Month: November 2021

Addressing the Elephant in the Room: Terms and Conditions Apply

It’s taken me a minute to sit down and write this week’s blog and for a while I wasn’t sure what was going on in my head – it’s not that I’m short on ideas, my sudoku puzzles show that I’ve been thinking quite a bit but the act of sitting down and formulating these ideas into a workable concept seemed a bit out of reach for me. And that’s when it hit me – I’m avoiding the elephant in the room.

 

That Giant Elephant that Everyone KNOWS exists, but few address it head on

 

My friends, it is the official beginning of the holiday season and every single thing we do seems to remind of us this fact.

 

Need to grab some milk? Gotta walk by the holiday section first because it’s right out front for everyone to see.

 

Heading to work? Every billboard and radio ad is trying to sell you on their holiday cheer.

 

Scrolling through social media? Everyone and their damn brother is talking about what they are thankful for.

 

We “Should” Be Happy

 

It’s a near constant reminder that this time of year, is supposed to be the “happiest” time of the year, yet in reality many of us find ourselves in a scarcity mindset where we overbook and overextend our time and finances to show others how much we care.

 

By January, we’re exhausted and usually a bit more in debt than we had been previously and not exactly setting ourselves up for success in the New Year and then wonder why our resolutions are so difficult to stick to.

 

This, like mentioned in the previous blog, sets up a vicious cycle where we are physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted. And this is when digital can become dangerous.

 

Let’s talk about those Wish Ads

 

Remember how it only takes ONE second for the algorithm to register your attention? Because of how much or how little we share on Facebook, the ads we are shown can be HIGHLY individualized.

 

This becomes dangerous in the hands of advertisers because ads are created to address two functions: build the brand awareness and address/answer a “pain point”

 

A large yellow M and certain chime reminds young and old that there’s a place to go when we’re hungry

 

But ads aren’t just to remind us of a place we can go when we’re hungry. That may be how they function, but not how they work.

 

For ads to work, they need to utilize our emotions while fulfilling their function. This is why ads are longer – in 5, 10, 15, 30, 60 second integrals and sometimes longer on streaming channels – to give them time to engage our emotions.

 

Ads are meant to capture, maintain, and engage our minds

 

The more we hear, see, and recognize a brand, the more we establish and emotional connection to it by the pain point solution offered. This is where two digital giants of the modern age reign supreme: Google and Facebook.

 

As the top used search engine and the top used social media platform, these two know a good thing when they have it – a space where we both research future purchases and where we ask friends and family for their recommendations, all from the convenience of one portable device that 85% of Americans own.

This is why we feel like our phones are “listening” to us – because they kinda ARE

 

It just isn’t in the way we always think. And that’s when the creepy feeling starts setting in.

 

As a marketer, I enjoy “playing” with my Google algorithm, asking it to “find the REAL me” like it’s a digital version of the game show, To Tell The Truth. But Facebook, damn. There are times I feel like just posting that I bought the damn thing in an effort to stop seeing those ads.

 

Like an algorithm “reset” for ads

 

And what’s wonderful, given time, ANYONE can do this – without having to share on Facebook that we purchased the damn thing UNLESS WE WANT TO.

 

Take a moment and feel that power, that feeling of control. Envision it, think about what that could look like – because like any planted seed, it takes time to grow.

 

Now to begin, there are some things we need to know going in:

 

  1. Not all ads are created equal

Some ads are what I call the “Spaghetti at a Wall” type and can encompass anything from low-rate insurance to pay-day loans. These are typically found on websites and are listed as “sponsored content” and can be found either cleverly concealed within the text itself or at the bottom of the page. Spaghetti ads frequently use “bait and switch” tactics to get you to click on the “articles” which are nothing but more ads.

 

Next up are the “Low Hanging Fruit” – goods and services just about anyone needs. This includes insurance, banking, clothing, food, service utilities, housing, etc. These are ads you’ll see again and again and can be so familiar that the brands may poke fun at one another on Twitter (and elsewhere).

