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).
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.
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!
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 Matryoshka (Russian nesting dolls), there is an enormous amount of overlap.
Above all, they put forward the idea of a system called POST.
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 didn’t really understand POST.
And now I know never to start a social media campaign without it. So thanks to Charlene Li and John 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.
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.”
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?
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?
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 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.
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.
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.
In 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 fire bombed, 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.
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 bullet-proof 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.
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.
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.
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. InEverything 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:
The player must probe the virtual world (which involves looking around the current environment clicking on something, or engaging in a certain action).
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.
The player reprobes the world with that hypothesis in mind, seeing what effect he or she gets.
The player treats this effect as feedback from the world and accepts or rethinks his or her original hypothesis.” (Pages 44 – 45)
Hence games seem to cultivate a measure of curiosity, and perseverence, 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.
In Dibbell, J. (2007, June 17). The life of a Chinese gold farmer.New 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.”
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.
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.
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.
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. InTaking 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)
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 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.
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. 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.”
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.
I had wanted so much to avoid tweeting or blogging or otherwise amplifying the signal around the Gaza situation. But the assignment more or less forced my hand. It was simply far too large a news story to ignore. I am still less than thrilled, and have been attempting to avoid promoting any of the rather incendiary rhetoric I have been seeing in my news feeds (from all sides, I might add).
My second choice trending news topic was about Central American children fleeing persecution and ending up at the United States/Mexico border, plus all of the reactions that have been going along with that. This has been a particularly compelling news story here in Massachusetts, as Governor Deval Patrick has been trying to determine whether the Bay State can and should accept some of these children.
My third choice for a trending news topic was the Ebola scare. With an American angle – there are a couple of Americans who have succumbed to the virus (these were people who had worked in places like Liberia) – the story was a good one to follow. It is evidently being followed around the world although the heaviest concentrations of hashtags are in the Sierra Leone area of Africa.
For my final two choices for trending news topics, I decided to go a lot lighter and instead followed the release of trailers for the new Hobbit (Battle of Five Armies) and Hunger Games (Mockingjay) films. The Hobbit trailer, at least during the time period I was looking at, was the more popular of the two.
The assignment was fascinating. Journalists often see themselves as champions of the underdog, telling the stories that are otherwise not heard. But news organizations are commercial enterprises. If a topic is trending, it often behooves them to try to ride that wave.
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.
Once again, this was a week where we did not have to create a video. Instead, we conducted a review of the J-Krak communities that Kim Scroggins and I had created. We compared our efforts on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and MySpace. We also reviewed our efforts in the blogosphere.
Our efforts were all as strong as we could make them (at least, I believe so), but our levels of success were certainly all over the place. We ranged from exceeding our thirty follower requirement for Facebook in about an hour, to nearly no engagement or followers in Google+. Although, in all fairness, the number of views on Google+ was fairly impressive. We were about to join the overall conversation in Twitter. Our experience on MySpace was, we felt, a waste of time. And our blog had a decent following, and the followers were, by the end of the semester, beginning to tip more heavily into the realm of true followers, as opposed to our classmates, friends, and families, who would follow us in order to be nice and help us out, versus people who were truly interested in our message.
Instead, we wrote up a PowerPoint slide show to get together our strategy for the final two weeks of the semester.
We spent time over the past week performing a lot more social listening and analysis. We grabbed screen shots of all sorts of things which ended up in our final project, which I will post next week.