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Filtering Brands, Trends… Anything!

Stephen Biernacki

Not everyone enjoys what brands have to say on social media. Many of my friends who don’t work in marketing and communications really hate it, actually. Could they just unfollow or unlike these accounts? Sure, but that doesn’t mean content they would rather avoid still ends up in their feeds in one way or another… perhaps via a hashtag, retweet, or their friends are simply tweeting about it. Thankfully for users but somewhat scary for brands, a rather excellent and evolving solution has been developed to mute or replace content you specify in Facebook and Twitter called… Rather.

Introduced last year, Rather allows users of Chrome to mute or replace anything specified in Facebook and Twitter content via a browser extension. Firefox, Safari, and mobile solutions are on the way and you can sign up on Rather’s website to be notified when they’re released.

Here’s an example of what muting content in Twitter looks like.

Straightforward enough. Notice the undo link in the event you want to reveal the content. You can also replace content using Rather. Like cats? Replace people talking about #SB48 (this year’s Super Bowl) with pictures of cats. Not really interested in the Olympics? Replace everything related to them with images of birds from Instagram via the #birds hashtag, like this:

What a majestic cardinal! Here’s the layout of options within the extension, including the option to filter on Twitter, Facebook, or both.

If you are looking for ideas after just adding the extension some of the most commonly “killed” content is located across the four tabs at top: popular, upcoming, services, and feeds. You’ll also notice in the bottom right a toggle to switch between replacing and muting content.

Another convenient feature is receiving suggestions. For example, when I type in Olympics and click, I’m presented with all the related words that will also be muted or replaced. You can easily remove or add words to this list and even share it with other people to use on Rather.

You can also get rid of any and all links from a certain domain by entering “cnn.com/,” for example. This is a very formidable feature and more information on this is available on Rather’s F.A.Q. page.

So What’s the Point?
For the purposes of our discussion the point of all this is if you’re a brand and you’re annoying, there are tools that help users avoid you. For some reason Starbucks comes to my mind first even though I’m a fan, personally. A lot of people love Starbucks but some people… not so much. If I knew of this tool and became annoyed with seeing Starbucks or seeing my friends talking about them, I could add the keyword and/or domain to my list and so long as I’m using Google Chrome, never have to listen to anyone talk about Starbucks ever again on Facebook and Twitter. Rejoice, no more Foursquare check-ins shared to Twitter! The concept itself is nothing new, as unbaby.me – who was actually repackaged to become Rather – was the catalyst for this service. Several paid and free Twitter services such as Tweetdeck and Tweetbot do something similar functions in allowing users to mute hashtags and users. Again, same concept, but Rather puts a lot of power in the hands of the user instead of the marketer. Going further, people have been blocking banner, video, and other types of ads using ad blockers for a long time. In fact, 22.7% of people block ads and it’s growing at a rate of 43% per year, according to PageFair. With that said, Rather and similar services that allow for social network content filtering are a more powerful next step than simply blocking paid advertising. Organic content is no longer safe.

So our advice to marketers and community managers is to continue to have a feel for not only your audience, but Internet culture in general. This was always one of the most important skills for a community manager to have but with the advent of these filtering tools, repercussions for not delivering are more significant. One off-strategy, not fully thought out campaign that  irritates users could have a lasting effect on your brand. You could be filtered out in the blink of an eye.

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