Social Media That Can Help Strengthen…Your Social Media

For those looking to strengthen their social media presence, often an integration of data consumption and practical tutorial can provide invaluable insight. As this blog post outlines, both of those factors can be tackled with free online resources.

As journalist Mike Wallace once said, “All I’m armed with is research.” This statement recapitulates how important empirical knowledge is to the professional strategists, including social media planners. The Social Habit provides that research. A Chapel Hill consulting group, The Social Habit uses surveys and other methodology to supply business clientele with marketing insights concerning that particular company’s social media. However, one does not necessarily have to order The Social Habit’s services in order to use them as a resource.

The Social Habit’s blog contains myriad useful posts about topics such as brand loyalty, the average ages of social media users, and how political affiliations affects social media usage. Most of the posts contain soundly researched data and easy-to-read graphs. Though much sparser, @thesocialhabit features tweeted links to outside research on social media, as well as other posts useful to the social media novice.

Once you have consumed all of the data, what do you do with your newfound social media wisdom? I suggest you follow Blast Media, an Indianapolis-based public relations firm that specializes is Social Media Optimization (SMO).  As anyone viewing their website can tell, Blast Media targets young professionals and businesses looking to spice up their brand with a healthy dose of trendiness.  Though they are technically a for-profit organization like The Social Habit, extremely constructive free content pours forth from their blog and twitter feed.

With an average of eight tweets every weekday, links to various diverse social media/public relations topics can be found on Blast Media twitter; from how-to’s like “8 Ways to Manage Negative PR” to digital current events such as “Pinterest Launches Business Accounts.” Long-form topics on the Blast Media blog range from social media blunders to innovative consumer-client coverage. If you’re a business with a younger audience looking to improve your social media status, then all of the info provided by Blast Media will undoubtedly be helpful to you.

Consuming News Via Social Media Begets Partisanship

In a recent article posted on PBS MediaShift, a former BuzzFeed intern warned against the hazards of live-tweeting during political debates: “It is easier than ever to find people who agree with you, and to shut out those who don’t.” Thus highlights a significant problem in obtaining political news from one’s personal social networks. The digital revolution grants users the ability to pick and choose the information they consume, and in doing so close-mindeness and political partisanship are instigated.

Though partisanship is bound to happen in any democracy, aren’t we much more likely to construct RSS channels, Twitter feeds, and Facebook threads consisting of like-minded opinions and news sources which reaffirm our own positions? The Fairness Doctrine does not extend to social media; our web-based news intake can be as unfair and as unbalanced as we want it to be. Though mainstream news strives to be nonpartisan, social networks provide a platform for thousands of alternative news sources with biases ranging all across the political spectrum. It is not difficult for a social media user to find a news source that fits his or her own value system.

Members of Generation Y (the current generational cohort) place a heavy value on social media, and therefore are most likely to intake slated social media-based news. The Pew Research Center reports 92% of Internet users between the ages of 18 and 29 use social networking sites, and a growing number of this age group consume news via social media over cable or local broadcasting. Another study from the Generation Y-centered research group TRU-Insights reported 52% of Millennials received presidential election news from social media. What’s more, Generation Y has been found to be more trusting of news sources than any other generation.

Journalist Dahr Jamail once said, “Since an informed citizenry is the basis for a healthy democracy, independent, non-corporate media are more crucial today than ever before.” By providing the people with access to views alternative to the mainstream press, social media serves as a powerful tool in informing the American people. However, to be a truly informed citizen, one most go further than simply relying on alternative news. Reflection, research, and studying opposing viewpoint are vital to today’s news consumer, especially in this social media age.

Occupy provides ground-level #Sandy relief using social media

Nearly thirteen months ago, a mass protest formed in the financial district of New York City. The protest eventually morphed into a full-on movement, spreading to cities far beyond the Big Apple. Young professionals, students, homeless people, families, and idealists alike joined together to publically illuminate America’s economic disparity and challenge the conventions and institutions that perpetuated this national inequality. The movement came to be known as Occupy. Though many people argue Occupy has since lost much of its momentum, the crusade’s recent efforts to provide relief to the Manhattan victims of Hurricane Sandy proved Occupy to still be a relevant and powerful grassroots campaign. As usual for Occupy, social media played a large part in their achievements.

