Month: February 2014


Take that, Mary Poppins!

Social media has found its niche by being able to create bonds over pretty much…anything. (Hence, the super duper headline above.) Mundane tasks such as making lists have been re-envisioned as communal activities. Pinterest has attracted brides-to-be and established a daydream-like forum to ogle mason jar glasses and barnyard backdrops. Even Steve Buttry has found that pros use it to spice up the newsroom.

What’s more fascinating is how social media has fervently sorted and introduced people like Yente the matchmaker. LinkedIn visually maps how people know or could know one another through three degrees of separation. (If they upped it to six, I could finally meet Kevin Bacon!)

In Here Comes EverybodyClay Shirky describes how many applications and sites are social tools. People naturally congregate with one another, and our favorite people-finding apps facilitate this action. The geo-tracking features within apps and mobile devices have supercharged real-life connections. By checking in on Foursquare, one can more confidently search for the 5-foot roommate who’s hidden in a mosh pit. And these features are getting more precise.

The new neighbors on the block are Bluetooth-style transmitters and beacons that more accurately track one’s physical location by applying it to the surrounding environment or venue. The NFL has tested this by sending alerts to stadium attendees so they can fast-pass their way to shorter hot dog queues. And that’s just a sliver of the capabilities being developed.

Well, isn’t that special?

But what if companies, the NSA, or (even worse) helicopter moms start tracking us like blood hounds? For all the convenience that social media has granted us, privacy issues may dominate the next century.

Orwellian? Definitely. But as a super-social Leo, I can dig it.

SNL's "The Church Lady"

SNL’s “The Church Lady”

Social Media Schools TN Legislators

This week, Tennessee state senators considered a “religious freedom” bill similar to the one that passed Kansas’ House of Representatives: legislation that empowers business owners to refuse services to potential clients, especially gay ones.

Soon after news of the legislation sponsored by Senator Brian Kelsey, a Republican that represents parts of Memphis and Shelby County, was made public, a local restauranteur and chef, Kelly English, got political. Once English learned about the bill, he posted his dissent to Facebook:

Screen Shot 2014-02-21 at 12.21.13 AM

And what happened next can best be explained by Clay Shirky in Here Comes EverybodyHe described how barriers to collective action have been removed because of technology. In 2007, American Airlines passengers and many other fed-up frequent flyers successfully lobbied for the Passenger Bill of Rights after eight hours on the tarmac broke the camel’s back. Dissatisfaction and organizing via social media sparked Congressional change. (Today, passengers have the right to deplane if they’ve been sitting on a tarmac for more than three hours.)

Chez English instantly became a social media influencer by encouraging others to follow suit and vehemently rebuke the bill. And rebuke they did! Online protests, trending hashtags, and calls to action flooded posts and networks. (See Mashable’s engagement tips for help.) This resulted in two key developments: Senator Kelsey dropped his sponsorship of the bill, and the legislation was indefinitely sent to a subcommittee for the remainder of 2014.

While traditional news organizations delivered the information, the scene was filled with “alternative voices.” Not media outlets or the powers that be. We’re talking about the hoi polloi of the Internet who got offended and spoke up. While legislators and the bill’s supporters could chalk this up to public griping, English’s camp could liken it to an Egyptian revolution.

Score for this round? 1-0 with “No Bluff” English in the lead.

Take 5: Hayley Isaac

Hayley Isaac

Hayley goes for gold everyday. 

Meet a half-Venezuelan, Midtown chick who binges on the Olympics and works full time sending snail mail.

Stage Name: Hayley Isaac

Friends call her: Smart and silly

Starring Roles: Sr. Specialist for ALSAC/St. Jude; formerly the Associate Director for the CBU MBA program

Daily script: Developing the strategy behind one-time mail donations for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Like free labels? Give her a call.

Good gig? “I know what and who I come to work for everyday: the kids.”

Behind the Scenes at St. Jude: “All I can think about is the number of children that will be saved because of the new proton beam. It’s overwhelming.”

Hometown Reminder: “Proud Mary”

To improve Memphis, Hayley would focus on transportation. “We need something that better connects the burbs to the city.”

If at the Olympics…“I’d be cheering for Lolo Jones,” (the track star turned bob sledder). “She’s made a huge jump!”

Favorites to Follow? @MakeMemphis, @AmuricaPhoto, and @SochiProblems 

Gettin’ Jiggy with #JRLWeb

To keep a long Storify short, this week the class participated in a national hashtag scavenger hunt – #JRLWeb – where participants sought out campus quirks, favorite eateries, and got the low-down on how locals use social media for news consumption. The most dynamic feature was the interactivity that flourished between journalism students, professors, and even big-city newspapers!

Check out “Quest with a Holy Hashtag” for a cheeky, five-minute read.


Activity Results from #JRLWeb

I love you like a Shinto shrine.

Now there’s a new Valentine.

As I forged ahead in Clay Shirky‘s Here Comes Everybody, I learned that the Japanese Ise Shrine is old. Like 1,300 years old. Plus, the shrine gets reconstructed every 20 years or so because it’s wooden. While the original edifice has been replaced dozens of times, the indigenous forest still provides the timber, and Shinto priests ensure its preservation on the same grounds. It’s symbolic of renewal, collaboration, and as Shirky puts it, love.