 

Finally, there are the “Sticky Ads” – those that when you stop to think about it, make you go hmmm. These are the ones to be on the look out for. There’s a digital link somewhere and is frequently tied to a “real life” interaction.

 

  1. Yes, your phone is listening to you, but often not in the way you think

Ads are a reflection of what we search for, who we communicate with, and any of our shared connections – be it financial distress, basic human needs, or something more tangible or emotional.

 

The Spaghetti ads, if treated as anything, should be for a good laugh at their attempt.

 

Low Hanging Fruit can also be humorous at times but all in all, they are fairly easy to block out unless it’s during the Superbowl.

 

Sticky ads are sticky because of the convenience of our phones and the software and hardware built into them to function. Every time we have our Wifi, Mobile Data, GPS, or Bluetooth on, our phones are sending and receiving signals. Now, consider how many of us have the voice command system on – Siri or Google (and BTW, Facebook has one too).

 

And all that is before we start searching for the “best” whatever, comparing two different products, or searching for somewhere to eat nearby. All before a conscious emotional connection can created.

 

  1. The idiom of “what has been seen, cannot be unseen” will take on greater meaning

This phrase is as old as the internet because in the early days, there was quite simply, a lot of shit that could be seen. And not always, ideal shit at the ideal time. So, once it was seen, it didn’t need to be seen again. Period. Done. Still in the memory bank and doesn’t need to be revisited.

 

As you begin to start to look at the different types of ads, you’ll start to notice some consistencies outside of the branding, consistencies that associate the ads to the 3 types: Spaghetti, Low Hanging Fruit, and Sticky.

 

Your brain will start to automatically process these without you needing to think about it and categorize them based on what is already known. Which allows the thinking brain time to find these digital connections that make the sticky ads so sticky.

 

  1. We are continually being sold to and sold

This last bit of knowledge is the double-edged sword of convenience in digital. People go to great lengths to have an ad-free experience when online and only then come up with less ads getting through. Most of us don’t have the time to devote to this experience, and for some of us, it’s a price we’ll happily pay for said convenience – in the “devil you know” kind of way.

 

But remember, the devil’s we “know” and how much they know about us. When you stop to think about it, it’s quite a lot and for some, that’s quite scary.

 

Now, I find the scary things are a whole lot less scary once we take the time to learn about them. Like how a haunted house is a whole lot less scary once you see the mechanics that go into making it. You might come out with more questions, but you’ll definitely come out seeing things differently than you did before.

 

Going Forward: Start Looking At Your Ads

 

So, this week, I want you to do something that is going to feel strange and counterintuitive – but I guarantee you isn’t – I want you to start looking at the ads you see when your on your phone. Start recognizing where they fall – Spaghetti, Low Hanging Fruit, or Sticky and begin to categorize your Sticky ads.

 

By categorizing your Sticky ads, your brain will be able to process them faster and you will begin to see more intentional ad placement for you.

 

Now, if this has made your skin crawl just a bit more than you thought, you can take this a step further by asking yourself if the Sticky ads are based on demographic information (age/race/sex/location) or if it is related to a search, an online chat, or an in-person conversation. If it is the latter, be sure to fully close out of running apps on your phone. Hitting the home button is not enough.

 

Know that the idiom of what has been seen cannot be unseen has ruled the internet for so long for a reason. The lessons to be learned are not always pleasant, but it’s best we go in eyes wide open.

Let’s Get Started: Breaking Down the Digital Divide

To begin our journey through the digital divide, we must first look at how we are using and consuming digital media. As I discussed in the previous blog, we have quite a mess on our hands – with negativity spreading rampant on social media, leading to all kinds of concerns from mental health (in the form of anxiety and depression) to real world violence – what we have is a problem.
 
Right now, our problem looks like either a large on-going math equation that has yet to be solved, or a hoarder’s house that may become condemned if it isn’t cleaned out – choose your gross.
 
And if you have the distinct pleasure of needing to use social media for work or business, that gross scale multiplies like rabbits in spring. Is it any wonder why, we as business owners, simply do not want to devote our time to this succubus?
 

And that, my friends, is where we become stuck.

