Sam Harrelson

Blogging

“I keep remembering that, between Google Reader and its limits (items must have titles), and Twitter with its limits (only 140 chars, no titles, one link, no styling), same with Facebook (no links or styling) that my online writing has diminished dramatically, conforming to the contradictory limits of each of these systems.

I keep working on this, still am. Every day.”

Source: Blogging like it’s 1999 | Dave Winer




The Loss of Solitary Exploration

“This experimental feature helps voters make more informed choices, and levels the playing field for candidates to share ideas and positions on issues they may not have had a chance to address during the debate. By publishing long-form text, photos and videos throughout the debate, campaigns can now give extended responses, answer questions they didn’t get a chance to on stage, and rebut their opponents. As soon as the first debate begins at 7 p.m. ET on Thursday, search “Fox News debate” to find campaign responses.”

Source: Official Google Blog: New ways to stay informed about presidential politics

Wait, you mean the debates are scripted?

But seriously, this is interesting… as I’ve been watching the X Files revival this week (also on Fox™), I’ve been thinking more intentionally about the how’s and why’s we consume media in 2016 compared to, say, twenty years ago in 1996 when I was a nerdy teenager madly in love with the show. The X Files were something that I watched, recorded, and watched again most every week in order to parse out a new piece of the show’s ongoing mythology. It was a solitary, but incredibly beneficial, experience. I did the same with Beatles lyrics and Herman Hesse novels around the same time.

However, with this new iteration of the X Files, I’ve noticed that I’m watching my iPad as much as I’m watching the show. The #xfiles stream on Twitter has been an integral part of my viewing of the show. I only realized how much last night as I was watching the stream and realized that I had missed a key plot point that was subtle (I probably would’ve missed it if I had been watching the show intently rather than partitioning my attention, but still…) but was important. A tweet clued me in and I immediately “got it.” Would I have had that experience had I not been following the conversation on Twitter? Maybe. Hopefully in a second or third viewing I would. But I find myself not watching or reading things a second or third time these days because OMG JESSICA JONES is on Netflix and I have to catch up before diving into Making a Murderer before the next season of House of Cards!

Following the X Files last night was the last Democratic Presidential Debate before the Iowa Caucus next week. Again, I spent as much (if not more) time arguing with my friend Thomas Whitley about the merits of Bernie Sanders on Twitter as I did actually watching the debate. I’ve been watching presidential debates since … well, about 1996 when Clinton was at his high point and masterfully debated against a credible threat from Bob Dole. Throughout college and graduate school, I loved watching debates and can remember highlights from ’00 and ’04 as if they were fresh memories. Will I remember the ’16 debates (as remarkable as they are given the current political climate) as fondly or well? I’m not sure. I certainly don’t remember much about the ’12 debates when I was also using Twitter as a side show to further my “engagement with the conversation,” but there are also the variables of age and my diminished attention span to consider.

Perhaps that’s the fulcrum of whatever point I’m trying to make… as we grow older (I’m 37 now), do we intentionally seek out these side reels in order to persuade our minds that things like the X Files or a sporting event or a presidential debate are *really* important? Or do we seek these out as ways to validate our own confirmation bias about a particular football team or candidate (or mythology)?

I’ve noticed that when I read books on my Kindle, I frequently come across highlights that other Kindle users have made. It’s a neat feature for readers, as you get clued into what other readers have considered important or highlight-worthy in the same book you’re reading. It’s a feature that can be turned off, but I haven’t done that yet. I wonder what 17 year old Sam in 1996 would have said or thought of that feature when I was pouring through Siddhartha for the 3rd time? Would I have even made it through that many readings, since I would have had the highlights from other readers?

