Tag Archives: facebook

Facebook Data Breach: What You Need to Know

Facebook has been all over the news this week due to reports that Cambridge Analytica, the Trump campaign’s data firm, was involved in a data collection scheme. This allowed Cambridge Analytica access to the private information of over 50 million Facebook users. We discuss what you need to know about this recent scandal, and what it means for Facebook users.

WHAT IS CAMBRIDGE ANALYTICA?

Cambridge Analytica is a data firm that offers companies and political parties services to “change audience behavior”. The company was created when Steve Bannon approached conservative hedgefund billionaire Robert Mercer to fund a political consulting firm. The firm harvested private information from the Facebook profiles of more than 50 million users without their permission, in order to target them with personalized political advertisements.

myPERSONALITY

MyPersonality was the application Cambridge Analytica used to harvest the information. It was a popular Facebook personality quiz that could be used to build psychological profiles of the people who took the quiz, and, due to a loophole in Facebook API, allowed it to collect data from the Facebook “friends” of the quiz takers as well.  

FACEBOOK’S RESPONSE

The company’s stock price has taken a beating since the revelation, dropping 6.8% on Monday and another 2.5% on Tuesday. Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg released a statement on Wednesday, saying,

“We have a responsibility to protect your data, and if we can’t then we don’t deserve to serve you. I’ve been working to understand exactly what happened and how to make sure this doesn’t happen again. The good news is that the most important actions to prevent this from happening again today we have already taken years ago. But we also made mistakes, there’s more to do, and we need to step up and do it.”

According to Zuckerberg, Facebook plans to investigate and audit all apps that had access to large amounts of information. If an audit reveals any misuse, he said, the developer will be banned, and Facebook will inform any users affected by the app’s collection of identificable information.

FACEBOOK USERS

It certainly sparks a larger debate for Facebook’s 2.2 billion active users—how safe is their personal data? And how is it being used? Facebook allowed a third-party to implement an application for the sole purpose of gathering user’s data. Furthermore, Facebook has known about this issue for more than two years, and only now that it has been made public are they ackowledging their mistake. Facebook has publicly touted their ability to accurately profile voters using the information they give to the site.

Critics are calling for tough new regulations, and celebrities are urging users to quit Facebook, with the Twitter hashtag #deleteFacebook. Users have always been aware that Facebook collected their data, but perhaps did not realize the extent and possible ramifications. This invasion of privacy has certainly been an eye-opener for millions of unwitting users across the country.

Why Being Continually Online is Like Having a Bad Acid Trip

Woman having a drug trip while looking at her smartphone

Hippie guru Timothy Leary famously said, “Turn on, Tune in, Drop out.”

He may have been referring to psychedelics, but his quote is more relevant than ever when it comes to our culture’s connectivity with the cyber dimensions. No one is dropping out, however, and being constantly online is overloading our minds with dangerous results.

Hyper-connectivity—that state of being continually plugged-in to our devices—is a growing problem. There are solutions, as always, but first the bad news.

 

The damage caused by hyper-connectivity

 

We may be accustomed to living online, but how it stresses our brains is highlighted in an article by ATTN:, Here’s Why It’s so Important to Unplug.

Here are some of the weighty takeaways:

Fifty-four thousand words—in the form of digital content—is dumped on the average social media user per day.
We receive about 200 newspapers-worth of information every day.
An average person—via texts, posts, and other media—produces about six newspapers-worth of information a day.
There are 295 exabytes of data floating around the world—or basically 29,500,000,000,000,000,000,000 pieces of information. That is three hundred and fifteen times the number of grains of sand on Earth.

That’s just scratching the info-dump surface. The point is that hyper-connectivity is straining our minds that were never built to handle that amount of data on a daily basis.

qSample has researched the effects of hyper-connectivity on individuals, finding that social media users earn less income and that social media/internet is creating a split-personality culture that is harming Millennials, in particular.

Furthermore, the ATTN: article quotes the sober analysis of Max Blumberg, research psychologist from Goldsmiths University of London. He explains:

Our brains were never designed to be always on and permanently connected with the amount of stimuli that we get today. Our brains haven’t evolved to handle that level of high activity yet, and that’s a problem.

Blumberg explains that high stimuli like surfing the web are attractive because they create dopamine in the brain. He further states:

It’s really similar to having ADHD. People with ADHD, their big problem is that their cortex—the outer part of your brain that does the executive function like making decisions—doesn’t function in the way that it is supposed to.  Unlike animals, who are distracted by every stimulus they encounter, human beings have the cortex, which is supposed to help them weigh up whether what they are currently doing is more important than whatever the new stimulus is—whether it’s a Facebook notification, phone call, or email.

This can’t be good, and other researchers are finding that hyper-connectivity may be causing depression, insomnia, narcissism, and lack of empathy among various demographics of society.

On a more “real” level, Mashable recently reported that more people have died from selfies than shark attacks this year.

