Baer Facts – Convince and Convert: Social Media Consulting and Content Marketing Consulting Fri, 23 Feb 2018 12:39:26 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Baer Facts – Convince and Convert: Social Media Consulting and Content Marketing Consulting 32 32 Facebook Usage Declined and the 3 Reasons Why Wed, 21 Feb 2018 12:00:00 +0000 New research reveals that, for the first time ever, Facebook usage has gone down. Jay Baer identifies three possible reasons why.

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Facebook Usage Declined and the 3 Reasons Why

Each year, Edison Research and Triton Digital produce the comprehensive and well-regarded Infinite Dial study which probes how Americans use social media, audio services, and other technology.

The 2018 edition will be released on March 8, and includes a shocking finding:

For the first time ever, usage of Facebook went down.

(Register for the free Infinite Dial Webinar on March 8 to learn a lot more about Americans’ usage of social and other tech. It’s the most recent, comprehensive, and accurate data available.)

That’s right. The behemoth of social media saw a decline in usage, from 67 percent of Americans ages 12 and older to 62 percent of that same audience, according to Edison and Triton’s survey of 2,000 randomly selected persons.

This drop is seen in every age and gender demographic as well. It’s not as if only young people, or older Americans, or women are using Facebook less. Every studied group is using Facebook less.

Facebook Usage Decline per Infinite Dial 2018

Facebook Usage Decline per Infinite Dial 2018

Of course, 62 percent of Americans is still a huge group of people. But this number puts Facebook’s 2018 usage in line with the 2015 penetration rate. Facebook just gave back two full years of user growth.

And a drop from 67 percent to 62 percent is a decline of eight percent overall in one year. Again, not enormous when looked at in isolation, but given Facebook’s steady, upward trajectory since the first Infinite Dial study in 2008, it’s quite a difference in pattern.

Facebook usage dropped 8% in USA since 2017, the first drop in its history. Here are 3 reasons why.
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Why, after a decade, did Facebook finally see a reduction in usage in the United States? I believe there are three explanations.

1. Increased Distrust of Facebook

It hasn’t been a great year for Facebook as an organization. The mainstream media has consistently covered Facebook’s role (or at least complicity) in the world of “fake news.” When you combine this with the company’s other missteps in the areas of privacy and accountability, you end up with an environment where the users of the platform may not fully trust the motives and judgment of those that operate the platform.

Given that Facebook has access to many of our most important personal data points, photos, and feelings, a drop in trust could create a drop in usage.

2. Increased Discord on Facebook

If you’re a Facebook user, I’m sure you’ve seen this in your own News Feed: someone who says they are logging off of Facebook for good because of the rampant negativity present on the platform.

In the shadow of the presidential election, there has been a continued polarization of thought in America, and an acceptance that the new normal is a climate of “us” vs. “them.” This is tiring. Each time you express an opinion on Facebook, you must defend that opinion from segments of your “friends” who are now “the opposition.” This squeezes the fun out of Facebook, like Fergie squeezing propriety out of the national anthem.

When additional Infinite Dial data is released, we’ll have more insight on this point. But I predict we’ll see an even greater drop in daily usage. While there are some people who have signed off of the platform entirely due to discord, anecdotally, I believe the bigger change is people using Facebook a couple times a week instead of every day.

3. Increased Disinterest in Facebook

Indeed, I believe reduced trust in our Facebook overlords along with reduced willingness to argue amongst ourselves on Facebook contribute to this first-ever reduction in usage in America.

But a third explanation is that this drop represents a natural shifting of users to other parts of the Facebook ecosystem. While Facebook’s usage declines, Instagram’s usage continues to march upward, as does the number of people consistently using Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp.

This may be a purposeful segmentation approach by Facebook. It’s particularly true among young Americans ages 12 to 24, where Edison Research observed the largest drop in usage.

After all, one of Facebook’s most attractive elements is that you can do a LOT of different things on the platform. But that’s also one of its great weaknesses. Is Facebook the BEST place for video? Probably not. Is it the BEST place for photos? Probably not. Is it the BEST place for messaging? Maybe.

As Facebook usage goes down, Instagram and WhatsApp and Messenger usage go up because they offer a more tailored experience. As social media progresses, it is natural for our own usage to gravitate toward one or more platforms that offer a more specialized experience that is more relevant to what we personally enjoy best about social media. Thus, some people gravitate toward Instagram. Others, Linkedin. Others still, Snapchat.

Coca-Cola is doing the same thing. They just rolled out four new flavors of Diet Coke, enveloped in a chic, skinny can. These new adjuncts will assuredly reduce consumption of old-school Diet Coke, but they hope that this move will grow their overall market share, across all five beverage flavors.

Last year, I wrote about Facebook mimicking all of Snapchat’s features and baking them into Instagram. At that time, I predicted that while Snapchat’s user base would shrink as a result, it would actually be better for them strategically. Casual users of Snapchat (like me) would leave the platform and use Instagram instead (like me). Thus, the remaining Snapchat user base would become more homogenous, allowing them to charge a greater premium for advertising. And Snapchat just announced their first-ever profitable quarter, so that may be precisely what occurred.

Distrust. Discord. Disinterest. These are the 3 reasons for Facebook’s decline in usage.

But is it really a problem?

Distrust. Discord. Disinterest. These are the 3 reasons for Facebook’s 8% decline in usage.
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Facebook’s vision—as articulated by Mark Zuckerberg many times, and in many ways—is to be the way humanity connects. And they are when you look at the entirety of their holdings. But, when you look at the do-everything workhorse that is Facebook per se, the bloom is finally off the rose. Too big, too boring, too noisy, too everything.

Should Facebook be concerned about this drop in usage? Yes. But as long as they are growing their user base across everything they own, they’ll continue to dominate social media, and beyond.

(Register for the free Infinite Dial Webinar on March 8 to learn a lot more about Americans’ usage of social and other tech. It’s the most recent, comprehensive, and accurate data available.)

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Non-Creepy Personalized Marketing Must Have Youtility Wed, 07 Feb 2018 14:00:00 +0000 Personalized marketing is reaching new heights, combing big data and machine learning. But for consumers to embrace it, personalized marketing must be truly, inherently useful writes Jay Baer.

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Non-Creepy Personalized Marketing Must Have Youtility

Is personalized marketing good, or evil?

I’ve been asked some form of this question so many times, in so many places, by so many different types of companies. I figured I should answer it here, in writing.

Actually, you may have ASKED this question—if not of me, of someone. Maybe of yourself?

The question often sounds like this: “When does personalized marketing cross the line and become creepy?”

We think that this line is thin, and that just the slightest push toward additional customization based on behavior or inferred intent will send potential customers running, afraid that “big data” has run amok.

We think that personalized marketing is like the famous line from Spinal Tap: “There’s a fine line between stupid and clever.”

The reality is that the line is actually pretty wide. Customers are, in fact, exceptionally tolerant of personalization (even hyper-personalization) as long as ONE THING IS TRUE: The personalization must either inform or reduce friction, period.

In short, the personalization must be a Youtility.

This may seem axiomatic to you. “Of course, if we’re going to personalize, it should be in service of an enhanced customer experience,” you may think. But that is by no means always the case, is it? If you’ve ever bought a product and then seen ads all over the damn internet for the SAME PRODUCT YOU JUST BOUGHT, you know that personalization isn’t always useful, and sometimes can be downright irksome.

Understanding that personalized marketing must be useful—so useful that people would pay for it, to quote the definition of Youtility—is critical. Because we are very quickly entering an all-new era of digital marketing; an era where the availability of big data makes it very, very easy to personalize customer communications and interactions in a way that would have been unthinkably complex just a short time ago.

We’ve talked about the power of 1:1 marketing for a long, long, LONG time. But now, artificial intelligence and machine learning have teamed up with real-time data collection to give just about every marketer the option to personalize some, or a lot, of the customer experience.

And that power is intoxicating in ways both good and bad. The option to give customers just what they want, when they want it, and where they want it based on what we know or can ferret out about them SHOULD improve CX. But the ONLY way to insure that it does is to start every personalization project with one, simple question:

“How does this improve the customers’ lives, regardless of its impact on the company?”

Ask yourself that, and your personalization efforts will always contain enough incremental usefulness that customers will largely embrace it, even when it is FREAKY.

Look at Netflix, for example.

Netflix Uses Potentially Creepy Personalized Marketing, but With Youtility

In an extraordinary column on Medium published last month, Netflix data engineers described, in detail, precisely how they create as many as a dozen different pieces of “cover art” for every Netflix show.

Based on other shows you’ve watched, Netflix automatically serves you the artwork that the algorithm believes best matches your thematic and actor preferences, subtly encouraging you to watch more, because the graphic makes you believe, “This show is exactly what I want to watch!”

For the movie Good Will Hunting, for instance, Netflix serves up different images based on whether it thinks your affinity is stronger for Robin Williams or romantic comedies.

Someone who has watched many romantic movies may be interested in Good Will Hunting if we show the artwork containing Matt Damon and Minnie Driver, whereas, a member who has watched many comedies might be drawn to the movie if we use the artwork containing Robin Williams, a well-known comedian.

But the machine learning behind these personalized artwork decisions is much more dynamic and robust than just Minnie Driver versus Robin Williams. For the hit show Stranger Things, for example, Netflix included in their Medium post a collection of nine very different images, each designed to appeal to different members based on their preferences (!!!):

You might think this is at least a little invasive. It’s definitely fascinating, looking at the same programs on Netflix when you’re logged in as yourself versus as your spouse, to see what the algorithm has determined each of you prefers.

But we tolerate this data mining because it has enough Youtility for us. The trade-off between loss of privacy and more compelling video content recommendations seems like a good deal.

You may not have a room full of data scientists cooking up this kind of personalization. (When I first read the Netflix post on Medium, when I got to the part about HOW it works, my head almost exploded.) But you don’t need scientists. You need to understand that personalization is just a value exchange, the same way that asking for an email is a value exchange.

The same way that connecting with someone on Linkedin is a value exchange.

The same way that paying someone to mow your lawn so you have more time to do other stuff is a value exchange.

You Don’t Get to Decide What’s Good Personalized Marketing, But They Do

As marketers, assisted by robots, our ability and opportunity to personalize with data is wizardry made commonplace. But we cannot ever forget that our audiences—not us—are those that decide what is satisfying and what is creepy. They decide what is clever and what is stupid. They decide what is in bounds and what is out of bounds.

And in almost every case, that decision is based solely on whether or not the personalization makes their lives better, or just helps you sell more stuff.

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Who Are the Best Content Marketing Speakers? Wed, 24 Jan 2018 14:00:00 +0000 Content marketing has a great new event. Jay Baer and Convince & Convert want to know who you think are the best content marketing speakers.

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Who Are the Best Content Marketing Speakers

I am so THRILLED to tell you that the Convince & Convert team and I are partnering with our friends at Uberflip to co-produce Conex: The Content Experience, a fantastic event for smart content marketers in August, in the great city of Toronto.

This is year three of Conex. I was one of the speakers for years one and two, and I was so impressed by how good the event was that I asked to partner and co-produce with Uberflip in 2018, and into the future. Plus, I’m an investor in Uberflip (I love their Content Hub technology), so it’s a natural fit.

For my entire career, my rule has been “do not produce events.” Too much time. Too many details. I speak at dozens of events every year, but have never produced one—until now. Why the change? Six reasons:

1. Conex Is Intimate

We’ll have 750 to 950 people at this year’s event—big enough to be dynamic, but small enough to interact and network.

2. Conex Is a BLAST!

Uberflip is known for being irreverent, and some say the same about me and my team. From the first minute until the last, this event is going to be fun.

3. Conex Is Super Relevant

Uberflip helps tons of companies succeed with content marketing. So does my firm. Plus, I’ve written multiple books on the subject, and produce The Content Experience show, which is all about content marketing success. This event is for content marketers and is put together 100 percent by content marketers.

4. Conex Is a Very Strong Event

Terrific speakers teaching the latest and greatest content marketing tips and tactics. There’s no fluff. NO PANELS. No bad speakers. All meat. No bun.

5. Conex Is in a Killer Location

Toronto is one of North America’s great cities. There’s so much to do, and it’s very easy and affordable compared to many big places in the USA. Also, it’s super convenient, and there are reasonably priced flights for just about everyone. And the event itself is at the remarkable Royal Conservatory of Music’s TELUS Centre for Performance and Learning. Beautiful!

