Social Media Through MY Ages

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We live in an age of constant updates, reposts, comments and likes. Who we are as an individual is greatly defined by the person we present ourselves to be on our social media sites– mainly because the majority of our ‘followers’ and ‘friends’ are (barely) acquaintances whom we might have met once at summer camp back in 1998. However, oddly enough, this doesn’t stop us from wanting to know exactly what they are doing, with whom, and how. Through the years, I feel we use social media different. Not just because one year we enjoy posting 140 character statuses and the next we can’t get enough of putting vintage-y filters on pictures of our pets. As we change and grow, the way we use and even interpret social media changes with us. But alas, this is far from a scientific discovery. Instead, I shall dazzle you with my own personal experience: Social Media Through My Ages.

Background for this– I was born in 1989. Graduated high school in 2007. College in 2011. Do the math, figure it out. Where in the world was social media at each point in time?

2003: MySpace made us realize that we could only have a certain number of “top” best friends. Like middle school needed more drama.

2006: Facebook stopped being an Ivy League gossip column and became accessible to everyone 13 and up.

2010: Welcome to Twitter, where brevity is the soul of wit.

2011: Time Magazine calls Pinterest a “top” website. Pin that where the sun don’t shine, Martha Stewart!

2012: Instagram hits over 100 million, because sometimes words are hard.

(Oh, and WordPress: 2003. Thanks for the outlet, guys!)

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Don’t pretend like you didn’t love these too!

Young’un Social Meda: The only way to describe this Age is: Foolishness. Myspace taught me so much about myself– mainly in the form of answering really deep information for my profile like who my favorite boy band was that week or the number of letters in my crush’s first and last name. Soon sparkly doll pictures could be added and at that point I absolutely knew I needed my own computer (Kids, back in my day, a “first computer” meant a 50lb clunker that took up at last 35% of my total tiny room space. I think I even had to move my blow-up blue sparkly chair out to make space!). Hours were spent changing backgrounds or, more importantly, finding the “cool” websites for those “cool” backgrounds (and glittery pictures, did I mention those?). On the plus side, my extensive use of MySpace supplied with my limited knowledge of HTML. If you wanted to make your profile REALLY cool, you needed to know all the secrets. So in-between IM-ing with friends, thinking up some pretty sweet Away Message (most of mine were quotes, like Mark Twain quotes, and I remember thinking that I was pretty darn cool for that), and updating my MySpace page, I slowly realized I had less and less time to interact with my friends face-to-face. Oh well, maybe we can have a sleepover tomorrow night and check out our MySpace pages as we doodle with gel pens and watch the latest episode of Lizzie McGuire. Sigh, nostalgia.

Early College Social Media: Surprisingly, little changed in our intents and purposes, but the format became much more sophisticated (by which I mean no more glittery pictures…well, for a of couple years). When we were younger, posts were all about trying to outdo and impress. I remember going away to college and feeling the intense need to prove that I was “having a great time” and had made all these fantastic new friend. Truth? While I did make great friends, my first year was plagued by homesickness and anxiety. Not that my social media pals would ever have known. Nor would I have known any fear or sadness taking place in their lives. Everything was dorm rooms, parties, new friends, awesome campuses, and “oh man, so much work!” Maybe our close friends knew how we really felt, but the 500 other people you graduated high school with were under the belief that everyone but themselves was living the best life ever. Of course, it also just occurs to me that maybe I’m alone here and everyone else really WAS living the BEST life ever their freshman year of college…

Current Social Media: At this point in my life, I find that my use of social media is primarily used for its originally intended purpose: keeping in touch with people who are in all different places. Well, that and a healthy dose of “stalking” those I might not know quite as well. We grow older and our friendship groups expand and disperse. There are the people we grew up with, the people we went to high school with, the people we went to college with, the people we used to work with, and then the people who are currently still in our lives, but– all factors considered–may soon also become former friends/schoolmates/coworkers, like the rest. Then, there is the element of contrast and compare. Face it, we look at other people’s lives and we, not so much envy them, but observe them in a selfish sort of way. Maybe we think: well, that would be nice. And in other situations we smile and think: good thing I didn’t end up like that. Whether it’s for daydreaming, self-affirmation or just to see what other paths people have traveled, something about social media keeps us company and support as we continue down our own path.

