My Top 5: Hustle This, List That & Whither Contributor Networks?

Image Credit: George Kelly

Hustle This!

There has been a culture (or cult) of “hustle” in the entrepreneurial space that I find about as exhausting as an 80-hour work week. I am truly happy to see a lot of backlash to that “work is life/nothing else matters” philosophy from people I respect. Hard work is admirable, and most of us do it, but “Leaders” who preach hustle above all else are people I never want to work for. Further, the word “hustle” connotes something a con artist would do; perhaps with the second dollar you earn through such hard work, you should buy a thesaurus.

I don’t know John Doherty, but fell across this article that sums up my thinking well. On Twitter, I  called him my “spirit vegetable.”

From now on, this is the only hustle I want to hear about:

Marketing Guru Lists- Clickbait is Alive and Well

I’m not going to call out the person or the list, but I was very amused to see a sponsored post on Facebok last week touting a particular “Marketing Guru’s” (my word) inclusion on a list of a Well Known Magazine’s “Top 100 speakers” list. Let’s tick off what made my BS detector go off:

  • Top 100 speakers? I can’t think of 100 speakers in any industry that would make me want to but their business
  • The list was published on the web site of a respected business magazine- but it is not hard to spot that it was posted by a member of the contributors network, not the proper editorial staff of the magazine. It was just some guy out there creating clickbait, a practice I find abominable.
  • This “guru” included along the list (along with one of his colleagues!) went to the trouble to spend money to promote the post on Facebook. My goodness…
  • Emabarrassing all around, but I suppose some people fall for the dumbest online tricks (there are still people that swear by marketing by direct message on Twitter; if you do that to me, I will block and report you as a spammer)

But all such lists die embarrassing deaths and go away, don’t they?

Image Credit: Bart Heird

HuffPo Contributor Network Going Away

Speaking of “contributor networks,” a big one is going away: Huffington Post has announced it is dropping its free contributor platform.  I have mixed feelings as a content marketer: on the one hand, the networks are a great source of contributed content from expert sources around the world in all industries, and they can be great vehicles for spreading expertise that contributes to reputation and SEO for the writer, while at their best enriching readers and making the sites more attractive.

At their worst, they are vehicles for terrible content written by shameless self-promoters. HuffPo making this change is interesting because they were more known for making this a cornerstone of their publishing strategy than, say, Forbes, Inc. and The Harvard Business Review, which have more to lose from a brand erosion perspective with their programs.

I’m not getting into the complaints from writers about not getting paid. Perhaps HuffPo took advantage of free labor vs paying professionals, but that is not the way a lot of us viewed these programs.

I wonder if other contributor networks, like the ones, mentioned above, will fall

Wait- This is Real?

Spike TV Twitter Account Jokes About TNA Wrestling in Unorthodox PR Stunt

Stories about fired social media managers taking advantage of the fact the company forgot to revoke access to Twitter or Facebook are legion (I had one such opportunity and took the high road, only noting with a laugh that it took six months for a former employer to revoke my credentials). The Spike TV Tweets were funny at first, but all the air came out of the bag when we realized it was a publicity stunt tied to Spike’s rebranding. I don’t know, maybe it was OK. I suppose a brand you are killing is a fine place to experiment with less chance it will backfire.

Facebook Asks Users to rank News sites for trustworthiness

I wonder what could go wrong with this: Facebook is weighing user ratings heavily into judging what news sites are “trustworthy.”

To be fair, it appears Facebook is using extensive surveys to try to rank news sites before judging which ones are promoted more and which ones hidden, but my gag reflex reminds me that the gullibility and warped judgment of the average Facebook user is partly what got us into the “Fake News” mess in the first place. I remain wary, but we’ll see.

 

My Top 5: Stop Saying Twitter is Dead or Get Out of the Way (Plus Some Facebook Stuff)

“Get Out of the Way” Image Credit: Oiluj Samall Zeid on Flickr

Stop Telling Me Twitter is Dead

Cruising social media posts by others in the industry, I sense a more frequent rash of “I don’t get value from Twitter” and “Twitter is dead” posts. Great! If you don’t get anything out of Twitter, then get out of the way. That doesn’t mean it is dead. I have seen Twitter thrive, even expand, in the case of municipalities finding it the easiest way to get out information, for local-level reporting to interact with the community (high school sports remains a very active hotspot for Twitter use), and other similar uses. Is Twitter not what we thought it would be, ideally, when it launched? Whatever that ideal was, probably not. I should add that my feelings have nothing to do with Twitter’s success as a businessseeking profits, but unless the service actually goes away, it doesn’t matter, at least not for now.

So let social media gurus declare Twitter is dead, and ignore it at their own peril as s0-called masters of media.

My New Favorite Twitter Feature

Back when Twitter launched “Moments,” I thought they had something that would keep me going back. They never got me to use it habitually, as compelling as the content is as a news skimmer, but oh well. Another new feature that has really got my attention, however, is threads. While the Social Media Cassandras are declaring Twitter “Dead,” I’m Reading Some of the Best Tweetstorms. A great example is University of New Hampshire (go Wildcats!) journalism professor Seth Abramson’s frequent rants about the legal stories surrounding our current, erm, unusual White House administration. An example (click through to read them all):

Granted, I don’t know if and how Twitter is monetizing this, but it glues me to Twitter more than anything else has in ten years.

