Archive for the ‘ Internet/Social Media ’ Category

From #jmc327 to #jmcawesome: What I’ve learned

Looking back on the semester spent in my Social Media class, I have come to understand many things – not just about social media, but about communication in general. As much as I love talking and ramble on when I speak (and sometimes when I write), learning about microblogging and just how short people’s attention spans have come to be has made me realize just how important social media truly is.

Before this semester, I was not into the idea of Twitter. I already had a Facebook, so I wondered how many other ways I needed to know what my friends were talking about. I quickly learned it’s much more than that. Sure, it’s possible to use Twitter merely as a way to see what your friends are up to or what Kim Kardashian is thinking. But Twitter has also become an incredibly useful tool from which I often hear news first. Because so many people’s resources are pooled through Twitter, it is possible to get a well-rounded take on what is happening across the world by merely visiting one site. On top of that, Twitter can also be quite funny, especially through the use of hashtags. My personal favorite is #jmcawesome, but of course, I’m a little biased.

I also learned how to make a Facebook fan page effective. Prior to this class, I had not seen many successful fan pages; many of the ones I belonged to posted sporadically or not at all. With the knowledge I gained from hearing and seeing a useful fan page firsthand, I feel much more enlightened and equipped to run a successful page myself, if need be.

Aside from just learning about social media tools, I now have a much better grasp on how to use them wisely in order to reach the most people. For instance, monitoring Klout scores helps assess the usefulness of a Twitter account. And although my personal score is still fairly low, it has grown from where it was a month or two ago.

Even though I do not really enjoy LinkedIn or find it to be extremely useful personally, I see how it can be used effectively as a professional networking site. I do not particularly understand the way LinkedIn is set up, and at this point I rarely check my account. Regardless, I now have the necessary skills to maintain a LinkedIn profile and can see the potential behind doing so.

Although it sounds so simple, I think one of the most valuable things I learned through Social Media was how to use Twitter. I had no idea what to do when I first started, but now I see what an important tool it truly is. I foresee it gaining popularity and becoming even more influential than it is today.

I am not one to give advice to fellow journalists, but if I had to do so, I would say above all else, it is important to stay familiar with current tools useful to journalists. There is no point trying to fight upcoming technology, because most of it is here to stay (at least for a while). Stay on your toes and try to keep your head above the water.

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Back to basics

Over the Easter weekend, I had the chance to travel to Denver with four of my best friends from school. We had a wonderful time exploring the area, visiting the mountains and spending time with one of the girls’ family.

Since it was an unfortunately brief trip – we were only there four days – and I knew we would be busy with varying activities, I elected to not bring my laptop along. Although I have a smartphone capable of browsing the Internet, we did not have a lot of down time. And when we did have some free time, we enjoyed playing board games or talking to our friend’s family. Social media sites were the last thing on my mind, and I spent four days without checking my Facebook or Twitter.

Sure, I’ll admit I’ve come to love said social networking sites. But I’ll be perfectly honest and say that being free of almost everything Internet-related for a few days felt like a breath of fresh air. Even though I am not obligated to check and/or update my social media pages daily, not a day goes by (at least when I’m at school) when I do not do so. I have become so accustomed to maintaining those sites that it is now part of my everyday routine.

I’m not saying that’s necessarily a bad thing, though. Facebook and Twitter are two tools that help keep me posted on local and world news, friends’ lives and pop culture. I enjoy being in the loop, and Facebook and Twitter are two easy, efficient sites that keep me in the know.

But I think every now and then it is important for people – or at least for me – to take a step away from their laptops and enjoy genuine face-to-face interaction. I had so much fun with my friends this weekend. Sure, we were in a fun city experiencing different things than we could at home or in Omaha, but mostly I feel we just enjoyed each other’s company.

I love how the Internet has revolutionized the way we communicate. It has allowed me to keep in touch with people I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. But in the long run, I’m not going to remember my friend’s Facebook status that quoted my favorite song or the tweet informing me of who was the first to show up at the royal wedding. Instead, I’m going to remember the amazing time I spent with people who are important to me. So I will continue to intake the news, celebrity gossip and whatever insights my friends care to share with the world – I’ll just take it with a grain of salt.

All of us in my friend's backyard in Denver

Falling in love on Facebook

By this point, most people are fairly familiar with online dating, regardless of whether or not they use such sites. But what most people are not used to is using seeking love through Facebook. A recent article from Mashable tells the story of Matt Simpson, a man who decided to use Facebook as a way to find a relationship.

