MSVU Social Media Course Blog

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I’ve heard of an end-of-semester bash, but that was uncalled for

When I heard we’d be doing yet another client communications plan and pitch, I must admit, I pouted. Many of my classmates agree that the age-old client comm plan has gotten a little bit redundant over the past four years of the Bachelor of Public Relations degree. Fortunately this final project was different.

Working with Danielle Gaudet and the Women in Business initiative was an excellent experience. She was the most receptive and participative client I’ve ever worked with for an academic assignment. In addition to providing detailed responses to all of our questions, she asked questions of her own, demonstrating a genuine level of interest in our work.

The requirements for the communications tactics were also a refreshing change. Working solely with social media tools allowed us to transcend the monotonous press release rut that many of us have gotten ourselves into. I’m so grateful to complete my degree with an arsenal of fresh ideas along with the theory and practice to back them up.

On another note, I’d like to address something that happened toward the end of our class presentations—and I say this with the utmost MSN smiley emoticon-ness . After one team finished their pitch, several student spectators took it upon themselves to interrogate the team, questioning the validity of their research and the suitability of their tactics.

While we’re all encouraged to be critical thinkers, I don’t think it was an appropriate occasion to articulate those criticisms. From my understanding, the classroom should be a supportive learning environment where students can bounce ideas off one another—not squash them in front of a client to whom a team has just presented weeks of evident hard work.

Maybe I’m old-fashioned or just naïve, but I think the same standard should apply everywhere—even in this business world that we’re all so competitive and eager to enter. I would hope that we, as Public Relations practitioners, could set an example in mustering up some support and tact in regards to our colleagues. As self-gratifying as it is to be competitive, things seem to work better when we drop the cut-throat attitude and work as a team.

Okay that’s my beef.

It’s been an awesome semester and I’ve learned so much from everyone—what a sharp bunch of ladies (and gentleman) we are!

Best of luck to all! 

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June 26, 2009 Posted by | Comment on Course Material, Uncategorized | , , , , , | 7 Comments

Bull Twit

On June 15, Social Media Group posted a blog entry called “Tweeting your way into a Twinternship”. A Twinternship is essentially an internship where students can act as a Twitter expert, consultant or content manager for large organizations or high-profile individuals that don’t have time to Tweet themselves.

Considering Twitter’s sole mandate to determine: “What are you doing?” (“you”, meaning organizations and individuals on Twitter), does it make sense for someone from outside the organization to come in and answer that question? Does a fresh-faced student, not-yet immersed in the company culture have the knowledge and intuition to provide daily updates on the inner workings of an organization? Maybe.

On one side of the coin, an outside source would be free from the biases and cynicism that result from years of working for the same company. Someone with a fresh perspective could tweet about exciting news and events that they know would be of interest to the outside world.

On the other hand, that fresh perspective may not be an accurate one. Furthermore, it might not be articulated in a tone that is true to the organization or celebrity.

It’s one thing to Tweet about oneself. We don’t have to research the current events in our life, or adopt a specific tone in order to accurately portray our Twitter status. But when we Tweet on behalf of an organization or celebrity, we must assume the personality of that organization. Someone external to that organization would likely have to fake it.

I suppose that is what we, as communicators do when we write a news release or speak to the media on behalf of an organization. The difference here is that social media claims to be a more organic, or “real” medium. Can companies, political figures and celebrities really claim that they’re using social media to be “real” and transparent when they pay someone else to do the tweeting?

June 15, 2009 Posted by | Review of Monitored Site, Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

(SEO)ver-rated?

There’s a lot more to Search Engine Optimization (SEO) than meets the eye. Google and other popular online search engines prioritize search results on the basis of several criteria. These criteria include whether or not a website has a user’s search terms in its title, slogan, text body and keywords; how often the search term appears within the website; and whether or not an organization pays to have its site bumped to the top of the results list.

This makes it very easy for organizations to promote their websites with a few simple SEO tricks. Through Google Analytics and other statistical tools of the like, organizations can determine what terms users search most frequently, then include those terms somewhere (or everywhere) on their website.

Organizations could even include the hot search terms in invisible text, thus bumping its website even higher up the search results list, and under the Googler’s cursor before other websites.

But is all this SEO action benefitting the Googler?

Those searching for “best quality cupcakes” truly want to find the best quality cupcakes possible. If an internet-savvy cupcake company with mediocre cupcakes is including the search terms “best”, “quality” and “cupcakes” repeatedly on their website, then Googers will find their website first. With the level of trust that many internet users place in Google and their go-to search engines, it’s likely that they’ll trust their search engine to find them the website for the best quality cupcakes. Little do they know, they won’t be finding the best quality cupcakes any time soon—just the best quality SEO. (Which is not nearly as tasty under a blanket of vanilla frosting and sugary sprinkles.)
I guess it’s up to consumers to look closely at the websites their search engine retrieves for them, to determine if it’s really what they want. But in today’s fast-paced web-based world, I worry that many consumers won’t take the time to look past the first three websites that Google populates.

June 10, 2009 Posted by | Comment on Course Material, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Beauty is [such a] Pain

What does my Second Life usage say about me in “real life”?

Today’s Second Life tutorial class with Denyse Rodrigues was an eye-opener for me. One of the SL benefits we talked about in class was the opportunity it provides its users to drop the physical limitations of person-to-person interaction. Without these limitations, users can transcend gender and age biases. Persons with physical disabilities have the opportunity to walk, run and even fly. The way we look in real life is no longer a factor in socialization.

But what about the way we look online? SL gives users the oppourtunity to design their avatars, with customization options for hairstyle, body shape, clothing and even facial bone structure. Want higher cheekbones? No problem. A smaller butt? Just a few adjustments and you’re as slim as you want to be. The best part is, if users get tired of their avatar’s look, they can change it anytime with just a few clicks of their cursor.

Clearly, this is not how it works in “real life”. (I put “real life” in quotations because I don’t want to undermine the realness of online life.) For those of us who chose to socialize in person, our saggy cheekbones and big bums are far more permanent. When SL gives us the option to adjust and perfect our look at the click of a cursor, are they liberating us from physical limitations? Or are they placing an even larger emphasis on physical appearance?

I can only speak for myself, but I was far more concerned with my avatar’s appearance than I am concerned with my “real life” appearance. (And I’m a girl who likes to spend an hour on my hair and makeup when I go out to socialize.) In fact, I’m ashamed to say that I spent the entire class period tweaking the shape of my eyes, augmenting my breasts and applying makeup. I was so concerned with my avatar’s look that I forgot that the purpose of the exercise was to get out of the virtual beauty shop and socialize with my classmates online. Before I knew it, the class was over and all I had accomplished was a really bad digital smokey eye makeup job.

I can only chaulk my behaviour up to one of two things:

a) My makeover madness was just a manifestation of who I am in real life: self-conscious and image-obsessed. SL simply emphasised my vain tendencies.

b) By providing so many avatar appearance options, SL creates an unrealistic environment where appearance is valued over character just as much–if not more–than it does in “real life”.

So is it me? Or is it SL? Maybe me and SL are a just a bad combination for eachother. Either way I think I’ll stick to being self-conscious and image-obsessed in real life. Worrying about my appearance in one realm is enough for me!

May 28, 2009 Posted by | Comment on Course Material | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment