What is your social dilemma? Symptoms and insights for an internet culture


Do you want to watch a scary movie this Halloween season?  Watch The Social Dilemma on Netflix.

I’m out there telling people to watch it and my teenage daughter is telling me to stop it because I’ve been on her case since I saw it.  For ninety minutes you get to hear “interviews with tech experts, including many former employees of Silicon Valley giants, and PSA-style dramatic scenarios.”(CNBC)  From giant media rooms with rows and rows of servers crunching algorithms and storing information, to the spread of misinformation, to the addiction people have to their phones, the film does not hold back.   The experts claim that the experiment has gone wrong and even the people who started it do not know how to stop it.  Or, they just don’t want to.

Here is why I’m bugging my teenager about her phone.  In the film, a teenage boy is clearly stuck to his phone.  Behind the scenes are three “AI” guys who use different tactics to get the teen’s attention.  Some of the things they do stretch the truth, like sending alerts from people that the kid interacts with unbeknownst to the sender.  I disabled Facebook alerts on my personal account because it seemed like they were coming in every hour, and I just do not have the time to keep track of other people’s lives 24/7.

What are the symptoms of a social dilemma?

  1. “Phoneicitis”: Where you are and who you are with can’t match the exciting world of your phone.  Have you ever gone out to eat at a nice restaurant (before CoVid perhaps) and seen a family all on their phones?  Or a couple, both on their phones?  That’s romantic.
  2. “Toomanycoincidencists”: Your life is starting to seem like a series of topics where everything you see and hear is related to a comment you made or a purchase.  I’ve had the experience of talking about something in my house and then seen things pop up on my phone related to what I was talking about.  I even get spam calls phone from locations I’ve mentioned in passing. Did you know flat-screen TVs can “hear you”?  Alexa isn’t the only one listening.
  3. Time warps: You sit down to read a message on Facebook and an hour later you realize you don’t know where you are.
  4. Jump scares: You notice your phone lights up and you jump or start because you haven’t had a moment’s peace and you are exhausted.

How did our social dilemma evolve?

As creepy as this sounds, many of us take it as a necessary evil of being a part of modern society.  Televisions were modern once.  Back then it was exciting for advertisers.  They could finally reach a national audience all at once.  So the internet and digital marketing are just the next steps, right?

The answer is one of those “yes” and “no” propositions.  The difference is that we have evolved along with the technology.  So a programmer who understands how to employ algorithms can do so and then a company can match its marketing strategies to the way the algorithms work.  Computers can review the data, cycle it, add to it, recycle it, learn something new, shift to fit the new information, try again, and so on.  It is amazing to think that people have created mechanical brains that can reason.  I believe the only things machines do not have are our emotions, but hey, that’s coming too right?  (Read AI: What it is and how it really works)

 Simple solutions

Is there a social dilemma, like a war between good and evil?  Absolutely.  I mean, the end result of the investigations over the past four years has confirmed that a foreign government (Russia?) interfered with our election process.   But we also need to take responsibility for our own actions by:

  1. Educating ourselves and listening to a wide range of voices to come to our own conclusions about what is true or false
  2. Not clicking on every link.  You wouldn’t want to invite a virus into your computer’s hard drive, so consider what you are seeing and clicking online so a virus doesn’t get you.
  3. Setting a timer when you start scrolling so you can keep tabs on how conscious you are of what you are doing
  4. Check the settings on all of your accounts and adjust them for privacy and not clicking “order now” without looking at what boxes are checked automatically.  Maybe you do not want to be on that newsletter email list.

Many of these were suggested as parental controls for my kids’ devices.  Now I’m thinking we all need some boundaries.


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How to Market Your Book in a Pandemic, Election Season

What does book marketing in the 2020s pandemic, election season look like? Many authors and publishers, big and small, are struggling right now and every time we think we have beaten whac-a-mole, another critter pops up after the buzzer rings.  In the CMPR newsletter this month I promised a blog article on ways to make progress in book marketing this very different kind of season.  I am going to present these suggestions based on my disaster experience and marketing in the industry first.  Then, if you read on you can find out where these ideas are coming from.  In essence, I am saving the publishing lesson for last.  If it is of interest read on, or just collect the to-do list.  It is totally up to you.

How to Market Your Book in a Pandemic, Election Season

I have been sharing my thoughts and opinions on this season since the spring.  We all knew it was coming, and we all know that livelihoods depend on the strength of fall sales.  I can not speak to how the big five will handle these challenges as they have access to resources most indies do not.  Also, by virtue of their size, these businesses do not have the same flexibility to pivot and adjust.  The good news is, if you are an indie, publisher or author, as of right now September 14, 2020, these are my suggestions based on my experience with disasters and knowledge of marketing in the industry.

