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.

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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.

Social Media Snafoo – How to Handle the Fallout

Okay, you’ve made a huge little mistake, and you didn’t notice until a torch-wielding mob has descended upon your Twitter feed. What do you do? What can you do? Apologize? Ignore the issue? Clarify exactly what went wrong? There are many ways to approach a problem like this, but it’s quite evident that you should be as honest and open as possible. Let’s take a look at one of the most recent incidents with Digiorno Pizza and a trending hashtag, #WhyIStayed.

Let’s lay down a little background information: #WhyIStayed was used to share stories of domestic abuse in order to create a vocal support network for women in light of the domestic violence case involving Janay Rice and her husband, former NFL player Ray Rice. Digiorno, seeing the trending hashtag, decided to use it with the quip “You had pizza”. The reception was not pretty. The pizza company soon discovered their mistake and went into damage control immediately. In my opinion, they handled it exceptionally well. Digiorno openly admitted to the mistake, that the tweet was sent without first researching what the hashtag meant. They’ve even gone as far as responding to individual tweets with personalized messages and apologies, not a copied and pasted statement that looks like it was drafted by a lawyer. Yes, I believe it was an honest mistake (I’ve made a few myself before quickly deleting a tweet), but when you’re a large corporation, there’s only so much you can do. Media coverage have boldly stated that Digiorno’s tweet “backfired” as though the company did it on purpose. With the current fight for women’s rights and equal rights in America, that’s simply not the kind of publicity you want! At all! For the sake of the genuine issues at hand (women’s rights, reporting domestic violence, and speaking out against abuse), I say we let this one go. It’s not like the pulled Enetenmann’s and just pulled out of Twitter completely for several years hoping people would forget about #NotGuilty. Short answer: we didn’t. And remember the Union Street Guest House, a wedding venue that charged $500 for every bad review they received on Yelp? The moment owner Chris Wagoner said the so-called “policy” was a joke that was never removed, over 3000 reviews bombarded Yelp and dragged their 5-star rating down to just one star. If he was being honest, no one believed him (and neither do I). Sometimes a practice is so bad that not even the best attempts at damage control can fix the issue.

So what can we learn from this experience? First, do your research and don’t hashtag blindly! Just because a hashtag or topic is trending does not mean is a positive trend. It takes just a few minutes to find out what it’s about, and a few minutes will save you months of grief and possibly thousands of dollars in damage control.

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.