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Category Archives: Facebook

Tag Archives: Facebook


Four Ways Michelle Obama Rules Social Media: And How You Can, Too

15 million Facebook likes. 4.3 million Instagram followers. 4.17 Twitter followers. 470,000 Vine followers. Since she took her place in the White House in 2009, our First Lady, Michelle Obama, has had quite the powerful social media presence, to say the least. Through her thousands of posts, tweets and status updates, the FLOTUS has been crafting messages that appeal to a variety of audiences. Want to become a social media maven like our First Lady? Here are a few tips to keep in mind when managing your social media platforms:

Be authentic: Even though she is always in the spotlight, the FLOTUS keeps her messages realistic so her followers can easily relate. In honor of her “Let’s Move!” campaign to end childhood obesity, Jimmy Fallon and the First Lady filmed the Evolution Of Mom Dancing, which went viral almost immediately after being uploaded to YouTube. This fun, genuine performance allowed viewers to see a silly side of Mrs. Obama (“mom” dancing on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon seems pretty laid back to me) that the public wouldn’t normally expect from a First Lady. Keeping your posts, tweets and photos authentic will help build better relationships with your (or a brand’s) followers, both on and offline. Give your audiences something real and relatable to hold on to and they’ll keep coming back.

Keep your content timely: Back in the fall of 2014, while everyone was singing along to DJ Snake/Lil Jon’s chart topping “Turn Down For What”, the FLOTUS grabbed hold of the musical phenomenon and created the “Turnip for What” vine. This seven second video once again turned the media’s attention to her “Let’s Move!” campaign to raise awareness about healthy eating. The First Lady acknowledged the popularity of the hit rap song and developed her Vine while the song was still relevant. It may sound obvious, but keeping current trends and timely topics in mind when drafting social media posts is essential. Grab hold of something big happening in the news that may be relevant to your brand – even just a trending hashtag – and tie it back to your own story.

Stay accessible: In a recent interview with The Verge, Michelle Obama stated: “We know we have to meet young people where they are — they’re not watching the nightly news, they’re not watching the Sunday morning shows, and they’re not reading the newspapers. They’re on their phones.” The FLOTUS pays attention to what interests her audience, where she can access them and where they can access her. Be aware of this shift to digital communication while crafting your social posts. Making your message as accessible as possible to all audiences will help build a following and better brand awareness.

Be powerful: One of the more influential social media movements the First Lady started was the Let Girls Learn campaign to help the 62 million girls around the world who are not in school – many of whom are adolescent – go to school and stay in school. With the help of The President, Michelle Obama brought this powerful campaign into the spotlight and used the hashtag, #62MillionGirls, to keep the movement trending. As the FLOTUS did, make sure your message stands out to get noticed. Stay provocative and creative with your content to capture attention and push out a great story.

So there you have it – follow these tips and you may just wind up being a social media guru like Michelle Obama!

Read more from Skye McIvor

Facebook Introduces Chatbots: What Does it Mean for PR?

Last week, Mark Zuckerberg announced the future for Facebook at the F8 developer conference. A bulk of the conference focused on new capabilities that will open up to developers, and perhaps the most exciting and buzzed about are chatbots.

For those outside the developer world, the first thoughts upon hearing the news was: what is a chatbot? Then: what does this mean?

Bots are software programs that use artificial intelligence to respond to questions and function in almost-human way – and Facebook is banking on them to increase developer and business activity within the social network in a major way. The ability to develop chatbots means businesses – including publishers – will be able to interact with Facebook Messenger’s 900 million users one-on-one. 

While a big focus during the F8 conference was the implications of bots for ecommerce, it’s worth noting that publishers’ ability to develop and deploy chatbots could potentially have a significant impact on the way we receive news. Over the past year, we’ve been introduced to Apple News and Facebook Instant Articles – new, fast and convenient ways to consume the news that matters to readers who prefer to find news "in the stream", rather than going to the source’s website. Chatbots represent a new approach of delivering the news that’s most of interest to individual readers.

At the conference, Zuck demonstrated how CNN’s bot for messenger would work:

Users can rotate through stories and have options to react – “read story,” “get a summary,” or “ask CNN.” Over time, the CNN bot will learn from each user’s behavior and personalize the stories they see. Other publishers that have introduced chatbots or are planning to include the Wall Street JournalBusiness Insider and Mic.

So, what do chatbots mean for public relations? The impacts are two-fold.

Organizations considering developing chatbots should understand the risks that come with it. As with any new technology, most are apprehensive about trusting bots. Since Messenger bots will have the ability to interact with millions of users at scale, one mistake could negatively impact a brand’s public image. Brian Blau, an analyst with Gartner said in an interview with ComputerWorld that he believes businesses will eventually trust the technology, but there will be “measured adoption.” 

“They’re a powerful tool but they’re also a big risk," said Blau. "A.I. can be a very powerful technology. Businesses are going to have to understand how to harness that power. There are reasons to be worried about it. Because we’re giving chatbots the power to act on our behalf, they’re taking on greater importance."

The introduction of chatbots further reinforces the importance of providing journalists with the news that matters most to their audiences. As we continue to move more toward getting our news in-stream, chatbots represent another opportunity for innovative PR pros to insert content into the news cycle – whether that be through the rapid response of breaking news, or sharing their own take on a trending topic through an opinion piece or byline.

Read more from Stephanie Olesen

Publishers Flock to Messaging Apps (What It Means for PR)

Like PR professionals, publishers are constantly looking at the trends, wondering what’s next and how they can better reach their target audiences. Publishers need to look at where their readers are digesting news and, with the growing, ever changing landscape of social media and mobile, it may be hard to keep up sometimes.

At the end of 2015, it was reported that 2.1 billion people use a messaging app, according to Portio Research. The rise of messaging apps – WhatsApp, Kik, Viber, Facebook Messenger to note a few – present a new way to get in front of readers – 2.1 billion of them. For publishers, the challenge is how to crack into this huge untapped channel that’s often seen as secretive and private (for example, Kik is an anonymous messaging app).

Messaging apps are different than social media platforms: there’s no news feed so there’s no central, obvious place to push content to users. So publishers have had to get creative. Take, for example, the Washington Post which has used Kik’s Promoted Chats to attract readers through quizzes and game-like experiences hoping that its light-hearted content would drive brand awareness among Kik’s younger user base.

The BBC News, on the other hand, largely uses Facebook-owned WhatsApp for user-generated content and information gathering. For example, during the 2015 earthquake in Nepal, BBC News used its WhatsApp account to gather reader photos, videos, and first-hand accounts that it later repurposed on its live news blog.

Another example is The Huffington Post which just joined Viber’s Public Chats — a feature that allows publishers to publicly share real-time conversations between their journalists — in an attempt to reach the messaging app’s over 250 million monthly active users (MAUs) that are located in Russia, India, and the Middle East. The Huffington Post claims that it now has almost 18 thousand followers for its Viber Public Chats.

Messaging apps are growing by the day and users are not only active, but also spend considerable time in these apps. On average, chat apps keep users engaged for over 30 minutes per session, according to a 2015 study commissioned by Kik. And it’s looking really good for publishers on these apps. According to a 2015 MEC survey cited by Digiday, 79 percent of messaging app users claim they are likely to engage with brands during their chat app experience. If they’re interested in brands on the apps, there’s a good chance they’ll be receptive to publishers doing the same.

So what does it mean for PR? We’ve become accustomed to tweaking our messages and content for the social age and weaving messaging apps into our strategies, campaigns and content will be a new frontier for us. Ultimately the challenge is how to take advantage of the opportunity to either influence the content that publishers are sharing or how to insert our own content into the messaging app stream. Another challenge will be measurement figuring out, for example, how to determine the volume of eyeballs our stories and content achieve on, say, WhatsApp and the impact of that “coverage.” Perhaps publishers will add share buttons so users can share stories directly to their favorite messaging apps, or maybe the apps will come up with a measurement method. That’s what’s so exciting about new technologies like these breaking into the mainstream, you never know what’s coming next — and it keeps PR people like us on our toes.

