Yes, your craft beer is awesome, but talk about something else on social media

Small businesses all over the world are using social media (primarily Facebook and Twitter) to market their business’ product or service and connect with customers, as my first post demonstrated with the seven craft breweries in Chicago: Dry Hop, Atlas Brewing, Finch’s Beer Company, Pipeworks Brewing Company, Revolution Brewing, Haymarket and Begyle Brewing Co. As much research demonstrates, small businesses, often with tight budgets that leave little to no room for advertising, can benefit greatly from using social media correctly as “cashless promotional campaigns” (Kaikati, A., and Kaikati, M. 47).

The problem is that research and usage also show that many small businesses do not have a plan in place for how and why they are using the social media tool, as Sam Dickey recommends as part of his tips in “Small Business Lessons: Getting the basics down” (22). This plan not only includes knowing which channels you want to promote yourself through, but also who you are marketing to, what exactly you are marketing, how you will attract followers, the image you want to create for the brand, and the type of content you will make.

For every small business, the type of content you put out on social media can have a major impact, both positive and negative. So, it is important to “add value” to any conversations, whether started or continued, that you participate in (Lacho and Marinello 132). And, just as no one likes to talk to someone who only brags about themselves, no one likes it interact with a company via social media if it’s all about them and there is no mutual benefit.

The last post I made pointed out that one of the challenges for small businesses is generating content, especially this content that is not promotional of just your own business and views. Such original and promotional content – expressing one’s one views only and promoting only the company’s services, other social media platforms, products, etc. – offers little benefit to anyone but the company, and it surely does not encourage users of social media to engage with the business. It’s therefore important that small businesses engage with users and others in the industry with a mix of content types, including promoting content other than their own, or what I will call “outside content.” Continue reading

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WOW BAO! Social Media

Taking a turn from my last long informational blog post on social media and small businesses, I am going to try a more personable approach (similar to others in the class). I will start with the benefits of social media along will a discussing a successful campaign and lastly offer other was to include the internet into your marketing strategies.

Engaging in social media will help strengthen the brand experience and therefore support brand building. From this a company will become more attractive to current and prospective customers and employees. This, assuming the company has a positive web presence. Social can help build a good reputation for any business. Edosowmwam says that brand awareness starts with the experiences of the employees of the company. The company should be approachable, people-friendly and reachable via the web.

According to Edosomwam social media is for

  • promoting communication between employees and management;
  • allowing employees to share what is going on in the office;
  • sharing content with the outside world, including webcast, videos and updates;
  • communicating with current and potential customers;
  • encouraging the company’s employees to be part of a recognized community; and
  • discussing the goals of marketing and communicating.

Social media can be used to be approachable, available and honest. It is also great for communicating in a timely fashion. As a result, companies can reduce rumors, negative talk and promote positivity for their company.

Best Practices, first, know why you are networking online. Too often business owners join social media sites with a desire to grow their business, but instead spend their time reconnecting with old friends. While it may be great to reconnect with friends from the past, it’s probably not going to give you the return on your investment in time that you had hoped for in the beginning. Second, create a limit of how much time you will spend on these sites and make that time preferably during your non-busy hours or outside of your “golden sales hours.” Third, make sure to add value to any conversations that you become a part of, whether in a group or just a general message sent out from you. Every time you send a message out, your followers will determine whether or not they will read the next one. Last and most important, know who your contacts know. Look at the people your followers are connected to. This will help you ask for referrals and grow your own network. Remember the door of opportunity is easier to open when someone holds it open for you. Continue reading

Writing game criticism for an audience that doesn’t read

My first post gave an overview of how the medium of games push for favored criteria used in gaming criticism. Looking back, I didn’t touch on how gaming criticism function specifically on the web as opposed to in magazines or print mediums. In fact, the analysis of mostly prose features would be useful for writing for gaming magazines if those were, like, still a thing. Continue reading

Celebrity Backstage Personas on Twitter: Performance Art or Artifice?

