See What Facebook Thinks You Like

Facebook Thinks Ads

Ever been curious about what Facebook thinks you like? Sometimes their ads are dead on and it scares the hell out of me – while other times, they are so off base that I don’t know how they got that idea. One thing is for sure, Facebook is getting smarter and starting to track us more than ever. They have rapidly been working to improve and expand their tracking of users for a variety of reasons. The main reason is money. The better that Facebook knows you, the better they can monetize you.

In years past, the most obvious ways for them to learn about you was from the data you personally shared. Every time you mentioned a brand, or talked about something, or liked a page or shared an image, they could collect data based on that to learn. After nearly 10 years of tracking your content and conversations, they have a pretty clear picture on who you are. However, that’s not enough and Facebook is actively seeking and developing more (quietly) invasive tracking programs.

Facebook Ads

Facebook Thinks I Like Swamps…

All that said, they still have the years of information that they have collected already to base their ads on. In order to see what Facebook thinks you like, all you need to do is visit the ad settings and preferences option found here. On that page, you’ll find ad categories sorted into 13 different categories which include:

  • Business and Industry
  • Education
  • Family and Relationships
  • Fitness and Wellness
  • Food and Drink
  • Hobbies and Activities
  • Lifestyle and Culture
  • News and Entertainment
  • People
  • Shopping and Fashion
  • Sports and Outdoors
  • Technology
  • Travel, Places and Events

Under each category, you can see the individual things Facebook thinks you like – in my case, 276 different topics that range from Fido to Canon Camera, to Toronto Raptors, to Poland, and so much in between. In some cases, I understand why they think I’m interested in those things, in other cases… I have NO idea how they got that idea.

Some of the least accurate things Facebook thinks I like include the City of Bacoli, Grails, Ben Hill Stadium, Guy Berryman, Swamp, Bumblebeet, and B2W… mostly because I have no idea what any of those things are! But I am curious – what does Facebook think you like? Leave a comment below with some of the oddest things that Facebook has you pegged for!

Can Imzy Be a Better Reddit?

Imzy

For all there is to like about Reddit, there are plenty of shortcomings, could Imzy solve those issues and takeover where they fail? Reddit was formed over a decade ago – and today, the ‘front page of the internet’ holds true to that name. A lot of content that goes viral is directly related to the sites massive and highly engaged user base. You share something, if people like it, it gets upvoted, and when people don’t like it, it gets downvoted. That democratic approach to content sharing has fueled Reddit’s relevance and success – but the other side of the coin is that Reddit attracts negativity. A hell of a lot of it, such that the site has been working to try to resolve those issues for years now. They have removed certain subreddits, they ban users and are actively trying to guide the community into a more positive light, but progress is very slow and met with major resistance.

Step in Imzy, a platform developed by former Reddit employees that hopes to be a better, happier, healthier and safer Reddit. Imzy right out of the gate has a pretty clear mandate that is surrounded by community and discussion. Hate, racism, sexism and other bad content need not apply as communities that cater to this kind of content will be shut down rather quickly (this includes porn and other NSFW content). The hope is that building a positive community from the very beginning will set the groundwork to maintain that. If we’re talking buzzwords, then Imzy is a kind of digital ‘safe space’. We’ll talk more about that in a bit.

Imzy.com

Imzy LikesI heard about Imzy back in early April, and immediately applied for access to the site. Two months later, a beta key arrived in my inbox and I immediately jumped on board. The signup process is rather simple – involving selecting a username (I messed up and pressed ‘n’ by accident, so my name is zachn), picking a few interests, and then a few communities to join. Then it takes you to home feed, which looks very similar to the Facebook homepage. That design helps to make the process of understanding Imzy a lot easier. On the left, you have your communities, down the middle a feed of activity from those communities, and at the top a search, your navigation, and your submission options (which include sharing text, links, Twitch streams, podcasts, images and running polls.)

Part of the way that the positive community is going to be maintained is that communities are opt in required – you can’t comment or discuss anything in a community you haven’t joined. At the same time, community leaders have the ability to quickly discipline or ban users completely. Each community has their own set of rules too, so it’s crucial to read them before you start to contribute or comment. I’ll talk more about Imzy communities in a follow-up post (once I’ve set up my own communities and experienced the process a bit more). The other way in which communities are being incentivized to stay positive and constructive is their built-in tip system. Through the payment service provider Stripe, Imzy enables users of the site to be able to send money to each other to reward them for great content. If you enjoy someone’s content, you can send them a dollar. If you enjoy a community and want to reward the moderation/community leaders, you can send them some cash. It’s a unique way to putting your dollars to action and it will be interesting to see how it plays out.