(Scarier than Dr. Evil’s desire in Austin Powers for sharks with frickin’ laser beams attached to their heads, what will happen if sharks acquire smartphones and attach them to their frickin’ foreheads…)

Being online is even ruining eating experiences! At least according to Food Trend TV’s Dana McCauley, who stated:

Technology has reached a point where almost every human function has been turned into a business, absolving us of the need to develop the virtues we need to get along. Activities that were once considered part of the human experience have been outsourced to the Apple store, and it’s a sad indictment of the state of our society.

Basically, we are staring at screens during our wait at eateries, skip the experience of connecting with those who serve our food, and abort the ritual of eating with other by quick deliveries at home. At least McCauley admits we don’t have to deal with the manifestations of the Soup Nazi, although she doesn’t see it as a positive because at least it’s a “real” experience.

All of this for that dopamine? Leary was promoting LSD in his day, but the “high” of hyper-connectivity is a thousand times stronger, it would appear. Except it’s akin to the infamous brown acid that hippies were supposed to stay away from at Woodstock. It’s often a bad trip instead a journey of enlightening information.

I mean, it’s not secret by now that being plugged into a mobile device or computer can create addiction, starting with the “endless scroll, that keeps us going, is actually affecting our brain and creating addicting patterns not too dissimilar to drugs.”

(Many would say there is nothing wrong with making products that are like drugs; after all, some have said that good marketing is simply making your brand addictive, giving it that aura that the consumer can’t live without it. And tech companies know marketing better than most.)

In the end and beyond companies wanting to make dough, Blumberg states that hyper-connectivity is destroying critical thinking. Also, youth who learn to temper being online (and television) will likely be more productive members of society and leaders of the future.

 

There solution to hyper-connectivity

 

Going back to Leary’s quote, the solution has to do with dropping out after too much tuning in.

In a New York Times article, Daniel J. Levitin, author of The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload, proposed some ideas to get us dropped out:

Segment your day in online and offline activities (and stick to them).
Also segment your online activities (as in a designated time to answer emails and another for posting on Facebook).
Find daily hobbies or activities that are not based or at least loosely connected to the Internet.
Take short breaks, walks or even naps when immersed in a prolonged digital period.
When taking a vacation, make sure it doesn’t involve the internet at your disposal.

Levitin states that these solutions will take practice. It’s not easy to get offline when various screens of information are always hovering over us. But our brains will thanks us with renewed cognitive energy.

If not, just approach it like a bona fide addiction. As mentioned, brands like it when you lose your willpower—as they are only following their nature of marketing—but your nature has never been to be inundated with information to the point you miss out of nature all around you.

South Korea has the highest rate of internet addiction in the world. The country’s solution is to set up boot camps to offer “digital detox.” The premise is that at the root of internet addiction is the problem of making too many friends and relationships online, and being dragged down by the gravity of continual “checking in and checking out.” Creating “real” associations inevitable urges people to venture out into the world and away from their devices.

I like this quote by Leary that also exemplifies our hyper-connected society:

We are dealing with the best-educated generation in history. But they’ve got a brain dressed up with nowhere to go.

It seems instead of nowhere we should take our minds outside and make a flesh and blood friend. Just be wary for those sharks with frickin’ laser beams attached to their heads.

The Dark Side of Social Media Just Got Darker

Woman despondent while looking at social media on smartphone

There is no shortage of content on the mental and emotional hazards of social media, all readily found in…uh…social media.

Yet this dark cloud is getting darker by recent studies, supported by qSample’s own finding. It’s casting a larger shadow over a medium that once was believed as the great democratizer of society.

 

Here is how it gets darker

 

The most recent warning comes from Future Foundation, in a study of Britons on social media usage. The study arrived at a powerful conclusion: social media has created a culture of comparison like never before, leading youth and adults down a labyrinth of brittle self-esteem.

Some of the discoveries of the study:

63% of social media users ages between 17 and 33 feel they are failing in life (while only 37% of baby boomers feel this way).
– 56% of social media users feel they’re not reaching their potential.

The alarming numbers are likely caused by the notion of social comparison gone awry. Buffer explains the perils of social comparison in the Psychology of Social Media:

This can lead to feelings of insecurity—especially on Facebook, where we go to share our happiest, braggiest news. We’re constantly comparing ourselves against a stream of new babies, engagements, new jobs.

This isn’t just a Facebook issue; it happens on Instagram, where Instagram envy runs rampant, and on Pinterest, where a survey of 7,000 U.S. mothers revealed that 42 percent have “Pinterest stress”—they worry that they’re not crafty or creative enough.

Worse than social comparison gone awry, as the Future Foundation study relates, social media users actually wish their real life mirrored that of their social profiles—basically creating a schizophrenic society where online personas are different from real personalities. The research reveals that young men suffer the most in all demographics; but all sectors find themselves continually under the stress of matching their own projections with that of peers in various social media channels.

As mentioned, qSample’s primary study supports the deleterious effects of social media:

A recent study conducted with qSample’s general consumer panel reveals that more than 60% of respondents surveyed access Facebook 3-6 times a day. Results also show those who are logged in that frequently earn an income of $50,000 or less per year.

