Updating Again Soon

I realized it’s been two years since I updated this blog, but with the recent events regarding data, privacy, and social media, I feel it’s important to dust this place off and start writing again. Stickied to the top of Robots Nobots is a post I wrote four years ago about the dangers of Social Logins and how your information, along with all your friends, is being bought and sold simply by clicking a small, convenient button. Seems it’s gotten worse since then with the explosion of Apps asking for “permissions” before you get to use them.

These topics are relevant. They will always be relevant. To anyone who happens upon this blog, I hope you enjoy my content.

Upvoted – Reddit’s News Site – First Impressions

Every social media buff knows about Reddit. Submit links to be judged by the faceless masses via Upvotes and Downvotes, and if you pass the gauntlet of reposts and re-reposts and re-re-reposts and follow the rules of each subreddit just right, you might just be in the orange. Play the right cards at exactly the right time, and you might even end up on the front page of Reddit. For about four hours before the limited attention span of the Internet buries your post in the second page. All of this, of course, is reinforced by “Karma,” a sort of point system for your account; every link with a positive number of Upvotes adds to your Karma score, a meaningless number next to your username. You might get some recognition if your Karma score is in the tens of thousands, but unless you’re a celebrity or a novelty account like user poem_for_your_sprog, you probably won’t be known for anything noteworthy. Verbose intro aside, let’s talk about Upvoted.com, Reddit’s recently launched news site.

It appears that the purposed of Upvoted is to find the most interesting stories and links on Reddit and expand on them with an editorial process, something that many existing news site already does on a daily basis. It could be that Reddit wants to curate this type of content with the added benefit of getting straight from the horse’s mouth. Given the site’s disastrous history of neglecting users, subreddit owners, and its own staff, using its own editorial staff to dig up and expand on trending topics and freshly popular users might be more than they can handle. Everyone’s comparing it to Buzzfeed, and at first glance, that’s about right. At second glance, it looks about the same. At the moment, the people most likely to see beyond Upvoted’s Buzzfeedesque exterior are current users who are versed in Reddit’s posting culture and business motivations.

Looking at the front page of the site also reveals a great deal about Reddit’s motivations. Front and center is the top story with the number of upvotes associated with the original link at the top left corner, and under it, the top 3 trending stories. Directly to the right and taking up about 25% of your screen…a sponsored link. Advertising. Funding Reddit’s servers isn’t cheap, and Upvoted looks like another way for the social site to rake in more advertising revenue from companies looking to monetize on Reddit’s popularity. The promise is that this sponsored content will be just as rich as normal posts, written and curated by the editorial staff, but paid for and approved by the company. In other words, “Branded Content”. Upvoted does make it very clear that it’s sponsored, so there’s no shady business going on. Good.

Let’s talk privacy. Many of Upvoted’s posts include comments from users. Does the editorial staff ask permission before a comment is used in their curated content, or does the terms and agreements of the site already opt every user in to be fair game? This is an important question because of the “throwaway account” culture on Reddit; people who don’t want their comments or questions associated with their regular usernames will often create a burner account. Make a comment, ask a question, and never touch the username again. I don’t have an answer yet, but I will update this segment when I get a clear answer.

Success in Social Media: The Path

How do you measure success in social media? I’ve been asked this many times during interviews, and I always answer the same way: any and all interactions that place your brand in a positive light. Many people might disagree with me and focus more an metrics and numbers, but if we look at the path social media marketing has taken in the past few years, you will see that the measure of success has shifted into a more subjective realm. Does that mean the metrics and numbers don’t matter? Of course they matter! That’s the point of marketing, isn’t it? But in social media, the marketing aspect has quickly shifted over to branding, presence, and overall engagement with your followers.

Let’s take a look at the original metric that social media marketers used to measure success: Followers. The more followers you had, the better, right? Having a huge number of Likes on Facebook means that people actively sought out your page, clicked the Like button, and would then receive news and updates whenever you post them. Well, at the time it was the only important metric you had.

