Facebook and Targeted Ads

The holiday shopping season is upon us, and now more than ever a large portion of our shopping takes place online. And as we google “gift ideas for boyfriends” and “2014 holiday shopping guide,” and visit websites such as Best Buy, Canada Goose, and Target, we begin to notice ads on the side of our Facebook feed suspiciously perfectly related to our recent internet searches.

“This drive me nuts!” My mom exclaims from her desk. “Someone from Facebook knows what I’m doing on other tabs on my computer!”

“Just because you went and bought something, doesn’t mean you want advertisements flashing at you all the time, when you’re just trying to check Facebook!” My dad adds.

They both agree it’s an invasion of privacy.

Until recently in Canada, advertisers could only target their ads based on identifiers set in Facebook – age, gender, location, Facebook pages they’ve liked. Now, Facebook has updated its policy and advertisers can glean information based on users’ browsing information. As The Globe and Mail reports, this data is anonymous, so advertisers cannot identify people personally, but advertisers are able to buy ads that target people based on identifying characteristics.

As a leader in the social media field and one of the first on the scene, Facebook loves to push the boundaries and see what they can get away with. Recently in the U.S., they launched hyper-local advertising. If you have location tracking or GPS turned on on your smart phone, businesses within 1 mile of your location will be able to push advertisements to your phone. As a marketer, it’s certainly an interesting concept. Knowing that your ads are going to be reaching only those people who are in the direct area, you would shape your ads, the wording and images, in a particular way to attract these people. But as the marketee, it feels forced, intrusive and yes, even creepy.

As social media adapts and changes, so will advertising and marketing. In many ways, for the better. But targeting ads based on information that many believe is private and personal – google searches and web site visits – is intrusive and may only get worse without any push back.

How do you feel about Facebook’s targeted ads?

Social Media and Its Impact on News

“Extra! Extra! Read all about it!” We’ve come a long way from the days of the penny press. News – how it’s reported, how it’s distributed, how we ingest it – has evolved many times over the decades. Now, with the invention and proliferation of Social Media, there are more ways to report, distribute, and ingest than ever before. This has both positive and negative repercussions.

Do you want the good news first? Let’s start with the ways social media can positively impact the news.


Traditional news platforms are still suitable for obtaining your current events information, but flipping on the news station or purchasing a news paper aren’t the only ways to catch headlines in 2014. Instant updates in 140 characters or less on Twitter, top news headlines in the corner of your Facebook homepage, news website notifications pushed to your phone, a multitude of news apps – it’s easier than ever before to hear about the news. When people of almost all ages and demographics can ingest news headlines, there is no question that the accessibility of news is a benefit to everyone.

Ease and Quickness of Sharing Information

The 24 hour news cycle has introduced us to the necessity of sharing information quickly and easily, and Twitter has provided the solution. An ever-flowing stream of quick 140-character posts updated in real-time have revolutionized the way we report and view news. News breaks and is released to the public faster than ever before, and in many cases Twitter users have been able to overthrow mainstream news in its dissemination of information. With social media networks like twitter, anyone can update and share news stories. While this has many benefits, there are also some downsides, as we’ll see below.

Community Posts

Sharing our thoughts and opinions on breaking news on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter have added an entirely new element to news stories. Some news sites, such as cbc.ca, now write community posts, where a regular news story is accompanied by citizens thoughts shared via social media. This aspect allows for a different twist on the traditional unbiased news report but showing the viewer varying opinions by their peers.

And now, for the bad. Here are some ways social media can negatively impact the news.

Poorer Quality

The 24 hours news cycle and social media have ushered in a new era of constant and immediate news. While I’ve outlined some of the benefits above, the need for constant news can also result in poorer quality of news, including inaccurate reporting, false reports, leading headlines, and framing the story to make it more exciting.

Unreliable Sources

As mentioned above, the advent of  social media sites means that everyone can get in on news sharing by posting an update with the appropriate hashtag. But what happens when the update isn’t accurate? With the rise of social media as news platform, we’ve unfortunately seen the rise in false reporting. Sometimes, a mainstream media outlet will pick up some facts a tweet or post and run with it, when the source is in fact inaccurate or unreliable. In the social media age, it’s even more important than ever to not believe everything you read.

What do you think about social media’s impact on news?


Viral Tweets and the Business of Twitter – Comm 0011

Viral (adjective): Relating to or involving an image, video, piece of information, etc., that is circulated rapidly and widely from one Internet user to another.

So far in my blog posts and other writing for this class I have often focused on businesses using Twitter to promote their brand, connect and communicate with their clients, and advertise their products and services. But what about Twitter as a business?

