02
Sep 15

How I Learned To Stop Hating And Love The Facebook

strange

I used to hate Facebook.

Well, first I loved it. Those first few months after I created an account were magical, at least from a social media perspective.

I re-connected with people who I thought I would never see again, let alone talk to. They were friends I grew up with, went to school with, worked with.

It became a convenient way to stay in touch without having to see them in person, which was nice, because quite a few of them lived in other states.

Facebook was the ideal solution for personal interaction in a world where we spend a lot of time not interacting with people.  If you went a few weeks or months without seeing a friend, you could log into Facebook and immediately be brought up-to-date on what was happening in their life.

It was nice. It was easy.

But somewhere along the way, something changed, and the fact that all of this was so easy was probably the reason.

Facebook’s tentacles began to spread beyond its digital roots. I found myself having more and more conversations with people about what they had read on Facebook, as opposed to what they were actually doing.

“Did you see what so-and-so posted yesterday?” I would hear.

“I haven’t seen her house, but I saw the pictures posted on Facebook” others would say.

This tool that enabled us to stay in touch was now becoming the de facto way of staying in touch, and there was something very, very wrong about that.

So, in true blogger fashion, I started writing about Facebook. A lot.

And when I got fed up — I don’t remember the straw that broke the camel’s back — I deleted my account. And, again, in true blogger fashion, I wrote about why I deleted my Facebook account.

For four months, I was fine. Proud, even. I had managed to laugh in the face of the world’s largest social networking service.

One billion people could be wrong.

When I read about users complaining about a new site design or algorithm change, I smiled smugly to myself, secure in the fact that I had stuck it to the authority and didn’t have to waste my time worrying about trivial matters.

I was free and clear of all of that manufactured drama. I could now focus on the important matters in life.

But then it struck me that conversing with those long-lost friends and relatives was important.

I hear a lot of people talk about how they need their social networks to provide them some value in their life in order to keep coming back.

Facebook, at face value, seems to provide minimal value.

But, at least for me, when I started looking at it as an ongoing conversation among people who I know in real life (and a conversation where I don’t have to be professional 100 percent of the time) that was where I found the value.

Not real, professional value, mind you. But social value. A way to keep in touch with people who I can’t keep in touch regularly, for whatever reason. Or my friends, who I don’t see regularly because of, well, life.

As for those who complain? You’re going to encounter them anyway, regardless of whether or not they’re on your computer screen or sitting across from you at the dinner table.

Facebook is rightfully a target of scorn occasionally, but it does have some value, so I’m just going to use it, okay?

 


27
Aug 15

What Happens When Influencers Lose Their Influence?

Snip20150826_1

Influencers: so hot right now.

Entire public relations programs are now being developed, not with an influencer component, but with influencers at the center of their strategy.

Product reviews and demos and special access once reserved for traditional media are now being reserved exclusively for social media power users to share and talk about with their followers (with specialized hashtags, of course).

And floating around on the periphery is earned print coverage. But that seems to be just a nice-to-have now, as opposed to the past when it was a driving force.

The thinking goes that audiences are more apt to consume or buy something their peers push on to them, as opposed to a product or service they read about in a newspaper, or learned about on the morning news.

So much money is being thrown at influencers that these social power users are suddenly inundated with requests to hawk products from big brands. And you can’t blame them for not declining because there is big money to be made.

I don’t know about you, but I get turned off when I see someone sharing content that was obviously bought and paid for. Most of us know who the brands are targeting, even if those influencers aren’t implicit that they are being paid (even though, legally, they should be.)

More and more sponsored content is filling our feeds, and we’re finding it harder and harder to remember what it was like when users used social channels for fun.

But what happens when the influencers start to lose their influence?

Studies show that Instagram engagement (at least for July) was down. That could just be a blip. It could be due to summer. Or, it could be a trend.

Either way, we have to consider the fact that we might be seeing user fatigue with all of the sponsored content they have to scroll through to get to the organic stuff.

