Tag Archives: social media

It Ain’t Just How College Students Get the News

John Robinson, not long ago the editor of the Greensboro News & Record, is now teaching journalism to students at UNC-Chapel Hill. He’s written a blog post about how his students get their news, and while it’s not exactly shocking, it’s still interesting.

This is how one of my student’s began the diary of her day’s media interactions:

  • 8:15 a.m.: phone alarm sounds, snooze it
  • 8:30 a.m.: phone alarm sounds again, snooze it
  • 8:45 a.m.: phone alarm sounds again, turn it off
  • 8:50 a.m.: begin checking phone
  • Check text messages, respond
  • Check UNC emails
  • Check personal emails
  • Check Facebook
  • Check Twitter
  • Check Yik Yak
  • 9:05 a.m. Turn on laptop and begin work

That’s pretty much how she ended the day, too, minus the alarm.

I had 35 students in one of my classes record every interaction with media they had over the course of two days. The exercise surprised most of them with how reliant — addicted, in the words of several — they are to their phones and to social media. Putting aside the above student’s wake-up routine, it’s worth noting where her first stops of the day are not:No newspaper, no TV for news or otherwise, no CNN website. If it isn’t on her social media, she’s not going to get it.

That’s not uncommon, either. In fact, it would be more common if you add two more stops: “Check Instagram.” And “Check Snapchat. Respond to Snaps.”

As I read this I had to chuckle because if you were to push the time frame up – I am almost 50 and I have a hard time remembering the last time I slept that late – that’s pretty much how I roll in the morning too. I do consume news directly from traditional sources like newspapers, TV news and magazines, but honestly I do that more for depth and background than for news itself. Almost all of the interesting stories I read are shared with me by someone on one of my multitude of social networks and I seriously doubt I’m the only person in my demographic who can say that.

Later on in his post John writes, “They simply don’t access a great deal of mainstream news media outlets in their course of the day. They often get the news indirectly. But they still get it. (I was a college student once pre-Internet and they know a lot more about what’s going on in the world than most of my classmates did.)” That was true of my college experience too. So many people gave me funny looks when they saw me reading a newspaper or magazine even though it wasn’t assigned school work. Sure, plenty of people cared about news but many did not then and still don’t to this day.

What’s interesting to me is that most people I know in the working world already behave the way his students do. Many of them never paid attention to the news before social networks, and now they actually do because they’re bombarded by shares from their friends. (The reliability of these sources can be questioned, but that’s a post for another day). In my mind if a media company figures out the sharing economy then it’s made itself relevant. If not? Well, bless their hearts.

Assuming Positive Intent

To me one of the most important things we can do as human beings is to assume positive intent from the person we’re working with or talking to. What that means is that even if you say or do something I disagree with, I assume your intention in saying or doing it was to create some kind of positive outcome. By doing this I can look at another person’s action or words and think, “Okay, why would Jane think that was the right thing to do?” even though I might think it’s completely wrong. Rather than take it as an assault or an insult, I view it as a step towards some kind of (eventually) positive outcome.

One of the most maddening things about human beings is that we tend to see everything in black or white, right or wrong, us versus them. It’s maddening because it instantly divides us and it makes us predictable and easy to manipulate. It also prevents us from solving our society’s hard problems which all live in the gray areas, the ambiguous territory between what’s obviously right or wrong, the responsibility of not me, or you, but both of us.

All of this is nothing new – people have been like this since the dawn of time – but now we get to see these tendencies on full display on a daily basis through peoples’ new forms of interaction, namely social media. Not to put too much import on Facebook or Twitter, they are simply a new way for people to express the feelings they’ve had all along, but in the past we were limited to hearing the opinions of those we actually shared a physical space with or the limited number of people who wrote for a newspaper or broadcast on radio or TV. Now we can see or hear the opinions of people we might see in person once a decade, and their friends, and those drips of sharing turn into a flood of opinions.

Unfortunately, most people either don’t have the time or the ability to formulate nuanced or well thought out positions on the issues of the day and so they default to sharing some quote or visual that represents their opinion and helps identify them as being in the pro-this camp or con-that camp. Then they get a thumbs up from those who think like them or maybe a visceral “eff you” from someone who sees things differently.

It would be easy to dismiss this as silliness, as just people spouting off on stupid platforms intended to waste time at work, but I think that would be a mistake. When you have serious social issues like the police protests going on, any medium that is potentially contributing to the division in our society should be taken seriously. So the question becomes, are our social media channels contributing to a widening divide in our country?

Short answer: maybe, but they don’t have to. Let’s return to my original statement about assuming positive intent. Take any of the things you see on Facebook – or whatever your social media platform of choice is – that you disagree with and think to yourself, “They must be saying or sharing that because they believe something good will result. What is it?” By doing that you avoid thinking, “Man, Jon’s a moron for saying that and I know that because I’m right and he’s wrong.” The moment you pass judgment is the moment you begin to close your eyes, your windows to the world, to the possibility that there’s an alternative view you may not have considered.