My Parent’s Social Media: And then there are the group that I will call “my parents,” though that’s technically not correct since none of my parents really partake in social media. For the most part, the baby-boomers whose social media presence I’ve studied are usually the parents of friends or even older coworkers. These “parents” are of a generation where they are just old enough to not have had it for most of their lives, but just young enough to learn the basics. The majority of their use is for reposting: recipes, chain posts, and the more than occasional “let’s see how many likes we can get for [insert often silly, probably fake reason/noun here].” Of course, it’s also used to keep in contact with friends. Many reconnect with former schoolmates or workmates. These are even more intersting reunions because rather than having become “facebook friends” while still knowing each others, these two will have been separated for decade before reconnecting. And, let’s face it, the kid who lived next door to your mom when they were growing up, is not that same person at 18 as they are at 58. There are whole lives to be caught up on. Oh, and of course there is the main reason why many “parents” have signed up for social network sites, though they’ll never admit to it and have since caught the social media bug themselves: They’re spying on their children. I mean, how else are you going to know what’s going through the mind of your 18 year old son. He’s not going to share with you directly but he will, oddly enough, share with 600 of his closest friends. No shame, parents. No shame.

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Oh, and these gems. Parents love these gems.

Years have passed, websites have developed, and vehicles of communication have multiplied (oh, have they multiplied!). The only constant in this crazy world is that things will continue to change: social media channels, technology, and our lives. And we will continue to come up with new and exciting ways to find out what a person we met once back in 2003 (you know, a cousin of a friend’s friend or the like) is up to now. And that’s okay. For whatever purposes we use social media, it will be there for us.

Sisterly Advice for New Bloggers

A couple of weeks ago my family and I all received an email from my brother, informing the family that he had decided to start a blog. I was overjoyed to welcome him to the blogosphere and was glad that, as an already talented writer, he decided to try his hand at a new medium.

Then, the other day, I received another email from my brother, this time asking me how exactly to get his blog ‘out there.’ And there you have it, the age-old question (or at least digital age-old question): Now that you’ve decided to write about something, how do you get people to read it?

The following is the email I sent him in reply:

Dear —-,

The bad news: There is no easy, one-step magic trick to getting a blog
“out there.”
The good news: Your problem is exactly the sort of work that I’m
looking for a career in, so I’d be happy to try my hand at helping you out.

Basically, what you’re asking about is Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
People make careers out of driving traffic to websites, but alas you
are not a multi-million dollar corporation and I am but a mere novice
in the ways of SEO. Still, I’ll do my best to give you some quick and
easy tips, especially ones that I have followed with my own blog.

Now, keep in mind, my blog is no best-seller. It took me months to
get the limited readership that I have. Yes, sad but true, the basic rule of thumb is
that increasing traffic will take time– perhaps not months, but time
nonetheless.

First off, I hate to admit it to you, but don’t forget that in all
actuality, your blog’s premise isn’t unique (Sorry. Harsh. I know.) In
fact, you would be hard put to find any topic to write a blog on that
would be unique nowadays. It is the content, rather, that
sets a blog apart.

So let’s get down to the nitty-gritty and I’ll give you some basic SEO
techniques:

1) Link your social media: I noticed you have already used Facebook to
publicize your blog, now go a step further. I suggest making a unique
Twitter account for your blog. You can then feature your tweets right
on your website. Also, you’ll be reaching a completely different
audience.  I also have a Tumblr, which you might want to look
into. There are also YouTube accounts, Stumbled Upon, Flickr, Digg,
MySpace, even LinkedIn. Whatever your feel will work best for you. And
then– connect!

2) Search Phrases: Use unique and specific tags for your posts. When
you just label something as ‘video games’ or ‘books,’ imagine the
number of search results that show up before your own. Be specific and
feel free to be liberal with the amount of tags you have. Also, the
words on the site itself all are put into some crazy mathematical
equation that determines your sequence in search results. I’ve found
that people have been driven to my site even by the words used in
images that I post. You can figure these things out by looking at your
WordPress stats. So be creative and feel free to be wordy.

