Why Now Might Be the Time to Use Tik Tok to Promote Your Brand

Tik Tok image by Kon KarampelasMany people are listening to the medical community’s advice (or the government’s direct orders) to stay at home during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

As a result, many of your potential customers have turned to social media for information and entertainment during this time.

Many of these people have delayed their purchases until they know what their economic future has is store.

As mentioned in the last post, while connecting with your customers on social networking sites might not lead to increased sales in the short term, it might be a good idea to find ways to be there for them to help them get through this difficult time. This might be as simple as finding ways to alleviate their boredom by providing entertainment on social networking sites.

With this in mind, now might be a great time for your brand to start looking for ways to use Tik Tok to entertain and inform consumers.

If you can make them smile or forget their problems even for a little while, it might make a difference when the world gets back to normal after we find a vaccine or a cure for COVID-19.

It’s Something That Your Marketing Team Can Do While Working From Home

As with every social networking site, getting started on Tik Tok starts with learning what works on the platform.

Chances are that your marketing team is telecommuting. There is also a good chance that are they are a little stressed.

Asking them to try out Tik Tok might be a way be a great way to help them alleviate some of this stress. They can then report back and offer suggestions as to what they think would work for your brand.

But, beware, the app is addictive.

Therefore, it is a good idea to set up guidelines as to how much “work” time should be spent on the app.

Trying Tik Tok is one way to learn about the app. There is also a lot of good advice out there to help suggest how to use the app in your marketing efforts.

For example, HubSpot is a great place to start if you want to find out how to generate leads using Tik Tok.

Remember, Now Is Not the Time For “Selling”

I can’t say this enough.

For many brands, now is not the time to “sell” to your customers.

If they need your product, they will buy it. If they don’t, they are probably going to wait to make the purchase.

However, given the fact that people have a lot of time on their hands, now might be the time to connect with them in more subtle ways on social networking sites, including Tik Tok.

This effort should lead to increased sales when things get back to normal.

Photo credit: Kon Karampelas on Unsplash.

 

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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In 2020, Social Media Marketing Shouldn’t Be About “Selling”

adult-apple-device-beautiful-black-girl-1181497This year has gotten off to a rough start.

With the CDC recommending social distancing and many businesses temporarily shuttering their doors in an effort to slow down the spread of COVID-19, many people are choosing to self-isolate even before coming in contact with the virus.

This increased isolation has psychological effects that people are having to deal with.

In an effort to virtually connect with other people and alleviate boredom, more people are turning to social media to pass the time. This happened in China and a new study found that we are starting to see similar trends in the United States.

That means, now might be the time to connect with your potential customers on social networking sites.

Focus on Entertaining and Informing, Not “Selling”

While people are now turning to social media to pass the time, they’re also feeling the financial pressures that result from a loss of work.

If you try to sell to customers on social networking sites while we are in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, your brand might look out-of-touch with reality.

You potential customers might just ignore your communication. Or worse, if you try to sell your products or services at the wrong time your online messages might have a negative impact on your brand’s reputation.

That’s why your brand should focus on entertaining and informing, not selling.

With this in mind, it is not surprising that influencer agency Obviously has started a community initiative that they call #ObviouslyGood.

As the article on the Campaign US website points out, “Community is more important than ever, and social media is a powerful tool in building and maintaining our connections,” said Mae Karwowski, founder and CEO of Obviously. “It’s really important to us in these times that we help combat misinformation on social media.”

“We wanted to give our influencers new tools to positively engage with their audiences and make sure they’re being responsible and factual at the same time. #ObviouslyGood is a new way for influencers of all sizes to help make their communities stronger with factual and timely information from trusted sources.”

This trust will go a long way after the pandemic ends.

Likewise, now might be a good time for brands to find ways to entertain potential customers.

With all the stress people are under these days, it might be a welcome distraction.

However, entertaining customers during the pandemic might be a little more difficult to do. Brands will need to find ways to lighten the mood without making light of the situation.

Those brands that can find the right voice and entertain without offending will most likely be remembered long after the pandemic ends.

An occasional post that attempts to sell your product or service could be okay. But the better move is to be there for your customers when they are looking for a way to cure their boredom or when they are looking for accurate information online.

Once the pandemic is over, your brand can resume business as usual. However, now is the time to think of the big picture.

