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: 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: Politics on Facebook, LinkedIn Advertising & Cheap Tablets Are All Great

UPDATE: I had originally planned to write thoughts on how our new President’s use of Twitter as his outlet for kneejerk infantile rage showed both the possibilities and extreme downside to the platform (that I still use, by the way), but I’ll just let this story about some of the National Parks and NASA accounts doing their own rogue Tweeting stand on its own.

Politics on Facebook: Here to Stay

Throughout the presidential campaign, through the election, and into the transition and the (in my opinion) surreal if not unexpected start tot the new administration, there has been a constant buzz from some social media quarters (largely Facebook): a desire to get away from politics, for people being nice.


It’s not that we shouldn’t be nice to each other, or at least more tolerant of differences: however, we all have the power to shape what we see and engage in on social media.

I'm sick and tired of people being sick and tired of politics on Facebook.

Posted by Doug Haslam on Tuesday, January 17, 2017

More to the point: it’s clear that politics are here to stay: emotions are heightened, opinions are sharpened, and policies are at stake. Nothing is going away. Thinking as a marketer who works with brands on social media, the real issue is: is there a lower or higher bar for making political opinions known on Facebook when you may also be associated with a brand? Can we separate the association of personal brand from that of employers and clients? As someone who has commented on politics much more this year than in the past, I say we need to trust the ability of people to make those distinctions while still being more clear in drawing those lines. How we frame our commentary, and how we make use of social media (perhaps redrawing privacy garden walls, for instance), are things we have to consider if we want to say anything at all. I say it can be done. At times, issues are too important to be silent as an individual because we don’t want it to reflect on a larger brand.

Or, we can post goat videos. Goats are great.

Image credit: CAPTION6 on Flickr

LinkedIn Advertising

Every time news leaks that a social media is selling data to advertisers, people freak out. So it was last week when LinkedIn said it would be doing so. Freak out if you want, but I am more sanguine; LinkedIn is selling anonymous data, and if it’s done right we get better ads or more targeted services. If they do it wrong we get annoyed a little. If there is a data rupture of personal info getting out, that’s a different story, but it’s also not the design. So chill folks, if this helps Linkedin be more profitable then that’s probably a good thing.

Side note: I saw a friend, I forget who, wonder if anyone actually uses LinkedIn. My answer, and that of several others, was that it has become the default currency in careers these days. It hasn’t replaced the traditional resume but it is the substitute more and more often. It remains valuable, and LinkedIn will do well to keep it that way (I should add that I am a paid premium member).

Also of note: for this marketing data initiative, LinkedIn is using DataSift, which was last brought to my mind when Twitter cut them off in 2015:

Twitter Cuts Off DataSift To Step Up Its Own Big Data Business

Speaking of Ads…

I don’t blog about gadgets much, but I came to a decision point recently; my trusty but aging Google Nexus 7 tablet would need replacing at some point, and an accidental (I swear) toss down the stairs hastened my need. The problem is that the tablet market has been moribund: I have no interest in iPads, and only a few decent current models exist now. None of them are cheap, and I question how much I need them over the features of my very good phone.

I settled for a Kindle Fire HD 8. Why? Because the main thing I needed it for was the slightly larger screen to read (via Kindle App as well as the publication apps that were also available on this Android-based but Kindle-app environment) and to watch videos. There are times when good enough works in the gadget world, especially when taking tablets off my data plan means the device pays for itself. Plus, there are still some things that I don’t need a full-powered laptop to do.

If the tablet manufacturers can’t or don’t want to up their game, then “good enough”will reign and we will distribute our computing use in other ways- which is OK, I guess. It also means the early “tablets will replace our laptops completely” crowd was dead wrong, and I am not at all surprised.

Do you use tablets? What kind? Is it something that for you is fading away or do you want something new and exciting to use?

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


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 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


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.


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.

Social Media Top 5: Brangelina Shaming, AdBlockBlock, YouTube Community, TwitterLong

Four this week. So what…

Brangelina Is Big News, so Spare Me Your Condescension

I rarely have time for memes, but the I’m finding the latest to be as tiring as any: since news broke of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s divorce and the predictable over-coverage by so-called news media, some folks wishing for us to follow more substantive news items (like Donald Trump Jr comparing refugees to Skittles– deep!). So, people are grousing online that those posting such dumb things should pay penance by displaying knowledge of something more serious, but completely unrelated.

I love a good grumpy rant as much as the next guy, but I don’t think these posts are winning any hearts and minds (ok, hearts. Minds are of less relevance, which is part of the issue). I have seen a ton of these, but I will pick on Alex Howard, as he is a damn good tech journalist (now an analyst, I recalled after doing some investigative journalism for this post) on his own, a good guy,* and his post is public:








OK, another one, for variety, from a Chicago Tribune writer:

Again, not picking on the individuals- actually, I am picking on them, but I’m not saying they are being bad people. I understand the impulse to protect and promote the idea of “real” journalism, but we are not going to sway people to think better by making fun of their beloved pop-celebrity news stories. We are not going to convince CNN not to cover such stories when they have a 24/7 news cycle and not nearly enough real news. Let people have their cake.