The Watchers are Watching You Watch

As someone who as actively been a jobseeker at times over the last 20 years, I can appreciate the level of attention hiring managers pay to the people who apply. Any excuse to thin the field of applicants is valid. On that note, I caught this reminder recently from my friend Rachel Happe that employers can notice a lack of basic effort to do research for a potential job:

I would assume that a positive effort will be similarly noticed.

Evil Marketing Genius Hacks Dept:

A customer service request (with Google Store- I actually talked to a CSR rep from Google!) led me to check my email spam folder. I didn’t find what I was looking for (don’t worry Google Store soved my issue!), but I did find an email marketing guru’s email marketing newsletter there. As I had been on my New Year’s unsubscribe jag, that led me to think:

Bold new strategy? I just found it amusing. And no, I’m not telling you who the marketing genius whose emails get spam-filtered is, as I stand by my passive-aggressive manifesto.

Image Credit: Johannes Ahlmann on Flickr

Questions for Facebook on the Newsfeed Changes

I may be burying the most important digital marketing story of the month, but that’s your reward for reading this far; Facebook has created an uproar with Mark Zuckerberg’s announcement of changes to the newsfeed that will further emphasize personal content over Pages (many of which are run by companies). Rather than trying to interpret what will happen and prescribe actions – aside from “don’t panic and keep putting out good content for now” – I have a few questions for facebook

  • Is this part of the need to combat the spread of fake news? If so, this story in The New York Times is not encouraging: if the trials in other countries are part of this announced effort, then it’s possible the effect will be people seeing more “fake news,” not less. I would love to think that’s a priority, but I’m not convinced now. Are they fighting “fake news” on the share level or on the publish level? Hmmm.
  • What will be the threshold for shared Page content making it into Newsfeeds? That seems to be unclear. That’s the main thing brands should be asking, rather than “how can I force my crap content down people’s throats?” We can hope Facebook can outline an agenda for brand best practices (and yes, it will include how paid content works, we’re used to that by now), but we may be forced, again, to rely on what we see actually working for us.
  • What happens to stuff I want to share on my personal account? I don’t think that’s clear yet. I don’t even know how many people care. But if it changes, I look forward to the howls of protest from users.

Those are my barely-informed questions, which are far better than the barely-informed opinions we’re going to be enduring on other marketing blogs.

My Top 5: Article Payola, Dilly or No Dilly, #metoo Salute

I have long neglected this space, what so many more fascinating things to read and worry about in the world over the last several months. I figured it was time to clear out a few cobwebs.

Not coincidentally, I discuss some of these topics with Shel Holtz and Ike Pigott on the most recent episode of the For Immediate Release podcast:

Image Credit: Mario Klingemann on Flickr

“Expose” on Paid Placement in Contributed Articles

Jon Christian of The Outline has written what I’ll call an “expose” of paid placements in contributor networks, such as the popular Forbes and Huffington Post. I put the word in quotes because I can’t imagine many people familiar with the networks and contributed content in general are surprised (I suppose I am dad-joke obligated to say “Shocked, shocked!”) that there is pay-for-play going on, but it is illuminating to see some concrete examples. In short, some writers are offering to mention brands in their articles for a price- or are asking journalists to mention them in articles for payment.

My observations:

  • We often complain about the decline of ethics in journalism, but some journalists mentioned in the piece have their ethics firmly intact, at least when it comes to payola.
  • There has been a lot of complaining over the years about sites like HuffPo not paying their writers, but many writers actually do it for the exposure, for themselves or for their companies- and of course there is a valid SEO component, in which Google sees high-quality (not promotional) articles on relevant subjects as signals that the author (or more specifically their company) is an expert and should rank higher for the relevant terms. My point in bringing this up is that the “free content” economy is not about finding ways to get paid, but about raising the profile to get in front of those who will pay. That leave “pay for play” tactics to the unscrupulous weasels.
  • Companies running “pay for play” schemes are not new. I don’t personally see the “pay to get mentioned” schemed myself, but many times over the years I have come into contact with companies that have networks of bloggers, writing for pay. There is a line between paying someone to write for you and enabling a network to churn out content, at which point you lose control over where you place it and how high the quality will be. And firms offering these blogger networks (like Blogdash, mentioned in the article, can find themselves in hot water with Google if they lean too hard on quasi- or un-ethical tactics.

Dilly Dilly Trademark Owners do not Dilly Dally – nor are they Dully-Dully – in delivering Cease and Desist

How often have you seen Big Bad Corporation come down on Small, Bootstrapping Startup over trademark protection with legal cease and desist letters and more? I always recall such a “Cease and Destroy” campaign from Apple on companies such as one-time client Podcast Ready as typical, where a company is overzealous protecting intellectual properties in ways that are pretty much proscribed by the USPTO.