Imzy Main Page

Imzy Has Anonymity YET Accountability

Engaging in communities is a fascinating DEEP system – first off, you can have MULTIPLE profiles attached to your main account. For example, I have my REAL name that I’m using in one community, while I’m using a different name in another. The idea being, if you wanted to keep some privacy between communities you can. You can also share content or comment anonymously (again, paired to your main account – so if you’re being abusive you can still be banned.) It’s a kind of middle ground anonymity where publicly you’re private, but privately you’re known. Weird right? It’s actually quite clever. On individual content you can upvote things, there is no downvoting. You’re also able to comment in threads, and the content is very media friendly – you can share images, share links, and text formatting to your posts.

Imzy Community and Engagement

I mentioned ‘safe space’ above, and want to quickly address it. One of the things that I worry about Imzy is what I don’t like about Reddit but for opposite reasons. On Reddit, you can anonymously share negative content that’s racist, sexist, hateful, attacking, fear mongering etc. It’s very negative – but there is also some real conversation that happens there on tough topics that should be talked about. Imzy is the reverse, there will be no tolerance of fear, sexism, hate or anything of that ilk… but where do they draw the line? Are Republicans inherently bad to a ‘happy’ place? Does valid criticism equal hate? Will being a haven for safe/liberal thought kill off discussion of any different point of view? My hope is that the site allows CONSTRUCTIVE discussion on all topics, because that’s one thing the world needs – constructive, respectful and polite discussion without resorting to threats, rage, or censorship.

Small Update: Dan McComas, the co-founder of Imzy answered a question about the above: “We support all kinds of discussion, but there are a number of things that aren’t allowed: porn, hate speech, harassment, etc.  You can have any kind of discussion while being civil, this is what we hope to encourage.  We already have a number of communities that are not about happy, or positive things.  We have no problem with this whatsoever!

All that said, after three days on Imzy, I have to say, I’m loving the experience! I’ve joined about 10 different communities (there are hundreds already) and am having some really interesting discussions. As the site is so small right now (15,000ish due to intentional beta constraint), the conversations are few and far between, but it’s made getting a feel for things very easy. My next step is to set up my own communities (I’m allowed to create two) and try the experience of being a community leader. I’ll definitely follow up with a subsequent blog post (or series of posts) as I continue to learn, and experience Imzy. For now though, Imzy is new, happy and healthy with a mandate to remain that way. It could be a replacement for Reddit, or perhaps even Facebook, but if nothing else, it’s a fresh breath of digital air to enjoy.

Air Canada Embarq Partners with Creative Influencers

Air Canada Embarq

Air Canada Embarq is a new crowdfunding service designed to assist potential travelers with the cost of said travel. Embarq works a lot like any other crowdfunding sites but with a different intent. If you’re wanting to travel, you can create a profile, share the details of your potential journey and then seek out the financial help from friends, family or even strangers. The idea being that once you are fully funded and head out on the journey that you share that experience through images and updates with your backers. On the funders side, you can give any amount over $25 (up to a max of $10,000) towards the desired goal. Once fully funded, the traveler receives the funds in the form of an Air Canada eGift Card that they can use to apply to the trip. Air Canada takes no percentage cut through the crowdfunding process.

While the launch has been quiet so far (the first campaigns appear to have been posted around January 12th), it’s clear they are about to ramp up efforts to promote the service by partnering with some creative influencers across Canada. Toronto based Instagramer Stilez (Robbie) is one of those influencers who is heading out on a journey thanks to his partnership with Air Canada Embarq. His Instagram account, which I regard as one of the best in Toronto, is a visual masterpiece for anyone who’s a fan of street photography, urban exploring, rooftopping and symmetry. At the end of the month, he’ll be heading to Tokyo, Japan to capture the city by foot, by boat and even, by helicopter and you’ll get to experience it all via Instagram.

Stilez isn’t what you would consider a traditional influencer in that he is actually very private – you would be hard pressed to find a photo of him. It’s his passion for photography that has made him and his social presence influential. I think there’s some great lessons to learn from Stilez, so I connected with him to learn more about the trip with Air Canada Embarq and how up and coming Instagramers can improve themselves.

A photo posted by stilez (@stilez) on

Q. Of all the places in the world you could travel to, why did you pick Tokyo, Japan?

Stilez: My dad loved Japan, growing up and even in my teens, he would say that we need to travel there together one day. The city is insane, futuristic but there’s huge history there too. It’s always been on my mind. He passed away before we were able to actually plan the trip though. Now, I have this opportunity to actually go and visit the place that captivated my dad. I’m just very excited to be part of the Embarq launch, there’s a lot of really unique ways that I think people are going to use the service in really positive ways.

Q. How did you get into photography? 

Stilez: By accident really. I was able to take really good photos on my phones over the years, starting with the iPhone 3G and sharing them on social media. When Instagram started, I was quick to jump on it and share my pics. I used to see other accounts posting these amazing pictures, and I wondered how they managed to capture them with their phone. Later, I learned they were taking pictures with a DSLR and transferring them over – and I was like, wow that’s genius! I still shot primarily with my phone until an opportunity to use a Nikon D750 came about last spring, and that changed everything for me. Now I’m slightly obsessed with photography. (He continues to shoot on the Nikon D750).

