There’s No Bad Publicity, Right?

“There’s no such thing as bad publicity.” That’s a line usually associated with P.T. Barnum, the 19th century American showman and circus owner.

Barnum made no attempt to hide his ambitions.  He wrote a book titled The Art of Money GettingIt’s a title Donald Trump (who has been compared to Barnum) would probably use on a book. It says what it is about right there on the cover.

Barnum was big on being a self-publicist. He used any opportunity to get his products in the public eye, even if some scandal was the reason. Get your name out there.

It is a theory that sometimes seems to work. Sometimes.

Some big companies like Volkswagen, BP and Toyota have had bad publicity the past few years and I don’t know that getting their name out there in those contexts was very good branding.

United Airlines was the bad publicity winner last week when it forcibly removed a man from a plane because they wanted his legitimately booked seat for an employee. Did it hurt their brand, stock price or change their policies?

Recently, Kendall Jenner got some bad publicity along with Pepsi for a Black Lives Matter-themed Pepsi commercial that was trashed in both the Big Media and social media. Distasteful. Insensitive.

Of course, every TV network replayed at least a portion of that commercial in their story. Free airtime, right? And the week after it aired, 19-year-old Kylie, who is big on social media, was announced as getting her own TV show, “Life With Kylie.” Coincidence? Result of the ad? Promotional consideration?

Burger King pulled off a clever, or devious, commercial recently. In the ad, a BK employee holding a hamburger says that there’s not enough time to tell you all about this burger, so he says “Okay Google, what is a Whopper burger?”

Okay, he is using technology. That’s cool.  But the employee’s words would also activate listener’s devices with Google Home to define a Whopper.

Google intervened to prevent the commercial, but it got replayed on shows and written about in lots of big and small media outlets.

Did Burger King run the ad knowing what would ensue?  Was that “bad” publicity actually baked into the campaign?

Is it legal? Marc Rotenberg, the president of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, told Fortune that “Google (and others) literally ‘opened the door’ to this new hack when they put ‘always on’ devices in the home. We warned the FTC of the basic flaw in the architecture — it is not simply the owner that activates the device … They didn’t ‘listen,'”

Similar things have happened unintentionally with Amazon’s Echo when “Alexa” orders an item because using that name activated the device. One case that got a lot of attention was when Amazon’s Alexa started ordering people dollhouses after hearing its name on TV. That led to lots of posts about how to stop Alexa from ordering without your permission, thus disabling a feature that Amazon wants turned on.

Is there bad publicity? Absolutely. Is all negative publicity ultimately bad for a brand? No, but that is a very dangerous strategy to put into place.

When Following Someone Gets Creepy

creepy face pixa

LinkedIn tells you when someone has viewed your profile – or when you view someone’s profile.  The latter might seem useful. The former might make you feel a bit creepy.

I wrote earlier about how people are informed when you do a screenshot of someone’s Instagram photo.

And now, Facebook’s new “Stories” update also does notifications. When you watch a friend’s Story that friend will know you’re watching.  A “Story” exists for 24 hours and is comprised of one or more photos or short videos and Stories works this way on platforms that supports them like Snapchat and Instagram).

Facebook really wants you to be interactive with the database of photos, text and video you and your friends have uploaded. It has been copying some of Snapchat’s features. Snapchat is popular (but much smaller than Facebook) for its more private messaging.

Facebook’s algorithms aren’t smart enough to keep Stories (which are designed to be an unfiltered you  in the moment) away from everyone who is your “friend.”

I think most users of all these social services enjoy the relative anonymity that allows them to look through at least partial profiles without  “friending,” liking” or doing anything that reveals your identity or “creeping.”

I often see in my LinkedIn feed that someone looked at my profile (maybe a recruiter or friend of a friend). It piques my curiosity. Who is this?  I’d like to see their profile, but I don’t because my look will be communicated to that person.

 

Is it creepy to look at profiles of people you don’t know? Should people be notified when their content is view by someone they don’t follow or haven’t accepted as a friend?

Thoughts?

A Year of Being Unretired

In January 2016, I wrote about my retirement and about a conference presentation I was prepping on “The Disconnected” segment of the population. Those people are not disconnected in a detached or unengaged sense, but are disconnected from traditional modes and sources of information and learning. I had also discovered a short-lived podcast called Unretirement

In the past year, I have become a bit more disconnected, and I have moved more into unretirement. I read Chris Farrell’s book Unretirement and listened to all the podcast episodes about people rethinking and reimagining their retirement years and perhaps the entire second half of life when it comes to work.

