“I’d like to speak to your social media manager, please.”

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A Tale of Two Tweeters

I noticed something this week on Twitter reflective of a social media trend that I wish would go away. (Note: I won’t screen-shot or name-drop, as that would undercut my point.)

Instance A: A well-regarded sports media personality (with well over a million Twitter followers) complained on his feed that the CBS network’s lack of a contract with his specific cable provider meant he was not able to watch the Super Bowl–specifically that the cable provider is shutting him out (a HOF member!) from watching the big game. Multiple tweets later (providing the play-by-play of the situation, as it were), he has let his followers know that an “engineer” has installed an antenna that can pick up his local CBS affiliate.

Instance B: An anchor/commentator for an “up-and-coming” “news” organization (with over 250,000 followers) tweets at NINE IN THE MORNING that he got upset there was no “McFish” on the menu of his local “MacDonalds” but when he asked to speak to the manager about it, he was reportedly told he was a “male Karen” and asked to leave. This person included a picture of the offending restaurant in his post. (In subsequent tweets, he proudly mentions that “McFish” was trending and that he thought “MacDonalds” now had a “big problem” on their hands. I have to confess, dear reader, I’m still not sure if this is just an elaborate joke or not. Considering the man’s other tweets, I’m leaning toward not.)

In both instances, a media professional who encountered some frustration with a retail business decided to air his grievances on social media, instead of (presumably) working directly with the companies to resolve the issue.

Why would two grown men take their grievances to hundreds of thousands or even over a million strangers? Because it works.

No Trends are Good Trends (Unless You’re Wendy’s)

It used to be a given that “any press is good press,” since news coverage increases your name recognition and the amount of space you take up in the marketplace. To be fair, we still see this play out in certain spheres (such as presidential politics).

But for corporations and retailers, social media is a fickle beast that must be treated with respect and fear. For every Wendy’s whose Twitter account gets positive buzz for its playful (and sometimes sassy) approach, you have dozens of horror stories of gaffes, goofs, and outright fails by corporate social media accounts. In the vast majority of cases, companies want to avoid the “trending topics” page, unless it’s regarding their latest ad campaign.

Customers know this. We’ve seen how a disgruntled passenger’s Instagram story or a frustrated customer’s Twitter thread has taken on a life of its own, resulting in viral trends, some unexpected media buzz, and eventually a corporate walk-back to try to save face.

As a result of the growing power of this “online review” economy, there is a heightened corporate sensitivity to “bad looks,” and customers have used that leverage to try to provoke a response. Maybe you’ve taken your gripes to social media in the past. I know I have.

Your deep-dish pizza arrives cold? Tell your thousands of Instagram followers and tag Pizza Hut in the story! You had to wait in a long line at the bank? Jump on their corporate Facebook page and talk about how it’s ridiculous that more lines aren’t open! Got bad service at Olive Garden? Don’t tell the manager–tell the Twitter mob! #OliveGardenIsTHEWORST

Point of fact, the social media companies revel in this sort of performative outrage. Viral angst generates a windfall of engagement and them sweet, sweet clicks. Plus, customers know that if they can kick up enough dust and get others to join in, they might get results faster.

I remember seeing a story last October in which a man sucker-punched another person in the parking lot of a Buc-ee’s gas station because that person supported a different political candidate, and within a few hours the phrase “Cancel Buc-ee’s” started trending on Twitter. I thought, Really? What does Buc-ee’s have to do with it?

That doesn’t matter to the mob. Retweets are easy, son; thinking is harder.

And that’s the poisonous logic of all this. I’m mad about something, so rather than addressing that particular person or place that caused my frustration, I’m going to summon the internet horde to flood the digital streets with torches and pitchforks.

Just Another Hashtag?

I think some of you may have your hackles up at this point, so I want to clarify: I’m not talking about serious or (dare I say) systemic social issues here. Some problems are much more widespread than a single person or place. Some issues deserve extended examination and discussion. We have seen in the last few years how social media is a powerful tool that can be used both constructively and destructively to bring people together behind a common cause. I’m not talking about that kind of “movement” dynamic right now.

Rather, I’m talking about the type of situation that, in the era before hashtags, would have gotten (at most) a complaint to a manager and perhaps a funny or exasperated anecdote to the folks around the water cooler or in the carpool line. “Oh man, I had such bad service at Louie’s Pizzeria last week; I think I’m going to be taking my business elsewhere until they get that straightened out!”

