Use Facebook to target Boomers, seniors

thought

Surprisingly, maintaining a Facebook Page may now be even more important for organizations targeting Boomers compared to those reaching youth.

Social media trends strongly suggest that big platforms like Facebook and Twitter are being abandoned by folks under age 35.

I recommend an excellent study by Assistant Professor of Digital Communication and Social Media at Cabrini College in Pennsylvania. (And thanks to a colleague for passing the info on to me.) In her short essay, she mentions that Time magazine recently reported over 11 million kids have left Facebook since 2011.

Duncan says, “Many younger people are logging into Facebook simply to see what others are posting, rather than creating content of their own. Their photos, updates, likes and dislikes are increasingly shared only in closed gardens like group chat and Snapchat.”

One reason young folks are leaving big platforms? Such social media sites have  gone mainstream. (For example, kids don’t necessarily wish to share their Friday night activities with mom, aunts and grandma!) Almost half of those over 65 who use the Internet now have a Facebook account according to a recent Pew study. In other words: Facebook stopped being cool a long while ago.

When a business wants to target Boomers and older consumers, the online strategy and content need to be driven by a content writer who understands this cohort and hangs out on social media like they do.

Do junior staff outperform on social media?

old computerIf you wish, call this post Confessions of an Older Communications Consultant.

Often, organizations hire young staffers to fill social media jobs.

Is this an example of ageism in the workforce?

I used to think so.

After reviewing media consumption logs maintained by a Canadian university class recently, I gained a different perspective.

The average student self-reported six and a half hours of media consumption in a typical 24-hour period. This included three hours on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube  and Instagram.

Apparently, for many young people, social media is in their DNA; it’s a lifestyle.

Employees with family responsibilities, jobs, commutes, community commitments, and after-hour Inbox overload can’t spend hours a day, every day, on social media.  Moreover, would they have any desire to do so? (And, here is my confession: I certainly do not have the desire to do so.)

Does it take 180 minutes daily to become truly social media savvy? Probably not. Can older individuals successfully invest significant professional time into social media? Understand how it interacts with other tools in the communication toolbox and can help to build customer loyalty, brand and bottom lines? Absolutely.

But, to be fair, a young employee who routinely invests 180 minutes each day into social media will likely be highly qualified to accept social media responsibilities, and, more importantly, love the job.

One footnote: When a business wants to target Boomers and older consumers, the online strategy and content should likely to be driven by a content writer who understands this cohort. A person who engages in new media consumption and “hangs out” on Facebook like other middle-aged consumers.  After all, almost half of those over 65 who use the Internet now have a Facebook account according to a recent Pew study.

 

Leaders’ Debate 2015: turning point in Canadian journalism or predictable dud?

2015-debate

The Globe and Mail likely squeezed every bit of coverage from the Leader’s Debate it hosted last week, so let’s discuss why this political event may have long-term impact, or not.

The Globe heroically managed to distill not just Debate Highlights from the 90 minutes show between national party leaders Harper, Mulcair and Trudeau. Editors also treated its audience to Memorable Moments and Best Exchanges. Moreover, the newspaper made available an indispensable series of News Videos to highlight newsworthy items such as Harper’s ‘old stock’ comment (which we were all shocked to learn, no doubt, caused hype on social media). Numerous columns and stories provided further analysis and summaries in print and online.

Meantime, on debate night Sept. 17th, CBC The National broadcast a debate about the debate. (Correction: viewers were treated to an analysis by the country’s most-watched national political panel.) Host Peter Mansbridge, presumably in a moment of weakness, couldn’t resist pointing out that an event hosted in Calgary used a backdrop showing parliament buildings halfway across the country in Ottawa. Broadcast amateurs they all are, those folks at the Globe and Mail, right?

Rather than news coverage generated or voters’ response, what seems rather  revolutionary about the event is this. A stately print publication broadcast one of Canada’s largest national election events. All this while Green Party’s Elizabeth May, excluded from the debate, creatively managed to comment from the sidelines with a series of Tweets.

As online news platforms mature, the lines between broadcast and print continue to blur. This  Leaders’ Debate demonstrates just how far media outlets have ventured into their competitors’ traditional territories. Will this Globe broadcast come to be seen as a turning point in Canadian journalism when print, broadcast, social media and online news gathering inescapably merged into one joint news stream?

