miércoles, 30 de noviembre de 2016

Brexit: what are the short- and medium-term consequences for UK tech startups?

Britain has voted to leave the EU. With all of the complexities and unknowns that come with this, many Frontline founders (in particular, our UK-based ones) are trying to get clarity on how this may affect them.

Technology leaders in the UK were one of the loudest voices speaking out against #Brexit. Multiple polls showed the technology sector strongly in favour of remaining, with only 15% in favour of leaving. Over 60 venture capitalists signed a letter backing to remain, with experienced investors like Robin Klein warning that a Brexit could be a Doomsday for the UK startup ecosystem.

The UK technology sector is growing 34% faster than the rest of the economy, and it has been a huge success in recent years — garnering the UK international attention as technology hub, culminating in large exits and pulling in strong talent from all over the globe.

Maybe we, as the tech community, assumed that the rest of country wanted the same things we did. This is perhaps why the outcome has come as such as a surprise to so many of us — the voices that we were surrounded by were not reflective of a large portion of the UK.

Now that Brexit has happened — should we expect large changes? Is Doomsday coming? Currently, there remains far too many uncertainties and undecided variables to make long term predictions. However, there are some considerations worth taking into account in the short- and medium-term for UK technology startups.

Uncertainty is the killer for the short term. As of publication, we still have not heard from the Bank of England or the ECB, and with Cameron stepping down, we don’t know who will lead the UK economy. Leaving the EU is a concept — how the UK subjectively will do it is still to be decided.

The European Union has become so entrenched in many aspects of the UK financial, regulatory, and legal economy — the process to untangle those is still unsure. At the moment, this uncertainty is fueling a lot of the huge movements we are seeing in the equity and currency markets.

During unstable periods, most financial investors will move away from technology startups, who are seen as high-risk. This will make it less appealing for angel and high-net worth individuals to invest until markets have stabilised.

This morning, I’ve received 5+ phone calls from entrepreneurs both in and outside the Frontline portfolio — all concerned with how Brexit would affect their current round of funding.

If they are a UK company who is raising in US Dollars — that is now a positive for them. If they are a UK company raising in Pounds from international investors — that is a positive for their investors. Most technology companies are global companies and most venture capital investors are long-term investors, so something like Brexit should not prevent a deal from closing.

Where this is not true, though, is for any potential M&A activity. Until there is more stability, I expect to see a severe decrease or altogether halt of technology acquisitions in the UK.

In the short-term, folks who are considering joining UK companies from abroad will be less likely to move. Anecdotally, I know two couples (one from the EU, one from the US), both of whom had been planning to join the UK tech sector. Both are now seriously reconsidering whether it is the right place to move now, a lot of their fear powered by uncertainty of the future.

As markets begin to stabilise, we will see currencies and equities settle — most likely at much lower values than before. This lower-valued pound will mean that UK companies will be less competitive in attracting top talent, one of the most important abilities for fast-growing technology companies.

Free movement of talent is probably one of founders’ biggest worries. Being part of the EU means that a UK company has open access to a talent pool of over 400M people, instead of the mere 60M in the UK. Most likely, the UK will move towards having a relationship with the EU similar to that of Norway. Hopefully, this will mean that trade and immigration will be similar to what it is now.

Depending on how these trade and immigration agreements are made, it could make it significantly less appealing for international companies to have their European HQs in Britain. Many of the largest financials institutions such as HSBC, Barclays, Goldman Sachs, and many others announced prior to the vote that they would be moving large number of employees out of the UK should a Brexit vote occur. Even now, it is being reported that Morgan Stanley already plans on moving 2000 staff to Dublin or Frankfurt.

Some have stepped back on these comments this morning, but I see this as more of a market-calming tactic. I believe that many international companies will look to move operations elsewhere in Europe. This will be equally a problem for the early-stage tech companies based in London/the UK — a significant talent drain is never good for the market.

The funding environment for venture capital funds will also be affected. The European Investment Fund is the largest investor in European VC funds and are invested in many UK VCs. If the UK is no longer in the EU, this source of capital will most likely dry up and venture funds will need to seek alternative sources of capital — which is already in short supply. The same will go for the many favourable grants that tech companies receive.

While UK companies will have less capacity to buy foreign companies, they will seem cheaper to international buyers and investors. In the medium-term, this could lead to an uptick in acquisitions or international investments in the UK.
Many other questions remain to be answered: What will happen to UK fintech companies that have EU bank passporting that allows them to operate without obtaining extra banking licenses in other EU countries? Will this lead to London losing it’s fintech crown? How will the digital single market be affected for UK companies?

Currently, London is the centre of the European tech startup ecosystem. However, other European cities will take advantage of these post-Brexit issues. Hubs like Stockholm, Dublin, and Berlin could leverage this uncertainty to attract talent, capital, and companies away from the UK. It could lead to London losing importance in Europe as a tech and startup centre.
As a pan-European investor, today is a sad day for me. However, I hope that this instability is short-lived and that, moving forward, Europe continues to lower barriers for trade and people — so that great companies can continue to grow with as little friction as possible across the continent.

To all ambitious UK-based tech founders, let’s continue to focus on the future — growing your teams, closing your funding rounds, and, as you always do, evolving to tackle any challenge that stands in front of you.

The Art of Political Branding

Jeremy Corbyn’s democratic socialism is now standing at the dispatch box in Westminster and his rivals have gone on the offensive. The anti-Corbyn narrative has been set into motion and his branding is well under way. If Corbyn and Labour are to weather the storm over the coming months, they must diligently control their own image, embrace a reductionist view of politics and surprise people.

I was speaking to a friend from America a few days ago and he struggled to understand why the Conservative party didn’t walk the 2015 election. Look at it from an “outsider’s” perspective; the UK Economy is in it’s 3rd year of recovery, inflation is low, unemployment is continuing on its downwards path and David Cameron is popular (enough) with the electorate. Surely, he argued, the prerequisites of a certain re-election were established. However, what he had failed to consider is the power of a party’s brand (when I say brand I refer to its reputation). A party’s brand is fundamental in its ability to swing votes and it essentially rests on two questions:

1) How is your party’s values perceived by the public?

2) Do people feel it fits with their own values?

Labour has always been insurmountably ahead of the Conservatives in terms of brand power and loyalty. The Conservatives have battled with brand toxicity since the 1970s, which reached fever pitch under Major in the 1990s and still today, in many areas of the UK, particularly Scotland, London and Birmingham, is yet to prevail. People still see voting Tory as countercultural. Labour on the other hand, with its close ties with the Unions, have just about managed to maintain their brand as being the “party of workers”. This has often been Labour’s saving grace. I would posit the argument that the power of brand Labour kept them in contention at the 2015 election, despite the Conservatives exhibiting all prerequisites of certain electoral success. However, over the coming months the Labour brand is going to face an onslaught which it hasn’t felt since the 1980s whilst at the same time the Conservatives endeavour to rebrand as the party of “working Britain”.

