Archive for ‘Business’

October 22, 2014

Boo-hoo my content was stolen! Who cares.

ContentIsKing3Recently, I was browsing Google Images to find some multimedia that would help visualize some talking points for the Social Media Management course I teach at Algonquin College. This is a completely regular, and useful, behaviour for me. This time, I was just looking for the words “Content is King” stylized in some way to add a bit of visual interest. Pretty blazé, I must admit. After scrolling through a few pages of image search results, I came across the image to the right, and it struck me in just the right way – I loved it.

I thought “this is exactly what I need” and proceeded to save it to my lecture folder and insert it into my presentation. Something was troubling me, though. I thought the image was awfully familiar, but just couldn’t put my finger on where I had seen it before. Then it hit me, I had created this image myself about three years ago for a blog post on davidhallsocialmedia.com about creating blog content.

My immediate reaction was to do a Google search by image to see if anybody else had used “my” content. Turns out that Google returned 8 pages of use of the identical image on a variety of different pages ranging from blogs on website development, SEO, PR, and marketing. For a brief moment, I have to admit that my proprietary-self was thinking “these people are stealing my content, and didn’t even give me credit. How dare they!” After about 60 seconds of feeling this way, I quickly climbed down off my “who do they think they are” high horse and realized that I had, in fact, “stolen” virtually every single element that made up the graphic that I “created”. Let me explain…

War Is OverFirst of all, the saying itself has been bantered around for a good 20-25 years. Exact origin of the phrase is still a bit contentious, but most people will agree that Bill Gates popularized the saying in a mid-90s essay by the same name. I didn’t even put a twist on the saying, I used it verbatim, with no attribution.

Second, the little crown I used on the “G” was not designed by me. That image is a stock shape in Adobe Photoshop. I simply tilted it on an angle and shaded it in using the colour palette from my blog.

Finally, the typeface and layout I used were inspired by (or stolen) from the “War is Over” campaign by John Lennon and Yoko Ono. I’m a big music fan and thought it would be cool to pay homage to their work by visually referencing their peace advocacy of the late 60s and early 70s. Using a thick, black, sans serif font, stacking one word on top of the next, and including an exclamation point, I think the reference comes through. I even remember Googling to find the exact name of the font used.

I imagine that some people would say that I stole all of these elements to make one giant copyright-infringing graphic. They would probably be right. On the other-hand, I would wager that there would be another cohort of people that would say that, although I was influenced by these existing works, I am ultimately the author of the image and should be regarded as such. They would probably be right, too.

So after “stealing” content myself, and having my own content “stolen,” I’ve come to a few personal realizations about the whole stolen vs inspired debate.

1. It happens to (almost) everyone.

Rest assured that if you publish content online, it will probably be “stolen” at some point. I am in no way special when it comes having content “stolen”. I chalk it up to the cost of publishing content on the web. In fact, the more people who steal “my” content, the more people will see it, right?

2. You probably stole the idea from somebody else in the first place.

I really don’t consider sharing other people’s content, or creating mash-ups, stealing. If you look hard enough at any of your ideas, I’m sure most could be traced back to somebody else’s idea that you just modified, or flat-out stole (knowingly or not). What I’m getting at here is that very few ideas are actually so fresh they can be considered novel, so what right do we have to claim ownership over them? Consider your take on the idea as adding a new voice to the continual conversation, not a new flag in some sort of uncharted, intellectual territory.

3. “Good artists copy, great artists steal”

This quotation has been used, and reused, for over 100 years. It has been attributed to Pablo Picasso, T. S. Eliot, William Faulkner, Steve Jobs, and more. At the heart if it, it speaks to the role of the creator as the steward of content rather than the owner of it. As artists and creators, it is our job to take what has come before us, modify, re-contextualize, and republish it reflecting our lived experience. Content isn’t about ownership, it’s about continuing the conversation. I had a great boss for a number of years who used to tell me, “Dave, don’t bother reinventing the wheel, just put new hubcaps on it.”…an expression that I’ve added to my vocabulary (yes, I stole this too).