As the CBS PSA reminds us, “We’re all in this together.”

 

 

Photo credit: Christina Morillo on Pexels.

Video credit: hollywoodstreams on YouTube.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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45 Things to Watch in 2020 and Beyond

winding-roadIt’s that time of year again.

It’s a time to make sure that we’re watching the right things so that we can navigate our businesses in the right direction.

Every year since 2013, I’ve been adding to and/or modifying a list of things that I’m keeping my eye on.

Most of the things that I thought were important in the past remain important today. The list just gets a little longer each year.

This list also helps keep me focused and serves as a public record to show whether or not I am watching the right things.

The Things to Watch List 2020

This is the list so far [with the year that the items were added]:

1) Rapid advancements in technology [2013]

2) Mobile (user experience and marketing) [2013]

3) Mobile payments [2013]

4) Mobile-influenced merchandising [2013]

5) Privacy issues [2013]

6) Emerging markets [2013]

7) The Internet of Things [2014]

8) The evolution of retail (including omni-channel retail) [2014]

9) A global marketplace [2014]

10) 3D printing [2014]

11) Cyberattacks [2014]

12) Ethics [2014]

13) Online video [2016]

14) RFID, NFC, and beacons [2016]

15) Augmented reality (AR) [2016]

16) Virtual reality (VR) [2016]

17) SEO for the Internet of Things [2016]

18) Experiential marketing [2016]

19) Wearables [2016]

20) Dynamic pricing [2017]

21) Machine learning & artificial intelligence (AI) [2017]

22) Voice-activated technology [2017]

23) Business collaboration with the competition [2017]

24) The evolution of work (changing skillsets required and the influence on the economy) [2017]

25) Robotics [2018]

26) Subscription business model [2018]

27) How online communications influence public opinion [2018]

28) Market research techniques for the 21st Century [2018]

29) Influencer marketing [2019]

30) Accessible marketing for people with disabilities [2019]

31) Sustainability brands [2019]

32) Health-conscious brands [2019]

33) Biometrics [2020]

34) Branded entertainment or advertainment [2020]

35) Blockchain [2020]

36) Cryptocurrency [2020]

37) Visual communications [2020]

38) Visual search & voice search [2020]

39) Audio communications & sonic branding [2020]

40) Algorithms influencing society [2020]

41) Haptic technology [2020]

42) In-game advertising (IGA) [2020]

43) Big data [2020]

44) Predictive analytics [2020]

45) 5G [2020]

A Few Things to Think About

This list is getting really long.

In fact, it grew a lot longer this year than I had planned.

When I was first thinking about this list, I thought I would have to add only one thing: 5G. (More on that in a minute.)

However, there were a lot of other things that I felt I needed to add.

As I said last year, there are also things like self-driving cars that didn’t make the list. Although some of these things are subsets of items currently on the list, they might get added to the list in the future.

And, as I also mentioned last year, there are also some things that digital marketing experts were talking about 10 years ago that should be revisited. These basics don’t get talked about enough now even though there are new business leaders entering the market each year. (It’s not always safe to assume that they learned about these things in college.)

Finally, I want to emphasize 5G one more time.

As time goes on, technology advances in ways that makes our lives better.

However, a lot of the newest technological advancements require other technologies that enable them to work.

If the experts that I have heard are correct, 5G is going to make a lot of things possible that just weren’t possible before. That’s cool.

Hopefully, it will be a start to an exciting decade!

So there you have it. If I missed anything that you think I should have included, please let me know in the comments below.

Photo credit: Johannes Plenio on Pexels.com.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Three 2019 Trends That Will Be Even More Important in the Future

white-black-laptop-computer-67472 (1)Welcome to 2020!

Before we charge forward into this new year with hope and vigor, I want to highlight three trends that I thought a lot about in 2019.

What Marketing Sounds Like

In the first few months of 2019, my primary focus was on voice recognition, voice-activated products, and the use of sound in marketing.

As we learned last year, podcasting crossed into the mainstream in 2019, with over 51% of Americans 12 and older saying that they have listened to at least one podcast in their lifetime, and 32% saying that they do so at least once a month.

More businesses also starting to think about sonic brand identity. This will become more important as more people start to use voice-activated products in their home, office, and on their commute to and from work.

