Final Project

This is my Final Project post/memo for J7330 Social Media Theory & Practice. Some of the key takeaways I’ve gained from this course include: gaining a better understanding of the historic rise of social media use; how it applies to communication theories as well as the broader implications for not just journalism, but society too; applying that understanding to how consumer connections are made in this new two-way communication; understanding the different social media platforms that are used in those conversations; employing the practical application of different social media tools as well as learning how to assess and measure the power of social media using metrics; and developing insights into how to organize and manage social media programs for my own organization.

I also really thought the book we read for this class — Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations by Clay Shirky — was good for setting the stage to think strategically about social media. Through theory and personal stories, Shirky notes that “social tools don’t create new motivations so much as amplify existing ones,” and that of course “more is different.”  To me, this means that having a good understanding of social media depends as much on understanding regular, everyday social interactions/motivations of people as it does in mastering the latest social tool/platform. To understand social media, you need to understand basic human nature and the desire to communicate, connect, create and share.

As the Executive Director of Communications & Marketing at Tennessee Tech University, I have worked on the advertising end of social media, but as an office, we are just in the beginning stages of developing a fully integrated social media strategy that aligns with the university’s larger communication plan. Implementing some of the takeaways from this course, I feel confident that I can now put forth ideas to help boost social media interaction and engagement with target audiences (and not always have to rely on advertising dollars to get results).    

Tennessee Tech University has official social media profiles on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Pinterest that are maintained by the Office of Communications & Marketing. In addition, the university has hundreds of office and departmental profiles, ranging from the Financial Aid Office to the Mechanical Engineering department. Currently, there is little to no coordination that takes place among the official, university-wide accounts and these smaller office/departmental accounts. In addition to the communications professionals in the Office of Communications and Marketing, there are many different types of individuals (student workers, support staff, faculty, etc.) who manage these accounts with varying levels of activity and/or effectiveness. While some of the smaller office/departmental accounts do an excellent job of maintaining/updating their pages, a majority do not, leading to a lack of consistency. This lack of consistency in message (knowing that a prospective student might find one of the smaller accounts before finding the official university account) could lead to a decrease in overall communication effectiveness that could negatively impact the Tennessee Tech brand.

Our office currently maintains a set of Social Media Guidelines that outline the following objectives:

  • Extend the university’s reach and influence online by connecting and building relationships with key audiences, such as prospective students, current students, parents, and alumni.
  • Provide additional channels for these key audiences to communicate and interact with the university.
  • Provide additional channels for audiences to receive and share official university information.
  • Monitor the university’s reputation in the social media sphere.

Taking what I learned in this J7330 Social Media & Theory class, the following tactics can be used to coordinate and strengthen the university’s social media efforts and to incorporate social media use as a regular, integral part of an overall communications strategy for the university.

  • Ensure regular communication among those responsible for university-affiliated accounts. Invite those offices/departments who have accounts to form a group to share information/ideas/metrics. Develop examples of what worked best to engage audiences.
  • Share messages from other university-affiliated accounts. The official university accounts can help generate increased exposure for posts made by smaller office/departmental accounts. On the flip side, for slow content days, the smaller accounts can repost information from the university’s official accounts.
  • Develop consistent hashtags to be used to aggregate conversations regarding the university (especially valuable on Twitter).
  • Ensure Tennessee Tech branding standards are met across all social media platforms and accounts. This is critically important for consistency in message — smaller office/departmental accounts can still maintain their unique identity, but should be easily identifiable as belonging to Tennessee Tech.
  • Participate in trends in social media, such as Twitter trending topics like #ThrowbackThursday and encourage smaller office/departmental accounts to do so as well. 

Another key takeaway from this class has been my introduction to blogging. Prior to this class, I did not have a blog. I have found it to be professionally rewarding to maintain a blog on my personal experiences in higher education marketing (Awesome Since 1915). In tracking metrics for my blog, I’ve learned that linking blog posts to my Twitter account has helped to increase the number of views to a post. On Twitter, which is much a reflection of my blog and professional life, I’ve gained a total of 23 followers since starting the blog, which I think is great because of the personal connections I’ve made. Going forward with my blog, I think it might help to make my blog more personal about me. Right now, it relies heavily on co-branding with the university where I work. I also think branching out my topic a little more to include not just topics of interest concerning my work (marketing) but also about work/life balance since I am also a mother of three and community volunteer with several organizations; and also include information about being a woman and working professional in my field. I think adding in more personal insights would make my blog content more valuable to my readers.

The new social media tool I chose to explore is PowToon. PowToon is an online business presentation software that allows you to create short, free, animated videos. Since video production is one of my weaker skills, I looked for a social media tool that could help me create and share engaging content. I found PowToon to be easy, intuitive and surprisingly customizable, even for the free beta version I used. Below is the link to a short video, detailing my marketing background and higher ed blog, that I created using PowToon.

