Social Media

How Pregnancy Has Made Me a Target

…For online ads, that is.

Although I didn’t make a public announcement until recently, targeted ads still found out, and kept appearing on my Facebook and Instagram feeds. But, if I hadn’t told anyone yet, how did the internet already know I was pregnant?

Soon after finding out, I downloaded two apps, BabyCenter and What to Expect (both fairly popular). I also started a registry online. Several online articles say that this combination of app downloading and browsing history made the announcement happen a little earlier- not to actual humans, but to the internet. (Side note: I did almost accidentally make a semi-public announcement to the internet via Pinterest when I mindlessly pinned a pregnancy related article to a board I thought was private- whoops). There’s a creepy Big Brother vibe to it.

Here are some of the more interesting targeted ads I’ve seen go by:

Exhibit A: Ovia, a Pregnancy & Baby Tracker This is a screenshot from my phone, which I’d normally crop but knowing this was a mobile ad vs desktop is important. As mentioned earlier, I already have two similar apps downloaded on my phone (from the App Store, not through a link on Facebook).

Admittedly, I did decide to download it because it’s more interactive than other apps (allowing you to track weight gain, keep track of meals and moods, look up symptoms- I can’t tell you how many times I’ve Googled “Is ____ normal during pregnancy,” and size comparisons that aren’t just food based). Size comparisons include fruits & veggies, Parisian Bakery, Fun & Games, and Weird-but-cute animals (guess what I chose?) So, this was a sponsored ad success.

Unfortunately, I don’t actually know how big a Roborovski Hamster is, but I’m still having fun.

 

Exhibit B: Carousel Designs. This was a desktop ad that appeared in my Facebook newsfeed as I took a break from registry building (which, I’ve found requires some breaks). I didn’t give it more than a passing glance because I was on a baby shopping break, but for purposes of this post I did some follow up.

The link redirects to babybedding.com, which makes sense because it’s entirely crib/nursery related. I’m not in any position to design a nursery right now, due to figuring out space and not knowing if it’s a boy or girl yet.

Exhibit C) Preggo Leggings The timeline for this ad is interesting. Not only did it coincide with browsing for maternity clothing, it also appeared after being put in a Lularoe Legging group on Facebook. I’m not really sure which one triggered this particular ad (probably the maternity clothes), but here we are.

I didn’t click through this ad because I’m kind of burnt out on the online world of leggings right now. The internet may have a good eye for search history, but that doesn’t mean it has perfected it’s timing. It did seem like they were a bit more expensive than I’m willing to pay for an article of clothing I can only wear for another 5ish months, and with all the other stuff that I have to worry about, leggings aren’t very high on the list.

Exhibit D: Babiesfan Fun fact, I can’t actually find anything online about this sponsored ad, and I didn’t click on the link in Instagram. I’m kind of regretting that now, though, since this pillow is looking heavenly on a Friday afternoon. (I am thinking while some pregnancy offerings are more niche, like the leggings, this pillow may be a more universally appealing item.) This was my first Instagram targeted ad, and I’m sure more will follow.

Finally, this isn’t really an ad, but an interesting notification from one of the baby apps. It’s a light inactivity notification (“Hey, you haven’t posted anything to Instabookchat in awhile. Let your friends know what you’re up to”). Since I don’t really ‘participate’ in the app, apart from reading the daily tips and seeing the cool weekly progress updates (I’m not sure why fruits and vegetables are the go-to scale for size updates, but that could be a blog post of it’s own), Babycenter was giving me a bit of a nudge.

I’m not sure how I feel about being low key shamed by a robot for already not participating enough in mom activities, but for what it’s worth I did take a look into the group forums. Unfortunately I got sucked into reading a lot of “Here is everything that can go wrong” discussions, and decided to stick with the daily tips section instead.

So, if you’re pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or just curious, the body isn’t the only thing that changes- your internet might start to look a little different, too. But remember that you can customize the internet to see less of the ads, notifications, and other personalized online experiences so you can be as comfortable as possible, whether you have a baby at the avocado stage or just had guacamole for lunch.

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.

Where Have All the Millennials Gone? The Year In Social Media

Snapchat took them, every one.

