Weekly Blog #12: Happily Ever After

Once upon a time, a mid-level communications professional in her mid-twenties signed up for a social media class as part of her graduate school program in PR at Georgetown University

So, the time has come. The end of another semester, and the end of my social media class. I am certainly glad for the semester to be over, since I took two classes this time around, and it was definitely a lot to handle because I also work long hours and have a lot going on in other areas of my life.

But regardless of all the school work, (which was all totally worth it), 😉 I learned a great deal in this class and am very glad I decided to take it. Overall, my favorite thing about the class was the fact that as a class, we had the opportunity to learn more about the theory, foundation and philosophy behind social media, rather than just all about how to use and implement specific tactics — and how NOT to use them — (although we did that also and it was very effective as well).

I really like the main idea behind the Cluetrain Manifesto and have been excited to see how “markets are conversations” really applies to much (or all, really!) of online communications, internet communities and social media forums — and will definitely use it in my career going forward.

While at first I don’t think I completely understood Clay Shirky’s promise, bargain and tool concepts, I think I do now and actually see them as a way to help cut through the clutter of our online lives.

Speaking of our online lives, I absolutely loved the book we read for this week, Hamlet’s Blackberry. Like my classmates Amanda and Kate (and perhaps others), I took great comfort in the fact that William Powers, the author of the book, thinks it is absolutely necessary in today’s digital world to find a happy medium or balance between the part of our lives where we interact online and the part of our lives where we interact in person. (Human-sounding voices vs. actual human voices. Amazing).

As someone who still very much enjoys sending cards/writing letters, having coffee with a good friend and above all, reading a good book (NOT a Kindle or Nook), this balance is very important to me and honestly, something I often struggle with — especially as a woman in her mid-twenties who by no means grew up in a “digital-less society.” Not to mention that most other people my age seem to be perfectly fine enjoying watching their lives get swept up by the mass technology craze.

Anyway, that said, I loved how in this class we talked a lot about how this rise in technology has affected our culture and society — and other cultures around the world, too, for that matter. Going forward, I think there will be many good things about social media that will continue to aid in the change and evolvement of social interaction in society; on the other hand, I fear what our culture will become if social media and online communications continue to expand at the current rate.

As for a few other things from the semester: learning more about the love-hate relationship we should all have with Google was fascinating and eye-opening; WAY more goes into editing Wikipedia than one would EVER think (but you can see why!), and although I will never be a gamer, who knew that online games could actually be used for something useful, like America’s Army?

And regarding this blog, overall I think it has been a great project and I have learned a lot of great tips about what makes a successful blog — some of which I have already shared with clients and they found them to be helpful. However, I do really wish I would have had more time to make my blog a bit more creative, perhaps with more stories and little anecdotes that I know would have helped illustrate my points a bit more interestingly. But, when all is said and done, I am happy with the work I did on it overall… and my boyfriend certainly enjoyed all of our talks about “what Jessie’s blog post assignment is this week!” 🙂

Before I sign off for the semester, I have to say this class has definitely really made me think a lot more about the point of social media, especially particular tools, and why I’m using them. Take Dunbar’s number and Facebook, for example. Ever since we learned about Dunbar’s number in class and how it applies to Facebook, I have been thinking about “de-friending” (GASP!) a ton of people who I honestly don’t even know anymore on Facebook. It is going to happen soon, I swear.

Well, that’s all she wrote, for now, as they say. Thanks to my instructors and classmates for a very entertaining and thoughtful semester!

…and they all lived happily ever after.

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Response Blog #3: Amanda & WMZQ

I have been meaning to respond to one of Amanda’s posts about her love for country music all semester, so finally, for my last response blog entry, here it is!

Even though I grew up in an area of the country (Philly) that is not particular in one way or another to country music, I too, love country music, and since a lot of other people I know don’t like it at all, it is great to hear someone talk about how much she loves it! (Personally, I don’t understand what’s not to like about country music — it’s so catchy, always tells a great story and fun!) My favorite country artists are: Keith Urban, Taylor Swift, Kenny Chesney, Rascal Flatts, Miranda Lambert and Gretchen Wilson. Oh and Faith Hill (especially her Christmas music!) I also especially enjoy seeing Keith Urban in concert — he puts on a really amazing show.