The art of branding is to cement a negative narrative of your opponent as early as possible, before they can dictate their own. With the foundations set, the right can control how others perceive. They are inevitably going to brand Corbyn as extreme, left wing, agitprop and revolutionary. Not 24 hours after the leadership result, David Cameron tweeted “The Labour Party is now a threat to our national security, our economic security and your family’s security”. Michael Fallon reinforced this message on breakfast TV proclaiming Jeremy Corbyn “is now a threat to your family”. The Conservatives have smelt blood and are on the attack. They are denouncing their opponent as being a threat to the British people. A tactic they used with Ed Miliband and Michael Foot.

It is not just the Conservatives who have engaged first gear. Nicola Sturgeon (leader of the Scottish National Party) took immediate action to denounce Corbyn, claiming via Twitter that if he was unable to establish himself as a credible future prime-minister, the Scottish people would conclude the only way to get rid of the Tories would be to vote yes in another referendum. A cunning tactic from the leader of a party who wants Scottish independence.

Corbyn’s ascension up the party, offers Labour the opportunity to rebrand itself, and the left will want him to turn the page on New Labour. I urge Corbyn to embrace a reductionistic view of politics and surprise people. He must say things which are counter to what people expect him to say. By adding the element of surprise he cannot be so easily pigeon holed.

If Corbyn can ride the imminent storm and control his brand, then himself and the Labour party have a chance.

Nancy Pelosi Won Her Leadership Race By The Narrowest Margin In Decades

By Clare Malone

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington on Wednesday.

Susan Walsh / AP

There isn’t typically a whole lot of ink spilled over House leadership elections. But 2016, superlative in all things, most especially chaos, has seen a bit of a ruckus over the Democrats’ vote.

While Nancy Pelosi won re-election to her minority leader position for the Democrats on Wednesday, it was the most contested party leadership race in years, with Rep. Tim Ryan, a 43-year-old from the Mahoning Valley in Ohio, mounting a longshot challenge. He wasn’t successful, but Ryan managed to leech a significant amount of support from Pelosi; she won with only 68 percent of the vote. Since the 102nd Congress began in 1991, the closest Democratic vote had been in the 112th Congress (2011), when Pelosi won the leadership election with 89.6 percent of the vote. (We used data available to us on votes, beginning with the 102nd Congress.)

102 1991 Robert H. Michel R 100.0% 0

103 1993 Robert H. Michel R 100.0 0

104 1995 Richard Gephardt D 99.0 2

105 1997 Richard Gephardt D 100.0 0

106 1999 Richard Gephardt D 97.1 6

107 2001 Richard Gephardt D 97.6 5

108 2003 Nancy Pelosi D 97.5 5

109 2005 Nancy Pelosi D 98.5 3

110 2007 John Boehner R 100.0 0

111 2009 John Boehner R 98.3 3

112 2011 Nancy Pelosi D 89.6 20

113 2013 Nancy Pelosi D 96.0 8

114 2015 Nancy Pelosi D 100.0 0

115 2017 Nancy Pelosi D 68.0 63
– Minority party support for the House minority leader

Representatives who did not vote for their party’s consensus choice included ones who voted for another member, voted “present” or did not vote at all. Not all the representatives who abstained from voting were deliberate “defections.”

102 1991 Tom Foley D 99.6% 1

103 1993 Tom Foley D 99.6 1

104 1995 Newt Gingrich R 100.0 0

105 1997 Newt Gingrich R 96.0 9

106 1999 Dennis Hastert R 99.5 1

107 2001 Dennis Hastert R 100.0 0

108 2003 Dennis Hastert R 99.6 1

109 2005 Dennis Hastert R 97.8 5

110 2007 Nancy Pelosi D 100.0 0

111 2009 Nancy Pelosi D 99.6 1

112 2011 John Boehner R 100.0 0

113 2013 John Boehner R 94.8 12

114 2015 John Boehner R 100.0 0

114 2015 Paul Ryan R 80.9 47

115 2017 Paul Ryan R 100.0 0
Majority party support for House speaker

Representatives who did not vote for their party’s consensus choice included ones who voted for another member, voted “present” or did not vote at all. Not all the representatives who abstained from voting were deliberate “defections.”

By the standards of House leadership elections, Pelosi won in a squeaker.

Ryan’s entrance into the race marked a significant spot of pique among congressional Democrats eager to shake up the party’s messaging to appeal to white working-class voters in the industrial Midwest, many of whom voted for Donald Trump. Ryan’s district, which Trump carried — a fact Pelosi gleefully pointed out in the run-up to the election — is home to many of those voters. Ryan had played up his blue-collar bona fides in the run-up to the leadership election, saying in a recent interview that the 2018 election is “not going to be won at fundraisers on the coasts — it’s going to be won in union halls in the industrial Midwest and fish fries in the Midwest and the South.”

Pelosi represents a wealthy San Francisco district, and she is known as a powerful fundraising force within the party. By contrast, Ryan’s district is struggling. Just a day after the presidential election, General Motors announced that it would be laying off 2,000 employees at a plant in his district, as well as in Lansing, Michigan.

Though Pelosi prevailed, the weakness of her victory might well mark the emergence of a coalition of more populist Democrats, carved from the same demographic cloth of the “Reagan Democrats” of the past. Ryan is steeped in this tradition, having served as an aide to and succeeded populist Rep. Jim Traficant, notorious for his corruption scandals and something of a proto-Trump personality in political life, down to the imaginative coiffure.

Pelosi spoke to reporters shortly after the vote. “We know how to win elections,” she said. “We’ve done it in the past, we will do it again.

Coping with Chaos in the White House

N Ziehl

A few days ago, I wrote a post for my Facebook friends about my personal experience with narcissistic personality disorder and how I view the president elect as a result. Unexpectedly, the post traveled widely, and it became clear that many people are struggling with how to understand and deal with this kind of behavior in a position of power. Although several writers, including a few professionals, have publicly offered their thoughts on a diagnosis, I am not a professional and this is not a diagnosis. My post is not intended to persuade anyone or provide a comprehensive description of NPD. I am speaking purely from decades of dealing with NPD and sharing strategies that were helpful for me in coping and predicting behavior. The text below is adapted from my original Facebook post.

I want to talk a little about narcissistic personality disorder. I’ve unfortunately had a great deal of experience with it, and I’m feeling badly for those of you who are trying to grapple with it for the first time because of our president-elect, who almost certainly suffers from it or a similar disorder. If I am correct, it has some very particular implications for the office. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

1) It’s not curable and it’s barely treatable. He is who he is. There is no getting better, or learning, or adapting. He’s not going to “rise to the occasion” for more than maybe a couple hours. So just put that out of your mind.