A photo posted by stilez (@stilez) on

Q. What’s your process for finding the perfect shot?

Stilez: I’m trying to break the habit, but I tend to shoot symmetrical things. Vanishing points, leading lines, it’s cool and pleasing to the eye but I want to do more. The rule of thirds is something I’m learning more about. I’m very street and architecturally oriented – that’s what I look for.

Q. Any advice for up and coming Instagramers?

Stilez: I know a lot of local ones and they all want to know the secret on how to grow their audience and get paid gigs. There is no secret. It takes time to build your reputation legitimately. If you want to take it serious, focus on the art of photography, practice nonstop, study & learn from others, find your style, and learn to edit in post – once those things are tight, people will notice. Also, use the right hashtags, tag the right accounts, and you’ll slowly start to grow. The reward is worth the time & effort.

A photo posted by stilez (@stilez) on

Air Canada Embarq Partners with Creative Influencers

Stilez isn’t the only creative influencer that Air Canada Embarq is partnering with. One of the first people to use the platform is a London, Ontario based musician named Johnny Sherritt aka WOLF SAGA. His goal was to visit Australia and connect with local artists there. To celebrate the launch of the platform, Air Canada footed the bill to send him and a filmmaker (A.V. Helm) down under. The resulting experience was documented in the short film below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TPm_R5pc4_g

Last Thursday, I shared a quick status update on Air Canada Embarq on Facebook to see what people thought. The reactions were mixed and that sentiment was echoed on Twitter as well – some felt like there were certainly benefits to the platform while others felt like it was furthering the ‘millennial’ idea of ‘getting what you don’t deserve/haven’t worked for’. I think their launch video may be the one thing that contributes most to that negative sentiment with the opening line of “travel should be an inherent right”. However, the platform is surely going to be (and already is being) used in different ways.

Of the roughly 200 active campaigns, one that stood out was Jeannine Jure, a university student who is using the platform like a savings plan. With hopes of heading to Costa Rica upon graduation, she contributes a bit to it after each pay day (and looks like a family member tossed a little bit into the pot as well). Other ways I can see it being used include: group gifting for birthdays, weddings or Christmas; a way to earmark fundraising efforts in the case of emergency travel such as in the case of disasters; I could also see it being used by creators as a way for their audience to be part of their adventures (travel vloggers/bloggers especially). That said, there likely will be a large contingent of “I want to travel, someone help me with that” posts as well, time will tell how it evolves and grows. You can check out Air Canada Embarq here.

10 Years of Twitter – How the World Has Changed in Tweets

10 Years of Twitter

Twitter launched as a simple platform to share short communications, but since then it has gone on to document and share some of the most important events in history. To celebrate Twitter and their 10 year birthday, I’ve found what could be the most important tweets of each year they’ve existed. Whether they are around for another 10 years or not will not take away from the fact that the service has been responsible for changing the world.

2006 – Jack Dorsey sends out the first ever tweet on Twttr, on March 21st, 2006. The service didn’t launch to the public until July, but would (as we now know) change the world by being the first platform to really make global communication simple and shareable. The service was originally described as “a short burst of inconsequential information,” which, perhaps best illustrates their current struggles in determining what they actually are.

2007 – The Hashtag is born out of a tweet by Chris Messina. While Twitter didn’t immediately adopt using hashtags, the Twitter community did start to use them en masse to add context to their short messages. Chris later went on to say that the Hashtag had already been used by IRC channels as a way to name things, so the idea wasn’t fully his to claim. However, he does love that they are network agnostic – Instagram being the other networks besides Twitter that has truly grasped at the hashtag concept.

2008 – The celebrity influx on Twitter still hadn’t happened yet, but new president Barack Obama tweeted out his thanks after winning the election. Arguably, Obama has been largely part of some of the biggest changes in the world, so this moment is the kick off point.

2009 – Twitter became the place that enabled many revolutions and protests, particularly in the Middle East in 2009 (and beyond). 2009 saw the start of Moldova civil unrest, and the #IranElection hashtag certainly defined what Twitter could be and how important it can be to changing the world. (Others that followed included the#ArabSpring, Tunisian Revolution, Egyptian Revolution, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Bahrain, Jordan, US Occupy Movement, and Euromaiden). Years later, those hashtags and movements are still active.


2010 – Twitter gets its first tweet from outer space, as the American astronaut TJ Creamer says hello to the world from the International Space Station. Space exploration, Mars missions, SpaceX, Interplanetary mining and even space tourism have all gained a lot of attention in the last few years, and this tweet surely helped to capture some of that new excitement. When will we get our first tweet sent from a different planet? Let’s just hope it’s a little bit more Neil Armstrong in it’s content.

