Author: Mike Koehler
There’s a theory that’s been around for as long as the Internet – there are two groups who innovate the fastest with new technology: pornographers and criminals.
That theory recently proved true again, and that’s the genie Facebook is trying to get back into the bottle and the reason Mark Zuckerberg is testifying in front of Congress this week. Facebook’s decision in 2010 to allow developers to use the Open Graph platform to launch apps to access the data of users — and their friends’ — is at the heart of the issue that has caused this crisis.
During the window between when this development platform was open and when it was shut down in 2014, a lot of bad guys flooded Facebook with a lot of skeezy apps. Why shouldn’t they – Facebook was and still is the greatest collection of consumer information on the planet. Among the dicey apps was one which promised to give users a psychological profile of themselves. It was created by Alexander Kogan, who then sold the data he compiled to Cambridge Analytica.
In all, 300,000 people downloaded the app and shared their data with the app, and Facebook being how it was in 2013, that meant Kogan had access to millions of users’ profile information.
If you were a Facebook user in those days and you used an app to tell your horoscope, to find out what your Myers-Briggs profile was, if you were an introvert, an extrovert or a Trekkie, you gave permission to that app to take as much data about you as you had opted to make public.
That’s a lot of information – and information about your friends. Millions of data points which can be used to great audience profiles and benefit brands looking to connect with certain people and make them take certain actions, like supporting a candidate.
While your friends’ data is no longer available because of Facebook’s changes, the specter of the platform sitting on this reservoir of personal profile information is still freaking everyone out. But for Facebook, all of those demographics, Page likes and group memberships create the cash which makes the company go.
Yesterday, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) asked Zuckerberg how it was that Facebook made money. The answer from Zuckerberg, “We sell ads.”
Actually what they do is sell the audience. Cambridge Analytica just exploited and innovated off a huge hole in the system which happened nearly ten years ago.
There’s no doubt that there were other bad apps gathering mounds of data during the Wild West days of Open Graph. Their names will bloom up now and then over the coming months. Now that there’s awareness watch out.
Mike Koehler is the founder and chief strategist of Smirk New Media.
Editor’s Note: This is the second blog in a content series by Smirk New Media about the Facebook Cambridge Analytica scandal. Read the other posts here. Next in Smirk New Media’s We Need to Talk About Facebook series, a thorough recap of how Facebook got here from Smirk’s Founder & Chief Strategist Mike Koehler. Also, Allie and Mike discussed Zuckerberg’s testimony on Facebook Live.
The number one metric in digital marketing? Eyeballs.
The problem? Consumers are doing everything they can to protect their peepers from brands online.
The latest news – a new survey showing ad blocking on laptops is now at 40 percent of all users. On mobile, the number is 15 percent and rising. After years of flashing, spinning and stalking banner ads, consumers have gotten sick of being sold to in certain ways.
What they still want though, are stories.
In a world where consumers are building walls, great online content can be a ninja for brands, sneaking over the wall and through the cracks to stand right next to their audience. Content wins the ad blocker game because social media users have already opted into a relationship with brands. That audience wants to be part of the give-and-take of attention and solid storytelling. But they will shut their eyeballs if that content is boring, trite, too salesy, predictable or not valuable to them. The challenge for content creators then is not a piece of code that could make your brand disappear, but an emphasis on quality which will keep it alive, well and visible.
— Mike Koehler
Smirk Slant is a series of short blogs offering quick reactions to the latest news in social media and digital marketing.
In the years since social media first burst onto the scenes, there’s always been a jostling among the platforms to prove which is best, most popular and actually making a profit. Facebook has emerged as the giant, but that doesn’t mean the second place hasn’t turned into a mad scramble.
At Smirk New Media, we preach that your audience should dictate the platforms your business uses. It’s still true and the cornerstone of many strategies, but when it comes to walling off the contenders from the pretenders, what comes next?