Of course some people don’t have positive intent. In fact there are plenty of people who would like nothing more than to take advantage of any given situation, but you can rest assured that they will reveal themselves very quickly. You have nothing to lose by assuming positive intent and then reacting accordingly if you find otherwise, but if you don’t assume positive intent then you will never have the opportunity to learn from those who think differently than you. Remember, different doesn’t have to be wrong or right, it’s just different.

So folks, please as a favor to me, when you’re getting all hot and bothered about an issue please remember to do yourself and our society a favor – assume positive intent until proven otherwise.

The Feedback Machine

Why blog? Why maintain Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. accounts? Obvious answers to these questions would be, “To express myself”, “To keep in touch with friends and family”, “To find interesting people in the world and see what they’re doing” and probably dozens more. One that may not come immediately to mind is, “To build an awesome feedback machine!” From Fred Wilson’s excellent AVC blog:

But blogging is another helpful tool in reminding yourself that you are not all that. Marc Andreessen said as much in his excellent NY Magazine interview which was published yesterday. I loved the whole interview but I particularly loved this bit:

So how do you, Marc Andreessen, make sure that you are hearing honest feedback?

Every morning, I wake up and several dozen people have explained to me in detail how I’m an idiot on Twitter, which is actually fairly helpful.

Do they ever convince you?

They definitely keep me on my toes, and we’ll see if they’re able to convince me. I mean, part of it is, I love arguing.

No, really?

The big thing about Twitter for me is it’s just more people to argue with.

Keeping someone on his or her toes, making them rethink their beliefs, making them argue them, is as Marc says “fairly helpful.” That’s an understatement. It is very very helpful.

That’s the thing I love about the comments here at AVC. I appreciate the folks who call bullshit on me. There are many but Brandon, Andy, and Larry are common naysayers. They may come across as argumentative, but arguing is, as Marc points out, useful.

It’s easy to focus on the toxic elements of online commenting, but Wilson’s approach is far more useful. Sure some comments are so imbecilic that you simply have to ignore them, but for the most part if you pay attention to what people are sharing with you on your various social media platforms you’ll get a pretty good picture of how you’re being perceived.

As the married father of three young adults I don’t lack for sources of honest feedback, but when I stop to think about it I’ve learned a LOT from folks who comment on Facebook or reply to something I’ve written here on the blog or shared on Twitter. You can rest assured that if I have a moment of stupidity, and I often do, that I’ll be called out on it and that’s most helpful. In fact it often prevents me from doing it at home which spares me plenty of grief.

Tweet This, Facebook That

SmallBusiness.com has an interesting post about how the uses of Facebook, Twitter and Reddit differ depending on the subject:

  • Platform usage is context-dependent. Entertainment events are more likely to be discussed on Facebook, while sporting events (and live news events), like the NFL Kickoff or the Napa earthquake, are more likely to be discussed on Twitter. Reddit tends to be the dominant platform for political and international discussion.
  • Timing is crucial when posting to certain social networks. Facebook tends to be the dominant platform to discuss and publish stories 2-3 weeks around an event; but Twitter and Reddit are more reactive, dominating 2 to 3 days around an event.
  • Within 24 hours of a major event, 85% of sharing occurs on mobile devices.

This next one was very interesting:

  • News events like the Napa earthquake and the Ferguson riots are highly localized with sharing. Missouri saw a 7.7x surge during the riots.

Back in the early days of blogging it became trendy to “liveblog” at conferences. Basically attendees would send out rapid fire blog posts sharing what they were seeing, hearing and learning. While it still happens that action has been largely replaced by people Tweeting their experiences and using a hashtag so that their observations will be group with other attendees’ in a stream of conference-related information that any Twitter user can see. That’s why every conference now has a #ID printed on everything so that everyone knows which one to use and they can generate some real-time conversation.

Facebook is also used at conferences but usually it’s people posting photos, letting people know they’re there, or at the end of the day saying things like “Had a great day at JonCon. Can’t wait for tomorrow’s session on excellent enemas!” It’s not nearly as spontaneous and, to use a real world analogy, is the conference yearbook vs. Twitter being the conference newspaper.

What does all that mean? If you’re using social media for business, church, non-profit, school, club or whatever, you need to make sure you utilize the proper social media channel at the right time. If you don’t you’ll be whistling in the wind.