The study demonstrates that in general those with less social media footprints tend to earn higher.

 

Here is where it gets darkest

 

Obviously, a case (with many case studies) can be made on the positive effects of social media on both the individual and community. Regardless, it seems most miss the true nature of social media, as well as the internet itself. Understanding this nature is key to solving the dark matter that is social media pervading online universes.

Marketer Josip Petrusa nailed it in a blog article. He is not alone, drawing from the works of cyber-psychology pioneers like Chris Anderson, Malcolm Gladwell and Nassim Taleb.

It basically goes like this: social media and the internet do not improve or harm our emotions. No, they simply amplify them.

As he writes:

And though the internet increasingly became an amplifier of everything the world had to offer as a result of easy-access, the sudden increase of amateur creations and exposure to a seemingly infinite world, social media has established itself as the ultimate amplifier.

The amplifier effect bares no bias. Nor does it give privilege or favour anything directly. Its sole purpose is to amplify, everything. It is everything we are in this social media world. It is everything we perceive to be through our own perceptions.

This makes perfect sense when taken to a mass media level. Think about it. When an endangered lion is shot or a police officer acts irresponsibly, social media broadcasts latent emotions to all corners of the world. Animal rights and minority activists have been around for decades, moving the culture needle to more egalitarian spectrums. Social media simply leverages covert sentiments, injects them with the steroids, and then disseminates them in a mob-like wave across the web. In the end, it’s always the boots on the ground that make a real difference.

Another example would be the Arab Spring. Social media took credit for it—according to many digital commentators and marketers—but the mechanism for Egyptian freedom was already in the works and continues to imperfectly grind away. A University of Washington study even concluded that “social media did not cause the upheaval in North Africa.”

In essence, social media and the internet are not bringers of historical change but bringers of emotional range. Like all media, they capture a snapshot of human progress.

The greatest evidence for social media having an “amplifier effect” instead of societal impact is the reality of how issues swell and shrink rapidly. Our research shows how the internet has drastically shrunk the attention span of people to the point goldfish focus more than humans! Today’s dire issue is quickly forgotten, except again in the minds of activists of various stripes. I mean, is anyone still irate at Brian Williams or Eric Holder for whatever? Today’s confederate flag is tomorrow’s obscure meme on Facebook, at least in the mind of the general public.

 

Here is where the light comes it

 

Beyond morbid self-reflection and mob-rule mentality, social media seems officially darker than ever, if the Future Foundation research holds up.

How do we even know our emotions when they are fragmented and then amplified like in a psychic sugar-rush that later becomes a sort of ice cream headache for the heart? How can we combat gross projections on our social profiles as we attempt to compete with friends and followers who seem to have it all? As one therapist said on the emotional amplifications of social media, how do you stop from going into a “neurotic limbo”?

As with the negative aspects of social media, there is a galaxy of literature out there on solutions to the negative aspect of social media. It really all comes down to some addictive spectrum or another that either needs to be curtailed, eliminated or managed differently. As a Forbes columnist and tech executive wrote recently on Forbes: “Social media is rapidly becoming as bad as smoking for the human condition.”

Your mileage may vary.

But to solve the effects of Tyler Durden-like emotions, it seems the solutions was already stated in this article: Be an activists, any kind of activist even if it’s something small like “save the stamp collection.” Find a passion that only you care about—and know, as evidence reveals—that any real change will be in the material world and away The Matrix that is social media. That will eventually align your emotions and identity, and both will shine through on social media and beyond…in history…even if it’s in a list article on some blog.

It’s really that simple. Any more complication risks this being amplified on the internet to the point it gets lost in a short-attention span society.

And yes, please share on social media, Neo…

 

Are College Students More Stressed Out Than Ever? (qSample Study)

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity.

This famous quote by Charles Dickens, from A Tale of Two Cities, has been applied to many periods and demographics of western society. It surely seems appropriate to our college days—that intense period of personality formation and testing that paves the way for so many futures.

To qSample, understanding college students (and millennials) is vital; it is one of our propriety panels that serves many of our clients. Our Campus Universe initiative is utilized for varied studies from both academics and businesses. After all, Millennials are expected to reach $200 billion in spending by 2017, with a total of more than $1.4 trillion in spending power. It will be the largest consumer generation in U.S. history. Beyond buyer muscle, today’s young adults will be our politicians, celebrities (beyond social media), and parents.

And right now they appear to be stressed out in their college role.

 

The Worst of Times?

 

Our recent study found that 65% of college students admit to being extremely stressed out during the semester/quarter. But what else is new, right? Or is it perhaps really new?

To find out, here are some of the other takeaways from the study conducted in early July, with a sample of more than 300 respondents:

When it comes to eating out for lunch, only 31% of respondents said this happened on a daily basis. 39% said they ate off campus once or twice a week, with 22% eating off campus once or twice a month. 15% claimed they never visited restaurants while the semester was in full swing.