In the case of Instagram vs. Snapchat, it’s the burden of quality.
I’ve been using both channels more over the past year, consuming Snapchat Stories, before Instagram replicated the concept, then continuing to watch them butt heads day after day.
Instagram has always been the better product, both for the user and for an advertiser, as well as an exceptional experience. Why? Because when you step into the Instagram mindset, part of that is an expectation is to post great photos. It’s also about extra takes of the overhead shots of your salad, snagging the best Oklahoma sunset and, of course, the kids.
Something clicks when a user is on Instagram that doesn’t click when they are on Snapchat. Maybe it’s because Snapchat still carries around its grimy reputation that it’s not a showcase of the photos as much as it is of immediacy? That’s all fine and good until they compete on equal ground on something like stories and pursue brands.
A story that tells an experience – a trip to the Oklahoma City Thunder game or a special trip with your family – has so much more vitality on Instagram. When a brand approaches both, ready to spend dollars to promote quality content, they are going to choose (demographics being equal) where quality is built into the social media community.
During this battle with Snapchat, Instagram continues to survive, thrive and innovate under the protective parentage of Facebook. And with more than a billion users worldwide, Facebook remains the undisputed giant of social media, but Instagram is quickly becoming its most gifted and talented child.
Hey friends, Smirk New Media is hunting for another person on our team. This time, we’d like to find a specialist in digital and social media ads – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.
Below is a job description. Hit us up if you can do it:
Digital Advertising Strategist
LOCATION: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
TIME REQUIREMENT: PT 20 Hours/Week or FT 40 Hours / Week
Smirk New Media is in search of someone with a particular set of skills.
Based on a swelling demand for digital advertising services, Smirk New Media is looking to add a campaign-running, audience-targeting, innovative ninja* to join our team in Oklahoma City. (*-You don’t have to be an actual ninja)
Our digital ad strategist is a problem-solver for our clients in the complex area of digital advertising on all social media platforms. They work on a range of projects, promoting and protecting our client’s online success with informed strategy.
Working with our senior staff, a digital ad strategist will collaborate on ad campaign strategies and will be responsible for day-to-day execution of those campaigns, focusing on how best to use client ad dollars, how to A/B test social media ads, deliver measurable results to clients and how to find the right target audiences for their messages. Bottom line: You need to know how to target a 63-year-old grandmas in Western Oklahoma who loves country music and Mountain Dew and get them to answer a call to action.
This is not a job for someone who wants us to teach them how to do this, we need people who have run campaigns and can show results.
We need a team player who can wear a wide range of hats, will take ownership of his or her projects, and can move seamlessly between the strategic and the tactical.
Smirk New Media’s team is a diverse powerhouse of web content, marketing, public relations, media and writing experience. We are one of the fastest growing digital agencies in the region, working with brands of all sizes from local businesses to Fortune 500 companies. We love what we do, who we do it with and we’re passionate about going above and beyond for our clients. We continuously challenge ourselves to deliver more creative, cohesive and engaging content to help our clients stand out from the crowd and we have a great time doing it.
What we’d like to see:
- Creative, versatile self-starter who is comfortable with both taking initiative and working in collaboration
- Experience advocating for social media marketing best practices and an awareness of emerging ad strategy trends, tools and technology
- Active accounts across key social media platforms including, but not limited to, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc
- Strong verbal and writing skills as well as a keen eye for detail
- Team player able to integrate with a diverse team full of opinions and ideas
- Ability to meet deadlines and manage the many details that need to come together to create big impact for our clients
Duties & Responsibilities
- Develop digital advertising strategies that meet client objectives
- Create engaging ad content specific to each social media platform
- Craft ad copy using effective practices for clients
- Stay current on the latest digital trends
- Consistently analyze account metrics on engagement and follower growth and adapt ad strategies accordingly
- Collaborate closely with our group of strategists in design, strategy, and production of social media channels
- Prepare monthly reports to update staff/clients on predetermined metrics
“What’s in it for me?”