It also has become apparent that voice search is gaining popularity. However, it seems like it is difficult to quantify how popular because there are many ways to use voice search (e.g., getting directions while driving, making a phone call, quickly checking the weather, searching for a business, etc.) that may or may not have been completed by searching on a traditional search engine now or in the past. Therefore, data will need to be aggregated from many different sources to calculate the exact percentage.

What we do know is that more people are using voice-activated technology to help them accomplish their tasks in their day-to-day lives.

Therefore, voice-activated technology should currently be on your radar. And, it definitely should be in your marketing toolbox in the next few years.

Algorithms Are the New Content Gatekeepers

It could possibly be the type of podcasts that I listen to or the types of books that I gravitate towards, but one issue that was brought up a lot last year by different people was how the algorithms used to find things when we do a search on Google or any of the other search engines are having a huge influence on what people see. The same is true for the content being uncovered on social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

While the intent of these algorithms is to uncover the best content, what often happens is that the algorithms tend to uncover the content that gets the most clicks, shares, likes, or backlinks. The problems is that this content is not necessarily the most accurate. This leads to a lot of people believing false claims.

Last summer, I wrote a series of posts that explains this issue further.

If you want to learn more, I would also suggest that you read, “Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest,” by Zeynep Tufekci. While the book does deal with other issues, Dr. Tufecki does explore some of the most troubling issues with content discovery on digital platforms.

Doubling Down on Visual Design

When writing about voice search in May of 2019, I uncovered a quote from Andrew Ng, then Chief Scientist at Baidu, that was published in a 2014 Fast Company article. In the article, Ng is cited as saying that “in five years time at least 50% of all searches are going to be either through images or speech.”

Basically, he was making a case for the fact that written communication on the Internet is going to become less important, or at the very least, image and voice searches will become more important (if you think of it as a bigger pie rather than more of the current one.)

Therefore, search engines will need to adapt.

While his prediction might have been a little optimistic in its timeline, the prediction seems to be solid.

As mentioned, voice search is growing.

And, A.I. and machine learning technology are improving the accuracy of visual search.

If you are an active Pinterest user, then you are already familiar with visual search. Google and Bing also have expanded their visual search capabilities.

As Andrew Ng pointed out, voice and visual search will only gain more popularity over time.

However, I am bullish on visual design for more reasons than that.

Visual design has always been important. However, with the increased demand for our attention coming from so many different places, visual design will become even more important as time goes on.

You can communicate many things quickly with images. Brands that get this will benefit.

Fast Company suggested this back in 2012. SocialMediaToday reminded us in 2017.

In 2019, I decided it was time to formally study this important area of marketing. So, I enrolled in a few classes at a local technical college and started my journey into learning more about graphic design.

That doesn’t mean this will become exclusively a graphic design blog. I still plan to use this as an outlet to explore many different areas of marketing communications.

And, I still believe that it is important to use the correct words when you write. Because, the written word will not be replaced entirely.

That said, I do think that brands that find ways to use sound and visual imagery effectively will lead the way.

Those that can use all the different forms of communication in one unified voice will really benefit.

If you do that, then the only issue left is finding a way to get found. Which brings us back algorithms.

More on that in future blog posts.

Photo credit: Skitterphoto on Pexels.com.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Algorithms Are the New Content Gatekeepers Part Three: Reputation Management and Online Rabbit Holes

Alice and the RabbitIf you are concerned about how online communications affect your business, it is important to remember that businesses are made up of people.

As people, we hopefully care about other people just as much or more than we care about making a profit.

After all, if we don’t look out for our customers, we might end up not having any.

It is therefore important that we identify how the world around us is influencing the lives of our current and potential customers so that we can change our communications strategy or even modify the type of product that we currently offer to them. We might even identify new products that can help fix the problems that they face.

For example, we should be watching how algorithms are having an effect on the content that users see. These algorithms often lead users down rabbit holes that expose them to very radical ideas.

Unless you are in a leadership position at one of the major search engines or social networking sites, the algorithms that these search engines and social networking sites use to help users discover new content are beyond our control. However, knowing how they can influence society, and in some cases cause harm, can and probably should change the way that we do business.

At the very least, it is important to know what is going on so that we can make informed decisions in our personal and professional lives.

Search Engines and Reputation Management

As pointed out in the last post, search engines use many different signals when determining what will show up on the first page of a Search Engine Results Page (SERP.)

