1. Social media news you can use
You can now get Twitter DMs from anyone. // Periscope isn't exactly killing Meerkat (yet). // Hey look, another Facebook algorithm change. // Google has rolled out its new wifi service, Fi, but it's only available on Nexus 6 phones for now. // Tidal, Jay-Z's music app, isn't doing so well. // SocialRank is now offering free Instagram analytics, which is great, considering that Iconosquare (formerly Statigram) switched to a paid model this month.
Curator PR, where I work, is hiring for spring/summer interns. Feel free to email me if you read the link and still have questions: paul [dot] balcerak [at] curatorpr [dot] com. // The Everett Herald (which is now owned by one of my former employers, Sound Publishing) is looking for a social media producer.
3. Hacks, strategy, and deep dives
Does your brand truly engage on social media? The littlest, easiest stuff can make a huge difference. // Marketers: Don't let your own numbers lie to you. // This post on how to increase website traffic from social media is a good read if you're in the mood for tinkering today. // 11 ways to boost Facebook engagement for small businesses. // Learn what Mashable does to run a successful Instagram account. // Here are 10 tips that will improve your writing. // I have no idea why BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti and Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith agreed to this interview with Gawker. They come out of it sounding in over their heads. // 23 tools and resources to create images for social media.
Reds manager Bryan Price had a bizarre, epic meltdown against a member of the press early this week. It's a great reminder to ask your PR firm about media training the next time you talk with them.
4. Other fun stuff
If you're curious about how I come up with content for these newsletters, I wrote about about it. // When you watch the Bruce Jenner interview tonight, stop to recognize what a huge moment this is for an athlete of his stature. // Finland has its shit figured out when it comes to newborn care. // Try The World is a new subscription box that will send you "gourmet" treats from a different country every two months. They didn't pay me to write that.
Lastly, here is some random advice for the week:
Random pro tip: On the first day of a new job, find out how to work the coffee-maker. Everyone loves the guy who brews a fresh pot of coffee— Paul Balcerak (@paulbalcerak) April 24, 2015
I don't know what I'm calling this weekly newsletter-style thing. I might just change it every week. If you want it all packaged up, click the Newsletter link.
1. Social media news you can use
LinkedIn has a new product called Elevate, aimed at getting employees to share company content. // Twitter's rolling out a new home page. // Hootsuite is partnering with Tagboard to make it easier to display grouped social media posts. // Foursquare is launching Pinpoint, a "cross-platform, location-based ad targeting" system. // Path has a new app called Kong that lets you create animated GIFs out of your selfies and other photos.
2. Hacks, strategy, and deep dives
Chris Teso writes about how customer loyalty is the next big focus area for brands on social media, and I couldn't agree more. // Buffer maintains one of the best company blogs on the internet, so this post from Kevan Lee, about his blogging process, is a really interesting read. // If you're into having a somewhat-intimate experience with strangers, Periscope/Meerkat might be for you; maybe not so much if your goal is to get content shared. // Sizing social media images is a constant, changing pain-in-the-ass, but Donna Moritz shows how you only really need three layouts to cover all your networks. // In the midst of a lengthy post about the best way to share a link on Facebook, Jon Loomer argues that the best thing is to just quit trying to game the system:
3. The best Snapchat explainer I've seen
This is a great SlideShare deck, and you should share it with anyone in your organization who's still struggling to understand how Snapchat works, and why it's so great:
This week will forever be remembered as that time I wrote a tweet for a client and then paid Riddick Bowe $20 to publish it.
Lastly, I'm a Trekkie at heart, but if this new Star Wars trailer doesn't excite you, you should probably have your pulse checked.
That headline is a lie. Of course I worry about what I don't know, because that's human nature, and everyone does.
But I shouldn't, and you shouldn't, and here's why:
Like I said, everyone's worried about the same thing. Everyone's making things up as they go along; some just do it more confidently than others.
Grantland has an extensive profile on Dale Hansen, who you may remember from his local-news-segments-turned-viral-videos on everything from gay rights to racism. It's fascinating, particularly since it points out that Hansen represents a kind of coming-full-circle for old and new media:
Trying to imitate what Dale Hansen is doing isn't going to save local news or turn it into destination viewing for younger audiences. But his no-bullshit approach is refreshing, and it at least makes you wonder what it would be like if someone like him did exist at the anchor desk.
If you're reading this, odds are your passwords suck. No judgment—most people's passwords suck! But don't let that become an excuse for your passwords to continue to suck.
In this video, Edward Snowden gives John Oliver some great advice on generating a good password. Specifically, don't try to think up a good password so much as a good pass-phrase. Longer passwords, as well as strings of text that aren't real words, can help protect your accounts.
I mostly use LastPass for passwords these days, but there are some other tricks you can use, too:
Assign your passwords to people or objects in a room. Think of the people at your office. Or your family that you live with. Or maybe your high school chemistry class. Any time you need a password, think up a phrase that's associated with one of those people and use it. Then when you need to remember that password, mentally go into that room to recall who's associated with what (e.g. Tim starts with T; T = Twitter).
Use your imaginary friends. I find this particularly helpful when I'm asked to create security questions. A lot of sites will force you to use pre-built security questions like "What's your mother's maiden name?" or "What's your birthday?" But those can actually be pretty easy questions to hack. For the sites that let you create your own security questions, type in things that only you would know.
Use a recurring format for special characters. Adding in symbols ($%^&*@!) is a good way to beef up your password security. But you can also confuse the hell out of yourself by forgetting what symbols went where in a password (like $e@ttl3Mar1ner$). Instead, set up a format you'll remember, like first word random characters, underscore, second word regular letters:
That way, you're less apt to forget if that @ symbol goes in the first "A," the second "A" or both "As."
This is an interesting Q&A with Kurt Cobain's daughter. I'm taking this quote a bit out of context—she goes on to talk about how what the public wanted from Kurt exceeded his own ambition—but I thought this portion was good, nevertheless.
Twitter fascinates me. I listened to the Mariners Opening Day game yesterday on internet-streaming radio, and watched the game a few seconds faster on Twitter. It was a great way to take in the game because I enjoyed all the nostalgic qualities of listening to a game on the radio, as well as the DVR-like conveniences of having an army of people capture all the game's little moments for me.
Just for fun, I thought I'd share all the tweets I favorited/curated.
God I missed it so much.— Nathan Bishop (@NathanHBishop) April 6, 2015
Checking in on Seth Smith's OPS: ∞— Jeff Nusser (@NussCoug) April 6, 2015
Two doubles and a triple so far for Seth Smith in his first three at-bats with #Mariners— Larry Stone (@StoneLarry) April 6, 2015
First Hydro race of the year…goes to Green.— Bob Dutton (@TNT_Mariners) April 6, 2015
Did Felix just intimidate the ump into making that strike three call? Swagger.— Scott Weber (@LookoutLanding) April 6, 2015
There will never, ever be a baseball player I appreciate more than Felix Hernandez.— Nathan Bishop (@NathanHBishop) April 6, 2015
felix hernandez mic drop dot gif pic.twitter.com/381HBynLtf— Jose Rivera (@Jose8BS) April 6, 2015
Carson Smith giving zero shits against Mike Trout. That was unbelievably impressive.— Scott Weber (@LookoutLanding) April 6, 2015
Carson Smith vs Mike Trout pic.twitter.com/4Hkikw8hSa— Jose Rivera (@Jose8BS) April 6, 2015
so Mike Trout basically has three strikeouts and two home runs in four at-bats— Jeff Sullivan (@based_ball) April 6, 2015
It’s over: #Mariners win opener 4-1. Felix brilliant, Rodney with save, Seth Smith 3-for-3 with 2 doubles and triple, Ackley HR.— Larry Stone (@StoneLarry) April 6, 2015
I had fun following the game like this, and I might start doing these regularly, at least for afternoon games. If you want to follow along, subscribe to my Mariners list on Twitter—there are a lot of good sportswriters and observers on there.
- Ann Friedman runs an awesome newsletter. In fact, it's the only email newsletter I read. You can read about how awesome it is here.
- I want to have a newsletter-like feature on this blog every week. Every week.