Within days of the original devastation in New York, Occupy had started the Occupy Sandy Relief NYC Facebook page, as well as the #SandyAid hashtag. These tools allowed Occupy to quickly spread information about ground-level relief.  Through these outlets, Occupy called for volunteers to assist with aiding victims in the city, coordinated and relayed information about start-up food and clothing drives, and communicated up-to-date information about the hurricane to the wider twittersphere. The Facebook and hashtag also lead to users back to the interoccupy website, where one could make a financial donation to Occupy’s efforts.

While it is true that both the Red Cross and FEMA executed large, coordinated responses to Hurricane Sandy—including a text-donation campaign and a telethon benefit—Occupy’s nonhierarchical and principally social media-based endeavors gave many people all of the country a direct way to participate in helping the victims. I believe Occupy’s lack of a formal, bureaucratic structure gave the movement with an advantage in providing immediate, firsthand relief. Their charitable undertakings were simply people helping people. Without social media, Occupy’s relief action would have been considerably less significant.

Viral Horror: The Paranormal Activity Campaign

As the Internet increasing empowers the voices it’s every day users, Hollywood places more and more reliance on audience members to spread the word about new films. Nowadays, it’s not uncommon to see studios using creative marketing techniques in hopes of becoming viral, such as Disney/Pixar’s campaign of faux-vintage toy commercials implicitly promoting Toy Story 3. However, one of the pioneers of this audience-members-as-grassroots-marketers method was a 2009 digital horror film with a miniscule budget– Paranormal Activity.

After Paramount bought the rights to the independently produced found-footage feature, they gave it a limited release in September of 2009. Following a successful but small first run, Paramount launched a “Demand It” campaign on the Paranormal Activity website. Visiting the site, fans could select a “Demand It” button and request the film be screened in their hometown/city. If a million people demanded the film, it would be released worldwide. The website encouraged people to spread the word about Paranormal Activity, and provided an easy one-click sharing option. Twitter and Facebook proved to be most effective in this campaign, and within four days the one million demands had been reached.

Once Paranormal Activity premiered, the studio kept the film’s social media presence hot by encouraging audience members to “Tweet their Screams” – write about their experience via Twitter. This facet also proved to be highly successful, helping the film to gross over $100 million as well as become a well-known staple in current popular culture. The film’s subsequent three sequels have continued to use the “Tweet Your Scream” (@ParanormalActivity) promotional tool.

Even though the fourth film just came out this month, the franchise seems to be broadening to more indirect social media tactics for what appears to be the fifth installment. As Dread Central reports, clues about the possible next film have surfaced via a Facebook and YouTube account belonging to a “Jacob Degloshi.” Though Mr. Degloshi has only posted a few things, minute details in his videos and statuses hint that he is a fictional character existing in the PA world. Fans of the series (as well as non-fans that just happen to be curious about this interesting marketing strategy) are sure to remain vigilant, just as the studio intended.

Video-Sharing Social Media From a Filmmaker’s Standpoint

Any filmmaker will tell you that the key to success is getting your work seen. This is easier said then done; at least before the digital revolution and the resurgence of social media. Platforms like YouTube and are non-exclusive ways for anyone to share their film/video art with the world. This is great news for filmmakers, right?

The same way the popularization of blogs allowed for average citizens to become writers and journalists, video-sharing social media outlets make it possible for anyone to become a filmmaker. There are definite positives to this democratization of sorts. Works by Martin Scorsese are viewed on the same site as works by no-name rookie directors. YouTube levels the playing field in some ways.

However, as with the blog metaphor, video-sharing social media sites lower the bar concerning the discipline of filmmaking. YouTube, concurring with the heightened availability of consumer digital camcorders, can be seen as making a formal film education less and less relevant. Because YouTube allows for anyone to join and upload, burgeoning filmmakers must work extra had to get their work noticed among the countess pop culture vlogs and videos of cats. is generally seen as a more serious-filmmaker-friendly sharing site; a majority of users are independent filmmakers and videographers. However, this presents a different sort of conundrum: your work is being posted literally right next to your competition. Vimeo features thousands of demo reels and short films from aspiring filmmakers, all with the same dream of getting noticed. Yet again, one must work extra hard to make one’s work stand out.