Social media marketers then started to focus on creating viral content, and the measure of virality was the number of Likes and Shares a post received. In came the flood of clickbait titles, “Like if you agree” image macros, and “Share if you love your mother” posts. Companies wanted to know that their content was being consumed, or, with the changes to the Facebook algorithms, seen by their followers. We’re at the tail end of this practice now, and we’re quickly shifting over into forming direct, emotional connections. Frankly, I feel like this should’ve been where we started as social media marketers.

How do you create emotional connections with your followers? Just check out the tagline of this blog: Be more human. That the adage by which I formulate my social media strategies, and companies and brands should pay attention. Be more human. Just take a look at the first word in “social media”! It’s “social”! The more you advertise and broadcast to your followers, the faster they get fed up with your content, which means they’re more likely to just ignore you. When that happens, say goodbye to your organic reach, which means you pay more to advertise your content, which exacerbates your problem. Literally throwing your money away. People on social media don’t want to be bombarded by ads on a daily basis. To reach them, you have to become like one of them, which means using the social media site as it’s intended: to create connections with people on a personal level. The playing field is already set; you just have to play the game instead of trying to create your own rules!

Each social site has its own expectations of etiquette and behavior. On Tumblr, for example, you’re expected to have fun and not take yourself too seriously. On Instagram, you need to show of your staff and show everyone what you’re up to. On Facebook, you want to be the person starting conversations and share your opinions (just be careful about this part).

If you’re likeable to the point where people can relate to you, they will take the time out of their day to support you. So how do you measure success in social media? Be more human today.

Facebook’s Latest Update: Bad News for Page Owners (Again)?

It looks like Facebook is updating its algorithm again, and it could be that Facebook Pages will take another hit to organic reach. This time it will be posts by your friends that get prioritized on the News Feed, which is great news for users and possibly bad news for businesses. This is, by in large, old news; Facebook has been hammering down on calls to action and clickbait content since November 2014. If you and your social media strategies have not adapted by now, then you need to step up your game and catch up to the rest of the social world.

Facebook has said time and time again that the type of content prioritized on your Followers’ News Feeds is relevant to their interests. And what’s relevant to their News Feeds? The type of content their friends share. Let that be a lesson to you: the days of pure advertising and calls to action are at an end in the social media frontier. To make it in this landscape, you, as a business, need to start becoming more human, and that means developing a brand voice and personality, and more importantly it means trusting your social managers to do their jobs. Of course that also means finding a trustworthy social manager who knows how to navigate the potentially dicey social media environment.

So how do you go about finding your brand voice? It depends on your business, obviously, but the first thing you should do as CEO, owner, president, or higher up management is set some ground rules. Are you a fun-loving business that likes to get into ridiculous conversations with your customers and fan base? Are you educational? Professional? Sensational? Ask yourself: How would you, the owner, talk about your company to interested parties? Take note of your vocabulary, cadence, and emotions. This is how you want your business to look and sound on social media, and that’s exactly the type of message you should get across to your social manager. When you’re online, you’re not a salesperson; you are a human being who is proud of their business or product, and you want other people to see that. Passion is contagious. If you feel it, your audience will feel it, too. That makes all the difference in how people react to your content. Be more human today.

Did You Even Read It?

Post

Who’s to blame for the latest trend of posting links with sensationalist headlines? It’s hard to tell, but we all know one thing: it’s working. Well, working in that people share the content, but failing in that most people don’t even access the content for more than just the headline or the first paragraph. In fact, I’m amazed at its effectiveness. Viral content from over 10 years ago have come back with shiny new headlines and rekindled a long dead netpidemic (let’s see if I can make this term trend!). This is the latest craze, the best material we can find, and the perfect method of gathering data on the unsuspecting public through social media channels. They know where you’re coming from, and often these articles of extreme exaggeration have social logins that not only broadcasts what social sites you use, but also with whom you’re sharing the content. Other bits of data include how long you’ve stayed on the page, whether or not you’ve scrolled all the way down (that’s why some pages load partway until you scroll), and even where your mouse lingers and for how long (Clicktale). And that’s just the tip o the iceberg! If you really want to know how many ways a site is tracking your actions, install the Ghostery app. I mean just look at this. ghosteryThere are TWENTY different tracking tools and social buttons! Most sites have a hard time coming up with 4!

