College grad advice for all ages and life stages

Plus words you should know, social signals of the week, and the problem of using tweets to indicate cultural trends.

You are reading Greg’s weekly email about creative, digital, social, and cultural signals worth noting, and sometimes a dumb viral video worth sharing with your friends.  Today’s email was written to Too Many Zooz’s 2006 album, Subway Gawdz. Follow @gregswan on Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.


I can’t imagine what it’s like to graduate during a global pandemic. But I do know what it’s like to graduate after 9-11 when the marketing world is all topsy turvy. 

Last year I wrote a post encapsulating a bunch of advice I was sharing speaking to college classes and graduating college seniors, and you know what? It’s all still pretty damn relevant. 

What I’ve gravitated toward is making suggestions for continual learning and skill-building that will absolutely be in demand whether you get a job right out of college or have a slower summer until the job market opens up. 

I know it could be frustrating to hear "learn more" as advice when you just graduated from lots of learning. But...

When the world moves digital, knowing how digital works is a skill that will pay dividends no matter what happens in the coming months.

There's a wealth of opportunity to learn hands-on digital skills right now, and even get certifications for them. However, future or current employers will care less about certification and more about your working knowledge of digital tools, the theory behind them, and how to report on them using critical thinking.

And the truth is these aren’t skills confined to new grads. They are things we can all learn as we move into the next era of interactive marketing.

So if you know a college grad or maybe want a cheat sheet to learn a bunch of new skills, here you go —> College Grad Advice (Applicable to All Ages and Life Stages).

Here are the signals I’m tracking this week…

Words You Should Know of the Week: A stan is a highly devoted fan of a particular person (e.g., musician, actor, author, influencer). Stans are characterized by their high commitment and intense involvement in a performer’s fandom. The term is used as both a noun and a verb. Someone can identify as a “stan” of a pop artist, or they can also “stan” a new song or movie. Shipping is the desire by fans for two or more people to be in a romantic relationship (either real-life people or fictional characters). So, if you 'ship them', it's two people that you want to be in a romantic relationship who aren't yet in a relationship. The term bestie, which you can definitely use when interacting with a stranger online, is the latest term that ironically appropriates MLM culture by creating a false sense of intimacy with people they barely know. Please use each in a sentence this weekend and impress your friends.

How TikTok Chooses Which Songs Go Viral: From Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” to Megan Thee Stallion’s “Savage,” it’s now common knowledge that TikTok drives massive Billboard hits and Grammy Awards. But just like everything else in the music industry, promoters are using data, test-and-learn strategies, payola, and quick-pivots to push songs into culture and help them blow up.

On the marketing magic behind “Savage,” Bloomberg writes: “TikTok urged the label to put five tracks on the platform to monitor various metrics before committing to a song… TikTok deliberately let the song “simmer” on the app for a number of days before placing it in the all-important playlists and banner ads at the top of its search page and sound library, where users select music for videos… helped popularize the #SavageChallenge… TikTok megastars Charli D’Amelio, Addison Rae, and Hailey and Justin Bieber posted videos of the #SavageChallenge to their more than 200 million followers. Pete herself then performed the challenge in a TikTok post while wearing Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty lingerie line, helping drive sales for Pete’s brand partner.” Who knew?

Apple Airtags are More Than Tracking Chips for Your Lost Keys: Apple is now selling $29 AirTags that let iOS users quickly locate lost keys, wallets, remotes, dogs, or whatever you attach them to. But the real news here is the ultra-wideband chip inside. AirTags were created using Apple’s AR-building software platform, ARKit, and as Wired wrote, “AirTags Are the Perfectly Boring, Functional Future of AR.” But that functionality expands the toolkit for future AR games, smart glasses, and helping accelerate the digital layer on the physical world unlocked through our devices:

Key quote: “The difference with AR games like Pokémon Go… is they are still primarily reliant on the phone’s Wi-Fi and GPS radios to determine location, sensors which cannot provide nearly as precise location information as the ultra-wideband tech. Something low-cost and low-power like the AirTag seems like “the perfect choice” for enabling apps that depend on more precise tracking.” Better buy a four-pack!

Redefining the Artist/Fan Relationship in the Era of Metaverses: Warner Music Group is partnering with Genies to “produce and distribute virtual beings that facilitate a reach across immersive platforms and metaverses.” This is similar to Travis Scott performing live in Fortnite and selling Travis Scott-related digital clothing for Fortnite avatars, except it’s the first time a major record company has entered an emerging digital space like this with an entire roster of artists. Soon bands like Linkin Park, Wiz Khalifa, Charli XCX, Cher, Paramore, and David Guetta will have access to quickly spin themselves up as digital beings, host virtual concerts, or sell digital swag. Yay metaverse marketing strategy!

The Man on the Street Problem of Using Tweets to Indicate Cultural Trends: Have you noticed many online articles these days embed one negative tweet to prove a counterpoint? In a piece called, Who are the people in the trend pieces? writer Ryan Broderick lambastes this trend of using anecdotal tweets to exaggerate a broader trend. The piece sparked additional conversation about the pressure of newsroom writers to use single tweets for click-bait stories. We haven’t even scratched the surface of the click-bait deconstruction and analysis of trending culture, but it’s something to watch.

Key quote from Broderick: “Yes, cultural trends still happen and it’s worth writing about them, but the days of some kind of top-down cultural consensus are over. We’re also no longer in an era of randomly viral chaos — our former Gangnam Style world. Instead, we live in bubbles and those bubbles have influencers and identities and content cycles. The Billie Ellish stans might love her new hair, but the Lana Del Rey stans might think she’s cheugy, while the BTS fans think it’s lame to call things cheugy.”

Culture Reads of the Week: 1) How Pixar Uses Hyper-Colors to Hack Your Brain; 2) Netflix's Sweet Tooth May Become Our Summer 2021 Obsession; 3) Creators are making bank selling... Google spreadsheets; 4) Nearly Half of TikTokers Are Buying Stuff From Brands They See on the Platform.

Quick Hits:

See you on the internet!
Greg

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