Post Tagged with: "social media"

Sponsored Stories: Are they really so bad?

Sponsored Stories: Are they really so bad?

I wanted to start this post off by saying that the world got a little douchier today. That’s a much more provocative lead than this. But I’m not so sure.

Facebook’s much-dreaded Sponsored Stories product, which will essentially put ads in your news feed, rolled out today. Users have protested the placement of ads since Facebook introduced them, but this new product takes a bold step forward.

And part of me agrees with the protesting users. I mean, ads should be separated from organic content. And then there is the whole privacy issue too. Your actions on the site can now be used by a company to make them money without your consent. There is definitely some validity to the complaints.

But is it really so bad?

Sponsored Stories are going to take the things that you already do (“like” a page, check-in at a store) and tell your friends about it. These are things Facebook is already doing, but now companies have the opportunity to pay to promote your actions.

I think this is pretty brilliant. Studies show that 70% of consumers trust peer-recommendations over advertisements, so a brand is crazy not to take advantage of the opportunity to expand the reach of positive organic recommendations. And, let’s be honest, this is a much cleaner way for Facebook to make money than just surfacing some irrelevant ad on your page.

I think this product is a win for everyone, Facebook, brands, and consumers. But what do you think?

January 11, 2012 0 comments Read More
What Billboards and Social Media Have in Common

What Billboards and Social Media Have in Common

Don’t hate me. This is a reblog from a post I wrote over at the Center for Sustainable Journalism’s blog. Below is an excerpt, but you’ll have to head over there to read the rest.



I was driving into Atlanta from just north of the city earlier this week when I realized just how many billboards line the interstate. When I realized that their placement just outside of where my attention is supposed to be is similar to traditional website ad placement, I began thinking about why we tolerate billboards but complain about website ads.

Isn’t this spam…real world spam?

I look at this way: for the most part, I am willing to tolerate ads that serve as a revenue stream for something from which I gain utility. Website ads are usually fine because it provides revenue for the site I want to visit. Video ads are usually alright because I want to watch the video, and I couldn’t if there was no way to monetize it. It’s the same for magazines and even the ads on the walls of the MARTA trains and buses. But billboards? The profit from those typically hideous displays of poorly conceived advertising campaigns does not subsidize the interstates or the cost of my driving – yet, I am forced to see them.

That is life in a hyper-capitalist society, you might say. But I think there is a lesson here for how organizations should approach social media.



May 25, 2011 0 comments Read More
U.S. Military Software to Sway Online Arguments

U.S. Military Software to Sway Online Arguments

Are you one who believes the United States can do no wrong? If so, this post won’t matter much to you. But if you’ve studied history even on an elementary school level, you realize that this country has done or supported some pretty nasty stuff. The Internet gave us hope that governments could be held accountable, that those who possess the most power could be checked by the power of information dissemination on a mass scale. Those hopes are dashed today as we learn that the U.S. Military is developing software that will not only scour the web to look for negative press, but also manage complex dummy accounts that can spread pro-American sentiments in order to sway public opinion.

If what I write about constantly is true, that the potential for social media to allow for viral discourse allows multiple perspectives to weigh in on a given topic in an attempt to get to the truth, then this new campaign by our government is viral propaganda, an attempt at distorting the truth and disrupting sincere efforts to make this world more bearable.

The Guardian writes:

The project has been likened by web experts to China’s attempts to control and restrict free speech on the internet. Critics are likely to complain that it will allow the US military to create a false consensus in online conversations, crowd out unwelcome opinions and smother commentaries or reports that do not correspond with its own objectives.

The discovery that the US military is developing false online personalities – known to users of social media as “sock puppets” – could also encourage other governments, private companies and non-government organisations to do the same.

And how does our obviously paranoid government get away with such an unconstitutional measure? The Patriot Act, of course, and by riding the wave of fear. Commander Bill Speaks, Centcom spokesman, said that “the technology supports classified blogging activities on foreign-language websites to enable Centcom to counter violent extremist and enemy propaganda outside the US.” So, we’re to believe that they are just fighting fire with fire, that it won’t be used to control domestic conversations around the web. Got it.

The Guardian piece points out that “Last year a New York lawyer who impersonated a scholar was sentenced to jail after being convicted of “criminal impersonation” and identity theft.” But like murder, I suppose it’s legal when the government sanctions it. I’m not trying to be overly political or alarmist, but if you ask me, this level of propaganda is the biggest threat to our liberty that we face in the 21st century.

