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Pret A Manger to cut 2,800 jobs

The high street coffee and sandwich chain Pret A Manger is cutting up to 2,800 jobs as it looks to restructure its business in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

With sales figures down 60% to around £5m a week, their lowest level in a decade, the company is closing 30 of its shops permanently.

“I’m gutted that we’ve had to lose so many colleagues,” says Pret CEO Pano Christou. “Although we’re now starting to see a steady but slow recovery, the pandemic has taken away almost a decade of growth at Pret.

“We’ve managed to protect many jobs by making changes to the way we run our shops and the hours we ask team members to work.”

The company will continue to review the sales situation over the next 12 months.

READ MORE: Pret A Manger cuts 2,800 jobs as sales sink to lowest level in 10 years

Barclays partners with Age UK

Barclays has teamed up with charity Age UK to offer assistance to older people who have been hit hardest by the Coronavirus pandemic.

With Age UK seeing a big increase in demand for its services under lockdown, Barclays has made a donation to support the charity, as part of its wider COVID-19 Community Aid Package.

The donation will help fund Age UK’s national Telephone Friendship, and Information and Advice services, which are available free of charge for older people across the country. It will also help fund the network of local Age UK organisations and sister charities Age Cymru, Age NI and Age Scotland.

Barclays staff are also taking part in Age UK’s Telephone Friendship service, with members of the bank’s staff matched with an older person who is experiencing loneliness.

Barclays chairman Nigel Higgins says: “Covid-19 has created an unprecedented social and economic impact in the UK, with many experiencing greater hardship due to the crisis.

“Incredible charities such as Age UK have been playing a vital role in the UK’s response to the pandemic, ensuring urgent help reaches those most in need of support.

“As a bank we have been doing all we can for our customers, clients and colleagues, and we hope that by partnering with Age UK and many other charities across the UK, collectively we can ensure that as many people as possible in the communities in which we live and work are supported through this crisis.”

Bumble campaign highlights modern dating etiquette

The women-first social networking app Bumble has launched a campaign exploring the challenges of dating, looking at issues around fetishisation, bias, modern masculinity and intimacy.

The ‘Dating These Days’ Instagram mini-series features Radio 1 DJ and presenter Clara Amfo, singer Sinead Harnett and various other Bumble users who discuss the lived experiences and perspectives.

With lockdown restrictions continuing to lift, people are back dating again, but Bumble research has found that one in three people are still nervous about meeting up in person and knowing what is acceptable and safe in the age of the pandemic.

“We know that our community has been doing a lot of thinking over the past six months about what’s important to them in life and love,” says Bumble’s head of UK and Ireland Naomi Walkland.

“Coming out of lockdown, more than half of the people who use Bumble are looking for meaningful connections.

“This means seeking people who respect your values and priorities, but these conversations aren’t always easy. Dating These Days is part of our continued efforts to help people navigate open and honest conversations, both big and small.”

Voting opens for first Gallagher Rugby Club of the Season award

Insurance broker and risk management specialist Gallagher has launched the inaugural Rugby Club of the Season, with six grassroots teams in the running for the award.

With a particular focus on local clubs that are able to demonstrate their inclusivity in providing access to and opportunities across age, gender, ethnicity and ability, each of the finalists have been paired with a Gallagher Premiership Rugby club from their region.

The Battersea Ironsides (paired with fellow Londoners Harlequins), Erdington RFC (Wasps Rugby), Haringey Rhinos Ladies (London Irish), Kingsbridge RFC (Exeter Chiefs), Longlevens RFC (Gloucester Rugby) and Trafford MV RFCC (Sale Sharks) will also all enjoy a ‘Train with your Heroes’ session and a business consultancy session.

Gallagher ambassador and former England international Ugo Monye says: “It has been inspiring meeting all of the clubs and shining a light on the impactful work they have been doing within their communities.

“Grassroots rugby has gone through a tough period over the last few months and the inaugural Gallagher Rugby Club of the Season Award will give a much-needed boost to all six clubs.”

The winner will be revealed at an event at the end of the 2019/2020 season.

Karmarama relaunch Guide Dogs brand identity

Guide Dogs is launching a campaign ‘Nell’s First Day’ that aims to highlight the services they offer for children and young people, beyond the provision of guide dogs.

The campaign, created by Karmarama and launching this weekend, will run across television and online channels. It features a small girl, Nell, as she prepares for her first day at school, focusing on the challenges that visually-impaired children have to deal with in their daily lives.

“We hope this campaign will help us raise awareness of the life-changing work Guide Dogs does with blind and partially sighted children,” says Guide Dogs director of marketing and strategy Emma Foulds.

