Selfies: How Main Attractions have Morphed into Photo Backgrounds (and what it means to social media marketing)

Most of us (me included) are fans of selfies. There are a number of articles on the Internet about the psychology of selfies, which touch on why people take them and upload to their social media networks. In Using Selfies in Social Media Marketing, Andrew Hutchinson mentions two schools of thought on the psychological reinforcement of selfies:

  • Selfies are actually good for self-esteem.
  • Selfies are sometimes taken by those with low self-worth.

Articles like this one go as deep as discussing ego, self-esteem, and people’s expectations when they upload these photos, which makes sense considering that when we take these photos, we devote more time determining whether or not they are “Facebookable” or appropriate to upload than to enjoying the moment. If they are not approved or appropriate, no problem, a person can take 10 more until he or she gets it “right.”

The result is millions of photos uploaded, in which the primary focus is the person, not the Eiffel Tower, Machu Picchu or whatever the place or attraction the person has always dreamed visiting. It doesn’t matter if there is a tour guide in front of them discussing the key points of an attraction and providing historical background, what matters is to get the photo “right” and upload it to Facebook or Instagram. Why care about listening to that tour guide if it’s more important to be the main   focus of a photo? In the opening paragraphs of  Why Tourists Need to Stop Taking Selfies, Sara Schmalbruch discusses how there has been a shift in how photos are taken. “They’re way more concerned with securing the best selfie possible, so they can later post it to Instagram and Facebook and rack up as many likes as possible. Taking in the actual attraction they’ve traveled to see clearly comes second.”


This also applies to brands trying to capitalize on the selfie movement. It’s a fact that people love to contribute with their own content because it makes them have a huge sense of participation and belongingness. People taking selfies using a particular product is excellent social proof for a brand. However, companies should evaluate whether or not that selfie contest or campaign is appropriate for a particular product based on whether or not it resonates with their product’s buyer persona. Just making a contest to show an increasing number of people engaging with a brand is similar to someone posting a photo in front of something that’s secondary, such as the Eiffel Tower. Do brands want to come second? This is why it’s essential for brands to evaluate if they want to be the protagonist or the supporting actor. If they mean to reinforce the brand and create awareness through the use of user-generated content (UGC) like selfies, they must ask themselves what do they want to achieve with this campaign.

Warby Parker has a try-on program on which they give 5 pairs of glasses to their customers that they can take home to try and ask friends for their opinion. Also, clients can upload their selfie photos to their website to ask for advice. The product is in the customer’s hands and they can share their images wearing a product they will probably purchase via social media.


When people take selfies, they care about themselves; about how they look on a photo that will be shared. If I go to Starbucks and take a picture of myself with the store on the back, is there any value there? Do I want to let my friends know that I’m cool and go to Starbucks? The main reason will probably be to show people how beautiful I look on the photo which, by the way, was taken on Starbucks. I don’t think the priority is to promote the place; what’s important is to get likes because of how I look. This is why it’s important for brands to evaluate the objectives.

I just found an of a Heineken campaign here in Puerto Rico. It’s a selfie contest in which people participate, but the “self” here is the neck of the Heineken bottle and the letters “en.” People were asked to take a photo of this part of the bottle and upload to Instagram with #VívelaVerde and also include the name of the place in which they took the photo. It’s clear here that all that self-esteem discussion at the beginning of this post can be applied to this brand. That part about self confidence, self-image and how we define ourselves belongs to the product in this example.

Even though according to The Psychology of Selfies, on Instagram, pictures with human faces are 38 percent more likely to receive likes and 32 percent more likely to attract comments than photos with no faces, Heineken takes a risk here by making the neck of the bottle the face of the photo. The reason why this is a risk is because if people are not creative enough to take photos with beautiful or appealing backgrounds, the chance of lower engagement is high as people might get bored of that neck of the bottle.

Heineken asks people to participate uploading their content, but not losing perspective about who is important, which in this case it’s the product. The background of that beautiful beach is just secondary. In this campaign people have the chance to show at least they have the product on hand (or near). The hashtag is allusive to the brand and it’s been used for quite some time during special events to keep the conversations about Heineken in one place. The idea is good in my opinion because the product is the primary focus, but as of now there are a little bit more than 1k photos uploaded to Instagram with that hashtag. We’ll see if it picks up. Still, it’s a great way to give the attraction the place it deserves, rather than making it a background.

Can you share other successful selfie campaigns?