Not many social media gurus can relate to the dedication required for the upkeep of a primitive shrine, but they can relate to the passion that that it takes to keep a community going. Mommy bloggers spend hours to produce fresh content for their fans each week. Wikiheads comb thousands of posts for accuracy and apply references. Utility companies respond to myriad tweets during a power outage. Why keep at? Because they care. 

The term social media has been used so flippantly and incessantly that its meaning has become lackluster. A generation ago, being social just implied that someone enjoyed the company of others. Today, it’s a broad yet powerful word. At 2011’s South by Southwest, Jay Rosen juxtaposed the traditional perspectives of journalists and media with insights behind modern self-publishers. He noted that the Internet’s disruption of the news industry has caused angst for journo veterans and businesses. Yet, they can adapt!

Discovering different narratives that resonate with readers could be a start. Tinkering with every available platform to reach an untapped 1% could be worth it. Whatever the method, I’m convinced that being responsive to other people is the best approach; because that’s the social thing to do. An app developer can try to guess what teenagers would like to play next, but letting them test a few versions could make the answer surface sooner. (Stanford’s and other innovation evangelists teach this methodology; it’s quite relevant!) Get to the heart of the user, and you’ll be set for the fast lane.

In sum, people love collaborating because bigger triumphs are possible. Whether it’s rebuilding a temple over and over again or assembling an online community, it’s the verve behind the interactions that make everything worthwhile.


“I love Memphis” may sound cliché, but these three don’t care.

You’re 26. You live in Midtown. You boogie downtown. You go to tweet ups and meet ups. You volunteer. You happy hour. You hum the blues. You grit. You grind. You are Memphis.

So, what?! Along with the thousands of other folks? I’ve never been shy of the bandwagon, so it’s refreshing to see what will hopefully evolve from a cultural fad into lasting civic pride.

That pride is palpable, and there are entire sites dedicated to it. Let’s review a few: Choose901, I Love Memphis, and theGRIND.

Choose901 offers a robust terminal for navigating the city. Whether it’s restaurant picks, prominent local blogs, or job openings, you can find many up-to-date tidbits. Choose901 is more down-to-earth than an “official visitor’s guide” in that it includes the most interesting part of our city: the people.

  • My favorite feature is Choose901 TV where you can meet residents like Samilia Colar, an entrepreneur-seamstress, or Kevin Mattice, a math teacher turned coffee-lover. Well, maybe you can’t meet them here, but that’s my point. I feel like I have; this site builds community!
  • Helpful tips? I have no clue who’s in charge of Choose901. I want to learn about the writer(s), publisher, photographer(s), developer(s), owner(s)…some bios or added detail on the about page would suffice. Also, its “enjoy” tab leads the user to a gargantuan listing of past and upcoming events. It would be nice to have them categorized by type (e.g., music, sports, and fundraisers).

The I Love Memphis blog is operated by the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau and one of its staff: full-time blogger Holly Whitfield. The blog’s extensive posts span the gamut from Elvis-related to highlighting local causes and needs (Project 50). I Love Memphis has been an activity portal for locals and visitors since its founding in 2009 by Kerry Crawford, and it’s still charming.

  • My favorite feature is 5 Things to Do This Weekend which provides a heads up on the cool and quirky events (along with schedules, venue information, and pricing) every week. If you ever come up short on plans, check it out.
  • Helpful tip? A plus to this blog is that most of its content has a long shelf-life. However, it would be nice if the latest and greatest was identified with more chutzpah. The homepage begins with page one and goes to 549; all the posts look the same. Maybe some type of color-coding or highlighting would help the reader distinguish between the new and old (rather than a fine-print dateline).

theGrind is an online magazine published by students of Rhodes College that launched last month. It presents profiles of residents, events, art, music, and photography that is unique to the city. theGrind’s crisp layout and striking imagery allows the reader to nearly feel the pulse of the city through the lens of Midtown millennials.

  • My favorite feature is the overall design and the photography section. It’s up-close and stunning! For those of you who’ve moved away from Memphis, just visit this site every once in a while to cure your homesickness.
  • Helpful tips? Overall, the navigation is straightforward and the content is organized, however, the transitions can be jarring. Several of the sections have different looks and styles to display content so it can give the impression that you’re jumping to another site. Also, Humans of Memphis does not list the names of the subjects that I assume it’s quoting. (Maybe it’s intended to be gallery-esque and not the typical interview profile?)

Super Social: Choose901 and I Love Memphis do an excellent job of engaging readers through social networks. @Choose901 recently had a t-shirt promotion where it announced a code via Twitter for people to purchase an exclusive run of shirts. They sold out faster than a Justin Timberlake concert. @ILoveMemphis has done an excellent job of responding to reader questions and sending timely reminders about events. @TheGrindMemphis is still working up its Twitter following, yet its Facebook page is loaded with content and has more than 1,000 likes.