“Everyone knows us for our iconic dogs, but early intervention can help a child with sight loss reach their full potential, which is any parent’s greatest hope.”

TikTok CEO quits over White House pressure

Recently appointed TikTok CEO Kevin Mayer has quit the company.

Mayer reportedly blames changes to TikTok’s structure, driven by Donald Trump’s threat to ban the company in the US, for his departure, according to reports in the Financial Times.

“In recent weeks, as the political environment has sharply changed, I have done significant reflection on what the corporate structural changes will require, and what it means for the global role I signed up for,” says Mayer.

“Against this backdrop, and as we expect to reach a resolution very soon, it is with a heavy heart that I wanted to let you all know that I have decided to leave the company.”

The US president is concerned that TikTok, owned by Chinese company ByteDance, is a threat to US security. He signed an executive order to block TikTok if ByteDance did not end US operations by next month.

Mayer, former head of streaming at Disney, joined TikTok in May.

Read more: TikTok chief Kevin Mayer quits after Trump threatens to ban app (£)

Cut price Virgin Media broadband for customers in financial difficulty

With reliable home broadband increasingly considered an essential utility, Virgin Media has launched a new service for customers who are facing financial difficulty.

The broadband-only plan, called Virgin Media Essential Broadband, will be available to customers who are in receipt of Universal Credit. It will offer speeds of 15Mbps, with a fixed price of £15 per month, but no fixed-term contract. There will be no price changes to the service while benefits are being received.

Initially the service will be available only to existing Virgin Media customers. It is available by filling in an online form and providing proof of Universal Credit status.

“We know that these are tough times and that there are many people finding it more difficult to make ends meet and facing financial uncertainty. At the same time, the role of broadband in helping people to stay connected has never been clearer. Whether it’s keeping in touch with friends and family, finding advice and support or searching for jobs and working remotely – broadband underpins it all,” says Virgin Media chief operating officer, Jeff Dodds.

“With this all in mind, we wanted to make sure that those customers receiving benefit payments were able to access reliable, hassle-free connectivity with enough speed to carry out essential online activities.”

Young shoppers change their attitudes to convenience stores

UK shoppers have discovered a new-found appreciation for convenience stores, with more than half visiting their local stores for the first time during lockdown. Younger consumers in particular are driving a revival of the stores, according to a new report.

New research from PayPoint found 56% of people saying they went to their local convenience store for the first time during lockdown, a figure rising to 68% among 18-24 year olds, and 59% of 25-34 year olds. The study also found that half of people had increased the frequency of their convenience store visits during the Covid-19 pandemic.

A struggle to find essential items was the driving force behind the experimental shopping trips. Two thirds of those surveyed found that their local stores met all of their product requirements.

EPOS (Electronic point of sale) data from PayPoint shows an average 32% increase in the number of shopping baskets processed at stores between March and July 2020, compared to between November 2019 and February 2020, just prior to the lockdown. The number of items was up by 39%, and value by 64%, over the same period.

Two thirds of people think that their local stores have a positive impact on their area, and more than half plan to continue shopping locally post-lockdown.

“This data clearly shows that the UK is undergoing a boom in appreciation for, and reliance on, convenience retail,” says PayPoint chief executive Nick Wiles.

“As lockdown continues to ease, the data tells us that ‘convenience converts’ will continue to use their convenience stores for a range of services, from everyday food and drink purchases to parcel pick-ups and drop-offs, utility bill top-ups, cash withdrawals and much more.”

Fears for ‘ghost town Britain’ if mass remote working continues

Carolyn Fairbairn, director general of the CBI, has called for government action to get UK workers back in their offices to avoid traditional commercial centres becoming “ghost towns”.

Writing in The Daily Mail, Fairbairn describes offices as vital drivers of the economy that support thousands of local companies from sandwich bars to dry cleaners. She says that getting workers back to offices is as important as getting children back to schools.

“The costs of closure are becoming clearer by the day. Some of our busiest city centres resemble ghost towns, missing the usual bustle of passing trade. This comes at a high price for local businesses, job and communities,” says Fairbairn.

The Mail reports that an audit of major employers found most only have a small percentage of staff in offices and many are telling staff they will not be expected back at their desks until January at the earliest. A BBC study found that 50 of the UK’s biggest employers have no plans to return all staff to offices full time.

The government dropped formal advice for people to work from home if possible last month.