- Ann Friedman also made this great flow chart about getting off your ass.
- Don't write about what you're going to do; just do it.
Things I'm reading this week
How a student newspaper in California moved its publishing to Medium to increase readership.
Seattle Times sports columnist Jerry Brewer is heading to The Washington Post. Huge loss for Seattle, but it's awesome to see a Seattle guy get a chance to shine on the national stage.
Have you seen those "Shot on iPhone 6" ads? I think they're awesome, but I also think "Also shot on iPhone 6" is a pretty hilarious response.
I found out a way to download Instagram videos. It's kind of a pain, but it works:
This is the grossest, bro-iest job description I've ever read:
The F35 is a rad plane with a $400,000 helmet that allows pilots to see through the aircraft. It also pretty much works.
Tyrese's Facebook strategy is bullshit—please don't like his posts.
It's my job to know about new social-media stuff like Meerkat or Periscope, but like I said in the link above, it's hard to make either of those engaging unless you have something really—objectively—cool to show off. And even if you do, you may only have something like that once every-so-often.
It makes me wonder about who the user base and who the audience for those networks are. It's a broadcast tool, so...is this like full circle and we're back to broadcasters/viewers?
Lastly: It seems a little frustrating to shoot a bunch of really cool live video, and then have no recording of it.
Did you like this post/format?
Don't worry, I'm not going anywhere. What I am doing is taking a multiversal approach to social media, and moreover, writing.
I love to write. It's one of two things I just have to do almost every day to feel sane, the other being running. Accordingly, that's what my new blog is about.
There are a couple things at play here.
One, while I love to write, the topics I cover on this blog—social media, PR, journalism, productivity—aren't always what I want to write about. Which isn't to say I don't write about those things every day. It's just that they often end up more as loose thoughts that later coalesce into work for my day job, or for my company blog. Either way, they don't always end up here.
Two, I recently came off an injury, and I'm feeling more determined than ever to become a better runner. That's going to require learning, and as I wrote last year, my best learning happens when I do so openly—i.e. blogging.
The new site is very bare bones, and for the time being I'm keeping it that way. I like simplicity, and I want the focus to be solely writing and learning. If it picks up a few followers, that's great, but it's primarily for me.
If you're interested, click through and check it out, and if you have any knowledge to share, please do so, because that's what I'm there (or anywhere) for.
I just had a thought, and I feel like it could make for an interesting recurring feature. Not just here, but anywhere, so feel free to steal it. I'm going to list out the places where I'm spending most of my time on social, or the ones that I'm enjoying most; in half a year, or whatever, I'll check back and see how things have changed.
Here's where I'm at right now:
Facebook: My go-to
It's weird and not a little bit hypocritical to look at how often I mock Facebook, and then come to grips with the fact that I actually love it quite a lot. I detoxed it last summer, and ever since it's been a much better experience. I also really love how they do trends; that is, I love that they actually explain what something is and why it's trending. I find tons of valuable content that way.
Twitter: Lists, baby!
Twitter Lists didn't come into my personal or professional social-media life soon enough, but now I can't get enough of them. It's such a useful way to organize things. And really, we all contain multitudes. We ought to have a social network that allows us to segment those out.
Instagram: Where I get motivated
I've built my Instagram into a shrine to the outdoors, along with a dose of car, retail, and sports porn. Flipping through it gets me itching to get outside, which we could all use a little more of. I also updated my profile with a new goal in mind: "Pretty much a scrapbook/catalog/journal to make sure I get out and see and do cool stuff."
Snapchat: The thing I'm flirting with the most
I really want to be all over Snapchat, but I don't have a ton of friends on it, so it's a little tough to post regularly. Still, I love messing with the features. In a way, it might be my favorite social network—when I use it, it's just fun.
WhatsApp: My community hub
My wife and I are in a parenting group (a group for new parents, only we kept meeting long after our kids passed six months), and we all keep in touch via WhatsApp. It's super useful in instances like the other day, when my son had an allergic reaction and I needed to know if it was safe to give him Benadryl. We have multiple nurses and medical-care workers in the group, who are far more trustworthy than Google. It was also a giant help coordinating when we all took a trip to Hawaii together recently.
