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Instagram, TikTok and Facebook alternative Octi shuns ads, wraps arms around metaverse future

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Can a new social network succeed against entrenched competitors such as Facebook, Instagram and TikTok? Octi, a fledgling startup launching today, has high hopes.

The team at the Los Angeles-headquartered tech company sees an opportunity with Facebook parent company Meta recently facing criticism about harms caused by the social network and Instagram. And legislators have also grilled TikTok, SnapChat and YouTube over concerns about targeted ads, privacy and other safety concerns for young users.

Octi’s teenager-centric networking app, which is live in Apple’s App Store now, doesn’t have advertising like those entrenched sites. Instead, it relies on likes, which can earn users Octi coins to buy digital items – and real-world products from brands such as Funko, Nike and Reebok.

“If you think about it, what we’re dealing with today on social media is just an extension of TV ads,” said Justin Fuisz, Octi co-founder and CEO. “With this model, you can kind of move away from that … to pull this back into a safer, more creative place.”

More than 1,000 are currently testing the Octi app, which has been up and running for two months. But Octi has been working on augmented reality and the integration of shareable video and digital objects for more than three years.

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Users can embellish their TikTok-like videos by adding 3D digital objects or putting themselves in virtual landscapes. As they get likes, they accumulate coins. Coins can be spent on digital objects which can be owned by a limited number of Octi users. All users can deploy the objects in their video creations, but owners gain coins as objects are used and gain likes.

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Coins can also be used to get a discount on purchases of sneakers, clothing and other products.

Octi has already created the ability for users sell their digital objects and upload NFTs for use on the platform, too. At some point, users will be able to buy Octi coins, but currently they are free and earned through participation.

But how does Octi plan to prevent hate speech, bullying and other issues plaguing current social networks? For starters, the lack of reliance on advertising – and the need for user views of those ads – changes the paradigm, Fuisz says.

Beyond that, the platform’s use of artificial intelligence and machine learning monitors activity for concerning signs. “We have all the systems in place to keep this healthy from the beginning,” said Octi chief operating officer and co-founder Brian Biggott.

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“If someone comes on and just wants to do something awful, that gets caught very quickly and gets taken out of circulation very quickly,” Fuisz said.

So far, Octi has raised $20 million in funding from investors including live music promoter Live Nation Entertainment and Beats Electronics co-founder and music executive Jimmy Iovine.

“The reason Octi is interesting is they recognize this entire generation lives on their phone, with their camera and is interested in the seamless blending of the virtual world and the IRL (in real-life world),” said Rich Greenfield, partner and media and technology analyst at LightShed Partners and an angel investor in the company.

Launching a new app, he said, “is never easy. It’s really, really hard.” However, as more companies invest in the future of connectivity, Octi is seeking to create a “unique experience where (users) can hang out with friends, buy things and share content and interact in a fun, mobile-first world.”

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With all the attention around the concept of the metaverse, Octi does see itself as well positioned. The newly launched app is “an exciting vision and version of metaverse” that connects people, Fuisz said. And the platform can evolve along with new technology such as augmented reality glasses and such.

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But right now, “it’s very different than you know, sitting in your basement with the Oculus (virtual reality headset) on and playing,” Fuisz said.

Follow Mike Snider on Twitter: @mikesnider.

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LinkedIn Makes its 20 Most Popular LinkedIn Learning Courses Freely Available Throughout August

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Looking to up your skills for a job change or career advancement in the second half of the year?

This will help – today, LinkedIn has published its listing of the 20 most popular LinkedIn Learning courses over the first half of 2022. In addition to this, LinkedIn’s also making each of these courses free to access till the end of the month – so now may well be the best time to jump in and brush up on the latest, rising skills in your industry.

As per LinkedIn:

As the Great Reshuffle slows and the job market cools, professionals are getting more serious about skill building. The pandemic accelerated change across industries, and as a result, skills to do a job today have changed even compared to a few years ago. Professionals are responding by learning new skills to future-proof their careers and meet the moment.” 

LinkedIn says that over seven million people have undertaken these 20 courses this year, covering everything from improved communication, project management, coding, strategic thinking and more.

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Here are the top 20 LinkedIn Learning courses right now, which you can access via the relevant links:

  1. Goal Setting: Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) with Jessie Withers
  2. Excel Essential Training (Office 365/Microsoft 365) with Dennis Taylor
  3. Interpersonal Communication with Dorie Clark
  4. Cultivating a Growth Mindset with Gemma Leigh Roberts
  5. Project Management Foundations with Bonnie Biafore
  6. Using Questions to Foster Critical Thinking and Curiosity with Joshua Miller
  7. Essentials of Team Collaboration with Dana Brownlee
  8. Unconscious Bias with Stacey Gordon
  9. Learning Python with Joe Marini
  10. Communicating with Confidence with Jeff Ansell
  11.  Speaking Confidently and Effectively with Pete Mockaitis
  12. Learning the OWASP Top 10 with Caroline Wong
  13. Power BI Essential Training with Gini von Courter
  14. Strategic Thinking with Dorie Clark
  15. SQL Essential Training with Bill Weinman
  16. Developing Your Emotional Intelligence with Gemma Leigh Roberts
  17. Communication Foundations with Brenda Bailey-Hughes and Tatiana Kolovou
  18. Agile Foundations with Doug Rose
  19. Digital Marketing Foundations with Brad Batesole
  20. Critical Thinking with Mike Figliuolo
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If you’ve been thinking about upskilling, now may be the time – or maybe it’s just worth taking some of the programming courses, for example, so that you have a better understanding of how to communicate between departments on projects.

