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Posts tagged ‘facebook’

The 5 Biggest Mistakes in Making Your New Year’s Resolutions

iStock_000011106099SmallThe good news is that people your age are over twice as likely to keep their new year’s resolutions than people your parents’ age. The bad news is that the majority of college students will still fall short. So what makes these resolutions seem so easy on January 1st and so hard on January 2nd?

Here are the five biggest mistakes you can make when setting a resolution:

1. You have a goal but not a plan.

“I want to lose weight.”

This might be the most frequent resolution, and I’m willing to bet it’s the most likely to fail as well. The problem is that losing weight is a great objective, but it’s not very meaningful as a resolution if you’re not focusing on how you can lose weight.

Weight loss isn’t something you do, it’s something that happens because of changes in exercise and diet. Instead of aiming for an ideal weight, set clear-cut objectives about eating and working out. BMI isn’t always the best way to measure health anyway, so it’s better to focus on the factors over which you have direct control.

2. The resolution is too general.

“I want to cut back on drinking.”

That’s great. But what does that mean? No more liquor? No more than two drinks in a night? Giving up alcohol entirely? (more…)

Why Facebook Might Add a ‘Sympathize’ Button (But Probably Won’t)

You don’t really “Like” everything your friends post on Facebook. Whether it’s a commemoration of a recently deceased pet, a “_____ is now single” relationship update, or something that enrages your inner activist, there’s plenty of potential interaction on social networks that isn’t built into the native application.

You might have heard the rumor that Facebook may be adding a “sympathize” button for these sorts of situations. I’m here to tell you that, while weirder things have certainly happened, I wouldn’t hold my breath for this new feature anytime soon. Why?

Simple. Companies can’t use it.

Facebook’s long-term strategy has always been to prove that it is essential. It’s done that socially. As long as you know more people with Facebook accounts than without, it’s a vital part of modern life. Even if you’re a bigger fan of Twitter or Tumblr, you probably still keep that Facebook account around just as a way to stay connected.

But Facebook hasn’t yet 100% proved its value to companies, and companies give Facebook money. Sure, Facebook has ads and promoted posts. (Bookbyte runs a few.) It gives companies access to user data and a platform to reach them. But many companies are still wary about the effectiveness of these ads. Ads on Google are designed to lead people right to what they’re looking for. Ads on Facebook are designed to make somebody Like something they haven’t yet. There’s a lot of value in that, but it’s harder to explain.

A “sympathize” button, which I guess would look like two people hugging or something, doesn’t really connect with company goals. It’s too nuanced, and companies aren’t looking for nuanced reactions. They just want people to Like what they’re doing.

I really have no idea what the "Sympathize" icon would be. A sympathetic flower, or something?

I really have no idea what the “Sympathize” icon would be. A sympathetic flower, or something?

If you remember the old days of Facebook, you used to have a number of fields where you were free to enter whatever information you want. Your profile might have looked something like this:

  • Movies: Either horror or romantic comedies
  • TV Shows: The Sopranos, telenovelas, some reality shows when I’m bored
  • Music: Pretty much anything I can dance to

With the introduction of fan pages, all of this information was wiped clean if it couldn’t be categorized and linked directly to a page. The above information then looked like:

  • Movies: 
  • TV Shows: The Sopranos
  • Music:

The nuance was removed. You simply Liked a page, or you had nothing to say about the topic. “Sympathize” would add a new interaction but not add any way to quantify it.

Liking on the other hand, provides a glimpse into how a person might want to spend money, even in ways Facebook has yet to do. Imagine if companies could target you based on the content of the posts you Liked. Did you Like that video of a 90-yard punt return touchdown? Maybe you’d be interested in buying the team jersey. “Sympathize,” on the other hand, there’s simply no way to monetize it.

Honestly, I don’t mean any of the above as a knock on Facebook. Companies are always going to try to make money, no reason to hate them for it.

And to tell the truth, I’m not crazy about the “Sympathize” button idea either. If you really sympathize with someone who’s going through something tough, you can take the time to write them a comment telling them so.

10 Things College Students Should Never Share on Facebook

Facebook has always had a weird relationship with colleges. It was created by a college student and originally exclusively used by other college students.  And even though a billion people are on the network, there’s a general sense that it’s mostly young people who’re using social media.

Despite (or maybe because of) its origins, college is both the best and the worst possible time to use Facebook. A very large percentage of the things the network tempts you to share are the very last things you want to be seen doing right as you’re entering the work force. I dare you to find one person who hasn’t done something while in college that they would never share with an employer.

Just like our guide to things not to do during finals, we’re back with another reference list of bad ideas. If you’ve started your job search, here are some things you should purge from your wall (or probably just never put up there in the first place.)xed_out_solo_cup

  1. Under 21? No pictures with alcohol. This should be a no brainer. If this is the first time you’re hearing this, then please, please continue reading this list. You’ll need it more than the rest of us.
  2. Over 21? Only incredibly tasteful pictures with alcohol. Just because you’ve hit the legal drinking age doesn’t mean your future employer wants to see photographic evidence of that night you were undefeated in Flip Cup. Treat your pictures like they are beer commercials. Holding a beer is probably fine. Chugging from a bottle, lying in a pile of red Solo cups,  playing drinking games… they’re all probably not. (more…)

What Does the Freakout About Instagram’s Terms Say About Social Networks?

