It is just so easy to like it… My Facebook experiment

We all know how it is…that little “Like” button is right there…just waiting to be clicked.  Easily allowing us to send an acknowledgement to the poster that we saw their post – whether we agreed with it or not, whether we actually read it or not, whether we are saddened or overjoyed by the news, the photo, the link… it is just right there, so easy to click on that little “Like” then move on to the next thing.



But have we really given much thought to what that like means?  Or what it does to what the Facebook algorithm allows us to see.

On September 1st, I started an unscientific Facebook experiment.  I am both pleased and a bit surprised to say that in 7 short days, I have seen dramatic results.  There are some really smart people who have written about the technical aspects of the Facebook algorithm and how it works.  For now, I will leave those details to them.  This was simply my own personal experiment to see if a change in my behavior could change what appeared in my timeline.

 I stopped “liking” things.  I made a decision to share only those things I was really moved by.  I even kept my comments to a minimum.  I went through the full list of pages I had “liked”.  It shocked me to learn that there were 737 of them!  (Have you looked at yours lately?)  I took a hard look at each of those likes and unliked 537 of them.  I now have that list down to 200 people/places/things/businesses that I actually LIKE.  I kept the ones that are meaningful to me.   I did the same with my Friends list.  Because I have always been cautious about who I connect with, there were only a few that got the unfriend button.

 My Facebook account is now composed solely of the people/place/things/businesses that I really care about and want to communicate with.   All of the random likes because someone had asked me to, the likes to enter a contest, the likes because something random came across my timeline and it momentarily amused me, they were gone.  Now my likes and friends were really Likes and Friends.

 So what changed?  I actually Like (yeah, I know you see what I did there…) my timeline again.  I am seeing posts from friends I have not heard from in ages.  There are very few ads or “buy my stuff” type posts in my timeline.  The news and ads that are turning up in the right sidebar are actually things I might be interested in.  The Suggested Posts, Sponsored Posts and People You May Know recommendations are actually relevant.  I am no longer only getting the same people over and over in my feed.

 Compared to my Facebook timeline a week ago, it is a dramatic difference! I was about to give up on Facebook because I was tired of the irrelevant content, the constant ads and the posts from the same people over and over and over (because I had liked a lot of their posts).  Now I enjoy it.  It is a good mix of people, topics and things I actually want to see.  Is it perfect?  Not by any means.  Are there still changes I would like to see to what and when I see things?  Yes, but it is much better than it was 7 days ago. Much Better!

What did this little experiment teach me?  What lessons did I learn?

 Can I alter the Facebook algorithm to “force” what I want to see in my feed?   Yes and No.  Yes, I can make a difference by being more selective, but, no, I can not completely control it.  That’s ok, I’ll take the improvement.

 It is a good reminder that it is MY responsibility to control my social media.  I have to accept some of the “blame” and not place it all on a digital algorithm, if I am not seeing what I want to see.  In this world where everyone with an internet connection or a cell phone can be a content creator and try to draw our attention, it is our responsibility to decide what we do or don’t want to see.  That means being aware of how we “educate” the algorithm by what we like, comment on, share, and favorite and being deliberate in not only those choices, but in our privacy settings.

 There was another interesting side effect to this experiment. I found myself being more aware of my interactions – likes, comments, shares, favorites not only on Facebook but on all my social media accounts.  Forcing myself to be more vigilant actually changed my behavior on other social media platforms. My favorites, likes, follows, etc…  became more authentic and sincere.

 It has always been so easy to click Like, to ReTweet, to follow, to friend, to click the little heart on Instagram.  But how often do we really stop and think about whether or not we really “Like” it or are we just acknowledging it?  How often do we give it a click because we like the person, because we feel we should or out of a sense of obligation?  Had you asked me before this experiment if I ever did that, I would have emphatically said NO.  As I discovered during my experiment, Yeah, I did it…probably a lot.   Making the decision to share something or comment on something takes more effort.  It makes me really stop and consider my feelings about a post and have to compose something intelligent, witty, or at least coherent.  It has also stopped me from “liking” things that I really don’t like – such as bad news from a friend or something I don’t really agree with.  –

Side note – Hey Facebook – how about a “Support” button so we can show support without “liking” something.

Will I continue my experiment?  Yes, for a while at least.  I am curious to see if the results remain the same long term.    Will you conduct your own? Are you ready to take back “control” of your social media?

In the meantime… Watch out Twitter and Instagram, I am coming for you next…


Words and the Superbowl

Yes, the Superbowl last night was lackluster and with few exceptions (RadioShack, Budweiser’s Puppy Love, Coca-Cola and Cheerios were my favorites) the ads were meh.  As usual, my Twitter stream was probably the most interesting thing I was watching.  Usually quiet during a sporting event, even my Facebook wall seemed to be actively following both the game and the ads.  Then I started to get disgusted.  Early in the game a ton of memes, tweets and posts started showing up making fun and saying some pretty nasty things about Peyton Manning and the Broncos.