That was my initial reaction when I heard about Anheuser Busch protecting it’s Bud Light”Dilly Dilly” ad campaign trademark against a small brewery in Minnesota, Modist, which launched a limited release Dilly Dilly IPA. However, it turns out the response by the corporate giant was a little more creative than that:

That moment when Bud Light sends you a cease and desist for your #dillydilly release… via a scroll… written in olde english… read by an actual medieval person.. and then sends you to the Minnesota Super Bowl 2018.

Posted by Modist Brewing Company on Friday, December 1, 2017

 

That was fun; and when you consider Modist was clearly infringing on the trademark and knew it, all parties took an expected, boring, sometimes nasty exchange into something fun. As Ike Pigott pointed out on FIR, there seemed to be a hint of collusion – that the whole thing was a setup, not just two brands taking advantage of this collision – but I’m not entirely sure about that. I’m just going to enjoy it.

 

#metoo Moment Hits the Community

One of the many stories that has taken my attention from writing for myself has been the outing of so many popular and powerful figures as having committed various forms of sexual harassment and assault. I don’t have much to add to the conversation, except to applaud those who have come out, enabling others who felt shamed or coerced into silence, or simply feared speaking out, to now do so.

I do, however, feel compelled to point out and applaud my good friend Laura Fitton; she saw five anonymous accusers point to someone who had harassed her- and decided to step forth and tell her story to bolster those who were afraid or unable to name themselves. It’s a brave thing to do and the type of thing that, more importantly, will encourage others to come forward and (we can only hope) stop this behavior.

We are going to see more and more of these stories come out, as decades of incidents are being unpacked at once. I call it the Great Cleansing. It’s what we do after this settles down is what will count for us. I won’t ask you “what are you doing about it” because you don’t owe that answer to anyone (nor do I owe it, and I will not presume to tell anyone else how to approach this), but I know we are all thinking about how this can – and should- make things better (and how we can) when the dust clears.

Three stories is enough; I’m out of shape.

My Top 5: Zillow Goes to Hell, Meek(er) Rebuttal, Influencer Self-Policing, Kill Uber?

Photo Credit: Daniel Lobo on Flickr

McMansion Hell, Zillow and Intellectual Property

This past week, I have seen passionate posts online about the issue of the (very funny) McMansion Hell  site being served with a Cease & Desist (and threatened lawsuit) by Zillow over using images without permission. First things, first-  Zillow dropped the threats in exchange for MMH’s agreement to…well, Cease & Desist using Zillow’s photos in future posts.

The reasons I didn’t get worked up into a “Big Bad Company Threatens Little Blogger” lather over this were many:

  • The threats seemed severe, but it is not the first time I have seen a company reacting severely to protect intellectual property. As we saw by the outcome, the C&D was the ask- I can’t imagine the appetite for anyone to go to court over this.
  • Was MMH’s use of the photos fair use? Hard to say (and I’m not a lawyer. If you are, comment below). Parody tends to be protected speech, but does that mean you can take anyone’s photos for any parodic intent (meaning: MMH wasn’t making fun of Zillow here. But he, there’s an idea…)
  • I am not 100% clear on Zillow’s ownership of the images in the first place. Bad would be if they steal the photos in the first place, but that’s unlikely. More likely is that they use photos from other sources through licensing and partnership agreements- that may limit re-use.
  • My recent interactions with a Hollywood production company has given me a renewed respect for the lengths most media properties go to to make sure they have the rights to materials before using them.

I should repeat that what I read in the update is that Zillow got MMH to agree to stop using the photos. Sounds to me like Zillow was in the right here. Still, McMansion Hell is damn funny. You should go there for a laugh when they put the site back up.

*doublechecks Creative Commons licensing for images used in this post*

I Always Knew What Bugged Me About the New Cult of Mary Meeker- Now You Can, Too

For the last several years, Mary Meeker of Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers has presented an Internet Trends report that is as exhaustive and well-sourced as it is eye-gougingly ugly (it remains my greatest argument against subjecting people to PowerPoint if there is a better option). Witness this year’s:

I tend not to join the salivating packs of tech-savvy marketers in sharing this for several reasons:

  • It’s what I do, which is not sharing things that everybody else is already sharing
  • I ain’t got time for that
  • I have a long memory of the Internet bubble bursting and those who suffered relatively little for it (more in a second)

That all said, “exhaustive” is not merely “exhausting,” but also well-sourced and full of useful information. However, going back to that last bullet, I remember Mary Meeker being one of the folks caught up in pumping Internet stocks that later cratered. OK, most of the stocks did, but people seem to have short memories; I still, when I hear her name, think first not of the trends report, but of the reviled Internet bubble cheerleader.

Leave it to my detail-oriented friend, Tom Webster, to find something in the Internet Trends Report that links the Mary Meeker I remember to the one who has been reborn from the ashes of many destroyed stock portfolios as a visionary. Tom noticed that many of the attributed sources, at least this year, are for Kleiner clients or other, to use a harsh term, compromised points of view. That’s not to say the information is bad, or that disclosure doesn’t exist somewhere in the 355(!!!) slides, but it does behoove us all, as the responsible audience, to  consider the source of what you are reading, and adjust your outlook for potential bias.

