The Ethics of Social Media

These days, it’s difficult to be a part of society without having some form of social media. No doubt it has helped us connect with distant family members and new parts of the world, but at what cost? With rising social media concerns, a new career has been created: Social Media Ethicists. Let’s take a look at this new position, and what it means for our daily media consumption. 

social media ethicist

What is a Social Media Ethicist? 

A social media ethicist’s (other times called a tech ethicist or design ethicist) job is to responsibly monitor the curation of user-based media. Of course, responsible is a subjective term, but there are a couple of things these ethicists monitor specifically in order to come to conclusions.

For one thing, social ethicists have a deep knowledge of human innate behavior and psychology. Whether we are conscious of it or not, apps, especially those of social media, are often designed to play into our biological cues in order to keep us engaged. A tech ethicist’s job is to determine where this inevitable practice goes too far.

Social media ethicists are unique in that they are yet to have an official code of ethics. Other disciplines of design, such as architecture, have general guidelines they can look to from the American Institute of Architects. Since social media is such a new development as a whole, these codes are yet to exist, and consequently, create a lot of grey area in regards to what is considered morally acceptable.

Hence, part of the hiring process of Ethicists is to determine general morality. It’s easy to see how the duties and overall effectiveness of these workers can get muddy. Big name companies such as Google pay good money to bring these specialists onto their teams.

Moreover, all social media companies invest heavily in consultants with a deep understanding of human instincts and biological cues. As we learn more about social media and its effect on society, more of these positions should arise resulting in a more streamlined code of ethics. 

mobile apps

How does Social Media Affect the Brain?

Without a doubt, social media affects our thought patterns and habits, even after we exit the app. According to the UK communications regulator Ofcom, two-thirds of all adults under 35 check their phones within the first 5 minutes of the day.

A majority of American citizens sampled by the PEW research center reported social media interrupting at least one in-person interaction on a regular basis. It has become normal to pull out our phones in any free gap of time/silence.

Not only does this reduce the quality of our personal connections, but our brain adapts to the instant gratification given through phone usage. According to the tech company Asurion, people on average check their phone every 10 minutes.

The phrase “digital dependency” has become much more than a buzzword, as a majority of people in the same study reported some form of stress/anxiety when their phone was off, or outside of arms reach. 

When you receive a “like” on a social platform, your brain reacts in the same way it would if you were on drugs. A shot of dopamine is sent through your system, making the experience highly addictive. Moreover, since the amount of likes received is unpredictable, your brain becomes even more attached to the activity, as you are essentially replicating the thrill of a slot machine.

This is no accident- relatively new features such as the “pull to refresh” feature embedded on most social platforms give the user the illusion of control- Users periodically receive the biological reward of dopamine after physically acting to refresh a page. Subconsciously, our brain associates our refreshing with the dopamine rush, and we quickly become addicted to refreshing constantly with an app, in search of a hit. 

Our body relies on visual cues to guide our actions more so than conscious, rational thought. App designers capitalized on this feature, and have implemented use of the “infinite scroll”, where there is no clear end-point to the consumption of media. More recently, Instagram and Youtube adjusted their main scrolling sections to organize by relevance, not by date, making the time spent on the app even more elusive, as there is no clear way four our eyes to identify a stopping point. 

Notifications and App icons have adapted to a warmer color scheme, as our eyes naturally gravitate towards reds and pinks over cooler tone colors. Moreover, notifications are often linked with our phones vibrating or even flashing lights to get our attention. This plays back into one of our earliest biological tendencies to pay attention to moving objects as a survival tactic. The list goes on and- clearly, these products are engineered to hold our attention. 

checking phones

Helpful Tips from Design Ethicists

As digital dependency becomes more of a hot button issue, a growing number of people are demanding that social media be designed in a more ethical fashion. Certain social networks such as Frendica and Mastodon are proposing a solution by being more decentralized. 

The hope is that the problem will take care of itself with open source communication since there won’t be any single entity engineering or policing the platform. Until improved technology arrises, here are a couple of tips from design ethicists on how to reduce your phone usage:

  1. Have your home screen (Or the first screen you see when entering your device) full of the bare necessities (Exclude Social Apps). Out of sight, out of mind, isn’t just a saying- The less we see of something, the less likely we are to engage with it. 
  2. Turn your phone colors to grayscale. The less aesthetically appealing your phone is, the less time you’ll spend on it. 
  3. Turn off as many notifications as possible. This can be difficult, especially with items such as email. As a stepping stone, reduce notifications strength: i.e instead of notifications producing vibrations, select banner notifications only. 

Above all, social media has vastly changed the way we live and interact with our environment. Social Media Ethicists have a growing responsibility to shape our consumption of media in a way that is morally sound. Social media is a great tool to connect, but it’s always a good idea to be aware of how you can be targeted digitally.

Read More

7 Ways Digital Marketing Can Grow Your Online Business

The easiest way to describe marketing is referring to it as a science. There is not one quick remedy that will work for all companies to grow. It takes time, research and a healthy mix of customized marketing strategies to be a success. Promoting your own business can be a very challenging job, especially when your budget has restrictions and you do not have any experience promoting products.

Competition can be fierce as well, and it’s getting harder to draw in new customers than ever since consumers have all the answers they need right at their fingertips on their mobile devices. This actually builds a stronger case in favor of using digital marketing, that it is even more important than ever to build your brand’s digital presence to make an impact in consumers decisions to make purchases. Customers are always searching for answers and it is your job to make sure your business is there in their search results and encourage them to take action.

Traditional forms of marketing, like local newspapers, magazines, and billboards, can put a large dent in your business’ marketing budget — and they do not offer the same accuracy as digital marketing when evaluating performance. It is near impossible to retrieve accurate data on these traditional marketing efforts. They are unable to show how many people actually saw your ad, took interest in your brand or more importantly – who took action!

Digital marketing is allowing businesses big and small to take advantage of various internet marketing techniques. Doing the research on your consumers before starting any digital marketing efforts is proven to produce the best return on investment. Researching things like keywords, the various platforms your consumers are active on and listening to conversations they are having online are sure ways to prepare your business with the right data to engage in digital marketing efforts that produce results!

Below are 7 ways online businesses can utilize digital marketing to grow their businesses. Remember, one strategy or technique that works for one company might not work for another. Each company has their own customers with unique needs. Starting off small and measuring performance is key.

e-mail marketing graphic
  1. Email Marketing

We are highlighting Email Marketing as number one on our list because it actually has the power to generate sales and customers for life – depending how you use it. This digital marketing method is safe to say it will be around for the long run. It is the optimum way to communicate with your customer. When a customer decides to opt-in to your email list, they are saying that they want to give your messages some importance in their life and their inbox. Don’t take this lightly. Be sure to craft emails that provide value to your customer – so they will remain loyal readers and hopefully future customers.

video marketing graphic

2. Video Marketing

Video is known as an entertaining and engaging format of content that viewers prefer to consume. Video not only gives consumers a real-life picture of what is going on with your brand, but it’s also easy to share across multiple social platforms. Consumers like video content because it’s easy to digest and entertaining. Youtube is the second most visited search engine by consumers in the world. Creating video content that you can then place on YouTube increases your chances of engaging with prospective customers since that is the platform they are looking for answers everyday. Growing your brand’s online presence on video sharing platforms like this are sure ways to increase website visitors, brand awareness and sales.

webinar graphic

3. Webinars

Webinars are climbing the charts as a very effective way to market to your consumers but in an organic way. Webinars give businesses the chance to provide valuable information to their prospective customers. They can be live or pre-recorded, whichever format works for you. I recommend sitting in on a few webinars before presenting one yourself. Familiarizing yourself with the format and flow of this marketing tactic will increase your chance of success. A webinar can be classified similar to an online seminar that normally is either presenting, demonstrating or discussing a particular topic or product.

