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Posts tagged ‘social-media’

Headline News’ Social Media-Focused Reboot Is Beyond Ridiculous

misused

Source: xkcd

Oof. Cable news network HLN, originally a CNN off-shoot, has taken the page from the strategy of networks like TLC or AMC: abandoning the original concept for the station (Headline News, The Learning Channel, and American Movie Classics, respectively) but keeping the original acronym. The new, refurbished HLN is doing away with the endlessly repeated news cycle and the Nancy Grace-like “outrage news” segments, and replacing them with new material targeted to the millennial demographic.

Apparently the people at Turner Broadcasting don’t have a very high opinion of your demographic.

Here are the new show titles, ranked in increasing order of absurdity:

  • Keywords
  • Vacation Hunters
  • Videocracy
  • One.Click.Away
  • I Can Haz NewsToons
  • #What’sYourFomo

The idea behind the network reboot is to integrate social media with news in original ways that encourage greater levels of engagement. That’s nothing inherently wrong with this idea, but you’d think they could have found some people to come up with ideas that actually understand the advantages online and social news have over cable news, not somebody who browsed Urban Dictionary and KnowYourMeme for an hour.

I don’t understand what the network could possibly offer that couldn’t also be found online without 8 minutes of advertising per half hour. For example, from the description, I Can Haz NewsToons (just typing that makes me shudder) will apparently just show off politically minded e-cards and webcomics. How is that a show? Will the host just read them to us? Will they be crudely animated? I’m not sure which is worse. Why would anybody sit through 2 parts slideshow and 1 part ads for half an hour when they can just scroll through a Tumblr that gives them the exact same thing in two minutes?

Look, HLN, I understand you have a challenge to face trying to reach a younger audience. But if you want to engage with people, you don’t need gimmicks, you need better content. You’re not going to out-Internet the Internet. The fact that you’re trying to shows just how clueless you really are.

Millennials do engage with the news. Really. But almost never through cable. There’s no reason to. This generation is not used to passively consuming information. Young people want the ability to comment, to discuss, to share, and to control how much news to consume. It’s an active experience, as anyone who’s ever done a deep-dive through link after link knows. And no amount of misused hashtagging is going to make cable look more appealing.

(Quick aside, didn’t anyone point out that punctuation closes hashtags? That show can’t even use its own dumb name as a functional hashtag.)

The only way to get millennials to pay attention to cable as a news source is with a strong personality. If you want a model for that, look to Stewart and Colbert. No gimmicks other than entertaining commentary and spot-on satire. It doesn’t even have to be funny, just engaging and… read carefully, because this is the important part… NOT TALKING DOWN TO THE AUDIENCE.

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.

3 Massive Screw-Ups Blamed on Interns

A finger held disconcertingly close to Sideburns' faceIt’s no fun being an intern. If you’re lucky enough to get an internship that actually pays you, it’s probably chump change. It’s unlikely you’re doing the work you want to be doing. You’re almost entirely at the mercy of the company you’re working for, and they don’t have much reason to treat you as well as their normal employees.

Continually fighting the tedium of your position, avoid the temptation to editorialize, plagiarize, or to try too hard to be funny. Because if you do and it makes the company you work for look bad, you’re already in ready, aim, fire position.

Then again, saying “uh… the intern did it” is a pretty lame, cliched PR excuse. It’s entirely possible that none of these public screw-ups actually were the intern’s fault. We might want to consider the possibility that there wasn’t even an intern to begin with. But I’ll leave that to you to decide, depending on how much you trust politicians and government bureaucracies to own up to their responsibilities.

1. Plane crashes aren’t the best time for bad puns

KTVU, a local news channel in San Francisco, recently pulled a Ron Burgundy when reporting on the recent Asiana Airlines crash at the San Francisco airport. The network reported the names of the pilot and crew as a  string of cheesy, racist puns. Asiana Airlines threatened to sue. KTVU obviously needed an excuse fast. They apologized, saying they only read these names after confirming them with the National Transportation Safety Board. The NTSB followed up with their own excuse, saying this was all the work of a devious, rogue intern, who had been promptly fired. The airline ultimately decided to drop the lawsuit.

2. Politicians can’t keep track of what they have and haven’t said, that’s the intern’s job!

During the 2008 presidential election, a web page with a list of “McCain Family Recipes,” something that has no reason to exist apart from illustrating just how stupid our election process is, appeared on the McCain website. Under the section of recipes accredited to Cindy McCain were verbatim copies of Food Network recipes. Campaign spokesman: “The intern [responsible] has been dealt with.” In 2011, former senator from Massachusetts Scott Brown had a supposedly autobiographical section of his website lifted word-for-word from a speech written by former North Carolina senator Elizabeth Dole. Brown: “It was a summer intern that put together the site.”

3. The thousands upon thousands of tweets that come back to haunt their senders

If I had a dollar for every time something stupid was posted on Twitter… wait, let me back up… that’s far more money than I could ever spend in a thousand lifetimes. If I had a dollar for every time a company or politician followed up a stupid tweet with a “But I don’t even know how to Twitter!” type excuse, I’d be a rich, rich man. Listen, politicians, just because you don’t understand social media and your interns do, doesn’t mean your interns should be solely responsible for handling what’s said on Twitter, Facebook, etc. All that proves is that you don’t understand how powerful social media can be. Would you ask someone who was only getting paid with a handshake and recommendation to send out your press releases unapproved and unedited? Of course not. Twitter is the exact same thing, except the damage and bad press fallout occurs about 1,000 times faster.

