MSVU Social Media Course Blog

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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!

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

Hey SocialMediaGroup, Update Your Darn Blog

I’m monitoring the blog for Social Media Group (SMG). So far, it hasn’t been an overly wearisome task to keep up with the site’s updates. In fact, the same blog entry has been greeting visitors since May 12, when I began monitoring it.

The current entry is titled Microsoft to Sponsor May 12 TGGD. The article is a last-minute plug for a Toronto Girl Geek Dinner (TGGD) that took place on the evening of May 12. 

TGGDGirl Geek Dinners are monthly events that feature expert panelists to teach young women and others about new technology. The dinners are held around the world in casual pub settings and are open to everyone. The concept sounds extremely cool. Maybe our class could work on developing something similar in Halifax. It might be a fun class side project…but I digress.

Back to my beef with SMG. I think it’s pretty upsetting that SMG has not only failed to update its blog in nearly two weeks, but is providing visitors with old, irrelevant information when they enter the website. With the TGGD event already passed, Toronto-area visitors may make the mistake of reading the post, getting excited about the Dinner and planning to attend, only to find that it’s too late. (To SMG’s credit, the post does serve the purpose of advertising to future Dinners, but only if interested visitors take the time to follow the link to the TGGD main website.)

As a national leader in social media, SMG should set a better example for its current and potential clients. One of the chief advantages of social media is the speed and ease at which its users can update and share information. Part of SMG’s mandate is to show client companies the advantages of social media tools, when they are used properly. Failure to update a blog frequently does not constitute proper or effective use, especially for a self-proclaimed social-media leader.

Get with the program SMG—after all, it’s your program.

How frequently do you think social media leaders/advocates should update their blogs? What about social media-savvy businesses? Regular Joes?

May 24, 2009 Posted by | Review of Monitored Site, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

About that Ice Cream Thing . . .

Ice-Cream-Cones

So I was thinking about the Social Media in Plain English  video that we watched in class this week on Youtube. And I was thinking that, while it does a great job of simplifying the concept of social media for those who have been living under a rock for the past five years, it doesn’t quite tell the whole story.

The video uses an ice cream metaphor to explain the social media phenomenon. Before social media tools, we were living in a world where information was disseminated by big companies, and therefore we only received a few types of information—or flavours of ice cream. Once the new tools came along however, people began to create their own flavours at an affordable cost. This created endless possibilities and a variety of flavours for everyone to enjoy.

But is it really that simple?

First of all, the video makes the assumption that everyone has access to the ice cream making tools. This is not the case with social media. Not everyone has access to a computer and/or internet. People in developing countries, for example would be hard-pressed to find access to the right tools to create and distribute their own flavours of information—and perhaps these are some flavours that should be shared in order to open our eyes to how diverse our world truly is. There could be thousands of exotic fruity ice creams that the world is being deprived of, because those who know how to make it don’t have the right tools.

Furthermore, not everyone knows how to make ice cream, or social media contributions. Senior citizens, for example grew up in a world without computers, and many of them don’t have the knowledge and skills required to share their stories and viewpoints through new media. I have a feeling that we are missing out on some real classic ice cream flavours here. With such emphasis placed upon social media, will those old recipes be lost once the older generations pass on?

While social media is an improvement in information sharing, it is not the idyllic solution that the Youtube video purports it to be. We still have a long way to go in creating a world where everyone’s voice can be heard. Recognizing the importance of information-sharing, I think it’s crucial that we improve access to and education surrounding social media tools. That way, we can ensure that we’re not depriving ourselves of the array of flavours that exist in our world.

May 21, 2009 Posted by | Comment on Course Material | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Social Media Group

SMG LogoWhere was this website when I needed it? Over my past three work terms I’ve struggled with old-school communications practitioners, who were hesitant to give new social media tools a try. Many of them failed to see the strategic purpose of the tools, while others were weary of using the tools correctly. Social Media Group (SMG) is an independent agency that solves both of these problems for timid communications practitioners who are new to the new media scene. Best of all, SMG is 100% Canadian, based in Dundas, Ontario.

SMG is devoted to helping communicators “navigate the new socially engaged web,” by developing both strategic frameworks and tailor-made tactics. From what I can tell, SMG follows the same communications planning process that has been drilled into our psyche throughout the Public Relations program at Mount Saint Vincent University.

Research   The agency begins with in-depth research conducted by their extensive department of social media analysts. Within the department, there are specific teams devoted to each unique aspect of social media, for example, the Blogger Relations Specialists team.

Planning   Once the research phase is complete, SMG works with organizations to develop a strategic plan that meets their organizational mandate and the needs of their stakeholders.

Implementation   With a strategy in place, SMG assists organizations in implementing appropriate social media tools. Their Digital Snippets service, for example, is a platform for organizations to launch social media releases.

Evaluation   SMG even equips clients with ongoing evaluation and monitoring services once the social media tools are in place: “Using SMG’s proprietary methodology, our Social Media Analysts keep their fingers on the pulse of Web 2.0 on behalf of your firm, executives or product. Whether you are listening to the conversation, or (ideally) participating in it, though our exclusive partnership with monitoring industry leaders Radian6, SMG provides you with real-time, meaningful analytics that allow us evaluate the impact and effectiveness of the social media strategies you have in place.”

So far, business has been booming for SMG. Clients include Ford, Yamaha and Home Hardware. I just wish I’d known about this agency when I was repeatedly asked by co-op employers: how can social media help us? SMG’s main website is laid out in a blog-style format, announcing events, posting industry news and profiling client successes. I will be monitoring SMG’s updates over the next few months—stay tuned for more!

May 19, 2009 Posted by | Review of Monitored Site | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment