27 November 2011

5 Tips for Handling a Media 'Scandal'

What a year I've had, two media 'scandals' in six months. In May I was accused of writing offensive tweets that supposedly meant I couldn't do my job and just last week I apparently cheated my way into winning a new car.

Between the two 'scandals' (and I use the word lightly) I've managed to be the most read article on The Age website, the lead story on Channel 10 news and even had a joke made about me by Dave Hughes on The Project.

Here are the five things I've learned about handling what is quite a daunting experience for a 22-year-old.
1) Anything can be a story
What I didn't realise until recently was that anything could be a story.

It doesn't matter if it's pointless or what I would deem 'a non story'. It particularly doesn't matter if it's a scandal for the sake of being a scandal.
You might think the content of the story isn't newsworthy, but you have to ask yourself, "What is the headline?". Because if the situation can be condensed into a scandalous headline, the rest of the article doesn't matter. And that's why something as innocent as a tweet or a mention of the word 'BFF' three years ago can apparently be news.
2) Don't feed the trolls
It's quite incredible how crazy some people can be. Despite being ill informed and unwilling to be informed, social media has allowed these people a voice.
It's tempting to respond to their blatant stupidity or cruelty, but don't. Trolls don't argue with logic so you're just wasting your time, and more importantly any response can be used as fodder by journos to make things worse.
Trolls are best left in silence.

3) Don't feed the journos (some of whom are also trolls)
Simply put, don't comment on the scandal.

Again it's hard not to, but by doing so you're throwing fuel on the fire and potentially getting yourself into another news cycle.
The quality of journalism and research in both of my 'scandals' were incredibly poor, yet the best option was to remain quiet and let the story die as quickly as it came.
No one ever got in trouble for not making a comment.
4) Do the ground work to win the SEO game
Articles and 'scandals' like these hurt people, especially when it comes to their Google results. One news piece could cost you and your reputation years down the track when a potential employer (or potential date) runs your name in a Google search.
To avoid this as much as possible, you've got to be proactive. Thankfully I've got this blog that I've been writing for four years and a number of other platforms that help my search results. They will (hopefully) always trump a rogue journalist who decides to use my name.
It's unreasonable to assume you'll never be a front page story (just ask 21-year-old Zac!). The best defence you can have to protect your page rank on Google against shoddy journalism is a quality blog or website. If you don't have one, best you get started.

5) Ride it out
Once the story breaks, you can't do anything about it.
If you've followed the advice above then the story should be dead within a news cycle and the damage won't be too extensive. You can't control how you're portrayed or what peple say about you, so you're best to ride it out and remember that in a few days no one will remember or give a shit.
It's been a crazy few experiences, certainly not something I want to repeat. Hopefully I don't have to follow these tips myself ever again.

Two scandals is enough for one lifetime.

19 October 2011

I'd Happily Pay for "Free" Content

I don't pay for most of my content, and I haven't for a long time.

Even my once beloved DVD collection has been replaced by torrents. My music and television shows have long been downloaded and most recently, I've even started torrenting my books and reading them on an iPad.

It's fair to say, I don't pay for content. But I want to.

I do realise that someone needs to pay for it, and I'd be willing to do so if it was easy and 100% of the money went to the team who produced it.

I'd happy throw a few dollars to an author of a book if I knew it was going directly to them (and their editor, etc.) Likewise for a band, and it could even for movies and television shows. What I don't want to pay for is the unnecessary cost of middle men, distributors and physical production.

I've just finished reading five Game of Thrones books. I didn't pay for them, but seeings how they kept me busy for the best part of two months, I'd happy give a good amount of money to George R. R. Martin and his crew if it was easy. But I can't find a donation button anywhere, and the only way to 'pay' is to give a large proportion of the money to the likes of Amazon and Angus & Robertson.

At the end of an ebook, television series or album, there should be an option to donate/pay, with the proceeds going directly to those who produced it.

I know then I'd pay for content instead of 'stealing' it.

13 September 2011

The Next Generation of Start Ups

I went paint balling on the weekend for the first time. Not only did I leave with a few welts across my back, but also with a feeling of how poorly the business was managed from a digital experience sense.

The website was hard to find and hard to use. It wasn't intuitive and lacked a number of features that would make the process of organising 20 guys on a buck's party much easier.