Is Mary Meeker’s much-praised report a mere cover for client cheerleading? That would be hard to say. Alway be aware is all I am saying (or let Tom do the digging for us- thanks, Tom)

Photo Credit: Adam Purves on Flickr

Influencer Marketing Council

Speaking of disclosures: hey, there’s an Influencer Marketing Council! It’s got big brands in it and it is no doubt spurned by a recent, more visible(ish) enforcement of online disclosure by the FTC. Will be interested to see where this goes.

Meanwhile, Instagram Ads Still Not Disclosed

I suspect “ignoring” disclosure rules will become a little less common, if only because we are noticing (and noting) the ignorance more. Is that a sound theory? I think so. I write too much about disclosure for my own taste, so that’s enough for now.

Image Credit: Thomas Hawk on Flickr

Delete Uber? Shut it Down? It’s Complicated

I have tended to stay away from the “#DeleteUber” activism merely because if I refused to do business with any company run by jerks, I would probably have to live in a cave (plus, I may not have had some of the jobs on my resume – heyooooo! #justkidding, former bosses). Also, I wouldn’t watch sports events put on by the NCAA, the NFL or FIFA, just to name a few other organizations with troubling background. That’s not enough not to have concern about any of those organizations, but we all decide where to draw the line for ourselves.

While the failings of Uber’s leadership are well-documented- from the abuses of privacy (or threatened abuses), to using technology to bamboozle regulators, to the seeming opportunism during the travel ban cab strike to the more disconcerting unearthing of the sexist “bro culture” torn open by a former female employee’s write- there are plenty of places to stop, say “enough!” and move on.  I didn’t even get to the point that the no-benefits “gig economy” that has Uber playing poster-child, as well as concerns about driver background checks and the like. In fact, looking at that list, I feel a little shallow at not having joined the #deleteuber movement. Should I? Still, I stop short of boycott for reasons above, right or wrong.

A somewhat baffling call to Uber to “delete your company” is this article from the Harvard Business Review blog (side note: bonus points for this article being an actual HBR post from an actual HBR person, rather than one of the “HBR Yourself” articles where you have to fend for yourself in determining quality). Short version of the article: Uber’s business model (as well as Lyft’s) is based on an illegal premise. Point taken that regulation of cars and drivers is a huge point of concern, and that a lack of quality control can result in some dire consequences. That’s the point of regulatory fights in cities like Austin, and we’ll probably see more compromise from ride-sharing companies in these cases, not less.

The reason I shrug my shoulders at the “shut them down” solution while acknowledging the validity of many of the reason is the reason Uber and Lyft exist in the first place: the taxi system in most cities is broken. The expansiveness of medallions creates an indentured servant (or part-time, dare I say “gig” economy) throughout, and some companies are simply corrupt (is this Boston scenario played out in other cities? Your mileage may vary). This brings me back to the “is the alternative better? Maybe we insist on improvements in the already-better option” argument.

Judging a company. especially when placing its business and services against a larger industry backdrop, is complicated. That’s why I don’t #deleteuber.

 

My Top 5: Disclosure Moves Forward, Thanks to Instagram and More…

Instagram Wants You to Label Your Garbage (well, Your Sponsored Posts)

Image Credit: Jason Tester Guerilla Future on Flickr

What would it take for me to dust off my blog after some well earned rest (aka “neglect”)? Some good news from the world of social media disclosure, of course! Instagram is introducing “sponsored post” labels. To someone who has often harped on the lack of disclosure in social media, even by those of us who ought to know better, this is welcome news. My thoughts on this:

  • I never thought of the idea that the social platform itself could put in an easy disclosure device. Not sure why; I never heard anyone else say it out loud either, though I assume some people have.
  • Instagram is as good a platform as any to try this out, as they have rampant undisclosed sponsored posts as much as – perhaps more than – anyone else.
  • I wonder if Instagram parent Facebook would implement such a thing. They should, but I suspect they would rather put energy into getting brands to pay Facebook for ads rather than accommodate someone else’s commercial transaction. I suspect a helpful push from the FTC would help some of these other platforms implement something similar, should it prove to be successful.
  • Read the post; there is disagreement over whether this is adequate or not. Maybe the geotag real estate isn’t the best part; maybe it’s great. I think it’s worth trying as it is better than the big fat nothing that a lot of brands and influencers do.
  • Bottom line: the easier it is to include the disclosure, the more people will do it.

FTC More Active on Disclosure Than I Thought

The previously-linked post about disclosure is old news, but in digging it up for reference here, I also found something interesting relating to the particular example in the post. It turns out that while I and others assumed the FTC would not have the agency bandwidth to pursue every questionable campaign, they were looking at things like the Team Lumia events in Boston in 2014. This letter shows that there were extenuating circumstances that prevented enforcement, but it does validate the concerns that I felt at the time, and brought up despite my hesitance to shine a light on a campaign in which a number of the participants were friends.