- Work in a laid back, yet ambitious team culture with a flexible schedule
- The opportunity to work with a diverse group of clients
- Unlimited access to the Ms. Pac Man machine in our office
- Occasional donuts
To apply, please send your resume and cover letter to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor’s note: Smirk New Media has had the privilege of hosting Aung Soe Win the past few week at our offices downtown. Aung Soe Win is a journalist from Burma, who is here in the USA as part of the Professional Fellows Program. We asked him to write up a blog post talking about his background, what it’s like to be in a country which just recently got press and social media freedom, as well as his thoughts on the Sooner State. Enjoy!
By Aung Soe Win
I was born in Lamaing, a small town in southern Mon State, and left my hometown to Thai-Burma Border in late 2006, and spent about 8 years for the searches of further education and job opportunity on the border and in Thailand.
In 2010, I worked at Human Rights Foundation of Mon-land (HUFROM) gathering data of human rights abuses and writing reports. In 2012, with a scholarship from Child’s Dream Association, I started my college at the Ramkhamhaeng University, studying for multimedia journalism and marketing. After finishing my study, I returned to Mon News Agency (MNA), which is under umbrella of HURFOM, working as marketing manager and news editor.
Apart from working for MNA, I recently started a new venture, which is running a restaurant, called Rasar Non, or the Royal Taste; the menu includes Thai and local Mon foods.
And, now, I am in Oklahoma and my placement is at Smirk New Media (http://smirknewmedia.com/ ) in the Oklahoma City. With the help from my placement, I have met several different people with different backgrounds, including web developers, journalists, NGO workers, and entrepreneurs. And, my colleague Lennon Patton from the Smirk New Media, who is taking me around the city and introducing me with different people, also has marketing and sale experiences and shared with me his experiences every day.
The Sooner State and its people
It is my first time in Oklahoma and the first time in the United States. What reminded me most on my first day in the state is about the article that talks about the tribe of people called “Asu” use an animal “rac” for their needs. Yes, cars are everywhere! And, people here do not seem to have or use public transportation. But, recently I learnt that the land is so massive in the state that it makes more convenient for the locals to travel with their own cars.
It has been two weeks already in the States, and so far, I love it! The people here are generous, friendly and helpful. They like to share about their work and ideas, invite you over dinners.
Although I did not really like “American Football”, now I start liking it. And, oh, keep in mind that people here do not like to see you being late.
What is Professional Fellows Program?
It is a five-week program and hosted by the University of Oklahoma’s Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication, partnered with the U.S. Department of State, the Center for Entrepreneurship Development at BRAC University in Bangladesh, BRAC Myanmar in Burma and Entrepreneurship Development Institute of India.
The objective of the program is to inject the Bangladeshi, Burmese and Indian participants, who are mid-level emerging leaders in different working fields, including small business ventures, government, NGOs and social entrepreneurship, into working small businesses in Oklahoma and associate them with one of the America’s leading universities. It also aims to provide the participants with professional experience and training that will foster their talents and prepare them for more responsible leadership positions in their businesses, communities and society, enabling them to apply back in their countries.
What do I want to get?
During my Professional Fellows Program, my first priority is to acquire the skills and knowledge of writing a business plan, along with marketing and sale strategies. Second priority is to meet different people with different backgrounds but mainly in media sector, startups and social entrepreneurship.
Independent Mon News Agency or Mon News Agency
The company I work for, the Mon News Agency (MNA) (www.monnews.org) , founded as Independent Mon News Agency (IMNA) in 2000, is a multimedia agency. With its coverage on largely southern Burma, its media products include online news, weekly newspaper, radio [broadcasting] and video clips for TV news.
Since its inception, I had operated on Thai-Burma Border, but after the country has been reformed, the agency decided to move in the country in 2015. And, now registered as Mon News Agency, it is based in Mon State’s Capital Mawlamyine.