Yes, it is a sporting event and yes, some good natured ribbing and trash talking will happen. The problem for me is that some of the comments were just downright petty, mean and derogatory.  Yes, Peyton and the Broncos had a bad night, a really bad night, but the fact is they got to the Superbowl.  There is a certain amount of respect due to players who work incredibly hard to reach the pinnacle of their profession.  And yet, here we were, we armchair quarterbacks, saying and publicly posting some really nasty stuff because they were having a bad night.

At one point I posted this on Twitter and Facebook

Screen Shot 2014-02-03 at 10.42.31 AM

I got several responses, most of them private, essentially telling me to lighten up, it is just sports, it is just entertainment.

That was when I got really disgusted.  It is not just sports.  It is the example we give our kids.  Coaches teach child athletes sportsmanship.  Or at least they are supposed to. But what about the non-athletes or the kids who are only ok? What message are we sending to them?  That if someone is not good enough or is having an off day, it is ok to make fun of them?

Kids learn what they hear and observe, not always what we say. They learn how to think and behave based on what the adults around them do and say.  Whether it is making fun of Peyton Manning because he is having a bad ballgame or the racist tirades that were happening over the Coca-Cola or Cheerios ads (that is a rant for another day), kids will copy what they see and hear us doing.

We think that our little memes, jokes and comments, whether it is about sports, the color of someones skin, their ethnicity, sexuality, female or male bashing, whatever, are just “harmless entertainment”. We forget that kids are observing and listening and thinking that kind of behavior is acceptable.

We are all guilty of it, myself included, at one point or another.   I just wish we would all start being more conscious of how our words and actions are observed by and reflected in the young people around us.

What are we teaching kids about sportsmanship and life in general? That you make fun of the ones who are not as good or are having an off day or are different?

Fans, Friends, Followers & Circles – Oh My!

Every day we hear from people who want to know to how to manage the constant input from their social media accounts.  There is no one right answer for everyone.   The only one constant for everyone should be one basic question – What are you trying to achieve?

Whether your goal is to stay connected with your friends and family or it is to increase sales for your company, the question should always be the same.  All decisions on who to connect with, how often to post, what to post about should all be directly related to what you are trying to achieve or put another way – what do I want out of this network.  Keeping this simple question in mind will make sure that you are always taking actions on your social media account that help filter out the noise.

No matter what your purpose in social media might be, having a purpose or a plan will help you keep the flow of information under control.  For example, this is how I navigate the constant connection requests and keep the influx of information under control on my Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and now Google+ accounts.

First, each account serves a different purpose for me.  I respond to friend/follow/connect requests differently based on the role each account serves in my overall “plan”.

Second, I got over the “I have to be liked by/connected to everyone” feeling.  That feeling that encourages us to accept or seek out every possible friend request and connect to everyone we ever encounter in our personal or professional lives.   It is a feeling that we have to let go of or we will find ourselves overloaded with connections that we can not manage.

I break down my connections on each of these networks into specific categories based on my goal for that network.

LinkedIn is reserved for my professional connections.  I only accept or initiate connections with people I know well enough that I would recommend their work.  These are people who I either know personally, have worked with or know enough about their work through other trusted connections that I would write a recommendation for them.  For me, there is an implied recommendation in that connection on LinkedIn so I am very selective about who I choose to associate myself with on that network.  LinkedIn is my professional social network.

Facebook is a more varied but carefully monitored and constructed collection.  My Facebook friends are a mix of family, personal friends, high school friends, members of the tech, entrepreneurial and social media communities (especially in Philadelphia) and professional connections.  The one thing that all of these people have in common is that I have a personal relationship with all of them.  We have either met in person, have spent time together offline or I have spent enough time communicating with them online that they are more than just an acquaintance.  I care about the pictures of their kids, puppies and kittens.  I want them to share in both the personal and professional portions of my life that I choose to share.  I may share professional information, links, etc… on Facebook, but it is not my professional network and I do not want it to be.  That is what I use LinkedIn for.  That is why I do not accept every friend request from people in my profession.  Also why I will not participate in applications like BranchOut.  While I may have professional contacts as friends on Facebook, it is not the place I use to manage my professional network.  Facebook is the place where I connect with people I would invite to sit down around my kitchen table.