..and it does suggest that the FTC has been paying more attention for longer than I ever assumed.

While I’m At It, Some #$%& From the Archives

A couple of months ago, I saw this post titles “Why We Love Marketers Who Curse.” Speak for yourself. Cursing, especially in a professional marketing environment, is more often than not a lazy (and in my opinion failed) attempt to appear hip. Stop it. And stop glorifying it, jackasses (sorry).

One exception is Josh Bernoff’s excellent blog and book Writing Without Bullshit. I had my reservations about the title, but the content is excellent and backs up the branding. So there.

Bad Advice For Careers as Well

OK, this article actually has good advice. However, I am not buying into the idea that cover letters are dead. As with anything being declared “dead,” that’s just a lame attention-getter that predisposes me to hate the article rather than appreciate the decent advice. Read the tips on personalizing your CV and decide for yourself.

Ageism is Getting Old and Should Hit the Road

Finally, kudos to my friend Mark Story for his part in the growing chorus decrying ageism in hiring practices in tech, marketing and other industries. His latest post underlines points by another champion of the cause, Dan Lyons. It’s worth a read and worth paying attention to.

 

My Top 5: All The Stupid Things Must Die

A note to start: I am no longer calling this “Social Media Top 5.” I stopped doing social media exclusively a couple of years ago, and not sure I ever used social as a strict guideline for choosing topics. Plus, it’s all about me, so now it’s “My Top 5.” Other than that, this post is the same old crap.

Image Credit: Steve Johnson on Flickr

Die, Content Marketing! Die! Die! Die!

I finally found something almost as obnoxious and useless as making up meaningless buzzwords for things that don’t need new names or don’t actually exist (*cough* content shock *cough*); saying buzzwords that have come into common usage  need to “die.” Saying such a thing is simply link-bait (oh wait is that a buzzword?) and a grab for attention. Saying that a phrase like “content marketing” needs to die makes no sense to me, outside of the aforementioned cry for attention. Still, I think this post is meant at least partly tongue-in-cheek and worth a read.

As much as I like to make fun of dumb buzzwords, if they mean something (or you can define what you mean by them), they are useful. Content marketing, like it or hate it, covers a broad swath of practices which can have meaning if you define your services. If you are just using the term to be trendy, anyone doing their homework will not hire you; if they do hire you, they get what they deserve (if not what they paid for).

Don’t fight buzzwords; fight empty meaning. It’s not always the same thing.

Twitter Still Not Dead Yet

I know that Twitter’s financials tend to the grim side, and that lazy online marketers find it easy to just say Twitter is dead and irrelevant, but I tend to be more of an optimist. If the 2016 election and current presidential administration have proved nothing else, it’s that for better or worse people pay attention to Twitter. Perhaps it’s not a true social network anymore, and relevance and abuse are problems that need to be addressed more forcefully (I was encouraged by this algorithm tweaking aimed at lessening the effect of bots on reply threads), but it is an easy way to post snippets of information and media- “Moments,” to borrow a phrase that is also a cool Twitter feature that the company would be smart to do more to force us to use.

If Twitter dies, it will not be because it is irrelevant; it’s still a great tool. It will be because the company fails to take advantage of what it does do well.

Meanwhile, legitimate or not I will continue to follow @RoguePOTUSStaff, as well as much of the of-the-moment news coverage from the (not fake) mainstream media.

Snapchat is Dead- Dead, I Say! You Don’t Say… (I Didn’t Say That)

Concerns about governance and business priority changes when a company goes public are legitimate. That does not mean we should assume a company is dead. There are so many questions about Snapchat before even getting to that one. For example, parents have not embraced Snapchat to the extent that their children have run screaming to a new network. Before that happens, I can’t even be certain Snapchat is even close to peaking.

Well, that analysis is as thorough as assuming death by IPO.

Why Snapchat is Dead

UnDead: They Miiiiigghhht be Baaaackk…

One of my early “social media” hobbies was participating in the “Television Without Pity” forums, discussing  and snarking on my favorite TV shows. after a sale to Bravo (and NBC Universal), the site eventially got watered down and later shuttered, as I lamented a few years ago:

Life Without Television Without Pity

Now comes word that the site (and Tubey) is coming back. In what form, and will I love it? I am eager to find out.

(HT to my friend Marti Lawrence)

I Would Be Ok With This Death

People creating images quoting themselves is something I find egotistical and abhorrent. I understand people are trying to sell “though leadership” and books and probably (ugh) speaking slots, but I go by the “nickname” rule: never do it for yourself, but be good enough that other people do it for you. I’m not going to link to examples because I don’t (usually) like to call people out.

