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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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The Importance of Photo-Worthy Visual Merchandising and Store Design

Instagrammable shirtsFor years, retailers have obsessed over every detail of the brick-and-mortar store, with the goal of optimizing the shopping experience to get customers to spend more money.

Store designers would examine the design and placement of the signs that are found throughout the store, where the shopping carts are located, what music is playing in the background, where the cash registers are located, what department is located where, etc.

However, with the advent of mobile phones and the increased use of social media, many retailers are being forced to change the way they design the store.

One of the things that retailers are now thinking about is whether or not the store inspires customers to take a photo of the store and post it on Instagram or any of the other social networking sites out there.

In the long run, having a photo-worthy store could be more important to the bottom line than one might think.

A Majority of U.S. Adults Use Social Media

According to a new Pew Research Center survey, roughly two-thirds of U.S. adults (68%) are Facebook users, 35% use Instagram, 29% use Pinterest, 27% use Snapchat, 24% use Twitter, and 22% use WhatsApp.

It is also interesting to note that over half of current Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram users visit these social networking sites on a daily basis.

This means that there are a lot of opportunities for retailers to get their stores featured in customers’ social media posts.

The key is giving customers a reason to post a photo or comment about the store online.

Is Your Store Instagrammable?

One of the ways to get featured on your customers’ social media posts is to create a shopping environment that just begs to be photographed.

Therefore, it is not surprising that many retail experts have started to use the adjective “Instagrammable” to describe the way a store is designed.

“Instagrammable” could be translated as a photo-worthy location or item that inspires customers to actually take a photo of and then upload it to any social networking site. Because Instagram is known for being able to make ordinary photos look extraordinary with filters, people tend to use that social networking site to represent all the other social networking sites that their customers use.

Others claim that “Instagrammable” goes beyond that.

In an article titled, “Do It For The ‘Gram: How Instagram is Changing the Design Industry,” Lucy Leonard contends that, “Consumers nowadays want to lead Instagram-worthy lives.”

“What does this mean, you ask?” she continues. “It means spending more money on cool, Instagrammable experiences. It means living a life full of adventure—or at least posting pictures that make it seem like you do.”

The way stores create this type of shopping environment will vary from store to store. Therefore, it is beyond the scope of this post.

Final Thoughts

The intention of this post is to point out that retailers need to start thinking about store design not only from their current customers’ perspectives, but also from the perspective of all the potential customers their current shoppers are connected to.

If a user sees the store in a post on a social networking site, there is a chance that it will influence his or her decision to shop at the store in the future.

Therefore, in addition to getting the current shopper to spend more money, now store designers also need to encourage customers to take photos of their shopping experience and upload them for their friends and family to see online.

Furthermore, store designers need to make sure that the store will be portrayed in a positive light and in a way that is consistent with the brand’s image.

Retailers also need to keep in mind that some customers might wonder if it is acceptable to take a picture of a store display while in the store.

Therefore, once you have created a store design that you think is “Instagrammable,” it is important to encourage in-store photography!

But, don’t get too carried away, because asking customers to take photos could make it look like you are begging, or even worse, it could backfire and create bad feelings.

This topic and others associated with the post will be explored, in detail, in future posts.

Photo credit: YL Tan on Flickr. (Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic license – CC BY-ND 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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Social Media Props: The H-E-B Limited Edition Selena Shopping Bag (Case Study)

HEB store“Fans of the late “Queen of Tejano” Selena Quintanilla caused the website of Texas-based supermarket chain H-E-B to crash after they released a limited-edition reusable shopping bag honoring the singer,” writes Thatiana Diaz in a March 9th post on people.com.

H-E-B clearly hit a homerun when it teamed up with the Selena Foundation to sell a limited quantity of special-edition shopping bags that honored the late singer Selena Quintanilla.

However, the real story goes beyond the fact that people waited in line to buy the bags or that the bags sold out so fast.

The real win was all the earned media coverage that the brand received when fans of the singer posted photos of the bags online and the press covered the story after the bags sold out so quickly and caused the H-E-B website to crash in the process.

The Selena Bags Generated a Great Deal of Earned Media

In addition to the article on people.com, the story was covered on today.com, popsugar.com, retailwire.com, and on local news affiliates’ websites around the country.

This definitely helped put the brand front and center, making it visible to a lot of potential customers.

And, as most marketers know, the best thing a brand can get is a positive mention of the brand from a customer on social media, as friends and family are the best influencers out there.

So, when fans went online in droves to post photos of the bags, as well as photos of the lines of people waiting to receive their bags, the retailer scored… big time!

To see what people posted, search for #SelenayHEB or #Selenabag on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook.

Here are just some of the posts that I found on Instagram and Twitter:


Yayyyy! Thank you so much Mr. Q !!💜💜 #queenofcumbia #selenayheb @heb

A post shared by Isabel Marie💗 (@isabelmarieofficial) on

Got some! #heb #selena #queenofcumbia #anythingforselenas #selenayheb

A post shared by Monica Velasquez (@lemon78644) on

Im so excited I was able to grab a couple of these!! #SelenayHEB

A post shared by Gabrielle Nichole (@gabbyrielles) on

Anything for Selenas. #SelenayHEB A post shared by Lisa Letchworth (@512panthacat) on

QUEEN OF CUMBIA!!!! #heb #selenayheb #vivaselena A post shared by Cristina Davila (@cristybexar) on

ME SIENTO MUY… EXCITED!! WE GOT OURS!!!💓💓💓 #SelenayHEB A post shared by Bek🏋🏽🐾🍕🌮🧀 (@yourstrulybek) on


The Limited Edition Selena Bag as a Social Media Prop

This isn’t the first time that I have written about shopping bags as a way to get a store mentioned in user-generated posts in social media.

In fact, it was about two years ago that I wrote a post explaining how to use visually appealing luxury shopping bags as photo props to get included in the posts when customers upload photos of their in-store purchases after a long day of shopping.

In this case, though, the shopping bag was not only used to carry home the products purchased, it was the product.

A product that was the star of a lot of photos posted online shortly after the bags went on sale.

The Upside of “Sold Out”

Because the sale of the bag helped the Selena Foundation while honoring the beloved singer, I think H-E-B did almost everything right.

I say H-E-B did almost everything right, because the website did go down and they did run out of bags on the first day. Clearly there was more demand than the store anticipated.

But then again, maybe the fact that they ran out so fast was also a good thing, because the limited quantity of the bags increased their perceived value. If you don’t believe me, just look what they are selling for on eBay! (Many have sold for over $50 per bag, with one selling on March 7, 2018 for $169!)

And, if the website hadn’t crashed, would the press have covered it? Who knows? Therefore, that might be a good thing, as well.

Final Thoughts

As I have said before, offering customers a trendy shopping bag is a great way for retailers to get included in the post-purchase photos that customers upload to social networking sites after a long day of shopping.

As highlighted in this post, H-E-B offered a limited edition reusable shopping bag that honored a beloved singer and benefited the Selena Foundation. In this case, the bag was the product.

A product that a lot of customers wanted, as demonstrated by the long lines and the many posts on social networking sites from customers bragging that they got the bag or complaining that they weren’t able to purchase one.

Either way, the reusable shopping bag honoring Selena Quintanilla generated a lot of earned media for the store. And, that is a good thing.

On that note, I want to end the post with a YouTube video from a customer who just missed out on getting the bag. He was gracious even though he waited in line only to leave empty handed… twice! (He waited in line in the store and couldn’t get a bag online before the website crashed.) Hopefully, he will still be able to purchase the bag online on eBay.

Photo credit: Todd Morris on Flickr. (Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license – CC BY-SA 2.0.)

Video credit: Aaron Sanchez 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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Charity Runner: The Beginning of a Fundraising Journey

Photo credit: chadjthiele on Instagram.Note: This post deviates from the regular voice of this blog. It is meant to document the beginning of my fundraising efforts for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation. I am posting it because it will give some context to future posts. It also lets readers know where else they can find me on the Internet.