If CNet is to be believed, we are going to be living with Snapchat for a long, long time. The image messaging app and social media platform continued to dominate one very important market in 2016. Snapchat, which filed for its IPO in 2016 and turns 5 in next year, is still the go-to hub for the all-important millennials.

Snapchat (now “Snap”) claims 200 million active users — 60 percent of whom are under 25 — watching 10 BILLION videos every day.

So what is driving Snap’s popularity? Is it its mobile-first attitude? Yes, there’s that. Plus, for years we were taught that what gets posted online stays online forever. And then comes along Snapchat’s message-destruct feature, giving folks a platform where they can post first and think later.

If you’re a company looking to target millennials in 2017, it looks like Snapchat is still the way to go. But let’s not discount Facebook, especially if you’re aiming for a more, ahem, seasoned demographic. Pew tells us that Facebook is still the most popular social media platform.

Facebook’s number of users continued to grow in 2016 to the point where 79 percent of American adults who use the Internet use Facebook. That’s an increase of 7 percent over 2015, something Pew attributes to the fact that more older adults have joined that community.

Twitter was in the news a lot in 2016, mainly for its use in the Presidential campaign. And yet, it’s only fifth in popularity, trailing far behind Instagram, the second-most popular platform. Once an online hub for the before-it-was-cool-Williamsburg-hipster-vegan, Facebook-owned Instagram is now used by 32 percent of online adults.

Instagram was followed closely by Pinterest and LinkedIn, with 31 percent and 29 percent, respectively.

Compare that to Twitter, used by only 24 percent of online adults.

One of the bigger surprises in 2016 was that while Vine withered and died, Google+ still clung to life. Although not mentioned in the Pew article, good ol’ G+ still has 2.2 billion users, thanks in part (I’m guessing) to the integration with the wildly popular Gmail.

Yet, it’s important to note that only 9 percent of G+ users actually bother to publicly post content. And so Google+ continues to orbit the social media sphere like an abandoned space station. You can still see G+ in the night sky, only no one’s onboard.

So what’s going to big in 2017? Video sharing may be a bigger driving force, based in part on the fact that Snap entered the oft-derided wearable arena with Spectacles. Augmented reality may continue to be big, considering Pokemon Go’s continued popularity.

One thing that won’t likely change in 2017 — the challenges many local, small businesses and nonprofits face in trying to navigate the ever-changing social media landscape. Lucky for you, companies like BEC will be there in 2017, too.

Post-Election: A Loser’s Guide to the Internet

Some things are just too darn hard to bear. You know what I’m talking about — wars, natural disasters, hangnails. In my case, the recent outcome of the presidential election has sent me into a spiral of depression that will likely take me four-to-eight years from which to recover.

I know I’m not alone. For proof, see this article in QZ.com on post-election depression, and how election-addiction leads to post-election depression.

After more than a year of consuming as much news as I could about the election, I’ve found that, now that the whole thing is over, I want to banish it all from my psyche. Yet every time I go online, it pops back up. It’s like after eating a garlic pizza — sure it was fun at the time, but the resulting indigestion is no picnic.

I’ve taken to going onto Facebook only when needed, and I’ve also avoided the Twitter account I’ve set up strictly for bathroom humor.

To keep my sanity, I’ve started compiling a list of websites that are largely non-political. They are decidedly geek-infused, mainly dealing with the future or the distant past. My attention will be on them for the next four-to-eight years:

  •  Wikipedia’s “On This Day.” A daily timeline of events, births, deaths and holidays and observances on any given day. Hey, did you know that Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick” was published Nov. 14, 1851? Thank you, Wikipedia!
  •  Space.com. All things space, all the time. Want to know about super-moons, gas giants, Uranus, and other giggle-inducing astronomical trivia? Space.com should be your destination.
  • AVClub. The sister publication of the satirical news site, The Onion, The AVClub is a smart, snarky guide to film, books, television comics and more.

You can’t completely avoid post-election news, but they’re a good substitute for sites such as Politico that regularly fed my election junkie habit, for which I’m currently paying the price.