Although video-sharing social media provides some benefits for filmmakers, I am of the opinion that an aspiring cinematographer or an indie director still must labor tirelessly to get his or her work noticed. Social media does not make the process of getting discovered easier; it just calls for different tactics.

Marijuana-Smoking Elmo: the Netflix/Qwikster/Twitter Conundrum

Anyone who had a Netflix account over the summer of 2011 holds a distinctive, inert distrust for the company. Not only did they hike their prices that summer, but the Netflix also attempted to completely separate their DVD-by-mail services from their online streaming services. The new DVD spin-off business—now known as one of the biggest modern corporate missteps–was to be called Qwikster. By October 2011, the public outcry was so severe Netflix was forced kill Qwikster before it had even launched, opting to keep all of their features together under the same website. It was quite embarrassing for Netflix, and adding insult to injury that summer was the Qwikster /Twitter debacle.

Though Netflix jumped on attaining the Qwikster domain name (, it seems no one on the Qwikster team found it necessary to research if their name was already taken on Twitter. It was. @Qwikster was already an account, owned by one “Jason Castillo.” One can only imagine how the public relations department at Netflix reacted when discovering that not only could they not use @Quikster, but they were being unintentionally represented by one of the worst possible candidates.

The avatar for Jason Castillo’s @Quikster twitter account featured Elmo from Sesame Street smoking a joint. His badly-composed tweets usually featured drug references, profanity, and degrading comments about women. Some of the more colorful @Quikster tweets can be found here.

Since Qwikster (the Netflix service) never got completely off the ground, the company did not have to fully comment on or handle their twitter domain being owned and horribly misrepresented by someone else. However, during the summer of 2011 when Netflix was attempting to hype their new business direction, @Quikster gained more than 600 followers. Undoubtedly, many of these people believed the drug-using, womanizing Mr. Castillo to be a DVD mail-in amenity.

Moral of this blunder: always do thorough social media research on your brand. You never know who already may characterize your name.

Professional Social Media: Hire Experience Over Age

Let’s say I’m starting a business: an independent video rental emporium. My knowledge of accounting pales in comparison to my knowledge of rare videocassettes, so I decide to hire someone to head my business’s finances. The two candidates for the job are as follows: a recently graduated 23-year-old who holds two MBAs (one in economics, one in accounting) and has had numerous successful, financial-based internships. The other candidate is a middle-aged ice cream truck driver who has been paying his own bills and balancing his own checkbook for thirty years. Who would be the smarter hire?

The answer to me is obvious – the 23-year-old. The point that I am attempting to make is that experience and age are not always co-related. It would be extremely nonsensical to hire anyone for anything based solely on his or her age “just because,” (to quote Hollis Thomases’s article). This includes social media. If a CEO assumes someone will do a bang-up job with the company’s facebook simply because the candidate is young and has a personal facebook account, of course something will go wrong. But I believe the problem has less to do with a person’s age and more to do with a person’s (lack of) relevant experience.

A majority of Ms. Thomases’s “11 Reasons” why “A 23-year-old shouldn’t run your social media” are not exclusive to recent college graduates. Even if you put a 43-year-old marketing executive in charge of your company’s pintrest and instagram accounts, you would still need to ensure the new social media coordinator understands your business’s mission, reputation, and audience. Further, no matter the person’s age or experience, it would be a poor decision to give that person total control over the social media without “keeping the keys.” Conversely, not all 23-year-olds are irresponsible, unfocused no-nothings with zero concept of corporate culture. Ms. Thomases and I are really arguing the same point from opposite directions: when a business hires someone to run the social media, age alone should have nothing to do with it.

Queer Geosocial Networking and the 2012 Election

In class, we discussed how one can use different forms of social media to professionally market oneself. People can also use social media as a tool to market themselves on a personal level…in some cases extremely personal. For the queer community, this is where mobile apps like Grindr come in to play.

