My greatest takeaway from this course is the careful balance of curated, professional, and strategic communications content, and maintaining authenticity and personality. Learning about audience diversity and targeting, personal and corporate branding, and the importance of appropriate style and tone has made me realize just how much goes on behind the scenes of a good digital communications strategy. When so much has to be considered and analyzed, it is difficult to produce content that still feels accessible and personal, but the best brands do just that.
I’ve learned that when it comes to digital content, storytelling is everything. There is so much content out there that if what you have to say isn’t compelling and engaging, you don’t stand a chance. This is why storytelling is so important in digital content creation – no matter how far we’ve come from telling legends around a campfire, we still crave good stories.
Poetry and Humanness
I love poetry – I love writing it, and I love reading it, and the best poems out there are stories in and of themselves. I’m going to try to apply the same creative techniques I use when writing poetry to my digital content, meaning I want to tell meaningful and compelling stories about everything and anything, but mostly, about what it means to be human.
If you had asked me this question a couple of years ago, I would have had a list a mile long. I would have said I regret taking so long to complete my undergrad, that I regret not saving more money, that I regret not traveling more, not doing more. Today, I would say that I regret wasting the time I spent regretting the things I didn’t do. It’s a wicked cycle! Recently, in a quintessentially quarantine-motivated move, I re-watched the first Harry Potter movie, and the famous line from Dumbledore struck me, “it does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.” Looking back, I see that I dwelled on my past and decisions I had made because I didn’t know what I wanted or who I wanted to be. Now, I am coming to terms with the fact that most people will never know these things because they are ever-changing.
When it comes to business and personal branding, we can regret the things we’ve done or said or posted until the cows come home. These mistakes are futile if we don’t learn from them and move on. All we can do is apologize if we’ve hurt someone, and learn from our mistakes, recognizing that feeling of regret is our internal compass telling us to do differently and better next time.
In my first blog post for this course, I talked about social media and how it can affect your mental health. In this post, I want to move from the mind to the brain, and look at how social media can literally affect its users’ brain chemistry.
I like it Like That
Most people understand that when they post a picture and get lots of likes, they feel happy. But why? In an article published in the Journal of Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, researchers found that “likes” activated areas of the brain associated with reward and self-esteem, and even change the way we view others based on the number of likes they receive. (Sherman, Hernandez, Greenfield, & Dapretto, 2018). This explains why you can often feel down or defeated when a post on social media doesn’t get as many likes as your friend’s, and why we can feel proud and accomplished when a post does perform well.
I think most people would agree that they don’t want their happiness tied to their social media likes, but social media use is not always bad for the brain. Research has shown that when you post something on social media, you’re more likely to remember the events surrounding the post. Surprisingly, this is also independent of whether you thought of the event as significant (Neal, 2018). So, maybe the next time you see someone posting constantly, instead of thinking, “ugh, how annoying,” you can think, “wow, they must remember everything!”
To Post of Not to Post
We’ve arrived at the same conclusion as my first blog post: that social media is not inherently good or bad; it’s just a tool to use. For example, instead of comparing your likes to someone else’s and feeling sad, try posting a picture from a recent trip or a fun weekend, knowing the likes will boost your serotonin, and the post will help you remember those good times later!
Does knowing how social media can affect your brain make you want to post more or less?
We all know social media can affect our mental health, but do you know what’s going on behind the scenes? Click here to learn about how social media can literally change your brain! https://bit.ly/2DTai2K
#BrainGame #SocialMediaSerotonin #SocialScience
Do you know what your likes are really doing to you? Click here to learn about how social media can literally change your brain! https://bit.ly/2DTai2K
“Personal branding is the practice of marketing oneself to society” (Johnson, 2017)
My personal brand is that of a writer. I have worked for the federal government since I graduated from university just over two years ago. While the public sector is full of wonderful and thoroughly competent people, I think my writing ability sets me apart from the average civil servant. During my undergrad, I took many courses in creative writing and poetry, and what I learned in those courses still gives me a leg up in terms of creativity. The average age of a federal public servant is about 45 (TBS, 2018), so my younger perspective and knowledge of social media, and the creative ways it can be employed are also an asset. I signed up for Facebook when I was 13, and have been quite active on social media since. This, combined with my government experience, has really helped me see where we tend to drag our feet with technology in the public sector.
My ultimate goal in government is to work in the digital communications field. I’m not there yet, but I am building my brand by writing as much as a can, pitching digital and creative initiatives, and joining as many relevant communities as possible. Lately, I have been writing department-wide “Wellness Tip” emails and internal articles about employment equity and diversity. I truly believe that building a brand takes time and patience, so I will continue to work and grow in the digital communications field!
Social media is not just a place to share pictures of avocado toast and sunsets! More and more, it is becoming a place to learn and grow as people and as a society. In recent years, social media has driven activism and social justice movements. The beauty of social media is that everyone has a voice and can share their stories, and with the appropriate use of hashtags, all of these stories and accounts are lumped together and easily accessed.
