Facebook Star Ratings Create Cause for Concern

facebook starsIf you are in advertising and marketing, then you know that Facebook is constantly making changes to its site, pages and policies, and the company is not always perfectly transparent about these changes. You also know that within the past month star ratings on a scale of one to five have begun to appear prominently on business pages, right under the name of the business. Individual reviews and ratings also appear on the page, in the right-hand column for desktop and above page posts on the mobile app.

When these ratings first appeared, I saw several articles and blog posts talking about how these ratings could be good or bad. HubSpot argued both ways in an attempt to remain neutral, as did TechCrunch, while InvestmentNews tells advertisers they should be concerned. Business Insider says that the ratings will put Facebook in direct competition with Yelp and FourSquare.  Other sources, like Social Media Today raised the questions we should all be asking.

Although the Facebook star ratings are supposedly still in the “testing phase,” I see some major cause for concern as an advertiser if they continue with this rating system. Continue reading

The Global Reality of a Media World

I read an opinion column today in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette about the state of the world discussed at Rio+20, in terms of carbon emissions, climate change, and sustainable development. The author, Jeffrey D. Sachs, and those at the United Nations Conference, call for an end to extreme poverty, less carbon emission from the energy system, slower population growth, sustainable food supplies, and protection of the environment. But those of you reading this, who probably have at least six other tabs open on your screen, switching from Facebook to Pinterest, updating Twitter on your phone, while texting your friend, are probably nodding your head in agreement, thinking yes, it’s probably a good idea to save the world, yet how many of you got up to turn a light off? How many of you have the TV on while you’re on your laptop, reading blogs and updating social media, obviously not even watching the TV? I admit, I have the TV on. I like having the Today Show on in the background of my morning and if something interesting stands out, I turn my attention to the television.

This is the reality of the world today. People are perpetually connected and plugged in and so immersed in their personal lives and the virtual lives of their friends. People would rather “pin” a link to their dream wedding dress and tell hundreds of Twitter users that the line in Starbucks today is incredibly long than shut off their technology and plant trees. I’m not saying that all people are like this, but this is our reality.

On the other hand, our reality is also high carbon emissions and global warming that eventually will destroy the planet. This is what scientists tell us, but so many people don’t believe it or don’t want to believe it. These claims seem extreme. People just aren’t motivated to look outside their own neighborhoods. We say we want what’s best for our children and no one can deny that. But our ability to look far ahead, hundreds or thousands of years is limited. We see the reality that is right now and right now the sun is shining, the grass is growing, the birds flit around the backyard. Right now the kids have enough to eat and go to great public schools. Right now, I can’t afford a new energy-efficient vehicle, but that’s okay because there’s enough gas in my car, and GetGo and Giant Eagle are helping me save a few cents at the pump. The concern about overpopulation, famine and disease in third world countries doesn’t hit home because, well, we can’t see them. All we see are the sad, slow-mo advertisements on TV telling us to donate just 25 cents a day, but everyone thinks those are over-exaggerated to draw a few more quarters from the crowd.

So what can be done?

If we can’t get everyone to agree on the current state, how can we possibly expect people to agree on the measures that must be taken?

So many people are calling for action from the younger generations. The recent college graduates, like myself, and the students. Treaties and “Sustainable Development Goals,” while great in theory, won’t work unless the information and the impact somehow resonates with the young, tech-savvy, Facebook-stalking, status-updating crowd. So how do we make it resonate? As a communication major, passionate about media, TV, video production, I am a firm believer that media can reach people in ways that newspaper articles and politicians can’t. The only problem is that even media may not always work. You might remember the KONY2012 video that almost instantly went viral with almost 1 billion viewers on YouTube. This video resonated with me and probably hundreds of thousands of others. But it did not resonate with everyone. The video was a big topic of discussion in my college media and politics class and it is up for debate why this video was such an instant hit and then almost just as quickly fell from the spotlight. I’m sure it motivated some people to buy the bracelets and post signs and this kind of enthusiasm is what we need to save the world, all the time. (But that’s another topic.)

So when you think about how to reach the audience, the young internet generation, a YouTube video might work. Or a Facebook page, or a Twitter account, or a blog post. A story on the 6 o’clock news might work, or the endorsement of pro athletes and celebrities. But really, it’s going to be all of that and more. The world won’t change just because someone writes a blog post, or a newspaper column. It won’t change if someone makes the most creative 30-minute YouTube video of the year. It won’t change if politicians put it to a vote. In Sachs’ article he writes, “Since politicians follow public opinion rather than lead it, it must be the public itself that demands its own survival, not elected officials who are somehow supposed to save us despite ourselves.” The public will only demand change if we all agree. The whole world needs to agree. We will only all agree if we are inundated with the information, if we are convinced through all outlets that this is the change we need to see.