Or you could take an Agile course. If, you know, you don’t trust your own management ability.

The courses are available for free till August 31st via the above links.

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Instagram Is Rolling Out Reels Replies, And Will Be Testing A New Feature Which Informs …

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Instagram has added a few more social features to the platform, with Reels Replies being rolled out. Along with the Replies, anew feature is being tested that shows when two users are active together in the same chat.

Reels has been performing much better than perhaps even Instagram ever anticipated. The TikTok-inspired new video format (which officially claims to have absolutely no relation to the former) had some trouble really finding its footing initially. However, Reels has grown massively and while it may not be a source of the most direct competition to TikTok, it is indeed a worthy alternative.

Reels has grown to the point that it has a massive creator program attached to it, and the video format has even been migrated to Facebook with the goal of generating further user interest there. Naturally, with such a successful virtual goldmine on its hands, Instagram has been hard at work developing new features and interface updates for Reels, integrating it more and more seamlessly into the rest of the social media platform. Features such as Reels Replies are a major part of such attempts at integration.

Reels Visual Replies are essentially just what they sound like: A Reel that is being used to reply to someone. It’s a feature that’s been seen frequently across TikTok as well. Reel Replies essentially take a user’s comments, and reply to them in video format. The comment will then show up within the Reel itself as a text-box, taking up some amount of space, and showing both the user who issued said comment along with the text. The text-box is apparently adjustable, with users having the ability to move it around and change its size depending on where it obstructs one’s Reel the least.

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Overall, it’s a fun addition to the Reels format, even if the credit should be going to TikTok first. At any rate, it’s an example of Instagram really utilizing Reels’ social media capabilities, outside of just serving it up as a form of entertainment.

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Speaking of social media capabilities, a new feature might help alleviate one of the most common frustrations encountered across all such platforms. Isn’t it annoying when you see that a friend’s online, but isn’t replying to your chat? Sure, they’ve probably just put their phone down to run a quick errand, but there’s no way for you to know, right? Well, there sort of is now! Instagram is beta testing a new feature via which if both users are active within a chat, the platform will display that accordingly. It’s a work-around, sure, and one that’s currently being tested for usefulness, but it’s still a very nice, and even fresh, addition to the social media game.

Now, the active status will only appear when you are both active at the same time.#Instagram #instgramnewfeature@MattNavarra @instagram @alex193a pic.twitter.com/2chGZP9hr4

— Yash Joshi  (@MeYashjoshi) December 10, 2021

Read next: Instagram Plans On Allowing Users To Return To Its Old Chronologically Sorted News Feed

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5 apps for scheduling Instagram posts on iPhone and Android

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Alright, we get it. You’re an Instagram Nostradamus.

You know exactly what you want to post and when you’re gonna want to post it. Maybe there’s a meme or comment you want to make that you know will be totally relevant for a future moment or event. Or it could be that you’re an influencer and you want to make sure you keep a steady stream of content coming, so you want to schedule posts for times when you know you won’t be active (or won’t have internet access).

You’ll be happy to know there are apps that are specialized for just such situations. So listen up, InstaNostradamuses…Instagrostra…Instadam…Insta…uh…you guys (we’ll workshop it. No we won’t. We’ll probably just abandon that effort completely. You’re welcome) — these are the Instagram-post-scheduling apps for you.

While all of the iPhone apps below are free to download, they all have some in-app purchases.

1. Planoly

PLANOLY

We’ll start with “official partner” of Instagram, itself, Planoly — an Instaplanner that uses a grid to let you plan, schedule, and publish posts (as well as Reels) on Instagram. The app also lets you see post metrics and analytics so you can make sure your post didn’t flop.

Planoly is available for iOS on the Apple App Store and the Google Play store for Android.

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2. Buffer

BufferCredit: buffer / app store

Buffer is another Instagram post scheduler that helps you plan your posts and analyze feedback once they’re published. Use a calendar view to drag and drop posts into days/time slots for easy scheduling.

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Buffer is available for iOS on the Apple App Store and the Google Play store for Android.

3. Preview

PreviewCredit: preview / app store

Preview offers typical post-scheduling tools and analytics along with a few helpful extras. Get caption ideas, recommendations for hashtags, and more.

Preview is available for iOS on the Apple App Store and the Google Play store for Android.

4. Content Office

Content OfficeCredit: content office / app store

An Instagram post scheduler with a visual boost, Content Office allows users to plan and schedule Instagram posts while learning “marketing and visual guides to grow your brand on Instagram.” Like aesthetics and using visuals to create cohesive themes? Maybe this is the Instaplanner for you.

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Content Office is available for iOS on the Apple App Store.

5. Plann

PlannCredit: plann / apple store

You’ll never guess what “Plann” lets you do…

Aside from scheduling posts, get content ideas and recommendations, as well as strategy tips to ensure you’re maximizing your Instagram engagement. Ever wonder when the best time to post something is? Plann can offer you some help with that.

Plann is available for iOS on the Apple App Store and the Google Play store for Android.

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