I especially liked Amanda’s Thanksgiving post about the website for which she is most thankful: WMZQ an WMZQ streaming. I don’t have a car, so I have not been super familiar with what radio stations play what kinds of music in the DC metro area (and I pretty much never listen to the radio), but I do like to listen to podcasts, videos and/or music online while at my desk at work. Therefore, being enlightened by something new to help get me through the work day, WMZQ streaming is fabulous!

Thinking about music streaming online makes me ponder about how, like many other things that used to be simple in the world, music is not just music anymore. With the rise of online communications and social media, music is a huge part of the online community — in fact, country music alone has its OWN social media community. (Amanda, did you do your community snapshot project on that)? I hope so! 🙂

Anyway, since I didn’t write my week 10 blog on the website for which I am most thankful, I will say that I am very thankful for the social media community that exists for country music. I love following my favorite artists on Twitter and Facebook; watching excerpts of their concerts and music videos on YouTube and reading the newest updates/engaging in the online conversations about their lives on celebrity blogs and Wikipedia.

So, thanks for telling me about another great online space for enjoying country music, Amanda! Glad you have found one in the DC area that works well for you. 🙂

Until next time —

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Response Blog #2: Kate on M Street & Sideways Stories

When I was reading Kate’s final blog post and came across her reference to “Sideways Stories From Wayside School,” I knew I had to respond. Luckily, I loved the remainder of her post also, so that was good too. 😉

I, too, am a “huge nerd,” and always have been. For example, while in first grade other kids were playing video games and getting into the newest technologies, I was way more interested in learning to read “chapter books.”  Sideways Stories was one of my favorite books when I was growing up, and I have not thought about it in so long! And now that I do think about it, perhaps it still IS one of my favorite books. My mom used to read the wacky stories about all those crazy kids to my brother, sister and me out loud and do funny voices, and we loved it. My mom’s real, human voice (as opposed to just a human-SOUNDING voice), was — and still is — invaluable to me.

So that brings to me to the other reason I like Kate’s post so much: while social media is indeed amazing and has changed our world, we can’t forget about the great wonders of  face-to-face human interaction.  Like Kate, this has been my constant struggle with social media as well, (although I have to say I don’t really hate Facebook quite so much!) and sometimes feel like I am “behind the times” when I would rather call my mom instead of e-mail her, send my best friend from college a birthday card in the mail (gasp!) instead of a “happy b-day” Facebook message, and meet my former colleagues for drinks in person rather than chat via a “Tweet-up.”

On the other hand, it thrills me to be able to use social media tools effectively in both my professional and personal life. While I see Facebook’s flaws, overall, I find using it on a daily basis is useful, and I have certainly been thrilled to generate results for my clients via successful Facebook campaigns. Google and YouTube are amazing, life-changing tools (I could never argue otherwise), and while I may have my doubts about the accuracy of Wikipedia, I have to admit that it is still the number one place on the web for which I turn for information.

So I agree with Kate. We have to find a balance between embracing the opportunities we still have to “unwrap” one another (love the use of the term, by the way) and to interact with each other on the social web. I too, loved these similar points made in William Powers’ book, Hamlet’s Blackbery, as you will see in my own final weekly blog post.

Furthermore, I was releived that someone from my generation agrees with me (typically, it is only my mom that agrees with me, but mostly because she doesn’t understand the point of social media and feels that all social media is just a big invasion of privacy… oh, wait…).

I also loved Kate’s final point about that social media and their many tools and forums should be MOST about what their advancements and developments mean for us as people and how we communicate with each other. Seriously, when you really think about it, this is what we REALLY learned about in class too… not how to use all these tools, necessarily (although we did to some extent), but the theory behind their creation and how they fit into our culture and society. 

So well said, Kate! And you’re welcome — I have been happy to “unwrap” myself for you during this class. 

