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Have we suddenly “over-storied” the social web?

First, there were Snapchat Stories. Those fun, whimsical little snapshots into our days broadcast for 24 hours on the (previously) hot social app.

Then, last August, Instagram introduced its own version of “Stories” to the world. And people flocked. According to Bloomberg, in the 25 weeks since launch, Instagram Stories has reached 150 million daily users. That’s the same number of users that Snapchat’s whole app reportedly hit around June 2016. Snapchat’s CEO recently said there’s been an average decline in Snapchat Stories views of 20 to 30 percent from August until mid-January. And anecdotally, I noticed a TON of my friends using Instagram Stories over the last few months.

Then, a couple weeks ago, Facebook introduced IT’S version of Stories. However, this version has been met with less than the expected enthusiasm from the Facebook brass. In fact, in case you haven’t noticed, Facebook is “ghosting” your friends to guilt them into using the new tool.

But, the bigger picture here is clear: “Stories” as a social device, is now everywhere.

And, while users have globbed onto the “Stories” feature in a big way–first on Snapchat, and now on Instagram–it appears we may be reaching a saturation point.

The initial Facebook results highlight just that. Very few people are using Stories on Facebook. And why would they? Most of the people who would actually use the “Stories” feature are already using it over on Snapchat and Instagram.

And that really shouldn’t be that surprising. Stories is a feature tailor-made to a younger audience. This is why it started on Snapchat. This is why it’s resonating on Instagram. Younger people are the ones who have time in their day and the propensity to capture all these “micro-moments” that make up their days.

The (trending) older crowd on Facebook has no such appetite. Those folks are lurkers. They’re information seekers. Not creators. Therefore, it’s really no surprise “Stories” isn’t taking off so far on Facebook. It’s the wrong place for the right tool.

What does all this mean for brands?

For most, I think the answer is pretty simple. If I were a social media manager, I’d be investing more time and money in Instagram Stories than anywhere else. It’s got a huge built-in audience. New ad products are most likely on the way. And, it continues to siphon users away from Snapchat, which had originally popularized the feature. I see a lot more opportunity with Instagram Stories.

But, we may be seeing a tipping point for Stories, overall. A few reasons why:

1–Market saturation. People can’t possibly create “Stories” on three different platforms. They’re going to have to pick one. And again, from where I sit, I think it’s going to be Instagram, for the reasons mentioned above.

2–Too narrow of a market. Again–who are the “Stories” power users? Young people. And, there are plenty of them. But, there’s also a big piece of the population that isn’t using “Stories” at all. As with much of social media right now, it’s all about targeting.

3–Social media overload. Anecdotally, I’ve heard from more than a few people lately that they’re on social media overload. They’ve had enough and they need a break. Some of that could be a product of the political environment. Some of that could be a product of the fact that we’re not 10+ years into this Facebook thing and people may just start to burn out. Time will tell, but I sense a little tipping point here, too.

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3 big (ongoing) issues the recent Cracker Barrel social media crisis highlights

In case you missed it, Cracker Barrel fell victim to the most recent “internet mob” last week and had its social media pages completely taken over by folks fighting for Annette Byrd (#BradsWife) to get her job back.

A little background: In Feb., Cracker Barrel fired Annette Byrd. On Feb. 27, Annette’s husband, Brad, started ranting about the firing on Facebook. On March 21, he posted a comment on Cracker Barrel’s Facebook page asking why his wife was fired. A couple days later, seemingly the entire internet was commenting on Cracker Barrel social media posts (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) about the incident, many using the hash tags #BradsWife and #JusticeForBradsWife. And man, some of the comments were damn funny.

But none of this was funny to the Cracker Barrel team. Unfortunately, they made one misstep after another–and that’s what led them to stories on People and the Washington Post. You see, these social media attacks tend to take on a life of their own–quickly. All it usually takes is one “influencer” to share or comment and BOOM–the internet is activated. Then, after 24-48 hours, the crisis becomes so large, the media start to pick up on it. Then, after those media stories run, the average, run-of-the-mill people start to notice. All that happened to Cracker Barrel last week in 48 hours.

It happens that fast, people.

I know a lot of you who read this blog know that. But, apparently there are many, many others out there who don’t. So, I feel it’s our responsibility to keep pushing these people who still don’t know how the internet works to do the right thing in these types of situations.