  1. Do not “launch” your book.  You can launch a boat, but you really can not launch a book, especially in this market.  It is important to take the long view and implement publicity and marketing strategies over a period of six months from the time your book is available for sale.  It is nice to have the fanfare associated with a big pub date party and a list of interviews a page long, but that is not the reality today.
  2. Do not try to market your book like you think you are supposed to.  This is a tough one, but it is important.  Every book may have a category it falls into, but it is also one-of-a-kind, based on the writer.  When you think about how to get the word out, think about ten people you know who would love to read it.  Then find out where they are in the digital landscape, what they do, how they consume, media, etc.  Then go and get ’em.
  3. Make your book available on different platforms individually.  You need to have the book listed with Ingram in order to have credibility and availability for bookstores and libraries.  In addition, upload your title directly on KDP (Amazon).  The upload, if executed after your set up your Ingram title should supersede it.  This will provide larger royalties to you if you use standard discount amounts (55% on Ingram/40% on Amazon).  Also check out Lulu.com which offers sales direct to consumers in POD form as well as Book Baby, both good quality, reputable resources.
  4. Use a pdf of your book for reviewers and media, but also have some printed copies available.  So many people are not working in their offices, but that does not always mean they prefer to read pdfs versus print books.  Have a few hard copies on hand.  I recommend 25 – 35 just in case.
  5. Research all online media opportunities that cover your topics.  The mainstream media is saturated for many topics, especially fiction, but if you spend the time researching and curating a contact list across social media, blogs, and podcasts, you will find ways to spread the word.  The more searchable your book is, the better off you are for selling as well as additional media interest.
  6. Call your local bookstores for a virtual event.  Check-in with the booksellers in your area to see if they would like to have a virtual visit with you where they sell autographed copies or some other promotional goodie.
  7. When possible tie-in your subject to today’s news stories.  If you have a book that can be tied to any of the major news topics today or something niche-oriented that has it’s own dedicated media outlets, pitch it.  Some publications have actually said they are only covering fun stories or CoVid–paradox or not.

Fall 2020s Perfect Storm for Book Publishing

The publishing industry is an old one filled with artistic souls, attention seekers, and regular business people who are always looking at the bottom line.  Add to the mix the world of digital and ebooks and the next thing you know publishers are certain that print books will be long gone by the year 20 something.  Guess what? Readers got tired of their devices, or they decided some books were better in person than on a screen.  So in recent years, print book sales have hit an upswing, while the ebook revolution has calmed down.  During the pandemic, election season, print book sales have increased even more.

Paper and Printing

But who could have predicted a supply chain catastrophe like the one we are having?  Not only is paper in short supply, but there are only two major printers in the U.S.  Reduced staff and other factors are slowing down the printing process, so there is no option to get your books expedited.  If you are lucky you will get them in a couple of weeks.  Stores are getting 1/2 orders instead of wholes while the printers try to satisfy demand in some egalitarian way.

Media Relations?

Now enter book marketing in the 2020s pandemic, election season.  We know that elections take over the news cycle which makes it hard to get a word in edgewise.  This fall we have a pandemic election which means the airwaves have CoVid 19 and politics to cover.  AND there are the protests, certainly bringing attention to an important issue, but not great for media coverage for books.  It’s the trifecta of media relations challenges.

Traditional and Indie Collide

And so, traditional publishers have tried to pivot during these times by changing their publication schedules.  So many big books planned for April, May, June, and July were postponed to Fall 2020.  And to protect themselves, these companies worked out a plan with the POD guys, so that they could get books printed quickly in the event of a shortfall.  As a result, the traditional book world has collided with the indie book world that has built its successes on POD technology.

Now the little guy is finding that Amazon has a two, three, or four-week delivery date for his title(s).  Ordering a number of hardcovers or paperbacks can take up to a month or more.   But do not think that traditional publishers are having an easy time of it either.  When some titles were rescheduled for Fall 2020, others had to be pushed to 2021.  Losing some of the big books will no doubt be a hit on the bottom line this year.

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How to Rebrand Your Business in the Digital Age

Rebranding your business is an exciting time to flex your design muscles while also breathing new life into your business. The digital age also means that there are lots of avenues for you when it comes to getting the word out and building your online presence.

That said, rebranding your business isn’t always a walk in the park — and the task becomes twice as difficult when it comes to figuring out how to do so digitally. There are lots of potential avenues you could go down, so the key is creating a digital branding strategy that works best for you.

