Facebook’s Social Research Experiment

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Facebook are back in the news again, this time for conducting research without the consent of their users. Although maybe that is a false statement, users may well have signed those rights away without realizing too.

All Facebook did was to “deprioritizing a small percentage of content in News Feed (based on whether there was an emotional word in the post) for a group of people (about 0.04% of users, or 1 in 2500) for a short period (one week, in early 2012). Nobody’s posts were “hidden,” they just didn’t show up on some loads of Feed. Those posts were always visible on friends’ timelines, and could have shown up on subsequent News Feed loads”. This is the explanation offered by the author of the report about the experiment. Read the full text here.

Simply speaking they wanted to adjust the type of information a user was exposed to to see if it effected their mood. So if a user receives lots of positive news, what will happen to them? What will they post about?

Some studies have suggested that lots of Facebook use tends to lead to people feeling bad about themselves. The logic is simple, all my friends post about how great their lives are and about the good side we might say. I who have a life that has both ups and downs are not exposed to the downs, so I feel that I am inadequate.

This sounds reasonable. I am not a Facebook user but the odd messages I get are rarely about arguing with partners, tax problems, getting locked out of the house, flat tyres, missed meetings or parking tickets. I presume Facebook users do not suffer from these issues, they always seem to be smiling.

So in order to test the hypothesis a little manipulation of the news feed. More positive or more negative words, and then look to see how the posts are effected. The theory above does not seem to hold water as a statistic however, although bearing in mind the methodology etc (and the conductor) I take the claims with a pinch of salt. More positive words tend to lead to more positive posts in response.

Hardly rocket science we might say.

I have a degree in sociology, an MA in Applied Social research and work in the field. Conducting experiments of this type is not allowed in professional circles, it is considered unethical, there is no informed consent, rights are infringed upon and the list goes on. What if somebody did something serious during the experiment?

Of course “The reason we did this research is because we care about the emotional impact of Facebook and the people that use our product”.

If readers are interested in looking at a few other fun experiments that might be considered ethically dubious I can offer a few. Check out the Stanley Milgram experiment, where people administered (False) electric shocks to other people who got the answers to their questions wrong. Yale University here, not a fringe department of Psychology. Researchers were investigating reactions to authority, and the results are very interesting, but you couldn’t do it today.

Or how about the so-called Monster study. The Monster Study was a stuttering experiment on 22 orphan children in Davenport, Iowa, in 1939 conducted by Wendell Johnson at the University of Iowa. After placing the children in control and experimental groups, Research Assistant Mary Tudor gave positive speech therapy to half of the children, praising the fluency of their speech, and negative speech therapy to the other half, belittling the children for every speech imperfection and telling them they were stutterers. Many of the normal speaking orphan children who received negative therapy in the experiment suffered negative psychological effects and some retained speech problems during the course of their life. The University of Iowa publicly apologized for the Monster Study in 2001.

Terrible as these experiments may sound, they were conducted in the name of science. Their results may have proved useful. Facebopok (along with 23andME and other commercial entities) are behaving in the way they are because they want to make more money, their interest is solely there (even if they dress it up as better user experience). And in the case of Facebook they have access to 1.3 billion users, and mandate to do whatever they like with them.

Getting Started With Social Media

When trying to promote your business on social media websites, there are a few basic tips that should always be followed. Using these tips will allow for a smooth entry into the world of social media, and make your efforts more successful. In this article, we will discuss those basics and help you to develop a “getting started” plan for your social media efforts. Read on to learn more.

Social MediaWhatever your choice is for social media marketing, make sure that you use correct grammar. Meanwhile it is tempting to use abbreviations such as LOL or LMAO, remember that you are trying to come across as a professional who knows a lot about his or her company. Do your best to spell everything correctly and use punctuation where it is needed.

Network With Others

Try to collaborate with other people and companies when using social media. When they link to your content or share your content, you are being exposed to a brand new group of fans and followers. Return the favor and link to their content as well. The more people who link to your content and social media posts, the better off you are.

To make sure your social media page appeals to your target audience, research books, magazines, and other things you believe they’d enjoy. Try to match the tone of the content you see in your research, and incorporate popular phrases. Doing this will help your target market to trust you and will make them interested in what you have to say.

Understand that technology is driving social media and vice versa. Every day that social media becomes more popular, technology races to catch up, which prompts social media to become more popular. Know what the technology is offering your customers in their social needs so that you can take part in talking WITH them, as opposed to talking AT them.