This year is my fifth year serving on the event planning committee for the Twin Cities Take Steps Walk, a fundraiser that benefits the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation.

As their website points out, “Take Steps for Crohn’s & Colitis is the Foundation’s largest fundraising event of local community walks dedicated to raising funds to find cures for Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Participants and teams raise funds throughout the year and come together at the Take Steps walk event to celebrate their fundraising achievements!”

As part of the event planning committee, I help plan one of the Take Steps walks to help others raise money for this important cause. However, I never actually took part in the fundraising efforts. That is, until this year.

From Crohn’s Patient to Charity Runner

I chose to help with the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation Take Steps Walk because I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease in 1995 while attending the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Without getting into all the details, I can say that I was able to keep the disease in check for nearly two decades with the help of medication.

However, in September of 2013 I was told that I would have to have surgery as a result of complications that were caused by the disease.

In the months that followed, I decided that it was time to try to increase my fitness to prepare for the surgery.

This is part of the reason that I started running in the summer of 2014.

In fact, at the time, I decided that if I was going to take up running, I would gradually train myself to run the full 26.2 miles to complete a marathon.

The first year I ran several 5k races.

In 2015 I increased the distance to 10 miles and then upped the mileage to 13.1 miles in 2016.

Then, just before my 43rd birthday, I called up the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation to say that I was ready to raise money as a Team Challenge charity runner in the 2017 Chicago Marathon. (Team Challenge is similar to Take Steps, but participants run instead of walk.)

Documenting My Team Challenge Run

In an effort to document my training for the marathon, I started a sideblog on Tumblr (charityrunner.tumblr.com) and a YouTube channel (Charity Runner).

You can also connect on mapmyrun.com.

I am also going to be posting on my Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter accounts. I am @chadjthiele on all three of these social networking sites. (Note: I try to keep my Twitter focused on marketing, but I post running updates every once in a while.)

And, of course, there is the fundraising page on the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation website.

Final Thoughts

As I mentioned, I have helped other people raise money for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation for a few years. However, I didn’t take part in the actual fundraising efforts.

That was, until this year.

At the end of the journey, I plan to document some of the things that I learn along the way. (For example, company matching donations are awesome!)

Until then, please follow me on the social networking sites that I mentioned above and donate!

Thanks in advance.

Chad Thiele (Crohn’s patient since 1995)

Photo credit: chadjthiele on Instagram.

Video credit: Charity Runner 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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Finding Influenceable Consumers: Is There an App for That?

As I mentioned in a previous post, there are many problems that people encounter when they attempt to measure social influence.

Since writing that post, I’ve been thinking that maybe the method that people are using to find influencers is all wrong.

Or, maybe, I don’t completely understand how Klout is measuring social influence. (But, then again, it doesn’t sound like many people do.)

There is also the possibility that what I am thinking about really isn’t Influencer Marketing at all.

To get to the bottom of it, please give me a moment to explain my thought process, and then you can decide what option is correct, if any.

Influencer Marketing Defined

Wikipedia currently defines Influencer Marketing as, “…a form of marketing that has emerged from a variety of recent practices and studies, in which focus is placed on specific key individuals (or types of individual) rather than the target market as a whole. It identifies the individuals that have influence over potential buyers, and orients marketing activities around these influencers.”

What If You Can’t Change Their Mind?

It occurred to me that some people are set in their ways, and no matter what an influential person told them, there is no way that they are going to change their mind. Let’s call these people the “Unreceptives.”

On the other end of the spectrum, there are people who are willing to try anything. Therefore, they will be easily influenced by almost anyone who has a reasonable product or service to try. For the purpose of this post, let’s call these people the “Receptives.”

I’m guessing that most people fall somewhere in between these two extremes.

Is It Really Influence?

Just because a person who has a lot of connections to people who take a specific action after being encouraged to do so by said person, doesn’t necessarily make that person influential. He or she might just have a lot of followers who fall into the “Receptives” end of the spectrum.

