Sooner World

As many of you know, our office has a thing for dinosaurs. So it should come as no surprise that we've been counting down the days to the premier of Jurassic World. What might come as a little bit of a surprise is that we created custom dino-themed content especially for this occasion.

We do not always create content for movies but you might remember that dinosaurs are the unofficial mascot of the office of Web Communications, Marketing and New Media (#TeamWebComm). That, coupled with the fact that Jurassic World is - dare we say it - the blockbuster movie of the summer, gave us all the inspiration we needed to tie everyone's favorite extinct species to OU in some way. Mason, our new photographer, was more than happy to indulge me and a new breed of content was hatched.

Though not our standard content and definitely not something I'd want to overdo, these kinds of posts are beneficial on several levels. They make you seem human, relatable and approachable. Millions of people are excited for this movie. If your brand is as well, that's something you have in common. It helps build a bond with those both inside and outside your audience. Not only is it great for engagement and reach, it's a great conversation starter - all of which our Klout score will reward us handsomely for. And finally, this kind of content is fun - which is really the whole point of social media and an important part that I think a lot of people forget sometimes. Sure it's a great way to figuratively shout from the rooftops news about your organization, facts, events and, of course, disseminate information, but it's also a place that should make people happy, give them a laugh and (carefully and respectfully) let your hair down every once in a while.



Hold onto your butts! #JurassicWorld is almost as cool as #SoonerWorld. #BoomerSooner

A video posted by The University of Oklahoma (@uofoklahoma) on Jun 12, 2015 at 6:57am PDT


I get to see Jurassic World tonight!

The Trust Engineers

Facebook. Odds are you know what that is and most likely have an account. As of March 2014 there were 1.3 billion active monthly Facebook users. To put that in perspective: there are more Facebook users than there are Catholics.

Today, with the help of Radiolab's The Trust Engineers podcast, we're going to discuss the link between technology and emotion and the problems that sometimes occur when one of every seven people on the planet are trying to connect across time and geography.

In this podcast, Facebook's Director of Engineering, Arturo Bejar, tells that in the few days between Christmas and New Year's Day in 2011, more photos were uploaded to Facebook than the entirety of photos on Flickr. With this influx of photos, the influx of "reports" also went up. In 2011, if you saw something that upset you, you could click a button and tell Facebook to take it down. This was because Facebook didn't want things like nudity, drug use and hate speech showing up in new feeds.

So the good people of Facebook get back from their holiday only to find millions of photo reports. They would have needed thousands of people to review all these. Before they dug in, Arturo decided to see what they were dealing with. What they found were images that were vastly different from what they were actually flagged for. Moms holding babies, families in matching Christmas sweaters reported as nudity. Pictures of puppies reported as hate speech.

They investigated further by asking people why they didn't like they picture or why they reported it. They found that most of the people who reported images were in the images themselves. They didn't like the way they looked or didn't like that it was posted.

Suddenly human drama - not illegal activity, hate speech or nudity - was fueling millions of reports. They were selecting whatever option they could just to get to the next step and submit the report. I can unfortunately say, I'm guilty of this. Maybe not in that time frame - but yeah, I've done it (and have now upped my timeline privacy so I have to approve things before they show up on my timeline. That may not have been an option in 2011.).

So Facebook added a step to this process. Some people would see a little box on the screen that asked how the photo made them feel. Alas, you can mix technology and human emotion. This is where the story really gets interesting to me. The answer box gave several options: embarrassing, saddening, upsetting, bad photo and other, where people could write in what they wanted about the image.

Of the 34% of people who would select "other," the most common response was, "It's embarrassing" even though Facebook had that on the list. Okaaaaaay. So then, they wrote out the option answers as "It's embarrassing," "It's saddening," etc. With this one word, they went from only 50% of people selecting an emotion to 78% of people selecting an emotion. The word "it's" boosted the response of thousands upon thousands of people. This is due to the fact that without a subject - "it's" - the subject is the person submitting the report. They are embarrassing. With "it's" in place, the emotional energy shifts to the photo in question. It's subtle, but grammar is now rearing its head and is in the mix with human emotion and technology. "I'm fine. It's embarrassing."

Yet, even with all this fascinating data, Facebook couldn't actually do anything. You cannot make someone take an image down just because someone else finds it embarrassing. So their basic problem wasn't solved. Facebook was now in the middle of what could have more easily been handled by the two individuals in question.

So Arturo made a tweak: If you said the photo was embarrassing, a new box would pop up and ask, "Do you want your friend to take the photo down?" If you said yes, you were rewarded with an empty message box. Only 20% of people would do this.

Next, they added a default message: "Hey, I didn't like this photo. Take it down." Aggressive, right? But when they started doing this, they went from 20% of people sending a message to 50% of people sending a message.

That worked so well, they decided to experiment with several other phrases: "Hey Candace, I didn't like this photo. Take it down." Adding in the person's name worked about 7% better than not using their name.

They used variations like "Would you please..." and "Would you mind...." In this scenario, "Would you please..." performed 4% better than "Would you mind..."

They even tried messages incorporating the word "sorry" and found that it doesn't help. Like, at all. Apologizing seems to shift the responsibility back to the complainers.

Enter "The Trust Engineers!" Every Friday on the Facebook campus, Arturo assembles a big group to review the data. Data scientists, engineers and the many self-proclaimed trust engineers. They are also joined by outside scientists.

Now, to my favorite part - in most cases, these outside scientists - whether they study the effects of happiness or neuroscience - are awestruck at the sheer amount of information available - and from all demographics. They are accustomed to having around 20 people to draw information and conclusions from. "Facebook has created a laboratory of human behavior the likes of which we've never seen." This new boon of information could be the future of social science. "There has never been a human community like this in human history."

The statistical likelihood that you, the person reading this, have been a guinea pig in one of their experiments? 100%. When you look at the data, any given person is probably involved in 10 different experiments and have been exposed to 10 different experimental things.

Due to the nature of my job, I don't really feel as violated by the above paragraph (of course, I don't post a lot of personal info) as many people in the general public did. Shortly after Radiolab had this discussion with Facebook, an academic paper was published about Facebook tinkering with about 700,000 people and the media ran with it. It blew up for a hot second.

I see people putting SO much of their lives out for all the world to see so I don't see how people can suddenly be irate about this. In my mind this is no different than having a Red Card for Target or an Extra Care Rewards Card at CVS. When you checkout at these stores, you get a slew of coupons based on things you purchase or they think you might be interested in. People can't be so naive as to think the forum/company in which they're putting so much personal information isn't going to look at all of it, right? Wrong. Though, the real issue, according to Kate Crawford, a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research, a Visiting Professor at the MIT Center for Civic Media, a Senior Fellow at NYU's Information Law Institute, and an Associate Professor at the University of New South Wales, was that people felt a real sense of betrayal and that they weren't aware that this space of theirs was being treated in these ways and that they were part of this psychological experimentation.

But this "psychological experimentation" is not necessarily as evil as it sounds. On election day, you usually see an "I Voted" button at the top of your feed. You can also see other friends who have voted. If you click it you are added to the pool of people who voted. This is another Facebook experiment; they wanted to see if they could increase voter turnout. Indeed they did, by 2%. Two percent may not sound like a lot, but it equals out to 340,000 voters who voted who normally would not have.

Where it starts to get a little hairy, is when candidates want to push the "Go Vote!" propaganda to only a select demographic, i.e. those more likely to vote for them. Whereas the people who wouldn't vote for them don't get these little nudges.

Per Kate, when it comes to social engineering, companies need to be really careful.

But per Arturo at Facebook, in the work they were doing, it all began with people asking them for help. Facebook wasn't doing this for fun. People had asked for help and they were finding a solution.

When you try to engineer trust offline, you do it in subtle ways - eye contact, facial expressions, posture, tone - but when you go online, you don't have any of that. In that absence of that feedback we're left with the question of what communication turns into. Arturo says his goal is merely to help close the gap between what it's like to communicate off and on line.

In my job at OU I always tell people social media is a day-to-day experiment. Not on the same scale as Facebook, but an experiment just the same - especially in the beginning when I started working here. You have to learn your target audience and who is on each network. What do they respond to? What do they ignore? What really irritates them? What engages them? What makes them feel connected to campus? It's not a manipulation for me so much as it's a way to reach as many people as possible in a way that will appeal to them, all the while continuing to build our brand. I can't reformat Facebook but I can take great care with the message, images, content, etc. When something tanks, I make a note. When something does well, I make a note. And this, essentially, is how I've built and continue to build the formula for success at OU.

As someone who actively studies people on social media on a daily basis, I love that Facebook has so much information. I use it as a way to build content that suits them as a whole. As an individual, my career has made me much more private. I'm leery of putting much of my life in such a public place and relish enjoying my personal life privately offline vs virtually. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this podcast and I hope you enjoy it as well. Feel free to let me know what you think!


Social Media Content Sources

Most common question(s) people ask me: "Hey Candace, HOW do you find all that fantastic content you post to OU social media on a consistent daily basis? Where do you find it? What is your secret?"

...or that's how I hear it.

My answer(s):

1. Google Alerts - I have these set up for "University of Oklahoma," "Boomer Sooner," "David Boren," "OU," you get the idea. Any key words your organization uses, catch phrases, mottos, names, etc make for great alerts.

Google Alerts are easy to set up. Simply go to, type in what you want an alert for, select your options (frequency, language, region, etc.) and it will deliver as you specify to the email address you submit.  Cool, huh?

These alerts are not only good for content. They are also great sources for monitoring how you organization is being presented to the outside world. Are stories portraying you the way you would like? Are they delivering big news? Is it on point with your branding strategy? If yes, great! If not, there's an opportunity to try a different approach in what you are marketing.

2. Build a Network. Though my job appears to be totally virtual, it's absolutely not. Some of my greatest content sources are actual humans around campus. These real, live human beings and I have developed a relationship outside the confines of the digital world. They know what I do and what my job is and vice versa. These relationships are vital to content marketing and they are mutually beneficial. They send me their messaging, photos, event details (which is ready-made content for me to post to OU's social outlets) and in return, they get a reach much larger than they generally would have on their own. Win. Win.

3. At OU, we have what we call a "Content Submission Form." This handy little gem is another way for people to submit materials for dissemination through our social channels. It's the more official version of #2; however, it doesn't only come to me - there are many on the list of recipients who are also welcome to use the information that comes through on this form. Speaking of this form, it was created on a simple format. Wufoo is easy to use and even has a free option. Morgan, our content manager, even has the link in the signature of her email sign off. So smart.

4. Troll your timeline and notifications. I don't mean be a troll and comment mean things. I mean scour the comments and notifications to see what people are talking about. Measure their sentiment. People will always tell you what they want to see or let you know when they don't want to see something. Of course, you don't have to listen to ALL of it but it will give you a good indication of what does well (i.e. what you should post more of) and what doesn't (what you should change up if you have to post something similar later on). Many times people will even let you know when things are going on on campus, ask for something they'd like to see or give you a heads up on something you may need to know. Notifications are invaluable and should never be ignored - they should be utilized to their full capacity!

So set up those alerts, make some friends, make a form and become a super creeper and let the content come rolling in!