*By the way, I’m linking to Centcom so that they know I’m being critical of them.

March 18, 2011 0 comments Read More
New (anti) Social Tool to Save You Time (at the expense of organic relationships)

New (anti) Social Tool to Save You Time (at the expense of organic relationships)

On Twitter today I ran across a press release that was shared by the creator of about the upcoming release of a tool that claims it will make you 80% more efficient in the social space. For those of you who don’t know what that is (and I am confident that is most of you) here’s a description from their blog:

The Bundle Post system significantly reduces the time required for finding, reviewing, editing, scheduling and posting relevant content by automatically pulling Google Alert search terms and RSS feed content directly into a database with headings, links and descriptions, ready for posting to social media accounts.

My first reaction was that this is useful because managing nearly a dozen social media accounts for my job can be a bit whelming at times. But as I thought about it, I began to realize that tools like this, while great for time-efficiency, actually make social media less social. The founder of this particular tool quotes himself as saying, “One of the reasons for engaging in social media is to build a base of followers and foster relationships; however, it is a task that can consume an incredible amount of time.” Yes, social media is about building real relationships with people online for various reasons, be it romantic, professional, or otherwise, but can tools that do the “finding, reviewing, editing, scheduling and posting” for you really be considered “social?”

Imagine, if you will, going out to the bar with a group of friends. Prior to arriving you compile a list of sentences, one-liners, and stories that you’ll use throughout the night. As your friends are laughing and chatting it up, you start to pull from your list. Not only will it be awkward, but your friends are probably going to be a bit offended eventually, right? How is aggregating stories via google alerts just to have content to push out any different?

The purpose of sharing content, at least from my perspective, is not to gain followers – in fact, no part of social networking (even for marketers) is about gaining followers. It is about finding something interesting, and passing it along. Those who find that the things you find interesting are the same as what they find interesting will eventually connect with you. If all you’re doing is aggregating Google alerts, why would I just not also read the Google alerts in my inbox every morning? Twitter and Facebook are great platforms in part because people I respect tell me what I should read, see, and hear, and I enjoy the personality I see in their recommendations. Replace that with a computer, and i’ll move on to someone else.

Here’s another good self-quote from Caruso:

“Additionally, businesses have the potential to realize increased profitability as a result of the efficiencies the technology delivers, allowing more time for engaging with fans and followers.”

I’d like to know how “engaging” is being defined here because it seems to me that a person or company that uses this software is not actually interested in engaging with anyone. Instead, relationships are traded for time in the name of profitability. That is going to be incredibly appealing to many companies, and I wish Mr. Caruso all the best, but this shouldn’t be marketed as a “social media tool.” A company interested in follower count (as Caruso demonstrates is a leading indicator of success for him) misses the point of social media.

I’ll end with a few words from @BundlePost so that you can make a decision as to whether or not this product needs more research before launch. I expressed my opinion (perhaps a bit too bluntly, and for that I apologize) with Mr. Caruso. Here is our conversation:

NVEchols: Ok, I’m just going to say it. @BundlePost is a horrible idea. It takes the “social” out of #SM in the name of efficiency

BundlePost: @nvechols so spending 80% of your time engaging and being social, rather than 80% searching, finding, vetting and posting content is worse?

NVEchols: @BundlePost yes, absolutely. the content being shared is being aggregated by software rather than sharing organically. That isnt social.

NVEchols: @BundlePost if the events of my day were given to my wife in an email in replace of having a real conversation with her, i’d be divorced.

BundlePost: @nvechols lol I guess there is one in every bunch. We agree to disagree. Unless of course ur married to your 242 followers?

NVEchols: @BundlePost well #SM is about relationships. I dont have many friends would appreciate me finding ways to outsource my interactions w/ them

BundlePost: @nvechols You’re right, you don’t have many and your Klout score shows you don’t interact with them either.

NVEchols: @BundlePost I manage several accounts professionally & my following purposefully manageable. This isn’t an 8th grade election.

BundlePost: @nvechols The tech doesn’t outsource interaction. It allows 80% more time FOR having interactions, rather than sourcing valuable content

BundlePost: @nvechols lol agreed!!!!!!!