Read more from Kristen Zemeitus

Should Brands Adopt Facebook Live?

Throughout 2015, brands have been jumping on the live-streaming bandwagon – adopting these new apps to give their followers a live look at events, show them how to use a product, or launch a real-time Q&A with a celebrity or spokesperson. My fellow InkHousers have already shared the basics of the top live streaming apps Periscope (which was just named Apple’s App of the Year) and Meerkat, but this month a new player joined the race – one that will undoubtedly place fear in their competitors.

This week Facebook Live, Facebook’s live-streaming platform, started rolling out to all users after being in beta mode with high-profile brands and personalities. It goes without saying that Facebook inherently has a leg up in the live-streaming world – the original social network has 1 billion active users every day, whereas Periscope and Meerkat are still building their user bases, with 10 million and 2 million, respectively. Periscope and Meerkat are still very much the new kids on the social media block and lack brand awareness compared to other visual social networks like Instagram, Snapchat and Vine.

Aside from its massive user base and prominence in the social media landscape, Facebook also provides analytics and advertising capabilities that are still not available on the competing live-streaming services. Meerkat and Periscope users can see how many people join a live stream and engage with them directly, but beyond that, interaction is fairly limited. Facebook’s robust engagement tracking and targeting could make their entry in this space a game changer.

So, does that mean if you’re using Periscope or Meerkat you should jump ship to Facebook? Before you do that, here are some things to consider:

  • Your Facebook followers are probably a lot different than your Meerkat fans. Periscope and Meerkat are definitely built for a younger, hipper generation, who we know are using Facebook less and less. Tune into what your Facebook fans engage with the most (do a deep dive into your Facebook analytics), and tailor your live-streaming efforts to align with their interests.
  • The Twitter-Periscope connection. When Meerkat first launched, it had access to Twitter’s social graph, but soon after Periscope launched, that was revoked. It’s safe to assume that Twitter won’t want to play nice with Facebook Live either, so Periscope will still have the leg up in its connection to your Twitter follower base.
  • Has it moved the needle in your social efforts? If you’ve been using Periscope and Meerkat and have been making new and meaningful connections, and feel a difference in the engagement you’re getting, there’s no reason to leave it for something shiny and new so quickly. It’s wise to wait a beat and see what could happen with Facebook Live, before cutting the cord on your current live-streaming platform.

I’ve already seen some brands on my Facebook feed testing out Live, and in the coming months it will be interesting to see the effect it has on its competitors.

Read more from Stephanie Olesen
3D white people. Latest news concept. Paperboy

Distributed Content: The Evolution of the Paper Route

As a PR person, it’s really important to keep up with the news of the day. In fact, being in the know is equally as important as all other facets of the role, almost on an as-it-happens basis. The truth is, with the frenetic pace of the day, keeping current with speed of breaking news while also being productive is a constant juggling act. As a news junkie, I was thrilled when news outlets took to Facebook and Twitter and began posting links to stories in the places I visit a few times a day anyhow.

This is the new era of news consumption. Gone are the days of the paper boy delivering the news to our door in the wee hours of the morning; instead, mobile has changed the way we consume news, a cycle that is 24/7 – no breaks. There is no such thing as the morning news or the evening news – news follows us via different mediums all day and all night. Twitter and Facebook have led the charge in recent years – according to recent Pew Research, news hounds are getting their fix on either Twitter or Facebook (63 percent respectively) up significantly from 2013 (52 percent/Twitter; 47 percent/Facebook).

Recently news consumption has evolved so it’s delivered to where readers already are, versus having readers come to get the news. It’s a huge shift known as “distributed content” that PR people need to understand.

How are social platforms adapting?

Everyone is getting in on the game, figuring out how best to entice publishers and content producers to get their news “into the stream” and in front of the huge mobile audiences. It all started with Facebook Instant Articles. Then came Apple News, an aggregation of the day’s top stories designed to bring news stories to you; eliminating the need to have to go to a blog or the New York Times or BuzzFeed to get your news. Twitter has taken it to a new level with its launch of Moments, a new feature that allows users to flip through trending news, all nicely edited and aggregated by humans who provide users with a simple way to engage with current events. It’s quick and dirty, not in-depth, and is great for steering readers toward the news they’d like to explore further. Similarly, Facebook’s “Trending” feature gives users a look at what’s happening now – serving up full-length news stories from major sources (think WSJ, NYT, etc.). The best part about Trending is that it’s smart – showing news relative to popularity, geography, and interest. Then came Google AMP, designed to dramatically improve the performance of the mobile Web to deliver rich content instantly regardless of device.

For Millennials who think Facebook and Twitter are for their parents (I beg to differ…), super popular Snapchat has been in on this action for some time now, too. Snapchat’s Discover offers Stories, just like our personal Snaps – but sponsored by major news outlets and delivered in brief editorial packages. Short and sweet. Just like our attention spans.

As the “on-demand” generation, this is about as on-demand as it gets.

Publishers get on board

The major shift taking place is that many major media outlets are no longer publishing exclusively to their own properties (which is crazy if you think about it). The Washington Post, Business Insider and The Huffington Post all publish to Facebook Instant Articles. CNN, Vox Media, TIME and Wired were among the first wave of publishers on Apple News, while U.S. News, New York Times and Buzzfeed got on board with Google AMP.

The proverbial paperboy is still delivering to your doorstep – only the doorstep is your computer or mobile device or tablet. And even then, the news is following you, not the other way around. Clearly this means media outlets have had to adapt the way they publish (and monetize) news if they want to remain competitive and relevant.

So what does this mean for PR? Smart PR people understand that securing media coverage with publications who are distributing their content into this new stream is the way to get vast amounts of more eyeballs on their stories. In parallel, there are also clever ways to feed our owned content into the stream via Apple News and LinkedIn Pulse.

Is this the end of conventional media output as we know it? Not quite. Publishers still have to maintain their sites both for readers and advertisers, but the pressure to dive into the evolved media stream is on, and publishers who stay on dry land will definitely be left behind.

And yes, you’ll be able to see this blog post in your LinkedIn feed.

Read more from Jill Rosenthal

Publishing Changing “In An Instant” – Google and Twitter Team Up to Offer Their Own Instant Articles


It seems as though no landscape (with the exception of perhaps the Tien Shan glaciers which are melting at an alarming rate) is changing faster than the media. The latest shift, being pushed out across some of the biggest platforms, is “instant articles.”

Facebook took the first leap back in May, introducing “Instant Articles” as a new way for publishers to push out content quickly and help eliminate the load time (a brutal eight seconds, how impatient are we?) when sharing articles with friends. The move was criticized by some as a way to keep content, and subsequently power, within Facebook’s site and grasp. However, the opportunity to reach a growing number of interested, albeit impatient, readers was enough for publications such as The New York Times and The Atlantic to get on board.

Now Google and Twitter are getting in on the instant game, announcing that they too will be allowing publishers to show “instant articles” to readers who are using their services while on mobile devices. One of the key differences here, however, is that neither Google nor Twitter will be hosting the articles. Unlike Facebook’s approach, the “instant article” that pops up is a “snapshot” of the article hosted on the original publisher’s site. This is of particular importance to those publishers who were not crazy about Facebook being the host to their content, but still want to reach us eager readers who, apparently, possess the attention span of a fruit fly.

But are instant articles the be all and end all of news publishing right now? Nope. Another major media move to watch is by tech’s most glorious fruit, Apple, (a title easily usurped from beans) as they roll out the Apple News App this week. This new app, available with iOS 9, will allow users to read, share and save articles, as well as curate their feeds to include only the news outlets they value.

