February 27, 2013

Name an animal that doesn't have the letter 'A' in it. I bet you can't.

Well, actually, no, I don't. It really isn't that hard, if you think about it for eight seconds. No, really. Go ahead. Try it. What's the first animal that comes to mind?

No, 'cat' has an 'A' in it. How about 'dog'? Or 'cow'? Or 'horse'? Or 'rhinoceros'? 'Tiger'? 'Lion'? What about 'Demon Stingerfish'? Or 'Proboscis Monkey', also commonly known as the 'Long Nosed Monkey' - neither of those names have an 'A' in them.

OK, so I'm belabouring the point. Why? Well, if it's so childishly easy to think of an animal without an 'A' in its name, why are there so many Facebook posts claiming you can't do it?

You've all seen it, or one of its myriad variations. You think about it for eight seconds, or maybe even shorter, and realize you CAN think of one. "Me smart," you think to yourself. "Me show them how smart me is." You click on the picture, and type, D-O-G in the comment box, and hit 'enter.' Only then do you scan through the other comments and notice that eight hundred and seventy six other people have already typed 'dog' or 'cow' or 'red-tufted lemur'. And you suddenly realize that you didn't think of it because you're a zoological genius, but because it isn't even remotely difficult to do so.

So now you're thinking that the person who originally posted the 'challenge' is an idiot. But they aren't. In fact, they're the smart ones.

Here's another common one I'm sure you've all seen: There's an interesting looking picture posted. It may even have one of those little arrows in the center of it, denoting that it's a video. There's some superlative comment, like, "Amazing!" And it tells you to 'like' the picture, then type a specific word or number in as a comment and something awesome will happen. You've done it, haven't you? Yes, you. Don't look away. Did anything awesome happen? Did anything happen at all? I didn't think so.

So, if thinking of an animal without an 'A' in its name is child's play, and if absolutely nothing at all happens when you follow the instructions and type the prescribed comment, why do all these posts keep appearing on Facebook?

People are buying your eyes.

Every business or corporation has a Facebook page these days. Those pages are, let's face it, advertising. They are most effective if they are seen by a large number of eyes. Facebook has algorithms that choose what posts and pages you see in your newsfeed, based, in part, on how popular those pages are. They decide how popular those pages are by counting up how many people have liked or commented on status updates on those pages. The more activity a page has, the more likely Facebook is to show that page's status updates to a wider audience. So, new pages starting out want to convince a lot of people to like and comment on a lot of their posts right away. Some more ethical businesses might run contests, or simply generate a lot of interesting and on-topic content for the page. Less scrupulous businesses might look for easier ways to get a lot of clicks quickly. And some, at the extreme lazy end of the spectrum, would be perfectly amenable to buying an existing page that already has an excellent 'visibility' in Facebook's algorithms, and renaming it for their own business.

Have you ever seen a post from 'Joe's Meats and Auto Repairs' - or whatever - and thought, "that's funny, I don't remember ever 'liking' that page before"? Well, Joe just bought that page with an existing fan base of tens of thousands of geniuses who figured out that 'cow' doesn't have an 'A' in it, and renamed it.

And you thought you were the smart one.


38 comments:

Barbara In Caneyhead said...

If you can't trust Facebook "Likes", who can you trust?!?! ;o)

Beth said...

Ugh, I'm seeing those all over the place, and no, I don't click through on them! I had no idea that this is what is behind them, but figured it had to be something a little shady.

Call me Paul said...

Or, "how many squares can you count, 24, or 25?" when it is clear the answer is way more than that...

natalie said...

cheers Paul! good one!
Natalie

Anonymous said...

Omg I comment on pages like that all the timeee holy sh*t thanks for that glad av looked this up :)

Anonymous said...

Also am going to publish this on facebook is that ok?

Drew Campbell said...

Excellent post, and spot-on, except for your last paragraph. Actually, Facebook prohibits pages from being renamed after 200 likes. This is why a lot of pages doing this are named generically, like "Fight Breast Cancer" or whatever. The buyer can change the description, etc, but (thankfully) at least they can't change the page name.

John said...

There are several animals not having letter a in their names, it's a fun searching it.............
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Anonymous said...

You say your an atheist Paul, go here and read this book for free urantia-association.org, it's 2097 pages.

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