February 2, 2011 0 comments Read More
Refuting Gladwell: Social Media Can Mobilize Individuals for Social Change

Refuting Gladwell: Social Media Can Mobilize Individuals for Social Change

Malcolm Gladwell is a best-selling author and beloved columnist for The New Yorker magazine. Recently he published an article titled Small Change: Why the Revolution Will Not Be Tweeted that argued rather convincingly that the connections made between peers through social networking sites are not strong enough to result in social movements. He cited Clay Shirky’s Here Comes Everybody as anecdotal evidence of the limits of the impact of social networks to effect real world change, pointing to Shirky’s story about retrieving a lost cell phone by appealing to online connections. Gladwell also points to the Facebook pages for non-profits to make his very pointed argument:

The Facebook page of the Save Darfur Coalition has 1,282,339 members, who have donated an average of nine cents apiece. The next biggest Darfur charity on Facebook has 22,073 members, who have donated an average of thirty-five cents. Help Save Darfur has 2,797 members, who have given, on average, fifteen cents. A spokesperson for the Save Darfur Coalition told Newsweek, “We wouldn’t necessarily gauge someone’s value to the advocacy movement based on what they’ve given. This is a powerful mechanism to engage this critical population. They inform their community, attend events, volunteer. It’s not something you can measure by looking at a ledger.” In other words, Facebook activism succeeds not by motivating people to make a real sacrifice but by motivating them to do the things that people do when they are not motivated enough to make a real sacrifice. We are a long way from the lunch counters of Greensboro (46).

While Gladwell’s argument is strong, there are several problems with it. First, and perhaps most apparent in the quote above, is the fact that he values financial sacrifice more than physical involvement, which seems a bit contrary to other arguments he makes in his article. Next, he observes that the relationships forged online are weaker than more traditional offline relationships, but he doesn’t understand the ways that even these seemingly weak relationships can be leveraged for social change. Lastly, he repeatedly points to the civil rights movement as the defining example of social change that resulted from strong relationships, but he fails to realize that this movement didn’t materialize over night; it, like other movements, took years or maybe decades to develop. Likewise, it is unfair to assume that the small victories that have resulted from social media organizing will not one day result in a movement of equal size and impact.

EJ Westlake’s 2008 article “Friend Me if You Facebook: Generation Y and Performative Surveillance” is not only a study on the definition of performative actions on social networking sites, but his research also gives insight into the new ways that young people organize online around movements. He argues that Generation Y-ers may not be as willing to take to the streets in public protest as their parents’ generation, “but they have demonstrated that they do care, and they have demonstrated that they will take action on issues that matter to them” (38). According to Westlake, they are organizing online around political, social, and cultural issues in a strong way. One could make the argument here that because this is a new form of organizing comprised mostly of Generation Y-ers whose voices are not given the same weight as their parents’ in United States society, that this form of protest has not seen its full potential. Westlake goes on to argue, contrary to Gladwell’s musing, that “not only do Generation Y people discuss politics more than any group of incoming freshman in the last 40 years…but they seek to make social change through volunteerism” (37). Citing a study that demonstrates the power of online prosthetic identities to create a collective identity, Westlake finds that “a new Millennial service ethic is emerging, built around notions of collegial (rather than individual) action, support (rather than resistance against) civic institutions, and the tangible doing of good deeds” (37). It seems that, contrary to critics like Gladwell’s distrust in the power of social media, a new form of social movement is emerging, one that depends not on social pressure among real life peer groups, but instead among the construction of collective identities that breed a sense of duty to act.

Lastly, a 2008 study titled “Online Communication and Adolescent Relationships” found that adolescents are using these communication tools to reinforce existing relationships, both with friends and romantic partners” (119). Further, according to Erik Qualman, author of Socialnomics, one out of every 8 relationships that resulted in marriage in 2009 began online . It seems then that research shows that Gladwell’s assertion that online contacts are only collections of weak ties is actually not true, at least for Generation Y-ers.

Generation Y, like most generations, is much different than the previous generation. To apply the same standards by which we measure their aptitude for mobilization for social good, demonstrates not only an uninformed position, but an unwillingness to accept the very progress both generations hope to achieve. Online social networking is altering the ways that we understand ourselves and will, in turn, change the ways that we respond to conflict. Society must begin to remove old lenses in an effort to see the potential of new behaviors.

