MSVU Social Media Course Blog

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Looking Back

Words never come too easy to me, so when thinking back to this course and what all I have learned I find myself staring into space, trying to organizing all the insight I’ve gained into manageable sentences that make sense.

 I find that as frequent users of social media, a lot of us likely entered this class thinking we already knew the ins and outs of social media tools….that was so not the case – at least not for me.

 Firstly, hearing of all the tools out there on the first day—ones that I hadn’t even heard of— was astonishing. Its crazy to think that after all we’ve covered in this course was only the tip of the ice burg that is social media. Then after learning about the history of social media, I realized it’s been around longer then I had thought, even though its only caught on in the past four years or so.

 Another thing that I know I’ll take away from this class is the value of an open mind. Though the idea of Second Life seemed strange to me right from the get go, I did give it a try and at least now I can walk away knowing what its all about. As young professionals who are currently— or about to be— looking for work, employers are counting on us to have the scoop on these tools. Although this was a short class, it will give us an advantage over others to say we used things like second life, blogs and wikis for our program.

 Patience is a virtue and that applies to social media as well. Many of us were likely pulling out our hair at times while learning our way around newer tools such as the class wiki project. However with patience and practise we all learned how to collaboratively use this great tool directly. I also got to learn more about twitter – a tool I have always been passive towards. Now, I understand and respect the value of such a tool in the PR world for managing information and sending messages. In addition, communicating with professionals with such tools as Skype and Podcasts have given us insight into the alternate ways to connect with one another – something we should certainly keep in mind upon entering the workforce.

 Overall, this class was a huge eye opener and a fabulous learning experience. Hearing the opinions of everyone in the class provided an enriching element to the class, and DeNel you’re knowledge was great all the way through! Let’s hope that this class eventually becomes integrated as a required course, so that all graduating students can take this great insight with them.

June 22, 2009 Posted by | Comment on Course Material | Leave a comment

Social Media…is it dead?

Upon checking out Livingston’s Buzz Bin blog for the last time (for this course), it was interesting to find him talking about BlogPotomac – a “unconference” held in DC focused around social media and marketing sponsored by Livingston Communications. The event was held on June 12th and generated a great deal of buzz (mostly positive) on Twitter and numerous blog sites. However, Livingston stated on his latest post on the Buzz bin that the final BlogPotomac will be held in October. One of the reasons why Livingston has chosen to end the conference, is because of his claim that social media is dead.

 At first this statement might seem shocking and make you think “no its not! Its just beginning!”. Livingston explains the statement by saying that from an innovators perspective, widespread adoption of social media. Because the technology cycle has been maturing towards social media, Livingston claims it is no longer a new and unique type of communicate. Livingston also reaffirms that this doesn’t mean social media will go away, there will just be more of a focus around the future of social.

 After thinking about this further, i have to agree with him. Social media has become so integrated into our lives that it feels like nothing surprises us anymore. We may stumble upon a new tool that makes us go “hmmm…this is neat” but overall, we have adapted to social media. I think back to a time hen people would ask “what’s a Blog?” or “what’s Facebook?” – and that was when social media was new. Nowadays, if social media isn’t part of your daily life, you have at least heard of such tools as Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook.

When thinking about this I can’t help but think about Apple, and their constant slew of new products always coming out. When the iPhone was introduced, the initial response was overwhelming, but now Apple could put out various new versions of the phone, with one or two different features, but we will never embrace the new versions as much as the original iPhone.

 Personally, I know for sure that social media will not slow down, and it will only become more and more common in the everyday lives of individuals and the corporate world alike. The future is bright, and more and more tools will be introduced to us. We may not be surprised when this happens, but we will for sure keep embracing social.

 What do you guys think? Any thoughts on the future of social media?

 On an ending note, I’d like to say how enjoyable it was following the Buzz Bin for this course. I will for sure keep checking back!

June 22, 2009 Posted by | Really Relevant Interesting Stuff, Review of Monitored Site | Leave a comment

Wikis and Tracking Social Media

Myself like many others in the class, began to think a lot about wikis as a academic tool. Upon completing the wiki and following it over the weeks, it was really interesting to see how it grew in content. While this was a great opportunity to learn how to use a wiki, there were some downfalls. The wiki as a tool isn’t the issue – its how we use it. I agree with the majority class that the wiki would best work with small groups, and have each group be in charged of a particular section. That being said I do feel it will always be important to keep up with the collaborative aspect of the wiki. Similar to communications plans, consistency and roles should be key in achieving an effective final project.