Outside of leisurely eating, another tell-tale sign of college students coping with stress is the fuel intake that assists in managing limited time: caffeine. When asked about their daily consumption of caffeine (coffee, energy drinks, pills, etc.), this was the breakdown:

–  1-2 cups/doses: 52%
–  3-4 cups/doses: 15%
–  5+ cups/doses: 3%
–  Don’t consume caffeine 30%

Considering that the national coffee intake of the average adult is 3 to 4 cups a day, one could gather that college students are not exactly desperate for that extra energy to get an edge on daily tasks.

Furthermore, there exists the trope that college students play video games to manage stress, but that also doesn’t seem to be apparent. The study found that 56% of college students don’t play video games at all. Only five percent admitted to playing video games on a daily basis, with 38% playing a handful of times a month.

 

The Best of Times?

 

As for getting rest, college students seem to be enjoying enough of that in order to deal with higher education. 74% stated they get 5-7 hours of sleep a night, although only 15% are enjoying the classic eight hours of sleep. But the characteristic sleep-deprivation known in universities looks absent: only ten percent stated they get 2-4 hours a night.

The idea of being tied to chains to academia is also not present. 36% of college students admitted to going to see friends or family at least once a day, while 20% enjoy social events once or twice a week, and 28% are social once or twice a month. Only 16% find themselves only visiting friends or family during holidays or between semesters/quarters.

From this preliminary analysis of the study, it appears that college students are no more stressed out than older generations and today’s workforce. Perspective is everything, as they say. Being in the belly of the academic beast has always seemed like “the worst of time.” That is until sleep, friendship, and good food changes that to the “best of times.”

Social media seems to be a “best of times” aspect, a way to decompress for anyone in society. The study found these are the preferred social media channels for college students:

1. Facebook: 50%
2. Instagram: 22%
3. Snapchat: 12%
4. Twitter: 6%
5. Pinterest: 2%
6. LinkedIn: 2%

One can easily assume that the LinkedIn percentage will rise once they’re done with college…

 

The Age of Wisdom or Foolishness?

 

A last and interesting takeaway from the study is the preferred apps of college students during the semester/quarter: the smartphone camera app (25%). This could enforce the notion that college students are embedded in the Me, Me, Me Generation—that snide term branded to Millennials.

On the other hand, the second favorite app for college students was the weather app (24%). This may indicate they have the same preoccupation as those in the job pool as they negotiate the day. This is enforced by how map apps like Google Maps are in third (18%). They have places to go and weather to deal with.

Wherever they go, college students will definitely remember their “best/worst times” that is college, with both the belief and incredulity.

For those of us reminiscing about our college days, this is what we might be thinking right now: Where in the Dickens did all the time go?

College Students Button

Infographic of the Week: Why Content Goes Viral

We all want our business content to viral (except maybe for last year’s Christmas Party pictures or the snarky email to HR after it removed Jean Friday). In the name of Chris Crocker, much of the world wants their content to go viral! It rarely happens, though, even when it involves cats. Viral content is as elusive as finding out the true age of Lorde.

In fact, no one really knows what the benchmarks are for measuring viral content, similar to finding the exact age demographics of Millennials (which Lorde claims to belong to).

Regardless, surging traffic and engagement are highly desired for internet success, and there is a science behind it that you can use, which at the very least will increase your metrics. This is the theme of this week’s infographic, based on research from our article 4 Research Studies That Can Holistically Create Viral Content.

We hope it assists in your content going viral as much as we hope this infographic goes viral (isn’t it ironic, don’t you think?):

Why Content Goes Viral

 

Download this infographic.

Embed Our Infographic On Your Site!

Is Google in Trouble? Yes, and There is No Coming Back

The recent past has not been kind to Google. Beyond a shifting financial tech landscape, many of its latest injuries have been self-inflicted. One has to wonder what is happening to the once seemingly-omniscient internet pioneer that was ushering a new age of information and transparency. In reality, the Mountain View company might be in trouble.

The reason is plain to see—and with foreboding precedent—but first a glance at the stumblings of the tech giant over a much different landscape than when it came to existence in 1998.

The tea leaves of Google’s fall might have been read as early as 2013, when The Internship tanked at the box office. The movie paired Vince Vaugh and Owen Wilson, in similar roles to their Wedding Crashers hit in 2005. Instead of weddings, though, Google was both the backdrop and underlying ethos of the film. What could go wrong?

Audiences not showing up is what went wrong. It was almost as if the fawning era when tech bloggers would obsess about minutia like the animation banner on the Google page had officially ended.

Then came the expensive failure of Google+. It launched in 2012, trumpeted as the new social media player in a not-so-crowded field. Now it’s basically dead, being slowly dismembered into several manageable pieces like Photos and Hangouts. One of the main architects of Google+ (and the inventor of the hashtag), Chris Messina, even told CNN plainly: “I f–ed up. So has Google.”

