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    Entries in Social Media (42)

    Tuesday
    Apr052016

    Aligning business strategy and talent strategy: Kim Kardashian edition

    File this one to the 'You probably have no idea what is bothering your employees' file.

    Check this recent piece on Business Insider about some of the tensions that continue to roil the folks at beleaguered technology dinosaur Yahoo. I will just drop the headline (edited slightly to keep this post out of email subscriber's spam folders), then some quick comments after the lede:

    Yahoo's big media hires complain they have to compete against Kim Kardashion'a A$$'

    (from the piece)

    Yahoo's content strategy is frustrating a lot of its own writers and other media personalities, with many complaining about the front page algorithm that shows non-Yahoo generated stories over original content.

    In fact, it's become so demoralizing that some Yahoo journalists are openly complaining about losing front page space to lowbrow content, like celebrity gossip.

    “You are competing against Kim Kardashian’s ass,” is a running joke within the Yahoo newsroom, the report said.

    One big reason for this is that Yahoo's front page is run by an algorithm that automatically identifies and shows stories based on each user's personal taste..

    A quick point here, although the post from BI is meant to grab attention and clicks, the issue at Yahoo and Kim's 'features', is not the important takeaway from this. What is important, if we can expand upon the comments and complaints from the Yahoo writers, is that they seem to have not been clued in on the strategy and subsequent decisions (even the ones made by an algorithm), that Yahoo execs are pursuing.

    Yahoo's problem, at least in this example, isn't really whether or not the content strategy that favors aggregated, viral, or lowbrow content over more reasoned, professional, and high-minded content that the Yahoo writers produce is the 'right' one from a pure content creation perspective. 

    The problem is that the business/content strategy that results in our pal Kim being featured prominently on the Yahoo home page doesn't line up at all with the organization's talent strategy that has recruited and is paying handsomely lots and lots of super writers and reporters.  It doesn't make sense to pay (perhaps overpay), someone like Katie Couric to produce exclusive shows and interviews for the site, then bury these features underneath the latest celebrity news and gossip.

    There isn't much point in chasing 'top' talent if the work you have for them is not aligned with what 'top' talent expects and can most likely find somewhere else. It might work for a while, but then you do end up having to overpay, essentially bribing them to go along to come along if you will.

    But eventually, if they are really good, they will find somewhere to do what it is they really are born to do. It's just probably not chronicling the latest developments from Kim and Kanye's Instagram accounts.

    Monday
    Apr042016

    Giving up control

    Uncle Seth Godin has an interesting post/rant the other day about how it seems that Gmail has (at least for some), been delivering his daily blog's email version to subscribers' 'Promotions' tab in Gmail, or even worse, shunting the email to their Spam folders.

    In the post, Seth correctly reminds readers that if they (or you), rely on any kind of a algorithmic filter, be it Gmail's spam machinations or Facebook's (and other networks), 'newsfeeds' to make a determination of what posts the platform thinks you will be interested in seeing, then you constantly run the risk of missing things and content that at some point you had indeed indicated that you were interested in seeing/reading.Mark Rothko, Number 14 (1960)

    I wrote about the same phenomenon, from a slightly different point of view, recently too, when I posited more or less that we get the algorithms we deserve to some extent, by allowing ourselves to be beguiled into thinking that superior networking tools and technologies can somehow allow us to usurp the famous Dunbar number which suggests an absolute limit to the amount of social relationships a person can manage at any time. 

    Both posts, mine and Uncle Seth's, are really about the same issue at a fundamental level. In our information overload existence, we are increasingly ceding the signaling of what content is important enough for us to take a moment to actually consider to algorithms, which are at least in part informed by what everybody else thinks is important. Before the Facebook newsfeed took over the world, we used to subscribe to the sites/blogs we decided we were most interested in, either getting posts via email or the dearly departed Google Reader, and we could confidently rely upon either of those mechanisms to reliably deliver the content we explicitly desired.

    Sure, we may not have always had time to read all our email, or plow through all the unread items in Reader, but that was on us - the content would always be there whether or not we were ready to consume. And now, with Google deciding for us what messages we should be prioritizing, and the social networks relying on some mysterious formulas to determine the relevance of content, we have, even if we have not really intended to, relinquished some of our own agency in the process.

    And while I think things like spam filters and 'smart' algorithms can improve the way we see and engage with the barrage of information we confront on a daily basis, there still needs to be some kind of a universal setting for 'I want to see this all of the time, even if I don't read it right away, and especially if I don't click the like or share button every time I see it.'

    There needs to be an override to the algorithm for the things we decide we care about.

    Even if these things are not super popular. Even if they don't get 'enough' likes. 

    Even if Google thinks they are spam.

    Even if none of your Facebook friends like them.

    Tuesday
    Mar292016

    Dunbar is the reason why all social networks eventually become horrible

    In this week's episode of 'As the social networks turn', many big users and brands that are active on Instagram are in collective freak out mode about the (Facebook owned), social network's announced plans to change user feeds from the classic 'reverse chronological' order to some kind of an algorithmic feed designed to show users the posts they are likely to be most interested in seeing and engaging with at the top of the feed.