I prefer my take; if you are going to post celebrity gossip, I want to know that you are a true aficionado:

Thanks, Deanna! You may post.

How Many Ads Would AdBlock Block if AdBlock Serves up Ads?

Let me get this straight: Google, who has a big ad business, had a relationship with ad tech company ComboTag, but broke off breaking bread with them over a deal they had to help AdBlock Plus serve ads. Do I have that right? Makes sense to me. I think.

I never bothered with ad blockers, as I block ads WITH MY MIND.

Stare at this long enough and all ads will disappear! Photo credit: Steve Snodgrass

Stare at this long enough and all ads will disappear!
Photo credit: Steve Snodgrass

YouTube Gives Commenters More Stuff to Flame– I Mean, YouTube Community; Yay!

YouTube has announced the launch of YouTube Community, which will create a tab on YouTube channels for creators to share additional content. It’s easy to make fun of a social network play from the company that brought you Google Plus <sad trombone>; it’s also easy to remind folks that comments on YouTube are one of the legendary Great Cesspools of the Internet (along with Yahoo! Finance stock boards and now, apparently, Twitter).


But if a YouTube creator is tending a good channel, there’s no reason to think they shouldn’t be able to moderate a positive community, given that the tools work well. I am actually interested to see how this looks in action.

Twitter Goes Long

We have heard rumors in the past about Twitter allowing 10,000 character Tweets (ugh), but this other rumor, now being put into play, is actually quite good: now Twitter will not count images and other media against the 140 character count.


To me, this is not about making it easier to Tweet (it is! When I Tweet these posts, including one of the images will not be so much of a pain), so much as it is about Twitter lifting itself from its origins as a text-based service. That’s why it was 140 characters in the first place- that limit is largely superfluous now. However, I still like the limited text for Twitter- it forces you to be concise and creative within a strict limit- removing the “image penalty” for adding media is going to make things a lot easier for those of us who use the service- though it’s doubtful it will attract new people by itself. I’m still waiting for Twitter to find a way to make me use “Moments,” which I like but never remember to use.


*Yes, I used an Oxford comma; I thought it was warranted for clarity in this case. Now begone with your judgment.


Social Media Top 5: Twitter Sneetches, No Comment, Hashtags & Unnecessary Zoom

Of Blue Checkmarks and Sneetchesneetch

The butthurt by Twitter power-users who don’t get their Verified Account checkmarks is still being heard ’round the world. I, too, was nonplussed after giving it a shot; seeing some of the non-celebrities who seem to have gotten theirs, and Twitter opening up the request process, I thought why not? I was more entertained by the fact that my rejection email didn’t make it through my spam filter. Alas, I will not be going to the Verified frankfurter parties. That about sums up the whole value of my effort, and the Verified Account process for most of us. Perhaps the program does determine who are the best Tweeters and who are the worst, but if they truly opened the program, how in the world will we know if which kind is what or the other way round?

Would it kill Twitter to reward longtime loyal users who still frequent the platform with a Verified status? What about longtime holders of potentially valuable simple handles (like @DougH and @Genuine), who have been targeted by hackers and identity theft? On the other hand, if the purpose of Verified Accounts was to protect the identities of actual well-known figures and brands (as opposed to self-important social media consultants), then why open the process at all? I guess it all got some of us talking about Twitter, which, short of getting acquired or improving their trending topics to take advantage of Facebook’s recent failures in that regard, or taking care of spam issues (see below), will have to do.

Those checkmarks aren’t so big. They are really so small. You might think such a thing wouldn’t matter at all. Twitter Verified Account program manager Sylvester McMonkey McBean was unavailable for comment.


No Comments No Problems

Image credit: Howard Lake on Flickr

Image credit: Howard Lake on Flickr

Comment sections on news sites have long been a problem. They tend to be a morass of anonymous trolling and hideous opinions that are the glutenous mass that evolves into worse forms of harassment on the social web. How to solve the issue? Community, open discussion and engagement by brands are supposed to be the golden promise of the social web, but when Letters to the Editor take on the form of a digital equivalent of bricks thrown through windows, is it worth it?

Some publishers got used to it, and even embraced their seemingly damaged community- I was fascinated by this  of some of their regular pseudonymous commenters several years ago- and you may be also.

Many bloggers have wrestled with the “real names” requirement. Of those I read, Northeastern University journalism professor and media expert Dan Kennedy has gone back and forth, as many of his politically-charged topics have created problematic comments. Recently, he went back from a longstanding “real names” policy because there are many people who have legitimate reasons for wanting to be anonymous – or at least can be counted on to behave, whatever their handle.