On June 4, 2013, Justin Bieber made Twitter history by becoming the first person to accrue 40 million followers on Twitter.  Like or dislike Bieber’s brand, his milestone is actually the envy and goal of the celebrity Twitterverse, and due largely in part to his construction of his backstage persona on Twitter . Continue reading

This is not a blog post about racist online comments

Well, at least not the sort of “traditional” racism and hatred that gets flagged and immediately taken down. You know, the wayward, vitriolic name-calling and pre-antebellum sentiments that treat women as property, blacks as subpar citizens, ad. naseum. I do understand that these sorts of comments are important and they might carry the most venom… but they don’t necessarily do the most damage. Rather, this is a post about subtleties in online comment feeds- the ones that pass by the any human or computer flagger, the supposedly “balanced” arguments that are of course nothing of the sort and proliferate not just the ether of the Web, but the public political and social imagination. This is a post about coded racism.

I’m borrowing the term coded racism from Jessie Daniels and Matthew Hughey, who suggest in their writing that we have a real problem on hand with “decoding” internet racism. They write that one of the chief reasons these coded comments are so prolific (and more importantly, hard to argue with) is that they are folded into language appealing to “common-sense” arguments. With their work as a starting point, I set out to see the topoi of “common sense racism”- if it exists (I think it does), what its argumentative and linguistic structures are, and what it means for the future of interactive news on the web.

I’ve read more online comment feeds in the last few weeks than I care to admit. A lot of the feed slipped past my scope of interest- xoxokim and sergeantjerry55 telling eachother to eat bullets was not particularly useful of inventive. But there are a number of comments, some deceptively simple or even popular and non-devisive worth looking at.

Like this thread which will be the focus of my post here, which was a tangential conversation going on in the comment section of this article about Treyvon Martin regarding style of dress and whether or not that makes a person suspicious:

lala Lam GailScottt: I have a little more respect for the person that knows how to wear a belt.

Mexoplex lala Lam: because wearing a belt is SO much the judge of character of a man. next youll be telling me the color of one’s skin is a determining factor….. oh wait…..

Gilsharkey Mexoplex: Well, see wearing a belt isn’t all that important, but ensuring that your baggy pants don’t fall down to your ankles as you’re hopping down the street does demonstrate a certain level of class and self respect.

ü Oakspar77777 GailScottt: The person in a suit does merit more respect. His clothes say that he espouses ideas of buisness, hardwork, and success. The person in the thuggery espouses drug use, gangs, and violence. Now, the suit wearer may be a wolf in sheeps clothing, and actually be a crook. The one in thuggery might actually have never broken a law in his lifetime. From their looks, I cannot know the truth of their life. I do, however, know that the one trying to look like a criminal is more likely one than the person trying to look like a successful buisnessman.

ü Shannon MacLeod Oakspar77777: Again, this is the definition of prejudice and why it’s not a good way to run around judging folks. Although, if I ever do get the urge to rob a convenience store or break into some houses, I’ll be sure to wear a three piece suit to avoid being shot. Thanks for the hot tip”

I’d like to point out two particularities in this conversation that are noteworthy. The first is the tonal differences between those who support the idea of making judgments based on appearance and those who don’t. While it’s not entirely easy to predict intonation/intent online, the level of sarcasm in the comments from those not supporting judging appearances is markedly increased compared to those in favor of the judgment. When “Oakspar77777” comments at the end of this thread suggesting that she’ll wear a three-piece suite next time she robs a convenience store and sarcastically writes “thanks for the hot tip,” her point is to make it obvious that she finds the conversation irrational and biased. “LalaLam”s comments also show such blatant sarcasm in this thread. The point here is that the language AGAINST the coded racism is stronger, more sarcastic and edgy, which is counter-intuitive in many regards; logic would suggest the racists would potentially have more to prove or would be fighting more critics. Largely, this illustrates the ease by which coded racist language does not need to rely on tropes of sarcasm as a form of ethos.