We see evidence every day of technology becoming better and people wanting to use it. Take Apple. They could come out with a new, faster, better product every month (oh wait, they do…) and people buy it and use it and promote it. People want better things, they want to be on the edge of innovation. We wouldn’t have students majoring in engineering and science if this wasn’t true. We just need the motivation to convince the world that sustainability is what’s better. That energy-efficiency is what’s better. That everyone’s lives will be better if we all adopt this world-saving technology and practices. I hope that this blog post will add to the global conversation. Hopefully others will continue to flood all media with the facts and someday soon, maybe we’ll all agree.

Apathetic Citizens–Unite!

People might be spending more time with social networks and entertainment programs, but they still manage to unite for a common interest.

According to the theories of selective exposure, perception and retention, people either avoid information that is incongruent with their own beliefs, or if they do view this information, they consume it through biased eyes or remember only the parts that adhere to their beliefs. Earlier in the year, we also talked about how people seem to be paying less attention to hard news, and a new genre of infotainment is becoming more prevalent. People are actively choosing to watch the Daily Show, for example, because they agree with John Stewart’s more negative criticisms of politicians and governmental practices, or at least find him entertaining. If this is the only “news” people view, we would say that they are only exposing themselves to the ideas that already fit with their beliefs. It is widely known that conservatives watch FOX news and liberals watch CNN and MSNBC. Even on these generally hard news sources, we can see some evidence of infotainment. One of CNN’s recent tweets today was “Do allergies actually benefit your health?” One of the stories on the U.S. news page of MSNBC was “Teen banned from prom over Confederate dress.” On the ABC News home page, “Katherine Heigl adopts second baby.” And even on the home page of FOXNews, “Does the G-spot exist? New study fuels debate.”

We can speculate, then, that even though these are traditionally hard news sources, they are finding that people like infotainment. People like to be entertained and with so many other outlets to find entertaining information, games, and social media, the hard news sites are just trying to keep up and compete. Remember, news is a business.

So scholars argue—are people becoming apathetic? Are people becoming less involved in the governmental process and less knowledgeable about important issues? According to Facebook’s newsroom, there were 845 million active users at the end of December 2011. According to a Time Magazine articlein September 2011, there were 100 million active Twitter accounts, with an average of 230 million tweets per day. According to Wikipedia, television ratings showed that in 2008, The Daily Show had 1.45 to 1.6 million viewers daily.

With these statistics, it would certainly seem like people are turning more and more to media that can entertain, especially media that is available on mobile devices, and has quick and easy access. So are these scholars right? Do people care less about what’s going on in the world and more about what’s going on in their world?

I would argue that while so many people are turning to Facebook, Twitter, and entertainment TV shows, the media still has the power to move people to action. Even those who selectively choose the media that they watch decide what is important to them and they are moved to act on it. People who may appear so apathetic in their TV show choice and entertainment value still do care about the world around them.

For example, the MSNBC website prominently displays a headline reading “Autistic boy wired up to show teacher bullying” with a video next to it. In this video, a father is outraged by the abuse his son endured at school, which he secretly recorded, and he posts a YouTube video displaying his feelings and several of the recordings. This video post led to the school firing this boy’s teacher. The video has about 1.5 million views. On the page, there is a petition that sympathetic viewers may sign to show their support for the father and his son and to try to change New Jersey legislature so that teacher who bully students are immediately fired. This petition has been signed by over 85,000 people.

Another example of people stepping up as active participants comes from a story on FOXNews this morning about the Arizona immigration law Senate Bill 1070. Immigrants and pro-immigration activist groups are taking a stand today and protesting what they believe is a discriminatory law, a continuation of their protests two years ago when the bill was signed.

And finally, we see millions of people step up and rally behind Presidents, rally behind Presidential candidates, rally for low interest rates for students and the death of Osama bin Laden. Even recently on the University of Delaware’s campus, where a few years ago, the students here were known notoriously as apathetic, the students have become more involved; they left their houses in the middle of the night to march to Memorial Hall. The students here rallied for justice in the Trayvon Martin case. People may enjoy connecting with their friends on Facebook and they may like to see what their roommate has to say about her exam on Twitter. People might find John Stewart humorous and they might not want to look for every angle of every story every day. But when they find something they care about, many people in this country find a way to become active members of the community. Whether they are signing an online petition against teacher bullying or passing along the message about KONY2012, many people are still finding ways to be informed and be engaged. And while, their selective exposure, perception and retention might skew their information and might make them slightly biased, I think the most important part is that they found something.