Facebook is Kinda Sorta Old


Facebook recently turned 10 years old. The most startling statistic about Facebook  out of that milestone was this one:

The average age of an American Facebook user is 41.

Try to wrap your head around that for a moment.

Facebook started out as a network for college students back in 2004. For its first two years, it was the exclusive playground of college students. Not until 2006 was the network opened to the general public.

So do the math.

Facebook started out as a network for 18-22 year olds in the United States. The average ago of users at the beginning was 20. Now 10 years later – really eight years later – it’s 41. The age more than doubled.

The average age went up 21 years in eight years.

That’s amazing.

While teens haven’t completely abandoned Facebook, Pew Research found evidence of teens losing interest in the platform.

One can see why.

Facebook is started to look more than a PTO meeting than the coolest place online.


Facebook at 10 (via CNN)

Teens Haven’t Abandoned Facebook (Yet) (via Pew Research)

Facebook is Broken, Editorial Standards Can Fix It


Why do people “like” Facebook?

Simple: It’s the content.

I use it to find content I like: articles, cartoons, and videos. All recommended by friends. I use it to debate, quip, and joke with friends. I used it to see what friends, co-workers and neighbors are doing.

I use it to circulate my own content. I use it to ask advice and solicit recommendations (from everything to good books to restaurants).

Why do people “dislike” Facebook?

The advertisements. The brand intrusions. The feeling that Facebook cares more about mining my privacy than it does on giving me a good user experience.

I can’t help with the latter (However, Facebook could use the excellent services of my employer Weber Shandwick to help elevate its reputation). But I do have some suggestions on advertisements and brand intrusions.

Here’s the big one:

Ban All Advertising

People hate advertising. Hate it. The only time they like it is during the Super Bowl.


Because the ads during the Super Bowl are really well done stories. They are funny, silly and creative. It’s the only time the advertising industry seems to get what consumers really want. They want to be entertained and informed. They don’t want to be overtly sold or marketed to.

They especially don’t want that on Facebook.

So get rid of the ads. Facebook should be in the business of circulating good brand content, not advertisements. Brands should continue to pay to have their content distributed to their fans and to wider targeted audiences. But first the content should conform to strict editorial standards.

That’s why Facebook needs an editorial board.

If brand content is “advertising” or doesn’t meet editorial guidelines – it is rejected and can’t be widely distributed (the exception being on its own Facebook page). The first filter should always be if the brand content is worthy of the audience. It should never be that a brand is willing to pay to distribute the content.

Editorial standards will make Facebook better. It will make brand content better.


New Study Says Facebook Will Lose 80% of Users (via TIME)

Facebook is Dead and Buried to Teens (via Forbes)

It’s the Distribution, Stupid


Create it and they will not come. They will not come by the boatload.

I guarantee it.

Posting digital content and thinking the legions will flock to it doesn’t happen anymore – if it ever did. That’s why every brand needs a content distribution strategy now more than ever.

Because content without an audience is useless content.

Oh, there are exceptions that prove the rule. Awesome content does get noticed and go viral. But, quite frankly, so does bad content. Viral is like catching lightning in a bottle. You want to do everything you can to give your content a chance to go viral – but you can’t rely on it.

Relying on going viral to reach an audience is like relying on lottery tickets for a salary.

Luck is not a content strategy.

The Internet is crowded. Literally bursting with content.

  • 6 billion hours of video is watched on YouTube every month
  • 54 million brand pages have been created on Facebook
  • About 3 million blog posts are written each day

All of this content is competing for attention. Pushing and shoving, elbowing and kicking. Look at me! Read me! Share me! I’m not like the others. I’m special! I’m different!

It’s crucial to have a smart strategy to get your content to the right people. To get it seen and noticed.

And that isn’t as easy as it used to be. The best way used to be developing a plan that incorporated owned, earned and paid channels. Owned is pushing out content on channels the content creator controls: websites, blogs, Facebook pages, tweets, etc. Earned was pitching media and bloggers the content to see if they’d be interested in using it or sharing it. Paid was buying advertising to drive people to the content.

A strong mix of all three was the best way to distribute content.

It still is, but paradigm has shifted. There are no neat owned, earned and paid buckets anymore. In fact, paid now runs across every content distribution plan. Owned channels like Facebook require a paid component now. If you don’t pay you don’t get reach. Media companies, especially bloggers, insist on being paid. Native advertising is exploding.

There are also new digital distribution companies that specialize in paid approaches. Companies like OutBrain, Viral Gains and Taboola. They have partnerships with media companies that can deliver targeted views and broaden your audiences.

Distribution is now a sophisticated discipline. Brands should be thinking about their audience and how to reach them even as they create the content. Engagement should be built right in to help the distribution, especially the sharing.

Because without a distribution plan you’re just playing the lottery.