So what kind of ethos does the coded racism above (and all over the internet) rely on? I’d like to suggest that it goes back to the topoi of “common sense.” The participants engaging in the coded racism use a form a “mock civic discourse” in the above thread. To prove that their views are “common sense,” their responses are casual, matter of fact, and reply to the previous comments in a tone that suggests they are diplomatic (but firm) and open to civic debate. A good example of this is when  “Gilsharkey Mexoplex” acknowledges a critique that wearing a belt isn’t a good indicator of the quality of the person. In an authoritative response that acknowledges the critique, he writes “Well, see wearing a belt isn’t all that important, but ensuring that your baggy pants don’t fall down to your ankles as you’re hopping down the street does demonstrate a certain level of class and self respect.” The diplomacy here is the acknowledgment that the belt may not be an important indicator of character, a conceit that serves to illustrate the flexibility of the reply and set up the responder as a reasonable and common sense type of person. On the semantic level, even the “does demonstrate a certain level” indicates a hedging which is a rhetorical strategy meant to show flexibility- a quality important to a common sense rhetor- and a great mask for coded racist remarks. Thus, the ethos acts as a massive buffer to the subtleties of what the person is actually saying- remarks that are heavily influence by preconceptions of race and class.

An even more noticeable incidence of this fake civic discourse phenomena is GailScottt’s response, which suggests that people in suits should be taken more seriously because they espouse ideas of hard work and determination and that “thuggish-looking” people recall drugs, violence and gangs. To prove his coded racism here, he offers another move typical of “civil” discussion, which is that he offers a viewpoint that counters his own, but ultimately strengthens his own ethos. Like a scene out of Cicero’s writing, he offers a side narrative whereby “the suit wearer may be a wolf in sheeps clothing, and actually be a crook,” admitting that he may not know the truth of their life. The admittance of ignorance here is a credibility maneuver to again appear rational and reasonable and have the subsequent statement that “someone trying to look like a criminal is more likely one than someone trying to look like a successful businessman” appear common sense and not imbued with racist principles or philosophies.

This conversation thread, while very much indicative of the common sense racist topoi, was not an anomaly by any stretch. Countless articles and comment sections, regardless of the subject matter, featured similar linguistic principles and used ethos in a similar manner. This Huffington Post piece on a gaffe made Marsha Blackburn about equal pay for women brought up similarly contentious debates in the comment section. And even though the issue was not race but gender, the logic was still the about common sense prejudice. Comments like this were common in the forum:

“I know that most people who come to this site don’t want to hear it, but the gender gap is mostly a myth. Women tend to choose less lucrative fields, and tend to work fewer hours than men. Here’s a link to an article, here on this site, that explains it:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/christina-hoff-sommers/wage-gap_b_2073804.html

Again, on a semantic level, the use of hedges to illustrate a certain fairness in argumentation (women tend to chose; gender gap is mostly a myth) were common and helped to code a bias in a seemingly logical argument. If the commenter can create an image of themselves as “for the facts” and reasonable, the implicit biases of the logic seem to slip through the cracks. And in a similar move to the previous thread, this author is even willing to let his argument slide slightly to the other corner in order to increase his credibility and make his point. By noting that the gender gap is just “mostly” a myth (not completely, that is), he appears less extreme, and thus, potentially more objective. Imagine if the above comment was revised to something like this:

“The stupid bitches on this site don’t want to hear it, but all this talk of gender gap is just total bullshit. Women are usually dancers or artists or teachers and things like that and don’t work as much. This article explains it too”

It’s easy to see how that sort of a revision would not be necessarily beneficial for this commenter. It would immediately flag him as a sexist idiot and his point would be lost and not worth anyone’s reply. Rather, his evocation of common sense topoi, to the “facts” and more importantly to his credibility help him avoid this fate.