Simpson states in his blog that dating sites such as Match and eHarmony are too pricey, too competitive and too labor-intensive. In creating a Facebook ad, which only costs him $0.75 per click, Simpson has spent about $15 less in his campaign so far than he would have with a Match.com membership.

He also marketed his ad toward women with certain interests he shares — such as yoga and meditation — in his search for an “intellectual, independent and active woman.” That way, the women who see his ad are more likely to be interested in getting to know him.

Reading Mashable’s article and Simpson’s blog got me thinking about using social networking sites in different ways. Is it creepy to use Facebook ads to specifically seek dates? Maybe. Is it effective? Possibly. And talking about moral philosophers’ views on ethics in my Media Ethics course brought me to this question: If you can use Facebook to procure a romantic relationship, why should you choose not to do so?

I am not trying to advocate for or against using Facebook to find love. But I remember when online dating first gained popularity; everyone was appalled by the idea, and most frowned upon it. Today, even though some people still find it strange and unconventional, online dating has become a much more commonplace occurrence.

Although Simpson doesn’t appear to be having much luck in his quest for love so far, his luck very well might turn around. I don’t know how many people really pay attention to Facebook ads, but Simpson did receive feedback from six women the first week of his experiment. At the very least, you have to give him credit for creativity. So at this point, I’ll say, “‘A’ for effort, Mr. Simpson.”

The story on Storify

With all the social media outlets and ways to share information, it’s easy to get bogged down with too much information. Thankfully, there is a useful tool called Storify that allows you to combine information — including pictures, tweets, videos and text — from various social media sites. And these aggregates can be embedded anywhere for easy sharing with family, friends, colleagues, etc.

Storify, which boasts early users such as The Washington Post, Yahoo! News and the Los Angeles, is useful in many ways. It is often used to compile information about the weather, such as during or after an intense storm. Political events like debates and breaking government news are often compiled for Storify; additionally, Storify is used to monitor people’s reactions to these debates and other happenings. With the upcoming NBA draft, I’m sure many people will create aggregates on certain players and teams and how they were affected by the draft.

But Storify’s potential is not limited to just politics, weather and sports. One of the best parts about Storify, in my opinion, is that you can compile information about anything. In fact, with all the people in my Social Media class tweeting about social media using the hashtag #jmc327, we could even use Storify to combine all that information.

However, you are not limited to just using Twitter posts in Storify. To get the most well-rounded aggregate, you can compile information from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, Google and more. And although all this sounded quite intimidating to me at first, it’s incredibly easy to use Storify. Simply type in a keyword or phrase into the search bar and toggle between the various social media outlets, dragging the information from the left side of the page to the right. After that, merely enter text as you please and you have an aggregate.

In this day and age, people’s attention spans are shrinking rapidly. Not many people have the time, energy or patience to read an entire article that spans three pages on the Internet. Storify allows you to combine information quickly and easily, and readers can skim through the story you created as fast or slowly as they want.

Although I can think of many great uses for Storify, I imagine using it to record facts and opinions about natural disasters would be one of the most effective uses. For example, after the recent earthquake in Japan, I looked at many different news and social media sites, trying to get the most complete story possible. But had I found a story from Storify instead, I could have read the same information much more easily and quickly.

I can see myself creating stories on and reading stories from Storify in the future. It’s a fast, effective way to share and receive information, and in these changing times, that seems to be just what people need.

 

 

To infinity and beyond: 1 billion stumbles per month

StumbleUpon now records 1 billion stumbles per month — 200 million more stumbles than last month. I read an article about the stunning growth of stumbles on Mashable, which led me to think about the many reasons I love StumbleUpon.

First, I like that StumbleUpon is so customizable, allowing users to view things they are interested in. After selecting initial categories of interest, users receive an even more unique experience by marking sites with a “thumbs up” or a “thumbs down.” This makes not only the sites more personalized, but also the advertisements.

I find myself stumbling often because of the huge variety of sites to which StumbleUpon directs me. Sure, I could theoretically find every site from StubmleUpon on my own, but the convenience factor is a big plus in my book. In this modern age of technology, users want the best experience in the fastest way they possibly can — and StumbleUpon creates just that. The variety of information, videos, pictures, stores, etc. I’ve found while stumbling is impressive, and keeps me entertained for hours.

