Archives for September 2017

Facebook’s Fireside Chat

It is often said that with great power comes great responsibility.

Returning from parental leave, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg demonstrated the 21st Century version of former president Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “fireside chat.” Mr. Zuckerberg used his social media platform to announce that his company may have inadvertently participated in Russia’s tampering of the 2016 presidential election.

Photo Courtesy of Encyclopedia Britannica

After hiring numerous investigators, Facebook discovered approximately $100,000 in ad spending from June 2015 to May 2017 associated with some 3,000 smear ads believed to be related to Russian ads during the election period.

In response to the findings, CNBC reports Mr. Zuckerberg’s stance as “bringing Facebook to an even higher standard of transparency.” The social media site will no longer allow their users to be fooled by ad companies and those working with them.

By strategically using his social media empire, Mr. Zuckerberg was able to inform the public on the developments and how the Facebook plans to combat them.

Initially, Mr. Zuckerberg was blind sided as well, pushing back on claims that viral fake news stories could have any sway on the election, calling the idea “crazy” and saying that critics lacked “empathy” for President Donald Trump’s supporters.

But pressure on Facebook has grown over time.

Some congressional investigators saw Russian activity on Facebook as key to understanding the extent of Moscow’s influence on the election. Before Mr. Zuckerberg’s Facebook video, Federal Election Commission member Ellen Weintraub called for an overhaul of disclaimer rules around political advertisements on the internet.

Followup interviews with Elliot Schrage, VP of Policy and Communications revealed that the vast majority of Facebook’s over 5 million advertisers use self-service tools. “This allows individuals or businesses to create a Facebook Page, attach a credit card or some other payment method and run ads promoting their posts.”

“We are committed to rising to the occasion, Mr. Zuckerberg said. “Our sophistication in handling these threats is growing and improving quickly. We will continue working with the government to understand the full extent of Russian interference.

Now, that’s a great way to use great power, responsibly.

Three Strikes … You’re Out

In mid September, New York TIMES reporter Kenneth Vogel sat down at a Washington D.C. restaurant, BLT Steak, expecting a routine lunch meeting. However, a media mistake of not so rare proportions was about to fall in his lap.

Ty Cobb. Photo Courtesy of the Denver Post

Over a salad of tuna nicoise and iced tea, he overheard a public conversation between Ty Cobb, who is overseeing the White House response to the Russian probe and John Dowd, President Trump’s lead personal lawyer for the Russian investigation.

They thought their conversation was private because they were focused on each other, not the crowded restaurant around them. Mr. Cobb further forgot that his distinctive appearance shouted to everyone who he is, which of course is his purpose, but not this time. He and Mr. Dowd proceeded to discuss highly sensitive subjects regarding the investigation. In addition, the two blatantly expressed tensions within the legal team and production of documents. According to Reporter Vogel, they also discussed presidential privilege and their colleagues. Mr. Cobb suggested that White House counsel Don McGahn “has a couple documents locked in a safe” and one colleague who is not on the president’s good side. But, he added, “I’m trying to get the president not pick a fight with her.”

Their actions raise the question: how can these esteemed men who have become known in the realm of politics display such hubris and lack such basic common sense?

Interestingly, this is not the first media mistake for Mr. Cobb. As the Washington Post presents it, Mr. Cobb’s errors rival those of his distant relative, “the original Ty Cobb,” former major league baseball player who still has the title for the highest career batting average. But less well known, he also holds the record for most career errors by an American League outfielder.

Apparently, errors are common for the Cobbs. Luckily for America, the errors made on the baseball field don’t pose threats to national security.

Follow the Yellow Brick Road

For generations, parents have warned their children not to play with matches.

Now, 20-year-old YouTube rapper and social media mega “star” Jake Paul and his band of boys demonstrate life-threatening, dangerous pyrotechnic stunts daily to their 10.5 million followers.

“He’s establishing himself in the eyes of grown-up America as an embodiment of everything that is wonderful and horrible about Generation Z,” wrote the New York Times.

Photo Courtesy of the New York Times

Vlogger (video blogger) Jake Paul epitomizes his market of Gen Z-ers, those born in the Bush and Obama years. They are the first generation to be raised in the era of smartphones. Many don’t remember a time before social media.

A high school dropout, Mr. Paul leveraged his millions of social media followers, along with a well-honed skills for rubber-faced comedy and ambulance-worthy stunts. “We were working with brands and advertisers. I was, like, 17 years old, making more money than my parents!”

STYLE

These tweens and teens of today are primed to become the dominant style influencers of tomorrow. Flush with billions in spending power, they promise untold riches to marketers who can find the master key to their psyche. Because, of course, they grew up shopping online.

“No wonder the race to define, and market to, this demographic juggernaut is on. They are the next big retail disrupter,” explained Women’s Wear Daily. And besides wealth, Generation Z also commands attention through its sheer size.

Young people today feel much more emboldened to express their own sense of style compared to previous generations. But there is also a robust global industry of youth-oriented apparel brands, along with fashion magazines and style blogs dedicated to influencing fashion. The time-honored premise that cooler-than-thou clothes and shoes are, as always, up there with food, water or oxygen as staples for many teenagers.

REACH

To reach Gen Z, it is recommended that you 1) Depict them as diverse (ethnically, sexually, fashionably) 2) Task in images: emojis, symbols, pictures and video 3) Communicate more frequently in shorter bursts of “snackable” content 4) Tap into their entrepreneurial spirit. 5) Collaborate with them … and help them collaborate with others.

“Generation Z tends to be the product of Generation X, a relatively small, jaded generation. They came of age in the post-Watergate, post-Vietnam funk of the 1970s, when horizons seemed limited. Those former latchkey kids, who grew up on Nirvana records and slasher movies, have tried to give their children the safe, secure childhood that they never had.

“You see the mommy blogs by Generation X-ers, and safety is a huge concern: the stainless-steel sippy cups that are BPA-free, the side-impact baby carriages, the home preparation of baby food,” continued Mr. Howe, who runs Saeculum Research, a Virginia-based social trends consultancy.

Part of that obsession with safety is likely due to the hard times that both Generation Z and their parents experienced growing up. Their parents may have been safety-firsts, but the Z generation is predisposed to making vlogs of themselves doing cartwheels over their cats and fire-swallowing.

BORN ENTREPRENEURS

The New York ad agency, Sparks & Honey observed also that “entrepreneurship is in the DNA of Generation Z.”

“Kids are witnessing start-up companies make it big instantly via social media,” said Andrew Schoonover, a 15-year-old in Olathe, Kansas. “We do not want to work at a local fast-food joint for a summer job. We want to make our own business because we see the lucky few who made it big.”

Which leads to a final point about this new generation’s similarities to the Silent or Greatest Generation (who also grew up with an economic catastrophe and foreign aggression on American soil) As Mr. Howe points out,” it was not just the most career-focused generation in history. It was also …  the richest.”

“My personal goal,” Jake Paul offers, “is to be a billionaire.”

The New York Times posed these questions about Jake Paul. Is he genius or a jerk? A punk or a prophet? In a media landscape where clicks are money, does it even matter?