Social Media Top 5: Funny Brands, Old News IN COLOR!, SEO Humor & The Year of Mobile

I have taken my sweet time since my last post. Yeah, Happy Holidays to you, too. However, this post is brought to you IN LIVING COLOR:

To Feed or Not to Feed the Trolls

This one is from today (as I write this), but don’t get too excited:

My friend Scott Monty brought my attention to Wendy’s recent Twitter responses to a troll questioning their claims of never using frozen meat. I’m as eager as anyone to applaud a brand having fun on Twitter (or Facebook, or wherever- but we all know Twitter is where it’s at), but how and when is it worth spending the time and energy? Follow the thread at the AdWeek link, but here is the “awesome” tweet (#sickburn):

Setting aside whether or not snark is appropriate at all for a brand, I particularly love it when brands tweak each other (more please, and professional sports teams seem to lead the way there), but when advising clients on social media, “Don’t Feed the Trolls” is one of our wisest and favorite pieces of advice. Even with no apparent harm done here, is it good practice? I snark, you decide.

However, I will concede AdWeek’s claim of “2017’s Best Tweet So Far,” since it’s January 3.

Old News, Part 1: Why Your New Platform is Not the Next Big Thing

Sometime in December, I heard some of my smarter social media guru-esque friends discover House Party, a group video chat app. Cool idea, I’ll admit; though the concept is not new, the application for social media has not really gotten any glue. Of course, seemingly the instant many guru thumbs pressed “Enter” on their “Next Big Thing” post, Facebook came out with their own version of the feature, right there where everybody already is.

Houseparty, you got Periscoped! Maybe. Points for launching on Android as well as iPhone.

Old News, Part II: Facebook Gets Ugly Color
Let us all celebrate simple things, devoid of meaning but for their basic pleasing qualities. This, Facebook’s feature letting you add a color background to a short post, is so silly, and so cool, I can’t even make fun of it (or can I?).

I can!

I finally tried it. Maddeningly, I could only do it on mobile. But that’s fine. I guess. I couldn’t bring myself to use an actual colorful color in my sample.

Here is my color background. On mobile. Meh.

Posted by Doug Haslam on Tuesday, January 3, 2017

As for the feature itself? It’s…fine. Do you like it? I probably won’t use it, unlike the

BIG FONT

feature, which is forced on us, in ways I don’t actually mind. So Facebook, force me too use the colors and I will neutrally embrace them.

Old News, Part III: Search Fail

Maybe this post I saw in December could rank for “lazy sports column” if I get enough links to it here:

Insta-Graham: If you don’t read this Bills-Browns recap, then you will regret it forever

Have a look: I’m pretty sure that’s not how search works, but maybe sports fans will enjoy your SEO humor, Mr. Sports Columnist (spoiler alert: very unlikely).

Old News Part IV: Evernote and Privacy

Yeah, we’ve all moved on from this one. I have nothing new to add. So…

2017 Predictions (Hint: It Will be the Year of Mobile- Again!)

It’s always the Year of Mobile! Let’s take a walk down memory lane:

Social Media Top 5: Craptivism Won’t Kill You and Fake News is Alright (Not Really)

Image credit: Smallbrainfield

Image credit: Smallbrainfield

Craptivism Won’t Kill You

I have long been reluctant to festoon my social media profiles with the trappings of social activism (remember “Twibbons?”), because I don’t really think I am doing anything concrete for a cause if I’m doing so- especially if that’s all I’m doing. The latest, in the aftermath of the presidential election, is the “safety pin.” From what I have read, the safety pin as a sign of solidarity popped up after the Brexit vote in the UK, and now has been adopted by many in the US to show solidarity with women, people of color, Muslims, and other folks who fear being marginalized.

I’m still not doing it. My Facebook and Twitter profiles are mine alone, and it’s just not me to do it. If you asked me if you should do it, I would say don’t bother- find more meaningful ways to show support or foment change. Donate, volunteer, demonstrate, whatever. That is, however, not the same as saying you’re a dummy if you do it. Awareness is a fine thing, and just as my social media profiles are mine, yours are yours just the same. While my cranky disposition might lead me to agree with this HuffPo article decrying the safety pins as useless, I don’t; I think the author went too far.

What I did not expect was several friends to agree with the premise of the article. I found that interesting, and it made me aware (as if I weren’t already) how on edge people are as they don’t know what the new administration will mean for tolerance for gender, sexual preference, race and religion (so far, I agree we have reason to be all het up). There is a very good discussion of this issue on my friend Amy Vernon’s Facebook wall (where, yes, I used the term “craptivism,” of which I am proud despite my nuanced view, though I am sad I can’t cliam coinage).

Still, if a safety pin on your Facebook page makes you feel better, do it. Just because it doesn’t do anything- and good intentions aren’t enough- doesn’t mean it’s doing any harm.

STOP THE PRE...toolate

STOP THE PRE…toolate

The Rise and Fall of Fake (False?) News Sites, and Responsible Reading

For years I have advocated the “responsibility of the reader,” meaning rather than hoping for the impossible – that content will improve and be authoritative and unbiased- one should simply consider the source when reading and adjust for biases and context.

The election, of course, has turned the concept of “fake news” on its ear. But please- incendiary biased (if not outright “fake” – you be the judge) sites like Breitbart.com on the right and DailyKos on the left (I might betray my own bias to say that, despite the fact I can’t stand reading it, I think DailyKos is far less problematic as a”journalism” outfit).

