Categotry Archives: Facebook

Selfie-help – can selfies make a meaningful contribution to an interpretation toolbox?

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I’m looking for some selfie-help.

During a recent briefing for a new interpretative project I started thinking about selfies.  It’s not such a jump – the project is a new walking trail with a target audience of youth, families and first-time hikers. The trail has cell coverage for most of its length. My client briefing me pointed out a natural feature that was a popular spot for photos and when she said; “I don’t like the idea of people with their cell-phones out in the natural environment;” my response was, “but they’ll be doing it anyway so why not use it to our advantage?”

Selfies used to be considered bad taste; the exclusive domain of self-centred narcissistic teens on Myspace. But a social media culture shift has occurred, and everyone is doing it. Higher quality shots are possible, helped along by the advances in the photographic capabilities of cell phones; with specific selfie apps soon following.

Even I must confess that both my current Facebook and LinkedIn profile pics are selfies.

Even I must confess that both my current Facebook and LinkedIn profile pics are selfies.

Selfies at their core are self-portraits. People have been painting, drawing, photographing themselves since we used to live in caves. Selfies say “I was here”. They are people-focused and not much of a step away from what tourists have been doing for years – taking photos of themselves at places they have visited to ‘capture memories’.

According to Wikipedia the Oxford English Dictionary declared selfie ‘word of the year’ in November 2013. According to Google 93 million selfies are taken every day on Android devices. And in March 2014 a selfie broke the internet when a selfie taken by Academy Awards host Ellen DeGeneres was retweeted over 1.8 million times in the first hour of posting (yes we hear about this stuff, even in the antipodes).

We have seen their power used for evil; that bad taste still rises in your throat when people take selfies that seem to be at odds with the place, events and environment.  

New Zealand’s national museum Te Papa freely admits that sculptures and paintings are being damaged by people backing into them for selfie shots. But that hasn’t stopped them from allowing – and in some places encouraging – their use.

“We want visitors to be able to take pictures and share their experience with friends,” says a spokesperson in this media article.

Shantytown long-drop photo opp...

Shantytown long-drop photo opp…

So how do we harness the selfie phenomenon to help facilitate interpretation? Or should we even try? A quick search and brainstorm came up with the following examples of selfies in interpretation, and some thoughts:

Interpretive sites have often encouraged photographs as a way for visitors to interact with their exhibits – see the Shantytown example above. Te Papa has gone so far as installed a mirrored selfie wall.

Encouraging visitors to share their own selfies on a social media platform is a common marketing tool and creates a community of common experience. Could this be done while on the trail perhaps at one of the huts?

This life-sized ranger sign at the glacier below has unwittingly become the co-pilot in many a tourist selfie. So perhaps the same idea could be used to introduce an historic figure at one of the huts or shelters along our trail?

This life-size ranger was intended to draw attention to safety warnings.

This life-size ranger was intended to draw attention to safety warnings but is now featured in many selfies

Check out this instagram – if Laura Ingles Wilder took selfies

What about an app that reveals a ghost figure from the past if you take a selfie at a certain spot? Or some other information at pre-designated, beacon-marked spots?

I’d love to hear from anyone who has attempted these or any other selfie ideas and are willing to share their experiences. Selfie-help – all shares welcome!

Which platform to use to display your selfie community?

Which platform to use to display your selfie community?

Why Do We Always Need to Change?

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Photograph of a sign in a store window that reads "FREE WIFI & INSPIRATION"

Seen at the REI Store in Roseville CA

Back in May, I talked about some of the hyperbole that constantly surrounds social media trends. If you follow these trends at all, you’re always hearing that [fill in the blank] is now the hot platform, what you know already is obsolete, and there’s something magical that will answer all of your needs just around the corner, especially if you’ll fund my kickstarter account!

In the meantime, the most popular and commonly used platforms are constantly changing things, seemingly to maintain hipness and interest plus deal with constant lawsuits over privacy violations and patent infringement. Less popular ones do the electronic equivalent of throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks.

I used to think that a lot of this stuff is done just to tick me off. I really loathe it everytime a platform innovates, and Facebook is the nadir of this annoyance, I guess because it’s the most pervasive platform out there. I hate it for the same reason I hate video games. I never get the doggone thing totally figured out! Just when I feel like I know what’s going on, here comes a shift; a new reality.

Much as it might annoy me, though, these platforms have to innovate constantly. Part of it is litigation. It’s common knowledge that Facebook, Instagram, Google and other platforms are constantly being sued for privacy violations. As a result, they change the way they collect, display and use information.  It’s not benign or necessarily corrective, by the way. Rather than really address privacy issues in a way that most people would be happy with, the changes often just provoke frustration and tick people off. Most recently, privacy settings have changed on personal pages. This and several other things have been explained by Information Week.

They like to change how information is laid out on the platform too. It was just a couple of years ago that Facebook did a major redesign to incorporate cover images. and switch over to a two-column layout. Milestones also appeared, allowing you to highlight significant dates. Nearly everyone I talked with about these things hated them, but we adapted.