Pinterest: Veggin' out
Literally, this is my Keeping Up With the Kardashians. For me, it's completely devoid of any real value, and that's just the way I like it. It's there for when I just need to zone out and veg out for a bit, with a boatload of cool-looking stuff. It's the empty calories of social networks, and feels great to chug after a long day.
That's it. What are your favorite networks at the moment? Tweet me and let me know.
If you're looking for good sources for free stock photography—like the picture above—I've created a list of links on Delicious, where you can find all sorts of good stuff:
Some require attribution, so make sure you check before using. I'll add to the list as I find more sources.
Sunday was Winter Solstice—the longest night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. Clark Strand, writing for The New York Times, has some good points on how important darkness once was, and how much it still is, despite our attempts to nullify it:
I just listened to the last episode of Serial, and… OK.
I was entertained by it, though admittedly I zoned out during portions of certain episodes. All in all, it was a good show.
My lack of enthusiasm at the end is probably shared by a lot of people: It didn’t solve anything or arrive at any conclusions. It didn’t do anything. (Well, almost.) At the end, it’s just: OK, we looked really closely at this one case.
As frustrating as it is for people who listened to the show and hung on every episode, it’s got to be even more frustrating for the people affected by the actual case, who maybe saw this as some glimmer of hope that things would be solved, once and for all. That’s a-whole-nother post, but still.
What I am hugely satisfied by is the format. I want more serialized podcasts—beyond just true-crime stuff—and I think there are a lot of topics that would be valuable to cover:
- Huge events in history, like, say, World War II.
- Complicated or confusing topics, like the Affordable Care Act.
- “Behind-the-scenes” tellings of semi-recent events, like a presidential campaign.
Explanatory journalism, in a sense. I feel like there’s a wider appetite for that. Maybe it’s just me, or maybe what I’m really craving are books-on-tape, and I just haven’t discovered those yet. But it seems like that’s essentially what Serial was, and something about it obviously appealed to a lot of people.
I feel like if you’re really THAT surprised BuzzFeed hired someone from Clickhole you haven’t been paying much attention to either of us. :)— Summer Anne Burton (@summeranne) December 1, 2014
I thought Summer Anne Burton had the best reaction, though, because from the outset, ClickHole has very obviously been a loving parody of BuzzFeed.
What's the distinction? I'm going to be forced to cite an article I read a long time ago that I don't remember the link to (maybe it was Grantland, or The A.V. Club). The difference is the difference between a movie like Spaceballs and a movie like Date Movie. The former parodies Star Wars and science fiction in general, but if you strip away the jokes, it still works as a sci-fi action movie. Mel Brooks knew his source material and loved it. In contrast, Date Movie is basically just a mash of romantic comedy clichés and pop-culture references—it's making fun of the genre, not having fun with it.
Put another way, it's the difference between laughing with someone, and laughing at them.
What makes ClickHole so funny isn't just that it so perfectly captures the BuzzFeed style and tweaks it just enough to make it absurd; it's that it so perfectly captures the kind of stuff we the audience love to click on. When we read ClickHole, we're not just laughing at BuzzFeed; we're laughing at our own behavior.
That makes the two sites a weirdly effective one-two punch. Go to BuzzFeed to read a listicle of stuff you totally do! then head over to ClickHole to laugh about how that listicle is totally the type of thing you get suckered into clicking on!
Point being, what Summer Anne said: These sites are doing very similar things, and it shouldn't be a huge surprise to see them trade talent. Now, what would be interesting would be to see a mainstream media site poach talent from one of these two places.
What George Lucas did with Star Wars is unlike anything almost anyone has done with any other franchise. With less than 10 hours of movie footage, stretched out over seven years, he created a franchise that will last probably at least until our kids have kids, and maybe beyond.
The prequels are almost universally hated—by critics—but I suspect there's a generation of now young adults who love them and can't wait to get more. And I can't help but wonder if maybe that's what George Lucas had in mind all along.
