/r/fellowkids is a goldmine of business social media miscalculations

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Whence /r/fellowkids? It derives from Steve Buscemi’s appearance on Ep. 401 of NBC’s ’30 Rock.’ (Please note: two skateboards)

I rail at length to anyone who’ll listen about the importance of an authentic personality in social media: coequal to value and responsiveness alike. Failure of any of the three can cripple a social media campaign. Without the latter two a social campaign is susceptible to vandalism and anemic reach/growth. Without the former, well that’s where it gets more complicated.

The content of the /r/fellowkids subreddit may occasionally reveal the conspiracy-seeker’s readiness to spot a corporate motive behind every visible logo in a ‘viral’ video, but there is no question that at times the hive-BS detector is spot-on. Like the writer is abjured to ‘write what you know,’ a social media manager with no frame of reference for social media is doomed at some point to publish comments & memes that not only tip off users, but turn them off as well.

A few cringeworthy examples:

Hillary Clinton’s campaign with the meaningless fluff.


A terrible, obvious, cringe-worthy misuse of the ‘confession bear’ meme.


Famed author Anne Rice tries and fails to reach ‘the kids’ with a ‘meme’ that completely misses the point & social context of memes.

The Power of Social Media

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Search stats @ PornHub relative to Reddit AMA. Graphic via Reddit user /u/katie_pornhub (Official Account)

The efficacy of social media is at times lost on business-folk. Beyond a certain generational boundary work in social media appears increasingly futile and time-wastey, like paying a teenager to chat with his/her friends.

For a long time it was hard to demonstrate the business value of social media in terms management could understand, let alone explain the value of likes, followers, and friends in linear industrial terms. For years businesses accepted as a truism the keeping of web traffic & search data a closely-guarded secret, forcing digital marketers to cobble together insightful if incomplete conclusions from traffic ranking websites and Google’s powerful adware.

In time tech-savvy managers have ascended to positions of real decision-making power. These managers –every one a data-hungry technologist– having grown up on the web realize ‘success’ is bigger than clicks and units sold: that building means to user engagement not only extends time spent on a website but creates an intellectual space in the minds of technologists, who come to count useful data sources (like that pictured above) among the insight-laden destinations they visit and rely upon.

Granted’s data set is of use only to a select few businesses, but in moment like this –when social media and public data coincide– we’re given a glimpse into key user data of the sort usually contained behind the corporate firewall.

The adult actress Riley Reid did an AMA on Reddit last week. In the graphic above right you can see both the historical trend of searches for Ms. Reid, with the time of her AMA indicated. See that spike? That’s traffic. That’s engagement. That’s proof-positive that social media works when done right.

The exemplary PornHub traffic page (SFW) can be seen here. It is specifically insights like these –generated publicly by destination sites– that give advertisers and social media mavens a critical insight into the results of digital marketing efforts. Far from chatting online with friends, work in social media can drive a ton of traffic in the act of building a social media personality for your customers to know and appreciate.

Kick ‘Em Jenny & the value of cloud computing

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The recent rumblings at the undersea volcano known as Kick ‘Em Jenny off the coast of Grenada, West Indies apparently damaged the undersea fiber optic cables operated by Telecommunications Services of Trinidad and Tobago LTD (TSTT) during its recent spate of activity. According to the article several individual fibers were broken, attenuating bandwidth for the entire network.

According to the Senior Manager Brand, Public Relations & External Affairs Graeme Suite there were no specific physical indicators as to what caused the damage. Suite said, “It was not stated what specifically caused the damage – ocean floor movement, rocks or extreme heat etcetera so I cannot speculate”.

Suite said the cable contained several individual strands of fibre which collectively provide a great deal of bandwidth. He said that some of the fibres were broken and the remaining intact fibres is what resulted in customers having less bandwidth for uploading and downloading.

