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Greg Swan WCCO space150

We all have friends who have announced, unceremoniously and often emotionally, that they are taking a break from or quitting social media.

Especially in this post-election spin cycle, more people than ever before are considering taking a break from the always-on newsfeed.

Why is it hard to let go? 

For starters, it’s important to remember that modern social media is more than 10 years old. It’s no longer a nice-to-have distraction, and instead it’s often our 1) primary connection to others, primary source of news and entertainment, and 3) our opportunity to have our voice heard. And thanks to the anytime mobile web and our smart phones, we have 24/7 access.

But the truth is that we share less personal information on surface (public) social than ever before. Personal social sharing on Facebook is down 15% this year over last year, which means a lot of the content you’re seeing in social media isn’t about your friends. It’s more often comfort content click-bait or political-fueled news.Much like how we used to get our news primarily from late night shows or The Daily Show, now it’s more from social media headlines that inform our notion of what’s happening in the world. And of course, fake news sites have contributed to the burnout, especially if the people in your network aren’t thinking critically about what they’re sharing.

So what should we do about social media fatigue?

For starters, please don’t declare you’re taking time away from social media like you’re going to be missed. Just do it.

Greg Swan space150 WCCO tv

Here are three ideas:

  1. Turn off notifications on your phone — lesson the constant reminders and distractions
  2. Delete social networking apps on your phone — check via desktop only
  3. Take a digital detox. I personally take an unplugged week every single year. You should, too.

I was interviewed by our local CBS affiliate this week on the topic. Here’s the story…


Over the past few months, you may have heard friends declare, “I’m done with social media.”

Then they post again the following day.

So, why is it so hard to quit?

Our feelings about social media can span a range of emotions. Some may feel it is too political, too negative or too polarizing — while at the same time see how well it allows for connection and access to information.

“First, we have to think about the benefits of social media,” says Greg Swan, a vice president of public relations and brand Innovation at Minneapolis advertising agency space150. “Why do we want to be on social media?”

He points out three major benefits: connections with other people, a way to share your voice and a popular vehicle for getting the news.

We are sharing fewer cute kid photos every year. Personal social sharing is down 15 percent year over year, making way for more news and commentary online.

Sixty-two percent of people now say they get their news from social media.

“You think about why you can’t quit social media? That’s where you get your news in 2016,” Swan said.

Cornell researchers looked at some of the reasons people who quit Facebook were drawn back in. They studied surveys of people who chose to take in the “99 Days of Freedom” Facebook challenge by stepping away from the social media site. Not everyone could stay off Facebook the entire 99 days.

They found four major reasons for returning back to the site. First, people who think it is addictive are more likely to fall back into the habit.

Second, people who use Facebook to influence how other people think of them had a better chance of not completing the challenge.

Third, good moods kept people off the site for longer compared to bad moods.

And fourth, people were more likely to stay away if they still took part in other social media platforms.

Swan says the ubiquity of our smartphones also plays a role.

“There’s more technology in this phone than what sent the first person to space. It’s no wonder we can’t put it down,” Swan said. “That said, it doesn’t take a lot to set them down and walk away.”

He suggests taking a social media break if you think you need it by unfollowing people or groups you believe to be toxic, deleting the apps from your phone or stopping for a short period of time.

He locks his phone in a safe for one week every year.

Watch the segment here:
WCCO Why Is it So Hard to Quit Social Media?


greg swan wcco disposable social media snapchat facebook poke

Weber Shandwick’s VP of Interactive Greg Swan tracks social media trends. Even he can’t predict where kids will end up next, but he says parents should still try. It should be not to spy, but to understand the issues their kids face as new apps keep emerging.

“There are definitely some apps parents are not going to find any reward in: poking each other or sending snap shot pictures of each other, but I encourage them to try it and figure it out,” said Swan.

That may be the key to security in this new media world: focusless on backseat driving, and more on teaching the rules of the road….

Swan added that he actually likes this new wave of disposable media because unless somebody saves a screen shot, those stupid pictures kids may be tempted to post won’t stay around to haunt them in the future.

Watch the piece here.

Cross-posted from Social Studies

I’m here at BlogWorld & New Media Expo in Los Angeles ignoring the beautiful palm trees and weather in favor of sitting inside and listening to compelling speakers present on the latest digital, social and interactive marketing trends.

Tom #1: Data-Driven Insights
I was impressed by the opening Social Media Business Summit keynote from Tom Webster at Edison Research, who leads exit-polling for elections, among other things. Tom’s focus was on ways to sort through sheer amounts of data, research, studies and trends.

Tom says social media is great for casual listening but isn’t quantitatively effective in driving research and insights. Essentially, social media is great for asking questions but isn’t the best at ascertaining answers.

Tom has found that reframing issues and questions allows for brands to achieve better answers. Rather than asking, “What do you want,” he suggests asking “How can XX make your life better?” Then brands can track those answers and map out a strategy. Notice, this doesn’t say rely on broad trends or generic studies.

While it’s fine to acknowledge the latest eMarketer hype, Tom says all the data coming out about the best time of day to tweet, publish a blog post, or the best place to place a link in an article makes him cringe. He says these types of question assumes that there is obviously a best time or a best place.

But what if it is an incorrect assumption these can or should have obvious results? Instead, Tom recommends conducting scientific studies to confirm or disconfirm these assumptions.

Data for “content creation” is inherently incurious, he says. It takes time and disconfirming things to find the right answer. And Tom uses the word “incurious” as a vulgarity!

For example, a study came out that showed press releases distributed at 1 a.m. were the most effective. This study spread like wildfire across the social web and quickly became folklore and accepted as fact. But this study made an assumption that there actually is a best time to distribute a press release, and (according to Tom) the people sharing the results of this study were relying upon flawed “science.”

Instead, Tom recommends marketers “do their own work.” Rather than align strategy with another organization’s research or logic, he suggests analyzing where one’s customers are, determining what motivates them and driving your own research.

Tom #2: Mo-Money, Mo-Mobile

Another compelling session was Tom Hayden’s session on mobile engagement. Yes, another Tom. My schedule picking strategy was to only attend presentations from guys named Tom (or Thomas or Tommy), and I succeeded.

This Tom says marketers should focus on mobile behavior and not mobile technology. When you think of mobile behavior, consider what we do, how we live and why we use mobile in our lives.

Tom says humans are not designed to sit for long periods of time, to stare at screens full of synthetic illumination and host prolonged conversations through text. Mobile allows users to more natively incorporate brand integration into our normal lives.

Mobile integration is evolving to the tipping point (50 percent of users will have smart phones by January 2012). But when a new user acquires a smart phone for the first time, they aren’t installing FourSquare and Instagram. Rather, they are using it for what they are familiar with from their “desktop past” — email, web surfing and possibly chat.

And that web surfing? It’s mostly search. Tom says 70 percent of mobile search ends up in an offline action within two to three hours. Again, this goes back to mobile behavior, not the technology. Desktop surfing is rarely integrated with an offline action. This was a key takeaway for me as I consider mobile strategy for clients.

Below is Tom’s outline of mobile friendly sites and mobile ready sites:

What is mobile friendly?

  • Condensed content (4-10x reduction of desktop site)
  • Navigation limited to 2-3 actions beyond the landing page
  • Quick load time (you have less than 30 seconds)

What is mobile ready?

  • Responsive design (device detection and customized content based on user)
  • Data feed (API – location, device, A-B testing, time/date) with CRM and/or profiling platform)
  • Cross-platform tested (iOS, Android, RIM, Windows, Palm and across multiple years and OS updates)

Another variable to consider when planning mobile programs is that fact that humans are not only staring at screens less, they are typing less. Touch screens are harder to type but easy to facilitate face to face (e.g., FaceTime, Skype, facilitating an IRL meet-up). So we’re moving back to a preference of face to face while lessening our focus on the written word.

Of note, this is why people put “sorry for typos” on their mobile signature. Tom says we’re apologizing for bad technology and subconsciously will shift to avoid it. I know personally I have significant issues typing on my iPhone and iPad, and that’s why I’m actually typing this post on a bluetooth keyboard for my iPad.

Tom showed Forrester data that illustrates barcode scanners are the fastest growing app right now — beating weather, games, navigation and music apps. As native QR apps come out in operating systems, this is a technology that is happening and won’t go away anytime soon.

Humans are comfortable with the cameras on their phones and will understand how to scan a QR code as that technology grows. However, it’s important to include multiple mediums to reach the masses (URL, SMS, QR, etc.). Tom recommends including opportunities to scan, text and click in communications with potential or current customers, then keep good track of the metrics to adapt campaigns.

I asked a question about mobile commerce and its adoption. Tom says that even though Google Wallet and other start-ups have pioneered the space, there are technological barriers PLUS human behavior barriers that will delay widespread adoption of using your phone to purchase goods on a consistent basis.