A viral tweet, image, or video is more than just a piece of media to the person who posted it – with the ability to monetize viral messages, it may be a way of life. Many smart, young entrepreneurs have latched on to the idea of creating viral tweets for the purpose of making money. Many of the accounts currently producing viral tweets on Twitter are parody accounts – @itswillyferrell, @dory, @tweetlikeagirl, and others – creating rather mundane content shared and retweeted by social media-obsessed teenagers and young adults. Many of these accounts receive upwards of 35,000 retweets for a single post – an impressive reach.

Another way these Twitter and Facebook accounts make money is by promoting products or apps to their followers. Often, these advertisements are incredibly innocuous and do not seem like ads. A poster may exclaim how excited they are about a new app they tried or how they are obsessed with a new game, with a link to buy the app in the app store. If these promotions result in downloads for the app, the poster can get paid up to $1,000 for a single post.

Buzzfeed has written an incredibly interesting article, Meet the Network of Guys Making Thousands of Dollars Tweeting as “Common White Girls,” that further expands on this topic.

It’s interesting to realize that many tweets and Facebook posts we see on a daily basis are created with the intent of making money. It  somewhat detracts from the spontaneity, the excitement, and the rush of a viral message – the message did not become viral by accident, but because someone designed it to. It’s not that this is inherently a bad thing, but it is important to see that among all of the deliberate, constructed messages we see each day, seemingly innocuous tweets are now among them.

What do you think about the creation of a parody account for the purpose of monetizing viral tweets?

Social Media and the Recruitment and Selection Process

Who are you? What is your online persona? Is it an accurate reflection of your true self? Is it carefully crafted and curated to show the best version of yourself? And what would you do if you knew potential employers were using Social Media for selection and recruitment?

For years now we’ve heard it, from parents and from teachers. “Be careful what you post online, you’ll need to find a job some day,” “don’t post anything on Social Media you wouldn’t want your employer to see.” As a teen and young adult, I never much concerned myself with what potential employers would think if they came across one of my Social Media accounts. But it is becoming ever more clear that employers are consistently using Social Media in the selection and recruitment process. This blog post will examine this practice and its potential effects.

A study in 2009 found that ” more than 30% of organizations use Facebook to learn about job candidates, and 80% of organizations factor this information into the hiring process (source). In the 5 years since then, it has become standard procedure for employers and Human Resources departments to screen potential candidates using Social Media (up to 93%). What does this mean for employers?

There are a few issues that can arise from the practice of using Social Media for screening, including privacy concerns, validity, and discrimination. By validity we mean, are pictures on Facebook and 140-character tweets really the best indicator of whether an individual will perform or excel at their job? In some cases, yes. Think about a candidate for a heavily written communications-based job making constant spelling and grammar mistakes. But in most cases, the answer is either no or unsure. Does use of profanity mean and individual can’t work with the public? Does casual drinking on the weekends mean a candidate will not excel during the week? And where is the line for discrimination when we decide against a candidate based on a photo or post we dislike?

“Any information posted on the internet is considered “public domain” and can be used however an organization wishes to use it as long as these decisions do not discriminate under the Civil Rights Act or any other law forbidding discrimination (e.g., Age Discrimination Act).  However, organizations should tread carefully here, as information—such as race and age—is readily available online, and accusations of discrimination might be made based on the perception that this sensitive information is used” (source).

What does this mean for you? While it’s probably not necessary to pare down your Social Media to an extreme just to please potential employers, it’s a good idea to keep in mind that they will be looking. Drug references, posts of a sexual nature, use of profanity, and mentions of guns and alcohol are all turn-offs to potential employers (source). While those examples may seem obvious, employers also cite poor spelling and grammar and strong political affiliations/opinions as potential deal breakers.

Living your life on Facebook and Twitter is not necessarily a bad thing – but remember that the HR department at your dream job are also on Social Media.

What do you think? Is it okay for employers to screen candidates using Social Media? And do you change your online habits based on that fact?

The Rise and Fall of a Social Network

This week I was thinking about Social Networks. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are all hugely popular Social Media sites with millions of users and whose influence has saturated our everyday lives. Facebook has surpassed 1.23 billion monthly users, and Twitter postings are regularly used as part of news stories or articles. But what about the smaller Social Networks? The ones plugging along with a sufficient number of users, but that haven’t reached the mainstream. And what about the failed Social Networks? The ones who tried but could never quite get enough users to latch on. What makes a successful Social Network? What makes a failure?

Twitter’s success can be attributed to it’s short and quick social nature. Twitter’s 140 character thoughts, updated in real time, allow for friends and fans to stay up-to-date on the most current news, events, and goings on as they happen. Its incredibly informal nature allows you to follow anyone (friend or stranger) and share their posts with the click of a button. Twitter also has an incredibly simple and easy user interface. These factors all contribute to its massive success.