And perhaps most importantly . . .

6. Conex Is a Great Deal

Until February 15, full conference passes are just US $499. (Save $400 on this early bird deal.) There is simply no better value for a content marketing event, in my estimation.

Plus, for just another $300 you can add a pre-conference workshop called “How to Create the Perfect Content Marketing Editorial Calendar.” Tickets are limited to about 50, and it will sell out because this exclusive workshop is being taught by the tremendous Anna Hrach, one of the Analysts on my team here at Convince & Convert.

I just approved the curriculum for this workshop, and we’ve loaded it with our best stuff. Tons of value!

The Content Experience event for content marketing

I am 110 percent sure that if you’re in content marketing, you will LOVE this event. I want you to be there. We’ve got a while until Conex kicks off August 20, but I wanted to make sure you knew about the January 31 cutoff for the very best price.

The Best Content Marketing Speakers

I believe in Conex so much so that I’m co-producing it and helping select the speakers.

And that’s where I need your help. I want to know who YOU think is a great content marketing speaker. Who is super interesting, and relevant, and smart, and awesome? Who do YOU want to see on stage at Conex?

I would be very grateful if you’d leave a couple of recommendations here. If you do, I promise you I’ll do whatever I can to get them to Toronto.

If you have any questions at all about the event, our workshop, or anything else, just ask here. Either me or Kelly Santina, our Head of Operations, will answer back right away.

Many thanks. Hope to see you in Toronto. Remember, best price ends February 15.

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9 Antidotes to the Facebook Algorithm Squeeze Mon, 15 Jan 2018 14:00:00 +0000 Facebook algorithm changes don't mean you should abandon the Facebook News Feed. Here are nine ways you can still succeed, from Jay Baer.

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9 Antidotes to the Facebook Algorithm Squeeze

The Facebook algorithm is changing again, and it’s bad news for brands who want to show up in the news feed.

In a recent, inscrutable, Kremlin-esque press release, Mark Zuckerberg and team announced that they are changing the Facebook algorithm and will henceforth . . .

“. . . prioritize posts that spark conversations and meaningful interactions between people. To do this, we will predict which posts you might want to interact with your friends about, and show these posts higher in feed. These are posts that inspire back-and-forth discussion in the comments and posts that you might want to share and react to—whether that’s a post from a friend seeking advice, a friend asking for recommendations for a trip, or a news article or video prompting lots of discussion.”

In this release, they also acknowledge that organic reach among business pages will dwindle, and that “engagement bait” posts such as “click like if you want this puppy to live” will be algorithmically punished.

Reactions to this move were immediate among the social media cognoscenti, and ranged from full-blown “The sky is falling” mode to “So what?

Now that everyone has engaged in their newsjacking (the Social Media Examiner BREAKING NEWS video got 273,000 views, and spawned a ton of traditional media opportunities for Mike Stelzner—well played!), let me tell you what all of this really means.

The Facebook Algorithm Separates the Wheat and the Chaff

First, this move should come as NO SURPRISE. Many people (including me) have been predicting this for years.

Remember this: Facebook is a public company. They have a fiduciary responsibility to maximize profits for their shareholders. They do not have a responsibility to maximize your profits. Of course, if they can further entice you to buy more ads by minimizing free exposure, they will do so eventually.

Facebook's responsibility is maximizing profits for shareholders, not maximizing YOUR profits.
Click To Tweet

Further, it is also true that many company posts do not succeed on Facebook today. This is not because Facebook is evil and is trying to convince you to buy ads (although that’s somewhat accurate), but more so because a lot of business content on Facebook SUCKS. It’s a Yellow Pages ad masquerading as an organic social post. It DESERVES to fail. Facebook is just hammering the last nail in the coffin.

Ask yourself this: When was the last time you saw something on Facebook and said, “Wow! That’s great content from a business. I cannot believe it doesn’t have more engagement?” Rarely, if ever. The truth is that Facebook’s algorithm already does a pretty good job of separating the wheat from the chaff, at least among business content. Whether they can keep #FakeNews at bay is a different issue for a different post.

The Facebook Algorithm Change Doesn’t Mean Abandon Ship

Will this move make it harder and more expensive for businesses to succeed on Facebook? Probably. But it’s not as if you can just log off the platform, throw up your hands, and go home. There are two billion people using it. Don’t give up. You just need to get better, and get smarter.

Thus, here are the 9 Antidotes to the Facebook Algorithm Squeeze. None of these are “buy more ads.” Follow them, and you’ll very much still be able to succeed on Facebook, even as a business page.

1. Post Content That Solicits Thoughtful Responses

The key phrase in the press release is that Facebook is prioritizing posts that “spark conversations and meaningful interactions among people.” Given that this all has to be sorted out in a nanosecond, Facebook has to look for behavior that indicates “conversations and meaningful interactions.” What might that be? It’s not “likes” or “shares” or even “comments” per the release. While they don’t overtly describe the desired behavior, my bet is that they are looking for comments of a certain length, and replies to comments.

This is a “conversation” in social media, a threaded back and forth rather a passive clicking of a like button.

So, when you add content to Facebook, try to post about topics that have more than one opinion. Complex, non-obvious topics will work better than topics that everyone agrees upon.

2. Get Serious About User-Generated Content (UGC)

Right in the release, Facebook admits that posts from real people will take priority over posts from brands. This has been the case for a while but will become even more acute. The more you can encourage your actual customers to post on their personal page (and mention your business), the more likely you are to reach a decent audience.

This is the Facebook version of prioritizing consumer-driven word of mouth.

3. Get Serious About Employee-Generated Content (EGC)

Similarly, most of your team members have a personal Facebook account. They will likely have a better chance at Facebook engagement than will your company account.

This will be a boon for employee advocacy software programs (I am an investor in a great one, Trap.Itas companies try to encourage their team to carry the messaging water on behalf of the organization.

4. Post How-To and Youtility Content

Facebook says they will de-prioritize viral videos and other content that is passively consumed on the platform. However, they will give extra credit via the Facebook algorithm to content that attracts conversation. Think about how you can post how-to videos, video FAQs, and other interactions that encourage viewers to ask questions.

Using Facebook for customer service and customer support and showing off interesting and innovative product use cases, etc. could be very successful in this new algorithm environment.

5. Use Live Video

Reading between the lines, it sounds like Facebook is going to push recorded video down the priority list a little, in favor of live video. This is because live video is often more urgent and important, but mostly because it routinely generates more conversation. In the press release, Facebook says live video gets SIX TIMES more interactions than regular videos.

If you’re using video on Facebook, it’s time to ask yourself why that video isn’t live. Do you lose some production polish? Possibly. But if the Facebook algorithm is going to push live video up, and recorded video down, it’s absolutely worth trying to make it work live.

6. Create Facebook Shows

Similarly, it’s time to stop random acts of content (one of my 10 Content Marketing Commandments for 2018). This is particularly true on Facebook. If our overlords at FB want conversation, the best way to achieve that is for the people likely to create that conversation to actually KNOW WHEN THE CONTENT IS COMING.

Think of your Facebook strategy like a TV network thinks about their schedule. Every Wednesday, they have the same shows. The shows do not change. Viewers know when to tune in, or at least set their DVRs. You need to do the same. Create one to three Facebook shows and replicate them every week at the same time.

7. Engage Your Community with Facebook Groups

Already, some of the most rewarding elements of Facebook are contained in Groups. Group-created content performs better in the news feed and is often delivered to members via email, depending upon how they have their notifications configured.

If you don’t have a Facebook Group for your best customers, prospective customers, employees, fans, or some other cohort, 2018 is the year to experiment with it. For business, Groups work in ways that the news feed simply does not.

8. Use Messenger Bots to Deliver Choice Content

Messenger and WhatsApp are still Facebook’s play to take over the person-to-person messaging space. Already, I bet you’re getting way more notes from your friends on Messenger than you were six months ago. Why? Because it breaks through the clutter of the inbox, and it’s easy to add multimedia.

Adoption isn’t universal yet, but it’s moving quickly. If you can develop a solid Facebook Messenger bot that can deliver solid content to your audience, the response rate is MUCH HIGHER than for email, and INFINITY HIGHER than for the news feed. You want people to see your stuff? Get them to subscribe to your bot.

Want to see how it works? Click here to subscribe to my bot, and I’ll send you cool stuff now and then.

9. Use the Mom Test

Remember that when you publish content on Facebook that does NOT succeed, it impacts the likelihood that the next piece of content will succeed. This means that the rich get richer, and the boring get forgotten. When in doubt, do NOT PRESS PUBLISH unless you’re fairly certain the content will indeed create conversation.

I use “The Mom Test” to help with this decision. I ask, “Would my Mom, who loves me unconditionally, engage with this content?” If the answer is “yes,” then at least you’re on the right track. If the answer is anything else, think very long and very hard before posting, because if your Mom doesn’t love your post, I’m almost positive that Zuckerberg and Co. won’t love it either.

Facebook not giving you the ability to send mediocre content to your customers for free isn’t the end of the world. In fact, they are probably saving businesses from their own worst instincts, in some cases. But all is not lost. You can still succeed on Facebook WITHOUT SPENDING A TON OF MONEY if you follow these nine antidotes.

If my team and I can help you think through these necessary shifts, let us know. Convince & Convert works with many of the world’s most interesting brands. What do we do? We’re personal trainers for digital marketing and word of mouth. If you want to shape up, holler

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The 10 Content Marketing Commandments for 2018 Wed, 10 Jan 2018 14:00:00 +0000 Content marketing success is more elusive than ever. More competition. More cynicism from audiences. Artificial intelligence and robots being used to create hyper-relevant, just-in-time content. This game isn’t easy. Our consulting team helps big brands figure it out and make content marketing succeed disproportionately. And if we can help you, let’s talk. Meanwhile, as we […]

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The 10 Content Marketing Commandments for 2018

Content marketing success is more elusive than ever. More competition. More cynicism from audiences. Artificial intelligence and robots being used to create hyper-relevant, just-in-time content.

This game isn’t easy. Our consulting team helps big brands figure it out and make content marketing succeed disproportionately. And if we can help you, let’s talk.

Meanwhile, as we kick off a new year, I’ve been keeping track of what the team and I tell our clients, and how we advise them to do content better. I collected them here, in this list of the 10 Content Marketing Commandments for 2018.

1. Thou Shalt Not Engage in Random Acts of Content

Have a strategy and an editorial calendar, and stick to it.

2. Thou Shalt Not Be a Content Coward

The only way you can really succeed is to be someone’s favorite blog/podcast/video/webinar/email. And that only happens if you have the courage to be SPECIFIC about your topic and point of view. Content that’s about everything is about nothing.

3. Thou Shalt Not Embrace False Metrics

Content consumption (views, downloads, plays) is a symptom of success but is not the sole measure of it. The goal is not to be good at content. The goal is to be good at business because of content. (More on the four types of content metrics here.)

4. Honor Thy Audience as a Messenger

Human beings trust one another far more than they trust companies. It is wise to find ways to encourage customers and partners to create content; it is often more successful and persuasive than company-created content.

5. Thou Shall Be Mobile-First (For Real)

We know mobile is important. But mobile-first means that you use the mobile view as the primary visual canvas. After all, if you say “mobile-first” but you’re constantly using a 34-inch, 4K monitor to create everything, you’re not really mobile-first, are you?

6. Thou Shall Create Talk Triggers

Same is lame. If you’re going to the trouble of making content, wherever possible do so in a way that creates conversation. Talk Triggers are purposefully created differentiators that make word of mouth involuntary. Here’s a great one from LinkedIn. Talk Triggers is also the title of my new book with Daniel Lemin, coming October 2.

7. Thou Shall Atomize Content

Take your big, tent-pole content executions and deconstruct them into a series of smaller, nimbler content executions. For clients, we use the 1:8 Principle: Each big piece of content should spawn at least eight smaller pieces of content. This approach makes your content execution much more efficient.

8. Thou Shalt Not Cross-Post

While atomizing your content, however, you should not be posting the exact same thing in multiple places. Audiences choose a platform or content archetype for a reason, and to not customize and optimize your content for each disrespects their choice, and rarely succeeds.