Another recent trend has been to rely on Facebook for the conversation: come to our site for the content, please leave for the discussion. I noticed this on Esquire, which has a politics page that invites readers, at the end of each article, to join the discussion on their Facebook page. As a reader, I found that to work well in practice, where in theory I might have had doubts. The publisher can still moderate discussion as they see fit, and the riffraff can play their reindeer games (or not) without sullying the sacred real esate. It makes sense and works well, to the extent that Facebook remains a Thing.

NPR made news more recently, removing their comments sections as of August 23. One stated factor is the fact that many people prefer to comment (and share) on social media anyway, but I suspect the potential cost of cleaning up the hate mess that comment sections often turn into is more of a factor – that channeling conversations to Facebook is less costly (though, again, still needing moderation).

Does this trend mean community is dead? No, it means it must be managed, and there are many ways to do so with the resources you have (or want to devote). I’m sure I’ll check back n on this when the next trend emerges because something bad happened on Facebook.


Someone Should Start a Hashtag on Why You Shouldn’t Use Infographics

This is actually intriguing, but I wonder how complete it is: a study shows hashtag effectiveness is hard to measure because spammers can overwhelm them. I am skeptical. I easily can believe that spam Twitter accounts target hashtags. However, does that mean they are useless? Can you still, say, count 35% of hashtag use (to take a number from the study) as an effective measure of how many non-spam accounts are sharing your hashtag organically? I suspect you can use “because spammers are ruining it” as a reason to discount any function of Twitter. Are hashtags the problem? No, the wasteland of fake and spammy accounts on Twitter are- and perhaps, if it’s possible, that’s a better job for Twitter’s Fix-It-Up Chappies than creating a Checkmark-On Machine.

I embedded the infographic at the very end of this post because it’s too darn huge to put in the middle, and I’m not done just yet.

Pinch Me, am I Dreaming? Instagram Has Added an Incremental Feature!

Sometimes it takes the little things to make people go nuts. Now you can zoom on Instagram images. Hooray?

I can’t wait to try it. I guess.



Here’s that dang huge infographic

Infographics: Hashtag Spam
Hashtag Spam | Infographics


Social Media Top 5: Facebook Automated Trends is Just Fine, Blab is Dead, Disclosure is…Well…

Some of my items might be slightly out of date for a post that aspires to be weekly (Ha!), but I don’t care, as long as the relevance endures…but first a newer one:

Image credit: Patrick Lentz on Flickr

Image credit: Patrick Lentz on Flickr

Facebook Automates Trending Topics, Hilarity Ensues

So people were worried about humans putting bias into the Facebook news algorithm. So people thought a completely automatic algorithm would be better. News alerts about a man humping a McChicken sandwich is what we deserve. I for one think this is great, but I wasn’t much for clicking on trending topics. Of course, now my curated Facebook feed is full of people complaining about trending topics, so I have to suffer as well.

A look at the topics trending for me as I write this, and my first guesses as to the stories vs what was actually behind the trends:


The biggest problem is not fake stories making the cut, as I am sure Facebook will tweak things to fix that, but that the headlines they present give me no clue what these are about and why I might care:

  1. “Needham, Massachusetts Employee” – No idea what this was about. Nice human interest story from near where I live about a McDonald’s employee with Down Syndrome retiring after 32 years. Weird headline though.
  2. “Jarrod Saltalamacchia” – Guessing he had a big night for whatever baseball team he plays for these days. I like baseball, but am a Red Sox fan- he is with the Detroit Tigers now and hit a game-winning home run. Nice story, and I love saying “Saltalamacchia” out loud.
  3. “Tony Stewart” – Absolutely no clue. Apparently he drives cars or something, and finishing 21st in a race was newsworthy. I guess. I don’t follow racing. Weird.
  4. Florida State University” – My guess: football team, perhaps involving a game, maybe some arrests. No, this is about a research team making a breakthrough regarding the Zika virus. Much cooler story than I would have hoped for.
  5. “Ice Road Truckers” – I thought maybe that was a band (nope, that’s “Drive-By Truckers, I think)- it’s about some reality TV star dying. Sad. Don’t care.
  6. “McChicken” – This is the famous one, so I already knew it wasn’t a McDonald’s ad. It’s a video of man humping a McChicken sandwich. Not an ad (if it were Burger King I would still think maybe it’s an ad). Not related to the first item, thankfully.
  7. “Mila Kunis” – I know she is an actress. Hopefully not dead. Phew, she is pregnant, and there are memes about her old TV program “That 70s Show” – two things, neither of which I made any contribution to.
  8. “Kevin Owens” – First guess, country music star – that’s a total country name. Let’s look: he’s a new WWE wrestling champion! Cool. I used to watch wrestling and sometimes keep up, but never heard of this guy. Good for him.
  9.  “Britney Spears” – I guessed this one, but with no thanks to Facebook. She made a comeback at the Video Music Awards. That show peaked in its first broadcast when Rod Stewart and Ron Wood made a severely drunken attempt to bestow an achievement award on Quincy Jones – my opinion – but I guess this is valid pop culture trash news.
  10. “Bea Arthur” – she had better not be dead! Nope, she opened a homeless shelter for LGBTQ youth. That’s pretty awesome, wish the headline had give  me a clue there.