2) He will say whatever feels most comfortable or good to him at any given time. He will lie a lot, and say totally different things to different people. Stop being surprised by this. While it’s important to pretend “good faith” and remind him of promises, as Bernie Sanders and others are doing, that’s for his supporters, so *they* can see the inconsistency as it comes. He won’t care. So if you’re trying to reconcile or analyze his words, don’t. It’s 100% not worth your time. Only pay attention to and address his actions.

3) You can influence him by making him feel good. There are already people like Bannon who appear ready to use him for their own ends. The GOP is excited to try. Watch them, not him. President Obama, in his wisdom, may be treating him well in hopes of influencing him and averting the worst. If he gets enough accolades for better behavior, he might continue to try it. But don’t count on it.

4) Entitlement is a key aspect of the disorder. As we are already seeing, he will likely not observe traditional boundaries of the office. He has already stated that rules don’t apply to him. This particular attribute has huge implications for the presidency and it will be important for everyone who can to hold him to the same standards as previous presidents.

5) We should expect that he only cares about himself and those he views as extensions of himself, like his children. (People with NPD often can’t understand others as fully human or distinct.) He desires accumulation of wealth and power because it fills a hole. (Melania is probably an acquired item, not an extension.) He will have no qualms *at all* about stealing everything he can from the country, and he’ll be happy to help others do so, if they make him feel good. He won’t view it as stealing but rather as something he’s entitled to do. This is likely the only thing he will intentionally accomplish.

6) It’s very, very confusing for non-disordered people to experience a disordered person with NPD. While often intelligent, charismatic and charming, they do not reliably observe social conventions or demonstrate basic human empathy. It’s very common for non-disordered people to lower their own expectations and try to normalize the behavior. DO NOT DO THIS AND DO NOT ALLOW OTHERS, ESPECIALLY THE MEDIA, TO DO THIS. If you start to feel foggy or unclear about this, step away until you recalibrate.

7) People with NPD often recruit helpers, referred to in the literature as “enablers” when they allow or cover for bad behavior and “flying monkeys” when they perpetrate bad behavior on behalf of the narcissist. Although it’s easiest to prey on malicious people, good and vulnerable people can be unwittingly recruited. It will be important to support good people around him if and when they attempt to stay clear or break away.

8) People with NPD often foster competition for sport in people they control. Expect lots of chaos, firings and recriminations. He will probably behave worst toward those closest to him, but that doesn’t mean (obviously) that his actions won’t have consequences for the rest of us. He will punish enemies. He may start out, as he has with the NYT, with a confusing combination of punishing/rewarding, which is a classic abuse tactic for control. If you see your media cooperating or facilitating this behavior for rewards, call them on it.

9) Gaslighting — where someone tries to convince you that the reality you’ve experienced isn’t true — is real and torturous. He will gaslight, his followers will gaslight. Many of our politicians and media figures already gaslight, so it will be hard to distinguish his amplified version from what has already been normalized. Learn the signs and find ways to stay focused on what you know to be true. Note: it is typically not helpful to argue with people who are attempting to gaslight. You will only confuse yourself. Just walk away.

10) Whenever possible, do not focus on the narcissist or give him attention. Unfortunately we can’t and shouldn’t ignore the president, but don’t circulate his tweets or laugh at him — you are enabling him and getting his word out. (I’ve done this, of course, we all have… just try to be aware.) Pay attention to your own emotions: do you sort of enjoy his clowning? do you enjoy the outrage? is this kind of fun and dramatic, in a sick way? You are adding to his energy. Focus on what you can change and how you can resist, where you are. We are all called to be leaders now, in the absence of leadership.

lunes, 28 de noviembre de 2016

How to Use Hashtags: How Many, Which Ones, and Where

Rubén Weinsteiner

Have you ever found yourself explaining hashtags to someone whose only connection with the word is as a telephone button?

Internet language has evolved considerably over the past few years as social media has taken off. Hashtags are a huge part of this evolution. What once was a telephone button is now a social media phenomenon. No wonder people are curious.

When they ask, I tell them that hashtags are a pound sign immediately followed by a keyword. They’re used for categorization on social media. Yes, they can be annoying if overused. And yes, I’ve seen the hashtag video of Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake.

Hashtags also have the potential to be truly valuable. The stats and info below make a pretty clear case that we should be understanding, using, and appreciating hashtags.

Research says you should be using hashtags

If you’re looking for a completely cut-and-dry ruling on the topic of hashtags, then here it is: You should be using hashtags.

The proliferation of hashtags is truly incredible. What began on Twitter has now spread to Facebook, Google+, Instagram, Google search, and almost everywhere in between. (LinkedIn experimented with hashtags for awhile before giving up.)

The widespread acceptance of hashtags should give you plenty of reason to consider using them. I also really enjoy the case laid out by Steve Cooper, writing for Forbes.com:
As ridiculous as hashtags might seem to marketing veterans who remember a time before Twitter and Facebook, the younger generation and potential customers/clients don’t. To them, using hashtags is as natural and common as typing their query into the search box.

Not only could people be typing in your hashtag on a Google search, but they could very well be doing it in Twitter, too. In this sense, a hashtag will make your content viewable by anyone with an interest in your hashtag, regardless of whether they’re part of your clan or not.
A hashtag immediately expands the reach of your tweet beyond just those who follow you, to reach anyone interested in that hashtag phrase or keyword.

But how do you find the right hashtags for your content and make sure you’ve got them in the right number, on the right social network? Let’s break it down.

Hashtags on Twitter

Tweets with hashtags get two times more engagement than tweets without.

This data, courtesy of Buddy Media, is one of the most-cited examples of the effectiveness of hashtags, and for good reason: doubling your online engagement is a big deal! Imagine going from four retweets to eight or 10 retweets to 20. And all it takes is a simple # or two?

Apparently so. Although, you’ll want to keep it to no more than two.

Buddy Media’s research also showed that the volume of hashtags bears monitoring: one or two hashtags appear to be the max. When you use more than two hashtags, your engagement actually drops by an average of 17 percent.

Twitter’s own research into hashtags confirms that there is significant advantage to using them. Individuals can see a 100 percent increase in engagement by using hashtags (the same bump as seen in the Buddy Media study). Brands can see a 50 percent increase.

Engagement, as measured in these studies, can include clicks, retweets, favorites, and replies, yet if it’s only retweets your after, hashtags still would be a smart bet.

Tweets with one or more hashtag are 55 percent more likely to be retweeted.

Dan Zarella discovered this effect in a study on retweeting behavior that included more than 1.2 million tweets. The large scope of the study made for a 99.9 percent confidence interval with the results.