9. Thou Shalt Not Pray at the Altar of Volume

Creating more content is not a measure of success. Creating just enough content to exceed your business objectives is the goal. In fact, creating too much content (e.g. sending too many emails, posting too often on social) often has a negative impact on results.

10. Thou Shall Covet Moving Pictures

Video. video. video. video. If it doesn’t move, it may be a snooze.

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How Content Marketing Can Save Newsjacking Wed, 03 Jan 2018 14:00:00 +0000 From Jay Baer, 4 ways content marketing is a better way to implement a newsjacking strategy, in comparison to social media.

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How Content Marketing Can Save Newsjacking

Timing is everything.

This is more true than ever today, as the atomic half life of brand communication continues to shrink, victimized by algorithmic masters that dole out attention like Pez.

The massive flood of content created every second of every day about every topic and happening results in overwhelming competition for attention, as has been well-documented by Mark Schaefer, and others.

The antidote—at least in some circles—is newsjacking. Coined by David Meerman Scott in his book of the same name, where he defines the concept thusly:

Newsjacking is the art and science of injecting your ideas into a breaking news story so you and your ideas get noticed.”

The important part of this definition is “breaking news story.” The intent of newsjacking as originally conceived is that your brand’s angle is the second paragraph in traditional media coverage of whatever is happening. The actual story is paragraph one.

Newsjacking was published in late 2011, and became deservedly popular, especially among public relations practitioners who saw it as a reliable recipe for merging long-lead story pitching with real-time earned media.

Oreo Killed Newsjacking

Just fifteen months later, however, the now-legendary Oreo Dunk in the Dark tweet was sent. With one tweet, Oreo and their agencies ushered in the era of “real-time marketing,” and “RTM” disciples rushed to set up Twitter war rooms to capitalized on every trending hashtag.

This shifted the notion of newsjacking from a way to get earned media coverage to a way to get more likes and shares on owned social media outlets. In short, Oreo’s Dunk stunt moved newsjacking from a PR tactic to a social media tactic.

Oreo's Dunk in the Dark tweet shifted newsjacking from a PR tactic to a social media tactic (unfortunately).
Click To Tweet

This post from the Get Spokal blog illustrates the outcome. Nearly every one of their 15 newsjacking examples is a tweet, and essentially none show evidence of earned media coverage whatsoever (other than perhaps trade press talking about the clever tweet, thereby earning ego points among marketing peers, but not creating any real business value).

I am not a fan, and have never been a fan, of this kind of marketing. (In fact, my post “17 Mostly Failed Brand Tweets from The Oscars” is still one of the most-read posts in the history of this site.) For more, here’s a short video rant on why most brands are trying to hard to be clever, in real-time.

My three biggest problems with real-time marketing are:

  1. Expensive to execute as you need always-on personnel + software
  2. Ripe for missteps, especially when brands try to jump on hashtags and trends spawned from misfortune (as I covered comprehensively in “The 3 Social Media Rules for Death and Tragedy“)
  3. Minimal impact. Even done well, do these real-time tweets create customers or keep customers? It feels so often like social media marketers doing marketing for the enjoyment of other social media marketers, and we don’t play that game at Convince & Convert.

Content Marketing Can Save Newsjacking

But all is not lost for the newsjacking premise. Today, it is easier than ever to create on-trend content in nearly real-time. With everyone carrying around a mobile production studio in their pants at all times, there’s not much excuse for not being able to produce content on the fly, beyond inertia and corporate process obstacles.

Further, with the one-click availability of live video, creating reaction content that inserts your angle into a breaking news story is as easy as making a sandwich (maybe easier if you insist on using a panini press).

4 ways using #contentmarketing for #newsjacking is better than #socialmedia
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This approach—using content marketing for newsjacking rather than social media—has multiple advantages:

  1. Can more fully express your ideas, especially with video
  2. Can host the content marketing somewhere and give it a longer shelf life. Also, strong SEO benefits if the trend/story persists long enough for search traffic to accrue
  3. You can still use social, but instead of social BEING the newsjack, social AMPLIFIES a more substantial piece of content that inserts your angle into the story
  4. If desired, more ways to promote the newsjack with paid. Given that most social media newsjacks are on Twitter, your options for paid are… Twitter. With a content marketing newsjack, you can use paid Twitter, Facebook, IG, Linkedin, SEM, display, etc.

Anyone Can Use Content Marketing for Newsjacking

You do not need to be a big brand with an in-house video studio to engage in this form of content marketing as newsjacking. In fact, from a nimbleness perspective, I might argue that you’re better off being a small and scrappy business that can turn on a camera and record without sign-offs and hand wringing.

Dr. Tim Wood of Mission Family Chiropractic in Kelowna, British Columbia is a terrific small business example of content marketing newsjacking.

This year, the Kelowna area—the major city in Canada’s Okanagan region—has received a tremendous blanket of snow, far more than is typical for this area. Local media scrambled to cover the storms, with advice and counsel for local residents and visitors.

The last time this happened was in 2015, which was when Dr. Wood created his content marketing newsjacking: a video showing local residents how to shovel snow without injuring their backs:

It’s a useful, safe, three-shovel approach that I’m going to try next time we get a lot of snow here in Indiana! is a large digital media platform for the region, and when this year’s snows rolled in, they discovered Dr. Wood’s video and promoted it on their site, and in their social media.

Newsjack accomplished!

Lessons from This Newsjack

  1. Your content marketing newsjack attempt does not need to be highly polished. In fact, it’s authenticity is probably higher if it’s not perfect
  2. Unlike social media newsjacks, if your content marketing is actually useful and has a home (Youtube, in this case) its newsjacking potential persists. Remember, Dr. Wood’s video was shot two years before it was picked up by local media
  3. If and when your newsjack succeeds, re-amplify it yourself. This is the one flaw I see in Dr. Wood’s execution, as he did not re-post the video to his own social channels, even after it was picked up in the press.

Newsjacking was originally about earned media through real-time public relations. It was co-opted by social media to become more about “riding the hashtag” but that has limited upside and potentially large downside, in my estimation.

Instead, since we now have the ability to make credible content marketing (especially video) instantly, use that opportunity to pursue a newsjacking strategy that is rooted in content marketing, with social media as the amplification layer.

Big hat tip to my friend Jan Enns for bringing this case study to my attention, via a Linkedin post. 

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Our Top 10 2017 Social Media and Content Marketing Articles Wed, 27 Dec 2017 14:00:00 +0000 Top 10 social media and content marketing articles from Convince & Convert in 2017, including tips, tricks, templates, and more.

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Our Top 10 2017 Social Media and Content Marketing Articles

As we close each year here at Convince & Convert, I like to take a look at our most popular articles, posts, and podcasts over the preceding 12 months. It’s not 100 percent scientific because articles get traffic in multiple ways (search, social, email, etc), but looking at the top 10 from among more than 300 pieces of content does give an indication what you—the amazing audience that visits our corner of the web—found most valuable.

It’s also a good compendium of useful content for folks that may have fallen behind on their reading and want to catch up. Here are our top 10 best-performing posts this year.

The 11 Critical Podcast Statistics of 2017

The 11 Critical Podcast Statistics of 2017

This is the second or third year I’ve written this piece, inspired by an annual study by our pals at Edison Research. Podcasts continue to soar in popularity (do you listen to our own Social Pros, Content Pros, or Experience This!)? I love that so many people find value in this summary every year!

How Social Media Has Evolved Over the Past 12 Years

How Social Media Has Evolved Over the Past 12 Years

We ran this last January and it FREAKED ME OUT. I mean, you obviously know that social has changed a lot in a decade, but to have it all spelled out in one article? Wow. It really hits home. Great job on this by Matt Banner.

4 Goal-Specific Ways to Measure Influencer Marketing ROI

4 Goal-Specific Ways to Measure Influencer Marketing ROI

The success of this post doesn’t surprise me. Nothing was as hot in social/content circles as influencer marketing in 2017, and this straightforward article by Kim Westwood helps frame up some potential measurement protocols. We’ll cover this topic more next year, as well.

The Truth About How Often to Post in Social Media

The Truth About How Often to Post in Social Media

This was one of the mini-rants I wrote this year (I think I’m getting cranky in my middle age). Our friends at CoSchedule released a roll-up post about social media posting schedules. Good advice there, but my take is that you should publish . . . when you have something worthwhile for your audience. This one got a lot of chatter on Facebook and LinkedIn too.

8 Ways to Optimize Your Facebook Page

8 Ways to Optimize Your Facebook Page

This one is super helpful because it includes step-by-step walkthroughs and specific screenshots of where to click and what to do. A great one from Ann Smarty that could be updated just about every quarter, considering how many changes Facebook constantly throws at us.

An A-to-Z Guide to Google Analytics for Content Marketers

An A-to-Z Guide to Google Analytics for Content Marketers

This was quite a collaboration! Andy Crestodina and Orbit Media Studios wrote a terrific post on Google Analytics. Then, Payman Taei used the Visme tool to create a nifty infographic of the key concept. Payman pitched us to run his summary and infographic on Convince & Convert, and voilà! One of our most popular posts of the year. Thanks to everyone involved. The info and insights in this one are spot on.

11 Visual Storytelling Tools and How They’ll Help Your Content Marketing

11 Visual Storytelling Tools and How They’ll Help Your Content Marketing

Kayla Matthews is one of the best in the business at writing posts that round up useful tools and apps. Here, she used that superpower to pull together a great list of recommended tools (a bunch I’d never heard of) that content marketers can use to improve their visuals (which is SO important now).

The Formula to Calculate Content Marketing ROI_

The Formula to Calculate Content Marketing ROI

This one of my favorite posts this year. There’s so much confusion out there still about what ROI actually is, and how to calculate it legitimately for content marketing. Warning: This one has math (but that didn’t seem to hurt its popularity!).

6 Trends in Digital Advertising That Take Us from 2017 to 2020

6 Trends in Digital Advertising That Take Us from 2017 to 2020

Loved this future-casting from our very own Zontee Hou (who co-leads our strategy division). Are robots going to be doing ALL the digital advertising by 2020? Maybe!

The Proven Mechanics of Successful Social Media Writing

The Proven Mechanics of Successful Social Media Writing

I mentioned CoSchedule above and their meta-study of social media publication cadences and timelines. Nathan Ellering led that initiative and also contributed a killer post here at Convince & Convert, full of VERY specific templates for how to phrase your content on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and beyond. Bravo, Nathan!

On behalf of all of us at the Convince & Convert blog, huge thanks to the millions of you who spend time with us every year. We appreciate your trust, and we’re looking forward to a great 2018 together!

~ Jay Baer, founder

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Grading Eleven 2018 Social Media Predictions Wed, 20 Dec 2017 14:00:00 +0000 Eleven 2018 social media predictions from Spredfast, with commentary and feedback from Jay Baer and Convince & Convert. Do you agree, or disagree?

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Grading Eleven 2018 Social Media Predictions

Is there any form of marketing (or any element of business, really) that changes as much and as frequently as social media? I think no.

Recently, our friends at Spredfast staged their annual Smart Social Summit (good event, by the way!) and sat down with 11 social media experts to get their predictions on 2018.

They also rolled up those predictions in this nifty Social Media Trends Tip Sheet, which you can download gratis as a PDF right here.

These 11 predictions are loosely rolled up into five main ideas, and I’ll showcase them here and give you a sense of what we think here at Convince & Convert about each of them.

Ready to dive in? (Note: Download the full Tip Sheet to get additional, juicy detail.)

Solve the Social ROI Puzzle

From the Spredfast Report: With the debut of shoppable posts on Instagrambuyable pinsFacebook collection ads, and tracking offline conversions, e-commerce marketers can now draw the line between their social media advertising and business results. Our experts believe that social networks will continue to prioritize reporting return-on-investment, adding new capabilities in 2018 to make that line between ad and direct revenue driver even clearer.

We Say: On the commerce side specifically, this is absolutely true. It is crucial for all parts of the social commerce ecosystem to definitely track results and prove ROI. However, for non-commerce social advertising, the responsibility for tracking results is likely to continue to fall at the feet of the advertiser/brand, which is why we expect a sharp increase in attribution software licensing this year.