MNA, which has been running over the past 15 years as a non-profit, is now in transition to full profit agency. To be able to stand on its own feet and to generate regular revenues for the long term sustainability, it is now working hard and hopes for the best for this new adventure.
Media reforms and social media spotlights
Following a new government in 2010, the country unblocked international news websites, exiled news websites and YouTube.
In 2012, it lifted pre-publication censorship for the press and gave green lights to privately-owned daily newspapers and ethnic group-run newspapers to publish.
According to Reporters Without Borders, Burma was ranked at 174 out of 178 for press freedom in 2010. But, the results of political change have moved the country up to 144th place.
The number of internet users grew to 625,000 in 2014 but reached up to 11,000,000 in 2016 (according to InternetLiveStats.com and internetworldstats). At first there was only a state-run telecom, the Myanmar Post and Telecommunications (MPT), but two additional telecom companies, Telenor and Ooredoo, started in 2013, have been around the country ever since.
3G networks arrived in the country as early as 2008, under MPT operation, and there came 4G networks first by Ooredoo in May, 2016, followed by Telenor in July.
When it comes to social media platforms, Facebook reigns. In 2015, the Facebook had 4 million users in the country. But, mid-May 2016, Facebook had 9.7 million monthly active users (Amara Digital Marketing Agency), while the number of Facebook subscribers hit 11,000,000 in June 2016.
The number of mobile penetration and internet users is on the rise and in fact, the mobile penetration is expected to hit 100 percent within the next five years (according to lamplight.me).
About the Mon people and Mon State
One of the earliest peoples to reside in Southeast Asia, responsible for the spread of Theravada Buddhism in Indochina, and a major source of influence on the culture of Burma, the Mon people now mostly live in Mon State, Bago Region, Irrawaddy Delta, and along the southern border of Thailand and Burma.
The Mon language is part of the Monic group of the Mon-Khmer family, and believed to be source script of writing systems of Burmese. The national symbol is the Hongsa, Sheldrake or mythological water bird or Swan and known as Hintha in Burmese.
The culture and traditional heritages includes spiritual dances and Hongsa dance, and the musical instruments include crocodile xylophone, flute, harp, drums and gongs.
Mon State is located in southern Burma and is one of the seven states, along with the seven regions across the country. The state lies between Andaman Sea to west and Karen State to east, having a short border with Thailand to southeast.
The capital of the state is Mawlamyine, formerly known as Moulmein, and it is the sister city of Fort Wayne, Indiana, in the United States.
The State’s major products include rice, rubbers, betel nuts, and fishes, while there are also industries of paper, sugar and mining.
There are several tourist spots, while the beaches are yet exploited. Kyaiktiyo Pagoda, better known as the Golden Rock, is one of the most attractions in the state, and the visitors will be soon able to use cable cars going up to the pagoda’s compound from the bottom of the Kyaiktiyo Mount. Another popular destination is the Win Sein Tawya, which has the world’s largest reclining Buddha.
Since Mon State lies on the coast of Andaman Sea, there are beaches – yet to be exploited. One of the “fresh beaches” in the state is Kabyar Wa Beach, and located in Ye Township, in the south.
After decades of isolation, Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, has now introduced significant political and economic reforms since the quasi-civilian government took the office in 2010.
Many foreign investments projects are flowing into my country, with over 50 million people and located in Southeast Asia, while construction can be seen at every corner in major cities, especially the country’s former capital Yangon, or Rangoon.
A while back, we published a series of cheat sheets for graphics on different social media sites. Because, frankly, I was tired of Googling it. But in the time warp of the internet, anything more than a few months old is inevitably outdated. Change marches on – and with it the formatting of our favorite platforms.
So here are the latest and greatest cheat sheets for social media graphic sizes, courtesy of Smirk New Media. Provided today: Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram. Coming soon: Pinterest and more.
