It says so much more about Social Media than most can say, and it does it in a breezy, easy to understand style.
The main idea behind this rather detailed video consists of a retelling of the Nativity Story. The video does so through the medium of social media, with everything from Facebook statuses to Foursquare checkins, to tweets, and more. Even electronic mail gets into the act. The Virgin Mary apparently uses Gmail.
And then there is even more, with a look at Nazareth from Google Earth. Of course there is a check for directions from Nazareth to Bethlehem. A check for hotel space reveals only a stable available (but of course). Joseph buys a cow (from Farmville, I would guess).
The Magi discuss their offerings (over Gmail – man, Google has its hands in everything!). And they pick up their gold, frankincense and myrrh at, you guessed it, Amazon. Twitter gets into the act as the Magi, naturally, follow the star there (very clever play on words there).
Eventually, the visit to the baby by the Magi gets placed onto video and uploaded to – could there be any other place more perfect? – YouTube. The video shows, I suspect, a play.
Credit Where Credit Is Due
This beautifully made and cleverly written and produced video comes to us from ExcentricGrey, which is evidently a Portuguese advertising firm. They report that this viral video has over 20 million views. Viewers are concentrated more in the United States and Western Europe than elsewhere, a function (probably) at least in part due to the video being made available in both English and Portuguese. Oddly enough, Portugal did not seem to have a very big concentration of viewers. Neither did Portuguese-speaking Brazil, Mozambique or Angola.
When NOT to Post on Social Media Platforms? Timing, as you might expect, is everything when it comes to posting on social media platforms. After all, if you, say, tweet when your audience is sleeping, they won’t see your tweet. It’ll be lost in the mountain of missed social media communications.
We all have such a mountain of missed communications and connections. Social media just moves way too quickly for us to see, comment on, share, and experience everything. We’re only human, and of course that’s fine. Your mission, though, is to post when your audience will be around, not when they’ll be offline, or busy with work, or settled into bed for the night.
Zzzz AKA La La La I Can’t Hear You!
According to Kate Rinsema of AllTop (Guy Kawasaki‘s great site), the following are the most godawful worst times to post.
But pay attention to your audience. Maybe their night owls. Maybe they live on the other side of the planet.
I’m Here and I’m Listening
These are reportedly the best times to post on social media platforms:
Facebook – 1 to 4 PM
Google+ – 9 AM to 11 AM
Instagram – 5 PM to 6 PM
LinkedIn – 5 PM to 6 PM
Pinterest – 8 PM to 11 PM
Tumblr – 7 PM to 10 PM
Twitter – 1 PM to 3 PM
What About Different Time Zones?
Articles like this often vex me, because there usually isn’t any consideration taken when it comes to customers, readers, and audience crossing time zones.
My suggestion is to take these times as your own, for your own time zone, unless your audience is on the other side of the Earth. Try for some wiggle room, e. g. if you’re on the East Coast of the United States, like I am, you might want to time things for later during the window if you’re aiming for an audience pretty much only in America. But for a European audience, you should aim for earlier in the window but recognize that, with a minimal five-hour difference, you might not hit the window perfectly.
Or, you could set at least your tweets to run more than once. If you do this, though, I suggest spreading them apart by a day, say, posting post #1 on Monday at the start of the window, and post #2 at the end, and then switching them on Wednesday or the like. But repeating other postings is probably going to be overkill for your audience. Try using the #ICYMI (In Case You Missed It) tag when repeating your posts.
Facebook, as anyone not living on a desert island knows, is a juggernaut of massive proportions. It is the 800 pound gorilla of the Internet. And it is rapidly changing our interpersonal interactions, both on and offline. So one of those areas is in the area of Internet forums.
Facebook and a forums site like Able2know
Facebook hits all forum sites and not just A2K. For years, I have been seeing drop off on a lot of different sites. It doesn’t seem to matter whether they are large, generalized places like Able2know, or small niche sites devoted to something like Star Trek. In addition, I hear about this same kind of drop off from other community managers, even for things like maternity/new mother sites.