Say what you will about his scriptwriting abilities; he's always been a hell of a marketer. He obviously made the prequels for kids (at least the first two, which is probably why they're so hated). That may have rubbed some of the grown-up nerds the wrong way, but George Lucas clearly understood something they maybe didn't consider: For Star Wars to survive, it needed to endear itself to a new generation.
Sure, the original trilogy is great—who can't appreciate it? But for an 8-year-old, who by the late 90s had probably already seen Jurassic Park and maybe even The Matrix, the original trilogy would've been slow-moving and technologically dated.
Bring on the prequels, with their things-everywhere backgrounds, seizure-inducing lightsaber fights, and goofy characters, and you've got something that appeals to a new era of fans while still (somewhat) pleasing the base that made Star Wars big to begin with. In that sense, making the prequels wasn't unlike running a presidential campaign, with respect to the level of marketing savvy needed to pull it off successfully.
Flash forward to now, and the trailer above: There's no possible way this movie doesn't make an absolute shitload of money. Star Wars is firing on all cylinders, because you've got two things happening simultaneously: (1) Die-hard fans are finally getting the second trilogy they actually always wanted, and (2) The kids who grew up on the prequels and genuinely loved them are getting to see a whole new Star Wars on the big screen.
It's like a meta-Avengers team-up—they're teaming up audiences instead of characters.
Maybe I'm reading too much into this. Maybe George Lucas is just a guy who likes to make movies. (Yes, the prequels made tons of money and told a story he always wanted to tell.) But I think it can be both, and it wouldn't surprise me if it was.
You may remember this guy from last week's Philae landing. He wore this awful shirt, and later apologized (actually apologized) for having done so.
I write mostly about communication here, so I want to share part of what Jesse Thorn had to say about the situation:
The whole post—don't worry, it's short—is well worth your time, so please go check it out.
TIME.com has an interesting post this week on how some girls are using Instagram as a communication backchannel. It's a great read, if one that's likely to freak you out:
It's scary, right?
The reaction I often hear from parents of young kids—usually kids who haven't started using social yet—is that stuff like this is "terrifying" or "effed up." Honestly, I've said that stuff myself.
And seriously: Who wouldn't feel lucky to not have to grow up with this stuff? Think about all the stresses you had at school back in the day: getting bullied; not fitting in; feeling alone. This generation of kids has to deal with all that following them home on social media.
Don't get scared; get educated
The answer for parents isn't to get freaked out, though. Fear is almost always rooted in what we don't know. The best thing you can do for your kids is to get educated.
The best way to do that is to use these social networks that they're on. Yeah, it sounds weird, and honestly kind of a pain in the ass. But there are serious mental health issues at stake here. And these are your kids.
How to learn a social network
I am on a ton of social networks because I need to be for work. It can be everything from fun, to frustrating, to boring, and it's not just as easy as signing up. Here are a few tricks I've used to get the most out of the testing process:
- Find a buddy (or three)—this is the most important thing. Social networks are useless if you aren't socializing, and it can be difficult and awkward to have conversations with people you don't know. If you have someone—maybe another parent—who's riding shotgun with you and using the network at the same time, you'll at least have one person to talk to while you learn all the ins and outs.
- Delete all your other social apps. This is a bit crazy, but it's a good way to focus your attention. If you have iOS, at least, you should be able to delete an app and the re-download it from the cloud for free (if it cost anything in the first place).
- Set aside time to learn it. Way back in the day, my wife was a little resistant to Twitter. She got hooked on it during a week when we were snowed in at our apartment and there wasn't much to do. Since then, I've always thought that was a great strategy: Set aside a time—say, a week—to test out the network, and then schedule time each day during that week when you'll use it. Treat it like homework, and take it seriously.
No guarantees, but...
Even if you do all this, you may not come away with any deep understanding of the network your kids are on. That's OK. A week of dedicated experimentation should at least familiarize you with things like nomenclature and functionality. (By the way, parents, if you ever run into a term you don't understand on a social network, you really should have Urban Dictionary bookmarked.)
The value in that is that you'll be able to converse with your kids about whatever networks they're using without sounding oblivious or insensitive. You may not sound like an authority on the topic, but you'll at least know what you're talking about, which will put you one step closer to being someone they feel like they can talk to.