Facebook as news. Where will it stop?

Do we now view Facebook as news? Is it a news source?

After a live, 10-minute video of a police officer shooting a black man (Philando Castile) in Minnesota was posted on Facebook, there is a great deal of chatter about Facebook’s role in news and its responsibility because it seemed it was a media outlet posting NEWS. Facebook as NEWS has become a topic of discussion.

Philander Castille and Facebook as newsI want to say right from the start that this blog post will not touch on the footage or the event. Neither will it speak to the shooting of police officers in Dallas. This blog is about Facebook as a news organization.

Should Facebook post live videos of events? Does it have any responsibility of content? To my thinking, Facebook is schizophrenic on this subject. It censors copyrighted material. You can’t post a video on Facebook of your children at a playground if you have placed a sound bed in the background of a popular song.

Facebook wont publish it. I can’t post a photograph on my Facebook feed with text in it (like a sign that says STOP for example) because Facebook has a policy of not boosting a post with an image that contains a certain percentage of words in it. Nudity is not allowed.

Where is this going?

Facebook as news
Nick Berg

But you can post a live video of a young man bleeding to death. The images are abhorrent. No one argues with that. But where does it stop?

If Abu Musab al-Zarqawi posted a live video of his beheading Nick Berg, do you think Facebook would allow it? Not on your life.

If it did, the uproar from society would unfathomable. It seems to me that beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. Think abut this. Would nudity be OK on Facebook as long as it was a live video of a rape? Where does our voyeurism end?

Facebook is a part of our lives to be sure. But Facebook as news should not be.

Are we to blame for Facebook as NEWS?

Why has this happened? Why is it that for many, social media has become their news source?

Facebook as news and Fox NewsI know a good deal about branding. I know that a need in a target market creates demand. I know that meeting that need is a predictor of success. I know that we get what we deserve as often as we get what we need.

The real issue here is a turning away from real news and substituting it with pop-culture drivel. Broadcast news is just entertainment masquerading as news. The public gets affinity news broadcasting (broadcast news that sells an agenda and bias) because it does not want news.

It wants agreement with our own ignorance (from the root of IGNORE). In our hearts we know that what we see on Fox and CNN is not news. Its bent entertainment. Facebook as News. Cronkite never dreamed of it

When CBS decided that its news bureau needed to be a profit center rather than a public service, more than just personality died when Walter Cronkite passed away. We lost NEWS.

Think about the demise of the newspaper. Subscriptions are in decline. Reporters are being let go and readership is running for cover.

There is responsibility in live postings

Facebook as news and Marshall McLuen
Marshall McLuen

To my thinking, I am upset that Facebook posts crap like this. There is no editorial ownership, as there once was with CBS. Facebook thinks it is doing a public service by showing our lives in its raw experiential form. I think we have enough reality TV, thank you very much. I don’t need to see everything in its raw form.

I need that as much as I need the bizarre talking heads on Fox News spinning everything they report. I’m hungry for knowledge, not to witness the wost of humanity. Will Facebook spend time and money making sure that similar videos are edited for agendas? When will we be finished as a modern society of Peeping Tom’s?

I think the killing in Minneapolis would have been real news without the Facebook post. The news was not the shooting. The news was that it was “captured live on Facebook. Marshall McLuhan was right. The medium IS the message. Too bad. Too bad.

Facebook Censorship

Is Facebook guilty of censorship?

fear of rebrandingI had not really considered the idea of Facebook censorship until yesterday. I write a blog almost everyday on marketing, branding, social issues and persuasion.

Occasionally, I will boost the post on Facebook to target an audience that I think might have an interest in the topic covered.

Facebook censcorship
Facebook’s advertising rules

I don’t do this regularly but often enough that I am familiar with Facebook’s rules.

Once in a while I have a blog (Facebook calls them an ad) turned down. Is that rejection a form of Facebook censorship? I had not thought so. Usually it is because the image I have included includes text.

Facebook Censorship
Rejected from boosting my blog

Facebook is stringent on not allowing a blogger like myself to sneak messages past its screeners by including the message as text within an image. This makes sense to me because images are impossible to search for messages. They are just not searchable as text.

Yesterday I wrote a blog about persuasion.

I used as my example of persuasion a discussion on politics and religion on Facebook. I was compelled to write the blog, oddly enough, because one of my Facebook friends posted a political statement about one of the candidates for President. This friend immediately got comments from former school classmates who vehemently disagreed with his post’s assertion. I started to think about what I know about persuasion and how Facebook is a poor venue for trying to affect behavior.

