Thought Feeder. A higher ed marketing podcast

Episode 30: No, your institution doesn’t need to be on Parler

Thought Feeder - A Higher Ed Digital Marketing Podcast
Thought Feeder
Episode 30: No, your institution doesn’t need to be on Parler

The ins-and-outs of weighing whether to join a new social media platform. Does your university really want to be associated with hyper-politicized platforms like Parler?

Joel Goodman: Welcome to Thought Feeder. My name is Joel. With me as always is the long-suffering Jon-Stephen Stansel. Today, he really wants to talk about the fringe social networks that have been popping up in light of the political-right exodus from Twitter and Facebook, in particular. JS wants to talk about Parler.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: I’m not sure I want to talk about it, but I feel like we need to talk about it. and I don’t want to give it any more headspace than it deserves, which is really not that much. But at some point, if you work in social media, You’re going to get asked by somebody higher up or somebody along the chain is going to ask you about one of these apps and you need to have a little bit of background and understanding on it.

But also I want to save you the trouble of actually having to download and create an account on the thing because we don’t need to be giving Parler any more numbers than they already have, which is plenty. They’re number one on the app store right now. they’re just growing, pretty rapidly, but I don’t think it’s going to stick around for a long time.

So just quickly background on what Parler is. Parler has been around for a little while now, but it was created yeah, two years.

Joel Goodman: about two years?

Jon-Stephen Stansel: And, it’s supposedly the social media that supports free speech, which we can talk about free speech and all that. Like they’re the anti-censorship social platform, but honestly, okay.

One first amendment doesn’t protect you, on Twitter or Facebook. Like Facebook and Twitter own their platforms. If they want to delete your posts, they can delete your posts. That’s not a violation of your first amendment rights. The first amendment protects you from government censorship, not censorship from tech platforms.

So there’s, that’s a misunderstanding of the first amendment, but their whole principles, you can say whatever you want on, on Parler. there’s really no restrictions.

Joel Goodman: Except there are some restrictions.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: There are a few because there are laws, right? So, yeah, there is trademark protection. I know, intellectual property protection, on Parler.

There’s you can’t incite violence on Parler, which is kind of, I don’t know what they qualify as inciting violence. Cause I’ve seen some stuff on there. There’s no supposedly no nudity or pornography, but that’s on Parler.  and they do have a whole section where you can report a child crime on Parler because they’re all in the coupon thing.

And apparently there’s all sorts of trafficking happening all the time. [Joel laughs]

Yeah. Yep. Ikea. And was, was it Ikea or Wayfair? Wayfair is smuggling kids. 

Joel Goodman: Yeah. And, and yeah, Pizzagate

Jon-Stephen Stansel: Yeah, Pizzagate, right? Yeah. It is a breeding ground of conspiracy theories and hate speech and, and all kinds of bad stuff. So why are we talking about it today? because I think it’s important to be aware of. What’s happening there and understand what we need to monitor there. Cause I feel, I’ve sat on, on Twitter a couple of times that Parler kind of feels to me like fortune for boomers and

Joel Goodman: There are a lot of really funny names for

Jon-Stephen Stansel: yeah,

Joel Goodman: that, that we probably shouldn’t mention on the show, but you can find them on other social networks. So JS, let’s like widen the view on this, and look at, why do you think an administrator, is going to come up to a higher ed social media manager or person and ask them about Parler?

Jon-Stephen Stansel: Because they’re gonna see it on Facebook. and you may have seen this in your own feed, a relative of yours or distant connection has put on Facebook in a very melodramatic way. I’m leaving Facebook forever, enjoining joining the free speech movement of Parler or something to that effect. They’re almost all kind of copy and pasted.

You know, find me on Parler I’m at whatever handle. and I think after, the election, there were a lot of these posts and I think people are gonna, who don’t know what Parler is, are just like any other social network are gonna say, Oh, I’ve seen, so-and-so talk about this social network. Is this something we need to be beyond?

It’s almost like, my 15-year-old nephew is on TikTok. Should we be on it? My 60-year-old uncle was talking about Parler. Do we need to be on it?

