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So Much Social Media, So Little Time

Social Media Logo

If you were asked to name a social media website, Facebook, Twitter, and perhaps LinkedIn immediately come to mind.  Ah, but there are so many other social media sites!  So what if you don’t have the time to use them all?   

With so much social media availability on desktop and mobile it can be confusing, so here is a small glossary of some of the more popular social media websites (ordered by launch date) which also have their mobile app counterparts.  A few here are only mobile.  If you’d like to see a demo of a website or mobile app, check out YouTube, where you can likely find a tutorial.  Note that website and mobile app navigation will be a bit different for a particular company (for instance Facebook), but you can access your data using either.

Also note that these social media platforms share common functions, yet each has it’s niche and plethora of loyal users. Social beings that we are, we seem to love and can’t stop sharing, following, subscribing, commenting, liking, and hashtagging.  

LinkedIn –  launched in 2003, yes it really has been around for over 10 years.  It is used for professional networking.  Your profile contains your work history. You can give and receive recommendations, as well as job hunt and join professional groups.

Facebook – launched in 2004, it is now the world’s most popular social media site, used for sharing posts, pictures, videos, and interests. Both individuals and businesses have Timelines.  Note that you don’t need an account to visit a business page on Facebook which is why you often see facebook.com/username in advertising.

Flickr – launched in 2004, and is now owned by Yahoo.  Flickr (yes the e is absent) is great to use to store, organize, and share your photos and videos. You can share your content with friends, family, make it public or keep it private.  You can tag to categorize and easily retrieve your items.   A free account gives you a whopping 1 terabyte of storage.  Flickr users are quite passionate about their love of this application.

YouTube – launched in 2005 and now owned by Google is where we watch a lot of cute pet videos, but you can also use YouTube to research and find solutions on almost any topic, as well as view movies, tv, music, and even view college courses.

Twitter – launched in 2006, Twitter is the world’s second most popular social media site.  Tweets (posts) are limited to 140 characters.  Twitter now also supports photos and short videos.  You don’t need an account to view content using a web browser. Go to twitter.com/twitter and then use search to view celebrity, company, or anyone’s tweets.

Tumblr – launched in 2007, and yes another site name where the “e’ is not there.  Tumblr is considered a micro-blogging site, currently owned by Yahoo, where users follow one another.  Users primarily post pics or other content and short posts.  If you have something to say or something to show and you want quick and easy, you may want to express yourself on Tumblr.

Foursquare – launched in 2009, Foursquare is location based.  You check in to a location, (restaurant or store for example).  You can find friends who have also checked in.  Venues may offer discounts or specials for checking in.  The website provides suggestions of places to visit and discounts offered.

Pinterest –   launched in 2010, Pinterest allows you to pin (save) web pages on bulletin boards.  It’s great for projects like bathroom makeovers (save web pages with pics of bathroom vanities for instance), or wedding planning (save pages of flowers, dresses, shoes, etc).  You can follow other pinners and be followed.

Instagram – launched in 2010, Instagram is used to share photos and short videos taken with your mobile phone.  Users follow one another.  You can use a filter to change the image. Images are square, similar to the old Kodak Instamatic pics us baby boomers used to have.  Instagram was acquired by Facebook. Content can be shared on other sites.

Google + – launched in 2011, similar to Facebook, Google + allows you to share content with others.  You create circles of people who you share content with. Hangouts is a video chat feature for up to 10 people.

Snapchat – was launched in 2011  for mobile devices.  Snapchat enables you to send a picture or 10 second video which automatically deletes.  New functionality allows you to string photos and videos together to create a story. Stories don’t disappear, but each piece of the story is only available for 24 hours.

Vine – a mobile app, was recently launched in 2013, and is now owned by Twitter.  You can create short 6.5 second videos which can be posted on both Twitter and Facebook.

There are always new social media apps popping up, new ways to use them, and companies buying them out.  If you’ve read this post quickly it may just be up to date!

Hashtag Mania

hashtag mania

I have to admit I am a bit perplexed by the overuse of hashtags.  If you are perplexed by what a hashtag is, it is the use of the symbol “#’ prior to a  word or phrase (no spaces between words) to label it on a social media site. You can then search for that hashtag or click on the hashtag in a post to see other posts using that hashtag.  Most social media sites now support hashtags – first popular on Twitter but now Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, Youtube, Google+, and others support the use of hashtags.  So that sounds pretty handy.  For instance on Facebook , you can post a picture of your adorable cat and comment on it by adding “look at my cute #cat”.    Then if someone searches for #cat or clicks on #cat in anyone’s post, your post will be included in the search results (if your post is public, otherwise  Facebook shares according to your share settings). I’ll admit there are some pretty cute kitty photos out there.  But if hundreds or thousands of people are also posting with #cat it makes me wonder who will actually see your post?

People are #ing their hearts out.  For what reason?   Perhaps to be heard and be counted and be a part of the collective conversation of social media, or to help make and be a part of a trending hashtag?  A trending hashtag would be one that is the most popular at the moment, what people are “talking” about.  You will often hear the phrase on news shows,  “what’s trending now”.