Well, after the election (in other words, too late for the election), Facebook says it will filter out fake sites. Where’s the line? Have the obvious leanings of the editorial pages of The Washington Post (particularly this election season), The Wall Street Journal and The Hill gone to the point where they might qualify. Some folks might say yes. I doubt they are targets. Will we be deprived of The Onion and The Borowitz Report because people are too stupid to know they are satire? I hope not.

Can I report a news source I disagree with as fake? That would be silly.

There  are some sites (such as the teenage Macedonian clickbait) that are obvious targets for this cleanup, but is the line that clear otherwise? This might be fun to watch, just as Twitter’s sudden conversion to banning alt-right (sometimes known as racist, misogynist spew) Twitter accounts, as they try again to get acquired, is entertaining.

That’s two. Not five. It’s enough. We’re all exhausted. use the extra time to read something better.

Social Media Top 5: Pipeline Protests, Ballot Selfies, the Electoral Map & More

Activism/Slacktivism

This morning (October 31) I started noticing friends checking in to Standing Rock, ND, the location of protests by Native Americans (the Standing Rock Sioux) against the Dakota Access Pipeline. My first reaction was to assume the unlikely: some friends were traveling to join the protests. Wow, right? No, it turned out some Facebook users were encouraging others to check in at that location to confuse law enforcement, which was supposedly tracking protesters via Facebook. Still noble if it works, but I tend to sit back in such situations and see if there really is something to it rather than leaping in with my precious social media account without looking.

Turns out there is some doubt about whether this is effective or necessary. A Snopes article attempting to sort it out, most interestingly, quotes members of the protesting camp saying it would be better to donate to their cause than to check in via Facebook. You decide: I’ll continue to hesitate before doing things like this (after all, I am generally loathe to even change my profile pics for causes, so there).

As usual, I cannot help myself.

Ballot Selfies

Filed under: See, I’m Not Always a Hater:

While we are on the subject of activism, voting is the thing that most all of us can do to affect an outcome. Also, I like ballot selfies; I think they’re a great, fun way to celebrate participatory democracy. Unfortunately, the practice is illegal in some states, via laws that are often naively triggered by fears of voter fraud (“take your picture to prove you voted for who we told you” – like I said, silly). I suspect such laws will be gone, one at a time, and in fact some are already going away.

Here is a guide to where ballot selfies are allowed and where they are not (note: Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin has all but admitted the law in Massachusetts isn’t being enforced- just in case, I’m not telling if I am going to take one).

Image Credit: Mick O on Flickr

Image Credit: Mick O on Flickr

The tricky world of listing clients on your web site

Agencies love to brag about their high-profile clients, but anyone who has been at an (ethical) agency knows it’s a great idea to get permission to display client names and logos in promotional materials. There are a number of legitimate reasons a company may not want to be listed (or maybe they’re just being petty jerks, but it’s their prerogative).

This concept came to mind when a friend passed around this story of liquor maker Patron suing a former digital marketing agency for still listing them as a customer. While in this case the agency in question, according to the story, is out of business despite the left-behind Web site, it did get me to thinking about what consultants and agencies need to think about when publicizing their client relationships:

  • Are you doing something you can even disclose?
  • Is it ok to talk about former clients? (Is labeling them as past clients enough?)
  • What is your relationship? Do you have the relationship capital with the client to make this ask?
  • What does it do for you to parade the relationship? It most likely is good for you to have prospects know about your awesome clients, but is there a reason it’s wiser to hold back?

Don’t Tell Me When to Tweet 

Another study telling you when to Tweet. Worth noting, worth ignoring if your data says otherwise. Always trust your own data and your own circumstances. As my good buddy Chris Thilk notes:

Fun with Data, Electoral Map Series

Leading up to this fall’s election, I have seen a lot of people share “This is what the Electoral Map would look like if only men/women/Millennials/whatever voted” graphics. The “women” one, of course prompted knuckle-draggers to call for the repeal of the 19th amendment to keep those pesky creatures from putting one of their own in office.

silver-electionupdate-womenvoted

For myself, I find these graphics absurd; I understand that they point out the preferences for certain segments of the electorate, but no vote occurs in a vacuum, no demographic votes in a vacuum, and votes are not counted this way. Thus, I found that the following graphics represent Electoral Maps that are just as realistic as any of these others.

Happy Election Day everyone.