Whoa! That’s Google you’re talking about, Mr. Hashtag! Yes, the company dared put out Facebook Lite, but they’re THE search engine.

It doesn’t matter. As Forbes explained, Google listened more to its engineers than its customers, moved away from its search engine capabilities, and copied other social media companies instead attempting innovation.

We’re not done, though. The disaster that is Google Glass came at the heels of Google+. As a matter of fact, both tripped over each other in attention of press mockery.

As we reported, what was meant to be the official start of the wearable tech era became one of the worst market disasters in history. Google skipped sensible beta testing and ignored public sentiments (as with Google+). This is a bit odd for a company whose mission statement is to “organize the world’s information.”

Google Glass was unceremoniously killed last year, although there are rumblings of a Frankenstein resurrection. Let’s see.

It hasn’t gotten better for Google in 2015, especially in the last month. A new study exposes some very bad practices by the search giant (the study was suspiciously sponsored by Yelp, but that’s fierce tech competition for you). The research claims that Google ranks higher its own services and products in search listings. Sure, Google is a private company in the business of making dough; however, it has claimed time and time again that its algorithms are completely unbiased.

The damaging study doesn’t mean that people will flock to Bing (God forbid). Yet, this type of news could bolster Europe’s antitrust case against the search giant, which would be disastrous. But this is Google, right? It’s the near-perfect entity that, according to Fortune, is the best company in America to work for. These are mere burps, right?

No, the news gets worse…actually disgusting. Just last month, Google’s image recognition software—employed in its Google Photos application with auto-tagging—mislabeled a photograph of an African American couple. It labeled them “gorillas.”

Google apologized for the gaffe. Moreover, many in the industry remarked that Flickr’s auto-tagging system had done the same—including mislabeling concentration camps as “jungle gyms” and people of various races as “apes.”

That’s the point, though. Flickr is owned by Yahoo, and we know where Yahoo has been headed to for a long time. Is Google on the same path?

It seems so. Again, Google is in trouble.

Bloomberg technology columnist Katie Benner agrees. In a column, she explains the numbers pointing to the fall from grace of Google that include:

Missteps in trends (e.g., Google Glass and Google+).
Underperforming stocks.
A falling share of the U.S. search market, down to 75% in 2014 from 80% in 2013 (and remember, Europe is ready to break them up).
Unhappy investors.
Unable to made headway in foreign markets like China or Russia.

Benner points out a simple but interest axiom on the foibles and fortunes of Google, and it’s not hubris as some might think from reading this article.

You see, when a company reaches a “too big to fail” size it can’t help but begin to fail. Regardless of its altruistic core mission and nimble business attitude, a suddenly-enormous company will begin to fossilize under the pressure of its own density. As Benner says:

Google is a 55,000-person behemoth, and it’s nearly impossible for any company to move quickly and creatively at that size. Among tech giants, only Apple has managed to innovate after becoming so big. Hewlett Packard? Nope. IBM? No way.

Benner draws a comparison of Google to another company that once appeared it could do no wrong and possessed that tech Midas touch:

The Google of 2015 is not unlike the early 2000s Microsoft – a hugely profitable company that is having a hard time innovating around its core product. Unless something is done, it will likely go through spasms of flailing and discontent that will be familiar to longtime veterans of the Redmond, Washington software giant.

Ironically, it was Google that helped begin the erosion of Microsoft when it came into the scene. A decade ago, consumers gradually began to divorce a PC-centric world for internet and cloud-based territories. But again, Microsoft’s large size impeded it from moving with the times, and that gave the universe the widely-detested Windows 8.

Obviously, Google isn’t going to vanish. The question is whether it can do anything not to relegate itself into a cyber Jurassic World? Can it avoid being just another corporate dinosaur to amuse consumers instead of inspiring them, much in the same way that happened to Microsoft, Yahoo, AOL, and others? Or can it find its inner innovator and remain fresh like Apple or Facebook?

Benner claims that Google will never regain its innovative spirit. Nevertheless, it can invest in buying smaller companies that have an innovative spirit (like it did with YouTube; or as Facebook did with Instagram). Google could buy Snapchat or Pinterest, again both shocking and pleasing the world. Then again, Microsoft bought Skype and not much came from it…

Perhaps there is some pioneering spark left in Google. It recently started publicizing the accidents of its self-driving cars. That is one big step for transparency, although it might end up being a step backward for public relations once the numbers are crunched by Neo-Luddites out there.

In the end, transparency and investing in creativity might be Google’s best and only choices. At least these moves would give it press beyond fiascos like Google Glass, bigoted photo tagging, or bad Hollywood movies.

And if this article suddenly disappears from search engine rankings, come look for me at the Yelp boards…

button white papers

 

5 Facebook Headlines We Hate to Love

Scrolling down Facebook. Your eye catches a headline. Index finger shakes. Click me! Click me!

You keep scrolling down, assured of your hulking free will. Time is too important to be wasted.

You scroll up and click it. Ahhh!