I have become more involved in volunteer “work”  this past year. I started last year doing that with the Montclair Film group and their film festival and especially their education efforts with young people. I continue to work with the endangered species program in my state.

This past week, I was approached by a college to work part time the next six months.

In my definition of retirement or unretirement you work because you want to work and because you think that work benefits both yourself and others. It has purpose. Getting paid is not a real concern. My volunteer work doesn’t pay me anything, and I often spend money to volunteer (materials, travel, parking).

My wife isn’t a big fan of me getting too busy or even earning too much money. She likes the freedom of no commitments in planning trips and vacations. She is the house accountant and warns me that at a point earning money in addition to pensions, social security and investments will negatively affect our state and federal taxes. “You’re working for the government,” she tells me.

This college project involves designing courses that use OER, Open Educational Resources, which are free and openly licensed educational materials that can be used for teaching.  Using these materials can reduce student costs for textbooks and materials and allow faculty to really design their curriculum rather than follow what a textbook offers.

I have worked with OER before and I support its use.  The college is an urban community college and I know OER is of financial benefit to those students. If that wasn’t the situation, I would pass on the opportunity without hesitation. That is one of the best parts of unretirement.

I suppose that if unretirement means working again we could call it by the older term “semi-retirement.” But it is different. Making your full-time job a part-time job is semi-retired. Leaving your job to do whatever you want is unretirement. Plan for it.

Why Teach Social Media?

scocial-media-pixa-lg

I teach social media courses. They are graduate courses in a communications program and most of the students are working in some related field (technical writing, graphic and web design). Some older friends who are not educators have expressed surprise that there are courses in social media (SM). They view social media as something “all kids know about” these days and don’t think of SM as a very serious subject.

Of course, SM is very serious business in the marketing and advertising sense. I have written earlier about what some feel is a social media skills gap. That term, “skills gap,” is itself an important one for colleges. The Chronicle of Higher Education has called it “The Idea That Launched a Thousand Strategic Plans” (the article is unfortunately for subscriber access only) because trying to fill in gaps in skills that employers say they need has become a way to build programs and therefore colleges’ plans for the future.

There are educators that question that kind of planning because it makes assumptions about the role and purpose of a college education. Is college meant to train employees in skills and job-specific areas, or is the mission something much larger?

Some social media consultants have said that 90% of workers don’t have the skills to leverage social media as a business tool, so it would seem logical that there would be a “market” and interest in higher education to fill in that gap.

Yes, more social media courses are being offered at colleges – generally in marketing and communications programs. But for just-in-time training, current employees are also looking to online courses, MOOC offerings and free on-demand resources.

Hootsuite is one of those providers, but it also offers a Student Program that provides educators and their classrooms free access to social media tools and resources. They have a Hootsuite Academy, which obviously uses their own Hootsuite dashboard which is a widely used platform for social media management. They also offer free certification for students who complete the program.

Because I teach social media courses at a university, and I also do social media consulting, I looked into the Hootsuite Student Program as another way to integrate hands-on activities into NJIT’s online MA program and also its graduate certificate programs.

Social media is just one part of this larger gap, but the “meteoric rise” of social in U.S. over the past decade to more than 2.3 billion active social media users worldwide can’t be ignored.

Some of the materials in the Hootsuite program were topics that I have always included in my curriculum for designing social media. For example, having students conduct an online reputation audit on a real local gives students a better idea of creating a strategy for a brand versus their personal accounts. Students do research and present an analysis in order to create a strategy to improve their client’s social marketing. They research target audience, popular content channels and types, competitor social media use, and make recommendations for future social media marketing activities.

I have students create a social media campaign with objectives, target audience, and metrics. It no longer surprises me that my students often make very little sophisticated use of social media themselves, and have a very limited understanding of how organizations are using it.

One gap I have been attempting to bridge this past year is the lack of knowledge (and interest) in social media ethics and law. That gap is not only in students but in those currently working in social media.

I also see frequent mentions online about a broader “digital skills gap” with employees who don’t know how to use, or are not aware of, the technology available to them. According to a Harris poll survey in Entrepreneur, only one in 10 American workers have mastered their employers’ tools and this gap “Bleeds $1.3 Trillion a Year From US Businesses.”  I believe that this learning process in my social media courses has value beyond making students just being able to do marketing via social media. Activities like creating a social strategy through research, analysis and application, and doing it in a digital world can help bridge a number of skills gaps.