This is what the electoral map would look like if it were an adorable beluga whale #politics

A photo posted by Doug Haslam (@doughaslam) on

This is what the electoral map would look like if it were a crab in a tidal pool #celtics #twitter

A photo posted by Doug Haslam (@doughaslam) on

This is what the electoral map would look like if it were patriotic candy corn #politics #twitter

A photo posted by Doug Haslam (@doughaslam) on

This is what the electoral map would look like if it were a cute bunny. #politics #twitter

A photo posted by Doug Haslam (@doughaslam) on

This is what the electoral map would look like if it dressed in the dark #politics #twitter

A photo posted by Doug Haslam (@doughaslam) on

What the electoral map would look like if it were a dogwood flower #politics #twitter

A photo posted by Doug Haslam (@doughaslam) on

Here's what the electoral map would look like if it were two cute pandas #politics

A photo posted by Doug Haslam (@doughaslam) on

This is what the electoral map would look like if only dead people voted #chicago

A photo posted by Doug Haslam (@doughaslam) on

 

Social Media Top 5: Fixing Conferences, Taking Coffee, Poaching Buzzfeed, Celebrating Social Media Club

How About Addressing the Real Problems with Conferences?

name-tagMost of the tips for conferences in this post by Marcus Sheridan make sense; all are, at worst, arguable. They are also mostly small fixes aimed at making the speakers’ lives better. I guess that makes sense, as the writer is a professional speaker. As a sometime conference attendee, I care much less about any of these complaints, such as name badges being only one-sided, and conferences not using music between sessions (Music? Noise pollution! You kids and your rock and roll!).

How about conferences addressing what makes them dull, repetitive and/or a waste of time and money? Hiring the same damn speakers to say the same damn things at shows that are too damn similar is a constant damn problem. If you are putting on a show, be bold: forget the professional speakers unless you absolutely need that name to fill seats. Don’t fall into the trap that you have to have a celebrity that is totally unrelated to your show’s topic, unless it’s a reward and a “topic break” so attendees can relax (don’t lie by implying that Amy Schumer/Trevor Noah/Aziz Ansari/whoever is relevant to my 2017 marketing planning- but do tell me they might be fun to see).

Find people who are doing something: case studies are awesome. People who are working at companies and facing real problems often have something to say. And for most of those kinds of folks you don’t have to pay a speaking fee for some white dude who has been delivering the same speech for six years. I will admit that I may be an outlier as I spend most keynotes elsewhere getting work done rather than playing front-row fanboy, but this is something I advocated for in my time on the board of the Boston PRSA chapter, and was lucky that the people running our programs largely agreed.

Oh- also stay away from agency wankers and consultants unless they have something original to present. We are all narcissistic jerks.

That said, I look forward to my two-sided name badge at my next conference, even if one side will be obscured by lunch tickets. Rock on.

Don’t Turn Up Your Nose at Networking Because it’s not “Billable” (Chapter 435)

Image credit: julochka on Flickr

Image credit: julochka on Flickr

My old colleague Ed Harrison is the latest to weigh in on the value of taking those “brain-picking” coffee meetings. I know I have ranted on the topic before, but I sternly furrow my brow when consultants rail against people who want to have coffee (or whatever) with them for advice, accusing them of stealing free whatever it is they charge money for. Sure, there are limits; while there are leeches out there who don’t give back (or forward, as it were), those people should be easy to spot. There is never a good reason for turning down networking, even if you are dispensing advice to someone that can’t help you right now. How many people helped you in the past? How many coffees did you ask for? Did you pay them back with business? Of course you didn’t. Time to repay, time to mentor, and time to network, as you never know when and how it will come back to you. Plus, free coffee. There’s your revenue right there.

I’m glad to see more posts on this side of the issue and fewer whining about people asking for “Free advice.” Here’s my free advice: Google “pick your brain for free” and when you need to pick someone’s brain, avoid the type of people whose articles come up. Done.

Taking Buzzfeed Seriously

Image credit: Mike Licht on Flickr

Image credit: Mike Licht on Flickr

Patience, as this bit includes some semi-old news; last month, Buzzfeed announced it was separating into news and entertainment divisions. The article I found announcing the split focused on the business reasons for doing so- but as a consumer, I thought it was a great way to try to shake the image of Buzzfeed. The site’s name itself has become shorthand for listicles, cat videos and other stupid time-wasters (read: awesome content- come on, cats!). But for sometime Buzzfeed has been producing more serious-minded news content. Will this make people pay attention? Were they already paying attention and I am a shallow moron to miss it? CNN paid attention, paying the ultimate compliment by poaching four of their news staffers (there, a newer story to reference- and now we are current again). Heck, Esquire’s politics page is paying tribute to their keen reportage as well.

The next step in building credibility is for Buzzfeed to turn from poach-ee to poach-er. I will be sure to find out a month or more after it happens.

Social Media Club Turns 10

smcWhither Social Media Club? Ten years ago, the outfit was founded by Chris Heuer and Kristie Wells, and it changed a lot of professional lives as it spread from San Francisco to many other cities (including Boston in 2007). I was happy and lucky to be involved in some capacity from the beginning (thanks to my then-colleague Todd Van Hoosear). SMC got a lot of people together, and while activities in different cities may have waned over time as people have moved on professionally and geographically, that does not lute its impact. Many of us have joined other established organizations (like the PRSA as mentioned above, or AMA), as the PR, marketing and other professions embraced social as part of their fabric rather than as a separate practice. Read Kristie’s ten-year post and remember that the SMC continues…

My Favorite Tweet by Me this Month

If you’re going to Tweet about narcissism, you should promote it on your blog too, I always say.