So what does it all mean? Expect more content, quicker. Speed has long been a key factor in the news industry, and that desire to be the first to publish is certainly extending to how quickly we want to share and consume news. I, for one, welcome our new instant article overlords, even though the eight second delay never really bothered me. Patience is a virtue and I lived through dial-up modems, emerging on the other side a more patient person because of it.

Read more from Lisa Mokaba

Facebook Notes: The Next Publishing Platform?

Man yelling through megaphone

Of all the changes and additions Facebook has instituted thus far in its young history, such as the News Feed layout, profile page layout, cover photo addition and auto-play videos, the sneaky increase in characters may have been the most overlooked.

But as content publishing increasingly looms large on other social platforms, such as LinkedIn and the massive success that Medium has been, Facebook is testing an update to its Notes tool and seemingly transforming it into a Medium-like, long-form publishing platform. What does this mean for all of us self-publishers, from independent bloggers to communications pros and thought leaders across the industry?

1. Facebook is growing up. Late to the game as it may be, Facebook gets credit for finally recognizing the value of long-form posts rather than gimmicky eye-catching headlines created for quick clicks. I won’t go so far as to say the click-bait era is over, but hopefully this contribution can be a major step in the right direction.

2. Reporters, journalists and bloggers have a huge syndication opportunity. It might not be thought of as the immediate, first destination for in-depth pieces the same way that other publishing sites (such as Medium or WordPress) are, but the fact remains: Facebook provides an enormous built-in audience. A quick syndication on a company or author’s Facebook page, with a link back to the original source would be of great help. Writers search out audience segments far and wide, and It might turn out that an enormous audience is sitting right in front of them with eager eyes.

3. Detailed data provides more personalization. Facebook has found success in using highly targeted ads to reach consumers. Users’ likes and link clicks within the site create a good picture of that person, but taking a look at his or her written content offers an entirely new dimension. Tags could easily label topics within a post, and the publishers themselves could possibly get more background on who exactly is reading their stories.

The wide release for the new and improved, blog site-inspired Facebook Notes hasn’t been announced yet, but when it launches it will certainly be worth following. The results could signal a change in Facebook’s direction, as well as further acceleration for the long-form writing trend.

Read more from Kyle Coffee
Police siren

Jump on It: Responding to Breaking News

When all news seems to be “breaking news,” rapid response is a critical tactic for PR and marketing pros. Our expert rapid responder, Lisa Mokaba, recently explained that the best way to handle rapid response is to channel the Fresh Prince and “jump on it.”

If you don’t act immediately, you’ve already missed the opportunity to insert your voice into a short conversation.

News audiences tune in for breaking news updates more frequently and from more devices than ever before. The American Press Institute found 33 percent of Americans read their news throughout the day, and 78 percent use their smartphone to get news.

Further, social media is climbing its way into the top spot as a news source thanks to millennials, as our Beth Monaghan noted in a recent post. Millennials are nearly evenly split between TV (28 percent) and social media (26 percent) as their primary source for news. But the trend is moving away from TV and toward social media. Facebook just announced it will begin directly hosting articles from leading news organizations, including NBC News and The New York Times.

Given this context for how readers are consuming news, we understand that edging into the news cycle requires rapid response. Strategically responding to breaking news, however, demands a balance of thoughtful foresight and planning and immediate action.

You never want to regret hitting send on an email to a reporter containing poorly crafted commentary so it’s important to develop a strong foundation for how your brand and its leadership fit into the ebb and flow of news in the industry.

Take the time to develop a unique perspective about what’s happening within your industry today and where it’s headed. Once the message is well-defined and understood by everyone at the company, your thought leaders can respond to breaking news with timely commentary that adds value to the developing story and reinforces your position in the market.