Digital Reputation: When Politicians Fail to Meet Audience Expectations [INFOGRAPHIC]

I992. Vice President Dan Quayle visits an elementary school in New Jersey and jumps in to facilitate a Spelling Bee. A student goes to the blackboard to show the correct spelling of the word “potato.” After writing the word correctly, Quayle urges a student to add the letter “e” at the end of the word potato, yielding “p-o-t-a-t-o-e.” Here is how people reacted:


Source: AngloNoelNatter


Source: Howard Cruse

Source: Howard Cruse


2008Sarah Palin says on an interview with ABC News, “I can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska.” Here is how people reacted (and continue to react today) on social media:


Twitter screenshot

Twitter screenshot


Pinterest screenshot

Pinterest screenshot


2012: Alejandro Garcia Padilla wins the Election for Governor of Puerto Rico. He offers a press conference to discuss the details about his transition committee with the local media. One member of the press from CBS asks him a question in English. Here is the video clip:


This video went viral (the view count is almost 400,000 and it has 1,000 comments) and people began to react to it on social media with memes, parodies, and judgmental comments making fun about the way Garcia Padilla speaks English. Here are some of them:


Twitter Screenshot

Twitter Screenshot



Pinterest screenshot

Pinterest screenshot



Facebook screenshot

Facebook screenshot



Taking a look at these reactions, they have one thing in common regarding the general public’s conception about Quayle, Palin, and Garcia Padilla: they’re “stupid” and incapable. These responses in the form of cartoons, satirical user-generated memes, YouTube videos, as well as comments on Twitter and Facebook reflect this view.

Why do people react this way? They have expectations about the qualities of individuals holding or aspiring political positions. It’s important to note that culture plays an important role regarding these expectations. Regarding Quayle, Palin and Garcia Padilla, these qualities include spelling words correctly, dominating foreign policy affairs (plus geography), and speaking English as a native speaker, respectively. When people feel these public figures fail to meet these expectations they react.

However, in the three examples covered in this discussion, there is one thing that’s different. Quayle’s faux pas was in 1992, when there was the possibility to establish a reputation for an individual, but the media controlled content and distribution. The dissemination of reactions was in the form of cartoons drawn by people from traditional media. Brenda Reyes-Tomassini, Public Affairs U.S. EPA Region 2, says: “Memes play the role that cartoons had in traditional print media. A cartoon is an illustration that distorts the physical appearance of a person sometimes framed into a social situation to create a humorous effect. Memes feature a real photo of a person, but it’s the language that creates that humor, provoking laughter, while mocking something or someone.” Also, back in those days, content did not have the virality potential it has now due to the effect of social media, when people can spread messages by clicking a button.

In Satirical User-Generated Content Memes as an Effective Source of Political Criticism, Extending Debate and Enhancing Civic Engagement, Vasiliki Plevriti discusses the use of memes as a form of political satire. “Political memes satirizing politics are about making a statement, participating in a normative debate about how the world should look like.” People are free to create, establish and convince others that Palin’s and Garcia Padilla’s digital reputation feature them as “stupid” or dumb. That’s the statement. They draw these conclusions based on the expectations they have about people occupying such prominent positions. That’s how the world should look like. Once this content is posted, audiences begin to cast judgment and the idea around that content becomes what the majority of this virtual community thinks.

According to some content posted on social media, one of the expectations that Puerto Ricans have for the Governor of Puerto Rico is speaking English as a native speaker, in a place where, according to recent Census data, 17.6% speak English “very well.” Some questions that could be asked regarding this matter are the following: Why should he when he lives in a place in which people speak Spanish everyday? Why should he speak English as a native speaker? Do those judging him on social media do so? If he doesn’t meet these requirements and “performs” as expected, does that make him stupid or incapable? Based on comments on social media, based on the expressions of embarrassment and shame.

This content mocks and ridicules how he speaks English and questions where he learned to speak English. Some of the memes feature make-belief scenarios in which he would speak that “unacceptable” English, not being able to pronounce words correctly or misspelling words. There is also an audio parody posted to YouTube about what he and Obama talked about at lunch during the President’s visit to Puerto Rico:



Comments on Facebook and Twitter include: “I felt so ashamed I couldn’t even listen to the message. He is the Governor!” “My 7-year old can give him English classes for free” or “I cannot deal with this “moron.” In the end, there were people criticizing him, some suggesting that he doesn’t know English at all, when that’s not the case.

Other comments made referral to how important it’s for the Governor of Puerto Rico to be able to speak English; others asked him to buy Rosetta Stone courses:


Twitter screenshot

Twitter screenshot



Facebook screenshot

Facebook screenshot


This content is a reflection of an audience that thinks there is a correlation between speaking English as a native speaker and intellectual capacity; that someone holding the position of Governor of Puerto Rico and who does not speak English without an accent is an indication of lack of intelligence.