Joel Goodman:  I think this is a distinction to make, and this is something that applies to any new platform that comes out. W like, how can the average person that’s managing a social account for. Their college, a university put a rational argument in place that you don’t have to be, and you shouldn’t be on every single platform that’s out there because I think this is common.

I think partly is a particularly destructive, sort of enclave, of just honestly anti-intellectual thinking. And so why would you even be there in the first place, but. This is something that I think higher ed struggles with in general, it’s that we always want to be on the new shiny thing, and we want to do it without a strategy.

And we don’t actually think about is our audience there, you know?

Jon-Stephen Stansel: Right. Well, you know, if your audience is a bunch of conspiracy theories, like if you’re trying to sell Trumpy bears, maybe you need to be on Parler. But for higher ed there’s, there’s no reason for us to be on Parler. The, only possible reason would be to monitor it.

But honestly, even there, I don’t monitor. For one, I don’t monitor a lot of these fringe networks, but I do want to be aware of them for crisis comm because sometimes things that start there, you can find their way into other networks and then find their way on ways onto our campus or. In a crisis situation, you might need to dip your toes into Parler and look at some of those conversations that are happening.

But I don’t think it’s something that a higher ed social media manager or any social media manager needs to be checking in on every single day. there are a few things that, you know, I think we do need to worry about. I’ve already found several, athletic departments who. Have presences on Parler and I’m almost a hundred percent sure they are unofficial because the ones that I found were all created on the same day and look alike.

So obviously there are some brand impersonation accounts happening on Parler, and I think it’s important to go in, check-in and see if there are any that are in your university’s name and file trademark disputes with them because Parler does allow you to dispute that. so that’s important. but kind of monitor it for a conversation like you would Twitter or Instagram or any other social media.

It’s just not feasible, and also because one, not only is Parler a bad app, it’s a bad app. Like it’s just not designed well. And I’d be curious to get your take on this a little bit, because I’m trying to determine if the limited search functionality of Parler is just bad design or it’s, it’s not a bug, it’s a feature.

Because right now on Parler, you can only search for usernames and hashtags. You can’t like, when you do the search, you can’t, your space bar doesn’t work. So you can’t type, you know, university space of whatever you can just type what would be a hashtag. So if I’m talking about, let’s say University of Texas, unless somebody has hashtag University of Texas, just one long word. I can’t search for it. which means a few things.

Search is really, really difficult. There’s a huge amount of hashtag spam on Parler where, you know, if you type out, you know, I tried, you can’t do a location search. So I was searching my home state Arkansas, so just hashtag Arkansas, well, all the posts come up. Also, search is all chronological. There’s not, it’s not like Twitter, where you get like top tweets versus chronological. You can only get chronological. So you get all of, these parlays as they’re called, they’re not posts. They’re not tweets.

They’re parlays, that are, spam messages: visit my QAnon site hashtag Arkansas, hashtag Alaska, hashtag Alabama, hashtag in all 50 States. Yeah. so part of me wonders though, is that by design of Parler to kind of keep people out of conversations that they don’t want them to be a part of?

Joel Goodman:  I have a couple of thoughts as to what it could be. I think like that, that definitely what you said definitely could be the case.  they are really just limiting it on purpose so that, people can’t search. I don’t, I wouldn’t really understand. Cause I think they would want certain things amplified because it really is designed just to be an echo chamber for a specific group of people.

I mean , that’s what it was designed for

Jon-Stephen Stansel: Yeah, literally, literally, you don’t share or retweet. Of course they don’t call it a retweet, but there, there, there that you “echo” it, like you click the echo button to say, Oh, I echoed that. It’s being an echo chamber is a part of the Parler brand. It’s built into it.

Joel Goodman: Right. I shared this Twitter thread with you JS and I might embed it in the show notes and the transcripts for anyone who wants to see it, but there was a long thread by. someone who did research into the funding of Parler.

And it looks like it’s a Russian PSYOPs campaign, it really does because, they have no tech funding. They have no traditional venture capital and, you know, investment or anything like that. It’s all money that is… we don’t know, we don’t know where the money is coming from. And the people that created it, the two, the two guys that, that created, this platform have like two or three failed other platforms before it. There’s a lot of shady stuff around how this platform has kind of bumped up to the place that it has been.