While the factors that influence what shows up on page one of a SERP are constantly changing, it is safe to say that if there is a lot of negative content about you or your business online, there is a good chance that Google will find it.

If a person with a grudge against you or your business is adept at manipulating the search engine algorithms, you can be in for some pain.

As I pointed out in a post in 2015, experts have identified cases where the same tactics used by businesses to get found on a SERP were used to help sully the reputation of political figures. In one case, these tactics were used to spread a malicious and racist campaign that targeted Michelle Obama. While the leadership at Google made the choice to clean the search results for Michelle Obama and end the smear campaign against her, this doesn’t always happen.

It is therefore important to keep in mind that sometimes even the results found on page one of a SERP might not contain the best information about a topic. In fact, in some cases, the information found might not be accurate at all.

In other words, “User beware.”

From a business standpoint, it makes sense to monitor what is being said about your company and see what shows up when people do both branded and nonbranded keyword searches related to your company.

It is also important to monitor what is being said about you and your business on social networking sites, because these posts can and often do show up in a Google SERP.

That said, there are even more issues that you need to be aware of when we look at social media and algorithms. Some of these issues will be covered in the paragraphs that follow.

Social Media Is Business

Before we begin here, it needs to be pointed out that social networking sites are businesses.

In an article on The Guardian website, Natasha Schull, the author of Addition by Design, is quoted as saying, “In the online economy, revenue is a function of continuous consumer attention – which is measured in clicks and time spent.”

“Whether it’s Snapchat streaks, Facebook photo-scrolling, or playing CandyCrush, Schull explained, you get drawn into ‘ludic loops’ or repeated cycles of uncertainty, anticipation and feedback – and the rewards are just enough to keep you going,” the author of the article continues.

This is what helps the business sell itself to advertisers. If the site can deliver users who click on content and stay there, then it is assumed that it would be a good place for businesses to advertise their products.

That’s the way it currently is, clicks and time spent on the site get rewarded. I don’t think this is necessarily good or bad. It just is.

However, if social networking sites continue to deliver content primarily based on these criteria, the best content might not surface.

In fact, it appears that at least on YouTube, it is often outrageous or radical videos that get recommended to users. This often guides them down an online rabbit hole that can, if it goes unchecked, lead to them to even more outrageous or radical videos. If people start to believe these videos they will surely start to share them. This means they will often will be spreading of a lot of misinformation and “fake news.”

Down the Rabbit Hole

In case you are not familiar what we mean when we talk about rabbit holes, The Free Dictionary defines “go down the rabbit hole,” as “To enter into a situation or begin a process or journey that is particularly strange, problematic, difficult, complex, or chaotic, especially one that becomes increasingly so as it develops or unfolds. (An allusion to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.)”

To get an idea of how algorithms on social networking sites can lead you down an online rabbit hole, you might want to read an article published in the New York Times in 2018 that was written by Zeynep Tufekci, Ph.D.

“It seems as if you are never ‘hard core’ enough for YouTube’s recommendation algorithm,” writes Dr. Tufekci. “It promotes, recommends and disseminates videos in a manner that appears to constantly up the stakes. Given its billion or so users, YouTube may be one of the most powerful radicalizing instruments of the 21st century.”

Dr. Tufekci again points out that it is Google’s current business model that is to blame. As she points out, “The longer people stay on YouTube, the more money Google makes.”

“What keeps people glued to YouTube?” Dr. Tufekci continues. “Its algorithm seems to have concluded that people are drawn to content that is more extreme than what they started with – or to incendiary content in general.”

The conclusion that Dr. Tufekci makes is that one of the unintended consequences of YouTube’s recommendation algorithms is that after being exposed to these extreme videos, people get used to them and start to search out even more extreme videos.

Again, if this goes unchecked, we could end up with a lot of people believing a lot of extreme ideas that often are not based on verifiable facts.

“This situation is especially dangerous given how many people – especially young people – turn to YouTube for information,” writes Dr. Tufekci.

What You Can Do About It

It is unclear if there is a way to fix the problem.

As pointed out earlier, most of us don’t have any control over these algorithms.

Sure, government could step in. However, is government intervention the best answer? And, would they have the expertise to create laws that would fix the problem?

I’m not sure.

However, it is important that we teach people what is going on so that they can make educated decisions for themselves.

By spreading the word about what is going on you can help accomplish this goal.

From a business standpoint, it is also probably worth your time to research what is being said about your company on sites like YouTube. It is possible that YouTube users could be directed to false claims about your company that you thought were well in the rear-view mirror.

Photo credit: Matt Brown on Flickr. (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic — CC By 2.0)

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Algorithms Are the New Content Gatekeepers Part Two: Organizing the Web

Man closing a gate.It was not long after the World Wide Web was created that people began looking for ways to help users find content online.

In fact, the first website was created by Tim Berners-Lee on August 6, 1991. The first search engine, W3Catalog, was created only two years later. This was followed by Aliweb, JumpStation, Infoseek, WebCrawler, Yahoo!, Lycos, and many more.

Then in 1998 Google was founded and the way search engines found and prioritized content changed dramatically.

According to Wikipedia, “While conventional search engines ranked results by counting how many times the search terms appeared on the page, they theorized about a better system that analyzed the relationships among websites. They called this algorithm PageRank; it determined a website’ relevance by the number of pages, and the importance of those pages that linked back to the original site.”

Today, there are many different factors used by Google to rank content and determine what gets the coveted positions on page one on a Google Search Engine Results Page (SERP).

However, that is not really the point that of this post. The real point being is that maybe even before the old gatekeepers lost a great deal of their power, new gatekeepers were being created.

Once again, we are almost right back to the same place where we started.

A Way to Get Found Online—Search Engine Optimization

In an effort to circumvent the new gatekeeper, or maybe earn favor with it, businesses started to use tactics that we now refer to as search engine optimization (SEO).

As a post on Search Engine Journal (SEJ) points out, “Although it could be argued that SEO and all things search engine marketing began with the launch of the first website published in 1991, or perhaps when the first web search engine launched, the story of SEO “officially” begins a bit later, around 1997.”

“Ranking high on search engines in 1997 was still a pretty new concept,” the author writes. “It was also very directory driven.”

That was, until Google changed everything.

“Although links were only one component of Google’s overall ranking algorithm, SEO practitioners latched onto links as being the most important factor – and an entire sub-industry of link building was created,” the SEJ post continues. “Over the next decade, it became a race to acquire as many links as possible in the hopes of ranking higher and links became a heavily abused tactic that Google would have to address in coming years.”

As anyone involved with SEO knows, the tactics needed to achieve a high ranking on a Google SERP are constantly changing.

In fact, recent developments in technology have dramatically changed SEO once again.

When Google announced the use of machine learning (ML) with Google RankBrain in October of 2015, a new era of search was being ushered in.

“Since that time, Google has expanded RankBrain to run on every search,” the author of the SEJ post writes. “While RankBrain impacts ranking, it isn’t a ranking factor in the traditional sense, where you get rewarded with better rankings for doing x, y, and z.”

While it is an exciting time for SEO practitioners, it is becoming harder to tell what the search engine gatekeeper will reward.

As the SEJ post points out, there still are things that can be done to get found in Google.

However, with the use of machine learning, it appears that the way to get ranked in organic search is going to be less formulaic.

Given that it is machine learning helping make the rules, will we end up with issues that we are finding in social media today? This is something that I will explore in a future post.

But first, let’s look at getting found on social media from a purely business perspective.

Getting Found on Social Media

In the early days of social media, most of the social networking sites displayed posts in reverse-chronological order.

That worked okay at first.

However, as more people joined, the social networking sites needed to find ways for people to find new content that they might not otherwise find. Again, this was accomplished by creating algorithms that reward specific behaviors.

From a business perspective, your company wants to get its message out there to sell more stuff or accomplish some other business goal.

This is great! You just need to please the new gatekeeper and optimize your content to meet the ever-changing requirements of each social networking site.

If that is the intent, sproutsocial has a post that offers some great suggestions.

However, as even the sproutsocial post points out, the algorithms are not perfect.

“There are plenty of instances of algorithms seemingly “hiding” content on Facebook at random despite being optimized to a T,” the author of the post writes. “On the flip side, there’s a well-documented phenomenon on YouTube of videos surging to millions of views out of nowhere after being recommended to seemingly random viewers.”

“Oh, and algorithms are constantly evolving, attempting to work out the kinks and provide the best user experience possible,” the post continues. “As a result, marketers have to constantly adapt to ‘em. This means consistently experimenting with content and changing up marketing strategies.”

