YouTube and its trouble with the COPPAs

Youtube COPPA image

If you’ve been aware of the social media buzz in recent days you will no doubt have heard lots of people discussing YouTube, COPPA and how it’s the zombified remains of the ‘Adpocalypse’, so what the heck is going on?

There’s a good chance you already know what COPPA is if any of your work is based in the US, or you advertise on American platforms. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act was tabled and passed in the Supreme Court in late 1998, it came into force in April 2000 and is designed to protect the surfing of children under 13 in the US and those on American based sites. It specifically targets the collection of personal information and retention of other forms of data. It states what a company must include in their privacy policy, as well as when and how to ask for parental consent, essentially what responsibility a digital company has to protect children’s privacy and safety online including, most notably for us, restrictions on marketing to those 13 and under.

In finer grain detail it states children under 13 may only legally supply personal information, knowingly or unknowingly, with their parents’ permission. This has caused a lot of consternation for many websites most notably social media, but also those that collect personal information via forms and tracking methods, prevent children under 13 from using their services due to the cost of meeting the legal stipulation.

That’s where YouTube comes in, since its creation in 2005 the platform has been growing not only its content but also one of the most complicated, mysterious and downright judgemental discovery and advertising algorithms in the business. There have been multiple controversies surrounding the algorithm in the last decade often with the platforms content creators citing a lack of communication and intentional subterfuge on YouTubes part as the reason their videos are suddenly less, or far more, popular. This begins to make more sense when you realise that there are only two realistic ways of making money on the platform; sponsorship, something reserved only for the true upper echelon of each demographic/interest niche; or ad revenue, essentially a cut of the money generated from each advertisement run on each video on a creators channel, something available to basically any user but with a low yield per view. As such a lot of YouTube content creator culture is based around attempting to please the algorithm, as better relationship with the platform’s discovery means more views for videos and the channel in general meaning, more ad revenue.

Earlier this year, YouTube paid the Federal Trade Commission $200 million for an out of court settlement after an investigation into whether they had violated the COPPA.


The upshot of this beyond YouTube’s embarrassment and fine is beginning in 2020, all content creators will be asked to make a confirmation when they upload a video as to whether the video is ‘directed’ at children. They’ll also have to do this for each of their previously uploaded videos and in fact for the description of their whole channel.


‘Directed’ at children in this case refers to children as being the primary or intended audience that are only a secondary audience according to the video’s analytics.


Some of the things YouTube considers to make a video considered to be ‘directed’ at children include: containing characters, celebrities, or toys that appeal to children, notably animated or cartoon characters; include activities that appeal to children; and algorithmic evidence a video’s audience being primarily or secondarily those under 13.


This leaves content creators in a bit of a tough situation. Any video they describe as being directed at children will lose a lot of features, they not only rely on for making money, i.e. personalised paid adverts will not be run, but also key engagement indicators and generators such as; a comments section, pop-up information cards and much more. These videos would likely not produce much revenue for the channel meaning the incentive for children’s creative content could almost disappear overnight.


However, what happens if they just don’t mark their videos as being for children? Should this be seen as a wanton act there is the overarching possibility of being sued by the Federal Trade Commission, not pleasant. However, the likelihood of the FTC trawling for content themselves is incredibly small, after-all YouTube have been acting without considering COPPA since their very beginning and were only brought up on it this year after 14 years! The likeliest solution will be YouTube self-invigilating the content with the ability to pull advertising from or shut-down channels that don’t comply with the law. Unfortunately, this raises another habitual issue of the YouTube community.

Many content creators have a distinct lack of faith in YouTubes approach to assessing it’s content. Like many large social media companies, it uses code and algorithms to scan and detect things like bad language, violence and hate speech in its videos to either remove or demonetise as the need may be. It’s likely a similar program will be used to detect content directed at children, the problem being, it doesn’t work. Depending who you ask the current algorithms are either far too lenient or incredibly strict, with the opinion changing on a weekly basis, what most agree is they are more often than not completely off the mark and ineffectual. All of this bodes badly for the moderation of the videos and their desired audience and could compel many desperate creators to either chance their arm at not marking their product in accordance with COPPA or jumping to another platform where they can more easily access their target audience.

Whatever happens come early 2020 we will likely see a severe impact on children’s content made for YouTube but only time will truly tell the impact of COPPA on the whole platforms advertising potential.