Specifically, retail stores have one kind of credit card scanner that can scan every single brand of credit card, but the acquisition of unique technology for mobile commerce is complex and expensive. I personally think barcode technology will be a good stop-gap — allowing anyone with smart phone to scan and buy something, billed back to their phone plan. I guess we’ll see!

What’s your strategy for navigating data overload and trend-based laziness? How are you rethinking mobile strategy for a changing culture?

Leave comments over at Social Studies

This post original appeared on Social Studies. Please leave comments on the original post there.

I’ve been totally geeking out over Marco Tempest’s blend of technology and magic lately, and I keep thinking I need to make it to a Twin Cities Maker event.

The idea of partnering physical and digital (phygital, as my friends at Momentum would say) is truly inspiring.

I keep thinking if I get a breath at work I’m going to order an Arduino and figure out how to make a website ring a doorbell. Perhaps in 2012.

Here are two of Marco’s TED presentations that you absolutely must see…

Of the handful of MIMA Summit sessions I attended, I made certain to sit in on The Digital-Physical Connection: From Nike Chalkbot to Prius Roller Coaster with Eamae Mirkin from Deeplocal.

Deeplocal is known for employing creative engineers who use science and technology to build experiences, stunts and engagement opportunities to help a brand reach their audiences.

These guys cut up cars and make roller coasters and solar powered bio-tents out of the parts. They built the famous chalk-bot, which has now spun off its own company. They mounted millions of LED lights on a skyscraper in Africa and let the Internet write headlines. They built an entire miniature city and let users on the web pilot a camera-mounted train through the cityscapes seeking hidden artifacts.

Unfortunately the iOS 5 update on my iPad 2 completely wiped the notes I took on his session, but luckily Eamae let Deeplocal’s video case studies do most of the talking. And thus, so will I…

What do you think? How would you blend technology and the everyday if time, knowledge and budget weren’t an issue?

A collection of posts from my fifth year at South By Southwest as posted at the Social Studies blog. Be sure to come find me!

My new post on Social Studies:

This was my third year at BlogWorld New Media Expo, and it just gets better and better.

Sure, there are plenty of cewebrities, blogerati and scenesters, but BlogWorld continues to bring out some of the best in social media and social marketing thought leadership.

Congrats to the show promoters, the speakers and attendees who got my brain running and thinking about new and exciting possibilities in social marketing.

My biggest takewaways from the conference (via notes I took in 140 characters or less):

  • Even the best businesses have negative customer comments. Don’t be the boy who cried “FAIL”
  • Humans don’t scale. We only have so much bandwidth. Humility and honesty go a long way in biz/personal
  • “By the end of the year, we’re going to talk about Twitter lists, not follower numbers.” -@scobleizer
  • Social isn’t just about marketing/PR. This is a cultural shift. It’s about people and relationships.
  • Twitter lists has mega-implications for PR/journalist relationships. @scobleizer already on 211 lists.
  • Kids are creating multiple MySpace profiles for friends and other ones for their “real” friends
  • Google Profiles, Sidewiki, Wave are part of a stealth social network. It’s not a destination. It’s a zen attack.
  • Corporate sites should be the hub of a robust Web strategy that goes to where the conversations are outside .com.
  • Develop active listening program AND THEN empower a customer advocacy program to tell your story, defend you, etc
  • PR is curating disparate SM monitoring databases that should be connected to corporate CRM for customer support
  • Five years from now URLs won’t matter. Information will come together in a new way we can’t yet fathom. -@jowyang
  • Entire crowd is focused/stuck on SM ROI, and you can sense the aggregate frustration at the implicit vagaries.

I want to touch on that last tweet. In Jeremiah Owyang‘s “The Future of Social Media and Business” presentation (great breakdown here), the audience asked many questions about legal, ROI, lead-generation and the culture of fear that surrounds investing in new technologies and strategies without a guaranteed pay-off. Mr. Owyang didn’t have answers beyond his analysis, partly because the answers people were seeking aren’t easily answered in a large forum. The future of social media, by its very nature, will not and does not mirror traditional advertising strategies nor the metrics that fuel them.

Companies who today are seen as innovators in the social media space — whether it’s micro-media customer support, humanistic corporate blogs or social network engagement — didn’t get where they are by betting on a sure thing. Social media has changed the game. Even if Nielsen says X millions watched a primetime show last night, we know a key percentage had a laptop open at the same time. And although I can back up that assertion by pointing to the top Twitter trends on any given evening, most companies cannot quantify that “buzz” directly into sales to the point they can justify a spend with guaranteed results.

