Facebook’s Image Problem

Now may be a good time for friends and families to rekindle their broken Facebook relationships since it appears Russia was behind much of the hostile engagement on the social network during the 2016 presidential election.

Apparently 10 million people on Facebook saw 3,000 Russian-backed sponsored posts before and after Election Day, fueling racial, religious and political divisiveness. Initial investigations also show that content was geo-targeted in key swing states that may have tipped the scales in favor of the GOP.

Photo credit: Cnet

The frenzy forced many to take action. Thirteen percent of Americans reported blocking or “unfriending” someone on social media because of their political postings, according to a survey by PRRI, with Democrats nearly three times more likely than Republicans (24 percent vs. 9 percent) to shut off opposite-minded friends and family.

It’s hard to quantify the actual impact of the ads. The bottom line is that Trump supporters came out in full force on Election Day, and Hillary Clinton failed to win over white women and female voters without a college education.

Whether the “news” was fake or not, the content fueled an inherent bias on both sides of the proverbial aisle. Moreover, after the 2012 presidential race, the Republican Party ignited its online presence and get out the vote operations that most likely help propel Donald Trump to victory.

No doubt Facebook has an image problem. Shares of the $500B social media giant started to rise from earlier in the week when the stock took a hit from its 52-week high of $175.49, closing at $172.23 on Friday.

The brouhaha led Facebook founder Mark Zukerberg to post a Yom Kippur-inspired mea culpa, writing, “For the ways my work was used to divide people rather than bring us together, I ask forgiveness and I will work to do better.”

Things may only get worse for Facebook if and when Zuckerberg testifies before Congress or the slew of investigations into Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election show the social network at fault. Zuckerberg, however, has repeated many times Facebook’s platform for candidates to communicate directly to voters had a much greater impact that any misinformation on the network.

Facebook fosters engagement unlike any other social network. That engagement needs to be free of any censorship for it to work best. But with more than two billion active monthly users, and more than 200 million in the U.S. alone, there certainly isn’t any shortage of opinion.

Most times people believe what they want on social media regardless of any fact checking. The paradox is that that two-thirds of Americans (67 percent) say they get at least some of their news from social media. In the end, Facebook will recover from this so-called crisis. The network is engrained in the social fabric of American politics, sort of like the ubiquitous seatbelt. People need to be more open-minded to determine what’s fake “news” and what’s not. Unless that changes, stand by for more of the same in 2020.

 

Is LinkedIn the New Facebook?

LinkedIn these days seems to be less about posting “business” content and more around publishing selfies, memes and math puzzles.

Ironically, these Facebook-like posts generally get more traction. But all engagement is not always good engagement, just like all publicity is not always good publicity.

Interestingly enough, the Pew Research Center found that more workers ages 18-49 have discovered information on social media that lowered their professional opinion of a colleague, compared to those who garnered an improved estimation of a co-worker from online platforms. So, be careful what you post.linkedin_and_facebook

LinkedIn prides itself on “connecting the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful.” What’s happened, however, is the line between “work” and “consumer” content has been blurred, causing LinkedIn professionals to lambast what they see as irrelevant posts, stating: “This is not Facebook!”

The reality is that LinkedIn is competing with Facebook. Late last year, Mark Zuckerberg’s social network announced it was testing a feature that would let page administrators create job postings and receive applications from candidates. This undoubtedly will put pressure on LinkedIn’s Talent Solutions business, which comprised 65 percent of the company’s 3Q 2016 revenues.

With 467 million members in over 200 countries and territories, LinkedIn, now owned by Microsoft, is growing at a rate of more than two new members per second. This quails in comparison to Facebook’s 1.79 billion monthly active users, but the company’s growth shows more professionals see value in the platform.

So what does the future look like for LinkedIn? Consider the following:

  • LinkedIn will become an even more valuable business networking tool among business professionals, surpassing Pew’s estimate of the 14 percent of professionals who use the online platform for work-related purposes.
  • “Irrelevant” posts will continue, at least in the short term, but will have an adverse effect on those who publish non-related content.
  • Thoughtful, engaging and pertinent posts that resonate with key audiences will generate positive engagement.
  • Business organizations and individuals will learn how to leverage this network beyond recruitment and job searches.

Much can be said by the old adage “all work and no play …,” so it’s refreshing to see some brevity in our daily work lives. But these matters may be best suited for Facebook and not LinkedIn.

Tweet TV: How Social Media is Making Television Fun Again

Nearly 37 million people watched the 87th Annual Academy Awards on Sunday, down from 44 million last year. Many reasons may have contributed to the viewership drop, everything ranging from the show’s host performance, to the celebrity of the actors themselves, to the types of films that were nominated.

Ellen DeGeneres' selfie at the 2014 Annual Academy Awards.