The App That I’m Looking For

From what I understand, the current measures of influence start with the person and then measure how many people take specific actions online in response to the information that said person posts on the Internet (even if that person did not ask his or her followers to do so.)

From there the person is evaluated and given a score that can be used for many different purposes, including, in theory, Influencer Marketing.

What I’m thinking about is flipping the process around and starting with users, in general.

In other words, measuring how many times a person takes a specific action and rating them based on where they fall on the “Receptive” vs. “Unreceptive” spectrum that I talked about earlier. (Note: For social influence, it would only be whether or not they share a lot of information online, but it could hypothetically be used for other conversions, no matter how they are defined—the person using the app could decide that.)

This data could be combined with other demographic data available to create a lead score, of sorts. (For the purpose of this post, let’s call it a Receptivity Score.)

From there, the app would be able to identify groups of users who are most likely to be receptive to a brand’s product or service and generate a list of people who these people follow.

Users of the app would be able to aggregate the data to find people who have the most followers who meet the desired Receptivity Score threshold.

The Pros and Cons of This Method

As mentioned, an app of this sort would allow people to identify people (let’s call them “Influencers”, although that terminology would now be arguable) who have the most followers who meet the desired Receptivity Score threshold. It would also allow people to target “Influencers” who have many followers who are meeting this Receptivity Score threshold and are not being reached by the other “Influencers” who were previously identified, thus allowing users to fill in the gaps and reach more “Receptives” without too much redundancy.

This method would also help brands target “Influencers” based on the topic, because it would take into account specific characteristics of the target audience, not just the characteristics of the “Influencer.”

The downside is that this type of app would take a lot of computational power. (I think that this would still be the case even if the “Influencers” were identified using a sample of users.)

There is also the problem of getting demographic data. However, this problem can partially be solved by using Facebook data. (Note: This assumes that most people are giving valid demographic data to Facebook, in the first place. But, that is an issue to be looked at some other time.)

And, of course, there are always privacy issues and ethics to consider.

Finally, users of the app would still need to consider whether or not the “Influencer” that the app identified is a good fit for the brand, the product or service, and the message.

Final Thoughts

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, this might be a better way to find the “Influencers” that brands target when they include Influencer Marketing in their marketing mix.

It is possible that there is an app out there that already does this.

It might also be the case that this app is still impossible to create.

And, finally, this also brings up the question as to whether or not it would still be called Influencer Marketing if this methodology for finding “Influencers” is used.

Either way, I’m still wondering if it is possible. And, if so, is there currently an app for that?

Photo credit: 401(K) 2013 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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HubPages, Squidoo and Getting Paid to Use Facebook

Recently, I joined HubPages as a way to help get the word out about my blog and possibly earn a little income by writing.

If you are not familiar with HubPages, it is an online community designed to help writers share their content.

The site allows users (a.k.a. “Hubbers”) to post articles (a.k.a. “Hubs”) on the site.

One of the benefits of using the site to publish Hubs is that it is set up in much the same way as a standard social networking site is.

When you sign up for the site, you can follow other Hubbers and Hubbers can follow you.

To encourage participation within the community, you earn a HubScore and receive accolades for participation (these are similar to the badges that you receive on Foursquare.)

Hubbers can also share another person’s Hubs with their followers, thus making it easier for good content to be spread.

As I alluded to, you can also earn income on HubPages through Google Adsense, the Amazon and eBay affiliate programs, and through the HubPages Ad Program.

It is this aspect of the site that got me thinking.

Monetizing Social Networking Sites

When people talk about monetizing a social networking site, they are talking about finding ways to make money from the site.

As is the case with many social networking sites, HubPages makes money off of display advertising. However, unlike many of those social networking sites, with its Ad Program, HubPages lets the Hubber keep the earnings from 60% of the impressions and HubPages gets the rest. (This encourages Hubbers to post quality content.)

