Tuesday, July 19, 2011

We're Doers, Not Watchers: Defending the Social Media Generation

The other day I came across an article by Dean Obeidalla on CNN.com that posed the question of whether or not social media is creating the laziest generation. An interesting question - one that I strongly answer with a heck no! I can see why the question was posed, and there is validity to both sides of the argument. There's even a Toyota commercial about a girl who judges how "social" she is by how many Facebook friends she has. Still, I argue that social media is certainly not creating the laziest generation.

First of all, while I respect Dean's viewpoint and enjoyed his article, I have to offer a bit of criticism for providing reality TV as a valid argument that social media is making us lazy. The two simply aren't related. Sure, people share opinions and engage with each other around these shows on social media platforms - but that's just because people are talking about nearly everything on social media, TV included. To partake in social media does not mean that you watch reality TV. I love social media, in fact, my friends and family call me mildly obsessed. But I don't watch reality TV, ever. There are plenty of people who do both, but to engage in one does not mean that you engage in both.

Some will argue that we've become lazy in our writing. Everything needs to be shorter - 140 characters on Twitter even. Well I say we've just mastered the elevator pitch. What used to be communicated in lengthy presentations and long conversations, we accomplish in 140 characters. Yes, we watch. We watch to see what comes next and how we can take that idea to the next level. Or implement it into our start-up, or our campaigns.

Dean was right, one Tweet will not change the world. But one Tweet can spark another, and then a trending topic and then start a revolution. Social media has incredible influence, and we're all in the midst of a game-changer for politics and business.

People are using social media to make their lives better. We're using it to do things, not just watch things. We're obtaining new information and using it to make a mark on the world, look for job opportunities or connect with like-minded people who share interests. That way, we can connect on and off line. We're exercising our minds endlessly online, sinking in all the information we can from the many channels we're tuned into. We Tweet, we update, we connect. We find roommates on Craig's List or Roommates.com. We meet boyfriends and girlfriends through online dating. We support our favorite political candidate with Tweets and statuses of support, which is actively shared with all of our friends and family. We blog about places we've been, or activities we've participated in. We are doers, not watchers.

So, social media isn't creating the laziest generation, it may even be doing the opposite. We engage with more people and wider circles than ever before and are able to meet people that we never would have without the emergence of new media. That's my PR thought for the day.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Yup, this is another post about Google+

You might be getting sick of Google+ posts by now, but here's my two cents on the latest social network - just a few basics.


1. You can edit posts. Can't tell you how many times I had wanted this feature when I had one silly typo in a Facebook post or Tweet. Solid move.

2. Google grabbed all my info from LinkedIn, Blogger, etc. That saved me a lot of time, and I had the choice to publish it or not.

3. I'm sharing with colleagues, journalists, bloggers and clients on a happy-medium level. Not as much as we should be sharing if we were Facebook friends, but more personal than on Twitter. I'm getting to see new sides of people's personalities, many of which I've never met but have connected with online or over the phone.

4. Circles - awesome. I don't care about the fact that you can share with certain groups and not others, which is the main pitch point of circles. And maybe I will start to care more about this as time goes on. What I like about it is that I can filter the stream. If I want to get some info, news or pitch ideas about mobile tech, I'll only look at those in my mobile circle. I'm seriously loving this feature. And I love that people can't see what circles I put them in, though I'm morbidly curious what circles people are putting me in. Annoying PR folks? :)


1. No contact connection to other social networks. I realize other sites are the competition, but you're not going to win me over by limiting my access to them through Google+. I don't connect my social networks usually because I think they each serve a different purpose for me, but I'm new to Google+, we all are. And I want to find friends from Twitter and Facebook who are using it so we can connect, not just my connections from Gmail. That would be huge for me as I get started.

2. No link shortener in the mobile app - super annoying.

3. There's no button yet to share articles from other sites, only to +1 them. Facebook has a "Like" and a "Share" button. Hopefully this is only a matter of time...Or I'm just proving my last post wrong because I'm too lazy to actually copy and paste a link into Google+.

4. No "smart screen" for the mobile app. That's probably not the technical term. But when I turn my iPhone horizontal for easier typing, the screen in the mobile app doesn't turn with it. This is beyond irritating when you're typing.

Google+ certainly has some kinks to work out, but it's brand new and that's the whole purpose of beta. On the whole, I think it's a pretty solid social media platform and it will continue to improve. I'm excited to keep learning and sharing. That's my PR thought for the day.

Oh, and be sure to add me to your circles folks.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Relevancy, Engagement, Value - Why You Should or Shouldn't Follow Me

I love Twitter. Well I love all social media, but I have a special place in my heart for Twitter. It continues to prove itself to me, both for personal and professional networking. Too often though, I hear negativity about following too many people - as if it's a bad thing. I'm not attempting to defend spam bots here or anything. But I've heard and read many comments about the ratio of people you are following to people who are following you. It even affects some influencer measurement scores such as Klout. I understand that perspective, because there are certainly people and organizations who will follow anyone and everyone in an attempt to increase their own follower count. However, I do think other other factors need to be considered. Here's just a few of those factors:

1. Relevancy: Are the people who you follow relevant to you, on a personal or professional level? Sure, I follow a few hundred people - Kim Kardashian is not one of them. That's not to say anything against her or those who follow her, but her Tweets simply aren't relevant to me. I follow my friends and colleagues to stay connected, as well as folks in industries that interest me - PR, journalism, mobile, marketing, IT, etc. Oh, and of course I follow both of my alma maters, Merrimack College and the Newhouse School at Syracuse University.

2. Engagement: Are you engaging with the people you follow? Okay, I haven't retweeted, mentioned or sent a message to every single Twitter handle that I follow. But you can bet I've engaged with people across all of the industries and interest areas I follow. I may not retweet everyone, but they're on my list of followers because I think they have potential to share compelling content with me - content that teaches me something, makes me think or just brings interesting news to my attention.

3. Value: Are the people you follow actually sharing anything important with you? If not, why the heck are you following them? Value doesn't have to mean that you should only be following the likes of the New York Times or Wall Street Journal. Value's different to everyone, and there's all different kinds of value too. You could find value in a humorous Tweet when you needed that comedic break in your day. Or it could be that news or research report that brings you the perfect angle to pitch a trend story for your client. Value doesn't mean any one thing in particular, but all of those you follow should bring it to you in some form or another.

Maybe I'm naive or drinking too much Twitter Kool-Aid, but the way I see it, you should follow as many people as necessary to obtain value. I don't follow people just because they follow me, and I certainly won't unfollow anyone who chose not to follow me back. If they decide they will not gain anything from following me, then why should they? Sure, there are definitely some industry folks out there I wish would follow me back (ahem @BrianSolis). But I won't stop following them because I'm too proud. If I'm getting value out of their Tweets, then I'll continue to follow them and retweet or respond to anything I find compelling enough to share.

Again, I understand both perspectives here, but I think there's more to consider than a simple comparison of followers/people you follow can provide. So when friends and family ask my opinion, I never preach "don't follow too many more people than who follow you." I preach to follow those who will make Twitter as valuable and fun as it has been for me, whether that's 10 people or 1,000 people. That's my PR thought for the day.