Facebook Censorship seems self-serving

Facebook censorshipDo me a favor and read yesterday’s blog. Then tell me how it transgresses on any of the rules for boosting a post on Facebook? I think it was only guilty of speaking to the limits of Facebook posts and why, as a venue, Facebook friends should probably avoid posts that profess a view on politics or religion.

Why? Because your opinions won’t change anyone’s opinion. It is, in research terms, a self-selected study, meaning only those who adamantly agree with you or fiercely disagree with you will take the time to comment or share. Others may throw up a respectful LIKE, but I doubt they ever read past the first sentence. A nominal like is a passing acknowledgment that they follow you.

In the spirit of full disclosure

Facebook censorshipI’m not a huge fan of Facebook. I find that it causes me to spend way to much time spying into the shenanigans and happenings of friends and acquaintances. I have found it very useful to reconnect with folks I have lost contact with over the years— childhood friends, old classmates, co-workers from another time and the like. But I don’t need Facebook to find out what is going on with my close friends and immediate family.

I know those things the old fashioned way. I talk to them and ask. In many ways, Facebook gives me an artificial sense of intimacy with people I hardly know any more. I come think I know them much better than I really do. It can cause us to refrain from the real connection that comes with a phone call or visit. We THINK we are connected.

Will Facebook Censorship block this blog as well?

This is my real reason for writing this. Will Facebook allow me to express criticism of the pseudo connection that we lie to ourselves as enjoying through Facebook? At this point, I have no clue. I even resubmitted yesterday’s blog to Facebook and asked why it was denied. So far, I know as much about Facebook’s thinking on this as I do about the REAL emotional experiences of my Facebook FRIENDS.

Facebook Politics. Keep it private.

Facebook Politics are NEVER persuasive

Facebook Politics
Trump or Clinton or Sanders?

Facebook politics (posts about political identification) seem to be more and more commonplace today. I’m not so different from you. I have deeply felt political loyalties. However, if you are like me at all, you just cringe to see opposing views posted on Facebook by your friends. However, I don’t cringe when my friends post messages that agree with my bent. What’s going on here?

Its easy to dismiss this personal hypocrisy and blame it on the idea that we all Facebook Politicslike it when others agree with us.

I think that is true, for the most part. But it feels to me that we get our nose out of joint most often when our social media acquaintances post confident opinions on religion or politics.

Other topics don’t seem to bother me too much. I read them but they never ruffle my feathers. Facebook Politics and Facebook religion… well those are different beers altogether.

Facebook is an interesting and timely example of personal branding

For many of us, our Facebook page is the banner of our private brands. We use it to tell the world where we have visited, what we have eaten, what we have seen, who we love and.. what we believe (insert politics or religion here).

I’m no different. A search of my Facebook page reveals posts from my business’s blog, trips I have enjoyed with my wife, restaurant meals that were (sometimes) memorable, pictures of my family and grandchildren and very little more. I try not to post things that express my views on religion and try (sometimes I fail) to ignore political posts.

Facebook PoliticsWhy? Is it because I look at Facebook as a branding tool? Is it because I find posts from others on these topics occasionally offensive? I wish it were so simple.

The truth is that I avoid posts that talk about politicians, politics and religion because I am a student of persuasion. It’s part and parcel of what I do for a living. As a brand strategist, my goal is to position brands in a way that they become persuasive to prospects (and at the same time reassuring to customers).

Facebook politics as a focus seems futile to me. I know how difficult it is to change someone’s mind and I use every tool available to me as a professional brand guy to make the effort successful. I utilize research, competitive and market analyses, switching triggers and a projectable research based understanding of beliefs.

I know that the best way to change a behavior is to align a brand message with an existing belief held by the target audience you want to influence. When done with aplomb, you are not changing behavior insomuch a realigning a behavior with the self-definition of the target audience.

This process works because we are all prisoners of our belief systems. What we BELIEVE to be true (note that it does not have to be true, just believed) always controls our behaviors because it creates the needs and wants that control all of our actions.

Brand is self-identification

Coke is a major player in consumer packaged goods
Are you a Coke?

Usually, this self-identification is general—it forms a philosophy of our lives that gives us personal meaning and eliminates internal conflicts between what we do and what we believe.