For the record, HubPages is not the only site that lets users earn money. Squidoo, the site that was started by Seth Godin, uses a similar revenue-sharing model.

I wonder if this is something that Facebook could do to earn more money.

While I haven’t fully thought this through, I’m thinking that if Facebook paid users a portion of the revenue that they received from Facebook Ads when their content was viewed by other users either via the timeline or on their profile, it would encourage users to use the site more often and post more valuable content. (It could also help increase the time that users spend on the site.)

Facebook could use a formula similar to EdgeRank to determine how valuable the content is and how much the user should receive.

This definitely would make me want to use the site more often.

However, more importantly, it might get users to actually notice and interact with the advertising on the page.

You see, since I started using HubPages, I have started noticing display ads more often, at least the ones on HubPages. I know that those ads will possibly make me some money, so I at least look to see what ads are showing up based on the content on the page.

If users know that they are going to be making money based on the ads that run on Facebook, they might start noticing the Facebook ads, too. (This would be a great experiment for a neuromarketer to test.)

And, once you get users to notice the ads, there is a good chance that they will start to click them.

Therefore, even though Facebook would be giving away a small portion of the ad revenue, Facebook would still benefit if the total ad revenue increased substantially.

Why Facebook Should Pay You for Your Personal Info

I’m not the only one to suggest that Facebook pay its users.

In an article posted on money.cnn.com, David Goldman explains that in order for Facebook to increase its revenue, a pair of New York University business school professors are suggesting that Facebook pay users for the privilege of selling their personal information.

As the article mentions, “Here’s the idea: Facebook would pay its users a nominal fee — say $10 a month — for the right to send their relevant personal information to advertisers. Companies looking to advertise their products or brands to a specific group of people would pay Facebook for that data and for the ability to directly market to those individuals.”

As the author of the article explains, Facebook could add a new revenue stream, and increase the company’s transparency and trustworthiness at the same time, by giving users the ability to make money by opting in to such a program.

Potential Drawbacks of Paying Facebook Users

There is definitely the possibility that paying Facebook users could backfire on the company.

Let’s look at both ideas separately, starting with the idea that I suggested.

First, as I pointed out before, paying Facebook users a portion of the ad revenues will likely make users even more aware of the advertising. This could turn some people off.

Furthermore, users wouldn’t really make all the much money unless they post a lot of content, are connected to a lot of people and those connections interact with the content—a lot.

People might also question whether or not the social media giant was giving them their agreed-to ad revenue, particularly if they used a formula that is difficult for users to understand (i.e., one that is similar to EdgeRank.)

There is also the possibility that people would game the system by creating fake accounts, liking and interacting with their own content and clicking ads just to make money.

If Facebook went the route that the New York University business school professors suggest, it could run into similar issues, including having users game the system by creating fake accounts, losing trust and credibility if users question whether their data is worth more than $10 a month, and possibly losing users because they would be even more aware of the site monetization.


Facebook is going to have to find additional ways to make money with the site to increase revenues in order to satisfy their investors.

Paying users to use the site is an interesting idea that could increase revenues. However, there is the possibility that it could backfire.

As I mentioned, I haven’t thought this through completely, but it is an interesting idea.

So, what are your thoughts? Do you think it would be a good idea for Facebook to pay its users?

Photo credit: tellumo 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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Facial Recognition Technology and Privacy: Is a Deal Really Worth It?

When you mention facial recognition technology, many people cringe and think of an invasion of privacy that will lead to the government tracking their every move and taking away their civil liberties.

On the other hand, when facial recognition technology is mentioned to other people, they get excited about all the possible cool things that can be done, from improved security systems to marketing opportunities.

Where you stand on this issue is probably going to determine how you feel about a new high-tech loyalty program that is being tested by redpepper, an advertising agency with offices in Atlanta and Nashville.

But, before we get into that further, I want to refresh your memory about another use of facial recognition technology that I talked about in a post last month.

In the post, I mentioned digital signage that is using facial recognition technology that helps identify basic demographics (gender, approximate age, body type, etc.) of the consumers who are looking at the digital sign and then uses that information to deliver relevant ads to them.