The best way to explain this point is by going to Google, typing “Moron Governor” and taking a look at the results. Here is a Vine video about this:



Taking a look at Sarah Palin’s case, based on reactions on social media, one can conclude that the expectations people have about an aspiring Vice President include full dominance of foreign affairs (and geography!). Reactions on social media mean to tease and ridicule her, taking Russia as the main theme. By creating alternate situations around that idea with the use of words, the result is a statement about her lack of capacity by saying something that’s not possibly right. Once the piece of content is out there, others are motivated to do the same; the cycle begins and the message is repeated constantly: Sarah Palin is a “moron.”

Taking a look only at Pinterest and searching “Sarah Palin memes,” one will be able to find thousands of pins. Also, there is a Facebook group called “I have more Foreign Policy Experience than Sarah Palin,” which currently has close to 2,000 members.

It only takes one mistake or wrongful use of information for people to change their perception about a candidate. It doesn’t matter what school preparation that person has, if they say something wrong or something that makes those meeting of expectations vanish, that’s all it takes for social media audiences to change their idea about that person. They seem to forget about the rest of the qualities of the person.

However, this is not what’s new; it’s the concept of going viral on social media and the fact that the person on the other side of the screen has all the resources available to begin to build that new digital reputation and start spreading the message. In To Go Viral, Here’s What Content Has to Make You Feel, Ekaterina Walter discusses one of the factors that viral content has: elicit emotion. As Walter mentions: “that posts inspiring feelings of awe, anger or anxiety are shared more often than others, with anger being the most viral emotion of all.” In the reactions discussed here, there is some anger, as well as shame.

As those messages go viral, others receiving the message are convinced about the veracity of what’s being said, to the point that they take that idea as the truth and adopt that idea as their own. Once they do so, they begin to repeat it over and over to reinforce it and spread a message about something that they probably never thought about. In Meme Culture, Devyn McDonald discusses how user-generated content like memes contribute to the political discourse, more so because “meme culture have the power to involve people would who otherwise be unlikely to participate in political discussions. Memes have turned political events into need-to-know cultural knowledge.”

It’s important to note that the virality effects of this digital reputation content didn’t stop in 1992, 2008, or 2012. The effects are permanent and this is well evidenced by searching Google today, where one will find content posted recently, still making fun of them, featuring new videos, comments on Facebook and Twitter, and memes. Donald Trump makes the best example of a future article about digital reputation and expectations on social media. There is already plenty of content to consider which is enough for another discussion.




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Snapchat: 5 Ways to Customize News to Attract Younger Audiences

Short videos to call attention to a story, compelling headlines, text in the opening page summarizing the story, condensed information, and content relevant to younger audiences. These are some ways news organizations, like CNN, is customizing content using Snapchat’s Discover tool to reach a younger crowd. The Discover section was launched earlier this year. Stories in this section of Snapchat remain visible for 24 hours. In an effort to speak to the community of the third social media platform teens prefer and use most, according to Pew Research Center’s Teens, Social Media & Technology Overview 2015, CNN has taken a step forward by delivering news using a different format, which makes it a priority for content to be more visually appealing. CNN publishes a total of 5 stories per day.

In Read the news right away or it’s gone: CNN, ESPN push for Snapchat users, Cecilia Kang discusses how Snapchat has become a way for big media organizations to connect with an audience that is less interested in news. About embracing this opportunity, Meredith Artley, editor in Chief of CNN Digital says, “It’s not about getting everyone to come to you. It’s about getting young audiences where they already are.”

Here is a closer look at these 5 main components of a CNN Discover news story about a young teenager, Hannah, diagnosed with scoliosis since she was 9:

1.  Short video to call attention to the story at the beginning playing continuously: The first screen of the news story consists of a video that’s 75% graphics or visuals. According to Pew Research, 41% of US teens use Snapchat to share images and videos, meaning this is a very effective strategy to begin a story by capitalizing on that fact and attract the audience’s attention by giving them what they appreciate. Here is the video that appeared on the first screen of this CNN story:

2. Compelling headlines featuring friendly fonts and colors not usually associated with news.
The headline is: Teenage Years Trapped in a Shell.

CNN, Snapchat, Celeste

Screenshot Snapchat-June 23, 2015

3. Text in the opening page summarizes the story:
In Hannah’s story, there is a two-sentence news briefing that remains on the screen as the images change. This summary tells who, what, when, and how.

4. Main story format features a condensed version and organizes it in sections, which integrate text with photos: There are two ways to find out what the whole story is about, from beginning to end. Either one follows the chronological sequence of the story by only taking a look at the photos and the caption each one has or one reads all the text of the story to discover more detail. In other words, the narrative here is given in two different forms, taking into consideration that teens respond better to visuals. 