Dive Deeper into New Tech

From the Spredfast Report: Artificial Intelligence. Bots. Automation. These are the head-scratching words that top-level executives are jumping on as soon as possible—but they’re also new enough that marketers aren’t quite certain where to start. Although it’s challenging for marketers to weave these new technologies into their goals for 2018, the return and opportunities are genuinely exciting.

We Say: Yes, and no. We have already adopted bots here at Convince & Convert. Get on board with Vince, the Convince & Convert bot, and he’ll let you know when we publish something awesome. I’ve done several Webinars about AI and machine learning for marketing this year, and there is NO DOUBT the train is coming down the track. But, for marketers of all but the largest brands, we believe 2018 is about learning and tire-kicking, and 2019 will bring the adoption of that tech.

2018 will be all about learning and tire-kicking on new tech. 2019 will be about adopting that tech.
Click To Tweet

Combine Digital and Physical Spaces

From the Spredfast Report: We’ve seen Instagram and Snapchat pave the way to make AR part of our everyday lives—and it’s not slowing down anytime soon. Ikea’s AR kit is one of many examples that place the power of AR in the hands of a consumer, so our experts expect that 2018, we’ll see more innovation roll out from brands adopting this technology.

We Say: Yes, but . . . We fully believe many brands will work to achieve early-stage, first-mover advantage with these new, AR-fueled social content opportunities, but to what end? The IKEA AR kit cited in the Spredfast study is a good example of a brand using the tech to improve customer experience and drive real results. But we fear too many AR examples this year will be showing off for showing off’s sake.

Even More Video

From the Spredfast Report: This year we saw something big happen: Digital spend finally exceeded TV spend. And to take more of that budget, Facebook launched the Watch platform. It’s worth creating video content that will truly resonate on each platform, specifically. With more opportunities to learn from digital data than television advertising, brands will continue experimenting with video to find out what truly works best for them.

We Say: All-in. Q1 may not see anything crazy, but the Disney/Fox deal, end of net neutrality, expansion of “story” video content, and other moves are going to make video perhaps the most important digital imperative by 2H 2018. If I had a kid in college (and I do), I would be forcing them to take video production and editing classes (and I am).

Omni-Channel Marketing (finally)

From the Spredfast Report: After years of hype, real-time omni-channel marketing is finally upon us. The stars have aligned allowing customer data, channel targeting, dynamic content, and omni-channel campaign management tools to come together in a meaningful way. Very soon marketing will never be the same with campaigns managed like a trading desk with on-the-fly optimization.

We Say: Yes, eventually. The promise of omni-channel (with social being perhaps the most public and real-time of those channels) has been bubbling to the surface for a while now. This reminds me of the “this is the year of mobile” predictions we had for seemingly 27 years. (It was actually about five). No doubt, customer expectations are driving the need for true, omni-channel consistency. However, wanting to do omni-channel and doing omni-channel are very different things, especially at enterprise scale. We believe that desire will outstrip reality for all but the biggest firms (and e-comm players) and that 2019 and 2020 will be the watershed years for omni-channel for most brands.

Those are the five big social media predictions from Spredfast’s panel of experts, and our thoughts on each. Would love your comments below, and don’t forget to grab the Tip Sheet (no cost) which goes into much more detail on each prediction.

Thanks to our pals at Spredfast for putting this together as part of our paid partnership with them this year. If you need a social media management tool that covers social marketing, care, and insights (and you do), give them a look for 2018.

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7 Decisive Differences Between Strong and Weak Content Marketers Wed, 13 Dec 2017 14:00:00 +0000 Why do some content marketers succeed and others fail? Jay Baer analyzes new research and identifies the gaps that matter.

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7 Decisive Differences Between Strong and Weak Content Marketers

Our friends at Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs have released their 2018 B2C Content Marketing Benchmark and Trends Report. As always, it’s stuffed with interesting facts and figures. I have always found this research to have a good pulse on the reality of the content marketing business, and this year is no different.

I encourage you to read the entire report. It’s worth the time.

But the specific element of this year’s research that I found most interesting is the data comparison between “most successful” and “least successful” content marketers.

Note that these are self-identified labels. If a survey participant characterizes their organization’s content marketing approach as “extremely successful” or “very successful,” they are classified as a “most successful content marketer” in this research. Conversely, if the respondent claims their organization is “minimally successful” or “not at all successful” at content marketing, they are classified as a “least successful content marketer” in the report.

It’s also important to recognize that the participant pool is not vast—195 total for North America. And, while I have no evidence of this, I strongly suspect that people who think they are good at content marketing are more likely to take a detailed survey about content marketing versus people who think they and their company are mediocre or worse at it.

With those caveats in place, let’s look at seven areas where there are interesting gaps between what “most successful content marketers” think and what “least successful content marketers” think.

1. A Commitment to Content Marketing

Nearly all (93 percent) successful content marketers say their organization is extremely or very committed to content marketing. This is a huge contrast with the least successful content marketers; just 23 percent of them say their organization is similarly committed.

This isn’t a surprise, right? If the company believes in content marketing, the chances of that content actually working are likely to be much improved.

Successful content marketers are more than 3X more likely to work in a company committed to content.
Click To Tweet

2. A Documented Content Marketing Strategy

The rallying cry of last year’s report was to “document your content marketing strategy.” This seems to have worked, as this year’s research shows a strong uptick in written strategic plans. The gap between the most/least successful content marketers isn’t quite as large in this area as in commitment, but it’s still huge: 59 percent of the most successful say they have a documented strategy, compared to just 18 percent of least successful content marketers.

Again, this adds up. If the company is committed to content, they probably have a documented plan for it. It is interesting, however, that one out of every three successful content marketers appears to still NOT have a strategy, which seems like dancing on the edge of knife, at least to me.

3. A Large Budget

Among the successful content marketers, more than one quarter of total marketing funds (26 percent) go to content marketing. For the least successful, 18 percent. Now, 18 percent of all marketing is still a hefty chunk, and the difference between 18 and 26 points isn’t enormous.

I look at it this way:

Money alone can't buy you content marketing effectiveness, but it doesn't hurt.
Click To Tweet

However, the least successful content marketers seem to believe there’s a correlation between budget and effectiveness. Why? 45 percent of them plan to increase content marketing spend in the next 12 months, compared to 35 percent of the already successful content marketers.

4. Realistic Expectations

82 percent of most successful content marketers say their organization has realistic expectations about what content marketing can achieve. Fewer than half as many of the least successful content marketers say the same (40 percent).

This one may be a self-fulfilling prophecy, as the survey respondents themselves may be the ones setting internal expectations. However, it would appear that commitment level and realistic expectations go together in the content marketing success formula, in most instances.

5. Enough Time

Multiple studies of content marketers (and digital marketing on the whole) show that time pressure is the most common frustration for these professionals. This seems similar to the luxury of realistic expectations. Content marketers who think they are successful also universally believe they have enough time to do their job well.

The phrasing in the study is, “Agrees that leadership team gives ample time to produce content marketing results.” When answering that question, 80 percent of most successful content marketers said “yes,” compared to just 36 percent of the least successful content marketers.

Having enough time to create good content is a major factor in content marketing success (new research)
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6. Strong Project Management

This one makes a ton of sense, and the gap between the most/least successful content marketers is Kanye-West-ego large. When asked, “Our project management flow during the content creation process is excellent, or very good,” 56 percent of most successful content marketers said “yes,” versus just 11 percent of their least successful brethren.

Project management acumen (and presumably, software) is evidently a big factor in content marketing success.

7. Quality Is More Important Than Quantity

This one fascinates me. 84 percent of successful content marketers say that they either always or frequently prioritize content quality over content quantity. This is almost double (43 percent) the response percentage among least successful content marketers.

I’m not entirely certain how respondents judge quality versus quantity, as I’d argue that successful content IS quality content. After all, this isn’t a fine arts project, as I ranted about earlier this year.

Yet, it’s remarkable that focusing on quality correlates so precisely with the most success/least success divide.

Summary of the Decisive Differences Between Strong and Weak Content Marketers

Strong content marketers have these advantages:

  • Organizational support, as evidenced by commitment to content, a documented strategy, and budget.
  • Practical thinking, as evidenced by realistic expectations and a focus on quality.
  • Robust process, as evidenced by strong project management, and enough time to create good content marketing.

Are some people just better at content marketing than other people? Of course. But, based on this new research, it appears that organizational values, structure, and support are also major drivers of content effectiveness. I see that as a sign of a maturing industry, don’t you?

Good content marketers have more company support, budget, time, and better project management culture
Click To Tweet

Make sure to read the entire 2018 B2C Content Marketing Benchmark and Trends Report. And thanks to Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs for their hard work in putting this together every year.

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Has LinkedIn Ruined Slideshare? Wed, 06 Dec 2017 14:00:00 +0000 Slideshare is fraying like the hem on a K-Mart dress. Is it too late to save, and who's at fault? Jay Baer digs in.

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Has LinkedIn Ruined Slideshare

I love Slideshare. The “YouTube of presentations” was at one point the number one destination for business owners and managers. It sported better demographics and site visitor loyalty than even LinkedIn. It was one of the top 100 most visited websites on the planet. Maybe that’s why LinkedIn bought it for $119 million in 2012, padding the nest eggs of serial investors and Slideshare backers Mark Cuban and Dave McClure, among others.

It was a smart deal—and a good price. In those days (which seem SO long ago, even though it’s been just five years) LinkedIn fancied itself as the content hub for business. It’s about the same time that they started the influencers program and enabled publishing (blogging, really) on the Linkedin platform.

I wrote a post in 2015 called “Is Slideshare Digital Marketing’s Secret Weapon?,” and I meant it. But it’s not true today.

Since the acquisition, the entire proposition has started to fray like a hem on a K-Mart dress. First, they eliminated the popular lead generation capability that allowed Slideshare users to garner email signups in exchange for content. They also changed how users could customize their Slideshare home pages. The promise at that time was the monthly introduction of new features for all users. That lasted about . . . one month.

Next, LinkedIn paid $1.5 billion for online training company Lynda. That’s 13 times more than they paid for Slideshare, so certainly that was going to be a priority. Note how the Slideshare home page now prominently features online courses? And that each of those featured courses has updated in the past three hours?

And then, the big move: Microsoft bought LinkedIn itself for a whopping $26 billion—in theory, to drive usage of Skype and finally give Microsoft SOME sort of social network (beyond its investment stake in Facebook). Wired, however, speculates that it was really the world’s biggest acquihire, giving MSFT access to the sparkling reputation of LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, who recently joined the board of directors.

Whatever the underlying cause, the effect of the past five years of LinkedIn ownership of Slideshare has been severe atrophy. Like Paul Sheldon’s leg at the end of Misery, Slideshare is now but a shriveled appendage.

The 3 Biggest Slideshare Problems Today

First, traffic to Slideshare has fallen off considerably. This is despite the fact that three-quarters of all content marketers are creating more content than ever, according to Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs. To be sure, not all (or even most) of that content is in the form of presentations and ebooks (the most common content types found on Slideshare). But you would think more content would equal more Slideshare usage. But it hasn’t, probably because of points two and three.

Second, Slideshare has jettisoned their editorial team, for the most part. At its apex, part of Slideshare’s appeal was its curation, including regular promotion of new and interesting presentations to the site’s home page in the “Today’s Top Slideshares,” “Featured Slideshares,” or “Trending in Social Media” sections.

A screen grab from November 30 shows that “Today’s Top Slideshares” were uploaded to the site 51, 55, and 61 days ago. Freshness! And the “Trending in Social Media” section is almost laughably ancient. Amazingly, the top two presentations “hot” on Linkedin and Google Plus were created FOUR YEARS AGO. Trending on Facebook? Presentations uploaded one year ago. On Twitter? Just nine months. Again, this is on the home page of a site that was in the top 100 in the world in the recent past.

Perhaps it’s simply a labor issue. An examination by my pal Mathew Sweezey using Linkedin found that the only employees still working on Slideshare appear to be a handful of engineers.

Third, Slideshare now appears to be making puzzlingly awful customer experience decisions. I have no idea if this is correlation or causation. But in my long career in digital, I’ve found that when engineers  run CX, customer friendliness typically doesn’t surge.