Until next time —

P.S. — After all that, how ironic is it that I’m telling you this, Kate, on my blog instead of face to face in class! 🙂

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Weekly Blog #11: J is For Jordan

Social media has not only exploded in the U.S. during the past decade, but it is now a global phenomenom as well — even in places with radically different cultures from America’s, such as the Middle East. One of the most fascinating, more recent examples of this is when last summer (2009), the media was closed off to covering the protests of the Presidential election in Iran, but news about what was happening still traveled the globe to people who needed to know about what was happening via Twitter.

Professionally, for me this a powerful example of how the rise of social media has impacted “real world”, serious issues, and one that I use to demonstrate to my clients to show them the actual impact an effective tool like Twitter can have. Personally, this defines the main reason I am passionate about communications as my chosen career path: to affect public perception and positive social change through communications.

So, probably needless to say, for this blog entry, I was excited to visit Global Voices to explore the recent social media activity in another country whose culture is very different from my own: Jordan.

Everything that I found in the Global Voices community about Jordan’s social media activity was really interesting, but what was most interesting was the activity surrounding the recent parliamentary election held in Jordan on November 9. (Also especially fascinating since the frenzy of social media about Iran last year was related to an election also).

One particular blog post about the recent Jordanian Parliamentary election was written by an author/user named Betsy. Betsy seems to have posted a lot on the comprehensive Jordan page of Global Voices, but this post was one of the best ones. Titled “Jordan: Tweets Cover Parliamentary Flaws,” it recounts how Twitter user and Jordanian citizen Naseem Tawarnah (who describes himself as a citizen journalist in his Twitter bio) provided up-to-the-minute live updates of allegations of violence and voting fraud throughout the day of the election. Here is an example of one of Naseem’s election day Tweets:

Armed men block voters from getting to polls in Mafraq. More forged ID cards found in Ramtha. Oh Joy. http://is.gd/gRnRz #JOelections

The main reason I find a blog post describing something like this so amazing is because it was a personal, real-time account of what was actually happening in a community in Jordan regarding the election, which you hardly ever find in a traditional media outlet. This is a truly awesome example of how a niche market conversation, presented in a human sounding voice is making a difference in getting the word out to citizens as its own “media outlet.”

Until next week —

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Personal Blog #3: E-A-G-L-E-S!

My parents weren’t always Philadelphia sports fans. They were born and raised in a suburb outside Chicago, so until they moved our family to the Philly area in 1996, they were Chicago sports fans, and particularly, Chicago Bears fans. They were big Bears’ fans too – especially my dad. There’s even a photo of me, age 1 year and 5 months, wearing a Bears sweat suit and laying next to my dad in his recliner as we watched the Bears win the 1986 Superbowl against the Patriots.

But having lived outside Philly for nearly 15 years, which was most of our childhood, now my parents are just as big Philadelphia Eagles fans as my brother, sister and me. In fact, this afternoon the Eagles are playing the Bears, and my parents are rooting for the Eagles with no problem (other than the fact that my Gram, who still lives in Chicago, would be turning  over in her gave, if she were dead, of course).

Marty and me at the Eagles/Redskins MNF Game 11/15/10

Needless to say, my family loves Philly sports. We are big fans of the Phillies, the Flyers, and the Sixers, but NFL Football and the Eagles are our favorite. Despite the fact that angry fans threw snowballs at Santa Claus on the field at a game in the 1960s (although we WERE 1-15 that season); despite the fact that the team has taken a trip to the NFC Championship game multiple times and lost every but one and then lost the Superbowl; despite the fact that they traded Donovan McNabb to our division rivals, the Washington Redskins (although we are loving QB Michael Vick right now, don’t get me wrong), we are true blue (green?) Birds fans.

