Good For You

It’s Not About The Leggings: Strong Online Stances And You (Part Three)

This is the third and final installment in our series “It’s Not About the Leggings: Strong Online Stances and You.” If you missed the first two posts, make sure you check out Aggressive Marketing Tactics and Click Bait

Manners On The Move

Besides aggressive marketing tactics by businesses and more subtle ‘click bait’ approaches to get people to websites, the fast evolution of online manners is something that effects us all.

Social norms move quickly in this online world. Many people, including myself, are still figuring it out. Do I tag my boyfriend in a Facebook post without asking him? Do I post a picture of my friend? Do I invite that new woman in my running group to my online pajama sale this coming Saturday?

Gary Vaynerchuck says ‘content is king but context is God’ and he’s right. Context can briefly be broken down in three different questions, 1) Does it make sense in the context of the social media platform you’re using (i.e. is this an Instagram post or a Twitter post?), 2) Does it interrupt people in a bad way (think pop-up ads that are hard to click out of), and 3) Does this align with how I want to be seen as a person/brand/business? These are the big takeaways, but the article itself is worth a read: https://www.garyvaynerchuk.com/content-is-king-but-context-is-god/

However, if you aren’t a brand or a business, those questions may not translate to your personal social media usage. Instead, these questions can help you find your context. Some questions before taking an action:

  1. What things about social media am I comfortable with doing (posting photos, ‘liking’ political figures, etc.)?
  2. How often will I post? What is ‘too much’?
  3. If my information involves other people, do I get their consent? Do I get consent always or just for certain kinds of information? If so, how?
  4. What subjects am I comfortable talking about online? My religion? My struggle with depression? My children? Where I am drinking my beer right now?
  5. If I have a business, what tactics am I comfortable using to promote my business? Do these make other people comfortable?
  6. If someone isn’t comfortable, how will I address it? If people opt out, how will I deal with that?

An example in my own life, I don’t ‘check in’ to a location with someone without their consent. But if I have a really flattering picture of a good friend, I post it but don’t tag it (I let people tag themselves). These are some of my lines but yours will likely be different.

More resources:

https://www.facebook.com/digitalmanners

Manners in a Digital World

After this series, you can probably go back to the beginning offenses and realize that being outraged about someone who is overenthusiastic at Lularoe isn’t really isn’t about the leggings. A lot of the things we’ve brought up fall on individual people and companies to decide whether or not what they’re posting is “appropriate.” While you can’t control what other people choose to share online, perhaps you’ve thought of a few ways to be a bit more mindful of your own posting habits and what your online rules look like.

What we can control is how we react to this behavior. Kindness and a desire to understand go a long way, online and off. So when you feel yourself get irate at a friend’s Instagram post or deciding whether you should tackle a controversial topic in a blog post, keep these things in mind and proceed as best you can. Because that’s all any of us can do.

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

It’s Not About The Leggings: Strong Online Stances And You (Part Two)

Did you miss part one of this fascinating series? Click here to read ‘It’s Not About The Leggings: Strong Online Stances And You (Part One)’

Last week I discussed aggressive marketing tactics as part one of strong online stances. In part two, I want to discuss another polarizing issue online: extreme headlines.

The term in the industry is “click bait.”

What’s Clickbait?

There is some argument about what constitutes clickbait, but Merriam-Webster defines it as the following:

As a reader, clickbait is offensive for a few reasons, and I don’t mean in the sense of the actual headlines or subject matter.

In essence, clickbait assumes that readers are suckers. They basically promise something shiny and exciting, or at least controversial, assuming we’ll fall for it. When clickbait was relatively new, people did tend to fall for it. Now we’ve all wizened up a bit and can recognize clickbait for what it is.

Why Does it Exist?

By getting all of those clicks, even if people ultimately stay for two seconds after realizing “UGH this is not what I wanted,” it still counts as traffic to the website. The old view is that a website that gets a lot of traffic automatically ranks higher in search engines.

While this is true to some extent, clickbait-y articles are starting to get penalized for using such headlines on Facebook by making them less likely to appear in people’s newsfeeds. Techcrunch explains: “The algorithm primarily looks for phrases often used in clickbait headlines but not in legitimate headlines, similar to email spam filter.” When one page/person is consistently publishing stories that offend the algorithm, their posts will get buried more and more (but there is a chance to turn things around-just stop posting clickbait).