The jury may be out if this fluid media landscape will make professional, unbiased political journalism more or less accessible to average Canadians in the long run.
In terms of ratings, the new format seems to be a bit of a (predictable) dud.

One news outlet reports that 300,000 watched at least part of the political showdown on YouTube. News 1130 further reports that this compares to Maclean’s Debate earlier this summer which gained total viewership of 4.3 million. In contrast, 10.6 million viewers tuned into the 2011 English debate on national TV when in April CBC-TV/Radio-Canada, CTV, Global Television and TVA worked together to orchestrate the political showdown.

Social media’s selfies become legacy media’s sustenance

Wai Young, MPThis July 14 was an exceptionally heavy news day. The historic nuclear deal with Tehran, the Pan Am games, and the first photos of Pluto competed for airtime.

Yet, an obscure fur trader in St. John’s, NFL, and Conservative backbencher Wai Young in Vancouver made the editorial lineup on CBC’s The National.

Why?

Blame the “celebrity factor” for our furrier’s moment of fame. Bernie Halloran is a smart business man. One of Rod Stewart’s entourage asked him to rent some of his fur coats for the women about to accompany the singer on an outdoor stage in chilly St. John’s. Instead, Halloran offered to loan the outfits at no cost. Pure PR instinct, I suggest. The decision earned the merchandiser a selfie with the celebrity wearing a sealskin coat. Of course, the savvy Halloran posted the shot on his Twitter feed. Next, anti-fur activists responded by lambasting Stewart for wearing seal fur. In this case, all publicity is good publicity. “It’s the middle of July, people are talking about fur. It’s pretty cool,” concluded Halloran in an interview with CBC’s Ian Hanomansing.

Let’s blame the complete absurdity of our MP Young’s comments about the Air India disaster for her spot on The National. She delivered her talk at a relatively small church at the fringes of main stream Canadian Christendom. The pastor shared his selfie with the MP with his very modest number of Twitter followers. Next, the MP’s comments spread into the wider, secular world.

First, no matter who you are and where you are, watch those selfies.

And, of course, the two stories  demonstrate once again the fascinating interdependence of legacy media outlets and social media even on a day when history is made in outer space and right here on earth.

Should you trust PM Harper’s Twitter account?

Harper TweetIs Conservative Leader Stephen Harper  still trying to suggest he is personally managing his Twitter account? And is it appropriate for @pmharper to stuff our news feed with Conservative propaganda during an election campaign?

Justin Trudeau’s Twitter account clearly states it is run by the Liberal Leader himself and campaign staff. Thomas Mulcair is rather blunt about the matter: “Account run by .”  Green Party’s Elizabeth May explains her Tweets are her own “unless signed by Hill Staff.”

I wrote about Mr. Harper’s Twitter feed earlier this year, asking a few simple questions: Where was Prime Minister Stephen Harper on June 10th?

And what was he doing, exactly?

Apparently, he was getting briefed on Black Sea Operations. He let his 815K followers know about it on Twitter.

First, does the Prime Minister really want us to believe that he is personally Tweeting while being briefed on military matters? Let’s just say: I hope not.

Indeed, let’s assume a PR staffer can post on behalf of our Prime Minister — using his picture and official Twitter handle.

This seems to raise some security questions. First, how many staffers have access to the PM’s account? Second, is the PM really aware of the content being posted on his behalf almost constantly? How long would it take him (or staff) to learn about a fraudulent post?

Are Canadians asked to trust this information distributed by Mr. Harper?

Or are we collectively asked to accept that Mr. Harper’s Twitter account is just a PR ploy? I suggest our trust in all information distributed by our Prime Minister may be undermined when it’s entirely obvious he isn’t personally sending this information to us.

Likewise the credibility of corporation, non-profit or professional services firm may be undermined by its Twitter account.

Often, organizations delegate the production of social media content to communication departments. Indeed, senior leaders have more urgent matters to attend to most of the time. A major law firm recently sent the following Tweets to its followers: “Just received a package from one of our favs, @CLEBC!” Or what about this one: “Appreciate my job/colleagues more & more now!” Another firm wants its followers to know one of its lawyers is interviewed by several media outlets. Are these organizations expecting their clients to care about these trivial matters?

Twitter can be used to help an organization share relevant news instantly and build brand. However, the platform’s instant, quirky nature and the inability to pull back information can likely harm an organization’s reputation more quickly than other media platforms. Moreover, organizations who delegate the production of social media content on behalf of their senior staff may need to review how this could impact credibility.