Human beings naturally seek refuge in agreement and are repulsed by conflict. When you engage in a behavior that seems alien to your belief systems I can pretty much guarantee that you will eventually cease that behavior. We may be emotionally attached to Coca-Cola but we are not a COKE.

Religion and Politics are a different story. Depending on your bent, you ARE a Christian, Muslim, Atheist Buddhist, Hindu, or Jain. You ARE a Republican, Democrat, Independent, Socialist or Libertarian.

These are the fiber of your belief systems. Rarely are they challenged (as adults) without a catastrophic event.

What this means is that we form attachments to these ideas WITHOUT cognitive introspection. They are emotional beliefs not rational ones.

I know from commercial experience that ALL purchase decisions are emotional choices. They are not cognitive. We may believe we have rational reasons for the things we buy but they most often are rationalizations of an emotional choice. We back-fill the rational to defend the emotional precisely because we can’t abide internal conflicts.

An exercise in futility

Hillary Clinton LogoSo I ask you the question I ask myself, why post your religious views or political polemics on Facebook? Is Facebook politics worthy of your time and effort?

Nothing you say could possibly change someone’s mind because rational arguments, from either side of an issue, will not change anyone a jot. It is an exercise in futility.

A mentor of mine once told me that communication without purpose is at its best unconstructive and at its worst destructive. I think that has never sounded more true to me than hearing about Bernie, Donald or Hillary on Facebook.

We all are where we are and all we risk is offending those who do no agree with our own beliefs with a ZERO chance of changing someone’s mind. I actually believe that it makes others more entrenched in their beliefs. It’s human nature after all.

Fantasy has changed the way we watch sports

I like to pull for teams. Fantasy sports teams just don’t get my blood going.

Mostly, I enjoy college athletics —basketball and football in particular. My favorites teams being the Temple Owls and the Florida State Seminoles (if you’re a long time reader of my blogs, you probably knew that already).

Fantasy sports leaves me a little sad
Its a new world in sports

I grew to love John Chaney, the Hall of Fame Basketball coach for the Temple Owls; and how Bobby Bowden’s would recruit “speed”for the Seminoles football team. Even though both coaches have retired, I’m still a die-hard fan of each school. You could say my team pride runs in my blood.

As a team enthusiast, I grow to love the players on the field and court. I build an attachment to them, get to like their personalities, and moreover, how they grow through the course of the year.

That’s why I have mixed feelings about Fantasy sports (Fantasy Football, Baseball, Basketball, etc.). As a guy who has never played, but who has children and friends that do, I see the slow decline of a team appreciation, to a singular awareness of individual statistics.

Last year, the running back Chris Johnson had something to say about this:

“Public service announcement: I can care less about fantasy football. Key word fantasy. As long as we win I’m happy. I rush for 200 n lose y’all happy,” Johnson wrote. “U r the head coach n the owner of ur fantasy team so u should be mad at urself I didn’t ask any of u to draft me so if I’m so sorry y start me.”

I tend to think Chris Johnson is right. The brand of professional sports is changing due to Fantasy Sports. Owners of teams pull for players, who can at times be on rival teams, hoping they, as Johnson said, “rush for 200 yards,” so they can win in their league that week.

Is Fantasy a bad thing? I don’t think so, but it’s hard to deny that it is changing the complexion of how we view sports. For a traditionalist like me, that makes me a bit sad.

The marketing message in social marketing – Get the basics right

Social Marketing has changed us. How do we use social media?


Published in Food & Drink magazine.

By Tom Dougherty

Social Media

Advertising agencies and marketing consultants are quick to tell their clients of the importance of social media. Companies and brands throughout the world, including those in the food and beverage industry, are trying to figure out how best they can make social media work for them.

The answer is simpler than you might believe. Get the message right.

At its core, social media marketing is no different than any other advertising form. It does not matter if you are talking about TV, direct mail, print, radio, point of purchase, outdoor, or even social media. No matter what medium you use you must consider:

1. Having a compelling message.
2. Developing a message that reflects the aspirational image of your target audience, thus connecting with them on an emotional level.
3. Having repetition.

There are some unique tactics involved in utilizing social media, of course. You must be succinct and relatively unobtrusive. Most importantly, you must make sure you have permission to be in your target audience’s social circle.

Facebook leads social marketingThink of it this way. You would never see an ad for L’Oreal during Monday Night Football and it is doubtful that you would see an ad for Craftsman tools in the latest issue of Woman’s Day. The same holds true for social media, only you are trying to engage your audience in a much more intimate way. You must consider where your brand has permission to play.

