The professional necessity of social media

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Well folks, I survived. Not only did I complete an entire course on a subject I would rather avoid, I learned how to be a more effective consumer of social media. I learned how to build a professional profile for my platforms and how to market not only myself by my skills as a social media manager. I’ll admit there were moments where I felt aggravated but overall I enjoyed the class.

The social media strategy was simultaneously the most frustrating and rewarding part of the class. First I’d like to state that Tina Popson is an amazing woman and I thoroughly applaud her willingness to sit through 19 social media strategies.

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Photo courtesy of freerangstock.com and Jack Moreh

The strategy itself proved difficult because the Creighton Recent Alumni Association doesn’t have the same draw that a typical non-profit has. For example, the Humane Society has kittens and puppies to draw in their target audiences. The RAA, on the other hand, lacks the warm and fuzzy feeling that puppies and kittens bring to the table. My partner and I, therefore, made it our mission to make the messages delineated in our strategy give people the same comforting feelings.

Although difficult, by creating this strategy I have added one more marketable tool to my resume – which in today’s consistently fluctuating job market is never a bad thing. I learned that despite my aversion to the various social media platforms, my best bet is to be flexible and adaptable because my job’s requirements may change with a moments notice.

I am grateful for what this class has taught me because there is a virtual guarantee that I will use this technology in my future job. Similarly, I rediscovered a love of liking innocuous things on Facebook. I may not post often but I believe liking and retweeting things is a step in the right direction.

I found the most fascinating blog to be the public shaming blog, which centered on people who have been targeted by a negative viral movement. This blog assignment encompassed everything I have ever hated about social media – from the furious to the down right violent responses and more. More often than not social media feels like a trap being set and while I have several strategies to avoid the ire of the Internet, I am still hesitant to post anything vaguely controversial.

Simply put this class was a wealth of information and a veritable education for people like me who avoid the constant stream of social media. I am grateful for the skills I have learned and the many exciting projects we developed throughout the class.

The Social Humane Society

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After visiting the Nebraska Humane Society and hearing their Development Communications Specialist Elizabeth Hilpipre discuss their metrics, I was initially struck by how different her strategies were from Amanda Brandt’s. While the scopes of their work are different, they use similar tools – if different strategies – to complete their tasks.

Brandt’s strategy seemed more technical, driven by collected data but failing to embrace the social media aspect of the 21st century (which may be rooted in the newspaper industry’s similarly awkward attempts to embrace the internet age). However, while I think her approach is certainly more stark, I believe she is an expert in her field who makes the best of what she works with.

Hilpipre, on the other hand, seemed more open to a trial by fire strategy, using separate tones on different platforms to communicate the formality of her posts. Although it’s impossible to make a good comparison because they work for separate companies, it was immediately apparent to me that their approaches were different.

 

Town Pets Indicates Domestic Cat And Buildings

Cartoon courtesy of freerangestock.com and Stuart Miles

Hilpipre’s tactics are fluid; they change according to the platform she uses, which is admirable from a bystander standpoint, but they also incorporate a “go where the audience is” strategy. She recognizes the necessity of not only being on top of the Humane Society’s accounts but also manipulating them to gain followers. I think this was especially apparent in her use of Snapchat as a way to promote the animals that haven’t been adopted. Her ability to assess the age of a sector of her consumers and then follow them onto their platform of choice, especially when that platform doesn’t provide clear and coherent metrics, demonstrates her expertise in her field.

The best advice she gave was more in her actions than in her words: be flexible. Everything in her social media strategy focuses on going where the consumers are and addressing them on a level that feels personal. She builds off what works, using a more formal tone on Facebook but a more relaxed tone on Snapchat because she knows the platforms’ demographics are distinctive. She creates Facebook event pages to avoid bogging down the Humane Society’s main Facebook page with event posts. Clearly she has built a persona for the Humane Society that is not only functional but malleable, something few other businesses or non-profits have mastered.

Animals, Adoption and Instagram

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The SPCA of San Francisco is a nonprofit Instagram that manages their account exceptionally well. Other than being a nonprofit dedicated to animals, which is sure to attract viewers to their Instagram, their captioning of cute photos is topical and informative. They balance the number of informative posts against the number of posts dedicated to finding homes for animals in a way that keeps their audience aware of problems and distracted with adorable animals.

While I’m sure there are plenty of people who adopt rather than buy their animals, it can still be a tough market to corner. There are assumptions of neglect and abuse that stigmatize animals in need of adoption and there are Internet trolls who attack those who have bought animals in the past resulting in further polarization of the market. The SPCA of San Francisco, however, encourages people to adopt but doesn’t demonize those that choose not to.

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Photo courtesy of freerangestock.com and Joe Targonski

Their Instagram account is also adept at advertising their different social events like Dogs on the Catwalk and Be Mine, which both promote the animals in need of adoption. Unlike most advertising campaigns on Instagram, however, the SPCA uses a gentler touch, sending out reminder posts without overwhelming their page. This tactic of sparse but potent advertising works in their favor because in doing so their account feels substantially more authentic. Occasionally posts that demonstrate the need of the nonprofit rather than the more marketable aspects can bog down nonprofit social media accounts. Suddenly instead of propagating the good the nonprofit is doing, the account only demonstrates the massive size of the problem and a feeling of defeat.

In terms of account value their social media plan is efficient at raising awareness and I think that speaks to a well-managed and effective social media campaign strategy. It strikes me that although they don’t post everyday, their strategy remains potent because they get their message across. Additionally because they often have animals in their pictures it’s hard to only look at one post. I think the main message I received (other than adoption rules!) is that social media campaigns have to have an inherent attraction to them that makes people want to read more, especially if they aren’t compulsively posting. Overall, I like their strategy and the beauty of their account, however simplistic it may be.

Social Media and the Death of Privacy

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If I’m being honest social media is not my forte. I rarely post pictures to my Snapchat story or update my Facebook status and I tweet only when forced to. Each of the platforms I use serves a purpose: Facebook allows me to keep in contact with my best friend when he is home in Thailand; Snapchat allows me to take stupid pictures of myself with funny filters to send to my stepmom; and Twitter was forced upon me by my desire to become a journalist.

My reasons for despising most social media platforms is rooted in my family’s general desire to keep their cards close to their chest. This is especially prevalent in one family member’s case. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease a few years ago. As a man on disability he is subjected to insurance fraud inspections, which can include former FBI agent showing up on our doorstep to investigate him (yes, this actually happened). The man walks with two canes and yet a picture on Facebook can spell the end to his disability. This may sound like the ramblings of an over-dramatic ex-theater kid, but I cannot tell you how much I wish I were joking.

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Photo courtesy of Jack Moreh and freerangestock.com

The truth is the more I learn about social media and its ability to track our daily activities the more hesitant I am to use it. Although I applaud the various CEOs who push back against the government’s ever growing power, I cede that United States citizens are far more likely to give up their privacy in favor of feeling secure than they are to defend their rights against unreasonable search and seizure.

As paranoid as I sound I do enjoy the contact that Facebook and Snapchat have afforded me. A few close friends reside abroad (whether for the semester or for life) and through social media I am able to keep up with their lives.

Although communication itself is easier in the age of social media, connection on a deeper level is far more difficult. LOLs and emojis have overtaken heartfelt conversation and defriending has taken the place of interpersonal conflict.