The same people saying click-bait is a problem are the ones clicking on that bait

facebook_logo.pngI was going to write something really profound about Facebook’s announcement that it was cracking down on “click bait” type stories, penalizing them the News Feed algorithm based on a number of factors, but then Dave Coustan wrote this and why bother. See his post for how this is likely to impact brand and other publishers.

The question I keep asking, though, is how did Facebook ultimately decide this as a problem it needed to address? It says these types of posts were resulting in a steady amount of negative feedback, both on pages themselves and in a survey, where people said these types of “…and you won’t believe what happened next” articles weren’t very good.

But then why do they so frequently appear in people’s News Feed? I can understand why people can feel like they’ve been the victim of a bait-and-switch, but then why take the steps of engaging with that post in a such a way that similar stories show up more regularly?

This is, to me, a bit like surveys where people tell a news organization they want more hard-hitting stories about international news but then tune in only when one celebrity gets in a traffic accident while driving naked. Surveys are notoriously bad ways of gauging actual behavior and the changes now being made based on those results are now going to impact a lot of publishing programs.

There’s beauty in Twitter’s unfiltered stream

Both Mathew Ingram at GigaOm and Charlie Warzel at Buzzfeed (there are others but those are the biggest ones I’ve seen) have pieces about the stark contrast between what people are seeing on Facebook and what people are seeing on Twitter over the last week or so.

The gist of this is that Facebook has been filled with videos of people taking the Ice Bucket Challenge, a stunt designed to raise awareness of and get people to donate to ALS charities while Twitter has been the place to turn to for updates about what’s happening in Ferguson, MO as well as more recent stories about the beheading of a journalist in Syria and more.

I won’t belabor the point but instead encourage everyone to read those two pieces linked above. But I will take a moment and reiterate how the difference is largely – almost solely – because one uses an algorithm to decide what to display (Facebook) while the other is the unfiltered stream (Twitter).

While Twitter’s lack of algorithm may not mean someone sees everything – a lot is missed in the time we’re looking away – it does mean they see a lot more. And it’s easier for people to catch up because there’s often someone who’s X amount of time behind the news and who’s sharing things now, a bit later than when it was breaking.

As Twitter makes more and more rumblings about introducing some sort of algorithm to the Timeline (something that isn’t necessarily bad…as long as they either make it an opt-in feature or something I can easily opt out of) I hope they’re looking at all the commentary about this issue and that it’s giving them pause. While they can muck around with officially making Favorites something that appears in your Timeline in addition to Retweets all they want, the beauty is in the stream. It’s messy, it’s imperfect and it’s often wrong. But it’s also a magnificent example of a wonderful, flowing public conversation. And it’s *much* more important to have this sort of free-flow of ideas and news than be subject to some system’s idea of what is or isn’t important.

Two Tragedies, Two Opportunities to Reconsider Social Media Publishing

People were stunned Tuesday afternoon when news broke that Robin Williams had, by his own hand, passed away. That includes myself. Williams was a huge talent and an incredibly loved and influential comedian, actor and person.

As the afternoon more and more people in the “Social Media Marketing” wing of Twitter particularly came out with their opinion that, in the wake of the tragedy, brands should pause their social publishing programs. While I certainly see their point, I disagreed. Williams’ death was certainly sudden and Twitter was filled with an outpouring of emotion over it, but in my opinion it didn’t rise to the level where brands appear incredibly insensitive and tone-deaf with their scheduled updates. There was nothing inappropriate about continuing to publish at that time like there is when there’s a shooting at a school, a bomb goes off somewhere in the U.S. or something similarly massive happens. It’s hard calculus, and I certainly respected differing opinions, but this didn’t meet the necessary criteria to make that recommendation.

(Note that if we paused every time a bomb goes off elsewhere in the world no brands would ever tweet again until the second coming of Christ himself. We also differentiate between shootings. 12 people could be killed in Chicago over this weekend and every brand in America would continue to publish without a second thought.)

After watching on Twitter as events unfolded in Ferguson, MO last night, though, I’m increasingly of the opinion that the situation *there* does cross that threshold.

Think about it: Right now in an American city – one just 275 miles from my front door – there are police confronting unarmed citizens with riot gear, including long-range rifles, tear gas and more. That’s really happening. Journalists are being taken to prison, peaceful protestors are being tear-gassed and more.



(image via @chicagotribune)

Imagine if brands took a stand and said, “In light of the actions happening in Ferguson, MO we are taking a break from our social media marketing. When we feel the situation has been resolved, or there’s a clear path that’s being taken to that resolution, we will resume regular posts. Until then, our thoughts are with the people of Ferguson.”

Now that might sound like crazy talk. Take a stand on a public issue that has little to nothing to do with a company’s business? That’s nuts and this shouldn’t impact marketing one way or the other, right? But that’s exactly what brands and companies are doing everyday with issues like birth control, same-sex marriage and a host of other social issues.

Just like taking a stand on same-sex marriage shows companies attempting to convey human emotions and take a stand against what is the status quo, doing so around the events of Ferguson would be a showing that they’re not blind to the events around them, events that are, on many levels, hard to believe.

I’ll admit I’m not ready to make this call myself just yet. It’s so outside the norm that I’m still hesitant to recommend what I’ve outlined above. But it’s something that’s growing and growing in the back of my mind and, if things aren’t resolved there soon, I may work up the nerve to at least try to lead by example.