences’ demographics and psychographics respectively.

The great thing about Klear is that the search won’t take much time, it has a huge number of profiles already indexed and associated with millions of data points in its database.

You can filter your findings by social channel, audience size, skills (chosen from the categories the AI organized them into), mentioned keywords, location, influencer gender, audience gender, and age.

Overall, you can be sure that you’ll discover influencers in the chosen field and will get a ton of useful insights about them.

Pricing

Klear offers a range of free tools to help you identify influencers on Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and blogs. Of course, free tools are quite limited in their functionality and do not include sophisticated analytics.

The prices for the tool are not disclosed. However, according to customers, they start at about $250 per month.

BuzzSumo is a tool that can be very useful if you want to double-down on influencer marketing and content creation since it can help you in both cases. BuzzSumo uses social data to identify content trends as well as to find influencers.

Firstly, it can discover the most popular content to let you know who the top performing content creators in your niche are. BuzzSumo has a great range of features dedicated to content research, therefore you will be able to use it in your own content strategy or give the influencer guidelines on what type of content they could create during your collaboration.

Secondly, BuzzSumo has a powerful influencer search for Twitter. It monitors tweets and profile bios based on the keywords you provide. They also differentiate Twitter accounts by their type, i.e. blogger, influencer, journalist.

Pricing

The cheapest plan costs $79 per month.

Although the names are similar, BuzzSumo and BuzzStream are quite different. BuzzStream is primarily a link-building tool, but it still enables you to organize every stage of your influencer marketing journey, from discovering influencers to reaching out to them.

You can discover influencers based on your keywords and see a comprehensive overview of this influencer’s website and social media presence on one page.

After that, you can add discovered influencers to a prospect list. You can sort and filter the list to choose influencers for a specific campaign. For example, you can sort them by authority, or whether someone has promoted you in the past or not.

Then you can start contacting influencers from your prospect list. BuzzStream will help you keep track of your outreach successes and failures, and will even send out automated follow-ups.

Pricing

Prices for BuzzStream plans depend on the number of accounts you want to reach out to. In the cheapest plan ($24) you have 30 searches and can get 1000 contacts in total.

Traackr interface

Traackr is one of the pioneers of the influencer marketing industry. It stepped into social media influencer marketing analytics back in 2008, just a couple of years after major social media platforms were created.

Traackr has its own influencer database which you can search and filter by social channel, topic keyword, language, location, age, gender, and brand affinities. You can also use the same filters to analyze the followers of an influencer.

The database is created by an algorithm and curated by humans. If there’s an influencer you want to work with who isn’t in the database, you can manually enter their username from one service, and Traackr goes out and finds all of their social channels, then indexes posts and statistics.

Since the tool focuses on building relationships with influencers, it doesn’t stop at the search stage. After you’ve found relevant influencers, you can create highly customizable lists depending on their social platforms, your plans of collaboration, the audiences you want to reach, and so on.

Another way to organize influencers is by relationships, have you interacted or worked together before? Traackr will take notice of that. This will simplify working in big teams and collaboration with other departments.

An in-built social listening feature allows you to follow the performance of your influencer campaigns and analyze which influencers are bringing you the most value.

Pricing

The tool prices are revealed upon request, but according to the users, prices start at around $500 per month.

Upfluence interface

Upfluence is a self-proclaimed ‘Google of influence’. It uses its own massive database of nearly 1 million influencers which is constantly revised and updated. Every piece of content their algorithms find is analyzed for reach and engagement. You can look for influencers on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube, and blogs.

While searching for influencers, you can put in several keywords and assign them different degrees of importance. Let’s say, you’re promoting organic and gluten-free products, and you’re especially interested in reaching people who are allergic to gluten. You can assign more weight to keywords related to gluten and thus the tool will look for influencers who cater to this audience the most.

Another cool feature is that during your search, Upfluence groups influencers depending on the size of their respective audience. You can also filter influencers by location, social platform, and the number of followers.

There is also an audience analytics feature, unfortunately, only available for Instagram. You can analyze influencers’ audiences by brand affinities, cultural interests, and more.

You can add influencers to lists upon discovery and customize them according to your needs.

Upfluence also has an outreach tool, which allows you to personalize your outreach emails. All email correspondence is archived for easy reference. It will also help you track what stage of influencer collaboration you’re on, who you’re negotiating with, who you’re waiting for to complete content, who are waiting on payment, and so on.

Pricing

The cheapest plan includes 500 contacts and costs $795 per month.

Should you try influencer marketing?

According to eMarketer, 81% of marketers that tried influencer marketing reported that it is an effective channel. There are two main reasons why influencer marketing is so popular:

  • It’s cost-effective: Influencers already have the audience so you don’t have to do in-depth research and spend lots of time and money to build your own.
  • It brings ROI: Influencers are able to have a deeper, more authentic connection with consumers. No matter how good your communication strategy is, your brand will never be seen as sincere and convincing as a blog you read every week.

The tools on this list vary from enterprise-level solutions best suited for social media agencies to more affordable options that cover a wide range of marketing needs.

If you’re planning to carry out multiple influencer marketing campaigns on a regular basis working in huge, possibly international teams, I’d recommend going with big guns like Traackr. However, if you need a solution for influencer search, I’d go with a social listening tool, for instance, the above mentioned Awario.

The tools can help you to discover influencers and organize your workflow with them, but how you will work with an influencer is on you. Personalize your influencer outreach, create engaging content together in the true spirit of collaboration, and maybe they will become a brand evangelist.

Aleh Barysevich is the Founder and CMO at SEO PowerSuite and Awario. He can be found on Twitter at @ab80.

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