This is part of catering to an individual audience that Ekaterina Walter discusses in 5 Ways to Use Pictures to Tell Visual Stories With Social Media. She says: “Sometimes, when you try to reach everyone, you end up reaching no one. In those cases, it helps to setup channels for specific niche audiences and just tell the story that’s relevant to them.” Here is a snapshot of the second and third pages of the main story, in which there is a story told in chronological order:

Snapchat, Discover Tool, CNN

Screenshot- Snapchat- June 23, 2015

Snapchat, Discover Tool

Screenshot- Snapchat- June 23, 2015

5. Content is relevant to a younger audience:
It’s no secret that this story appeals to teens because it’s a story about someone in their age group. It’s a powerful and emotional story about a young girl, who is also relatable to the majority of Snapchat users. Also, according to 10 Facts Every Parent Should Know About Their Teen’s Brain, “the decision to take a look at the story may be due to “their decision making can be influenced by emotions, because their brains rely more on the emotional seat of the brain.”

In CNN and other media brands come to Snapchat, Samantha Barry, head of social news for CNN says: “You’ll be surprised by the amount of context we can include in the snaps,” said Samantha Barry, head of social news for CNN. “They are visually-led with great images and videos, but when you swipe up, you will get great CNN context with more images, text and background.” While this tool is relatively new and analytics are limited, this strategy is working for CNN, as they say that they get seven-digit figures representing people who read these stories. What are other ways publishers are using Snapchat’s Discover Tool to get younger audiences attention regarding news?


Photo 24-04-2012 08 43 30

Immediacy Illusion: Roles in the Newsroom that Should not Overlook Social Media

When we look at a newscast on the TV set we immediately feel there is some type of mediation. There is an anchorman or anchorwoman sitting in front of a teleprompter reading the news and presenting stories that have already been produced. We don’t see the cameraman and have no idea who he is. Almost everything is completely planned in terms of how the show will run. As members of the audience, we listen to the story from our side (the television set). I don’t know about you, but it’s hard to feel any sense of presence there, neither from the reporters, nor from us as active members.

The opposite happens with social media. When reporters use social media both them and us are present at the location they report from. There is almost no mediation, or at least we don’t feel it. We feel we’re part of the story; that we’re right there with them, like when we play video games. The difference is in fact that physical presence which allows journalists to show us different angles, unedited scenes, and to portray stories from their own perspectives. Thus, social media give newsrooms a chance to morph traditional storytelling into an innovative and creative form. Also, social media give news correspondents, cameraman, and beat editors the opportunity to work collaboratively to distribute content outside the television screen in a way that makes audiences feel that presence. This is what I will immediacy illusion.

Even though the following roles are different, what they have in common is that presence. This is why they should social media:

Cameraman at TV News:

  • This is our chance to meet them because we never do with TV news. We only see their names on the credits at the end.
  • Their technical knowledge about filming, video and audio can drive them to produce excellent material for platforms like Vine, Twitter, and Periscope.
  • They can present a different perspective while they are on the go. What we see through their eyes on a TV newscast usually follows someone else’s instructions or direction. If they use social media, they can step away from that role and even do their own directing.
  • They can develop relationships with audiences who are only used to see the reporter or news correspondent as the “face” of the news organization they represent. Thus, they can present their human side on social media because we can meet them, their families and what they do when they are not on the go.
  • Because they are the eyes of what we see, they may see potential in some stories that can potentially represent new material for reporters.
  • It’s possible to give a voice to someone who doesn’t have one (usually). The example below is about a cameraman who went further, even made a silent movie about himself and posted it on YouTube!

Example:Paul Martin (@ukcameraman):

Screen Shot 2015-06-16 at 5.44.42 PM

He is a freelance cameraman (news, sport, and documentary) to news and broadcasters in the UK, including BBC and CNN. He uses Twitter, Google+, email list, and has a blog. He is basically building his own brand.


  • He shows his face (which we normally don’t see) so that the audience knows who is talking to us. Also, he gets to set a tone and voice (funny sometimes), so we can meet him at a more personal level. Finally, he shares part of the normal life he lives:Screen Shot 2015-06-16 at 5.32.55 PM


  • He gives the audience teasers about what type of live coverage he is doing on a particular day.Screen Shot 2015-06-16 at 5.28.31 PM
  • He gives us access to behind the scenes production shots and shows audiences editing equipment and personnel they usually don’t see:Screen Shot 2015-06-16 at 5.32.23 PM
  • He presents a series of stories about things that happen to cameramen, giving us access to how their day it’s like.