Another reason for this constant innovation is to better monetize the platform. It’s one of the things that virtually all of us, I think, totally disregard about social media. Regardless of whether we’re providing content as an individual or on behalf of an interpretive site or business, we are performing unpaid labor for the platform’s owners.

Let me rephrase that. Without our content, Facebook, Instagram, Google +, Foursquare, Tumblr, or whatever has no content to draw viewers. No viewers, no eyeballs, no advertisers, no Silicon Valley, no Mark Zuckerberg, no… Hey, wait! This could be just great! I’m going to set up a Meetup group so we can plan this, and then send out evites, and…

DANG!

Al Jazeera has a great opinion piece written by E. Alex Jung called Is It Time To Quit Facebook? where he makes his case pretty well. You may have heard about the research project that Facebook used us as Guinea Pigs for, Emotional Evidence of Massive Scale Emotional Contagion Through Social Networks. You can read the “editorial concern” in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences for yourself to learn some of the details, but essentially Facebook played everyone who uses the platform by selecting post types that you and I would receive, determining (duh) that happy posts make us more engaged, while sad or non-happy posts decrease our engagement. This might sound kind of silly and obvious, but it’s not if you understand that we are not only an audience, but also unpaid content providers for some of the richest and largest content providers in the world. The study, while verifying something that seems obvious, also gives license to social media platforms to target what we will see, to drive more engagement and therefore sell and charge more for ad content.

How does this concern us, aside from the obvious? Well, for those of us who provide content on behalf of an employer or a beloved interpretive site, perhaps some of our most intellectually important posts are not “happy” enough, and won’t be seen by a large part of our desired audience.

The work we do as interpreters is not at all related to feeding tame deer and reveling in nature’s beauty. Well, part of it is, I guess, but in addition to the “happy” stuff we also interpret tragedy, death, greed, horror, accident and natural disaster. If we don’t, but they are part of our story, we do a disservice to our audience and stakeholders. Who is the world is Facebook or whoever to censor or diminish distribution of what we feel is important to get out to our audiences? Who gave them the right?

I’ve previously opined that social media is the equivalent of a public utility. They are pervasive, ubiquitous, and necessary for a lot of people to keep up in a fast-paced and modern world. I was wrong. A public utility normally provides a level of service commensurate with our ability to pay for the services. My water service won’t be diminished by my mood or the colors of the flowers in my garden. My electricity won’t be cut off if I like to burn lights all night, and my satellite provider won’t change my channel lineup based on what they think I should see. How can social media providers then, filter what I see versus what’s put on the platform and offered for viewing?

They are the owners. We are the unpaid employees, and we are at least partially, suckers for agreeing to be in servitude to them.

I’m not quitting social media; it’s simply too much a part of my life, and it’s definitely a part of my work. I’m not happy about it though.

Facebook Isn’t Dead, And Ethan Rotman Should Not Be Coroner

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Last month, Ethan Rotman delivered the Saturday keynote for NAI’s Region 9 workshop in Chico, California. Ethan is the principal of iSpeakeasy, a communication consulting firm. He spoke about the need to embrace innovation in Interpretation, and how if we are to succeed and remain relevant, we need to understand and take advantage of innovation and new technology, to meet our audiences where they live in a communications sense. During this really great and fascinating talk, Ethan casually mentioned “besides, Facebook is dead…” and then continued on.

I really like Ethan, and in fact, I treated him to lunch the day before, partly so I could pick his brain for free or at least for only the cost of a BBQ chicken. Ethan is whip smart, he’s quick, capable, and I suppose he makes a decent living by helping to teach both interpreters and non-interpreters how to communicate well. He’s also very confident and has the certainty of knowing things, when I would probably not be nearly as certain. Doubt is a very important part of my life and my worldview. For instance, although I firmly believe that the Cubs will win their division, grab the NL pennant and go on to a well-deserved World Series sweep in four games, I’m plagued with doubt. This is also true with Ethan’s pronouncement of death on the world’s dominant social media platform.

We’ve alluded to constant change being a given in social media and technology here on Media Platypus many times, and even for old-timey technology such as Facebook, a lot of things have changed in its ten-year history. Targeted ads, selective posts, a seemingly slow but inevitable march toward ‘pay for prominence’ in posts, apparent disregard for user privacy, the stupid layout changes, all of these things seem to tick people off. A Princeton study claims that Facebook will lose 80% of its users in the next four years. They compared the growth curve of Facebook with that of an infectious disease, and that based on their methodology, Facebook peaked in December 2012 and has been declining ever since. This makes logical sense– after you’ve captured nearly everyone in a very short time, your growth potential is severely limited. So, maybe Ethan’s more of an epidemiologist than a coroner. Hmm.