I think all of us want to rage against the machine, at least a little bit. But when we see people “selling out” (in this case, taking money from a brand to talk about them) it can be a bit disheartening. Like, this tool brought us together because it was human. But now you’re just another corporate shill.

Okay, maybe that’s taking it too far. But the best social apps instill a sense of community in us; a place we can go to chat, commiserate, or interact with our friends and others who see the world the way we do.

But when dollar signs get in the way, it tends to turn us off.

The influencers are laughing all the way to the bank right, but maybe soon, their fans will start to turn away and find some other avenue to share their stuff.

When that happens, what happens to the influence?


19
Aug 15

Ten Things I’ve Learned During A Decade In PR

pr

After working in this ever-changing industry for the past ten years, I’d like to think I’ve learned a thing or two about how to, if not excel, do my job in a capable manner.

Like any job, I suppose, there are days when I love it and there are days when I want to take a sledgehammer to my PC.

But after spending a decade doing it, there must be some redeemable qualities, right?

I’ve collected ten things I’ve learned over the course of my career.

If you keep these thoughts in the back of your mind as you navigate through your career (regardless of industry) I think you’ll succeed.

1. Only constant is change. Your manager will be fired. Your home office will decide they want to shut down your local office. You will be bounced around from account to account. If you go into this job knowing there will be change, you’re already one step ahead of the other guy who is going to let the change impact them. Don’t. It’s the only constant in this business.

2. You will work with people you never get along with. That’s just how life works. You’re not going to like everyone you encounter. The trick is to figure out how to cope with someone you don’t get along with when you have to spend 8+ hours a day with that person. You don’t have to become best friends, but you have to be amicable.

3. The thrill of landing a story never goes away. There’s just something about seeing a story run in print that features your client and their key messages. No matter how much this industry is shifting toward influencers and social media, the ability to pitch a story will always be a skill worth honing. After all, a story placement is tangible evidence of your success.

4. You are the key to your own success. Over time, you will have mentors and managers who want to see you succeed. But their career is not based on your success. They have other things to do. You, and only you, are the person most responsible for your success. If you want something, go get it.

5. The skilled professional thinks two steps ahead. If you want to advance in your career, you will need to eventually stop taking orders, and start thinking about what needs to happen one or two steps ahead. It’s the natural progression to becoming a leader. That is, of course, unless you want to take orders for the rest of your career.

6. Take your vacation time. Some agencies will offer you the ability to roll over your vacation time. That’s fine. But I’ve known people who reach the end of the year and they have to scramble to take enough days so they don’t go to waste. That’s no fun. Schedule vacation time throughout the year to avoid burn out. You owe it to yourself to rest. This job can get hairy. You’ll need to recharge.

7. Reporters don’t hate us. Contrary to popular belief, reporters see value in us if we nurture the relationship in the right way. That means reading their content, identifying ideas that might work within their scope of work, and pitching them. Throwing shit against the wall to see what sticks is just….just don’t do it, alright?

8. Don’t rest on your laurels. As with any type of work in any field, you can’t stop to smell the roses if you want to succeed. If you’re good at something, get better at it. Because if you don’t, the person two levels below you with ambition is trying to figure out how to become better than you. I hate the term “grind it out” in a professional sense, but I think it’s apt here.

9. Mentors are important. If you don’t have a mentor, that’s okay. You can’t just call someone up and ask them to be your mentor. A lot has been said lately that finding a mentor should be an organic process.

10. It’s PR, not ER. I say this cautiously. You have to take the job seriously. If you work on the agency side, your clients pay the agency for your work. They expect results. But on the flip side, there will be days where you have to remember we’re not saving lives.

I could go on and on, but ten seems like a good place to stop.

What would you add to this list?


29
Jun 15

On Vacation And Golden Tickets

The Outer Banks of North Carolina.

The Outer Banks of North Carolina.