In his own post about the troubles at Slideshare (which inspired this one), Sweezey noted that Slideshare now prohibits re-uploading of Slideshares. Plainly, this sucks. The issue is that if you upload something and decide to refresh it later (fix a typo, add a slide, tweak the headline) you now cannot do that, despite the fact this has been a feature since essentially day one of the platform.

Now, Slideshare demands that you upload an entirely new version of the file. That means any comments, shares, or links you’ve created and propagated across the web will be null, void, or dead. Hurray. Want to add a new slide six? Start over, pal.

Maybe this is just the way it has to go? Maybe platforms that emphasize longer form, written content are doomed to be dominated by platforms featuring short form, video, and disappearing “story” content? After all, Slideshare’s evident and imminent demise comes on the heels of the death of Squidoo and the business model shift and subsequent near-irrelevance of Scribd, among others.

But I would think that a business social network (or whatever LinkedIn considers itself to be at this point) would see value in being the world’s only meaningful hub for presentations for businesspeople. But maybe I just don’t get it?

Do you?

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Why Live Chat Usually Sucks Wed, 29 Nov 2017 14:00:00 +0000 Despite the promise of painless, instantaneous customer support, most live chat and chat bots suck. Here's why.

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Why Live Chat Usually Sucks

It’s the holiday season again, which yields at least four truths:

  1. Huge uptick in cranberry sauce consumption (seriously, when ELSE is that eaten?)
  2. Huge uptick in deck and patio fires, due to foolhardy and drunken usage of turkey fryers
  3. Huge uptick in customer interactions with companies, as we agitate for the best Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals
  4. Huge uptick in consumer frustration, as we encounter truly terrible live chat and chat bot experiences

I get it. I really do.

Every company is reading white papers and sitting in on webinars (some produced by me) that talk about the need for omni-channel consistency and customer-focused interaction mechanisms.

“If customers don’t want to use the phone, let them use chat!” say the white papers.

“Facebook Messenger is all the rage! It’s going to replace email! You need to build a bot!” bleat the webinars.

Consumers not only face a frenzy of navigation choices and special offers when they land on a retail website. Now they also must weigh the pros and consequences of using live chat, Messenger, phone, email, Twitter, Facebook, fax, or needlepoint as a contact mechanism when they inevitably have a question or problem.

For Whose Convenience?

Yes, I believe that companies should interact with customers in the fashion and platform of the customers choosing, rather than demanding customers use phone and email because it’s the company’s legacy preference. I talked about that a lot in Hug Your Haters.

That book was published 18 months ago, and the increase in live chat and chat bots has been remarkable. But here’s the problem:

Most live chat and chat bots's why.
Click To Tweet

If you’re going to add an interaction modality for your customers, shouldn’t you take that opportunity to ensure this new channel offers a BETTER experience? Unfortunately, I often find the exact opposite to be true.

I had a problem yesterday with a company I use routinely. I went to their website and decided to use the live chat, so I could check my email during the “conversation.” The agent was incredibly slow and knew almost nothing about the product. Ultimately, after 35 minutes of painful back and forth, the agent gave me a phone number to call.

I called the number and had the problem fully solved in five minutes.

The problem is that companies rolling out live chat and chat bots do it for the wrong reasons. It’s not to offer an enhanced customer experience for consumers who prefer those channels. Instead, it’s to save money on a per-interaction basis. A chat agent can handle three to six conversations at once via chat, and a telephone agent can handle just one. And Messenger bots, once programmed, can handle infinite simultaneous conversations, bringing the average cost per interaction as close to zero as possible. “Hallelujah!” says the CFO, delighted at the cost savings provided by this new technology.

But the customer does not say hallelujah. They say a different exclamation that starts with “F.”

One Chance to Make a First Impression

If the company ultimately wants to encourage customers to use live chat and chat bots to save money, then why do they routinely put their very worst reps on live chat? Why are so many Messenger bots nearly useless? Consumers will behave in a way the company desires, if they are consistently incentivized to do so. A glance at the Cyber Monday phenomenon is all the proof we need of that point. Businesses decided to incentivize consumers to spend money online in a dedicated time horizon and discounted prices sufficiently to force the desired behavior change.

It’s realistic to believe that many customers will opt for low-cost interaction methods like live chat and chat bots, and that’s good news for business, ultimately. (Note that not all customers will do so, as some people really prefer phone and email, and that will continue to be the case until we have full generational turnover). But this gravitation from phone/email to chat/bots will only occur if companies commit meaningful resources to providing an outstanding customer experience via these new channels.

85 percent of Americans say they hate to wait on hold. That makes sense, and every time I hear that stat I wonder, who are the other 15 percent? And why do they have so much free time? Very few people want to call, and not many folks are hoping for more presents in their inbox, either. Chat and bots should be a huge hit among consumers.

But they are not.

My friend Ed Davies is a digital marketing consultant in the United Kingdom. His recent experience illustrates the core problem:

Ed needed to contact, a web hosting provider, about a domain name issue. He chose live chat and was told he was #20 in line (for live chat support!). After a few minutes of waiting, the chat software sounded a chime and nudged him to find the answer himself on the website.

He was never given a sense of how long he might have to wait (something that is common on the telephone), and after 45 MINUTES, a chat agent logged on. With no acknowledgment of the wait, the agent dove into the issue.

During the subsequent interaction, the agent left Ed waiting for 10 minutes, with no message or input of any kind. Even on the phone, when you are forced to wait for a long time, agents typically pop back in every once in a while to apologize and make sure you’re not sharpening an axe.

As a result of this poor experience, Ed took his business elsewhere.

As Ed wrote to me when he told me this tale:

“Chats should provide a better experience for the customer—there are tools available that keep the customer informed, and not just saying ‘you are in position number 14.’ I found myself thinking I’d rather be on hold on a phone than a chatI can stick the phone on speaker, dance to the tinny pop music they have playing, make a coffee, move around the house, etc. It comes down to not respecting my time in a world where I value it more highly than any other thing.”

Ed is exactly right. It’s about respect. Companies are patting themselves on the back after they check the “launch live chat” box on their strategic plan without realizing that the execution of this new option is actually driving customers away.

As always, just because you have technology doesn’t mean it provides a better experience. And in this case, the experience is often worse.

I know there are instances of great live chat and chat bots. I’ve experienced some myself. I don’t want to indict the entire category, as that is both unfair and untrue. But just about everyone I know has a disappointing chat/bots experience. How has your experience been?

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Will Amazon Dominate Influencer Marketing Too? Wed, 22 Nov 2017 14:00:00 +0000 Amazon is getting serious about influencer marketing. Is this good news, or very bad news? Jay Baer analyzes the plusses and minuses.

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Will Amazon Dominate Influencer Marketing Too

Jeff Bezos and Amazon already oversee dominant or emerging powerhouse businesses in cloud computing and storage, e-commerce, rockets, ebooks, smart speakers, and original programming (check out the $250 million they recently paid for just the RIGHTS to make two Lord of the Rings TV shows). Now, they’re making a new move into influencer marketing.

There’s a new wrinkle in the long-running Amazon Associates affiliate program: The company is now offering Youtube, Twitter, and Instagram influencers the option to set-up a simple storefront on Social media stars can send their audience to these storefronts to buy recommended products. The store comes with an easy-to-remember vanity URL—especially useful for YouTubers who often promote URLs with audio only.

Commissions average about eight percent of referred sales—perhaps not a windfall, but potentially quite attractive for influencers able to move real merchandise. Take, for example, YouTube star Dan Markham. While on a panel at Web Summit (where Amazon announced that Twitter and Instagram influencers would now be eligible), Markham revealed he sold $161,000 worth of fidget cubes through his Amazon store, netting more than $12,000, according to coverage in TechCrunch. That is a LOT of fidget cubes.

The Good News of Amazon Influencer Marketing

On its surface, I like this move for three reasons:

First, from Amazon’s perspective, it’s low-hanging fruit. Why NOT run these referred sales through your massive e-commerce empire? Somebody has to sell fidget cubes and whatever else consumer product influencers are pitching. And I’m sure that in many cases, those sales were already coming through Amazon, but in a haphazard fashion.

Second, from the influencer’s perspective, it’s a no-brainer. A storefront that requires essentially no work and no fees? Custom URL? Eight percent commission? Yes, please. This is the same reason Amazon has been such a huge player in affiliate marketing for nearly 20 years—they make it easy to make money together. They are like the Jerry Maguire of e-commerce.

Third, from a brand perspective, this is terrific if you’re using influencers to drive consumer product sales. Now, you have definitive tracking of units sold, and thus evidence of why, whether, when, and how much influencer marketing is working. No more guessing games. And after all, isn’t influence about driving action, not just awareness? This helps connect those dots.

And it IS so simple. I was accepted into the program based on my Twitter following. I built a storefront in five minutes and included some favorite recent books, a microphone I like, and a green screen I bought recently for video work. Presto! Now, I just need to sell $161,000 worth of green screens!

The Bad News of Amazon Influencer Marketing

But upon further reflection, this move troubles me. Amazon’s market penetration gives them the ability to dominate influencer marketing in short order.

What’s to stop them from going one more step and creating their own database of influencers? Why wouldn’t they add a services layer to help brands find and select influencers too (the same way they’ve organized affiliate portals in the past)? And then, why couldn’t they ask influencers to create content on the Amazon video network, rather than YouTube or another platform? Or audio versions for Alexa? If you’re making $12,000 hawking fidget cubes, and the guy writing the checks says you need to put all your content on Amazon now to keep getting paid, you’re going to give that request serious consideration, I’d wager.

The one historical truism of digital marketing through the years is that whoever controls the metrics controls the budget. And if Amazon becomes the de facto scorekeeper for influencers via their storefront program, it’s not at all a stretch to imagine the entire influencer marketing ecosystem disrupted and subsumed by Amazon.

There are plenty of marketers who would welcome that kind of disintermediation. Lots of folks would prefer the turbid bouillabaisse of influencer marketing agencies, software, and measurement to just disappear. It’s too confusing and uncertain, they say. But an Amazon-dominated influencer marketing landscape is the precise opposite: It’ll be crystal clear who’s in charge and how it all works, but as always, Mr. Bezos and his associates will extract their pound of flesh.

Do you want to hand them a knife?

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2 Key Marketing Jobs That Did Not Exist Last Year Wed, 08 Nov 2017 14:00:00 +0000 These 2 new marketing roles are responsible for growing audience and managing truth. Do you need them on your marketing team? Probably.

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2 Key Marketing Jobs That Did Not Exist Last Year

It’s been said that marketing has changed more in the past five years than in the prior 40. I’m not quite old enough to validate that assertion first-hand, but I do know that marketing change is constant, and possibly accelerating.

Last week, I wrote about the tsunami of artificial intelligence and the fact that robots and AI aren’t likely to steal marketers’ jobs so much as change the composition of marketers’ day-to-day duties.

In addition to this data-driven reassignment of roles and responsibilities, the future (and present) of digital marketing also includes two all-new jobs that simply did not exist last year.

They are the Audience Strategist and the Digital Knowledge Manager.

Why You Need an Audience Strategist

Paid is more expensive that ever, and average results will continue to decline as the gold rush continues. We’ve seen this movie before when it was called “SEM.” No, paid digital promotion is not going away, but the low hanging fruit is picked.

Thus, attention is swinging back to earned exposure (thus, the big rise in influencer marketing), and owned audiences (see the returning emphasis on email and YouTube subscribers, et al.).

When he worked at ExactTarget, my friend Jeff Rohrs predicted this shift four years ago in his terrific book Audience: Marketing in the Age of Subscribers, Friends, and Fans. He just may have been ahead of the adoption curve a bit, which is not uncommon with business book authors. Heck, I’d argue that my first book, The Now Revolution, is truer today than it was when Amber Naslund and I published it in 2011.

Content marketing strategy genius Robert Rose developed a new framework for measuring and valuing a brand’s total “audience” and argues here that someone on the marketing team must be charged with caring and feeding and thinking about that combined group.

It’s not a community manager, and it’s not a content marketing manager (although both of those could be launching pads for this role). Instead, what is required is truly an “Audience Strategist” charged with protecting and growing the value of the collected attention from fans, subscribers, and followers of the brand.