The Deadspin blog is a lot more certain and bombastic. In their piece, Facebook is Dead, Drew Magary is just as certain as Ethan, but I discount a lot of this because Deadspin is one of those smarmy trends-blogs where writers seem to confuse being clever with being insightful. Saying “I don’t use Facebook anymore because anyone with a brain knows that Facebook is terrible” really doesn’t help me understand anything except why I don’t read Deadspin very often.

A much better article is available at booooooom.com (sure hope I spelled it correctly,) The End of Facebook, that discusses FB’s most nefarious problem, the truly weird relationship between ‘likes’ and actual engagement. It’s been pretty well established that for many pages, many of the ‘likes’ are phony, particularly for paid promotion. This is why on some of my agency pages we often see that we have 35 likes when only 26 people have seen a post. Over time, whether you know it or not, your posts are going to fewer and fewer of your friends, on purpose. I won’t take your time here to try and explain it, but take a look at the videos on the blog page. If Facebook is dying, this seems like a type of suicide. It’s also a poor model of communication.

I’m trying to insist that Facebook isn’t dead, because I think that it’s reached the functional equivalent of a public utility—an awful lot of us use FB not only to keep up with our friends and let them know what we’re up to, but also to learn about news and current events, make shopping and lifestyle decisions, and plant our own feet in a virtual public square. Still, I’ve got that nagging doubt that Ethan is blissfully deficient of. If I want and need Facebook to help me understand the world around me, yet it’s filtering what I see based on what I already like, am I putting myself in an echo chamber?

I have several friends who have consciously stopped using Facebook, mostly because it takes up too much of their time. I’ve had relatively long periods when I’ve consciously stopped posting just to see if the world ended (hint: it does not,) but still, FB overall is a convenient place for me to see a bunch of stuff, most of which is unimportant. As I’ve mentioned before, I really don’t care what you’ve had for dinner, and I generally don’t care how your doctor’s appointment went unless you coughed on me last night. I really do care what those rascally politicians are lying to me about, I’m very interested in a clever and droll turn of phrase (which, oddly enough reminds me of the wag who dogged the tale,) I love seeing really great examples of the wonders of science, and I greatly appreciate seeing a lot of life’s minor miracles and truly generous things done by everyday people. I’m also incredibly interested in the season’s first sighting of a red flicker at Sutter Buttes, or a short video of spring melt in Yosemite Falls, and finding out a wonderfully superlative yet unknown historic tidbit at an historic site. For me, Facebook and other social media help make my life more complete because of these things.

A list of things that people want Facebook to do, and not do

A griping Facebook meme found on the KMPH 26 Facebook page.

Ethan concentrated his talk on innovation and embracing change. Facebook is definitely NOT innovative these days, and it lost it’s edge years ago. We know this because we see t-shirts with the thumbs-up logo on them and sitcoms often have Facebook jokes. Plus, our moms have accounts, and every doggone business you’ve ever seen has a Facebook page, most of which are useless. It’s this ubiquitous nature of Facebook that I think means it’s still relevant to us in the communications business. It’s a lot easier for me to send someone a Facebook message than to open my email program, sort through all of the spam and then find my friend I need to contact, and I’m pretty sure that he or she will see FB before they’ll see my email.

If I’m doing these things, it’s likely that many of my park visitors are doing the same thing too. This is the public utility function of Facebook. Like it or not, FB is still the most obvious place to engage and reach out to our visitors for the time being, and that’s why it’s still important, as least for me and my employer. There are many other amazing platforms that do amazing things—Pinterest, Snapchat, Vine, Twitter, Tumblr, Kik. Google + (yes Paul!) and on and on. All of them have advantages, plus all of them have the same obsolescence factor going on. To remain relevant, to remain interesting, and to retain users, social media platforms need to continuously innovate and change, but the very change that’s required to attract users and “enhance” our experience is also alienating to many users. Chicken, meet egg.

Each one of these tools can and will become obsolete. Ethan is right—we need to understand, search out and embrace innovation, and at least some of this is technology related. We still need to be intelligent and skeptical and back out once in awhile just to see if we’re still in the forest or just looking at a lone tree.

Oh, and just in case you’ve heard the hype about YouTube being the second most-used search engine in the world, try not to suffer through this:

http://youtu.be/thAeC7xmC_A

After chaos came community, creativity, and connectivity

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backdrop-sml

I live in Christchurch, South Island, New Zealand. It’s a city that three years ago was struck by a series of devastating earthquakes; the most serious on 22 February, when 185 people died. Our central business district and several outlying suburbs where reduced to rubble.

Three years on, Christchurch has been named the world’s second-best place to visit in 2014 by the New York Times. Living here, it’s hard to understand why; I mean the place is a mess! Of course, one-in-100-year rain events are not helping either, for a city with a compromised storm water infrastructure…

As part of its feature  “52 places to visit in 2014” the New York Times called Christchurch a “city in transformation”, experiencing a “rebirth with creativity and wit”. 

Institutions like the Christchurch Art Gallery have looked for alternatives while doors remain closed – using blank walls and spaces to create “outer space” exhibitions. And with a lot of our heritage buildings reduced to rubble, there has been an increased interest in documenting and sharing heritage resources online.

Public artwork by Wayne Youle; photo Jared Cantlon.

WAYNE YOULE: I SEEM TO HAVE TEMPORARILY MISPLACED MY SENSE OF HUMOUR

Some of the positive, interpretative outcomes of tragedy – both live and digital – that have grown from the rubble over the last three years include:

Cool online maps

Quakemap – this became the go-to website for all Cantabrians, with people flocking to Quakemap after every aftershock. This animated map shows where rumbles are centred, their depth and magnitude with a series of colour-coded spots. You can look back and watch series of shakes by timeframes of your choice. Conceived and developed by Paul Nicholls of the University of Canterbury’s Digital Media Group (Christchurch).

More recently, Google map-based resouces help tourists find the ‘Neat Places’ in Christchurch, to make the most of a visit to our torn-up town.

Strengthening communities and individuals

Neighbours who may have never spoken before turned to help each other post-earthquake. Many of these communities continue to support each other through the rebuild, via neighbourhood forums and events. The Rebuild Christchurch website offers a tool for people to build an online community, based on their neighbourhood.

The internationally acclaimed Student Volunteer Army was a social media movement that mobilised over 11,000 students to assist in the clean-up of Christchurch. It began with one young man starting a Facebook page to generate and guide volunteers amongst his peers. The group is still active, and were out in force this week cleaning up after the latest storm. In 2012 Sam Johnson was named “Young New Zealander of the Year” and Prinz communicator of the year and is a compelling speaker on using technology for social change.

Digital archives – sharing the stories

The collective experiences of a crumbled city are being collated via several portals, several under the auspice of the University of Canterbury’s CEISMIC Canterbury Earthquake Digital Archive project.

Quake Studies is CEISMIC’s formal digital archive to document the Canterbury earthquakes by collecting reports, documents, stories, photos and film to be available to researchers in perpetuity, access-controlled.

Quake stories is for more personal stories, memories, experiences and photos of the Canterbury earthquakes and how they affected people, including the aftermath and ongoing story of the rebuilding. It’s described as a living memorial.

When my home shook is also personal accounts, but aimed specifically at school children, years 5-12, as a part of the recovery process.

Kete Christchurch is a creative commons digital archive compiled by Christchurch City Libraries, and includes several kete or “baskets” of knowledge, including the Christchurch earthquakes.

History these days is told via multiple voices.

New apps and innovations

CityViewAR is a mobile Augmented Reality application that allows people to see how the city was before the earthquakes and building demolitions. Using an Android mobile phone people can walk around the city and see life-sized virtual models of what the buildings looked like on site before they were demolished.

HitLab have taken this even further and used CityView AR to test their ‘Googleglasses’ – the first truly wearable computer for the masses. CityViewAR on Glass also shows panorama images taken after the earthquake, allowing people to look around them and use the head-tracking capability of Glass to see a full 360-degree photo of the city damage.

High Street Stories – NZ Historic Places Trust collaborated with HitLab and NV Interactive to create ‘High Street Stories’ website and a smartphone application, with over 100 stories of the central Christchurch street’s past. Users can wander around the area using an android phone or mobile device and see images of the now demolished heritage buildings and the precinct as it was before the quakes whilst listening to history and anecdotes about life in the area.

High street Stories

Read more about High street Stories in the summer 2014 issue of INNZ Insights

Creation of new groups, trusts and organisations

The response of many individuals after the earthquakes was to do something creatively positive and gather in the energies of others. And because the projects were all temporary by nature, it was a license to ignore the fear of failure – it was just about having a go!

Gap Filler –  temporarily activates vacant sites within Christchurch with creative projects for community benefit, to make for a more interesting, dynamic and vibrant city. Wall murals, poetry, sound garden, pallet pavilion (an open air events venue) and Dance-o-mat are some of the groovy projects, with the latest join the portfolio – the Inconvenience Store – selling things like ‘eyes in the back of your head’!

Greening the Rubble – sticking true to Christchurch’s soul as The Garden City, Greening the Rubble was a grassroots movement to create temporary gardens and public green spaces in vacant sites. Hero projects include the Sydenham Street Coffee Zone, Sound Garden, Nature Play Park, and Pod Oasis.

Children play in Greening the Rubble's Nature Play Park while buildings are demolished around them; photo S Mankelow

Children play in Greening the Rubble’s Nature Play Park while buildings are demolished around them

Ministry of Awesome – watering the seeds of awesome in Christchurch, Sam Johnson and others created this organisation to gather ideas and inspiration, and create events to provide opportunities to see some of those seeds take root.

Yes life has changed since the earthquakes of 22 February 2011. I still have to drive a long way to buy milk as our dairy and supermarket have gone. I can get lost in my home town as every street corner looks the same and there are road works at every turn.