Paying for Access

Whether optimizing content for search engines or social networking sites, it takes a lot of work and knowhow.

Many businesses don’t have the time or expertise to be able to optimize their content to reach the right users online.

Luckily, many of the search engines and social networking sites offer you the option to pay to get your content in front of users.

In the end, whether you pay someone to optimize your content to be found organically or you pay the site directly to get your content shown to users, you are still having to pay someone to help you get past the gatekeeper.

Indeed, we are right back to the place where we started.

Photo credit: Luca Sartoni on Flickr. (Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic — CC By-SA 2.0)

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Algorithms Are the New Content Gatekeepers: An Introduction

Palace GuardPrior to the Internet, if you had a movie you wanted to make, a book that you wanted to write, a song that you wanted people to hear, or you wanted to take part in just about any other creative endeavor, you had to find the right person or company to help you get your work in front of the right audience.

Even people with everyday products would have to find someone to help spread the word about their products so that people would purchase them.

In other words, whether you wanted to distribute your content or market a product or service, you had to get the attention of the right gatekeeper who would grant you access to the media channels needed to reach the people you wanted reach.

Then the Internet was created and the game changed. Or did it?

The Death of the Gatekeeper

In the early days, people were praising the Internet for the way it helped content creators who might never have been discovered make a living doing what they love because they could now connect with their fans and customers directly, thus bypassing the gatekeeper.

And, these people were and still are correct.

As a 2017 post on the strategy& website points out, “The amount of digital content created, exchanged, and consumed is growing by the day across the world, and because the Internet has democratized access to creation and distribution tools, boundaries between professional and amateur content are blurring across all parts of the creative sector.”

The post introduces a report released by strategy&, part of the PwC network.

According to the report, “Increasingly, the power is shifting to the consumers, who decide what they want to make, what they want to consume, and how and when they want to consume.”

Keep in mind, the old gatekeepers still have a role to play, they just have more competition.

As the study points, “Traditional media players must now compete with purely digital brands and platforms for the time and attention of the consumer.”

In other words, content creators can now avoid the traditional gatekeepers if they want to and still reach the right audience.

Long Live the Gatekeeper

While traditional gatekeepers have lost some of their power, thought leaders are beginning to warn us of a new gatekeeper that might have even more influence over what we consume.

While content creation and distribution tools are now becoming less expensive and are open to nearly everyone, some of these same tools are making it increasing difficult for some content to reach its intended target audience.

The reason for this is due to the fact that discovery of new content on many online platforms is controlled by algorithms that tend to reward certain behaviors and therefore don’t always highlight the most important or best content.

Part two and three in this series of posts will provide further explanation about how algorithms control what gets seen by consumers and how it can have an impact on society, as well as some additional business implications for your brand.

Additional posts will highlight some specific case studies and give possible suggestions about what we can do about it, both as content creators and content consumers.

Photo credit: Brian Teutsch on Flickr. (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic — CC By 2.0)

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Think About What You’re Sharing Online Part 2: Words Have Power

Social Sharing AppsAs you already know, there is a lot of information being shared on the Internet.

As you also hopefully know, just because it is on the Internet doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s true.

In a post last year, I warned readers to fact-check the statistics that they are sharing online, because there are a lot of ways that numbers can be manipulated or misquoted to support ideas that are completely and totally false.

But the statistics are only part of the equation.

In fact, it might be the words that we choose to use in our social media posts or online articles that can have the most power.

While I have covered many of these topics in the past, I think now is a good time to point them out again given the fact that people, including our leaders in government, are using online tools to reach other people directly, thus bypassing the old gatekeepers who also served as fact-checkers.

This would be okay if the people sharing the information always posted verifiable facts. However, what they are often sharing is misinformation and half-truths designed to help them achieve their underlying goals.

While this might help the person in the short-term, spreading information that is not factually correct can have a negative effect on the brand, particularly if the person spreading the information is the brand.

Furthermore, given the nature of social media and the desire to be the first to post about a topic, we need to remember that typos do happen. Therefore, even people posting information online with the purest intent can end up sharing erroneous information that can eventually go viral if the typo is not found and corrected. Even then, the erroneous information could continue to spread after it is corrected—more on that later.