Also, kudos to the slacktivists on the image-sharing site Imgur, who, shortly after the election, attempted to block any news of the presidency from the front page by upvoting photos of sea slugs.

Also, I’ve started reading about three or four books simultaneously, most of which are between 40 and 20 years old at this point. I’ve become reacquainted with my favorite film from the 1990s, “The Big Lebowski.”

I’m sure this won’t last. We all move on and the healthy, better part of us learns to accept things the way they are, even if we don’t like it. And with that, comes a refinement of social media habits and learning that life does not stop and start at our convenience.

Besides, the holidays are upon us! And those aren’t at all depressing.

Creativity Without A Script

Last summer, one of America’s most beloved fixtures on public radio signed off from his role as host of A Prairie Home Companion. Garrison Keillor, 74, had been hosting the Minnesota-based variety show since the 1974, having revitalized a genre of entertainment that had largely been replaced by television.

I’ve been thinking about Keillor after having a conversation with Breaking Even’s Nicole Ouellette about this month’s blog theme — creativity and the creative process.

Arguably, the most memorable aspect of Keillor’s time at PHC is his monologues that capped off every episode of PHC. Rather than take each episode off with a bang, Keillor’s monologue is a quiet, intimate affair. There’s little fanfare, no eruption of fireworks, no zany vocal sound effects that frequently punctuated the rest of the show.

“The News from Lake Wobegon” was more of a hot cup of tea on the back porch than Broadway-style finale. It speaks to Keillor’s creativity that he could close his show every week in such a quiet, captivating way.

Keillor, in a 2006 interview with CMT, stated, “I never found that to be true, but I did find that if you want to get people’s attention, you speak more softly.”

The monologue starts that same — “it’s been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon, my home town” — and then delves into the lives of its Lutheran inhabitants.

Keillor once told National Geographic that the creation of the fictional town was, in part, brought on by the loneliness he felt after moving to Freeport, Minnesota in 1970: “No minister visited to encourage us to worship on Sunday, no neighbor dropped in with a plate of brownies. … I lived south of Freeport for three years and never managed to have a conversation with anyone in the town. I didn’t have long hair or a beard, didn’t dress oddly or do wild things, and it troubled me. I felt like a criminal.”

Either despite, or because of, that isolation, Keillor was able to craft a fictional small town, described, tongue in cheek, as a place “where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.”

How real those characters become, however, also depends on the audience, according to an interview Keillor did with The State in 2015: “I leave it to the audience to imagine the characters – I just try to get the events straight. I create a scaffold and the audience imagines a building – that’s how it works. The stories are based on real life in some way. … When you live in one place for so many years … your memories are attached to the landscape, particular streets, the river, woods, a town, and you only need to drive around slowly and you will recall enough stories to occupy you for hours.”

Each week, Keillor, would recite that week’s “news,” without a script, apparently on the fly.

It wasn’t completely improvised — let there never be said there’s no room for preparation in the creative process. Keillor would write a draft for each monologue in the days leading up to the show, and would review it a couple of times before delivery.

“The monologue you hear is a man trying to remember what he wrote down a few hours before. Sometimes, while he’s trying to remember it, he thinks of something better,” he told CMT.

The illusion was Keillor making a story up on the fly, as if he was your uncle, recounting a tale of the darndest thing you ever heard, when, in reality, there’s a lot of planning involved.

“It’s not the job of an entertainer to have a moment of revelation on stage, but to create them for other people,” Keillor told VQRonline in 2001.

Keillor has handed over the reins of PHC to musician Chris Thile, most notably of the country/bluegrass band Nickel Creek. But he has kept busy with his writing, a craft he has been honing long before he ever took to the airwaves in Minnesota. He even popped up in the news very recently after writing a scathing open letter to Donald Trump.

Keillor, by the way, is still performing live. He has performances scheduled until at least April 2017.

Links referenced in this post:

20 Questions with Garrison Keillor- CMT

Church on Saturday Night – VQR

Garrison Keillor on Storytelling, Technology, and Mockingbirds- The State 

Garrison Keillor Letter to Trump- Washington Times 

Facebook’s Attempt at Mind-Reading

Social media has always been a platform for self-expression, and has even evolved into a way for people to stay in touch and get updates on current events. Facebook in particular has some interesting methods of encouraging users to share their experiences, beyond the “What’s on your mind?” prompt for status updates.