 
Our personal feelings toward these platforms and media bleeds over into our professional voice, whether we realize it or not.
 
Those who are less comfortable with their own news feed, their own friends list, their own experience on social media will inherently be less comfortable in finding their voice in the same platform in a professional setting – be it a professional or business Page.
 
Leading to inconsistent posting and lack of overall awareness.
 
Which then leads to a lack of following and lack of engagement.
 
Which ultimately leads to a scarcity mindset within the digital sphere, leaving business owners “fighting” the algorithm and struggling with where and how to best invest marketing dollars.
 

It’s a vicious cycle.

 
Much like how my anxiety, when not in check, will lead to depression, which then fuels my anxiety, this issue can also seem to be cyclonic in nature – almost like a tornado of shit, destroying everything in its path. But what is a tornado other than extreme energy brought about by significant shifts in pressure?
 
I think I speak for everyone when I say that 2020 was the epitome of significant shifts in pressure, as I have yet to find anyone who isn’t suffering from pandemic fatigue in one way or another. Our energy is depleted because we’ve been so wrapped up in these shit tornadoes, that all we see around us is more of the same.
 
Exhausted seems to light of a term for the way we’re feeling, not only individually but collectively as well. We’ve worked in ways and conditions none of us ever expected. We struggle with an overarching fear because so much has changed so quickly, we’re now afraid to become “too comfortable” in our own surroundings.
 
So, we shut down. Physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted, we just don’t have the energy to do anything but shut down.
 

And this is where digital can become dangerous.

 
Because an algorithm’s base function is to show you more of what you consume, to keep you coming back for more, even when your own satisfaction may be diminished, so it can “learn” more about you. The more the algorithm “knows” about you, the more “tailored” your unique experience is.
 
This becomes a dangerous area with those who are uncomfortable with the platform and sharing information as it leads into two distinct forms of extremism: Ghost-like behavior and Soapbox behavior. Whether you are engaging primarily in reactions, gifs, and avatars or treating your profile page as your own personal soapbox, you are creating a vacuous state for your algorithm.
 
As it cannot learn more about you, your experience will be much more simplified and based on known information: your gender, location, age (all of which is given to start an account) and anything that has captured your attention for ONE second or longer.

 

ONE second is all it takes and then you’re inundated with Wish ads.

 
But it’s more than just those kooky ads that make you stop and look, it’s also political and spiritual posts. It’s posts that touch our core values and beliefs. And while some are from real-live people with honest and pure intents, not all are.
 
Some are cleverly created ads meant to fool the eye, leading to more of that product or service to be seen and then purchased. While others are significantly more dangerous, especially when personal profiles and bots are involved.
 
Bots are nothing more than fake profiles. The account is set up to look like a person but isn’t. While most of us have heard, or maybe even know someone who has set up a fake account, the bot’s function is to interact with the algorithm and find other profiles to extort information from – Real profiles, from Real people.
 
Creating a chain of bots, all interacting with the algorithm as real people can spread like a virus within those who are uncomfortable with the platform because, so little is known about them as individuals. And from here, it spreads out into those networks, where even if only 10% of an individual’s friends list picks up that bot as a friend, it grows exponentially to the next network, and the next. All feeding one person’s ill intent.
 
And like the shit tornado this tends to be, this then feeds into our professional and businesses pages as rarely is the person of ill intent located in or near our own backyards. Then rather than a local awareness, our pages are now shown on a global scale and potentially outside of your sales radius.
 

And we’re back to where the vicious cycle began.

 
Stuck. Frustrated. And above all, tired. So, freakin’ tired.
 
But we must start somewhere, so let’s start with what we know. Whether tackling an algebraic equation or pile of shit, we all start with what we know, so let’s start there.
 

Look for the Good Shit.

 
This week, I want you to begin a review of your friend’s list. See who gives you the most joy when you are on and spend some time on their profile. Most people have a Top 10 that they really want to spend time with and keep in touch with.
 
Find your Top 10 and engage with them. Comment on a post, share something to their profile that is important to the two of you, or just hit them up with a message. Really make it a point to connect with them and watch your Newsfeed and notifications start to change – because it will.
 
