When you give people an inch, some will take a mile—and these are the folks who ruin it for everybody else. Such is life, and the reason behind some big changes to Facebook links that are coming down the pike.
If you manage your company’s Facebook page, you are likely familiar with the capabilities of Facebook links. You write your post, paste in your link, and the platform automatically generates a link preview. From there, the link headline, preview copy, and photo have been editable, which can be helpful when these fields don’t auto-populate quite how you expect. For example, maybe you are linking to a blog post, but the auto-populated image is unrelated to the topic, having been pulled from the page’s header, sidebar, or another area altogether. Facebook has allowed you to swap out that image with one of your own to “fix” the way the link appears so that it looks professional, purposeful, and relevant to your audience. This is about to change (if you haven’t noticed changes already).
(In the above screenshot, I am still able to click on the “+” sign to upload my own photo to accompany my link.)
Unfortunately, some Facebook users have utilized these customization features for dishonest reasons, swapping out link headlines, preview copy, and photos for things that are completely unrelated to the content that is actually included on the linked webpage. This is called “clickbait,” essentially a bait and switch. These users take advantage of compelling images or headlines to garner traffic on their webpages—pages that would not have attracted as much traffic on their own. Most of us have probably fallen victim to this at some point. “WOW! YOU’LL NEVER BELIEVE WHICH CELEBRITY IS QUITTING THE BUSINESS!” reads the headline, with a photo of Oscar-winner Leonardo DiCaprio pasted above. Click on it, however, and it takes you to a slideshow of B-tier actors who, over the years, have left show business for one reason or another…and Leonardo DiCaprio is nowhere on the list. This practice was also heavily used (and criticized) during the 2016 presidential election season, contributing to the current war against “fake news.”
Facebook is waging its own war on clickbait by removing the capability to edit link previews going forward. Some pages may notice reduced editing permissions already, as Facebook rolls out the changes across its platform. Most—if not all—users can no longer edit the headline or preview copy. By September 12th, 2017, the capability to replace images will be removed as well.
What can Facebook users do about these changes? Well, not a whole lot—except adapt. The move to less customization means that social media managers will need to be more diligent about vetting links to ensure the auto-populated images and copy are acceptable for their brands. And when writing headlines—for blog posts, articles, web pages, and more—teams will need to write them with social media in mind (which is a good practice anyway). Webmasters will also need to ensure that page title and meta tags are up to snuff to avoid links that look like this:
As shown above, the copy that auto-populated does not generate any interest in this link to our McDougall Communications blog page. The page title/headline is non-specific, and the preview copy is pulled from one of the blog posts on the page, instead of being representative of the blog as a whole. It took some updating on the backend of our website to ensure that the blog page preview now looks like this:
There are a few tools that can be of use in preparation for these changes. Facebook has provided a “Sharing Debugger” tool, which enables you to preview what your links would look like before posting them (and you can check out this blog post for more information on how that works).
In the end, we can all appreciate what Facebook is doing to crack down on clickbait and fake news, but it’s important to recognize how it impacts all of us who are working to represent our brands in the Facebook community. We’re prepared, so the only thing left to do now is wait to see how these changes take shape. Good luck out there! And let us know if we can help.
By Heather Kowalczyk
Sixty seconds may not seem like much in real time, but as demonstrated in this nifty little infographic (courtesy of @LoriLewis and @OfficiallyChadd), one minute is an infinity of its own when it comes to the depths of the world wide web.
You might have already had an idea of what the numbers were like, but what does this mean for us, as PR professionals, or in how we communicate as a whole?
According to the data analytics and management company, DOMO, approximately 90% of all of today’s data was created in the past two years alone. Since you’re reading this blog post, chances are you’re already aware of how prevalent technology has become in our everyday lives. With the almost dizzying number of online platforms available to us, from the evergreen Facebook to the newer Venmo, it can be daunting trying to figure out where your audience spends their time. And while the rise of social media and other digital spaces means that communications professionals have more options now than ever before, remembering that each platform comes with its own set of ‘rules’ is crucial when it comes to optimizing your message.