The one caveat to hashtags on Twitter might come for those brands looking to gain clicks on Twitter ads. In the case of advertisements, Twitter found that tweets without a # or @-mention generate 23 percent more clicks.

The reason? Hashtags and @-mentions give people more places to click inside a tweet instead of focusing solely on a call-to-action.

Hashtags on Instagram

Instagram is another hotspot for hashtags, and the good news for those who love to extensively tag photos is that there doesn’t seem to be a saturation point.

Interactions are highest on Instagram posts with 11+ hashtags.

A rule of thumb could be: Don’t sweat your amount of Instagram hashtags.

The best part about this recommendation is that the data comes from a set of users with 1,000 or fewer followers — a group that likely includes small businesses and those just diving in to Instagram. In other words, hashtags could be your best bet for growing a fast following on Instagram.

Hashtags on Facebook

So yes, Twitter and Instagram are clear winners for hashtags. But what about Facebook? Here’s where the recommendation gets a little trickier.

Facebook posts without a hashtag fare better than those with a hashtag.

Hashtags have only been around on Facebook since June 2013, and three months later, research from EdgeRank Checker found that using hashtags on Facebook has zero positive effect on reach. Posts without hashtags outperform those with hashtags.

A lot could have changed since September, when this data was first released. Should you abandon hashtags on Facebook solely due to this research? It’s probably best to test. There’s still a lot of analysis left to be done. For instance, Social Bakers studied posts in February of this year and found that using hashtags might not be the main worry, but rather using too many hashtags (just like the advice on Twitter).

Tools to find and manage your hashtags

Using the right tools, you can use hashtags as an organization system for your social media campaigns. With everything collected under one hashtag banner, you can see at-a-glance the reach of your campaign and the discussions happening around the topic.

1. Hashtagify.me

One of the most complete hashtag tools you will find, Hashtagify.me has reams of data you can use to analyze hashtags. The most helpful could very well be the first data you’re shown: related hashtags and their popularity. When you type in a hashtag, the service will show you other hashtags to consider and will display visually how popular each hashtag is and how closely it correlates to the original.

2. RiteTag

RiteTag helps ensure that the tags you use are well-chosen by showing you how good, great, or overused a particular hashtag is. The visual organization of hashtags into colored bars works great for quick analysis at-a-glance.

3. Tagboard

With Tagboard, you can see how your hashtag is used across multiple networks. The results pages on Tagboard show hashtagged posts from Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google+, Vine, and App.net

4. Trendsmap

Local businesses might find value in Trendsmap, which shows you relevant hashtags that are being used in your geographic area. (#wrestlemania is a popular one where I am in Idaho.)

4 steps to find the right hashtag to use

Using the tools above, you can hone in on a few ideal hashtags to start with, and like most things online, test and iterate from there.
1. Learn from the best: What hashtags are influencers using?

Twitonomy can give you a good foundation of where to begin for your hashtag search by showing you how influencers are using hashtags. Grab a handful of usernames of people and brands in your industry whom you admire, and input the accounts into Twitonomy. In the middle of the results page, you’ll see a section for their most commonly-used hashtags. Add the relevant ones to your list of potential hashtags.

Let’s say I wanted to find some hashtags to use in promoting social media marketing content. I might start with a list of names like Jeff Bullas, Jay Baer, Mari Smith, and Ann Handley. Here is what the hashtag results on Twitonomy look like for Jeff Bullas:

Info like this would lead me to start a short list of hashtags like:

2. Cover all your bases: Are there related hashtags you should be considering?

Armed with an idea list of hashtags, you can then hop into Hashtagify.me to see which related hashtags might also be worth pursuing. While you’re doing this exercise, take note of the circle size on your results: The larger the circle, the more popular the hashtag.

Again, following our social media marketing example, here is what the results page would look like for a search of #socialmedia:

Not every hashtag listed here will be relevant to you, but it does help to see some that you might not have previously considered. In the case of our example, I might add #business, #infographic, and hashtags of specific network names like #twitter and #facebook.

3. Identify the all-stars: Which hashtags are the best to use?

Popularity and volume can be good indicators of the value of your hashtag, but you may wish to go one step further. Hashtagify.me has advanced, premium tools that let you go deeper into statistics on individual hashtags. In a pinch, you can also get some solid data from RiteTag and their visual expression of how much each tag can boost your post’s reach.

Among posts that contain the word “marketing,” RiteTag shows these tags as the most likely to be great, good, or overused. (There’s that #wrestlemania tag again!)

4. Double check: Could your chosen hashtags mean something else entirely?

One last check before you finalize your list of hashtags should be whether or not the hashtag you’ve chosen is being used elsewhere in an entirely different context.
The worst thing that can happen when using a hashtag is to realize after it’s tweeted that the same hashtag is used for an entirely different topic.

Jawbone tried a #knowyourself campaign on Instagram, only to find that the hashtag was already being used generically by thousands of users in all sorts of different contexts. This didn’t necessarily ruin Jawbone’s campaign, but it may have made life a little more difficult for the marketing team.


Hopefully you’ve learned the value of hashtags here and a few neat ideas on how to find some to use in your social sharing. If you’re looking for a simple rule of thumb for hashtagging posts, I think there’s a lot of truth here in this advice from The Next Web:
Rule of thumb: 1–3 tags is best over all platforms.
Twitter: to categorize
Pinterest: to brand, and be specific (tags are only clickable in pin descriptions)
Instagram: to build community, and be unique/detailed
Google+: to categorize
Tumblr: to categorize interests, can be specific and general (has a “track your tags” feature)
Facebook: sort of a hashtag fail — if your audience is very business-minded, follow Twitter rules; if it is community-oriented, follow Pinterest/Instagram rules.

Rubén Weinsteiner

There’s No Perfect Headline: Why We Need to Write Multiple Headlines for Every Article

Most people don’t read content online. In fact, eight out of ten people will only read the headline.

For content writers, that fact is alarming. But it also places extra importance on the headlines we choose for our content, as headlines have the power to influence readers even if they don’t read any more of the article.

I don’t believe the perfect headline exists, though. Not anymore, anyway.

The evolution of social media and search has also complicated the playing field. When we write a headline, we no longer think only about driving clicks from a single channel like our homepage; we now need to think about search and social, too.

In this post, I’d love to share with you what I’ve discovered about headlines, how they’ve evolved and what makes a headline stand out on Facebook, Twitter, and search.

Let’s dive in.