Business has capitalized upon this concept to create “buzz” about their products.  There are even companies that track hashtags which you can pay to see how well your hashtag is doing .  You can create a hashtag simply by inventing a clever name and using it.

On a smaller scale I understand hashtags can be helpful for events.  A hashtag can create a space where people can connect on the same topic.  There can also be fun and creativity associated with hashtags.  For example Instagram has a Weekend Hashtag Project where you can submit photos  on a weekly topic with a specific hashtag, with the hopes of your photo being chosen to be featured on Instagram’s blog.  You’ll find extremely clever photos there.  Many companies offer contests where using a specific hashtag becomes your contest entry.

And of course for a major event or crisis a hashtag can be a good way to get immediate feedback from people as long as their posts are intelligible and not every word is a hashtag.

In case you were wondering  yes, you’ll find  #hashtagmania posts on Twitter as well as Facebook – people will make up any word they can think of and tag it!   So much for trying to be original (my original title for this post was Hashtag Smashtag and sure enough #smashtag is out there too).

So, happy hashtagging to all those  hashtaggers out there.  As for me, #notalifechanger but #goodtoknow.

 

Big Data is a Big Deal

big data

Have you heard the term big data yet?  Big data involves the collection of data and the relationships that can be drawn from it.   It’s not a new concept, but discussion of big data and its usage has recently become more mainstream.

Data, data, and even more data is being collected on a gigantic enormous  scale.  Technology created it and is collecting it.  Business decisions and policies which affect our lives are being driven by it.  Retail transactions, social media use, search queries, electronic health records,  and our smart phones are just some of the sources feeding data collection (did you know that your  phone’s wifi signal is tracked by some retailers as you shop?).  Analysis of all this big data is a big business which has fortunately created a demand for IT specialists.

As an example, the CDC uses data collection from flu reporting and  flu samples to determine which flu strains are included in annual flu vaccines. With the aid of Google Flu Trends (data collected by Google searches on flu symptoms) current flu activity around the world can be estimated, even earlier than conventional CDC methods.

Another interesting example is predictive policing (forecasting where crime is likely to occur).  Fueled by big data analytics,  predictive policing is aiding in crime prevention.  A further illustration of big data, one which troubles me a bit is targeted marketing.  After searching for dresses online for an upcoming wedding, my Facebook account was suddenly inundated with dress ads.  Although I admit checking out a few of these ads it was a bit creepy seeing those ads pop up on Facebook after my online shopping spree.

Big data was recently added to The Oxford English Dictionary, defined as “data of a very large size, typically to the extent that its manipulation and management present significant logistical challenges.”  So by definition big data is “messy”.   Google Flu Trends  overestimated US flu outbreaks in 2012, whereas its prediction was fairly accurate in past years.   The decisions made from the analysis of big data are only as good as the analytics behind them, subject of course to human error and changing data.

Don’t be surprised as you start to hear more and more about big data.  Instead of Big Brother we have Big Data collecting us, storing us, sorting us, trending us, suggesting to us, but also hopefully curing us, making us safer, and enriching the quality of our lives without too much risk to whatever privacy we may still retain!

Interest in Pinterest?

Image

I have resisted and resisted and resisted Pinterest.  I have proclaimed proudly that I will not pin, I have no need, I will resist any interest in Pinterest.  After all, I am already addicted to Facebook, do I really have time for another social media site?

Oh in case you haven’t had the pleasure of exploring or being confused by Pinterest yet, in a nutshell it allows you to create bulletin boards and pin images from the Internet on these boards.  Once the image is on a board you can click on the image to retrieve the original web page.  You can also share your boards with others and see other people’s boards.  There are countless YouTube videos explaining how to use it, so I needn’t digress into a tutorial here.

Sadly(?) I must admit I have lost my battle against using Pinterest, and I am starting to understand and dare I say it, yes I see its value as a great tool in our online world.  I am also desperately hoping that I am not developing an addiction to it!

I first knew I should take a serious look at Pinterest when I saw its logo alongside that of Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube on store websites.  I thought what is this all about?  Yet it makes perfect sense for a business to post images of products.  And it is great advertising if a potential customer pins an item from a business to their own board for contemplation and for their friends to see.

I have my own little system for saving web pages.  Aside from bookmarking, or saving in Favorites, I sometimes cut and paste a URL and save it in an email that I keep in draft status or send to myself.  Or I save the page to my desktop.  However, this is not that efficient, especially when you are dealing with a wedding for instance where there are dresses, and flowers, and shoes, and hairstyles, and colors, and all sorts of items that you may want opinions on, or wish to visualize all together.

Pinterest has come in very handy in the planning of my daughter’s wedding.  Once I started posting pictures of wedding flowers, it was hard to stop.  Then I knew I was hooked on Pinterest when in my Facebook News Feed I received a link to my niece’s Pinterest board to look at dresses my niece is considering for her daughter, my great niece.   Of course I had to check out the board and render my opinion.  Women can appreciate this, a visual online filing system (and no clutter around the house to clean up).

But how about the guy who wants some power tools or mountain bike equipment for his birthday –  he can pin a whole bunch of gift images on a birthday board and share it with potential gift givers.  What about privacy concerns you say?  Did you forget this is social media?

I finally get it, as I finally have a use for Pinterest.  And now that I am using it I can find more reasons to. Just in case you want to learn more about Pinterest or pick up some tricks and tips check out this CNET YouTube video.

Facebook Feelings

Mention Facebook, and there is emotion.  People love it, hate it, love it and hate it, are confused by it, afraid of it, addicted to it, depressed by it, and sick and tired of hearing about it (in that case read no further).

We sure do hear about Facebook every day don’t we?  TV and radio programs tell us to visit and become a fan on Facebook  –  the Facebook logo, white f on blue background, is in print ads, websites, and TV commercials.  Facebook is always in our faces.

We have two new social maladies thanks to Facebook – Facebook addiction and Facebook depression – both very real and recognized.

It is easy to understand our Facebook addiction, despite our privacy concerns over using it.   We receive a lot of positive reinforcement – our friends “like” our posts, or pictures, and make comments on them.  Furthermore, the reinforcement is intermittent which creates the greatest habit for the behavior.  Most of us know someone who seems to live on Facebook.  Do you find yourself checking Facebook multiple times a day?

Facebook depression is prevalent among teens and young adults.  It is easy to believe that everyone else’s life looks much more exciting and fun than yours when browsing friend’s photos and updates.  Picture the teen at home whose friends are posting pics of the party while it is happening and that teen didn’t get an invite.

It is not all doom and gloom.  On the upside, a study last year from the University of Maryland documented the positive effect Facebook has had on our economy, by creating U.S. jobs not only at Facebook but at companies which build applications and websites which integrate with Facebook.  There have been some critics of this study as it fails to mention loss of employee productivity and job loss due to Facebook.

Despite our feelings about Facebook, one can’t help but be amazed at its impact  on culture and business worldwide.  So,  how do you feel about Facebook?   I would love to hear from you.

QR (Quick Response) Bar Codes

Have you seen these odd looking square shaped bar codes?   They are starting to pop up in print ads, although they could be anywhere – t shirts, coffee cups, emails, television, and the latest seems to be gift tags! 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=5EjVvvyLRfA

You scan a QR code with your smart phone, iPod, or iPad, which typically results in opening a web page.

First you need to download a QR reader app.  The free one I downloaded to my iPhone was QR Reader.  When I start the app it automatically scans a QR code I place in front of it, and then shows me the decoded content.  In most cases the scanned QR code results in opening a web page, but it could also be a text message, location, or for this holiday season a gift tag recorded message.

I started having fun with it, once I realized I could create my own QR codes.  I just selected create from the QR Reader app and was able to quickly create QR codes for websites, locations, phone numbers, and text messages, and then share the QR codes via email, Twitter, and Facebook, most likely annoying my friends and family.  Saved as a jpg image I can now use the image as I did in this post.

I am not sure how much we will see QR codes on TV (HSN has experimented with it), as once we are plopped down, I can’t see rising off the sofa to scan an image!   Perhaps a novelty for now, QR codes will become increasingly popular, especially for on the go situations where it is easier to scan a QR code than to copy a website name or other information that might be contained in the QR code.  We will also see prettier versions using color and imbedded designs.

I’d love to know what you think about this technology.  Where have you seen it?  Have you used it?

The Invasion of Social Media

This entertaining video shares some amazing revelations about social media: http://tiny.cc/xjwrq.

Social media has invaded our culture. We are bombarded by television and radio programs asking us to “like” and send comments to their Facebook pages.  Should I care about what is trending on Twitter, is this really news?  Are the best YouTube videos really news?

I once met a woman in her late 70’s who told me she did not understand anything about Facebook and couldn’t understand why she kept hearing about it.  I suggested she take a seminar or a class to learn more about Facebook.  She did not hesitate for a moment and replied, “Who has time for that? I have a life to live!  I have no time to sit in front of a computer all day.”  What a gem she is.  Social media is great but we do have to pick up our heads, shut off our electronic devices, and live!

I have to drive through town to get home.  Daily, when I’m at a stop light I am amazed and horrified as I watch people walk down the street, even cross the street without looking up from their phones.  And yes I’ve seen iPads walking through the streets of town too. I  will admit that social media is addictive.  Plenty of positive, intermittent reinforcement is available from social media – people liking and commenting on your posts or pics, friending you, following you – all of this fueling our repetitive behavior.

Yes, our friends and family are quite dispersed today.  Social media keeps us all connected.  Some fear the more we stay connected electronically the more we sacrifice real unity and community, substituting virtual relationships for face to face time.  Does social media help create and reinforce friendships or help to keep distance between us?  Probably a bit of both.

Everything needs to be in balance, including our social media and Internet time.  Hopefully we can restrain ourselves and put our smart phones away as we stroll. Perhaps if we do we might see someone we know!

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