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Are We Nearing the End of the Age of Likes?

Fresh off of my return from vacation, I’d be remiss if I didn’t immediately issue a massive ‘thank you’ to Russell for filling in in my stead. He did quite a bang-up job manning the blog for three weeks—I think he’s got a handle on this whole blogging thing. So thanks, Russell, for providing some top shelf content while I was away.

Now any time you leave for a trip, a common refrain from your peers is, “Take lots of pictures!” Back in the aughts, the result of this was heading to the local grocery store to develop film from your travels to physically share with friends and family. Seems weird now, right?

Of course things have shifted mightily since the genesis of social media, and for most, that’s now where our memories live—in digital photo albums across the internet. An important component to sharing photos on social media is the engagement factor—likes, reactions, comments. Well, one major photo-centric platform may be getting rid of that altogether.

If you’ve been following the news and the maelstrom of negative headlines following social media companies like ominous storm clouds, you’re aware of some changes that have been proposed to make the environment a more “friendly” place. Instagram is flirting with a massive adjustment to its app in that light, testing the removal of public “likes” and story views. These, of course, form the basis of the platform’s algorithm (High levels of engagement with specific photos will push them higher into your feed), and also provide the user with a shot of digital MSG when they see the likes start rolling in.

That’s why you’ll hear conversations about “How many likes I got on that photo.” Positive interaction naturally makes people feel good, and their accumulation of likes plastered on their photos turns into a social media bragging point.

But it also fosters an extremely competitive environment where the memory becomes less about the photo and more about how popular it is. For that reason, Instagram has begun testing hiding these likes from everyone but the user.

So does this signal the end to the Age of Likes? Not necessarily. The all-important algorithm will still boost highly-engaged posts to the top of feeds, so you’ll of course be able to glean the popularity of a certain image by where it resides. Should Instagram go all-in on hiding likes, it will also create a dividing line of sorts—those who simply value their own content for what it is, and those who key in on the number of those clicking on it.

Essentially, screenshots of user likes will become a “thing” on Instagram. I can think of nothing less engaging.

It’s good news that social media platforms are tinkering with methods to make them friendlier, less competitive places. But with the mental and monetary value many people derive from levels of likes, views, and comments, there’s simply no way they’ll be able to eliminate that aspect from the platforms they created.   

Everyone Else, Back Up A Step

I find it fascinating that people are fascinated with the British Royal Family.  I mean, didn’t we fight two wars so we don’t have to be concerned with what the Queen thinks or feels?  That being said, there are many facts I found interesting about the latest branch on the Mountbatten-Windsor family tree.

1.  He’s the first Royal born into the family that’s eligible for U.S. citizenship.  Because his mother is an American who’s lived stateside in the past five years, he can have dual passports.  BTW:  she’s the first American to marry into the Royal family since 1937, and the last time it happened the Royal himself had to abdicate to get married. Fortunately, we’ve advanced far enough Harry can stay inline. 

2.  He will not be a prince.  The rule was changed by his great-great-great-grandfather in 1917.  Being seventh in line, he’s out of the HRH succession which gives him a lot more freedom.  The birth of his third cousin knocked his father down to sixth, which opened up the opportunity for Harry to marry Meghan without much fuss.  The new Royal actually has a chance at a pretty normal, albeit very privileged, life.

3.  Exactly when and where he was born was kept a secret.  All of his older cousins were born in London, in the same hospital as their father and the new father, their uncle.  He may not have even been born in a hospital; it could have been a home birth.  And, as of this writing, he hasn’t appeared in public.  His grandmother started the tradition of appearing on the hospital steps within hours of giving birth.  His aunt continued the tradition with all three cousins, but we haven’t seen hide nor hair of him, yet.

4.  His birth was announced first on Instagram.  This shows how quickly tradition can change.  A new (?) tradition was started with the younger two of his cousins when their births were announced via Twitter.  For centuries before, birth announcements were made via official statement.  The Royals are not only keeping up, they’re surpassing each other.

It Doesn’t Have to Be New, It Just Has To Be Unique!

Although I’ve seen the commercial several times since the game in February, when I saw it and heard that trill again this morning a couple of new thoughts occurred to me.

Maybe it’s because I recently read that Cardi B has applied for trademark of her famous “Okurrr.” Or, maybe it’s because Carter is galivanting around Europe and I’m left to come up with a blog topic every Tuesday. Boy, he makes this look effortless.  But I really do think it’s because Cardi B’s application reminded me of a couple of aspects of article writing.

One aspect is to not reinvent the wheel, just put new rims on it.  In other words, use what’s you’ve already got:  a blog post, a key note, a book chapter; all of these make great article topics.  You may need to edit the content a bit for the style editors prefer.  Cardi B didn’t come up with the phrase O.K., she just made it her own with a little reformatting. 

Another way Miss B has reminded me of article writing is in what she’s applied for.  You need to protect your content.  When you pitch out your article never, I mean never, give away or sell the rights to it.  You want to be able to use the content of the article again and again.  You also don’t want to give exclusivity of the article.  Let the editor know up front you’re pitching it out on a non-exclusive basis and it will appear in other industry and association publications.  An exception, and we do this on occasion, is to give exclusivity within an industry.  It’s alright to let one construction association know it won’t be in any other construction association publications, but it still will be in the restaurant or insurance or auto industry publications. 

Saving the best aspect for last – the application made by Cardi B “…mostly covers merchandise, with separate filings made for paper goods.”  Which shows even a Millennial rapper recognized the on-going power of print! 

If I haven’t seen 1-21, will I follow 22?

There’s a movie opening this weekend, maybe you’ve heard of it, or maybe you’ve heard of the first 21 movies that led up to this one. 

For more than a decade, movie goers have been following the Marvel Universe characters through their individual adventures.  These films have introduced the background and special skill of each hero leading up to this final combined battle.

Personally, I never read many comic books as a kid (or adult) and I will confess I’ve never seen any of the movies in this saga, even the one (1) nominated for Best Picture last year.  However, it struck me as I read about the first 21 movies how much they reminded me of an important part of article writing for trade, industry, and association publications. 

Like each previous movie can be viewed independently, writing a series of articles works, and works well, if each one can stand on its own.  You want to give editors the option of running the series, or running individual articles as they see fit for their readership. 

An editor may decide that article 1 is good, they like article 2, and begin to run the series.  Then you could consider yourself a regular columnist!  Or, an editor may like article 1, but decide article 2 isn’t right for their industry right now, but they like 3 and 4 and so on.   Of course, an editor may like article 3, run it, get a good reaction, then decide to go back and run articles 1 and 2.  The point is, you want to optimize the articles for placement at the editors’ discretion. 

The same is true for characters in a series of articles.  You may introduce Barbara, a SVP of Sales in a mid-west manufacturing company in article 1, and carry her adventures into articles 2, 3, or 4, but still make sure each piece of advice Barbara gives stands on its own for the readers advantage.

So, if you’re so inclined, step away from the keyboard this weekend and go see a movie.  I hear some cineplexes are staying open 24-hours for opening weekend.  That’s 96 consecutive hours of opportunities to see the movie.  The first 21 movies combined are 59 hours, leaving you 37 hours to catch the last(?) one! 

The World Mourns Notre Dame

Notre Dame is a global symbol of Catholicism, Christendom, culture, history, and architecture. Today it stands in Paris, France, a stone façade with its interior filled with ashes. A fire yesterday threatened to raze the entire structure to the ground, but it was thankfully spared due to the tireless efforts of French first responders. Its spire and roof collapsed in the blaze, but the bulwark of Notre Dame still stands this morning.

This cathedral, a marvel of gothic architectural achievement, has stood on its foundation since 1345. It has seen The Crusades, The Black Death, World War I and World War II—its rooms and chambers and sanctuaries the ever-seeing eyes of the rolling boil of history. It withstood all of these events with a strength that mirrors its architectural immensity; yet on one random Monday evening in Paris it was threatened with complete and total destruction.

Regardless of any particular religious beliefs or affiliation, Notre Dame is an absolute wonder. Even among the ruins of its roof and spire and the charred remains of its interior, it remains a wonder. Ingenuity, imagination, and perseverance will guide its rebuild, and its spire will once again grace the Parisian skyline and greet tourists from around the globe.

I will be one of those this week, as I’ll be in Paris on Friday. I’m going to make my way to that grand cathedral that’s stood, and still stands, for nearly 700 years. The Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris has endured all that humanity has thrown its way over the centuries, and it will endure and overcome this as well.