Exploring Monroe: A Social Media Scavenger Hunt

For our social media scavenger hunt, there was one main guideline. Get off campus.

I decided to take a solo adventure down towards Monroe Street, the border street between suburban Madison and the UW campus, and explore the local shops, restaurants and neighborhoods that contribute its own unique voice to Madison.

IMG_3160 I first started with a quick breakfast at a Madison favorite, Mickie’s Dairy Bar. This family-style diner invokes a 1950s style that could any resident could enjoy. I particularly enjoy the food and the friendly service. People are always with families, friends or they just enjoying chatting with strangers by themselves. I met a gentleman named Frankie who seat at the counter next to me. He chatted with me and my boyfriend about his days at Madison and also how he only likes black coffee (I differed as I shoved more sugar into mine).

After breakfast, I toured through various shops further down the street. I started inIMG_3173 Orange Tree Imports that sold various gifts, knick-knacks, and other pieces. I really appreciated how unique the pieces were. The women at the front counter told me many of the products are actually exclusive to this same shop in Madison. I wasn’t happy that I decided to leave my wallet at home and avoided buying all the cute plushes that I found inside.

IMG_3183I also ventured into Art Gecko, an art store specializing in arts and crafts from other countries. I experimented more with the photography styles and the different ways Instagram lets you organize and edits your photos. Luckily I had an assistant (aka my boyfriend) for modeling. I also was able to speak with an employee about her appreciate for the art and culture represented in the store, and her love for the Madison community. Out of all the shops, this was my favorite place to explore.

My final stop on Monroe was the Mystery  to Me book shop. Despite the name, the independent bookstore sold many genres of books and the employees showed great pride in the books they sold. One of the women at the desk told me that the post it notes are personal favorites and recommendations from the employees. She said “I think it adds a personal touch to the shopping experience.” As a book lover, I loved reading the suggestions on each book and just taking in the atmosphere the store offered.  IMG_3195

It was funny that when I saw what people were posting about on Ban.jo, the most popular postings were about Mickie’s Dairy Bar and Bloom’s Bakery. I walked by the bakery, but suppressed the urge to go in and eat one of everything. I really felt that seeing Ban.jo and experiencing Monroe for myself, I have a better understanding of a community that I have lived near for two years, but haven’t deeply explored until now.

I ‘m looking forward to my next adventure! But until then, check out all the scavenger hunt posts I did on Twitter and Instagram via storify.

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Visual Storytelling: navigating digital platforms for journalists

Stories are an essential part of our society.

We hear stories, we share stories, and we create stories through our daily lives. But the formats in which we tell our stories has dramatically shifted even through the last few years.

Social media has created new platforms for people to tell their personal social-media-icons-the-circle-setstories. Whether they post on Facebook Live, Instagram stories, or “vlog” about it on Youtube, people are finding more ways to express their experiences on a global platform.

Journalists have recognized these platforms as crucial aspects of modern day storytelling and the significance of visuals in these platforms. Because of this, journalists have to be able to not only create a narrative with words but through video and images as well.

Snapchat: the Immediate Video Journalism

Journalists have adapted videos for storytelling through documentaries, news forecasts, and the 24 hour news cycle, but when Snapchat introduced Snapchat stories in 2013, journalists had a new format that could produce immediate, unfiltered videos of events happening across the world.

snapchat0.pngAccording to Tayla Minsberg, social editor for The Times, each journalist takes the NY Times account for a specified amount to tell the story from their advantage. In this time, they have to create a narrative that is both personal, visual, and pulls in the viewer.

A large appeal of Snapchat is not only the ability to tell an interesting story, but to see how these stories show an unfiltered view of people’s lives. Due to the informality of this platform, it really creates a great areas to show softer topics and broadcasters. Could you do breaking news that more hard news? Maybe, but maybe not. Although it provides a great outlet for showing breaking news as it is happening, in real time, it doesn’t seem the audience that uses Snapchat is particularly interested in politics or those issues (at least to an extent).

To maximize the use of Snapchat, reporters need to understand:

  1. What stories can be conveyed through a visual platform like this and still be captivating
  2. How to balance authenticity instead of just amateur filming
  3. Keep their eyes open for live streaming or events that can make great opportunities for Snapchat stories.

