Most shared Sites on Social Media: Elements of Success

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Which Broadway musical best describes my life? Into the Woods, according to this quiz from PlayBuzz, which also includes the fact that I have a truly magical mind! How comforting for my ego! My life is a fairy tale!

PlayBuzz is at the top of the list on NewsWhip’s Facebook data from January 2015, regarding the most shared sites on that network and Twitter. Taking a look at these results, I was able to identify some key elements of success of these sites, how they are similar in some ways and different in other aspects. Finally, what I have learned from them that we can put into practice; key takeaways that will help us all moving forward. Let’s start by taking a look at Facebook:

Most Shared Sites Facebook

PlayBuzz:

It was no surprise to see PlayBuzz at the top of the list .Why? Because people like to play; people like fun and games. Also, according to Why Content Goes Viral: What Analyzing 10 Million Articles Taught Us, 8 of the top 10 shared articles in an 8-month period on 2014 were quizzes. In addition to the fun element, there is a narcissistic element, according to the article. “Why quizzes? Because when we share our quiz results, it fuels our identity and ego. Others will learn more about who we are, what we value, and our tastes.”

I have to admit it, I’m part of the audience that completes and shares quizzes. The fun part is to complete the quiz and share results, but I’m aware people probably don’t care about these results. However, sharing this encourages them to play, resulting in more shares and engagement with this type of content. Screen Shot 2015-05-15 at 12.38.07 PM

Bottomline: Content that engages people because it invites them to have fun works well on Facebook. Also, this content means little if you don’t use the correct text and images to deliver the message to the audience. As a matter of fact, there is an image on each post. PlayBuzz did a fantastic job using a quote from Heinrich Heine on the text of the post, plus a captivating image with three photos of famous Broadway musicals that the typical Facebook audience can identify. Finally, I must add that this type of content is great to distract people from hard news and other type of content, which is different and entertaining. This is the case of the next two on the list: The Huffington Post and BuzzFeed.

BuzzFeed

Buzzfeed also focuses on some entertaining content and finding other angles to stories so that people engage easily. They also have the famous BuzzFeed quizzes (now on a separate Facebook page), meaning this is what they have similar to PlayBuzz. Where they are different is in the fact that BuzzFeed has other types of additional content. I like what they use because it’s everyday, normal stuff that happens to normal people, like you and me. Some content will make you laugh, other may make you cry, both appealing to your emotional side and your sense of humor. If not, it will entertain you, that’s for sure. All content has a visual element on each post. Just yesterday, they posted a very emotional video about an engaged couple exploring how they will look like as they get old. Will you still love me or not?

Just like PlayBuzz, the text on the posts are very clever and invite people to want to find out more. Also, very useful, they feature lists, which we know engage people, like for example, 13 Steps to Instantly Improve your Day and 11 Reasons to Shave your Hoo-Ha. The 13 Steps post featured this headline: “Having a rough day? Follow these directions to take you from the harsh drudgery of daily existence all the way into sanity and peace of mind.” Philosophical, yet motivational and real, isn’t it? It made me open the link!

Take a look at this post. I’m sure you’ll find that fun and entertaining element right away. Social media is not only about choosing the right content, but in terms of stories, how you tell them, particularly on the text of the post.

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The Huffington Post

The Huffington Post brings to the table even a mixed-themed type of content. You can visit their Facebook page and will find anything from today’s news, politics, and business to recipes, travel information, articles about American trying bizarre Russian food (brought from Buzzfeed) to Sex Toys that Will Make your Orgasm Better, with the text post: Magical Toys. Screen Shot 2015-05-15 at 1.29.35 PMSounds like everyday stuff that even touch on some topics people don’t normally talk about? What these 3 sides intent to accomplish is to make a general audience want to stop for a second the socializing with friends on Facebook part, to learn about other stuff (most useful), while they’re entertained, which is the whole purpose of Facebook. Sounds like everyday stuff that even touch on some topics people don’t normally talk about?