Robert says in this post on Content Marketing Institute that the Audience Strategist role includes these duties:

  • Audience development: Building in the content promotion programs that will ultimately acquire and/or retain the most targeted A-level audiences to the company’s content platforms.
  • Audience segmentation: Understanding which programs produce the highest-quality audience members, and segmenting them into natural strata of business value.
  • Audience valuation: Auditing audiences to understand what data you have, and what data is needed to enrich the audience asset.
  • Audience integration: Working with disparate parts of the business to understand where and how having insight or access to audiences can help optimize the business strategy.
  • Audience measurement: Managing the audience asset and measuring its value over time as a broader part of a content marketing effort.

I really like this construct, and am thinking about what it might look like here at Convince & Convert if we had an Audience Strategist. At present, like most other organizations, we have different people tackling disparate pieces of the duties above, and I wonder what a cleaner set of responsibilities might yield.

Why You Need a Digital Knowledge Manager

Whereas the Audience Strategist is tasked with building and protecting the people who love the brand, the Digital Knowledge Manager is charged with building and protecting the data that is true about the brand.

Remarkably, this role also came from the fertile mind of Jeff Rohrs, who is now CMO at publicly-traded software company Yext.

Yext is responsible for taking all the stuff that’s relevant about your business and making sure it’s distributed consistently, accurately, and quickly across the entirety of the ever-expanding digital universe. Here’s an example Jeff used in a presentation he and I gave at Yext’s outstanding Onward17 conference last week:

Arby’s is currently offering a seasonal venison burger. Yes, it’s featured on their website, but how do Yelp, TripAdvisor, Waze,, Dex, Amazon’s Alexa, Siri, and the hundreds of other intelligent services know it’s on offer? Making that work is what Yext does.

As we move more and more into new UI for data retrieval, being proactive about the facts about your brand becomes more critical. Structured data is the new FAQ, and the same way you needed a “Webmaster” when your digital presence pretty much started and stopped with your website, you now need a “Digital Knowledge Manager,” given that your digital presence is expanding outward without end.

Jeff and I collaborated on a free ebook called “The Everywhere Brand” that talks about the growth of intelligent services and voice-based UI and what it means, as well as why a Digital Knowledge Manager is critical to be the ringleader of all this data.

And, Yext created a handy sample job description for a Digital Knowledge Manager position here. Here’s a summary of the key duties:

  • Works directly with employees across Operations, Marketing, PR, SEO, Paid Search, Social Media, and others.
  • Has a focus on embracing leading-edge technologies with the goal of determining what, if any, new or modified digital knowledge is required from the company, and determines how to surface/publish that data for maximum positive impact toward the company’s goals.
  • Acts as an internal educator to drive awareness of trends, changes, and new technologies, as well as consumer adoption and behavior change.
  • Owns source tracking (internally) for all pertinent digital knowledge for the company, brands, products, people, locations, and services.
  • Arbitrates data discrepancies to guide teams to one common source for data integrity, which will be shared across all teams.

Brands heavily invested in owned audiences that also have a lot of physical locations (thus, a lot of structured data that must be consistent) will need both an Audience Strategist and a Digital Knowledge Manager in their marketing organizations. Some companies will need one or the other. But I’d argue (and Robert and Jeff will concur, no doubt) that just about every brand of size will need at least one of these.

When you actively manage something and make it somebody’s job to do just that, chances of success and growth increase. This is the case with audiences and with data consistency. Sure, you could continue to laissez-faire these responsibilities or split the duties between a few, existing digital marketers. But if you’re serious about owned, and you’re serious about the intelligent future, it’s time to create a new role or two and stop leaving success to chance.

(Disclosure: This post is not sponsored in any way. However, Yext has been a Convince & Convert sponsor. I was a paid speaker at the Onward17 event and was compensated to co-create The Everywhere Brand ebook.)

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Social Media Powered by AI Is Here Wed, 01 Nov 2017 14:00:00 +0000 Every digital marketer, including social media marketers, are scared about artificial intelligence, big data, and machine learning. They should be.

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Social Media Powered by AI Is Here

Every digital marketer that’s paying attention is either wary, concerned, or deathly afraid of machine learning and artificial intelligence.

These systems feature absurd processing power and instant analytical capabilities. They eat big data and crap hyper-targeted marketing. They take no breaks or vacation days, and spend no time screwing around on Facebook (except to ingest behavioral insights to make themselves smarter).

Various tech behemoths have branded their marketing AI in their own image. IBM (#client) has Watson, of course. Salesforce (#client) has Einstein.

I’ve always thought Watson and Einstein existed to make these very complex systems more understandable. “Oh, that intersecting nexus of dozens of data feeds? That’s just Watson!” But now, I wonder if part of the benefit of this anthropomorphic approach to explaining AI is, perhaps unintentionally, to prevent marketers from totally freaking out about the future. “Watson isn’t going to take my job! He’s so funny and charming!”

This is the marketing technology equivalent of distracting a child with a doll just before drawing blood.

In truth, I do not believe AI (IBM calls it “cognitive”) is going to wipe the digital marketer off the map like a herd of grass-munching brontosauri. As I said at the annual Sitecore (#client) user conference last week, when the robots do all the hard, tedious, time-consuming digital marketing work, the strategist becomes king.

Because here’s the thing: For the foreseeable future, these systems must be TOLD what to do. Yes, machine learning, by definition, dictates that they get smarter and better over time. But they first must be taught what to look for and where—by us.

If your job entails a lot of manual testing, list splitting, tweaking, optimization, and scorekeeping, you must learn how to manage the AI robots (and soon), or you may end up superfluous—as vestigial as our own appendix.

The Social Media Robots Are Here

For the last two years or so, most of the work I’ve done and been exposed to in the AI-powered digital marketing world has been focused in these areas:

  • Email testing and optimization
  • Web content testing and optimization
  • Mobile testing and optimization
  • Behavioral data pattern recognition and ID of “best” and disenfranchised customers, as well as likely advocates and influencers

To date, social media (other than social listening, of course) has been largely immune to the effects of machine learning.

Yes, you can A/B test organically on Facebook. Social ads allow for real-time optimization. But the kind of serious, one-to-one interactions that marketing technology companies have spun up for email, web, and mobile haven’t really been doable in social. After all, it’s social—it’s right in the name. It’s more of an art than a science, right? You have to nail the right tone, tenor, and timing.

Nope. Not anymore.

Persado is a fascinating company I’ve been monitoring closely since I did an early demo with them five years ago. They use a dizzying array of data inputs and DMP relationships to create highly targeted, massively specific content pieces inside email, on a home page or landing page, etc.

Their core assignment has been helping e-commerce companies boost their conversion rate by dramatically boosting relevance and resonance of digital copy and imagery.

But last week, they launched Persado One which allows digital marketers to customize messaging and look and feel at the individual level, rather than just the customer segment level. Even more importantly, Persado can now deploy those one-to-one campaigns as social media ads and—get this—craft them based on historical emotional engagement.

My head is swimming with use cases for this technology. Imagine the Grand Ole Opry (#client) wants to use Facebook ads to sell more tickets for upcoming performances. Based on users’ historical engagement with messages of different tones and tenors, Persado can combine copy and images and Frankenstein together the perfect ad for EACH USER.

If, based on your website, email, and social media behaviors, the database believes you like to go to the Grand Ole Opry with your family, you’ll see a Facebook ad emphasizing that benefit. However, if your history indicates you are more into seeing classic Bluegrass artists live, you’ll see an ad with those attributes highlighted.

See this post on MarTech Today for a screenshot of how Persado customizes ads based on emotional patterns.

This is either the beginning of the end, of the end of the beginning. Either way, the days of social media success being about human-powered emotional intelligence are waning.

All hail our robot masters.

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Will New Video Ads and Internal Agency Finally Propel Twitter Forward? Wed, 25 Oct 2017 13:00:00 +0000 Twitter has at least three big problems. Now, they are rolling out new video ads, and an in-house agency to help big brands. Will these moves help?

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Will New Video Ads and Internal Agency Finally Propel Twitter Forward

Twitter has, at minimum, three big problems:

  1. A declining base that is actually getting smaller in the United States
  2. Ad revenues that are similarly stagnant
  3. Constant battles over the platform being used for harassment and abuse

Add to this list the fact that while video has been available on Twitter since 2010, followed by the company’s acquisitions of Vine in 2012, and Periscope in 2015, many advertisers have been non-plussed about the platform’s video ad capabilities.

With Facebook and Instagram video ads skyrocketing in popularity, combined with the ongoing threat presented by Snapchat for the attention of young social media users, Twitter had to do SOMETHING to further unlock advertisers’ video lucre.

And. They. Did.

Introducing Video Website Cards

Twitter last week rolled out a new advertising format that combines Vine-like six-second videos (they don’t loop, however) with the ability to drive traffic from Twitter to a defined URL.

Called “Video Website Cards,” this new opportunity seems daunting at first. “H0w can I engage a target audience in SIX seconds?” But, the beta advertisers like Macy’s are proving it’s possible as long as you focus on a quick-cut, no-dialog experience that feels a little like an abbreviated Snap story:

One of the best features of this new format is the ability to optimize for clicks or for conversions. In fact, in their announcement blog post, the Twitter team says these new ads are delivering twice the results compared to benchmark mobile video ads.

I like this format, and this opportunity, a lot. I’ll be testing Video Website Cards soon.

But Seriously, Six Seconds?

Twitter may understand that doing six-second ads well isn’t intuitive for many marketers. Thus, in a companion release, they announced #Fuel (unnecessary hashtag included), a cadre of Twitter creative types working as an ersatz agency to help big companies do video better on Twitter.

Converse is one of the first brands to take advantage of #Fuel, partnering with Twitter on a recurring video series aimed at Millennials and Gen Z called “Converse Public Access.” Stars of the series include Miley Cyrus and Maisie Williams.

The whole idea of #Fuel is admirable on one hand, as brands might be quite keen to get some help with this kind of campaign. I’m less certain that agencies are going to be excited about this move, however, as it potentially puts Twitter in the position of competing for services revenue against the very same agencies that are buying the Twitter ads in the first place.

Twitter describes #Fuel like this:

“#Fuel is a rapid-response hub to help brand partners develop content strategy, activate creative ideas, and optimize content for the feed, all with a focus on enhancing the consumer experience on Twitter.”

Sounds like an agency to me.

It will be very interesting to see if the community of large agencies and media buyers embraces or rejects #Fuel.

How about you? What are your experiences with Twitter video ads?

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Why I Blew Up My Website: The Real FAQ Wed, 11 Oct 2017 07:00:00 +0000 Convince & Convert has overhauled its website, launched a new editorial calendar, and rolled out a brand-new weekly audio program. Here's why.

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Why I Blew Up My Website The Real FAQ

It’s an exciting and scary time for all of us here at Convince & Convert. Why? Because in a 72-hour period, we completely overhauled our website, launched a new editorial calendar, and rolled out a brand-new weekly audio program.

Oh, and we did it while I was on vacation overseas, celebrating my 25th wedding anniversary with my wife.

Because I’ve been away, I haven’t been able to tell you about the new site or answer any questions about what or why. So, I’m metaphorically cutting out the middleman, and writing the ultimate FAQ here.

Q. Why would you do this while you were on vacation?
A. I don’t really know. It kind of snuck up on me. But, considering I can be a little “neurotic” about launches and redesigns, I’m sure the team is DELIGHTED I was away.

Q. Who is this team, exactly?
A. Glad you asked, imaginary inquisitor! The site redesign was handled by Joel Hughes and his crew at Glass Mountains, a terrific web design and dev firm in the U.K. They also did Mark Schaefer’s new site, as well as my pal Rory Vaden’s Southwestern Consulting site. Easy to work with, they are. And smart. And kind. And conscientious. And thoughtful. Everything you’d want in web partners. Thanks, Joel!

On our side, I lit the fuse, as is usually the case. But the real work was done by the Convince & Convert Media team, led by the sublime Kelly Santina. Jess Ostroff, our Managing Editor (more on her below) was involved too, as was our social/community squad, which includes Christin Kardos (organic and community), Christina Moravec (strategy and analysis), and Andrew Foxwell (paid social, and Midwestern charm).

Huge thanks to everyone. Change isn’t easy.

Q. Why did you change the site?
A. It was time. We had been working with roughly the same design for over three years. We’ve grown a lot in that time, and while we’ve been able to make it work, the site’s look and under the hood infrastructure was starting to give off the “Christmas tree with WAY too many ornaments” vibe.