3) Keep your content fresh, relevant, and user-friendly: Seems simple
enough, true, but just keep it in mind. Make sure that when a person
stumbles upon you after searching, they are getting exactly what they
are searching for. As far as keeping content fresh– you seem to be
doing that well. One thing I will point out is the ‘user-friendly’
aspect. Try not to let your posts get too looooong. While for some blog
readers, that’s not a problem, for others is a major deterrent. It’s
overwhelming to scroll down the length of a page and see that the post
you are (or were) about to read is much lengthier than you had
expected. I understand you’re not used to writing for this specific
format, but just keep in mind that it is a different format. Just like
you wouldn’t write a novel like a lab report, or vice versa, you don’t
write a blog post like a novel. I highly suggest looking at one of my
posts for further instructions on this front
(https://tessarickart.wordpress.com/2011/02/22/10-tips-of-blogging-tip-taking-blogger/).

4) Reciprocate: I know that you said you’ve been scouring the
blogosphere and to that I say: carry on. Also, comment back when you
do get comments. Visit other blogs and comment. If you see posts that
relate back to your own, comment and suggest that they take a look at
one of your posts (see my stealthy use of this tactic above).

I hope some of these ideas help. Like I said before, it’s not an
overnight process. It takes work and time. Just don’t become
discouraged. Stick to it.


Your fellow blogger,
Tessa

What does Tumblr mean to you?

I’ve been on Tumblr for about 6 months now and I’m surprised to say that the novelty has yet to wear off.

I mainly use the site to keep updated on and entertained by my television and movie fandoms ( [n] The community that surrounds a tv show/movie/book etc. ), and generally let out my inner nerd. From my own personal use, I would have supposed that the site would remain more of an alternative social site, always in the shadows of the more thriving Facebook and Twitter. And yet, despite my suppositions, a Nielsen Co. report finds that Tumblr has gained 183% in popularity from 2010 to 2011.

Further findings from the study include:

  • The site averages 21,280 messages and links posted daily. To better understand this figure, understand that it surpasses the number of blogs hosted by WordPress in one month.
  • More than 57% of Tumblr users are under 34 with only 17.5% over 50 years of age.
  • Tumblr uses are more often female (53%)…but not by much.

So why has this site gained so much popularity? And does its notably younger user base point toward Tumblr’s continued trend and growth?

Technically speaking, Tumblr is a form of microblogging. Microblogging  “differs from a traditional blog[ging] in that its content is typically smaller in both actual and aggregate file size. Microblogs ‘allow users to exchange small elements of content such as short sentences, individual images, or video links.'” Other examples of microblogging include Twitter and even Facebook.

To me, it is easy to see how Tumblr is more similar to Twitter than to a blog, such as WordPress. For one, people don’t often use Tumblr for longer messages or posts. On Twitter, individuals are actually forcibly limited in their content (140 characters max).

As for myself, on Tumblr I often just reblog posts that I find informative, humourous, or interesting; I rarely add unique content to the site. Many times, as with Twitter updates, the content of a post may send  the user to a completely separate site. The main focus is not the post itself, but the links or pictures that may lead to another domain.

Tumblr emphasizes how easy it is to use the site. And certainly, the directions are as simple as the  functions of the site. While some may use Tumblr as a primary blog, I still find the site to be less professional due perhaps in part to its simplicity. By this I mean that I don’t feel that one can accurately learn about me via my Tumblr page, whereas I consider my WordPress blog to be an accurate professional representation of myself (much as some people would consider Facebook to be a personal representation of themselves). There are just fewer opportunities to personalize and declare oneself on Tumblr. But then again, as I mentioned earlier, my primary purpose in having a Tumblr account is to free my inner geek.

I also want to clarify that by “less professional” I do not mean that companies and brands are wasting their time on the site. In fact, I feel that Tumblr is a really great way to reach a niche market– whether it be youth in general, or more specific fandoms of certain products and programs. Tumblr is a community in which people are constantly sharing information, even if there isn’t nearly as much direct conversing. It is also a community filled with very opinionated and interested individuals who are purposely seeking information on things that may interest them.

In my opinion, Tumblr is a fun site, but not one that I would ever put on a resume. It’s a place for me to relax and learn more about things that I might enjoy outside of a professional environment. I would love to hear more about other people’s opinions on the site.

Sound off below or respond to the poll. (Note: the last time I tried a poll it failed miserably. Please prove me wrong and restore my faith in both bloggers and polls).

Oscars: tweet, tumble, post or blog?

The Academy Awards are tomorrow night and, while it’s no Super Bowl, the show is sure to reach a large audience. For the past few weeks (okay, let’s be serious, knowing my interests it’s more like months) my social networking sites have been ablaze with Oscar commentary and speculation. From Facebook to Twitter to Tumblr to the Blogosphere– everyone has an opinion and loyal followers like myself just can’t get enough of it.

Tomorrow night will find my in front of the television with my computer at hand, ready to shush any unnecessary comments from the peanut gallery that is my apartment (I’m ruthless when it comes to these things). I’ll be completely hooked in the Oscars both onscreen and behind the scenes thanks to modern day technology. This got me thinking– how will other people be enjoying the Oscars? What sites will they be using to keep connected, whether they’re watching in real time or not. And so I have introduced my very first blog poll!! This might be an epic failure, but I’m genuinlely curious to find out about the obsessive viewing habits of other social media nerds. So let me know that I’m not the only one!

Little Life Lessons: 1

I’ve decided to add a new segment to my blog. I’m calling it “Little Life Lessons.” It will simply feature a photo (taken by yours truly) and a little life lesson (hence the name). The idea came to me when I was looking through my photos the other day in a fit of nostalgia. Looking back on some of my most treasured events, I realized the importance of all the small things I’ve learned in life. I wanted to share, hoping to bring a little insight, smile, and joy. I am by no means a Life Coach, but I think we can all learn to appreciate the little things in life, and the lessons we take from them.

Enjoy!

Lesson:

Stand out from the flock.

Blog Happy Tips

My previous post provided blogging tips from an article I had discovered. My enjoyment in writing about it, as well as analyzing my own blog in the process, has led me to my latest post: How to Enjoy Blogging.

While I’m no blog expert, and I certainly wouldn’t be qualified to dole out advice on how to have a successful blog, I can admit to enjoying my blogging. As I thought more about it, I decided to make my own list that might prove informational for readers and recreational for myself. So here it is, my very own Advice Blog Post:

How to Enjoy Blogging

1. Make it interesting…to YOU!

  • As I mentioned, my primary motivation for writing this very post is my own self-interest. In fact, EVERY post I write is out of pure selfishness. I write about things that I enjoy or show an interest in, thereby reflecting the enthusiasm in my posts. Life is too short to blog about things that bore you.

2. Mix it up.

  • While many people try to keep their blog pertaining to one particular topic, I find it much more interesting to show a little variation. If it’s a professional blog, that doesn’t mean that you need to post goofy pictures or silly YouTube videos. My blog, for instance, relates primarily to Public Relations and Social Media. However, I can’t resist the urge to share new discoveries. I usually post these under the category of “Stumbled Upon.” Sometimes, however, it’s an old tune that I just need to share, or a favorite quote. Mix it up, keep it fun for yourself and others.

3. Look around.

  • I’m not sure which came first, the chicken or the egg, my looking through media news or my looking for a post topic. Either way, I try to stay up to date with media and PR trends. While I look around some of my favorite websites (i.e. Mashable), I often come across an idea for a blog post. Sometimes I’m just stuck and, as I mentioned, I’m not going to write about something that I don’t find interesting. In these cases, I go to random websites that have no bearing on media at all. Sometimes I even turn to what I did that day. Look around you, both on the internet and in your life in general. There are plenty of topics waiting to be written about.

4. Be proud.

  • While you may feel like your blog is barely a plankton in the Blog Sea, you are still taking the initiative to get your voice heard. Even if your hits total 5 or 6 a day (been there, done that, still doing that in fact), be proud that those 5 or 6 people chose to view YOUR blog. Don’t get discouraged.

5. Don’t let your blog be a cause of guilt.

  • Okay, this one I’m admittedly still trying to deal with. Just because you haven’t posted for awhile, or don’t quite feel like going on one day, it doesn’t mean you’ve skipped out on some responsibility. Your blog is just that, YOUR BLOG. Don’t let it dictate what you do or else you’ll stop enjoying. Don’t let an inability or disinterest in posting make you feel guilty. Don’t be afraid to take a weekend, or a week, off from posting. It should be on your time.

