How should we regulate Facebook and Google’s advertising platforms?

So how does Facebook’s ad system work? Well, just like Google, it’s accessed through a self-service platform that lets you target your audiences using Facebook data. And because Facebook knows an awful lot about its users, you can target those users with astounding precision. You want women, 30–34, with two kids who live in the suburbs? Piece of cake. Men, 18–21 with an interest in acid house music, cosplay, and scientology? Done! And just like Google, Facebook employed legions of algorithms which helped advertisers find their audiences, deliver their messaging, and optimize their results. A massive ecosystem of advertisers flocked to Facebook’s new platform, lured by what appeared to be the Holy Grail of their customer acquisition dreams: People Based Marketing!

via Lost Context: How Did We End Up Here? – NewCo Shift

I’m really torn on this one. John Battelle here (a tech publishing veteran who knows a good deal about online advertising) argues for more regulation and transparency of Facebook and Google’s advertising platforms.

I’ve seen how both Facebook and Google’s advertising platforms can work wonder for good causes like the nonprofits, religious group, and community organizations that are our clients. It’s wonderful to see the way that we can work miracles (hyperbole) to create new reach, fundraising, and awareness campaigns for these groups on a limited budget using Facebook Ads and AdWords. In the past, that would have required them to spend exponentially more on marketing and advertising. But now, we can help these groups grow on a shoestring. That’s a good thing.

However, we are at an inflection point.

I agree with Battelle on a theoretical layer, but there’s also the notion of democratic capitalism and the need to allow markets to flourish or wither based on their own actions (does our democracy value ethics, morality etc the same as it has and what does that mean for advertising?).

On the other hand, there are other advertising platforms that are major players in Asia and will be major players on a global scale soon such as Alibaba and Tencent and Rakuten. If we hamstring Google and Facebook, do we run the risk of advertisers abandoning those platforms for greener global pastures?

On the other hand, Russia interfered with our Presidential election and it’s no secret that politicians and special interest groups are doing bad things with these platforms.

Facebook Page Reach Has Declined 20% in 2017

Facebook isn’t the newspaper where “if you post it, they will see it.” This takes a little bit of shift in how we view concepts such as “spam” and “bugging” but algorithms don’t work like our chronological brains.

What to do if you’re a small business, church or non-profit with a small number of Facebook Page likes but looking to grow? Post video. Post often. Don’t assume that because you post something on your Facebook Page (not your personal one) that all of your followers or audience will see it.

What’s more likely is actually another News Feed update introduced in June 2016, which put increased emphasis on content posted by friends and family over Page posts. Facebook’s always looking to get people sharing more personal updates, and those updates generate more engagement, which keeps people on platform longer, while also providing Facebook with more data to fuel their ad targeting.

via New Study Finds Facebook Page Reach has Declined 20% in 2017 | Social Media Today

Facebook Nones, Snapchat, and Instagram

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We’ve been hearing about the decline of Facebook’s popularity among younger users for years now. It looks like Instagram (owned by Facebook) and Snapchat are finally providing an avenue for “Facebook Nones”:

Facebook is losing appeal among teens and young adults which is contributing to generally slowing growth for the platform, according to the latest projections from research firm eMarketer.

At the same time alternative social apps Snapchat and (Facebook-owned) Instagram are seeing rising and double-digit growth in the same youth demographic — suggesting younger users are favoring newer and more visual communications platforms.

Teens favoring Snapchat and Instagram over Facebook, says eMarketer – TechCrunch

What Time Should We Post to Our Facebook Page?

I get this question quite often, especially from churches and non-profits:

“What time of the day should we post to our Facebook page to make the most impact?”

It’s a tough question to answer given the number of variables and because every church/group has a different set of Facebook followers and likes. You’ll find a number of posts on the web giving you suggestions as well (such as this one from CoSchedule). However, churches and non-profits are different beasts than companies, so you have to keep that in mind when finding a good time for your posts.

Here are a few graphs we put together from four different churches and non-profits we work with at Harrelson Agency (anonymous and with their permission). The graphs display the times when the fans of a Facebook Page are using Facebook on their computer, iPad or mobile device over the span of the last month on average. All have relatively the same size of Facebook audiences (and are close to the same size in terms of members).

This is completely anecdotal data, but it looks like the peak time for the most users being online is around 9 PM (that’s especially true on the weekends). Some days like Mondays had fewer users on Facebook but the graphs display a pretty interesting average over the past month. So if you’re looking for the most immediate eyeballs, the afternoon into the evening is a better bet than first thing in the morning or into the late evening (though there are some advantages to that as well).