More specifically, I want to make it more clear what we do on the consulting side versus what we do on the media side. I want to underscore that Convince & Convert is led by me, but is a collective of more than 15 brilliant marketers. I want to make it easier to find great content. I want to make it easier to access the site via mobile, including speeding up page load times.

Q. How will you measure success?
A. A-ha! A question from a math lover! Bravo, mi compadre. Here are the internal success metrics for the new site:

  • Pages viewed per session
  • Visits to non-media pages (consulting, speaking, etc.)
  • Lead gen via subscriptions to our ON email, which I personally write every Sunday
  • Traffic from organic search
  • Better exposure for our sponsors, as measured by out clicks to their websites, etc.

Q. You changed the editorial calendar? Why? I like Convince & Convert already!
A. Thanks, Mom! Here’s the deal: We’d gone from four posts per week to 10 posts per week. It was just TOO MUCH content.

We did a big survey of our audience and used that data to create two, killer personas. We also did an internal brand positioning exercise to lock down on how Convince & Convert should FEEL and sound to the reader or listener.

And I got off my ass and actually wrote a legitimate content strategy for us for once, instead of just assuming everyone in the company knows what’s going on in my head every five minutes. (Ironic, because we spend a lot of time creating amazing content strategy for giant companies. But, you know, you’re always your own worst client, etc.)

Armed with these new criteria, I worked with Jess Ostroff—the original Convince & Convert team member from way back in 2009—and we decided to skinny up the publishing schedule a little bit, and create recurring content “shows” that you’ll see just about every week at Convince & Convert. They include weekly features where we’ll synthesize and analyze new research about social/content/digital. We have a weekly social media case study of the week. We have a forthcoming new feature (I’m psyched for this) where we recommend specific podcast episodes (not just shows) to marketers.

And, of course, I’m writing at least one post per week on whatever I think is interesting—I cannot be corralled by any editorial calendar! And, we have our weekly podcasts, which now include Social Pros, Content Pros, and the brand-new Experience This! Show about customer experience and customer service.

Q. Experience This!? When did that happen?
A. Last week! We launched an all-new show dedicated to showcasing businesses that deliver outstanding CS and CX, in a lively, interesting format with lots of takeaways for the audience. Plus, it’s interactive! You can call or email in with your ideas and suggestions.

Hosted by my friends Joey Coleman and Dan Gingiss, Experience This! is a totally different kind of podcast. You are going to LOVE it, I believe. Please give it a listen on iTunes or whatever. And if you’re feeling it, and iTunes review would be most magnificent and much appreciated.

The main page for the show is Big thanks to Oracle CX for signing on as the debut sponsor!

Q. How can I help with all this new stuff?
A. It’s very kind of you to ask. A couple things:

  1. Convince & Convert is a VERY large site. If you find something weird in the new design, please send us a note at
  2. Please let me know how you like the new editorial approach! is best. I’m always listening!
  3. Speaking of listening, download Experience This!

Many thanks for your support. I cherish every visit, download, click, and share.

Other questions about what we’ve done, why, and how? Leave ‘em in the comments, and I’ll answer.

Jay Baer
Founder, Convince & Convert

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The 21 Startups I’ve Invested In and Why Wed, 10 May 2017 07:00:00 +0000 The 21 startups Jay Baer has invested in so far, including social, content marketing, bioscience, sustainability, food service, and more.

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The 21 Startups I've Invested In and Why

I was having dinner with a friend at the National Speakers Association conference a couple years ago. During dinner, this friend (let’s call him “Chris Ducker” because it was Chris Ducker) said something about the popular social media tool, Buffer. I mentioned that I am an investor in that company, and Chris said, “You are? I had no idea you did that kind of stuff.” And it got me thinking about how I almost never write about the work I do as a venture capitalist and advisor.

But, given that many of the companies I’ve invested in are tools that we use daily here at Convince & Convert, I figured I’d update a post I wrote about what I’ve supported financially. And since your visits to this site, and your email clicks, and your podcast listens help generate the sponsorship revenue that (in part) allows me to make those investments, I’d argue that you’re a part of these companies too, at some level.

Here’s what I’ve backed financially and/or as an equity-holding official advisor, listed alphabetically.

Breather – Quiet on Demand

Breather is the brain-child of the uber-smart Julien Smith. It’s Airbnb for privacy. Breather rents unused office space in many cities and then allows people to rent the space for an hour or three at a time. Great for a conference call, small meeting, a quick “breather” when you’re traveling, actors working on their lines, etc. The space is booked via smartphone app, and the door is also unlocked that way, using electronic locks. It’s incredibly slick. I’m in love with this idea.

Breather recently raised a $40 million C round of investment.

Buffer – Social Scheduling and Content Recommendations

Probably the best known of the companies in which I’ve invested, due to their very large customer base and colossally popular blog. Buffer does everything right. It makes social media participation way easier, and their new iPhone app, Daily, that recommends content for you to share is genius. It’s an honor to be associated with these guys, and I use Buffer daily.

Captora – Automated Marketing Optimization

I get excited just thinking about this company. Captora has a very powerful engine that analyzes the entirety of your digital marketing efforts and the efforts of your competitors, in real-time (and all the time). Then, based on that data, Captora automatically creates new campaigns (including landing pages and other web copy) and/or changes existing campaigns. Imagine having an entire department of data analysts and digital marketing geniuses, but deciding that maybe you could build a freaky robot to do their jobs. That’s Captora. It’s a game-changer for B2B, especially for top-of-the-funnel lead gen.

CloudPeeps – Remote Community Management

CloudPeeps is a collective of digital marketing free agents working inside a match-making platform that enables companies (or even solopreneurs) to find, select, and hire experienced freelancers to handle social media, community management, and virtual assistant tasks. It adds clarity and structure to the noisy freelancer marketplace.

Clustertruck – Food Delivery Powered by Big Data

A centralized kitchen, lightning fast delivery, plus fresh and tasty food. I have Clustertruck delivered twice a week and am delighted to be part of this fast-growing concept founded by Chris Baggot, co-founder of ExactTarget. When it opens in your city, you’re going to be very, very happy.

Command Post – Social Media Segmentation and Disclosure

Formerly known as, Command Post has pivoted to focus on providing useful social media analytics and delivering nuggets of insight and intelligence that help you identify hidden advocates (for example). The firm still has its disclosure capabilities, originally developed to ensure that brands are in compliance with FCC guidelines. Command Post is now essentially defunct. It’s a shame, because their ideas around social media disclosure where spot-on, just too early.

CoSchedule – Marketing Calendar and Automation

I’m a big advocate for this solution (we use it here at Convince & Convert). It’s an inexpensive, easy-to-use, powerful marketing calendar with a ton of smart features that save time and hassle. Great blog and content marketing output from this team, too, who are taking a page out of the Buffer playbook. CoSchedule just raised their first round of financing.

Gravity Ventures – Boutique Tech Venture Fund

I am a member of Gravity Ventures Indiana 3, a small technology venture fund based in Indianapolis. The fund is now closed, and has investments in Mighty Signal, Bluebridge, Petbrosia, RivalIQ, Visible, and more.

Green Nurture – Crowdsourced Sustainability

My second-oldest active investment, Green Nurture, built a turn-key platform that allows companies and government organizations to solicit sustainable, green ideas from their workforce in an easy, gamified format. Largely defunct, Green Nurture is working on partnerships to revive the core technology.

High Alpha – B2B SAAS Venture Studio and Fund

I am a member of High Alpha, which creates and funds SAAS companies with a B2B focus. Founded by several executives of ExactTarget and other experienced VCs and operators, the High Alpha portfolio includes Salesloft, Dwolla, ClearScholar, Zylo, Doxly, Drone Deploy, When I Work, Lessonly, Crowd Riff, Visible, Sigstr, TinyPulse, Octiv, Narvar, Structural, and G2Crowd.

InsightPool – Influencer ID and Engagement Platform

I am an equity-holding advisor of this Atlanta-based firm that used big data to identify topical influencers. Unlike other influencer databases, Insightpool also offers semi-automated technology for reaching out to social media influencers, turning them into advocates. – The Easy Training Software

These guys are on fire and recently raised a $5 million A round of financing. They have a terrific team (very similar to Buffer in style and values), and the product is outstanding. offers quite literally the easiest way to create and distribute training for anything. Fully drag-and-drop, you can have a course up and running in minutes.

LittleBird – Social Business Intelligence

LittleBird helps you find influencers and experts in any topical category, and then keeps you updated, alerted, and informed about what’s happening with those influencers in that category. Amazing tool for keeping tabs on thought leaders about anything. Recently sold to Sprinklr.

RivalIQ – Social Media Analytics and Competitor Monitoring

I got introduced to RivalIQ by Marcus Nelson, former CEO of Addvocate, who used some Rival data in a board of directors presentation. I immediately started using the tool for Convince & Convert clients and invested right away. RivalIQ gives you easy, fast data about how your company is faring in social media versus its competitors. Reasonably priced, and lots of slick features like the ability to automatically export data into a Powerpoint doc customized with your own branding.

Senestech – Safe Sterilization of Pests

My oldest active investment. Senestech is a biosciences start-up that formulates special baits that, when ingested by the targeted species (only), sterilize undesirable mammals. This reduces the need for poisons and other toxins. Recently became a public company, now trading on NASDAQ as SNES.

ServiceGuru – Ratings and Reviews for Hospitality Workers

I am an equity-holding advisor of this new platform that gives restaurant patrons the ability to rate individual hospitality workers (servers, bartenders, hosts, etc.). This “service score” is appended to the workers profile, and follows them when they change positions or locations. Very smart idea from experienced operators.

SproutBox- Indiana Venture Studio

When I moved to Bloomington, Indiana I quickly invested in SproutBox, a venture studio that creates and funds tech companies in the region. Portfolio companies include Cheddar, Proposable, Periodic, StoryAmp, Earbits, and Peoplocity.

Terminus – Effective Account-Based Marketing

Terminus is a fast-growing ABM company with an easy-to-use platform for reaching target accounts in social media, email, paid display and beyond. Terminus is also the proprietor of the FlipMyFunnel community and conference. Terminus recently closed a $10 million B round of financing. I love what they are doing, and I’m very bullish on ABM in general.

TrapIt – Social Selling and Employee Advocacy

I was an angel investor and board member in Addvocate, a pioneering employee advocacy tool. Addvocate merged with TrapIt, a full-featured platform that empowers salespeople and team members at large to curate and distribute content in social media.

Uberflip – The Best Content Hub Platform

I love these technology. Uberflip provides easy-to-use hubs to store and manage content assets in just about any format. No IT guys needed—marketers can build and tweak hubs in a flash, as well as create new CTAs. Integrates into just about every marketing automation platform, too, for lead nurturing and follow up. Smart team, who also run the excellent Content Experience conference in August.

Unified – Intelligence-Driven Social Media Advertising

I originally invested in Facebook analytics start-up Pagelever, which was then purchased by Unified Social. Top ranked by Forrester, Unified has a true end-to-end solution for social marketers, with an emphasis on using big data to improve social advertising results. Rich content creation tools, deep analytics, and best-in-class programmatic ad capabilities. Unified has raised a total of $44 million.

The post The 21 Startups I’ve Invested In and Why appeared first on Convince and Convert: Social Media Consulting and Content Marketing Consulting.

Is Twitter Crossing the Line Between Useful and Creepy Thu, 26 Dec 2013 11:00:00 +0000 In this edition of The Baer Facts, I talk with Kyle Lacy of ExactTarget about Twitter’s new Nearby feature that will give users the option of seeing tweets from other users in the vicinity. Is This a Feature or a Freak-Out? Note that users can opt-out of this feature (which is still in the testing phase), the same way that […]

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In this edition of The Baer Facts, I talk with Kyle Lacy of ExactTarget about Twitter’s new Nearby feature that will give users the option of seeing tweets from other users in the vicinity.

Is This a Feature or a Freak-Out?

Image via Wall Street Journal blog

Image via Wall Street Journal blog

Note that users can opt-out of this feature (which is still in the testing phase), the same way that Twitter members can choose to not pass geographic data along with their tweets. But is Nearby a plus or a minus?

