The New Rules of Marketing & PR by David Meerman Scott, A Book Review

The New Rules of Marketing & PR by David Meerman Scott

The New Rules of Marketing & PR by David Meerman Scott was a fascinating book that I had as required reading for Quinnipiac University’s Social Media Platforms course (ICM522).

The Premise

World Wide Rave Spotted In Ireland David Meerman Scott
World Wide Rave Spotted In Ireland (Photo credit: Krishna De)

First of all, the premise is, like a lot of other books about the Internet and social media marketing, that marketing has become less of a one-size-fits-all/push system. Instead, it has instead evolved into a far more balanced bilateral conversation.

And perhaps the most interesting part of the book consists of the rules themselves, which are in Chapter 2, on page 31 and are as follows –

The New Rules

The New Rules of Marketing and PR

  • First of all, marketing is more than just advertising
  • In addition, public relations is for more than just a mainstream media audience
  • You are what you publish
  • And people want authenticity, not spin
  • People want participation, not propaganda
  • Instead of causing one-way interruption, marketing is about delivering content at just the precise moment your audience needs it
  • Furthermore, marketers must shift their thinking from mainstream marketing to the masses to a strategy of reaching vast numbers of underserved audiences via the web
  • In addition, public relations is not about your boss seeing your company on TV. It’s about your buyers seeing your company on the web
  • Marketing is not about your agency winning awards. Instead, it’s about your organization winning business
  • And the internet has made public relations public again, after years of almost exclusive focus on media
  • Furthermore, companies must drive people into the purchasing process with great online content
  • In addition, blogs, online video, e-books, news releases, and other forms of online content let organizations communicate directly with buyers in a form they appreciate
  • And social networks like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn allow people all over the world to share content and connect with the people and companies they do business with
  • Finally, on the web, the lines between marketing and public relations have blurred

Because customers are talking back.  And companies and their marketing departments had better start listening.

Rating

Review: 5/5 stars.

Content Nation by John Blossom, A Book Review

Content Nation by John Blossom

John Blossom wrote a rather interesting work. And so for Quinnipiac University’s Social Media Platform’s class (ICM 522), this book was assigned as required reading.

John Blossom, Author of Content Nation
John Blossom, Author of Content Nation (Photo credit: HowardGr)

Blossom sharply and compellingly puts forth his case – the Internet has become home to more and more content creators all the time.

And this constitutes a very good thing indeed.

As publishing becomes push-button fast and friendly, publishers stop being gatekeepers. Suddenly, anyone with an idea and a connection can potentially become a publisher.

Takeaways

One of his most interesting takeaways appears on page 136, where he lays out Content Nation Enterprise Rule #1:

“Social media isn’t about technology; it’s about adapting to more effective patterns of communications being adopted by competitors.”

Hence for Blossom, the key benefits are –

  • Effective social media tools enable people to choose who they want to allow within their circle of communication (although that makes for silos and walled gardens these days!)
  • Effective social media tools make it easier to collect and organize communications from internal and external sources
  • and Effective social media tools make it easier to collaborate internally and externally to build and update valuable knowledge more effectively.

And I have to say that I agree with this. So much of what we read about social media centers around the platforms. In addition, the technology seems to overrule everything else, including common sense. And while everyone loves something shiny and new, it matters very little if the content behind it, well, frankly, stinks. Hence Blossom essentially disagrees with Marshall McLuhan.  Therefore, the medium isn’t the message any more.

Instead, the message is the message.

And I think that is pretty damned powerful in this day and age of constant content creation, promotion, distribution, and deconstruction. But you make the call, gentle reader. Feel free to contact me if you disagree, okay?

Rating

Review: 4/5 stars.

The Future of Lonely Writer and Adventures in Career Changing

The Future of Lonely Writer and Adventures in Career Changing

The Future

The future? Well, more specifically, I mean the future of the Lonely Writer website.

Adventures in Career Changing | Lonely Writer | Speculating about the Future
Speculating about the Future

Wait, what?

So as some readers may recall, I started that website as my capstone project at Quinnipiac University. I needed the project in order to graduate with a Master’s in Science in Communications (social media). Well, graduation happened in August of 2016. However, I had paid for the domain until the end of March of 2017. It seemed silly to try to cancel early.

But now it’s March of 2017.

Changes

Hence I want to change things up. My life has gotten considerably more busy since I graduated. I currently hold down four part-time work from home jobs, all centered around various tasks having to do with blogging. I also podcast every month and I blog for that podcast and for its parent podcast. Furthermore, I still blog about social media and even about fan fiction.

In addition, I still write and still work. I always try to get more of my work published. As a result, I just plain don’t have the time for yet another domain. Most noteworthy, I’d also like to save a few bucks. This project does … okay. Yet Adventures in Career Changing does better.

Therefore, I realized: I should combine the two.

What Will Happen?

The Lonely Writer YouTube channel and Facebook groups will both live on. And the Twitter stream won’t be going away, either. They do not require as much work as a separate blog. Plus, they are also free of charge. I am only talking about the other domain and those particular blog posts.

So, where are they going? Why, they are coming here! As a result, the blog URLs will change, and the blog posts themselves will be removed for later re-posting. I will change them up, too, so they will be more up to date. That’s all. So don’t worry, okay? That advice and that work will not go away. It’ll all just move here, down the street. I am excited about the move. I think it will help to freshen up Adventures without losing the focus, which is altering my career and also embracing social media. And the writing-related posts, of course, will give that more of a writing bent. That’s all.

Thank you so much for reading.

Social Media Marketing by Liana Evans, A Book Review

Social Media Marketing by Liana Evans

Social Media Marketing by Liana Evans was a book that I might have read a little too late in the semester. In all fairness, I read this book toward the end of my first social media class at Quinnipiac (ICM 522).

KD Paine and Liana "Li" Evans Liana Evans
KD Paine and Liana “Li” Evans (Photo credit: wordbiz)

Hence it felt like I already knew a lot of what was being written, but that was likely more a function of timing than anything else.

Sorry, Li.

Been There, Done That

The book is interesting. However, I had just read a ton of other works about very similar work, strategies, and ideas. Therefore, it ended up being maybe one book too many. And it ended up an optional read, anyway. Furthermore, other works seemed to have said it better. And these days, books just do not get published fast enough to take proper advantage of trends and new insights. Blogs, in general (although not always!) end up more current and relevant.

Possibly the best takeaway I got from the book was when Evans talked about online communities, particularly in Chapter 33 – You Get What You Give. And on page 255, she writes –

  • You need to invest your resources
    • Time to research where the conversation is
    • Time and resources to develop a strategy
    • and Time and staff resources to engage community members
    • Time to listen to what they are saying, in the communities
    • Time and resources to measure successes and failures
  • Giving valuable content
  • It is similar to a bank account
  • Don’t bribe the community
  • Rewards come in all fashions
    • Research who your audience is
    • Give your audience something valuable and/or exclusive
    • Don’t expect you’ll know everything
    • Listen to what your audience says
    • Admit when you are wrong
    • Thank your community

Finally, much like we’ve been telling people for years on Able2know – listen before you speak!

Rating

Review: 4/5 stars.

Groundswell by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff, An Updated Book Review

Groundswell by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff

This is something of an updated review of Groundswell by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff as, by the time I got to the ICM 522 Social Media Platforms class at Quinnipiac University, I had already read this seminal work.

Cover of "Groundswell by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff
Cover via Amazon

But no matter. Because this is still a terrific work by Josh Bernoff and Charlene Li, and it remains more than a little relevant.

And in fact, I think I understand it better than I ever have.

Changing the Way You Think about Online Marketing for Good

For Li and Bernoff, the online world is a rich and diversified community. And in that large umbrella community, there are several smaller communities. But unlike in the case of the classic Matryoshka (Russian nesting dolls), there is an enormous amount of overlap.

Above all, they put forward the idea of a system called POST. And if you read nothing else, read this part of not just my review but of their book itself.

  • Personae – who are your potential buyers? Who are your readers? And who makes up your audience?
  • Objectives – what do you expect to get out of going online, and continuing online, or going in a different direction online?
  • Strategies – how will you implement your ideas? What comes first? In addition, what must wait?
  • Technologies – which platforms will you use? How will you use these differently as your strategy begins to click into place?

So the last time I read Groundswell, I suspect that I did not really understand POST.

And now I know never to start a social media campaign without it. So thanks to Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff! This work is a classic for a damned fine reason. It really is that good. Because you need this book in your social media library.

Rating

Review: 5/5 stars.

Facebook to Allow Users to Login with Less Info

Facebook to Allow Users to Login with Less Info

According to The Boston Globe,  Facebook announced in late April that, “its 1.3 billion users would soon be able to limit the information they reveal to other websites or mobile applications when they log in through their Facebook identities.”

Facebook
Facebook (Photo credit: Scott Beale)

The idea behind this move is to address users’ concerns about revealing their personal data just to check out a website.

The enormous social networking site is also considering making it possible for users to log into other sites anonymously.  That is, the login would be anonymous to the other site, but not to Facebook. Because, of course, Facebook wants to gather (presumably) anonymous data for the purpose of aggregating it and better understanding user behavior.

One of the reasons why Facebook has grown so enormous (1.3 billion users) is because it reveals such intimate details to online businesses. Likes are routinely scanned. Birth dates are revealed. Even photos and friend lists are sometimes shared with outside businesses. The aggregation of quantitative data (we are studying this at Quinnipiac, in ICM 524,  which is the Social Media Analytics class) is vital to any number of sites understanding people’s behavior on the web.

The truth is, any person who believes that any of their clicks are not being counted, timed, compared, or otherwise measured is in for a real surprise. They are.  And this is not necessarily any sort of a bad thing, I might add. For data to be best understood, there really does need to be an awful lot of it. And what better site to bring a lot of data than the behemoth itself, Facebook?

Caveat clicker.

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Quinnipiac Assignment 04 – ICM 552 – LinkedIn and Its Premium Service

LinkedIn and Its Premium Service

Quinnipiac Assignment 04 – ICM 552 – LinkedIn and Its Premium Service
Nederlands: Linked In icon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Like many people, I am a member of LinkedIn. I use the service even when I am employed. It is a decent means of building and maintaining a connection. However, much like Facebook, it can turn into a bit of a popularity contest. You can also end up connected to people you don’t really know. That is not necessarily a huge problem, however. After all, when you build a network offline, you are encouraged to meet friends of friends and expand your circle. Job seekers in all sorts of fields are urged to mention their searches to anyone who will listen (and, perhaps, to those who couldn’t care less). You’re told to tell your hairdresser, even if you don’t work in that field. And on and on.

And LinkedIn’s got a premium service. For $29.99/month, you can get your resume tossed onto the top of the pile. You get a sweet little badge on your profile page, telling all and sundry that you’ve gone premium.

Of course everyone else who goes premium gets identical treatment. If you are vying for a position where there are 100 applicants, and five of them are premium, then all five of you are at the top of the heap. Furthermore, there are no gradations of quality. LinkedIn neither knows (nor cares) whether you or any of the other premium members are better qualified than the other 95 applicants. You’re still up at the top of the stack, although of course the impact of being premium is diminished when others are, as well.

We were asked to answer a few ethical questions about this practice.

  • Does the premium service pass ethical muster? Why or why not?

Exploitation

Using the SAD (Situation, Analysis, Decision) method, the situation is, I feel, somewhat exploitative. The job seeker (often an increasingly desperate individual) is tempted to spend their limited capital on the service. The moral agent, I feel, is LinkedIn itself. While the job seeker might be the one deciding on whether to go ahead and go premium or not, it is LinkedIn itself that has decided on pricing and on providing the service in the first place.

The service is a dubious one at best, I feel. The job seeker is pushed to get his or her resume to the top of the stack, but the reason for promoting the candidate is a financial one and is not based upon merit at all. Such a practice preys upon a job seeker’s insecurities and desire to get something, anything to pay the bills.

  • Does the employer have an ethical responsibility to prioritize LinkedIn’s premium service subscribers above other candidates? Why or why not?

The Employer’s Side

The employer has no ethical responsibility to prioritize premium service subscribers over other candidates. For the employer, if he or she knows how candidates pay for placement, then the intelligent thing to do would be to ignore stack placement in favor of other criteria, such as whether a candidate has experience in an area, or is a veteran or a disabled person that the company is looking to court (such a practice may or may not be legal or ethical, either).

Practically speaking, though, piles of candidate resumes, much like slush piles at publishing houses, are glanced at unless the employee is really looking for something or for a certain type of someone. The fact that certain candidates are at the top might mean that they are the only candidates seen by a rushed Hiring Manager. LinkedIn is counting on this behavior by Hiring Managers, as are job seekers who avail themselves of the service.

  • What ethical arguments could job seekers use against this LinkedIn’s practice?

Beyond the question of whether it works at all (e. g. charging for a service that does not seem as if it would work at all), a job seeker can also present an argument about exploitation. Job seekers are on fixed and unreliable incomes at best. To push for nearly $30/month for a service of dubious efficacy means that a job seeker might go without any number of necessities. It may not seem like much, but that’s grocery money. $360/year is the cost of a decent new suit and accessories.

Social Contract

Does this situation fall under contractarian ethical theory (based upon mutual agreement)? Not exactly. The mutual agreement is skewed heavily in favor of LinkedIn, which created the ‘service’ in the first place and does not allow for negotiations on price or features. LinkedIn isn’t acting from an altruistic standpoint, either. For LinkedIn, the situation seems to fall under utilitarianism. E. g. for them, it is a maximizing of benefits and a minimizing of downsides.

For the job seeker, it seems like just another way to prey on their circumstances without providing much of a benefit at all. Under a deontology theory in particular (act morally under all circumstances), the LinkedIn premium feature fails particularly miserably.

Quinnipiac Assignment 02 – ICM 552 – Charlie Hebdo and Ethics

Charlie Hebdo and Ethics

For the benefit of those who have been living under rocks, it’s time to talk about Charlie Hebdo and Ethics.

Charlie Hebdo is a French satirical magazine. It is a place where controversial cartoons and commentary are unleashed. The magazine prides itself on being irresponsible.

History

Charlie Hebdo and EthicsIn 2006, a lawsuit was brought against Charlie Hebdo for its works. At the time, French President Nicolas Sarkozy sent a letter to the court, championing France’s tradition of satire.

But then in 2011, the offices of the magazine were firebombed, and their servers were hacked.

And now, in January of 2015, a dozen people were shot to death.

Tragedy and Free Speech

Wrapped up in this obvious tragedy are considerations of free speech. People around the world were outraged, and they took to the streets to protest, yelling, Je Suis Charlie! Or they would hold up signs that said the same. The three-word sentence simply says, “I am Charlie.”

Free speech means that all speech is free, and that includes satiric and uncomfortable speech. Racist screeds are protected, as are cartoons showing world or religious leaders doing God only knows what. And Charlie Hebdo and its cartooning staff certainly seemed to take pride in that as well, at showing the famous and the powerful and the well-known and the worshiped at their worst.

Preparations

I have to say, though, that the magazine’s actions were more than a little irresponsible. They had seen a history of escalation, and things had already gotten violent. Four years ago. Hence I have to wonder, what were the preparations? And where were the precautions?

Abortion doctors who have seen their colleagues shot sometimes stop performing abortions. Or they will also take sensible precautions and wear bulletproof vests when they go to work in the morning. While living in fear is unpleasant (there’s an understatement), the precaution is an intelligent one. I am not saying that unprotected abortion doctors are shouting out to the world, “Come on and take your best shot!” But a smart precaution isn’t caving. If anything, it’s just being practical. And it is respecting one’s family, too. Yet I don’t see the dozen victims as having done that. Why not? It sure as hell would have made some sense.

This is not me blaming the victims. This is more like – couldn’t something have been done? Hindsight is, of course, 20/20. These people cannot be retroactively saved. But maybe others can.

On Balance

The thing that gets to me is that Charlie Hebdo isn’t Mad Magazine. Hell, it isn’t even Cracked. It feels a lot more like adolescents drawing crude figures and taunting each other. It does not feel clever enough to be satire. Yet people will go out and buy it now, anyway. It’s chic to do so, as seven million copies of the latest issue are sold, for a magazine that normally has a circulation of some 60,000.

Free speech? Hell yeah. Condemn the killer or killers? Of course. Try to ignore the fact that the reactive cartoons in solidarity were considerably more clever than anything Charlie Hebdo ever published.

The video is my class presentation on the subject.

Quinnipiac Assignment 09 – ICM501 – Gaming: A Persuasive Industry?

Gaming: A Persuasive Industry?

Video games seem to have a reputation of being easy, mindless, and violent. Certainly a lot of them are any combination of those three characteristics, if not all three.