“Mad Men” started its final lap last night. Seven more episodes of the best show on television, wrapping up Don Draper’s emotional stagger through the 1960s.
It’s a TV show that I hold dear and one which may have gotten this agency to where it sits just shy of five years since we launched.
Without “Mad Men,” there’s no Smirk New Media.
A couple of disclaimers: First, there shouldn’t be any influence of the show on how one lives their life. Don is a wreck more than a mensch – a cautionary tale of what happens when you bury truth under a pile of booze and women. Don is brilliant in his work – and its those moments which draw me in – but what could that work have been like without 10 a.m. sips of Canadian Club?
Second, “Mad Men” is not alone in how its ideas helped to water and fertilize the idea that blossomed into Smirk, but without it the whole construct falls down. But the same can be said for books (“Good to Great” by Jim Collins), events (the 140 Characters Conference), people (my wife, Mike Sherman, Giovanni Gallucci). It’s the butterfly effect and George Bailey all rolled into one.
But what is it about this one show? When it premiered in 2007, I didn’t pay too much attention. But eventually, I was swept up. Maybe it was because of the social media conversation about the show, the mid-modern aesthetic or the story lines which drew me in, but what made it stick was the business side. The scenes in the boardroom, when Draper is wooing a client or when Pete Campbell is connecting the dots between Sterling Cooper and a prospect. To me, that was the drama.
This grows out of my previous life as a journalist, where the world of business lived on the other side of a brick wall and was only spoken of in whispers. The hunter-gatherer aspects of discovering and landing costumers was a voodoo art to me. And now, in 2007, 2008 and 2009, when I was still in journalism, but dipping my toe into the icy waters of profit-and-loss statements, revenue projects and Collins’ Hedgehog Principle, “Mad Men” started to feed that fever.
When I eventually leaped off the old media cliff – first to an agency and then to start my own business – I did so at a time when Mad Men was reaching its peak. In the ensuing days, I’ve wrung out a ton of emotions and ridden the success-and-failure carousel. There have been days I’ve felt like Don after a home run pitch, but more than a few days I’ve felt like Pete … well … being Pete.
And since those first days, I’ve learned the lessons that, I think, the folks at Sterling Cooper Draper (McCann?) are now learning. That without the relationships you have in your life, you are rudderless; and without partners and co-workers you can trust and rely on, there are holes that money and success cannot fill. And, as fun as it is to make a pitch, growing a business that will leave a legacy is very important. Even to men like Roger Sterling. Even to guys like me.
You better make sure you are on Ello. And Kik. And Tinder. And Snapchat. No wait, make that Meerkat. Or probably Periscope. It’s a game-changer. They are all game-changers. AND YOU MUST BE ON THEM.
And don’t forget to make your website mobile-friendly. And optimize your spring holiday chatter. And make sure your dog is hashtagged.
If not, it’s digital marketing doomsday.
It’s been quite a few weeks in our world, not to mention a tumultuous start to 2015. Platform performance is shifting under our feet, as many of them continue to wrestle with how to meet the demands of revenue, while still innovating and, honestly, keeping shareholders and advertisers very happy. Plus, I think Mark Zuckerberg is planning to build a house on the moon, so those Facebook dollars need to keep flowing.
But it seems like the more we talk to customers as well as potential clients, things aren’t getting more complicated, they are getting more simple. There is something to be said for keeping up with the latest social media networks as well as understanding the best practices online. Digital marketing strategies are, after all, based in a world that is much more nimble and fast-paced than traditional media.
At its heart, the pulse of what we do remains the same.
I was putting together some slides last week for a presentation in Tulsa, Oklahoma and I think I finally created one that distills how we explain our process, our execution and our explanation of return on investment.
And it had nothing to do with hair-on-fire hysterics or an overwhelming amount of do-this-or-else finger-wagging. It has to do with making it easy for people to understand how social media works.