Twitter is my window on a big, wide, wonderful world.  It is a medley of friends, family members, colleagues, personal and professional acquaintances, potential business partners and clients and more.  However, I do not follow just anyone and do not allow just anyone to follow me.  I review each and every new follower looking at their bio, location, at least the first page of their tweets and any followers we may have in common.  I block the spammers and the questionable.  I follow back those that I find educational, entertaining and those  I am likely to have an actual conversation with.  Twitter is the network where I have my “arms” the widest open.

And now we have added Goggle + to the mix.  I am still figuring this one out.   Does it become restrictive or do I leave it wide open?  I am still not sure.  I can see the pros and cons to both approaches.  The biggest advantage I see to G+ is the Circles feature, which will allow me to restrict certain posts to specific groups.   However, as someone who only posts things that I do not mind the public seeing, I am having difficulty figuring out how this will fit into my patterns of behavior.  I am going to have to spend more time in G+ trying different methods and combinations to see what works best for me, but I will sort it out.  It will have a place in my plan. I will find my set of “rules” of how and whom to connect to.

One of the other keys to managing all of these fans, friends, followers and circles is be flexible.  Make changes when you need to, add and drop connections as it feels right to you.  Do not let anyone tell you what is “right” or “wrong”.  Just be open to learning from others.   So, how do YOU do it?  How do you manage all the fans, friends, followers and circles?

Things we like… Red Tettemer + Partners & Under Armour

The team at Red Stapler Consulting knows what we like and what we believe in.  One of the things we like to do is share.   In that spirit, we have decided to start a semi-regular series sharing things we find that highlight some of the things we like and believe in.

So what are some things we like?

Passion blended with creativity

Things that help businesses grow

Things that bring communities together

Things that help people

And the candle on this birthday cake of goodness – Effective uses of social media that do any or all of those things.

The inaugural entry in our Things We Like series is a campaign developed by the creative masters at Red Tettemer + Partners.  They have hit a trifecta!  A social media campaign that is creative, is helping a business (their client) grow and is helping people (college students).  Check out the Under Armour Ultimate Intern Team program.

Does it get better than this?  Simple, clean, straightforward, fun and giving a few lucky college students the opportunity to have “the most memorable summer of your life.”   It reaches the demographic where they like to communicate – on Facebook.  It is fun without being goofy.  It is intriguing. It tells you what you need to know, but holds back just enough to make us want to fill out the application to find out more and get to have the fun they are promising.  And it is all wrapped up in a solid marketing principles.

Definitely a +1 in the Things We Like category.  Head on over to Facebook and give them a Like – They deserve it!

Philly “BloggerGate”

Last night I attended the “Bloggergate” Happy Hour where city officials tried to answer questions and provide explanations of the current city tax regulations and how they are applied to members of the creative economy and freelancers.  There is an excellent writeup on the Phillyist site, so I am not going to summarize everything that was discussed.

I posed a question that seemed to be on the minds of many of the local bloggers I know –
The current Philadelphia revenue regulations require that anyone conducting business and receiving revenue in the city of Philadelphia is required to have a Business Privilege License.  An issue that arose among the blogger community is not the requirement to have the license and pay taxes on actual income.  The issue is the “recreational” blogger who does not blog for income.  They may place an ad on their site and charge just enough to cover hosting and domain renewal costs.  They are now being told because they receive revenue (the payment for ad placement) that they are a business and are required to have the Business Privilege License and pay taxes.  Obviously because it is a break-even financial arrangement, they will not owe any taxes, however, they are now being required to buy the Business Privilege License which likely amounts to much more than the amount they are charging for their blog ads.  Is this issue being looked into?

The city indicated that, because of situations exactly like this one, they are looking into the relevancy and applicability of the Business Privilege License.  They made no promises that change would come, but they are considering options.   They genuinely seemed to have had their eyes opened to some of the differences in conducting business in this new creative economy.   That the old ways of regulation and collecting taxes have to be re-evaluated to better apply to how a large majority now do business.  It is a start.

Several other freelancers and business owners asked questions and expressed their frustration with the current tax system and the complexity of starting a business in Philadelphia.  To the city officials credit, they listened and did their best to explain the current system.  The city gets props for showing up on “our” (the tech community’s) turf, National Mechanics (as opposed to say a stuffy room in City Hall), for listening to the questions and complaints and for, at least appearing to, trying to understand the issues and questions.  No one got the answers they wanted last night, but anyone who came expecting instant results was being unrealistic.   As I said to KYW’s Robin Culverwell,

“The fact that they called this meeting tonight, they’re willing to come out, they’re willing to take questions of any kind is a positive step forward.”

Top 10 Philly Influencers on Twitter?