Quinnipiac Assignment 09 – ICM501 – Gaming: A Persuasive Industry?
Cover of Everything Bad is Good for You

But there is more to games and gaming than that. It’s often a complex reward system, with promotions and prizes that are difficult to obtain. As Johnson, S. (2005). Games. In Everything bad is good for you: How today’s pop culture is actually making us smarter (pp. 17–62). New York: Berkley Publishing Group. [Posted to “Course Materials” on Blackboard] says, “The game scholar James Paul Gee breaks probing down into a four-part process, which he calls the ‘probe, hypothesize, reprobe, rethink’ cycle:

  1. The player must probe the virtual world (which involves looking around the current environment clicking on something, or engaging in a certain action).
  2. Based on reflection while probing and afterward, the player must form a hypothesis about what something (a text, object, artifact, event, or action) might mean in a usefully situated way.
  3. The player reprobes the world with that hypothesis in mind, seeing what effect he or she gets.
  4. The player treats this effect as feedback from the world and accepts or rethinks his or her original hypothesis.” (Pages 44 – 45)

The Good Side

Hence games seem to cultivate a measure of curiosity, and perseverance, and determination. Roll one more boulder up a hill; look through one more doorway; or craft one more suit of armor, and you can level up. Rewards come from patience, persistence, and attention to detail. Gamers are rewarded for their time spent, and they might even be learning something along the way. Everyone can participate, and everyone can succeed.

The Not So Good Side

However, the Chinese gold farming economy turns these ideas on their collective heads.

Quinnipiac Assignment 09 – ICM501 – Gaming: A Persuasive Industry?
Star Trek Online (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In Dibbell, J. (2007, June 17). The life of a Chinese gold farmerNew York Times Magazine. [Link], the law of supply and demand has given rise to a kind of shadow economy where players pay – with real money – for fake money and treasure that allows them to level up and advance within the game (and, presumably, garner more in-game prestige). This removes at least financial equality and it might remove other forms of equality (e. g. of maturity levels and patience levels) as well. “This development has not been universally welcomed. In the eyes of many gamers, in fact, real-money trading is essentially a scam — a form of cheating only slightly more refined than, say, offering 20 actual dollars for another player’s Boardwalk and Park Place in Monopoly. Some players, and quite a few game designers, see the problem in more systemic terms. Real-money trading harms the game, they argue, because the overheated productivity of gold farms and other profit-seeking operations makes it harder for beginning players to get ahead. Either way, the sense of a certain economic injustice at work breeds resentment. In theory this resentment would be aimed at every link in the R.M.T. chain, from the buyers to the retailers to the gold-farm bosses. And, indeed, late last month American WoW players filed a class-action suit against the dominant virtual-gold retailer, IGE, the first of its kind.”

Pay for Virtual Play

Zynga, on the other hand, has apparently embraced the pay for virtual play culture wholeheartedly. By allowing players to purchase Farmville credits, Words With Friends ad-free versions, and faster healing in NFL Showdown, Zynga takes advantage of players’ competitive instincts, all while raking in the all too real cash. Woe be to those who have time to trade yet not enough cold, hard cash.

It seems that the players lose something, and it’s not just actual money. It’s the learning experience, and the cultivation of patience and curiosity. It’s also the flattening of economic and age levels in a game. As in offline life, it becomes more about who can flash cash versus who can master a game’s intricacies. Adding an element of purchase to bypass perseverance just seems to reinject mindlessness back into the experience, and validates criticisms of video and online games as being intellect-free diversions.

Quinnipiac Assignment 08 – ICM501 – Polarization, Partisanship, and Politics

Polarization, Partisanship, and Politics

Polarization, Partisanship, and Politics. The internet has brought a lot of people together in communities. At the same time, it has also driven people apart. Or has it?

Y2K and Bush v. Gore – That was the Year

Close American Presidential elections are nothing new.

Quinnipiac Assignment 08 – ICM501 – Polarization, Partisanship, and Politics
Rutherford B. Hayes, former President of the United States. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Hayes-Tilden election of 1876, after all, was settled by the House of Representatives. But Y2K was the first year within living memory when the popular vote was so close, and the margins so razor-thin that a great political divide could readily be seen in this country.

However, in 2000, the percentage of Americans online was only about 44%.

Contrast that to today. According to Internet World Stats, American Internet usage is at 87% as of March of 2014. Even the American population that doesn’t use the Internet at all is declining, with West Virginia and Mississippi having the highest percentage of nonusers. As would be expected, use and nonuse of the Internet correlates pretty closely with income and age.

The Good Old Days?

But back to Y2K. With less than half of the country online, and neither Twitter nor Facebook (the Huffington Post didn’t exist yet, either), people turning to the Internet for their news were mainly getting it from sites like the New York Times Online. But it was more likely that citizens were getting their news from offline sources, including the paper version of the New York Times. According to Kreiss, D. (2012).  Innovation, infrastructure, and organization in new media campaigning. In Taking Our Country Back: The Crafting of Networked Politics from Howard Dean to Barack Obama, (pp. 3–32). New York: Oxford University Press. [PDF], there was a small presence of candidates online, but it didn’t get too sophisticated until the Howard Dean campaign of 2004.

