The Busy Trap turns 9 years old
Read to the end for a good video about a guy who does nothing for 2 hours
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 my quarterly SWAN: Q2 2021 playlist. Follow @gregswan on Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.
As we head into a holiday weekend and some much-needed PTO in the coming weeks by yours truly, here are some thoughts I’ve been dumping into my Notes app the past month…
For a long time, we had to really fight clients on making blatant engagement bait on brand social posts. It’s not pandering or a lack of craft; it’s smart strategy. We’re now at the stage where posts like “how many likes can this cup get?” will trend on Instagram (#client), and I’m honestly here for it. However, I couldn’t believe how well the share-and-win Venmo contest scaled this week. Embedded summarized it well: "People who have constructed online personas of snarky cynicism and carefully filtered images were tossing all pretense aside for $500 they almost certainly wouldn’t win."
If you ask a young person what they want to be when they grow up, the number one thing they will say is “influencer.” But now with the changing NCAA NIL rules, college students can get sponsorships and influencer contracts from brands while still in school – including for their social content. My wife and I have poked fun at the parents who change their entire family dynamic around the dream that their kids are going to play pro sports and get rich. But now an athlete with a strong TikTok following actually can make bank. It feels like this social signal will trickle down and encourage young people to be even more influencer-as-career focused.
ASMR is moving from a social media oddity (and Super Bowl commercial joke) into a genuine resource that may have therapeutic benefits for mental and physical health. Even though the medical community may not embrace it, I’m seeing more and more ASMR content that is seriously produced and consumed, versus referenced as a joke.
Social listening tools are better than ever before, but social listening reports are increasingly not as relevant. Because they can only scan public social sources (public Twitter, public Facebook, blogs, etc.) and given the heavy adoption of “dark social media” (text, chat apps, DMs), that means fewer people are sharing their opinions in those public places for us to scrape, curate, synthesize into themes and make inferences. These reports are still good for directional and anecdotal insights, but the social listening report we know today is past its peak.
The kids are watching shorter videos than ever before. Thanks to TikTok and YouTube Shorts, the attention span of young people to watch a meme or get to the hook of a joke video is shorter than ever. The average length of the videos my 12-year-old son is sending me right now are 8 seconds, and many are shorter. I know TikTok is expanding to 3 minutes, but I think this shorter video thing is important to watch. And if you haven’t spent much time on YouTube Shorts, you should. I think it could be bigger than the YouTube we know today.
As you, your colleagues, and/or clients are transitioning to hybrid work or in-person meetings, there are new things we need think about: Don’t assume video when booking a meeting. Include audio options, and send materials in advance. A hard stop on a meeting no longer means ending a Zoom and joining another, so cushion in-person time with travel or transition time. And don’t forget in-person meetings are notoriously nonlinear and messy (aka wonderfully human). In our last year of digital-only work style, there hasn’t been as much room for humanity. So plan for these meetings to run over their scheduled time, and enjoy it!
Every quarter I keep track of the songs I’m gravitating toward for that particular season of life and curate them into a playlist that defines that specific moment in time. Since it’s now July and we’re headed into Q3, I wanted to share my Q2 playlist with y’all. LMK what you think.
It’s the 9-year anniversary of The Busy Trap, a powerful op-ed in the NYT that I’ve referenced often about how everyone is busy – even children are busy – and how idleness is perceived as a vice in our busy world. As we emerge from lockdown and start to become overscheduled, I found it a helpful read.
Give it a skim… if you’re not too busy.
Here are the other social signals I’m tracking this week…
Instagram to Become TikTok; Pinterest Becomes Instagram? “We’re no longer a photo-sharing app or a square photo-sharing app,” said Adam Mosseri, head of Instagram this week. Instead, the app is trying to be a general entertainment app driven by algorithms and video (aka TikTok), prioritizing Reels in our feeds, even from people you don’t follow. As Instagram moves more toward video, Gen Z is starting to share photos on… Pinterest!
What Does Gen Z Have Against Question Marks and Periods: Every generation redefines the written language, or as my Grandma would say, ruins it. Today’s young folks write more via text and chat than anywhere else, and as such, they are assigning new meanings to age-old punctuation. Question marks are exclamation points. And periods can infer irritability.
Key quote: “If you’re talking to one of your colleagues who uses formal punctuation, maybe you’ll use a question mark. But if you’re texting with your kid who you know uses more informal punctuation, you might not use a question mark there because your kid will think you’re mad at them.” So pretty much just stop using punctuation entirely, k
Changing Consumer Habits Thanks to the Pandemic: Facebook published a new report which looks at how consumer habits have changed as a result of the pandemic, and the key trends that are driving the big shifts in how people find and purchase products, including increased mobile usage, concerns about data privacy, the rise of the creator economy and more.
Key findings: 69% of global online shoppers feel more personally connected to brands that offer personalized content or deals. 60% are interested in using a personalized shopping tab to discover tailored content. 56% report [using their devices when making in-store purchases] for an increased sense of confidence in their purchase decisions. 35% of US shoppers seeking information on their phones to make sure there are no better options. Over half (51%) of consumers surveyed get ideas on which products to shop for from celebrities and creators. 45% of online shoppers globally say they want to buy products promoted by creators directly on social media. Get the report here.
Google postponed the cookie apocalypse.
Instagram is rolling out badges for Black-owned businesses.
Social VR platform "Rec Room" is coming to Android this fall.
Slack launches Huddles, Discord-like audio calls you can hop in and out of.
Instagram is testing a Linking Sticker that could give anyone the chance to link out from a Story.
Facebook announces Bulletin, its Substack newsletter competitor.
Instagram may be working on subscriber-only stories.
Facebook is testing syndicating Instagram Reels into the top navigation of the app.
YouTube Shorts has a $100m Creator fund dropping this summer: “It’s almost like we’re building YouTube again.”
Former President Trump’s team quietly launched a new social media platform this week, GETTR, set to publicly launch July 4.
App of the Week: Swimply is the AirBnb of swimming pools, and lets you rent backyard pools by the hour.
TikTokker of the Week: @glitchgirlmaster invented the new glitch trend you may be seeing on your FYP.
YouTube of the Week: This video, 2 Hours Doing Nothing, has racked up 5M views. It was meant to be a 10-minute video, but unintentionally became longer. And there’s even a mobile game now. LMK if you watch the whole thing.
See you on the internet!
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