Instagram: Storytelling through Imagery  

It appears that Instagram saw the success that Snapchat received after releasing their “stories” features and decided to do that exact same thing. Instagram users can share real-time life updates, news media have a “new opportunity to report from the field while giving behind-the-scene glimpse” into the stories they report, according to Taylyn Washington-Harmonrs_1024x491-160808135727-1024.instgram-snapchat.cm.8816.jpg.

Washington-Harmon emphasized that the main difference between Instagram and Snapchat is Instagram used for high quality photography (with curation after the fact).

The strongest brands and accounts on Instagram use two concepts to effectively tell their stores:

  1. Consistency
  2. Passion

These two concepts are so crucial to building a presence and an audience on Instagram because people will have a clear and distinct idea about what your story is: whether it’s your mission, values or purpose. Using imagery to build that narrative will not only capture the attention of people, it will attract the target audience that will want to hear your stories or the stories you share.

 

 

Going Viral: Moving beyond the “One Hit” Wonder

What does a dog who loves bacon, a mom with a Chewbacca mask, and a frog with a dark side all have in common? Over 10 million views or shares across various social media platforms. And all of them became viral.

 

But what is viral? Viral videos has become a buzz word that can be subjective depending on the viewer. Does the amount of views make a video viral? Does how quickly the video spreads matter? Or does the amount of time for popularity matter? It’s important to see why certain videos hit that “viral” status and what we can do to make our own posts go viral.

According to Josh Elman, viral videos aren’t just a small selection of videos that magically go viral. There are methods that can put your videos or products on the right track to that viral status.

“Many successful companies have done distinct things to help make their products go viral, all in completely different ways,” Elman said. “So I thought it would be helpful to try to classify the disparate approaches.”

Elman emphasizes the five different types of “virality” that exist:

  1. Word-of-mouth virality
  2. Incentivized word-of-mouth virality
  3. Demonstration virality
  4. Infectious virality
  5. Outbreak virality

The first four types really focus on products and the various ways you can spread awareness of services or products through friends and friends of friends. But the last virality, Outbreak, can be the epitome of what think of when we say viral videos. It’s the fun things that we share because they are popular, make us laugh or give us joy.

The first video really hones on this humorous side since this dog really can be relatable for anyone. The same goes for the hugely successful “Chewbacca Mom”. This was a woman who posted on Facebook Live about a Chewbacca mask that she absolutely loved. Her personality, laugh and humor really made her relatable to a mass audience, and eventually made her move to late night television.

 

To Chris Andersen, one of the core reasons that Chewbacca mom went viral was because someone from Disney saw the video and reblogged the video to their Star Wars page. Once that happened, her video went from thousands of views to millions of views. This is the concept of the long tail. The basics of the long tail is that something unique may start with a small, local audience. If that product or video is found by a influencer, then it can use the influencer’s popularity to gain even more views and go higher up on the tail.

If we want our own products to go viral, we need to see what people like about videos that go viral and apply it to our videos. It’s about differentiation in product but using the same processes to be successful. We should use humor and reliability to our audience as well as connecting with influencers who can bring our videos into a higher level on the long tail.

Make Facts Great Again: Breaking the “Fake News” cycle

Despite what you read on Facebook or Twitter, Pope Francis did not endorse Donald Trump for president nor did Ireland start accepting Trump refugees from America.

These were stories, like many others, that circulated on social media platforms and gained over 800,000 engagements from readers and news organizations. Despite the fact that both were completely fabricated, many people actually believed what they read.

As fake news stories become more prevalent on social media and the Trump administration continues to blame media outlets for “misrepresenting” their actions, it’s important to understand how fake news spreads and what readers can do to break the “Fake News” cycle.

So why do we love to read fake news?

Josh Stearns discussed that there are several reasons why readers might share fake news on their social media platforms. First, people want to help in any way they can, even if it’s just passing along information. Stearns also mentioned that people are trying to make sense of the world, so when they read an articles quoting a “rumor” about an event, it helps them fill in the gaps of that story. Third, people want to feel part of a shared experienced, so they will seek out connections online to find solidarity. Lastly, people just feel an impulse to share information, even if that information isn’t correct, because it provides an emotional trigger.