When I was a middle school teacher (I use that past tense slightly as I’m not sure one can ever divorce oneself from such an absurd calling / profession), I was always an enthusiastic promoter of the “back channel” in the classroom. The back channel, to me, was a space for students to openly raise questions and explore avenues during the course of a class experience. I experimented with various ways to bring about a healthy back channel, but I’m not sure if I ever did (I saw good benefits, but there was no way to quantifiably measure those outside of summative assessments which I also didn’t particularly enjoy). I wonder if I would encourage that back channel presence now, being a little older and with the benefit of hindsight? Did it detract from the class experience in the same way that my watching both the X Files on TV and #xfiles on a screen detracts from my solitary exploration of thoughts and ideas? Or were there tangible benefits in the same way that I realized a plot point I would have probably missed last night?

I miss the days of having to watch a well worn VHS tape recording of a Star Trek TNG episode or The Empire Strikes Back or a Presidential Debate in order to make sure I didn’t miss anything, rather than just googling “last night’s X Files” to find the right subreddit to lose a few hours in. That’s unfair nostalgia (I’m getting old, remember). These tools, these social spaces, we’ve created are doing amazing things for our culture and society. I appreciate how Twitter and Reddit enrich my life.

But sometimes, I want to read Siddhartha again because as a pernicious 17 year old I hated the very idea and existence of Cliff Notes. Now, I can’t seem to experience anything without a cliff note version via 140 characters or a Virgil in the form of a polished Redditor.




Shaking up Twitter

image

Glad to see Dorsey shaking things up now that he’s back at the helm of Twitter.

Under previous CEO Dick Costolo and his team, Twitter was pivoted towards becoming a media / advertising company starting in 2010. The beloved API that allowed for a blossoming of third party apps and a vibrant ecosystem was turned off and there was a palpable feeling that the service had turned their back on devs and their tech base in favor of Ryan Seacrest.

They’ve never been able to monetize to satisfy investors following those paths and should focus on the real time streams / messaging nature of the service by becoming ubiquitous. That will come by opening up, rather than shutting down, that once vibrant ecosystem of services and apps that used the service as a backbone for a coral reef.

Oh, and bring back Track.




Hearts on Twitter and Secondary Orality

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

“We are changing our star icon for favorites to a heart and we’ll be calling them likes. We want to make Twitter easier and more rewarding to use, and we know that at times the star could be confusing, especially to newcomers. You might like a lot of things, but not everything can be your favorite.”

Source: Hearts on Twitter | Twitter Blogs

Interesting connection between Twitter and its rebranded hearts with the concept of “secondary orality:”

“In the era of electronic media it is difficult to keep the distinction between oral culture and literate culture, since there are more and more hybrid forms of culture that spread on the internet. The secondary orality character of applications like Twitter is a manifestation, a consequence of humans’ desire to group, not out of a survival instinct but as a deliberate, rational act of re-integration, as statement of self-consciousness and declaration of identity within neo-tribal cultures.”

Source: Liliana Bounegru | Secondary Orality in Microblogging

When people ask me how Twitter is different than Facebook (or Pinterest, Instagram etc), I like to present my admittedly boiled-down take on the phenomenon of secondary orality in a trans-literate global culture.




Going Viral on Twitter Just Got More Difficult

Yesterday, Twitter released an anticipated new feature that allows users to retweet without using any of the precious 140 characters available. The new feature is only available on the official Twitter app for iOS now, but expected to roll out to Android and desktop apps soon.

In essence, this sounds like a win for users as well as marketers who use the (lucrative) Twitter experience to get their messages out there. The original concept of a retweet goes back to March 2007 when users were searching for a way to share a tweet someone else had published. Originally called an “echo,” retweets became quickly recognizable using the “RT” convention, much like the concept of using # to denote “hashtags” developed from the bottom-up by users. Twitter incorporated RT into its official platform and now provides a means to retweet without having to include RT as it has gained mainstream adoption (though some of us old timers that were there from the beginning still prefer this method).