What makes an irresistible headline

One of my favorite headlines of all time is:

“How to Win Friends and Influence People”

This headline helped to sell millions of copies of Dale Carniegie’s book of the same name. It’s brilliant. Short, simple and intriguing and makes me want to know more. However, if it were to be written again in 2016, it may sound a little different.
The evolution of headlines

It’s pretty safe to say that a headline determines how many people will read a piece. But, the evolution of social media has led content publishers to rethink their approach to headlines completely. As a result, the perfect headline no longer exists and we now must craft an eye-catching, clickable headline for almost every channel where our content can be discovered.

It’s important to think about all the various places people may discover your content: search engines, Facebook, Twitter, your homepage, etc. And it’s very rare that one size fits all when it comes to headlines. What stands out on Facebook might not get any clicks from a Google search results page.

For example, in 2016, the famous “How to Win Friends and Influence People” headline may look something like this:

On Facebook:

12 Life Lessons to Help You Win Friends and Influence People

On Google:

Life Lessons: How to Win Friends and Influence People

On a homepage:

How to Win Friends and Influence People: 12 Lessons to Live By

Headlines change the way we think and set our expectations

First impressions matter. Even with the articles we read online. And just as we choose to make a good impression offline through the way we dress and our body language, the headline of an article can also go a long way to shaping the reader’s perception of what is to follow, as Maria Konnikova explains in The New Yorker:
By drawing attention to certain details or facts, a headline can affect what existing knowledge is activated in your head. By its choice of phrasing, a headline can influence your mindset as you read so that you later recall details that coincide with what you were expecting.
For instance, the headline of this article I wrote — ”A Gene That Makes You Need Less Sleep?” — is not inaccurate in any way. But it does likely prompt a focus on one specific part of the piece. If I had instead called it “Why We Need Eight Hours of Sleep,” people would remember it differently.
Headlines affect our memory

Ullrich Ecker, a psychologist at the University of Western Australia has completed a couple of studies on how headlines that are even slightly misleading can affect how we read content.

In the first study, Ecker and his team discovered that misleading headlines affect readers’ memory, their inferential reasoning, and behavioral intentions. Essentially, if a biased headline influences you, that tends to be what you’ll remember no matter what you’re subsequently told in the rest of the article.

In the second study, Ecker had people read four articles (two factual, two opinion). What’s interesting in this study is the difference Ecker discovered between headlines in factual and opinion-led pieces. Misleading headlines in factual pieces were easier to ignore, and readers were able to correct the impressions left by the headline. However, in the case of opinion articles, a misleading headline impaired the reader’s ability to make accurate conclusions.

In summary, the headline of your article can greatly affect what your reader takes away from it.

For example, if I had titled this article “The evolution of headlines” it’s likely that you may remember more about how headlines have changed as the internet has evolved. And the headline “How to write headlines for Facebook, Twitter and Search” would likely put the reader’s focus on the section below, hopefully putting more emphasis on the actionable takeaways you can use from this piece.

As writers and content creators, we have a great duty to ensure our headlines best reflect the content of our articles. And give readers the best possible chance to remember the key points of our piece.

8 strategies to help you write great headlines for social and search

Writing great headlines is hard. And in this section, I’d love to share 8 headline strategies to help you craft headlines for Facebook, Twitter and search.
How to write great headlines for Facebook

Facebook is a huge traffic driver for many websites. (It’s been our number one or two social referrer for the past three years.)

And after recent algorithm updates, we’re now likely to see a lot less clickbait stories sticking around in our news feeds and seeing sustained engagement. This feels like a good move, but also raises the question: What kinds of headlines perform best on Facebook?

In order to dig a little further into what works on Facebook, Newswhip studied the various types of headlines that resonate with users on Facebook and that consistently receive high levels of engagement.

Here’s a quick summary of what they found to work:
Conversational and descriptive headlines
Headlines focused on personal experience
Headlines that aren’t misleading
1. Conversational and descriptive headlines

Newswhip found that many of the most successful stories they analyzed had extremely descriptive headlines, or used language that reads in a conversational tone. For example:

These types of headlines tend to perform well because you are letting the reader know what they will gain from reading your content.

At Buffer, we also like to accompany our content with a descriptive status:

One trick I like to use for writing descriptive, conversational headlines is to think about how you would describe this story to a friend in a coffee shop and use the same, warm, friendly tone in your headline.

When it comes to writing in a conversational style, it often means forgetting a lot of what your English teacher may have taught you, too. If you’ve ever looked at a transcript of a conversation, you’ll notice it’s full of grammatical mistakes, half-finished sentences, and similar faux-pas. Writing in a conversational tone doesn’t necessarily mean writing as you talk. But instead, writing so that it doesn’t sound like writing.
2. Headlines focused on personal experience

Facebook has traditionally been a place for personal stories and blogs, opinion articles, and other personal angled stories to flourish. And Newswhip found that first person posts and unique viewpoints tend to get people sharing heavily, especially if it’s a topic that they can relate to personally.

Here’s an example of a recent headline from our Open Blog that focused on personal experience:
3. Headlines that aren’t misleading

In the blog post accompanying their latest algorithm update, Facebook explained that there are two specific criteria they use to determine whether a headline is misleading:
If the headline withholds information required to understand what the content of the article is
If the headline exaggerates the article to create misleading expectations for the reader

For example, the headline “You’ll Never Believe Who Tripped and Fell on the Red Carpet…” withholds information required to understand the article (What happened? Who Tripped?). The headline “Apples Are Actually Bad For You?!” misleads the reader (apples are only bad for you if you eat too many every day).

This means the “You’ll never guess what happened next” headline formula will no longer be as successful on Facebook. And instead, we should switch to more detailed headlines that inform the reader what they’ll be reading about once they click.

How to write great headlines for Twitter

Tweets are just like headlines.

They need to attract attention and get the reader to read to click on the link. And while there’s no guaranteed formula for success on Twitter, we’ve found the best headlines and Tweets are the ones that state a benefit and generate curiosity.

Twitter is also a great place to share content multiple times and test out various headlines to see which ones resonate most with your audience. This approach helped Tami Brehse to increase her traffic by nearly 50% in just 30 days.

To give you an example of what’s working for us, here are a couple of our most-clicked tweets:

Both of these examples have clear images to convey the message within the tweet, making it more eye-catching for people as they scroll through their feed. The images also give the reader a great idea of what the content within the article will be.

Both tweets also create curiosity and a knowledge gap for readers. This entices readers to click on the link and feed their curiosity.

Further reading: Check out our research into our most successful tweets and why they worked

How to write great headlines for search

Standing out in search is a completely different game to standing out on social platforms like Facebook and Twitter. With social platforms, you’re trying to grab the reader’s attention and stand out in their timeline. Whereas in search, the user is specifically looking for content focused on their search phrase.

Here are a few tips that have worked for us:
1. Front-load your title

Google puts more weight on the words at the beginning of your title tag. And if you’re trying to rank for specific keywords, a good strategy is to place those keywords at the beginning of your headline.