So what’s wrong with it? Some will say it’s harmless fun, but in my opinion, it perpetuates the spread of inaccurate data, compromises you and your friends’ right to privacy, and clutters up our social media feeds. So what can we do as users? What can the owners of these sites do as content producers? For the latter, try producing quality content without resorting to sensationalist headlines! It’s hard work, yes, but you shouldn’t have to lure people into sharing your content without actually reading your content! Why bother with any articles at all? You’d do just as well to simply have the headline and a pretty image to with it. As users we can stop sharing Clickbait content. Or at the very least we can read the articles and THEN decide whether or not it’s worth sharing! Content producers create these sensationalist headlines because people are sharing them, and people are sharing them because they’re too lazy to read. If no one takes the first step, then we’re never going to get anywhere, the content’s going to get worse, and your private information becomes that much more of a commodity. You have been warned. Now stop it!

More Likes Than Friends – The Truth About Facebook Likes

Facebook_like_thumbWhat if I told you I could get you a hundred followers on your Facebook page in under an hour? How about two hundred? Five hundred? Would you believe me if I told you I could get you 1000 followers, and you won’t even have to lift a finger? It’s true. But that’s not necessarily a good thing. This is called “Like Inflation”. While it forced social media industry to focus more on engagement, it has become a self-inflicted wound in the social strategies of companies who see large numbers of followers and likes as the bottom line.

It’s an easy trap to fall into. You are a small company or just someone who wants to launch a social media page or account in hopes of getting attention from potential fans and followers. The problem is that without a large following to begin with, you think people won’t take you seriously, or worse, fail to recognize the legitimacy of your page or company. So you reach out to a company or person who can guarantee thousands of likes and followers for a small sum of money. The truth is they can deliver on their promises. Most of these services come from India where, for a small fee, several workers will log in and out of thousands of accounts to add likes or followers to your social media accounts. More efficient “companies” will have computers set up to automate this process. Your accounts will explode with false popularity literally overnight! The problem is the aftermath.

fb-edgerankSocial networks have advanced algorithms, like Facebook’s EdgeRank, that determine the “worth” of your posts by measuring the quality and frequency of engagement with followers, fans, and communities. The more engagement you have on your accounts, the better your posts and ads will do on news feeds an ad space. With Like Inflation, your accounts are suddenly littered with thousands of dummy accounts that have no real history of engagement or even real people behind the accounts at all! They are profiles made by a single person or corporate entity for the express purpose of selling likes and followers to small businesses hoping to gain an edge over their competitors, or simply to give the impression of popularity. Now when it comes time to spend some money on actual advertising, a vast majority of the news feeds you reach belongs to these empty, personless accounts. By the numbers, you’ve reached THOUSANDS of people, but of those thousands, a tiny percentage will respond. To the algorithms, your dismal engagement rate makes your posts very unimportant, which diminishes your social media strategies. In short, a short term solution will become a deep hole from which you’ll have to work much harder to escape.

logo1There are also online services like AddMeFast that advertise “Like Sharing”. You open an account and submit links from your social media pages that you want people to like or follow. By liking or following other users’ submitted links, you are granted points that act as currency, which you then spend when someone likes or follows the links you submitted. Users set the “cost” of their links between 1 and 10, and the higher point values are assigned greater priority. Sound like a great idea? Like and share with other active users – what harm can come of it? Well, it hardly stops anyone from creating dummy accounts simply to rack up points for their own links. And since any link can be submitted by anyone, you can even use “Like Inflation” to foil the social media strategies of your competitors. In my personal experience, services like AddMeFast are driven by selfish motivations, not active communities; there is no search function or filters for any of the links. They are randomly generated and serve no other function than being an AddMeFast ATM.

declineIf you find yourself in such a hole, there are some ways you can reclaim a foothold over your social media influence. One such way is paid advertising. By targeting the interests of your intended followers and creating visually appealing ads, you can increase the popularity of your social media accounts and direct traffic to your sites and landing pages. However, it might be very costly to maintain this strategy considering the time it takes to gather enough active users. A less costly method is reaching out to your customer base through email marketing. Many of these people may already be followers, but it’s worth it to reach out to those who haven’t responded yet and give them a little nudge toward your online presence. Although you pay for the mass email service, this method might be the closest thing you have to significant organic reach.