However, marketers should be aware of a few issues with the new retweet convention as it makes its way into wider adoption. Good post here with some things to think about regarding sharing, stats, images, and “virality” (which is still very important on Twitter)…

Going viral on Twitter? It’s harder. The first retweet with comment is not a disaster, but the subsequent retweet with comment is. Few chances to get one more retweet.The previous Retweet button was a bad choice for marketers. The new one is even worse.

via Retweet with Comment Punches Marketers in the Face | Adrian Jock’s Internet Marketing Tips.




Twitter’s Engagement Problem

Yep:

Although closing down the third-party Twitter app ecosystem gave Twitter more control over the advertising dollars on their content, it eliminated many apps and services that were actually helping to filter and personalize Twitter content. Ironically those same apps that were eliminated, were actually helping to sustain and grow higher engagement on Twitter.

via Why Twitter’s Engagement Has Fallen | Nova Spivack – Minding the Planet.




Twitter Is a Small Business’ Best Friend

Don’t discount the real time web in 2015 if you’re in any sort of business. With the advent and growing popularity of video streaming apps such as Periscope and Meerkat, things are only going to increase in their immediacy. That means more opportunities for better marketing.

Twitter’s most basic function is still its best. It gives you the ability to connect with almost anyone in the world. Imagine the ability to connect with one of the 280 million users who uses it on a monthly basis.

That instant contact is what makes Twitter the perfect fit for businesses. Businesses can see and respond to any tweet in real time.

via Why Twitter Is (Still) A Business’ Best Friend.




You Don’t Need A Mediator to Blog

It’s very easy to blog. You should do it on your own domain. You don’t need a venture capital funded company to help you.

If you need help, let me know. The future is independence from these sorts of silos.

Medium is introducing a host of features aimed at encouraging users to post shorter, less polished pieces.

via Medium adds new features to encourage shorter posts.




Dave Winer on how to stimulate the open web

We were talking about this way back in 2006 (and probably before, but that’s when I started taking notice as the social web started accelerating) and it’s good to see that guardians of the web like Dave Winer are still hard at work thinking and talking (and making apps) about this:

Create systems that are ambivalent about the open or closed web. If I create a tool that’s good at posting content to Facebook and Twitter, it should also post to RSS feeds, which exist outside the context of any corporation. Now other generous and innovative people can build systems that work differently from Facebook and Twitter, using these feeds as the basis, and the investors will have another pile of technology they can monetize.

via How to stimulate the open web.

Go read and use RSS.




Vine’s Loops and Impact on Social Media Marketing

https://vine.co/v/MFTr7DiMjaQ/embed/postcard//platform.vine.co/static/scripts/embed.js

Vine is Twitter’s 6 second short video sharing social network that allows users to capture short videos that loop when viewed. Like Instagram, Vine is an app and the main experience is via mobile rather than the traditional desktop web. Accordingly, Vine is insanely popular with certain demographics (predominately teens – 24 year olds). It’s rather addicting and companies have caught on. Agencies have even been set up around the idea of “microcontent” marketing.

However, one of the stumbling blocks we’ve hit with client work has been the lack of sharing the number of views (or “loops”) that a particular Vine accumulates. One of the reasons Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram etc all share the number of views and shares particular content has over time is because it adds to the social “virality” of that content. These companies have done a great deal of research on how viewing numbers help to increase additional and long term viewing.

Looks like Vine is finally adding this feature too:

With this update, there’s now a new way for you to quickly get a sense of how popular and interesting a Vine may be –– based on how many times people watch a Vine loop. The number, which you can see in our mobile apps and on vine.co, updates in real time, so as you watch a video, you’ll know you’re watching with others at the same time.

via Vine blog – Introducing Loop Counts.

Vine isn’t right for every company, small business, or community group out there. However, if you can find your niche and aren’t afraid to “try new things,” then definitely give Vine a shot in your marketing plan.




Twitter Adding “Buy Now” Buttons to Tweets?

There’s no formal announcement of “Twitter Shopping” yet, but Twitter has been making some strategic moves that would allow users to purchase items directly from tweets (such as a partnership with Amazon).