You may ask yourself why websites even bother with clickbait. Well there are two things websites can get from it:

  1. Your social media login (to potentially collect your demographic info for future marketing efforts)
  2. Visibility on display ads.

I noticed one of my high school friends posted the result of a ‘What should be your hairstyle?’ quiz and so I clicked through:

Sorry for the assault on your eyeballs there but notice:

1) The giant web hosting banner ad and internet provider video ad (I’m guessing it is just displaying this to be because I am a giant nerd and for someone else, it may display a different ad). This website will no doubt earn money, even if it’s a fraction of a cent, for me seeing that.
2) The giant ‘Login with Facebook’ request. Now that I’ve logged in, they can target me for cheaper advertising, upsell me on a product I might be more likely to buy, or even sell my data to another company.
3) The ads all over to click on additional items (ie go deeper) on the website. By seeing what I click on, they’ll be able to do market research on me (“It turns out women 26-35 are 34% more likely to click on the tattoo quiz than the weakness quiz”) and sell that to companies, sell me on products, or both.

What’s the Big Deal?

But why exactly is clickbait so bad? Clicking on a weird/extreme headline doesn’t trigger a catastrophic chain of events, nothing terrible is going to happen. I used to have a fairly blase attitude towards clickbait, thinking “What’s the big deal? Just don’t click on it.”

Now, as someone who both reads a lot online and writes a lot online, I get it. The downside of clickbait boils down to ethics (a harsher take on clickbait describes it as “misdirection and lying” from this article in The Atlantic). In marketing anything, one of your goals should be to deliver what you promise. In addition to negatively impacting your social media presence, clickbait ruins your credibility and trustworthiness as a marketer, which is something you should value above ranking in Google.

That being said, clickbait does not mean the same thing as a clever, enticing headline. Think about it, are you more likely to click on ‘A Balanced View of Coffee Mugs’ or ‘Why I Think Coffee Mugs Are the Dumbest Invention In The World’? As this article from Seriously Simple Marketing says, “As an Internet Marketer, you have an opportunity to be creative and come up with headlines that compel your visitors to click. Just be sure you’re being honest and providing content that delivers on the promise the headline teases.” In other words, deliver on your headline’s promise, and always provide your readers with quality content.

What Can I Do?

Taking a strong stance in a headline/title gets clicks, for the most part, the people that write them enjoy/profit from web traffic and others just enjoy controversy.

You can do your part by:

  • Not clicking on extreme stuff (you’ll know it when you see it)
  • Hiding people/pages in your newsfeed who are constantly throwing this chum in the water
  • Posting good websites/articles yourself (ie leading by example)

Aggressive marketing tactics and extreme headlines are two of the three examples of polarizing online stances we’ve seen lately. Stay tuned for our third and final post in this series, about general social media etiquette.

Kassie is a distance runner and a distance reader really. She lives in Ellsworth Maine and, while she might be quiet when you meet her, will throw out something witty when you least expect it.

It’s Not About The Leggings: Strong Online Stances And You (Part One)

About a year and a half ago, I recommended to my sister, at that point a stay-at-home mom, to look into Lularoe. “I think it’s going to be a thing.” I said.

Trust me when I say I’m happy to say I’ve been wrong about a lot of things, but about this I was right. It has exploded in popularity.

Since then I’ve noticed a leggings debate online: people who love them, people who hate them. And one of my Facebook friends (to paraphrase her) asked ‘What’s so polarizing about leggings?’

Guys, it’s not about the leggings. (I mean, is it ever?). It’s about the way the leggings, certain topics in current events, lifestyle choices, other products, etc, are being handled online. This polarity stems from three things: aggressive marketing tactics, extreme blog post titles, and differing views regarding online etiquette.

Aggressive Marketing Tactics

I’ve noticed a rise recently in more aggressive marketing tactics. These include three specific things I can think of offhand:

1) Automatically adding people to Facebook groups.
2) Pulling people you barely know into messaging threads involving hundreds of other people (ok maybe tens).
3) Repeated, unsolicited online messages from strangers.

Usually when these things happen, someone wants you to buy their stuff. No, not do they want to buy their old cribbage board but do you want to buy something they have a lot of inventory of: leggings, supplements, essential oils, ‘adult’ toys, cookware, etc.