Read more: We MUST rescue ghost town Britain

Everyday beauty for Arket’s first global brand campaign

Stockhom-based lifestyle brand Arket, owned by fashion retailer H&M, is launching its first global brand campaign to present its autumn/winter 2020 collections, which it describes as a simple manifesto for its philosophy.

The ‘New Nordic Everyday Design’ campaign shows products for women, men and children against the natural surroundings of the brand’s hometown.

“New Nordic Everyday Design can be read as a simple manifesto for our philosophy and mission, but also captures ideas and inspirations which we often return to in our creative work,” says Arket head of design, Anna Teurnell.

“It represents openness, innovation and a dedication to make even the ordinary things we use in daily life a little more beautiful.”

The concept of everyday beauty was a major influence on the Nordic modernist movement of the mid-20th century, which sought to combine the worlds of art, crafts, and functional form. It was itself a inspiration for the development of Arket.

A number of upcycled and recycled materials are featured in the new collection.

Facebook to launch UK news service

Facebook is planning to launch a UK news service in the coming months as it looks to expand even further.

The social media company introduced the feature in the US last year and is now planning to launch it in the UK, Germany, France, India and Brazil over the next few months.

Facebook currently pays US publishers for content and has original reporting from more than 200 outlets, including thousands of local news organisations.

However, publishers will be hit by the loss in advertising as audience traffic is diverted away from their own websites and apps in favour of consuming the same content on Facebook.

The industry is already concerned about the dominance of Facebook and Google both in terms of ad revenues and their increasing control of publishers’ online distribution. Last month the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) recommended the government launch a “digital markets unit” to ensure the two social media giants do not engage in exploitative or exclusionary practices.

READ MORE: Facebook plans news service launch in UK, India, Brazil

UK retailers slashing jobs at fastest rate since the recession

UK retailers have been cutting jobs at the fastest pace since the financial crisis in 2009, according to figures from the CBI.

Official figures published last week suggested that retail sales had recovered last month to pre-pandemic levels. However, the CBI’s survey found that more than half of retailers expect to reduce the number of employees in the next three months as the pandemic continues to impact consumer confidence.

The balance of employers saying they would reduce their headcount was 20% in May before weakening to 45% in August. Forecasting for the three months to the end of November, 52% say they plan to reduce jobs.

CBI economist Alpesh Paleja says: “The furlough scheme has proved effective at insulating workers and businesses in some of the worst-hit sectors during the pandemic, but these findings reinforce fears that many job losses have been delayed rather than avoided.”

READ MORE: UK retailers cutting jobs at fastest rate since 2009, CBI says

DFS sofa sales soar in lockdown

Post-lockdown sales of sofas have surged at DFS as people bought new furnishings after months confined to their homes.

Sales over the past six week were £100m higher than initially expected, with customers spending up to 9% more than pre-Covid as consumers trade up to more expensive premium ranges.

DFS chief executive Tim Stacey says: “The thing that has been a pleasant surprise for us has been that people seem to be switching their spend into home as opposed to holidays, or leisure, or fashion.”

The company is promising to invest in manufacturing as demand for made-to-order sofas has also led to longer waiting times, which have increased from the normal four to six weeks as this time of year to 11 to 12 weeks.

Despite the impressive results the chain is remaining cautious, noting that it is difficult to forecast longer-term trading given the ongoing effect of coronavirus on consumer confidence and the potential impact of Brexit.

READ MORE: DFS remains cautious despite lockdown sales surge

Renault celebrates hybrid Clio

Renault is launching a campaign to celebrate its hybrid Clio model.

The ad, created by Publicis Conseil, shows the bond of a single mother and son. The ‘New Chapter of a Great Story’ tracks their relationship as he grows up with her teaching him how to shave, drive a car and other key moments.

It begins with us watching his mother cheer him on at a football match and ends with the mother and adult son watching his daughter play ending with him taking both his mother and daughter home in a hybrid Renault Clio.

Co-operative Bank to cut 350 jobs and close 18 branches across UK

The Co-operative Bank is cutting 350 jobs and closing 18 branches across the UK as it battles against low interest rates and the economic downturn sparked by coronavirus.

The job losses represent about 11% of its 3,175 staff and will mainly affect head office and middle management roles, as well as workers at the branches earmarked for closure.

The cuts will take effect by year-end, the move coming nearly a month after the Co-operative Bank reported a £44.6m first-half loss, which included a £11.2m hit due to the impact of Covid-19.

Chief executive Andrew Bester says: “We’re not immune to the impact of recent events, with the historically low base rate affecting the income of all banks and a period of prolonged economic uncertainty ahead, which means it’s important we reduce costs and have the right-sized operating model in place for the future.