2011 – Live coverage of events have become a staple of Twitter activity. Whether it’s watching a TV show and contributing to a conversation, or documenting newsworthy events, Twitter has become a great place to find information before it’s news. One particularly interesting set of tweets was the man who accidentally tweeted out the raid on Osama Bin Laden. The tweets, while innocent at the time, were only later realized to be a live account of the raid. Pretty cool claim to fame to say the least.

2012 – Obama makes another appearance in what was the most retweeted image on Twitter (until 2014) after winning a second term as President of the United States. His impact over the last 4 years were important, but it was his second term where he accomplished significantly more of his agenda as it relates to healthcare, equality and more.

2013 – There were certainly more important events than Justine Sacco’s tweet, but the implication was probably the most relevant to society today. 2013 had the Pope joining Twitter, celebrity deaths and the rise of real time marketing (Oreo + Superbowl), but Justine’s tweet changed Twitter and gave way to the rise of outrage that floods the site now. There is no defending her tweet, but it’s worth noting that the journalist who made Justine a hated person has since then apologized to her for doing so.

Justine Sacco Tweet

2014 – Does it change the world? No, not really. Is it important? No, not really. Then why is it on the list? Because it’s the single most retweeted event on Twitter. I certainly hope that the record will be broken in the future, but for now – this is the collective event that Twitter users have decided is the most important. Perhaps I shouldn’t be so disappointed, clearly there’s fun being had – maybe that’s the takeaway!

2015 – The great debate on whether gay/lesbian couples should have the right to marriage finally comes to an end in America, captured by a tweet from Obama himself. #LoveWins is one of the greatest hashtags ever used. Other issues of equality were tackled in 2015 as well, and progress is being made. Hopefully in the coming years #PeopleArePeople or something similar will be shared by future world leaders.

2016 – We’re only 3 months into the year, but already one of the most exciting discoveries may have captured the best of 2016. 100 years after Albert Einstein theorized the possibility of gravitational waves, they were discovered! (Sorry Leo, I’m picking this over your Oscar win.)

Happy Birthday Twitter!

Relationships Expire: Can We Be Unfriends?

Relationships Expire

I had a blog post that was going to be shared today about Donald Trump, but events that unfolded this morning inspired me to write something completely different. The actual events have been playing out slowly over the last year or so, but ultimately it comes down to the fact that the majority of relationships expire. That sounds like a really pessimistic thing to say, but when you break it down – you’ll see that a high percentage of the relationships in your life are one small step away from being strangers.

Historically, our relationships with others have been tied to social constructs. You made friends with the people you work with, because you need to work with them daily. You made friends with your neighbours because you see them often. You made friends with your friends friends because sometimes you would interact with them. The reality about those relationships is that more often than not, they would come to an end when you moved, when you got a new job or a variety of other reasons. When the constructs that keep the casual relationships together come to an end, naturally the relationships expire. That excludes the people you truly connect with – lifelong friends exist, but the loose ones are supposed to fall to the wayside. That’s a healthy relationship with relationships – Dunbar’s Number says we can only maintain 150 relationships at any given time.

Relationships Expire, Except on Social Media

Today, we don’t have the same natural ending to relationships. Through social media, we’re connected with the people we casually knew in highschool, we keep up with our exes friends, we wish happy birthdays to the people we worked with at our first job out of college, and we interact with those we met once at an event sometime long ago. The average Facebook user has 338 friends which is over twice as many as you can realistically maintain – there’s also something to be said about quality over quantity. We maintain ties with far more people than we actually should (or can).

unfriend

The problem is that social media makes it hard to cut ties. We’re almost bound to an unspoken/unwritten social media rule that unfollowing/unfriending people you’ve had some kind of a connection with, is taboo. There are potential consequences of unfriending… mostly because it requires an active decision being made. The ramifications of that intentional behavior are far more real than moving to a new city, or starting a new job and losing contact with people. If you see them in public, having actively unfriended them – it’s going to be more uncomfortable than simply losing touch. There’s also the possibility that they lash out, which only serves to show what they actually thought of you (and why, for good reason, relationships expire). It’s an interesting side effect of social media: it is easier than ever to connect with people, but at the same time we’re staying connected with relationships that are meant to expire.

There’s friendships I’ve wanted to keep, and due to the constraints of social media etiquette, I’m forced to stay connected to the riffraff on the sidelines. I’m also sure that there’s people who maintain a loose social connection with myself for the same reasons. Was that Mark Zuckerberg’s vision when he created Facebook – Tepid relationships that you can’t escape? Or am I just too naive to know when to cut the cord?