The effects of common sense racist, sexist, ad. Naseum topoi should not be underestimated. Even though these arguments can be flushed out for intense biases, prejudices and even straight malice, they are often highly affective as they “appear” reasonable, flexible and indicate a “good character” of a person willing to engage in civic discourse. As we become more engrained in online culture and interactive news becomes more of a staple in our lives, it’s worth noting that this model of conversation will likely proliferate, making it all the more necessary to start identifying these patterns and countering them with an ethos other than sarcasm and disbelief.

Unison in the Language of EDM Blogs

Like most media today, music is categorized into genres. Different music blogs appear on the Internet because people have varying tastes in music. How people develop these tastes can be found in an article from Cracked.com, and what they say about you is shown in a fun article from the Tastebuds blog. As I said in my last post, depending on what kind of music they like, people might visit Popcrush for pop, The BoomBox for hip-hop, or RageTracks for EDM. Focusing on EDM, I noticed that the writing is different than in other blogs. Not only is the vocabulary different (i.e. PLUR, kandi, rage, etc.), the tone of the overall blogs is more laid back and fun. Yes, EDM is a carefree kind of genre and lifestyle, but what makes it this way?

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Thinspo, Fitspo, and the Ideal Beauty on Pinterest

If you’re a Pinterest user, you’ve certainly seen at least a few images of slender women in sports bras flaunting their chiseled abs. Below the image, you’ll probably read a lose-quick diet tip or a pithy motivational statement like “Train insane or remain the same.” These images are part of the “fitspiration” or “fitspo” trend that takes up a large part of Pinterest’s Health & Fitness category. But while fitspo might seem to encourage women to strive for healthier lifestyles, the trend seems to instead uphold a narrow standard of beauty.

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Political campaigns are all about spectacle: Embrace it or lose your audience

Whether we like it or not, political campaigns have turned into spectator sports and the candidate who puts on a better show often wins, or at least grabs more attention. Of course, the wrong kind of a show, for instance saying that rape is God’s will, inevitably destroys a campaign, but there is a positive way to grab the attention of voters and keep them entertained.

Obama is #winning on social media

Barack Obama has achieved this without question. He has been praised for his speaking abilities since he entered the public sphere and these abilities extend to his presence on social media. Obama’s social media strategy played an enormous role in his victory because he was able to show voters that his agenda will keep America moving in the right direction, while simultaneously stirring their emotions through powerful language and making them laugh at his opponent, Mitt Romney.

During the campaign, Barack Obama’s social media focused on five areas: what he accomplished in the last four years as president, how his agenda for the next four years will move the country forward, criticisms of Romney, urging people to get out and vote, and endorsements, which range from the “Everyday Joe” to Beyonce.

Obama communicated his message in a way that was consistent with the medium and the message. On Twitter and Facebook he kept things informal and simple. Many of his posts were short and pithy. Instead of droning on about the economy or policy, he used concise statements to make his point. His social media presence relied heavily on short phrases like “Watch it, share it, keep moving forward.” Obviously, this is not ingenious writing, but clever strategy.

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When it was appropriate and keeping with the message, Obama used powerful language and strong imagery. For instance, on Election Day, Obama wanted to inspire people to get out and vote, so he wrote on his Facebook, “The definition of hope is you still believe, even when it’s hard.” Readers feel inspired and ready to vote for him because of rhetoric like this. He wanted America to know that he will help the country move forward, but it will require hard work. His message was simple, but he used a serious tone on this day because it was such a critically important moment.

At other times, Obama’s team used youthful language and a playful tone. When Obama wasn’t discussing the economy or a policy issue, his message felt light and playful. For instance, he posted a photo of him with a newborn on the campaign trail and simply wrote, “Baby for Obama.” He did this a few days earlier when he posted a picture of him with an excited campaign worker, on which he commented, “You never know who might show up at your local bank.” This helps him come across as a likable guy who is committed to the campaign, but not too serious.

