Blog Archives

The Yin Yang of Technological Advancements

Since I have been out of the field of technical communication for the last 15 years, this week’s readings framed my understanding of some of the changes that have taken place since I left.  It seems there has been a major shift to all things digital.  While I have no work experience in the field to share and relate to this week, I did find that I was able to relate my direct sales experiences to those of my mom 25 years ago.  Much has changed, and the shift has seemed natural and easy.  As a matter of fact, I am quite thankful for many of the changes and I am beginning to see that, while I have not been a professional writer over the last 15 years and I have not had experience with the changing publishing software, I have certainly kept up with the changes in digital and social media by virtue of simply keeping with the times.

Twenty-five years ago, my mom decided to begin selling Mary Kay Cosmetics on the side to supplement the income from her full-time retail management job.

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Source: candiecooper.com

I was fourteen and she would often enlist my help in handwriting her party invitations that she would give to friends in the mall where she worked.  She personally handed out each invitation and answered any questions the guest may have.  She also asked that each one RSVP if they planned to attend.  The night of the party, she would usually have each person that RSVP’d show up, occasionally with a friend, but not often.  In the end, she had a small circle of friends who purchased their make-up from her.  After a few years, she lost interest in the business and became more active in her full time career and that was the last I heard of direct sales until I was an adult, married with children, who had decided to put my career on hold.

As soon as I entered the world of direct sales, I knew much had changed since the days of helping my mom with her Mary Kay party invitations. My business is done almost completely online.  My invitations are events that I create on Facebook through my business page and share with my customers or give to my party hostesses to share with their friends and family members (see section “More on Facebook Events” below for my thoughts on this aspect).  My actual parties are done via my phone camera and broadcast as a Facebook Live video.  Gone are the days where my mom would spend hours cleaning the house and baking treats for her Mary Kay guests.  I go into my office, put a photo screen behind me to block out any mess from the day and keep my video background clean and focused, and hit “go live.”  I am also not limited to an audience of my friend circle and their friend circles.  My reach extends across the US as people share my video with their own Facebook friends and family.  While I find myself having some nostalgia for the “old way” and that “personal touch,” I admit that my business is much more successful than my mom’s because I am able to reach so many more customers due to the way I use social media to conduct my business.

I am also constantly looking for ways to use social media more effectively for my business.  As things continue to change in the world of technology, I often find that something that “worked” for me last month has stopped drawing the same response or interest.  That is when I go searching for answers online.  Check out this blog post I recently found:  42 Facebook Post Ideas from Businesses Who Know What They are Doing.  Fellow Students – I think it could also be helpful as we begin to write our final papers for this course.

More on Facebook Events

Facebook Events seem to be the social media preferred way to invite people to do almost anything.  It is simple in that the host just creates an event, fills in the details, and invites most of their Facebook friends list with the click of a few buttons.  To see just HOW easy, check out this quick YouTube Video on How to Create a Facebook Event. The drawback?  Those invitations have lost that personal touch in a way that seems to be affecting the outcome of the event.  While wedding and graduation invitations are still sacred and more personal (usually snail-mailed), I receive about fifteen invites on Facebook each week to join a direct sales online party, to come to a friend’s child’s birthday party – even to attend our family Thanksgiving dinner!

In chapter 4 of Spilka’s “Digital Literacy for Technical Communication,” authors Salvo & Rosinski discuss Johnson’s (1998) research and ask us to,

“Consider memos, parking tickets, wedding invitations, white papers, and reports for decision making: each of these genres carries part of the message in visual design and physical presentation.  The design indicates a range of possible responses to the text.  One can accept or decline an invitation…Johnson reminds technical communicators of the power of inherent design and presentation: while innovation is possible, it comes at a cost.  Innovative documents man not carry with them clear boundaries for readers” (p. 108).

This paragraph resonated with me especially as I considered the part about how, “One accept or decline an invitation…” (p. 108).  Facebook events are so impersonal and so generally disregarded by most people that, often, invitees will click “maybe” on an event and never show up.

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Source: graphjam.com

Maybe they never intended to show up, maybe they had some interest and lost that interest before the event, or maybe they forgot.  Whatever the case, Facebook events are notoriously inaccurate when it comes to any kind of RSVP or guest count abilities.

In my business, I will create an event for my customers who wish to host a party.  That event links me with their friends so they can invite and I can share what this party is all about and how they can go about shopping.  While this method of inviting is convenient (most of my hostesses live across the country), they aren’t always the best method when it comes to getting friends interested and to actually attend the Live party.  So many hostesses will complain after the party, “My friends said they were coming and only x showed!  I can’t believe it!”  Well, I can.  It happens every time.

Another ongoing issue with Facebook events is that sometimes the invitees never see the invitation.  Recently, a dear friend invited me to her son’s birthday party via a Facebook event.  I never saw the invite.  She called me a week after the party saying that they missed me and I was totally clueless.  Technology is awesome, but nothing beats getting a small, hand-written birthday party invitation in the mail.  It shows me that I wasn’t an afterthought to my friend – or part of her, “I’m in a hurry, click, click, click” guest list, but instead I am a treasured friend for whom she made time and gave an effort to invite.

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Source: Imagur.com

While I am appreciative of technological advancements for business purposes, I wish it wasn’t also taking over in regard to the way we communicate with true friends and family.  Where are we going to draw that line?

Being Your Authentic Self…Online?

This week, I read Constructing and enforcing “authentic” identity online: Facebook, real names, and non-normative identities, as written by Oliver L. Haimson, Anna Lauren Hoffmann. I found this piece to be quite interesting and informative, offering Facebook insight I hadn’t previously given much thought to. This article explores the contradictory balance of authentic y and discretion. The general expectation is that Facebook user accounts should display the exact, full names of their respective users. However, many users view this expectation as irrational and unjust, due to the negative consequences that have resulted.

Throughout Facebook’s 14-year history, this aforementioned authenticity has backfired for many users who did not exercise discretion with their posts. Sure, we could easily make the ‘devil’s advocate’ argument that there must be accountability with the users, who should ensure that they aren’t posting content that could be offensive and potentially damaging. However, those same users could argue that, if Facebook wants users’ accounts to reflect their authentic selves in display name, shouldn’t their accounts also reflect their authentic selves with regard to personality, interests, and viewpoints? Furthermore, isn’t it hypocritical, contradictory, and disingenuous for Facebook users to not post directly from their respective minds and hearts?

Regardless, in our technological society, we have made significant progress since the term ‘2.0’ was coined more than ten years ago. By ‘progress’, I mean we no longer imply that platforms have an original, ‘boring’ version followed by an improved, ‘fun’ version. Instead, we are trending away from a black-and-white view of technology as bad and good. As a result, we are trending towards a more open-minded approach to software development and implementation. For example, these days, a development team is unlikely to ask such questions:

  • What types of functionality and navigation could we seamlessly build into this software?
  • What’s the coolest layout for this type of software?
  • What’s the fastest method for implementing this software?

Instead, a development team is more likely to ask the following types of questions:

  • What types of functionality and navigation would most likely be preferred by this software’s user base?
  • What type of layout would be most helpful for users of this software?
  • If we begin developing our sprint enhancement list next week, what is a potential timetable for pushing this enhanced software into a beta environment for testing?

Technology continues to evolve across the globe, making the term ‘2.0’ obsolete and archaic. Instead, every day, developers are gathering user feedback to continuously fix bugs, implement enhancements, and improve the user experience. Software can no longer simply be ‘fixed’, as the process is ongoing.

 

References:

Talk to Me!