It’s Time To Stop Pretending Dumb Twitter Reactions Are News Stories

Olympic gymnastic Gabby Douglas holding her gold medal.

There was a very, very, very pointless news story last week regarding Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas’ hair. A handful of idiots took to Twitter to complain that her hair looked unkempt. Now any reasonable person reacts to this “story” by not reacting at all, because what an athlete’s hair looks like is about as important as what shoes a surgeon wears. In this case, a high and tight bun is standard operating procedure for gymnasts, so I really don’t know where the conversation came from in the first place.

Oh that’s right, it came from a handful of idiots. Turns out when you give everybody a voice through social media, idiots will say idiotic things.

What I don’t see is how that handful of easily ignored idiots got to dictate headlines. Tell me what’s wrong with the following real headlines:

“Controversy”? “Debate”? “Outrage”?

"You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

You all do realize that for a debate, you need a point and a counter-point. All we’ve got here is a counter-point. Nobody is actively arguing that Douglas’ overly practical hairstyle is unacceptable. But the press, blogs, and other commenters are keeping this one-sided conversation going anyways. It’s blossomed into a full-on “debate” but the only people having the debate are the ones still acting like there’s something that needs refuting.

Check out this lead from NBC’s Today Show website (the first link above):

Just before the scoreboard showed that Gabby Douglas had won the gold in individual gymnastics last week, her mom Natalie Hawkins had only one reaction: relief. It was relief that came after ten years of training, after her daughter said she dreamt of being an Olympian, and after she let her daughter move away from home at 14 to chase her dreams.

The relief didn’t last long, as Hawkins soon found herself defending her daughter’s hair, which had been swiftly criticized for being both “unkempt” and “embarrassing” very soon after Douglas made Olympic history.

“The relief didn’t last long”? Give me a break, Today Show. I seriously doubt Gabby or her family give any thought whatsoever to this “controversy” beyond when you and other media outlets bring it up. This all grew out of a handful of Twitter posts. Don’t you all know how easy it is to ignore a dumb Twitter post?

Creating a news story from Twitter stupidity is incredibly easy. You can do it yourself. Next time any sort of news or sports event happens, just search for keywords that could be linked to the most offensive possible interpretation. You are bound to be hit with big pile of ignorance and failed wit. That’s what one story did after the women’s soccer match between Japan and the U.S. I’m sure you can imagine what the keywords were for that.

Now, admittedly, we ran a story back in the spring about Twitter reactions, regarding The Hunger Games and the casting of actress Amandla Stenberg as the character Rue. Actually, it’s remained one of our most popular articles on the blog. But, as the writer of that article, I’d argue there’s a difference between stories that ask broader cultural questions — in that article’s case, people judging a film based on how it matches up to their own imagination, not to the descriptions in the book — and stories that simply point out dumb people saying dumb things.

We’ll always have idiots. Let’s try to limit how often we give them a stage.

 

 

 

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.

#Kony2012

If you’re on the internet at all or watch the news, you’ve likely already heard of Kony 2012. An effort put forth by the organization Invisible Children to bring war criminal Jospeph Kony to justice. For the last 26 years he’s kidnapped children and forced them into his Ugandan rebel army. The goal of the campaign is to use social media to make him famous and to help him be located and brought to justice.  To help keep his name and face in the public eye, they are utilizing social media, hash tags, videos, and interviews.

Invisible Children is a unique organization and they divide their efforts into 3 categories: Movies, The Movement, and The Mission. Their mission statement is listed on their website as:

INVISIBLE CHILDREN USES FILM, CREATIVITY AND SOCIAL ACTION TO END THE USE OF CHILD SOLDIERS IN JOSEPH KONY’S REBEL WAR AND RESTORE LRA-AFFECTED COMMUNITIES IN CENTRAL AFRICA TO PEACE AND PROSPERITY.

They have been extremely successful with getting the video shared, viewed, and talked about. In 3 days the video has already been viewed over 55 million times. They have conducted interviews on E! News, The Today Show, and Piers Morgan Tonight. They are also targeting 20 culture makers including Oprah, Angelina Jolie, Mark Zuckerberg and 12 policymakers like Condolezza Rice, Mitt Romney, and Bill Clinton. Within 24 hours several had already tweeted and made Facebook posts encouraging their followers and fans to watch the video and share. To stand up and use their voice.

Over the last few years we’ve seen time and time again how powerful social media is. Within just a few hours this story went viral and brought people together and united over a cause. I can’t think of a better reason to be a part of  social media then to let your voice be heard.

Let us know in the comments below if you’ve watched the video and what you thought.

All the links and ways to connect with Invisible Children and Kony 2012 are included below:

Twitter:

@invisible

Invisible Children founder Jason Russell  @jasonrussell

Facebook:

http://www.facebook.com/invisiblechildren

Kony 2012 website

Invisible Children website

Invisible Children tumblr

Invisible Children financials website

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