At the end of the day, it’s tempting to turn to an easy fix for the lack of social media presence, but they are short term solutions. Very short term. The whole point of social media marketing, the very essence of it is to be SOCIAL. Injecting fake accounts into your social pages is the same as filling an auditorium with mannequins for a lecture, then wondering why no one’s responding. You’re perfectly free to do it, but it will be a detriment in the long run.

The Importance of Media Literacy

What is the world telling you? Every day we are bombarded with an endless stream of advertisements and hidden messages from every corner. Magazines, billboards, radios, smartphones, and computers – these are some of the most common tools of persuasion, and they are tools found in nearly every home. We live a world dominated by media, both print and electronic. It is important that we arm ourselves with skills necessary to deconstruct what’s being placed in front of our eyes and get at the “truth” behind media’s motivations.

When you think about the advertising industry, you start to see that the relationship between corporations and consumers is almost high school in its structure. The corporations are the “in-crowd”, the popular kids who set the status quo and the rules of conformity, and the consumers are eager freshmen itching to be included. They play at your heartstrings, hinting at a need you never knew you had, then provide a solution to fulfill that need. In other words, they tell you, with the utmost confidence, that something is missing from your life, and they have just the thing to fill that void.

In this TED Talk with Andrea Quijada, she explains how you can between the lines of media in order to get at a message hidden beneath the marketing language. A commercial about purchasing a diamond ring for your significant other portrays the message that you can express your love in the form of an expensive piece of jewelry. The underlying message, however, seems to suggest that unless you purchase this expensive piece of jewelry for your significant other, you don’t truly love them, or you can never attain the kind of happiness portrayed in the ad. This diamond is the ultimate expression of love – the mark by which all love will be compared. Unfortunately for us consumers, we don’t always have a full orchestra to supplement our grand gestures. This kind of media bombardment promises you something more than what you have, and it instills a strong, yet temporary sense of urgency. These tactics would not be so effective if they weren’t so constant and pervasive (I’m looking at you, Hulu ads).

GOTHAMIST

Non-Traditional Journalism

I am a huge fan of Gothamist. It provides local news written and reported by the civilian population – local residents dishing out the latest news in their very own neighborhoods. While Gothamist does write articles on stories gleaned from reputable news sources, their original content offers up a very special brand of journalism and flavor. It is written in a language seasoned with inside jokes and references every New Yorker understands. It’s a wonderful system where everybody can be a journalist online! But it also breeds a serious problem: everybody can be a journalist online.

The Internet has the media working at breakneck speed, and unfortunately, Journalism has fallen in with the wrong crowd. Every news site rushes to get the story out first, and more and more often they start to get their facts wrong, or they fail to check their sources. The next time breaking news circulates, see how many typos you can find in their articles In CNN’s case, count the number of redactions they make over the course of reporting. It’s become a culture of “make mistakes first and ask forgiveness later”. We, the people, put our trust in the professionalism and vigilance of journalists. Too much trust. And it is that very trust that brings us to some of the most glaring problems in social media today.

Propaganda

snopesWe are very lucky to have sites like Snopes.com. Unfortunately many people don’t think to use Snopes to find out if latest Internet rumor tells truth or is a bunch of baloney. We’ve all seen it in our feeds: sensationalist titles linking to articles warning the population about spying devices in our pills, radiation leaks from Fukushima contaminating the entire Pacific Ocean and threatening the lives of Californians, or earthworm meat used in McDonald’s hamburgers. Did you believe them? Or did you do a bit of research and find out they’re all half-truths or a complete load of bunk? If you chose the latter, then you can wear your Media Literacy badge proudly. In our media-driven society, we need to question everything and view new information through a lens of skepticism and curiosity. Trust me, you do not want to be the next person to read a article or view a video by The Onion and not only take it seriously, but also announce to everyone on your Facebook page that you cannot tell the difference between journalism and satire.