In this week’s readings, I made a connection between Howard Reingold’s talk of “Net Smart,” Scott Kushner’s article, Read Only, The persistence of lurking in Web 2.0and my personal business – specifically my Facebook Live Videos.  Kushner says that, “…Consumer habits research reveals that a wide swath of the social media user base lurks: these users read, watch, and listen to content, but they do not contribute any of their own.”  Reingold reminds us of these “invisible audiences” of which we must always be aware (p.235).  In my business, I am acutely aware of the invisible audience or the lurkers.  When I hit the live button, I can literally watch my viewer count go up and down throughout the live show.  Often I will have lots of conversation moving in the thread, but it will be the same handful of people responding to me and corresponding with one another during the live video.  I may have 40 viewers, but only 10 people talking.  And of those 40 viewers, very few will remain constant throughout the video.  Many will click on and off of the video to do other things on the internet (or offline); some will simply tire of the live video content and leave prematurely.  Lurkers may feel unsure of what is going on in the video and prefer to watch quietly so they do not ask any questions that seem silly or insignificant.  I have built a group of viewers that are very accepting of new faces, but that have also gotten to know one another on a personal level and that choose to Facebook friend one another outside of my videos.  I am sure that can be intimidating to those who lurk – but I count on the interaction between those connected viewers during my lives!

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Image from Rebecca Snyder, Vantel Pearls Independent Leader Facebook business page.

Why I Work to Increase Viewer Interaction – and How

Facebook operates on a series of algorithms and one of those is that live video interaction/participation directly correlates to how much exposure Facebook gives your video.   Kushner says, “At the end of the day, it is still the eyeballs that matter to Facebook.  In this case, participation becomes ornamental, and the forms of easy participation that today serve as gateways to increased participation may sink into platforms’ ever more sophisticated boxes of content-targeting tools.”  Reingold says that, “if you tag, favorite, comment, wiki edit, curate, or blog, you are already part of the Web’s collective intelligence” (p. 148).  Later, he reiterates, “Participation can start with lightweight activities such as tagging, liking, bookmarking…then move to higher engagement…” (p. 249).  While I realize that people have many reasons for only watching (or lurking) on my videos, I try to stimulate these passive forms of interaction by often calling on my viewers to click the hearts when we open an oyster.  I may say, “Give *insert name* some love and let’s see what color she gets for that gorgeous Caribbean Shore bracelet!  Start those hearts!”  Sometimes even the most passive lurker will add to the anonymous heart collection.  Likewise, I discourage mad faces and my admins will block people who come onto my videos giving mad faces as this is often a tactic of trolls to get their buddies onto your videos.  They, too, know that interaction drives up viewers.

As an extension of my live videos, I run a VIP Group for my customers/viewers.  Joining is completely up to them – I do not put them into this group myself; they must request to join.  During days that I am not live, I (or my admins) will put up interaction posts – for the sole purpose of eliciting interaction from my group.  It is a tool to keep my followers interested in me and what I am doing;  I am showing my active members that I have not disappeared just because I am not on a live party.  I am also working to bring my lurkers out of hiding (on the live videos) by getting them more comfortable in the VIP group first – as it has proven to be a less intimidating, slower-paced setting.  Here is an example of an interaction based post that was amazingly successful!  You likely see these all time on Facebook whether in a friend’s feed or on a business page.

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Image from Grad School Pearl Girl VIPs Facebook group page.

And notice that, just as Reingold suggested, I am not only asking my customers to participate, but I am showing a “reciprocating cooperation” (p. 149) by responding to each comment they make on my post, in some way.  I am furthering the interaction by interacting back.  I never realized how important that small detail was until I joined the VIP page for a very successful make-up gal.  She would ask a question and hundreds of people would respond, but she never uttered a word.  It was obvious that she was not trying to connect with us but simply working to keep the algorithms ever in her favor.  It is a delicate dance to make Facebook like you by keeping your viewer responses up while also making sure to not seem like you are posting ONLY to keep your viewer responses up.

My Rule Looks a Little More Like 60-20-20

Kushner brings up Neilson’s work on participation inequality and his idea of a “90-9-1 rule” and describes it as being “where 90 percent of users lurk, nine percent ‘contribute from time to time’, and merely one percent ‘participate a lot and account for the most contributions.'”  In my personal experience, I have more of a 60-20-20 rule.  60% of my nightly viewers tend to hop off and on all night, never speak, and mostly just help to make up my viewer count.  20% of my viewers actively participate by commenting on the pearls during my live videos and placing orders with me which forces them to speak in the live feed as they choose their oyster and answer any questions I may have about their order.  The other 20% are my tried and true viewers.  These are the core of my business as they are the ones who will share my videos often, talk back and forth to one another, click the hearts for me if they see the viewer count go down, open an oyster to get the party going, and purchase from me almost nightly.  These are the people that I count on completely.  If you average that out – I keep around 40 viewers per night.  The math says that 24 of those viewers are passive lurkers, eight are contributing from time to time, and eight count for the majority of the contributions.

A Little Appreciation Goes a Long Way

After reading “Net Smart,” I have realized that I am doing a lot right in terms of networking.  I have always found that the best way to increase participation on my videos and in my group is to give my viewers and customers a reason to interact.  The simple/fun posts help keep the thread boosted to the top of their news feeds and thus keep my VIP group in the forefront of their minds even when I am not live, but that is not enough.  Reingold says, “Small talk nourishes trust.  Trust lubricates transaction” (p. 251).  I allow and encourage my customers to connect with me on a personal level by sharing parts of my life with them.  It makes me “real” and thus helps to establish trust with them.  For instance, I have talked on my live videos about my oldest son moving away and how hard that transition can be for me at times.  I also share my accomplishments with them – making sure to let them know that my business accomplishments could not happen without them!  For example, I recently received a gift from my leader for having sales of over $250,000 in 20 months!  That is their accomplishment as much as it is mine!

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Image by Rebecca Snyder

Just as they celebrate my triumphs and tragedies, I celebrate theirs.  Some of my customers know that I am a Christian and they will ask for prayers in the video.  Many keep in contact with me via Facebook messenger and some have sent me friend requests on Facebook.  I try to make sure my interactions are not just organic reach but are personal and connected.   Most importantly, showing customer appreciation is key!  A little bit goes a LONG way to keep customers coming back and loyal.  We all need to feel valued and appreciated.

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Image from Grad School Pearl Girl VIPs Facebook group.

Crowdsourcing is Key in my Social Media Based Business

Before I discuss crowdsourcing and its necessity in my social media based, direct sales business, let me give a bit of background.  I work for Vantel Pearls as an independent consultant and team leader.  This company began as an in-home party sales company much like Tupperware or Thirty-One Gifts.  However, with Facebook’s invent of the Live Video Streaming feature, Vantel Pearls consultants began to take their parties from the living room to the live video platform, thus allowing them to reach an audience well outside of their local social circle.

During my live videos, the customer makes a purchase, selects the oyster they would like to open, and I shuck the oyster, live, to reveal the pearl inside.  That pearl is then sent to our home office to be set into the jewelry piece they selected and they will receive their jewelry in 2-3 weeks via US Mail.  It may seem simple – Hit the “Go Live” button and voila, everyone in the USA sees your party, hops on, and makes a purchase!  Right?  Well, no.  As a matter of fact, Facebook algorithms make it virtually impossible to reach more than a small handful of even your Facebook friend’s list, much less those outside of your circle.  This is what makes crowdsourcing so important in my business.

Mary Chayco’s book SuperConnected: The Internet, Digital Media, & Techno-Social Life discusses crowdsourcing in depth in Chapter 4.  She says, ” Online attention can take the shape of a single glance at a photo or a more active step: a like, a follow, a share, a comment” (76).  It takes time and effort to build a social media presence.  My business began with my local social circle and a select few of my Facebook friends who had interest in the product and experience I was selling.  I encouraged those friends to host a party with me; they became the “hostess” with the promise of earning free jewelry based upon the purchases made by their friends and family (their circle).  They invited these friends and family members to the party and by doing so, increased my “circle” a bit more.

During my live parties, I spend time engaging with my customers and making sure they are having fun.  I wear silly hats, play games, bring on special guests and offer prizes to buyers as well as to people who SHARE my video on their personal pages.

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Image from: Grad School Pearl Girl VIPs Group Page

By having them comment a phrase with the hashtag sign in front of it  (#Just1morepearl),  I am able to randomly choose a “Share Winner” though FB feature called “Woobox.”  I ask that they make all shares public so that I can verify the share was made once the winner is chosen.