Everybody get in the pool
So there are two generalized kinds of interactions (there are more, of course, but hear me out, okay?). One concerns the shallow end of things. You trade information about weather and generalized health inquiries. It’s political sound bites and the zippy pop song.
The other side of things is deeper. Because here is the in-depth political discussion where you really get to the heart of the issues. It’s the detailed information on a health condition or even how to make a soufflé or plant an herb garden. It is the symphony. And online, just like offline, it is a far rarer bird, for you need time to develop that kind of trust. Furthermore, truly, you have to devote some time in order to have such a conversation in the first place.
Swimming with Facebook
Facebook fulfills the shallow end of online interactions extremely well. It is very, very easy to catch up on a superficial level with High School classmates or the like. The Star Wars groups, for example, ask basic questions like “Who was the best villain?” George Takei has mastered these kinds of interactions (although, in all fairness, he also writes occasional longer notes). Because these constitute the quick hits that people can like and share, all in the space of less than a quarter of a minute. It works very well for mass quantities of information.
Facebook versus Forums – where Facebook Wins
Topics about one’s favorite song go better on Facebook than on forums as they are a quick hit and posting Youtube is simple. It’s colorful and, just as importantly, it’s pretty easy to pick and choose when it comes to interactions there, despite changes in privacy settings. Other basic interactions (remember a/s/l?) are seamless or don’t need to happen at all. Partly this happens due to Facebook’s real names policy. Also, more people tend to use their real photograph and their real (generalized) location and age than not.
Facebook versus Forums – where Forums Win
What Facebook doesn’t do so well is the deeper end of interactions (the extensive political discussions, etc., and/or it does not do them well for a larger group of people or over a significant period of time or for a longer or wider discussion. All of the deep discussions go unsaid. Topics about elections outside the United States (particularly if Americans participate in said topics) are handled poorly, if at all. When it comes to the deeper end of the interactions pool, Facebook is just not a good place for that at all. Another consideration: a lot of people still find that Facebook moves too quickly for them.
Swimming with Forums
For the deep end, you need forums. You need to get to the heart of the matter. And that takes time, a luxury that Facebook often does not afford, as it scrolls by in a blur. Instead of mass quantities, forums can fulfill a very different niche by instead concentrating on quality interactions.
Forums offer, even for people who use their real names and are fairly transparent about their interactions, a chance to use a persona. Because Facebook far too closely parallels to our real lives. There’s just so much posturing you can do about being a famous rock star when your High School cronies are also there, and they remember holding your head when you had your first beer.
The Endless Online Christmas Brag Letter
And Facebook, while it can be a refuge for people to truly show they care for each other (in particular, in the groups, or using notes), is more often a place where people instead get a chance to preen and show off. Like something? Then hit like! Don’t like it? Then either scroll past it or click to hide it, or even report it as spam or as being threatening. And apart from the latter, the person posting the image, anecdote, status, etc. is none the wiser when it comes to your reaction.
But with the forums, even if you do not use your real name, your opinions are still out there, for all to see, whether it’s about global warming or the Designated Hitter rule.
There is room for both types of interactions. Facebook versus forums doesn’t have to pick a winner. The Internet is a mighty big tent.
Tips to Quickly Boost Results. Rebekah Radice of Canva offers some great ideas for how to improve your engagement on Google+, a social platform that even a lot of experienced social media managers can find rather confusing and daunting, and hard to break into.
It should come as no great shock that images are key when you want to quickly boost results. But that is true for pretty much all social media platforms these days. Posts without images are just contributing to the enormous tidal wave of text that we are all dealing with, all the time.
The 800 x 1200 size is optimal for Google+.
Share Fun, Inspirational and Educational Content
Well, sure, that makes sense. For most social media platforms, the mix should be of fun and smart content, with a smattering of inspirational. If your business is angel flights for children, you’ve got no shortage of inspirational content. If it’s The Daily Show, you’ll never have to hunt around for fun content. And if you’ve got Harvard to promote, you can get educational content.