Now I’m sure that activism has existed on social media for much longer, but the first significant movement that I remember was the 2017 #MeToo movement. Women all over the world took to social media to share their experiences with sexual harassment and assault. The result was the profound realization that nearly everyone woman you knew could say, “yes, I’ve experienced this, me too.” The Canadian Women’s Foundation said, “The #MeToo Movement has been called a watershed moment in the advancement of gender equality, giving a powerful platform to women and demonstrating the extent of sexual assault and harassment across society” (The #MeToo Movement in Canada, 2020). Without social media, many people who don’t experience sexual harassment or violence would never have understood the extent of the issue.
Black Lives Matter
More recently, the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has gained tremendous traction following the police murder of George Floyd. The murder itself was widely broadcast all over social media and sparked outrage, protests, and conversations about racism. Not only is social media is being used to organize protests around the globe, but it’s also being used to help people educate themselves about real, tangible things they can do to help. In a New Yorker article about social media activism, Jane Hu summarizes social media calls to action, which has become very commonplace:
Screenshots of bail-fund donations urging others to match continue to proliferate. Protest guides, generated from years of on-the-ground activist experience, are readily shared over Twitter and Instagram, telling readers how to blur faces in photographs or aid in de-arrests. There are e-mail and phone-call templates, pre-scripted and mass-circulated. Webinars about police abolition now constitute their own subgenre. And city-council meetings, which had already migrated to Zoom because of the pandemic, have come to host the hallowed activist tradition of town-hall agitation. (Hu, 2020)
In a similar fashion to the Me Too movement, I also saw many first-hand accounts of racism from Black people in America. As a white person, I think reading these personal stories is as close I can come to understanding how it would feel to truly experience racism.
What are some ways social media has helped you to put yourself in someone else’s shoes?
Facebook: Has Facebook changed the way you learn about social justice movements? Check out my blog post on social media activism here: https://bit.ly/3khkH8Q #activism #BLM #MeToo
Twitter: Are you scrolling past cultural watershed moments? Check out my blog post on social media activism here: https://bit.ly/3khkH8Q #socialmediaactivism #BLM #MeToo
In the past few months, I have noticed a natural deodorant brand, Native, all over my social media. Many YouTube and Instagram influencers that I follow suddenly started mentioning the brand in videos and posts. Intrigued, I visited their website and checked out the company’s own social media accounts.
They have a good presence on Instagram, with 155,000 followers. Scrolling through the feed, I noticed that they respond to a good number of comments, whether it be a simple heart emoji in reply to someone praising the product, or an answer to a question about shipping. They also repost images and stories posted by people who use their products, both accounts with large followings and small, personal accounts.
I would say the quality of their interactions is okay. Replying to lots of comments helps people to feel more connected to a brand, but I did notice that the majority of the comments that the company replied to were positive ones. Scrolling further down, I saw a couple of negative comments that the account didn’t respond to. I think the quality of the interactions would be much higher is they replied to negative comments as well, even if to say, “Hey, we’ll send you a private message.” This would alleviate any concerns potential consumers might have about purchasing for the first time. On Twitter, the company has a much smaller following of just over 3000. They seem to be posting the same content as on Instagram, so I think it’s safe to say the bulk of their social media strategy focuses on YouTube and Instagram.
I think Native’s social media strategy is effective. Notably, the sponsored posts from well-known YouTube accounts help people to gain trust in the brand. On YouTube, you really get to see someone’s personality – you start to feel like you actually know them – so it feels like a close friend recommending a product they love. That’s how I felt and what led me to check out the website (and I came very close to purchasing, only at the last second realizing that I had just purchased a new deodorant days before).
How often do social media influencers persuade you to purchase products you otherwise wouldn’t?
Although fake news seems to be everywhere nowadays, it is certainly not new, just evolving with the age of social media. We used to rely on trashy tabloids for outlandish and rumour-based stories, but now we simply have to refresh an app. With so much information being produced by anybody every second, it’s no surprise that that information becomes harder and harder to validate.
Today, you’ll find that fake news has evolved from unsubstantiated stories about which celeb is getting a divorce, to an often harmful spread of misinformation. During my own time on social media starting in high school, I’ve seen countless conspiracy theories, antivaccine propaganda, graphic and doctored images of abortions, and now, misinformation about COVID-19. The crazy part is that almost all fake news spread faster and further than real news! In the largest study of its kind, researchers at MIT found that “Falsehoods almost always beat out the truth on Twitter, penetrating further, faster, and deeper into the social network than accurate information” (Meyer, 2018).
And when you think about it, it makes sense that people are more drawn to fake news. It is outrageous and exciting and elicits more emotional responses than its truthful counterpart (Meyer, 2018). I think you could apply the same logic to explain why many people read fiction over non-fiction and watch films over documentaries.
