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.

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Helping A Reporter [and yourself] Out

Every time I see the emails, I assume the gummy candy company HARIBO has decided to reach out to one of their most valuable customers. While I remain disappointed with their lack of communication, I still always rejoice at the viewing of a new email from “Help A Reporter Out.” For those of you not familiar with HARO, this social media service, founded by Peter Shankman, aids in bringing together the reporters and the sources. As the website proclaims, since HARO’s first introduction in 2008, it has brought together “nearly 30,000 reporters and bloggers, over 100,000 news sources and thousands of small businesses together to tell their stories, promote their brands and sell their products and services.” Best of all– HARO is free!

I was first introduced to HARO at my internship when I was told to subscribe via email. On my second day there, I was instructed to subscribe and keep tabs on the emails. Any possible stories relevant to our clients were to be noted and reported. As a small PR firm, the company didn’t have excess funds to spend on subscribing to an expensive source, such as HARO’s primary competitor PR Newswire’s ProfNet service.

Many similar small organizations have also taken advantage of this service. As Shankman says, “People– like real people, you know, mom-and-pop types– email me and say, ‘Thank you so much. I would never have been able to afford this kind of press.'” As HARO’s tagline perfectly states, “Everyone’s an expert at something,” and Shankman’s service brings them all together. We can all benefit from something the email has to offer– whether to promote a company, brand, or person, HARO connects the reporter and the source.

Within its first year, HARO’s subscribers grew from 3,000 to 40,000. With so many requests and so much interest, Shankman is forced to send out anywhere from 1 to 2 emails per day– each with a fun and interesting subject line.

For more information on HARO, check out their website, or read this interesting article comparing the service to ProfNet. Or, even better– sign up to receive their emails!

Facebook Frenzy!

I am horrible about staying in touch with people when I’m away at school. My friends from home constantly berate me after long absences with limited communication. Even my father, my designated ’email buddy,’ will tease me about the amount of time it takes for me to get back to him. I understand their frustration completely. In fact, I’m not even exactly sure how I became so inept at online communications, especially since I’m a frequent user of several social networking sites. For socializing with my friends, our primary resource is Facebook. Oh Facebook.

On February 4th, Facebook celebrated their 7th anniversary. That same day I received a phone call from a friend, just to chat, but her immediate reaction was: “Wow, I was actually able to get in contact with you.” These two concurrent events made me think a bit more about my Facebook socialization throughout the years. In more recent years, when the site would have actually been a valuable resource for keeping in touch with my high school friends, my interest in Facebook has waned. Personally, I prefer Twitter, a preference that most of my friends unfortunately do not share.

I do, however, remember my first experiences with Facebook. I remember the ‘addiction’ and the excitement of this new website. And I remember how pathetically encapsulating the site became. I believe I first started my account toward the end of my Junior year of high school (that would be nearly 5 years ago now). Fresh off of MySpace, I was excited to find out about this more ‘grown-up’ various of social networking (not that I had even heard the term ‘social networking’ before). At the time, my brother had just entered college, and as the pretentious kid he was at that age, he was under the firm belief that Facebook should be for college students only–after all, he argued, that’s who it was created for. Instead, the fad quickly leaked into high schools, and eventually penetrated the walls of middle schools as well. Now, Facebook boasts 550 million users worldwide. The site is available in 70 different languages (I’m unsure if that stat includes the ‘pirate’ language feature).

Needless to say, Facebook is impressive. It has also become a key part of our society and culture. Who hasn’t heard someone say something along the lines of “Well, I don’t really know [name] but we’re friends on Facebook,” or “Oh yea, they broke up. I saw it on Facebook.” It has infiltrated our culture, even begin used as a verb, much like Google is (“I facebooked him/her. She seemed cool” & “We’ll have to Facebook”).

I use Facebook primarily for personal socialization– though not nearly as frequently as I apparently should. However, several companies have also taken advantage of the opportunity to ‘keep in touch’ with their customers. Companies and brands roll in  publicity from users’ ability to ‘like’ their work, or add them as an interest. We all want our profiles to be an accurate (though super cool) portrayal of ourselves, and this often means mentioning interests and favorites (i.e. Dunkin Donuts coffee– yep, here’s a shout out for DD!).

From a site that was created for Harvard student only, then college students, then spread to the general public–Facebook has certainly grown. This no use supposing this is just some passing trend. Facebook is an essential resource for companies as well as the general user. Despite my own personal receding interest, Facebook won’t be going out of style anytime soon. Nor will I cancel my account. In fact, I should clarify– my decreasing interest means that, instead of going on Facebook 12 times a day, I only go on 3 or 4. Still excessive by any means, but apparently not enough to ‘keep in touch.’ Facebook isn’t going anywhere any time soon– and that’s okay with all of us!

p.s. I debated prefacing this post with a viewer alert that no, I have not in fact seen The Social Network (I know, shame on me). Instead, this tidbit will just have to do as a post script.

Tostitos adopts PR campaign tactic

Tostitos brand tortilla chips are just one of a number of brands that have turned to social media and public relations to sell their product. As a division of the Frito-Lay corporation, Tostitos are a well-established product within the market– their appeal is known, and constant reminders of their taste or texture will only be so helpful in selling the product. Therefore, the company has turned to social media and PR tactics to emphasize emotional connections with the brand. The campaign, known as “Tostitos Reunite America,” stems from the Frito-Lay initiative to highlight their role in making “connections among consumers.”

To kick off the campaign, Tostitos sponsored Monday’s college football Bowl Championship title game. During halftime, Tostitos arranged for surprise reunions between some troops and their families. Such reunions are a basic foundation for their campaign which is “focused on reuniting consumers with relatives, friends, former teammates and lost romantic partners.”

Tostitos has especially taken advantage of the social networking site Facebook. By visiting the Tostitos Facebook page, consumers are greeted by the following message: “Facebook is great. Face-to-face is even better. Tell us which Facebook friend or family member you’re dying to reunite with. If you’re picked, we’ll set you up with a once-in-a-lifetime reunion.” The page includes more information about the campaign, including instructions on participating. Consumers can upload video clips explaining why they think they should win a “once-in-a-lifetime” reunion. Rather than focusing on the product itself, Tostitos is making a connection at the emotional level. Says Nancy Reyes, member of the “Tostitos Reunite America” team, “the emotional benefits drive people to be closer to the brand than the functional benefits…It’s nice to focus on the emotional part of the brand and live out its purpose.”

So what are the benefits to this PR and social media driven campaign? Well, most importantly, especially in comparison to modern-day advertising, employing social media is an effective and inexpensive way to drum up business. While the company has not released the monetary figures for the campaign, it can only be expected that, even with the cost of the reunions (an amount that has also not been as of yet released), this campaign will cost significantly less than past campaigns. Plus, the unique approach Tostitos is taking, and their initiative to embrace the social networking sites, shows forward thinking and is sure to catch attention.

 

For more information on the “Tostitos Reunite America” campaign, visit the Tostitos Facebook page, or read the New York Times write-up here.