The perps of this aggression are often MLM people (If you don’t know what an MLM is, here’s a previous blog post about them.) but can also be people who are very involved in a cause (political, religious, etc).

Now I will say I know PLENTY of people not doing douchey things (my sister among them). And I also know many politically active or religious people who are also not becoming aggressive on social media. But plenty are and it’s giving those who sell similar products a bad name.

What makes this aggression feel so personal online is that most people have their smartphone within 3 feet of their bodies. If you can picture walking up to someone’s door at 10 pm and asking them for money or following them around their house to show them your latest product, that’s what it can feel like, especially when these request come from multiple sources.  It can feel like you literally can’t get away from them.

(Note: I was added to a group nonconsentually a few weeks ago and couldn’t easily ‘leave’ the group from my phone. I had to wait 12 hours before I was back at the office to leave it and in those twelve hours I got over 100 notifications. And I’m good at this. So I can only imagine the less tech savvy can feel even more powerless in a situation like this.)

Now you may ask yourself, ‘How do I know if what I am doing is aggressive?’ Here are two tests:

A) If you did this to someone in real life, would it be aggressive? Like if I made you stay in a room you didn’t want to be in, does that seem aggressive? Of course! But if I invite you to come in the door and offer you candy to do so, does that seem aggressive? No. Turn your online action into a real life one and you’ll get your answer pretty easily.
B) Think of someone doing the same thing to you about something you don’t care about. Considering both the person and the action, does this seem aggressive? While you feel passionate about essential oils, your friend Mary might be passionate about rabbit rescue. If Mary did the same stuff you’re thinking of doing to you related to rabbit rescue, how would you feel? If you’d feel crummy to receive it, don’t give it!

My list:

Adding people to a Facebook group: Too much
Inviting people to join a Facebook group: Fine
Mass messaging more than ten people at a time to sell them something: Too much
Sending an email to a list of my customers: Fine
Posting a status update showing your product in case people want to buy it: Fine
Posting a status update showing your product and tagging fifty friends on Facebook you want to buy it: Too much
Automatically adding the email address from a business card to your marketing email list: Too much
Emailing someone whose business card you have linking to where they can sign up to your marketing list: Fine

Draw the lines for yourself but even if you think someone is receptive to what you are doing, it is more powerful to let them opt in.

To summarize, we live in a climate of activism and side hustles. Balancing important opinions we want to share and the comfort and feelings of others is something we’ll all struggle with. Just remember, it’s not about the leggings… but now that you know what it is about, maybe you can do something about your part in it. Because honestly, the only people we can change is ourselves.

This is post one in our series focusing on strong online stances. Stay tuned for post #2 on extreme blog post titles!

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

Finding And Using Niche Social Media Websites

We’ve all at some point heard the adage of ‘quality over quantity’. Usually, we are not hearing it for a good reason, but as a reminder to ‘be happy with what you have.’

In the case of niche websites, however, it means something a little different.

We know about the giant social networks: LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc. like we all know about big cities like New York, Chicago, and San Francisco. But let’s say you LOVED cheese. Sure, you can probably find tons of good cheese in most big cities, but Madison, Wisconsin is near lots of local cheesemakers and may be a better destination for you if you are looking for all things cheese.

Niche social media websites are like Madison for cheese seekers; they are small places enthusiasts of [fill in the blank] are most likely to be. If you sell something to these enthusiasts, you are also more likely to talk to a potential paying customer on these websites than some of the larger websites.

What are some examples of niche websites?

If we think of something we want to connect about, we can probably find a niche website for it.

So here’s my random list of things (yes, I made this up with no reference to Google when I did):

microbrew beer
amateur woodworking
gymnastics coaching
first editions of books

Hey look what I found:

Untappd gets points for reminding us all there are still people with Blackberries.

I appreciate that this social network didn’t spend a ton of time on design. Hey, it gets the job done!

I bet if I made a login (and was actually a gymnastics coach), I could find other gymnastics coaches.

Two million people doesn’t seem like a lot compared to Facebook’s one billion but, hey, it’s still actually a lot.

OK, you made your point, there is a social network/niche website for probably everything. How do I find them?