That situation illustrates the power of headlines—especially in the social media era. Some headlines are considered clickbait (defined by Facebook as “links with headlines that encourages people to click to see more without offering much information about what will be viewed”).

Oh, but they’re so enticing, so click-a-licious! Indeed they are, but potentially a drain on the day’s schedule as well. Time is certainly too important to be wasted, as mentioned, and Facebook and its coconspirators devour much of it. As one marketing expert said: “Did you know that on average, you spend 3.6 hours a day on social media sites? That’s roughly 25% of the time you’re awake.”

To save time and gain some semblance of free will, we can categorize some of these headlines in order to understand why we often seduce fall down unwanted rabbit holes:

The Emotional Sugar Rush Headline

emotional porn

It typically mentions some mundane object, activity, or animal—along with alluring verbiage like “added,” “entered,” or “what happened next” (or something like that). Then promissory expressions with “unbelievable,” “breathless,” or “stunned” are added to the end (or something like that). It’s what would happen if Hitchcock tweeted.

Some examples:

A Pitbull And Her Newborn Puppies Get Rescued, But What Happens Next Will Amaze You

From The Outside It Looks Like A Normal House, But What’s Inside Will Leave You Speechless!

Most of these articles leave readers “speechless” because they are a waste of time. The reader is “amazed” at themselves for their gullibility.

I once interviewed with a company as an editor whose sole task would be to write these type of headlines. Fortunately for somebody, they passed on me. I was “stunned.”

The Big Brother Bother Headline

Big Brother Headline_

This is an inviting link to a post explaining the results of leaving a webcam on without anyone there (except pets or ghosts, or both).

Some examples:

Cupcakes Kept Disappearing From the Counter. We Set Up A Hidden Camera – Wow!

The Cameras Recorded Something Scary… I’m Speechless! Watch This!

It’s usually the dog if you’re wondering. In the supernatural genre articles, it’s a passing shadow that must be the great grandmother of whoever lived in the house.

The Scientific Breakthrough Headline

Scientific Headline

These headlines are as prevalent in tabloids as in the internet. Same as it ever was, in the spirit of Talking Heads. On the web, it’s more focused on artificial intelligence, driverless cars, or the takeover of robots.

Some examples:

Nasa tests ‘WARP DRIVE’ engine that could carry passengers to the moon in just four hours…and may even travel faster than the speed of light

‘Fountain of Youth’ Discovered? Scientists Might Finally be Able to Reverse Aging

Towards the end of these pieces, there is the usual caveat of “It is still years away” or something in that vein—based on the research of some lower-level scientist in a corporation or government lab. Of course cures for cancers, weight gain, or hair loss remain popular for many Facebook users and their News Feed.

The Public Figure Apocalypse Headline

Destroy HeadlineThese deal with some public figure preferred by the linking site addressing another public figure disliked by the same linking site. This is followed by violent verbs such as “schooled,” “annihilated,” or “destroyed.” The message of the headline makes it seem that some politician, celebrity or activist has just been verbally but fatally wounded in an argument. There is no turning back. Their careers are over can be the only result after clicking this headline.

Some examples are:

Jon Stewart destroys Fox News scrooge Varney

Watch: Bill Maher Annihilates Rand Paul’s Entire Campaign Platform

(And yes, all political bottom-feeder websites utilize these headlines. Stewart or Maher just happen to be widely seen as funny and thus are more pertinent.)

Obviously, neither the headline nor article is true. Public reputations can survive criminal sentencings and other falls from so-called grace in this era, and yesterday’s interview is quickly forgotten because tomorrow they’ll be right back on the same show.

The Berlin Top Gun Headline

Speechless headline

This is a combination of the above two headlines, with something like “speechless” or “no comment” in the text. It’s such an important story that nobody can answer it, certainly not those being assaulted in the story!

Some examples:

MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell Left Speechless by GOP Congressman’s Obamacare Admission

Megyn Kelly Leaves Obama Spokesperson Speechless After Destroying Her On Air

Sorry, but interruptions by the host, commercial breaks, or navel gazing-responses does not make a guest “speechless.” However, these headlines tend to take a partisan’s breaths away after they are clicked.

The List Headline

List article

I know what you’re thinking. The irony of this article is not lost to me (or is it hypocrisy instead of irony?). It had to be mentioned, though, as the promise of a list in a headline is one of the chief ways to incite a click. Western culture loves to catalog, define, and rank everything, from restaurants to top scenes with Elsa and Jack Frost that haven’t been made yet.

Some examples:

Are you kidding? You’ll likely run into many before the day is over.

There are other types of headlines, but these are common in traditional media: personality quizzes, math problems, meme themes, sly product advertising, desperate “buy me” or “act now” calls, and so forth. Please let me know if you have your own categories.

There is nothing wrong with presenting a captivating headline to create web traffic. The problem is that the types mentioned and others are often anticlimactic (at best) and misleading (at worst). Sometimes the headline of the article doesn’t even match that of the Facebook News Feed!

More than ever in a frenetic, digital society, every second counts in our lives to be productive individuals, and so does every click. Click well.

