It’s Time to Stop Blaming the Intern

Intern CartoonStop blaming the intern! It seems like every time there is a social media blunder or scandal people are quick to say “fire the intern” or “see what happens when you leave social to the intern.” People, it’s 2014. If you’re leaving social media up to an intern, you have only yourself to blame! There are professionals—even entire businesses and industries—devoted to doing social media. Delegating social media to an intern without structure in place is a business mistake and failure of leadership.

Clearly social media marketing has reached a point of acceptance into the mainstream. Nearly 90% of companies planned to incorporate social media into their marketing plans for 2014. When 90% of companies are planning to incorporate a tactic into their marketing strategy, it is unlikely that they are doing so without any oversight or plan. If they are employing social media as a tactic without oversight, perhaps they deserve to have a scandal or blunder. You wouldn’t just air a TV commercial without seeing it or reviewing it, so why would you blindly post on the public-facing internet?

It’s also worth noting that despite widespread blame, the majority of companies don’t even involve interns with their social media. According to the same survey just 25% of companies use interns for social media help.

With that in mind, let’s examine some recent social media mistakes and the immediate blame thrust upon an intern:

The Weather Channel Twitter handle recently sent a rude tweet to an influential person who was complaining about their mobile app. I don’t condone the rude tweet but the people rising to the defense of the victim of this rudeness quickly attacked a hypothetical intern. While this is just a single anecdote, it is pretty obvious that others echo this sentiment during social media crises.

@weatherchannel Wow, way to be a dick in responding to a simple request. You suck, social media intern.

— Grant (@NotSoNiceville) May 12, 2014

One of the worst social media blunders of all time came from US Airways. One of their staffers tweeted a pornographic photo to a customer in what is arguably the worst social media mistake to date. While US Airways never said whether or not the person behind the tweet was an intern, I doubt they would confess they had an intern doing social media customer service for them, the fact is they forgave the employee. It is important to realize that anyone and everyone is capable of making a mistake, not just interns.

With all of the “social media gurus” and “ninjas” out there it is unlikely that interns are the sole cause of these crises. Companies who plan to use social media should have controls in place to prevent such mistakes from happening but please let’s leave interns alone they have enough problems.

Marketers Relationship with Big Data: It’s Complicated

Big Data Cartoon

Marketing is struggling to adapt to big data. Today, content is being created faster than it can be consumed and our attention spans are not getting any longer. The amount of content available on the Internet is increasing and shows no signs of stopping. This leads to a corresponding amount of data to be processed, stored, and analyzed. Every piece of content is packed with data that may or may not be valuable to a marketer, but the only way of finding out is to independently inspect it – a daunting proposition.

How do you determine what data is important? How should you measure big data?

Unfortunately, there isn’t a perfect answer to either of these questions. I’m going to focus my answer on making the most of social media and the Internet, but big data extends well beyond social media. Big data is disrupting all aspects of life. Think of all the data being created on a daily basis: companies track customer purchases, fitness gear tracks personal health and nutrition, and doctors and hospitals are tracking and storing medical information.

So back to big data and social media. To figure out what data is important, determine what you’re measuring. Are you just trying to measure volume on a topic or is sentiment more important? Maybe you’re only concerned with what a select audience of influencers is saying instead of the general population. When we think about big data we should be thinking about ways to cut it into smaller, more consumable pieces.

Let’s take a single tweet and think of all the different data points that might exist within those 140 characters.

  • Author- who is tweeting this?
  • Sentiment- is this tweet positive, negative, neutral, or mixed?
  • Location- where is this tweet coming from?
  • Timing- when was this tweet published?
  • Engagement- what sort of engagement did this tweet get?

I didn’t put these topics in any particular order, the marketer should decide which of these elements is most important. A single tweet is not enough to create insights or draw conclusions, but all of the data packed into a single tweet shows the complexity of the issue facing marketers today.

Author: the author of the tweet can show whether or not a campaign is reaching the correct audience. For example, a female tweeting about male razors might not be as important to marketers as a potential male customer tweeting about the campaign. Another consideration is whether or not the author is an “influencer.” You could create an entire blog trying to define what influence means but it’s certainly a factor to think about when examining content. For simplicity’s sake an indicator of influence might be a celebrity or person with a large social or real life following.

Sentiment: boiled down, sentiment asks if the person is speaking positively or negatively about a brand. The issue with sentiment on a single-tweet level is a lack of context. One tweet might be positive, but a previous tweet may have been negative or more positive, so the change in sentiment is where the significance lies. Additionally, when dealing with mixed sentiment it might be difficult for a person or machine to draw a distinctive conclusion or boil that down into a single number.