Automated trends will be ok, and will probably get better- they need to give more context though; that is by far the worst problem, especially if you are ok with man-sandwich relations being a valid breaking news story. I should look at these again in a week or so and see what changes.

Your reward for making it through all that is a look at the first VMA awards moment mentioned above:

Blab is Dead, and For Their Sake They Might Want to Stay That Way

A couple of weeks ago, the live video service Blab, which on its debut gave Google Hangouts (sorry, YouTube Live or whatever it will be called by the time I get around to hitting “publish”) a run for its money by being easy to use and good-quality, shut down suddenly. I used Blab a few times and liked it, but simply for the fact that it was not owned (or sought for purchase) by Google, Facebook, or even Microsoft or Twitter, was certain it was not long for this planet. I was right, which hardly makes me brilliant (but feel free to praise my vision). Two things of note in this particular shutdown:

First: the founder, in my opinion, nailed the problem with live video on social media:

Most live streams suck…Because most live streams aren’t interesting enough to justify stopping what they are doing to watch your broadcast.

Of course, his real problem was that the lack of interesting content translated to a lack of revenue-generating activity, but that does not negate the primary point. Do you watch live video, on Facebook or YouTube or anywhere else? What makes you watch? As Facebook ramps up its live video notifications, I clicked out of curiosity and found nothing worth my time. There is a place for the medium, but apparently that wasn’t it (and I have many doubts it ever will be as presented by the Blabs of the world, or even the Facebook Lives ad Perikats and what-have-you-alls).

The other note: the lack of notice meant the people who did use Blab regularly had no time or means to back up  and download their content. This reminds me of the old mobile posting app Utterli, which has left a number of blank posts on my own channels where I once had audio (you didn’t miss much, which I guess returns us to the first point). For those who did rely on Blab- yes, you need to be careful relying on independent services as you could lose them at any turn, but the Blab folks could have given folks a little confidence to follow their next venture had they been able or willing to let users take their content with them. Perhaps it was not to be, but would have been a huge goodwill gesture to come back to benefit them later. Oh, well.


If I Can’t Buy You Coffee, How About a Steaming Hot Mug of Shut the %&@$ Up? 

A great example of a timeless story that never goes away: the whining by consultants about people wanting to “pick their brains” over coffee. I saw yet another of these entertaining jeremiads a couple of weeks back. There seems to be a disconnect with some people among the concepts of consulting, networking and mentoring.



I have seen these whines periodically ever since some social media folks broke out on their own and (in my view) started to panic about overhead and how much and what they should charge for. Granted, some people do ask for too much and there is a line between “brain picking” and leeching, but any smart person knows how to fend that off without painting the entire ecosystem so painfully. There is a simple formula attached to giving a certain amount and getting back multiples- not immediately, and not from the same source, but it does come back to you.

So “Here’s What To Say When Someone Asks To ‘Pick Your Brain’ About Social Media Over Coffee:”

“I’d be glad to.”


This week in Disclosure

Another one from a couple of weeks ago: it seems the next step in the Disclosure Wars is under way: watchdog groups calling out high-profile abusers. In this case, Truth in Advertising putting the Kardashians on notice. I think that’s a logical evolutionary step in the following time line:


  • Wild West: everyone does what they want
  • Writing Rules: FTC established guidelines; everyone still does what they want
  • Selective Enforcement: FTC means business, occasionally; most still do what they want


  • Watchdog Groups jump in: Slightly fewer do what they want


  • FTC figures out how to enforce guidelines better
  • Industry Groups actually adopt best practices
  • Social Media Influencers start following rules
  • Dogs and Cats living together

You get the picture.

Also of note, is that brands (the smart ones) seem to know that they are more likely to be sanctioned than influencers. As the TINA post notes in its update, some Kardashian posts added disclosure immediately after this call-out, and all were (initially at least) from one single brand, “Sugar Bear Hair” (whatever that is):

So the onus is still on brands to police their influencer programs when it comes to disclosure. Never assume “influencers,” aven social media “gurus,” will intuitively do the right thing. Demand compliance and give explicit instructions.

UPDATE: I just saw a study that found one-third of native ads (sponsored content) do not follow FTC disclosure guidelines. Some of us might consider that progress, though not to be confused with good news.