Mary Chayco says, “This is, indeed, a kind of economy, and it is one that has come to matter to many of us.  Attention is attracted as something shared is acknowledged online.  A kind of compensation follows in the form of likes, follows and comments.  More tangible rewards like social connections, jobs, and money can even follow” (76).  Facebook allows me to keep track of likes, shares, and follows via “Insights” that can be found on my Facebook Business Page.  It keeps track of the trends week-by-week so I can see the ebbs and flows in the number of people who are seeing and interacting with my page.

Mary Chayco points out that, “Attention online is subject to increasing returns.  That is, the more one has of it, the easier it is to get more.  …To succeed in such an economy, it helps to create or re-mix attention getting content and then to rapidly capitalize on bursts of attention as soon as they occur in hopes they will follow back and engage in return” (76).  This is something I find myself doing often.  When I change the times I go live, or the prizes I give away on a given night, sometimes my live viewers will jump dramatically.  When they do, I immediately take that cue to mention liking and following my page, joining my VIP group, or signing up to receive my text notifications.  I rev up the energy, start singing – anything to get those people to take it one step further and like or follow my page in hopes that they will, over time, see me pop up in their feed and ultimately, become interested enough to make a purchase.

However, all of this has been more that I can do alone.  Around Christmas, I enlisted the help of four “Admins” to help me run my Facebook Business and VIP pages.  These four individuals are responsible for making posts to increase interaction on my pages during times when I am not live, booting trolls from my live videos who, as Mary Chaco describes them, are “individuals who… “hijack”…and provide extreme, irrelevant responses in an attempt to pull focus away from the…original intent” (74), and sharing my live videos in groups to increase viewers.  I suppose you could say I outsourced crowdsourcing.

In March, Vantel Pearls sent me to Rivera Maya, Mexico in an all expense paid trip for being in the 125 top in sales.  My gratitude went to my customers, because, without their constant shares, post interactions, and purchases, I would not have a business.  While I am certainly not famous nor the absolute top seller in the company, I count my business a success because of my customers’, Admins’, followers’ willingness to share me with their friends and family – their willingness to crowdsource!

Another End Brings New Beginnings

I often say that everything happens for a reason and at the time it should be happening.  But what I have found with my schoolwork over this past year-and-a-half is how the uncanny unfolding of situations at work parallel and seem to be answered by my school work.  This class was no exception.  For the past year, I have worked to try and create a blog just for my own department and for various political reasons it has not been very successful.  Fortunately this class has brought a number (too many to count) ah-ha moments. For example, developing a sound social media strategy is vital in order for organizations to survive in today’s digital world.  But the miss to this strategy is how we can also create a social media strategy as it relates to internal organizational communication.  Something I am now working to formalize with my role.

Just like the following image, however, aligning social media tools can be just as challenging to solving a Rubik’s cube.  Interestingly enough, the Rubik’s cube was actually designed by a professor to help his students look at how you solve an objects structural problem and solve individual problems without the whole object falling apart (Wikipedia).  The same goes for developing an internal organizational social media strategy.  While organizations may have entire strategies to build around this topic, it is looking at each situation that needs to be solved and understanding how that situation and solution fits into the whole strategy.

Rubiks

On that note, a sweet melody that brings to you my…

Final Paper Abstract
Many marketing and communication experts have defined this time in our history as Web 2.0.  It is the time in our digital history that highlights how organizations are required by societal norms and expectations to use social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook to communicate and connect with their consumers.  Kids, adults, students, even grandparents are using social media channels to connect with each other on a daily (sometimes even hourly) basis.  But the use of social media for organizations to communicate and connect with employees is uncertain and volatile.  In fact, in a study completed by Towers Watson (2013) the results concluded that just over 50-percent of companies are using social media to connect with employees in some way.  There seems to be little evidence and research into the social media structures and strategy for internal organizational communication.  Therefore, this paper will look at the social media channels that could be used to build an internal social media communication strategy for an organization and to begin identifying the effectiveness of these social media tools and tactics. 

Whew – nearly all of that in one breath.  I will say that the research aspects of this final paper have been tedious, exhausting, and exhilarating.  It can be like finding a needle in a haystack when there is little research out there.  But what has been an interesting challenge is to take the knowledge that has been built around social media and decipher and pull from it how internal communications could benefit from these tools and tactics.

tedius

And although this semester is coming to a quick close, the work around this class and this final research paper will drive my career and school work.  With that, while I could probably write to you for hours on this subject, I’m afraid I must bid you adieu.  Thank you all for such a wonderful semester.  Your thoughtful comments and intriguing posts truly provided for some great thought provoking conversations.

Feliz Navidad.  Happy Holidays.  Merry Christmas.  Happy Hanukah.  And to new beginnings.

Living My Final Paper

I have enjoyed this class, although so many of the conversations have blurred the line between work and school.  I was blessed and stressed by the overlap.  Sometimes, I’d turn to the week’s reading and feel like it was another part of my work day as I read about topics that were related.  I read many responses from my classmates and it seems some of you may relate to that feeling.

In typical fashion, my final paper is rooted in the daily activities of my job.  I am looking at the power of the customer who uses social media to be vocal about their consumer experience.  My primary focus is the negative consumer.  Holidays bring out the worst in people, so I am overwhelmed with angry customers calling in asking for supervisor intervention and responding to a rapidly growing list of social media posts.

I don’t think that my company handles social media with the same finesse that many companies do.  I am looking at some of our operational policies in my paper.  It almost feels like I’m pulling back a curtain that I’d rather leave closed.  I may know the Wizard of Oz is a fraud, but I will always feel disappointed when that curtain is really pulled back.  I live these policies so I’m always aware of them.  Analyzing it and recognizing it in writing though, makes it harder to ignore.

As I write this, I have 183 social media posts that require an email response.  We try to remove the conversation from social media and respond via email.  Professor Pignetti had questioned why my company chooses to have an email sent in response to social media posts.  Although I work for an online retailer, we have felt the negative power of those consumers.  My company is afraid of their power and their stance is to get that conversation moved to a private venue as soon as possible.  Unfortunately, while they view silencing the vocal customer as a priority, they don’t allocate the resources required to do this.  During non-peak times, I usually leave work on Friday with my responses caught up. Even then, it takes a lot of effort to stay on top of and sometimes additional hours.  We are in the middle of a busy holiday and those social media posts are aging by the day and I have no hours in my schedule “ear-marked” for this activity.  Those posters can be aggressive when they are ignored and often continue to be vocal in social media.  Today, I was able to respond to three posts during my spare moments.  While our company culture tells us to fear the posters, our policies and mode of operation does not allow for the issues to be remedied in the time-frame that social media savvy companies do.

My paper is providing me with an interesting opportunity to look at  other companies and how they deal with social media.  While I will not be able to invoke much change where I currently work, I think the contrast between where I work and how other companies are dealing with social media, has been an interesting project.  I think it also gives me some excellent perspective if I find myself working on social media in my future career endeavors.

I have enjoyed this class and the new perspectives it has given me.  I wish everyone luck with their papers.  (And remember, please be extra nice if you find yourself calling a customer care line over the holiday.  Most of us deal with so much negativity over the holidays, but we really have a genuine desire to make the customer happy.)  Happy holidays!

 

You better buy the cow, because I do not work for free.

Some of the themes in Howard Rheingold’s book, Net Smart, seem to be

  • give your full attention to people online and off-line
  • check your privacy settings on Facebook and be mindful that whatever you write online, because it will be there forever
  • to participate to help others and build your social capital

I found these to be common sense and good ideas. However, there are things such as remixing of copyrighted materials, which I did not agree with.

No copyright infringement for you!

As a small business owner who has dabbled in photography and videography, I do not agree with people taking works and remixing it into their own works and calling it “fair use,” if these people are getting paid for it. I fully stand by the copyright law, and I believe that people must ask for permission before using it. If there is a fee involved, fine. The artist has spent a lot of time creating his or her artwork, and they should be paid for it.

Now, if that artist wishes to create things for the public domain, or as Rheingold calls it, “collaboration” with others, that is fine too, but in the latter, the artist was asked if they want to share their work for free, when another person wants to create a project with that artist’s help.

I can do it, but it will cost you…

Moreover, just like with “playbor,” where people are doing work that seems more like play, but they are not getting paid for it, people need to know this upfront. While Rheingold said that many people do playbor to help the greater good, I, personally, fit into the group that refuses to be exploited. I, unfortunately, have been in that position of doing work and not getting paid for it before, and I will not let it happen again. I believe this is one of the reasons why corporations keep making a profit, while their employees who earn so little, continue to make so little, because there is no reason for the corporations to pay a decent salary when there are people who are willing to do the work for free, or for mere pennies.

Similarly, Rheingold mentioned to help others and to pay it forward, so that others will help you when you need it. He says that he helps everyone who contacts him. But, in my opinion, this is only possible if you do not work a full-time job and or have a family to raise too. Free moments should be spent with the family and relaxing from work. And for those who receive so much email and other messages, this sounds like too much work. I do believe that we should leave the world a better place than how we came into it, but helping others all day leaves little time for oneself and one’s own needs.

Understand, that I know for a fact that if I tried to respond to every message on Facebook or email, providing advice or whatever is needed, I would spend an entire day and not be done, because people respond back with even more questions. I do understand the importance of giving my full-attention to whomever I am talking to face-to-face, but online? I can maybe do that with a couple of people who I have a good relationship with, but if I did that for every email and message, I would not have any time for the most important people in my life, which is my family. Thus, I am happy to fail at gaining online social capital.

Disappearing websites? Say it ain’t so!

After reading Rheingold’s how-to instructions on Facebook privacy, I was wondering why his publisher would allow this information to take up space. Rheingold, himself, has stated, Facebook changes its privacy settings often. Thus, his steps for changing Facebook’s privacy settings probably became obsolete within a month or two after his book’s publication.

Now, as someone who has written for online publications before, naming that amount of websites that he did is a big no-no, and for the same reason that I mentioned in the above paragraph. Websites can go obsolete or change their urls within weeks of publication. I would assume that adding website urls in a printed book would be a much bigger taboo. But since it has been years since I last had something published in physical form, perhaps the rules have changed.

Anyway, I think that Rheingold’s book is good for beginners who are looking to enhance their social capital, build good online networks, know where they could go to participate in collaborating, and to learn what not to do online. While there were times that I thought, “Oh, yes, I should do that more,” I did not leave learning something totally new. This may be because I may be a more advanced user of social media…who is trying to actually back away from social media as it was taking up too much of my life. It will be interesting what I do next with my life in regards to social media. How about you?

Form and Function in a Cyber Environment

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A major theme that resounded through the readings was the need for the organization, understanding and usability of content online. Through the use of creative design, implementation and use, technical communicators can work in conjunction with designers and help find solutions to these problems. Above all, usability and ease are the two most important factors in web design.

The famous phrase “form follows function” was coined by American architect Louis Sullivan in his 1924 book Autobiography of an Idea. There are two ways this phrase can be interpreted:

1). Aesthetics should be secondary to function

2). Beauty results from the purity in form.

Modernist architecture was based around this idea, as ornaments or decorative elements to a building were considered superfluous. In other words, the shape of a building or object should be primarily based upon its intended function or purpose. With this purpose, this movement became the guiding force for numerous architectural movements and schools of design.

However, one can ask, does this same principle hold true in a cyber environment?

In the early years of web design, oftentimes there was no rhyme or reason to the designs used by untrained technical communicators. Oftentimes, they would disregard principles of effective page design in an attempt to differentiate document design for print from online. In the wild west of web design, an innovative form took precedent over function. However, as time progressed, these freedoms gave way to a new wave of design fueled by purpose, content and user needs.

Today, we take these things for granted and expect certain standards for orienting ourselves in virtual space. Because there isn’t a one size fits all approach, the way in which designers create these spaces is intriguing.

Should they follow Sullivan’s advice of “form follows function”? Or would some creative flair benefit a site and make it more usable? This poses a challenge for designers because while usability is key, it is discouraged to gravitate towards either extreme.

On one end of the spectrum you have your very basic, bland web design. It presents the users with the usable components without any frills. An example of this is the Craigslist site with its basic blue links on a blank white page. It is clear that function is the most important aspect of this site, and little concern is given to aesthetics.

craigslist-10

On the other hand, a site that either has too much going on also renders itself unusable. In the example for Yvette’s Fashion it is clear that the overwhelming amount of information, flashy colors, images and tiny text make it almost impossible to navigate, let alone read.

terrible-website

Gentlemen bear with me, but in a way this analogy of design and usability could be compared to women’s footwear. On end you have your very basic and ubiquitous white tennis shoes. While they may not look fancy, they are comfortable, provide the right amount of support and quickly can accomplish the job of getting the user from one place to the next. They are simple and style plays little role in its usability.

SUPERGA-CLASSIC-WHITE-BAYAN-SPOR-AYAKKABI-39__41988348_1 0c6c668ee677160cdf94c864d240a095

In contrast, there is the glammed up eight-inch stiletto. While they aren’t practical, the over the top nature of them definitely catches your attention. Additionally, while they also will enable the wearer to navigate from one place to the next, it is at a much slower and cumbersome pace. While both forms of footwear are aimed toward different users and server similar functions, the usability differs. In other words, usability is impacted by design.

Likewise, design elements contribute to the ambience of web sites and help prepare the user to understand the context for its use. In Digital Literacy for Technical Communications, Slavo states,“Readers recognize designed elements of the document before interpreting the context”. In other words, visual design carries its message in its physical presentation.

For instance, even a simple change in the web design can make a difference and affect usability. In Louis Lazar’s article, Design is Only as Deep as it is Usable, he examines the homepage for Facebook with a simple omission of color:

facebook-compare

While the plain version is still functional, it is less inviting. Additionally, the contrast between the blue and white makes the boxes easier to find and therefore use. Overall, this example  proves that design can aid in the function of a web site.

In sum, there isn’t a “one size fits all” approach to the design and organization of web content. Because there is no hard and fast rule, function can’t overlook aesthetics and vice versa. “Eye candy is important, but it isn’t everything, and that for a design to be truly beautiful, it has to be functional, have purpose and contribute in some way to the website’s intuitiveness, usefulness and branding” (Smash Magazine). Rather, a balance of the two is needed as they work hand in hand to produce content that is both intuitive and appropriate for the audience. Through this, both ease and usability can be accomplished and good web design can prevail.

I’ve Fallen and I’m Going to Tweet

When I read the article “Tweeting an Ethos” by Bowden, I couldn’t help but think of the early 1990’s Life Call commercial of the grandma laying on the floor of her bathroom.  While laying next to the tub, Mrs. Fletcher hits the button around her neck and the receiver by her phone turns on.  The guy at Life Call answers and asks what her emergency is, she says “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up”.  Parodies, songs, and spoofs ensue and good times are had by all.  What if Mrs. Fletcher hit a button and a tweet went out?  Would this work?  Is it more or less effective than trying to yell to the voice box?

Regardless of Mrs. Fletcher’s options to make her emergency known, the topic of using social media during emergencies seems like a legitimate future.  If I think about what I currently have at my disposal to get updates on a severe weather event, there are only a few options.  There is the news, the emergency broadcast system on both TV and the radio, and there are the sirens outside.  If the power goes out, the TV is not an option, the radio is gone without a battery backup option, and the sirens warn, but carry no other information.  As long as your phone has batteries, and even if the power goes out, your vehicle can always charge the phone, you are linked to a stream of information.  The only problem would be how to sift through all of the information and get to what pertains to you.

In the article, they broke down different categories of tweets for Hurricane Irene.  The question I have is how would you get to the information that helped you most at the moment that you needed it.  Its nice to have road closures tweeted, but how many roads were closed?  I would guess more than a few.  Its wonderful to be able to donate or help out, but how would you know where to go (assuming it was time sensitive)?  Twitter and the tweeters may have already figured this out, but it would seem necessary to put something a little more specific than #hurricaneirene on your tweet.  For a midwest weather event, would it make sense to go by county, city, neighborhood, or could you break it down by street?  Are there enough people on Twitter to give an accurate and helpful account to all areas?

#stpaultornado

#eaststpaultornado

#lowertowntornado

#billysgrandavetornado

If I remember correctly, most people in this class don’t have twitter.  If your city tweeted weather events, road closures, or news that would impact the city’s citizens, would you be more apt to subscribe and set up a Twitter account?  If they used Facebook, would that make a difference?

Its Starting to Come Together

After reading the third chapter “Participation Power” in Rheingold’s book, I couldn’t help but post on a thought sequence I experienced during the reading.  Rheingold gave several different ways the use of emerging media has influenced society, but one sentence in particular resonated with me.  “The difference between seeing Twitter as a waste of time or a powerful new community amplifier depends entirely on how you look at it-and how you grasp it.” (p 141)  A knife can be used to cut up food and allow a cook to recombine them in a way that creates a wonderful meal.  That same knife in the hands of a trained warrior can be deadly.  Emerging media is a knife and in the hands of a trained user, it can be deadly.

Consider the example on page 111 where he talks about the youth using their Facebook organizing to overthrow the dictatorship in two weeks.  How many hundreds of millions of dollars have governments, including our own, spent trying to change regimes in the past?  How much time has been spent and how many lives have been lost to those endeavors?  Using Emerging media, the citizens toppled a government in two weeks.  Think about it, more powerful (effective) than the U.S. government.

Speaking of the U.S. government, the tidbit on page 125 that explained how bloggers could have possibly changed the 2004 election.  Both political parties were represented as liberal bloggers forced the cancellation of a documentary in favor of the republicans and conservative bloggers debunked information about Bush that led to Dan Rather being fired.  Dan Rather had been on CBS longer than I had been alive at the time of his departure.

The readings on digital literacy, social networking, blogging, and technical writing are all very informative individually, but collectively, they are a recipe for something bigger and more profound.  They are an instructional journey that could enable anyone with an internet connection to help change the world.  It may seem overdramatic, I too thought of emerging media as people “liking” posts on Facebook and “following” Ashton Kutcher on what zany nightclub he was at.  That is how I looked at emerging media.  I don’t know if it was an issue of how I grasped it, but perhaps that I failed to grasp it at all.

Rheingold described how to start organizing your lists to follow the right people, contribute useful content, and how to get in the groove, but I feel so behind.  There is no shame in being a cook and continuing to check statuses on Facebook and lurk for information in my favorite online forums.  However, I want to take my knife from the kitchen and teach myself how to be an emerging media warrior.

I hate blogs… or do I?

Before I read the readings this week, my only exposure to blogs were two blogs “friends” were writing.  The first was a blog by a work and Facebook friend who had twins.  I read the first three entries and couldn’t care less about the two kids pooping or the two of them dressed the same and propped up in a staged pose to look cute.  The second was a blog by a friend who had moved to England due to her husbands job that is titled “Our crazy life”  The highlight of the first four blogs was her ranting and raving about their second grader not being enrolled in grade school and every school administrator that could help was on holiday.  A holiday, as she explained four different times, occurs when someone in England is on vacation.  YAWN.

As I worked my way through the readings, there were a few light bulbs and a few “I knew it” moments.  While reading Why We Blog, the author listed several different blogs.  Huffington Post, I read a couple of articles from that site on Facebook.  Some were good, most were not.  TMZ, I have that app on my ipad.  Who doesn’t love to check in on what the hollywood crazies are doing?  Mashable is a new app I just downloaded that gives me RSS feeds instantly without going to the websites.  I love that!  Perhaps I don’t hate blogs.

Just when I thought I had misjudged blogs, I came across Julia from Blogtrax in Academic Blogging as New Literacy.  “Although I am writing with a group of people in mind, I am always hoping for more like minded people to listen and join in”.  HA, I caught them.  Blogging is just people that want to get up on their virtual soapbox and develop an audience that agrees with them.  After patting myself on the back, I quickly thought about it further.  Like minded people, like when I Google “framing a corner” or “how to wire your basement” and it brings me to a DIY blog/forum?  Am I not searching for like minded people to share ideas and give feedback?  I have reluctantly retracted my previous stance of disdain for blogs and have reserved my judgement.  Perhaps I didn’t realize what falls under the blogging umbrella.  Perhaps there is a whole new world out there and I haven’t reached the end of the internet after all.

Privacy and the internet

Privacy in healthcare is very important. This is something that I have some experience with. This kind of privacy is a bit different than the kind discussed in the reading this week. This Health Care Privacy is more about preventing access to data that exists. Not allowing people who don’t need to access a specific patient, access to that patient. This relates to the reading this week in that privacy is really about what you want to show the outside world. I liked the description of the 3 types of privacy; Expressive, Informational, and Accessibility.

  • Expressive Privacy – The ability to choose what I say and do.
  • Informational Privacy – The ability to choose what information I share with others.
  • Accessibility Privacy – The ability to choose how (physically) close I get to others.

In addition to the three types of privacy described above there are also two forms of privacy; actual and perceived.

  • Actual Privacy – When people are around, my actual privacy is limited.
  • Perceived Privacy – When my family is around, my perceived privacy is high. I trust them to not divulge my personal information, to maintain my privacy.

There are a number of ways that people can protect their privacy online. Depending on the site you are using, for example eBay, you can turn yourself into a pseudonym. You can clear web history, deny cookies and other things. The image below is from a Pew Internet Privacy that was done that describes how much people understand about internet privacy.

Pew-Internet-Privacy-Chart

http://researchaccess.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Pew-Internet-Privacy-Chart.png

Social Media sites also have specific settings in regards to privacy. According to Consumer Watchdog, Facebook and their ads track you even when you are not currently logged into Facebook.

facebook_privacy

http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/node/12480

After Privacy, comes trust. Once you look at the privacy settings of your web browser and or website you are looking at, you have to decide if you trust the web site you are visiting.

01f01

http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?pid=S1807-17752007000300001&script=sci_arttext

This image visibly describes what goes into a decision by a consumer to purchase from a specific site.  “A consumer’s intention to purchase products from Internet shopping malls is contingent on a consumer’s trust. Consumers are less likely to patronize stores that fail to create a sense of trustworthiness and an easily usable context. In the meantime, trust would also be influenced by e-commerce knowledge, perceived reputation, perceived risk, and perceived ease of use, all of which are set as independent variables in the model. Hence trust serves as a mediating variable while purchasing intention is a dependent variable.” (JISTEM, 2007)

I know that I have done research on products and found website that were offering them for less than Amazon or some other known online retailer. I do research not only on the product they are offering, but also the website before I decide to trust the retailer and purchase from their website.

What do you know about protecting your privacy on the internet, specifically the use of websites privacy policies? Does anyone read these before signing up for a new website?

Thinking Critically: All that Twitters is Not Technological Gold

After last week’s immersion in Sherry Turkle’s cautionary tale (Alone, together), it’s kind of hard to return to the full-out celebration of all that is Twitter and technological glitter in Qualman’s Socialnomics. I thought I’d bridge the gap by first considering Dave Carlon’s discussion of “Shaped and Shaping Tools” in Digital Literacy (edited by Rachel Spilka).

Time and Space “Fixity”

The subtitle of Carlson’s piece is “The Rhetorical Nature of Technical Communication Technologies,” and in it he calls for technical communicators to “be critical,” to be rhetorically savvy in their use of new technological tools (p. 87). To study the rhetoric of technology, he offers four broad categories of scholarship: rhetorical analysis; technology transfer and diffusion; genre theory; and activity theory.

In his consideration of rhetorical analysis, he discusses the fact that Twitter “opens up both temporal and spatial fixity” because Twitter is not bound by either time or space (93). Early on in the chapter, he makes the point that Twitter can be “endlessly resorted and reorganized” because we have countless interfaces and points of entry.  I wasn’t entirely sure what that last idea meant, so I did some surfing and found this “Twitter Storm” piece by Tom Phillips on Buzz Feed http://www.buzzfeed.com/tomphillips/the-29-stages-of-a-twitterstorm).

http://www.buzzfeed.com/tomphillips/the-29-stages-of-a-twitterstorm

Tom Phillips gives a nice, humorous rundown about how Twitter can be “endlessly resorted and reorganized,” as Carlson suggests.
Source: http://www.buzzfeed.com/tomphillips/the-29-stages-of-a-twitterstorm

I think it perfectly makes Carlson’s point about multiple interfaces and points of entry. You can enter the conversation at any point and, especially if you are someone  with a following, start the conversation all over again.

Even laggards, thankfully, can enter the conversation at any time!

But, just entering the conversation doesn’t make us critical thinkers with regard to technology, a point Carlson makes, Turkle makes, and even Qualman makes.

Genres as Regularizing Structures: PowerPoint and Prezi

For example, Carlson asks us as technical communicators to think more deeply about how technologies shape us and how we are shapers of technology. Consider his discussion of genre theory. He cites the work of Carolyn Miller (“Genre as social action”) that genres such as memos, reports, and manuals are not simply formats but rather they are “regularizing structures … that shape the work of members of organizations” (97). As example, Carlson cites the work of Yates and Orlikowski’s examination of PowerPoint “arguing that genres create expectations of purpose, content, participants, form, time, and place” (97) and become regularizing structures within organizations.

I’ve seen so many bad PowerPoint presentations (and I’ll bet you have, too), that I readily tried Prezi a few weeks ago simply on the barest glimpse of hope that, if it catches on, people might add a little zip to what otherwise turn out to be humongous snooze fests where we watch someone read from a screen.

Prezi, like PowerPoint is not simply a format, but rather it is a "regularizing structure." Source: http://prezi.com/your/

Prezi, like PowerPoint is not simply a format, but rather it is a “regularizing structure.”
Source: http://prezi.com/your/

Prezi does present a shift in perspective as Klint Finley from Tech Crunch points out: “For those not familiar, Prezi uses a map-like metaphor for creating presentations instead of a slideshow metaphor. This makes it possible to create non-linear presentations, or presentations that use spatial metaphors for organizing ideas, like mind maps.”  (techcrunch.com/2012/10/30/powerpoint-killer-prezi-launches-new-interface/.)

In my experience Prezi does offer a different way of organizing information, which might present a new rhetorical paradigm for presentations, but I actually think either platform could be used effectively.  If you’re not familiar with Prezi, you should visit their website (http://prezi.com/your/) and try it out.  I, a renowned technological “laggard,” taught myself in a couple of hours, so you know it must be pretty intuitive.

Cheerleading for cheerleading camp

The concept of “laggardness” brings me to Qulaman, who is always fun to read because, for one thing, he doesn’t laden himself with too much in the way of academic support.  But those are the two querulous impulses I always have when I read Socialnomics―timeliness and evidence.

In the first case, I always have an impulse to check out where the anecdotal evidence stands today. For example, Qualman spends a few pages (161-165) discussing Hulu’s success with delivering high-quality traditional television and movies and for employing an innovative advertising model. Yet, today’s news would suggest that what was true when this book was published is no longer true today.  You can read here about the company’s latest challenges: “5 ways new CEO Mike Hopkins Can Save Hulu” from Mike Wallenstein at Variety (http://variety.com/2013/digital/news/5-ways-new-ceo-mike-hopkins-can-save-hulu-1200735150/).

Hulu

A new CEO is being brought in to “save” Hulu, which suggests that it hasn’t sustained the success that Qualman wrote about in 2009.
Source: (http://variety.com/2013/digital/news/5-ways-new-ceo-mike-hopkins-can-save-hulu-1200735150/).

That doesn’t make what Qualman published in 2009 any less true, only outdated, and perhaps what makes it outdated could have bearing on the business strategies and choices Qualman extols.  Wallerstein’s advice to Hulu: 1. Get the owners rowing in the same direction 2. Pick―and stick with―a strategy. 3. Time to bid big against Netflix 4. If you’re going to do original programming, do it right. 5. Stop the bleeding.

The other problem, as others have pointed out on this forum, is that Qualman seems to rely a lot on anecdotal evidence.  His mother’s friend Betsy’s cheerleading camp (pp. 175-178) was probably pretty meaningful to Betsy, Qualman’s mother, and Qualman himself, but I didn’t find it either particularly informative or easy to follow.  What’s missing in Qualman’s analysis is that he can’t seem to direct us to broad conclusions based on quantifiable, reliable data. He can tell stories about this or that success or failure, but he’s not convincing in a broad, academically supportable sense.

Yet, I find him enormously persuasive much of the time, especially when he discusses  “finding the right balance between launching every possible idea through the door and ensuring they are not missing out on a great opportunity” (181). He actually lauds TripAdvisor for taking a “deep breath” and re-thinking their strategy with “Where I’ve Been” (p. 106). He also advises companies to “Take time to decide where you will be,” which is sort of the missing element in this 140-character, non-fixity world.

To “think critically,” as Dave Carlson encourages us, does take at least a little bit of time, the most valuable and rare commodity in this twittery, glittery world.

Social Media and Politics

When I first reviewed the books for the semester, I thought the book on Obama and Social Media in Qualman’s book would be a good read. I have never been interested in politics and was confused about the purpose of social media, but this looked like it might be a good introduction.

October 1st, 2013 I realized I need to pay closer attention to politics and who is being elected to represent our country. My husband was upset when Obama was elected in 2008 and down right pissed off when he was reelected in 2012. I was like, how bad can it really be? He can’t really bring down our country. Well, I think he has. To be fair, he didn’t do it by himself, he had help from Democrats and Republicans alike. On October 1st, 2013, my husband woke up for work, after just coming home from a 5 day deployment in South Carolina, got dressed and went to work at the 148th Fighter Wing, here in Duluth, MN. AT 730am i was getting my daughter on the bus and received a call. Because of what was happening in Washington DC, he was being furloughed for at least the next 4 days.

Over the next four days, I started using social media, I paid attention to a few reporters on twitter to help keep me up to date on what was happening. I had CNN and Fox News open on multiple tabs on my work computer. I was listening to the House of Representative and the Senate on-line as speeches were taking place. It got me thinking about how he was elected/re-elected. Reading this chapter helped me understand the importance of social media. This is really the chapter that helped it all sink in.

I found it really interesting the amount of twitter and Facebook followers that Obama had vs McCain and the way Obama used (and apparently) continues to use Social Media. They say Social Media is two way communication, but because I am still a newby with this, I am still using it as a One-Way communication. I get small bits of information given to me that I can read when it arrives. If I have to read an entire article to get the information, I have to take more time away from what I am doing to read the article.

One quote that sticks out to me in this chapter is “The key resides in the ability to identify and internalize issues that help precipitate change. Action earns support, not merely words”. To me this really personifies the two way communication. Social media allows the politicians to indicate what they are working on and for the followers to respond if they are in support or not. This can allow for the politicians to really understand what is concern of the people they represent.

As of this writing, my husband got the call to go back to work on Monday, thank goodness…he was driving me crazy sitting at home.

Social Media…. I just don’t get it….Part 2

While I appreciated the history of technical communication and technical communicators, I just didn’t connect to the reading as much as I did with the Socialnomics reading. I was reading while watching my daughters’ swim class and just went “Huh…That’s me in one sentence.”

It was specifically the comment: “Why do I care?” and the response because you don’t understand. I just don’t get it. (I admitted this last week, see my blog post here.)  I go on Facebook and look at twitter, but I don’t post or tweet anything…Well, not nothing, but rarely anything. The New York Time posted an article in Sept 2008 about this in an article called “Brave New World of Digital Intimacy”. This was reviewed in a blog by Lightspeed Venture Partners and describes the phenomenon of posting and reading and keeping up with status updates as “Ambient Awareness”.

“People are willing to keep open running diaries as a way to stay connected because their ultimate desire it to feel accepted.” This comment from Socialnomics really hit home with me. I was not part of the “popular” crowd in high school and didn’t really relate to anyone in my short after high-school career. I believe this leads me to want to be accepted by my peers, but not really willing to put myself out there.

This whole wanting to be accepted thing has even followed me to UW-Stout. I love online learning because I can do things at my own pace and, for the most part, in my own time, but when it comes to discussions (and now blogs), I always feel like what I am trying to relate is not getting through. This relates to the professor communications as well, specifically grades. I had a professor last semester that said “If you are a Grade-obsessed student…”, I replied that I was, but really I just wanted to make sure that my work was acceptable and what was expected.

This maybe another reason that I hesitate about being more active in Social Media is a little bit about privacy. When you are constantly posting about what you are doing, who you are with, how you are feeling, you are really letting down the wall of privacy. Everyone can read that and see into you and your soul (to a point). I’m going to really date myself here….When I was in high school, we had car phones, not cell phones. the phones were mounted inside the car and if you were lucky, it was a portable phone that came in a case larger than most women’s purses. We did have the money to afford one of those, so I got a pager. When I gave the number to my Grandma, she said she would never use it. “You shouldn’t have to be that accessible to anyone.” is what she told me. it kind of sticks to me it this day, even as I know have a cell phone that fits in my pocket. She never did make it to this era of technology, but wonder what she would think about it now.

i-dont-always-go-to-the-gym-but-when-i-do-i-tell-facebook

If I embrace the concept of Ambient Awareness and make the assumption people do care and want to know what I am up to, maybe I need to start posting more updates about what I am doing and where I am going. I probably won’t post every day that I’m going to work or going home, but there are things that I think about sharing, but don’t because I feel that people just don’t care. But it turns out they probably do and I just don’t get it.

A Late Adopter Explores Tissue Paper and More

Last week, while everyone else was blogging about the assigned readings, I was blogging about the previous week’s readings, and I think you could consider this metaphorical for my “late adopter” status. In any case, I’ll be incorporating some of last week’s readings to catch up.

But first, I will describe my foray into toilet paper. I had just read Chapter One in Socianomics by Erik Qualman, who suggests that people who ask “Who Cares about What You Are Doing?” usually do so because they are frustrated because they don’t understand what social media is about (3). I realized that even though I don’t want to admit it, that pretty much describes me.

So, just as I was done reading, I walked through the living room where my husband was watching a movie, and a commercial for Cottonelle came on where a woman with a Bristish accent was talking to people about their “bums” and getting them to try Cottonelle tissue. At the end, she urges the viewers to “visit us on Facebook.”  So, rather than scratch my head and puzzle over the idea that anyone would proactively visit a toilet paper FB page, I decided to do just that. If it’s true that I don’t understand the attraction of social media, then I think I better start learning if I want to someday call myself a technical communicator.

So, the first thing I noticed truly floored me―apparently 325,812 people “like” the Cottonelle FB page and what’s more mind boggling is that at that moment, 2,167 people were “talking” about it. My first reaction was that these numbers paint a less rosy picture than Qualman does when he says that social media is helping people assess their lives and use their time more productively (50-52). But I didn’t come to quarrel, I came to learn.

Other things happening on the Cottonelle FB page: coupons, tasteful jokes and some less than tasteful, conversations about “bums,” and Cherry, the British narrator, answering questions from people that seem rather fake to me (but who knows?).  There are also photos of the Cottonelle toilet paper fashion contest where women are wearing their toilet paper creations. I chose not to “like” the page, despite its attractive promise to send feeds to my FB page if I did.  My life is too full as it is.

Image

The Cottonelle Fashion Contest is, apparently, a hit.

https://www.facebook.com/cottonelle#!/photo.php?fbid=10151877292070859&set=a.10151877291690859.1073741827.199275490858&type=1&theater

Granted, this may not be the best example to sample in my quest to understand social media, so I will keep an open mind and, in fact, I’d love some suggestions from readers about fun social media places to visit.

So, I wasn’t convinced by everything Qualman offered but much of what he had to say about the importance of adopting new business models seems very persuasive.  In the “old days” (maybe around the mid-2000’s) I remember being frustrated by the number of mainstream news services that forced people to subscribe, so I’ve used alternate, free sources ever since.  Today, I did a little sampling and I see that now The New York Times, L.A. Times, Vanity Fair, and Time allow free access to their content, so a lot of people have probably recognized the new business model since Qualman’s book was published in 2009.

Many people engaged the question of online dating and companies’ efforts to become quite nimble in responding to complaints last week, so I won’t delve into that, but the one other concept I wanted to mention was Qualman’s explanation of the “multiplier effect” of social media (41).  I probably knew that intuitively, but to have it spelled out that way was enlightening.  Twenty years ago, I would explain to staff the notion that when a customer is unhappy, he/she tells 11 people, and those people tell  11 people. What a difference a couple of decades has made.

I found the history of the development of computer   technology pretty interesting in Digital Literacy (edited by Rachel Spilka) mostly because it was going on under my nose without me ever realizing it most of the time.  I don’t actually remember where or how  I first started using Windows but I think it just occurred to me as I was reading how much it changed my ease of use: “Meanwhile, Microsoft, which had worked with IBM to develop the original operating system for the PC and, by version 3.1 of Windows, what was once a minor add-on (to make DOS appear like a GUI) became a widely used GUI product” (36).  I have some vague memories of typing in DOS commands prior to that, so Windows was a whole new (and easier) ball game for me.

I became much more aware of technology changes around the late 90’s, and that was because I was doing some public relations writing and working more closely with graphic designers.  Most recently our university created a new website and adopted a content management system (Drupal), so I will be able to get some experience using it and publishing info for our website.  I got a greater sense of urgency about leaving my Internet footprint after reading Jack Molisani’s  “Is Social Networking for You?” because he suggests that people with no Internet footprint will certainly not be taken seriously as a technical communicator candidate (12-13).  At the moment, the main thing you will get if you google “Evelyn Martens” is a bunch of photos and articles about a famous Canadian murder trial of Evelyn Martens (not me).

I found the other two articles from last week’s reading enlightening as well.  I had no idea there was so much history or so many SNS around the world until I read ”Social Network Sites: Definition, History and Scholarship” by boyd and Ellison. I couldn’t believe the number of niche communities that I’d never heard of, such as Ryze, Tribe.net, Cyworld, Hi5, BlackPlanet, Six Degrees, just to name a few.  Of course, I was particularly surprised that there are SNS for dogs and cats, “although their owners must manage their profiles” (214).  I’m glad they cleared that up.  Probably the most interesting example to me was the case of Friendster because of the role the “fans”/”friends” played in both the rise and fall of the company.

It would be novel for me to start a a paragraph with something other than “I never knew,” but I’m afraid that’s still the case with “Always On” by Naomi Baron.  I never knew there was so much material for psychologists and sociologists in studying IM “away” behavior or “presentation of self,” though it certainly makes sense upon reflection.  What probably struck me most in this reading was the sheer logistical undertaking of collecting and logging millions of messages to study social networking behavior.  I also noticed that at the time of the writing of the article, only college students had access, so I’m thinking the numbers may have increased dramatically since then.

So, in conclusion, my take away from this and last week’s readings is that I am going to start checking my FB page at least once a day and try to monitor how much time I’m spending and what I’m doing while there in my own mini-study of my behavior. This will probably not feel very authentic because I’m starting off with the notion that  “I’m using FB to see how I’m using FB,” but I’m thinking I may enjoy it more by looking at FB as part of my homework.

References

Baron, N. (2008). Always On: Language in an Online and Mobile World. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Boyd, d. and Ellison, N. (2008), Social network sites: Definition, history, and scholarship. Journal of

            Computer-Mediated Communication 13, pp. 210-230.

Carliner, S. (2010). “Computers and technical communication in the 21st century.” In Rachel Spilka (Ed.)

Digital Literacy for Technical Communication. New York: Routledge.

Molisani, J. “Is social networking for you?” Intercom. Society of Technical Communicators.  Retrieved

from www.STC.com.

Qualman, E. (2009). Socialnomics. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley and Sons.

I must be missing something, I just don’t get it.

I have not really seen Social Media work for me or affect the way I work. My company has three Facebook pages and at least two twitter accounts, but they are not being used in anyway to assist in customer relationships. Our Marketing Department is in charge of these and they do not post very often and when they do, they post about tradeshows or regulatory changes. They don’t seem to post about new changes to the applications or asking questions of our customer and/or followers. This may be because as much as we work with individuals, we work with companies and I’m guessing most of these companies do not have Facebook or Twitter because of the age of the people they treat.

One of the key points of Socialnomics is that “Consumers want to take ownership of your brand and brag about your product; let them!”. I don’t really feel like we are really using that connection that we could have. We do have an online presence for our customers, but it entirely encompassed within our application. there is no real sounding board for our customers to get  together and discuss their experiences, good or bad, about us. We are not providing our customer away to brag about the good service they receive or for them to discuss the bad services and allow us a way to correct those services.