Personally, I think that this use of facial recognition technology is harmless because it is only identifying the characteristics of the person, not who the person is. In other words, the consumer’s face is not being matched to a large database to identify their exact identity.

It’s a good thing that I didn’t argue that such a database doesn’t even exist, because only a few days later, I learned that there is a database that I didn’t even think about—Facebook.

Here’s where redpepper enters the story.


As an article on the Los Angeles Times website reports, “A new app is being tested in Nashville, Tenn., that can check in people on Facebook and send them offers using facial-recognition cameras.”

“Called Facedeals, the new service uses cameras installed at businesses’ front doors to read people’s faces as they enter,” the article continues. “If the people who come in are users of the app, they will be checked in, and based on their “like” history, they would receive a customized offer.”

Keep in mind, the idea of getting a deal based on checking in is not new. Businesses around the country are doing the same thing using Foursquare and other location-based social networking sites. In fact, last year I wrote a blog post about Concentrics Restaurants in Atlanta, Georgia. With the help of PlacePunch, Concentrics Restaurants was doing a really great job of offering deals to loyal customers who checked in on Foursquare, Facebook, Gowalla or Yelp.

It appears that the main difference is that Facedeals uses facial recognition technology to check a consumer in every time they enter an establishment that participates in the program. In addition, Facedeals also customizes the deal offered based on the participants “likes” on Facebook.

You can find additional information about Facedeals on the redpepper website.

Privacy Issues

If you search YouTube, you will find that there are people who are letting their opinions be known, both for and against Facedeals.

As you would expect, the normal privacy issues are being brought to the forefront.

Personally, I’m not against using facial recognition technology in this manner. The main reason for my stance is that it is opt in.

However, other people could argue that Facedeals could still track you based on your Facebook profile information even if you don’t opt in and just not tell you. But, let’s face it, the government might already be doing this.

The only problem that I have with Facedeals is that by automatically checking you in on Facebook, all the people who you are connected to on Facebook would know where you are every time you enter a participating establishment. (Without the facial recognition component, you get to choose when to check in and where to share the information.) This could be fixed by having a setting that allows the user to decide not share the check-ins on their Facebook page.


In the future, more technologies are going to be introduced that will push the envelope and challenge both our imagination and how we define our expectations of privacy.

Everyone is aware that facial recognition technologies exist.

However, some people are going to fight to limit its use.

Businesses that plan to use facial recognition technology need to be aware that they serve customers who embrace this type of technology and those who are vehemently against it. Therefore, they need to decide whether or not using a service similar to Facedeals is worth the effort.

Ultimately, though, it is the consumer who gets to decide. If enough people who are against this type of technology voice their opinion to the business owner, the business owner will be forced to listen. On the other hand, if a majority of customers embrace the technology, then its use will become a more common occurrence in businesses all over the world.

Therefore, it is going to be interesting to see how the people of Nashville welcome Facedeals.

My question to you is: If you were given the opportunity to participate in this type of service, would you choose to opt in?

Photo credit: david drexler 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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Facebook Ads Can Be Highly Effective

Even before Facebook went public on May 18, 2012, people were questioning what value Facebook offered to the business community.

Since going public, Facebook has been under even more scrutiny.

In particular, people have questioned the effectiveness of Facebook advertising.

While many of the critiques have merit, particularly when you are looking at the revenue potential of Facebook, as a whole, that doesn’t mean that your business should ignore Facebook when you are trying to determine where to invest your adverting dollars.

In fact, when used correctly, Facebook advertising can be highly effective.

The question is: What do you need to do to effectively use Facebook to advertise your products or services?

Killer Facebook Ads

When looking to answer that question, a good place to start is with the CEO of aimClear, Marty Weintraub.

In his book, “Killer Facebook Ads: Master Cutting-Edge Facebook Advertising Techniques,” (affiliate link) Weintraub gives detailed advice that covers everything from setting KPIs to launching Facebook ad campaigns and analyzing the results. Examples are also provided to add clarity.

As he points out in the book, every step of the process is important if you want to set up a successful Facebook ad campaign.

Furthermore, Weintraub addresses some of the criticisms that people have when it comes to Facebook advertising.

For example, Weintraub states, “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard from people that Facebook ads don’t work…yet their landing page is terrible. If you care about conversion, landing pages can make Facebook ads look either really effective or really terrible.”

And, as to the concern that some marketers have about Facebook ads low click-through rates (CTR), Weintraub mentions, “In reality, not that many FB impressions result in clicks. It’s just that the impression count is so massive that even a very low CTR, as compared to search, can result droves of traffic.”


In an effort to meet the informational needs of investors, analysts have put Facebook under the microscope.

While Facebook advertising, in general, might not be as effective as other advertising techniques when certain KPIs are used to measure the success of the advertising campaign, that doesn’t mean that Facebook ads are a complete waste of time.

It might be the case that businesses haven’t learned how to align the way that their Facebook advertising campaigns are set up to their business goals or that the average business doesn’t take all the steps necessary to create a successful Facebook ad campaign.

If you want to get valuable insights on how to create successful Facebook advertising campaigns, you should start by tapping into the knowledge that Marty Weintraub has to offer.

The recommendations and advice that he gives in his book would take years to learn by yourself.

As I mentioned in the review of the book that I posted on Amazon.com, “Marty Knows Facebook Ads.”

Photo credit: dkalo 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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Social Media Marketing Is About Business… And, That’s No B.S.

By now, you have probably heard someone say that your business should be using social media to help market your products or services.

There is no doubt that the other decision-makers in your company have heard that, also.

There is a chance that they have decided to take a wait and see attitude or maybe they even rolled their eyes and decided that they didn’t believe the hype.

On the other hand, they may have decided to take the chance to see what they could accomplish by using social media as a marketing tool. In my opinion, that’s the smart decision.

No Bullshit Social Media

In their book “No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing,” (affiliate link) Jason Falls and Erik Deckers explain that when used correctly, social media can be used to enhance branding and awareness, protect brand reputation, enhance public relations, build community, enhance customer service, facilitate research and development, and drive leads and sales. All of which will have an effect on your bottom line.

As they say, “When you add the word marketing to social media, it’s about business.”

Social Media Marketing Is Not Free

A lot of people think that social media marketing is free. This is not true.

Sure, it might be free to set up a Twitter account for your business and create a Facebook page, but you still have to pay someone to handle your social media marketing efforts, not to mention any other overhead costs that will be incurred (e.g., the costs of computers, electricity, etc.)

In fact, if your business uses social media to enhance customer service, your costs might actually increase.

This is not because it costs more to reach customers using social media. In fact, the opposite is usually true.

However, when you use social media to handle customer complaints, you might actually be able to reach unsatisfied customers who might not have made the effort to call or email your business to complain.

As Falls and Deckers suggest in their book, “Measure the total number of issues your customer service department handles as a whole. That includes phone and online issues. Has the number gone up because of the use of social media? Then that means a lot of those customer complaints were already out there, but you were able to identify them and solve the problem. It might mean you’re handling more issues on the whole, but it also means you’re increasing customer satisfaction.”

Final Thoughts

In my opinion, businesses that are taking a wait and see attitude or dismissing social media marketing altogether are definitely leaving money on the table.

As Jason Falls and Erik Deckers point out in their book, social media marketing can be used to help your business achieve many of its business goals. That is, if your business uses social media correctly.

If you are looking for suggestions on how to use social media for marketing purposes, I’d suggest picking up a copy of the book and giving it a read. It is filled with useful information and valuable case studies that reveal what has and hasn’t worked for other businesses in the past.

And, that’s no bullshit.

Photo credit: Tomas Fano 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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Is Twitter Destined to Fail or Did It Find a Creneau?

People are always trying to assess the future of various social networking sites.