Many people equate fake news with Donald Trump after he supposedly coined the term during his 2016 election campaign (Wendling, 2018). While we all know that fake news is not new, Trump used it in a new way. He offered the explanation of “fake news” when an unflattering story was reported about him but also contributed to the fake news spread about Obama (remember the whole birth certificate things?) and about Hillary Clinton to further his own agenda (Parkinson, 2016).
In short, fake news is everywhere, and while it may be mostly harmless, it can (and has) influenced the democracy of the free world! How do you tell if what you’re reading online is real or fake news?
Facebook: Stop scrolling! Can you trust what you’re reading? Learn more about the evolving world of fake news here. #fakenews #realproblems
Twitter: Twitter is chalked full of misinformation! The world of fake news is rapidly evolving. Click here to learn more. #fakenews #realworld
In recent years I have become more and more aware of just how detrimental our society’s habit of mindless consumption truly is. In looking for ways to do my part for the planet, and in trying to embrace a more minimalist lifestyle (or at least one that wasn’t so maximalist) I learned that one of the worst culprits is the fashion industry, specifically the fast fashion industry. After doing some research and watching the Netflix documentary, The True Cost, I promised myself to shop more ethically and more sustainably.
With this in mind, I started to research who might belong to the target audience of an ethical and sustainable clothing brand. Since I am admittedly a part of this audience, I can assume that others who fall under the same demographics and psychographics: 20 something, white women, middle class, university-educated, socially conscious, etc., are as well.
I was surprised to read that millennials like myself don’t “lead the trend.” According to this article, the sustainable fashion “trend is led by 35-44 year old middle income women, [though] it has broad appeal across age and income brackets” (Breslauer, 2019).
And I would create an Instagram account for the brand similar to this one: Thinking Mu, Where there is a focus both on the clothing and global social issues.
This research has made me realize just how large the community of ethical fashion shoppers is, and it warms my eco-conscious heart! What are some ways you ensure your fashion consumption is sustainable?
The biggest lesson I took away from module two was to get your most important information out first. Don’t build up to it like a boring novel or a convoluted essay. If you think about the way we consume media these days, this is actually very obvious – if the article you’re reading doesn’t get to the point, you’ll find another; if your article doesn’t get to the point, your reader will find another.
Importance of Structure (and Headings)
Here’s an example, the other day, I had heard that there were new cases of COVID where I live. I googled the name of my province + “new cases.” I clicked on the first article I saw – CBC. There was no beating around the bush. The article quickly stated the number of cases – literally in the title of the article, followed by the circumstances of the cases – i.e., a man in his thirties travelling internationally. Finally, they provided details on older cases that have already been reported. This is a perfect example of the inverted pyramid structure (Demopoulus, 2020).
Who’s it for?
Next, the reading made me think about how many times I’ve genuinely considered the audience for my writing, and how important is it to write for the right person. Here is the structure I was always encouraged to use for essays during my undergrad:
Here’s what I am going to talk about
Now I’m talking about it
And that’s what I just talked about
This structure is suitable for arguing your thesis, but not so great for keeping an audience interested. In the world of constant change that is digital media, you have to know your audience and adapt your writing to accommodate it.
Grammar Saves Lives
Finally, the lesson served as a reminder of the importance of good grammar, proper punctuation, and alliteration (just kidding about that last one). My family calls me the grammar police, but I still mess up all the time! I used to run all of my essays through Grammarly, which incidentally also alerts you to the use of a passive voice, another lesson this week. I will continue using this site. I’ve also found that many mishaps can be avoided simply by reading your writing out loud – you’d be surprised by how much you catch!
You’re wide awake, feeling stressed and sad, and now two hours have gone by. Scrolling through Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, whichever your site of choice, is mindless and addictive, but it can also be depressing. Based on my own experience and self-reflection, you feel sad after scrolling for one big reason: you’re comparing your whole self to someone else’s highlight reel. It’s easy to think the rest of the world lives in a happy, carefree bubble when all you see are pictures of happy, carefree people. It’s easy to criticize this content, but it’s the only content that makes sense – no one wants to post about their bad day, their weight gain, their breakup.
Another big reason why social media might be leaving you feeling drained, is the actual content your consuming. It’s not difficult to stumble across accounts that portray mental illness as cool, funny, or quirky. In high school, I remember one of my friends showing me Tumblr pages of incredibly thin girls alongside tips on how to starve yourself. Luke Alexander, a popular YouTuber, sums up this phenomenon nicely in a video called “The Rise of Romanticising Mental Illnesses & Why It Must Be Stopped.”
More recently, I’ve been seeing memes about mental illness on Instagram, like this:
And in talking about these kinds of memes, I agree with what Luke said in his video: that making jokes can be a great coping mechanism, as long as we remember that mental illness itself is no joke (Alexander, 12:10-12:17). I also think it’s a step toward normalizing mental struggles, rather than romanticizing them.
Finally, in the last year or so, I’ve seen a new kind of account pop up. Accounts that promote mental health awareness, provide resources on where to seek help, and give tips on working through your own struggles. I’ve even found that many of these accounts are run by people with actual credentials, a rarity online! Here are a couple of my favourites: