Why Do We Love the “Arrogant Cat?”

The “Arrogant Cat” video has gotten 6,472,696 views on YouTube in the 12 days since it was posted on July 2. Why has 56 seconds of a woman doing a handstand and then a cat blocking the camera gone viral?

This video is not going to amaze you.  It isn’t teaching us how to do a handstand or how to care for a cat or how to record video on our smart phone. It doesn’t offer any practical value, whatsoever…unless you happen to really be into taping yourself doing yoga and you have a cat and hadn’t considered the possibility of said cat blocking the view of your mad yoga moves.

Yes, I said, “mad” yoga moves. I was born in the 60’s and even I saw this video posted by several different people on Facebook until I finally gave in and watched it. My reaction? I was quite amused by the seemingly smug cat, who was really doing nothing but being a regular ol’ cat. I have some theories on why so many of my friends posted this video and why over 6 million people have watched it.

1. It makes you smile, and who doesn’t want to share something that will make their friends smile? It’s a form of social currency. When we share this video we are saying that we are light-hearted animal lovers who can probably laugh at themselves. “And by the way…if your day is only going so-so or worse, I hope this little cat video that I thoughtfully sent you will put a smile on your face.”

2. The video has two significant triggers: Yoga and cats. Yoga is becoming more and more popular. A 2012 study said that 8.7%, or 20.4 million people, in the US practice yoga. Another 44.4% call themselves “aspirational yogis.” (Source) So, a lot of people are doing yoga at studios and at home, too.  With 30-37% of American households having a cat living with them (Source), there are plenty of people who might mention it or pass it on just because they have a cat or know someone who has a cat.

3. The internet is crazy for cats. Cats in boxes, cats playing the piano, cats doing anything! In an article for TechHive, Elizabeth Fish explores the reasons why social media is ruled by cats. Her main points are that because cat owners don’t meet on the streets like dog owners, they are more likely to make connections via the internet. Also, cats are very easy watching catsto personify, so we get the feeling that we can relate to them or they are like someone we know. She sums it up with “The Internet’s love for cats …could simply be because cats are cute… there is something about a cat and its facial expressions that makes you go gooey inside.”

Chris Torres, creator of Nyan Cat, an extremely popular animated cat video that became the 5th most viewed YouTube video of 2011, has a theory on why cats are so popular online. “It’s a clear fact that the Internet is made of cats.”  (Source) 

I’m beginning to think he might be right.


Social Media “Likes” Bernie Sanders

When Bernie Sanders officially announced his candidacy in the 2016 presidential race on May 26, he did it the old-fashioned way…in a speech in his home town. Since then, though, he has become an overnight celebrity on Facebook with his plain statements about where he stands on issues facing the American people. The 73-year-old Vermont senator is known as a no-nonsense, tell-it-like-it-is type of guy and his Facebook posts reflect that. He bernie 2016usually uses original quotes that he says he often comes up with in the shower. He’ll often use a picture of himself, even if he’s not perfectly coiffed or his tie is a tad crooked. He also features photos of himself with everyday people and at speaking events.  An example: “We must rebuild American manufacturing and rewrite our trade agreements so that our largest export is not our jobs.” He has taken “hope and change” to the next level: Revolution.

Hillary Clinton is Bernie’s most formidable opponent for the Democratic nomination and at this point, Bernie is definitely the underdog. Her resources far outweigh his, and she threw her hat in the ring about six weeks before Sanders. (Although Sanders did informally tell reporters back in April that he planned to run.) However, Bernie is certainly making a dent in the social network. Statistics on Facebook interactions between May 13 and June 13, put Clinton on top and Sanders at second. Early primary states, such as Iowa, show that Clinton had 289,000 interactions and Sanders had 153,000. In New Hampshire it was Clinton 145,000 to Sanders 123,000. In South Carolina, though, Sanders was crushed by Clinton with 460,000 to his 116,000. Of course, Bernie hadn’t even officially announced that he was running yet. (Source)

His social media strategy is based primarily on his own personal philosophy. He is quoted as saying, “I’m not some kind of tech nerd, I really am not. But I have always believed in communication, and not just photo ops and stuff, but educating people, and communicating with people about the real work that we’re doing.” His social media campaign has been somewhat organic. His quotes and ideas have been spread by social media users in a kind of grassroots social media movement. This has been especially apparent on the site Reddit, where readers vote posts to the top of the heap. “Among politicians, he is one of the most frequent posters to the site, and nearly a quarter of the top most-voted politics posts of all time on Reddit are about or by Mr. Sanders.” (Source)Tweets to #feelthebern appeared 6800 times per day between June 25 and July 1.  #Hillary2016, only 2700. (Source) Sanders isn’t only using his own social media skills, though. He’s got help from the digital firm Revolution Messaging,  including four members of the team that helped get Obama elected in 2008. (Source)

One of Bernie’s biggest assets when it comes to social media is consistency. And consistency builds trust, both of which aren’t always easy to come by in today’s politics. Anton Vuljaj, director of advertising at a consulting firm says, “He’s matching what he’s saying online to what he’s doing offline.”(Source) On July 1, Bernie had 10,000 people turn out in Madison, WI for the biggest political rally seen so far in this campaign. On July 6, it was followed by the biggest Democratic rally in Maine in 25 years, where 9500 turned out to support Bernie.

photo courtesy of Nathan Rieck

photo courtesy of Nathan Rieck

People are listening and feeling listened to. People are excited. Nathan Rieck, a sophomore at UW Madison attended the rally there.  He says, “The atmosphere was electric.  Politics isn’t a game for him.  He speaks straight forward and just wants to bring good ideas to the table that will benefit the common person. I’m very excited to see how he can change American politics.”   Bernie’s consistency, along with a social media team with a proven track record of success, and the momentum of his enthusiastic supporters might be the combination that will take him from Vermont to the hearts of the American people and on to the White House in 2016.

“Share a Coke” a Big Hit With Consumers

Coca-Cola has been around since 1892 and really doesn’t need much of an introduction. When I was a kid they taught the world to sing and I still remember the commercials. Coke has always been good at marketing and I think I can prove it to you. What does Santa Claus drink when he’s not drinking milk? See?  They’ve even managed to make Christmas and Santa triggers for their product!

The past 10 years or so, though, Coca-Cola and other soda companies have seen a big drop in sales. This has been primarily due to an increased interest in healthy lifestyles and an increased awareness of the negative effects of soda consumption. So, how did Coke manage to increase sales by 2% (Source) while Dr. Pepper and the gang watched from the sidelines?

About a year ago, Coke started their “Share a Coke” campaign. They modified their can and bottle designs to put one of the 250 most popular teen and millennial names on every can soulmate cokeof Coke, Diet Coke, and Coke Zero. Since then, they’ve gone on to add the 1000 most popular names in the US and they’ve expanded to include phrases like “BFF” and “Soulmate,” so even if your name didn’t make the cut, you won’t be left out.  It’s even possible to order customized cans.

But you don’t have to spend any money to create a virtual Coke and share it via email, Twitter, or Facebook. It’s easy, free, and fun. You can go to http://www.shareacoke.com/#bottle
Only a few months into the campaign, over 350,000 virtual Cokes had been shared. And you can share pictures of yourself sharing a Coke with a friend at the #shareacoke. Your image could be featured on the website or possibly even on a billboard. (Source)

The website has a tab “What’s in a Name” that is kind of mesmerizing. You type in your name and you find out all kinds of interesting facts about people with that name. For instance, I found out that someone named “Stephanie” has been to space and that 12 song titles have been inspired by my name. And it’s all displayed in an innovative style that you’ve kind of just have to see for yourself. http://name.shareacoke.com/experience/Eloise Coke
They have even been used for wedding proposals. One featured six bottles of Coke lined up to spell, “Beautiful Eloise Will You Marry Me.” Awww…No surprise that it got millions of likes on Facebook.

Personally, I love this campaign. It doesn’t feel manipulative or “markety.” Instead, the overall voice of the campaign seems fun and friendly. They’ve masterfully integrated their product into all aspects of the social media sharing options. If I grab a Diet Coke, whoever I’m with asks me what name or word I got and vice-versa. If it’s something fun or funny, it’s awfully easy to take a picture with your smartphone and send out immediately to Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram without even knowing anything about the options on Coke’s website. All of the opportunities to share put the “social” in social media. I definitely get a feeling of community from the website. They took something big like Coca-Cola and managed to make it personal.

Lucie Austin was Coke’s director of marketing in the South Pacific where the campaign was born. In her words, “At the end of the day, our name is the most personal thing we have. It’s our fingerprint… our identity… in one word. We gave consumers an opportunity to express themselves through a bottle of Coke, and to share the experience with someone else.” (Source)

Coke’s campaign is a great example for someone starting out in social media marketing. The best social media campaigns have a social component, making them something that you want to share with people you know either because it’s interesting, informative, or just plain fun. They also engage on multiple platforms, which in today’s world isn’t really too hard to do even for someone just learning the ropes. Besides these things, I’d recommend that someone just starting out in social media marketing remember to listen to consumers. Not only what they are saying about your product, but what is important to them in their lives. This will help you offer them content that is meaningful to them and makes them feel like they are kind of part of the family, even with a large company. When Lucie Austin held a can of coke with her name on it for the first time, she said she felt like a child. To me, the broader issue is to think about how everything you are doing in the campaign is going to feel to your consumers, and is that a feeling you hope to generate?

Can Apple Music Set Itself Apart from the Crowd?

Ironically, up until now, the creators of the iPod haven’t been much of a serious player in the booming music streaming industry. Apple is hoping to change that with the introduction of Apple Music, but they have arrived uncharacteristically late and aren’t the only show in town. There are over 10 other services available, with Spotify as their biggest competitor.

The biggest way Apple Music hopes to set itself apart from the herd and gather its market share is by offering a global radio station called “Beats1” and a social networking component called “Connect.” Beats1 plays live radio shows from LA, NYC, and London, hosted by well-known DJs. It hearkens back to the days of the live radio shows so many non-millenials grew up on, and has a flare of worldliness that appeals to many. It’s being hailed by the tech world as “surprising genius” and “exactly what a radio station should be.” (Source) The best part? It’s free!

With Connect, listeners can peek backstage, interact with musicians, and even see what the musicians are listening to, which is a feature that Spotify’s similar “follow” option doesn’t offer. Connect makes people feel like insiders, and because it’s integrated with Facebook and Twitter, users can also tell their friends. (Source)There’s no doubt that social networking works. The first quarter of 2015, statistics show that Twitter had 236 million active users (Source) and that Facebook had 1.44 Billion (yes, billion) monthly users. (Source)

Adding these kinds of numbers to people’s love of music seems like a no-lose situation. Of course, musicians are already sharing things on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and a variety of other platforms, so why spend $10/mo on Apple Music vs Spotify and others? Ease. A lot of people are already comfortable with Apple products and services and sticking with Apple for music streaming just makes life a little easier and gives a person one less password to remember. “Apple Music’s biggest asset is its integration: You don’t have to download extra software. You use your Apple ID to pay for it. And it can tap into your iTunes library, allowing you to listen to any of those songs while you’re on the go—even if 8-track-tapesyou don’t have them downloaded to your device.”(Source)

One yahoo reader said “This will survive just because of the blind devotion some have over all things Apple. Apple could sell people an 8 track player and they’d wait in line for it.” (Source) Perhaps the Midas touch of Apple is the most important factor of all in turning Beats1 and Connect into solid gold.

(Here’s a good website for more in-depth information on how it all works.)

Giving Social Media a Seat in the College Classroom

Imagine that you are a college professor at the front of a large lecture hall full of students. You’ve got powerpoints and notes that you’ve spent a great deal of time preparing for today’s lecture. On top of that, you spent eight years or more as a student yourself just to get to this level in academia. The students have come to you so you can impart your Old Main University of South Dakotaknowledge to them and they can go out into the world as educated and competent. But now imagine that you’ve turned to face the screen to flip to the what you think is the most important slide of the whole lecture. You turn around to explain further and half of the students aren’t even looking up, let alone seeming to be pay attention. Instead, you see their thumbs wiggling above their phones. (photo source)

If I were that professor, I think I’d lose it. I’d likely get their attention when I transformed into Dr. Berserk right before their eyes. I haven’t been in a traditional classroom for some time, so maybe the way I imagine Dr. Berserk’s experience isn’t terribly realistic and I’m sure teachers make rules for phone use all the time; but if it’s even kind of close to reality, then I can understand the controversy that social media is causing in the college classroom.

It’s easy to fall into the “back in my day…” mentality and shun the use of social media altogether, but since social media is here to stay, maybe an “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” attitude would be more beneficial to students and teachers alike.

In an article for Faculty Focus, Marie Owens calls on educators to take better advantage of this technology source that is literally at their fingertips. She writes, “Teachers can and should establish the urgency for this new type of social media usage, and encourage the excitement, creativity, and passion of their students to drive it forward.”
Kathy Cook, Director of Educational Technology for University of Phoenix College of Education said, “Students are engaged daily in social media, so it presents a great way to connect with them. Social media can also help tie classroom learning to real-world scenarios, which can enhance student learning.” (source)

“But, how?” asks Dr. Berserk?

Vicki Coleman, Dean of Library Services at F.D Bluford Library at the University of North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University has a few tips for you, Dr. Berserk. She says,“It plays a huge role in terms of students’ research, there’s lots of information they can access immediately. Faculty members can share ideas with each other and point students to LinkedIn and Facebook. They’re incorporating it in the classroom.” (Source)

Obviously, students can’t spend class time ignoring what is being taught.  They won’t learn anything and it’s rude.  However, finding a way to harness the power of social media seems like a wise thing to do.  It also seems inevitable.

Dr. Berserk wonders, “That’s pretty general. What specifically can I do?” Well, sir, get out your smartphone and check out some suggestions at this online universities blog post. Tweet us what you think about it, okay?