What these 3 sites intent to accomplish is to make a general audience want to stop for a second the socializing with friends on Facebook part, to learn about other stuff (most useful), while they’re entertained, which is the whole purpose of Facebook.

I would say Huffington Post is the most complete in terms of themes appealing to a mixed crowd, while BuzzFeed looks for other angles and touches more on common, normal people situations. PlayBuzz, the most shared site, just features playtime content. It’s also the one with the simpler strategy: focusing on quizzes and making people want to play.

When we take a look at the results for the most shared sites on Twitter, we don’t see BuzzFeed or PlayBuzz. Yet, we see The Huffington Post, but not at the top of the list. Almost, if not all, of the top 10 sites are related to news, so maybe people are inclined to share more news on Twitter? Here is the data for Twitter:

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I took a look at two of them, The New York Times and Mashable. The success of both lies in the fact that in creating their posts, they strive to give people mixed content, in the most easy to digest and straight to the point way.

The New York Times

While The New York Times uses a more serious voice and features more hard news, it still provides some entertaining content, thus meeting people’s expectations of finding everything under one roof. I like the way they avoid using too many images, while maintaining a better mix of text posts with links. According to What Type of Content Gets Shared More on Twitter, text performs better than images. “What was even more interesting is that 65% of those text-based tweets contained a link. The link part is important because not only does that mean you can drive traffic back to your site, but it also means that tweets with links get retweeted 86% more often.”

Also, they make use of lists, like for example, 14 Summer recipes, thus capitalizing on the fact that audiences love lists and share them. In A Scientific Guide to Writing Great Tweets: How to Get More Clicks, Retweets, and Reach, Courtney Seiter mentions the most popular phrases, which include “the best,” as in this post:

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I really like the fact that this preview on the feed doesn’t need an image. As soon as you click on the post you see a small one, but the wording is perfect and made me curious enough to want to click on that link. Finally, during breaking news, like the sentence of the Boston Bomber, they start tweeting and retweeting about the verdict process, giving us more background. That’s what The New York Times does best, which is using the best judgement to deliver a well-balanced amount of content on Twitter, by using the most appropriate choice of words, consistent with its brand voice, yet captivating enough to drive engagement.

Mashable

Mashable is more casual, more entertaining and tweets more often than The New York Times. The nature of its content is more varied and tends to fall more on the entertaining side. However, on Twitter, they do post breaking news (like right now when they posted that the Boston bomber was sentenced to death).

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The post before that one is about a woman who picked the worst shoes for her graduation and fell for 15 seconds. I like the fact that this post is in the form of text with a link to the video. Yet, the headline is compelling enough to make me want to click on that. It’s more of what I mentioned earlier about The New York Times.

Mashable makes more use of image and videos on the feed than The New York Times. I keep on wondering why they just posted that tweet about Boston Bomber’s sentence with an photo of him, when I think by this time we know who he is. The text is simple: “Dzhokhar Tsarnaev sentenced to death for bombing the Boston Marathon.” Straight to the point. On a final note, Mashable posts more frequently per hour than The New York Times (11-13 per hour). Content is for a more curious audience and at this moment they’re using Periscope quite a lot to live stream interviews with people on startups and technology.

Bottomline: Be fun, use images appropriately, spend some time writing a compelling post text (sometimes simple is better), use text post with links on Twitter and find out what makes a better balance between using images or plain text. Give people valuable content they can relate to, how to guides and list format posts and the result will most probably be more engagement.

News stories on social media: How the way they’re told may engage us

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Several news outlets and aggregator sites published a story yesterday about a young woman who posted a selfie showing skin cancer treatment. She wanted to raise awareness about the danger of excessive use of tanning beds. I found out about the story on Twitter.  I must confess that I saw different tweets and Facebook posts about it before I actually read the story. If I recall correctly, most (if not all of them) used the same image, but it was this tweet from ABC News (@ABC) that moved me to open the link:

Woman's Skin Cancer Selfie Goes Viral

Before discussing the actual story on the link, let’s take a look at the text on the tweet. We all know how challenging it is to say something in 140 characters compelling enough to move people to take action, in this case, to open the link. The text of the tweet is the condensed form of the story on the news website. It touches on some key points and terms, which I will discuss below and explain what they meant to me as important elements:

  • 27-year old woman– means the story is about a young person. Putting that first on the post automatically grabbed my attention. When you connect this fact to the image, you react with sadness.
  • Skin cancer- we all know how serious cancer is. It’s something that I have experienced myself, after my father died from lung cancer, but skin cancer also hits a spot. Last year a biopsy confirmed basal cell carcinoma on a scar the doctor removed from my neck. Thankfully, it’s very common and treatable, so there is no big threat there. So lets say I can identify with this, thus including it on the tweet was smart.
  • Selfie- A very popular term these days we can all relate to. This term also helps the article appeal to a younger audience.
  • Send message- We see the image and the text and then we learn somebody has something important to tell us; send a message means somebody wants to protect us from the dangers of using tanning beds.

In my opinion, the post itself tells a story of a young woman who has skin cancer and wants to raise awareness about it using a very compelling photo of herself going through treatment so that people understand the consequences. It’s a form of micro narrative, in which there is a main character, a conflict and a resolution/conclusion.

The link takes the reader to the detailed version of the story. However, as you can see, the headline of the story has a complete different meaning than the text of the tweet. The selfie went viral, that’s the story.

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As you read the story, there is no additional information to support the main idea of the headline. It doesn’t give information about the viral aspect of the photo. The article focuses more on information obtained from a dermatologist regarding a specific treatment for this type of cancer. One of the basic aspects of journalism is to get comments from experts, so I firmly believe this was a good idea. Because the young woman, Tawny, wanted to raise awareness about the effects of tanning beds and skin cancer, it was necessary to get expert advice. There were two experts interviewed, two dermatologists. One of them agreed with the fact that the photo was a good way to raise awareness. The other one said that he was afraid people would be scared with the photo and may consider avoiding that treatment. I think it was clever to present both sides in the construction of this story and offer different opinions.

In general terms, the structure of the story is not organized and some information is missing, meaning the way they constructed the story doesn’t make sense to me. In addition to what I mentioned about offering more in depth information about the main idea on the headline, I think it missed asking dermatologists specific questions about which aspect of the tanning beds may potentially cause skin cancer. It talks about the treatment, but not about specific tanning bed components that may result in a similar situation.

When I read the tweet post, I expected the link to the story to have more information, maybe a video or first tell Tawny’s story, how it went viral and then move to asking the experts. In conclusion, I would have used a different sequence to tell the story. Still, the truth I take from this is what Tawny intended: tanning beds may cause skin cancer. In terms of how the story is told, I would say that technique is the inverted pyramid, where the newsworthy information is at the top, followed by other details and background information about Tawny’s post at the end.

Point of Purchase (POP) Materials: Part 2

ceiling dangler

In this second part of a series of posts about the different types of point of purchase materials, I will talk about stoppers and ceiling danglers. These are additional ways in which you can improve your brand’s visibility at the point of purchase. Remember you want to influence buyers right at the place in which they make the purchasing decision. This is why, if we have resources allocated for in-store signage, I advice you to use these materials so that you stand out from your competition.