Here are three additional tips for rapid response:

  • Obvious, but critical – speed: Reporters don’t have time to wait, so neither do you. As soon as a new story breaks and you have insight to add that helps relay this news to readers, get it out there. Reporters will appreciate thoughtful commentary that arrives before they finish filing their pieces.
  • Short soundbites that matter: When you have something unique to say that aligns with the established company principles, frame your thoughts as short soundbites. Whether over the phone or in an email, reporters need quick insights that strengthen their stories, not long-winded paragraphs. Given the time crunch, short and valuable contributions matter most.
  • Establish yourself as a thought leader: If you continue to provide valuable insights about breaking news, you’ll fortify your position as a thought leader in the media. Reporters will come to rely on your expertise, and you’ll reach a wider industry audience through continued dialogue about breaking news events.

Rapid response is a powerful tool to reach the media, but it requires planning to nail the choreography and win the audience.

Read more from Rachael Tucker
Group of Multiethnic Busy People Working in an Office

The Impact of Engagement Science on the News

And you thought those photos of the 10 puppies you had to see before you die were all just for fun. Engagement science is transforming the news business. From Buzzfeed’s listicles to Medium’s focus on reads over clicks. It’s all about the data, which is all about engagement – and it’s increasingly all about social.

Why? The explosion of mobile is changing the way people interact with the news. When we’re sitting in front of our laptops, we search. But on mobile, we sit back. We share, but we rarely search. Consumers let information come to us on our mobile phones via push notifications and the cockpits of our favorite social media platforms.

This train’s momentum is strong. Buzzfeed reports that 71% of millennials visit social media sites daily. And mobile has “taken the lead as the primary platform for social – 60% of time spent on social is on mobile (Buzzfeed/eMarketer). Social media isn’t the only car on this mobile train. Video is driving massive usage. Check out these stats:

This behavioral shift is changing the way people read the news. Facebook is encroaching on the territory of the traditional news home page. We’ve seen media properties such as Mashable publish articles first on Facebook, and we’ve seen click bait taken to a new level by suspicious and anonymous publishers (read The Story Behind Click Bait Cluttering Your Facebook Feed). And last week, even The New York Times got into the Instagram game.

The bottom line: An article, video, infographic, blog post, you name it, is the first step, not the last. It must become social, through earned (and sometimes paid) amplification strategies that can bring the message to its audiences.

Read more from Beth Monaghan
Vector American Football Field, Ball, and Helmets

What PR Pros Can Learn from the NFL Playoffs

The National Football League (NFL) playoffs are one of the most popular (and watched) events of any calendar year. In fact, last year’s Super Bowl was the most-watched TV event in the United States. Ever. And while I’m not thinking much about the impact of PR when my New England Patriots are dismantling the Indianapolis Colts, I can’t help but wonder how the NFL playoff storylines relate to PR after the clock expires. While we could look at the playoffs in general, the story of one Peyton Manning provides the perfect test case for this latest exercise in relating mainstream topics to the science of public relations. Below are four insights that PR pros can take from the NFL playoffs. Apologies in advance to the Peyton Manning fans.

  • We all love stories about people

It’s true. It doesn’t matter if you’re addicted to the NFL or the Kardashians, we all love to hear about other people and their personal stories. This is one of the main reasons why People Magazine and US Weekly have combined circulations of more than 5.5 million. Sports Illustrated and ESPN Magazine have combined circulations of more than five million. These sports publications are newsstand staples not because they provide a recap of game that you have already seen 25 TV highlights for, but because they deliver insights into the personalities of the individuals making the plays. This has certainly been the case with Mr. Manning, who is receiving as much attention for his upcoming decision to play or retire next season as he is for his poor play a couple Sundays ago. As PR pros, it’s important to always remember that personal stories are often just as, if not more, important than the technology breakthrough, new product, funding announcement, etc. If you need a further proof point, just look at the majority of Forbes or Fortune profiles which more often than not focus on an individual to tell the company’s story.