If you wanted to rank for “social media tips”, then chances are that this headline:

Social Media Tips: 10 Ways to Grow Your Social Media Audience

… would be seen as more relevant to the topic “social media tips” than this headline:

Grow Your Social Media Audience with These 10 Awesome Social Media Tips

Of course, there’s much more that comes into play when it comes to Google rankings, but keeping your keywords as near to the beginning of your title as possible can help.

Here’s a real-world example. If you search Google for “Instagram stories” you’ll notice many of the results will have those keywords right at the front of the headline:

Keep it short (between 50–60 characters)

SEO experts Moz explain:
Google typically displays the first 50–60 characters of a title tag, or as many characters as will fit into a 512-pixel display. If you keep your titles under 55 characters, you can expect at least 95% of your titles to display properly. Keep in mind that search engines may choose to display a different title than what you provide in your HTML. Titles in search results may be rewritten to match your brand, the user query, or other considerations.
Use your brand name

If your brand is well-known within your target market then attaching it to the end of your headline can lead to more trust and clicks. A study from Engaging New Project found that people react not only to the type of headline but also to the source of the headline.

If you’re a trusted source, it can be beneficial to share your brand name in search results.

How to create multiple headlines for your content

At Buffer, we use a really handy tool called Yoast SEO which allows us to set various headlines for different channels. This means every post we write can have up to four separate headlines at any one time:
Headline on our homepage
Headline for search
Headline for Twitter
Headline for Facebook

Here’s an example of Yoast in action:

To write a custom headline for search, Facebook, and Twitter, you can toggle between the different Yoast SEO tabs by clicking on the icons at the left.

Over to you

Headlines are fascinating and probably the most important part of any piece of content. Right now, it feels like we’re in the midst of another evolution and moving away from some sensationalistic headlines that become popular with the rise of social media and towards more descriptive and detailed headlines.

Do you create multiple headlines for your content? What have you found works for each channel?

Hacks to Improve Your Facebook News Feed Reach

Organic reach on Facebook is low and declining, especially with the latest announcement from the social network that’s visited by more than a billion users every day. Facebook will show more videos and pictures posted by family and friends instead of news and other marketing content from brands, businesses, and publishers.

How bad is organic engagement on Facebook? On average, it’s somewhere in the neighborhood of less than 1 percent.


Every once in a while, one of your posts might still get tons of organic engagement. But it’s fast becoming mission impossible.

Facebook: Unhackable.

Facebook’s algorithm is powered by machine learning. While I don’t know the secret formula Facebook uses, we know from a computer-science perspective that machine-learning algorithms learn by testing and figuring out how people react to those tests.

Bottom line: if people really love your content and engage with it, then they are more likely to see more of that type of content in the future. The reverse is also true — if your posts aren’t attracting people’s attention or engaging them, then those people are even less likely to see your stuff in the future.

More engagement (i.e., shares, comments, likes) means more visibility in Facebook’s news feed. Facebook’s algorithm is more likely to give more visibility to posts that resonate well, to audition them in front of more people.

In fact, Facebook Ads, Google AdWords and even organic search work the same way.

So what’s the solution?

Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to mitigate the loss from the latest Facebook newsfeed algorithm. You must raise your organic engagement rates.

Let’s meet your new weapons — the five crazy hacks that will help you do what’s said to be impossible: hack the Facebook newsfeed algorithm.

Note: Some of these hacks involve spending a little bit of money. Others are totally free. All of them are totally worth your time.

You can see a summary of the hacks in the infographic below, or read on to learn how to execute these strategies in detail!

Facebook Newsfeed Hack #1: Preferred Audience Targeting

Preferred audience targeting is a brand new Facebook feature that works just like ad targeting, but for your organic posts. That’s right, this new feature lets you target your organic updates as if they were ads, for free. Facebook lets you target your update so only the people who are most likely to be interested in your update will see it.

Here’s where the preferred audience targeting option can be found:

This feature is so powerful because not everyone who follows your Facebook page is going to be interested in every single update you publish. If you want to start raising your organic engagement, you need to stop broadcasting to all of your followers and focus on those people who are most likely to engage with specific updates.

Think about it. Why do people follow huge companies like IBM or GE? It could be for any number of reasons.

Facebook’s preferred audiences feature is pure genius for companies that have a variety of products and divisions, or that operate in multiple countries. You can narrow the targeting based on users’ interests and locations to reach the people you really want without bothering the rest of your followers.

This feature also has benefits for smaller companies and publishers. Take me for example. I post updates on a wide variety of topics, including online advertising, entrepreneurship, social media marketing, SEO, branding, and growth hacking.

Preferred audience targeting allows me to decide who sees my posts — or who won’t see my post, using audience restrictions:

Here’s another example. Let’s say you’re a French clothing retailer with locations in France, Poland, and Germany. You could make it so that only French-speaking millennial females who live near your locations will see your post announcing your latest deals.

Remember: everybody who likes your page isn’t your target market. There will be plenty of people who will like your page over time, but then never engage with your updates, visit your website, or buy from you.

If you can only reach 1 percent of your audience, you should more narrowly target the people who are truly interested in what you have to offer. Giving people what they’re interested is what great marketing is all about — and, in the process, it will help you raise your Facebook engagement rate significantly.
Facebook Newsfeed Hack #2: The Unicorn Detector Pyramid Scheme

The Unicorn Detector Pyramid Scheme is the process you can use to separate your content unicorns from the donkeys.

What is a content unicorn? Well, content becomes a unicorn when it is clearly among the top 1 to 2 percent of all of your content. These are your most rare and beautiful pieces of content that attract the most shares, engagement, and views.

A content donkey, on the other hand, doesn’t stand out at all. At most, it’s average. Ninety-eight percent of your content will be donkeys that get average engagement — again, less than 1 percent is the average organic engagement on Facebook, which is insanely low, right?

To raise your organic engagement rates on Facebook, you need to post fewer, but better updates. You can test out your content organically on Twitter. Here’s how it works.

Post lots of stuff on Twitter — somewhere around 20 tweets per day. But imagine that every tweet has been infected with a virus, one that will ultimately kill them without the antidote within less than 24 hours.

The only cure for these infected tweets? They need to get a significant number of retweets, clicks, likes, and replies.

Examine your top tweets in Twitter Analytics. Those tweets with the most engagement — your top 5 or 10 percent — have survived!

Your content that got the most engagement on Twitter is also highly likely to generate similar engagement on Facebook.

Facebook Newsfeed Hack #3: Post Engagement Ads

You can use Facebook’s Post Engagement Ads to give your posts a bit of a push. Yes, that means you’re spending a little money to “earn” some free reach in the news feed.

For example, let’s say I posted the above update only on my wall. The engagement is going to be pretty low. Maybe a few hundred people will see it.

So what happens if I spend just $20 to promote it? In this case, I paid for more than 4,400 impressions (clicks, follows, likes, etc.), but also got more than 1,000 organic engagements for free as a result.

How? Whenever someone shares your promoted post, it results in more people seeing it organically in their newsfeeds and engaging with it.

Facebook Newsfeed Hack #4: Add Engaged Followers

Did you know there’s a way you can selectively invite people who have recently engaged with one of your Facebook posts to like your page? This is a valuable but little-known feature available to some (but not all) pages.

You want people who engage with you to become part of your Facebook fan base. You know these people like you and are more likely to engage with your content because they’ve done so in the past.

Here’s how you do it: Click on the names of the people who reacted to your post (liked, loved, etc.). You’ll see three types of buttons (Invite, Liked, Invited). Clicking on that “Invite” button will send an invitation to people who engaged with one of your Facebook posts to like your business page.

Does it work? Yep. Between 15 to 20 percent of the people I invite to like my page are doing so.

Oh, and did I mention it’s totally free? You can read more about the Facebook invite button here.

If you want to further increase your Facebook following, you could run a remarketing and list-based Facebook Fan / Page Promotion campaign, but I wouldn’t recommend it. I don’t think it’s a good investment unless you have a low number of followers. You might be better off doing nothing.

Our goal is to increase engagement rates to increase earned organic engagement. Attracting the wrong types of fans could hurt, rather than help, your engagement rates.

Facebook Newsfeed Hack #5: Use Video Content

The decline of organic reach almost mirrors the rise of video on Facebook.

Users watch more than 8 billion videos every day on the social network. And these videos are generating lots of engagement.

Just look at this recent research from BuzzSumo, which examined the average total number of shares of Facebook videos:

Facebook is doing its best to try to overtake YouTube as the top platform for video. If you haven’t yet, now is the time to jump on the bandwagon.

Instead of sharing vanilla posts that get little to no engagement, add some video into your marketing mix! That should help improve your organic engagement because engagement begets engagement.

Closing Thoughts on the Facebook Newsfeed Algorithm

Facebook organic reach has declined a lot compared to a few years ago. That’s why you should start treating your organic Facebook posts more like a paid channel, where you have to pickier and optimize to maximize engagement, in the hopes of getting more earned organic engagement.

The New Rules for Covering Trump


By Jack Shafer

Donald Trump leveled Twitter yesterday with a 100-megaton stink bomb, asserting without a scrap of evidence that if millions of illegal ballots were deducted from the totals, he would have won the popular vote.

As if sprung from a short leash, the networks, the wires and the dailies leaped to refute his madcap claim, thrusting the story to heated above-the-fold coverage. “Baseless,” shouted the New York Times. “Conspiracy theory,” objected the Washington Post. “Without … corroboration,” complained the Wall Street Journal. And as the press protested his transparently bogus claims of voter fraud, Trump sniggered from his villainous golden lair in Trump Tower and commenced the countdown to his next news-dominating tweet.

As I theorized a week ago, Trump tends to toss off these provocations to divert attention and discussion from a newly published damaging story the way a squid fills the sea with ink to escape his predators. In yesterday’s example, the story was the exhaustive New York Times piece about his many business projects around the world that pose potential conflicts of interest for his presidency. But you needn’t subscribe to the idea that his affronts are purpose-driven—New York Times political reporter Maggie Haberman, for one, doesn’t—to advocate the jettisoning of the usual rules for covering a president during the Trump years. There has never been a president like Trump before, and the usual press reflexes won’t produce copy that allows readers to see through his lies and deceptions. The Trump challenge demands that the house of journalism gives itself a makeover. Here’s how.

1. Curb Your Twitter Enthusiasm

While it may be satisfying to rebut Trump’s crazy tweets with contesting tweets, journalists who do so might want to consider that they’re talking to themselves. As one who talks to himself incessantly, I understand the appeal of self-dialogue. But as my friend Jim Brady of Billy Penn tells me, the journalistic pack agrees on Trump’s preposterousness, and their unanimity has no effect on Trump supporters who dig Trump’s tweets whether they’re true or not. So, tweet all the refutations you want, my fellow journos, but you’re just spilling your seed on the ground unless you go to the heart of his trolling method.

2. Starve the Troll

Yes, Trump trolls us, especially the press. We shouldn’t take his bait, but that’s not the same as ignoring him. The context in which the press dresses his tweets is paramount: If Trump makes an unsupported claim as he did on Twitter yesterday, it is news; but the news is not the claim but the fact that he’s advancing a wildly unfounded claim. That point belongs in the headline, the first sentence of the first paragraph, and elsewhere in the piece. Always pair the latest Trump deception with the news story he’s deflecting attention away from. Feel free to qualify Trump’s thrust by writing something like “in an apparent attempt to bury negative news about his recent proposal” when he tweets his cockamamie best.

3. Don’t Fact-Check Everything He Says (Starve the Troll, Part II)

Not every Trump eruption deserves a full-dress fact-checking. As much as I admire the fact-checkers and read them obsessively, some of Trump’s crazier volleys can be sent right back into his side of the court without 27 paragraphs of rebuttal. For example, Trump’s classic campaign postulation, “Obama founded ISIS,” could have been returned to him with the questions where, how and when. Unless he has the goods, his declarations need not be taken seriously. Yesterday’s claim about fraudulent election results is another good example. Does Trump have any proof of voter fraud? If so he needs to present it, the coverage should say. It’s common enough that Trump claims contain their undoing, as Joe Hagan pointed out yesterday about his voter fraud tweet. “He generates a reason for a recount,” Hagan wrote, “while arguing against a recount.” Don’t blow Trump off in cases like this; blow him down.

4. Crack the Code Behind His Psyops

Where feasible, news organizations might want to establish a media-manipulation sub-beat to defang Trump’s misinformation. Every politician manipulates the press, engaging in psyops against them, but none as aggressively as our president-elect. Whether Trump schemes out his tweets in advance for effect or streams them from his subconscious, there is a purpose behind them, just as there is a purpose behind a speech or a campaign commercial or the needling of his surrogates and aides. Just as foreign correspondents study foreign languages, our media-manipulation reporter would be schooled in the techniques of propaganda and other monkey-shines. How Trump says things will become as important as what he says. Media manipulation pieces won’t necessarily stop the Trump offenses. At some point, the press will resign itself to the realization that Trump’s hardcore supporters will back him even if he makes good on that threat to “stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody.” But by decoding his misdirections we can make it harder for his administration to impose its bull on the majority that didn’t vote for him. In other words, many times the story isn’t what Trump says but the meta concept behind why and how he’s saying it.