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Blog: (The Amazing and Unbelievable Adventures of a TV News Cameraman and Underwater Rat Throttling Champion

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  • Blog posts are a compilation about cameramen related news and views, but also about life on the road, like standing in the rain and cold for long periods of time. Some of these include:

The result is a blog, not only about technical stuff, but also about a day in the life of a cameraman. Honestly, it’s the first time I see something like this, and now that I think about it, cameramen have a lot to talk about. He speaks casually, straight to the point, no holds barred.

Paul Martin is a great example of how we can feel the presence of people we usually ignore. I think he found a perfect angle and he is one of the few I was able to find who does it well. He gives us that presence illusion instantly through social media.

Foreign news correspondent:

  • Foreign news correspondents are in charge of presenting audiences with stories about what happens in other countries, including war and politics. This means they present us with reports from places usually nowhere near us; completely unfamiliar. Because they may represent the only way audiences can learn about these matters, their use of social media becomes more important.
  • Social media provide for different ways in which these correspondents can distribute content in different forms, written, audio or video. Because there are so many platforms available, this means there are more options to present different parts of a story. For example, most of us haven’t been to Syria or Ukraine. Our concept of these places is constructed with what we see on traditional media. But we can construct better images about these places if foreign correspondents take the time to portray them on social media. This can be done with hard news, as well as soft news like below. There is no time for this on a newscast, right? Max Seddon is a foreign news correspondent in Russia.

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  • Social media is timeless. When Nick Robertson is reporting from the Vatican, where there is a time difference, we don’t have to wait for the newscast to see what’s going on. If he uses Instagram at 3:40am, my time, to post a photo or video, I’m able see it when I wake up the next day. I will always have access, even though I have to look for it (in Twitter’s case, like the example below).Screen Shot 2015-06-16 at 6.02.23 PM
  • They usually interview government officials. With social media, there is no time constraint regarding how much you can say in an established amount of time. In a newscast, there’s a limited amount of time. This is not the case with social. On Twitter, you can present stories divided in more than 1 or 2 posts, even with the 140-character limit.
  • A 30-second story on a newscast can morph into a 4-day event on social media with much more detail. When the Pope visited Sarajevo, Nick Robertson created a sequence of posts on different days narrating what was going on. This is very effective in order to build expectation and keep the audience alert.

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  • Social media give these correspondents the ability to use pictures they take, which may resonate more with the audience because they look like pictures we can all take, thus we can relate. Someone like us is making it possible for us to be at that place with him or her.

I would like to conclude by saying that news beat editors should also use social media. I spent quite some time searching for social media accounts of local beat editors. Sadly, only a few have presence on social and the content is in the form of general headlines about breaking news. They have both the small and big picture about a particular area; they have access to a lot of information. However, I found that they prefer to keep their role in traditional media, rather than capitalizing on social to distribute a form of content that may be valuable to audiences. They are losing the opportunity to capitalize on the immediacy factor and their presence to make people like me feel part of their role as journalists.

Jay Fonseca

Jay Fonseca: Enhancing His Journalism Through Social Media

When you visit Jay Fonseca‘s website, the first thing you see is this slogan on the top: “Solutions for the Future of Puerto Rico.” Fonseca, a young radio host, political analyst, lawyer, and journalist is committed to working towards a better Puerto Rico. Through his participation on major news television and radio stations, as well as his contributions to a local newspaper, Primera Hora, he reinforces his mission.

Jay Fonseca

Jay Fonseca

Rather than just informing, Jay explains, discusses, analyzes, gives ideas, and offer solutions using a simple, casual, colloquial language. However, he has accomplished something important through the use of social media: a younger crowd is becoming interested in what’s going on in Puerto Rico. Not only that, they’re actively participating with Jay in the discussion on issues like economics and politics. This, in my opinion, enhances his journalism through the use of social media. Out of all the local journalists I found on social media, he is the one with the highest amount of followers and engagement.

Jay is very active in his social media accounts, specifically on Facebook and Twitter, to keep his audience informed about the latest news related to politics and economics, as well as to provide his take on current issues. Just recently he began to use Periscope. What does he do to keep an engaged audience? What is his recipe for success on social media? Let’s take a look at Facebook and Periscope:

Facebook: “Puerto Rico should be a paradise, but we don’t cooperate so much” This is the short description of his page. I would say this is the platform in which he is more active. His fan base here consists of 632,000 people. Below are three of the multiple elements he uses on this page:

1.  Content curation: Most of this type of content is about Puerto Rico or about issues related to those affecting us. Here is an example:

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 9.47.04 AM

Translation of the post text: THINGS GET WORSE FOR ARGENTINA…BY FAR- Argentina owed 1.7 billion. Now it’s 5.4 billion, including the amount recently added…

My take: The key to success in these types of posts stems from his ability to provide a very concise, yet clear summary of the “big picture” of the story, enough to get some attention. In the example above, by providing a summary, he is making sure that an audience that doesn’t speak English gets a glimpse of the story. But there is also something about the wording of his posts that makes people feel relatable to what he is saying; there is something Jay knows about how to ignite discussion because people begin to react almost immediately. Puerto Rico’s debt is very high too. It’s a sensitive issue right now, so people respond.