If so, this could be an interesting play for small businesses that sell niche products. Twitter is a level playing field (well, relatively) compared to other social networks in that most everything is public. This could be very interesting for both Twitter and e-commerce…

So did Fancy accidentally make public another Twitter Commerce experiment? Is Twitter starting to facilitate in-tweet purchases?

The companies aren’t saying. Twitter spokesman Jim Prosser declined to comment, and Fancy execs didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

via “Buy Now” Buttons Start Appearing in Tweets. Is Twitter Shopping Here? | Re/code.




Twitter’s New Mobile Ads

Twitter has long had an advertising component available (especially for small businesses). With their recent acquisition (acqui-hire) of MoPub, a mobile ad network, they are now releasing ads specifically targeted for mobile app users on iOS and Android in the apps category.

It won’t take long for Twitter to open up their mobile advertising to other categories and businesses as well as they continue to seek a successful monetization strategy…

Twitter is kicking off the global roll out of mobile app promotion ads — units that either take users to app downloads, or to the apps themselves if they’re already installed, via a deep link. Along with that, Twitter’s unveiling new cost-per-app-click pricing for the unit and a dashboard to track usage.

via Twitter Rolls Out App Install And Engagement Ads, And New Click Pricing, Globally | TechCrunch.




Please Enable 2FA For Your Own Good and Ours

No one likes to take the time to make passwords online. When you’re setting up your CBSSports account to fill in your March Madness brackets, you just want to get to work. No one’s going to hack you, so you just use the same password there as you do for your Bank of America account and GMail. Who cares, right? You’ve got nothing to hide.

And then you get “hacked” and it’s no fun.

Being a “techy” person, I get lots of questions about how to avoid being “hacked” (it’s fascinating to me how that word has changed its usage as geek and tech culture has become mainstream).

My response is normally:

1) Never use the same password twice. Ever. Use a service such as LastPass if you’re into that (I am).

2) For each of the online services you use, make unique and long passwords that include random characters and even nonsense strings that only you know (I know, I know… this isn’t completely foolproof but it helps prevent the script kiddie hacks). Try to avoid common terms such as “password,” “changeme,” or “123456.”

3) Never use the same password twice. Ever.

4) If you can, enable 2 Factor Authentication.

5) Never use the same password twice. Ever.

Step 1 is usually when the person loses interest in my advice. But you should really enable Two Factor Authentication (2FA) as soon as possible if you’re at all concerned about your online accounts or just want to have a good lock on your doors to keep honest people honest.

TwoFactorAuthor.org has a nice list of major services that we all use, with links to relevant instructions, such as Google Accounts, Dropbox, Twitter, Facebook, even Steam or Etsy etc.

There’s no reason for you not to do this today.

Two-factor authentication! In this age of endless massive hacks we seem to be in the middle of, it’s one of the easiest ways you can dramatically boost security on your online accounts.

But which sites actually support it? It can be a pain to keep track. Fortunately, a new, community-driven list keeps a running list of all the big sites that have some form of 2FA enabled (and encourages you to nag at those that don’t).

via Here Are All The Sites You Should Enable Two Factor Authentication On (And The Ones You Should Yell At) | TechCrunch.




Twitter Learns from Pinterest

While tools like Storify have been doing something similar to this, Twitter’s newly unveiled custom timelines feature could be incredibly popular (and valuable for your business):

Starting today, we are introducing the ability to create custom timelines in TweetDeck. Custom timelines, which were just announced, are a new type of timeline that you control by selecting the Tweets you want to include.

via Twitter Announces Custom Timelines For Hashtags Or Topics On Tweetdeck, Launching API Too.

For instance, here’s a quick curated timeline I just put together:

!function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?’http’:’https’;if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src=p+”://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js”;fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,”script”,”twitter-wjs”);

Why are these important and not just another random Twitter feature that only a few power users will use?

Think of this as the ability to “pin” Tweets into curated lists as you would do with images around certain topics on Pinterest. While you can do something like that by favoriting tweets (something I love to do), being able to assemble tweets in a non-timed based manner and more focused on certain hashtags or topics is exactly what Twitter needed to compete with other social services.

It looks like Twitter learned a great deal from Pinterest here and this is going to be popular with live sports events and reality shows like The Voice (pictured above). Your business could benefit.




Facebook’s Big Problem

Beautiful and well-argued post from The New Inquiry:

Facebook is like a television that monitors to see how much you are laughing and changes the channel if it decides you aren’t laughing hard enough. It hopes to engrain in users the idea that if your response to something isn’t recordable, it doesn’t exist, because for Facebook, that is true. Your pleasure is its product, what it wants to sell to marketers, so if you don’t evince it, you are a worthless user wasting Facebook’s server space. In the world according to Facebook, emotional interiority doesn’t exist. Introspection doesn’t exist, and neither does ambivalence. There is only ostentatious enthusiasm or null dormancy.

It’s worth your brain’s time to go read the entire piece, but the above paragraph is the penultimate one that makes the clearest comparison that non-techies can understand in the middle of talk about algorithms and organic searches.

Facebook’s main problem, in my opinion, is that the company (from the releases to date at least) doesn’t put stock in the power of its many users. Certainly, with a billion or so people using the service that seems like a fantastical idea. However, we continue to see growth in companies like Twitter and Google that, while relying on algorithms themselves, do much more than Facebook to maintain some transparency in their dealings and actively work to include the voice of users beyond what they might want to receive in the form of marketing messages.

When it runs out of its hydrogen and helium, Facebook will inevitably implode because of its own gravity into a black hole that will suck in all of the web or into a cooling dwarf star that is but a shadow of its former self (or a very cool quasar but that’s probably not going to happen). I’m betting on the dwarf star. We’ll look back on this period of the web and wonder what sucked us all in to its gravitational pull and why we fell for it. Books will be written about the cognitive surplus that web users enjoy post-Facebook while relying on services that will still be shining bright like Twitter.

In the meantime, let’s demand more than to be treated like a captive audience from the services we use.




Marketing Is Evolving; Don’t Get Stuck

Fantastic post from SumAll today:

The Switch to Continuous Marketing – SumAll – Blog: “Social media platforms and analytics provide an immediate, continuous feedback loop that puts marketing into an entirely new cycle. It’s now possible to get a faster, deeper sense of your potential customer and to tailor marketing materials to a highly specific demographic.”

This is a concept that we embrace and focus heavily on at Harrelson Agency.

In the past, marketing campaigns were structured differently and might have done pretty well for the time. However, we’ve seen a gradual shift and trend towards online marketing in the past decade or so as the web has grown and social networks like Facebook and Twitter emerged. While paid search still dominates over social media traffic this year, that’s likely to change in 2014. Marketing via social media is bound to become the larger of the two traffic drivers and that’s due in large to the in-depth analytics and insights tools that services like Facebook and Twitter offer to advertisers. Old-school marketing (create, launch, sit back, evaluate) doesn’t work as well anymore because marketing on the web is a continuous process that requires lots of creative thinking, sweating the details, and monitoring (in real time, not when the campaign ends) exactly what works and what doesn’t. And if something doesn’t work, you can always change it and see where you went wrong.

Tools like SumAll and Chartbeat are fantastic for tracking how your campaigns are doing and what kind of traffic you’re getting, but even the out-of-the-box solutions that Facebook, Twitter, et al offer are pretty good.




Instagram is Facebook’s YouTube

Instagram adopting short videos will be insanely popular and businesses should be brainstorming ways to put this functionality to use for their (and their followers) benefits…

Source: Instagram Will Get Video On June 20 | TechCrunch: “Getting video on Instagram is a move that would make sense. Specifically, it looks like a direct response to the rising popularity of video-sharing services, namely Twitter’s Vine. It, and others like Viddy, Cinemagram and Socialcam, sometimes get described as ‘Instragram for video’ apps.”