Ellen DeGeneres’ selfie at the 2014 Annual Academy Awards.

For many pundits that offered critiques of this year’s Oscars, reviews bordered on ho-hum and boring. But what may have been seen as a luck-luster TV event, much of the action was happening on social media, more so on Facebook than on Twitter.

It’s hard not to watch a live TV event these days without being asked to tweet this or hashtag that. This year’s Academy Awards were no exception. While Twitter generated far less interaction than last year, 6 million tweets were posted about the 2015 #Oscars, still a fairly significant number of impressions.

Remember last year’s Ellen DeGeneres’ selfie that actually “broke” Twitter for 20 minutes? The talk-show host’s photo was retweeted 3.3 million times and seen by 37 million people. Experts valued the exposure to Samsung (a sponsor of The Oscars and the type of smartphone that was used to snap the photo) in the hundreds of millions of dollars. While having several of Hollywood’s top A-list celebs in the photo certainly helped it go viral, the tweet nonetheless was a successful integration of TV and social media.

Facebook this year received more engagement, where 21 million people generated 58 million posts, likes or comments about the Oscars, up from 11.1 million users in 2014 generating 25 million interactions. The social network this year also introduced its Trending Oscars experience that allowed fans to connect in real time about Sunday’s show, which may have led to the huge engagement.

Clearly, the social experience between Twitter and Facebook is much different, although one thing is abundantly clear for both: engagement. Today’s social platforms enable two-way communication in real time like never before. And because tweets and posts are searchable and have a long life span – which may not always be a good thing – the value of engagement is much greater.

For the naysayers about social media, and there are those still out there, new media platforms are extending brands way beyond the TV set and onto the Internet, where discussions continue on for days and even months.

For TV in particular, social media may be giving it a sorely needed boost, especially since fewer people than ever are watching television. Good content doesn’t hurt either. Either way, social media is here to stay and actually making TV fun again.

The Downside of Social Media

While social media usage continues to grow here in the U.S. and globally, so do opportunities to reach key audiences on the Web, although this has created an oversaturation of content bombarding folks online as they navigate the super information highway.

Countless efficiency studies have been released on managing content, mirrored by just as many reports on tapping key audiences in a cluttered marketplace.  For instance, standing up in a packed movie theater yelling “Fire!” will certainly grab attention, but it’s probably not the kind of exposure that is sustainable over the long term.

Facebook and Google’s ad strategy of creating more personalized content based on user preferences may be the future of marketing.  The fact remains, however, that people turn off when the proverbial information flow goes on overload.

Walking a delicate balance is the right strategy.  Consider the following tips when engaging online audiences:

— Make your message relevant.  Know your audience’s wants and needs and develop messaging that resonates on a deeper level.  For example, time-strapped moms on the go may be more inclined to buy paper towels from a manufacturer that understands the pressures of getting the kids to school on time.

— Don’t try to speak to the entire world.  While having a video or tweet go viral is rare, most times less is more.  Try having more personalized online conversations and work on building deeper relationships with audiences.

— Start off slow.   Don’t bombard your audience with too many messages at once.  Keep it simple.  Start a conversation and then slowly move into other topic areas with time.

— Add value.   Make sure you provide your audiences with something they can’t get elsewhere.  This is paramount.

— Try the post office.    May sound corny, but a nice follow up letter using snail mail with an actual signed signature goes a long way in today’s fast-paced, digitized world.

And finally, remember the old adage of selling the sizzle, not the steak.   Keep in mind that there are millions of conversation threads each day.  Why should anyone join yours?

Social Media’s Global Growth

The stats on social media’s global growth are staggering. A graphic recently posted in Mashable.com illustrates how the world consumes social media. And boy does it!

We all know that Facebook now has one billion users in 127 countries and is the top social media destination. It’s also interesting to learn how countries and regions outside the U.S. are adopting social media like Asia, which has grown to more than one billion Internet users in a little more than ten years.

Or that 800 million users visit YouTube each month with more than 70 percent of the site’s traffic coming from outside the U.S. In fact, 700 of these videos are shared via Twitter every minute. Moreover, LinkedIn increased its membership nearly by half in the last two years with Turkey, Brazil and Indonesia seeing the largest user growth.

All this data can seem very overwhelming. Even though the growth of social media seems to be a no brainer when it comes to global marketing, many executives still fail to grasp the opportunity. Let’s be clear: social media is not slowing down anytime soon.

Not all social media platforms may be relevant for every business organization. There is no one size fits all solution for tackling this new media landscape. However, given the global economy and the opportunities social media presents, these new platforms can help organizations engage with consumers, customers, and even investors, all over the world. It’s like six degrees of separation on steroids. The proof is in the data.

So, the world is consuming social media. Are you?