All these reasons aren’t malicious in nature; they are all rooted in natural human behavior. But there is also the concern that it’s getting harder for people to identify fake news stories.

The Wall Street Journal recently published an article about a study that found that most students don’t know when news is fake. Even though adolescents and teenagers are a large audience on social media, the article says “they’re often clueless about evaluating the accuracy and trustworthiness of what they find.”

Many readers, including teens, aren’t reading skeptically anymore, according to WSJ.  When they read a headline on Twitter, they take it as truth instead of reading the full article or researching more about the topic from other news outlets.

So it’s obvious we have a problem.

But how do we stop fake news?

Wynne Davis wrote that “stopping the proliferation of fake news isn’t just the responsibility of the platforms used to spread it. Those who consume news also need to find ways of determining if what they’re reading is true.”

To put it simply, it’s really up to the reader.

Readers are in control about a story going viral or dying. And if readers can read stories critically and prevent sharing false information.

Davis included several tips to encourage readers to be vigilant while reading. A few tips were:

  1. pay attention to the domain and url
  2. read the “about us” section
  3. look at quotes in the story
  4. look who said them
  5. check the comments
  6. reverse image search

Davis said, “If you do these steps, you’re helping yourself and you’re helping others by not increasing the circulation of these stories.”

If readers don’t want to investigate a website or they still aren’t sure if a website is legitimate, Slate offers a new tool that not only identifies fake news, it also reminds you that you can interrupt its viral transmission. The Washington Post also develop a web extension that fact checks Donald Trump’s tweets on Twitter.

 

Building a Personal Brand

Our internet presence is apart of our identity.

Whether or not we want to admit it, everything we post online is open to the public. Every. Single. Thing. And pretending that our posts don’t reflect us is ignorance.

That’s why news outlets, journalists, and every blogger on the internet is trying to build their personal brand.

Recently, I’ve started narrowing in on what my personal brand will be since I am approaching graduation. I know that I want to carve a profile emphasizing professionalism without losing the authenticity of my voice, but the ability to incorporate both has been difficult to find.

As of late, I’ve been using advice from media professionals and bloggers to compile a strategy for how I will build my personal brand and begin narrowing my niche to appeal to my target audience.

My strategy includes:

1. Stating objectives

According to Evan LePage, every strategy needs “to establish the objectives and goals that you hope to achieve.” These objectives can be simple goals such as gathering more followers or page views. Or the goals can be as complex as building credibility and influence around a targeted audience.

He recommended using the SMART frame; SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. Using this frame can create achievable goals and keep people focused. For me, my goals center on building a niche for myself and finding what my voice can be on my social media platforms. Once I do this, I can expand to establishing an audience, developing techniques, and other goals.

2. Finding a niche

Aviation blogger Benet Wilson emphasized the importance of finding your niche. It’s not enough to write solely about fashion; you have to differentiate your content to fit your voice. For example, Wilson discussed her friend’s blog that focuses on vintage clothing from the 1940s. It’s very specialized, but it attracts an audience that enjoys the unique components to it.

I find this component to be the most difficult aspect as of now. I know that I have skills and beliefs that many journalists have. So what makes me different? My passion for food? Creating content with a camera? An interest in international relations? As of now, I continue to slowly narrow in on what I want to write about, but it will take to to establish my niche and voice.

3. Choosing the right medium

Don Stanley from 3 Rhino Media really honed in on the importance of choosing the right medium for your brand. Stanley mentioned that many businesses try to do every social media platform because “that’s what everyone else is doing”. His advice was to find where your audience is at, whether that be Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and etc, focus on that medium. It will making your platforms easier to manage and better quality.

Matthew Barby also emphasized the point in his article that keeping your focus and mediums condense will naturally expand your target audience and appealing your content to more viewers. As of now, I’m on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Snapchat, WordPress and Instagram. Although many of those accounts are private, personal accounts, I will need to decide if I really need all these platforms to express my personal identity or now.

4. Making original context 

I think it’s obvious that if you want to have an authentic voice, you need to create original content that let’s your voice be heard. Mindy McAdams recommends that many first time bloggers miss the opportunity to integrate material from influencers and point out new insights in their personal posts.