Location: the location of the tweet might be significant because if you’re a brick-and-mortar retailer and a person is tweeting about terrible customer service from a store it could have major implications. On the other hand, if I’m targeting a marketing campaign to Chicago and someone from New York City is tweeting about it, should I care?

Timing: similar to knowing the location, it’s important to understand when a tweet occurred. If someone is tweeting about an event six months after it occurred, should I care? When measuring the impact of content or examining a single tweet it’s important to understand if you’re reaching the target audience.

Engagement: engagement metrics such as replies, retweets, and favorites are good indicators of high quality content and potential impact. A tweet with 1,000 engagements might be more relevant to marketers than a tweet with 10 engagements.

In closing, there is no silver bullet for measuring and understanding big data and social media. Marketers should focus their analysis on what’s significant because in a world flooded with data it’s easy to get lost in a sea of numbers.

Why I’ll Never Be An Early Adopter

Early Adopter Cartoon

If you’re like me and either work in or are fascinated by technology, you’re always intrigued by “the next big thing.” Everyday we’re inundated with technology commercials, acquisitions, and product announcements. Despite these innumerable advancements and related media coverage, I’m still reluctant to become an early adopter. In my mind, early adopters go out of their way to buy unpolished technology for frivolous reasons.

In part, my refusal to adopt early is based on my belief that many people buy cutting-edge products not out of appreciation for the technology, but just to look cool. Let me tell a short story. The other day I saw a man in Google Glass sitting in front of a garage feeding pigeons. Why was this man, who most likely never took an interest in pigeons, feeding the birds in the rain? Because he was filming it on his Glass. Will this video make the world a better place, or is this man just showing off the fact that he has Glass and watching him feed pigeons is “cool?”

New technology seems to be fundamentally changing the way people behave. People like the man in my anecdote are now feeding pigeons just because they can film the moment using Glass. Is this individual’s video adding value to the world? Will seeing this “amazing” video change someone’s day? Probably not.

Beyond these concerns, I also find many new tech products to be unpolished. Sticking with the Google Glass example, I’ve used it before, and yes I think it’s a unique product. That being said I don’t think it’s anywhere close to where it needs to be to deliver daily value. For every new innovation and product there is going to be backlash and issues.

Prominent among new technology issues are bugs and glitches, which are numerous in newer tech. I don’t want to pay to be a beta tester. As a risk-averse shopper who values quality and functionality, I prefer well-vetted products. You won’t see me buying Fitbit Flex or Galaxy Gear anytime soon, not because I’m an Apple fan boy or a Microsoft employee, but rather because I consider neither of those products to be aesthetically or functionally “ready.”

I will admit to wanting a smartwatch or device to complement my aging phone iPhone 4s, and it’s been tough to resist the Pebble Steel and the upcoming Moto 360. I’m interested to see what Apple launches (insert fanboy joke here) because I suspect they will build on the efforts of other companies by combining fitness elements from wearables like Fitbit and Fuelband with basic smartwatch features.

I appreciate Apple’s wait and see approach, because I think that companies should focus on making products that make sense and provide value rather than just rushing to market and trying to be the first. Same with early adopters. There will be people rushing to test out new, “status symbol” technology, but I’ll be hanging back and waiting for products that provide tried-and-true value.

Millennials Are the Greatest Generation That Ever Lived

How’s that for click-bait title? Isn’t that the purpose of articles with grandiose titles making claims about millennials or baby boomers? Did he really just start a blog post with three questions?

It seems like every day a different blog is publishing an article making absurd statements about millennials or baby boomers. While I do think some bloggers and journalists are taking the high road and trying to bridge the generational divide, individuals are still turning to click-bait titles and content criticizing one generation or another.

Sites like Upworthy and Buzzfeed are stealing Internet eyeballs because the current system ties ad dollars to clicks. Traditional news organizations and blogs shouldn’t stoop to this level.

This happened in a recent blog post from Forbes. In the post, the author discusses the retirement of NFL running back Rashard Mendenhall, age 26, and uses his story as anecdotal evidence to draw conclusions about millennials as a whole. The author says that Mendenhall retiring is “stereotypically millennial.” Mendenhall was a professional athlete who accomplished all of his athletic goals; his decision to retire cannot and should not be applied to an entire generation.

I applaud Mendenhall for hanging up his cleats. He’s already won a Super Bowl and has unfortunately seen his fair share of injuries and controversies. The author says that Mendenhall walking away can be compared to millennials giving up on careers because they butt heads with their older colleagues and the traditional work environment. If you read Mendenhall’s retirement post he says that football has changed for the worst and become overly flashy and individualistic.