So, what were you doing on June 15th? Reading your Twitter news feed?

Fretting about vote splitting in this 3-way race? Worry about boosting voter turnout instead

Green Party’s Elizabeth May continues to urge voters to stop fretting about vote splitting and instead start a “buddy system” (a.k.a “refer-a-friend” strategy).

Bravo! If every voter in the last federal election recruits one other person to vote in the next federal election, Harper’s Conservatives will be toast this fall, argues May.

Fair enough. Why not try a grassroots campaign? Why not drag our kids, their friends and young colleagues into the voting booth?

The refer-a-friend strategy may indeed boost voter turnout. However, I fear my generation has probably squandered our credibility when it comes to promoting democracy among youth.

Take Michael Ignatieff. In his latest book, the former Liberal Leader provides his insights into political life. In Fire and Ashes he outlines his own political trials and tribulations with significant writing skill. The book is conveniently subtitled Success and Failure in Politics (Random House Canada, 2013).

Ignatieff explains his relationship with the media. “Obviously, a straight answer to a straight question is a good idea, and when citizens put a question to you, such candour becomes an obligation. They elect you after all. The rules are different with the press. … You try never to lie, but you don’t have to answer the question you’re asked, only the question you want to answer.”

I’m into PR. I think I understand spin. Actually, I’ll admit I enjoy spin. Also, I don’t want to underestimate the unrelenting pressures our politicians experience every day with a news cycle on social media steroids. We demand from our politicians instant responses and offer little forgiveness.

Nevertheless, it seems disturbing that a respected intellectual such as Ignatieff, a former journalist himself, feels politicians don’t have to answer questions from the media if not convenient.

“You try never to lie,” says a man who aspired to lead Canada. May this be one of the primary reasons younger voters often feel politicians can’t be trusted and don’t have anything to offer?

Can a refer-a-friend strategy get voters to the polls when our political leaders openly admit that it’s OK to avoid answering valid questions from the media (say, about the current refugee and migrant crisis unfolding in Europe?).

Ironically, social media platforms, even though they may threaten the long-term survival of mainstream media, may yet save our democracy by forcing politicians to try brutal honesty or burn (like toast).

Ignatieff says it well when he observes outsiders like Barack Obama can win elections by mobilizing youth by using the power of social media to draw them into a political campaign.

Buddy system sounds so baby boomer, Ms. May. Let’s share, re-tweet, re-post, recycle and re-purpose a very neutral message: Dude, go vote, now!

Do you really need to have an instant (Twitter) opinion on everything? One way to stay focused

Globe and Mail writer Russell Smith laments the pressure leaders in business, the arts, and others feel to take a stand on just about everything.

Smith writes, “It’s so easy taking a stand now, that you must have a stand: You must have a position right away and publish it, broadcast it, and you instantly have responses, arguments, and that’s thrilling; it seems all so very vital and important.”

He adds, “There is now pressure, real pressure, — rsmith-logoparticularly if you have a Twitter account, and especially if you have some kind of agent or publicist who says you have to ‘build your brand’ by using it — to take sides and issue opinions, all day long.”

The pressure to regularly add posts to social media platforms is real because failing to do so makes the owner of the news feed look inactive almost instantly. You don’t post, you don’t exist anymore. You may as well be out of business. The traditional print ‘news cycle’ of at least 24-hour has been reduced to minutes. It can be brutally difficult to appear current.

I officially follow a couple of hundred smart organizations and people on Twitter – mostly law firms, accountants, marketing gurus, news agencies and some leading non-profits. Unofficially, I flip through my Tweets while waiting for the TTC. When I feel like it, I admit it.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy Twitter. I can be nice about bad grammar (“Of these luxurious outdoor showers which do you want to get clean in?”). I try to put on my marketing hat when confronted with the overindulgent use of maverick symbols now lifted from obscurity.

Nevertheless, rather than feeling pressure to share a constant stream of modestly interesting opinions and news events – posting for the sake of posting to look ‘alive’ — organizations and their leaders may want to ask themselves a simple question: What do I want to be known for most on social media platforms?

Once an organization selects a few “hot topics” of choice, the pressure to post regularly may be replaced by posting and curating quality information when it is available. Information you know your readers want to receive. (More talk about curating in another post.)

Focusing on quality, not quantity may be one way to feel less pressured about sharing opinions and news on social media sites. Your followers and readers will understand quickly that you only post when it matters most.