While Facebook has many factors that can be attributed to it’s success – great user experience, solid infrastructure, simple social sharing and the feeling of community and connectivity – it’s success just may be contributed to Mark Zuckerberg’s initial actions. As Business Insider writes, Zuckerberg “didn’t write a business plan.He didn’t “research the market,” apply for patents or trademarks, assemble focus groups, or do any of the other things that entrepreneurs are supposed to do.” He just launched his idea, and we adopted it (source). His quick actions and his assuredness in his idea allowed him to get his product online before anybody else – a factor that separates Facebook from many other Social Networks.

I believe Facebook and Twitter’s willingness to grow and expand by adopting new technologies and embracing new trends also contributes to their immense success. For example, Facebook’s purchase of Instagram and Twitter’s purchase of Vine. Facebook bought Instagram for $1 billion, and Forbes writes that doing so was an attempt to rejuvenate an aging tech behemoth (source).

Let’s take a look at some failed Social Networks. Friendster, Google Buzz, Google+, MySpace, Digg, iYomu, Akoha, and Sprouter are all examples of failed Social Networks.

The failure of Friendster, a Social Networking site that is now the focus of a Harvard Business School case study about how not to manage a tech company (source) can be attributed to programming issues and a flawed infrastructure. They failed to address issues with sluggish loading times and didn’t focus on social sharing, and when Facebook came along providing a better user experience, Friendster users flocked over.

Google+ has failed to take off in the Social Networking realm. With it’s powerful Google name, the networking site was able to attract 1.15 billion initial users, but now only 35% of those users are active (source). The main issue with Google+ is that it doesn’t really offer users an experience that they can’t get elsewhere, where all their friends are as well. “Google was the rich kid, who, after having discovered he wasn’t invited to the party, built his own party. But everyone is already partying with their real friends on Facebook” (source).

It seems as though there are common factors among failed Social Networking sites, including poor infrastructure and user experience, the inability to provide something new, and making social connections and sharing difficult.

There are many factors contributing to the success and the failure of Social Networking sites. Do you think there are any factors I haven’t mentioned? And what’s your favorite little-known Social Networking site?

Corporate Social Media Accounts in the Instant World (COMM0011)

We live in an instant world. When it’s time to celebrate or commemorate an event, we’re on Social Media. When something happens, large or small, we tell the world, and fast.

We’re on our phones during a disaster, such as an earthquake or a hurricane, checking the Social Media accounts of  local emergency services to learn about road closures and other dangers. Letting people know where they can find a dry spot for the night, as many good Samaritans did during Hurricane Sandy.  Live tweeting a disaster can bring a community together and help save lives.

We’re on our laptops during a fun pop culture event such as the Emmy’s or Oscars, live blogging our favourite red carpet arrivals, the best speeches, and worst snubs of the night. Using a trending hashtag to show off our witty celebrity one-liners to our fans, and impressing our family with our celebrity trivia knowledge. Live tweeting or blogging can help create a sense of community and add to our enjoyment of the event.

The importance of live tweeting current events has not escaped the gurus running the Social Media accounts of some of the world’s largest corporation’s. When the power went out during the XLVII Super Bowl in 2013, the world took to the internet to share their thoughts, theories and jokes. But within moments of the power outage, Oreo’s Twitter account “won the internet” by releasing a tweet reading “Power Out? No Problem” with the image (below) reading: “You Can Still Dunk in the Dark.” The post went viral, receiving 13,734 retweets in less than a day and becoming the subject of a number of articles (CNET). The simplicity and wittiness of the tweet, combined with the extremely fast uptake on the event currently (and unexpectedly) unfolding contributed to the posts success, and likely generated equal (if not more!) buzz than the company’s expensive Super Bowl TV spot that had aired less than an hour before.

Oreo Dunk in the Dark

But piggy-backing off a current event to promote your brand can go very, very wrong. When done incorrectly, it can upset, offend, or alienate a customer base and result in serious backlash. Take for example, Spaghetti-O’s Pearl Harbour remembrance tweet, or AT&T’s 9/11 tweet, booth seen below.


These tweets were deemed insensitive by a number of people and, in both cases, the companies were forced to apologize after a flurry of negative feedback (Huffington Post). These are just two fairly recent, extreme examples. Indeed, many companies are still mastering the art of the Current Event Promotional Post, and while there are ways to hit it out of the park, there have been many strikes as well.

Live-tweeting or blogging and piggy-backing off of current events to promote your brand can be a great idea with exceptional results when done correctly. But it’s important to remember that there’s a time to post – and a time to hold back.

What do you think about companies using current events to promote their brand or product? Is there a right time or a wrong time to do so?

(Additional reading: JCPenney’s #TweetingwithMittens)