Per Kreiss, “During the 2000 primaries, Bill Bradley and John McCain demonstrated the potential of small-dollar online fund-raising. McCain raised record amounts of money online after his New Hampshire primary victory over George W. Bush.  During that electoral cycle, political staffers also began to recognize for the first time that the primary users of candidate websites were supporters, not undecided voters seeking detailed policy statements. To take advantage of this, campaigns began encouraging supporter participation instead of just presenting ‘brochureware’ designed to persuade those who sought out information on the candidate.” (Page 5)

What’s the Cause?

Hence with only a limited online presence for candidates, and readerships that mainly consisted of already convinced supporters, it does not appear that the political divide was caused by internet access or usage. It seems to instead predate the ubiquity of Internet access and usage that we see today.

While it seems that there is a gulf between the two sides in American politics (and that gulf is currently getting wider due to various hot button issues such as gun control and the Middle East, both of which lend themselves well to snappy soundbites and infographics online), a bigger gulf is amongst individuals.

Preaching to the Choir

Facebook in particular automatically culls and curates what we see. We express our preferences every single day by either hitting like, or following, or selecting “I don’t want to see this.” We also make our choices in terms of who we add as our friends, and whose content we respond to.

Facebook

Facebook engagement is declining, but a lot of that has to do with the amount of information that is thrown at us every single day. Statistic Brain says that the average amount of time spent on Facebook is 18 minutes, and the average number of friends is 130. Hence for every minute online (on average), you are potentially reading about the activity of a little over seven friends (48% of all users check Facebook every single day). With so much activity, it’s no wonder that users would seek to cut out the noise. Furthermore, much like we don’t purchase every single publication at a newsstand, users select what they want to see.

Echo Chambers

According to Sunstein, C. R. (2007, December 14). The polarization of extremes.  The Chronicle of Higher Education 54(16), B9. [Library Link], “In 1995 the technology specialist Nicholas Negroponte predicted the emergence of ‘the Daily Me’ – a newspaper that you design personally, with each component carefully screened and chosen in advance. For many of us, Negroponte’s prediction is coming true.” But why wouldn’t this happen? Time is a finite commodity. As the number of Facebook (and other social media outlets) users continues to rise, the average number of connections is bound to rise as well. The average amount of time on any given site probably will rise, too, but it will eventually butt up against a brick wall. Day length is finite, and people have lives outside of Facebook. Even with tablets and smart phones, there is still plenty of time spent not engaging in social media-style activities.

With limited time and attention, the flood of information has to be stopped somehow. We build dams and divert it or dry up some of our sources. We unfriend people, we leave certain sites, and we become more parsimonious with our time. As for what remains, we understandably choose what we want to see and hear – because we are able to now. But diverse and even opposing viewpoints do creep in.

Maybe we’re not so Polarized?

According to Manjoo, F. (2012, January 17).  The end of the echo chamber: A study of 250 million Facebook users reveals the web isn’t as polarized as we thought. Slate. [Link], “The fact that weak ties introduce us to novel information wouldn’t matter if we only had a few weak ties on Facebook. But it turns out that most of our relationships on Facebook are pretty weak, according to Bakshy’s study. Even if you consider the most lax definition of a “strong tie”—someone from whom you’ve received a single message or comment—most people still have a lot more weak ties than strong ones. And this means that, when considered in aggregate, our weak ties—with their access to novel information—are the most influential people in our networks. Even though we’re more likely to share any one thing posted by a close friend, we have so many more mere acquaintances posting stuff that our close friends are all but drowned out.”

Typical Doesn’t Exist

For Cass Sunstein, having an average or typical consumer, reader, listener or viewer in mind means that everyone is fed every bit of political information. He feels that’s better, that people can become informed about more than just their own immediate personal interests. Separation concerns him. And it’s already here. But the truth is, the typical consumer never really existed. I feel he’s pining for a past that seems a bit too golden and fuzzy, wearing a halo that it does not deserve.

Are we more separate today? Yes, absolutely. The United States is far from homogeneous these days. But we’re not quite all confined to our own little silos or ivory towers. At least, we aren’t yet.