I don’t dismiss any of the ideas we’ve shared here before: That businesses benefit from teams like us to help them keep track of trends. Strategy is still at the center of everything we do and bad content is definitely bad content.
But if we treat each day like the walls are going to come down and don’t react to every tweak that happens and every feature that drops, we lose sight that we should be building content-and-customer relationships – not bunkers.
Mark Zuckerberg is many things, but he’s not a dummy. He’s also a multi-billionaire. He also holds (and pulls) the strings on a social media platform very important to us and our clients.
So it’s been no surprise as Facebook has become more focused on money. Since going public, Facebook is looking for a steady steam of revenue. And, frankly, for too long we’ve been able to leverage content on the site, especially promotional business content, to a captive audience without ever having to pay a penny to Facebook.
That all changed at the beginning of this year, when Facebook turned around the rules of what kind of reach sales-driving content got for free. The answer: Zero.
Boosting posts and buying ads in order to improve reach is now a must for all businesses. And for people sitting in our seats as strategists, so is the importance of understanding the nuances of just what they are getting for that money. This is not a matter of throwing tons of money at a platform and all your problems are solved. Like everything with social media, there are a lot more intricacies to that, especially if you are looking to reach very specific audiences with very specific messages.
This is where we can put into play what seems to me to be the Moneyball aspect of social media strategy work. For those of you nerds who haven’t been plugged into sports for the past decade, “Moneyball” is a best seller written by Michael Lewis, about how the Oakland A’s used data to make decisions about the players they would add to their team rather the gut instincts of their scouting department, because it allowed the A’s and their limited payroll to compete with teams like the Yankees who were able to stock up on talent with big-money contracts.
This Moneyball idea has since spread to many other sports teams and businesses, who are looking to analytics in order to draft the best players and make their personnel dollars stretch when it comes to competing with other, often larger and more revenue-rich, organizations.
As someone who works with small and medium sized business, and is part of one myself, this Moneyball philosophy has a lot of appeal. But I’ve also seen the idea of precise targeting of dollars in social media spending be trampled by a run-away elephant of brands who are throwing cash at agencies, who in turn throw it at the platforms with no real strategy in place. Aside from the strategy of SPEND!
This is the New York Yankees plan, and I guess works at times, but it becomes a battle only the most bloated powers can fight. A big enough company could, in theory, buy so many ads on so many platforms to make any targeting unnecessary. They want to reach everyone, and indeed they will reach everyone. But then does that reach turn into transactions, or by then are people so sick of the brand buying its way in front of their eyeballs that they want nothing to do with them?
And on the agency side, is there any effectiveness in taking loads of money to buy a wide reach when none of those customers are going to have any relationship with your brand. It’s like we say about follower and fan numbers – you can get a billion Chinese people to like your page if you pay enough money, but unless your small business in Edmond needs a billion Chinese customers it doesn’t do you any good. Anyone who has done and continues to do this sort of unfocused cash dump for clients is only interested in their piece of the cash dump.
Now let’s get back to Moneyball. What does that look like in the digital marketing space? It looks a lot like targeting to a very nitty-gritty audience in order to make $5 or $10 a day into a potent weapon, while at the same time using great content to continue to service the audience who are sticking with your brand every day on social media. Fortunately, the platforms continue to provide us in the social media strategy building world with metrics, statistics and data that shows results, often in real time, just as the originators of Moneyball had at their nerdy fingertips when they were determining the real value of players who got on base or were efficient with each at-bat.
In a world of online marketing, where every dollar counts, where every piece of content is a doorway between your brand and a potential sale, and where the rules can be changed from day-to-day on the whim of a young billionaire, it pays to be agile and able to make smart moves instead of big ones.
Smirk New Media strategist Allie Carrick brings back Smirkcast, our podcast breaking down the changes, strategies, campaigns and content winning in the world of social media. This week, Allie breaks down all the changes that have happened in social media since the start of 2015.