 In terms of the Political Analysis, it was very interesting to see the different ideas and recommendations for the different parties, and it really encouraged me to look more at what the parties are doing to connect with us. The wiki provided a free space to add information, however I almost feel like the paper component would have resulted in more critical thinking (about the issues, are they portraying their platform properly? Etc, as opposed to ascetics).

 Martin Delany as a guest speaker is always a treat. I had previously heard from him in research methods, so it was very insightful to learn about evaluation about social media. Throughout this degree we are very heavily focused on tactics, as opposed to research (preparation) and evaluation/measuring. One part of the lecture that stuck out to me was his emphasis on participation in social media, and the importance of doing something that pulls people in (T-Mobile). Who would have thought that such an easy initiative would have such huge results? Social media is meant to be used to help achieve this.  

 His suggestions on how to track social media (benchmark, traffic, engagement, brand, sales, loyalty) provided some great insight that I know I’ll take with me on any social media campaign I become involved in. As frequent users of social media, you can become accustomed to assuming you know it all, when really, there is so much more out there and more ways to evaluate it than you may have previously thought.  For me personally, I know I’ll be sure to check out the tracking tools Martin mentioned, such as tweet deck, blog pulse and google trends to help track any social media efforts I do for projects, as well as future professional efforts.

  All in all, great learning experience in using the wiki and great lecture from Martin!

June 15, 2009 Posted by | Comment on Course Material, Really Relevant Interesting Stuff | 2 Comments

The List of Change

Last week, the Buzz Bin announced the launching of the List of Change – which ranks the top English-language change or cause related blogs. The great thing about the List of Change is that any blogger can submit their URL to potentially be part of the list. The List of Change is a collaborative effort between Geoff Livingston, programmer Shannon Whitley and Beth Kanter— a leading change blogger.

 The Team developed the initiative to help out the not for profit sector through creating a single point of aggregation for change blogs, which will help bloggers promote themselves and also benchmark their performance. The List will follow an opt-in ranking in which bloggers must submit their URL to become part of the ranking. The List of Change has no profit motivation, with no corporate affiliations, and it is the hopes of the team that the list will eventually move to the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s site. What a great initiative Geoff!

 Geoff updates that as of June 10th, the list includes 125 change blogs – 115 of which were added over the span of one week. The team still hopes to add to the List and improve on its function but for now the List will be used to help promote the 125 blogs.

 The List of Change is a great example of the power of blogging. While some people may feel like a blog is just that – a bunch of text someone puts online everyday, we often forget about all the bloggers out there that are trying to make a difference. Often times, the only reason we forget, is because we don’t know about them, and this list hopes to change that.

 To check out the List of Change click here!

June 15, 2009 Posted by | Really Relevant Interesting Stuff, Review of Monitored Site | Leave a comment

Social Media: Do not litter!

 Ever create a website or blog, and eventually desert it only to come back months later? Its sort of like going away on vacation and leaving a messy apartment behind only to have to clean up the mess when you return. This is what Livingston speaks about it in his latest entry titled “Clean up your Social Media Litter”.

 It seems these days that the question isn’t weather or not you are part of a certain social media networks, but whether or not you upkeep them properly. Livingston talks about this in terms of companies and organizations, and creating social scars. In other words, organizations try to adapt and often disregard the tool, leaving behind “internet litter”, which could be picked up later, or just left there. Livingston suggests that this means that a) there is a lack of understanding about how online efforts can impact your brand, b) efforts are seen as a way of trying the latest tactics rather then a well thought out long-term strategy and c) organizations don’t understand the dynamics of web communities.

 I couldn’t agree with Livingston more. If you create a Facebook page – you need to keep updating it and keep it current. The same goes for websites, blogs, twitter, etc. These are efforts that should be integrated into strategies, not just fun tools to try out only to disregard them later. Livingston also touches on unfinished web pages, and how important it is to direct people to something they can use while something else is under maintenance. Otherwise, it sends a message that the organization doesn’t care. As future PR practitioners, we need to understand the importance of maintaining these tools, not just the initiative to get them off the ground. We also need to know when a tool works or when it dosn’t. When it dosen’t work – we shouldn’t leave old information lingering in the webspace to confuse our publics.

 On a personal level, social media litter might not be so bad, however this coming from someone with many blogs that haven’t been updated for months and some for years. Perhaps I should take Livingston’s advice on this matter. Time to clean up that 3 year old Livejournal account.