So part of me wonders if it’s not a real company. Like they don’t have real staff. They don’t have enough people to actually implement these features because all of their funding is coming from the Kremlin… honestly, but I mean, that’s honestly what it looks like all the money is coming from foreign investors that are, they’re not here to help the US they’re…

Jon-Stephen Stansel: Well, I mean, even the design of the app, like the red text on a black background, it just looks like a 1980s, spy thriller movie. It’s just like, it looks like Tom Clancy, the app it’s just so it’s hideous. 

Joel Goodman: I just don’t think the team is smart enough. I don’t think they have the right people in place to build algorithms to do the trending stuff too, even like make a search that would be usable. And so doing the chronological thing is the easiest thing for them to do. And then not even having to parse actual search terms, if you can only type in a hashtag or a username, those are linked directly linked to records.

When you type in a search query, that’s a couple of words. There has to be an algorithm that reads that and figures out what you’re trying to search for and weights things, you know, and all that. And the, in the way, that Google and other search engines do. And, they’re a young company. They don’t have real investment, from traditional sources. And so, I don’t know that search is an important part for them. I would think that they would want a good search so that the echo chamber can reverberate even louder and stronger in different places.

But, maybe not like, maybe it’s really, I don’t think they’re trying to keep people out.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: Well, it’s like, it’s a, it’s a safe space for hate.

Joel Goodman: The mob will keep people out — the people that they don’t want. They’re not going to be there because, because there’s a mob mentality already, with the user base that’s there.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: but my also, my reasoning thinking that they might not want that search to work is because one, we, we ran here in Arkansas, ran into a problem an Arkansas sheriff said some very, hateful things on Parler.  basically that Democrats should be killed and, somebody saw that reported it, it became a news story. He lost a job over it. he was given the opportunity to quote-unquote retire. I think they should just fire them, not let them do that, but you know, what,

Joel Goodman: So some States can’t do that. I know like we can’t do that. Like we can’t do that in Texas.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: you know,  he retired in disgrace, right? This, this, he should be disgraced. but I wonder though, like that sort of thing, it monitoring.

That sort of thing is just so you’re never going to find it unless you are a part of those conversations. You’re not going to just,  inter a hashtag and sort of stumble upon it unless you are weeding through all of these spam posts, just conspiracy theories that are just spammed with hashtags.

There’s tons of cam girls on there. It’s just. It’s terrible. So I really wouldn’t recommend any social media manager to make it, like I said, a part of their daily or even weekly tasks, to try and monitor it unless there is a stone-cold crisis that, you know, there is a conversation revolving around a certain hashtag.

Joel Goodman: I think on top of that, every institution needs to evaluate whether that is a mode of thought, a group of people, a societal culture that they want to be associated with. Because I think there’s a, I think you risk, you risk a lot of people being like, Oh, you’re active on Parler. You’re the university is like, that’s

Jon-Stephen Stansel: Yeah. Oh, I, I don’t think the university shouldn’t, you shouldn’t even have a placeholder name on Parler, right? I’ve seen a few universities just searching like once again, search sucks. Right? So, I have stumbled upon a few universities that have. I assume have placeholders. Cause it’s the university name.

There’s no content. It’s a blank avatar. I’m like, okay, that there’s some social media manager who’s grabbed that. I wouldn’t even go so far to use that. If you feel the need that you need to check-in and monitor, just create a dummy account with a dummy email, fake name, and use that to keep tabs on any conversations that are happening there.

But. You don’t need to have a university handle, anywhere near it. It’s just, it’s just a toxic platform.

Joel Goodman: Worst case scenario: It’s not gone quickly. I know you think it’s going to be gone quickly, but, but worst-case scenario, like let’s say their funding is coming from a foreign government, that’s here to harm the US or they somehow get massive tech funding from someone like, you know, some notable right-wing, tech bro who launches cars into space, for instance.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: whoever could you be talking about?

Joel Goodman: Not naming names. I just do a little Google…  Let’s like look forward. What do you, where do you think this goes?

