Buzzword: Clickbait

What is clickbait? It’s a term used to describe sensationalist headlines used specifically for generating traffic. The “bait” part of this Internet portmanteau comes from “bait and switch”: you are promised one thing but given something else after you’ve paid. While on the surface it may seem harmless, the reason clickbait exists is to generate traffic and revenue. More traffic means more ads may be loaded, which in turn generates money for the host site. You might’ve seen something like this all over Facebook:

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Rather than a simple explanation of what the video is about in the title, it instead uses a hyperbolic statement. Most of these videos are uploaded to Youtube, but take a look at the URL; rather than a direct link, the host site, Distractify, embeds the video link so that it can use its own titling scheme. The actual name of the video is “Natural Pools – Natural Pool selfbuild”. So why do this? Why jump through so many hoops just to get you to visit their site to load ads most people will probably never see or click on? Think back to my earlier post on our insidious little friend, the tracking cookie. Each time your computer loads an ad or website, tracking cookies are used to gather information about you and your activity; this data can include geographical locations, other sites you’ve visited, your email address, and if you choose to log in via your social networks, ANY AND ALL DATA YOU’VE CHOSEN TO LIST AS PUBLIC ON YOUR PROFILES.

So how many tracking cookies can you expect to see from your average site? Usually 1-3, which is the case with popular social sites like Reddit and Youtube. How many are on clickbait sites like Distractify? According to a handy add-on called Ghostery, there are 12 tracking cookies on that page alone. TWELVE!

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Three of them are overtly advertising, four are social widgets, and the remaining five are analytics trackers – cookies used to study your behavior online. They will gather information that affects what ads are shown to you, what videos are suggested to you at a later date, the types of emails you receive, all with the main purpose of manipulating your behavior. If you think Facebook’s recent psychological “study” was offensive and wrong, trackers and advertisers have been doing it for years, and right under our noses! Here are some browser add-ons that will make your life a lot simpler. If you have any to add, please share:

Adblock Plus: Prevents ads and trackers from loading when you visit a website. Also blocks ads on Youtube so you can enjoy the video without being interrupted. Note: these are indiscriminate, so if you want to support your favorite broadcaster, you’ll have to manually turn it off for them to get ad revenues.

Ghostery: Tracks the trackers attempting to load on a website, blocks them, and gives you a description of what they do and who they are. Highly recommended. Updates frequently.

Lightbeam (Formerly Collusion): Shows you the third party trackers connected to any site you’ve allowed cookies to be installed. Wonderful tool.

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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.

Buzzword #4: Trending

We’ve all heard about what’s “trending” on Twitter, but what does it really mean? Simply put, they’re the most popular topics of the day, hour, or even minute. It’s the conversation in a busy room that grabs the most attention, where a large group of people are paying the most attention and participating. It’s a massive communal dance floor where rings form around the most talented, flamboyant, or strangest dancers. So how can you predict what will be trending? You have to follow the news, whether it’s local, world, or celebrity. If President Barack Obama schedules a press conference about Swiss cheese, you can bet #swisscheese and #obamaswisscheese will trend. If a topic becomes extremely popular over a short period of time, it can take on a brief flash of viral status. However, virality occurs extremely quickly and stays popular for extended periods of time, whereas trending takes a little bit of time to build up and usually dies down in a day or two.

trendTrending topics are conveniently located on the left of your Twitter page along with their relevant hashtags. But how can this be relevant to you? With so many people throwing their voices and opinions into the mix, yours is likely to be drowned out, right? Well, unless you’ve got thousands of followers, that will most likely be the case, even if you throw out the relevant hashtags over and over again. So how do you set yourself up to be heard? It’s no guarantee (nothing ever is), but if you seek out the people or organizations that do have thousands of followers and reply to them, retweet their posts, etc., you increase the chances of being heard. At the very least you might grab a few new followers for yourself.

The social media sphere is like the ocean: dynamic with its ebbs and flows, filled with life, often polluted, and changing constantly. It is fickle, holds grudges, champions the most unlikely causes and topics…let’s be honest – the internet is a strange, exciting, and scary place. You need to learn to leap headfirst into the trending waves and hope you catch a really good one. If you’re lucky, you can become a celebrity for a day. If you’re already a celebrity, you’ll be the one making the waves.

Buzzword #1: Viral

Buzzword #2: Organic

Buzzword #3: Engage

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

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

Buzzword #1: Viral

Viral MarketingWhat does it mean when something goes “viral”? It’s quite literally an idea that’s gone pandemic – infections, far-spreading, rapid, and global. Sounds great, right? Not necessarily. While marketing campaigns strive to become viral, they must also be prepared to lose all control. How far it goes and for how long is completely dependent on the consumers, and the results can be spectacular on both ends of the good and bad spectrum. Take, for example, the ever popular music video “Gangnam Style”, which features a Korean pop star making his debut return to show biz.

Here you have a video that was already popular in the Eastern hemisphere, generating thousands of hits within days of its release. But once it caught wind in America and the rest of the internet, it went full blown viral, becoming the first Youtube video to hit ONE BILLION views in the space of a few months! You can’t hope for anything better than that!

On the other side of the spectrum you have Mitt Romney’s 47% video, whose viral status may very well have cost him the campaign:

Going viral may be an unstoppable force, but if its influence falls in your favor, you can build upon it and ride the wave like Old Spice with their body wash commercials with Isaiah Mustafa.

This video is 33 seconds long. Thirty-three seconds! And that was all it took to make it one of the most effective ad campaigns to date! Granted it cost Old Spice a pretty penny to have it air during the Super Bowl, but it was money well invested in a clever idea that tickled the audience in the best possible way. From there Old Spice released more commercials and videos featuring Mustafa, and the internet fell in love with his smooth, rugged, and manly…advertisement.

Sometimes unintentional ideas become viral, like with the straight razor scene featured in the movie “Skyfall”. Since its release, straight razor sales have gone through the roof by as much as 405%! As a social media marketer, you must be ready to latch and take advantage of any ideas that have the potential of going viral. That means you must stay connected, jacked in, and ready to go. Looks like there’s no time for rest when it comes to social media. Or maybe that’s just an excuse to surf just a while longer :).

Click here for Buzzword #2: Organic

Buzzwords – When to Use Them

Buzzwords serve a very important function, but they’re only effective in certain environments. They are convenient shorthand versions of complex or verbose ideas, and sometimes it’s more efficient to condense it all into a single word. this also makes it easy to fall into the habit of using them all the time. While buzzwords can encompass an entire paragraph into just a few letters, they’re only useful to those who are privy to the long form definition. If they aren’t, you might as well be speaking a different language or showing a graph with an undefined legend. In short, use them as often as you’d like with other social media marketers, but be prepared to explain their full meaning in simple and effective terms. After all, social media is about communication and the transfer of ideas; you must always refer back to the roots and tenets of your trade.

I will be exploring some of the most common buzzwords in the upcoming posts and will include examples of how they work along with tips on how to use these ideas to your advantage.

Click here for Buzzword #1: Viral