Then there’s the rest of us.
But Radice has some great ideas for engagement, printed here in their entirety –
“Share your thoughts, expertise, mission, vision and values.
Give a nice shout out to your favorite blogs and websites.
Share inspirational thoughts, funny quotes and timely news stories.
Share other peoples content with context around it.
Don’t post and run away. Interact, connect and engage!
Be grateful. Thank people that share your content.
Be personable and share details about your business in a fun and interactive way.
Follow people within your industry and niche and create a conversation. Get to know them, share their content and spread the good word about their business. This creates reciprocity and more meaningful interactions.
Repurpose your content. Just because it’s old to you, doesn’t mean it’s not new to someone else.”
Optimize Your Profile
This includes adding details about what you do, links to your other online content, and sprucing up your profile/logo image and cover image. The 2120 x 1192 size is optimal for Google+ cover images.
Return to Your Buyer Personae
Why are people on Google+? And how can you align your strategy, and what you provide, to what they want, need, and crave? You can quickly boost results.
GoodEReader reports in 2014 that Wattpad, the giant free stories platform, is entering the digital publishing business.
In early May of 2014, it was reported that Wattpad had decided to e-publish two of its most famous stories. My Wattpad Love has over 19 million reads. A Proscriptive Relationship has over 30 million reads on Wattpad.
To provide some perspective, it should be noted that Stephen King has sold a total of 350 million books, but this is spread over 49 works, giving him an average of a little over 7 million sales apiece. Of course sales and free reads on a website aren’t the same thing, but these sheer numbers are still rather impressive.
But can free readers be converted to paying customers? Just as importantly, Wattpad is a social site. People click, visit, vote up and add stories to their virtual libraries. But how much of that is due to the quality of the prose? Is some of it due to the writer’s personality and following on the site?
Of course that is the case, but the question is, how much? Context, as Avinash Kaushik wrote, is queen. But how can context be accurately (at least as accurately as possible) determined here?
Millions of clicks are difficult to ignore, but what is the best way to weed out sympathy clicks, friendly clicks, clicks made in error and the like? And that does not take into consideration whether any of these people will convert to a paying model. Why buy these cows, when the milk has been provided for free (and in an easy to digest package, too, I might add) for so long?
But even a one percent conversion rate will turn heads.
Move over traditional publishers. The shelf just got more crowded.
Unlike the offline world, the Internet is chock full of ratings and recommender systems. Why? Because metrics are everywhere. On YouTube, you know how many people watched a video, and who made it to the end. On WordPress, you know where your readers came from. On Facebook, you are constantly being served the likings, joinings, and friendings of your friends. Plus you have likely provided any number of cues about your preferences, your age, your gender, your marital status and/or sexual preference, and your location, among dozens if not hundreds of other data points. This includes everything from indicating you are a Red Sox fan to watching a cooking demonstration video to its end, to listing your college graduation year on LinkedIn, to joining a group devoted to German Shepherd Dog rescue, to reviewing a book on GoodReads about bi-curiosity. With all of this data, attempts are made to get a clear(er) picture of a person. With the picture comes an effort at predictability.
Amusingly, as I’ve been writing this blog post, to prove the point, the WordPress Zemanta plugin is currently serving me pictures of German Shepherd Dogs and a number of articles about them, allegedly related to this post. But, surprise! This post isn’t really about German Shepherds at all, this image notwithstanding.
Close But No Cigar. Not Even a Kewpie Doll
Just as Zemanta screws up, so do plenty of other sites with recommender systems. Spotify, Pandora, and other music-matching sites seem to fairly routinely not get it. In September of 2013, Forbes reporter Amadou Diallo wrote about a search for a perfect playlist. In his article, Diallo compared iTunes Radio, Spotify, and Pandora, by using various seed artists to create playlists. The matching algorithms were given Stevie Wonder, Herbie Hancock, and The Alabama Shakes. Diallo concluded that Pandora had the best matching algorithm, but there were definite flaws with all three.
To my mind, a pure computer-driven search is a misplaced notion. One of the issues is of categorization. For musical, film, book, and other recommendations, it’s all only as good as how it’s categorized, and often goods are poorly organized. Consider Johnny Cash. A country artist? Sure. Male artist? Of course. He came from a particular time period and his work was generally guitar-heavy. And then, late in his career, he threw a curve and recorded a cover of Nine Inch Nails’ Hurt. If recommender systems had existed when he released it, the song would have dented the algorithms, perhaps even fatally.
A further issue with recommender systems is that they seem to treat people’s preferences like computer problems. E. g. if you like, say, movies that involve the American South, history, and a strong male lead, you might be served, under a movie recommender system, both Gone With The Wind and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Yet one is a classic romance, whereas the other is a nonfiction work. Even if perfect granularity is achieved, and all of the seemingly relevant data points are hit, recommender systems still aren’t necessarily truly up to the task.
As J. Ellenberg says, in This psychologist might outsmart the math brains competing for the Netflix Prize. Wired (2008, February 25). [Link] “Of course, this system breaks down when applied to people who like both of those movies. You can address this problem by adding more dimensions — rating movies on a “chick flick” to “jock movie” scale or a “horror” to “romantic comedy” scale. You might imagine that if you kept track of enough of these coordinates, you could use them to profile users’ likes and dislikes pretty well. The problem is, how do you know the attributes you’ve selected are the right ones? Maybe you’re analyzing a lot of data that’s not really helping you make good predictions, and maybe there are variables that do drive people’s ratings that you’ve completely missed.” (Page 3)
There are any number of thoroughly out there reasons why people like or dislike something or other. Some are far from quantifiable, predictable, or replicable. They can’t be scaled to the entire population, or even one of its segments. Do we prefer a particular song because it reminds us of a point in our life that is no more? Do we avoid a film because it’s where we took our lost love on our first date?
Going Along to Get Along
Another issue with recommender systems is that people can often be persuaded one way or another. The Salganik and Watts study is rather interesting in this regard. These two researchers presented subjects with a number of unreleased songs and asked them to rate the songs and also download whatever they liked. Certain songs rose to the top of the charts (just like we normally see on Billboard, the Hot 100 and the like) whereas others were clunkers that fell swiftly. When the researchers switched the presented numbers, showing higher ratings for the stinkers and lower ratings for euphony, test subjects changed their minds. All Salganik and Watts had to do was convince their test subjects that this was the right outcome.
Salganik, M. J., & Watts, D. J. (2008). Leading the herd astray: An experimental study of self-fulfilling prophecies in an artificial cultural market.Social Psychology Quarterly, 71(4), 338–355. [PDF] “…over a wide range of scales and domains, the belief in a particular outcome may indeed cause that outcome to be realized, even if the belief itself was initially unfounded or even false.” (Page 2)
Are these instances of undue influence? Self-fulfilling prophecies? Test subjects wanting to appear ‘cool’ or go along with the majority in order to increase personal social capital? And where are ratings and recommender systems in all of this? Are they measuring data? Or is it, like is the case with the Observer Effect, that the very acts of observation and measurement are skewing the numbers and generating false outcomes?
Or is it, perhaps still the case, that there’s no accounting for taste?
For my final project for Quinnipiac University’s Social Media Analytics class, I created a short presentation about journalism and data. This video is available on YouTube.
My essential question was whether data and story popularity should be drivers for journalistic choices. Those choices are everything from what to put on a ‘front page’ to what to bold or italicize, to where to send scarce (and expensive) reporter resources, to what to cover at all.
Popularity Breeds Contempt
For news organizations looking to save some money, it can be mighty appealing to only cover the most popular story lines. News can very quickly turn into all-Kardashian, all the time, if an organization is not careful. For a news corporation searching for an easier path to profitability, hitching their metaphoric wagon to the popularity star might feel right. After all, and to borrow from last semester’s Social Media Platforms class, they have buyer personae to satisfy. If all of their readers or viewers or listeners want is to know the latest about Justin Bieber or Queen Elizabeth II, then why shouldn’t a news organization satisfy that demand?
But there is a corollary to all of this.
News organizations often have dissimilar foci. If I am reading, say, the Jewish Daily Forward, I am looking for news, most likely, about either the Jewish people or Israel, or at least for stories which are relevant to either of these two not-identical (albeit somewhat similar) entities. Hence a story about the Kardashians, for example, is not going to fly unless it can be related somehow.
Dovetailing into all of this is journalistic ethics. Shouldn’t journalists be telling the stories of the downtrodden, the oppressed, and the forgotten? I well recall the coverage of Watergate as it was happening (even though I was a tween at the time). I’m not so sure that many people today appreciate the sort of courage that that really took.
What is the future of journalism? I feel it has got to be both. There must be a combination. News organizations need to show profits just as much as all other businesses. But that should not come at the expense of their responsibilities.
This was a great class, and I learned a lot. My next semester starts on August 25th.
Facebook Video Ads. According to Boston.com, companies interested in creating video advertisements on Facebook will need to not only pay about a million dollars per day, they will also have to pass Facebook’s creative team’s vetting.
If Facebook is going to blast a video ad to a significant subset of its 1.3 billion users on a daily basis, they want the ads to be artistically meritorious. The Facebook video ads will automatically play, but they will do so without sound.
Metrics will be apparently available for advertisers (and they certainly should be there, for that kind of price tag!).
For that sort of exposure, the price tag may very well seem reasonable to a large corporation looking to make a splash. Consider the cost of Super Bowl advertisements. Bleacher Report claims that a 30 second spot in 2014 went for four million dollars. However, only about 111 million people were expected to tune into the 2014 Super Bowl.
Facebook has over ten times as many users as the Super Bowl has viewers. However, they would not all be served the same video ads. But this is not a problem. Even assuming the same number of viewers as in the Super Bowl (which would be about eight and one-half percent of the total number of Facebook users), Facebook’s cost is still only one quarter of that for advertising a 30 second spot at the Super Bowl.
Is it worth it? Companies will need to carefully measure not only clickstream data, but they will (or at least they should be) closely monitoring conversions.
If your company had that kind of money, and that level of creativity, would YOU recommend video ads on Facebook?
Once again, we did not have to prepare a YouTube video. Therefore, instead, I am going to reprint one of my essays, in its entirety. This one is about media convergence. As media (print, television, Internet, etc.) all becomes deliverable on one piece of hardware (generally a smartphone or an iPad), and one is advertised or copied or shared on another, should our metrics and means of measuring reach, etc. on these platforms also diverge? And what does that mean for the future of measurement?
Wishing and Hoping AKA The Past
Back even before television was three channels, data was gathered via Nielsen ratings. Nielsen started in the 1920s but didn’t really get into media analysis until the 1942 radio index. In 1950, it was followed by the television index. (Nielsen, 90 Years, http://sites.nielsen.com/90years/). By 2000, Nielsen had gotten into measuring Internet usage.
Throughout most of this nine-decade period, media was siloed. Radio was analyzed one way, television another, etc. But it was mainly counting. How many people watched a show? How many listened to a particular radio station? With 1987’s People Meter (Nielsen, 25 Years of the People Meter, http://www.nielsen.com/us/en/newswire/2012/celebrating-25-years-of-the-nielsen-people-meter.html), an effort was made to gather more granular data, and to gather it more rapidly. However, Nielsen’s efforts were still confined to extrapolated samples. Was their sampling correct? In 1992, the People Meter was used for the first time in an attempt to measure Hispanic viewing habits. But even in 2012, the total number of people meters in use was in a mere 20,000 households. Were the samples representative? It’s hard to say.