That being said, don’t let the numbers overwhelm you. While there is always more to learn, here’s a quick rundown (and some quick tips!), to improve your social media game from here on out:
Facebook isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
While the number in the infographic may seem smaller compared to the others, it only refers to the number of logins that are occurring each minute—not the number of people actively using, scrolling, liking, and posting on Facebook. Given that information, it’s safe to say Facebook still dominates as the leading social media platform out there.
There are almost ten times as many tweets as there are Instagram posts.
But when you look at the functionality of both of these platforms, this makes sense. A tweet is limited to 140 characters, and can be fired off at any time, whereas an Instagram post consists of an image to be edited, and is usually accompanied by a caption (well-thought out or not). That being said, Twitter is best used to keep up with, and respond to, real-time events and best lends itself to reactionary content.
Instagram-based ads are the most effective when it comes to engagement.
Instagram leads both Facebook and Twitter when it comes to audiences engaging with ads, most likely due to its visual nature that lends itself particularly handy to those in e-commerce. If you’re looking to sell products, especially those that are aesthetically pleasing, Instagram should be your go-to, with engagement levels over 50% higher than Facebook, and 2,000% higher than Twitter. (And, if you’re looking for a marketing team that makes great use of Instagram’s capabilities, head to Wonder Women’s page).
Snapchat is now becoming more popular—despite what you may have read.
While you may have seen quips about Snapchat not living up to its predicted earnings floating around the internet, this unique platform isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. According to the latest stats, Snapchat ads receive anywhere from 500,000 to 1 million views a day, and millennials—a group most marketers covet—account for 7 out of 10 of its daily users.
By Vanessa Pearce
I used to enjoy picking up my iPad on Sunday evenings, scrolling through news from around the world, luxuriating in a lengthy feature story, and even listening to the future with a stream of morning drivetime radio from Sydney.
But then the pop-up notifications became more frequent. You know the ones. The over-eager manager, colleague or partner clearing through their inbox, furiously trying to catch up from the week gone by and getting ahead of the week to come.
And how to do that? By pushing email after email, request after request, into your inbox. While they slept more soundly on Sunday night and came in refreshed the next morning, I went to bed and woke up thinking about a mountain of to do list items that had suddenly materialized.
They were ahead. I was behind. Thanks for ruining my weekend, and putting me in a hole for the week ahead.
Now I can’t point fingers without pointing them at myself. I’ve been that guy, sending Sunday night emails, oblivious to the effects on my co-workers. You have too. Admit it.
When I made a tongue-in-cheek Facebook post about this topic a few weeks back, the comments were swift, pointed and at times defensive. Yet after a bit of reflection -- and perhaps the benefit of Monday morning introspection – there was a bit more balance. Just because we live in a 24/7 world doesn’t mean that we need to add to the maelstrom, nor does it mean that we can or should interrupt much-needed vital time away from work obligations.
So how can you reform your evil ways, winning back the good graces of your teammates without causing your own anxiety levels to skyrocket? Here’s what has worked for me:
Good luck purging your demons. For those of us trying to wring out a few more hours of peace on a Sunday – and listening to 2GB while reading the Times – thanks for a little self-restraint.
Part III: Crisis at the Podium
By Nick Guadagnino
It was a long, tiring week. First, people endured the tone-deaf Pepsi commercial featuring Kendall Jenner. Then came the “re-accommodation” of Dr. Dao aboard United Airlines Flight 3411. So by April 11, people were exhausted. And when I say people, I mean me. Watching two PR crises unfold takes a lot out of you, especially for someone who makes a living in the PR industry. But hindsight is 20/20, and I should’ve known this was no ordinary week. To cap it all off, we now turn to White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer.
April 11, 2017
In his daily press briefing, Spicer issued a statement regarding the Khan Shaykhun chemical attack that took place one week earlier in Syria. After denouncing Russia’s support of the Syrian government, Spicer went on to discuss the Assad regime, making a comparison that was simultaneously offensive and woefully inaccurate.
“You had someone as despicable as Hitler who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons.”
History shows that this statement is false, as hydrogen cyanide, the active component in Zyklon B which was used by the Nazis in gas chambers, was officially declared a chemical weapon in 1993.
