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.

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 #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

Building Your Community

It’s not about how many “Likes” you have anymore. Anyone can build a page and get people to push a button, but the most important aspect of any Facebook Page is an active and enthusiastic community. What does it really say when a Page has 50,000 Likes with a mostly empty wall? Or even a wall where a majority of the posts come from the Page’s owner? It means that while you have fans in the barest definition of the term, they’ve “Liked” you and now they’ve forgotten you. It means what you’re pushing isn’t important enough to be part of their daily lives. Let’s focus on a few things that will improve the quality of your Page and possibly help foster social growth.

Post Content
What’s going into each of your posts? Deals? Coupons? “Where to buy” links? While you shouldn’t skimp on these marketing essentials, keep in mind that you don’t want to come across as an automated post bot. If all you do is solicit, how would you be different from a mindless machine programed to do a single task? You need to tease out the participants and entice them to join in the conversation. You need to let them know their voices are heard and that their opinions count. Don’t just post calls to action; post questions and surveys. Ask them what you should do!

When someone posts something on your wall, they’ve taken a very conscious step in reaching out, and it’s up to you to meet them part way. Responding to relevant content is easy, but to connect with someone or someones on a level that touches your personal lives, you need to understand your demographic. For example, the demographic for the company I work for is very much into sporting events. When the Ravens won the Superbowl this year, my first thought was to post a product we’ve named the “Raven”. Seize every opportunity to go beyond being a representative and show that there is a real person behind the username – a person who shares their interests.

Encourage Participation
The most important aspect of growing your community is to encourage your fans to post original content, and the way to do this is with incentive. It can be a tangible prize or something as simple as an “official” mention. The internet is a vast and populated place, and a chance to be in the spotlight is a very enticing one.

You can also draw in your audience with promise of perks that are exclusive to the most avid fans. One way to do this is with a memberships-only newsletter, which serves as a two-pronged benefit: you increase the number of people following you on social media channels, and you have better insight and analytics on your demographic.

Stay Active
Just because you’ve gathered a few thousand followers does not mean you can take a rest; your job is never finished. So long as your audience participates, you have to stay on the ball. Stay active, post often, and post quality content.