On July 23, TSTT was made aware of the damaged cables on the sea floor near the volcano, which is located eight miles north of the island. It is managed by regional communications company, part of which is being used by TSTT for international data and Internet traffic.

It was my experience with this phenomenon of easily-disrupted internet that presented my primary professional challenge in trying to set up a global, internet-based, collaborative program from the island of Grenada. In the three years I did business in Grenada the entire island’s internet went completely dark twice, and operated with critically diminished capacity at other times. When it happened in the midst of our first year of operations our clients –connecting from the US, UK, Africa, and India– were thrown completely offline: with no access to important online resources including our essential digital collaborative space. As long as the internet was out we were functionally out of business.

We did cobble together enough off-island functionality to allow work to continue, but to even consider applying these technical band-aids going forward –let alone continue to suffer the embarrassment of a data-driven business with no control of its data– was inconceivable.

The longer-term solution I devised was to shift our technical operations into the cloud: to a massively-protected, distributed, redundant cloud service based in the US with global server distribution, in our case one conveniently paired with collaborative tools. It had not escaped my notice that the API offered by our cloud partner was already known to jibe perfectly with the internal software overhaul we were planning.

By shifting our critical operations to the cloud we were able to take a door that was sometimes closed to us and kick it off its hinges. Our clients had access to important data 24-7, our collaborative spaces stayed open, and our transition to a new internal software system was demystified all in one fell swoop. Of course it’s impossible to administer cloud spaces from an island without internet, but a trusted assistant posted outside the area of outage will have recourse both to voice telephony to communicate with on-island partners and internet service to effect instant changes in the business’ cloud spaces.

The value of cloud services to developing economies can not be overstated. Adoption of cloud services ameliorates infrastructural woes, preserves and protects data and access, and avails developing businesses of highly advanced APIs and online tools they might not otherwise enjoy. Locating your data, server functions, or e-commerce solutions in ‘backbone’ countries dramatically cuts down on latency and keeps both internal and public-facing aspects of your business available even when you are not.

Addendum: a neat map of the undersea cables serving Grenada can be found here.

Reasons to Hire a Writer #2: A Writer Remembers

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"The dignity of movement of an ice-berg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water." -Ernest Hemingway Photo by flickr user Denny Nkemontoh, under CC license.
“The dignity of movement of an ice-berg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water.”
-Ernest Hemingway

Emerson said ” ‘Tis the good reader that makes the good book.” Two readers pick up the same volume. One reads words, receives a story, and is entertained. The other –a writer– also reads the words, but in the context of the thousands of other books s/he has read. In his mind each setting, each character, each way of writing is filed in a mental list, becoming in essence a living database of style and context.

The writer also receives a story, but the writer knows stories. The story, is it wordy? Does it say enough? Is it full of gaps: barriers to comprehension? Does it inform and impress enough to be authoritative; to have what some call ‘the ring of truth?’

The writer is also entertained, but as this is his trade and he is a list-making analyzer, his standards will be high. In business and technical writing we replace ‘entertain’ with ‘inform,’ but just as the words used in fiction and business are identical the analytical tools of the writer transform seamlessly to commercial communications.

The writer you hire has a mind just like yours. Whereas yours might be swarming with lines of unwritten code or crowded with market & performance data in aid of your strategic and operational decision-making, the writer’s mind is stacked deep with context, driven by a mania for clarity, and made to adapt.

This last provides perhaps the most value in the business world. A writer is a reader, and by nature an editor. S/he is by training and instinct accustomed to holding hundreds of conceptual lines in mind at once. As Hemingway observed early in his career writing for Cooperative Commonwealth (a former weekly business magazine in Chicago), when presented with business tasks the writer simply makes room in his mind for work and art together. In this s/he is supremely adaptive both to circumstances and information, an inherent skill that translates perfectly into a MARCOM gatekeeper and editor, a social media manager, or communications project manager.