    The reasoning behind these changes are laid out on the Instagram blog post announcing the shift:

    You may be surprised to learn that people miss on average 70 percent of their feeds. As Instagram has grown, it’s become harder to keep up with all the photos and videos people share. This means you often don’t see the posts you might care about the most.

    To improve your experience, your feed will soon be ordered to show the moments we believe you will care about the most.

    The order of photos and videos in your feed will be based on the likelihood you’ll be interested in the content, your relationship with the person posting and the timeliness of the post. As we begin, we’re focusing on optimizing the order — all the posts will still be there, just in a different order.

    If Instagram is right, and people miss 70% of the posts from the accounts that they have choosen to follow, there can only be a couple of possible reasons why this is the case.

    1. People just don't spend that much time on Instagram. They check it now and again, look through a few pictures on their feed, and get back to whatever else it was they were supposed to be doing. They don't make it a point to make sure they have seen everything. (FYI - this would be me in terms of Instagram. I follow 119 'accounts' on Instagram. This is important to mention for reasons that will be more clear later in the post). I do check Instagram every day (or close to every day), but there is no way I see every photo that the 119 accounts I follow have posted. 

    2. The recent, and pretty dramatic, increase in ads and sponsored posts on Instagram has turned people off and they are using and engaging with content less and less, thus driving a more significant 'miss' percentage of their feeds. This increase in ads has definitely been noticeable lately, and while I know that Instagram needs to pay the bills, I also know that with social networks, almost no one signed up to see the latest artsy pic from Bank of America. More ads --> a worse user experience --> less time spent on the platform --> more posts missed.

    3. (And the real one I am most interested in). Many if not most users have decided to follow far, far too many users/accounts than they can reasonably keep up with. As I mentioned at the top, I follow 119 accounts, well below Dunbar's estimate of the number of social relationships that a person can reasonably carry on and I still can't (and really could not try for very long), to stay on top of this level of accounts on Instagram. This is not even considering for the moment the time commitment of all the other networks that a person today must have some type of presence on. A quick look through about five people I follow shows crazy numbers of accounts they are following, 500, 800, in one case over 1,200 accounts. You could live on Instagram all day and not be able to keep up with the feeds of 1,200 users. Instagram sees this situation, and will attempt to show this person (at least at the top of their feed), the 20 or 40 or whatever number of posts and accounts they follow, in order to try and improve the overall experience.

    So the better question is not 'Why is it impossible to follow and engage with 1,200 friends on Instagram, (or any other platform), but rather 'What would drive someone to even click the 'follow' button 1,200 times in the first place?

    Dunbar's research and the 'Dunbar number' have been well known and repeatedly proved out over a pretty long time. We know no matter how many people we follow on Instagram or Facebook or wherever, that we will only interact meaningfully if at all with a very small percentage of those people we follow. Probably even less than Dunbar's number of 150 I would bet.

    So why do we do it? Why do we try? How can it make sense to have 1,500 friends on Facebook?

    I think there is only one reason.

    It's because every online/social network starts as a site or community to connect with real friends and family. And then once the platform begins to grow, even more people join. And when even more people join still more people join, (and your teenagers flee to the next new network, but that is a different issue). But at some point (close to when the network starts accepting ads and sponsored posts), the tenor of the entire conversation around the network begins to shift into a commercial one.

    Brands and company accounts are set up and they try and act like people. People amass even larger following and then try to act like brands. For both the brands (and many of the people), it becomes all about maintaining business prospects and business relationships and much, much less about sharing details of your lives with your (less than 150) networks of people that you actually know.

    That's the only reason I can think of while you or me or anyone keeps following more and more people, beyond the ones you actually know and socialize with. They might be business contacts, they may just work in your company or industry - doesn't matter, you can't not follow them if it means missing out on a business opportunity.

    There are two essential truths about every popular social network.

    1. Once you join, your kids will think it is less cool

    2. Eventually, it will become all about business. Just about all anyway.

    Instagram is moving to an algorithmic feed because it has finally reached the point where the use/purpose of the platform is primarily commercial, and we should have known this was coming the minute we thought following 529 people was a good idea.

    Dunbar strikes again.

    Wednesday
    Sep232015

    Three lessons from getting caught offline unexpectedly

    Everyone runs into this at one point or another - a sudden, unexpected, and uncertain as to the duration period where you are knocked offline, out of contact, and unable to do just about any real work. It happened to me this week, and I have to admit I was not really unprepared as to how to make the best (or at least not have it be the worst), of a tough situation.

    These days, even a short stint of being out of contact can quickly escalate into a pretty dire set of circumstances - incoming messages pile up at an alarming rate, people are not sure why you are not getting back to them, (since you didn't know you needed to alert them), and certain folks begin to resort to alternate/additional means of contacting you when Option 'A' fails. To the person who followed up their email to me with a call, text, LinkedIn message, Twitter DM, AND Facebook message - this one is directed at you.

    So what did I learn from the aftermath of being offline and off-guard for a few days that might help me be better able to handle such a situation should it occur again in the future? I can think of three big and simple things, plus one request for a tool that if it existed, would have helped me out immensely.