TikTok Marketing – The potential and the pitfalls

We’ve seen the future, and its moving! TikTok is the latest in the string of social media minor reinvention that means new forms of media are becoming ever prevalent in the mainstream. But how can TikTok marketing with it’s new video trends be used effectively, sit back and look below to find out more.


TikTok has grown exponentially in the last year. It became the most downloaded free iOS app in the first half of 2018 and that was before it reached mainstream appeal! It fought to the similar position for Google Play later that year. TikTok enjoyed over 1.1 billion installs as of this March. Over 500 million people around the world use the app each month.


It has gained mainstream notoriety off the back of being in the news due to concerns over its safety in protecting younger users.  Notably in April the Indian Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology ordered the app be removed stores, after a High Court stated the app was ‘encouraging pornography and other illicit content’. Fortunately the ban lasted only days when the company vowed better monitoring of its content, and took down over 6 million videos believed to be in contravention of its T&C’s. Not a surprise as nearly 43% of the apps user base is in India.


So what is it?

TikTok has followed in the footsteps of Vine and Instagram by being a visually focused platform. It consists of short user created videos, often with a musical bent, the owner’s original app being, a similar lip sync only product. Typically up to 15 seconds long, although 60-second Stories-type videos are possible, it attracts much the same markets as Instagram, snapchat and Vine did in their infancy, 13-24 year olds make up the majority of users, with well over 60% of users under 30.

The one startling difference between these and TikTok is users don’t need to follow anybody. Much like YouTube or other discoverability platforms the app has algorithms and search capability to find ‘random’ interesting content based on user.


What’s the marketing potential?

In a word healthy. There is a reason marketers try and stay on top of social media development, fresh markets like TikTok have less competition and more sought after demographics than there are dwindling in others. TikTok marketing systems provides a fresh battleground for marketers to use to reach the elusive younger generation.


How can we use it?

There are 3 channels we can use for TikTok marketing.

  1. Content Creation
  2. Influencer Marketing
  3. Paid advertising

Obviously the usefulness of each depends heavily on the companies objectives, resources, brand and appeal. A combination of any mix of the three is likely the best generic solution before A/B testing and researching.


This form of TikTok marketing is likely not suitable for everyone, TikTok is, as an emerging market, very much dictated by the trends and whims of its users, and making content to please them is no easier than it has ever been. Video content can be uploaded to your own channel, or perhaps working to encourage others to make content on their channels to promote your brand. Finding a way to encourage power-users to share videos featuring or simply using your product is likely to be a great way to increase your visibility.


One of the best things about TikTok’s user-base is the whole application concept, used by real people any time, means high level camerawork and production is not necessary. This means while content planning should be as exhaustive as possible the creation of content is actually quite fast and the users are more engaged by authentic and fun videos rather than their presentation.


One viable content opportunity is the challenge. These are big in the TikTok community. Often they involve a simple premise of video creation that encourage users to participate, maybe giving their best version of a dance or other such fun, engaging activities. They are usually spread virally on the platform, and others, via hash-tag, making them easily searchable and (with the right name) memorable. Brands can either use their own channel or sway with influencers to get the tag trending. Once a challenge is launched, people can participate within 15 seconds for a quick hit of social interactivity and modestly background brand awareness.



It’s likely you’re familiar with influencer marketing, if not take a look at our blog on the subject. Standard influencer marketing techniques work on TikTok much like any other platform, such as YouTube, Twitter and Snapchat. Often the influencer will have useful ideas of how to bring relevancy to the promotion giving their followers something unique and in line with both the brand and usual content. The key to success here is setting achievable goals, and choosing the correct representative to take your product to the right people, at the right time, in the right way.

While influencer marketing can be expensive targeting those slightly above the upper echelons of the influencer powerhouses and offering free products or services can go a long way, should the influencer be a customer or correct framework for one, of what you are selling. Remember, influencer marketing is often a reciprocal relationship in which both parties should be offering to boost the profile of another, leeches are not a long-term medical strategy.



TikTok has only recently started advert implementation, mostly over the last year, but has yet to create a bespoke profit management scheme. This being said they are getting closer having started showing some ads in January.