Never spam when posting on social media. Posting spam is the quickest way to lose followers and damage you and you companies reputation. Spam posts on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites make any legitimate marketing difficult. If your posts are just a few words and a link to a product, you are posting spam. Give relevant content or reviews along with any links you post. The holidays may be a big time of the year, but don’t use the opportunity in the wrong way. It isn’t the best phase to test out new theories or gamble with a big risk. Stick to your proven guns and utilize them in a more customer-friendly manner. You will have all year to plan out a strategy for the next holiday season.

Use Local Media Sites

To successfully market your business on social media, you should take advantage of Yelp. Yelp is an online community where real people review local businesses. Yelp carefully filters its reviews to protect against scammers, and the Yelp community of reviewers is very close-knit. Positive reviews on yelp can bring your business legitimacy and help attract new customers. Make sure to monitor yelp for people’s ideas and suggestions about how to improve your business and help yourself achieve the best rating possible on the website. You also may want to look for outside help utilizing best SEO companies recommendations.

Find The Influencers

Find some influential bloggers that are out there in your niche and offer to be a guest poster on their blog. This would then allow you to have a link back to your blog. It may also attract people to follow you on the various social media sites that you are on.

You can get your followers’ attention by posting something in a format that makes reading easier. For instance, try coming with a list of top 10 tips or writing questions and answers. The visual aspect of your article will make it more appealing and your readers will be more likely to share it.

Develop quality content targeted for social media. If you are just haphazardly flinging words, advertising or any number of mundane snippets at your customers, then you are wasting your time and losing their business. Be as concerned about your social content offerings as you are for the content on your business site.

The world of social media offers tremendous advertising potential, with huge numbers of users being added every day. Every business wants to take advantage of this platform, including yours. Getting your business marketing efforts started the right way will increase your social media following, and increase profits too. In this article, we have provided some basic information which, when implemented correctly, can make your marketing plan a successful one.

The power of the social networks and the media

Many people take a very negative view of the media. In the UK, there has recently been a press standards enquiry, which looked into the unethical practices some media organisations (specifically newspapers) were using.

Many people also take a negative view of social networks. Twitter has been in the firing line a lot lately, helping to break super injunctions and spread rumours at amazing speed.

I think sometimes we forget that the press and social media can also be a force for good, and so in this article I am going to talk about something positive that only happened thanks to the power of the media and social networks.

The Story

Martha Payne is a nine-year-old girl from Argyll and Bute, (Scotland) who started a blog in May this year called NeverSeconds. On the blog she wrote about her school dinners, under the alias of Veg. She took a camera into school and photographed her school dinner. When she got home, she wrote about it, posted a picture, and then rated each meal.

She gave the food a rating out of ten on her ‘Food-o-meter‘ scale, detailed how many mouthfuls it took her to eat it, what courses it was (i.e. starter and main or main and dessert), how healthy (out of ten) she rated it, the price, and how many pieces of hair she found on it – and yes, one day she did find one!

Martha Payne's first blog

Martha’s first image on her blog – pizza, croquet, sweetcorn and a cake, a meal she rated 6/10 on her food-o-meter

Martha set up a link on her blog to the charity Mary’s Meals, with the aim of raising £7,000 for the charity, through donations from those who read her posts.

All was going well for Martha, until her blog featured in a local newspaper. Here’s what happened in Martha’s words:

“This morning in maths I got taken out of class by my head teacher and taken to her office. I was told that I could not take any more photos of my school dinners because of a headline in a newspaper today.

I only write my blog not newspapers and I am sad I am no longer allowed to take photos. I will miss sharing and rating my school dinners and I’ll miss seeing the dinners you send me too. I don’t think I will be able to finish raising enough money for a kitchen for Mary’s Meals either.

Goodbye,
VEG”

So that was it. Martha Payne, a nine-year-old girl who ran a blog with the aim of raising some money for charity, and developing her language skills through writing about her school dinners, was no longer allowed to blog.

It was actually the local council that had told the school to ban Martha from posting, as they were unhappy with the coverage of the story in the local paper. It was alleged that the article had made catering staff fearful for their jobs.

The publicity generated from the local paper reporting on the blog helped Martha to reach nearly £2,000 in donations for Mary’s Meals, an amazing achievement, which is why it is such a shame that the blog had to be shut down.

A sad end to the blogging career of a little girl with good intentions.

But it didn’t end there.

The news reached the council leader who was unhappy with the action taken, and as a result instructed senior officials to lift the ban.

Martha could blog again!