Jon-Stephen Stansel: Okay, let me first address why I think it will be gone quickly. Okay. There’s a few reasons. I think one it’s awful and no, no brands are going to there’s no monetization right now under it. , they do have promoted posts. I’ve noticed a few pop-up and it’s generally right-wing politicians, amplifying their own messages.

which one? I have a whole issue with that, that won’t get into right now. but there’s really no monetization possibility there to its limited span of audience. I’m not going to get on it. You’re probably, yeah. I don’t think, Joel, you’re not, you’re not creating an account.

Joel Goodman: No. Right now I know I’m not.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: I mean, I’m on, I have a fake name on it that I, used to learn about it, but you’re not going to have @jsstansel on Parler ever.

So it’s, that’s going to in building there and if it wants to be, an actual social network, you have to have, there’s a reason why Google is going to fail the same reason Google plus failed. Right? You don’t have everybody there. Yes. These people are saying, Oh, I’m moving over to Parler because it’s the free speech app.

Like your Uncle Roger or whatever.  But Uncle Roger’s still going to want to see pictures of his nieces and nephews. And if those aren’t on Parler, he’s still going to be going back to Facebook to check that out, right. To connect with the rest of his family. So eventually he’s going to get bored with his Parler buddies, two right-wing trolls, or any troll.

You know, any trouble whatsoever needs something to feed on. So in this echo chamber, they’re not going to have anybody to argue with, unless they start cannibalizing each other for, oh, QAnon A versus QAnon B or something like that, they start arguing over, which pizza parlor is the worst one, you know?

So I think they’ll get bored and slowly shift back. Now, I don’t think it will die completely. Anytime soon. I think the long-term is that it becomes this fringe, social network sort of a, a 4Chan or 8Chan where people become radicalized or radicals gather. And that’s kind of frightening to me.

 I think the same way, a show like info war Wars continues it just has that niche audience and then it’ll cater to that for as long as it can.  but again, if it’s not able to monetize it’s gonna fade out.

 Joel Goodman: So one of the things that I’ve thought about with kind of these, these more fringe, not just, social platforms. it’s, supposedly news, which is not news. You can’t actually call it news cause there’s no journalism done, but these kinds of fringe networks platforms that disseminate information and content that’s terrible.

there’s a, I think one of the, one of the main reasons that. These things do stay alive and stay open is that we give them air ongoingly.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: we’re giving it now. I mean,

Joel Goodman: this is good. It’ll be a short episode though, just basically saying you don’t need to be there. Don’t do it. And I think like right now, it’s a hot topic.

People are talking about it for sure. But the more that the New York Times is and the Washington Post, and the people, the blue checks on Twitter and everyone else continue to push and talk and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. About Parler, about Newsmax, about Breitbart, all those sorts of things.

You think about networks like Breitbart, everyone knows that Breitbart is terrible and isn’t valid and lies all the time. And isn’t objective and twists the truth and isn’t real journalism. And so we don’t talk about Breitbart as much as we did 10 years ago. Well, maybe 12 years ago, I guess, going more going into the Obama administration. Right. And I think a lot of that was just because we, like, we just don’t talk about it.

And so it still exists, but, it’s not given the power in the air to breathe that a lot of other places are. And I think that’s, I think the same thing happens with Fox News. The reason Fox News is still around is that we constantly talk about it. A lot of people aren’t watching Fox News anymore.

They’ve moved on to these fringe, these fringe things like Parler for their news or to reading Newsmax or these other things that have cropped up that are, that are distinctly right-wing, to be honest, white nationalist-funded and, and propagated information.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: I think there’s a big difference between giving it air to breathe and shining sunlight on it. And I think that’s what we need to do quickly with Parler. Like let’s put the spotlights, put some sunshine on it. Sunshine’s the best disinfectant. Right? And say, okay, look, this is what it is. Here’s what you need to know about it. Done. End of story. Let’s stop talking about it.