  • Opinions can change in the blink of an eye

For Peyton, it was his own Denver fans booing as he ran off the field following another failed third-down conversion. These were the same fans that cheered for him so passionately when he shattered NFL records last season. We need to remember to constantly monitor how a company is perceived by key opinion leaders. A good product review six months ago does not guarantee identical results even with the same journalist this month. Much like it did for poor Peyton, the opinions of your core influencers can change at a moment’s notice. Stay in front of and try to control these perception shifts, and ensure that you have a plan in place for when the tide turns.

  • Social media is an early driver of opinions while traditional media reinforces these opinions with the facts

Twitter and Facebook are almost as fun to “watch” as the games themselves, with friends and strangers making comical, angry and insightful posts on the competition’s ups and downs. These posts often convey the sentiment that a number of people are feeling at any given moment. For Peyton, there were endless tweets (see below) mocking him to the tune of the Nationwide insurance jingle that he sings throughout a popular TV commercial. There were also several social media posts that highlighted Manning’s lackluster play in the post season. Following those posts, there have been endless articles on sites like and all diving into the big data of sports statistics to prove that yes, Manning does struggle in the playoffs, speculating that age has possibly caught up with him and pontificating on his future in the league.

Peyton Manning Nationwide jingle

This all reinforces the need to drive influence and opinion on social media while using it to direct partners, analysts, customers, prospects, etc. to other sources of content that provide not only additional information but often hard data (think surveys, industry stats, etc.) that back up and reinforce what they are reading on social media.

  • New storylines take over and you get a fresh start (almost)

The good news for Peyton and the rest of us is that another story always comes along. No one will be talking about his poor play or age at the Super Bowl in two weeks. Even his retirement decision will likely be a blip on the NFL interests radar screen. However, when he does actually make his decision to play or retire, then the older stories will be recycled. In the PR industry, we know that the past, particularly the not-so-pleasant past, can often come back from the dead. For instance, when a company that once filed chapter 11 or dealt with a compliance scandal announces its profitability, there is little doubt that those profitability stories will rehash some of the previous negative news items. We need to do our best as PR professionals to keep the media looking forward to what the positive news means for the future of the company, its customers, the local economy, etc. The past is impossible to bury, but making it clear that it has no relevance on what’s to come can help keep everyone focused on the right messages. While most public relations case studies on the NFL focus on crisis communications, the storylines coming out of the playoffs provide good reminders on the core elements of many successful PR programs.

I’m quite certain there are even more synergies between the NFL and PR, and I’ll be sure to give it some more thought…after the Patriots Super Bowl game.

Read more from Keith Giannini
Shocked man covering his mouth with hands

The Story Behind Click Bait Cluttering Your Facebook Feed

The Manufacturing of Virality Through Click Bait’s Shock and Awe 

I probably should have titled this piece, “The Shocking Facebook Fact That Will Blow Your Mind!!!” I’ve been complaining about my Facebook feed, which is cluttered with the click bait of inspiration and outrage, some well meaning, some not.

At first I thought I might be getting jaded as I approach age 40, but it turns out that my sincerity filter is working quite well. I’ve identified the root problem: BuzzFeed seems to have have spawned some fairly ugly stepchildren who are vying for our clicks and likes. Have you heard of Most Amazing Galaxy, Damn, Buzz Newsworthy, OMG Facts or Dose? I hadn’t either. But you’ve seen their headlines, which accompany beautiful photos and often include phrases such as “blow your mind,” “then this happened,” and “you won’t believe.” Many like the “!?” combination and others employ the “!!!” for extra emphasis. In college, a professor told me that women use more punctuation than men because they can’t express themselves as well, so I’ll let this last point go in the event that I’m scarred and therefore biased. Here are some recent examples:

Titanic Dog Woman

I became interested in how these posts proliferate on Facebook, so I picked a story and followed its path. The piece below was posted by a Facebook page called, “How Many Likes for This Photo?” With a black and white horse running in a pasture as its cover photo and a thatched-roof beach house hovering over a teal blue ocean as its profile photo, this page is affiliated with, which has a “contact us” form, but no information about who runs the site. Its Facebook page offers just this: “Combination of all sorts of pics and videos that contain heart warming stories and amazing events from many walks of life from all over the world ♥” Even so, 280,000+ people have liked it, including some of my own Facebook friends. I did find out who runs the site though: a man in Cairo. If you want to take a look, you can find out who owns any site by doing a domain registration search through Network Solution’s WhoIs.