I am far from what one would call ‘Social Network Savvy’. Yes, I have a facebook page, twitter and instagram accounts, and use pinterest, but I just don’t get it. Even as I sit here typing this blog, i just don’t get what I am doing. I don’t understand what I’m doing or why I’m doing it (other than its required for the class). I did all the readings, I reflected on them and just have a hard time finding something to relate to within these readings. Hopefully next week it will get easier or there will be something that I feel something about that will start the words flowing.

I guess I’m just new to all of this blogging and really this assignment is really no different than any other class and i just have to get myself out of this “Blogging is so different” mindset and just think of it as writing a discussion post and work harder at understanding what I should be getting out of the weekly readings. I never though at age 33 I wouldn’t be embracing a new technology or a new way of doing things. I need to embrace blogging, and look more at what Social Network Site and Social Networking can do for me. Maybe its time to update my LinkedIn page?

What Happens Here, Stays Here.

What’s 11,688 people strong, has 670,200 likes on their Facebook page and 7,292 views on their YouTube video?

Give up?

It’s the “Know the Code” campaign created by the Las Vegas tourism department. It’s essentially an anti-social media push in certain circumstances. Of course, Vegas tourists want you to Tweet/Facebook about their restaurants, casinos and entertainment but warn against taking photos of people and sharing them through the same social media facets. They even have a place on their Facebook page where you can “Report those who violate the code” through their Facebook page.

I first saw a video on TV and as I dug into it more, I thought it was interesting that the Vegas tourism department used social media to encourage visitors NOT to use social media. Further more, they created rules about what’s acceptable and what’s not when it comes to Facebook-ing, YouTub-ing and Tweeting.

I think this campaign is successful for a couple different reasons:

  1. It creates buzz around Vegas and buzz equates to more visitors. More visitors create more dollars.
  2. It demonstrates that Vegas is still a “cool” place to visit and shows that they understand issues and challenges that their audience faces. Not only do they understand their problems, they’re proposing a solution.
  3. It created interactivity for participants rather than just allowing the audience to view their site. Audience members can sign an oath, respond to Facebook messages and Tweet “#knowthecode.”
Here’s one of their promotional videos:

Additionally, their web site has some interesting elements that help “humanize” it by calling out individuals who have broken the code. Now, weather these people are actually “real” is another matter all together but I definitely appreciate the effort. See left for an example.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  In Digital Literacy, Spilka talks about combining “rhetoric” and “technology” and I think this is a perfect example of the melding of the two. Essentially, the tourism department is trying to promote Vegas through a round-about campaign that not only says “visit Vegas” but also says, “We want to keep Vegas a safe place where ‘what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas’ still applies despite the advances in technology.” Additionally, Qualman states that “people value the opinions of other people” and I believe this campaign relies on that type of thinking. This campaign boasts the accountability factor that by “knowing the code,” you’ll hold others accountable to do the same. Granted, this is different than what Qualman means in chapter 5 as he is addressing socialommerce, but the bare bones principal that “people value the opinions of other people” holds true in this case.

Week 8 | Social Media are Tools of Influence

This week’s readings cover many topics relating to how people use social media, including Twitter, product reviews (which I feel are a form of microblogging), and Facebook as tools of influence. Dave Clark’s chapter, Shaped and Shaping Tools on the rhetoric of technology is complex by the nature of its subject matter. He says that both rhetoric and technology are difficult to define individually, yet the two concepts go hand-in-hand. Nevertheless, it is even harder to define the rhetoric of technology. Clark says by its very essence, technology is rhetorical. When it comes down to it, Dave is examining how “technologies structure, shape, and influence the ways we communicate (p. 87).”

Twitter’s Influence
The structure of the author’s latest muse was 140 characters. He was marveling at the fact that while it was a simply coded program and a basic concept, the rhetorical implications of Twitter were very powerful. This was because Tweets are public (unless the author has an account with protected Tweets), Tweets are searchable and allow trends to surface, and Tweets in large numbers about the same subject can be powerful. Those who don’t use Twitter, yet have something powerful to say, lose an opportunity to compound the message through this potentially influential tool.

Product Reviews Influence
Twitter is changing how people communicate and who people communicate with. Similarly, other social media outlets are changing the way people shop online. I like how social media influences the way my friends and I shop. “Socialommerce is a referral program on sterroids (Qualman, p. 94), and “consumers are taking ownership of brands and their referral power is priceless (p. 97).” Qualman says that retailers are encouraging consumers to review products because whether a product is good or bad, eliciting feedback only helps the brand either sell more of the product or improve it. I look at online product reviews when I purchase things online and in the store. They often influence my purchasing decisions, too. Sometimes I write product reviews, too.
Yesterday I received an email request from Eddie Bauer to rate some outerwear I recently purchased online. Since reviewing seemed easy to do, and I liked my new purchases, I took a minute to review the products. On the other hand, I have also reviewed products I didn’t think were that great. I bought a clothes drying rack at a Target store. The rack is low quality and keeps falling apart. While I could no longer return it to the store because the 90-day return period had passed, I decided I could at least write an online review in hopes others not to make the same purchasing mistake I did.

Facebook’s Influence
Shoppers consider anonymous online product reviews, but shoppers also seek the advice of people they know via social media. Just the other day, I saw my friend recruited her friends’ advice on Facebook. She wanted recommendations on best smartphones, but not from anonymous reviewers or technology experts. Since people generally feel strongly about phone brands like Droid and iPhone, her friends and family rushed to her aid. She received many comments on the best phones to buy. Seeking advice gave my friend a list of phones to consider and hopefully helped her narrow down her options.
Companies miss an opportunity to connect with consumers when they don’t utilize social media like Facebook. I love shopping at Trader Joe’s, but I feel the company is missing out on a great advertising opportunity by having a profile on Facebook. The store could tell people about new products, new store locations, specials, and fun recipes to try.

Other Clever Ways to Influence Consumers
In “Winners and Losers in a 140-Character World,” Qualman discusses how integrating product advertising into the programming like the Charles Schwab podcast is smart, but it is not new. When I was young, my mom listened to famous announcer, Paul Harvey on the radio. Paul often endorsed products on air like the Bose Wave Radio. He was known for endorsing his favorite products on air (in turn for advertising support for his program). I felt that when Qualman talked about product advertising incorporated into programming, it was a tangent and not so much about social media. However, maybe it is best to think about it as talking to people where they are and where they will listen. Social media are powerful tools, and they shape the way people and companies communicate.

Social Media Influencing Behavior

Is anyone else with me when I say I am really enjoying Socialnomics? It’s such an easy read and it really holds my attention though out the entire assigned reading.

Anyway, that being said, I’m going to focus my blog post to those readings.

In chapter 2, Qualman talks about the rebellious guy and the prudish girl and how the guy’s behavior might change if he is in the girl’s online network. That got me thinking: So often we view social networking sites as a way to express ourselves, however, I think we publish what we want others to know about us because we want to be portrayed in a particular way. In a way, social media acts as a gatekeeper for information for who we want to be, instead of who we truly are.

I found the case studies on microblogging to be very interesting, in particular the story around Comcast. I thought that was great that they hired someone to follow Tweets on Comcast, however, I feel it is somewhat reactive in nature because they only acted after a problem was identified. However, I will give them kudos for righting a wrong. Additionally, it’s a great PR move on Comcast’s part because it shows they care about their customers.

I found conclusion that a friend posting on a social media site to be very interesting. Qualman stated that if you have a friend who is known to be very picky about a particular product or service, their posted opinion could be easily dismissed. For example, I have a brother-in-law who works with computers and I could see him easily dismissing a particular brand of computer because he has much higher expectations of a computer than the average user.

In chapter 3, I loved the sub-heading: “Are you on Facebook?” is the new “Can I get your phone number?” From my experience, this is SO true! I was trying to set my sister up with a guy from my work and he simply said, “Tell her to add me on Facebook.” I think the idea of blind dating as we know it is gone because someone can easily look up someone on Facebook by a first and a last name.

Overall, it’s interesting to see the way social media influences our lives and the choices we make.