Things to Remember:

1. Always check your sources. If you cannot find an objective and trustworthy source, take it with a grain of salt.

2. If it’s too good to be true, it probably isn’t.

3. Always check your sources.

4. You never knew you needed it until you saw the ad. What does that tell you?

5. Always check your sources.

Buzzword #3: Engage

speech-bubble-mdEngage. Seems like a no brainer, doesn’t it? The point here is not that you engage your customer or fan base, but how you go about doing it. We’re used to the idea of social media accounts being private or personal, but it’s becoming abundantly clear that everything you say and write can potentially be seen by anyone and everyone. The latest example of how social media engagement can go horrifically and spectacularly wrong comes from Amy’s Baking Company, or ABC, as illustrated in ZDNet’s article. It’s also a perfect example of something going viral in the negative spectrum (see Buzzword #1: Viral).

The potential for negative engagement is great, but the external and visible aspect of  social media can be used to your advantage! These accounts are windows and keyholes into your company’s operations, and they are the primary way by which fans and customers look in. This means you have a great deal o control over what they see, hear, and read about you. You show your hand first, and they engage you in response. If you pay your cards right, they won’t even know it’s happening.

There should be an ease to your interactions. Go with the flow. Be knowledgeable and professional to show you’re an expert at what you’re promoting. Be casual to show you’re a real human being with shared interests. While it’s easy to see just names on a screen, it’s imperative that you treat all your visitors as real, genuine people. They are your guests when they come to your page. You are a teacher and a helpful guide to those with questions. You are a friend to those who love what you promote. And remember this well:

NO ONE IS YOUR ENEMY!

KindDo not argue, and do not be defensive, offensive, or confrontational. Always be courteous, even in the face of dissatisfaction. If things get heated, take it to PMs (private messages). A majority of people will engage you in private messaging if you take control of the situation by making PMs the only place where they will get a response – and that’s ultimately what we’re after in social media, isn’t it? A response!  But don’t let the term “private messages” override any lessons you’ve learned. Anyone who knows how to use the “Print Screen” button can reveal the full contents of your conversation, and that’s the kind of power you never want to relinquish to anyone. Private or not, always be kind to everyone!

So how can you actively engage your fan base? Well, if an interest exists, there’s a group dedicated to it in social media. Facebook has Groups, Twitter has #hashtags, and Reddit has subreddits. Find these groups and become an active member. See how other members of these groups interact with one another and follow suit. The best way to market yourself and your product or company is to be as enthusiastic as your fans. You appear more trustworthy if you’re not just someone who works for your company, but rather an enthusiast lucky enough to land a job with them.

Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for the next Buzzword!

Buzzword #1: Viral

Buzzword #2: Organic

How to Take Advantage of Unpaid Internships Before They Take Advantage of You

unpaid-internWe’ve all seen this one too many times, especially in the past three year: “This is an unpaid internship”.  We were understanding at first, if a little grudgingly, because the economy took a nose dive, and we hoped it would turn around over the next few months. Little did we know, those months became years, and the “unpaid internship” became the norm, and the norm became annoying, and in many cases, illegal. Many of the ads I see on Indeed.com, Craigslist, Mediabistro, and other job listing aggregates include open positions that are, in every sense of the word, “jobs”. However, by adding the word “internship” to the end of the ad, that position magically becomes a source of free labor. Don’t fall into that trap. There are many things to look out for while job hunting, and once you recognize them, you’ll be better equipped to protect yourself against labor exploitation.

First and foremost, you need to understand the definition of a proper and legal internship. According to the United States Department of Labor, there are 6 criteria that a legal unpaid internship must meet:

  1. The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment;
  2. The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern;
  3. The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff;
  4. The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded;
  5. The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship; and
  6. The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.

