A Farewell to JMC 327

April 28, 2011

It’s that time of year again–another school year is almost done. As a senior about to graduate in two weeks, this is certainly a bittersweet time for me. I’ve anticipated  being finished with my classes all semester, but will certainly miss many of them. One that I will miss most is my social media class with Dr. Carol Zuegner.

When I think back to the day I first walked into class in January, my knowledge of social media was extremely basic at that time. Facebook and Twitter were my two main go-to outlets. Now, nearly five months later, my knowledge of the subject matter of social media has increased exponentially.

From exploring Klout to becoming a Twitter expert (#jmc327forever) to dabbling in the various uses of Storify, my time spent in social media class has allowed me to acquire a valuable, diverse set of online skills that will be advantageous to me when it comes to landing a job, networking, and staying in tune with the world’s latest happenings.

In addition, I enjoyed our class field trip to the Nebraska Humane Society. It was extremely eye-opening in terms of discovering how organizations are putting metrics to use, and meeting Baxter the dog was also a huge highlight of the trip. Pie Day was, of course, another high point of the semester.

On a larger scale, my time in JMC 327 has taught me that the beauty of social media is that it can be tailored and utilized in countless ways to accomplish various goals for different organizations and different people. It is a tool that can be thoroughly personalized to achieve specific results. When it comes to social media, all that we need is a mere click away. For that reason, I believe that being creatively inclined and possessing a willingness to try new things online will likely lead to success in the world of social media.

Expanding my knowledge on this subject matter has been a priceless experience. In retrospect, I feel that my biggest takeaway from this class is realizing that social media can–and will–continue to change. Because of this fact, it is clear to me that I will need to do the same. Luckily, my time in JMC 327 has equipped me with the necessary skills to do just that.

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Storify is a powerful up-and-coming tool that compiles information from multiple social media outlets to tell a story. By using tweets, YouTube videos, photos, and text, anyone can utilize this platform to highlight events in a memorable and meaningful way.

After browsing through a number of Storify examples, it became clear why an increasing amount of news organizations are turning to Storify to cover various happenings. Stories that seem to be regularly popping up in Storify include coverage of weather, organizations’ various fundraisers and events, sports team coverage, and happenings in the world of politics. For one, Storify makes it easy to pull out the most important, up-to-date information surrounding these events to deliver them with ease to an audience.

By compiling tweets, videos, and photographs from virtually an endless number of people and sources, Storify transforms news into ongoing conversations. Whereas an article that may run in a newspaper can only cover and report on what occurs with an event up to the time of publication, Storify holds the ability to make news a continuous dialogue between people connected to or interested in a particular event. Thus, Storify breaks through the issue of timeliness that all newspapers have historically struggled with.

Further, Storify is a beneficial tool because it weeds through the overwhelming amount of information that exists on the internet and allows users to pull out the most meaningful information for a particular story. By highlighting the most important information using Storify, readers encounter solely the most necessary facts and feedback surrounding a story.

The potential of Storify is endless. News organizations can certainly use the platform for timely, continual news coverage that not only covers stories, but also reaches out to the general public to consider and incorporate feedback. Further, businesses can utilize Storify to do their own unconventional forms of public relations, or document people’s thoughts and reactions about a new product.

I personally can see myself using this tool in my professional career to document events tied to the organization that I may work for. In addition, I think that Storify could also be used more light-heartedly by anyone seeking to record memories such as weddings, reunions, birthday celebrations, and family get-togethers.

Therefore, I feel that Storify can best be used by virtually anyone looking to compile and share a continual stream of information online. Any person or organization that is looking to gather news from a number of social media outlets can easily use this platform without constraints on time or space. Further, because Storify is an online tool, the information that is compiled on it holds the potential to reach a larger number of people than if it were published in print or distributed via e-mail.

For these reasons, I feel that Storify gives people a new ability to record history online in a more meaningful and effective way.

Our class trip to the Nebraska Humane Society earlier today was a memorable one for many reasons. My favorite part of the visit, I must admit, was playing with an adorable pup known as Baxter who is now getting a second shot at life. (But that’s another blog post.) However, puppies aside, I also enjoyed  learning how one Creighton alum, Elizabeth Hilpipre, has essentially developed the organization’s entire social media presence from the ground up.

I took a number of things away from Elizabeth’s presentation. First off, I learned how important it is to set small goals and work your way up when utilizing social media. Now that Elizabeth has made a solid Facebook presence for the humane society, for instance, her next project to tackle is to gaining more attention in the Twitter world. Also, Elizabeth made it clear that it is essential to consistently respond to your organization’s followers, as constant communication leads to a loyal group of clients.