4. If you want to get paid for your content, and you think your profits are being lost to thieves, you need a business manager.

I imagine that one response to this post might be “I’m trying to make a living on my content, so I have to be vigilant”. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for making money. If your content is good enough to generate a profit, I applaud you (mine certainly isn’t that good). The problem is that creating content and making money are two very different things. Every good content creator needs a great business manager, and very few people are adept at both. Prime example, just Google Roy O. Disney. He was the business brain, Walt was the creator. Disney wouldn’t be what it is today without Roy’s business acumen.

5. Get over yourself and consider it a compliment

If your content is worth stealing, then you are on the right track. If you make it even better, someone might want to pay you for it some day. At the very least, you can consider having your content stolen as an indicator of value; you just need to find your Roy Disney to transform that value into dollars.

What do you think about “stolen” content? Has it happened to you?

Remember, if you like this post, go ahead, steal away.

September 29, 2014

The Science of Marketing – 6 Key Takeaways [Book Review]

science-of-marketing

August is the only month on my calendar where I get a bit of time to catch up on my personal reading list. This year, I spent much of that month reading book after book about social media, marketing, communications and leadership. One book that had immediate actionable content for social media community managers, was The Science of Marketing (2013) by Dan Zarrella. Working for HubSpot since 2009, Zarrella has access to the tens of thousands of data-sets he uses to identify trends and make process and content recommendations on how to improve your organization’s social media presence. Once you get past Zarrella’s description of himself as a “Social Media Scientist”, you’ll find some rather useful information that can help you benchmark and experiment with the social media communities you manage.

This is a tactical book, not a strategy book. If you are looking for ways to tweak your Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, email marketing, blog, and lead generation efforts, this book is well worth the 200-page read. A few key takeaways:

  1. Content is still your biggest ally, and the most important piece of the social media puzzle. Zarrella’s response to the question “how much should I be blogging/posting” is “more than you are now”. He even suggests that, to increase engagement and shares, the optimal amount of blog posts is three per DAY.
  2. Blog posts published on Saturday and Sunday get more comments than posts published during the week. Zarrella considers two reasons for this. First, weekends allow users more time to actually read a blog post. Second, fewer companies publish content on the weekend, which means less competition for attention. In fact, Zarrella suggests that we should seek to publish our content when others are not. He calls this “contra-competitive timing”.
  3. Sentiment is important. Posts that are positive get the most comments, shares, and likes. The second most effective are negative posts, which leaves neutrality as the last place finisher. In other words, neutral is boring. If you are going to post something, make sure it contains your tone and think positive first.
  4. Calls to action work. The primary example used in this book is the correlation between retweets and asking for retweets. Zarrella found that simply asking people to retweet your content delivers four times more retweets than tweets that don’t make that request. I wouldn’t use this tactic for every piece of content I tweet, but it’s good information to know if you are responsible for managing an emergency/crisis situation where you need information to spread very quickly.
  5. If you want to catch your audience’s attention on Facebook, photos are by far the best option. Zarrella’s research indicates that photos are the most sharable form of content on Facebook, blowing text, video, right out of the water.
  6. He even gets down to a very granular level of detail by looking at where within a tweet is the best place to include a link in order to maximize clicks. The answer: right in the middle. He even provides lists of the most, and least, sharable/retweetable keywords.

All of these ideas, and about 100 more, are laid out in simple language and charts in this book. The author is quick to mention that his findings are in no way the set-in-stone way to do things that will guarantee success on social media. They are merely data-backed observations that can help marcom professionals tweak and tailor their social media program. In essence, what Zarrella has presented in this book is a look at trends in social media engagement. It’s now up to us as social media managers to use this information to benchmark and experiment and see what works in our communities.

You can find this title on Amazon for about $20, well worth the investment.

August 14, 2014

Your kids are sellouts, and they don’t even know it [Documentary]

Are you a sell out? How about your kid?