For businesses, this type of assessment is needed from time to time, because businesses don’t want to invest heavily in a particular social networking site only to see it close its doors.

Therefore, it’s not surprising that HubSpot is holding a debate about the future of Twitter on Friday, June 22, 2012, at 12 P.M. EST.

The debate will feature Kipp Bodnar, Inbound Marketing Manager at HubSpot and co-author of “The B2B Social Media Book” (affiliate link) and Laura Fitton, Inbound Marketing Evangelist at HubSpot and lead author of “Twitter for Dummies.” (affiliate link)

Mr. Bodnar predicts that “Twitter is slowly coming to an end.” On the other hand, Ms. Fitton “couldn’t disagree more.”

Personally, I agree with Ms. Fitton, but it will be interesting to hear what they both have to say during the debate.

Finding a Creneau

I’m currently reading, “Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind,” (affiliate link) by Al Ries and Jack Trout.

In the book, the authors point out that the French have a rather useful marketing expression, “Cherchez le creneau.” The English translation: “Look for the hole.”

The authors suggest that it is difficult (if not impossible) for a brand with a small share of the market to take on the established leader by competing head-to-head.

Instead, they suggest, “Cherchez le creneau and then fill it.”

Facebook Vs. Twitter

In the social media world, with over 900 million monthly active users, Facebook is clearly the established leader.

Using the logic put forth by Ries and Trout in their book, it doesn’t make sense for another social network to try to take on Facebook by offering a similar product. However, in my opinion, that is exactly what Google+ is trying to do.

Twitter, on the other hand, with its approximately 100 million users, offers users a social network that is very different from Facebook. Instead of using a complicated formula similar to Facebook’s EdgeRank to determine who sees a post, pages and a timeline that are filled with a lot of other distractions, and a plethora of other features, Twitter focuses on speed, simplicity, and brevity.

In fact, what makes Twitter unique is brevity. That is, given the fact that posts can only be 140 characters long, it forces the person who posts the message to get to the point.

Furthermore, Twitter is great for skimming through a lot of posts quickly to see if there is something that you might want to learn more about by clicking on the link, if there is one. This is not as easy to do with Facebook.

Therefore, it’s not surprising that according to a MarketingVox study, 40% of active Twitter users don’t actually tweet. They are using Twitter as a resource for information.

And, as Tom Webster points out in his blog post, titled “Why Twitter Is Bigger Than You Think,” the way that Twitter is set up makes it easy for traditional media outlets to use the site as a source for their news stories.

Bigger Is Not Always Better

The HubSpot blog post that introduces Friday’s debate points out that while Twitter came out only two years after Facebook, it hasn’t grown as fast.

I’d argue that this might not be a bad thing.

Often when a site gets so big that everyone is using it, it loses its appeal to a certain subset of the population. Twitter offers people an alternative to Facebook.

Furthermore, while users might use Facebook to connect with certain people, they might choose to also use Twitter to connect with a different subset of their network. This allows them to post things without sharing everything with everyone in their network. (I know that you can accomplish this by changing the post settings in Facebook, but sometimes it’s just easier to post to another network and not have to worry about it.)

Twitter for Business

Twitter is not going to be useful for every business.

As with all social networking sites, Twitter is going to be the most beneficial to your business if your customers and prospects are using it. Therefore, the future of Twitter might not matter to you if your customers and prospects don’t use the site.

Keep in mind, however, what you tweet does have a chance of showing up when your customers and prospects do a search on Google or any other search engine. This is just something to think about.

Final Thoughts

It is important for businesses that use social media for marketing purposes to keep up with trends and assess the health of each social networking site that they use to connect with customers and prospects.

Therefore, it might helpful to watch the debate that is being held by HubSpot on Friday.

Going into the debate, my feeling is that Twitter will be around for a long time, even if it only serves a small subset of the population.

Social networking sites can’t be everything to everyone.

As I pointed out in this post, I think that the fact that not everyone is using Twitter can actually work to its advantage.

In other words, I definitely think that Twitter has found a creneau and filled it.

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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