How Facebook’s New Buy Button Impacts User Conversion

Earlier this month, Facebook began testing a new “Buy Button” feature that was designed to drive business sales through news feeds and pages. While this addition could revolutionize the way businesses and consumers interact on Facebook, it carries many inherent challenges as well.

One of the most important aspects of the buy button is that it effectively shifts the conversion point for businesses onto Facebook itself, virtually eliminating the need for exterior sites, and streamlining the purchasing process. Users will likely prefer this system as it will allow them to remain on a platform that they’re very comfortable and familiar with while shopping. Many businesses support the idea because it lowers the number of steps consumers must make between discovery and purchasing, but there is a catch. Directing users to a company website allows marketers to carefully control their shopping experience. There, Product information, price, features, and even reviews can be viewed in the most efficient way possible for conversion. By shifting the process onto an online marketplace or social media site, marketers lose a considerable amount of control. In addition to this, consumers may be distracted by advertisements, unrelated content, and even competing products. The loss of control over the buying process will undoubtedly sacrifice some quality.

Businesses can still benefit from this feature. It’s ad-based concept offers a purchasing experience that greatly differs from other marketplaces. With the new buy button, users don’t actively search for products. Instead, the products come to them, but there is a major drawback. While browsing may facilitate more impulse purchases, consumers are unlikely to buy important and expensive items so readily. Users are typically more invested in those purchases, and spend more time and effort on their decision to buy those items. Facebook ads rarely provide much information on products, and aren’t really ideal for standing alone in the buying process. The ads are more suited for gaining attention, and directing users to a point of purchase that can provide as much information as they need to make a buying decision. One clear solution to these problems would be to include a link to more information and product reviews in addition to the buy button in the ad. Facebook is an ideal platform for this, as it already allows companies to set up pages for information.

Social media has long been one of the holy grails of marketing, since users freely give information when setting up profiles. For marketers, the idea of integrating an online marketplace with Facebook is a dream come true, since it may allow them to tailor their methods to users profile information and purchase history. This would give them a remarkable insight into their target segments. The information collected by Facebook could be very valuable to marketers, but marketers aren’t the only ones that will see value in that data. This option will effectively paint an enormous target on Facebook for hackers and cyber criminals. With companies like P.F. Chang’s, Michaels, Sally Beauty, Neiman Marcus, AOL, Adobe, Snapchat, and even eBay all being infiltrated by hackers this year, the danger is very real.

This ensures that one of the biggest challenges for Facebook is to convince users to give up their credit card information, which may be difficult, particularly in the wake of their recent user manipulation scandal. Facebook endured public outrage and a considerable loss in user trust when it revealed that it had been manipulating feeds to influence users positively and negatively. Data collected by this new buy button feature must be carefully controlled and protected to avoid further public backlash.

The new buy button has a great deal of potential, but many view this move with skepticism. Facebook has tried similar features before with their Gifts system, but has had little success. The buy button has much more marketing flexibility and potential for businesses to utilize it for conversion, but the ad-based browsing method of ecommerce is relatively unproven, especially for a platform that hosts over 1.2 billion people each month. That’s about 16% of the world’s population. It offers as many challenges as opportunities, but could catapult Facebook into a whole new world of ecommerce if consumers and businesses embrace the feature. Only time will tell if users buy into the new feature, or if it simply pushes their buttons.

Facebook Buy Button

Lab Rat or Just Old Hat? Should Facebook Apologize?

In a controversial study, Facebook reported the results of psychological experiment it conducted on nearly 700,000 of its users last week, sparking outrage from its users.

Facebook found that it can influence users’ feelings positively or negatively by manipulating what shows up in your newsfeed. The results indicate “emotions expressed by others on Facebook influence our own emotions, constituting experimental evidence for massive-scale contagion via social networks.”

Some think the controversy over the study points to a broader problem in the data/analytical industry. Ethics are currently not pertinent issues for data scientists. Raising the question, should there be a line drawn in the sand relating to the social media industry between the privacy of participants and the research objectives, both monetarily and academic, of the corporations that control their data?

The manipulation struck a nerve amongst users, academics, and even politicians. Last Wednesday, senator Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) asked the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to provide more information about recent reports that Facebook manipulated user news feeds during an emotional manipulation experiment. Warner is asking the agency to determine if Facebook violated their consent agreement with the FTC.

He argues in his letter that it is not clear whether Facebook users were adequately informed and given an opportunity to agree to the research given the sheer size and length of the user agreement. Most people do not read the “data use policy.”

Facebook has not been very contrite since this study came to light last week. Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg spoke with Forbes earlier this week and essentially said Facebook is not sorry about conducting the contagion study. It was conducted in the normal course of business by their data team. It is only sorry that everyone is upset now.

Many people believe that Facebook crossed a line with the study, but do they really have a reason to apologize?