So take from that what you will… I think it’s pretty interesting. Keep in mind that there is a great deal of variance and data points to employ if you’re looking to come up with a specific marketing plan around Facebook posts. This is just to provide a rough approximation based on a data set that I came across and thought was intriguing.

And you should probably not post an important update at 3 AM.

Last Night on Earth

I’m an only child. I realized rather early in life that being an only child and one of the few kids in our rather small family would have an impact on a number of aspects of my life from playing sports to how I held my shoulders at school.

I was consciously aware of myself rather early in life. I’m not sure if others go through this period of inner awareness and I wonder how that development affects us as we grow into adulthood. I have a vivid memory (for what that’s worth) of spending what felt like days and days on a working hierarchy of my mind. I laid out what I thought were all the potential body systems and thought processes I could have. Everything from “standing up” to “writing in cursive” to “reading a book.” The purpose was (I think) to be able to understand the how as well as the why of me. I wish I still had that notebook from when I was 9 or 10. As a senior in high school I used the topic of “Ego” for my year long thesis project. I explored the Id and Superego with Freud and Jung and Catherine of Siena and Hesse and Lennon and Margery Kempe. I was reading Doyle’s Sherlock stories at the time and the concept of a brain attic immediately appealed to me as I explored these new thought technologies. That was especially true as a shy and socially awkward only child growing up in a culture where I didn’t feel like I “fit in” (what teenager ever does?). I didn’t realize it at the time, but that project and those explorations have profound effects today on my views of spirituality, politics, sex, relationships, and identity.

I left that exploration behind and put the project in a neat jar in the corner of my brain attic. Sometimes, I’m tempted to go open the pithos but I worry that it will only unleash more turmoil and I’ll close the lid before elpis has a chance to escape. Other times, I meander past it and know that I should just break it and send to the trash fire where other items taking up space go.

I look at my 9 year old now, and marvel at how much she is rapidly changing but also wish I could tell her even more blatantly that it’s ok to explore the inner self. It’s an amazing journey. I hope she doesn’t put her pithos in the corner to collect neuron dust but keeps up the struggle and joy of inner discovery.

Last night, the person I freely call “my brother” messaged me a video at 2 AM from a bar where one of our favorite songs was being covered. I didn’t see the message until this morning, but the thought and intentionality that led to him sending me that at that moment in time and space made me smile. He could have shared that via Facebook or Instagram and tagged me or included me in an @ message in a sort of public shout-out meant to display our affinity for that song or each other. But the private nature of the message was intimate and special and meaningful.

Another one of my great friends that I also call a brother is fond of letter writing still. It’s hipster and chic and trendy to reflect back on lost practices like letter writing, but that doesn’t negate the impact. He’s had major life changes recently. I’ve been meaning to write him a letter with some of the thoughts and items from my brain attic that might give him some additional insights. We’ve exchanged messages and phone calls, but I’ve not taken the time to follow through with intimate sharing via the medium that I know would impact us both the most. Is that because I’m afraid of that pithos in the corner?

This week’s Roderick on the Line podcast covers this notion of sharing and online personas and what we communicate to the public about our own brain-processed visions of the world when we use Instagram or Facebook or Twitter. It’s worth your time to listen.

Connecting with other humans via social media on a broadcast level is comforting to this only child. I don’t have to really let you know who I am or what I’m necessarily seeing or thinking because I can control the message and the filter. I can bend my reality and share it with all of you in a way that helps negate intimacy. You get to see what I self-diagnose as my interesting self, but you aren’t privy to the artifacts and boxes and souvenirs in my brain attic. And that pithos.

Why augmented reality’s future is more practical and rational than you realize

Bryan Richardson, Android software engineer at stable|kernel, wants you to consider this: what if firefighters could wear a helmet that could essentially see through the walls, indicating the location of a person in distress? What if that device could detect the temperature of a wall? In the near future, the amount of information that will be available through a virtual scan of our immediate environment and projected through a practical, wearable device could be immense.

Source: The Technology Behind Pokémon Go: Why Augmented Reality is the Future

Call Pokemon Go silly / stupid / trendish / absurd etc. To a certain point the game is incredibly inane. However, it does illustrate the ability of memes and mass fads to still occur in large numbers despite the “fracturing” of broadcast media and the loss of hegemonic culture.

The more immediate question to me, though, is what to do with this newfound cultural zeitgeist around AR? Surely, there will be more copycat games that try to mirror what Pokemon Go, Nintendo, and Niantic have created. Some will be “better” than Pokemon Go. Some will be direct rip offs.