Facebook WordPress Plugin for Instant Articles

Facebook Wordpress Plugin for Instant Articles

Yesterday, Facebook made an announcement that there will be a Facebook WordPress plugin for Instant Articles, slated for release before April 12. The plugin will enable publishers of all sizes – from major media companies to single bloggers, to gain access to Instant Articles without having the expertise needed to properly pair their content to that platform. To do so, they have partnered with Automattic to develop and release the plugin. Considering that over 25% of websites that exist on the internet are built on WordPress’ platform, it’s no surprise that they would develop and release the plugin in order to increase adoption rates on Instant Articles. Perhaps the best part of this is that it’s being released both for free and open source.

What will the Facebook WordPress Plugin for Instant Articles Do?

For reference, Instant Articles were originally launched for large publishers in order to deliver their content to Facebook users in a near instantaneous way – no loading screens, no leaving Facebook, just the content you want to read delivered immediately. They’re also designed to be more engaging and interactive by autoplay video, showing interactive maps, zooming images and embedded audio. Their original launch partners included the New York Times, National Geographic, Buzzfeed, NBC News, MTV, Slate and others. On, April 12th, they intend to open the platform to any publisher of any size. The Facebook WordPress plugin will automatically convert your WordPress content into their platform by selecting and converting media. It also displays it in a standard format that will give it familiarity with larger publishers to create a uniform experience across publishers.

Instant Article WordPress Plugin

Now the question remains – what is in it for you as a publisher/content creator? There’s some real questions as to what the long term plans for Instant Articles are, and how they will benefit (or hurt) publishers. In the immediate future, Facebook needs to give you a reason to do it because what you gain from audience on Facebook, you lose in traffic to your own website – you’re essentially creating content for exposure, which is something that few bloggers want to do. Exposure does not pay bills. There has been some mention that Facebook will allow publishers to gather emails from readers, which can certainly be a reason to post your content to Instant Articles if you want to make contact with new audiences and drive them back to your platform, but that hasn’t been fully confirmed at this point. In the long run, one only needs to look at Facebook’s history: help you build a following (Pages on launch), then remove organic reach and force you to pay for views (Pages today). I wrote more about this here.

Myself, I plan on experimenting with Facebook’s Instant Articles – I want to see how they work, how many people view them (compared to when I post content to Facebook now), and what the benefits might be to myself as a creator. If there’s not enough value to me, I won’t be using it. Plain and simple. The Facebook WordPress plugin is due out prior to the April 12th launch of Instant Articles for all, so in a short month’s time we shall see!

Accessing Audiences: How Long Does It Last?

Access Audiences

I’m in the midst of conducting a survey of influencers, bloggers, Instagramers and YouTubers to get a better sense of how much work goes into creating content, and how we can enable better collaboration with brands and PR people. I’m *hoping* to get 1000 responses before closing the survey, but I’ve periodically been taking a look at the answers and the information is pretty interesting. Most content creators have been at this for quite a number of years and it made me think about a question that I’ve been thinking a lot of lately: How long does it last?

Here’s what I mean… the internet is becoming increasingly fractured in how you deliver content and accessing audiences – traditionally in the last 7ish years, you’ve created content in one place and shared it out to social networks. From there your audience would come to your site to read/view what you created. Now we’re seeing that model change, and the journalists/media companies are being hit first – they are being lured into creating content on other platforms like Facebook and Twitter. There’s a very good post on this topic by Alison Garwood Jones that you should read.

A Social Media Scenario in Accessing Audiences

Let’s play out this scenario a little deeper (and hypothetically)… let’s say you have a blog that you regularly create content for. You’ve written a great post and you want to share on Facebook/Twitter. Those two networks are increasingly competing to keep your attention (so you’ll spend longer on site), while also trying to increase their revenue/profits. Those two sometimes work against each other. You could have spent years building an audience, but now, if you want to reach them you’ll need to pay – partly because showing them that content will have them leave the site, and partly because they can. Think about that for a moment… The people who actually like your content and would visit your site won’t see it unless you pay. The toll roads of the internet are being built and this is happening right now.

Photo Credit: http://bit.ly/1LYF6XK
Photo Credit: http://bit.ly/1LYF6XK

You do have a (future) option though – instead of creating that content on an external site, if you build it on their platform directly they will prioritize it! You don’t need to pay and you’ll continue accessing audiences that want to read what you have to say. You do it begrudgingly because ‘posting where the audience is’ is the future of publishing – but you still maintain your own site. That sentiment soon gets replaced as more and more people are looking at your content – you’re gaining more and more followers who read your posts. You slowly let your own site fall into oblivion. But then… a few years later, you start to see a drop in your views. The platform is changing algorithms as there are so many Creators that they need to prioritize content a little bit better. Worry not! For a few bucks, you’ll stay on top of mind and continue to get those view! It’s then that you realize you’re paying the platform who roped you into creating content for their platform, in order to keep those people on the platform. It’s then you realize it’s no longer sustainable and wonder “How long does it last before I can’t afford this?” (This could happen with Facebook Instant Articles, as it’s happening for Facebook pages right now. History often repeats.)