This trio promotes Memphis and provides a service to the city. These sites are more than a billboard or brochure, they engage and listen to their audiences through social networking and fun promotions. While it may be confusing to some to see multiple Memphis-centric sites popping up, they each have a niche to fill for our natives, transplants, and passerby. Kudos to each of you and keep the hometown love comin’.

Social Pressures and Many Reasons to Tweet

Ever feel the pressure to post because you want to keep moving on up? Or is the act of tweeting pure joy?

Toubia and Stephen (2013) suggested that there are two kinds of motivation for noncommercial Twitter users: intrinsic and and image-related (p. 368). They explained that intrinsic utility is gained when users post and as a result, more followers are gained. This makes tweeting….well, fun! Conversely, they said that there are users who simply want a large following. Period. Being pressured to post is something one must endure to gain more followers. This is image-related motivation.

The researchers conducted a field experiment to test this prediction. They found that most users went through phases. Starting out, people posted more to gain followers for intrinsic reasons. And later, users’ actions reflected image-related motivation once more followers had been acquired. There was a control group, selected users, and posts were monitored over a period of time. However, the frequency of posting and a post-to-follower ratio does not necessarily indicate or predict behavior. Surveys were not conducted and qualitative data was excluded (if collected at all). How do we know what the users were thinking?

I’m not convinced that Twitter motivation and use can be segmented so simply. There’s the desire to consume information, to react to other people, to converse with authors, to congratulate Oscar winners, to debate politicians. Twitter is the medium that grants access by removing geographic, educational, and class barriers. There’s a plethora of reasons to use Twitter that differs than just wanting to see and be seen.

Michael Roston described reading tweets by different users on the same topic as a new form of storytelling. He pointed out that when news outlets allow reporters to tweet the news from the scene, it adds a richness that one doesn’t get from the company newspaper’s account. Further, when tweets are numerous yet descriptive, immersion takes hold for the reader (Steve Buttry can live tweet like a boss.). World leaders, TV personalities, movie stars, mayors, and ordinary citizens can converse in real time about policies, tragedies, and royal births. Twitter provides the access; the user must provide the text.

Anne Trubek said that Twitter has become a “democratizing force in the literary world.” How profound! As an author, she enjoys how Twitter is forcing everyone to write, a lot. Even though many have been out of practice, we’re now honing in on the power of 140 characters.

As a faithful tweeter, I feel responsible to ensure the information I push out or relay is sound. Yes, I can say it’s to preserve the integrity of journalism, yet, my conviction is fueled more to combat the adage, “You can’t believe everything you read on the Internet!” If we work to remember context, check sources, and use common sense, Twitter can be and has been a reliable and credible source of information. (Read Malachy Browne for validation tips.)

Twitter is many things, but personally it’s greatest asset is that it fits in my pocket. Wherever I go, I have the ability to silently catch up on the chatter or loudly join the exchange.

Storify from live tweeting the Super Bowl

Storify from live tweeting the Super Bowl

P.S. Above is how I used Twitter last Sunday to help tell a story, immerse myself in live tweeting, write some quips, check sources, catch missed plays, and join tens of millions from the comfort of home.


Toubia, O., & Stephen, A. T. (2013). Intrinsic vs. image-related utility in social media: Why do people contribute content to Twitter? Marketing Science, (32)3, 368-392. Retrieved from

(For the APA-philes.)

Overjoyed with Undercurrent

“Find a job. Find a date.” Memphians have done both at events hosted by Undercurrent, a free networking organization that brings together more than 100 twenty and thirty-somethings each month. “We’ve been laser-focused on what we do best: creating a social space for people to make meaningful connections,” said Patrick Woods, the founder of Undercurrent.

Local Gastropub served as the downtown venue for the first Undercurrent event of 2014, which marked the sixth in the series.  Beer flowed freely from the communal table taps as newcomers and veteran attendees greeted one another. They stood shoulder-to-shoulder similar to a New Year’s Eve countdown, while the proximity provided a respite warmth on the 20-degree Monday night.

Millennials are not the only ones involved, companies have also found it beneficial to align with Undercurrent. “It’s an H.R. decision for companies; the city needs to attract and retain young talent,” Woods said. Launch Tennessee, Start Co., and Christian Brothers University have sponsored previous events.

Chase Gil, a manufacturing engineer at Smith & Nephew, recently returned to Memphis from Fort Lauderdale for his career. “I didn’t realize how much Memphis had to offer for twenty-somethings, let alone that Midtown was home to many places that were strikingly similar to where I would spend my free time in Florida,” Gil said.  This was Gil’s third time to attend Undercurrent. “I love the concept, since it is encouraging the development of connections with other like-minded people in our city,” he said.

When people purposely want to engage with one another, the possibilities are aplenty. Alliances forged from these face-to-face encounters could later result in big-screen ventures. Two filmmakers in Memphis met at Undercurrent for the first time and have since considered collaborating on a project, according to Patrick Woods.

Whether or not another Bluff City film surfaces, Undercurrent will “continue to produce excellent events…that focus on connecting big ideas,” Woods added.


The images were pulled from Undercurrent’s Storify. To learn more about Undercurrent and the upcoming February event, follow @GetUndercurrent or visit the Facebook page.