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Obama furthered his positive image on social media through his family and famous friends. Romney didn’t often post things about his family or his celebrity endorsements (not like he had any to brag about), but Obama knew that using his family and celebrity ties would make him a more likable candidate. Obama particularly integrated his wife, Michelle, into his social media presence whenever he got the chance. The first lady has a higher approval rating than her husband, so he obviously wanted to use this to his advantage, showing that they are working together for a better America. This also paints him as a family man and loving husband.

Something that is unique to Obama is that he did not take an attack stance nearly as often as other politicians on social media. For instance, Mitt Romney posted about Obama 34% of the time, while Obama posted about Romney only 14% of the time. When he attacked on social media, however, he was strategic and executed flawlessly.

Although Obama had a hopeful message about his agenda for the next four years and the direction of the country, he took a decidedly mocking tone when it came to Romney. This shouldn’t surprise anyone since it was a presidential campaign and one of the main objectives is to smear your opponent; however, Obama went a step further with the help of social media. Essentially, he turned Romney into a fool. The Obama team took every blunder, gaffe, unfortunate turn of phrase, etc. and crucified him. Romney already looked like a man who was completely out of touch with the concerns of the common American, but Obama’s campaign turned him into a complete idiot. They turned Romney into a laughable meme every chance they got.

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One of the most notable moments in the campaign occurred when Obama coined the phrase “Romnesia,” which immediately took off on Twitter. The Obama team used this clever turn of phrase all over their social media and it spread like wildfire. The Obama team brilliantly created this phrase, knowing it would go viral, and used this as ammunition against Romney. They attacked in a way that was humorous and catchy because they knew that people want to share and partake in attacks of this sort.

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How Romney lost the war of words

This is where Romney’s team failed. They did not have a prevailing message or tone to their campaign, which is evident in their social media failure. They attacked Obama much more than Obama attacked Romney; however, Obama’s attacks had greater success because they were funny and more people wanted to “share” them. Obama turned Romney into a buffoon, while Romney simply attacked Obama’s policies, and let’s face it, are of little interest to most people.

Romney’s social media presence was much wordier and he relied on two or three sentences to talk about policy. On social media, no one really wants to read that. Users want short, dynamic snip bits, not a paragraph about the economy. Even on his Twitter, which limits users to 140 characters, Romney’s posts tend to be lengthier.

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Mitt Romney’s writing style on Facebook and Twitter can be described in one word: bland. He didn’t excite voters or make them laugh at Obama. Instead of showing powerful images and using strong language to persuade people to vote for him, he delivered boring messages in an unexciting way. This is how people saw his campaign play out, especially on social media; he was the unexciting candidate with nothing particularly interesting to say.

Keep it simple

The consensus from both parties after the election was that Obama’s campaign was much stronger than Romney’s. Part of this comes from the fact that Obama’s message was clear and that he kept a consistent tone throughout the campaign, but perhaps the more likely reason is that Obama understands what people want. Social media users don’t want their newsfeed bombarded with long rants about policy; they want something short and simple to share, whether its funny or serious. In the end, Obama had millions more Facebook and Twitter followers than Romney and this is because he capitalized on what worked. He used memes and short, inspirational quotes to win the war on social media. People want to laugh and feel inspired, which Obama was able to deliver via social media. In comparison to Romney, he stood out as a likable candidate with a great sense of humor and a simple mission: forward.

How Do the Top Nonprofits Use Social Media?

Education. Information. Trust.

Some of the most successful nonprofit organizations place tremendous value in these three concepts when implementing their social media strategy. In a detailed analysis of Facebook and Twitter postings of four of the top nonprofit organizations (NPOs) on social media, I found that the organizations’ writing styles and shared content all focused on educating and informing followers while trusting both their intelligence and ability to act on behalf of the organization or their cause.

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