This article was originally published before Instagram responded to the outrage with this message. Instagram has removed the confusing clause and apologized for the misunderstanding. Therefore some of the content of this post is no longer timely, but I believe the over-arching point about what people will accept from a social network is still worth discussing.


Thank goodness there’s somebody out there pawing through massive license agreements and thank goodness the Internet allows for people to share the important parts.

Instagram just made everybody very, very unhappy by tweaking their terms of service. Here’s the changes Instagram highlighted, in my words, not theirs:

  • You still own your photos.
  • Instagram now syncs more effectively with Facebook.
  • The new rules help protect you.

You don’t need me to say that these three bullet points are meaninglessly vague. Here’s the actual meat of the changes, buried in the fine print. This is the stuff that’s got everyone up-in-arms (this time in their words, my highlights): (more…)

Could Facebook Affect How You Vote?

Message saying "I voted... did you?"

Anybody who logged onto Facebook on election day got hit with a crazy number of “go vote!” messages. Most were from your friends, many were from the companies you’ve Liked. (We tried to make ours go down easier by pairing it with a picture of an adorable puppy.) But there were also some messages from Facebook itself. They were either just general messages to go vote or a list of your friends who’ve already voted (who then told Facebook that they voted, of course).

But here’s where it gets interesting. Not everybody saw these messages. Four percent of Facebook users got no message. Why?

Facebook button saying "Remind Friends to Vote"
Because they were all being subjected to a big social experiment.

The Atlantic explains:

By splitting up the population into these experimental and control groups, researchers will be able to see if the messages had any effect on voting behavior when they begin matching the Facebook users to the voter rolls (whom a person voted for is private information, but whether they voted is public).

Researchers want to know if social pressure from Facebook affects people’s decisions about voting. So, with Facebook’s cooperation, they’re seeing if the “your friends are voting” messages gave people the final push to perform their civic duty.

For most people, Facebook and politics are like potato chips and cupcakes — addictive on their own, but pretty revolting when paired together. The number of posts for (or more likely, against) a candidate before the election was topped only by the number of posts by people complaining about their Facebook feeds being hijacked by friends talking politics.

(Somebody could make a killing on a Facebook app that blocks all references to specific candidates. Get on that, innovators.)

But maybe the constant politi-chatter is reinforcing your political beliefs as it annoys you. You might roll your eyes when one of your friends posts “NOBAMA!”, but maybe that post is a reminder for liberal voters to cancel out that guy’s vote and a reminder for conservative voters to back that guy’s vote up. Maybe individual political messages all blur together after awhile, but the combined effect of seeing them again and again every day helps you develop your opinion.

Think about it this way: Ask the next person you see which presidential candidate they voted for. Most people will answer quickly. Now ask someone how they voted for a specific local ballot measure. Many people won’t even be able to remember.

And which are you more likely to see as a Facebook post — “NOBAMA” or “MEASURE 82, I CHOOSE YOU!”?

(Note to self: Make Pokémon themed bumper sticks supporting ballot measures that end in 2′s.)

Dear Businesses, Don’t Lie With Social Media. It Ends Badly. For You.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone be so impassioned about kinda-OK chicken sandwiches as I have over the past week. If you haven’t heard… first of all, good for you. How do you manage to avoid all these blog fodder stories? Second, here’s the summary of the major points:

  1. Chick-fil-A CEO asked if his apparent stance against gay marriage is true. Answers, “Guilty as charged.”
  2. The Henson company cancels their agreement to sell Muppet toys through Chick-fil-A.
  3. Chick-fil-A posts a message at its restaurants saying the Muppet toys were pulled because of a safety hazard.
  4. Mike Huckabee calls for an end to the “hate speech” against Chick-fil-A.
  5. Chick-fil-A accused of defending themselves using dummy Facebook accounts.

If you’re thinking that the jump from step 3 to step 4 is completely ridiculous, then congratulations, you’re a reasonable person. If “I’m going to buy my chicken sandwich somewhere else!” is a form of hate speech, then what words do you have left to describe racism and death threats?

Instead I want to talk about step 5. Now, technically we don’t have any hard evidence proving that these dummy accounts were created by the fast food chain’s PR team, but it is pretty suspicious. A stock photo pasted onto a few-hours-old account solely dedicated to defending the company? It’s a dummy account for sure, and a lazily made one at that. But theoretically anybody could have made it, I’m just not sure why anyone not on their payroll would have any reason to.

Even if we give Chick-fil-A the benefit of the doubt, there are plenty more companies guilty of actions just this moronic.

Back in 2005, cosmetics company L’Oreal started a blog solely dedicated to how great they and their products are. The blog was written from the perspective of a non-existent woman named Claire, whose raves about L’Oreal skin creams were coming right from the brains of the marketing department. Needless to say, they were eventually caught in their lie.

WalMart started a very Morgan-Spurlock-esque stunt blog, chronicling a couple who was journeying from Nevada to Georgia and staying overnight in WalMart parking lots along the way. Except none of this was true: WalMart was simply fashioning a false narrative and peppering it with “interviews” by WalMart employees gushing about how much they love their jobs.

Gaming developer Bioware was caught redhanded abusing the voting system on Metacritic, the aggregate review site. One reader noticed that the language of a few of the posts praising Bioware’s Dragon Age 2 without any qualification sounded a bit canned. After a bit of digging, he found that multiple profiles were created that day by Bioware employees to generate artificial positive word of mouth. Weirdly, the parent company of Bioware, EA, sent out the most sarcastic member of their PR team, who apologized for nothing, saying “I’m betting Barack Obama voted for himself too.”

It’s mindboggling to me that any company would ever think they could get away with something like this, though I can understand the temptation. Imagine you work in marketing and your employer hits a PR iceberg. Somebody in the company needs to put out the little fires, and it’s not going to be the CEO. So you, as a marketing employee, decide to go for direct approach of speaking to customers through Facebook, Twitter, a blog, whatever. Except you can’t directly engage because nobody wants to hear a company rep make excuses. So you lie about who you are, because it’s the Internet, and you’re protected under a veil of anonymity.

Except that last part is completely untrue. People will always find out. Even if you do a better job covering your tracks than the Bioware people did. (They were caught because one employee was using the same alias on multiple sites. Figuring out who it was involved one Google search and one LinkedIn search.)

In fact — and people working in marketing should understand this more than anyone else — it doesn’t even really matter if people find admissible-in-court-type evidence against your company. If they suspect that a company is being dishonest, they will hold it against them, especially if, like Chick-fil-A, they’ve already given people a reason to dislike them in the first place.

Companies of the world: Your customers are just as intelligent and resourceful as you are. You aren’t going to outsmart them, so don’t try. People are very, very responsive to feeling that they’re being manipulated, and social media makes it very, very easy for them to see right through lies.

I’d say “stop it,” but let’s be honest: Fails of this magnitude are pretty entertaining to watch.

Facebook’s Timeline, Mass Effect 3, and Changing Your Past


Apparently, people hate the ending to Mass Effect 3. I mean really, really hate it. Compare the critics’ reaction (who typically write reviews after only a few days of playing) to the masses’ (who can submit a review whenever they want). Metacritic reports an average critic rating of 93/100 on Xbox 360, 92/100 on PS3, and 89/100 on PC. Metacritic users’ respective ratings are 4.9/10, 3.8/10, and 3.8/10. People were so outraged at the ending that they flocked to The Consumerist’s Worst Company in America poll, voting en masse for producer Electronic Arts. EA won the poll, beating out runner-up Bank of America.

Slowly but surely, the complaints transformed from “we don’t like this” to “fix this now.” And so began the demand for the developers to create a new, “fixed” ending. Less than a week ago, developer Bioware gave in to those demands and announced new DLC (downloadable content) that will expand upon the ending, offering players the resolution they felt the series denied them on the first go-round.

It’s a strange event. A company goes back and alters a creative work to retain their credibility among their customers. Stranger still is that the customers demanded that this precise thing happen. On some level, they expected it. They felt it was owed to them.

But maybe that’s not such an unreasonable request. It’s the direction the world is moving, isn’t it? When so much of our information is stored digitally, it becomes both permanent and permanently editable. Think about Facebook’s latest design: the Timeline. Love it or hate it, it does one thing very well: make it much, much easier to revisit your (or someone else’s) past. That’s a double-edged sword. Sure, other people can access old postings that you might prefer remain forgotten. But you can also access those old postings… and delete them.

If you want to scrub your past clean to present the world with a more refined version, you can. If EA wants to pretend that they didn’t make some major narrative blunders in Mass Effect, they can just write a new ending. Both Facebook users and EA/Bioware can change their past, hoping to change their present.

Unfortunately, this is the same motivation that leads George Lucas to endlessly tinker with Star Wars, adding out-of-place CGI, contrived self-defense, recasting roles, and ruining a great scene with melodrama.

The desire to change (for better or worse) indicates that all media, whether books, video games, TV shows, or whatever, are increasingly about a relationship between the creator and the consumer. Bioware gave in to demands for the DLC because they wanted to maintain a positive ongoing relationship with their customers. Facebook’s Timeline makes editing easier for users and searching for information easier for companies. Everybody gets what he or she wants through the magic of selective memory.

And luckily for the curious, despite the best efforts of PR teams, there will almost always be some record squirreled away in some Internet corner of the original Mass Effect ending, the unaltered Star Wars scenes, or the original inappropriate tweet by a Congressman long after the official version has been scrubbed clean.


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