June 7, 2009 Posted by | Review of Monitored Site | 3 Comments

Social Media Madness

Monday’s class I found extremely engaging and guest speakers Ben Boudreau and Kimberly Walsh were very engaging. It was very beneficial to hear their different perspectives regarding social media. I found it interesting how they presented their blog project that they run together as an example of how viral social media tools, such as blogs can be. It reminded me of a blog my mother created last march. The blog was based around Juno, a foster cat my mom took in through the Antigonish SPCA who was abandoned and pregnant. The blog was called “Juno’s Diary” and told the story of Juno’s time at mom’s house while pregnant up until all the kittens and Juno herself was adopted. The Blog became a hit locally but also picked up attempted across the world, and also got media coverage on CBC radio. What started out as a fun hobby for mom, became an opportunity to educated people about such issues as adopting animals, general pet care and spay and neutering your pets.

 The section of the class related to Twitter was extremely hands on and we got to see for ourselves just how fast things spread in the online world. The creation of a fake product, and the promotion of it on Twitter, triggered a frenzy of haters, supporters and sometimes just people wanting more info. And the tables turned when people found out the Kermit Card was made up. People were in no way inhibited in voicing their opinions on the matter and every second a new tweet popped up with a different opinion, a different voice.

 Like many others in the class, I kept thinking about how much time people spend focused on Twitter, and just how seriously people read into “tweets”. I am still pretty new to Twitter and only use it for personal/social use.  I generally do not think what I say on Twitter will be a source of insight for all my followers, then again – I am new to it and am still exploring different ways to use it. Overall, it was interesting to see how fast information is exchanged and how, if monitored, it can provide opportunities for organizations/people to clear up misconceptions and provide correct information.

I had to laugh while watching a new episode of the Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien, in which he poked fun of the Twitter Madness right now, particularly around celebrities on Twitter.  His “Twitter Tracker” segment involved an uncanny voice telling Conan the best Tweets from celebrities. I had to agree with Conan’s indifference towards Twitter, who really cares what Asten Kutcher is picking up at the grocery store or how Miley Cyrus is in the line at Starbucks. Its astonishing how much people rely on these tweets to feel like celebrities are “just like them”. After all, it’s like their managers or assistants posting the tweets anyways.

 As for Twitter, when used properly it could be a great tool to disperse information quickly and reliably, but for me personally my life is not tweet worthy….yet.

June 7, 2009 Posted by | Comment on Course Material | Leave a comment

Don’t let the applications get the best of you

I was surprised to notice the subject matter of recent posts on the Buzz Bin, as it relates directly to my previous post about participation in online activism and the question of whether or not social media can really create an impact. In the most recent post on the Buzz Bin, Livingston discusses the Causes application on Facebook and puts a new spin on the old phrase “guns don’t kill people, people kill people”. The main point of his post is that it’s the people behind social media that drive it, not the tools themselves. Along with that is the idea of quality over quantity. While Facebook Causes may recruit large numbers of passive, Livingston maintains that small amounts of active participants are the ones that will in the end make a difference.

Livingston actually used his birthday as a way to raise funds for the Clean Energy Coalition with a goal of raising at least $500 for the cause. On the eve of his birthday he raised $452, which increased the amount of donations by 50% in only two weeks. Way to go Geoff! He goes on to make the point that had more people done the same thing, even more money would be made which would substantially impact the organization. Livingston concludes his post with a great comment “Social media that involves commitments works best when people drive the initiatives as opposed to software programs”.

It’s very interesting to think about how we as a society may feel like we have lost control, when really; a single person can drive social media and really make a difference. An example of this could be media queen Perez Hilton. He frequently posts “worthwhile cause” posts, which help to promote certain charities and efforts. Imagine how much money he could raise for these efforts if he set fundraising goals like the one Livingston did. This just goes to show the importance of never forgetting about the initiative behind the cause, and not just the tool we see and use frequently.

June 1, 2009 Posted by | Review of Monitored Site | 1 Comment

Why have a Second Life?

Upon exploring Second Life in class on Wednesday, it felt most of my time was spent learning to use the software, create my own avatar, and communicate with others. While I consider myself moderately computer savy, this was all new to me, and to be honest, was quite overwhelming. My immediate observations were that it felt like an online game, like World of Warcraft. The focus of my first couple hours on Second Life seemed to be around the creation of my own avatar, which right away I realized was the primary focal point. Julie Rak emphasizes this when she says “if Second Life has a gaming objective, it is this game of identity itself” (2009).

Personally, I have never really thought too much about an online identity. It’s an organic thing for me to try to represent myself properly on all the social media tools that I am involved in (I list the same interests, post the same pictures, etc). But Second Life is evidently different in that it requires you to create an avatar of yourself and you appear in a world as a representation of yourself. Of course this may not be much different than posting a profile picture of yourself on your facebook page. However there were many aspects of Second Life which I felt limited the creation of an identity, such as the names made available to you. Also, though there is a wide range of appearance features to choose from, people may feel that their avatar doesn’t properly represent them.