Now what? Or perhaps the better question is what should you do right now to avoid this? The question is complicated. Yes, there’s value in building a following on social media, but if you rely on it are you setting yourself up for failure or at best, being taken advantage of. Traditional ways in which people kept an audience coming back to their website have either died (RSS), or are largely not implemented by the majority of creators (email lists). Google search still proves to be useful, but only if you know how to use it – the majority of bloggers don’t even use any kind of SEO plugin.

So the question is – how long does it last? How long will you last a creator if you’re not doing anything preemptively to keep accessing audiences that want your content? And perhaps a topic for another blog post… are we one day going to live in a post-website world? Heavy stuff for a Friday!

PS – If you enjoy my content, I’d love if you signed up for my email list! (In truth, I haven’t implemented what I’ll be doing with it yet – I want it to offer value to you!)

Social Media Predictions for 2016

Social Media Predictions

I’m going to make some social media predictions. Collectively, I have over 50 years of social media experience, generally as an average user but also with business intent. In 2016, I’ll celebrate my 10th anniversary as a Facebook user, 8th on Twitter and LinkedIn, 7th as a blogger, 6th as a regular YouTube consumer (and one as a creator), 5th on Instagram, and 1 year on Snapchat and Periscope. I’ve also spent time using Tsu, Ello, YouNow, Meerkat, Beme, Google+, Foursquare, Path, Vine, WhatsApp, QQ, Pinterest, and dozens of others. It seems the minute a new social network launches, I’m there to first grab my username and second, to try it out and see if there’s any potential of this fitting into my life already. I generally can get a feel for whether it’s going to be successful or not within the first hour of using a service. You just know when something will be a hit.

With all that in mind, I think 2016 is going to be an interesting year. We’ve already seen the launch of the first new social network to gain mainstream attention – Peach (though, I feel it may be another Ello/Tsu). We’ve learned how one of the major networks is changing in a big way (no pun intended) – Twitter expanding content to 10K characters. YouTube has shown that video continues to grow in a massive way – announcing they now see 400 hours uploaded every single minute. And if CES is any indication, Virtual Reality (VR) is poised to be making massive strides online in 2016 and beyond. So, with those considerations in mind, let’s go ahead and make some social media predictions for 2016.

Privacy Sharing Less

Privacy/Sharing Less

The world has been increasingly saturated with oversharing – we share everything going on from pictures of our animals and the sunset, to very personal details about our lives, to opinions on everything from politics to movies. Naturally, that’s largely what social media intends for you to do. The more you share and the more data they can collect, the better they can market products and services to you. Privacy started to make a rebound last year especially with bills C-51 in Canada, and CISPA (now CISA) in the US, and I expect that desire for privacy to grow. Whether that’s simply keeping your phone in your pocket at meals, or taking short leaves from social media, or the growth of ‘disconnect’ retreats like Toronto’s Camp Reset. Privacy continues to be a hot button issue, and people are wanting some of it back.

Blurred Social Media Lines

Following in the vein of Twitter expanding to 10K, a lot of other social media sites are likely to expand the services they provide this year to try and consume audiences on other platforms. This one is a no-brainer, and is probably just smart business, so it’s one of the easiest social media predictions to make. Twitter is going to feature live feeds from Periscope within your Twitter feed. Expect Facebook to do the same with their on-site streaming for pages (and likely expand that ability to allow users as well). Facebook also reportedly is testing what life might be like if they can’t run their app on Android, as they continue to attempt to build an Walled Facebook Internet 2.0. Other networks like Snapchat and Instagram could easily integrate some form of livestreaming rather than short video sharing, while Medium could try to expand their blogging site to take on Twitter features. Plus, Google is always interested in getting better at social media, so I’d expect them to do something big with Google+ to revitalize it.

Less Marketing, More Community or Customer Service

I said this at the start of 2015, and it holds more true today than it did before – brands need to reshape their social media plans to drop the marketing. Most social media users aren’t following brands to see a daily image/video ad with a weak conversation prompt like “What do you put our hot sauce on?” In terms of value to the brand, is spending money putting out a bland ad daily with limited engagement really worth it? I’d argue that using social media as a marketing tool is a fool’s errand, which is why community managers ought to start helping their brands decide whether they want to use social media as an avenue for community or whether it’s for customer service. If it’s for customer service, helping solve problems is the task. If it’s for community, helping improve your followers lives is the task. If the goal is marketing, in order to drive those views and limited engagement it’s going to require paying Twitter and Facebook. In 2016, I think finally there will start to be some awakening to this fact.

