Case Closed?

As a second semester college senior, the majority of the past few months presented me with my own mystery – the mystery of my life after graduation. Now, as the semester (and my college career) comes to a close, I’m taking a moment to reflect on social media, the SMPASocial class, and solving the mystery of my future thus far.

MY EXPERTISE

SOCIAL MEDIA

I’m a millennial born and bred on digital communication. Since the second semester of my freshman year at GW, I have worked with social media in a professional capacity with a number of organizations. Through this hands-on experience, I’ve not only learned how to convey an organizational voice through social media content, but how do use that voice to create authentic engagement with the intended audience.

Some specific social media skills that I’ve picked up and refined throughout college include:

  • Making social-ready graphics and gifs with Adobe Creative Suite
  • Compiling and analyzing social analytics
  • Drafting social content for talent and executives
  • Developing social media kits around campaigns or events

I’d like to think that I’ve developed a certain speciality for developing social content for organizations, individuals and issues that are typically dry and wonky. From the U.S. Director General of the Foreign Service to economic policy think tanks and the Elliott School of International Affairs, I’ve consistently managed to breathe life into what could be boring accounts through creative social strategies.

Because my theme isn’t embed-friendly (thanks, WordPress), click the images to see some of what I’ve done:

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For more examples and information about my professional skills, visit my website.

SUBJECT AREA

As I discussed in my first blog post, I’ve always been weirdly (morbidly?) interested in mysteries and crime. But, this blog showed me how different – and more difficult – writing about mysteries is than just reading about crime, and challenged me to learn how to tackle them.

Unsolved mysteries each come with their own massive sets of theories, research and news articles. With this blog, I learned how to dig through piles of information, both primary and secondary, that exist on unsolved cases. This has sharpened my research skills, as I am now better at discerning and condensing information gleamed from numerous sources for both crime stories and beyond.

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Me, digging through mystery conspiracy theories (Actually a screencap from my favorite show, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia).

Similarly, I’ve learned how to write on complicated topics with brevity, which is an important skill for publishing consumable web content. Crime writing is largely expository – helping readers understand the many facets and pieces of evidence can be difficult. I can now write crime overviews that are quick and succinct using writing skills and web/visual tools, which is a critical skill for creating any content for the web.

TRENDS TO KNOW

FROM OTHERS

I admit – my social media weakness is Snapchat. I’m a very basic user and rarely use many of the advanced functions, and Sophie’s tweet taught me more about the cash-sending capabilities of the app, as well as other tips and tricks I didn’t know about with the platform.

There’s a lot of speculation about what brands think about or how they use different social platforms. Mark’s tweet provided actual evidence about how brands view these platforms, and many of the rankings were surprising to me, which gave me new insight into why brands use certain platforms the way they do.

I’ve always been so, so confused when a famous person follows me on Twitter – so far, I’ve had Soledad O’Brien (here), the voice of Siri, and random CEOs. While I’ve generally thought that these people follow thousands so that those users will follow them back, this tweet actually proved me otherwise, at least in Soledad’s case (or is it a PR stunt?). I had no idea that famous people would want to engage with and read ideas from the everyday person on social, so this tweet was surprising and enlightening into the process behind at least one phenomenon.

FROM MYSELF

Although changing Twitter character counts may seem insignificant, it represents Twitter’s responsiveness to user demands and has changed the platform’s entire structure for response Tweets and what’s seen by followers. Now, social editors have more characters to play with, but also must be aware that their responses are now integrated into followers’ timelines.

Throughout class discussions and my own observations, it’s clear to me that social media users are torn on privacy. On one hand, users are critical of perceived corporate or government access to their personal data. However, they also seem to want personalized service and functionality that’s only possible with user data. Social platforms will have to figure out how to strike a balance between these two demands to keep users.

In the coming years, it will be absolutely necessary for social (and general web) platforms to address their role in propagating fake news. This thread shows how SEO and algorithms, which are at play in almost every prominent social platform, can turn up undesirable results when unchecked and challenge our traditional notion of online research. Understanding and identifying the flaws in digital capabilities that lead to wrong information like this will be important for both users and platforms alike in the future.

SOCIAL MEDIA AND THE WORLD

As I wrap up my reflection, there are two primary issues covered in this class that have both concerned and motivated me as a communication professional, and a social media user.

DIGITAL SERFDOM/CORPORATIZATION

One of my biggest takeaways from this course as a whole is how much social media and web companies literally own me. As explained by Jacob Silverman in Terms of Service, social media users are essentially “farmers”, providing free labor for social platforms as they cultivate content they perceive as their own, but that is actually owned by the platform itself.

Just look at internet.org – “free” social media is not actually free, we are paying with our labor, personal data, and loyalty to the platform. We even provide free labor for non-digital companies when we share their items, experiences, or content on social media and become a marketer by proxy by promoting what they sell.

While I reflected on my personal realization of this corporatization after my social media fast, I think, as (potentially) unethical as it sounds – digital serfdom provides an opportunity for brands. If brands can attract loyal followers willing to post about them on social, they attain a new, and much larger, publicity force that grows their marketing reach.

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ACTIVISM

In today’s digital era, social change can come from a hashtag.

Social media has totally revamped activism, both providing new outlets and challenges for users wishing to change the world around them. Now, users can announce their opinions, engage in discourse, and even organize in-person activism using social media. Some notable social movements have even been facilitated primarily by social media, like the #BlackLivesMatter movement, which began as a hashtag following instances of police brutality against African Americans and is now a prominent nonprofit.

Some, like Malcom Gladwell in his 2010 piece “Small Change” criticize so-called “slacktivism”, arguing that social-driven activism does not have real impact because it removes the risk and effort involved in traditional forms of activism. However, studies show that social activism efforts, like changing filters on profile pictures, are actually effective by boosting issue visibility.

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Social activism can remove traditional barriers to participation and amplify voices of marginalized groups. However, if users or organizations want their social change to be effective, they will have to determine how to use digital media to mobilize users outside of a screen.

THE END?

So, as I submit this blog as my last college final (ever!) and head into my first real job next week, I’ll take these lessons, and the consistent pursuit for truth, along with me. I will likely no longer be updating this blog, but will keep it up as an example for future classes.

When it comes to the biggest mystery this semester – my future after graduation – I’d like to think I can now confidently say:

Case closed.

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