Okay, so Spicer made a mistake. There’s still time in the press conference to apologize and own up to the remarks. Shortly after his initial comment was made, a reporter asked him to clarify his statement, giving him the prime opportunity to apologize.
But if he had, chances are I wouldn’t be writing about it now.
Instead, while attempting to clarify his statement, he dug himself into a deeper hole, defending his remarks and referring to concentration camps as “Holocaust centers.” To add insult to injury, these remarks coincided with the Jewish holiday of Passover.
Calls for his resignation flooded both the Internet and Capitol Hill. Fortunately, Spicer regrouped and appeared on CNN the following morning to make the following apology:
“I mistakenly used an inappropriate and insensitive reference to the Holocaust for which, frankly, there is no comparison. For that, I apologize. It was a mistake to do that.”
The lessons learned from Sean Spicer’s mistake, other than refraining from mentioning Hitler and the Holocaust altogether, can be applied to the Pepsi and United Airlines incidents. In short, it’s as simple as owning up to your mistake. The wrongdoing can’t be undone, so the sooner you get in front of the story, the better off you’ll be. But before you make a statement, make sure it’s genuine. The public will see right through any and all corporate speak, making it more difficult to get back into their good graces.
It was one long week, but also one filled with case studies that will be taught in public relations courses for years to come. So maybe it was all worth it in the long run? Although, I’m sure Pepsi, United Airlines, and Sean Spicer would disagree.
Part II: Flying the Unfriendly Skies
By Nick Guadagnino
Air travel in the 1950s and 1960s was a luxury experience. It was a golden age—one that made passengers feel like kings and queens. It had style, it had elegance. But in the 60 years that followed, a sea change occurred. The glitz and glamour disappeared and the royal treatment faded into what we now recognize as “coach.” Leg space shrunk and baggage fees skyrocketed. And for many travelers, customer service seemed to become a thing of the past.
We’re sure Dr. David Dao agrees, at least when it comes to his experience with United Airlines.
Not sure who Dr. Dao is? Well, let me refresh your memory.
April 9, 2017
On Sunday, April 9—five days after the debut of the Pepsi commercial I discussed in my previous blog post—Dr. Dao boarded United Airlines Flight 3411 with service to Louisville, Kentucky. Everyone was already seated when an announcement came over the loudspeaker alerting passengers that four people needed to be removed to accommodate staff members who were needed to cover an understaffed flight at another location.
What followed caused public outrage, with one survey indicating that only 21% of people would choose to fly United now if given the option.
Vouchers were offered (twice) along with tickets aboard a flight leaving almost 24 hours later, but no takers volunteered. A manager then boarded the plane and informed everyone that four people would be randomly selected by a computer for involuntary removal. Three of the selected individuals agreed to leave, but the fourth—Dr. David Dao—refused, claiming he needed to see patients the next day at his clinic. A struggle ensued, with other passengers capturing footage of the conflict and posting it on social media, resulting in more than 6 million views in less than a day.
A horrible experience, to say the least. But what’s done is done, and the ball was now in United’s court. They had a crisis on their hands and needed to respond in a timely and humanistic way. The response(s) were timely- but cold and robotic.
The first response came the day of the incident, when United issued a statement that said Flight 3411 had been “overbooked”, and they apologized for the overbook situation. Two days later, United clarified that the flight had not been overbooked, but rather sold out.
The second response came on April 10, when United CEO Oscar Munoz issued the following statement:
“This is an upsetting event to all of us here at United. I apologize for having to re-accommodate these customers. Our team is moving with a sense of urgency to work with the authorities and conduct our own detailed review of what happened. We are also reaching out to this passenger to talk directly to him and further address and resolve this situation.”
“Re-accommodate” proved to be a poorly chosen word, as the company received further ridicule and criticism following this statement. Later that same day, Munoz sent an email to employees, praising the crew’s actions and claiming Dr. Dao had been “disruptive and belligerent.” The email leaked online and was met with even greater criticism-and a petition calling for Munoz’s resignation.
Exhausting, right? How can a company as big as United handle a crisis so poorly? It wasn’t until April 11, a full two days after the incident, that United started to get its act together. In another public statement, Munoz showed more empathy, calling the situation “truly horrific” and taking full responsibility.
Several compensations and policy changes stemmed from this statement, including $500 United vouchers for passengers aboard Flight 3411. But on April 27, United Airlines and Dr. Dao reached a confidential settlement, and that same day the airline announced 10 policy changes, including an increase in the maximum amount of travel vouchers offered to “bounced” passengers to up to $10,000, and a promise to reduce overbooking on future flights.
Unlike Pepsi a few days prior, United Airlines’ handling of the crisis caused serious damage. Although stock prices remained level, members of Congress were called upon to make new legislation that would give flight passengers more rights and prevent similar incidents from occurring. The worst comes from a poll issued by Morning Consult, which indicated that 79% of prospective fliers who had heard of the incident would choose a non-United Airlines flight, while 44% would choose a non-United flight despite having to pay up to $66 more and enduring an additional three hours of travel time.
In other words, people were furious. Had United handled the situation differently—specifically, by taking responsibility right from the start rather than issuing cold, corporate-sounding statements—the public’s outrage perhaps wouldn’t have been so severe. But that’s not how things panned out, and it’s safe to say that the incident on Flight 3411 will be used as a crisis communications case study—a what-not-to-do example—for years to come.
The poorly worded messages of United Airlines, surprisingly enough, wouldn’t be the last ones the public endured this week… Check back as we wrap up the Nightmare on PR Street trilogy and explain why it’s best to leave Hitler’s name out of press conferences.
Part I: Pepsi and the Protests
by Nick Guadagnino
The saying “when it rains, it pours” has some truth to it after all. Over the span of one week in early April, three PR disasters occurred, forcing the companies and individuals responsible into crisis mode. And unless you live under a rock, you surely have seen them discussed extensively on broadcast TV and social media. Some handled their crisis better than others, but each example can teach businesses valuable lessons about the delicacy needed in crisis communications. To kick off this trilogy of blog posts, let’s go back to the day it all began.
April 4, 2017
On Tuesday, April 4, Pepsi debuted its latest commercial, titled “Jump In,” via its YouTube channel. Starring Kendall Jenner, the ad “shows attractive young people holding milquetoast signs with nonspecific pleas like ‘Join the conversation’,” according to The New York Times. Jenner cuts through the crowd of smiling and innocuous protestors toward a line of police officers, where she hands a can of Pepsi to an officer and is met with, “raucous approval from the protestors and an appreciative grin from the officer.” In turn, the protest ends and all –isms are laid to waste. Thanks, Pepsi!
The ad was almost instantly met with criticism and ridicule. Evoking imagery from Black Lives Matter protests, Pepsi was accused of leveraging social hardships as a means to sell its product, downplaying the gravity inherent with these protests. People took to social media to express their outrage, including Bernice King, the daughter of Martin Luther King Jr. By then it was clear that Pepsi needed to take action—and fast.
On Wednesday, the ad was pulled and Pepsi issued the following apology:
“Pepsi was trying to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding. Clearly we missed the mark, and we apologize. We did not intend to make light of any serious issue. We are removing the content and halting any further rollout. We also apologize for putting Kendall Jenner in this position.”
By luck, Pepsi came away from its crisis with less damage than it could have suffered. Timing played a contributing factor, as a United Airlines incident happened four days after the commercial was pulled and Sean Spicer’s Holocaust comments were broadcast two days after that. But Pepsi did the right thing in pulling the commercial immediately and not only issuing an apology, but releasing one that was short, elaborating on the message of the commercial and accepting responsibility when it “missed the mark.”
It’s important to know that an apology doesn’t make all problems go away. Pepsi will have to take every possible precaution when unveiling its next campaign and any campaign beyond that. This tone-deaf spot shows a clear disconnect between advertisers and consumers, a misunderstanding that must be correct if brands want to properly connect and engage with its audience. But when it comes to public relations, Pepsi did the right thing.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for United Airlines… Check back for more on flying the not-so-friendly skies.