“At the same time, we are responding to the continuing shift of more and more customers choosing to bank online, with lower levels of transactions in branches, a trend which has been increasing for some time, across the banking sector and more broadly.”

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Co-op Bank to cut 350 jobs amid ‘prolonged uncertainty’

Tesco to create 16,000 jobs as online business sees ‘exceptional’ growth

Tesco is creating 16,000 new permanent jobs after its online business experienced “exceptional growth” during lockdown.

The new posts include 10,000 staff to pick customer orders and 3,000 delivery drivers. Tesco says it expects many of the roles to go to staff who joined them temporarily at the start of the pandemic, when supermarkets were struggling to meet a surge in demand.

Tesco’s online customer numbers have risen from around 600,000 in March in nearly 1.5 million. Online made up just 9% of its sales then, but it is now 16%, with the supermarket expecting it to be worth £5.5bn this year.

Tesco UK & Ireland’s chief executive Jason Tarry says: “These new roles will help us continue to meet online demand for the long term.”

John Lewis opens its Christmas shop earlier than ever

John Lewis is opening its online Christmas Shop earlier than ever in response to the growth in customer searches for festive products on its website.

The retailer says searches on its website are already up 370% year on year. The most searched for products include Christmas trees, baubles, cards, lights and wrapping paper.

The interest has led John Lewis to open its online Christmas shop four months before Christmas Eve and 10 days earlier than last year.

Christmas buyer Jason Billings-Cray says: “Christmas always provides a reason for celebration and a welcome break.  Understandably it looks as if people are looking forward to and planning for it earlier than ever this year.

“Christmas celebrations mostly take place in our homes and we have seen how the lockdown has made people think more about their homes, so perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that people are already thinking about how they will decorate their homes this Christmas.”

Searches for Christmas on Waitrose’s website are also on the rise, up 42% compared to last year. Searches for Christmas puddings are up 75%, mine pies 110% and mincemeat 400%.

John Lewis plans to open its Christmas shop in stores from 25 September.

Ford works with RNLI to deliver beach safety advice

Ford is working with charity the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) to raise awareness and educate people on beachy safety.

The tie-up sees Ford create custom tyres that can leave water safety messages imprinted on stretches of sand. There are three key messages: ‘float to live’, ‘no inflatables’ and ’emergency? call 999?.

This follows new research from Ford that finds 40% of people have got into trouble with an inflatable in the sea, while 38% said they would consider going for a swim alone. Just 56% of the public know to call 999 and ask for the coastguard if they see someone in trouble in open water.

Ford is already the official vehicle supplier to the RNLI, which last year helped more than 29,000 people on UK beaches saving 154 lives, reuniting 1,800 lost children and aiding 346 people in incidents involving inflatables.

Ford of Britain managing director Andy Barratt says: “We’ve been delighted to continue supplying vehicles to the RNLI, and support the outstanding work they do to keep us all safe. It’s very exciting to see our Ford Ranger being used to spread these important water safety messages.”

Nike encourages everyone to ‘be better’ in tribute to Kobe Bryant

Nike is running an ad to mark the life of the late basketball player Kobe Bryant on what would have been his 42nd birthday.

Created by Wieden & Kennedy Portland, the ‘Better’ ad shows archive footage of Bryant during his career alongside clips of other people as they try to become better at their sport or in life. It also includes footage of this year’s Black Lives Matter protests, asking if as a nation the US can be better.

“Better celebrates the universal relevance of progress and highlights Kobe’s prolific desire for improvement,” Nike says. “While incremental change may feel small in the short term, those subtle shifts culminate to greater progress over time.”

Bryant and his daughter died in a helicopter crash earlier this year along with seven other people.

Former UKTV CMO to lead UK YouTube marketing

Former UKTV CMO Zoe Clapp is joining YouTube to lead marketing for the video platform in the UK.

Clapp left UKTV in February to take on a role as CMO at Premiership Rugby, however lockdown has meant the championship has been postponed. Prior to that, Clapp spent 15 years at UKTV, starting out as a publicity manager before climbing the ranks to communications director and then chief communications and marketing officer.

She will start the new role at Google on 7 September.

John Lewis to axe ‘Never Knowingly Undersold’ price pledge

John Lewis is poised to axe its ‘Never Knowingly Undersold’ price matching pledge and switch the focus to “shouting more” about its values as a socially responsible retailer.

Speaking to The Sunday Times, the John Lewis Partnership’s chairman Sharon White, who joined at the start of the year, described Never Knowingly Undersold as an important proposition which “signifies being fair to society”. However, she confirmed the retailer is now reviewing how to “improve it”.