2. Long, text-based posts expressing his opinion, never afraid of speaking his mind: Before I became one of Jay Fonseca’s Facebook fan, I was not a fan of these types of posts. People don’t read, I thought. But then I came to understand that what he is doing is taking issues that seem complex and making them understandable with his easy to follow explanation, use of colloquial, informal, everyday language, grawlixes to represent and….CAPS to highlight the takeaways. I really like these posts because most of the times he sounds so desperate that you get he is committed to finding those solutions for Puerto Rico’s problems.

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Translation (partial):
THIS IS WHY WE’RE FU%*@#- Victor Suarez, Chief of Staff, said: “This administration has reduced the cost per kilowatt hour by 30%.” DAMN IT. It was not this f#@% administration ! It went down because the world market prices of petroleum decreased in the market, thus the cost for the local power authority decreased.

My take: As I mentioned above, he speaks like that because he is genuinely desperate, while he questions why people should trust this administration. With his analysis, he brings this perspective. Is he throwing curveballs? Probably. He provides facts, he puts the information out there so his audience jumps into conclusions. But because he does it with controversial issues, he gets people agitated enough to begin voicing their opinion, either to agree or disagree; to become an echo of how he feels by sharing his posts on social media.

3. Showing his human side: He is on radio, television and he writes for a local newspaper. While we see him moving from one place to another during the day, we must not forget he is human. He goes to the beach and watches sports games…and he makes us aware about that on social too! Here he is showing his support for cancer patients by joining the Da Vida annual walk:

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And he finds time to share what book he is reading:
Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 1.13.19 PMTranslation: Regarding my job, yesterday I had to put this book aside to read the whole IVA project document. Today I can do just the opposite. Talk to you soon.

My take: Finding some time to share with others that you do normal, everyday stuff, not only serves as a positive distraction from the hectic, hard news and analysis, but also lets your audience connect with you at a personal level. This is something that’s not possible to do on television and radio, where there is time and other constraints.

Periscope: Jay started to use Periscope recently to give his audience a special, VIP, insiders, backstage pass to his television and radio broadcasts. We now have access to what happens before, during and after his intervention on television. We see how the producers told him how many seconds are left until he goes live.

Regarding his radio show, it’s even more interesting because we get to listen to these shows; we never get to see what hosts do, how they’re dressed, if they check their phones while they are on air, and their facial expressions and reactions. Jay is using this new app to enhance his experience by taking his audience with him to places they didn’t have access before. This is a screenshot of this afternoon’s radio show:


My take: Even though the effect is different when you see the live stream, I’m pretty sure you can imagine how much it’s possible to see now. There’s also something different and that is that before each broadcasts he looks at the phone camera and says what will happen after: “We’re going live at…” It’s a journey.

I would like to conclude by saying that Jay’s use of social media is an extension of the work he does that allows him to fill in those spaces in which he does not have a time constraint or a defined schedule. He speaks his mind, that’s true, but that’s probably one of the factors for his success on Facebook, evidenced by high engagement from a younger crowd: as young as university students and beyond. His content strategy and use of language, I would say, are two areas he clearly knows how to use in order to get where he is on social: someone with a lot of influence on public opinion.

BuzzFeed Logo

How BuzzFeed Creates Social News

BuzzFeed Logo

The Real Problem with Clickbait presents a side of this issue that maybe we’ve heard before: it’s basically a game that tricks people to take action and click on a story after reading a very powerful headline that makes some kind of promise. I believe this is clicking for the sakes of having a best-case scenario related to metrics: a very high number of clicks. What’s the value of that? Nothing. This is why content writers engaged in these types of actions are also tricked, in my honest opinion. I understand the part about relying on advertising for revenue, but at that point in which readers get that it’s a trick and click less, what else besides metrics could be the benefit for companies that engage in over promising and then deliver less?

BuzzFeed’s value is just the opposite. It has a content formula and a storytelling technique that move people to actually share content to the point it becomes viral, which is the whole point about its concept. I found this short interview with Eric Harris, BuzzFeed’s Executive Vice President, in which he summarizes this by saying: “You can trick somebody to click but you can’t click somebody to share.” That sounds about right. He says they combine science and art. Science is the analytics part they handle, optimizing for sharing, and experimenting different things. Art is to get people to have an emotion, like inspiration or nostalgia, which gets them to share content.