In the past year or so, it seems like Facebook has been upping the ante in terms of getting people to share how they feel about things-current events, politics, sports, even seasonal changes.

Sometimes, it seems as if Facebook is reading our minds…These are a few of the things that I’ve noticed in the past few months that Facebook has offered to anticipate what we want to share:

Temporary Profile Pictures and Overlays

Last summer, Facebook started introducing temporary profile pictures as a way to let people show support for a cause, be it political or showing support for a sports team. When you make a temporary profile picture, you have options for how long you want to have it set for (a day, a week, a month), and then it will automatically switch back to whatever you had before. Last November, Facebook created a French flag overlay to show support for the victims of the terrorist attacks in Paris. Facebook prompts users to show their support by creating a temporary profile picture. In these circumstances, a temporary profile picture is meant to extend support and solidarity no matter where you are in the world.

Good Morning/Afternoon/Seasonal Changes

A couple weeks ago marked the first day of fall, and you may have noticed a “happy first day of fall” message at the top of your Facebook newsfeed. A couple months ago, I was on my phone and noticed a “Good Morning, Kassandra” message with a sun beside it (in the same top-of-newsfeed position). This isn’t an every day occurrence for me, and I haven’t figured out what the pattern is (or if there even is one), and one day there was a “Good Afternoon” curve ball. These messages don’t even have a “share with the public” option, so I can only imagine that they’re just to create a positive user experience.

Let People Know that You’re ______. 

Another feature that borders on creepy is the “Let people know you’re watching” option during a sporting event (only on mobile). The scores will automatically appear if you’ve liked a team’s official Facebook page. Facebook has since added a new “Sports” section that you can access to get updates from any team without having to “like” a ton of Pages. This area of Facebook is called Sports Stadium, which came out this past January. In addition to sharing a status update, you can “hang out” with other Facebook friends who are watching the game, too, and talk about it within the app.

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Another example of a narrowed “let people know what you’re doing,” Facebook started sharing a “Register to Vote” campaign. When you click on it, you get taken to a printable page for voter registration along with instructions. And, because it’s Facebook, you could share with others that you’d registered.

Safety Check

Similar to “Let people know you’re watching,” Facebook has a “Safety Check” feature. If you are in an area that’s in crisis (natural disaster or otherwise), Facebook picks up on this if your location services are on, and will ask you if you are safe. Fortunately, I live in a pretty low-crisis area, so I’ve never seen this in action, until last week when one of my friends used the tool to let people know she was safe in North Carolina. For those of you who watched our Facebook Live video last week, we talked a bit about this Safety Check feature there, too.

fbsafetycheck

These are just a few ways Facebook is attempting to anticipate what people care about and changing the way we interact with each other online. Can’t wait to see what’s next, Facebook!

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.

Facebook Live And Facebook Ads: An Experiment

Rumor has it that advertising/boosting Facebook Live videos is less expensive and more beneficial than other types of Facebook Ads.

Of course, we wouldn’t just rely on a rumor. So we ran a little experiment where we boosted two posts (a Facebook Live video and a blog post we wrote) with the same amount of money for the same seven day period. (Like any good experiment, you should only change one variable at a time!)

facebookadvideooutcomes

 

facebookadvideooutcomes2

Some interesting things we can see right away.

  1. The blog post I promoted wasn’t styled sexy. I could have worked a little harder to make it visually compelling, especially for mobile.
  2. The video got way more direct engagement (clicks) and reach (views) than the other post.
  3. The blog post got more comments and shares, which we could argue is more ‘deep’ than someone liking or viewing.
  4. We didn’t use tracking links or any real call to action (ex: email newsletter signup) to see if these drove actual business. So not an entirely amazing experiment on all fronts.

One experiment can’t definitively prove anything, but our results show that Facebook is making Live video ads a cheaper prospect to those willing to give them a shot. (I will say, it is cool Facebook let’s you pick your thumbnail; don’t settle for the one they give you!).

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.
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