In this case, the Cracker Barrel case study highlighted three primary areas where I think many brands STILL need big-time help:

The ability to move fast between departments.

Now, I’m just speculating, but my guess is one of the reasons Cracker Barrel didn’t react more quickly via social was the disconnect between their social/marketing teams (who most likely manage the social pages) and HR. Because here’s the thing: HR’s typically not out there monitoring this stuff. And, the “master brand” folks aren’t necessarily looking for HR issues like someone getting fired on his husband’s birthday and giving no reason as to why. In this case, my guess is the social folks saw this coming, maybe they even alerted the HR team. But maybe the HR team didn’t react. Maybe they said “we can’t respond, so just leave it alone.” Maybe they said “don’t worry about that. It’ll go away in a day or so.” Or, maybe they didn’t. Point is, HR and marketing are often very disconnected departments within an org–especially when it comes to the speed of social media. At a bare minimum, you could make a start here by developing or nurturing stronger relationships with your HR colleagues (and educating then on the pitfalls and risks of social media). At a more advanced level, think about scenario planning for cases like these, and who should be in the room when you need to make a quick decision.

The ability to respond–even when you think you can’t

I’m actually flabbergasted Cracker Barrel hasn’t responded AT ALL to any of the #BradsWife comments on any of its social media pages. Yeah, I know they can’t address the elephant in the room (why #BradsWife was fired) specifically. But, that leaves A LOT of room for other things they could say (with legal approval, of course). Why not develop some high level messaging to address the issue from a top level? Even something as simple as this would have probably worked: “Thanks for your comment. We cannot discuss personnel issues publicly, as I’m sure many of you can understand.”

Ability to show patience–and ride it out

The response from the beginning from Cracker Barrel should have been to develop simple language to respond to some comments–and then, shut off all posts and advertising and ride this thing out for a few days. That’s a tough thing to sell up the chain of command, but it’s worth managing those expectations NOW, so when this does happen to your brand,  you’re ready. Because, let’s face it, these types of attacks only last a few days. The internet can attack FAST–but it can also recede just as quickly.

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4 reasons your brand’s YouTube videos continue to fall flat

You know what’s really interesting to me about YouTube? There are seemingly two worlds:

  • The world of influencers and “user”-generated content
  • The world of brand-generated content

The former is engaging, interesting, educational and LOL-worthy.

The latter is typically stiff, over-produced and typically includes countless marketing claims.

The former is content that people actually SUBSCRIBE to on YouTube. It’s the new “appointment television” for many millennials, Gen Z’ers and whatever we’re calling the 10-16 year-olds.

The latter is content that’s forced down people’s throats with paid amplification through pre-roll and advertisements. You know, the ones we all increasingly tune out when we’re on YouTube seeking information or entertainment.

So again–two worlds. Miles apart.

And it’s time the latter took note of the former and learned a thing or two. Because, I think it’s possible. I think brands could employ some of the attitudes, disciplines and approaches these influencers use to create content. I’d like to discuss four below–using quotes directly from the all-time YouTube himself, Casey Niestat in his most recent Samsung ads/videos:

Quote: “We don’t have big award shows or fancy budgets or fancy cameras. But what we do have is our phones.” and “We know it’s not the size of the production that matters, it’s what you make.”

Lesson brands can learn: You know what these two quotes says to me? Scrappiness. And I think it’s that attitude brands could embrace a bit more when it comes to videos on YouTube. It’s really not as much about the production value (although, yes, that is important to a degree), as it is the IDEA. This is where influencers thrive, and brands struggle. Start with the idea. Don’t throw up roadblocks on why you can’t do it. And shoot BIG! I mean, how quickly do you think Niestat’s idea to create a mega-drone to pull him around on a snowboard would be shot down by most companies? Instead, Samsung said hell yes, and created this:

Quote: “We don’t create because we have to–we create because we love to.”

Lesson brands can learn: Maybe a standard question we should all ask ourselves and our teams in meetings as we brainstorm ideas for new content is this: Are we producing this because we have to, or are we producing it because it’s a GREAT FREAKING IDEA?!?!?! I feel like that would be a pretty good filter. After all, we don’t HAVE to produce an ongoing glut of content these days (if you saw my recent prezo at Social Media Breakfast,  you’ll know why!). So, if it’s not a fantastic idea, maybe the answer is you don’t produce it.