Under the price promise, which has been in place since 1925, John Lewis commits to refund the difference in price to any shopper who could find an item cheaper elsewhere within 28 days. The retailer has, however, been under increasing pressure after being consistently undercut by online rivals.

White explained she wants John Lewis to shift away from women’s fashion and cut travel and spa services, focusing instead on financial, home and garden products. She told The Sunday Times she intends for the department store chain to turn its attention to “inspiration, surprise, fun” and get better at curating items in store.

The Covid-19 crisis has put additional strain on John Lewis, which in July confirmed it was closing eight of its 50 department stores, including two of its biggest shops in Birmingham and Watford, with the possible loss of around 1,300 jobs. All four of its smaller At Home-branded locations are also closing, as well as two travel outlets at Heathrow and St Pancras.

The retailer is prioritising ecommerce investment given that it expects online to account for 60% and 70% of sales both this year and next, compared to 40% prior to the onset of coronavirus.

READ MORE: John Lewis to pull ‘Never knowingly undersold’ pledge

Government denies plans to drop ‘Facebook tax’

The government has denied claims it is dropping a new tax on the likes of Facebook, Amazon and Google over fears it could jeopardise a post-Brexit trade deal with the US.

From 1 April, the UK introduced a 2% tax on the revenues of search engines, social media services and online marketplaces that derive value from UK users, in a bid to punish companies that pay “very little tax” in Britain.

The treasury confirmed on Sunday that it would only drop the so-called ‘Facebook tax’ once a global agreement is reached on how to tax multinational tech firms.

“We’ve been clear it’s a temporary tax that will be removed once an appropriate global solution is in place – and we continue to work with our international partners to reach that goal,” a spokesman adds.

The chancellor Rishi Sunak, along with the finance ministers of France, Italy and Spain, recently wrote to the US treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, to demand that big tech firms pay more tax to help fund the Covid-19 recovery.

The letter, obtained by the BBC, stated: “The current Covid-19 crisis has confirmed the need to deliver a fair and consistent allocation of profit made by multinationals operating without – or with little – physical taxable presence.”

READ MORE: Treasury denies it plans to drop ‘Facebook tax’ in favour of trade deal

TikTok takes on Trump ban with legal action

TikTok is launching a legal challenge to a ban imposed by US president Donald Trump that would prohibit transactions with its parent company ByteDance from mid-September.

The US government is concerned the social media platform could pass on data from American users to the Chinese government, something ByteDance strongly denies. Trump, who signed an executive order banning transactions with ByteDance from next month, argues that the growth of Chinese social media apps “threatens the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States”.

TikTok, which has 80 million active US users, claims to have tried to engage with the Trump administration for a year but found a government that pays “no attention to facts”.

“To ensure that the rule of law is not discarded and that our company and users are treated fairly, we have no choice but to challenge the executive order through the judicial system,” says a company spokesperson.

The BBC expects TikTok’s legal action will begin this week. Separately, a group has filed a lawsuit opposing Trump’s ban on social media app WeChat, owned by Chinese tech giant Tencent.

READ MORE: TikTok to launch legal action against Trump over ban

UK travel industry seeks urgent support as crisis hits ‘critical point’

The UK travel industry is calling on the government to provide “tailored support” to prevent further waves of job losses across the sector, which has already cut 39,000 roles since the start of the Covid-19 crisis.

Describing the UK travel industry as having reached a “critical point”, the Association of British Travel Agents warned more job losses are on the horizon as the furlough scheme winds down. According to the trade body, 65% of travel firms have had to make redundancies or start a consultation process.

ABTA chief executive Mark Tanzer says the government’s “stop start measures” have meant the restart of travel post-lockdown has not gone as hoped and as a result jobs are being lost at an “alarming rate”.

Many travel businesses, such as cruise firms and school travel operators, remain closed, while an ABTA survey found 96% of travel companies say a second lockdown would have a “critical or serious impact” on their ability to survive.

“Coming towards the end of the traditional period for peak booking, we have hit a critical point as existing government measures to support businesses begin to taper off, the consequence of which, according to this survey of ABTA members will be ruinous for more people’s livelihoods,” Tanzer adds.

On Friday, STA Travel – a favourite with gap year travellers and people looking for long-haul trips – ceased trading with the loss of 500 jobs. Last month Hays Travel confirmed it would cut nearly 900 jobs after new quarantine restrictions stopped holidaymakers travelling to destinations like Spain and Portugal, while TUI announced in July it was closing 166 stores, affecting 900 positions.

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