I see two scenarios where Twitter Nearby could be useful. First, the kismet of discovering interesting people that are around you, enabling you to meet up with them, or at least connect with them virtually. Admittedly, this is very similar to what other apps like Highlight have been doing for 18 months. Thus, Twitter is following its now-familiar playbook of watching other companies innovate on its platform, and then either buying that technology, or copying it. Having the “here’s who you know in this area” feature built-in to Twitter itself, rather than having to use a separate app like Highlight would presumably spike usage.

As mentioned in the video, it’s a scenario I am faced with constantly when on the road (51 conferences in 2013). I know that there are people I am acquainted with in almost every city, but I forget who lives where. Maybe it’s a sign of the social media times, where we know people by their avatar more so than their street address of phone number. Or maybe I’m just a bad friend. Either way, I would be DELIGHTED if Twitter pinged me when I stepped off the plane to remind me who is in the region.

The second situation where this could be a boon is in ad targeting. I can see Twitter rolling out an ad product that allows businesses to push offers to Twitter members in a hyper-local context. Today, of course, Twitter will enable you to target by city. Nearby, however, presumably could be used to deliver offers at the street/neighborhood level. Interestingly, this would put Twitter squarely on the turf of Foursquare, as pointed out by Brent Carnduff on Business 2 Community.

But for many people – I use my wife as the example in the video – this kind of “someone on Twitter is right behind you” is the worst kind of creepiness. For marketing professionals and those who willingly allow social media to envelop them like a dense fog (guilty), Nearby is a real advance. For “real” people, however, it’s the manifestation of everything they fear about social. 

Location Always

The big takeaway is this: Very soon, location will not need to be retrieved. Location will instead be an omni-present layer of our communication, built-in to whatever device or message modality we choose to utilize. 

The question isn’t whether this type of proactive location usage will happen. It will. The question is whether location will be used for good, or for evil. 

What’s your bet?

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13 Ingredients in the Perfect Social Media Contest Sat, 30 Nov 2013 17:30:00 +0000 Social media contests require careful planning and nimble execution. Here's a checklist from Jay Baer on the 13 ingredients necessary to do social media contests right.

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13 Ingredients in the Perfect Social Media Contest

With the competition for attention online at an all-time high, the struggle to keep followers engaged with your company’s social channels is real, and ongoing. In addition to the smart use of visuals, businesses often turn to social media contests and promotions to stir excitement and drive activity from their audience.

It’s not as easy as tweeting “Who wants to win an iPad!?”, even though we’ve all clicked on that at one time or another. Excellent social media contests require substantial planning and nimble execution. They have many moving parts and potential points of failure.

Here’s a checklist of 13 ingredients you’ll need before launching the perfect social media contest:


Where will this contest take place? Facebook? Instagram? Twitter? Or will it be present in multiple venues, like a photo contest where participants can enter on Facebook or Instagram? Remember that each time you add a venue for participation, your oversight responsibilities grow geometrically.

Entry Mechanism

How do people qualify to enter your social media contest? There are hundreds of variations, but there are six main categories of participation mechanism. They are: Sweepstakes (nothing required—most common on Twitter); Connect (like/follow the company’s social account to enter); Like (like a particular piece of content to enter); Share (share a piece of content to enter); Vote (state preference from among multiple pieces of content to enter); Create (develop user-generated content and upload to enter).

Remember: The more you ask your audience to do, the fewer will do it. Remember too that the younger your audience, the more comfortable they will be creating content for your contest.

The more you ask your audience to do in a social media contest, the fewer will do it.
Click To Tweet

Theme and Name

Is this contest seasonal? Does it tie into a particular product or service? Remember, the theme/name will guide the rest of the creative. Take some time to come up with something that resonates. Try to keep your contest name short, as long names eat up valuable characters in tweets and ad headlines.


This is where you coordinate the major elements of the social media contest. The best approach here is to work backward from the date that you want to announce winners. From there, figure out when judging starts/ends (if applicable), when entries close, when entries open, when promotion starts, and other key milestones. Be sure to account for time to develop the creative, get approval for the contest rules, and any other internal hurdles that you need to cover before launch.

Visual Identity

In today’s social media landscape of visual billboards, you’ll need strong graphics and video to support your contest. Graphic needs may include cover and profile images, logos, headers, landing pages, emails, promoted posts, carousel images, or ad images (to name a few). Videos explaining and promoting the contest should be in both vertical (Snapchat, Instagram) and horizontal (YouTube, Facebook) formats, and likely various other lengths to maximize impact across different social channels. To make sure your design team doesn’t mutiny, use your timeline from step four and give them a single list of everything you need, including specific pixel dimensions and required language or copy. For Facebook, remember the 20 percent rule when creating graphics for promoted posts and ad images.


What will winners receive? This is a place for you to be creative, and most social media contests are far too obvious here. (See “win an iPad” above.)

Remember, the prize itself can be the theme for the contest, as with the legendary “best job in the world” campaign from Tourism Queensland. The best contests have prizes that tie directly back to the company itself. This becomes particularly important when you consider the downstream results of this effort. You want to activate and attract people who are genuinely interested in your business, not just “contest hunters” who enter everything they can find. If you sell fishing gear, give away fishing gear as a prize, not an iPad.

Editorial Calendar

Here’s where you map out (via Excel, a custom Google calendar, and/or your social media management software) all the social media posts, email messages, advertising support, and other communications about your promotion. You don’t necessarily have to write all of the messages in advance—although it’s not a bad idea, and your legal team may require it. Remember that your social media contest (and corresponding communications) has five phases: pre-launch, launch, last chance, completion, and winners. You need to plan multiple messages across multiple platforms for each phase.

Seeding Strategy

This applies to the pre-launch and launch phases of your social media contest. This is where you figure out how to give your promotion the best chance of lift-off in the critical early days of the promotion. What you’re trying to do here is make sure that the people who already love you, and the people who have a disproportionate number of social connections, are fully aware of the contest and are ready to participate and spread the word the minute the promotion begins. This could include special “Shh, Coming Soon” emails to key customers and social influencers, making sure all employees are aware of the event and other opportunities.

Remember: You do not want to “soft launch” a contest. This is especially true on Facebook, where the algorithm dictates that slow starters get buried.

Amplification Strategy

With the exception of simple Twitter contests and basic Facebook contests that are managed within your timeline, you will probably need some sort of amplification to ensure that your contest has the reach (and garners the attention) you desire. This may include Facebook and Instagram ads (think about custom audiences ads shown only to your email subscribers), Facebook promoted posts, Twitter promoted tweets, ad opportunities on Pinterest, amplification networks like Outbrain, Taboola, and Stumble, and other options. Remember that even if your contest takes place on one platform, you can use multiple platforms to amplify it.


I purposefully put rules and legal advice tenth on this list because I have found it is much easier to have legal weigh in on the entirety of the program (including seeding, editorial, amplification) all at once, instead of having them look at the mechanism and prizes first, and then going back to them later with a second round of inquiries about the other elements. As with the design team, make legal’s job easier by giving them the total picture up-front. Be proactive by doing your research first on what each venue allows for contests, and have the links ready to share with legal. (Here’s Facebook’s Pages Terms.) It’ll make them happy, and you absolutely want to keep them on your side.

Community Management

Participants and prospective entrants will have questions and comments about your contest. Some will be easy to address. Others may not be so simple. It is absolutely critical (even for simple contests) that you have a defined plan for who is moderating and overseeing your social outposts. This doesn’t just mean the channels where the contest is located and normal business hours. What is your plan for coverage on nights and weekends? Your day-to-day community management realities will likely be modest compared to what you need to accomplish during a contest. Plan for this.

Crisis Plan

You should already have a social media crisis plan. If you’ve never created one, the launch of your new contest provides excellent leverage for getting it finished. Will something go massively awry with your contest, causing you to activate your crisis plan? Probably not. But if it does, and you don’t have that crisis plan to turn to in that critical moment, the chances you’ll ever get to do another contest are just about zero. Consider this to be the “I’m not about to get fired because of a contest” ingredient of this recipe. (See my popular “8 steps to manage a social media crisis” post and slides here.)

Software (Sometimes)

As with amplification, you may not need software if your social media contest is very straightforward. But for any sort of contest that requires data collection as part of the entry mechanism, you’ll need software to help build and manage the affair. There are literally dozens of software packages that help you do this, either as their sole function or as part of a larger suite of social media management capabilities. Here at Convince & Convert, we’re familiar with most of them but haven’t used them all first-hand.

Software I can personally recommend (please feel free to nominate others in the comments) includes:

  • Wyng: For mid-sized companies on Facebook and beyond, this software packs tons of campaign and content templates and ideas.
  • Shortstack: For small businesses up to large agencies, this is one of the legacy providers for contests on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
  • Strutta: For medium/large companies hosting contests on Facebook, Instagram, or their own microsite, their DIY and custom packages make this software accessible for most.
  • Woobox: This software is designed for mid-sized companies and large brands that make Facebook a top priority.
  • Wishpond: This tool works best for medium/large companies connecting contests to lead generation.
  • Rafflecopter: This is one of the best options for bloggers and solopreneurs looking to run a simple giveaway with multiple entry points.

Those are the 13 ingredients of the perfect social media contest. What did I miss?

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7 Questions About Facebook’s New Star Ratings System Sat, 23 Nov 2013 15:00:00 +0000 In this “let’s get physical” edition of The Baer Facts, I talk with Kyle Lacy of ExactTarget about Facebook’s new system of applying star ratings to Pages, and the merits of kettlebell as a workout option. Timely note: This episode features a guest appearance by my quasi-celebrity personal trainer, Lindsay Forster. In addition to whipping me into shape (her […]

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In this “let’s get physical” edition of The Baer Facts, I talk with Kyle Lacy of ExactTarget about Facebook’s new system of applying star ratings to Pages, and the merits of kettlebell as a workout option. Timely note: This episode features a guest appearance by my quasi-celebrity personal trainer, Lindsay Forster. In addition to whipping me into shape (her success is mitigated by my constant travel and inability to put down the cheeseburgers and IPA), Lindsay is also a guest star on the Discovery Channel show Porter Ridge, which is filmed around here. Lindsay and I live in the urbane college town of Bloomington, Indiana. But just outside of town, things get rural and …… interesting. Thus, a “reality” show about those happenings.

Lindsay’s big TV debut is Tuesday, November 26. Set your DVRs for Porter Ridge. You can follow her on Instagram right here. 

On with the Facebook news:

screen_shot_2013_11_11_at_11_53_19_am_w640Like Sneetches, but with more Memes

Taking a play from Yelp, Facebook has been collecting ratings data via their mobile app for more than a year. Now, they are testing a system whereby those 1-5 average ratings will display quite prominently right below the name of your business Facebook page. This has not rolled out to all pages, and appears to be limited to pages that have added an address, since they are likely to have received star reviews from mobile Facebook users.

What Does the Star Say?

I don’t have a problem with this concept in general, but I dislike the fact that Facebook – adhering to its typically inscrutable approach to discussing new features that ranges from Sphinxian to Belichickian – has divulged almost no informational crumbs about what’s going on, or why.

Here are just a few questions I have about star reviews on Facebook. Leave your own in the comments if I’ve missed some, won’t you?

  1. Is this score only determined by ratings generated from mobile users?
  2. How many people rated this business?
  3. Do more recent ratings receive extra credit?
  4. Do ratings from Facebook users with more social connections receive extra credit?
  5. Do these ratings impact how/whether content from this business is shown in the news feed?
  6. Can ratings be used to target advertising? (i.e. only show my ad to people who have rated my business)
  7. How can Facebook  mitigate false ratings intended to inflate the average score?

See what I mean? Facebook is an amazing company that has changed the world in many ways. Their legacy is secure. But it is equal parts frustrating and irresponsible that a company with such a stranglehold on our collective attention continues to lob trial grenades around like they were cotton candy. Imagine if your local utility decided to roll out – without announcement or explanation – a new “feature” where more popular businesses got all the electricity they want, but less popular businesses had their electricity automatically throttled down based on an algorithm. We’d be grabbing pitchforks (and maybe flashlights).

I’m okay with Facebook evolution and iteration. Just like the Hunger Games, they have to keep doing new stuff to keep our attention. But how about a FAQ or something? Is that too much to ask?


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