Sharing happens organically by not over promising. My take on this is that this happens because the type of content BuzzFeed shares is that which makes you comparable to something. Content is sharable not only for its informational aspect, but because it moves people and they identify with it. It’s an experiential feeling. Why do you think BuzzFeed’s content is sharable? This is seen in most of the quizzes, lists, and news pieces. One example is in one of the assigned readings, the What State do you Actually Belong In?, which had 3.7 million  interactions.

When you read the headline, it makes you think whether you’re living in the right place, where you belong. Sense of belonging is “a human need,” according to Psychology Today. “Some find it at church, some with friends, some with family, and some on Twitter or social media.” BuzzFeed creates some quizzes, like this one, which move people to complete and share. They do the quizzes because they are curious to find out if the results are accurate, according to their own self-notion. They share them in order to compare results. They are able to create a whole experience with which people can identify. The results usually sound like self-help messages, trying to look at the positive side of the results. In my case, this test says that I belong in Massachusetts, where I just came from 2 days ago. “You’re a unique person, and someone who doesn’t care what others think.”
Readers also identify with stories, like Eric Harris says, that appeal to the emotional side.

Stepping aside from the quizzes, take a look at A Cop Who Had To Tell A Teen His Parents Had Been Killed Showed Up At His Graduation. This story, in the BuzzFeed News section has 1.9 million views. When you take a look at the headline, basically you understand what the whole story is about. BuzzFeed stories function like little novels, in which you see a lot of visual content and news told in the form of captions for images or videos. In this story, you see the headline attracts the younger BuzzFeed audience with these elements:

  • Teens
  • Parents that were killed
  • Graduation

Readers identify with these types of situations. They experience feelings when they read this type of content, they feel sorry, happy for the young kid who graduated and had this cop “standing in his parent’s place.” They identify with this situation because this is something that can happen to them. They also see the cop as a hero. While the audience shares its friends, they create new “movements” or stories on social media, in which they begin to show support for the student, as well as the cop. The word then spreads. By combining content, headlines, and simple, short storytelling techniques, BuzzFeed creates experiences.

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Most shared Sites on Social Media: Elements of Success

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Which Broadway musical best describes my life? Into the Woods, according to this quiz from PlayBuzz, which also includes the fact that I have a truly magical mind! How comforting for my ego! My life is a fairy tale!

PlayBuzz is at the top of the list on NewsWhip’s Facebook data from January 2015, regarding the most shared sites on that network and Twitter. Taking a look at these results, I was able to identify some key elements of success of these sites, how they are similar in some ways and different in other aspects. Finally, what I have learned from them that we can put into practice; key takeaways that will help us all moving forward. Let’s start by taking a look at Facebook:

Most Shared Sites Facebook


It was no surprise to see PlayBuzz at the top of the list .Why? Because people like to play; people like fun and games. Also, according to Why Content Goes Viral: What Analyzing 10 Million Articles Taught Us, 8 of the top 10 shared articles in an 8-month period on 2014 were quizzes. In addition to the fun element, there is a narcissistic element, according to the article. “Why quizzes? Because when we share our quiz results, it fuels our identity and ego. Others will learn more about who we are, what we value, and our tastes.”

I have to admit it, I’m part of the audience that completes and shares quizzes. The fun part is to complete the quiz and share results, but I’m aware people probably don’t care about these results. However, sharing this encourages them to play, resulting in more shares and engagement with this type of content. Screen Shot 2015-05-15 at 12.38.07 PM

Bottomline: Content that engages people because it invites them to have fun works well on Facebook. Also, this content means little if you don’t use the correct text and images to deliver the message to the audience. As a matter of fact, there is an image on each post. PlayBuzz did a fantastic job using a quote from Heinrich Heine on the text of the post, plus a captivating image with three photos of famous Broadway musicals that the typical Facebook audience can identify. Finally, I must add that this type of content is great to distract people from hard news and other type of content, which is different and entertaining. This is the case of the next two on the list: The Huffington Post and BuzzFeed.


Buzzfeed also focuses on some entertaining content and finding other angles to stories so that people engage easily. They also have the famous BuzzFeed quizzes (now on a separate Facebook page), meaning this is what they have similar to PlayBuzz. Where they are different is in the fact that BuzzFeed has other types of additional content. I like what they use because it’s everyday, normal stuff that happens to normal people, like you and me. Some content will make you laugh, other may make you cry, both appealing to your emotional side and your sense of humor. If not, it will entertain you, that’s for sure. All content has a visual element on each post. Just yesterday, they posted a very emotional video about an engaged couple exploring how they will look like as they get old. Will you still love me or not?

Just like PlayBuzz, the text on the posts are very clever and invite people to want to find out more. Also, very useful, they feature lists, which we know engage people, like for example, 13 Steps to Instantly Improve your Day and 11 Reasons to Shave your Hoo-Ha. The 13 Steps post featured this headline: “Having a rough day? Follow these directions to take you from the harsh drudgery of daily existence all the way into sanity and peace of mind.” Philosophical, yet motivational and real, isn’t it? It made me open the link!

Take a look at this post. I’m sure you’ll find that fun and entertaining element right away. Social media is not only about choosing the right content, but in terms of stories, how you tell them, particularly on the text of the post.

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The Huffington Post

The Huffington Post brings to the table even a mixed-themed type of content. You can visit their Facebook page and will find anything from today’s news, politics, and business to recipes, travel information, articles about American trying bizarre Russian food (brought from Buzzfeed) to Sex Toys that Will Make your Orgasm Better, with the text post: Magical Toys. Screen Shot 2015-05-15 at 1.29.35 PMSounds like everyday stuff that even touch on some topics people don’t normally talk about? What these 3 sides intent to accomplish is to make a general audience want to stop for a second the socializing with friends on Facebook part, to learn about other stuff (most useful), while they’re entertained, which is the whole purpose of Facebook. Sounds like everyday stuff that even touch on some topics people don’t normally talk about?

What these 3 sites intent to accomplish is to make a general audience want to stop for a second the socializing with friends on Facebook part, to learn about other stuff (most useful), while they’re entertained, which is the whole purpose of Facebook.

I would say Huffington Post is the most complete in terms of themes appealing to a mixed crowd, while BuzzFeed looks for other angles and touches more on common, normal people situations. PlayBuzz, the most shared site, just features playtime content. It’s also the one with the simpler strategy: focusing on quizzes and making people want to play.

When we take a look at the results for the most shared sites on Twitter, we don’t see BuzzFeed or PlayBuzz. Yet, we see The Huffington Post, but not at the top of the list. Almost, if not all, of the top 10 sites are related to news, so maybe people are inclined to share more news on Twitter? Here is the data for Twitter:

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I took a look at two of them, The New York Times and Mashable. The success of both lies in the fact that in creating their posts, they strive to give people mixed content, in the most easy to digest and straight to the point way.

The New York Times

While The New York Times uses a more serious voice and features more hard news, it still provides some entertaining content, thus meeting people’s expectations of finding everything under one roof. I like the way they avoid using too many images, while maintaining a better mix of text posts with links. According to What Type of Content Gets Shared More on Twitter, text performs better than images. “What was even more interesting is that 65% of those text-based tweets contained a link. The link part is important because not only does that mean you can drive traffic back to your site, but it also means that tweets with links get retweeted 86% more often.”

Also, they make use of lists, like for example, 14 Summer recipes, thus capitalizing on the fact that audiences love lists and share them. In A Scientific Guide to Writing Great Tweets: How to Get More Clicks, Retweets, and Reach, Courtney Seiter mentions the most popular phrases, which include “the best,” as in this post:

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I really like the fact that this preview on the feed doesn’t need an image. As soon as you click on the post you see a small one, but the wording is perfect and made me curious enough to want to click on that link. Finally, during breaking news, like the sentence of the Boston Bomber, they start tweeting and retweeting about the verdict process, giving us more background. That’s what The New York Times does best, which is using the best judgement to deliver a well-balanced amount of content on Twitter, by using the most appropriate choice of words, consistent with its brand voice, yet captivating enough to drive engagement.


Mashable is more casual, more entertaining and tweets more often than The New York Times. The nature of its content is more varied and tends to fall more on the entertaining side. However, on Twitter, they do post breaking news (like right now when they posted that the Boston bomber was sentenced to death).

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The post before that one is about a woman who picked the worst shoes for her graduation and fell for 15 seconds. I like the fact that this post is in the form of text with a link to the video. Yet, the headline is compelling enough to make me want to click on that. It’s more of what I mentioned earlier about The New York Times.

Mashable makes more use of image and videos on the feed than The New York Times. I keep on wondering why they just posted that tweet about Boston Bomber’s sentence with an photo of him, when I think by this time we know who he is. The text is simple: “Dzhokhar Tsarnaev sentenced to death for bombing the Boston Marathon.” Straight to the point. On a final note, Mashable posts more frequently per hour than The New York Times (11-13 per hour). Content is for a more curious audience and at this moment they’re using Periscope quite a lot to live stream interviews with people on startups and technology.

Bottomline: Be fun, use images appropriately, spend some time writing a compelling post text (sometimes simple is better), use text post with links on Twitter and find out what makes a better balance between using images or plain text. Give people valuable content they can relate to, how to guides and list format posts and the result will most probably be more engagement.