Frontline’s documentary “Generation Like” tells the story of how businesses use social media and big data to sell their wares to members of Generation Z (people born between 1995 and 2010).  It urges you to think about this topic from two angles. First, the teens’ perspective. Do they know they are being marketed to, and if so, do they even care? Wrapped in with this is the parental anxiety that exists for those parents who are not up-to-date with social media and digital technology. The second perspective is from the world of business marketing. The film gets into discussions about YouTube fame, collaborations, product integration, and content creation. It asks questions like: how much is a “like” worth? Or a friend? A follower? Or most importantly, the “share”.

This documentary primary focuses on the tactics businesses use to “empower” youth to spread marketing messages within their personal social media networks. One teen in this film spends her free time liking and sharing all the Hunger Games content she can possibly find to earn “sparks”. A currency only relevant to Hunger Games movies, that cannot be redeemed for prizes, but it’s used to keep score of who are the world’s biggest Hunger Games fans. Public recognition and a sense of belonging is used as the primary motivator for her behaviour.

GenerationLikeImageThe film also considers how these teens interact with traditional consumer brands, and if these youths are aware that they are being marketed to. At one point the film’s author asked members of Generation Z what it means to sell out…and none of them could give the traditional Baby Boomer or Generation X version of the term. In fact, they really had no clue what selling out was. One puzzled-looking teen thought that selling out means that there are no tickets left for a concert. Although technically correct, I can assure you that this wasn’t the context in which the term was being used.

The film definitely has some cringe-worthy moments. The most notable example I observed was a section near the end of the film when a mother discusses helping her 12 year-old daughter take and post photos to Instagram – her advice “if she (her daughter) wants to get the most likes, I know that all we have to post full body shots” (cringe).

I use this documentary as a piece of course content for the Social Media Management courses I teach in the Public Relations (PR) program at  Algonquin College. Students have written some fantastic reflection pieces on how this documentary has changed their view of how business and social media interact, and what implications it may have on their personal and professional (PR) lives.

You can watch the full doc, and access plenty of bonus content, on the Frontline website… Or use the video above to stream it directly from YouTube (there are more ads  in the YouTube version). Definitely a worth the watch.

 

 

March 5, 2014

LinkedIn announces a “virtually useless” member blocking feature

linkedinblockedFirst of all I love LinkedIn. It is THE place to host your professional image for the world to see. It is, without a doubt, the top online resume platform. I also love that their revenue stream is more than just selling a glut of ads and promoted trends.

Now with all the niceties out of the way, here’s why I think their new blocking feature is virtually useless.

1. People can still view your profile using the “Anonymous Viewing” feature. For example, if you decide to block me, I can just sign up with a different email, enable the “anonymous viewing” feature and start creeping. Granted, I won’t be able to get ALL of the information you have on your LinkedIn profile, but it would be a good start if I had nefarious intentions.

2. It won’t prevent those who you block from getting the information they are after. Let’s say you’ve blocked your old boss, for whatever reason, and she wants to find out where you now work. She can do any of these three things and find the information she is looking for in less than a minute.

  • Go to LinkedIn, without logging in, and view your profile page. Or she can use the “Anonymous Viewing” feature.
  • Ask another LinkedIn user (perhaps from the same company you used to work for) to login with their profile and do some creeping
  • Or just Google your name

3. Why would you want to block anyone from seeing your LinkedIn profile in the first place? LinkedIn is a public exhibition of who you are from a professional perspective and it is just crawling with recruiters looking for their next hire. I use social media with this rule in mind – If I don’t want people knowing something about me, I don’t publish it on the internet. There is always a chance that your information, regardless of your privacy settings or who you block, friend, or follow, can be accessed by anyone with an internet connection.

Blocking users you already know may be of benefit to some, but I think more LinkedIn users would be happy if the ability to view  profiles anonymously was removed. If you are not convinced that LinkedIn blocking is virtually useless, and want to try it out for yourself, here’s a step-by-step guide to blocking and unblocking on LinkedIn…and be sure to let us know what you think of it, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the issue in the comments below.

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