But there’s a ‘new’ creative Christchurch amidst the rubble and vacant spaces. It’s a blank page and we’re colouring flat out, without worrying about going over the lines.

I live in Christchurch, South Island, New Zealand. Come visit.

Reader Comments: All Things in Moderation

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Black_scorpion

There’s nothing more disheartening to me than reading anonymous comments on social media and news websites. I try to make it my own personal policy not to read comments at the end of articles on news websites, especially if those articles have anything to do with climate change, religion, or the designated hitter. Regardless of the topic of the article, reader comments inevitably degenerate into incomprehensible nonsense, conspiracy theories, and hate speech. And if the content of the comments section on news websites is not enough to ruin your day, the grammar surely is.

Because of this aversion, I tend not to comment much on articles or Facebook posts from mass media organizations, but there are occasions when I can’t help myself. I was recently perusing my Facebook news feed when a post from “CBS Philly” linked to a news article with a caption about a grocery store employee being “bit” by a scorpion. My first reaction, because I am a jerk, was “They mean ‘bitten,’ not ‘bit.'” My second reaction, which I actually left as a comment on Facebook, was “Scorpions don’t bite. They sting.”

My comment received a handful of likes and a couple of responses—enough to make it the first to appear under the post because comments were ordered by “top comments” rather than chronologically. I checked back a day later to see if there had been any further response and was mildly startled to find that my comment was gone, presumably deleted by the page’s moderator. I wondered why. The comment was not profane or libelous—maybe a little pedantic, but is that a reason to delete it? All I could figure was that the page’s moderator was embarrassed by the mistake and wanted to get rid of a comment that called attention to it.

I was not annoyed, but the incident had piqued my professional curiosity. So I did what any sane social media user would do. I sent the page a note through the Facebook messaging system. When I did not hear back, I looked up the phone number for the CBS Philly newsroom and called to speak with the social media editor, who was in a meeting (presumably about the biology of scorpions). I left a message, assuming that I would not hear back (which I did not). I considered calling every day until I reached the responsible party, but I felt that I had already over-stepped the bounds of normal behavior, so I unliked their page (that will show them) and let it go.

My interest in this subject was reignited last week, when fellow Media Platypus author Lisa Keys of the Association for Heritage Interpretation in the UK wrote about a project that will rely on crowdsourcing for content. (It’s cool! Go read about it!) Lisa wrote that “the website will need to have a degree of moderation.” I am going to assume that this is representative of that Great British trait of understatement that we all love so much.

Moderating content on social media and other platforms is as much art as it is science, and there is no specific formula for it. (Anyone who has ever been involved in developing a social media policy for an organization knows how far this rabbit hole goes.) Moderating a media outlet boils down to what sort of comments will you allow and what will you disallow. Then beyond that, you have to ask yourself how you make sure the best comments rise to the top. This is usually done through some sort of rating system—letting readers vote comments up or down—but some sites, like Deadspin and Gawker, have sophisticated evaluation techniques that, in my opinion, make their reader comments the least awful out there. (No joke: I think their algorithm bans commenters who say things like “Slow news day?” and “First!”)

Moderating reader comments is one of the most potentially explosive aspects of the social media world. Remember that any time you remove one of your follower’s comments, the potential exists for that person to make a huge stink over it, causing all sorts of bad publicity—whether it’s warranted or not. The most important thing you can do is have a clearly stated policy and follow it religiously. A reasonable starting point is to state that you will remove all spam, hate speech, profanity, libel, and commercial advertising. Interpretive sites would certainly be within their rights to go beyond that and state that they would remove content not related to the content they interpret.

The most important thing when it comes to comment moderation, in my mind, is to remember that while you can control (to a certain degree) the dialogue on your pages, you cannot control what people are saying about you elsewhere. If one of your followers perceives that they have been wronged by faulty or inconsistent moderation, the public relations consequences can be distastrous.

The popularity contest everyone’s tweeting about!

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Forest and Bird e-poster. M Herrick.

OK so New Zealand has a lot of birds. And we’re pretty proud of how unique they are – I mean 87% of them are found nowhere else in the world! We’ve named ourselves after one of the weirdest ones – kiwi.  So it’s no wonder that when Forest and Bird Protection Society launches its annual ‘Bird of the Year competition’ we all jump up in a flurry of ruffled feathers to vote.

Forest and Bird e-poster. M Herrick.

Bird of the Year competition/campaign advisor, poster-designer and general go–to person Mandy Herrick  says that the competition is about celebrating our native birds and highlighting the threats they face.

“The voting page outlines the threats to each species of bird, and outlines how special they are by giving the public the latest (often rather grim) population figures,” says Mandy.

“Last year’s competition received 10,292 votes and we received just over $3,000 in donations.”

Look a little deeper, beyond the figures and the ‘pretty birds’ and you find that there are some very clever reasons why this competition is so successful. Here are three…

1)    Forest and Bird invites people to become ‘campaign managers’ for their favourite bird and makes it easy to do so.