A TikTok marketing advertising pitch deck surfaced in late 2018, giving something of an feel for what forms of dedicated advertising they would be going forward with. They are testing ads in both the US and Europe with results and plans moving forward expected in early 2020

Possible ad types include:


  • Branded Hashtag challenges
  • In-feed proprietary video
  • Lens filters for photos.
  • Brand takeovers


So as we can see TikTok is really becoming a force to be reckoned with in the social sphere, only time will tell if its ascendency will slip off and the key youth demographics will leave with the influx of older members (and marketing companies) but for now, the TikTok gold rush is very much on, start panning!

The face of Social in 2020

Social media is evolving fast and more big changes are on the horizon for next year.

Here’s what to keep an eye out for and how it could impact your social media experience.

The end of likes

Well, not entirely, but the use of likes and emoji reactions are set to change in the future. With the powerhouse Facebook trialling removing counts from select Instagram profiles and soon on the flagship product itself.

They postulate this may help address the growing concerns over mental health and social media proliferation of negative self-image. It may also be a somewhat cynical move to enable the business minded gamification of likes at a later date. Whatever the reason the literal ‘faces of social media are sure to be changing tac in the next year.


The users in the early internet era were highly engaged, butfor the most part separated into small communities of forum users. The rise of social platforms ended that, pushing everyone into multiple huge sets of online groups, which gave us better interactivity but far less identity.

As big platform politicking, unreliable algorithms, and the fear of fake news have grown, there has been a move back towards smaller, dedicated social networks where there is a feel of being more in control of the experience and personal data. Messaging apps and private areas within other platforms will continue to grow in popularity. With a continuing cycle of over-population followed by exodus to other platforms likely following in the coming years.

Alternate realities

Facebook has suggested for years that Virtual Reality was where it wanted the platform to move in future, which lead to its purchase of Oculus Rift in 2014. While that dream is still somewhat unrealised for the public, they have announced plans for Horizon, an envisioned huge user focused virtual world for multi-user interaction. Frequently referred to as the real-world equivalent to Ready Player One’s Oasis, it will likely be much more centred towards social interaction than a useable alternate reality. The beta test begins within 12 months.

Augmented Reality, already a mainstay of Instagram and Snapchat filters, looks likely to only grow in relevancy, though most notably we can expect more marketing application of AR in social advertising with utilities like Snapchat’s Geofilters being a great example.


AI social

Having maligned algorithms earlier this one could be surprising, but Artificial intelligence and machine learning are at a point where simple tasks can be performed pretty reliably. In 2020 bots and new forms of machine agents will become more widespread and visible in many of online communities.

They may well be used simply as help guides, finding information and people we may want to see, at its core, a hyper sophisticated ‘people you may know’. In the background programmes like these will keep evolving to moderate and analyse our interactions both for greater content awareness and eventual marketing efficiency.

The Fake News Cycle

The growth of technological masterpieces like mo-cap avatars, virtual influencers, deep fakes and politicised misinformation campaigns means what should and should not be in the media will be continuing to change in the next year.

We are yet to see a truly ground-breaking marketing manoeuvre using fake content as its corner stone, but you can guarantee anything that gains consumer engagement will soon be used for this purpose. Likewise, celebrities will start investing heavily in ways to both sell and protect their digital visage.

Social commerce

E-commerce, specifically the Facebook marketplace and apps like Shpock will grow ever more possible in our social arenas, moving past traditional digital shopping with their ability to monetise connectivity and sharing experiences.

A new Instagram storefront is likely to blossom exponentially taking its no nonsense rich image filled profiles and becoming a socio-digital sales portfolio of sorts. The afore-mentioned bots and personalisation algorithms will extrapolate the platforms’ user data and habits into more consistent and relevant ‘other people bought…’ etc. sections.

More legal scrutiny

The unfortunate backdrop to all of the above is the fact confidence in social media as a whole has been soundly tested of late. Privacy, digital surveillance, advertising data protection, abuses, failed unhealthy media mediation, and much more have all taken their toll.

The sad news is this is unlikely to be going away any time soon and even with government mandates and new in-house programmes in place to tackle issues, we can expect more regulatory moves and a glut of cases in the courts. The silver-lining? As more regulation happens, and social as a whole grows and spreads, businesses will take note and hire far more staff to control their online presence. A win if you’re looking to become a social media expert…