7 Ways to Pay for Play (via CustomerThink)

Make 2014 the Year of Distribution (via AdKnowledge)

The 3 Golden Rules for Creating Brand Content


Social media content only works if:

  • It’s on brand
  • It’s of interest to your customers
  • It’s high-quality

Otherwise why bother?

Let’s look at these three golden rules more closely.

1. It’s on brand

The key to a great content strategy is finding the intersection between your brand and the passions of your customers.

ESPN is about sports, but so is Nike. People use Nike apps for exercise. They read Nike tips on running. And, yes, they end up buying Nike sneakers to run in. Nike understands the passions of their customers. They provide it and customers eat it up. Why? Because it is what Nike’s customers expect Nike to be talking about.

This is the same for every brand – from back-end technology providers to pizza restaurants. So a clothing retailer can engage with their fans about fashion. A food company about barbecuing. An outfitter on climbing mountains. And so on.

Being on brand also means the content has the voice and appearance of the overall brand. No one expects a bank to write in slang with all capital letters on its Twitter account. In fact, it would be shockingly odd.

2. It’s of interest to your customers

Brands get in trouble when they wander off the reservation. Likely no one cares what a software company thinks about the latest baseball trade. Likewise few people want financial planning advice from a company that makes cleaning products. Brands should stick to their knitting. Focus on what they know and what their customers expect them to know.

Brands should also avoid being boring. Posting “Happy Fourth of July” isn’t content that many fans and followers want from a corporation. However, “Happy Fourth of July – here are our three favorite grilling recipes for the holiday” would be valuable from a brand that sells barbecue grills.

To be interesting you need to provide value.

3. It’s high-quality

Shooting a 10-minute Q&A video of your vice president of sales on your iPhone might provide value to him – but few people are going to want to watch it. Why would they?

Social media isn’t about adverting. It’s about building a stronger relationships with your customers.

So don’t short change your customers by giving them crap.


The Death of Content Marketing (via LinkedIn)

Six Golden Rules for Social Media Marketing for Business (via Business2Community)

Is It Really Important to be First with the News?


It is to journalists.

They are obsessed with being first – with getting the “scoop.” It’s a badge of honor in the industry. When I was a newspaper reporter the most important thing was to beat the competition. To beat them to a story. If you got it first it didn’t matter if they got it better.

In fact getting beat by your competition was the fastest way to get in trouble. Fact errors? Not so much. But getting scooped by another newspaper? Trouble. Big trouble.

Ironically, the only people who care about being first are journalists.

Because guess what?

Readers could care less.

I’ve never heard anyone outside of the journalism industry talk about which news organization was the first to break a story.

So it was interest that I read Steve Buttry of Digital First’s blog post about live tweeting and using Twitter during news coverage. The post – which admittedly was aimed at journalists – was mostly concerned about the battle of being first with the news and whether by using Twitter a reporter was alerting his competition to what he was working on.

A big part of the debate was whether a tweet counted as breaking a news story.

There was little discussion about the readers. About how using Twitter to report news is a way to make a better and more interesting experience for them. The subsequent conversation about the post – on Twitter of course – even discussed the revenue implications of tweets vs. website.


A big problem with the news business today is that they too often write and report for their competition rather than for their readers. The audience that gets the focus and the most attention are their rivals. We beat you! We did it better! Are you gnashing your teeth yet?

That mentality further alienates readers. As does all the hand-wringing about views, SEO and revenue generation. That’s the job of the business end of journalism. Journalists should be focused on delivering quality news content to their readers.

And yes that means using Twitter and other social media networks. It’s where large blocks of their readers now find their news. By using Twitter they provide better coverage and a better experience for those readers.

End of story.


You Don’t Tip Competitors on Twitter, You Beat Them (via Steve Buttry)

MediaNation Storify curation of Twitter/Journalist discussion

All the Fake News That’s Fit to Print


Here’s how many people now get their news and information:

  • Google
  • Twitter
  • Facebook

In other words, through search and social media.

It works one of two ways:

  • People go to a search engine, enter a search term, and then click on a link within the top 10 search results
  • People scroll through their social media feeds and click on links shared by their friends and followers

In fact, 52 percent of Twitter users and 48% of Facebook users are using the sites as their primary news sources, according to Pew Research. That number is going to continue to climb.

What’s missing here are filters.

Because Google, Twitter and Facebook aren’t news sources. They are delivery systems. The actual source of a piece of news or information is still crucial, but many people are placing less emphasis on who wrote, researched and published the news because many times they don’t even know.

All they know is they read it on “Google” or on “Facebook.”

But news and information are not created equally. Journalists who work for the New York Times, for example, go through a rigorous process of reporting, fact-checking and having their news stories edited by professionals. This doesn’t hold true for bloggers and other online news sources.