Awesome Since 1915 — Video about Blog


Reflections on Readings — Week 14

This week in my Social Media Theory & Practice class, the readings were light — only 2 articles. The first article was “10 Questions for Journalists: Matt Thompson on the Problem of Journalism Overload.” In this article, the author Thompson puts forward 10 questions that journalists should be asking themselves. The questions included: Are we making our community feel better informed or merely distracted? How important is this for our community to know and why? Are we chasing the larger story, or just the latest story? Are we synthesizing information, or merely aggregating it? How are we serving those who know [nothing or a lot] about the topic? Have we provided a clear trail through our coverage? Are we using 1,000 words where a picture should be? How good are our filters? Will our coverage find our audience where and when they are ready for it? How are we managing our own info overload?

Thinking about these questions, below are some more detailed thoughts to the ones I felt most relevant to me.

Are we making our community feel better informed or merely distracted? I think this is a very important question because it makes you question the value of the topic you are covering and how it impacts the larger public. It was also noted here that a clear hierarchy of info is needed to help structure the presentation of the story (kind of like print journalism’s classic inverted pyramid). I think a good example of this online is how CNN structures their articles — you can click on a story and over to the left is a small callout of 3-4 bullet points called Story Highlights. This reader can get a basic idea of the story before investing the time to read the entire article. I think this could be good for doing with my universities own press releases as well.

Are we chasing the larger story, or just the latest story? This question is critically important to the future of journalism — yes, we all know that you have on top of what is happening now, but do we have to sacrifice context for expediency? For me, this question relates back to the thesis that I am about to undertake starting next fall. I am looking at the broadcast morning news coverage of the War in Afghanistan. My hypothesis going in is that there was a larger lack of context on the U.S.-Afghan history and relationship prior to 9/11, and that the lack of context ultimately impacted public opinion and policy decisions.

How good are our filters? The author Thompson quotes Clay Shirky here: “There is no such thing as information overload, there is only filter failure.” I agree that there is nothing more frustrating than trying to search for a topic on a news site and then to have the search results not provide anything relevant. At Tennessee Tech, we are trying to make it more convenient for the local, state and national media to have access to our faculty who are experts in their fields. We have just created an Experts Guide (now in beta testing and one day hope to have it searchable). Faculty can enter their contact information and areas of expertise and then the next step is for a journalist to be able to use a search to easily find an aviation security expert for example.

The second article this week was “The Tigger Talk: On Life, the Process and Everything” by Brad King. This article was very reflective in that the author is emphasizing that for students grades don’t always matter — it’s the process. That’s where true learning takes place. It made me think a lot about this class and my previous class with Dr. Brown in Entrepreneurial Journalism. It’s all about real world application. That’s what I love about her classes. It’s not all reading and research, but using tools and social media that professionals use and finding new ways to make them work for us.

This article also encouraged the reader that much of life is about the small, everyday decisions. I will agree 100% of that. Some people are Eeyores. I’ve worked with them and probably even facilitated them in being a listening ear. Sometimes things are out of your control, but you do control your attitude, and the little decisions you make everyday do add up over time to either help or hurt you. One of my favorite quotes is by Aristotle: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” I am also fond of a meme I found on Pinterest that says: “Don’t hate on my success like we don’t have the same 24 hours in a day.” Your time is what you make of it and attitude does affect that, and as I have grown as a working professional and mother, keeping a positive attitude really does make a difference. 

Reflections on Readings for Week 13

This week in my Social Media Theory & Practice class, we reviewed articles on the topic of web curation and linking. The first article we read was “The Curation Economy and the 3C’s of Information Commerce,” by Brian Solis. I thought this article was a good overview of how people participate online, especially as it pertains to social media. It actually reminded me a lot of Clay Shirky’s work about how passive consumers can eventually become creators of content. For the 3C’s, this article defines them as Consumers, Curators and Creators. As social media encourages us to share more personal information about ourselves and we are rewarded with likes, shares, comments, retweets and more connections, then we start forming groups based on shared personal interests. Curators here and in the other articles are almost like aggregators — sifting through the multitude of information online and bringing together relevant information on the shared interest.

Another article on curation, “Curation, and Journalists as Curators” by Mindy McAdams, outlined some specific tips in becoming a curator and positioning yourself as an expert in the field/topic you are covering — selection of the best representatives, culling, provide context, arrangement of individual objects, organization of the whole, expertise and updating. A third article that showed these tips in action was the “Interview with Andy Carvin on curating Twitter to watch Tunisia, Egypt.” In this article, Carvin is interviewed about how he started collecting tweets to tell the story of revolution unfolding in Tunisia during the Arab Spring. He made use of the curation platform Storify. What I found most interesting here is how he was personally invested in covering this story. It was not mandated by NPR that he do this 12-15 hours a day, communicating the story in real time, but in the end NPR did benefit from his work. He defines curation as a “mix of storytelling and journalism” and feels like this may be “more art than journalism, or social responsibility.”