Crunching the Data When Your Post Goes Viral

Singer-songwriter Marian Call wanted to write about our changing relationship to work. She sent out a quick tweet to her followers asking what their first jobs had been before she went to sleep.

What were your first 7 jobs?   Babysitting, janitorial, slinging coffee, yard work, writing radio news, voice-overs, data entry/secretarial   — Marian Call (@mariancall) August 5, 2016

Call woke up to find her tweet had gone viral and she got replies from many people including some celebs like Buzz Aldrin (Dish washer, Camp counselor, Fighter pilot, Astronaut, Commandant, Speaker, Author) and Sheryl Sandberg (1. Babysitter -twice – Office receptionist, Salesperson in clothing store, Aerobics instructor, World Bank health team, Children’s Defense Fund).

Marian did not use a hashtag but tag emerged and that made it easier to see responses. Unfortunately, different versions were used and are still active, like #firstsevenjob or #firstsevenjobs and #first7jobs. And the query and tags also appeared in other networks like Facebook.

She was interviewed on the Make Me Smart podcast  and she explained that then needed a way to to crunch the data from all the Twitter responses.  She was contacted by the social product manager at IBM who had heard her interviewed and they put the data into their Watson supercomputer and then were able to produce an infographic of the data.

infographic

The data shown is interesting and shows commonalities across the world. Of course, we can’t manipulate the data or request other queries. Call said she would have preferred a spreadsheet she could sort and search.

This little exercise points out one flaw with Twitter and many other social sites – no easy way to pull user data and draw conclusions about it. There are paid programs and people who can do those things for you, but a free, built-in way to do those two tasks is not reality.  Most of our posts will not go viral, but even gathering the data from a normal social media campaign can be difficult.

Marian’s experience did get others to try their hand at the task without a supercomputer. One example is at blog.monkeylearn.com/analyzing-first7jobs-tweets-monkeylearn-r/

Can We Measure Social Media Sentiment?

meters-pixa

Social media sentiment is the perceived positive or negative mood being portrayed in a social media post or engagement.

If you could track sentiment accurately, it would help you understand the person’s feelings behind the post. As a marketer, this would be very useful, but would also be useful for individuals.

Certainly, there is sentiment behind every post. But can it be measured with any certainty?

There are scholarly articles about social media sentiment and a good number of companies that are working on trying to measure sentiment, which you might also see described as sentiment analysis or opinion mining. By any name, this is the analysis of the feelings (i.e. attitudes, emotions and opinions) behind the words.

Most of the tools use natural language processing. Natural language processing (NLP) is a field of computer science, artificial intelligence, and computational linguistics concerned with the interactions between computers and human (natural) languages.  It allows you to talk to your phone or some device in your home or car. These devices can understand your words (usually), but can they read your emotions? When you ask for directions are you angry, tired, frustrated or in a wonderful mood?  When someone responds to an offer posted in social media by a company by saying “This is crazy!” is that a good kind of crazy or an insanity crazy?

In social media, this is analysis that goes beyond Likes, Shares or Comments. Did people respond to the original post in a positive, negative, sarcastic, humorous or biased way? A human reader may be able to discern that, but can a tool do the same thing for hundreds, thousands or millions of posts?

The  complexity of emotional responses makes this analysis difficult. You have heard a lot lately about sites like Twitter and Facebook being told that they need to better monitor hate speech in their networks. How do you do that? Rely on users to report it? Have other humans monitor it? That won’t work when every second, on average, around 6,000 tweets are tweeted on Twitter, which corresponds to over 350,000 tweets per minute or 500 million tweets per day.

You need technology, but technology is famously not very good at reading human emotions.

There are some simple tools that some of you might already use for analysis.  Hootsuite Insights and Facebook Insights and SocialMention are some of the easy and more common free(mium) tools for analysis, but they are lacking in the analysis of sentiment. Many businesses and individuals use Google Alerts as a simple way to monitor their name, brand, and to track “content marketing” with the result being emailed as they occur, daily or weekly.

We are still a good ways off from a time when some combination of NLP and AI can read the sentiments of social media posts accurately, but the desire and need for it only grows more critical as networks grow.