This is a phenomenon of what Sam Whitmore of Sam Whitmore Media Survey calls the “attention economy.” Websites and Facebook pages like those I described above aren’t in the content game: they’re in the attention game. They want clicks to fuel ad sales as far as I can tell, but the business model behind these headlines is still a bit of a mystery since some don’t have ads). If you visit their home pages, you may or may not find information about who runs them.

However, you will likely see this type of pop-up ad. Apparently 312,000+ people have liked on Facebook, which I’m guessing is the source of most of its traffic.

Like Us On Facebook

BuzzFeed started this party and imitation, as the saying goes, is the sincerest form of flattery. I have no quarrel with BuzzFeed though. I admire its approach to reinventing the news business. Whitmore says that BuzzFeed is amassing the requisite revenue to become a formidable source of original and award-winning journalism, aspiring even to winning Pulitzers one day. He also pointed me to BuzzFeed’s data blog, which is a directional hint at where “engagement science” is heading. There’s no denying BuzzFeed’s traction. Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends Report put it at 130MM+ unique visitors with 3x year-over-year growth. And as you can see from this Nieman tweet, even The New York Times is taking BuzzFeed seriously.

Nieman tweet

BuzzFeed aside, while consumers scrutinize Facebook’s privacy policies, they aren’t yet aware of the machine behind “virality.” Very often, virality is manufactured. In the Jan 5, 2015 issue of The New Yorker Andrew Marantz’s “The Virologist” describes the efforts of one company, Spartz Inc., which has built a thriving business by creating websites dedicated to click bait. Marantz quotes Neetzan Zimmerman, former chief aggregator at Gawker, regarding the originality of Spartz’s content for one of its flagship sites, Dose. Zimmerman said:

“On Dose, you see entire lists that are ripped whole-sale from other Web sites and passed off as their work.” He noted, however, that it does not make Spartz’s work any less lucrative.

This all rubs me the wrong way, more so because the approach works. I’d like to think we’re all smarter than that — that we don’t fall for the manufactured (albeit luring) bait. On Facebook it doesn’t matter I suppose. We’re all just there for fun, after all, and what’s wrong with a little inspiration? Nothing really.

I’m in the business of ideas though as the co-founder of a PR firm. I’m not interested in temporary traction. My clients want to build “customer loyalty” and create the right “customer journey.” These terms may be tired buzz words, but loyalty is not a joke. Loyalty requires a company to earn its customers’ interest, and then expand that into trust. A click is the first date and if your content is boring or inauthentic, it’s the last one. To get a person to click, read and come back for more, you need thoughtful and original content that sprouts from unique and validated viewpoints. That is what makes platforms like Medium so powerful (Medium prioritizes reads over clicks).

Will these click bait headlines continue to proliferate on Facebook? I don’t know. Facebook has a history of requiring authenticity. Last year it stopped letting drag queens use their stage names and in 2012, it disabled millions of pet accounts because they were “fake” (the drag queen rule has been reversed and I see a lot of pets on Facebook these days). Is click bait authentic? Probably. Original? That’s questionable. It might not matter though because the rules for personal and business pages are different, which likely puts this in the realm of preference versus policy. Whatever happens, it has my attention and I’m going to keep watching (while I try not to click).

As for me, I’m spending more time on Instagram (owned by Facebook), which, by its inherent nature focuses on beautiful — and original — photos. Have you seen the @Food page? Sarah Phillips, the creator, has 340,000 followers and a recent profile in The New York Times, The First Family of Instagram.” For you dog lovers, check out #DogsofInstagram. More please.

Food Instagram

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