So that’s my feeling on it. Like, okay, here, here’s what, what we need to know about it.  it’s bad. Right? You don’t need to be on it when your Uncle Roger gets on Facebook and says that he’s leaving. He’s okay bye, Felicia. Right. And if somebody, at your university or organization asks you about it, you have a clear answer of what it is rather than just saying, no, we don’t need to be on it because oftentimes that’s not enough of an answer, even though it should be.

And again, kinda like you’re saying, it’s just like for any sort of network, you need to have a clear, laid out answer, like why we are here or why we are not here. And, and, in the event that you may need to dip your toes in it, into a crisis, just understand the basic functionality of it.

That’s another reason I don’t think it’s going to stick around for a while. Like, it’s just a really poorly designed social network.

Joel Goodman: So to sum it up.  Why should people not? Why should schools, institutions, colleges, universities not be on Parler? Like bullet points.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: I’ll just lay it out. Parler is a social platform, that like the feature of it is we enable white nationalism and we enable hate speech. And you just don’t want to be there. You don’t want to be on that playground.

Joel Goodman: there you go. so some other resources on Parler, I will post that thread that I referenced earlier in the show notes. I’d also recommend listening to, the episode of on the media, which is an NPR show that was released on November 13th, 20, 20. It’s very interesting. They talk to Casey Newton and there’s all kinds of great stuff in that episode. It’s also linked to that in the show notes and we’ll probably tweet about it.

I think it’s one of those things where we never know the politics of the people that are in administration roles, or, I mean, sometimes we do, but sometimes we know the politics of people in administration roles and leadership roles at our institutions.

But I think, the main thing in anything, any kind of work that we’re doing digitally is to keep the good of the institution itself at the forefront of the decisions that are being made and so whether being on a new platform, whether it’s Parler or whatever the next tech talk is, or, you know, these other nascent social media platforms that may be harmless.

Does it do anything to help your institution? Does it do anything to help you reach the prospective students and the audiences that you have? Or is it something that actually could be detrimental to what your mission is as an institution?

Jon-Stephen Stansel:  Parler. Can’t help you. It can only hurt you.

Joel Goodman: There you go. Cool. You want to, you want to wrap it up? Plug your plugs? I’m just kidding.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: I got a Fiver.

Joel Goodman: Oh, yeah. yeah. Hey, J.S. thanks for being here on the show, as you always are. You want to like give us your plugs and plug your plugs?

Jon-Stephen Stansel: I did, right. Just there’s a brief synopsis of all of this on my website, That’ll come right up. I had a few people request, cause I have a Parler account, a few people said like, Hey, will you look up my school? Make sure we’re not on there. And I just in passing, as a joke, I said, I need to start a Fiverr. Like I’ll look up your university on Parler. And I did it, if you, so, if you want to find out if your, your university is on Parler, I have a fiber account for that, and I will donate whatever comes into, maybe Planned Parenthood.  I still haven’t decided, what would be a good spot to donate?

Joel Goodman: Do it. You should do a poll

Jon-Stephen Stansel: yeah. 

Joel Goodman: Southern Poverty Law Center

Jon-Stephen Stansel: Yeah, Southern Poverty Law Center would be a good one. So I came up with that on when yesterday I haven’t put thought into where I’d like to donate yet, but, but

Joel Goodman: Someplace that can fight white nationalism on this

Jon-Stephen Stansel: I think Southern Poverty Law Center is probably a big, good one. So, I’ll think on that and get back to you, but, yeah, that, that’s more of a, an eye-roll joke than anything, but,

Joel Goodman: But Hey, we should pay the, we should, we should pay the Southern Poverty Law Center for your time. And grief in having to interact with Parler.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: yeah.

Joel Goodman: anyway, thank you so much for listening to Thought Feeder. This is a shortened episode. We’ve got a lot of great episodes in the pipeline and they will be coming out shortly.

If you want to listen to any of our past episodes, you can go to We’ve got transcripts for all of them as well. You can subscribe to us on whatever platform you get your podcasts from. And follow us on Twitter @ThoughtFeedPod. We’d love to chat with you, let us know what you think.

Let us know if you have interacted with Parler and have, hopefully runaway. And we’re here to, we’re here to take on the war stories and the grief. So anyway, JS. Good to see you, and hear you.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: Alright. Take it easy.