Well, you aren’t gonna find many with an attitude like that! Kidding.

Google searching whatever term plus ‘social network’ is a good place to start. Thinking of some synonyms may actually help, as well as thinking of things a little more broadly (ex: I bet Library Thing has at least a group or forum for bestseller enthusiasts.

Another place to check is blogs in the same arena. Back before social networks, communities of frequent commenters were established on blogs. In some cases, in particular if there’s already a good group hanging out on a blog but not a giant enough group to go set up a whole new website, the comment section of a cool industry blog can lead you to where those people are hanging out. In some cases, it may be the forums of a woodworking website and in others, it may be a private Facebook group.

You can also look at big websites/blogs and see what drives traffic to them on Similarweb.com. For example:

Tools like this can help you see interlinking websites and the overall landscape of a particular industry/topic. Note: websites like this only seem to track websites that have a lot of traffic so this won’t provide you a complete list so much as a way to find more sites.

Why spend time on niche websites if there is less people there?

Because 1) even though there is a smaller group, they are more likely to be engaged 2) because if they are more engaged, they are more likely to buy what you are selling and 3) because there is less activity, your presence is more likely to be noticed.

Am I trying to give you more to do? Of course not. But I am trying to say, give niche a chance, as a participant or a more ‘commercial’ user. You may find yourself saying that quality is better than quantity after all.

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

100 Better Decisions: An Approach Toward A Big Goal

100better

What if you made 100 better decisions? How could things be different?

This is what I asked myself at the beginning of this month. (By the way, if Oprah is reading this, I 100% made this up so please give me the credit if this becomes one of your favorite things.)

A hundred decisions sounds like a lot. In reality, you make hundreds of decisions a day. What time to wake up, what clothes to wear, whether to shower or not, what shampoo to use, if you’ll blowdry your hair, what toothpaste you’ll use, whether you’ll brush your teeth before or after you shower… you get the picture.

Now in your decisions lies your lifestyle, your values, and your ambitions. Once you hack how people make decisions, you can help them reach their goals. Here are two approaches I’ve seen to this:

Option 1: The Limited Decision Approach

Productivity experts like Tim Ferris say to have a completely structured routine for the first two hours of every day. The idea is that your brain uses energy to make decisions and rather than wasting that brainpower on oatmeal versus eggs, you should save it for more important decisions later in the day. This totally makes sense to me. This is why you see a bajillion articles about what successful people do the first hour or two of every morning. It’s a thing.

You can also look at this on the other end of the day, where people often protect the last hour of their day for reflection or planning the next day so they can go to sleep with a clear mind and wake up with their decisions already made for them.

Option 2: Following A Plan

If you aren’t keen on making up your own structure, there are PLENTY out there for you to follow, whether you want to learn to fall asleep faster or run a marathon.

When you are on a plan, you have a set of rules you follow for a set period of time to achieve some goal. It’s easiest to think about this with diet. If I am doing Whole30, for example, and someone offers me a gin and tonic, I say no. Alcohol is not allowed on Whole30. That decision of what I can and can’t eat (or when I can eat things) has been made by whatever plan I’m on: paleo, low carb, Mediterranean, etc.

I have issues with both these options.

Why Limited Decisions Is Not Entirely It For Me

My schedule varies day to day and in particular, weekdays to weekends. The idea of doing the same thing every morning not only bores me to tears but doesn’t work well with my life.

For example, every Friday morning, I have a super early standing meeting. The idea of getting up at 5:30 am EVERY MORNING makes me want to gouge my eyes out. (I don’t mind doing it once a week though.)

My modification to Tim Ferris’ plan is that I have Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday morning blocks planned for myself. One day is meal prep, one going to the transfer station, one for running errands (post office, car registration, library, etc.) Monday is my ease into the week morning and Friday is my early meeting (ie no time for my block-o-productivity). I am ok with this arrangement as it gives me some flexibility but it chunks out my morning and I get some of the benefits of minimizing decisions.

Why Following A Plan Doesn’t Entirely Work For Me

One of my core traits is my flexibility. You wouldn’t know it to look at me but I can actually be pretty spontaneous and laid back. Like if I go to your house and you made a fresh loaf of bread and asked if I wanted a piece? I would say ‘Yes!’ even though I don’t normally eat or buy bread. Because you made it and that’s awesome. I can’t categorically say no to things; it’s not in my nature or sustainable (in my opinion).