I want to preface this post with this disclaimer – I LOVE the guys at Technically Philly.  They are smart wonderful people who are doing great things for Philadelphia and its tech community and I support them 100%.  If you are not reading Technically Philly, you should be!  Just one of the truly great things about all of the guys at Technically Philly is they are open-minded.  If someone does not agree with them, they quickly and willingly reach out to find out why and are open to lively, respectful debate.

While it is not the first time and I am sure will not be the last, Technically Philly, I respectfully disagree with you.

On 7/27/2010 Technically Philly contributed an article to their partner, Philly Mag’s section The Philly Post – ” Philadelphia’s 10 Most Influential Twitter Users“.  The premise of the article was their view of not who the are the most followed Philly Twitter users but who are the “must-follows”.  As a Technically Philly reader, an active member of Philly’s tech and social media communities and a self-admitted Twitter addict, I was intrigued.  Till I read their list.  Of the 10 people on the list there is 1 musician, 1 techie, 1 serial entrepreneur, 1 athlete and 6 newspeople/journalists. While I don’t disagree that the people on their list are influential.  I follow almost all of them myself, but to consider them the 10 MOST influential Philadelphians on Twitter.  I don’t think so.  Technically Philly and I have different definitions of influence as evidenced by our Twitter convo on the subject –

GloriaBell: @TechnicallyPHL I found it interesting that a news magazine picked primarily news people as the most influential – really?
TechnicallyPHL: @gloriabell Who do you think we missed?
GloriaBell: @TechnicallyPHL I guess who you may have missed depends on your definition of influence. I don’t consider news ppl as the only influencers
GloriaBell: @TechnicallyPHL IMHO There are a lot of influencers as defined by ppl making things happen in Philly as opposed to just reporting it
To be clear, I am not defining influence by numbers (most followers) or interaction (amount of time/effort put into interacting with their Twittersphere).  My basic definition of influence is rooted in how many people you touch on and off line, how many people you help, how many people not only listen to what you say, but are moved to action by your words – whether those words are on Twitter, some where else online or offline and mostly by whether you are, at least in part, using your Twitter interactions to help make things happen in our wonderful city.
But here is my quandary – How to answer the question that Technically Philly posed to me – “Who do you think we missed?”   I know that I disagree with their list, but to name who I consider the top 10 – I am at a loss.  I can think of so many people who are part of the Philly Twitter community that I consider influencers for different reasons that it would be difficult for me to name a “top 10”.  So I leave you with the same question – Who would you name as your top 10 Philly Twitter influencers?

Redefining social through a lesson learned

I posted this tweet yesterday afternoon –

“DO NOT call yourself a social media consultant, expert, guru, visionary – anything – if all you do is push out links & RT other ppl’s stuff”

To my surprise, I received a fair amount of negative feedback from my followers.  I was, rather harshly in some cases, admonished for “telling people how to use Twitter”.   I have to admit that the responses both hurt and made me angry, until I stopped to really think about them.

There is one clear truth when it comes to Twitter. We all use it for different reasons.  We all have different objectives, or in some cases, no objectives at all.  And there is nothing wrong with that.  Every social media platform should be used by each individual in the way they find most beneficial.  I realized that I was upset because the negative responses I received made it appear that I was trying to tell others how to use Twitter.  That was not my purpose and, unfortunately, 140 characters was not enough to explain. So, it was time to write a blog post.

What prompted my tweet was a series of new followers.  As I have explained in earlier posts, I carefully evaluate each new follower to decide if I am going to follow them back.  I want to make sure that the connections I make will be mutually beneficial.   I was aggravated by several new followers who, per their bios, were self-professed social media consultants, experts, gurus, visionaries, etc… , but when you read through their tweetstreams, they were comprised almost exclusively by links, retweets and self-promotional statements.   Go ahead and call me old-fashioned, but I still believe in the SOCIAL part of social media.  That if you are going to profess yourself an “expert” in this field, then you have to also believe its power is in its social aspect.  That means you don’t just talk to yourself.  That you understand it is not traditional push marketing.  That is a medium that allows us, possibly for the first times ever, as people and companies, to TALK to one another in larger numbers and on a wider reach.  When the supposed “experts” devalue the medium by using it to solely push information at others, I believe we all lose.  But, that is just me.  I may be alone in my thinking, I would love your comments and feedback to know if I am or not.

What I did find most valuable from these exchanges is the lesson I learned in the potential damage of a poorly worded tweet, status update, email, whatever the message form.  Failure to find a clear way to express our message or intention leaves open the possibility of misinterpretation and misunderstanding, as was the case with my tweet.   My critics apparently interpreted it much differently than it was intended.  My intent was never to tell anyone how to use Twitter, it was to express my frustration with the self-professed social media “experts” who have not embraced what I feel is the most important aspect – the social.