Build your website

The first step to rebranding in the digital age is starting with a website. While you may already have your business’ social media platforms operational, you still need a website to serve as a digital home base. Marketing director Michael Kava states that working with a reputable web hosting site is of utmost importance, as this prevents your site from crashing or getting hacked. Furthermore, you should also make navigation menus easily readable. After all, a beautiful site isn’t worth much if people have a hard time finding the information that they need.

Engage your existing audience

You should involve your current target audience throughout your rebranding process. Failing to do so might alienate your old customers, which is definitely not the effect you want to have. Posting teasers of your new look and sharing the story behind your rebranding strategy generates a bit of buzz surrounding the new reveal while also allowing your customers to be part of your business’ story.

Solidify your aesthetic across all platforms

It’s important to ensure consistency across all platforms to build better brand awareness amongst your audience. From adjusting banner sizes to sticking to making your website mobile-friendly, such guidelines will help enhance brand recall and attract more clients. The effectiveness of these techniques is why they are drilled into students on university design courses. This is why digital media degree professor John Fahnestock of Maryville University emphasizes the importance of focusing on the aesthetic, technical, and theoretical aspects of design across a variety of mediums and specialties. Following these principles will help designers shape their visual storytelling. Keeping those principles in mind, and asking yourself whether your design is both functional and beautiful, will help you create engaging content that works either as an Instagram story or a Facebook post.

Replace your targeted ads

No digital rebrand strategy is complete without ads. If you already have digital ads in place, remember to edit them to match your brand’s new visual strategy. You can also use this opportunity to explore other advertising options. Partnering with influencers on Instagram posts and stories is a great way to get the word out, as is creating sponsored Twitter posts. The beauty of digital ads is that you can also track their performance through analytics, which can then help you further refine your campaigns.

Choose the right payment gateways

Of course, a digital rebrand isn’t just about aesthetics: it’s about positioning your business as a fully accessible online service. As such, partnering with the right payment gateways helps establish your business as a trusted vendor. PayPal continues to be a popular payment service for online businesses, making it an obvious choice for SMEs who want to mitigate risk. Stripe is another payment gateway that you can use, and both services let you create payment buttons that you can then embed clearly on your site. Potential customers who go to your site will then see these buttons and know that you offer flexible payment options.

Our previous Social Media 101 post maintains that going digital is one of the best growth strategies you can take as a business owner. With that in mind, the tips mentioned above can guide you towards a successful digital rebrand.


Article made for clairemckinneypr.com

By Annie Lawson

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Social Media 101: 8 Things I learned This Summer

where is your audience?I have written many blogs over the years on branding, personal brand, messaging, and best practices for social media.   However, as good as I am at giving advice and instruction to others, I am not as good at applying it to myself.  This summer I took a deep dive into social media and personal branding to see what I could do for my business(es).  This is what I learned.

1. We are in a marathon, not a sprint.  I have been saying this for years and yet people come to me and want to build their fans and followers by the hundreds every month.  It just does not work that way, especially when you are building organically.

2.“Snackable” content is not useful.  Although there are companies out there selling cheap social media services based on uniform, but consistent posting, generic content is not effective.  There are too many people on social these days for any of us to blend in.

3. You need a plan.  Without a strategy and a plan, your social media efforts will not get great results.  You might gain some traction here and there, but it will not last and you will not grow your brand.  And when you are developing your plan you need to spend the time to find…

4. Your target audience.  It is of primary importance that you have a clear picture of your targets and where they are.  One of the things I found for myself is that the people I want to reach are accomplished professionals.  While it is fun to post animal pictures on Instagram and Facebook, that content on those platforms is not going to help me reach my goals.  More focused information and insights on LinkedIn and Twitter are better options for my business.

5. The vast capabilities of the platforms.  Before I started hiring people to do social, I did it on my own.  The leaps and bounds that these platforms have taken since then are awesome.  It literally seems like if you dream it, you can do it.  Video, graphics, live tv, ads, templates, analysis—there are so many tools that can help you put together a great campaign.

6. Fear is not your friend.  Entering the social media space requires a certain amount of risk-taking, especially if you are promoting your personal brand.  Do you like talking about yourself?  Putting yourself out there?  Tooting your own horn?  Well, get used to it, because that is what you will have to do.  I love promoting other people and products.  It is much tougher to do it for myself.

7. Eventually, we all need to pay for ads.  I have been tracking my posts as well as those of some of my competitors.  The engagement for business-related content seems to be consistent for most of us and it is not very impressive.  My analysis suggests that it is the number of impressions we are getting or the reach of our content, that is lacking.  As I said, it is very crowded out there and you need great content, but you also need to have the opportunity to be heard.  Paid ads will get you greater exposure.

8. It takes a lot of time.  The number of hours it takes to curate content, develop strategies, plan your calendar, schedule posts, monitor your results, shift strategies, develop new plans, and repeat, is significant.  I really underestimated what it takes to do a thorough job, and I know there is still more to do.  Unless your brand and business are dependent upon the success of social media marketing, you may choose to scale your work accordingly.

Here are some resources where you can learn more on your own: Hootsuite, Hubspot, Canva 


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What Does it Cost to Hire a Publicist or Digital Marketing Consultant?

If you are an individual or a small business, the question of what does it cost to hire a publicist or digital marketing consultant is an important one.  If you are just looking for an intern to post for you on Facebook and Instagram and you aren’t in need of a professional strategist, plan, campaign, etc., then this may be more than you need.  If you are investing in your business, career, product launch, or all of the above, then read on.

Several years ago I wrote a blog about hiring a publicist and it continues to generate traffic and interest.  Although the goals of these jobs are the same, the tools we use and the way we go about getting the job done has changed.  Instead of becoming less demanding as a result of a shrinking traditional media landscape, our jobs have grown.  In order to be successful we have to grow communities, sell to target audiences, conduct events virtually and in person, and get press attention every time we hit a goal.   The cost to hire a publicist or marketing consultant is going to be based on the level of experience of the person/team and the amount of time your project is going to take.  The more experience, skills, and services you want, the larger the budget.

What Does it Cost to Hire a Digital Marketing Consultant

I specialize in individualized brands, which include authors, experts, academics, thought leaders, and specialists of any kind.  Most of these people develop their images on social media in order to gain the credibility they need to sell something or be featured in the mainstream media.  The best way to do this these days is through social media.  There are so many firms out there offering social media services it is very difficult to know what to pay or what you should get.  Here are a few services to look at when you are deciding who to hire:

Plan and Strategy: Whether you are already on social media and are not getting the results you want, or you are completely new to this world, a strategy and plan are important.  A lot of people will worry about posting more and creating cool content without understanding how much their efforts are achieving.  You need to know that in order to make a difference and accomplish your goals.  Firms that offer these services should be spending at least four to six weeks working on your plan and strategy and additional time teaching you how to implement it.  The cost: $10,000 – 20,000.

Monthly Content Development and Posting:  This job requires a range of things from writing blogs to designing graphics and composing posts on multiple platforms.  It will require materials from you including photos, boilerplate copy for your business, and any slogans you use.  Video content can come from you directly in the form of single, in-person commentary, or be developed further by your marketing team.  This may also include running ads.  Posting will include a content calendar, scheduling, and analysis.  The range of costs: $600/month for a single campaign on one platform – $2,500+/month on multiple platforms.  The cost is dependent on the number of platforms and the amount of content that needs to be produced and scheduled.

What Does it Cost to Hire a Publicist?

I’m sure if you are Lady Gaga you are spending many thousands a month to have a PR team run your brand.  At that level you have someone listening and monitoring your brand on social media, planning, posting, blocking press and news stories, granting interviews, and more.

For our purposes, we are going to stick with a more general level of service and cost.  Again, there are many service options and people who offer them.  I differentiate them in a couple of ways “plug n’ play” and “customized campaigns”.

“Plug n’ Play”: These services are usually very reasonable, but they are limited.  If you are looking for someone to accomplish a part of the job for you, like offering a list of media contacts or pitching a set number of outlets, this would work for you.  The costs: For a limited campaign or service: $hundreds to purchase lists; $5000+ to be pitched to a specific list of contacts and scheduled for reviews or interviews over a short period of time (6 – 14 weeks).

Customized Campaigns: A campaign like this could involve regional and national media, bloggers, influencer targetting, event planning, national media, and speaking engagements.  Depending on whoever else is on your team it could also involve social media and brand management and marketing.  If you are looking for long term public relations for yourself and your brand the costs are usually set monthly for a contracted period.  If you are planning a single product launch or book launch then the campaign is usually set up as a “project” and charged accordingly.  The costs: $3,500 – 5,000/month for a retainer/contract, $20,000+/project.

Whether you are looking to grow your brand, business, or product, it is important to have a plan and a way to execute it.  Hiring an expert is an investment.  Being informed about the services and costs will help you determine what you will pay to have done and what you will do on your own.

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