While on vacation last week in the Outer Banks with family, we got to watching the Johnny Depp version of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”

The movie itself is nowhere near as good as the original, but there was a particular scene when our protagonist, Charlie Bucket, is trying to decide whether he should take the final Golden Ticket he found in the chocolate bar and experience the chocolate factory tour, or sell it for money to help his poor family.

His grandfather, bedridden and essentially a background player for the entire movie, utters his only line of the movie, but it was a line that got me thinking.

Here’s the line:

“There’s plenty of money out there. They print more every day. But this ticket, there’s only five of them in the whole world, and that’s all there’s ever going to be. Only a dummy would give this up for something as common as money. Are you a dummy?”

According to the U.S Travel Association, Americans throw away $52.4 billion every year because they won’t take time off from work.

I don’t know how many days that translates to, but that is a staggering number, isn’t it? It means we are working for free when we fail to use our allotted vacation time.

The vacation time we are given is meant to be used for, well, vacation. A means to get away and experience relaxation and unplugging. A Golden Ticket, if you will.

And while some companies offer employees the ability to roll over their days, chances are high that those days get rolled over and, well, you get the point.

While sitting on a deck that overlooked the Atlantic Ocean, cold beer in hand, a sea breeze warm on my face, I struggled to think of a good reason why anyone would purposely skip on vacation days.

But it happens a lot.

So I wonder: Are we really that busy that we can’t pull ourselves away from our desks? Is our confidence in our colleagues so low that we would rather work than hand off tasks to be covered in our absence? Are we really that full of ourselves that only we can do the work the right way?

Everyone is busy.

But those who balance their time well tend to get more done. And part of that balancing of time is leaving work behind entirely when we take some time off.

There’s something to be said about not thinking about your job for an extended period of time. I’ve found it can lead to a renewed vigor and passion for your work; an opportunity to start over, in a sense.

It can brighten your outlook and remind you there is more to life than sitting behind a desk, forced to endure what can be a challenging day-to-day existence.

You owe it to yourself to get out and cash in those Golden Tickets you’ve been given.

Don’t be a dummy.


12
May 15

Why A Lot Of Brand Social Content Sucks

suck

As I sit down to write this post, I wish I could tell you exactly why a lot of brand social content sucks, but that would require some form of concrete evidence, of which I do not have for you.

Instead, I think it’s appropriate to share a few different ways that brands, in my opinion, fail when it comes to social.

These are by no means the only reasons, but they come to mind immediately when I think of the ways brands suck at social.

Terrified of Being Vilified

For every great piece of social content a brand shares, there is a Houston Rockets or Cleveland Cavaliers situation.

When brands see something like this happen, they freeze.

The public revolts. Media outlets drag their name through the mud. Calls go out for people to be fired. There is renewed interest in getting everything approved by legal.

It’s disappointing. But nobody wants to be the next brand to make a mistake on social media, so they play it safe instead of trying to create compelling content that will be consumed by their community.

Slaves to the Hashtag

If there’s a holiday coming up, you can bet your you-know-what a brand is going to jump into that conversation. But rather than creating something useful, they slap together a bland post so that they can be “part of the conversation”; a post that adds absolutely nothing to “the conversation.”

It’s checking the box in every sense of that term.

There is no rule that says you have to participate. If your brand doesn’t have a logical connection to said holiday (See below) it’s okay to ignore it.

hut

Apathy for the Community

This is the one that drives me up a wall. If the brand is not setting out to drive conversation or solve a problem, why do they have a social presence in the first place? To gain as many followers as necessary so they can say they engage with a community of followers?

I hope that’s not the case.

Yeah, it’s great if you have 20,000 individuals following your account. But what’s the benefit if you’re just sharing shitty marketing images with lame hashtags in order to reach your post quota for the week?

***

In my humble opinion, brands should (and certainly have the capabilities to) go out of their way to create social content that their fans legitimately want to engage with and share with their friends.

Even something as simple as a creative GIF can be noteworthy when it’s done right. With the amount of resources most major brands have at their disposal, they have no excuse to create content that sucks.

If they’re mailing it in, Twitter would be better off without them.