We need trusted filters, but unfortunately even these filters are eroding at a rapid rate because of cutbacks and the speed of the Internet.

The latest evidence of journalism demise happened last week when a story about North Korean Dictator Kim Jong-un murdering his uncle by feeding him alive to 120 hungry dogs circled the globe. It appeared in major news outlets like USA Today and the New York Daily News.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t true. It was fake.

It was first “reported” on a Weibo, a social media site in China – as a piece of satire. It then got picked up and circulated. Finally, getting into a Chinese newspaper and later being picked up by western media.


With the speed and convenience of the Internet, fewer people – and fewer “journalists” are paying attention to the actual source of the news.

Digital news sources have already surpassed newspapers and radio as the most common source for news (and it is gaining on TV news at an alarming rate). Already about 1 in 3 members of Generation Y use social media as their primary source for news and information.

So expect more “fake” news this year as filters continue to fray.


News Use Across Social Media Sites (via Pew Research)

How Do Americans Get Their News in 2013 (via Social Media Today)

Fake Story in USA Today

NPR story on “fake” Kim Jong-un story

Do You Have a Right to Pornography?


There’s a lot of porn on the Internet.

Maybe you’ve noticed by “accidentally” stumbling upon it.

Some of it is done tastefully, some of it is quite grotesque. Most of it leaves you feeling icky (or so I’ve heard). But the biggest problem with online pornography is that it is so accessible.

Without a filter just about any online search delivers back pornographic content. Just try to search on a woman’s name – any woman’s name – and see what you get back.

As a result, getting porn – even the grotesque kind – is only a few clicks away. And that means children can be exposed to it quite easily without really trying.

So this begs the question: Should filtering pornography be the responsibility of individuals or society?

Britain is about to try the latter. Prime Minister David Cameron has passed legislation that requires the four largest Internet providers to block pornographic content unless a customer specifically opts in for it. In other words, you can’t access pornography unless you make a formal written request to get it.

The new legislation will affect 20 million households in the UK.

The Guardian is vehemently opposed to it. The newspaper believes the government should not be determining what is pornography and what is not. It argues that a lot of legitimate health and gay lifestyle material is being blocked by the government filters.

According to the Guardian:

“Cameron’s porn filter looks less like an attempt to protect kids than a convenient way to block a lot of content the British government doesn’t want its citizens to see, with no public consultation whatsoever.”

However, the Huffington Post UK notes that 7 our of 10 children were exposed to “raw” sexual images on the Internet last year and that age limitation filters have proven to be a failure (for example, 38% of children under the age of 12 have social media profiles when most sites require users be at least 13 years old).

According to Suzi Godson, a sex columnist for the Huffington Post UK:

“Given the number of screens most kids now have access to, the only way to protect young people from the worst excesses of porn is to explain to them that an interest in sex is natural, and healthy, but porn is to normal sex, what Barbie and Ken are to normal humans.”

Do people have a right to unfiltered pornography on the Internet? Should governments help to block pornography from children? What do you think?


David Cameron’s Internet Porn Filter (via The Guardian)

10 Things You Need to Know Before You Filter Porn (via Huffington Post UK)

5 Social Media Predictions for 2014


Happy 2014.

I’m still disappointed that we don’t have flying cars and robot servants yet, but I’m hoping we make strides this year. I’m also hoping we get smarter about the environment and how to remove big money from politics.

But I digress. Let’s talk social/digital media instead.

Here are three predictions for the social and digital media industry in 2014.

1. Content Distribution is Elevated to a Must-Have

2013 was the year of content creation. Brands still need to create powerful content, but more emphasis will be placed on distributing that content. It’s no longer effective to simply publish content on social channels and wait for an audience to arrive. Think about it like this. Book publishers don’t just publish books – they market them. Film producers don’t just create movies – they market them.

The same holds true for digital content. Brands need a sophisticated distribution plan to get their content noticed by the right audiences. This means developing a strategic social and digital strategy across paid, earned and owned channels. And remember, paid now includes both earned and owned.

Social channels have evolved and brands can no longer reach organic audiences effective without a paid plan.

Brands need to wake up to the fact that spending $25,000 for a cool video does little good if only 200 people watch it.

2. Facebook Continues to Blow It

I get it. Facebook is public now. They have to monetize and please shareholders. But they also need to realize that they are in the process of killing their own product.

Teens are fleeing at an uncanny speed. Advertising is clogging News Feeds.

But even worse Facebook is slowly eroding organic engagement between brands and their fans. Instead they want brands to pay for that engagement – per post. Yet many brands have not woken up fully to the fact that most of their postings on Facebook reach a paltry percentage of their fans.

When they do – look out for major backlash.

