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How advertising can make people unhappy and what to do about it

(REAL ESTATE MARKETING) Ads might be fun, but are they also reducing our overall happiness? Advertising is about adding to customers’ lives, not taking away.

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The Superbowl is a magical time of year – in part because of the big-budget ads that air alongside it. From Amazon riffing off what we’d do without Alexa, to Bill Murray reprising his role in Groundhog’s Day (with the notable addition of a brand new Jeep), these ads come with the best writing, actors, and production that money can buy. But did you know these and other ads might just be making us unhappy?

The Harvard Business Review released a study that was headed up by researcher Andrew Oswald of the University of Warwick. According to Oswald, “if you double advertising spending, it would result in a 3% drop in life satisfaction.”

3% doesn’t sound like much, but Oswald argues it’s a lesser version of what you’d feel if you were going through a divorce. If this low-grade unhappiness sounds worrying, brace yourself, because not only has the United States been steadily increasing advertising spending, it’s also the biggest spender on ads globally. Oof.

Part of the problem is that ads are often designed to make us feel like we’re missing out on something, and no one likes to feel FOMO. In theory, ads should just point out areas where we might need help and then suggest products to fix the problem. For instance, if you have stains that are hard to clean, consider purchasing a specific cleaning product designed to remove those stains!

Except in most cases, advertisements are trying to fill a void we’ve already filled – which means making you feel bad about what you have. Sure, your car works, but it’s not “Bill Murray cruising through a snowdrift” levels of fun. Oswald argues that constantly being bombarded with advertisements like this can leave people constantly comparing themselves to impossible standards. And try as you might, you’ll never live up.

In a way, Oswald concedes, this phenomenon is not unlike the trends we’ve seen with social media. Dr. Jennifer Lewallen explains that while there can be moments of positive feedback from comparison on social media, it’s also easy to fall into the trap of becoming overwhelmed by the unending stream of unrealistic body and beauty standards.

Now, Oswald’s study is one of the first of its kind, so while it might hold some truth, it might not be entirely accurate. That said, the study was done meticulously and Oswald worked to account for other happiness factors in nations while studying the effects of advertising. In the meantime, it might be worth keeping an eye on your own happiness levels…and shutting off the ads if necessary.

Brittany is a Staff Writer for The American Genius with a Master's in Media Studies under her belt. When she's not writing or analyzing the educational potential of video games, she's probably baking.

Real Estate Marketing

How to keep your website optimized for digital assistants & voice searches

(MARKETING) With the use of voice searches and digital assistants on the rise, it is more important now than ever before that your website be optimized.

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Women typing on laptop representing leadership.

Voice control’s effect on web content

One-in-five mobile users rely on voice searches to find information or control their devices according to a recent study. Considering many cars now enable you to control your music, messages, and email through voice, this isn’t too surprising. What does it mean for web content though?

With the rise of digital assistants and talk-to-text, should web content be re-evaluated to ensure it is compatible with Siri, Cortana, Alexa, and others?

Deep learning

Digital assistants have certainly contributed to the rise in popularity of voice searches, talk-to-text, and deep learning. Deep learning is an artificial intelligence (AI) process that imitates the workings of the way the human brain processes data and creates patterns for decision making. Deep learning is a subset of machine learning in AI that has networks that are capable of learning unsupervised from data that is unstructured.

Deep learning is a type of machine learning that uses complex systems to carry out their “learning processes.”

Given the complex algorithms and “learning” involved for deep learning to be fully functional and optimal, it’s not surprising that voice searches are on the rise; the more it’s used, the better it “learns.” Every day more and more people are choosing to say what they need, rather than type it out. With this rise, also comes the need for entrepreneurs and businesspeople to optimize their SEO and web content for voice searches. How can you ensure your site is compatible and flawless optimized?

Phrases instead of keywords

The first thing you should keep in mind regarding your content is how voice users search for content. Instead of searching for one or two keywords, voice users typically ask a question in the form of a complete sentence. For example, you might hear someone say, “Hey, Siri. What’s the best way to make chocolate chip cookies?” Then, Siri might respond with a recipe. How does Siri know what you what? Deep learning.

How does Siri know what to show you? Deep learning and website optimization.

Soon, instead of focusing your SEO on selected keywords, you may be focusing on key phrases (also called long-tail keywords) which will likely answer the questions a voice user would ask. By humanizing your content by thinking about your answers in full sentences, you’ll be one step closer to optimization. For example, think, what would a consumer likely ask in order to find me? Do I have the answer to these questions on my pages and SEO? Not sure what to ask or answer? Answer the Public is a great tool for helping you dig deeper into your content and gets things optimized. In addition to re-evaluating your SEO, you may want to develop questions you think searchers might ask and then include the answers in your Q&A content (thus, making your site higher up in the result ranks).

Mobile friendly/Covering your bases

Another way to make sure your site is ready for voice searches is to make sure it is also mobile-friendly. Google recommends responsive web design, along with several other points you may want to consider to ensure your website is mobile-friendly. Wondering if your site is mobile-friendly? Google developed a test to help you. Simply click here, and enter your site’s URL in the box and it will let you know if your site has passed the test.

If your site does not pass, Google will suggest what could be changed to make your site more mobile friendly.

Also, keep in mind mobile users will often reference microdata, like a business’s location, phone number, price, and more (think: when people speak the phrase “find near me” or “nearby.”) You can ensure voice searchers can find you by making this information easily retrievable for digital assistants by creating a comprehensive sitemap for your site, including your address, relevant contact information, directions from main highways, etc.

Understanding digital assistants

One final thing to keep in mind: Siri and Cortana are not search engines. They default to Bing to collect and collate web-based results. Google Now, will, of course, collect from Google. Given the popularity of both Siri and Cortana, is there a possibility that Bing will outpace Google?

Probably not, but you do want to make sure that you are optimized for both search engines or your business might lose out on voice searches.

If you want to ensure you do not miss out on Siri and Cortana users, you may need to do a bit of research on what works best on Bing. For example, Bing prioritizes local results, whereas Google gives the most popular topic priority. Google is better at semantic search, while Bing is better with specific keywords. Again, both are useful search tools, but if you want to ensure maximum traffic, you should be aware of the difference. (Side note: some tech-savvy users know how to re-program Siri and Cortana to pull from their favorite search engine, but I do not think the larger majority of users choose to do this).

The future of voice searches

Technology enthusiasts are absolutely going to continue to use their keyboards for some things, however, voice searches are on the rise simply because they are more convenient. If the trend continues, and I think it will, it is a worthwhile step to have your site already prepared and optimized because as the capabilities and value of voice continue to grow, so will the need for marketers to evolve. Emphasis will need to be placed on sentences, phrases, and topics rather than keywords. And the demand for mobile-friendly sites will be paramount. What do you think – is your site optimized for digital assistant and voice searches?

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Real Estate Marketing

How to post your panorama photos on Instagram without cutting corners

(REAL ESTATE MARKETING) If you have lamented at not being able to get panorama photos to show in their full glory on Instagram, well, grind your teeth no longer.

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Now I’m not usually one to post stuff on Instagram, But the pictures I do take on occasion tend to be panoramas. I just wish it was easier to share them in their full glory. If you’ve ever tried to upload a panorama picture to Instagram—or if I’m being honest, any interesting horizontal picture—then you’ve likely run into issues.

Yes, you can include the whole photo in a single post, but in most cases, you have to zoom out so far to fit it all in that it’s impossible to see all the amazing detail you were trying to preserve in the first place.

Turns out, there’s an easy way around the problem: a multi-post panorama. Or more accurately, a seamless multi-post panorama.

To create one, you’ll essentially upload your single image as multiple images, similar to how you would create a slideshow on the platform, except as a person scrolls through it will look like they’re just panning across that single picture.

There are great directions by photographer influencers Becki and Chris. You can (and should) watch their YouTube tutorial below:

Create a SEAMLESS Multi Post PANORAMA for Instagram

Ever wonder how to post multiple seamless images to create one giant panorama using Instagrams multi post carousel feature? That’s a mouth full. Today were s…

Here’s an overview of how to make it happen:

First, open your image in your favorite photo editing software. They suggest Lightroom, but you can use something else as well.

You ultimately want each photo you upload to have an aspect ratio of 4:5 and be 1350 x 1080. That means you’ll need to do a little math. For a two-image photo you’ll multiply 1080 x 2, which will get you to 2160. That means you’ll want to crop your original image to 2160 pixels wide; that way when you chop it into two pictures, you’ll have two images that are 1080.

After that, put it into Photoshop. Unlock the background layer, then select “View” from the top of the page followed by “New Guide Layout.” You’ll want to make sure it says “Custom” as the preset and then go to the section labeled “columns” and select the number of images you planned on making. In this case, we’ll pick two.

Make sure the “Gutter” box in that section is set to zero.

Close that out, then select the slice tool. At the top of the page, you’ll see a button that says “Slides from guides.” Click that and your image will be sliced into two equal parts.

From there, you’ll just need to “Export” and then “Save for web.” Make sure you’re exporting those files as JPEGs. You may also want to go ahead and resize them to 1350px high so Instagram won’t compress them on its end.

Once they’re exported, put them on your phone however you choose, and then they’re ready to upload to Instagram!

Now that sounds simple enough but I don’t have fancy programs like Lightroom, and Photoshop, but there is a cheaper, quicker, and easier way to do it all on your phone!

First download an app called Photoshop Mix, it’s free but does require a quick email account sign up. Once the app is open, you add a new project by clicking the plus in the top right corner, and then choose image on the next screen:

panorama 01

After selecting your image select crop on the top left side, and then custom in the bottom middle.

panorama 2

Just as mentioned above you might have to do some math to get your pixel dimensions just right, but the suggested size is 2160 width and 1350 height. The panorama I took would be longer than the 10 photos allowed in the Instagram multi post, so I just settled for 2, but had to do some math the above instructions didn’t include.

If you want a photo that is too large but still get all of it on this feature you can take the original height and divide it by 5, then multiply the answer by 8 to get the width you want to change your image to. The height universally stays the same.

Once you have your size right click OK, and then on the check mark at the bottom right of the next screen.

panorama 3

Now you want to get the picture inside the boundaries you just set, this can be a little annoying having to change your image size with your fingers but try to get the whole thing inside the blue lines that will pop up. Clicking on the dots in the corners and dragging them will be a little easier to make it the right size.

After you get the image just right, next you want to upload the photo to your camera roll by clicking the upload button on the top bar and then selecting camera roll.

panorama 4

Once that’s done then you open another project, and grab the image you just downloaded, once again go to crop and custom. Then set the width to 2360 and the Height stays at 1350.

panorama 5

Basically this is creating half a canvas for your whole photo to fit on, so now you drag your image all the way to the right until you see the blue marks on the left side, upload that to your camera roll, then repeat in the opposite direction, and upload the right side of the photo.

panorama6

So now your images are created, and to the size they need to be, next is getting them into Instagram. Hit the plus in the box at the bottom middle, and then on the next screen make sure to hit the 2 opposite arrows before selecting multi-post. Then you just have to select them in the right order, select your filters if you want them, and hit share!

panorama7

So that is how you create a seamless panorama in instagram! Here’s a video on how to do this in case my instructions and pictures didn’t help.

It looks like a lot of effort, but it’s actually really simple once you try it a few times—and it can lead to some pretty awesome-looking Instagram multi photo posts.

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Real Estate Marketing

The skills all marketers need to know in order to survive the AI takeover

(MARKETING) Marketers are constantly evolving, but getting your head around AI can be a challenge – let’s boil it down to the most relevant skills needed

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When Facebook and Twitter were born, a new era of social media was ushered in, opening the gates for new areas of expertise that hadn’t existed before. At first, we all grappled to establish the culture together, but fast forward a decade and it is literally a science with thousands of supporting technology companies.

So as Artificial Intelligence (AI) takes over marketing, doesn’t that mean it will replace marketers? If you can ask your smart speaker in your office what your engagement growth increase was for your Facebook Page, and ask for recommendations of growth, how do marketing professionals survive?

Marketers will survive the same way they did as social media was introduced – the practice will evolve and new niches will be born.

There are 7 skills marketers (like you) will need to adapt in order to evolve. None of these are done overnight, but quality professionals are constantly grooming their skills, so this won’t be stressful to the successful among us. And the truth is that it won’t be in our lifetime that AI can quite process the exact same way a human brain does, even with the advent of quantum computing, so let’s focus on AI’s weaknesses and where marketers can perform where artificial intelligence cannot.

1. Use the data your new AI buddies generate.

In the 70s, the infamous Ted Bundy murders yielded the first case that utilized computing. The lead investigator had heard about computers and asked a specialist to dig through all of their data points to find similarities – a task that was taking months for the investigative team. After inputting the data, within minutes, they had narrowed their list of suspects from several hundred to only 10.

We’re not dealing with murderers here in the marketing world (…right, guys?), but the theory that algorithms can speed up our existing jobs is a golden lesson. As more AI tools are added to the marketplace to enhance your job, experiment with them! Get to know them! And continue to seek them out to empower you.

Atomic Reach studies your content and finds ways to enhance what you’re delivering. CaliberMind augments B2B sales, Stackla hunts down user-generated content that matches your brand efforts, Nudge analyzes deal risk and measures user account health, and Market Brew digs up tons of data for your SEO strategy.

See? Independently, these all sound like amazing tools, but call them “AI tools” and people lose their minds. Please.

Your job as a marketer is to do what AI cannot. Together, you can automate, do segmentation and automation, beef up your analytics, but no machine can replicate your innate interest in your customers, your compassion, and your ability to understand human emotions and predict outcomes effectively (because you have a lot more practice at being a human than the lil’ robots do).

2. Take advantage of AI’s primary weakness.

As noted, you have emotions and processes that are extremely complex and cannot be understood by artificial intelligence yet. Use those.

How? Compile all of the data that AI offers and then strategize. Duh. AI can offer recommendations, but it cannot (yet) suggest an entire brand strategy. That’s where you come in.

And more importantly, it cannot explain or defend any such strategy. One of the core problems with AI is that if you ask Alexa a question, you cannot ask how it came up with that information or why. This trust problem is the primary reason marketers are in no danger of being replaced by technology.

3. Obsess over data.

AI tools are young and evolving, so right now is the time to start obsessing over data. What I mean by that is not to use every single AI tool to compile mountains of useless data, but to start studying the data you already have.

The problem with new tools is that marketers are naturally inquisitive, so we try them out and then forget they exist if they didn’t immediately prove to be a golden egg.

Knowing your current marketing data inside and out will help you to learn alongside AI. If you aren’t intimately familiar, you won’t know if the recommendations made through AI are useful, and you could end up going down the wrong path because something shiny told you to.

Obsess over data not by knowing every single customers’ names, but be ready to identify which data sets are relevant for the results you’re seeking. A data scientist friend of mine recently pointed out that if you flip a coin five times and it happens to land on tails every time, AI would analyze that data and predict with 100% certainty that the sixth flip will be tails, but you and I have life experience and know better.

Staying on top of your data, even when you’re utilizing artificial intelligence tools will keep you the most valuable asset, not the robots. #winning

4. Don’t run away from math (no wait, come back!)

One of the appeals of marketing is that math is hard and you don’t need it in a creative field. But if you want to stay ahead of the robots, you’ll have to focus on your math skills.

You don’t have to go back to school for data science, but if you can’t read the basic reports that these endless AI tools can create, you’re already behind. At least spend a few hours this month on some “Intro to Data Science” courses on Udemy or Coursera.

5. Content is God.

We’ve all said for years that content is king and that feeding the search engines was a top way to reach consumers. You’ve already refined your skills in creating appealing content, and you already know that it costs less than many traditional lead generating efforts and spending on content is way up.

Content can be blogging, video, audio, or social media posts. Artificial intelligence will step in to skyrocket those efforts, if only you accept that content was once king, but is now God. What is changing is how customized content can be. For example, some companies are using AI tools to create dozens of different Facebook ads for different demographics, which would have taken weeks of human effort to do in the past.

Because content is what feeds all of these new smart devices, feeding your brand content effectively and utilizing AI tools to augment your efforts will keep you more relevant than ever.

6. Get ahead of privacy problems

Consumers now understand what website cookies are, and know when they’ve opted in (or opted out) of an email newsletter, but to this point, humans have made the decisions of how these data choices are made. Our teams have continually edited Terms of Service (ToS), all done not just with liability in mind, but to offer consumers the protections that they want and have come to expect.

But AI today doesn’t have morals, and consumer comfort is not a factor unless humans program that into said AI devices. But it still isn’t a creature of ethics like humans are. Ethical challenges going forward will be something to stay ahead of as you tap into the AI world. Making sure that you know the ToS of any tool you’re using to mine data is critical so that you don’t put the company in a bad position by violating basic human trust.

The takeaway

You’re smart, so you already knew that the robots aren’t taking your job, rather augmenting it, but adding AI into your marketing mix to stay ahead comes with risk and a learning curve. But seeing artificial intelligence for what it really is – a tool – will keep your focus on the big picture and save your job.

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