The rest of this post is intended to point out some of the things that people should think about before sharing content online.

Again, many of the topics below were covered in previous posts. When possible, links to the previous posts will be included within the short summary of the topic.

Note: This post is written with the consumer of the information in mind. However, these concepts can also help businesses make sure that they are not sharing information online that might eventually do much more harm than good to their reputation.

The Importance of Reliable Sources

As I pointed out last year, maybe the most important thing that you can do when evaluating the information posted online is to ask yourself whether or not the source providing the information is credible.

If you are not familiar with the source, be skeptical.

If the source of post is a reliable news outlet, more than likely the information was fact-checked. However, even experts make mistakes. Whenever possible go to the original source to verify the validity of the post.

Checking with snopes.com can often uncover erroneous information that is being spread online.

The Words That We Choose to Use Matter

In the English language, there are many ways to say the same thing.

Many academic studies have been done to prove that the words used and the way that the messages are phrased can influence the way that people respond to what is being said.

In fact, changing just one word can have a huge impact.

The words that we use often say a lot about the intent of the post and reveal things about the person posting it as well. Furthermore, if you share someone else’s post, it could also influence the way that you are seen by other people.

To make things even more complicated, the words that we use can have different meanings in other cultures, thus influencing how the post is being interpreted by different readers.

If you are looking for a place to start to learn more about how the words and phrases we choose to use influence the way others interpret what is being said, I’d suggest reading “Words that Work: It’s Not What You Say, It’s What People Hear” by Dr. Frank Luntz.

Typos and Omitted Words Can Change the Meaning

Unless we are dealing with bots, and there are a lot of them, the posts that we read online are being written by a human.

And, humans make mistakes. Even people at respected media outlets like the Huffington Post.

Whether it is in an article or a post on Twitter, a typo or an omitted word can change how people interpret what you are trying to say.

It is therefore important to take the time to proof what you post online. And, again, if possible fact-check posts from others before sharing them.

Not Everyone Sees the Correction or Retraction

Here’s where social media complicates matters.

By the very nature of social media, people often share things quickly without thinking about it and move on to something else.

Therefore, when there is a correction or retraction to something posted online, many of the people who saw and shared the original post won’t see the correction.

To make matters worse, unless the correction is made to the original source, people often will continue to the share erroneous information after it has been corrected.

Things Get Changed When They’re Shared

When reading posts online, I often remember “The Telephone Game.”

In the Telephone Game, a message is given to the first person in a line of people and then he or she is told to pass the message on to next person in line by whispering it in their ear. This continues from person to person until it gets to the end of the line. At that point, the last person announces the message to the group.

In most cases, what is announced at the end is significantly different from the message given to the first person in line.

Even though social media posts are often written communications, people often paraphrase what is said when they share it online, while others add their own commentary.

In some cases, changes need to be made in order to fit the character restrictions on the specific social media platform.

In many ways, social media is just like the Telephone Game.

Given the fact that changing even just one word can make a huge difference, it is generally a good idea to be skeptical about what you read on social media.

People See What They Want to See

While this might not influence what is being shared, it is important to remember that everyone brings with them their own thoughts, feelings, biases, and life experiences.

When we read a post online, we tend to see what we want to see.

Therefore, even if two people read the same post, the way that they interpret it might be completely different.

People Are Sharing Ideas in Unseen Ways

One of the final things that I want to point out is that people often find out about something on one social networking site and share it on another.

For example, they might see a post on Facebook and share it on Twitter, or vice versa. Or they might email it to a friend or just call a coworker over to their desk to have them read it from their screen.

As Dr. Jonah Berger, professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania pointed out in his book, titled “Contagious: Why Things Catch On,” most word of mouth happens offline.

In fact, only about seven percent of word of mouth happens online.

If a person shares online content with another person offline, we have another opportunity for the Telephone Game to take place. If the person receiving the message offline then posts something online, it is again possible that erroneous information will be spread.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t believe anything being shared online. It’s just that there are a lot of things that can happen when things get shared, both online and offline.

All of these things can potentially change the meaning of the message entirely.

As I mentioned earlier in this post, the words that we use often say a lot about the intent of the post and reveal things about the person posting it as well.

Furthermore, if you share someone else’s post, it could also influence the way that you are seen by other people.

Photo credit: ijclark on Flickr. (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic — CC By 2.0)

 

 

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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New Research Reveals How Many U.S. Adults Currently Own Smart Speakers

Two smart speakers on a tableAccording to the Smart Audio Report Spring 2019 that was conducted by NPR and Edison Research, only 21 percent of Americans age 18 or older own a smart speaker. This translates to roughly 53 million people.

Interestingly, about half of American adults who own smart speakers report that they own more than one, with 30% reporting that they own three or more.

According to the report there was a 78% increase in the number of smart speakers in U.S. households, increasing from 66.7 million in December 2017 to 118.5 million in December 2018.

The fact that many people own more than one smart speaker partially explains how we can have such a dramatic increase in the number of smart speakers in U.S. households and still find that only about one in five American adults own them.

Interest in Smart Speakers Among Those Who Don’t Own One

When the researchers asked people who don’t own a smart speaker whether or not they are interested in owning one, 11% said that that they were very interested and another 9% show some interest. In contrast, 43% said that they were not at all interested in smart speakers.

The report also points out that adults age 18 to 54 show more interest in smart speakers than their older counterparts.

Reasons Why Interested U.S. Adults Who Don’t Own Smart Speakers Haven’t Purchased One Yet

The report also asked U.S. adults who said that they are interested in owning a smart speaker but haven’t purchased one yet the reason for not owning one.

The most common response was that they worry hackers could use the smart speakers to get access to their home or personal information. In total 63% gave this response in 2019 compared to 41% in 2017.

Other common responses included the fact that it bothered them that smart speakers are always listening (55%), voice-enabled speakers are too expensive (53%), and that they worry that smart speakers could allow the government to listen to their private conversations (40%).

As the report points out, people who currently own smart speakers share some of these same concerns, but choose to use the technology anyway.

The Smart Audio Report 2019 Webinar

What follows is a webinar that was created by Edison Research and NPR and was posted on YouTube in June of 2019.

In the webinar, they summarize the report and provide a lot of other interesting information about the ways people use smart speakers.

Additional Resources

I plan to write more about this topic in future blog posts. When I do, I will update this post and include links below.

 

Photo credit: BestAI Assistant on Flickr.

Video credit: edisonsurvey on YouTube.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Ignoring Your Potential Customers With Disabilities Will Affect Your Bottom Line

Handicap sign outside a buildingAccording to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “61 million adults in the United States live with a disability.”

Let that sink in for a minute.

About one in four adults in the United States have some form of disability. Many of these people are your customers or potential customers.

Given the fact that more people develop disabilities as they get older, some people who currently don’t have a disability will develop one in the future.

Now, think about how you created your latest marketing campaign.

Did you take into account these people and their needs when developing this campaign? How about when you designed your website or mobile app?

If the answer to these questions is no, you could be leaving a lot of money on the table.

If your business does not cater to the needs of disabled customers, those customers might go to a competitor that does.

Ignoring Customers With Disabilities Could Result In Legal Battles

Need more incentive to cater to people with disabilities? In September of 2010, the Department of Justice published the 2010 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Standards for Accessible Design. These standards generally cover accessibility to your business in the offline world.

However, while the DOJ has yet to finish setting the rules for website accessibility, companies are already finding out that not having a website or mobile app that is accessible to all customers could be a huge oversight with painful consequences. In other words, if your website or mobile apps are not accessible to disabled customers, your business could be sued.

Keep in mind, disabilities that have an effect on how easy it is for customers to use your website and mobile apps are not limited to those involving the ears and eyes.

As a post on the DYNO Mapper blog points out, cognitive issues, voice difficulties, seizure triggers, limited hand motor skills, involuntary motion, neurological disorders, repetitive motion disorders (RMD), inability to speak, sensitivity to color, or a combination of any of these can make it difficult for customers and prospects to interact with your business. And, this probably is not an all-inclusive list.

Also keep in mind, even people without a permanent disability have accidents or illnesses that can make it difficult to interact with your company online if the website is not designed correctly.

If your competitors make it easier to interact with them when your customers and prospects are temporarily disabled, I wonder who these people will do business with after they heal.

Additional Resources

As mentioned, it is important to serve customers with disabilities both online and offline. While both are of the utmost importance, I plan to focus most of my future disability-related blog posts on the online component only. When I do, I will update this post and include a link below for reference.

Photo credit: Marco Verch on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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