It’s important to find the pleasure first, because what we need to do is to clean up after this shit tornado. To find the lessons that need to be learned and grow from them. We are going to grow through what we’ve gone through, but first, let’s focus on the positive shit.
 
Go spend time with those who give you happiness and communicate with them. It’ll start to feed your algorithm the good shit you want to see from the people you want to see it from.
 

You’ll begin to take away the power of the bots and they’ll naturally start to drop off.

 
And if this gets your OCD tingling, or would like to take a more definitive step toward eliminating bots from your friends list, I suggest taking the Spot The Troll quiz and reviewing your entire friend’s list to see if anyone fits the profile of a bot and then drop them like they’re hot.
 
Know that little shifts and changes make for significant long-term changes. These lines of division weren’t created overnight but the more aware we become and the more we focus on real-life connections, the more positive and beneficial the experience will be overall for everyone.

I’ve Been Quiet: Here’s Why

It’s taken me a while to write this. In fact, I started and stopped several times before scrapping and starting over completely. This is partly because I have so many things running through my mind, so many wonderful things that I cannot wait to share, yet I struggled with how to share these with the current social media campaign. The campaign, in my mind, seemed to be regimented, but still valuable. I was stuck wanting to continue to provide valuable content, yet my posts were becoming exceedingly long – a bit too long to read on social media in my personal opinion.

 

These posts, it seemed in my mind, to take on more of a blog feel to them, just broken up into segments throughout the week. But I hadn’t written a blog in over a year. They have just been sitting on my WordPress site with nothing uploaded or transitioned to the Wix site that went live a year ago this month. Where to even begin with such an undertaking inherently meant that I needed to address these two significant issues – I have a WordPress site with old, outdated branding that matches all of the print material I have yet to update, and a Wix site with the new branding, and a distinctly different feel from the older, more widely known version.

 

While each of these sites hold value to the business in varying capacities and spoke to similar audiences, the voice was inconsistent across different digital platforms and in real life encounters – those outdated business cards have a different email address and website from what is on social media. Which then brought in another layer to this ongoing pile of shit that I knew needed to be addressed, but it’s difficult to address these things when you’re busier than you’ve ever been.

 

Symbiotic Marketing is currently working on more websites than we have ever had, our social media approach has shifted to a more coaching than management approach, as businesses and organizations have found the importance of speaking to a specific local audience with resounding success for clients, and for the first time ever, the business has been financially able to support not only my own family but also organizations that are important to me personally.

 

To be a primary sponsor for both Pride Franklin County’s Taste of Pride and the Franklin County Literacy Council’s Puzzlemania is simply a dream come true. But there’s more than just the ability to support my family and support those organizations with whom I personally believe in. There’s also the intangible things that bring purpose to what Symbiotic Marketing is doing and keeps me moving forward every single day.

 

These include seeing my clients excitement as a project comes together, whether in person, Zoom, or over social media fills my heart with such joy that I can barely put it into words. And watching my clients grow and become more comfortable with their own voice through the power of social media and be able to then extend that into other digital areas fills me with such pride that it’s difficult to stop me from smiling all day long. Because through this process, their business is growing with them. They are learning and understanding not only the value of digital, but also how all these pieces fit together with the real world around them.

 

And that, my friends, is my ultimate goal – to be able to show others how and where digital and the real life collide and what we can do about it.

 

I am OVER hearing about how the algorithm negatively affects us, like we are pawns in an elaborate game of chess. It is such complete and utter BULLSHIT that we, by the shear means of communication, are now relegated and controlled by these devices – and it isn’t our fault. So few of us know what we’re really doing when we use them because no one taught us.

 

And how could anyone? We’ve been legit holding on by the seat of our pants just trying to keep up with how quickly technology is progressing – if you would have told me 20 years ago that all that music I was downloading on Napster would be readily available ON MY PHONE any time I wanted, I would have made some smart remark about crack. Sitting high and mighty with my T1 line and 2G phone that could text (oh my!), I digress and firmly date myself but I believe a point was made for those with whom I want to speak to. There’s no way any of us could have seen this coming, yet we’re here and it’s time we do something about it.