Some might consider webinars just
another format of video marketing, but webinars are actually proven to produce
more engagement compared to a traditional video. Since webinars have a specific
beginning and end time, they automatically ignite the feeling of scarcity to
consumers that they don’t want to miss this chance of taking part in this
one-time opportunity to learn from experts like you! Be sure to involve your
audience as much as possible. Webinars tend to produce better results when the
audience has a chance to be interactive as well. Give them a shout out, say
hello, ask them questions. Its all about engagement!

seo graphic

4. Search Engine Optimization
(SEO)

Search Engine Optimization allows you to position your website better in search engine results like Bing, Google, and Yahoo. Without taking the proper steps to optimize your website content, your business may find it difficult to appear in search results when potential customers are searching for your services or products. Your ranking on search engines directly are a result of how well you are optimizing your website content with things like relevant keywords. These keywords are the words and phrases that consumers are automatically associating your products or services with. The more you use these words strategically within your content the better you will rank and be found by consumers.

**BONUS TIP** Utilize Google’s Keyword Planner (https://ads.google.com/home/tools/keyword-planner/) to learn more about which keywords consumers are using to
find your services, products or information on your niche.

retargeting graphic

5. Retargeting

One of the top ways to convert interested consumers into paying customers is through the use of new marketing techniques like retargeting. It is a known fact that brands need to get in front of their potential customer’s eyes multiple times before they take action and this strategy actually automates that processes for companies to take advantage of. The process involves the placement of a cookie to track customers as they explore the internet. During their time on the internet, they will be served multiple banner ads showing previous products that they have already viewed in earlier sessions.

content marketing graphic

6. Content Marketing

More and more brands are taking the initiative and creating content on their own. Taking the first step and creating a Content Marketing Strategy is a strategic way to ensure your brand is providing the content your target audience is looking for. Some examples of content include blogs, infographics, and case studies. The goal is to provide valuable information to your target audience that will position your brand as a top information resource in your specific industry. Valuable content build trusts with your audience and encourages them to share your content, which increases organic brand awareness and website traffic.

responsive web design graphic

7. Responsive Website Design

This last strategy might be the most important of all. Most brands forget to check how their websites look on mobile devices when creating their new websites. Since most development work takes place on PC’s, a lot of testing does as well. Your website is the first impression potential customers have of your brand. When websites are not responsive – that increases the struggle website visitors have when trying to view your content.

They have to flip their phones or even pinch the screen to make content bigger or smaller. It just isn’t the experience you should strive for. Take the time to find a website theme that is responsive when creating your website. If your website is already created, take the time to visit it yourself on your phone. Can you see everything clearly? Better yet, have you planned out what is the action you want your potential customer to take when they arrive on your website? Can they complete that action with ease? If not, it is time to spend some time redesigning your website with the customer in mind! The easier it is to navigate your website – the easier it is for them to become customers or contact you!

By now we hope you understand the importance of implementing digital marketing strategies in your online business. Digital marketing gives brands like yours the ability to target marketing efforts to specific audiences in geographic locations, ages, interests and more. This increases the return on investment since the only people that will be seeing your ad is your specific target audience, which increases the chances they will take action. Remember, start out small, do your research on your audience and be sure to optimize your content!

 

Read More

User or Customer? Social Media Mining

Nowadays, everyone and their mother is on social media. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, you name it- in order to connect, you have to be online. Are these companies as benign as they seem? Or is that cute cat video you reposted revealing something about you that you’d otherwise keep private? Let’s take a look at social media marketing and how it affects us and businesses.

social data cart

What is Social Media Data?

Social media data, or social data, is any information obtained off of your social accounts used to target customers and/or inform choices. Advertisers can use this information on an individual basis, targeting products/services towards an individual to better suit their interests. Moreover, they can choose to use a pool of social data: Collecting implicit or explicit information from potential clients in order to develop their overall strategy. Social data doesn’t just include what you post personally. Information can be extrapolated from what you choose to scroll past, like/dislike, or in general, engage with.

How is Social Data collected?