Celebrities make great ‘campaign managers’ of course, but anyone with a passion for birds can be one. These ‘campaign managers’ tap into their own networks and connections, star factor, and ‘friends’. They make the most of the power of word of mouth. “Like me, like my bird!”

Last year, NZ comedian Raybon Kan campaigned fiercely for the karearea under the tagline “NZ’s got talons” and won the competition.

“Enlisting people (celebrities or otherwise) who are passionate about our birds is key,” says Mandy. “One campaigner went to extreme lengths to raise the profile of their bird by inking his bird onto his body last year (the tieke). Let’s just say this really raised the bar!”

2)    They make the campaign visually rich by creating e-posters and sharing these via twitter and Facebook.

“We give campaign managers the chance to create their own poster or they can just give us a tagline and we’ll create a poster for them,” says Mandy.

Forest and Bird e-poster; M Herrick.

 

3)    They keep the “buzz” going with regular updates and postings.

“Last year, we did regular graphic updates of which birds were polling well. This always creates a boost in voting and pushes the smack talk to whole new levels,” says Mandy.

“(The competition) created a conversation about our birds and it’s fun. Some people run information-rich campaigns, others concentrate on more superficial characteristics of their bird; i.e. their looks. Any which way, it helps to raise awareness, and hopefully will lead people on a path to becoming more aware of our birds, and perhaps protecting them in the future.”

So, if you like this post, make sure you vote for the bird that INNZ is backing this year –wrybill/ngutu parore. Wading in with personality and pizzazz it’s the only bird in the world with a beak that is bent sideways – and always to the right!

Why vote wrybill? Because we are all a little bent!

Wrybill_poster

P.S. there’s been no mention of rugby, hobbits or Flight of the Conchords in this, or my last post, so I’ll leave you with this tenuous link – Jermaine Clement’s Pretty bird clip.

Walking on Eggshells: Commemorating a Tragedy on Social Media

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Last week’s anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks was predictably somber. The tenor of the conversation on social media, in particular, struck a quiet and respectful tone. Many organizations either stayed off social media altogether or posted simple messages of unity and patriotism.

At a time when emotions are raw and tensions are heightened, social media managers have to be particularly sensitive to the messages they put out into the world. Even when intentions are good or mistakes are honest, the already-critical social media masses are on hyper alert on days like 9/11.

This is why it was particularly jarring to see major brands make really egregious errors in judgment last week.

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The Los Angeles Lakers started the day by tweeting a photo of their own controversial star player, Kobe Bryant, wearing the American flag ribbon they and every other team wore the season after the attacks. The social media sphere erupted in outrage that the team would tweet an image of a player to mark the day, culminating in a post on the site Deadspin that simply asked, “The hell?” The Lakers realized their mistake and almost immediately pulled the post (though not before it was screen-captured a billion times). They later offered this apology by email, documented on Yahoo Sports:

We apologize to anyone who took this differently than we intended and were therefore offended by it. We used a photo of how we commemorated 9/11 in the 2001-02 season, shortly after the tragedy occurred, because we wanted to show our support of what we felt at that time and continue to feel now.  Out of respect for the intensely personal nature of how people remember this day, and that we recognize that not everyone understood the intent of our message, we pulled down our tweet and photo.  Ultimately, our intent was to honor the spirit of remembering a day that we should all never forget.

Esquire Magazine had to deal with a different sort of mistake. A truly unfortunate technical glitch on their website caused an image associated with an article about the attacks to be paired with a frivolous headline about looking good on the way to work:

original

The reaction on social media was equal parts baffled and irate, and only intensified when Esquire offered this pseudo-apology, as noted on Huffington Post:

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One of the most essential decisions an organization makes is whom to put in charge of social media. The easy thing to do is to hand it over to the tech guy because it feels like technology, but (sweeping generalization alert!) tech guys are notorious for holding everyone in the world in contempt for being hopelessly stupid—and that’s the last person you want responsible for being the voice of your brand. Esquire’s “Relax, everybody” Twitter response to an understandable but horrible technical glitch should have been utter humility. Instead, their snarky response became the story—and the new focal point of the social media mob’s rage.

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Finally, a lesser-known brand made headlines before 9/11 when the Tumbledown Trails golf course offered a tasteless 9/11-themed deal on rounds of golf, as seen on USA Today and a million other sites. The outrage was so intense that two apologies, a promise make donations to the National September 11 Memorial, and the plea on Facebook that “We are a family owned business & proudly support all local charities and have always gave 20% off everyday to all Police, Fire, Emergency, Military, etc.” were not enough to placate the internet masses. The golf course received threats and other vitriol heaped on its Facebook page to the point that they considered closing on 9/11 for their own safety.