Grindr (and similar apps like ManHunt and Scruff) can be described as a gay dating website for the 21st century. Users download the app to their smartphone or iPad, create a personal profile, and scroll through grids of other gay men seeking encounters. Here’s the kicker: Grindr actually uses geolocation technology. This means it is able to display the exact distance other users are from you.

Say you’re in a bar looking to hook up. Log into Grindr on your Android, and it will display pictures of other Grindr users, arranged from nearest to you to farthest away. You see there are roughly five other Grindr users in the same bar. Choose the one that interests you the most, chat through the app for a bit, and then go meet up.

Calling it a “dating website” may be perhaps a bit too vanilla. Within the queer community, apps like Grindr are best known to facilitate casual sex  and random encounters. Described as “geosocial networking” by some;  the term sex-radar has also been tossed around.

My own personal opinions aside – I believe Grindr is anti-liberation and perpetuates queer oppression in the most Huxleyan sense – the app holds an extreme level of cultural popularity. Even young men still reeling from their leap from the closet know what Grindr is. This year, the company behind Grindr began using this popularity for somewhat less primitive purposes.

“Grindr for Equality” is social campaign in which the app will alert users about issues of equality and encourage members in swing states to register to vote. “All elections are won or lost on the local level,” says Grindr CEO Simkhai. “‪There is no election or town too small to have a gay voice. We’ll use Grindr to unite gay men across the country, make that voice grow louder and have a nationwide impact.”

What with President Obama’s evolution coming to a climax this year, the gay vote could have a determining factor in this presidential election. It is also undeniable that social media has played an integral role in recent efforts to mobilize the queer community, as exemplified by last March’s DC anti-violence protest and The Four 2012 campaign that began this month. However, with a skeptical eye, the blog SFist nails it on the head: “sex and politics have never gone that well together.”

Socialization, meaningful human connection, and creepers

At its very base, social media is a tool to further human connection. Though sites like Facebook, Twitter, pinterest, and youtube all have the ability to be professional tools (especially in terms of marketing and PR), the “social” part of  the phrase social media has a distinctive recreational connotation to it.  Social media is a way for people to connect with friends, find lovers, and meet like-minded people. It is one of my strongest beliefs that the human race is not a society of isolation; humans are structured to be communal (this is the point of my argument where I will probably lose the attention of any Ayn Rand fans).  As we become increasingly digitized as a society, social media grows in prevalence as a way we can form bonds with one another.

In any kind of human relationship, one strives to be as true to oneself as possible. Since social media is one of the largest instruments in cultivating human relationships in this day and age, it makes sense for a people to portray themselves truthfully on their twitter accounts and facebook profiles so to integrate more meaningful and truthful relationships. Any omission of truthful personality aspects may alienate a person from structuring these personal connections. It follows that one should not have to “censor” themselves or their opinions on social media, any more than they should speaking with their close friends. In order to prevent people from feeling they must “clean up” their online personalities, employers should not be allowed to “Creep” on employees’ social media profiles. At all.

In class, the counter argument to my opinion was twofold. The first part of the counter-argument stated that refraining from posting things like drunken pictures or hate-filled statuses is not exactly self-censorship; it’s just common sense. I agree. The sort of censorship I’m arguing against is much baser: people should not be afraid to post something like their political thoughts or affiliation, sexual orientation or preferences, familial statuses, and/or religious beliefs. I can attest that, at times, I refrain from discussing my politics or religion on my social media sites out of fear from being misread by “future employers.”  This is when the second part of the counter-argument comes in: “Well, employers are not allowed to discriminate on those factors, so you shouldn’t have to censor those opinions and personality traits.” Yes, employers are not allowed to inquire about a job candidate’s sexuality or religion during an interview, but the employer could discover the candidate is a leftist Lesbian Jew by creeping upon her facebook profile. These are details the employer cannot “un-see,” and even the most controlled person falls victim to subconscious factors like inherent biases and institutional racism.

To conclude, it is just better for employers to stay away from employees’ social media altogether. Humans need recreational socialization, and nowadays social media is the top way to go about it. We should not have to fear what our bosses may discover about our personal lives.