  • Stoppers: One of the most popular point of purchase materials. These are the ones you can see as you walk from any direction in the aisle, meaning you don’t have to stand in front of the shelf to be able to see it. No matter which side of the aisle you are coming from, your customers will see the sign.  Standard size: 9″ x 13″ (printing area: 5″ x 13″). Material: Cover cal .28pt. Options: die cut, 4-color process, total UV, matte lamination, UV lamination, holographic effect, rotating pieces. Fixture: plastic clip.pop material, stopper
  • Ceiling danglers: These are bigger pieces that hang from the ceiling, thus creating great visual impact. They offer the possibility to put your message outside the shelf, where there is less clutter. They are optimal for supermarkets and drug stores. What I like about these danglers is that the options are many, especially in terms of how many sides they can have, thus maximizing opportunities to include more than one image and message. Sides: 2, 3, 4, or custom. For example, you can do a 2-sided display with one more piece hanging below. Options: die-cut (different shapes) and 4-color process, UV lamination. Fixture: universal mobile kit, which includes a white cord, formers, and panel edge clips.mobile danglers, ceiling dangler

It’s important to mention that the idea behind POP materials is not only to have presence, but that these items support your overall brand goals, objectives, and strategy. We strongly recommend that these materials are consistent in terms of communication and design with your brand’s strategy, including the main message, brand voice, and design elements like colors, logo, and images. You don’t want to confuse your customers by sending them messages that are not consistent with your brand’s image. We’ll discuss this in future series of posts. Has your brand used stoppers and mobile displays?

Point of Purchase Materials: Part 1

We have already determined that we want to get people’s attention as they walk around the aisles of the stores. We want to send them a signal that says, “we’re here, take me home.” After all, point of purchase materials are used to influence a person’s decision right at the place and moment they have to select which product to take home. In order to do that, and considering the huge amount of products at supermarkets and discount stores, we need to establish unique ways in which we can talk to customers. How can we cut through the clutter and make a difference?

The first thing that comes though my mind is by selecting the right point of purchase materials, according to your budget, strategy and communications objective. Remember these pieces are great for generating brand awareness. There are many types of materials that can be used at the shelf area, including the following:

  • Wobblers: These are the pieces that hang from the shelf, facing front, thus creating a sensation of motion. They can be made any size, with die-cut, and printed four color process. They are usually made in card stock material. The holding piece I recommend is the one made of PVC clear, 10 mil. Option #1: Consider also using leaving a blank space to put the price of the product if it’s on special. Option #2: Use UV coating to enhance the piece and make the colors stand out. UV coating also protects these materials.

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    Wobblers are ideal if the visual part is important, meaning there is a small amount of text because they are usually small (5″ x 5″). Remember we want our customers (or prospective customers) to read our message, not run away because it’s too long!

  • Shelf-Talkers: This type of promotional material is usually attached to the shelf with double sided tape. The tape acts as additional support because the products on the shelf also hold the upper flap of the piece, which is not printed. It’s normally in the shape of a rectangle and can also be printed four-color process. The additional options include die-cut and UV coating, but keep in mind that quantity and budget are important when considering if you want to add these features. Option 3: These pieces are usually also printed on cardboard stock. There is also the option to print on metallized paper, any color.

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    One other cost associated with POP materials is the graphic design. We offer that service at no cost, as long as we print the materials. We are also introducing H-UV printing, which makes it possible for us to print on synthetic materials, such as PVC and Yupo. There are many other materials that your brand can use, which we will discuss in the next posts. Have you used wobblers and shelf talkers before?

    Many people ask me how long do these materials last. I wouldn’t say there is an exact number of days of months because it all depends on the negotiation with the retail chain, the place where the materials are placed, and how people handle the materials. The important thing is to print them in a material that’s not too thin, like cardboard .14 and to give enough materials to merchandisers to change, if necessary.

How to Stand Out from the Crowd with POP Marketing

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ArtMovilesPat

A lot of people ask me what is exactly point of purchase marketing. Chron defines it as follows: “Point-of-purchase marketing, also known as POP marketing or marketing at retail, uses in-store displays and other last minute marketing ploys to influence the customer to choose a specific brand or to make an impulse buy.” I compare it to search engine optimization (SEO), where it’s important for companies, products, and services to use the right keywords in order to be found among a sea of options.

People visit a search engine site to look for something. Most of the time they know what they are looking for. Even though they might not be ready to purchase, any effort from a particular brand will help put that product in front of the consumer. This is why using the right keywords will get companies closer to their actual and prospective clients. Having a website optimized effectively is the difference between appearing on the first page or fourth page of search results.