Sale or for-profit use of data isn’t uncommon, but social media sites generally try to keep those transactions away from the press, to avoid negative public reactions. Social media is considered somewhat of a marketing jackpot, due to the abundance of freely given information provided by users, but its personal nature also cultivates a sense of trust between users and sites. People also feel far more attached to social media than most other sites, and for Facebook to alter feeds without their knowledge and consent is seen by many as taking advantage of that trust.

The focus of the experiment may have also played a role in the reaction by users. Facebook controlled content to negatively influence users, as well as positively. For people that were already unhappy, depressed, or even suicidal, that negative influence could have been devastating. People may also feel manipulated because social media feeds are generally considered to be open for all to post without a corporate motive. Facebook manipulated their feeds and them. People just don’t like to feel manipulated, but that’s exactly what happens every day.

Consumers’ emotions are manipulated continuously by advertisers, politicians, marketing professionals, news organizations, etc. and this is generally accepted as something that is unavoidable, like death and taxes. The only real discernible difference is that Facebook’s data team was attempting to gain insight/measure the effect of that.

While most companies hide their results to give them an advantage over competitors, Facebook paraded their findings and methods for manipulating their targets’ emotions in a scientific journal. This allowed the general public a rare glimpse into how companies manipulate their emotions, and they didn’t like what they saw. Clearly their presentation tactics were misguided, but would that put Facebook on the same level as the advertisers, marketers and politicians? Should the fact that they published the study help to justify it? Do consumers simply like not to be reminded of how easily we are manipulated?

These questions are void of simple answers, but perhaps larger corporations should strive to implement and publish more studies of this kind for the mutual benefit of science and business. In any case, an ethical lesson can be gained from this. Whenever possible, all social scientists should inform their subjects that they are being influenced. As senator Warner does point out, there was no real informed consent, as is standard for typical social psychology experiments, which Facebook’s study appears to fall under. There is an obligation, rather implied or otherwise, for social scientists to gain the public’s trust.

Taming the Social Media Monster: How Companies Can Use Social Media

There’s no doubt about it, social media has turned the business world on its head and revolutionized the ways in which companies interact with consumers. Social networks give brands access to an unprecedented volume and variety of consumers, and those consumers aren’t just young people. 27.5 million users over the age of 55 engage in social media, according to a study by qSample. It’s become an integral part of people’s lives. Even on the go, people need to check their profiles, with 60% of millenials having said they use their smartphones for social networking. The power of word-of-mouth and the consumer voice has been magnified to compete on the same level as traditional advertising, and people freely give more information than any marketer could have dreamed of collecting 20 years ago. With so many new options available, many companies are left without a clue where to start, and some even reject social media marketing entirely instead of working to perfect their campaign. Taming the social media monster can be challenging, but it’s well worth the effort. Whether B2C or B2B, there’s more to social media than simply having a profile.

The most important aspect of social media is communication. Sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn provide companies with direct access to consumers and clients, but people aren’t satisfied with one-sided conversations anymore. They have thoughts and ideas that they want to be heard, and social media provides a platform for that happen. Businesses can take advantage of this by collecting feedback and ideas to cater their products to what consumers actually want. Social media allows brands to test and perfect ideas through consumer feedback at extremely low cost, but research and development isn’t the only department that has benefited greatly from the advent of social media, PR has as well. In the event of a crisis, social media provides companies with a place to keep consumers informed and allow them to answer questions. In addition to this, it allows companies to control the messages sent to consumers, which avoids the negative perspectives given by news outlets.

Communication is one aspect of engagement marketing, but there are many others that can also be used. Consumers want to be involved, and social media is the perfect place to do that. One of the best ways to allow people to participate is through crowdsourcing. Contests that ask consumers to design a new logo, or even film their own commercial for a product are an example that can cut costs for a business while empowering consumers and building loyalty. Encouraging shares, likes, and other digital word-of-mouth advertising is cheap and creates a sense of community around the brand as well. By aligning the company’s goals with what the consumer wants, everyone involved can benefit.

Taming the Social Media Monster

Social media sites collect an incredible amount of data on consumers. Most people don’t realize just how much information ey give out online. Name, age, and birthdates are obvious, but even simply liking a page or post can give marketers an extraordinary insight into people’s lives. It’s not uncommon for addresses, marital statuses, and even current locations to be given by users. For businesses, social media can provide insights on known target demographics, or even help a company identify potential new targets.

The digital age is here, traditional marketing has become antiquated, and businesses must adapt by joining social media sites. Consumers demand more than a one-sided conversation. They want to be involved, and social media is the perfect place for engagement marketing. The variety of users and their willingness to give useful information can provide marketers with insights and data collection tools that would have seemed unbelievable only a few years ago. Whether it’s B2B or B2C, social media is the place to be.

qSample offers many great panels for data collection and analysis. In addition to large segments of general consumers, qSample cultivates high-quality specialty panels. Those panels include:
Mobile Users, Gamers, Voters, Contractors, Home Owners, Students, Baby Boomers, Veterinarians, and Pet Owners.
You can find more information by clicking on the “Panels” tab above, or contact qSample here