For my strategy, I hope to incorporate my articles, projects, and blog posts to represent the work fields that I would love to contribute to. Whether I write about restaurants experimenting with food or the newest travel destination in Asia, I want people in the industry to see that I can create original content that attracts readers.

5. Getting engaged with your audience

Rachel Bartee, a content marketer, said one of the biggest mistakes bloggers make is automatization of their posts. They forget that it’s about engaging with the platform and your audience. Social media is meant to be social. The more you can engage with your followers and commenters, the more you’ll attract others to engage with you as well.

Once I actually gain followers, I intend to keep my engagement level high. Until then, I will engage with influencers and reporters that inspire me, so I can show people why they might want to follow me, as an individual and a professional.

I’m really excited to further my brand and craft my personality online. This way, I can better recognized in the field and as a professional.

Gap’s Backlash on ‘Racist’ Ads

Gap Inc. apologized on April 5 after receiving backlash over an advertisement that some critics called ‘racist’.

The ad was released on Twitter for Ellen DeGeneres and members of the preteen group, Le Petit Cirque. In the video, the four girls, ranging from 8 to 12, discussed their humanitarian work, their troupe and girl power.

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The infamous Gap Kids advertisement

While the campaign was meant to be empowering for young girls while selling Gap’s new line of children’s athletic clothes, but many people saw the only black girl in the ad, in one photo, was used as an ‘armrest’ by her older, taller troupe member.

The other girls featured in the photo are in strong, powerful stances, but people complained that the black girl appears passive and more as a ‘prop’ than a person.

Though the advertisement has drawn criticism from a large audience, especially from the black community, others argued it’s an over-exaggeration.

The filmmaker Matthew Cherry posted the Gap Kids ad and a similar ad featuring a black girl resting her arm on the head of a shorter white girl. “Does the @GapKids pic on the left pic on the right okay? Let’s debate,” Cherry tweeted.

It’s too simple to say that the picture on the left justifies the concerns of the black community nor to call the picture on the right is racist, with unpacking what that means.

It seems to simple to call this ad racist. When seeing the advertisement and strong reactions to it, I knew that this wasn’t the best PR move on behalf of Gap, but I didn’t immediately think, ‘racist’.

Although I don’t see the pose as intentionally harmful, it’s unfair to say that people who are offended are ‘over-reacting’. It’s not just about a white girl putting her arm on a black girl’s head. It’s an advertisement that is messaging certain ideals through these images. The message in this conveys that black girls are inferior to white girls, and it’s a fair reaction for people to address what this ad is representing.

In a society where black women are rarely represented in advertising, it makes sense that many are reacting to the negative portrayals. Even if it seems like an ad isn’t ‘racist’, it can impact the viewers and strike a nerve within the black communities. Maybe if there was a stronger and more positive of black women and people of color in media and advertising, controversies like this wouldn’t happen.

Analyzing the editorial style of Jon Sopel

Jon Sopel was the lead anchor of the of BBC World News and BBC1 presenter before he was promoted to the corporation’s North America editor in 2014. He went from being a lead news anchor in London to covering breaking news and events in America.

Currently, Sopel is known for covering the US presidential elections and major issues across the nation: including gun control and climate change.

If you go to his blog, many of his posts and articles focus on the political realm in the United States, especially his coverage of the most recent presidential election, and incorporates broadcast videos, op-eds and in depth articles.

Sopel seems to write his blogs in the professional journalistic standard while still emphasizing the varying opinions and debates that appear in the US. One example is his coverage on President Obama’s dissatisfaction with gun control. Although this is a very subjective issue that has no clear answer, Sopel tries to approach both sides of the issue while expressing his opinions.

Another signature of Sopel’s posts are he incorporates that broadcasting element by using videos, either other broadcasts, interviews or etc, to add another multimedia element to his writing. That’s one area that I would really like to explore because I love media production and controlling was goes on the camera. And it makes sense for him since most of his career was spent in front of the camera, doing news broadcasts for BBC News in London.

One thing that I would like to grow from his work is experimenting more with digital storytelling for my articles and broadcasts. I’ve seen creative videos that use music, art, photographs and interviews to create a visual article/story for the audience to watch and engage with. I think that a lot of larger media sources are only starting to use these new methods to approach certain stories, so I would like to see it grow more and become more pronounced in our media.