CW Fong & Associates is a management consultancy that provides communications, marketing and training services to Singapore Small and Medium Enterprises (SME). CWFA specializes in helping business owners position and raise awareness of their products and services through the use of cost-effective social media platforms. We build, monitor and protect the online (and offline) brands of our clients.
Over the weekend, a sales manager became the latest victim of online vigilantism in Singapore. He was on his way to trading in his BMW 5 Series and had stopped by a Caltex station to fill just enough petrol to get him to the dealership.
Then, in an unfortunately incident of miscommunications, the elderly pump attendant filled the car with $135 worth of petrol instead of the $10 the driver had asked for. His discussion with the cashier to only pay what he asked for was overheard by a netizen who then promptly posted her understanding of the story online. As the elderly pump attendant had agreed to pay for the extra petrol (amounting to $125), Singaporeans were naturally riled up. Within hours, the story had gone viral and online CSIs were hard at work. It was not long before his name, his place of work and activities were laid bare for all to see.
What we can learn from this is that social media justice is swift and that it can be wrong. So what should you do if you are the victim of online vigilantism? There are 5 things we recommend that victims of false accusations do.
1. Be Open. Openly acknowledge that you are indeed the person being mentioned and explain your side of the story. Once a story has gone viral online, hiding will do no good.
2. Be 100% Truthful. As everything is online, it does not pay to be stingy with the truth. As you are already under scrutiny, anything and everything you say will be verified by netizens. Being caught out as a liar at this point in time will do you more harm than good.
3. Respond Immediately. While it is natural to want to hide and hope things will blow over, 99% of time this will not be the case. So if you have become the trending topic of the day, respond immediately.
4. Respond on the same social media platform. It is important get your message to the same people flaming you. Even if it will trigger more "attacks", post your side of the story on the same platforms where the false accusations are being carried.
5. Tell your side of the story to the media. Finally, tell your side of the story to the main stream media. Reporters are seen as credible and if they carry your side of the story there is a higher chance that people will believe it.
With the presence of citizen journalists, social media justice is here to stay. As we cannot wish it away, we need to arm ourselves with the knowledge on how to protect ourselves in the event we become victims of online falsehoods against us. ----- Our online course - Crisis Communications in the Era of Social Media
At a recent dialogue session with business owners, I was asked my view on how corporate communications would deal with an employee that spoke to the media criticizing company policies.
I replied that, in my opinion, this is not a communications issue per se but a matter for HR to address. In my view, if an employee went against established HR policy and spoke to the media, then he or she should be dealt with according to HR policy.
Communications would only be involved if there is a need to explain to both internal and external stakeholders why the employee was dealt with in such a manner. Additionally, if the employee gave misleading information, communications would then be involved to correct the misperception.
On a separate note, I shared that the company needs to do a self-check to determine why the employee felt that he had to behave in such a manner. Was it a case of him not knowing, or was it a case of him not understanding the rationale for such a policy? If it was any of these cases, then communications should then be involved to communicate and engage employees on this matter.
In short, not all communications issues are communication issues.
On 19 Jan 2018, Facebook (FB) announced major algorithm changes to its News Feed. The change in algorithm is intended to return FB to its original goal of facilitating meaningful social interactions and will result in users seeing less public content, news, video and post from brands or businesses. Users will see more posts from friends and families, posts from trustworthy sources, informative posts, and posts that are relevant to the local community.
Implications for Social Media Marketers
The changes will have the following 2 implications for social media marketers:
Organic Reach Will Drop. Currently, unless a post is shared or commented on, organic reach is approximately 5% of fan base. With the changes in algorithm prioritizing meaningful social interactions, organic reach for most pages will decline unless the type of content changes.
Increased Importance of Engagement. As FB’s new algorithm prioritizes interaction, user engagement with the content is important. Contents that generate discussions amongst a page’s users would be prioritised in the news feeds of the page’s fans. “Update” type content will not generate much interaction and will not be shown on news feed.
“Be More Social Less Media”. As FB’s algorithm prioritizes for meaningful social interactions contents should seek to spark conversations. Hence, report card style posts will likely not gain much traction with the revised algorithm. Examples of “social contents” would be asking questions about a trending topic or sharing a personal view.
Focus on Conversations. As conversations are viewed as social interactions, page administrators should respond to user comments to keep the conversation going. The more people discussing the issue, the higher the traction. Of note is that both positive and negative comments are considered conversations and both will be prioritized in news feeds.
Leverage on Natural Support. As FB relies on user response to signal interactions, where possible, page administrators should leverage on their core group of followers (employees, friends of families, etc.) to interact with their posts. Such engagement will “signal” to FB that the content is relevant and result in it being seen by more people.
Consider Use of FB Closed Groups. Being a member of a group, signals to FB that you find the content relevant. As such, group members are notified whenever new content is posted in the group. Page administrators can consider the setting-up exclusive groups within their pages so that content will be “pushed” to them. Presently, there are no limits to the number of members in each group.
The only constant in the world of social media marketing is change. To stay ahead of the game, we must adapt to changes. We hope you find the above useful.
Creating viral content is the goal of every social media marketer. Not because it feels good, but because the web is an extremely busy place and unless your content goes viral, no one will really notice it.
Two of the key myths our 30-minute course on developing viral content dispel are:
Content is King. The first myth that “content is king.” This myth perpetuates the belief that all you need is good content and it will go viral. I will not deny that having good content is important, but having it alone is not enough. There are literally millions of good, I would even say excellent, content out there that no one has even seen before. And, as long as no one sees it, it might as well not exist. So content is not king!
Reach is King. The second myth that I want to dispel, is the myth that you need a Facebook page with a large following for your content to go viral. This myth perpetuates the belief that reach is king. Again, like the myth content is king, I would not deny that reach is important. However, similar to content, reach alone is not enough. While reach will help get your content the necessary eye-balls, if the content does not resonate with your audience, they will not interact with it. And unless they share it, reach will remain no more than 5% of your fan base.
In short, in developing contents that will go viral, you need both queens.
CW Fong & Associates was recently hired to help raise awareness for a client's Facebook page. Leveraging on the recent spate of scams where Facebook accounts were cloned in a bid to secure fraudulent charges, we decided to produce a public service type announcement.
Conceptually, we combined the factors of "trending" and "practical tip" to produce the following graphic for Talking Singapore. Singaporeans were asked to share the graphic as a warning to their friends not to accept a 2nd friend request. As the screenshot shows, the content went viral with 3,197 shares (at the time of this article) with REACH in excess of 150,000. The best part is that the content continues to get shared and as the client's name is prominently featured in the graphic, awareness is high.
While no one can guarantee that a content will go viral, CWFA has developed a framework - marrying art and science - that increases the probability. So if you manage the social media accounts of your organization, we can help.
The only constant in social media marketing is that it is constantly evolving. As marketers continually try to beat Facebook's and Google's algorithms to put their product/services in front of larger audiences, Facebook and Google respond by tweaking their algorithms to ensure that users only get relevant information.
Today, Facebook marketers will tell you that Facebook's algorithm limits your organic reach to approximately 5% of your fan base. Thus, unless your fans interact with your content, or you pay Facebook to boost your content, social media engagement is virtually non-existent.
This is why savvy social media marketers have turned to native advertising.
Conceptually, native advertising is a form of indirect advertising. Instead of being product/service focused, marketers will create contents that are reader focused (i.e. relevant) and likely to generate a response from netizens. The product/service is then subtly embedded within the content. This has several advantages: (1) being "relevant", Facebook's algorithm will show it netizens; (2) as the content resonates with netizens, they are likely to interact (like, share or comment) with it and this will help amplify it (together with the product/ service) to a wider audience than it might originally have reached.
One of the more successful native campaigns we ran was a Public Service Announcement. Following from the SMRT train collision at Joo Koon station, Singaporeans were all angry at SMRT and attacking it any chance they could. We felt that this was unfair and many of SMRT employees were working hard and they should not be the targets of misplaced anger. We, therefore, executed a native campaign to urge Singaporeans to show their support for SMRT workers.
Our "ad", launched on our affiliate site (Talking Singapore), garnered over 337 interactions, 81 comments, and 202 shares. Total reach recorded was over 80,000 within 48 hours. Much more interaction than an outright appeal might have received.
If you want to leverage on native advertising to boost your company's sales, email us at anna[a]cwfongandassociates.com.
Like many in the corporate communications industry, I used to ridicule Trump’s “flawed” messaging and apparent lack of understanding of how communications work. I was shocked that he could blatantly push out his own versions of the facts (in obvious contradiction to irrefutable evidence); and label established journalists and media outlets like the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and CNN as purveyors of fake news.
More importantly, I was dumbfounded to learn that Trump’s supporters continue to support him despite being presented with undisputed facts that he, for lack of a better word, lies to suit his own agenda. Although anecdotal, my sense is that the harder mainstream media tries to discredit Trump, the stronger Trump’s support base becomes.
Being a student of communications, I realized that I must be missing something. The fact that Trump won the Presidency and the fact that he continues to maintain his support base must mean that he is doing something right. My insight came when I chanced upon a study that mapped the flow of information on social media during the US Presidential Election in 2016 (and some postulate even today). In the map, which I have summarized and simplified below, it is interesting to note that almost none of Trump’s supporters read mainstream media.
What this means is that when Trump speaks (or Tweets), he is literally only speaking to his support base. Hillary supporters and the mainstream media are just the unintended audiences. It thus does not matter if what Trump tweets contradict facts. Relying on his network of pro-Trump influencers, Trump’s own message gets amplified to his support base without the fact-checking of mainstream media.
The diagram also shows, there are also no overlaps in communications between Hillary and Trump supporters. This is not surprising as political discussions can be emotive and is generally avoided in society. Mainstream media therefore plays the role of the Fourth Estate (or fourth power) in tandem with the legislative, executive and judiciary. Without the Fourth Estate, democracy will fail as people will not know the truth and will be unable to effectively exercise the power of their votes by making an informed decision.
This is something which Trump has masterfully done. By discrediting mainstream media as a source of information for his supporters, Trump has effectively removed the only people in US society that can counter his misinformation. Trump’s supporters therefore live in an echo chamber which rejects contradictory information. Ironically, with each attempt that the mainstream media makes to discredit Trump, this only gives Trump more ammunition to further portray mainstream media as working in a conspiracy against him and this in turn strengthens his support base.
So what are the implications for Singapore? There are a few ….
Firstly, unlike the US, Singaporeans to a certain extent still rely on mainstream media for the news. As such, to ensure that misinformation is corrected, mainstream media’s role as the fourth estate must be ensured and protected. Thus, even as readership and viewership continue to shift to social media and sustainability becomes an issue, the Government must intervene to sustain mainstream media but at the same time allow mainstream media to continue to act independently. Additionally, nefarious actions to label mainstream media as the purveyors of fake news need to be acted upon as the credibility of mainstream media cannot be allowed to be diminished.
Secondly, as we can see in the Trump example, misinformation can only spread if it is amplified via a network and is self-reinforcing. It is therefore important that social media sites (and individuals) who deliberately create fake news be taken to task. While I agree that it is often difficult to distinguish between fact and fiction, citizen journalists need to be held accountable for their actions. There is a big difference between free speech and responsible speech and it is my belief that rights come responsibility.
Thirdly, the silent majority must speak up. As I study the political discourse on social media in Singapore, one thing has become apparent to me. Rational minded Singaporeans have become unwilling to challenge fake news on social media. This, in my view, is due to the deliberate attempt by anti-government supporters to deliberately label and attack anyone who has a pro-government opinion as being government lackeys (i.e. a PAP IB). By making it “painful” to express an alternative view, anti-government supporters are effectively undermining the democratic process they claim to champion.
In summary, Trump is not the fool many communications professionals make him out to be. Trump understands the nature and power of social media and is using it to his advantage. Singapore would do well to study Trump’s communications strategy and learn the right lessons.