Although my productivity rate drops at an alarming rate every time I go to StumbleUpon, I enjoy spending my time looking at new things, which have made me laugh and cry. And if I don’t like somewhere StumbleUpon takes me, I simply give it a “thumbs down” and move on with my life…and my stumbling.

Finally and most importantly, I agree with Charlie White, author of the aforementioned article, that StumbleUpon is fun. I love clicking “Stumble!” button, anxiously awaiting what will be presented to me next. I have read touching stories, watched hilarious videos and tried fun, new recipes all thanks to StumbleUpon. I love the excitement of not knowing where it’s going to take me, and even though that doesn’t sound like a lot, it’s the little things in life that make everything worthwhile.

Adapting to a quickly changing field

My own pound puppy and furry friend, Lucy.

Almost three years into my college education, I finally took a full-fledged field trip. Combining our love for social media, learning and puppies (yes, you read correctly), my social media class took a field trip to the Nebraska Humane Society.

Although merely going to play with cute animals would have been a success in my book, we visited the humane society to meet with Elizabeth Hilpipre, the communication specialist for the Nebraska Humane Society. A recent Creighton alumna, Hilpipre spoke to us about her experiences at the humane society with social media.

A couple years ago, Hilpipre began trying to strengthen the humane society’s social media presence. She started posting pictures on Facebook, videos on YouTube and tweeting adoption information on Twitter. Slowly but surly, the pages gained more views and followers. But all this didn’t just happen with a stroke of luck.

Hilpipre stressed the importance of being responsive to questions and comments posted on social media sites. No matter how busy her schedule, Hilpipre said she tries to respond to every message she receives. This builds a loyal fan base, and also makes people more likely to donate–necessary for every non-profit.

Another point she stressed was the use of analytics and statistics when measuring social media success. Hipipre said she takes advantages of informational pages on YouTube and other social media tools like HootSuite to get see concrete numbers of things like impressions certain posts have. From there, she said she can post and plan events catered toward a certain age group or demographic, in order to achieve maximum feedback or attendance.

Among all the advice Hilpipre shared, what struck me the most was her willingness to adapt to change and tackle every obstacle in her path. Although she graduated with a degree in journalism, she recognizes how much the field is changing. With social media gaining momentum and the shift moving away from print media, the ability to be a chameleon is becoming increasingly important. Not only does she handle the humane society’s social media and writes e-mails, but she also takes, edits and uploads pictures and videos. Essentially, she does whatever her job requires her to do–and at this point, her job description is rapidly changing.

Although I loved getting the chance to meet Baxter, the adorable Pomeranian mix, this field trip gave me the opportunity to think about social media in a new way, and helped me realize that in my chosen profession I will need to be ready to take on any challenge. It’s a frightening concept, but also an exciting one, and I hope I will be able to step up to the plate and succeed.

 

Reviewing the State of the Media

For anyone who thought reading news on the Internet and social media were just fads, think again. After reading the State of the Media report, conducted by the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism, thoughts were confirmed that the online trend is gaining speed.

Times are changing rapidly, and I feel nervous but excited for the future of journalism. Newsroom sizes are shrinking, but there is just as much news as before, if not more. Advertisements are becoming more important with the rise of online reporting, and social media sites are starting to play a large role in journalism, too, as they bring traffic to news sites.

But as focus shifts from traditional to nontraditional forms of media, other changes are also occurring. A study shows that nearly half of Americans get at least some of their news from a mobile device. And with the number of tablet owners growing rapidly, it is clear the number of people who get news from mobile devices will increase.

After letting information from the report soak in for over a day, I am still trying to grasp some of what I read. Most of it does not surprise me, but as a future journalism professional, it made me stop to think about what the industry will be like in a few years. That thought is particularly daunting to me. But it also makes me realize the exciting possibilities for journalism in the future.

The report said, “It may be that in the digital realm the news industry is no longer in control of its own future.” This is a daunting thought to me, but as I think back to the history of journalism, I realize that many drastic changes have happened over the years. Some of the changes had a positive effect and others negative, but for better or worse they happened, and journalists figured out how to adapt. I can only hope that we as a society can find a way to improve upon current journalistic traditions.

Although I can’t predict what will happen, I hope that journalism will grow and adapt, and thrive with these changes–and I hope I will also grow in those ways.