JOUR 7330: Twerking

I twerk for class. I even get a grade for it. That’s Tweeting + Working.

Oh, you want in? Curious about my hip prof? Check out her emerging research: http://changingnewsroom.wordpress.com

I’ll post reflections from our weekly readings here. If you go any further than this, you’ll be reading my homework. But that’s okay…since it’s a social media class. Feel free to follow and join us via #J7330.

(My) Top 10 Social Media To-Do List

This recruit has undergone formal social media training since January. It’ll soon be time to earn my wings and fly the coop.

There are scores of theories, methods, and tidbits that I’ve picked up, and there’s even more that I’m learning. That’s the catch with technology and communication, you’re never done evolving.

Now it’s nearly high noon and time for me to resolve a last few social media standoffs. Thus, here’s Memphis Maverick’s top-10 list of reasons, goals, or to-do’s to evolve my online presence:

Self(ie) portrait. 2014.

Self(ie) portrait. 2014.

10. Join Ariel Antonio‘s weekly #picture901 scavenger hunt challenge. (It’s fun work and fits the ethos of what I’m trying to convey.)

9. Actively pursue guest posts (Thank you, Choose901, for last week’s!)

8. Follow-up on organizations or individuals that I’ve previously mentioned in interviews for future pieces.

7. Surpass 1,000 Twitter followers!

6. Track how people get to this site and examine if and why they stick around. (I’m talking bounce rate, baby.)

5. Publicly solicit events to cover and supplemental features.

4. Claim username on major and minor social sites via NameChk (Thanks for the tip, Glen Thomas!)

3. Tweet more verbs to gain better traction and figure out who should be following me (and vice versa).

2. Keep raking in FourSquare mayorships. My work and a restaurant have been conquered, yet I’m still after you, John D. of Central Gardens.

And the final social media goal?

1. “BE AWESOME!” courtesy of Kid President

They like it? Hey, Mikey!

Businesses live and die by big data. In fact, there’s so much content production (2.5 quintillion bytes per day according to IBM) that we can’t begin to make sense of it.

However, metrics and optimization tools are here to help us. As a new blogger, I don’t have to spend my day counting the different IP addresses that hit my site. WordPress magically aggregates the number of unique views and slices and dices them to my liking.

Reporters don’t have to scour through 2.9 million Google results pages to find an acceptable definition of “quintillion.” They can mostly trust the first page because search engine optimization (SEO) terms push the salient sites to the top.

Metrics have enabled us to analyze, infer, and interpret large quantities of information. Metrics have shown newsrooms which headlines spike traffic. And metrics have infatuated leaders to the point where decisions can be made based solely on numbers.

If data is available, it should be studied. Highly clicked stories can let an editor know what’s resonating with people. This is especially helpful for news outlets who are still trying to determine how to monetize operations as advertising and subscription revenues have decreased.

According to a study by Nikki UsherAl Jazeera, the Middle Eastern media network, has captured the attention of millions (e.g., 220MM households), established itself as a notable news source, and grown rapidly over the last 18 years, all while being financed by monarchs. i.e., “They got money.”

To some, a news organization being owned by rich, powerful people sounds alarming, yet it’s worked for decades.  Around the world, readers have trusted the San Francisco Chronicle, the Wall Street Journal, and CNN despite the names Hearst, Murdoch, and Turner. (Albeit, Al Jazeera’s financiers are also government leaders.)

As a result, Al Jazeera has been insulated from the economic penalties associated with being a news organization. It doesn’t risk losing readers from the creation of a pay-wall. It doesn’t have to compromise editorial decisions to only produce stories that will guarantee a bump in web traffic. And its staff have the luxury to focus on what they want to do: report the news.

Is it worried about profits? Of course! But execs and managers keep track of the bottom line. While Al Jazeera is in a plumb position to ignore perilous economic effects, it still keeps up with metrics. Usher found that individual reporters want to see who’s reading what. Managers want to see what audiences want.

Even if Al Jazeera’s modus operandi seems vague to others, it clearly understands that measuring engagement is critical. Because of social media, viewers can tell companies what they like and dislike. Yet, direct conversation is not the only way to communicate.

Everyday, we interpret emotion and feelings from nonverbal body language. Likewise, news organizations, journalists, and bootstrapping bloggers infer a lot from metrics. By tracking the behavior of users, we can stay one step ahead in this content-saturated world.

Visit Steadman's blog for quintillion explained.

Mark Steadman built this clutch quintillion infographic. Click graphic to see his Robin Leach-esque break-down.

A Mayoral Mutiny: Foursquare’s Diabolical Distraction

Location apps are looking for you. And me…and us. Restaurants are employing them to reward patrons. Tourists are connecting with local mavens for parking tips. Coworkers are battling for badges. There’s no more hiding.

It’s been two weeks since I’ve rekindled my relationship with Foursquare (after a two-year hiatus). Never have I encountered a more coy application. Foursquare gently nudges the user to let the neighbors know that you’re home. It invites one to leave tips about jogging in city parks. She (yes, she) even whispers alluring “Welcome back” greetings and flattering accolades.

How is Foursquare so sly? Because it’s barely been 14 days, and I’m consumed with the possibility of a claiming a mayorship. Mayor of my own neighborhood?! That doesn’t even take creativity, but I crave it nonetheless. A mutiny is brewing for John D.’s coveted title. (I shan’t friend him for risk of exposure.)

Tips? I’ve been generous – more so than the supposed mayor – in assisting fellow Central Gardenites with their safety needs and scenic running routes. Even photos have been included to increase likes and click rates.