Social Media Tools Reveal Tools

Boiled down to their essence, social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. are communication tools. They enable anyone who has them to communicate in a way that used to be restricted to people who could afford to buy their own printing press, radio station or TV station. That’s pretty cool, but just like any other tool it can be dangerous for those who maybe shouldn’t be allowed to walk with sharp scissors. A couple of cases in point:

The former executive director of the South Carolina Republican Party has tweeted that Ebola victims should be euthanized to help prevent the spread of the disease. Here’s a couple of his tweets:

KincannonTweets

The second example is an image of Vladimir Putin that some conservatives are sharing on Facebook and suggesting that we Americans should follow his lead:

If you’d told me 20 years ago that Republicans would be looking for policy inspiration from a Russian autocrat I’d have said you were nuts. Ronald Reagan must be spinning in his grave.

The first example is obviously pretty extreme, but it’s a big deal because the person who posted it is prominent in his field and is seen to represent a large group of people. In the past, before he could express himself directly to so many people with just his two thumbs and a smart phone, he would have needed a witness to capture the moment and then share it via one of the traditional media outlets in order for anyone to really see it. In other words he likely would have had a media professional around to say, “Whoa, that’s some bat**** crazy stuff you’re spewing. Let’s not share that with the rest of the world.” Now he has all the tools he needs to reveal himself as a tool without anyone’s help.

The second example is a classic case of someone sharing what they think is an astute observation, no matter how half-witted it is, and then have it shared by like-minded people. This is interesting to me because it tends to say as much about the sharer as the creator and so over time people reveal their character and intellectual outlook by what they support and share. The only corollary I can think of from days gone by would be people posting signs in their yards or putting bumper stickers on their cars, and that by it’s very nature provides a much smaller window to the soul than do peoples’ social media activities.

Of course there’s a positive side to this. People can share inspiring messages, truly insightful observations, interesting facts, etc. on social media just as easily as they can negative/hateful thoughts, dumb ideas or historical inaccuracies. All-in-all it’s a net positive, especially when you consider that in addition to all the positive stuff we find via social media we also have a much more effective way to identify the tools in our midst.

Playing Foursquare

Finally I'm seeing a payoff for the ridicule I've endured for continuing to use Foursquare.  I'm not really a hardcore user because I probably forget to check into places I visit about 50% of the time, but when I do check in I get one of two reactions if I'm with someone: if they're an "online" person they say "Are you still using that goofy service?" and if they're a Luddite they say "Is that another one of those stupid social media things you're into?" My reply is usually a shrug or I'll say, "Well sometimes I can get a discount." But all this time what I've really been hoping for is a way to track where I go and the kinds of places I prefer and finally Foursquare has come through with Time Machine.

FourSquareMap
This screenshot below is a map that shows my 1200+ checkins over the last few years and some graphs that show the kind of places I like visit. It won't surprise anyone who knows me that I really like coffee shops.

Here's what's really smart about it though: the time machine then asks if I want to see the future and then takes the opportunity to recommend places to visit based on my history. What I like about this is it highlights parts of Foursquare that I haven't used, didn't really realize I could use, and will now probably utilize. Basically they've helped me understand that this could be much more than just a gimicky, fun, service as Fred Wilson pointed out in his post about Time Machine:

I've been using Foursquare for about four years and have checked in almost 5,000 times. That's an average of 3.4x a day. No wonder Foursquare is so good at making recommendations for me when I am in places I don't know much about.

I plan on testing Foursquare's recommendations on my next trip. As I use the recommendations I'll probably realize that if I were to check in more often I would get even better recommendations, which will lead to more check ins, which will lead to better recommendations, etc.

Who Owns Your Friends?

Here's an interesting tidbit from JimRomenesko.com about a reporter who had built a following on her Facebook and Twitter accounts, and what happened when the new owner of her station put in place a social media policy:

At this juncture, I am retaining ownership of my existingFacebook and Twitter pages. Therefore, the company has started new social media accounts in my name for me to use during work hours when I am covering stories. The company has administrative control over these accounts.

It would be easy to think this kind of thing only applies to businesses with "talents" like news organizations, theaters, etc., but that would be wrong. As social media in its varying forms becomes  ingrained in the way we do business, the question of who "owns" friends/followers will be as fundamental as who "owns" a salesperson's contact list.  Many companies avoid this problem by having only one official company Facebook page, Twitter account, LinkedIn page, etc. so there's no question about who "owns" those followers, but for those companies that decide to allow their employees to develop distinct social media presences as company representatives this is a vital consideration.

 You might wonder why any company would allow an employee to develop a distinct social media presence. After all, you'd think that would distract from the company's core social media property. That's a valid concern, but when you stop to consider what you pay people to do in the "real world" – attend industry conferences, develop sales channels, develop relationships with the trade media, etc. – why wouldn't you want them to do the same things via social media? If you're willing to embrace the messiness and chaos that this brings to your social media portfolio then you're likely to generate plenty of business through these efforts, but you also better be ready to protect your business by making it clear who "owns" those channels and the related followers/fans/friends.