Monthly Archives: January 2014

What the decline of Facebook (or not) does (or doesn’t) mean to your brand.

Screen shot 2014-01-23 at 8.44.28 AM“Facebook is dead!”

You’ve seen that headline, or a similar one, by now, yes? About how young people are abandoning Facebook in droves, how it’s jumped the shark, how it’s bound for MySpaceCity.

Don’t believe the hype. In the blogosphere, Facebook has been killed off more times than Kenny from “South Park,” left for dead more times than Rasputin, been presumed vanquished more times than Doctor Who.

Q. Is Facebook losing primacy among young people?

A. Maybe. While the plural of anecdote is not data, I see indications many teens may be using Facebook as a network but not their main network any more. We opened our (closed) Accepted Students: Facebook Class of 2018 group about a week ago and nearly 300 accepted students already are making connections and some even said this interaction makes them choose Oswego (not bad for a dead network, eh?). Yet some say they’re not on Facebook much but encourage others to follow them on Twitter and Instagram to get to know them better.

Facebook. The Gateway to Twitter and Instagram. Not exactly Zuck’s next marketing phrase.

In any event, a Pew Research study released last year (albeit from 2012 research) found 94% of teens with a Facebook profile with 81% using it most often of any social network. Even with a 10% or 20% erosion, that’s still pretty strong market penetration.

Q. Is Facebook making it harder on marketers not willing or able to spend money?

A. Signs point to yes. Facebook hinted at this a while but now basically says advertising is an increasingly better way to gain reach than organic (i.e. normal) posts. This doesn’t mean your page is now worthless, just that it faces a stiffer test at getting attention if you can’t spend on advertising. And since Facebook has an annual subscription fee of $0, maybe you get what you pay for. It’s a shame that organizations like the Oswego County SPCA with few resources that are trying to place rescued animals with new homes, get donations to help feed its many sheltered cuties and spread the word about missing pets will find this harder to do, but maybe Facebook will change its mind again at some point.

Q. So, this is all means Facebook could be on decline, right?

A. Perhaps, but what does that mean? Nobody knows, really. As my friend and colleague Gary Ritzenthaler has pointed out, even if half of Facebook users suddenly up and left, it would likely remain the biggest and most influential social networking site. Facebook’s factbook lists 1.2 billion users, so if it declines to, say, 1 billion, does that make it a dead and useless network? Of course not.

Of course it’s sexy to say that Facebook is dead or employ other linkbait headline techniques, quoting such reliable sources as “our office intern,” “some kid we cornered on the street” or “our poolboy’s younger brother,” but those of us who work with students all the time know they still consider Facebook part of their lives. Let me repeat from earlier: Facebook may not be the be-all, end-all social network for teens any more, but chances are it’s still something they use. And if you’re trying to reach (or also reach) adults, the latest Pew Research points to 71% of those 18 and over still using it, 63% daily.

So if you run a Facebook page, what does this mean? It means … well, keep creating awesome content and providing the best customer service you can. If you have an important message and an advertising budget, consider this option … or not. In the greater social media picture, it reinforces that you shouldn’t (and never should have in the first place) put all your eggs in Facebook’s basket. Since Twitter and Instagram can be very powerful channels if done right, if you haven’t looked into them or other potential avenues, you should consider doing so.

But then you should always be testing and analyzing what’s working and not working in your communication, so chances are you already know how well Facebook works for you better than all the doomsaying bloggers in the world.

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Don’t hate the player (Richard Sherman), hate the game.

Malcolm Smith.

That’s the name of the Seahawks linebacker who hustled downfield to make a heads-up interception that will send Seattle to its second Super Bowl™ ever. You won’t remember his name, because he didn’t do what Richard Sherman did.

Sherman, as most of the world knows by now, is the All-Pro cornerback who made an amazing mid-air adjustment to tip the ball to Smith. Then adjusted a lot of attitudes just after the game when Erin Andrews asked him a question and he went off with the kind of trash talk he brings every minute of every game. Just as much of the Twitterverse had hit “send” on a congratulatory tweet to the Seahawks, Sherman suddenly changed the conversation.

My Twitter feed was divided between immediate haters of Sherman and those who found his candor “refreshing” and about what you’d expect right after a ferocious game between two teams that hate each other.

The most naive reaction came from professional communicators who suggested somebody should get Sherman to media relations training. Sherman has a communication degree from Stanford. He knows what he’s doing. He knows this is how he gets famous. And if you knew Richard Sherman — and almost nobody does — you wouldn’t have been very surprised.

*****

umadbro

Courtesy of Richard Sherman Twitpic

I’ve been a Seahawks fan longer than probably the majority of my Facebook friends have been alive. I’ve seen ups and downs with this franchise — more downs than ups, many years in the NFL desert — so this win was beyond exciting. I was disappointed in Sherman’s behavior because it taints the moment of victory and turned many fans (with a shallow understanding of the team and the game) against them for the Super Bowl™.

Richard Sherman is the best cornerback in the game. He led the league in interceptions, which is all the more amazing because quarterbacks so rarely throw his way. Sherman (correctly) noted that on the final play, the 49ers gambled by going at the Seahawks’ best defender. He has bravado, but he can back it up.