December 7, 2010 0 comments Read More
A Degree in Social Media? Psh.

A Degree in Social Media? Psh.

Although social media undoubtedly has some interesting connotations for fields like sociology – and as a sub-set in marketing, PR, media or business – it is difficult to see how an academic qualification will add value in a field which (a) changes so quickly (b) is still very much based on trial and error and (c) is as much about interpersonal relationships as anything. Of course, that’s not to say that you can’t learn to use social media as a business tool – quite the opposite in fact. But it does beg the question, what is the best way to learn to do just that. Click here for Full Article

The quote above hits on a topic that has been discussed in social media circles over the past couple years. Organizations are capitalizing on the trendiness of social networking by offering certificates for large amounts of money to those who attend their workshops. Marketing professionals have emerged from relative obscurity to publish lengthy how-to books for successfully marketing on new social media platforms and now make large amounts of money on the speaking circuit.

The social media revolution (as it is often called) may or may not be a revolution, but those who stand to profit off of it will surely convince you of its ability to transform business and culture. It only makes sense then that schools (which are experiencing dramatic budget cuts in the recession) would also get into this profitable market by offering degrees that will undoubtedly draw both the experienced marketing professional and the 18-year-old who thinks he’ll get a degree in playing on Facebook.

Now, let me add a disclaimer here in case you’ve not read any of my other blog posts. I am a big supporter of, and contributor to, new social communication technology. In fact, I am getting a master’s degree in American Studies with a concentration in social media (taking a sociological approach to understanding how and why people connect, with special interest in online privacy discourse). Ok, let’s continue being critical:

By using the term “field” in the article above to describe social media, the author assumes that it is a discipline already. That seems contradictory to his point. I don’t think social media is a field at all. It is, however, a tool or a platform that offers fields new opportunities for development. It is like saying that email is a field in marketing or marriage is a field in sociology. For example, marketing firms might use social media to reach consumers in a new way, but studies show that it enhances traditional marketing strategies rather than replaces them. And sociologists may study social media in the same way that they would study marriage, but neither could be labeled a “field.”

Teaching social media in an academic setting is crucial and to not do so is a disservice to students. However, offering a degree in it is also a disservice to students. A university could justify a track or specialty in social media that is housed in various other programs, but even that is dependent on where it is housed. For example, it makes no sense to offer a track in social media marketing for several reasons: you will graduate students who are not prepared for marketing firms that still largely combine all strategies of reaching target markets, and there is really no proven method (yet) to teach. Digital marketing on social media platforms is purely anecdotal. A 14-year-old boy who falls off his bike might have a wider reach than your carefully implemented million dollar marketing campaign. It would be more important to teach the ways a marketing professional understands the demographics of a market to make decisions on which tools to use to reach them.

I’ll end here with a couple words about what social media is because I think it’s relevant to this discussion. It is a collection of platforms that allow for an ever-evolving database of user-created content published for some sort of public, yet personal, use. The content produced, because it exists in public, is social by nature. Even “private” posts are still being deposited into a public space – a walled garden, if you will. The relationship between the corporations providing the space (the garden) and the consumer who is using it for various purposes, is often tense. Throw into that garden other people attempting to profit from this activity without adding any real benefit and it starts to get a bit awkward. Marketers are party-crashers; sociologists are peeping-toms. Unfortunately, this profiteering is the only way to keep the space alive – an inevitable trade-off to any cultural benefit in a hyper-capitalist society.

If you’re interested in this topic, click here to check out a post written by Clay Duda that features his thoughts on this same topic.

November 29, 2010 1 comment Read More
Geekend2010 Recap

Geekend2010 Recap

Geekend2010: fun for the whole family, assuming everyone in your family is so nerdy that they wouldn’t flinch when a geek in a Darth Vader costume randomly appears in the doorway of a keynote address.

This was the demographic of last weekend’s conference. It packaged quality information with Wii remotes and robots in a way that no other event could, and I left having made solid connections and with a better understanding of my own geekery.

November 8, 2010 5 comments Read More
Will Academia Become Obsolete?

Will Academia Become Obsolete?

Can you imagine a world in which no language exists? No writing, no reading, no speaking, no signing. Nothing. Not even grunts with meaning. If we place limits on social media, we limit knowledge creation and evolution in a similar way, and ultimately create a world in which universities are obsolete.

October 24, 2010 0 comments Read More