Here and Now AKA It’s Better, But ….
Social media qualitative measurements, including sentiment analysis, are an effort to understand viewer, user, and listener behaviors. Nielsen and the like measure quantifiable information such as time on a channel (or page). But qualitative measurement goes beyond that, in an effort to understand why people visit a website. Topsy, for example, measures the number of positive and negative mentions of a site, product, service, celebrity, etc. Yet a lot of this is still quantitative data. Consider Martha Stewart as a topic of online conversation.
All we can see are numbers, really (the spike was on the day that a tweet emerged claiming that Martha Stewart had a drone). This is still counting. There are no insights into why that tweet resonated more than others.
Media convergence is mashing everything together in ways that audiences probably didn’t think were possible even a scant thirty years ago. But now, we watch our television shows online, we are encouraged to tweet to our favorite radio stations, our YouTube videos become part of television advertising, and our Tumblr images are being slipped into online newspapers. All of this and more can be seen on our iPads. Add a phone to this (or just use an iPhone or an Android phone instead of an iPad), and you’ve got nearly everything bundled together. How is this changing analytics? For one thing, what is it that we are measuring? When we see a music video on YouTube, are we measuring viewer sentiments about the sounds or the images? When we measure a television program’s Facebook engagement, is it directly related to the programming, to the channel, to viewer sentiment about the actors or the writers, or something else? What does it mean to like or +one anything anymore, when a lot of people seem to reflexively vote up their friends’ shared content?
I believe that our analysis has got to converge as our media and our devices converge. After all, what is the online experience these days? On any given day, a person might use their iPad to look up a restaurant on Yelp, get directions on Google Maps, view the menu on the restaurant’s own website, check in via FourSquare, take a picture of their plate and upload it to Instagram, and even share their dining experience via a Facebook photo album, a short Vine video or a few quick tweets. If the restaurant gets some of that person’s friends as new customers, where did they come from? The review on Yelp? The check in via FourSquare? The Vine video? The Facebook album? The tweets? The Instagram image? Or was it some combination thereof?
Avinash Kaushik talks about multitouch campaign attribution analysis (Avinash Kaushik, Web Analytics 2.0, Pages 358 – 368), whereby customers might receive messages about a site, product, service, etc. from any number of different sources. On Page 358, he writes, “During the visits leading up to the conversion, the customer was likely exposed to many advertisements from your company, such as a banner ad or Affiliate promotion. Or the customer may have been contacted via marketing promotions, such as an email campaign. In the industry, each exposure is considered a touch by the company. If a customer is touched multiple times before converting, you get a multitouch conversion.” Kaushik reveals that measuring which message caused a conversion is an extraordinarily difficult thing to do.
With media convergence, the number of touches in a campaign can begin to come together. Facebook likes can be measured for all channels. Tweets can be counted for whichever messages are being sent on Twitter, whatever they are about. Will attribution be any easier? Hard to say, but if the number of channels continues to collapse into one, will it matter quite so much in the future?
Module Four was about the Ad Astra Star Trek fan fiction writing community. Module Nine was about the Facebook page that my partner, Kim Scroggins, and I created for our ‘client’, the as-yet undiscovered Rhode Island rock band, J-Krak. Module Ten was about the creation and growth of the Twitter stream that we made for J-Krak. And Module Eleven was all about our less than successful experiments in spreading the gospel of J-Krak to MySpace and Google+ (the former was a particularly abysmal showing. At least our client’s presence on Google+ assured better placement in overall search results).
The class was great fun, and I could not get enough of studying for it. I have never, ever had a course like this before, where I was so into it that I could not wait to study, and I did all of the extra credit because I wanted to, and not because I necessarily needed to. That has never, ever been my experience with a class before this one. This overwhelmingly positive experience has given me the incentive to not only finish my Social Media Certification training, but I am also rather seriously considering going on and getting my Masters’ Degree in Communications, with a concentration in Social Media.