However, as I noted in an earlier post about the power of social media and events like the Arab Spring, I don’t know that if in the end, it was for the best. As Carvin said, “social media is helping grease the wheels, amplify things inside and outside the country and capture bad acts by regimes on their camera phones.” But does that acceleration help or hurt a state moving from an authoritarian government to a democracy? In my opinion, it does not. These kind of shifts takes years if not decades, and some never end up being a productive, cohesive state (i.e. Afghanistan).

In the article “The link economy v. the content economy,” the notion here is that entities like the AP don’t want their stories pulled into aggregators or linked to through curation. They want to be compensated for the use of their content. I agree with the author of this article in that that kind of thinking is old school and “values control.” I know one of the problems with news content is the lack of compensation for when the work goes online (which is why some have instituted paywalls to get access). But on the other hand, the majority of people in my opinion think content should be free and accessible (and I kind of agree with that). Make revenue off the advertisements surrounding the content, but let the content be free. So I believe those that link to the content and help curate it are in effect doing promotion for the AP, so they shouldn’t want to charge. And if people start charging in the opposite direction (wanting to be compensated for linking to an article), then that just devalues their blog, etc. as a pay to play — not very effective in attracting an audience because your legitimacy is called into question.

On a personal level, one experience I have had with curation was with a fandom. At one time, I was a superfan of the WB show Smallville. It had a fan website I visited often ( This site pulled in information about the show from other sources (including spoilers for the next episodes and even details on the actors if they had any other upcoming projects). Since Smallville ended as a series several years ago, this site has still remained active in keeping fans updated on the actors and any spinoffs that have come from the show (like the Green Arrow). The site also allowed for a fan discussion board to facilitate interaction among followers and members.

On a professional level, I have had unique experience in the act of curation. Once I graduated college, my student internship turned into a full-fledged job with me as an independent contractor for a local, Cookeville-based editorial consulting firm. The married couple I worked for ran 2 Middle Eastern news sites. One was Gulf News (now defunct), but it rounded up news from all over the Web about the Gulf states, categorized and prioritized it. It linked back to each individual news source to read the entire article, or in some instances, they got permission to reproduce an article in its entirety. This website, updated regularly, was also sent as an e-newsletter to thousands of key people in the U.S. military and Washington, DC. Funding for the project was provided by the National Council for U.S.-Arab Relations. The other site I worked on is still alive and well — the Saudi-U.S. Relations Information Service, and it functioned much the same way (, but did have more opportunities for original content.

At the university where I work now, in our News Department, there is an informal process of curation that takes place. Usually about once per week, the News Director will round up links to stories that the university was featured in and send those out to a distribution list. We also still pay for the old-school clipping service that catches every press release we put out to see who is carrying our content.

The last two articles for this week didn’t necessarily fit the curation theme. One was on oversharing, which I agree happens too often on social media. Not that I am a prude, etc. as the author notes of his critic when he discussed his penis cancer. But today’s culture promotes putting it all out there (hence the popularity of reality TV — and I must admit to be a Bravo Housewives fan. I think putting it all out there virtually has led to a coarseness in dealing with each other in real life and encourages participation in schadenfreude. The other article was by Danah Boyd on the findings from Pew Internet and American Life Project report on race and privacy. It was interesting to see how teenagers use social media and the racial differences. The most notable info here to me was the way in which teenagers circumvent privacy issues by using “social stenganography,” which means posting messages that have a hidden meaning. As a marketer, I would like to have more time to read about this and get more info to help us reach the teenage market in our efforts to market to them for recruiting.



Reflections on Readings Week 12


So, I spaced out and didn’t realize the Facebook readings actually belonged in Week 11 and that data mapping was the topic this week. I blame it on the horrible stomach bug that has been through 4 out of 5 members of our household, including myself. So below is my other summary on Facebook. We only had one article to read for this week “Data-Driven Journalism Trends for 2014.” This article gave an overview of the top trends of using data in news reporting, including sensor data, data mapping, references for data libraries, and using online software programs like HTML5 and JavaScript to present data in cool and interesting ways.

When I was a reporter for the Cumberland Business Journal, I learned to live by data. We covered business news in 14 counties, so each month I ran business licenses records, unemployment numbers, building permits, real estate transfers, bank deposits, sales tax collections, etc. As a reporter, I had to learn how to interpret the data for our readers and work with our graphic designers doing layout for the paper on how best to visually represent that data in charts and info graphics. Data can be a reporters best friend, and it is key you understand how to use it because it can and will be used against you if you don’t understand it. I’ve had bank owners argue with me about how I presented data that put them in a not-so-positive light, but I stuck by the numbers and my interpretation of them. Make data your best friend and don’t let others take advantage of your ignorance. Understand it and own it.