Yet, my biggest takeaway from Elizabeth’s presentation involved the importance of relying on statistics and analytics when determining the direction to take with social media. I discovered how crucial it is to regularly monitor the number of people visiting your Facebook, Twitter, and You Tube pages. I learned that these tools can even be useful in tailoring very specific aspects of communication, such as the length of YouTube videos. Paying attention to every detail of your organization’s communication and adapting your messages accordingly can be the difference between ineffective and effective social media usage.

Of course, while adhering to all of these tactics, it is certainly just as important to continue to change, grow, and adapt continually as the world of social media does. As Elizabeth’s trials and tribulations show, sometimes, it is equally important–if not more–to possess a willingness to learn as it is to have a certain set of skills. The ability to stay in tune and on top of the latest trends in the field, as Elizabeth pointed out, makes it clear that your organization exhibits the desire to stay current. Staying current ensures that an organization will be appealing to a wide range of target audiences.

With all of this in mind, our trip to the humane society reiterated the fact that social media usage can make or break an organization’s image. If utilized correctly, social media can truly turn out to be man’s best friend.

Is Unplugging Possible?

March 22, 2011

For Catholics, Lent is the time of year to give something up for a period of 40 days. Some opt to stop cursing. Others cut out all sweets from their diets. However, an increasing number of people are swearing off social media during the Lenten season.

This trend is even appearing in the national news as social media fasting seems to be on the rise. Many believe that refraining from technology use during this spiritual time of renewal will allow them to reconnect personally and therefore more genuinely with loved ones. Others choose to give up social media after identifying it as their biggest overindulgence. Regardless of people’s reasons for unplugging, this Lenten sacrifice is surely a sign of the times.

While I admire those attempting to escape technology’s grasp, a part of me wonders whether cutting the cord with social media is truly possible in today’s world. Can we live our lives as informed, connected, responsible citizens without relying on Facebook, Twitter, mySpace, and the like? And can we do so without our friends thinking that we are disowning them? Or are we so used to having social networks at our fingertips that quitting cold turkey would cause our online friends to panic  if we haven’t shown up on Facebook chat in 24 hours or tweeted by noon?

Something tells me that a number of our friends would get a little worried if we were M.I.A. in the online world. I also think that giving up social media altogether–even for 40 days–may cause us to miss out on a number of news stories. In particular, breaking news seems to surface first on Twitter. Take the recent disaster in Japan, for instance. I initially read about the catastrophe on Twitter  just minutes after it happened, and then headed to CNN.com to search for more details on the story. If it weren’t for social media in this case, I would have been out of the loop for hours–if not a full day–before seeing the story on the evening news (keeping my chaotic schedule in mind).

Moreover, as a journalism student who knows that social media is increasingly becoming a key aspect of this field, I know that abstaining from technology would considerably harm my chances of landing a future internship or job. In today’s journalism job market, being familiar with and connected to the virtual world is not preferred–it’s required.

With all of this in mind, I do believe that abandoning social media for a day or two here and there can be a very healthy thing. The benefits that come as a result of connecting face-to-face are plentiful, and stepping away from our laptops for a day can certainly be refreshing.

In my opinion, giving social media up altogether for 40 days, however, is a different story–especially for those tied to the journalism field.

After reading the State of the Media Report conducted by the Pew Center for Excellence in Journalism, I reflected on all of the findings, numbers, and statistics. I read about the decline in newspaper readership and how people are spending more time with news than ever before thanks to advances in technology like mobile apps. I discovered how middlemen are gaining more power in the online news world as organizations must ultimately rely on them in different shapes and forms to deliver content. However, with all of these facets in mind, the report made one thing most clear to me—there is not much certainty when it comes to where the field of journalism is heading.

As a soon-to-be journalism professional, this is somewhat daunting. Yet from the standpoint of an average citizen, it’s exciting.

Working as a professional in a field where virtually all of its happenings are constantly changing can be intimidating. There will always be a new device to become familiar with or a new app taking the social media world by storm. Staying in touch with technology will, of course, be a requirement for anyone hoping to be successful in this field. Yet this is a challenge I am eager to face. Utilizing all of the tools in the world of new media will provide those in the journalism field with opportunities to connect to other organizations on an ongoing basis as they creatively advance the companies they work for.

To be prepared in this new media world, professionals will need to be in touch with technology, able to continually adapt, and determined to be inventive throughout their careers. Having strong writing and computing skills is also a must. Moreover, the State of the Media Report makes it very clear that professionals need to be aware of the utter importance of understanding their audience, whether this involves nonprofits seeking volunteers or corporate entities looking to target a highly concentrated group of individuals. Lastly, those entering this field must realize that the way people absorb news is changing and will surely continue to drastically advance over the years. Newspapers are suffering now while mobile news is on the rise, but a decade from now, I have no doubt that these statistics will be completely different. By then, we will likely be getting information in ways that have not even been thought up yet.