Rather, an online conversation is just as valuable — possibly more valuable — than a point of sale impulse display or a print and broadcast advertising buy with guaranteed impressions. The reason Mr. Owyang couldn’t give us the 1-2-punch for selling in social media is that 1) it doesn’t exist, and 2) even if it did, it would change tomorrow.

What can we do in the interim?

  1. Innovate
  2. Set measurable objectives
  3. Benchmark
  4. Evaluate and adjust
We must change this perception of fear into a lens of opportunity. The control isn’t coming back, and neither is the sure thing.
BlogWorld has me pumped and even more passionate about the possibilities. I’m not waiting around for the sure thing; are you?

Comments locked. Please leave comments over at Social Studies.

As posted on Social Studies on August 18:

Michael Jackson’s funeral notice may have generated a CNN Breaking News Alert today, but the big news for us Minnesotans captured four of the top 10 trending spots on Twitter:

Brett Favre, Farve, Vikings and WCCO.

But why was local CBS affiliate WCCO-TV trending right along with the news of Brett Favre signing with the Minnesota Vikings?

Because they broke the story — via Twitter.

Via David Brauer at MinnPost:

Reporter Mark Rosen, preparing for a Hawaiian vacation set to begin Wednesday, got a call around 8:30 a.m. from a team poohbah. Fifty minutes later, the tweet heard round the world — well, at least the sports world — went out via @wccobreaking:

“A high-level source with the Minnesota Vikings tells WCCO’s Mark Rosen that QB Brett Favre is expected to sign with the team Tuesday.”

The station’s willingness to sit on a story that would quadruple its web traffic — producing a spike only exceeded by the 35W bridge collapse — reflects oft-derided mainstream newsroom values.

While the concept of news breaking online is nothing new, it’s exciting — and indicative of the changing landscape — to watch legacy journalists embrace new media channels, such as Twitter, for their breaking news reports.

The content mainstream news institutions gather, confirm and report is just as valuable today as ever before, but the distribution model must change to keep pace with technology, generational habits and the ever-quickening pace of the news cycle.

For example, although I don’t often watch local television news, I do subscribe to all available local TV station Twitter feeds, frequent their Web sites and read reporter blogs. I learned of Favre’s new Vikings deal via Twitter, sent it to a friend via e-mail, who posted it to his Facebook page.

News is news, in spite of the delivery format.

Now bring on the Super Bowl tweets!

Leave your comments on the Social Studies blog.

My new post on Social Studies today…5 New Social Media Things I’m Excited About

1. Foursquare
It’s like Twitter, except not only do you care where your friends are AT THIS VERY MINUTE, you all earn points for going to those places. I signed up for Foursquare long ago, but just like Twitter, it takes a good base of friends actively using it be fun. Local businesses would be smart to set up Foursquare nights/tours for their early adopter patrons. Are you the mayor of anything yet?

2. Google Voice
I finally got my beta invitation and locked in my Google Voice number with a personalized XXX-XXX-GREG, which I’m very excited about. You can set it up to forward all calls to cell, home and work phones or filter some folks to one or the other. Online voicemail with transcripts is fun, and I was able to install an app on my smart phone to make calls without using minutes and send SMS without using my plan’s allotted texts. The set up was very intuitive, and I’m excited about the future of this technology and integration with the Google cloud suite.

3. Stuff in 3D
I’ve seen some microsites and business cards utilize Web cam to 3D technology, but last week I discovered Best Buy (client) using the advancement in human brainpower to put graphics on their ads that turn into 3D images when placed before your Web cam. The technology is here, and it’s time to experiment. Can you imagine a tiny Trent Reznor playing a 3D show on your laptop?

4. TweetYourSenator
President O’s PAC is still spending all of those tiny donations leftover from the election, and this time he’s made it simple to “Tweet Your Senator” about healthcare reform. As if our elected representatives’ aides didn’t already have their hands full sending form reply letters and deleting voicemails from constituents, now they have incoming tweets to ignore. But wait! There are a surprisingly large number of congressional members on Twitter, and I’m excited to see ways to harness the burgeoning interest in tweeting.