Periscope Livestreaming

All the Video

2016 is going to be defined by video. Whether that’s long or short form, live, scripted or edited doesn’t really matter. All avenues of video are going to grow in a big way in 2016. YouTube will continue to build out their full video based services, adding additional features through YouTube Red. It’s also very likely to build out niche content hubs much like they did with YouTube Gaming – a direct competitor with Twitch. I’d imagine they will improve their live streaming for business/video podcasts first then add in more individual user based features, of which are currently dominated by places like YouNow and Ustream, though Blab is making an interesting go at it. More people will share on Snapchat, and more will go live on Periscope but smart users will figure out ways to create demand for their disposable content – likely through establishing a routine/consistency of content. Overall, if video isn’t at least on your mind in 2016, you’re falling behind where the world is going.

Other Social Media Predictions

The leveling or even decline of Instagram. The number of ads that are presented on the app are getting pretty heavy handed, and users are shifting more to sharing rather than consuming as a reason to use the app. Snapchat is largely eating into the consumption side of things for in-the-moment content. All networks are going to incorporate the ability to buy things from within the app – for example a virtual store through brand Facebook pages. Also – is the tech bubble about to burst?

What are your social media predictions this year? Share them in the comment below!

Lead abstract vector designed by Freepik

Why I Stopped Being “Controversial”

I started blogging just at the tail end of 2009. I had been on Twitter for a while, but felt that the platform was too restrictive to discuss the topics and share the stories I wanted to talk about. I needed more characters, more sentences, more paragraphs and more control over the topics I wanted to discuss. That led me down a path that I am so thankful for having taken because it put me on the map. However, the road to where I am now was paved with no pavement at all.

Early on, I was fresh out of a relationship and a job loss. I had a crappy apartment. I had no money. Things just sucked. But the one thing that I was getting positive feedback on was the topics I was blogging/tweeting about. I talked about anything and everything – and I wasn’t afraid to call out bad behaviour. Influenced by people like Howard Stern, I didn’t feel that topics should be taboo. I didn’t feel like swearing was that big a deal. I didn’t feel like being honest was something to shy away from and apparently, people agreed with that. The comments got addictive. The traffic was addictive. The followers were addictive.

However, the side effect of being unafraid to talk about things was that people labeled and treated me as a ‘black sheep’ or ‘controversial’. I didn’t follow the groupthink, and that made me an outlier. That was never a fun place to be either and probably spawned a lot more of my frustrations. It was a perpetual motion machine. ‘Controversial’ Post > Plenty of Response > Further the Outlier > Frustration with Things > ‘Controversial’ Post etc. Perhaps my most publicized ‘controversy’ and yet, most beneficial thing I did was “Sexiest Candidate”, where men + women running for politics were seeded against each other in a hot-or-not competition daily. The result was massive… Half a million views and dozens of media hits.

New-Path

Eventually my strong exterior caved. You can only be on the offensive for so long before you need a break. While most of my controversial blog topics ended by 2011, I retained the title and reputation. 2012, I was determined to shake that reputation. I stopped tweeting many things and took it to a newly launched podcast instead. I also decided to change my reputation in blogging with the wildly insane idea of living A Sponsored Life. My prior reputation made it a very slow start and it took many months before I could prove that I wasn’t ‘controversial’.  The year was the most difficult time of my life, but it did give me that separation I desperately needed. As ASLife wrapped up, my love of personal blogging declined and I started contributing to other websites instead. Writing as a ‘ghost’ meant that I was being paid decently for writing, but would get no byline. My name isn’t attached to things posted by the Toronto Star, ReMax, LifeHack, or any of the dozens of other sites. This cooldown period allowed me to re-evaluate my online persona, the things I write, the things I share and how I wanted the world to see me.

Since I’ve stopped being ‘controversial’ I’ve found my love for the internet again. First off, I launched a YouTube channel where I do vlogs and unboxings each week. I am absolutely in love with video production and it’s been one of the best things I’ve added to my online identity. I am also now the Editor at GuyMaven.com, giving me a great outlet to share all the latest news, product reviews, viral videos, entertaining stories and opinions that never fit into my personal site. ZachBussey.com has now become a bastion of personal stuff – everything from topics such as this one, blog companions to my vlogs, and other uplifting local (Toronto) stories are the main things you’ll find here now. I also don’t get into pointless debates anymore whether that’s Twitter or Facebook. The result has been amazing. I have never been happier!

I may never shake the controversial image in the eyes of some, but that’s just fine! In this happy, upbeat and positive space that I am living, few things bother me like they used to. It’s my newly paved, luxury road to the next stage of my life and I couldn’t be more excited for what’s to come.

Lead image by Sam Wheeler

#12DaysMetroCentre Starts Now

MetroCentre is putting a little bit of wind into the sails of this ship! So while you should be aware of this, I’m letting you know about gifts – so I feel like it’s doing you a solid! 

It’s now December 1st, which means we’re a short 24 days away from Christmas! If you’re a fan of advent calendars – this is the kick off day for your daily fix of cheap chocolate (or the adult version which contains Whiskey). If you’re someone who counts down each day with plans of making it better than the last, well you have a short 30 days left to make 2014 incredible. And if you’re wondering when your work vacation starts – it’s about 20 days!

Today also kicks off MetroCentre’s 12 Days of Gifting!

Yes, 12 great days of 12 great gifts all provided by different businesses at MetroCentre. I’m sure you are curious WHAT these gifts might be? Didn’t your mom ever tell you not to peek? Mine did. In fact, we had a whole ‘lore’ surrounding gifts and the holidays. See, we have this family tradition where the entire family lines up on Christmas morning and together as a family we head down into the den to open our stockings. The Christmas tree is in a different room altogether, and if you peek at your gifts on the way down – well because of some Santa magic, those gifts disappear! It’s a tradition that continues today, and I always make a big deal out of it (especially to my 12 year old brother who enjoys to push the boundaries on the peeking).

THAT SAID, I’ll let you all peek at what MetroCentre has up for grabs.

  • A “Sparkle” gift from Classic Time
  • A “Foodie” gift from Cook It
  • A “Pamper” gift from Ferraro Salon
  • A “Mellow” gift from Sutherland-Chan
  • A “Relax” gift from YogaBe
  • A “Holiday Outfit” gift from Reitmans, Jazz Casuals, Aline Shoes + Mayoka
  • A “Meticulous” gift from Exton
  • A “Winter Survival” gift from Rexall
  • A “Environmentalist” gift from National Car Rental
  • A “Wee Ones” gift from Papyrus
  • A “Adventurer” gift from Blacks’s
  • A “Techie” Gift from Wind Mobile
  • And a GRAND prize that’s being called the “Posh” gift valued at over $1000!

How do you get in on the winning? Simple!

Just enter IN PERSON  at MetroCentre (200 Wellington West) – there’s a giant holiday booth.

Alternatively, you don’t even need to leave home and instead just enter on their Facebook page here.

Why Do You Blog?

I often wonder why people get into blogging. In my case, it was accidental. I was on Twitter for a couple years, but felt that I wasn’t able to fully illustrate opinions I had without them getting misconstrued. I wanted something longer form that I could fully explore and flesh out an opinion. I consider myself a little bit of a Oracle in that regard, because every day we see people trying to express an opinion on Twitter and having them taken extremely out of context. I’m very fortunate that I have a place I created where I can freely talk about any topic that I want to – and whether you want to agree or not ultimately doesn’t change that what I’ve written cannot be taken out of context. It’s all there – you can’t take one of 10 paragraphs in a series out of context like you can easily do on Twitter.

But for others – I wonder why they got into it? I’d be inclined to believe that many get into it for the right reasons – they have insight, opinions or thoughts they want to discuss. But others are in it for the wrong reasons – stuff. Ultimately, I suppose neither reason is bad – but I do know that the latter bloggers don’t last. In my year long experiment in 2013, A Sponsored Life, I lived the entire year living exclusively through social media, samples, events, product reviews etc. If I didn’t blog, I didn’t eat. If I didn’t blog, I didn’t have entertainment. If I didn’t blog, I wouldn’t have a way to do laundry. What’s better motivation than survival? Well, as it turns out – not enough. That project made me realize that you won’t survive if you’re doing it exclusively for purposes other than desire. Yes I wanted to do the project, and survive… but eventually, the pitches, the blogs, the vanilla… well, it wore me out!

For some, that lifestyle might actually be great, but for me… I need my opinions. Vanilla is the worst flavour after you’ve had it 100 times. Give me some Christmas Candy Cane Ice Cream! I’m happier when people are challenged and use their brains rather than just accepting the group think unopposed. I also realize that Twitter and Facebook are not the place to have those discussions for the reasons mentioned in the first paragraph of this post. If you are a friend on Facebook, you know that I’ve made a commitment/early New Years Resolution to not participate in social media debates, which means this blog will be a lot more active! Haha.

All that said – the most wonderful time of the year is here! I absolutely love Christmas. It’s my favourite – I still feel like a kid every time Christmas comes about! Naturally, lots of fun PR stuff gets added to the mix too… So expect to see the blog very active over the next while – and hopefully with some stuff that I can hook you guys up with. I mean, I know you read for my words – but if I can arrange some easy giveaways, surely that can’t hurt? Sidenote: If you’re not a fan of Christmas crowds, I highly recommend this song while navigating the malls – you’ll feel like you’re in some epic movie mission! Just don’t let the adrenaline take over too much!

PS. I’m also working with GuyMaven.com on improving their social and writing for them… so make sure you follow them on Twitter / Facebook as I’ll definitely be posting some interesting stuff there too!

photo credit: clarkmaxwell via photopin cc