This constant state of change surrounding journalism is, from the average person’s standpoint, intriguing. To me, it’s exhilarating to think that technology is continually evolving and will continue to modify the way we absorb information and connect to others. A decade or two down the road, will I only use an iPad at work? Since we are consolidating on so many levels, will we even have laptops anymore? Will there be a need for cubicles? When it comes to family life, will kids be learning their ABC’s using robots and some sort of touch-screen system? Will 5 p.m. news broadcasts still be around? Will reporters deliver news to the public, or will machines have taken over by that time? The answers to all of these questions are unclear, but the potential the field of journalism holds to transform everyday life is exciting.

Lastly, when it comes to teaching journalism, all that professors can do is stay in tune with the latest developments in the field as they teach their students. Students should be familiar with the latest social networking sites and an abundance of online tools. Further, professors should teach students how to be strong “backpack journalists.” Yet amidst all the technology, teaching students how to be effective writers should not be overlooked. Overall, teaching students how to stay in the know in this field is just as important as actually doing it.

Based off the State of the Media Report’s findings, it is evident that anyone involved in journalism in virtually any shape or form must be willing to realize, accept, and adapt to this drastically evolving profession.

The Power of PostSecret

March 14, 2011

By now, most of us are familiar with the PostSecret project.

If you’re out of the loop, here’s the lowdown: People anonymously submit postcards to PostSecret revealing their deepest, darkest secrets. A handful of these are then posted online weekly for the world to see.

For many, viewing this blog is a weekly form of entertainment. For others, it’s a therapeutic way to air out dirty laundry.

Personally, reading the updated PostSecret blog has become a regular part of my Sunday routine. There is something both intriguing and comforting about reading others’ thoughts, fears, dreams, and secrets as they venture through the ins and outs of daily life. From major relationship issues to quirky preferences about food, PostSecret has become an outlet for people to safely express themselves. As they do so, life is regularly put in perspective for others.

Along with this captivating aspect of PostSecret, the blog also reinforces the fact that social media holds the power to unite people who are thousands of miles away together. When a secret is posted about a person contemplating suicide, for instance, people pull together by the masses on this blog in an effort to help the person who is struggling. When a woman posts a secret about a partner who is physically abusing her, strangers come together to offer help and support to pull her through. On a weekly basis, I am continually amazed by the outpouring of concern complete strangers show one another.

Without the Internet, most of this would not be possible—especially on this scale. The online PostSecret project provides us with ongoing opportunities to share our thoughts with the world and to reach out to other human beings miles and miles away. It is crazy to think that only years ago, we did not have this kind of ability. Thanks to the Internet and community-focused projects like PostSecret who have taken advantage of this tool, a multitude of good has resulted in our world.

Good has come from this project largely because of the fact that PostSecret utilizes social media to grow its mission. Between the blog, archive, and tweets alone, PostSecret has successfully adapted by changing with technology. By doing so, PostSecret’s fan base has continually grown, more secrets have been shared, and a number of lives have been turned around as a result.

This weekend, I was ecstatic to finally upgrade to a new cell phone. I am now the proud owner of a Samsung Fascinate, and I’m already addicted.

As I have tried over the past several days to keep my hands off my shiny new phone and all of its apps for more than 10 minutes, I am really realizing how drastically technology is changing our everyday lives. In fact, it is not only transforming how we go about doing things, but it’s also changing the basic items we need to go about completing everyday tasks.

Want proof? Consider the following:

How many of us use actual alarm clocks anymore? I don’t. Neither does my roommate or boyfriend. The majority of my friends have put away their clocks as well. Rather than relying on a bulky clock, more and more of us are shifting towards setting alarms on our phones. It’s easy, it’s automatic, and it allows for us to do away with one more item resting on our nightstands.

You remembered that it’s your cousin’s birthday. And you can thank Facebook for that. Each day when we log on, we are reminded of all of our friends’ birthdays. I’ll be the first to admit that Facebook has been a lifesaver for me on a number of occasions when it comes to remembering these special days. Whether it’s a friend from high school or the girl who sits next to me in class on Tuesday, Facebook keeps me in the know. Largely because of this feature, directories are becoming a thing of the past.

Have you recently paid your home phone bill? If not, you are likely one of the many people who are opting to do away with their land lines. As more and more people shift solely to cell phones, home phone systems, answering machines, and the accompanying bills are fading away.

Gone are the days of clipping and snipping. While printed coupons are still around, online deals are becoming increasingly prevalent. Websites such as Groupon save us from leafing through and cutting ads, and also add convenience to our hectic schedules. It doesn’t get much simpler than having coupons e-mailed directly to our inboxes.

These are just a few of the ways that technology is allowing us to drastically consolidate. As time passes, many more of the items we are so accustomed to using on a daily basis will likely be regarded by our own kids as antiques.