The Importance of Media Literacy

What is the world telling you? Every day we are bombarded with an endless stream of advertisements and hidden messages from every corner. Magazines, billboards, radios, smartphones, and computers – these are some of the most common tools of persuasion, and they are tools found in nearly every home. We live a world dominated by media, both print and electronic. It is important that we arm ourselves with skills necessary to deconstruct what’s being placed in front of our eyes and get at the “truth” behind media’s motivations.

When you think about the advertising industry, you start to see that the relationship between corporations and consumers is almost high school in its structure. The corporations are the “in-crowd”, the popular kids who set the status quo and the rules of conformity, and the consumers are eager freshmen itching to be included. They play at your heartstrings, hinting at a need you never knew you had, then provide a solution to fulfill that need. In other words, they tell you, with the utmost confidence, that something is missing from your life, and they have just the thing to fill that void.

In this TED Talk with Andrea Quijada, she explains how you can between the lines of media in order to get at a message hidden beneath the marketing language. A commercial about purchasing a diamond ring for your significant other portrays the message that you can express your love in the form of an expensive piece of jewelry. The underlying message, however, seems to suggest that unless you purchase this expensive piece of jewelry for your significant other, you don’t truly love them, or you can never attain the kind of happiness portrayed in the ad. This diamond is the ultimate expression of love – the mark by which all love will be compared. Unfortunately for us consumers, we don’t always have a full orchestra to supplement our grand gestures. This kind of media bombardment promises you something more than what you have, and it instills a strong, yet temporary sense of urgency. These tactics would not be so effective if they weren’t so constant and pervasive (I’m looking at you, Hulu ads).

GOTHAMIST

Non-Traditional Journalism

I am a huge fan of Gothamist. It provides local news written and reported by the civilian population – local residents dishing out the latest news in their very own neighborhoods. While Gothamist does write articles on stories gleaned from reputable news sources, their original content offers up a very special brand of journalism and flavor. It is written in a language seasoned with inside jokes and references every New Yorker understands. It’s a wonderful system where everybody can be a journalist online! But it also breeds a serious problem: everybody can be a journalist online.

The Internet has the media working at breakneck speed, and unfortunately, Journalism has fallen in with the wrong crowd. Every news site rushes to get the story out first, and more and more often they start to get their facts wrong, or they fail to check their sources. The next time breaking news circulates, see how many typos you can find in their articles In CNN’s case, count the number of redactions they make over the course of reporting. It’s become a culture of “make mistakes first and ask forgiveness later”. We, the people, put our trust in the professionalism and vigilance of journalists. Too much trust. And it is that very trust that brings us to some of the most glaring problems in social media today.

Propaganda

snopesWe are very lucky to have sites like Snopes.com. Unfortunately many people don’t think to use Snopes to find out if latest Internet rumor tells truth or is a bunch of baloney. We’ve all seen it in our feeds: sensationalist titles linking to articles warning the population about spying devices in our pills, radiation leaks from Fukushima contaminating the entire Pacific Ocean and threatening the lives of Californians, or earthworm meat used in McDonald’s hamburgers. Did you believe them? Or did you do a bit of research and find out they’re all half-truths or a complete load of bunk? If you chose the latter, then you can wear your Media Literacy badge proudly. In our media-driven society, we need to question everything and view new information through a lens of skepticism and curiosity. Trust me, you do not want to be the next person to read a article or view a video by The Onion and not only take it seriously, but also announce to everyone on your Facebook page that you cannot tell the difference between journalism and satire.

Things to Remember:

1. Always check your sources. If you cannot find an objective and trustworthy source, take it with a grain of salt.

2. If it’s too good to be true, it probably isn’t.

3. Always check your sources.

4. You never knew you needed it until you saw the ad. What does that tell you?

5. Always check your sources.

Buzzword #2: Organic

urlWhat exactly does “organic” mean in social media terms? It’s actually very similar to the definition of the farming and food definition. Organic search results in search engines like Google come about from hard work and dedication without paid advertising or bidding on keywords. When an employer wants better ranking in organic search results, they are asking for the very basics of search engine optimization. While SEO may be the most cost-effective way to maximize your online marketing efforts, it is also the most time-consuming. It requires you to post quality content frequently while managing inbound and outbound links and making sure what you’ve submitted becomes visible and easily found on all your social media platforms. The process might be methodical, but the content is where you show off your expertise in whatever you’re advertising.

How can you be sure your submissions are counted by Google? Like I mentioned early, you need to post quality content frequently. But what does “quality” really mean? It means to avoid copying and pasting large blocks of text. It means flexing and expanding your vocabulary. It means to be creative. Organic results are awesome, but only if you put in the time and effort to make it worthwhile! As a long term investment, it will make you a strong and reliable source of information, which in turn maximizes the influence you have in directing traffic and generating hits.

Tips:

1. Avoid expository text in flash objects. Your text might very well contain the keywords required to improve your organic search results, but because they’re imbedded in videos or flash files, Google cannot pick findthem! If a video or flash object is absolutely necessary, make sure to have a well-written description that make use of your keywords.

2. Vary your terms! While it’s fine to use terms like “social media” frequently if you’re optimizing for social media, you can break term up and still be relevant to Google’s search bots: “See what media is saying about social networks”.

3. Pictures draw them in! If you’re going for a longer article, make sure to include a picture every few paragraphs to give the reader a different kind of mental stimulation. It will keep them interested in what you have to say. Likewise it is usually best to start off with a picture to get their attention in the first place.

Click here for Buzzword #1: Viral

Buzzword #1: Viral

Viral MarketingWhat does it mean when something goes “viral”? It’s quite literally an idea that’s gone pandemic – infections, far-spreading, rapid, and global. Sounds great, right? Not necessarily. While marketing campaigns strive to become viral, they must also be prepared to lose all control. How far it goes and for how long is completely dependent on the consumers, and the results can be spectacular on both ends of the good and bad spectrum. Take, for example, the ever popular music video “Gangnam Style”, which features a Korean pop star making his debut return to show biz.

Here you have a video that was already popular in the Eastern hemisphere, generating thousands of hits within days of its release. But once it caught wind in America and the rest of the internet, it went full blown viral, becoming the first Youtube video to hit ONE BILLION views in the space of a few months! You can’t hope for anything better than that!

On the other side of the spectrum you have Mitt Romney’s 47% video, whose viral status may very well have cost him the campaign:

Going viral may be an unstoppable force, but if its influence falls in your favor, you can build upon it and ride the wave like Old Spice with their body wash commercials with Isaiah Mustafa.

This video is 33 seconds long. Thirty-three seconds! And that was all it took to make it one of the most effective ad campaigns to date! Granted it cost Old Spice a pretty penny to have it air during the Super Bowl, but it was money well invested in a clever idea that tickled the audience in the best possible way. From there Old Spice released more commercials and videos featuring Mustafa, and the internet fell in love with his smooth, rugged, and manly…advertisement.

Sometimes unintentional ideas become viral, like with the straight razor scene featured in the movie “Skyfall”. Since its release, straight razor sales have gone through the roof by as much as 405%! As a social media marketer, you must be ready to latch and take advantage of any ideas that have the potential of going viral. That means you must stay connected, jacked in, and ready to go. Looks like there’s no time for rest when it comes to social media. Or maybe that’s just an excuse to surf just a while longer :).

Click here for Buzzword #2: Organic

Buzzwords – When to Use Them

Buzzwords serve a very important function, but they’re only effective in certain environments. They are convenient shorthand versions of complex or verbose ideas, and sometimes it’s more efficient to condense it all into a single word. this also makes it easy to fall into the habit of using them all the time. While buzzwords can encompass an entire paragraph into just a few letters, they’re only useful to those who are privy to the long form definition. If they aren’t, you might as well be speaking a different language or showing a graph with an undefined legend. In short, use them as often as you’d like with other social media marketers, but be prepared to explain their full meaning in simple and effective terms. After all, social media is about communication and the transfer of ideas; you must always refer back to the roots and tenets of your trade.

I will be exploring some of the most common buzzwords in the upcoming posts and will include examples of how they work along with tips on how to use these ideas to your advantage.

Click here for Buzzword #1: Viral

Comments – How You Can Be in Control

Comments left by customers can make or break a small business, so of course it’s important to encourage customers with positive experiences to vouch for your company – just keep in mind that there are rules and regulations that dictate what you can and cannot do in that respect. For example, you cannot offer any bonuses or perks for positive reviews; not outwardly anyway. If you explicitly state somewhere that customers will get x, y, and z if they leave a positive review, it takes away all credibility from the person posting it. Worse case scenario, customers with a poor experience with your business or product make their own comments in response to posts and call you out for sketchy and dishonest behavior. What you can do is engage in experiential marketing where you build lasting relationships with existing customers.

If you notice that a particular user has been leaving positive reviews for your product or company in many places, then it might be a good idea to reach out to them and send them a small gift as a thank you. It acknowledges them, and this small reward has potential to be mentioned in future reviews, blogs, and other forms of social media. Remember, any and all comments and reviews are completely voluntary. Showing that you’re grateful, even just occasionally, can be a great investment for a positive outlook for your company in the future.

What about negative reviews? If there’s a legitimate complaint, always be courteous, and never come across as defensive. Choose your words carefully, and don’t use a cookie cutter reply. You can do this by using the same words in the comment and directly acknowledging their problems in specific detail. People want to know that their issue is unique, and that a human being will be there to help.   Show that you are willing and eager to rectify any issues they have; the general public will see that you’ve made an honest attempt at doing right by your customers.

Pictures Speak Louder Than Words

PicHere’s the bottom line: a picture gets an idea or point across much more quickly than a paragraph. Experience tells us that we tend to scroll past a block of text for no other reason than it was too long; we want the poster to get to the point already without significant effort on our part. There’s even an acronym for this on the very popular site, Reddit.com: TL;DR, or “too long; didn’t read”, followed by a short sentence summarizing an otherwise lengthy post. It’s the reason why Twitter’s formula works so well. It forces us to be as interesting as possible as quickly as possible.

The relationship between words and pictures in a post is very important. Text alone may be sufficient to attract readers, granted you use a compelling headline or caption, but combine it with an interesting picture and you’ve got something that stimulates the reader visually and mentally.