Doesn’t sound like 99% of the job ads you’ve seen, does it? Most of the social media internships I’ve seen ask that you are an “expert” in social media. In many cases they’re seeking “ninjas”, “gurus”, and on occasion, “Jedis” (I’ll have a post about this coming up next). If you’re already experienced in social media, then the job lister had better come up with some advanced social media techniques to teach you, otherwise they only want your skills for free. What about number 2? Some would argue that the experience you gain from that internship is a direct benefit to you. True, to an extent. But if you’re not learning anything new, and you’re doing actual work, then you ought to be paid for it. Then there’s number 3. You need to be working under close supervision from existing (and usually more experienced) staff for the position to be a legally unpaid internship. And no, having someone check in on you once in a while doesn’t count. Most important is number 4, which is why I highlighted it on the list. It really speaks for itself. If a position needs to be filled, and that position serves an important function to the company in question, that position is, by definition, a job, not an internship!

This message is geared toward those who want to break into social media, because that’s where I have the most experience. This career path utilizes a tool that you use every single day to communicate frequently and effectively to large audience. You already know how to use these social platforms, and what’s left for you to learn are the bells and whistles you might not yet understand or even know about. If you’re looking to become more experienced, look for a legitimate internship where you know you will be taught the right kind of language, methods of written communication, and proper use of social media tools. There is a wealth of knowledge and tutorials on the web, and if you’re serious about becoming a social media marketer, you need to educate yourself on your time! So how do you know what to look for? By seeking out illegal unpaid internships.

Wait, isn’t that a little counter-intuitive? Not necessarily. By looking for these job ads (don’t worry, you’ll find them quite easily), you can find out what potential employers are looking for in an ideal candidate for a paid position. Once you know what employers want, you can take stock of your strengths and weaknesses, find the tutorials and online classes you need to bolster your skills, and become more desirable on the job market.

Just remember: internships are for learning and gaining new skills. Jobs fulfill a specific function for a prospective employer. You can learn and gain new skills without some company reaping the benefits of your hard work. You shouldn’t have to compete with more experienced people to land a position that’s supposed to educate and help the less experienced. It’s wrong, it’s immoral, and most importantly, it’s illegal. Find out what skills are required for the job you want and educate yourself. You can put these skills to practice on your own and make it as visible or invisible as you’d like.

Buzzword #2: Organic

urlWhat exactly does “organic” mean in social media terms? It’s actually very similar to the definition of the farming and food definition. Organic search results in search engines like Google come about from hard work and dedication without paid advertising or bidding on keywords. When an employer wants better ranking in organic search results, they are asking for the very basics of search engine optimization. While SEO may be the most cost-effective way to maximize your online marketing efforts, it is also the most time-consuming. It requires you to post quality content frequently while managing inbound and outbound links and making sure what you’ve submitted becomes visible and easily found on all your social media platforms. The process might be methodical, but the content is where you show off your expertise in whatever you’re advertising.

How can you be sure your submissions are counted by Google? Like I mentioned early, you need to post quality content frequently. But what does “quality” really mean? It means to avoid copying and pasting large blocks of text. It means flexing and expanding your vocabulary. It means to be creative. Organic results are awesome, but only if you put in the time and effort to make it worthwhile! As a long term investment, it will make you a strong and reliable source of information, which in turn maximizes the influence you have in directing traffic and generating hits.

Tips:

1. Avoid expository text in flash objects. Your text might very well contain the keywords required to improve your organic search results, but because they’re imbedded in videos or flash files, Google cannot pick findthem! If a video or flash object is absolutely necessary, make sure to have a well-written description that make use of your keywords.

2. Vary your terms! While it’s fine to use terms like “social media” frequently if you’re optimizing for social media, you can break term up and still be relevant to Google’s search bots: “See what media is saying about social networks”.

3. Pictures draw them in! If you’re going for a longer article, make sure to include a picture every few paragraphs to give the reader a different kind of mental stimulation. It will keep them interested in what you have to say. Likewise it is usually best to start off with a picture to get their attention in the first place.

Click here for Buzzword #1: Viral