Quote: “When we’re told we can’t, we all have the same answer: Watch me.”

Lesson brands can learn: To me, this quote seems similar to the reactions and feedback most of us have received in meetings over the last 5-7 years as we’ve pitched ideas to our managers, bosses and VPs around content that will work on the internet. Because, let’s be honest, there’s still a whole lot of people out there that still don’t understand how the internet works (believe it or not). So, when those people challenge you in that next meeting, don’t take it lying down. Challenge back! Stand up for your idea–because, most likely, it’s NOT crazy. In fact, I would venture to guess it’s probably miles better than anything anyone else has suggested in the last 5 years. Watch me.

Quote: “We’ve capture billions of moments from different angles for different reasons for billions of viewers.”

Lesson brands can learn: I’ve said this for years; it’s not about capturing the “perfect” moment. It’s about capturing lots of moments. That’s party of what makes this generation of YouTubers so unique (and to some, obnoxious) They’re not trying to capture one moment–they’re obsessed with capturing thousands of moments. Sometimes that 14th moment is the one that sparks something big. The other thing about this quote that intrigues me is the “different angles” comment. Niestat is clearly referring to the fact that YouTubers like him now capture millions of minutes of video footage via GoPros or phones duck-taped to their heads. Point is: It’s all about a unique perspective. That’s a good thing for brands to think about when producing video for YouTube–what’s YOUR unique perspective. How could you capture it? Just because you’re a brand, doesn’t mean you can’t use the MacGyver-like skills this YouTubers are using.

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Why is good social media training so hard to find?

Go ahead. Google the phrase “Social media training Minneapolis.”

What comes up?

A couple academic institutions attempting to pull it off.

A handful of agencies.

And an Eventbrite list.

In a nutshell, that describes my experience with social media training programs (or a lack thereof) in the Twin Cities.

Where are they? Why isn’t anyone doing this? Especially when there is a clear gap in the market?

Because, let’s be honest, there is a gap. When it comes to social media education, I see a clear gap in the following areas:

  • Strategy–despite the fact that almost everyone that works in the social media realm lists this competency on their resume.
  • Content development–see above.
  • Social media advertising–potentially the biggest need of them all right now. A fairly complicated process and set of tools with little to no support (outside of the platforms themselves).
  • Social analytics–another huge hole, especially when you have PR people filling it who, to a large extent, have been trained more to use the other side of their brain.
  • Social video–in other words, how to I plan, capture and edit video on and from my phone. Would probably include training on some kind of video editing program as well (i.e. GarageBand).
  • Podcasting–growing need here. Again, seems like an area and skill that VERY few people have, but I would think many would be interested in acquiring.

I know the professional organizations touch on these topics with their programming from time to time, and I think that’s great (in fact, there’s a couple really great ones coming up this summer/fall–just can’t talk about them yet!). But, I’m talking and thinking about something much deeper than a one-time event. I’m talking about real training programs designed to get very much in the weeds on the topics above. You can’t do that in an hour-long session, folks.

I’m thinking about something like Brainco. You’ve heard of Brainco, right? It’s a shorter, more condensed training program for creatives. It includes classes on copywriting, computer graphics and WordPress development. The idea seems to be to give students a well-rounded education in the creative field and prepare you for a job in advertising, design or brand work.

Exactly what we need for social media and/or digital.

So, maybe we should do it. Maybe we could do this together. Maybe I’m talking myself into this right now!

What would we need? In order:

  • A venue. Ideally somewhere downtown, in North Loop or South Minneapolis. Somewhere with small classrooms, but also a couple larger rooms or auditoriums to hold larger sessions/presentations.
  • Professors. Might be tougher than you think. For example, social advertising. I’m not sure I know a ton of people with deep experience in this area. But, collectively, we could identify the right people. We have such a vibrant digital community here in Minneapolis–I know those professors are out there somewhere!
  • Curriculum. Someone, or a team of someone’s, would need to drive our topics and subject matter. I think we could benefit by getting input from key digital leaders across our community. I think we could benefit by chatting with real professors at universities around town who are touching on this kind of stuff in the classroom (I’m looking at you, Betsy Andersen).
  • Money. We’d need funding to get it up and running. Maybe we employ a BrandLab model, which seems to be based on a combo-platter of corporate and individual donors. I mean, developing social/digital talent would definitely benefit corporations and agencies around town–why wouldn’t they support something like this?