This week in my Social Media Theory & Practice class, the articles up for review centered on the social media juggernaut of Facebook. The first article, “Facebook, private traits and attributes: Predictions from digital records of human behavior,” describes the effect of Facebook and Big Data and the issues they raise for privacy concerns. As a marketer, Big Data is a trend I follow and am actively involved in. This trend refers to the vast quantities of personal information collected by corporate companies/social media sites. With Facebook essentially functioning as a personal directory and diary cataloging major and minor life events, that data is a goldmine for marketers like me who want to get the most mileage out of my dollars invested in targeting the right audience for my marketing messages. Probably like most millennials, I am not too concerned with privacy settings on my information. I think that it is the user’s choice to participate in these forums and that they need a certain level of transparency (doesn’t  mean I agree when people use their Facebook to air all of their dirty laundry — sometimes it is TMI).

But I think the trend in social media used with Big Data is of course to use what is collected to better target advertising to the consumer. I think the scarier trend here is how healthcare has caught onto this trend and uses Big Data in a way that directly affects your bottom line and insurance. For example, in order to have lower insurance premiums, many state employees participate in the Partners for Health program. This is a great program and does keep me many to take better care of their health, but this program also collects lots of personal data that is shared with the insurance companies. Eventually, I could see this data correlated with your lifestyle behaviors (culled form your social media use), and suddenly there is a large directory of not only your consumer info but tied with your health info. I may be a little too Orwellian in my thinking here 🙂

I was not able to read the book “The Facebook Effect” by David Kirkpatrick. However, I did read a New York Times review of the book. The reviewer said the book could be divided into 2 sections — one on the personality of Mark Zuckerberg and the history of Facebook and the other on the impact of Facebook. The second part actually sounds more interesting pertaining to the personal, cultural, global, economic and political impacts of Facebook. Since as author Clay Shirky noted in the book we read by him, we are experiencing this historic phenomenon in the rise of online, social communication, so while we are experiencing it, we don’t know for sure how this turns out on the other side in say 20 years from now.


Using Social Media Demographics (at work and on my blog)

Using demographic info gained from social media is invaluable in my position as the Exec Director of Communications & Marketing at the university where I work. At Tennessee Tech, I work with our agency of record, the Tombras Group, for assistance with media placement, including Facebook. We can give our media planner the demographic characteristics we want to reach, create a Facebook ad with image and text, and then our ad only pops up when the user fits the profile of the demographics we submitted. We get an estimate beforehand on how many we are reaching. Right now, my largest campaigns focus on traditional undergraduate recruitment, so I want Tennessee Tech’s ad to pop up on Tennessee high school students’ profile, between the ages of 13-17. If they click on our ad, it takes them directly to our official university Facebook page where they can “like” the page. That give us as the university a virtual foot in the door because now our Facebook messages/posts get incorporated into that user’s news feed. Using this strategy, we have gone from just several thousand fans back in 2009 to almost 38,000 today ( Below is an image of the ad we’ve used to target high school students that matched our overall marketing campaign of “Unleash Your Awesomeness” for undergraduate recruitment at Tennessee Tech. Level of investment on Facebook for us runs about $1,300 per month.


Also, in targeting the 13-17 high school market in Tennessee, you also get information like the statistics and psychographics seen below. This information is helpful in knowing what TV shows, books, movies, music (basically anything pop culture related) that my target audience participates in. This helps inform the media buying decisions when I place a buy for cable television or what type of radio station I advertise on.


Also, I’ve included below our some of the info on our past reports we receive from our marketing agency about our ads overall performance, as well as age and gender breakdowns.





In thinking about how I use these kinds of social media demographics in my everyday job, to be honest, it’s a little more challenging for me to think about these demographics in the context of my personal blog on higher education marketing because I know I personally don’t have the funds to invest in promoting myself like I do the university at work — but I am always up for a challenge! I know my target audience for my personal blog are other higher education communications, marketing, PR folks. I am already connected in real life and virtually to a network of these professionals with my affiliation with the Tennessee College Public Relations Association. That organization is active on social media and also participates in an email list where members can ask questions and receive advice/answers from other members. I also belong to other national groups like this through my LinkedIn Profile (I added some more after revamping my LinkedIn profile last week). Groups I have joined there include: Brand Activation: Cutting Through The Clutter, Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, Digital Communications Marketing in Higher Education, Higher Education Management, Higher Education Professionals, Higher Education Teaching & Learning, and Web 2.0 for Higher Education. So I could start interacting more with these groups and pushing my relevant blog posts when a related discussion emerges. In addition to LinkedIn, many of these national groups use Twitter, so I need to be more active there. 

