Final Digital Assignment

As the semester comes to a close, I wanted to take some time to reflect on all of the practical skills and knowledge that I have gained in my social media class (the class I wrote this blog for.) I started this blog in January with no prior WordPress experience and I am really happy with what it has become. I look forward to posting here in the future (once finals are over!) and devoting more time to the development of this blog over the summer.

This short clip provides a quick introduction and overview of what I will discuss in this blog post.

Social Media Expertise

This visual aid displays the most important social media skills that I have acquired this semester. I have provided specific examples of each skill below the infographic.

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1. Social Sharing and Understanding

I allowed for maximum social sharing on this blog by 1.) enabling social sharing buttons on the homepage and every blog post and 2.) embedding my personal Twitter feed into the homepage. I utilized WordPress widgets to add both of these features to my blog.

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Social sharing buttons

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Personal Twitter feed

I allowed multiple different social sharing options because I recognize that certain people have special preferences when it comes to social media. While certain content is better suited for certain platforms, it is important to give everyone the option to share content on whatever platform they prefer.

That being said, I am very familiar with different social media platforms and I know how to determine how different types of content will generally preform on different platforms. Therefore, I know the best type of content to post on each platform.

2. Photography 

I used this blog as an opportunity to hone my photography skills. I often displayed my photos in a slideshow format. This feature helped me show my readers how to prepare a certain recipe in great detail, but without taking up too much blog space. For some examples of this, please see my posts on pesto and homemade pasta.

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3. Potentially Viral Content

I gained experience in creating content that had the potential to go viral online, such as memes and GIFs. For examples of this, please see my posts on Via Umbria and homemade pasta.

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4. Embed Interactive External Content

To further enhance my posts, I often embedded maps from GoogleMaps, videos from YouTube, and songs/playlists from SoundCloud.

If I was discussing a certain location in one of my blog posts, an embedded map from Google Maps would help my readers find the location easier. They could simply enter their current location and be routed to the location. The maps also provided great insight into the surrounding area. YouTube videos helped me further illustrate my point in a way that I could not do in solely words and pictures. SoundCloud clips helped me create a certain ambiance within my blog and brought my blog to the next level.

For an example of an embedded Google Map, YouTube video, and SoundCloud playlist please see my post on Illy in DuPont Circle.

5. Create Infographics

I relied on infographics to help me relay facts to my readers, but in a way that made the facts seem like a story. In addition to the infographic shown above, please check out my post on risotto to see how I incorporated an infographic to further enhance the discussion of the recipe.

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Infographic from my risotto post

6. Monitor Analytics

It is essential to monitor one’s analytics with any social media strategy. It shows where one’s strengths and weaknesses are. I utilized WordPress Analytics to analyze my blog’s data. I measured where in the world the majority of my web traffic came from, how many and what sites people were redirected to mine from, what week my blog received the most views, and what days my blog saw the greatest number of views.

For example, I found that my blog generally received the most views on Wednesdays (before we have comments due), which I expected to see based on my own commenting patterns.

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For more specific analytics from my blog, please see the bottom of my “Luxurious Weeknight Pasta” post.

Subject-Area Expertise

This blog demonstrates my ability to process information (mainly, recipes), execute the plan, and then explain it all in simple terms so that even someone who has never cooked before can understand my post and make the recipe on their own (that’s my goal, at least!) I believe I am very reflective in my posts. If there is something I regret doing or somewhere I know I messed up, I will always acknowledge it. I love Italian food and I have been cooking it since I was little. I love the flexibility and casualness of it all. It is very easy to customize most elements of Italian food to suit one’s preferences. I definitely tried to encourage my readers to do this in all of my posts. That is where the cooking gets fun! I love being creative with my cooking (and, in turn, my thinking) and tried to capture that in this blog.

I utilized my general knowledge of each social media platform (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, etc.) and my knowledge of Italian food and culture to formulate a social media plan for Via Umbria, a local Italian marketplace and cafe.

Social Media Trends

In my social media class, my peers and I communicate about social media news and trends on Twitter by utilizing the hashtag #SMPASocial. And, a lot has happened in the world of social media since the beginning of the semester. But, then again, when does the tech/online world ever seem to move slowly?? I have really enjoyed reading my classmates’ tweets this semester and I thought I would share some of their insight with you.

This article that Kyle shared about how Apple executive, Tom Gruber “said computers should be able to help us remember every person we have met, every food we have eaten and how it made us feel.” This is especially creepy to consider after watching the Black Mirror episode for class. I didn’t know that tech companies were actively pursuing research into technologies that would allow us to recount every memory, but I’m not surprised. As Kyle mentions, this would literally change the lives of millions living with dementia and Alzheimer’s. But, that being said, this would be a huge advancement that could be hugely abused by others, as depicted in the Black Mirror episode. It is interesting to consider how the majority of technological advancements come with some threat to users’ privacy and/or security. I predict that they will first find a way to utilize this technology to benefit people with dementia and Alzheimer’s – those who would strongly benefit from this advancement, with little risk involved. I am certain there would be ethical debates for this, but I think the general consensus would be this kind of technology could change these peoples’ lives. From there, I think tech companies would try to bring this technology to average, healthy people. I believe this proposal would prompt longer and stronger ethical debates.

I remember Koralie mentioning FaceApp in class one day, so I was very interested to read this article. The app is essentially a face morphing/editing app, but has a “hot” feature that lightens skin and slims peoples’ noses, giving them a more white Anglo experience. This is problematic because it makes it seem as though people can only be considered “hot” with lighter skin and a slimmed nose, which is completely untrue. But, I can see how this error was made. Oftentimes, professional photographers will use light to brighten up the center of the face. This same professional technology technique can’t be replicated on a phone. While I don’t think the company intended to send a racist message with this app, this is something that offended (and rightfully offended) a lot of people.

We’ve seen similar examples of this in the past, especially on Snapchat. Think back to the Bob Marley face morph they had. Or, the flower crown face morph. I agree with Koralie, I think this app seems to do the same thing as the flower crown morph. But, FaceApp does seem to make the changes (skin lightening, nose slimming) more blatant than Snapchat.

It is really important for tech companies to be more aware about what types of messages their products or apps send to their consumer base. I am optimistic that companies have learned their lesson when it comes to face morphing and that it will improve with time, but I do not think FaceApp will be the last company or app to make this mistake, unfortunately.

Sophie shared this great tweet that encapsulated a lot of the recent drama between Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat. During my time in #SMPASocial, we have seen Instagram copy the story feature from Snapchat and then Facebook soon followed suit. Instagram and Facebook Messenger have also copied Snapchat’s signature “filter” feature. This specific tweet recaps how Facebook recently took Snapchat’s “stickers” feature and adapted it to suit their platform.

I can understand why it is tempting for all of the platforms to borrow from one another. But, as a consumer of social media, I don’t like the fact that my three-most used platforms are starting to totally look the same. Platforms should be focused on borrowing from one another, not straight-up copying from one another.

If all of these apps look the same, there is no reason for me to use all three apps. While I still have profiles and routinely check on all three of my accounts out of habit, I can certainly see myself moving away from one or two platforms over the next year. This is a test to see which platform will survive. I believe Snapchat is the most likely of all three platforms to lose popularity. First, many of their signature features are being replicated by Facebook and Instagram. They need to find a way to distinguish themselves from the competition. Second, both Facebook and Instagram already have larger followings that Snapchat. People already have established profiles on Facebook and Instagram. These users will not delete their accounts on platforms they’ve had for years in favor of one that they are new to.

My Tweets

I also thought I would share some interesting things that I found online!

I came across this article on Uber using a secret code to track iPhone users, even after they deleted the Uber app. The article claims that they started this a way to deter people from downloading the app and then deleting and re-downloading it to get a new user discount. This is a valid concern, however, this is a total violation of user security. Even after Apple prohibited Uber from doing this, they continued to do so. This is completely unacceptable. Companies need consumer trust, first and foremost. Now, more than ever before, companies need to prioritize user security, not compromise it. I would like to say I think this is the last example of companies compromising user security, but I think not. The surprising thing about this news is that Uber faced very little backlash. It received minimal news coverage. In order to get companies like Uber to respect user privacy, we, as a society, have to put pressure on them to do so. 

I came across this article from the Journalism Festival in Perugia, Italy and I knew I had to share it, no matter what it was about. However, I think I would have ended up shared this article based on the content alone. Facebook’s VP of News Feed, Adam Mosseri, discussed what Facebook was doing and plans to do to combat fake news, after seeing how fake news played out during the 2016 presidential election. While Facebook has stayed mum on the subject by saying that they can’t control what people post on their platform, they haven’t done much to educate their users on the topic of fake news. Until now. Facebook displayed a header on every user’s News Feed for about 4 or 5 days with the headline “Tips for spotting false news.” This was a great decision on their part. They are using education as a way to limit the spread of fake news, without taking responsibility for the spread of fake news. I do not think Facebook is responsible for the spread of fake news, but they did have some responsibility in not choosing to educate their users. I am very happy to see Facebook take this new approach to fake news, rather than just ignore it and pass it off as not their problem. I predict this will help limit the spread of fake news, but not eradicate it. But, then again, I think it’s great to see them doing their small part.

Scrolling through my timeline, I knew I needed to share this article because the news is just so good. Instagram recently announced efforts to launch a feature that will allow users to make reservations at restaurants and salons via a location’s Instagram page. This is an awesome idea and I don’t know why no one thought to implement this feature sooner! I love the idea. It feels very futuristic. But, also extremely convenient. This type of idea pairs very well with Instagram’s visual nature. If you see a restaurant that looks delicious, you can simply click on a box and make a reservation. It completely takes out the middleman. This is a great example of harmless social media innovation. I do not see how this could potentially compromise one’s security or privacy. It would only make one’s life easier. The only company that this could potentially hurt is OpenTable. However, I do not predict that enough people 1.) use Instagram or 2.) would use this feature enough to severely hurt OpenTable.  

Social Media Issues

Privacy

Online privacy is something that everyone wants, but few truly understand. The first layer of online privacy mainly comes from Terms and Conditions agreements. As Opsahl writes in “A Bill of Privacy Rights for Social Network Users,” social media users have a right 1.) to make informed decisions, 2.) to maintain control “over the use and disclosure of their data,” and 3.) to leave the platform. Particularly important, “It is not enough for a service to disable access to data while continuing to store or use it. It should be permanently eliminated from the service’s servers.” I think Uber could benefit from hearing that last part, again. Companies must assure users that 1.) their privacy is important and 2.) they have full and total control over their personal information.

Because this is an issue that is filled with legal jargon, I thought I would make an infographic to simplify what it is that a company must guarantee its users in order to protect user privacy.

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The main problem in understanding one’s privacy and privacy rights online is that no one takes the time to read the Terms and Conditions, especially young people, who are the most likely to post compromising material online. This is the main point of Amy Wang’s Washington Post article, “A lawyer rewrote Instagram’s terms of use in ‘plain English’ so kids would know their privacy rights.” I think it is very important that individuals educate themselves about their privacy rights, but also believe that companies have a responsibility to clearly and concisely convey user privacy rights on their platform. Perhaps, more platforms could move toward offering a terms of use summary, in addition to the traditional terms of use we normally see.

Activism

While “slacktivism” gets a lot of flack for being all-talk and no-action, new research shows that it does, in fact, work. Slacktivism is how a lot people refer to the activism on social media. People tweet or share a link to spread knowledge on a certain topic or concern. The main criticism of slacktivism is that users will share a link, but not actually donate. They will retweet a hashtag but not go to protests or rallies.

A story from Quartz, however, discusses how social media engagement “is key to turning a protest into a social movement and in prolonging its lifespan.”

I found this awesome infographic from Brown Political Review that encapsulates some of the most popular “hashtag movements” of the social media age and proposes an interesting question at the bottom.

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It is clear that social media movements attract large numbers of people. I think the numbers in this infographic suggest that slacktivism works better for domestic matters. I think slacktivism has been more fruitful in causes such as #BlackLivesMatter and #NoDAPL because it is simply easier for people to meet at one protest location and protest together. #BringBackOurGirls may not have been ad fruitful because it is much more difficult for people to get to Nigeria and, not to mention, stage a protest in Nigeria. I think slacktivism serves as a great way of bringing people together but it still has its limits. While slacktivism raises awareness, the success of any movement ultimately comes down to the sheer number of people physically present at a protest or rally.

Because online activism attracts such large numbers of people to participate in a discussion, companies should not shy away from partaking in online activism by tweeting out hashtags that correspond with their company’s values and vision for the future. 

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