5. Report Aggressively, But Not Necessarily From the White House

If the recent past is any preview, the Trump White House won’t likely cooperate with the reporters. It has been four months since his last press conference, after all. John Dickerson of Slate and CBS News, whose thinking informs mine on this topic of Trump coverage, suggests that the key to covering a Trump administration will lie in the cabinet departments, the states, the Pentagon and the courts—venues with entrenched bureaucracies. We can expect gushers of leaks, especially from the agencies, as Trump flexes his authority and they defy him. Obviously, Trump’s lies must be policed, but news consumers will profit more if the press digs harder into what the fake news-generating president is actually trying to do rather than what he’s saying. Let a billion FOIAs bloom!

6. Stop Blaming Yourself for Trump

While introspection has its place, reporters can stop blaming themselves, fake news, echo chambers, diminished newsrooms and the decline of trust in journalism for the election of Trump. Collectively assessed, the press did yeoman’s work in covering the campaign and needn’t torture themselves about the outcome. Remember, Trump won the election thanks to razor-thin margins in the swing states, as the Washington Post reported, and not due to some terrain-shifting cataclysm. Like George W. Bush in 2000, he lost the popular vote. He’s a minority president. To propose a simple counterfactual, if Hillary Clinton had caught a few breaks—he might have been a good idea to campaign in Wisconsin—she’d be the president-elect, not Trump. Nobody would be committing to print hair-shirted columns “explaining” why she won. “We would have just kept on, patting ourselves on the back the whole way for our excellent and important work,” Jim Brady says.

7. Remember: There Is No Magic Bullet for Covering Trump

This isn’t a new rule, but an old, enduring one. Trump’s design from the beginning has been to delegitimize the press. There is no magic amulet that can protect journalists from his insults and his misinformation. Reporters have never been popular, and reporters will have to face our fate that we’re going to be less popular over the next four years. No whining, you guys! In covering his presidency, the best reporters and editors will navigate around his vexations to get the news and publish. Think three steps ahead of Trump! Improvise! We need to play our best game, not his.


The youth vote and the "cool politician"

 Rubén Weinsteiner

Before the mid-20th century, young people weren’t exactly a prize demographic, largely because the voting age was 21. In the 1960s, however, young people became involved in politics despite their voting ineligibility. The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee was formed in 1960, formally integrating black youth activists into the Civil Rights movement. In 1961, both black and white college students traveled by the busload from around the nation to register black voters in the South. In 1964, student activists at UC Berkeley, many of whom were involved in Civil Rights activism, began fighting for free political expression on campus. This so-called Free Speech Movement shaded into the campus Anti-War Movement (led by the group Students for a Democratic Society) as military activity in Vietnam escalated.

“Freedom Riders” arriving in McComb, Mississippi, in December 1961. (AP Photo/Fred Kaufman)

By 1968, America’s young people had emerged as a vocal and powerful cultural and political force. The voting age was still 21, making most active students ineligible, but potential voters in their 20s were suddenly a demographic to be reckoned with, not ignored. The 1968 presidential election therefore saw the first overt attempts to capture the youth vote. In an attempt to appeal to youth of the dawning hippie era, Richard Nixon’s campaign made posters that were described by The New York Times as “quasi-psychedelic”. The groovy art was designed by a company called Jimini Productions. (For context, the musical Hair — with its breakout song “Aquarius” — had just hit Broadway that year.)

Nixon’s campaign went “quasi-psychedelic” in 1968. (Getty)

The voting age was lowered to 18 in 1971, creating overnight a new demographic numbering 11.5 million. The political establishment quaked in its boots. Youth suffrage threatened to “debase the voting pool,” wrote one concerned oldster; it would lead to “a more ideological politics” warned another, as though politics could ever be non-ideological. The town of Amherst, Massachusetts — home to the University of Massachusetts, Hampshire College and Amherst College — erupted in protest. “I don’t mind change, but they want to make a radical change,” said one older resident, in an article from 1971 titled “Amherst City Fears Youth Vote, Sees a Possibility of Students Taking Political Rule.”

But despite the misgivings of the older generation, the youth vote couldn’t be defeated. From now on, it could only be won or lost. Over the next few decades, horror at the youth vote turned into hunger for it; the 18–24 age bracket, it was discovered, might make or break an election, and strategists started paying attention.

In 1985, Maureen Dowd wrote a column asking, “Why are all the politicians watching rock video?” Professional political analysts on both sides of the aisle, she continued, “have begun watching MTV, the 24-hour all-music cable television station that is so popular with American youths.”

“Mr. Atwater says video music has established a new youth culture,” Dowd wrote, referring to Republican political strategist Lee Atwater, who had recently managed the campaign of the infamous racist Senator Strom Thurmond. “When Mr. Atwater watches video music, he often makes voluminous notes.”

In 1990, Virgin Records executive Jeff Ayeroff started an organization called Rock the Vote. The goal: get young people registered. The method: have Madonna say, “If you don’t vote, you’re gonna get a spanking,” on MTV. In addition to splashy celebrity-studded PSAs, the group also integrated technology into youth voter outreach. Rock the Vote set up the nation’s first register-by-telephone system, and later its first online voter registration system.

Democrats, in particular, became more brazen in their attempts to win young hearts and minds. Bill Clinton went on MTV’s Rock the Vote forum in 1992 and answered the question, “Boxers or briefs?” (It was briefs.) “At least he can relate to us,” said a student at the University of Georgia after hearing Al Gore give a speech where he name-dropped R.E.M. album titles like a cool uncle.

The Clinton-Gore ticket brought young voters back to the Democratic party after two decades of disillusionment and, believe it or not, right-wing ballot-casting. By the time Bob Dole visited a fraternity in 1996 to tell stories about pranks played as a frat boy — beginning feebly, “I remember being young once” — the damage to the GOP was done. Nixon’s psychedelic posters aside, the party had missed the boat on effective youth outreach, at least for the foreseeable future.

In 2008 Barack Obama set a new bar for youth appeal in a presidential election. (

But nothing before or since has rivaled the 2008 election that landed Barack Obama in the White House — and the mic-dropping, millennial-pleasing moments that have peppered his presidency. He was the perfect candidate, young, charismatic and personified change. If there was any remaining doubt that youth apathy can be overcome to dramatic effect, Obama killed it.

In some ways, Obama has ruined Hillary Clinton for millennials: he’s set an impossibly high standard of coolness for a 68-year-old who’s been in the public eye for three decades. Where Clinton’s “hot sauce in my bag” gambit might have worked in the pre-Obama era, it strikes today’s young people as phony — especially compared to Obama’s seemingly effortless pop-cultural fluency (and actual relationship with Beyoncé, for that matter).

Young people are savvy to the ways of marketing, they can embrace a brand, but only as long as they can trust it.

Rubén Weinsteiner