Facebook is truly becoming a leased property and less appealing as the rent increases and they nickel and dime brands. Facebook needs a better system for brands. How about a tiered partner program with features and options built into an annual or monthly subscription rate?

3. Digital and Social Media Gets Grayer 

Brands continue to rely on agencies for digital and social know-how. But internally they continue to hire junior level executives to be their digital and social leads. This isn’t working and they finally realize this in 2014.

Digital content is now at the center of most brand marketing and brands need senior leadership to run these operations – everything from strategy and to content channel optimization. Digital content can’t be bolted on to marketing or communications. It needs to be its own department with a smart leader running it.

4. Live Content Explodes

Social and digital channels were built for live engagement – especially video. This year brands will realize that “live” programming from streaming events and panels to original programming is a way to grab attention, increase engagement and build stronger relationships with customers and influencers.

It also adds sizzle and excitement to every campaign.

5. Media Relations Transforms into Media Partnerships

Pitching the media your brand story is becoming a thing of the past. While it will continue to hold ground (like fax machines and writing a letter), it will no longer be the center of a PR campaign.

Public relations efforts will be more focused on media partnerships, pitching digital content, media integrations and paid sponsorships.

Even the mighty New York Times is preparing a new website to handle sponsored stories from advertisers.


Do you have any predictions for 2014 you care to share?


Teenagers migrate from Facebook (via the Guardian)

The Worst Social Media Marketing Advice You Will Ever Hear (via Jeff Bullas)

Facebook Saturation (via Social Media Explorer)

Marketers are Forced to Buy Facebook Ads (via Social Times)

New York Times Gets Ready for Native Advertising (via Mashable)

3 Ways to Make Your Content Awesome


Here are three ways to think differently about brand content that can help you reach your audiences better.

1. Your content is only as good as its distribution

You may have written the greatest e-book of all time. You may have produced the funniest video ever made. Your blog post may be the most informative ever penned.

But none of that matters if you content isn’t discovered.

Getting your content in front of the right audiences is just as important as your content. If you don’t have a plan – a strategy – for distributing it then your content will likely languish in obscurity.

2. Engagement isn’t a catch phrase but a powerful incentive for people to consume your content

Posting isn’t good enough. You can post articles, post pictures, post, well, just about anything. And some people will consume your content that way.

But making the content engaging will attract for people.

What does that mean?

Make it interactive. Ask for comments. Ask for feedback. Allow people to shape, change and customize the content. Reward people for interacting with it and sharing it. This makes your content more personal and more worthy of your audience’s attention.

3. Content shouldn’t be self-serving, but audience serving

Stop singing about yourself. Stop praising your self.

If brands want to engage audiences with content then they need create content for the audience. What content does your audience want? They probably don’t want sales pitches. As Tracey Parsons notes in a recent post on Social Media Explorer: “Stop trying to sell me stuff on social!” Amen!

Produce brand content that is helpful, informative, insightful, interesting and even funny.  that kind of content.


What tips do you have for making brand content work harder?


The Publisher of the Future Looks Like an Agency (via Digiday)

All I want for Christmas is… (via Social Media Explorer)

Q: Why did Patch Fail? A: Quality


It takes people and resources to create quality journalism.

Patch wanted quality journalism with neither.

So it got what it paid for.

As a result, AOL is pulling the plug on Patch, the company’s grand experiment creating a network of local news hubs. It’s hard to believe that at one time Patch had about 900 sites and more than 1,400 employees. But they may have been the root of the problem.

Having so little people trying to create ALL the content and buy ALL the advertising for such a large enterprise proved to be next to impossible.

And as a result, the experiment is over. AOL announced this week that AOL will be dumping Patch and hopes to find a sucker buyer for the flagging network.

The root of Patch’s problem has always been quality. The sites were run by notoriously under-compensated and overworked editors, who were often responsible for multiple sites. This was not  recipe for success when going up against locally entrenched news operations – while admittedly suffering from their own cutbacks – but still better staffed, better funded and with an institutional knowledge of their respective communities.

The latter point – institutional knowledge – should not be minimized. Having a long history of covering a community and being able to contextualize and frame ongoing news is very underrated.

My own local Patch is a perfect case study for what’s wrong with Patch’s model. The editor is only five years out of college. He was a freelance writer before taking over as editor of my local Patch, but unfortunately he also the editor of the patch for a neighboring town as well.

So my editor is responsible for filling two Patch websites – every single day.

When big news broke in my town several weeks ago, it was the established media outlets like the Boston Globe, Boston Herald and the TV news stations moving the needle. The Patch was doing mop up work and getting everything last. They weren’t even able to provide local angles.


Limited resources. Inexperienced staff. Overworked staff.

In the end that was the real Patch story.


New York Times Media Critic David Carr on the End of Patch

Goodbye, Patch: Good Idea, Bad Execution (via Gawker)


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