5. Twibbon
If you were an avid Twitter user in the summer of 2008, you’ll remember Ze Frank’s Color Wars, where users chose a team, tweaked their avatar to show their team spirit and participated in challenges just like summer camp. I was on the red team and remember agonizing over my avatar in Windows Paint trying to get it just right. These days people pimp their avatars for more genuine reasons (green avatars for Iran, Stellan, etc.). And thanks to Twibbon, it’s easier than ever to tweak your avatar with a cause or image overlay. Don’t see a cause that resonates with you? Make your own. Very cool.

–Greg Swan

Please leave comments over at Social Studies.

My new post on Social Studies:
Tara Hunt, from Intuit, spoke on the topic of how people interact and exchange information in online communities: through social capital, or as Cory Doctorow calls it, < a href=””>Whuffie</a&gt;.

Hunt gave a thorough deep dive into the importance of online communities – both through listening to what they’re saying about brands and also engaging with them. She encouraged marketers to join online communities – but not as a researcher or marketer. Instead, marketers should transparently join, listen, learn and participate in these communities to, “figure out why they would give a damn about your brand.”

One key area is seeking the community’s feedback on brand initiatives, campaigns, new products, etc.

Here are Hunt’s 8 Commandments of Receiving Feedback from Online Communities:

  1. Get advice and input from experts, but design for the broader community
  2. Respond to all feedback, even when you respond by saying, “No thanks”
  3. Do not take negative feedback personally; remember that when people give feedback, they are doing so because they care and have taken the time to improve their experience
  4. Give credit to those whose ideas you implement; nothing says “we are open to conversation” beter.
  5. When you implement a new idea, make sure that you highlight it, and ask for feedback
  6. Make small, continuous changes rather than waiting to implemtn everything at once
  7. Don’t just wait for feedback to come to you, go out and find it; people are probaby talking about your product elsewhere.
  8. No matter how much they like you, there will be haters. Mind the haters. Don’t feed the trolls.

You can view all 318 slides here.

Please leave your comments over at Social Studies.

I have a new post up over at Social Studies: Is your lawmaker on Twitter?

Here’s the post, but please leave comments over at SS:

Back in July, members of the U.S. Congress fought for their right to Twitter with a Let Our Congress Tweet campaign. It’s success, thanks in large part to Texas Rep. John Culberson, helped modernize rules — letting representatives tweet from the House floor.

If you caught President Obama’s annual message last week, you may have noticed attendees typing on their smart phones. But they weren’t just replying to urgent e-mails pertaining to national security — a handful were tweeting the event:

The Washington Post‘s Dana Milbank wrote, “Some members called it a new age of transparency, a bold new frontier in democracy. But to view the hodgepodge of text messages sent from the House floor during the speech, it seemed as if Obama were presiding over a support group for adults with attention-deficit disorder.”

And here is Keith Olbermann’s take:

Harsh words, and I can understand the sentiment that everyone, particularly legislators, should pay attention when the president speaks. However, I do disagree (and not just because it was recently proven doodling while listening improves cognition).

Mobile social networking is growing fast, and I’m no longer shocked at its popularity and permeance.

At the SXSW Interactive conference last year, I was struck by the presence of an unseen digital backchannel wherever I went. Whether it was in a panel about metrics, Mark Zuckerberg’s keynote meltdown or a sponsor party, attendees were sneaking a glance at their Twitter stream to see what others were thinking, saying and doing.

In the year since, the trend has now grown to the point Congress members are offering their real-time insights, feedback and criticism on public policy. It’s a heck of a lot more convenient (and entertaining) than watching committee meetings on C-SPAN or skimming a monthly eNewsletter detailing what pork your local legislator earned you this quarter.

In fact, the trend has grown to the point I rarely attend an event that doesn’t have a fledgling digital backchannel. People tweet about snowstorms (#snowmageddon), American Idol (#americanidol) and political debates (#debate).

Twitter has given a voice to the masses, which is challenging the long accepted “I speak and you listen” model. I don’t consider multitasking adolescence. Instead, it’s an unavoidable communication complement, and one that should be embraced and leveraged rather than shunned.

Do you ever watch legislative committee meetings that drone on for hours on C-SPAN? Me neither.

But if you’ve ever read your representative’s quarterly pork newsletter and wish you had a feeling for their personality, challenges and passions, now you can thanks to social media tools like Twitter.

What worries me more than the Congress members who offered real-time insights, feedback and criticism during the president’s address are the representatives who didn’t share their feedback with constituents at all. Now there’s something to question.

Is your representative on Twitter? Find the full list here at