    1. Making sure I had the actual phone numbers programmed into my phone of the most important 5 people that I am currently worknig with on various projects.  When you rely on email for about 95% of your work communication, and you are forced into a situation where you only have access to a phone, (and no charger), have extremely limited windows of time where you can work,  then trying to get much of anything done in email only for an extended period is just about impossible. Sometimes you have to just connect via phone to get anything done, and not having all of the numbers I needed at hand was a huge barrier to getting anything done.

    2. Figuring out how to set up an 'Out of the Office' auto-responder when having access only to the email apps on my phone. Like I mentioned, I was caught off guard to being out of touch and I didn't know how long I would be essentially out of reach. From the apps I use on my phone for my various email accounts, I was unable, (given my limited time and attention), to set up the classic 'Out of the Office' auto-responders that while not perfect, at least would have given people trying to get in touch with me a general sense of what to do or expect. I need to figure out how to make that work.

    3. Setting up 'smarter' email filtering. In the few moments I had to take a look at my email, I was simply overwhelmed with the volume of 'non-essential' messages I had to sift through in order to find the ones that did, truly matter. I have to take some time, find some add-on tools if needed, and set up a smarter system for tagging and filtering incoming messages to keep the Inbox clean of non-important items and more easily surface what is actually important. When you are working only with a phone, in very short time intervals, you need to only see what is needed.

    So those are the three things I need to do to be ready to handle this situation the next time it comes up. But there is one thing I don't know how to do at all, because I don't think it exists, and that is how to set up the equivalent of the email 'Out of the Office' auto-responder on all of the other ways that people try and connect these days. Like I mentioned, when some emails were going unresponded to, I started getting LinkedIn messages, Twitter mentions, and texts, and there is not any way that I know of to have one, universal, 'Out of the office' that would cover all of these methods and platforms. Which is why, I continue to contend, they are mostly terrible for business communication. So please, someone build a tool (and it has to be an App), that can make the 'Out of the Office' universal across other apps and platforms besides email.

    Ok, that is it. Now back to trying to catch up!

    Monday
    Jun152015

    DINOSAUR ALERT: When the new leader doesn't 'Get' social media

    You know what says 'I am pretty much out of step with most of the major developments and trends of the last decade or so?"

    A quote like this:

    I don't like social media. I don’t like it at all. I don’t know anything about it. I don’t do it, I don’t use it, I really don’t want anybody to know where I’m at all the time or what I’m eating.

    That might be a perfectly reasonable and harmless opinion if it was coming from say, your Grandma, or if it was uttered by someone 5 or 7 years ago when it still was not totally clear that Facebook and Snapchat and Instagram and Twitter would scale to the levels that back then would have seemed impossible to comprehend.

    And in business and marketing that might be an acceptable position on social media from someone buried in the innards of the organization, with no external-facing role or responsibility, and limited ability to influence others on social networks. I would still probably argue that most professionals can extract value and work on personal/professional development goals using social media as a tool, but in a big picture sense if the assistant accounting manager doesn't believe in Twitter or LinkedIn, that really is not that big a deal for the organization.

    But the above block quote wasn't taken from a recent conversation with Grandma, or from an article in Time Magazine in 2006, or even from some late night TV show random 'person on the street' skit. No, this quote was from the new Head Coach National Football League club the San Francisco 49ers, a Mr. Jim Tomsula. The new head coach doesn't 'get' social media, doesn't participate, and quite frankly can't understand why any of the rest of us do either.

    And this might not be a big deal, at least taken at face value, in the context of a football coach. After all, NFL head coaches are notorious lunatics workaholics, often spending 80 - 100 hours a week on the job, watching film, preparing game plans, and running practices. When you work crazy hours under crazy pressure like that, who has time to worry about Twitter and Instagram and the like? Cerainly not Jim Tomsula.

    But I think it is kind of a big deal, when a new, high-profile leader in the organization like Tomsula expresses those kinds of dinosaur-like opinions about social media. Sure, he, or any other prominent organizational leader doesn't really have to be some kind of Twitter personality, but in 2015, they need to at least acknowledge and hopefully understand something about the business importance of social media. And as a leader of people, many are very active on social media, (the 49er players, mainly), Tomsula has to be able to take his head out of the sand and at least attempt to relate to these players and understand their use of social media from their perspective. 

    And lastly, when a leader like this expresses these kinds of backwards opinions it begs the question of whether or not they will be open to any kinds of newer, innovative approaches to business, leadership, and their specifc industry. A huge shift in professional sports management over the last 20 years has been the dramatic rise in importance of advanced statistics and analytics for measuring both player performance and in the creationof game plans and strategies.

    Will this modern and new approach be embraced by a leader like Tomsula? Or will he not 'get' that either, and wonder why anyone would waste their time running regression analysis on last week's play selections instead of monitoring the players push around the blocking sled for the 897th time.

    A leader not 'getting' social media is fine. Maybe. But what it might say about the leader's ability to 'get', anything not exactly in line with their view of the world is more troubling still.

    Have a great week!