In order to employ an effective business strategy, companies accumulate data in 3 main ways:

Direct Engagement – In this method, a business asks a targeted question to a user to extrapolate information. Youtube often employs a short survey where a user is asked to give feedback on a product/answer a short question before viewing the selected content. Many of the major social sites have adopted a poll feature, making it easier than ever for brands to take their questions directly to the customer.

Indirect Tracking – Here, a company can use indirect information, or information that you are not consciously sharing, to inform a decision. When consenting to “free” wifi at a local cafe, you may be consenting to sharing some of your activity while you are actively on a network. If you are a heavy user for a particular service/product, a company may use your social media information to see if there is a correlation between your usage and lifestyle. With this information, companies can better market to those who may really take to their product/service.

Purchased Data – Data is huge business. Search engines and websites such as Google are able to collect your search history, location information, etc. and sell it to other interested parties. Data brokers, companies that exist solely to mine data and sell to clients, are on the rise and generate more than $200 billion dollars within the industry annually.

social media graphic

How Businesses Use Social Data

A business’ goal at its core is to sell a certain product/service. Social media makes it easier for businesses to do the following:

Advertising Strategy – The most obvious and most common use, social data is a great way for advertisers to determine what an ideal clientele looks like. With ample information, advertisers are now able to adjust their strategy as their clients change over time, and market with new, more engaging methods.

Content Production – Brands such as Nike, Coach, even Wendy’s regularly produce content on social media to peek their audience’s interest. Data mining makes it easier for businesses to see what kind of content their clients respond to the most, and what mediums translate to the most amount of new sales. However, since it is difficult to track which pieces of media turnover directly to sales, businesses use this strategy in conjunction with others. Photos/visually targeted ads are 4X as likely to produce sales in most cases, making Instagram a new hotbed for targeted content. Moreover, new features such as the “swipe up to purchase” and direct linking make shopping on social media easier than ever.

Direct Revenue Source – Some companies, even outside of the huge data broker conglomerates, generate income by the collection and selling of data. Social apps themselves have this principle embedded into their business model. As part of many app sign up agreements, consent is given to sell this data.

lock graphic

Data Privacy Protection

As a consumer, it’s important to be aware of how these tactics can affect you on a day-to-day basis and what privacy protections you can implement should you choose to do so.

Privacy Settings – In general, social media apps having privacy settings that allow you to restrict the amount of data that can be collected. However, the act of being on these apps oftentimes acts as consent for data collection, so the only way to be truly “off the map” would be to not engage at all. It should be noted, that data collection is not necessarily insidious or detrimental in nature. You should set up your social media in accordance to your comfort levels and values, being conscious of the inherent collection.

Reducing Usage – If you are concerned with data collection being excessive or intrusive, a good way to counteract your targeting as a consumer is to reduce usage. The less information out there, the less information there is to extract. Protect yourself by reducing your connections- Are you 2k “friends” on Facebook truly people you know? Information is extracted from those you connect with in relation to you, not just yourself.

Legislation – As data privacy becomes more of a hot button issue, several countries are beginning to put in place data protections. For example, the European Union has put out legislation outlining companies’ collection of data. The CCPA act in California accomplishes essentially the same thing, and employs an opt-out program for those citizens hoping to have less of a data footprint. In general, this is a difficult space as the business of data is relatively new, so the overall effect on society remains to be seen. Moreover, the internet is often considered public domain, meaning that it is not easily regulated since it has no physical base or territory. Regardless, it’s inevitable that this issue will be brought more to the public agenda as consumers continue to demand privacy rights and disclosure.

All in all, social platforms provide us with the opportunity to connect with anyone- The advent of the internet allows us to dial into lifestyles across the world, develop empathy from firsthand experiences, and share our daily lives with those we love the most. Moreover, it provides us with tools to market our businesses like never before. User tools are constantly being curated to improve advertising and keep the user engaged. The trade-off of data collection may very well be worth it. As consumers, it is our responsibility to remain as conscientious as possible regarding our data usage. In this ever changing industry, the full scope of social data and its implications remain to be seen.

Read More