My boyfriend Marty grew up outside Philly too, and is also a huge Eagles’ fan, so my family was jealous of us when our friends Jackson and Catherine (Redskins fans, of course) invited us to go with them to the Eagles/Redskins Monday Night Football game two weeks ago – the one where the Eagles and Vick broke records and absolutely decimated McNabb and the Skins 59-28? Yep, that’s the one!  That game was hands down one of the most fun football games I have ever been to, and thanks to Jackson and Catherine, we had great seats under the overhang, away from the pouring rain. 🙂

I was a little disappointed when our friends didn’t want to stay for the whole game, but obviously I can’t say I was that surprised, given the outcome! Plus, it was the beginning of the fourth quarter, and neither teams scored after that, so I really couldn’t complain. It had been a dream game for a die-hard Eagles fan like me, and both my parents had texted me their excitement throughout the night, so if there was ever any doubt about to which team their loyalty really stood, I was completely assured during that game! 🙂

Until next time –

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Weekly Blog #10: Cutting Through the Clutter

With the rise of Internet communities and social media, American society has become one big clutter of online communication. For many purposes, social media tools and forums make life easier: companies can connect with their key audiences quicker/more efficiently (if done right), we can keep in touch with old friends and keep up on their lives with one keystroke, and anything we could possibly want to learn about anything is at our fingertips, literally. Yes, it is true that social media can be extremely efficient and effective, but what about all the clutter it also creates in our lives?

Seriously, I love social media and agree with the experts that is the future of communications and all that, but with all the online news and social media forums, particularly those available in niche markets (as conversations, of course!), it can be daunting to decide what tool to use, what blog to read, what forum or community can actually be effective? The clutter of the online world can be very overwhelming, especially since these days, according to Clay Shirky in Here Comes Everybody, everyone has the opportunity to be a media outlet and essentially, make the clutter even deeper. (one of my favorite points, and one that I have made before, I know).

So how do we cut through the online and social media clutter? This is where I think examining Shirky’s ideas of the plausible promise, effective tool and acceptable bargain really come into play. I have been trying to better understand these concepts, and this is how I think they directly apply to cutting through social media clutter.

Regarding the plausible promise when it comes to the clutter, I think just thinking about what it might be when assessing different websites and social media tools/spaces can be helpful. Same thing goes for the effective tool and the acceptable bargain.

The reason I think this can be helpful is because I was thinking about the example that we used in class about Facebook. When we discussed the plausible promise, effective tool and acceptable bargain of Facebook, I thought much more about the purpose of Facebook as a tool  and what bargain I might have to make to use Facebook.

So, next time I am thinking about which new blog to read to best keep up on the trends and issues about a client, I am going to think of its plausible promise, effective tool and acceptable bargain, and based on all three, whether that blog is a good one or not.

It’s at least a start to cutting through the world of social media clutter, anyway.

Until next week —

**Note: I did not write about what website for which I am most thankful this week because I had to have my blog post finished by Monday, 11/22, and the class blog had not posted the assigned blog topic by then. But I think I am most thankful for Google, because it allows me to have Gmail, which is the best for SO many reasons! 🙂

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Response Blog #1: Tara’s “One Life to Live”

I really enjoyed Tara’s blog entry about online and social gaming, not because I have multiple brothers (and I couldn’t imagine growing up with that many — one was plenty for me!), but because I can definitely relate to not really having a gaming background at all. It was refreshing to see someone write about something similar, because I often feel like I am in the large minority when it comes to that. And even though I am sure I still am, it’s great to hear about someone else’s “lack of experience” in that area. After all, as the Cluetrain Manifesto states, people like conversations about markets to which they can relate, especially is they are made in human sounding voices — which is another reason Tara’s post was so great.

While I found it hilariously goofy to be scared of video games and the characters in them, the way in which Tara wrote about this situation was not only very humanizing, but written in a voice that other humans could relate to, even if we couldn’t relate to the same exact situation — we could still relate to something very similar (in my case, the sheer lack of understanding as to why video games/online gaming was/is so fun and great).

I also just really enjoyed the tone of Tara’s writing, because you can tell she has a great sense of humor, but is also very thoughtful in what she discusses in the post, including what she shared about her brothers and their gaming habits (not that much different than most boys, I’m sure!) 

Anyway, for example, her description of her brothers always trying to “kill her” throughout the various games they tried to make her play with them was hilarious, and I also love the funny (but very true) point she made at the end about seriously only having one life to live, and the time and money spent on gaming isn’t worth it. I also love the point Tara made about already feeling like she is living a second life through her presence on social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook. I had not thought about that at all, but it so true!

Well done, Tara. Anytime you want to get together to NOT play video or online games, I will happily join you! 😉

Until next time —

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