For Facebook, the Tennessee College Public Relations Association already has a group/page set up, so I could do the same there as on LinkedIn in terms of sharing my blog posts to relevant discussions. I don’t want to just interject myself into the news stream as a promotion hog with every post, but publicize them when it is relevant to current discussion. Goals on Facebook for me are harder because I see Facebook more as my family and friends extension versus a way to promote myself professionally. I use Twitter more for that. I really see my higher ed marketing blog and Twitter being intertwined. Twitter is my professional persona on social media. This is where I participate in Twitter chats, retweet article links about higher ed or marketing, and make connections with others in my profession. I need to make an effort to use Twitter more and integrate it into my weekly work flow tying it back to my blog. 

With that being said, as for a specific strategy for Facebook I do know that without getting the word out about my blog, my content will never maximize its reach. Some specific tactics to boost blog interaction on Facebook could include going heavy with images. Facebook is such a visual medium, even in comparison to Twitter, that photos and images get more interaction. Another tactic I could use is being able to structure my content for easier consumption. As we discussed earlier in this class, lists and breaking posts into bulleted format make it easier on the reader to consume the information versus  long blog posts like I do here in my class blog. Another tactic to boost Facebook interaction that I’ve got to explore is to allow my blog visitors to follow me on Facebook (and Twitter). I need to figure out how to promote this in the sidebar on my wordpress blog. Another tactic would be to also include the Facebook icon in the sidebar since it is widely recognizable. Other ways of connecting my blog to Facebook could be liking my own posts on my Facebook profile (it’s kind of like voting for yourself in an election, but it does help promote the content).

With that overview about my Facebook strategy and tactics personal blog, we are in the process of developing a more comprehensive strategy for using Facebook at the university where I work. Just this week, we met with our analytics guy who has been keeping track of Google Analytics for our university website ( He has also just begun looking at our social media statistics for Tennessee Tech’s Facebook, Twitter and YouTube accounts. Specifically for Facebook, he was able to pull from the analytics data the following important information:

  • From Jan. 1- April 1, 2014, TTU had a total of 100 posts to its Facebook page, which translated into a total reach of 315,924.
  • Total number of people engaged posts on the page (those who liked, shared, or commented on a post) was 15,173. In contrast, we had a total of 66,026 who viewed the page during those same months (this is interesting because we have a total of 37,341 fans). So significantly more people are viewing the page and about half of our fans are directly engaging in our pasts (These are really good numbers for engagement).

Another cool analytical tool is to show what our most popular, engaging posts were. This helps us shape the type of content we promote on TTU’s Facebook page, such as photos are popular for liking and sharing. See our Discovery report below.



Using LinkedIn, Personal Brand & Engagement

In my Social Media Theory & Practice class this week, we took a look at LinkedIn. Billed as the “world’s largest professional network,” I have had a LinkedIn account for the past 7 years. I established one while I still worked at MMA Creative, a Cookeville-based marketing agency. I had a LinkedIn account before I had a Facebook account, so for me, it was really my first experience with social media. So far, I have 194 connections with my profile — majority of which are work related, and I receive at least 2-3 requests for connections each week. I have been endorsed by a total of 57 people with my top skills in press releases, copywriting and email marketing. To be honest, I haven’t cultivated my LinkedIn presence beyond making and accepting connections. However, when I updated my profile in January (I was promoted from Marketing Director to Executive Director in the Office of Communications & Marketing), I was flooded with congratulations to my email from my LinkedIn connections. I gotta admit that was nice and brought this social media tool back into the forefront of my mind. To help beef up my LinkedIn presence, I joined several groups: Brand Activation: Cutting Through the Clutter, Higher Education Management and Higher Education Public Relations & Marketing Group. I also spruced up my profile, adding in education information and interests.


I think LinkedIn does go a long way in establishing your personal brand online. The other tool I use most often for this is Twitter. After participating in several Twitter chats, I think that it is key for getting out there, networking, being part of a conversation and making connections with peers in my industry. I could do a better job of using both Twitter and LinkedIn, especially making Twitter part of my daily routine. I just need to find the time to do it. Work is intense right now with so many projects ongoing, that professional development and furthering my personal brand has suffered, which is not good. As for an engagement strategy, I plan on using Twitter and LinkedIn to help push content out to my audience (other peers in higher ed marketing or even marketing in general). I have found Twitter to be the most effective.

I really enjoyed the class discussion a few weeks ago with Elle Perry, formerly of the Beale Street Chic blog. I enjoyed what she said about networking in person in addition to networking online through social media and her blog. It’s all about putting yourself out there. In my profession, we have an opportunity once per year to visit with other university offices of communication and marketing from across the state at the annual Tennessee College Public Relations Association conference. We get to learn from other universities, both public and private, about the challenges they face, new strategies and we even have a friendly competition for our publications, news stories, marketing campaigns, etc. So, I want to be able to bring my personal brand I am cultivating more out into the open at these events, maybe taking part in a panel discussion.

Reflections on Readings Week 11

This week in my Social Media Theory & Practice class, we read articles about how different demographic groups use social media. The first article was “Viewing American Class Divisions Through Facebook and MySpace” by Danah Boyd. This article is from 2007 and discusses the rise of MySpace in conjunction with competition from Facebook. Boyd proposes some demographic theories on why MySpace has not been as successful as Facebook and compares its loss of members to the Civil Rights era phenomenon known as “white flight.” In the early days of MySpace, it appealed to the high school market, and Facebook was started at Harvard and enjoyed a following mainly from college students. Boyd then describes how she came to the conclusion that beyond age brackets, the divide became more about class with the preppy, college-bound elites flocking to Facebook and the geeks, misfits, outsiders clinging to MySpace. I think Boyd’s explanation was a little too simplistic. In my opinion, Facebook overshadowed MySpace based on ease of use and the visual presentation of the platform. It looked nicer, was easier to see friend updates, etc. MySpace took on a whole new demographic when music bands created pages (and I confess, I still visit MySpace when I hear a new song and want to check out the band and other songs by them). I did find it interesting here that the military banned the use of MySpace — I was previously unaware of that.

I would also like to counter Boyd’s premise about how in the larger world working class kids remain working class out of fear of loosing their friends and community. I am a first generation college student. Neither of my parents even have a high school degree (only made it to the 8th grade). They worked in factories their whole lives, as has most of my immediate and extended families. I achieved 2 undergrad degrees and am now going for my Master’s. I have a high level administrative position where I work, making almost double what my parents made at the height of their careers. So I have jumped a level in the class system and not lost any sense of identity or community. I am fortunate to still get to live and work in my hometown. I believe it all comes down to internal dedication and desire to achieve more than race or class (okay, getting off my soapbox).

The second article we read, “How Racist Language Frames Social Media (And Why You Should Care),” was also by Danah Boyd. This piece was an extension of the earlier article, but focused on the language that gets used on social media and on the internet in general, and how much of that language exposes deep race and class divides. I agree with Boyd here — for many, the internet is a way to let all the ugly show due in large part to its anonymity. However, I think the trend I see is that is changing for the better. Many comment sections now require you log in with your Facebook account, etc. So it shows your real name and photo, which I think compels the user to be more civil in conversation. I hope to see this continue. 

The third article was “How Black People Use Twitter” by Farhad Manjoo was very interesting. As someone who does special campaigns to market the university where I work to minority students, I think this was a good insight into how Twitter is being used. Aside the the cultural overtones that Manjoo was getting at, it makes sense to me that minorities (especially those in the lower income brackets) would use Twitter much like a text messaging service since they might not can afford that kind of service with a cellphone. It was also interesting to note that most African American Twitter users know their Twitter followers in real life. I might know 3-5 of my followers in real life, so this further goes to the point, that they are using Twitter as a personal communication tool versus social media platform. In marketing to minorities, we have known that shotgun broad messages don’t work. This audience wants a personal connection — through their family, church or community. That is where we get our best minority recruitment from. We need to learn to better apply those techniques to social media. The link for the counter article by Jessica Faye Carter did not work — I even tried searching online for it and couldn’t find it. 

The next article for this week was also about Twitter with “Twitter Offers News Orgs Opportunity to Reach Diverse, Underserved Communities.” This goes back to what the previous article was getting at. African Americans are heavy Twitter users, but the challenge is they use it for their personal circle of family and friends, so breaking into that stream of communication can be hard for news organizations. Beyond race with this article, I am still fascinated by the younger generation and their approach to news. They have the attitude that if the news is important enough, it will find me and that you don’t have to seek it out. I am probably biased here since although I work in marketing, I have a journalism background and did work as a reporter. I think that is a very narrow-minded shallow view of getting news. If you only ever get news by hearing it from family/friends, then you are most likely getting like-minded news — you are not getting diversity of opinions. Even worse, in this article, one kid interviewed said that he didn’t like reading all the bad stuff that the news covers. Well that is part of the larger world and whether you find it depressing or not, I believe you should still be exposed to it. This selectivity that is happening in the way people receive their news I believe is what has led to much bipartisanship nationally and the inability of many to see another’s point of view (sheesh, second time in this post I need to get off my soapbox 🙂

The final article for class this week was a chapter from the book, entitled “From Dabblers to Omnivores: A Typology of Social Network Site Usage” by Eszter Hargittai and Yu-li Patrick Hsieh. This article takes a look at social network sites taking into consideration both frequency and diversity of usage and level of engagement. The authors have 4 categories of users on social network sites: dabblers, samplers, devotees and omnivores. Dabblers are those who only use one such site and do so only sometimes. Samplers visit more than one site, but none of them often. Devotees are often active on one site only. Omnivores are those that visit more than one such site and use at least one of them often. To test frequency and diversity of usage, the authors conducted a survey of 1,060 students at the University of Illinois in Chicago. In their findings, they reported that context of use and Internet experience do make a difference for the students versus just looking at demographics. They found that students who do not live with their parents, who have internet access at a friend’s or family member’s home and who spend more time online per week are more likely to use social network sites often. I think the methodology used here was very good and could be replicated at our university. We are always challenged by how best to communicate internally with students. We have found social media like Facebook and Twitter more effective in getting messages out versus our daily e-newsletter, posting to the homepage or sending text alerts.

Reflections on Readings Week 10

This week in my Social Media Theory and Practice class, we read articles centering on the concept of engagement and what that means for both journalism and marketing. The first article we read was “Journalism As A Conversation: A Concept Explication” by D. M. Marchionni. In this article, Marchionni conducted 2 experiments. The first tested whether readers perceive conversational stories as different from traditional stories and as more credible and expert. The second experiment tested types of journalistic conversation on based on these two factors. Interestingly, the findings presented in this article suggest the conversational features of sameness and interactivity are key, not only in distinguishing this type of news but in predicting its perceived credibility and expertise. I agree — the more at home you feel in using/interacting with any given media, engagement is likely to increase.  

The second article was selected chapters from Napoli’s “Audience Evolution: New Technologies and the Transformation of Media Audiences.” This article was really good at explaining the current evolution in how we define and measure this behavior of engagement and what it really means for both media producers and advertisers. With today’s growing social media and online opportunities, it is not enough to know how many impressions an article or ad received. Producers and advertisers want to know how the audience engaged with the media and be able to hone it down to a predictive model for advertising sales. To get the full spectrum of engagement, Napoli explains that media consumption habits, content preferences, degree of engagement and levels of anticipation for and appreciation of content that is consumed is being examined. I thought the graphic demonstrating Audience Dimensions was very helpful in understanding the progression of engagement. It moves from awareness to interest to exposure, which branches to loyalty and attentiveness and then to engagement, which can encapsulate appreciation, emotion, recall and attitude, resulting in audience behavior.

Having this kind of data is critical in making content decisions for what can be produced and where to spend advertising dollars. At the university where I work, we often look at Google Analytics with our website and we do look at stickiness — how long does someone spend on a particular page or piece of content — as an indicator of interacting with what is on that page. It could also mean that they were looking for something and it took too long to find it. We have researched doing the user tracking on our website, where you give someone a task to find certain information, and then see how long it takes to find it, but it is costly.

I also thought it was good in this article about buzz and momentum online. I was reminded how the TV fandom of Veronica Mars pushed until they got a movie, and how years after the show Firefly went off the air, it still has a loyal following clamoring to bring it back. This ties into the key factor of emotion. However, I would be interested to read more about how that passion translates into the advertising shown during programming. I also thought the Advertising Research Foundation’s definition of engagement was good: “engagement is turning on a prospect to a brand idea enhanced by the surrounding context.” It is creating an experience and being memorable. I think this is a much better definition versus distilling engagement down to recall – that may be an easy way to crunch numbers, but you’re not getting the full scope.  

The third article for this week was “Tweet, Tweet, Retweet: Conversational Aspects of Retweeting on Twitter.” This article outlined the 3 current ways people can communicate with each other on Twitter: @user, hashtags #, and retweeting. Of course, the point of the article is what does retweeting really mean in the larger context of communication. I believe retweeting is much like buzz, it creates momentum. It gives weight and credibility to a person’s sphere of influence or to the importance of what is being said. As noted in the article, retweeting validates and engages others. I know I feel pretty proud when I get retweeted or favorited on Twitter. Of course, retweeting does bring its own set of issues with authorship, attribution and communicative fidelity, but honestly, Twitter seems to be such a fleeting medium, I don’t know if this issues are as big of a deal in this arena. I also thought it was good in this article that it noted that although Twitter only allows 140 characters, “creativity comes with restraint.” I thought it was good to note what people are retweeting. This is important for distributing communications at the university where I work. People most often retweet: breaking news and retweet for social action.

The fourth article for this week was “Why comments suck (& ideas on un-sucking them). I think everything that was stated in this article is true when it comes to newspapers and comments sections online. I have to admit to being a lurker on comments sections after articles, especially when reading NYTimes, WashPost, Slate or even Chronicle of Higher Ed. Investing staff time in moderating comments and checking in on the conversation is critical, but hard to do when many newspapers can’t afford a full staff anymore. One thing I think wasn’t addressed here is the tendency of some papers to purposefully bait their readers with controversial stories. I have seen this many times with the Tennessean and how they promote stories on social media. They purposefully pick stories that are controversial (religion, welfare, abortion, gay rights, etc.) and then plaster them on their social media to drive comments. What it usually drives is a downward spiral of conversation because the same readers comment every time and argue back and forth.

The final article for this week was by Joy Mayer and Reuben Stern — “A Resource for Newsrooms: Measuring the Success of Audience Engagement Efforts.” The one thing that really stood out to me on this article was the explanation for the purpose of engagement, broken down into 3 categories:  community outreach, conversation and collaboration. On community outreach, this means actively sharing your knowledge with others and enriching the community. On conversation, this means listening to others as well as talking, and to make adjustments as you go. In order to take that first step of engagement, people need to know that their voice will be heard. On collaboration, this is the highest form of engagement. It means we have shared interest in working together between reporter and reader. 


Goals, Metrics and Challenges — oh my!

This week in my Social Media Theory & Practice class, we were asked to create a list of goals for our social media presence. In thinking about my blog, my first goal is to be a resource for others in my profession to learn more about what makes marketing higher ed unique from marketing in the corporate sector. I believe that by providing some of my firsthand experiences in the diverse projects that I work on (good and bad), I can give insight on project management and overall marketing strategy. I am also looking at this blog not just as an avenue to share my expertise, but to learn from others as well. Maybe someone had a similar project, but approached it a different way. I want to be a learner as much as a teacher and hope to interact with readers of my blog.


Also, I really see my blog and Twitter being intertwined. Twitter is my professional persona on social media. This is where I participate in Twitter chats, retweet article links about higher ed or marketing, and make connections with others in my profession. I need to make an effort to use Twitter more and integrate it into my weekly work flow. So, with these thoughts in mind, below are my goals for my blog and Twitter account. When it comes to other social media, Facebook is more private for me, and the only professional connection is my work title in the About Me section. Facebook is where I connect with family and friends versus network professionally. However, another under used social media presence I have is LinkedIn. To be honest, beyond sending and accepting connections and belonging to a few groups that have email digests, I haven’t actively participated in LinkedIn since I joined. I would like better understand its features and use it more frequently.


  • Minimum of 2 blog posts per week (at least 500 words); photo of campus/event/projects
  • Link to blog posts from Twitter account to help drive traffic to blog
  • Regularly tweet about cool events I attend or new projects I am brought on board with (not just sporadic retweets of article links)
  • Participate in one Twitter chat per month (I have made some really good professional connections during these chats, and I like the fast-paced nature of them — they really challenge you to use Twitter to its maximum effect)
  • Link my blog posts from my LinkedIn account to help drive traffic to blog


  • For my blog, I plan to measure at the number of views a post has received, the number of comments each post receives and the number of visitors to my blog.
  • For Twitter, I plan to track the number of followers I have, as well as the number of retweets and favorites that my tweets receive.
  • For LinkedIn, I plan to track the number of connections I have (even looking beyond those I have personally and into my connections’ networks to see if I can connect with any of my connections’ connections (if that makes sense :).


  • In order to help give my content a superboost of steroids, I plan to take on a two week challenge of blogging everyday for 14 days, even if posts are short and some days I use photos. This will help build my content and make the blog more interesting for readers. I think 2 weeks will be a good push to help blogging become a habit and to help create a regular stream of content.

My Experience Using FourSquare

One of the assignments for this week in my Social Media Theory & Practice class was to experiment with a location-based checkin service/app. I choose FourSquare. I had previously used Facebook’s checkin since I already had a Facebook app, but I did not use it regularly. I signed up for FourSquare, and it automatically let me know via my phone contacts who else I knew that used FourSquare, so I sent them all an invite. I got 4 friend responses. I began checking in regularly when I got to work at the Roaden University Center at Tennessee Tech University. I also checked into my hometown of Baxter — I actually received a badge and became Mayor of Baxter on FourSquare for my number/frequency of checkins (and I admit, it was an ego-boost even if it was a virtual badge). I tried to remember to checkin at businesses throughout the week, but to be honest, it was a burdensome to try to remember to checkin. Juggling 3 young children when we go to a restaurant or shopping, I am doing good to remember my purse and wallet, let alone checkin on my phone. I guess it could have been a better experience if more of my phone contacts had responded back to be friends, or if there were a part of the app that could show me categories of events going on throughout the week (for me, I would be looking for kid-centric events).

With that being said from my personal perspective, I do think these kind of apps would be very useful in promoting the university where I work. I even think we could do internal promotions for faculty/staff/students on building checkins, especially if they would make mention of an event going on — and give them some TTU swag. I also think these would be useful for our recruiters when they are visiting high schools — another way to make a connection by checking in when they get to the high school or recruitment fair. Lots of possibilities here, just need more bodies to implement a strategy for them.