Everyone talks about the next generation of entrepreneurs starting up the next Facebook or Angry Birds, but I think there's a bigger opportunity; your everyday businesses, particularly services. Paint balling, plumbing, computer repairs, and car washing; everyday analogue businesses.

But unlike their current-day counterparts, the next generation of business start ups will be run by digital natives. They'll have killer websites (personalised, localised and mobile optimised) and will crush their competition in SEO.

I'm in half a mind to ditch this advertising nonsense and see what I could make of a paint balling business.

15 August 2011

Always Be Building

My post Move Fast and Break Things got a fairly good response so I decided to present it to some undergraduates last week. After the presentation I was talking to some students about Angry Birds Blog, the example I used of something they could build.

And then I let them in on a secret. Angry Birds Blog wasn't the first thing I built. Nor will it be the last.

Some of you may remember an online business I tried to get off the ground that failed miserably. None of you know about a number of other websites I have that get less than 100 hits a month. And as we speak I have another project in the works for people who like beer.

It doesn't matter if you build something and it doesn't work. It doesn't have to be a success for you to learn from it. And if it's so bad that you need to pull the plug, then do so and go and build something else.

That's the thing about the internet; you can always be building.

03 August 2011

How to Combine or Merge Facebook Pages

About a year ago, I wrote how it was possible to merge unofficial Facebook pages if you had a big enough media buy.

However a recent change now means that anyone can apply to have fans migrated from an unofficial page over to an official one, even without a contact as Facebook. Although they don't promote it much, the steps are quite simple and are as follows:
  1. You will need to 'authenticate' your official page by submitting it for review here (it doesn't look legit but it is!). This may take up to a few business days to complete.
  2. Once authenticated, you can request that the fans from unofficial pages be migrated across to the official one here. Again, this may take a few days.
This is not normally the type of content I post here, but I figure it's a great piece of knowledge to have and is usually an easy way to get some fan growth. And at the same time you're reducing the potential risk of your brand in someone else's hands.

If it works for you, be sure to buy me a beer sometime.

26 July 2011

Move Fast and Break Things

'Move fast and break things' is a philosophy I've stolen from Facebook's work culture. Anyone who's seen The Social Network movie will know this ideology is at the core of everything they do, demonstrated by the regular Hackathon events they host where programmers stay up all night building for the purpose of building.

The outcome isn't necessarily important. It doesn't have to be perfect, nor necessarily functional. But by moving fast and breaking things, they approach problems in a different light that creates new solutions and new ideas. Many of Facebook's features have come out of these Hackathon events.

So why am I writing about it? Well, I think it lends itself to great advice for graduates looking to land themselves a gig in digital;

Build something.

Building something these days generally costs next to nothing. A lack of technical skills is no excuse either given Google is at your finger tips. And the only thing you'll need you should have plenty of as a student; time.

Time to move fast. Time to break things. Time to learn. Time to build something.

As an undergraduate I built this blog. Everyone's got one now (not to say you shouldn't build one too), but you could build a YouTube Channel. Or an online store that sells socks. Or a video that gets 1,000,000 views.

Throw yourself in the deep end. If it fails, pull the plug and build something else.

Six months ago I started a website called Angry Birds Blog. Like me, I realised people were searching for walkthroughs, Golden Egg locations and information about the game. The website now receives 95,000 hits and brings in $150 a month. But that's nothing compared to what I've learned over the past half year about SEO, SEM, AdSense, affiliate marketing, design, coding, ad placement and more.

And I reckon if you can build something, that's probably more impressive than talking about your empty resume in a job interview.

Edit: I sold Angry Birds Blog in September 2011 for a nice little sum.

14 June 2011

How Much Is An Invite Worth?

So how much is an invite to a Facebook page worth? I'm sure there's various conflicting studies out there, so I thought I'd do some research of my own.

I asked people how much they would charge a brand to invite all their friends to the said brand's Facebook page. Some said flat out they wouldn't do it, others said they would do it for free and quite a few people said it would depend on the brand.

With a sample size of 15 of my Facebook friends, here are the results.

So there you have it, conclusive research suggests on average, an invite to a brand's Facebook page is worth 13 cents per friend.

If you're taking this seriously (you shouldn't be), this figure is of course from the point of the consumer, not the brand. But what this does mean is that if a brand can offer something worth more than 13 cents for each of their friends, it will be worth an invite.

Also, some of my friends are sellouts.

05 June 2011

Commenting Anonymously

Sean Cummins wrote a pretty serious piece regarding anonymous comments on the internet.

Here at Pigs Don't Fly I'm a fan of the anonymous commenter. I mean, I've received everything from abuse to death threats, and just last week in a very witty comment I was called a "homo". Yet I still allow anonymous commenting.

I do it because complete anonymity is a rare thing and it's one of the interesting unique features of the interwebs. Of course this has it's problems, but let's not forget the anonymous produce some of the most creative stuff on the internet (and not to mention LOLcats). They also do some pretty impressive stuff offline.

Sure, some anonymous comments are shit. But you have to take them for what they are. By allowing people to comment anonymously, they're more likely to do so and more likely to express an honest point of view. Sometimes this comes at the cost of your ego or confidence, but they're certainly not going anywhere.

(In before anyone, yes I'm expecting a lot of "homo" comments on this post.)

31 May 2011

Being iPhoneless For 31 Days

For the whole of May, I decided to go without my iPhone. Effectively, I went without my iPod, camera, email, calender, Angry Birds, Google Maps and Facebook.

It was interesting to say the least. Here's my takeout;
  • Over the course of the month, only once did I wish I had responded to an email faster. Everything else could wait until I got home or got to work.
  • Only a few apps were truly missed; Tram Tracker and Shazam being up there. Everything else is really good at eating up your time and making you very unproductive (mostly games).
  • Instead of listening to music and podcasts on the tram each day, I read three books over the course of the month. Unfortunately this meant I could also hear the amount of rubbish people talk about in public.
  • I stopped checking my phone every five minutes. However, having been involved in a 'news scandal' during the month, it would have been nice to be connected to watch it play out.
  • I could drop my burner on the ground and it didn't even matter. That was kind of nice.
  • And last but not least, I only had to charge my burner three times during the course of the month, and didn't once worry about running out of battery.
Good fun, I'm going to try and read one book a month on the tram and it's fair to say I've become less dependent on my iPhone. If you're interested in taking part, I have a free phone you can use, all it will cost you is a beer.

18 May 2011

Water Wonderwall

A few months ago a water feature was installed on the corner of Swanston Street and Collins Street in Melbourne. For a while, the large stone wall with water cascading down one side remained untouched. But then slowly people walking passed realised that the leaves from the trees surrounding the feature could be stuck to the wall. Quickly, messages and pictures started appearing. A walk passed this wall each lunch time would have a new piece of art every day.

As I've said before, people like to think they're creative. Yet not enough brands create things for people to interact with. This water feature is the perfect example, and it wasn't even intended to be.

I wonder what a digital/mobile version of this would look like.

28 April 2011

Why I'm Ditching My iPhone

The gents over at Native Digital ditched their iPhones. And I thought I'd do the same, so for the month of May I'll be iPhoneless, instead using this Samsung "burner" I picked up for $20.

For 31 days I'll be without reliance on a permanent connection, satisfying my digital communication and technology needs through only a desktop. It could be a long month.

I'll post the results here, but in the mean time you can follow my progress on Twitter through the #iphoneless hashtag. Although I'm not too sure how tweeting will go without my phone.

23 March 2011

Every Time Someone Likes This Post Another Shit Status Update Has Been Written

Here's some fun statistics for you that I promise I didn't make up.
  • 71% of peeps are becoming more selective regarding the pages they Like on Facebook
  • The two main reasons people leave pages are because updates aren't relevant or are posted too often.
  • When this happens 19% of peeps do nothing, 38% block the posts from their News Feed and 43% unlike the page.
As more and more brands jump on the Facebook bandwagon, the market gets to a point of saturation and fans start to get choosey. There's only so many times you can click the Like button.

The first-mover advantage was a win if you got there, but you probably didn't which means you really need to be doing something of value on your page.

Most brands think the solution is to launch with a campaign and a media buy to build a foundation audience. Which usually works. But once that's over, they spend the rest of the year when their budget runs out pumping out pointless status updates.

There's only so many times you can ask someone to Like a status or fill in the blank. I know I'm guilty of it, where you write bait posts to crack a good level of engagement. But at some point people are going to start seeing past these shitty pointless status updates that don't mean anything.

Instead, you need to be entertaining or useful. There's enough brands trying the former (most of them failing), but not enough for the latter.

And I reckon one really useful post does better things for your brand and page than 20 pointless ones.

05 February 2011

We're All Wannabe Copywriters

Nearly everyone likes to think they're creative (even if they're not).

I'm certainly one of those people. We like to flex our creative muscles where we can, but never really go out of our way to do so. We express this in the everyday things like updating our Facebook status with something witty. Or writing a funny product review on Amazon. In fact, here are my recent feedback posts on eBay...

The brands that do community and content management the best are the ones that let their consumers be creative without having to go out of their way. Running a UGC campaign isn't always about asking people to film the next Super Bowl commercial, upload the next big viral on YouTube or be a pro in Photoshop.

Just let their inner copywriter run free. It's usually free (because people like to show off) and it creates good content to feed back into the community.

02 February 2011

The Most Ridiculous Ad Complaint Ever

The Advertising Standards Board (ASB) regularly receives quite a few ridiculous complaints. Thankfully, most of the time they're dismissed.

But I wanted to test it out myself. And what better way to do so than with this recently released Pure Blonde ad...

Here's how it played out...
23rd November 2010
I submit the following complaint on the ASB website...

"On the weekend just passed I was enjoying a cup of delicious tea while watching some Sunday night programming only to be confronted by an appalling commercial for Pure Blonde beer.

I am sure I am not alone when I say winged-horse enthusiasts like myself will be outraged at the disgusting lack of treatment regarding the magnificent animal in this commercial. The rare creature is clearly depicted in distress and suggests it is later physically harmed or, god forbid, killed. While some consider these beautiful beasts nothing but mythical, this ad supports animal cruelty for those of us who know the truth and it must be taken off the air."

24th November 2010
The Alcohol Beverages Advertising Code (ABAC) Adjudication Panel dismisses the complaint regarding any breaches of the ABAC Code.

13th December 2010
The complaint is scheduled for submission to the ASB for a potential breach of Section 2 of the Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA) Code of Ethics.

2nd February 2011
After consideration, the ASB dismisses the complaint and issues the following response...

"At the time of writing this, the commercial had been on national television for over 3 weeks and has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times. In relation to the complaint [...] we'd just like to state that no harm to the 'Pegasus' (a mythical horse that has wings – brought to life here through special effects) is depicted. Whilst the horse is clearly startled when the mountain starts to crumble – as are the humans featured – and does move with the mountain as it gives way, the horse does not come to any physical harm in the commercial.

In addition to this, given the horse has wings it's completely reasonable to extrapolate that it flew away to safety."

"This is the only complaint of its kind that we have received."
I can't believe it's someone's job to waste their time considering and responding to people like me.

01 February 2011

It Begins

Yesterday I arrived home from a trip around the world in 21 days. For the final unit of my degree, we traveled to Hong Kong, London, Milan, Madrid, Paris, New York & Los Angeles. Over the three weeks we visited brands and agencies such as Google, Ogilvy & Mather, DDB, L'Oreal, Citroen, Arsenal and Zara. Good times.

And tomorrow I start my full time career at George Patts.

I think I just hit a new stage in the life cycle.

05 January 2011

The Popularity Paradox

I'm going to call it the popularity paradox, where something becomes too popular and peeps turn away from the lack of individualism. It's in every aspect of our lives from avoiding mass fashion and art to paying out on mainstream music to not buying an iPhone even though you secretly want one but everyone else has one therefore you can't.

Here's some interesting examples from Facebook...
1) As parents jump on Facebook, their children turn away.
2) Bigger fan pages tend to have lower levels of engagement because when something already has 3,000 comments I'm less likely to add my own.
3) Exclusive access for college students was arguably the key to Facebook's initial success.
So how do you stop something becoming too popular? By the time it happens, does it even matter? And how can brands use social media to minimalise mainstreamism?

I really don't know, but I haven't posted in a while and that's what was on my mind today.
The views expressed herein are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer. Also ponies are evil.
Pigs Don't Fly © Copyright Zac Martin