Brand Permission

It is precisely for this reason that gaining your audience’s permission before you engage in a social media campaign is so important. Your target audience is letting you into its lives where companies have never had permission. In this world of “information noise,” the degree to which you understand and respect that will have direct ramifications on whether or not you are successful. (Read about permissions here and how to win when outspent)

The reason social media holds so much promise is because so many marketing dollars are wasted, especially as the importance of traditional media declines. Despite that, messaging today tends to center around product features and benefits. In a marketplace where were seeing unprecedented levels of parity between products and services, the simple fact is that product performance is expected and does not differentiate products in a competitive marketplace.

Too Many Messages?

In addition, your target audience is being bombarded my messages on a daily basis. The vast majority of these messages are ignored as they fail to connect in any emotional way.

Consider all the billboards you see each day. Most are ignored because they are not a reflection of you. However, if a billboard has your picture with your name on it, you’d notice it. That’s because it is a direct reflection of you.

In the food and beverage industry, these marketing issues are of particular importance and represent why most companies struggle to get traction in the consumer market. Most players in the industry simply market taste and price – both of which are the bare minimums to even be considered.

To attract new customers means prompting them to change from what they are doing now. In the case of food and beverages, “great taste” is not a value. For the “taste” message to be meaningful and present a true choice, prospective customers must believe their current choices taste awful.

social marketing means it can't be just more of the sameThere is a better way. In the case of social media, stay away from messages about taste and, especially, cost. Most social media in this industry is about bargains or couponing, which does not develop loyalty and, in fact, teaches audiences to price shop. Soon, you are in a price war, margins drop and you are “buying” into the market.

Instead, think about who your customers are when they buy your food or beverage, or come to your restaurant. And market that. This is true if you are consumer oriented or a B2B.

For example, in the food and beverage industry, whether we care to admit it or not, the most powerful brands today are Coca-Cola and McDonalds. Each has etched out a unique position and represent who their customers are when they purchase its products.

Coca-Cola is about authenticity and Americana, delighting in being a part of the way we think things ought to be and what is really “real.” (Even Coke Zero feels that way.) Its best social media message – whether it’s mobile advertising, on Facebook or even Twitter – is recognizing audiences who embrace “the real thing,” which allows Coke to enact a whole host of social media tactics. Doing that strengthens brand loyalty and explains the reasons why audiences delight in the product benefits. (For McDonald’s, the brand value is “fun,” which is how they market its food.)

Emotional values such as these are what you must put in the forefront of any of your social media activity, just like you would in any marketing medium. Then, and only then, can you talk about product benefits (even cost) because you have demonstrated the reason why your message is important. Thinking outside the food and beverage industry, for example, Apple can charge higher prices because it has taught its loyal customers that they “think different.” (And Nike’s customers “Just Do It.”)

Once you have demonstrated that your message is important, then you have permission to be in their social circle because they will, in effect, be claiming themselves. Otherwise, you’ll just be annoying and intrusive.

Watch your step

Don’t worry about being too repetitive. You will get tired of your messages long before target audiences will.

Do not try to cast too wide of a net. The key to being successful with social media is in the understanding of the proper methods to segregate your audience. While a generalized Facebook campaign is ill advised, linking your company’s Facebook page with other social media like Twitter, Foursquare, YouTube, and LinkedIn is a great way to get targeted coverage over a wide variety of media.

Mobile advertising has great potential especially when the ads are in direct relation to what that audience is doing at that time. (Beer ads at a baseball game, broadcast over the stadium’s Wi-Fi for example.)

If you are seriously considering your social media strategy, the first step is to think about who you are for and, equally important, who you are not for. If you think you are for everybody, then you are really for no one.

Once you’ve decided who you are for, then build your message around that description and the permissions it gives you. That doesn’t mean simply posting your tagline. Rather you must consider what your brand position allows you to say and do. Ask yourself how you fulfill that brand promise and make that your “tweet.”

What about the technology? Don’t worry about it. You can hire a social media firm to implement the technology, the same way you hire a developer to develop a website. The technology doesn’t matter. It is akin to when we were all worried about the process in putting together banner ads on the Internet.

Technology is stupid. Just don’t be stupid about it.

Tom Dougherty is President and CEO of branding company Stealing Share. His blog can be found at http://www.stealingshare.com.