 

That’s where my personal experience comes in. I was there when Blackberry’s were the THING because they were the ONLY THING. I went through the Palms, Windows, and then Android and Apple devices because I was not only one of those loathsome cell phone salespeople, I was also a repair technician. And I was good at what I did. Until the shift to Android/Apple user, I managed the top performing service center and top performing store in upgrade sales for my region. I was the second to last manager left go before all the stores closed a year later. I was top in my field because I knew the importance of showing others how to use their phones and how I could help them make the most of their phones and plans.

 

It hurt when I was left go. Not only because it was 2011 and the job market was bleak for someone with my qualifications, but because I had built and maintained relationships with small, local business owners for over six years. I looked forward to seeing certain characters coming through my doors because I knew there was going to be a story and it would always be great. All the while, I would be someone that they could come in and talk to, not only about their phones, but their businesses and lives. I learned a lot from them and to be suddenly taken away from all that hurt a lot.

 

Grieving the loss of these relationships was incredibly difficult, and through this, I took a rather convoluted journey of experience that has lead to just such a wealth of knowledge into the intricacies of running, maintaining, and working in a small business and non-profit areas that is both extensive and often shocking even to those who know me well. Through this process, I grieved not only the loss of that particular position, but other positions as well as several of the small businesses I worked with, closed, or moved out of the area. One of which, I started a month after opening and stayed on until the very last shift. I still consider those that I worked with there family, because that’s what we had.

 

I tell you this because I want you to know where I’m coming from. I want you to know that I’ve been there, and when I started Symbiotic Marketing, I did so with eyes wide open and created it to be a voice for the voiceless. To stand up with the small business owner and show others the power we have in our local communities. And in that, we need to break down some of these barriers that has lead to our ignorance of just how powerful we, as individuals and business owners can be in the digital space. Because right there, is some POWERFUL SHIT.

 

That’s the feel-good shit that keeps you up at night in all the right ways.

 

That’s the GODDAMN I LOVE WHAT I DO moment.

 

That’s the THIS RIGHT HERE RIGHT NOW moment.

 

Because dammit, after what we’ve all been through, don’t we deserve MORE of these moments? And the freaking time to ENJOY and celebrate these moments?

 

I’m all in. But here’s the thing, this is going to take some time. So, over the next few months, you can expect to see and hear a new voice from Symbiotic Marketing that reflects not only my own personal experiences and knowledge, but also the expertise of Isaac Gudgeon whose innate understanding of marketing and visual story telling is simply incredible. While I am realigning with my strengths, Isaac will be showcasing his with not only the digital aspects but also the print aspects that need to be addressed for Symbiotic Marketing as well as our current client load.

 

With that in mind, starting today, you can expect a weekly blog that is written to help you break down this digital divide that has left us ignorant and feeling used, abused, and unheard – because all that is BULLSHIT. And we don’t need that shit where we communicate. It distracts and takes away from all the good shit out there.

 

I’m telling you this, because sometimes what I have to say is going to piss you off. I’m going to touch a nerve and I want you to know that is a part of the grieving process. That is a place that has yet to heal. Treat it as a broken bone, only you know when it’s time to work through the pain. Seek help if you need it, you wouldn’t walk around with a broken leg, please don’t do it with your emotions. That shit builds up in the body and comes out in all sorts of unhealthy ways, and frequently in ways most would not expect.

 

In my last social media post, I shared an old meme – What has been seen cannot be unseen. This is my goal for the blog going forward. It is meant to make you think about how we relate to digital in the world around us. It’s proven to be some powerful-ass-shit, so what would it mean if we could take back some control over what we see and how we see it? What would it look like to have a social media feed that complements your real life and another that complements your professional life? What would it look like to be able to use digital media as an extension to real life rather than an intrusion?

 

Think on that a bit. And know that we are working on addressing our own marketing issues, but like anything of value, it takes time. I’m going big or going home, and I work from home. Let’s do this thing.

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