This was now a big story, and national media organisations were keen to publish their account of events. The Telegraph, The Guardian and BBC news were some of the most notable media organisations to cover the story. Most notable, the BBC article received well over 1,000 comments, and tens of thousands of social shares!

Going Viral

Martha Payne from NeverSeconds

Martha Payne – NeverSeconds Author

First it was just a story. Then it hit the media. Now it was the turn of Facebook and Twitter. Within hours of the BBC publishing their article, tens of thousands of people had shared it, and the NeverSeconds blog hit counter soared from a few thousand views to over a million! Martha was soon trending on Twitter.

The story was so inspirational, many people wanted to pay tribute to Martha’s fantastic work, and did so by donating to the charity she supported – Mary’s Meals. Martha smashed her £7,000 target in a matter of hours, as donations to the charity flooded in. Overnight, Martha became the top fund raiser for Mary’s Meals on the JustGiving website.

By the end of the week, (in just 4 days) donations had topped £50,000! This prompted even more publicity, as the media reported on the remarkable story of the girl who raised tens of thousands for charity, by writing about her school meals.

The NeverSeconds site hit counter now reads in excess of eight million and the donations to Mary’s Meals are over 1750% of Martha’s £7,000 target – currently standing at £123,969.32.

Martha has since been out to Malawi to see one of the projects her fund raising efforts went to help. For more information on her trip, have a read of this BBC news article.

Martha has been named as the Human Rights Young Person of the Year, for her outstanding work, and continues to blog over at NeverSeconds to this day.

The Streisand Effect

This story is a fantastic example of how the media and social networking can be a force for good, and encourage people to think of others. It is also a good example of the Streisand effect in action, the concept whereby attempting to cover something up, thanks to the internet, leads to that very thing getting greater publicity.

Smile today for the story of NeverSeconds 🙂

Ideas on how to promote a startup on a budget

Successful startups have some things in common and top notch marketing is one of them. You might have come up with the greatest idea in the world or built the coolest application, but if other people don’t know about it, your idea or product isn’t worth much. Many young entrepreneurs get so sucked into the creation of the product, that they treat marketing as an afterthought. But as I said before, if users don’t know about a product they won’t be using it.

The immense popularity of the internet has leveled the playing fields, so someone with a small budget working from a garage can compete with big companies as long as they have a cool idea. In fact they might have a better chance in some niches because people have started to distrust companies. Below are few ways you can promote your startup – specifically tech startups.

Social Media

The starting point is creating a Facebook page and a Twitter account. Both are free to start and you have the potential to tap into millions of users. You can get the ball rolling by asking your friends to like and share the page.Business Networking in the 21st Century

Social networks are a good place to share your ideas and plans and get some feedback on them. Every little things count to successfully promote your product. If you have a product that is catering to a specific niche, then try joining a similar niche social network as well.

Contacting Leading Blogs and Getting Press Coverage

Once you come up with a working solution you can contact leading industry blogs to cover your product. Most major technology blogs like TechCrunch and Mashable have separate application forms for startups, so if you are confident about your product you can submit to them.

EDITOR NOTE: I must have misread, I couldn’t see Technology Bloggers among those ‘major technology blogs’! 😉 One day… – note by Christopher

Not only will you get massive exposure you will be able to get funding as well. Even if you don’t get published in major publications there are many other websites that promote startups and you can find many of them by doing a simple Google search.

Attending Conferences

Attending conferences and your local tech gatherings is another great way to spread the word about your product. Attending major conferences helps you network with people and pitch your product to industry leaders.

Local gathering are important because in most of these you will be able to present your product to an audience using a projector, which is far more effective than reading an article about your product. You will also get instant feedback on how you can improve your product as well.

Search Engine Optimization

Another promotion stream that is ignored by most startups is search engine optimization. Although most people in the technology field know about SEO, few actually try to leverage its power. This is especially useful if you are a global product catering to a non tech crowd. They won’t be reading Mashable and attending tech conferences, so the most probable way they will find your product is via search engines.

Even if you are catering to a tech crowd search engine optimization is a must. The long term benefits of SEO are immense. Although it is advisable to outsource your SEO work, if you have lots of content produced through your blog and website, it is better to hire your own SEO engineer. Be careful though, as black-hat SEO can be very damaging to a site, so if you do outsource, make sure it is to someone trustworthy.

Mentioned above are some major things you can do to promote your tech startup. Always remember that more people know about your product the better. The bigger your customer base, the likelihood is, the more money you will make/people you will help!