POP marketing works in a similar way. People visit a store to purchase a product and they are exposed to many choices, just like when they search on the Internet. Brands should put some effort to draw attention, so that when people face so many choices, the process it’s easier and the end result is a win-win situation. For example, a customer goes to the baby products section at the supermarket. Here is what they see:

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There’s baby powder, baby lotion, baby oil, cologne, and baby shampoo. In the photo above, there are products from at least 4 different companies. It’s obvious that there is a category leader, but still the consumer has many choices to consider during the purchasing process. POP marketing comes into play here because these companies have the option to communicate product benefits using different cost effective materials, like wobblers, shelftalkers, and stoppers. They may use POP materials to create product awareness or as part of a product promotion. In this example, Johnson’s used stoppers, which can be seen from both sides when people walk through the aisle, with call-to-action messages regarding different product uses. They used 3 different messages:

  • Change diapers using Desitin
  • Bathe with Johnson’s Baby
  • Moisturize with Johnson’s Baby

Because they are category leaders, the sign above, called a header says “Everything Essential to your Baby,” which includes product logos. This piece is mounted in a fixture that makes it possible to attach it to the main display. In addition to the fact that they are leaders, they reinforce the message at the point of purchase to draw even more attention. This is the way to stand out from the rest. In the next posts, I will further explain the types and uses of POP materials, which also include product displays and location-based marketing.

Do Social Media Erase Memories?

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If there is something very evident regarding social media is how much power they have given people to spread messages, which may end up having both positive and negative consequences. We are no longer passive members of an audience receiving and processing information. We have the power to create, distribute, and control messages; we have the ability to make our voice so strong that in a matter of hours, on one side we have one business forced to close and on the other we have a funding campaign to make up for the financial loss, as a result of closing the business. This is the case of Memories Pizza, an Indiana- based restaurant who reportedly was the first to say it would refuse to cater a gay wedding, protected by Indiana’s controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). I live in Puerto Rico and if it weren’t for social media, I would have never learn about the existence of Memories Pizza.

In a matter of minutes, people headed to review websites like Yelp! and social networks like Twitter to express their opinion for and against the restaurant’s position. There are 194 reviews on Yelp! written in two days; there are 1,046 reviews on the “not recommended” section of Yelp!, meaning these ratings were not factored in the overall star rating, based on reliability and quality, among other factors. The content of these comments ranges from supportive messages like “I support Memories Pizza” to others questioning their position and talking about how horrible its pizza is in a effort to undermine its reputation. The results of these comments, and many others on social networks like Twitter, combined with offline threats, forced the owners to close the restaurant. This is how its Yelp! page looks today:

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On Twitter,#MemoriesPizza appeared in Twitter’s top ten most popular terms, with tweets both supporting and condemning the business for their public stance.
This is one of the tweets from an assistant softball coach, who was later suspended from her position:

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The message constitutes a threat, meaning that there were repercussions and local authorities are investigating this matter. This is another example of how people have a voice on social media, as a result of the limitless space there is and the absence of editing. Each person is on his or her own and may choose to post the content they deem appropriate.

The restaurant’s website was also hacked and someone changed the background of the homepage to rainbow-colored and the message, “call us to cater your gay wedding!” This is more support to the idea of how much control people have on the Internet. This means both control to hack into these websites, as well as control of the message itself.

Yet, not everything is negative for Memories Pizza. On the other side, there’s an army of people who are concerned about the economic implications of having to close the business and are encouraging others to donate money through a crowdfunding platform, GoFundMe. This platform allows people to raise money for events and other causes. As of right now, in just two days, the Support Memories Pizza account has raised $538.599. This is an example of how to use social media to put your cause in front of an audience, expecting people will be moved to take action. Social media have the power to move a lot of people in record time, in this case, 18,333 in two days. While the increasing amount of threats to this family moved them to close the business, this side of of social media must not be forgotten: huge masses of people join together to show support, it doesn’t matter which side you’re in.

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While the future of Memories Pizza is uncertain, we must take a look at these reactions as a way to show, not only how fast people can react and create movements on social media, but also how they have brought forward the potential to make a difference. For good or for bad, it seems like these memories created by the thousands of people who had something to say about Memories Pizza, will not be erased. Something happens=people react and, with social media, it’s permanent.

Ethical Implications of Disaster Porn

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“I never look at it. I can’t. I Googled myself once, and I looked at it and I was like, I can’t look at that. That just brings me right back to me laying on the ground.”

These are the expressions of Jeff Bauman, a Boston Bombings survivor who we remember from this graphic photo of him published on social media right after the catastrophic event. He is also referenced to as a hero, since he helped the FBI identify Tamerlan Tsarnaev. The picture is graphic in many ways, particularly as it shows he lost both limbs. There are many ethical implications and issues that can be explored regarding publishing this photo. Journalists, photojournalists, and others working on news organizations have the responsibility to confront us with the truth, not hide it from us. They do so by narrating stories. These stories help readers understand reality. Even though publishing these photos is disturbing, journalists may feel they need to show the different sides of the story and different perspectives, so that readers get an easier understanding of the big picture. However, there are many ethical considerations regarding whether or not to publish these types of images. I will address some of the most important ones to conclude that there was no reason to publish this photo.

One of the ethical implications is the debate between privacy and public interest. While a man is struggling with shock and pain, why is it necessary to spread such an image as he deals with this devastating situation, in which he probably was not even reasoning what was happening? Is this the only way of telling people the story about the Boston Marathon Bombings? Maybe they could have used his photo without showing the limbs and put something on the text to describe what happened to him. Isn’t the image too graphic or it’s essential to tell this story? According to Bloodshed in the news – dealing with graphic images, “Harrowing photographs do not inevitably lose their power to shock. But they are not much help if the task is to understand. Narratives can make us understand. Photographs do something else: they haunt us.” Another question is, do they need to exploit a tragic event to inform the public? Is a man’s right to privacy lost because the incident happened in a public place? How ethical is it to publish this image without his consent? I don’t think so and one reason is that it may be distressing to his family, particularly when they learned about what happened to him through social media.

According to Family Of Jeff Bauman, Double Amputee In Viral Photo, Learned Of Injuries On Facebook, Jeff’s father got a call from his stepdaughter asking him, “if he had seen the picture.” It was at that moment when he turned to Facebook and saw the viral photo. This means the publishing of the photo left no time for the family to be contacted by the authorities. Because of speed and immediacy on social media, they learned about this. Journalists know this about social media. They know news travel faster than with traditional media. However, because they are in a rush to publish the best content, they do not stop for a second to analyze how this can impact a victim’s family. Another thing they don’t analyze is how can the photo impact the victim, considering emotional effects and dignity. I started this post with a quote from the injured person, which clearly portrays how disturbing and traumatic the photo still is and how he can’t even look at it. Photos published on social media are also permanent and victims struggle with post-traumatic stress. Doesn’t anyone stop to think about this for one second? The other distressing part for both the family and the victim is the fact that the photo is way too graphic, explicit, and gruesome. The mental well-being of both should be taken into consideration, as well as the fact that they needed to grieve and let it sink in.

I have a question for journalists and for all of us. Does social media make us more hungry for this type of content? Do these images make us and the victims more or less human? Are we more curious because we have access to more information, which we can access faster? I think these circumstances should be approached with more sensitivity. I think such images are not essential to tell a story, as they are not the only option to use in the narrative. German journalist Simon P. Balzert composed a code of ethics for the use of graphic images. Some of the guidelines include publishing more emotionally appealing and least shocking images and not publishing solely for its shock or entertainment value. On the contrary, it should be published because it’s newsworthy and pertinent.