I don’t know–what do you think? Could we do this? I’m thinking it might be worth a shot. The need is clearly there. The work would benefit us all.

I like where this could be going. Who’s with me? If you’re serious, send me a note at arik@arikhanson.com. I’m interested in exploring options.

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The biggest challenges facing today’s social media job seeker

I’m not a recruiter. I’m not a hiring manager. And, I’m not looking to hire anyone at ACH Communications (I have all the help I need at the moment!).

So, I want to start this post by making it clear that I’m not a recruiting specialist, nor do I hire people on a routine basis.

But, I do talk to a lot of people. And, I talk to a lot of people about the job market. So, I do have a somewhat informed opinion on the topic of recruiting–especially in the PR and social world.

And, from what I can tell, there are a number of clear challenges facing today’s hiring manager–and today’s social media candidates.

On the hiring manager side, the complaint I hear the most from friends and colleagues is a lack of clarity or depth in the resume or interview. For example, a candidate may say they have “strong experience with social media advertising tools”–but the hiring manager comes to find out the candidate has never used Power Editor.

Another example: The candidate might say “I helped drive and implement an integrated social media strategy for the company”–but the hiring manager comes to learn the candidate played just a very small role in that strategy development and that most of it was done by his manager.

From a hiring perspective, social positions are tough because sometimes the hiring manager isn’t the most fluent in social–therefore, they don’t know what they don’t know. Hiring managers may hire a candidate expecting they have a certain skill set they promised in the interview, only to find out the depth of that skill is surface deep at best.

On the candidate side, what I see most often when reviewing LinkedIn profiles is that junior to mid-level candidates don’t fully understand how to best position themselves to employers. They use generalities in their descriptions and stay pretty fluffy when talking about their work.

And, I think some folks tend to over-represent their work and skills. I see lots of “social media strategy development” in junior-level profiles. And while that might be true to an extent, I think it’s dangerous to label yourself as a strategy lead when you’re 25 years old (even if you did actually work on the strategy for your last company/client).

Finally, I don’t see a lot of results and numbers as I sift through LinkedIn profiles–which is absolutely BAFFLING to me since social is littered with opportunities to insert results and data. I mean, I wish I would have had the data I have now when I was building my resume 15-20 years ago. Yet, if you look through most LinkedIn social resumes, you won’t see a lot in terms of results or numbers. Strange.

So, what would I suggest? I thought you’d never ask:

For hiring managers:

  • If you’re not fluent in social, but you’re tasked with hiring social talent, ask someone else within the organization to review resumes and participate in the interviews with you. They should be able to spot the warning flags you might otherwise miss–and they’ll give you a fresh perspective as well (and if you don’t have someone–call me! I’d love to help!).
  • Ask for all the details. In interview situations, make sure you ask for specific details when discussing the candidate’s experience with content management systems, social advertising and community management. Get those details out now while you can–once they’ve started, it’s far too late.

For candidates:

  • Showcase your social results–not actions. I see far too many lists of actions when I look at social media resumes, and not nearly enough results. How did the program you helped lead drive awareness or engagements for the org? How much traffic did you drive to your site? I mean, you should have a ton of stats and data you can plug into your resume.
  • Resist the urge to over-promise. I know the whole “fake it til you make it” is a big thing. But, when it comes to interviews for social positions, I’d probably suggest avoiding that tactic. Here’s why: You say you can do something in the interview, you better damn well deliver on it once you’ve started. In fact, I believe in the opposite adage: Under-promise–over-deliver.
  • Don’t worry about the title game. Yes, titles are important in that they can lead to more money over the course of your career. I’m not necessarily going to argue that point. But, chasing titles can be exhausting–and problematic for your career growth. For example, a friend of a friend became a “Vice President” at a very early age–then was laid off. That friend was jobless for a very long time, and I have a feeling it was because he/she was looking for jobs at a similar level, even though the similar level he/she should have been looking for was account supervisor–not VP. He/she priced himself/herself right out of the market, all because he/she had a big job title at an early age.


photo credit: flazingo_photos Scrabble – Resume via photopin (license)

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