From the many reports on Techmeme following an invite from Facebook central, it looks like video addition to the service will be formally announced on June 20.

Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram for one billion dollars last year raised more than a few eyebrows as bloggers, skeptics and business papers wondered how people’s pictures of sushi could be worth that much to Faceobok (who was already dealing with a flopped IPO at the time).

However, Facebook’s acquisition of the photo sharing service was brilliant.

Instagram has become a major social network in its own right and the social interactions there go well beyond photo sharing. Middle schoolers, high schoolers and influentials in the highly prized 18-24 demographic are using Instagram at an incredibly high ratio and that’s only going to continue to expand upwards on the curve (even as the mothership of Facebook has shown slower growth and some fatigue from this demographic).

To put it another way, the kids are all moving to Instagram (and Kik, Snapchat etc) as the old folks flood into Facebook.

Adding video functionality to Instagram is a no-brainer as Twitter’s similar Vine service has been growing in popularity with its ability to broadcast looping 6 second videos.

Whether or not you understand what Vine and (soon) Instagram videos can do for your business, it’s important that you put on your thinking hat. This is going to be big.

To put it simply… Instagram is the YouTube of Facebook.




@garyvee Nails It: Don’t Try to Create Hashtags

Ride the Hashtag, Don’t Create it. — I.M.H.O. — Medium: “You’ll get much more success if you pay attention to what is trending on Twitter , try reverse engineer the nature of the hashtag, and then try to bring value to the conversation – joke, a piece of information – rather than what most people think about which is ‘How can I create a hashtag and start my own trend?’”

I wish I could count the number of times I’ve had to sway a client away from the idea of creating a hashtag on Twitter or Pinterest or Instagram that would “go viral” and instead focus on conversations that are already happening.

Gary Vee nails it as usual.




Twitter Analytics Now Open For All

We’ve been using Twitter’s official Analytics back-end with our clients since 2011. Previously, you had to participate in Twitter’s advertising program to get access but it seems as if Twitter has opened up Analytics for every user now…

Twitter analytics: Tool lets you see which tweets your followers are actually reading.: “Twitter user @bdconf noticed yesterday that logging into analytics.twitter.com brings up a page designed to help you get started advertising on the site. From there, clicking ‘analytics’ in the top menu bar allows you to view things like where your followers are located, who else they tend to follow, and how many people clicked on each of your recent tweets.”

 

Analytical packages are the meat and potatoes of our agency, so we’re excited that more people get a glimpse of what kind of data we work with in dealing with clients.

Specifically, Twitter Analytics do three nifty things:

– Help us understand how much website content is being shared across Twitter
– Allow us to see the amount of traffic Twitter sends to our clients’ sites or campaigns
– Measures the effectiveness of sharing buttons etc

Our normal client setup for a Twitter campaign also includes implementation with the awesome ThinkUp stats app (which goes much deeper into the data than Twitter Analtyics) as well as a custom shortened URL and stats flow through bitly. Of course, we tie that altogether with Google Analytics.




Facebook Adds Hashtags

Hashtags were “invented” or proposed for Twitter users way back in 2007 when we were still trying to figure out how Twitter worked and might work better. The hashtag caught on and has become an accepted part of global culture from uprisings to Super Bowls.

It’s no surprise to see the hashtag become part of the Facebook platform, and it would serve those of us using Facebook for marketing to make sure that we’re using hashtags to their optimal state in our campaigns:

Facebook Copies Twitter Again, Adds Hashtags: “Facebook today announced that it is bringing hashtags to its service, letting users add context to a post, indicate that it is part of a larger discussion, as well as discover shared interests. The company says hashtags have become ‘a vital part of popular culture’ and since it has seen users using them on the social network organically, it has decided to actually implement the feature.”

I’m excited to see what types of interactions this will open up with more users, especially in terms of discovery marketing.

This is potentially huge for advertisers.