You Can Change Your Mind

You Can Change Your Mind

I tweeted this the other day, it was really a passing thought. The more I let it stew, though, the more I realized there was probably a fuller blog post in there somewhere. So here we are.

Some people are always skeptics. That must be hard, though I bet it can come in awfully handy on occasion. I’m happy to say that I’m not one of them, but I could also describe myself as situationally skeptical. I think this is probably the most normal, but I don’t have any sociological data to support that notion.

I’ve always been skeptical of the reporting that companies spit out, particularly internet companies who rely so heavily on the impression, the click, the interaction or my favorite one, the “active” user.

Some companies claim an active user is someone who has interacted with their site in the past 12 months. Some only count active users if they’ve done something on their site in the last 30 days. That’s a wide swing. Personally, I believe an active user should only be in the 1-3 day range for most sites.

The one I’ve been thinking about lately, as my tweet mentions, is the “unintentional engagement.” This doesn’t exist. But it should.

Have you ever been scrolling through your Twitter feed on your phone, using your finger to swipe down, down, down and you accidentally click instead of swipe, so a photo or video comes up? Of course you have. I think it might happen to me every day.

change your mind

If you’re looking at the bottom tweet, the auto-play video on top is counted as a view. Wrong.

Well, Twitter is counting that as engagement. It’s a click. If it’s a video and it plays for just 3 seconds, Twitter considers that a video view. Three seconds! 

If you were an advertiser paying Twitter, wouldn’t you want your reporting about video views or tweet views to be more true? Can’t they detect when you click and revert back to the main feed right away, like in 1-2 seconds? Of course they can. And they should.

Facebook, same idea. Have you ever been scrolling down your feed and a good friend of yours posts a paragraph or two of deep thoughts and you read it for a bit? Yes, you have. But just above that, a video starts playing on it’s own (that’s called “auto-play”) and it continues to play while you read something else? Facebook considers that an engagement, a video viewed! That you didn’t pay attention to it or see it matters none. They have the same 3 second rule in place, too.

YouTube is a little better. They don’t consider a video viewed for their analytics platform until :30 seconds. That seems much more reasonable to me. Unless your video is 20 minutes long, I guess.

Auto-play seems a little misleading to me, too. For example, the sound never goes on. That’s why you’re seeing a lot of recipe videos with text overlaid on them. Clever. But 3 seconds on auto-play counts as a viewed video? Facebook and Twitter say yes. I say no. There have been recent reports saying that as much as 85% of videos aren’t even heard!

So let’s get back to the main point of the tweet. I think it would be great if the social media sites actually reported “unintentional engagement.” They can absolutely do it. They can track if I click something and immediately head back. Facebook could easily not count an auto-played video as an official view for my brand if people have engaged (commented, liked, shared) with a post right below or above mine. It can be done.

But it won’t. Because they need to show HUGE numbers to advertisers as a carrot to get them to spend and keep spending.

Let me also say this, to play devil’s advocate for a moment. I’ve purchased plenty of video advertising on Facebook at my last couple of jobs. I don’t pay much attention to views or impressions, because those are bullshit measurements.

The success – depending on your goal – is usually in the engagement of it, the clicks to your website and the performance once they get there. I’ve generally been happy with the performance, particularly on Facebook.

I just think social media sites could be a lot more honest about this stuff. Or the IAB should come out with universal standards for engagement metrics. I’m not holding my breath.

Loose Strings

Loose Strings

A few marketing-related bullet points that have been rattling around in my brain lately…..

  • Snapchat. I know. It’s hot. And I swear that I’m historically an early adopter. I also know that as an almost 45 year old male, I’m not in the Snapchat demographic. But I have it and I watch it. I see what’s going on. I even like it. I like the brand stories. Geofilters are cool. But I’m feeling like it’s going to plateau before it gets to the Facebook/Twitter level of almost total adoption across all demos and ages. Why? Because most people my age don’t know how to use it, don’t want to know and like it or not, those people are a lot of headcount. Part of me feels like Snapchat will get there if they can sustain for, oh, another 20 years. Can they? Or will they be part of the upcoming valuation slashing party, which is only just beginning.Screen Shot 2016-04-19 at 8.33.06 PM
  • Journalism. I’ve been listening to Kirk Minehane’s podcast lately. Minehane is a local sports radio guy here in Boston, but he’s exactly my age and is the only reason why it’s worth listening to WEEI at all in the morning. His competition at 98.5 is beating him, but he’s the best thing going in the morning. The problem is that you have to also listen to the other two guys on that show, who sound like every other sports radio dolts in the world. Anyway, Minehane keeps asking the journalists he interviews if they think that the printed Boston Globe is going to be around in five years. To a man, they all say no and it’s probably true. I’m with the trends, it seems – I subscribe to the Globe and read my news on my IPad Mini every morning except Sunday. I still need that printed paper on Sundays. But I read this New York Times article yesterday about the state of Journalism and it made me sad. You should read it. Times are changing. Mobile phones are modern day candy machines. The people who are interested in hard news, real investigative journalism and learning will always find the content they need. They drew that inspiration from somewhere, though.  How will the younger generation (really young kids, say, under 10) get inspired to seek out real news going forward? Only time will tell. Journalism as we know it is probably dead. Check out the Minehane podcast though, it’s good snacking.marketing-related bullet points

Instagram. I love it. In an increasingly visual world, this company provides everyone who uses it with access to one-touch photo filters to make their photos look professionally shot. Professional photographers groan at this sentence. They probably should. But much like music, the average naked ear can’t tell good quality sound in the same way the naked eye can’t tell good quality photos. This is a blanket generalization, but it’s true. The problem with Instagram is that Facebook owns it. That means things are changing. If brands wants to reach users, they will soon have no option other than to pay – just like Facebook. As a brand with 114,000 followers at my old job, I can tell you that I was pretty angry when I had to start paying to reach ANY of the 114,000 who I worked so hard to amass. For advertisers, the same thing is happening with Instagram now. For everyday users of Instagram, it means that youwon’t see all the photos of the people you follow, because Instagram now more or less controls your feed. It’s more complicated than that, but in essence that is what is happening. At some point people will rebel against this Facebook/Instagram approach. Not any time soon, though. For now, as always, money talks.

The key takeaway here? Easy always wins. Always. The IPhone is easy. Amazon. Spotify. Netflix. Uber. See the trend here? Easy. All of it. SO easy. Everyone else is chasing them. Quality still means something, but it means less than it used to. That’s just the cold truth. You give someone an easy path to do something, and you’ll win. Figure out the profitability thing later. I need to think of something easy!

Did Facebook Land Me A Job?

In early January as I ramped up my first real job search in 15+ years, I tried to think of ways to stand out in what was a very noisy, competitive space – job seekers. I had landed my previous job a little bit unconventionally, so I tried to think unconventionally again. Back then there was no social media except for MySpace. Now we have a lot of options. Would Social Media land me a gig somewhere? Did Facebook land me a job? Read on.

Certainly this blog has taken on a slightly different tone since I’ve been in the job market. I switched the home page to be more a personal profile which linked to my portfolio and I set the actual blog posts to be a mere left side navigation choice on desktops and a menu choice in mobile. And I blogged again. It felt good, man. I will keep trying.

A lot of job seekers use their blog as their portfolio and write about their experience, though. That’s almost the norm now. So I needed to do more – and I took to Facebook.

I wondered what would happen if I created a Facebook Business page dedicated to me – my personal brand! So I did it. I put up a profile pic of me looking all business-like and posted a couple of items about some of my experience and set off on my adventure – with all links pointing to my website.

You can’t just do that, though, you also have to get traffic there. Not wanting to promote it on my personal Facebook page (I mean, that would be almost embarrassing), I decided to buy some Facebook ads and target them specifically to companies who I’d been interviewing with or companies that I thought would be cool to work for. I also set an age target at people over 30, since it seemed most HR people I talked to were over 30 years old. Geographically, I focused on Massachusetts only.

I set my targets, set my budget, generated a few images in Photoshop, wrote a few different pieces of ad copy and BAM. Turned it on.

By the way, if you’re NOT testing different ad copy or images in your Facebook ads, shame on you. Booooo.

Immediately my ads were not delivering, so clearly I wasn’t aggressive enough with budget. I bumped it up a little and started to see some action in the form of clicks. Okay, good.

Now, I bought Facebook ads six ways to Sunday for my former employee. Did a ton of them. But I’d never done one for just myself, so I didn’t really know what to consider “success” here. And I still don’t, really.

did facebook get me a job

This is the image that generated the most engagement. Ugh.

As I watched over the first few days, one image and one set of ad copy stood out over the rest. Of course, the image I liked the least was generating the most clicks. Wouldn’t you know it?

And even though the ad COPY itself was text about my overall Digital Marketing experience, it was a rip-off of an annoying and very recognizable social meme that generated the interest from the audience.

This is another sign that personal opinions mean very little when putting together ads. Testing different creative is crucial. Data rules. I felt like I had much better ads creatively that I preferred to use, but this one won out and eventually I moved it exclusively to this image.

So what happened? Did it work? Did I get hired from a Facebook ad? Well, no I didn’t. I’m slightly bummed that I don’t have an awesome story to tell about how I got my latest gig. It was slightly unconventional how it happened, but that’s a story for another time.

did facebook land me a job

21 clicks. I’m not disappointed.

I did get an unsolicited email from a large digital agency in Boston wanting me to interview with them. They were on my target list for those ads, too. I never got to ask them if they found me via the ad, because I got hired as I was trying to set this up. I may never know.

While I was pleased that I was able to generate 21 clicks to my website from companies I had actually targeted over a 3-or-so week period, I pretty much got my current gig in the way I never really thought happened anymore – I applied cold with a resume into their online employment system. The slightly unconventional part came later.

All that said, it was a very interesting experience, which in the end only cost me about $70 bucks. Not a bad experiment.

Bad Facebook Ads

I’ve mentioned bad targeting and bad Facebook ads before. It’s pretty gross (and wasteful) business. It also provides a horrendous user experience. Whether Facebook likes it or not, when an advertiser doesn’t do audience targeting correctly, it casts a dark light on Facebook, because not everyone is totally aware of what is and isn’t an advertisement. That is both the beauty and drawback of native advertising.

In some ways, it’s even worse then a Google search. At least Google puts that little orange-ish box that says “AD” in the results now. With Facebook, it’s mixed in with your newsfeed and the 4 point “Sponsored” font is hardly noticed.
bad facebook ads
Last week I was doing a sort-of consulting gig with a local company (story for another time), but I saw this image above for Boise State Lacrosse Apparel come across my Facebook feed. This is an example of what I consider poor targeting. Why?

Well, I do have lacrosse in my Facebook profile, because it’s a part of my past work history and I follow several lacrosse-related Facebook pages. Which reminds me, I need to stop following those. So that’s why I’m seeing the ad. Checkmark for the advertiser.

However, I feel like they got it wrong on several levels. One is that I didn’t attend Boise State. Am I saying that the advertiser should have ONLY targeted Boise State students and alum? No. But it still doesn’t feel right. Two, I live and grew up 2,000+ miles from Boise.

So while the advertiser got the lacrosse part right when targeting me, they probably could have saved some money and optimized their spend by doing a little bit deeper targeting on things like geographical location. Tighten that up, folks.

Another thing – the image in the ad is an absolute atrocity. This advertiser should be shamed in public for not using high-quality pictures of actual Boise State Lacrosse apparel! Especially with all the image options (like multi-image carousels) that Facebook gives advertisers now. What the hell?!

I mean, look at that ad! Would you click an ad from Ralph Lauren advertising apparel if it was just the Ralph Lauren logo? The big huge B does nothing to entice the user. This provides further evidence to me that this advertiser needs a lesson in engaging and effective advertising.

All that said, maybe this was a campaign where the advertiser was only paying for clicks and if that’s the case, it’s probably a little more acceptable to spray it all around, targeting be damned. Or maybe the advertiser simply had a ton of budget (but no camera, hahah). The ad overall is pretty inexcusable and the ad is terribly ineffective.

Back to my original point, too – it’s not totally relevant to my feed and it makes the user experience, for me, unpleasant. Now I’m off to change my profile so I don’t get any more lacrosse ads.

Facebook in 2016

The end of the calendar year always brings predictions about the following one. Sports, tech, politics, entertainment…..you name it. Predictions galore. Like a BuzzFeed snack, sometimes you can’t help but gobble up predictions. So I wonder what’s in store for Facebook in 2016?

I’m not one for excessive prognosticating. I just try to be very reactive to what’s going on now and try to figure out what’s next based on current trends, thought leaders and then including a bit of what has worked in the past to influence the future.

I’ve been on Facebook since 2007. Before that, it was Friendster and MySpace. There was a time when I thought Facebook would eventually spiral, much like Friendster and MySpace did, but clearly it didn’t. Facebook is here to stay – contrary to popular belief, kids aren’t abandoning it (see teen usage chart below) and people of all ages are still all over it. But I do have some gripes.
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For one, in the last year or so, I have a big issue with relevancy in my newsfeed. This applies to both native advertising (paid) and organic content. For example, look at this one, where someone I have never heard of and am not connected to (Rickie Peterson) posted a message to someone I am connected with (Chris Cote).

Facebook in 2016 Image 1

I am sure that Facebook’s algorithm somehow deemed this worthy of my newsfeed, but guess what? It’s not. I do enjoy Chris Cote’s posts, but I do not need to see messages to him on his newsfeed from people I don’t know.

Here’s another one. A Facebook friend of mine (John Listovich), in two consecutive posts in my Newsfeed, liked a Huffington Post article and also an article about the Philadelphia Eagles and Kiko Alonso (shaded in blue). I never read the Huffington Post and I’m not a fan of the Eagles or Kiko Alonso. Why does Facebook deem these relevant to my newsfeed?

Facebook in 2016 Image 2

Look, I know I can block content from John Listovich or Chris Cote, but I actually enjoy seeing their updates, so I don’t want to block them. And I don’t think I can change settings to only see updates from John or Chris, but block all other activity (what posts they like, etc). I could be wrong there.

Advertising is a whole different ball of wax. Those ads you see on your Facebook page are generally called “Native Advertising.” You can see more about that here. It basically means an ad that looks like a regular person’s post or content.

Now, native advertising can be very very good if it’s targeted well, is relevant to you and is…..human. In other words, not a TV commercial or some generic ad.

When Marketers are buying ads on Facebook, they have the ability to slice-and-dice who sees the ads in amazing ways. You know how in your Facebook profile, you list off your favorite shows, bands, sports, companies, where you work, etc? Well, marketers can target you using these attributes.

I did this very often at my last job. I probably put together hundreds of Facebook ads containing all kinds of content, new and old. It worked wonders and generated a lot of site visits and some purchase activity from new users. They even give you an opportunity to advertise to audiences who are similar to the ones who are following your business page. It’s awesome – when done correctly.

When it’s not done correctly, though…..ugh. Now, who’s to say when it’s done correctly or not? I guess it’s all subjective. Here’s an ad that I see in my newsfeed that I’ve been targeted for, but have nothing in my profile that would indicate I should see this and I don’t believe it’s retargeting (definition here) because I haven’t been to this site or searched for any product remotely like this. But there’s something in my Facebook profile that caused Luma to target me. I just don’t know what it is.

Facebook in 2016 Image 3
The trouble is that I’m seeing a lot more of these ads lately than I ever have before. It’s getting noisy. If the noise (i.e., native advertising) was actually very well done content that I was really interested in, I’d be totally ok with it. But I’m not.

So is this the way it’s going to be on Facebook for 2016? Will I see this more or will they keep making changes to their algorithm that smooth it out? Who knows, I can’t predict the future. But I can tell you this – I’m far less inclined these days to really explore my Facebook feed like I used to.

I’d really love to hear from Facebook users, particularly long-time users, about how you’re looking at Facebook in 2016. Are you seeing content that isn’t relevant to you or annoys you? Are you getting to the ledge when it comes to Facebook? Or is it just me? Leave a comment below – and check out Meet Me on the Ledge, one of my favorite songs from one of my favorite bands of the ’90s.