So what’s a gal like me to do?

What if I just look at my life as a series of decisions and write down when I make a better one until I reach 100 decisions?

Like maybe I have one gin and tonic and while considering a second one, I have two glasses of water instead.

So why did I think this would work for me and potentially others?

  1. Most of us remember bad things and forget the good things. This is like an easier to fill out gratitude journal.
  2. Sometimes we fall of the wagon and use it as an excuse for continued bad behavior (well, I had one glass of wine today, might as well have the ice cream too!). With 100 Better Decisions, each decision is an opportunity to start fresh.
  3. By looking at each decision framed by the question ‘Will this get me closer to my goal?’, we train ourselves to spot times when we could make better decisions. Asking the question repeatedly makes sure the larger goal gets cemented in. 

Now my goal has to do with getting healthier. Some things I wrote down out of 100:

Saved half my breakfast and ate it at lunch.
Chose vanilla seltzer instead of a cocktail.
Put cinnamon instead of cream in my coffee.

Has this approached helped me get closer to my goal? Yes.

Does it fit into my lifestyle? Yes.

Do I think you should try it? Please!

 

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

Ethics in Marketing

ethicsinmarketing

Working for a small business that attracts some amazing clients, I’ve never run into a situation where I’m asked to carry out a task or promote something that I’m morally opposed to (and, I have the freedom to politely turn down such a project). It’s a freedom I often take for granted, until I hear stories about people who don’t necessarily have such freedom.

A couple weeks ago, I was listening to a podcast (Real Talk Radio with Nicole Antoinette) where a woman was being interviewed about her blog (Super Strength Health). Part of the podcast that I found intriguing was towards the end, when she spoke about being approached by various brands to promote their product (a fairly common occurrence for lifestyle bloggers). Usually when this happens, the brand has done a bit of research to determine if the blog’s message meshes well with the brand’s message. As a bit of background, Super Strength Health shares very raw material about eating disorder recovery. The brand that approached her had a tagline along the lines of “guilt-free snacking.” You might see the problem here.

So, the blogger was a bit frustrated. “If you spent any time on my blog, you’d know that we were not a good fit.” Which is true. The discussion goes on to discuss the slippery slope of assigning guilt to food/eating in marketing, and whether or not that is unethical. Regardless of where you or I stand on that particular issue, it made me wonder about the messages I’m putting out there. How can I be ethical (or more ethical) in what I produce?

As mentioned before, I have the freedom to turn something down if I feel it is unethical or immoral. We never really get those clients. Usually when I think “unethical marketing,” it’s the blatantly obvious not-cool marketing, like promoting unhealthy habits, tearing down a competitor’s product or service instead of focusing on why your product/service is valuable, or ignoring glaring flaws or safety concerns with a product (think recalls). These are all easy for me to avoid (in that I’ve never encountered them).

So, instead, I thought of a few little ways to be even more ethical. Here’s what I have:

Do the Research. Make sure you know your facts, especially if others are coming to you for information.
Be Objective. Do you really think this product/service would benefit other people, or do you maybe have dollar signs in your eyes?
“Is this Something I Would Do?” If you’re having a hard time being objective with the facts, ask yourself if you would follow your own advice.
Be the Good. This is my way of remembering my bottom line: whatever I put into the internet/world should make it a little better, even if in a small way.
Get Better. There’s always room for improvement, and as someone who produces content for the internet I could in theory find a rhythm and rest on my laurels. But I could also keep an open mind and look for ways to improve my work (because this isn’t just about me).

My hope is that following these five points in a more thoughtful way will help me feel even better about what I produce, and be more helpful for our clients. (I say ‘more thoughtful way’ because I usually perform research or try to be objective, but it can be reflexive).

The cool thing about marketing ethics? Marketing Schools defines it as “less of a marketing strategy and more of a philosophy that informs all marketing efforts.” It’s not a strategy or a game-plan, but more like having a Jiminy Cricket on your shoulder asking if you believe in the message you’re about to share with the world.

 

Kassie is a distance runner and a distance reader really. She lives in Ellsworth Maine and, while she might be quiet when you meet her, will throw out something witty when you least expect it.
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