6. EMBRACE THE BLOGOSPHERE.

  • This is the most important piece of advice yet– don’t just stay put in your nice little corner of the internet, go explore the blogs of others. You’ll find it to be a pleasant and relatively friendly community filled with well-wishers (and the occasional nay-sayer). Embrace the feedback you get and give. Embrace the blogosphere!

10 Tips of Blogging & a Tip Taking Blogger

I came across an article on Ragan.com today that claimed to reveal “10 tips for writing for the web.” While I usually tend to avoid these sorts of lists, for better or for worse, I decided to take a quick look and evaluate my own blog by these standards.

Here’s the list of ten, as well as an appraisal of my own blog. Spoiler alert: I might need to write less in future posts.

Here are 10 tips to help you write better Web copy:

1.  Keep it short

  • And right out of the gate, we see one of my first biggest problems. I understand that we have a tendency to scan articles– be it online or in the newspaper– but I just can’t stop myself from being overly verbose at times. I like words, and I also like getting my point across– as long windedly as possible.

2. Make your last point first

  • I always try to do this, especially because I know I am capable of quite random tangents. This is kind of liking stating your thesis in the introduction to a paper. The concept seems like common sense, but working as a writing tutor for the past four years has opened me up to a whole new world ‘college-level’ writing.

3. Keep paragraphs short

  • Once again, back to our tendency to scan. The appearance of large blocks of texts can be intimidating and must certainly scare-off the most timid of readers. Instead, and I feel like I’ve mastered this skill quite well, it’s important to keep paragraphs short and succinct. Check! What else you got?
  • (Oh, and by the way, I thought it was interesting to note that the article suggests checking out the BBC website, “one of the major U.K online media sites where content is written specifically for the Web.” And yes, I checked, this article is British-based).

4. Use numbered lists and bullets

  • While this particular post certainly meets those requirements, I can’t say I use lists/bullets on a regular basis. Note to self: make more lists– grocery lists, to-do lists, favorite things lists– and post them. Okay, maybe the topics of my lists need a bit of work…

5. Use emphasis/bold

  • I hereby solemnly swear to place more emphasis on my words, to use bold type more liberally, and to underline to my heart’s content.

6. Use links

  • I always try to provide as many relevant links as possible. If people are actually taken the time to read what I write, I can only assume they have some sort of actual interest in the topic. Therefore, it would be only natural that they would want to follow up on it. I like to make that easy for them! Plus, when credit is due, I feel a necessary obligation to give it.

7. Use headings and subheadings

  • I do not do this. I don’t think at all. But note to self– good idea. This is another helpful way for me to learn to break-up my wordy paragraphs. As the article states, these headings/subheadings act as “anchor points,” and I certainly don’t want anyone sailing away from my page!

8. Avoid ‘big’ words and marketing speak

  • I don’t think I use any jargon, or ‘marketing speak,’ but I would have to go back and look. As to ‘big’ words– it depends on the audience. I don’t think I exercise my vocabulary too liberally on this site, but then again…who knows? Well, I shall attempt my foremost to abstain from indulging in the employment of gratuitus prouncements.

9. Think carefully about the headline

  • Some posts are easier than others to come up with witty titles for. I always try to post my blogs with fun, attention-gathering names. For instance, as I write this very sentence, I’m try to think up some sort of clever play of words for the title. This might end in failure, however, and I’ll just have to hope that a listing above my blog is incredibly witty and a user mistakenly clicks on mine instead– only to find this wonderous trove of treasure!

10. Don’t forget SEO

  • SEO, Search Engine Optimization. When everyone and their mom ( I really do hate that expression) has a blog, it’s important to stand out from the crowd. Especially those times when you fail to produce a witty title, you can at least include as many key words as possible to increase the chances of that blog post showing up during a search. For blogs such as WordPress, you can use the tag posts to help with this. In fact, I like to tag my posts with as many words as possible, meaning that I get a big A+ in this category.

My conclusion?

Well, my blog certainly isn’t perfect, but whose is? I feel like this list makes valid points, and I’ll certainly attempt to follow the 10 tips. What do you think? Anything this list got wrong? Anything you would add?

I’m open for suggestions. Oh, and I’m surprised it didn’t include anything about pictures. I love adding pictures.