Every day brings new challenges for social media managers. How and if we respond to national or international events on behalf of our brands can be an identity-altering decision. On Monday, I stared at my computer screen for 10 minutes when posting a simple message on NAI’s Facebook page that our office in Fort Collins, Colorado, had reopened and staff members were safe after flooding ravaged parts of the state.

What it boils down to is awareness. Whether we specifically acknowledge events in the news or not—from tragedies like wildfires or mass shootings to positive news like holidays or (in my mind) major sporting events—social media managers need to know how to strike an appropriate tone and analyze how their words might be perceived regardless of their intentions.

And then if we do get it wrong, we need to know how to apologize sincerely without telling people to “relax.”

This just in! How social media campaigns can be successful

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I am often a great supporter of procrastination. Not a proactive supporter, just a passive one. In fact, I often find that the mere act of doing nothing has the unintentional effect of encouraging procrastination.

So, I was busy procrastinating from writing my latest blog post for Media Platypus. I guess I was just waiting for something to happen on its own, when – ding! – something suddenly appeared in my inbox. It was a report from Ipsos, a worldwide market research firm. But, this isn’t just any report. It is a report about social media campaigns. Bingo! Procrastination 1. Hard Work 0.

This new report (from Ipsos’ UK office) attempts to identify ways that social media campaigns can be successful. It is something that I fully intended on coming up with myself, but how about I just tell you what the report says instead?

In a nutshell, this report identifies three things you must do to be successful with your campaign:

1. Play to the strengths of each platform. They are all different. I can’t stress the importance of this one enough. Just because they are all grouped together under the umbrella of social media, it doesn’t mean you should take the same approach with each platform. They are all different and have different users. And, these users have different behaviour and reasons for using those platforms.

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Social Media – as explained by the act of peeing

According to their survey of UK users, Facebook is about sharing enjoyment with friends, Twitter is about discovery and connection with like-minded individuals, and YouTube is about entertainment and relaxation (like TV). The implication? Your content for Facebook should be focused on bringing friends together, your content for Twitter should be about discovery, and your content for YouTube should entertain and inform.

2. Deliver content people want to engage with. This seems obvious, but I see a lot of examples of content that either isn’t engaging or is on the wrong platform. When surveying how people interact with brands on various platforms, Ipsos discovered that people look for promos and offers on Facebook, and news on Twitter. Linkedin was more for learning from experts.

3. Be relevant and add value.  If we want people’s time, we need to reward them for it. 45% of people that “like” a brand on Facebook subsequently unlike it. There are all kinds of reasons for this, but often it is because there is some immediate one-time reward or contest, and there isn’t enough relevant and rewarding content to continue.

If you would like to read the entire report (it isn’t very long), you can check it out here. As for me, I have some serious procrastination planned.

Hashtags have come to Facebook. What are they and what do you do with them?

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Hashtags are the fire ants of social media. They’re an important if somewhat prickly part of their native habitat, but their invasion of other habitats is causing alarm and painful itching. Hashtags are endemic to Twitter, but they are establishing colonies in other social media outlets like Instagram, Pinterest, and most recently, Facebook.

There are people in the world who like Facebook but hate Twitter. This makes sense to me. (There are also people who think that putting nuts in chocolate is a good idea. This does not make sense to me.)

One of the reasons that I believe some people don’t like Twitter is that it’s imposing and a little confusing at first glance. The very art of micro-blogging requires the use of abbreviations, codes, and awkward, stilted language, resulting in a foreign-looking structure that I think of as “Twitterese.” One of the symbols that makes Twitter so distinct is the hashtag—#—known to people weighing things as the pound sign, to people using telephone keypads as the number sign, to musicians reading sheet music as the sharp symbol, and to 1960s scientists at Bell Laboratories as the octothorpe.

hashtagThe Twitter-haters groaned when hashtags recently showed up on the Facebook landscape, just as residents of Arizona did the first time they discovered a colony of invasive fire ants. (Of course, there’s already a Facebook page called This is not Twitter. Hashtags don’t work here.) But I like to think of hashtags as more commonly accepted types of invasive species, like palm trees in Hawaii or house cats in my house.

Hashtags have the potential to connect your site with new followers and to insert your page into conversations you may not have even known about. In short, hashtags identify and make clickable keywords that you identify in your post. So if blogger, interpreter, and junior astronaut Cal Martin were to post on his own personal Facebook page, “William Shatner personifies my two favorite things: #StarTrek and #Canada,” his post would show up (if Cal’s privacy settings allowed) any time someone clicked on or searched for one of those hashtags.

One trend that you see on Twitter a lot is people hashtagging complete sentences, in what I can only assume is an ironic way. So, because hashtags cannot include punctuation or spaces, you might see blogger and pretend engineer Phil Sexton tweet, “I like trains. #trainsarethebestandanyonewhosaysotherwiseisajerkface.” I honestly don’t understand why people do this other than to be funny, because clearly, clicking on one of these long, full-sentence hashtags will not yield any results.