The author argues that Mendenhall is similar to millennials because he is restless early in his career and elected to walk away. I’d argue that as an athlete, Mendenhall’s career has already likely peaked. He already won a Super Bowl and signed lucrative contracts and sponsorships. His recent injuries and the potential for concussions and other chronic, debilitating injuries are valid reasons to jump ship. The author states that Mendenhall’s pursuit of his dreams should be treated as an “aberration,” not “inspiration” for millennials.

I vehemently disagree. Mendenhall has spent the last six years earning enough money (if invested and spent responsibly) to potentially last until retirement, especially if he continues to work and earn even modest income. I think people of all generations should commend Mendenhall for seeing an opportunity to make a change and live his dream. Americans are often labeled as people who live to work rather than work to live, and Mendenhall is a prime example of an individual who has worked and is now choosing to live. Very few athletes are drafted and even fewer athletes are able to play professional sports for an extended period of time – he has earned the right to retire.

I think society would be better served if the media didn’t try to make broad generalizations about groups of people and attribute the choices of a single public figure to the greater majority. I realize this post did not deliver on why millennials are the greatest generation that ever lived but hey, I’m just a blogger trying to get clicks.

Back to Blogging?

Blogging Cartoon

This blog will mostly be about social media, marketing, technology, and advertising, but this specific post will be about none of those things.  Before diving into a regular posting schedule, I want to provide context about my reasons for getting back into blogging and why I’m doing it now.

I took my first stab at blogging a few years ago with little to no acclaim (minus that one time it helped land me an internship, but that’s a different story). In my most recent attempt, I gave up after two weeks (the archive still exists, so feel free to read my musings about Klout and other interesting things of the past). This time will be different.*

Within the last month, I made a huge change in my life. I went from living at home with my dad in Westchester and working at a startup in Manhattan to living by myself in Seattle and working for a large corporation.

I have never started over like this before, except maybe as a kid when I went to sleep away camp.  Some would argue that this current adventure is similar to starting at college—I would disagree.

College is meant to make you comfortable from the beginning. You’re paying them! When I selected American University I also already knew a few people going there. We weren’t best friends or anything but there were still people I could turn to if I needed support. When I moved out here to Seattle, I knew nobody. I relied on friends of friends and my dazzling personality to try and meet people (okay—dazzling might be a stretch).

At college, freshmen are forced to make friends through orientation, classes, and close proximity. While work has similar interactions—daily meetings, an orientation for new hires, and large bathrooms—it is still not the same as starting college. Here, I’m the one being paid, and although my coworkers want to see me be happy and comfortable, they are not people with whom I’d generally grab beer or go to a soccer game.

For me, this experience is nothing like college.

Despite my fears, this journey has been really amazing. It’s forced me to spend time by myself. Never before would I go to restaurants or bars by myself or just sit, relax, and think, but out here I do. It’s given me the ability to try new things and just generally enjoy spending time alone. If you don’t enjoy time by yourself, how can you expect others to enjoy your company?

Out here I’m a new person. Yes, I’m still Ben Loeb and all those other things I was back East but no one here knows what that means. I think life forces us to constantly change and adapt, and this move has done that for me. I’m using this opportunity as a chance to improve myself and wipe the slate clean. If you hold on to things from your past you’ll limit further growth, so I’m letting go (I love Frozen, deal with it). With that in mind, I think I’ll start trying to be Ben the blogger.

*(I have that asterisk there just in case I give up after two-weeks).

Are You Not Entertained? – Facebook Introduces ‘Listen’ Button

Red Hot Chili Peppers Facebook

Red Hot Chili Peppers Facebook Page with 'Listen' button

Today Facebook introduced a ‘Listen’ button to some of its band and artist pages. Now fans can listen to music right from their favorite band’s band or music page using third-party services such as Spotify. This is a big step

Previously, users could listen to music on Spotify and it would publish to a user’s timeline. The new service will publish to a user’s timeline, but it will enable them to stream music right from Facebook.

So far Facebook has only released the feature to a few bands, but it will slowly release it to the entire Facebook music community. This feature reminds me of old MySpace band pages with music players. Users used to be able to listen to music right on the MySpace page and the player would record the number of plays.

Red Hot Chili Peppers Myspace

The Red Hot Chili Pepper's Myspace page

I think this is a major step for Facebook as it tries to get more market share in the entertainment category. The introduction of the ‘Listen’ button will enable Facebook to increase time on their site and engage music listeners. This is a feature music listeners have long desired. Hopefully Facebook will introduce a ‘Watching’ button for TV and movies, which will encourage streaming and compete with social networks such as GetGlue. Do you think the introduction of a ‘Listen’ button is significant? Would you ‘Watch’ TV or movies on Facebook? Let me know in the comments.

Blog Revived? – Facebook buys Instagram

Instagram Logo

I haven’t posted anything in a while, but recent events in social media and the digital world have brought me back to my blog. Hope you missed me.


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