If you follow the Seahawks or are a hardcore football fan, you know this. If he played in New York, you’d know it. If he played among the East Coast media that sets our sporting agenda, you’d know it. But he plays up in the northwest corner of the country, where you have to do bold things to get attention.

He first gained notice when, after the rising Seahawks earned a surprising upset win over the Patriots last season, he tweeted a photo of himself and New England quarterback/media darling Tom Brady with a caption “U mad bro?” The sports establishment that reveres Brady was aghast some upstart would do such a thing, people with actual senses of humor found it funny, and soon enough the sports world returned to ignoring Seattle and its mouthy cornerback.

The Seahawks and the 49ers hate each other with a passion. The Seattle secondary and San Francisco receivers trash talk and taunt more than most, so it’s not surprising that Sherman and Michael Crabtree, the receiver he tipped the ball away from and ripped in his postgame interview, despise each other. The NFL likely will fine Sherman for his comments (probably less than the $50,000 they docked teammate Marshawn Lynch for not talking to the media) while realizing the swagger he brings and the rivalry between the two young teams will bring the league riches beyond belief.

*****

Russell Wilson is the kind of player coaches and PR staff dream about. In just his second year in the NFL, the humble Seahawk most believed too small to play his position in the league is now a franchise quarterback for a Super Bowl™-bound team. He says everything you’d want in his interviews about hard work and teammates and respect for opponents. He makes plays with his head, his legs and his arm. Wilson is known as the first player to show up for practice and the last to leave. Wilson’s face lights up when he tells heartwarming tales of visits to children’s hospitals, and how much he admires the brave young people he meets.

Russell Wilson is everything we say we want in our heroes.

So he’ll never be as famous as Richard Sherman.

*****

Fortune favors the brave. That line has been written many times about the Seahawks (mainly in Seattle, of course, because outside media barely paid attention to them until recently). Coach Pete Carroll and GM John Schneider built the Seahawks from also-rans to Super Bowl™ contenders in a few short years by taking lots of risks and creating a competitive atmosphere. They took risks on quarterbacks deemed too short, cornerbacks deemed too big, defensive lineman considered too small, and found a way to win. Mel Kiper and the shellacked-hair draft analysts who make a living pricing young players as if they are sides of beef, routinely give the Seahawks low grades in their drafts … but Wilson (third round), Sherman (fifth round) and others Kiper and others derided are among the best at their position, and undrafted free agent Doug Baldwin made a number of game-changing plays on Saturday.

Deciding to go for it on fourth down — where Wilson rifled a pass to another undrafted free agent receiver, Jermaine Kearse, for the go-ahead score — is the kind of thing most observers applaud … when it works. On the field, Sherman deflecting the pass to Smith to seal the Seahawks win and trip to the big game is something fans cheer.

But when the athletes we venerate for on-field bravado do something other than act as corporate spokespeople, the world acts with disgust. Fans tweet their dissatisfaction, not realizing they are merely making the target of their anger more famous and more ripe for several endorsement deals.

Richard Sherman knows this. Football is not the only game he plays better than almost anybody else. Russell Wilson can still become famous, and deserves to. Malcolm Smith can still become a prized football player. But only Richard Sherman has become the most talked-about athlete on the planet.

UPDATE: Sherman explains himself and his comments in a Monday Morning Quarterback column for Sports Illustrated. If you’re interested in knowing how he really is, it’s well worth a read.

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Why I’m deleting ‘no cellphones’ from my syllabus

When I started teaching Media Copywriting in fall 2005, the syllabus included a simple “cellphones should not be seen nor heard” line in it, with accompanying mini-lecture in class, that has remained. Until now.

tweetsStarting this semester, I’m fine if students use smartphones in class. I even hope they sometimes use them during class.

It’s a trend popping up other places, acknowledging smartphones as participatory instruments. I’ve never been a big fan of the classroom as one-way lecture megaphone. Yet the establishment position among academia resisted the inclusion of laptops and personal devices in classes. But we’ve long since reached a point where, to borrow a great line from education expert Mark Greenfield: “The question is no longer whether laptops belong in lecture halls, but whether lecture halls belong in universities.”

Consider this: My intern Alyssa (of Alyssa Explains It All fame) takes notes on her iPhone. At an astonishing rate, no less. It takes my stubby, uncoordinated fingers minutes to write a text, yet today’s students like Alyssa could compose a short essay in that time. Who are we to discriminate on what media they use for note-taking?

But smartphones can be worked into feedback and learning as well. I’ve previously given homework assignments asking students to tweet examples, responses and opinions — often with video links — on the #brc328 tag to set the tone for the next class. Why not ask them to tweet in class in response to questions or to use it as another regular feedback and discussion channel?

I’m not saying the first semester doing this won’t be a bit sloppy, and that it won’t require fine-tuning. Will students abuse the privilege and not pay attention while playing games or whatever on their smartphones? Maybe. Their loss. If they aren’t paying attention in class or taking good notes, it becomes apparent after a while and the consequences come naturally in their ability to do assignments and pass the test. I’m giving them responsibility and seeing how they use it. From my experience, I expect students to respond accordingly and receive the grade they deserve.

In any event, I’ll let you all know how it goes.

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