I bet he receives Foursquare’s “passive” recommendations that were enabled last fall. It prompts users with tips about a particular area or business without having to officially check in, according to WIRED. No fingers needed. Very clever, Mr. Mayor.

Foursquare has also probably been granting him access to the area’s most renowned residents. If one is curious about a particular place, the investigator can simply review the venue’s list of frequent visitors. Excellent for questioning, err, I mean interviewing the superusers (Never fear, I’m onto his antics via Mashable‘s guidance.)

So, how does one gain a competitive edge? By diversifying! I’ve employed the help of Jelly, which now allows users to ask nearby experts for counsel. The sporty geo-location feature could breathe new life into this app that was once left for dead by John Biggs, an editor of TechCrunch.

However, not one native has responded to my inquiry about holiday garbage pick-up. I just don’t think my fellow residents are ready for that Jelly. Ergo, Foursquare remains the preferred local choice.

Mayor John, forget Game of Thrones, this is the evermore dastardly “Game of Mayors,” and you shall be usurped.

Mayor Memphis Maverick

(Future) Mayor Memphis Maverick

 

YouTube Stardom Takes Work

So you think scores of people can become famous because of the Internet? Well, they can. Hollywood, network execs, and station owners no longer exclusively control what content is seen by audiences.

YouTube gives everyone the freedom to distribute compelling, informative, and silly videos. I tried my hand at it for a class project and learned that even a 3-minute campy short involves trial and error, hours of work, perseverance, and patience.

Memphis’ most recent ice storm was covered by thousands of local Memphians through social networks. Yet, Twitter housed a groundswell of comedic-laced posts via #MEMICE. Thus, I scavenged for content.

Next, I storyboarded the most descriptive tweets and carefully cast the roles to ensure that the personality of each tweet would come to life.  I must brag: My friends are AWESOME! They routinely expect me to drag them into projects and events, yet this was the first time some had ever acted. (I’m more than proud.)

The low-fidelity props and background cost $18 and served as a nice juxtaposition for this hashtag-inspired short. Give the actors their lines and winter-weather gear, and you’ll get two hysterical hours of filming take after take.

With limited seconds, the intro (and subsequently, the credits) needed to convey quite a bit of information in order to provide context to the viewer. I envisioned a movie-trailer theme and turned to Fiverr, a comprehensive market place that let’s you buy just about any creative service for $5. (Think personalized online singing telegrams.) I hired Jordan, a voiceover pro, and he turned around the job the next morning.

To complete the video, I filmed some campy B-roll of toy cars, a hand-drawn background, and paper punches to mimic the weather’s toll on the city. The tools? (Apple could have sponsored this project.) Filming was done on an iPhone 5 and editing was completed in iMovie using a MacBook Pro. (Mindy McAdams offers solid tips.)

Finally, it was time to upload to the MemphisMaverick channel and promote the video. Thankfully, the persons featured were flattered (and not offended). They graciously forwarded the video to their networks, and it spread to those that I do not personally know. Here’s a Storify outlining reactions to the video by key influencers.

In all, 20 hours (see graph below) were spent on a 3-minute movie. Was it worth it? Absolutely! Will I try it again? Definitely…but maybe this summer.

Silly rabbit, memes are for kids.

Or are they? If anything has evolved (or regressed) with our sense of humor, it’s the tolerance for online silliness.

Mischievous catsHillary Clinton. And…the Harlem Shake? That viral YouTube clip garnered more than a billion views and enticed thousands of spinoffs that included NBA teams, colleges, and even NASA.

What’s so appealing? A combo of amateurs, parodies, and laughter. That’s what Olga Goriunova discussed in her article, “New Media Idiocy.” Goriunova said that it’s the “homemade feel” that keeps a piece, or video, authentic, and that is captivating. Today’s digital culture encompasses many tools, academic theories, and business models, yet we shouldn’t overlook the power of the idiotic. Or the “sincerely comic,” according to Goriunova.

So how did YouTube convince people that it was acceptable (and possibly profitable) for parents to showcase their children biting one another? Clay Shirky‘s Here Comes Everybody boils it down to three factors: a promise, the tool, and a bargain.

YouTube promises uploaders that others will not only watch a video, they’ll react to it. Each reaction is positively correlated to the number of visible views. When the views increase, the video is then promoted exponentially across several platforms. Thus, YouTube the medium also serves as a tool that encourages and tracks engagement. Does this site deliver on its promise? I’d wager that by having more than one billion unique viewers each month, YouTube lives up to its bargain.

People are clearly satisfied with YouTube’s structure, and it continues to reign as the most-visited video-sharing site. (If people didn’t like it or liked it less than a competitor, they’d quit using it.)

As silly as it sounds to post personal stream-of-consciousness tirades, they too are YouTube-worthy because others can relate to the message. When I first watched Krissychula‘s profanity-laced rant about trying to survive the “91,000 damn degrees” of summer…I buckled over with laughter. Why? Because I was staying in a sweltering Harlem apartment during the Fourth of July with no air conditioning. My misery found solace in Krissy’s company.

And for Krissy’s bargain? Well, I can assume she’s being financially rewarded as her videos have garnered more than two million views, and she’s now hawking an app for users to download.

While it’s still hard to explain why silly stuff spreads so easily, I think a good place to start is with relatable emotion. (People are absurd!)

Texts from Hillary Tumblr

Texts from Hillary Tumblr

References:

Goriunova, O. (2013). New media idiocy. Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, (19)2, 223-235. Retrieved from http://con.sagepub.com/content/19/2/223

Shirky, C. (2008). Here comes everybody: The power of organizing without organizations. New York: Penguin Press.

Supersocialgeoconnectedocious

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.

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.

#JRLWeb

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 d.school 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.

balloons

“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’.