With my initial insights in mind, I also admit that I am still new to Second Life and feel I will need to do more exploring before I choose to embrace (or not embrace) its full potential. I can understand why people would become so involved on second life for personal and social purposes, but  the idea of meeting on second life (for work or school purposes) seems a bit forced and bizarre to me. I recognize that tools like second life make life easier for people and businesses, I also feel like the whole environment may be distracting and may take away from a quality conversation.

Yes, I am one to constantly chat on msn (with friends, for personal use), and I realize that second life is only a more elaborate version of this, I just can’t seem to wrap my head around meeting people in a professional context on second life. I feel like tools such as Skype would be much more effective, as you can actually see/hear the real person and get a better idea of who they are. For me, I feel, this much better then an avatar of Sarah Sapphire.

June 1, 2009 Posted by | Comment on Course Material | Leave a comment

Naked Airlines and the Green Movement

In looking at the Buzz Bin this week, the post dated May 21st talks about the latest buzz surrounding a new ad for Air New Zealand, which shows staff painted naked. This concept was built around the idea that the organization is transparent and has no hidden airline fees. The “nothing to hide” idea is directly linked to its air fares, but also to its organization philosophy to be transparent and social media is being utilized to help market this philosophy. Geoff Livingston says of the organization, “Social media is about being you and Air New Zealand definitely feels comfortable showing its character”. This just goes to show that social media should be used to its fullest potential to get people’s attention. This organization knows who they are and is not afraid to spread their messages in ways that people will me sure to respond to. Livingstone supports this gutsy move stating, “you can’t please everybody all the time, unless you are saying nothing at all. And at that point you’re just not marketing – at least not well”.

In the world of social media there is so much creative freedom and so many messages out there, so it pretty much forces organizations to be creative in how they present their messages.

Another post which caught my interest as Livingston’s commentary on the Green movement, dated May 17th. He emphasises the challenge of changing behaviours and getting people to change their lifestyles to truly be “green” which ties into my discussion of online activism. He states that there are 3 hurdles to overcome before the green movement will be fully adopted by the public. First he states that most green products and services are not yet accepted because they are unproven and expensive. Secondly Livingston says that with the green movement, the Good Samaritan approach (“it’s the right thing to do”) isn’t quite enough to encourage people to act anymore. And thirdly he states that an attitude that green isn’t cool still exists – despite the fact that it IS the right thing to do. Overall, Livingston thinks that green companies simply need to make their products more appealing and attractive to users, in order for there to be a move forward.

In looking at both these posts I wonder if environmental groups and companies could learn something from Air New Zealand and perhaps strive to become more effective in their messaging in a way that grabs people’s attention. After all, the commercial with naked stewardesses and baggage handlers definitely caught my attention, if I ever have the chance to fly with them, I will!


May 25, 2009 Posted by | Really Relevant Interesting Stuff, Review of Monitored Site | 1 Comment

Online activism: passive or encouraging?

The radio interview presented near the end of class on Wednesday about “Slacktivism” got me thinking about the role of social media in how activism is done today. As someone very interested in the non-profit sector of PR, I’ve always thought of social media as an extremely useful tool for the non-profit sector to embrace when spreading the word about certain causes. However I need to agree with Evgeny Morozov, when he speaks of the implications of online activism. While social media can help increase awareness about organizations and fundraising efforts, how can support be measured online? Of course if your particular Facebook group reaches a high number of members, it can be said that those members are aware of the organization/cause. However, are those members active? Are they donating money? Are they volunteering?

For me personally, I try to limit the number of causes I support online because there are so many organizations doing such great things, and as a student I am limited in how I can show my support. I feel like its up to whoever is maintaining the site to make sure they are doing what they can to help motivate the members to get involved. This could be done through providing volunteer applications, keep members up to date about fundraising events, and how they can donate money online. Evgeny Morozov also brought the point of peer to peer influence, and how some online users support certain causes if their friends are. When you see a friend sign up for a certain group, it does encourage you to check it out and see what the group is all about. This should be something that organizations take advantage of, rather then look down upon, in my opinion. In the end, awareness online is better then no awareness at all.

Tying in with the participation aspect of social media, we always need to consider who is actually participating in online activism efforts. We need to consider those members that do not have access, and those that may not know how to properly use social media tools. We need to utilize the members that will actually contribute, and learn to keep them interested but we should also be pro-active in motivation the more passive supporters, and not see them as only a number. With that in mind we should think of social media as a useful alternate tool to use to recruit support, but certainly not a substitute.  


May 24, 2009 Posted by | Comment on Course Material | Leave a comment