Tech behemoths such as Facebook, Microsoft, Samsung, HTC, and now Google understand the long term implications of AR and are all each working towards internal and public projects to make use of this old but new intense hope and buzz around the idea of using technology to augment our human realities. I say realities because we shouldn’t forget that we experience the world based on photons bouncing off of things and going into our eyeballs through a series of organic lenses that flip them upside down onto the theater screen that is our retina before the retina pushes them through the optic nerve to our frontal cortex where our electrochemical neurons attempt to derive or make meaning from the data and process that back down our spinal cord to the rest of our bodies… there’s lots of room for variations and subjectivity given that we’re all a little different biologically and chemically.

We’re going to see a fast-moving evolution of tools for professions such as physicians, firefighters, and engineers as well as applications in the military and in classrooms etc that will cause some people pause. That always happens whether the new technology is movable type or writing or books or computers or the web.

Games (and porn unfortunately) tend to push us ahead when it comes to these sorts of tech revolutions. That will certainly be the case in terms of augmented reality. Yes, Pokemon Go is silly and people playing it “should get a life.” But remember, the interactions with that game and each other that they are making now will improve the systems of the future and save / improve lives. Also… don’t get me started on what it means to “have a life” given our electrochemical clump of neurons that we all are operating from regardless of our views on objectivity, Jesus, or etiquette.

Facebook isn’t a neutral platform

There seems to be a real disconnect between what Facebook actually is and what it purports to be. Mark Zuckerberg has said publicly that Facebook is a neutral platform which “stands for giving everyone a voice.” But it’s clear that Facebook is willing to vote with its wallet to make some of those voices louder than others.

The open Web is the only answer. But in an era of easy-to-use apps and algorithmic story discovery, it’s an answer fewer people seem to be choosing.

Source: Facebook’s Payola Shows It’s No Neutral Platform | Sascha Segan | PCMag.com

The Conservative’s Tituba

It was like affirmative action for conservatives. When did conservatives start demanding quotas AND diversity training AND less people from Ivy League Colleges.

I sat there, looking around the room at ‘our side’ wondering, ‘Who are we?’ Who am I? I want to be very clear — I am not referring to every person in the room. There were probably 25–30 people and a number of them, I believe, felt like I did. But the overall tenor, to me, felt like the Salem Witch Trial: ‘Facebook, you must admit that you are screwing us, because if not, it proves you are screwing us.’

Source: What disturbed me about the Facebook meeting. — Medium

That random feeling when I read a Glenn Beck post and nod in agreement.

Interesting account from a meeting between top conservatives and Mark Zuckerberg over whether or not Facebook has been “censoring” their content… go read.

Learning From the Current Media Revolution

From Jim VandeHei, who was one of the co-founders of Politico…

In coming years, the revolution will likely demolish much of what we read and watch now. State and local newspapers and TV? Gone. Their models are fatally flawed. General interest magazines such as Time and Newsweek? Gone or unrecognizable shells of their former selves. Traditional TV and cable? Shrinking and scrambling. Clickbait machines such as Gawker, or Ozy, or Mashable? Gone or gobbled up by bigger players.

At the same time, the need for content, especially (but not only) video content, will explode. It will be a mad rush that makes the 1980s’ race to create new cable channels seems like a leisurely stroll.

The pipes for distribution of content are mostly set. Facebook, Amazon, Google and Snapchat will be joined by the savviest traditional media companies such as Comcast and new media players, most notably Netflix, Apple, Vimeo and others.

Source: Escaping the Digital Media ‘Crap Trap’ — The Information

At the end of the article, he posits that we are entering a golden age of content creation and that consumers will happily pay for eclectic and efficiently delivered media as mobile destroys desktop paradigms, and streaming destroys cable.

I’d include podcasting in this conversation as well. It’s not hard to fathom that podcasting, or some iteration of it, really does catch on “in the mainstream” as our mobile devices and autos get smarter and more in tune with our own listening preferences as compared to broadcast NPR or radio.

Just this week, I finally convinced my parents to sign up for Netflix and Hulu. They love it. “Why would we pay for cable now?” Dad asked. I’ve been asking the same since I cut the cord back in 2006 in favor of other ways to find and watch the media that most appealed to me and our family.

It’s easier, cheaper, and (I think) more fun than ever. Apple TV, Roku, Plex etc have made the content game enjoyable again.

Businesses, churches, and nonprofits can learn a great many lessons by observing the current revolution / rebirth that journalism and content industries are currently experiencing. Find faith in the ability to embrace the eclectic. Find your voice and your audience. Stop trying to be all things to all people and broadcast messages (especially on Facebook and social media). You’ll be rewarded by your fans.