Now, all of our petty outrages get elevated to such a height that we are convinced the ENTIRE WORLD should know about them–without stopping to ask if they’re *that* big of a deal in the grand scheme of things.

What makes matters worse is that this multiplies. More people see that viral outrage gets the corporate giants’ attention, and decide that’s how things get done now. Another story is shared and another hashtag is created. Each person’s individual outrages contribute more noise to the internet cacophany, even if they doesn’t actually accomplish much beyond adding just another hashtag to the mix like so much visual static. Boycott this. Cancel that. #TheWorst. Blah blah blah blah blah. Any important issues or causes fighting for oxygen in the public square get swept away by the latest outrage-du-jour.

I’d like to suggest a different approach.

An Alternative Option

My wife and I ordered take-out at a fantastic local spot that serves twice-fried Korean fried chicken. Outstanding, crispy, spicy chicken strips and drumsticks, along with fries covered in kimchi and bulgogi that are just bonkers-good. It’s not a cheap meal, but it’s a nice splurge once in a while.

I picked up the order and brought it home only to find it was room-temperature, soggy, and in some cases over-cooked. It wasn’t enjoyable at all. We ended up eating most of it because we were hungry, but it’s frustrating when your much-anticipated meal turns out to be a dud.

So I jumped on social media…and pulled up the direct message option for the restaurant. I sent them something like the following as a private message: “Hey guys, I just wanted to let you know that our meal today was pretty disappointing for the following reasons… Usually, you guys are on point, so I’m going to assume it’s just an off-night. If you think it’s appropriate, let the kitchen staff know this one was a miss, so they can address it if needed. Don’t worry, we’ll be back sometime. Thanks.”

About an hour later, I got a response from the restaurant, thanking me for my approach, asking for details so they could refund my meal, and asking for my address. A few weeks later, I receive a gift card in the mail to pay for another dinner.

I didn’t need to get angry or rally the troops. I just reached out directly, let them know my concerns, tried not to be a jerk, and encouraged them to try again. They responded with graciousness and attention. Why? Because they’re not trying to give customers lousy food and a bad experience.

That’s the thing: no business, restaurant, or retail store that wants to succeed is actively trying to disappoint their customers–really.

Disappointments do happen. Food gets cold, cashiers get tired and frustrated, people call in sick so that fewer lanes are open for your convenience. And that’s also not to say that if you respond well, you’ll always get a refund and a free meal. Sometimes, yes, you may encounter corporate indifference, for a variety of reasons. When that happens, you don’t make a scene, you don’t yell or scream, and you don’t record a video rant to share with the Internet. And why don’t you do that? Because you’re a doggone grown-up, that’s why.

On the flip side, I also try to go out of my way to tell restaurants, stores, and other folks in the “hourly-wage” fields when they do a really good job. I love asking servers if I can speak to a manager and immediately adding, “Don’t worry, it’s a good thing!” just to watch them visibly relax, smile, and go grab their supervisor. I enjoy bragging on good service and quality work.

One more story: years ago, I ate at a Subway restaurant with my folks, and they told me they liked coming to this one location because the manager really cared about what he was doing and that attitude trickled down to the whole crew. While in line, I watched an 18-year-old make my sandwich with skill, care, and speed, putting the ingredients together carefully and presenting me with an advertisement-perfect sub. For most Subway employees, the label “sandwich artist” is wild hyperbole. For this kid, it didn’t come close enough. And I let him know about it. And his manager. And now you.

Make Praise Go Viral

Here’s my bottom-line recommendation, dear reader: let me encourage you to make your praise go viral, and keep your complaints in your DMs.

When you have those bad interactions, those disappointing experiences, those let-down expectations in the marketplace, try to direct those frustrations toward finding out who is responsible and can actually make a difference in the situation. Seek restitution if needed, and seek improvement whenever possible, as that benefits not only you but your fellow customers.

But even more so, when you have those great interactions, those over-the-top positive experiences, and your expectations are exceeded by everyday rockstars who are doing their very best in an often thankless position, highlight that. Give big, generous tips to restaurant staff. Grab managers and tell them which of their employees is hustling. Jump on your social media feeds and promote local businesses (especially small, independent shops!) who are doing things the right way.

It seems like such a small thing. It costs you practically nothing. But it makes a difference.

“Please think I’m cool.”

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Confession: That was the thought running like a background track in my head yesterday, as I took part in a group Zoom call with two authors/podcasters whose work I admire.

I’ve tried in various ways to get into their “club” in some way over the years (with some minor level of success), but this was the first time I’ve actually interacted with them face to (screen-mediated) face. I was able to get a few words in, but otherwise, I found myself just grinning foolishly and trying unsuccessfully not to embarrass myself.

I’m a grown man with a wife and kids. I’ve got my own stuff going on, such as it is. I should be fully out of middle-school-mode. But there are still people who I can’t help but see on another plane of coolness. And despite my very best efforts, I slip right into notice me, senpai mode. I hate it.

The call went fine. When put on the spot to perform a bit of dramatic reading (don’t ask, it’s a long story), I bungled some of my dialogue and felt like a goober. Then I tried too hard to be funny at the very end of the call, so that when it finally ended, I spent the next hour-plus kicking myself for being such an irredeemable dork.

This isn’t the first time I’ve done this. There’s another podcaster whose work I enjoyed for years, and when I was finally able to talk to him during a live call-in show, I got tongue-tied and said something stupid. For the months/years that followed, while I was active in the live chats during various broadcasts, I was never really recognized as a “regular” by the host or the chat group. Eventually, I dipped out and stopped listening/engaging with that show at all, not out of malice but really just disappointment that I couldn’t break into the circle.

What’s the point of all this? Shoot, I don’t know. I’m just talking here, gang.

Maybe what I’m getting at is this: it’s really easy to chase attention, recognition, and a sense of belonging among those we think are cool, talented, and more “together.” But maybe the thing we should be focusing on most is just doing our own thing and being content with that.

But, then again, you know how it is: about to hit 40, looking at the successes and accomplishments of your peers, comparing yourself to the people around you, second-guessing your life choices. Typical Wednesday.

That’s all I got. See ya later, space cowboy…

Friday Feed (05/01/2020)

Hey readers!

Here are some interesting things I’ve collected from around the World Wide Webiverse over the last 6 months. Enjoy and have a great weekend!

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That’s all I got this week. Have a good weekend, stay safe and healthy, and we’ll see you down the road!

An Open Letter to Online Subscription Sites

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Dear Sirs:

Thank you for the opportunity to enjoy your free website / newsletter / social-media platform / app.

I find its content to be enjoyable / informative / amusing / life-changing, and was looking forward to enjoying it indefinitely at no cost to me personally. However, I was surprised and slightly concerned by a recent trend on your platform: suggestions that I should join your club / become a member / pay for additional access / join your Patreon / support you financially.

Really now, sirs, this is rather unseemly. Do you honestly believe that, after offering me worthwhile content at zero cost for mere months / years, you now expect me to help support your efforts / make your enterprise financially viable / allow you to pay your volunteers / help you offset the debt you incurred to start this venture?

Honestly.

Not only that, but I’m further alarmed by that fact that you are now limiting how much content I can download / receive by email / view on your site. After all these months / years spent giving you my minimal / half-hearted / devoted support, you are now putting the screws to your loyal readers / subscribers / listeners. And for what? A few measly dollars a month? Are you so petty, sirs?

I have been a loyal supporter, sirs. Not with actual dollars, naturally, but through my social media support–all my many clicks, likes, shares, and retweets. That’s valuable currency in this day and age, and I think should be more than sufficent payment in exchange for full and unrestricted access to your entire library of digital content, despite my infrequent and distracted use of it. Yet here I am, in digital West Berlin as it were, on the other side of your infernal paywall.

At any rate, I am writing to inform you that while I will not be supporting your art financially in any meaningful fashion, I am nevertheless quite disappointed that you have decided to sell out your principles and ask for remuneration in order to feed your family / provide healthcare for your children / pay off your crippling student debt / finally achieve your dreams of being a creative professional.

It’s people like you that give a bad name to the creative arts. For shame, sirs! For shame!

Regretfully yours,

–Most People on the Internet

NB: I will still be subscribing to your free newsletter / podcast / blog for the immediate future, but I expect you to keep providing the same level of content output as before. Otherwise, I may have to snark about you on Twitter. Neither of us want that.

Friday Feed (10/18/2019)

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Happy Friday, y’all! Here are a few links I’ve enjoyed lately that I hope will be interesting and/or encouraging!

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Have a great weekend, friends! I’ll be back on Monday with the next installment of #SmundaySchool and more #52Stories a bit later in the week. See you then!

Friday Feed (9/27/2019)

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In case you’re confused by Wednesday’s post, YES, I’m still going to post a #FridayFeed from time to time! Just because I don’t want to be just a curator doesn’t mean I’m not gonna share some cool links with you people!

Submitted for your perusal: 10 posts worth checking out this weekend.

Hope you find something useful here. If you do, maybe pop into the comments below and let me know? That would help a lot. Thanks.

 

Friday Feed (8/30/2019)

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Happy last-Friday-of-August, y’all!

Here are some useful and/or interesting links for your weekend:

Hope these were helpful. If you liked any of these links, I’d appreciate you leaving me a comment below (or hit me up on Twitter!) so I know what you find helpful.

Have a great weekend, friends!

 

 

 

#BoycottHashtags

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Before you post on social media with that hashtag of disapprobation, I would humbly submit the following questions, intended purely for your consideration and self-reflection:

  1. Does this particular “outrage” actually affect your life directly and personally? If so, how? Be specific.
  2. If it does affect your life directly, is a social media post or hashtag campaign the best and most productive approach to addressing this issue? In other words, are you trying to “cancel” this person or group, or are you seeking real restitution/recompense of some kind? If seeking restitution, how will this social media post accomplish that? Would contacting them directly be more effective?
  3. If you are seeking to “cancel” your target, what is your ultimate desired outcome? Be specific. Does that outcome seem appropriate, when compared to the offense in question? If you explained this situation to someone who isn’t on social media, would they understand where you are coming from or would they look at you like you had grown another head?
  4. If the outrage affects your life indirectly at best, what is your goal in using the social media hashtag approach? Be specific. (Note: “Raising awareness” is not an answer. We’re all aware.) Again, apply the “random person who doesn’t use social media” test. Would this explanation make sense to your neighbor? Your boss? Your elderly grandmother?
  5. If you are using social media to call for or perpetuate a boycott of a certain business or product for ideological reasons, please consider how many times you have paid actual money to purchase this particular product or service in the last week? Month? Year? If it is a frequency greater than once a month, do you feel that diverting your custom to another business will accomplish the goal of your boycott? If so, how? Be specific.
  6. Are you using a social media hashtag to protest a widespread corporate policy or the actions of a local employee? If a corporate policy, how do you hope your use of a hashtag on a social media post will change this policy? Be specific.
  7. If an individual employee, what is your goal for publicly shaming this individual through the use of this hashtag? How do you want them to be brought to account? What do you want their punishment to be? How should this single decision affect the next 5-10 years of their life? Be specific.
  8. Final question: If you, having learned of this outrageous statement or action by an individual or corporation, made the decision to post nothing, to say nothing, to move on with your life, would it result in a net-positive, net-negative, or net-neutral change to your life?

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So what’s my point? Is this just more self-righteous social-media-bashing from your buddy Dave?

No. Here’s my point: While there are real issues of injustice and inequality that should call for our voices, votes, and vigilance, so much of our trendy outrage (whether on social media or even broadcast media) is exactly that: a trend. It’s not real–it’s fashion.

I know I’ve already talked about this a bit, but it’s on my mind again tonight.

Good grief, just tonight, there was a Twitter trending topic about Jason Momoa (Aquaman), and how a few random people on social media critiqued his slightly-less-chiseled body while he was on vacation. There were hundreds, even thousands, of tweets in response, almost all commenting on the “controversy” in disbelief. I’m embarrassed to admit, I contributed to that number.

It’s a silly example, but this is the very epitome of “fake news.” It’s not real information. It’s stupid. It’s a fart in the wind. It affects my life absolutely ZERO. Yet, I’m thinking about it right now.

A slightly less-recent but more well-known example: A customer at a SINGLE STARBUCKS LOCATION in Arizona asked the manager to ask some police officers to leave because the person felt uncomfortable. The Starbucks manager, put in an awkward position, asked the officers to leave. Should he/she have told the person making the complaint that the officers have the same right to be there as they do? I think so. But instead, the officers were asked to leave, and there was a NATIONAL TRENDING HASHTAG to “dump” Starbucks as a result. Because of one customer and one employee. That’s like boycotting all Honda vehicles because my van’s seatbelt “tongue” piece keeps slipping down to the floor ever since the little plastic button broke.

Perspective, people. That’s all I’m saying. Have a bit of perspective.

#FridayFeed: 06/28/2019

Happy Friday, friends! Here’s another bushel-basket of links and videos I found interesting this week. Hope you find a few fun items for your weekend amusement and edification!

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  • Seth Godin is a mastermind of business, marketing, and thinking outside the box. His bite-sized blog posts are short and insightful–like Zen koans about sales and professional relationships. Even if you’re not a sales or business person, each of his posts are worth a read, including this recent post about memorization vs. story-telling.
  • Okay, one more Godin post to check out that I really liked: “investing in slack” (as in margin, not the app-based business product).
  • This story from The Verge is very hard to read, but I’m glad it’s being told: 3 Facebook content reviewers break their NDA’s to talk about the horrible working conditions at Facebook’s content-review subcontractors and the painful emotional and psychological toll of reviewing vile and disturbing social media content 8 hours a day.
  • My friend Marian has some challenging words about how Southern Baptists can unintentionally signal their view of women’s contributions to church life through the questions they ask and the questions they don’t ask.
  • Kevin DeYoung provides some Proverbial insights on social media usage, courtesy of Solomon himself.
  • I dig artistic and unique music videos. This latest offering from my buddy Trevor’s band Fight the Fade is visually and lyrically intriguing. I love the industrial sound that FTF has found with this recent single. Check ’em out.
  • Some of you will really hate this article by David French, in which he argues that (some) evangelicals who supported the President’s election (and re-election) seem to be doing so out of fear instead of faith. While I don’t think he can make a blanket argument about all evangelicals, it could be applied to a not-insignificant slice of the president’s base.
  • I had a blog post idea on the back burner for the last month or so to look at 4 pictures of “toxic masculinity” in II Samuel 13-14 (the rape of Tamar  and the subsequent murder of Amnon). But then Michelle Lesley went and pretty much covered what I was looking to say. So maybe just check out her excellent post about “bad-dad David.”
  • A friend recently challenged me on Twitter by arguing that those who seek to be  complementarian in a Biblically-faithful way need to overcome the stereotypes and bad examples by presenting a clearer, nobler vision of this approach to gender roles. I agree heartily. This post from Hohn Cho over at Pyromaniacs is a great step in presenting that clearer vision.
  • With the upcoming birth of Daughter #2, this new Kirby Krackle tune about a super-heroic father saying goodbye to his daughter hit me squarely in the feels.

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Programming note: We have some big events coming up in our household this coming week (including the birth of the previously-mentioned daughter!). I’m going to try to schedule some posts this weekend to run over the next week or two, but if I can’t get that done, just know I’ll be back sometime after the July 4th holiday. Thanks for understanding.

Have a great weekend!

Friday Feed: 05/17/2019

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Happy Friday, gang!

On weeks when I don’t have a themed #FridayFive, I’m going to start curating a list of interesting links or recommendations (in the spirit of the old “Cool Ten” series on one of my past blogs). Here we go!

  • Eric Davis over at The CrippleGate posted on “a new kind of Pharisee.” Todd Friel of Wretched Radio highlighted the post this week (which is how I became aware of it), and I think it’s something worth mulling over.
  • I shared this on Twitter earlier this week, but: if you subscribe to the idea of a “head-canon” (having a mental version of events in a popular series or film that fills in the gaps or corrects inconsistencies in the actual “texts” of the story), you’ll understand what I mean when I say that this fan-made version of the Vader/Obi-wan duel from “A New Hope” is now firmly placed in my Star Wars head-canon.
  • Brian Renshaw has some useful personal rules for social media and controlling the outrage machine. Worth considering.
  • I really enjoyed Luis Mendez’s thoughtful retrospective on the 50-year history of the “King of All Monsters.” Even if you’re not a Godzilla fan, this is a cool overview of how a movie franchise is shaped by geopolitical and cultural changes.
  • Speaking of Godzilla, here’s a rockin track from the upcoming Gozilla: King of the Monsters soundtrack, featuring Serj Tankian from System of A Down.
  • I saw two really great movies last weekend: The Highwaymen, a Netflix original about the retired Texas Rangers who killed Bonnie and Clyde; and Stan and Ollie, a pitch-perfect biopic about the twilight years of Laurel and Hardy’s career together. Both films feature compelling acting performances by real pros. Don’t miss either one.
  • I feel like there’s a political correctness / “NPC” joke somewhere in this article about Microsoft Word’s upcoming inclusivity software, but it would just be petty to make it. Right? Let me know, Uncle Bill.
  • Finally, if you haven’t already used your 3 free premium articles from Medium this month, Mike Vardy’s 43 bullet-points on personal productivity are worth every second. (You may even want to copy some of them down into a file or program that won’t try to charge you $5 a month to access it later.)

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If you enjoyed any of the links above, please let me know in the comments, and feel free to share your own cool finds as well! See you Monday!