The writer brings a wealth of cultural perspective to discussions about strategy and deep knowledge to conversations about messaging in the act of putting his considerable talents at the disposal of his employer. No matter the message, no matter the audience, a writer has the tools organizations need to bridge critical gaps in messaging, strategy, and talent.

Reasons to Hire a Writer #1: Everything you say says something about you

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This image gained a measure of local social media attention on Reddit et al..  A misspelled entrance sign is a small matter yes, but it is an equally small matter to know the correct spelling of a word you intend to use. Every similar error instills an undesirable compound impression in the minds of viewers: your brand + careless errors. Would those viewers –potential consumers all– be wrong to wonder what other careless errors your business might commit, inadvertently or otherwise?

Any position that produces copy can and should be staffed by someone with demonstrable if rudimentary knowledge of the languages used. The more nuanced the copy, the more skilled a writer is called for. The promotional sign shop at Budweiser might consider running prepress copy through MARCOM a needless waste of time, but MARCOM –whose job it is to represent the brand with clarity and practiced enthusiasm– might consider errors like this a frustrating step backward.

The writer you hire for your sign shop might not represent himself as a writer at all. Favor the well-spoken applicant: the applicant who chooses his words carefully. HR plays a key role in finding such workers, but so too must managers instruct HR to scan applicants for verbal acuity. If the sole qualification is willingness to work for $11.50 an hour, the following is the inevitable result.

Credit: Redditor /u/FreakyNomics

A small matter yes, but equally small to do correctly. Now consider the impact of an equally simple spelling error in a quarterly letter to investors from your CFO, or in a technical document describing your company’s core technology. The effect is to rob the reader of confidence in your company at the precise moment you seek to instill confidence. Like this beer garden sign that email is one of hundreds the company produces –one small instance– but because humans have long memories the association with a certain amenability to error will persist. Hiring a writer, or at least a worker who’s good with words, nips all these potentially negative outcomes in the bud.

Peter Singer: Why Pay More?

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Peter Singer gawks at conspicuous consumption in the 21st century, and not in the way conspicuous consumers want to be seen.

Wearing a watch that costs 200 times more than one that does a better job of keeping time says something else, even when it is worn by people who are not governing a relatively poor country. Andrew Carnegie, the richest man of Veblen’s era, was blunt in his moral judgments. “The man who dies rich,” he is often quoted as saying, “dies disgraced.”

We can adapt that judgment to the man or woman who wears a $30,000 watch or buys similar luxury goods, like a $12,000 handbag. Essentially, such a person is saying; “I am either extraordinarily ignorant, or just plain selfish. If I were not ignorant, I would know that children are dying from diarrhea or malaria, because they lack safe drinking water, or mosquito nets, and obviously what I have spent on this watch or handbag would have been enough to help several of them survive; but I care so little about them that I would rather spend my money on something that I wear for ostentation alone.”

Of course, we all have our little indulgences. I am not arguing that every luxury is wrong. But to mock someone for having a sensible watch at a modest price puts pressure on others to join the quest for ever-greater extravagance. That pressure should be turned in the opposite direction, and we should celebrate those, like Sikorski, with modest tastes and higher priorities than conspicuous consumption.

The extravagance race is the arms race is the capital race. Keeping up with the Joneses is keeping up with the Soviet threat is keeping up with Chinese technology. To each his own Tower of Babel: self-monumentalism; burning existence for appearances.

The value of paying attention in English class

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This moment of mortification is brought to you by someone in the agency for Starbucks and every single person in their marketing department who vetted these materials.

Business students, learn this important fact now: if you’re not going to attend your English/writing classes because you can’t reconcile the ROI, you’d better make so much money you can hire someone who did. Just like there is never a second chance to make a first impression, the appearance of laziness & amateurism is stickier than maple syrup on a three year old.

Link deprecated as of 12/15/18. I’ll keep looking for this image again to restore this post.

Vegetables ≠ vegatables
Vegetables ≠ vegatables