Here are a few best practices for using hashtags on Facebook:

1. Use simple words or phrases. Apply hashtags to single word or very short phrases. For the hashtag to serve its purpose of connecting you to Facebook users who don’t know about you, it would have to be used (or searched) by someone else.

2. Be relevant. Interpreters should be good at this! Choose terms that are pertinent to your site or message—#conservation, #civilwar, or #saguarocactus, for instance. Hashtagging random words or phrases just to try to show up in as many searches or conversations as possible makes you look like one of those jerks who brings signs to sporting events just to get on TV.

3. Don’t use too many. A post with 10 hashtags in it looks like spam. Identify two or three terms to tag at most.

4. Investigate your hashtag. Especially if you plan to use a specific hashtag regularly, search for it and see how it’s already being used. Search for #conservation, #civilwar, #saguarocactus, or whatever and see what pops up. If no one is using it, it’s not an effective hashtag. If too many people are using it or people are using it in ways that you didn’t expect, your posts may get buried.

5. Tack them on the end. This may be the typographer in me coming out, but I find hashtags mixed in to the middle of sentences distracting. I’d much rather read

Phillies second baseman Chase Utley is starting for the AA Reading Fightin Phils tonight. #fightinphils #phillies

instead of

#Phillies second baseman Chase Utley is starting for the AA Reading #FightinPhils tonight.

Like fire ants in the southern United States or house cats in my house, hashtags on Facebook are here to stay. As with all things social media, we may not love this new development, but it’s to our detriment to refuse to use hashtags or to ignore their potential for growing our audiences.

What time of day should you post to Facebook?

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A typical Facebook post reaches one-third of the people it’s going reach in the first 10 minutes of its life, and half of the people it’s going to reach within a half hour (according to the website Marketing Charts). After that first half hour, your Facebook post gradually descends into near-complete obscurity, much like a New York Mets baseball season. (A baseball reference for all of our new friends in New Zealand!)

This means that if you post something witty and amazing and wonderful at the wrong time, your efforts are wasted. (Okay, maybe not wasted, but less fruitful than they could have been.) Here’s the thing: It’s easy to look at this and say, “Okay, we’ll post our stuff when the most people are on Facebook (early evenings and weekends) so that the most people will see it.” The problem with that is that if you post when the most people are on Facebook, you’re competing with all the other social media outlets that are thinking the same thing.

So then you think, “Okay, we’ll post when nobody’s on Facebook (work hours and late evening) so that we won’t have any competition.” The problem with those hours is that nobody’s on Facebook. (Okay, it’s fairer to say fewer people are on Facebook during those hours, but you get the point.)

So your job as a social media manager is to figure out not only what type of content resonates with your followers, but when the posts that you’re posting get the most reaction. In this article on Constant Contact’s social media marketing blog, Danielle Cormier suggests, “Try to find your engagement sweet spot by determining the intersection of time when the majority of your audience is on Facebook and the time when the least overall posting is occurring.”

Most of the articles you read online say that you should use Facebook insights to analyze demographics to make sweeping generalizations about your followers. The problem with this is that you can use sweeping generalizations to arrive at any conclusion you like. (“More than half of our followers are in New Jersey, so they’re probably Mets fans, which means they’re depressed, which means they’re sleeping late, so we’ll avoid posting to Facebook in the early morning.”)

Instead, The Media Platypus-approved method of determining when to post to Facebook is to analyze your past performance and see which posts are getting the most reaction. Thankfully, Facebook makes this easy. If you are an admin of a page, you can export your insights into a sortable, very useful Excel spreadsheet. Simply go to your page, click on the insights section, and then click where it says “Export Data”:

Export

In the pop-up window that you get, select “Post level data” (I really want to hyphenate “Post-level,” but they didn’t, so I won’t.)

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What you get is an incredibly useful spreadsheet that has all sorts of good information, including dates and times of posts. I’ve included below a screen capture of some insights from Media Platypus’s Facebook page. I sorted the information to list the posts from most to least popular (in terms of reach):

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The first thing that jumps out at me from the modest numbers here is that six of our top seven posts are status updates, while links to pages outside of Facebook are all on the bottom half of the list. In terms of time of day, our three most popular posts happened in the late morning/early afternoon, but to be honest, I’m not certain we vary the timing of our posts enough to really glean from this data what the best time of day for us to post is.

If we really wanted to determine the best time of day to post, we would systematically stage our posts using Facebook’s awesome new scheduling feature. For a solid month, we’d schedule posts of all types (status, links, photos, videos) to land at exactly 9:00am, 2:00pm, and 7:00pm, and then analyze the results.

Even from this small sample size, you can see that the content of the post matters a lot more than the time of day in determining the number of people you reach, but time of day is still a factor. Unfortunately, there is no magic formula for determining the best time of day for your posts. The best you can do is look at what you’ve done already and see if there’s a pattern, or be systematic in your approach and analyze your results.

Or if most of your followers are Mets fans, the sweeping generalizations will work just fine.

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