“Final”

Content Strategy for the Web by Kristina Halvorson and Strategic Social Media by L. Meghan Mahoney and Tang Tang are definitely both books about social media. Content Strategy for the Web is a little shorter and a little more handy. Strategic Social Media is a more in-depth, theoretical sort of book.

Strategic Social Media is focused more on marketing than Content Strategy of the Web. Halvorson’s text discusses marketing, but it is not as direct as it is in the companion text. Here, marketing comes up as an example, rather than the focus. The opposite seems true about forming a social media strategy. Content Strategy of the Web is a strategy book. The text revolves around forming one’s own social media strategy. Halvorson returns to strategy throughout. In this regard, Halvorson’s text is more useful in the short term. Strategies and plans make cameos in Strategic Social Media, but they exist within a bigger context of theory.

Strategic Social Media gets into the weeds on communication theory more than Content Strategy for the Web. Overall, Halvorson’s text seems like more of a quick, but useful guide to social media. Mahoney and Tang’s text is more of an in-depth situation for someone who wants more information.

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Interlude

This moment that we are in right now is the exact moment that we should not be having.

This Google Trends graph shows the interest in “gun control” from May 13, 2011 to May 13, 2018. The spikes are major mass shootings.

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In this graph I added “NRA.”

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I was somewhat surprised to see how the trends align like they do. Characterizing the spikes is difficult. If anything, it shows that the NRA is clearly bonded to America’s gun discourse. This graph also shows that when there’s a shooting, people on both sides have interest in gun control. However, interest declines as soon as the news moves on. This creates a lull in between shootings.

As of May 13, 2018, we are in one of those lulls.

Each time a shooting happens, nothing happens. Most people move on. The trend returns to normal, until it inevitably spikes again later. For meaningful change, these lulls in the graph require attention.

America’s gun problem is a multifaceted issue and real solutions are desperately needed. Currently, even meek regulation is opposed.

There are other ways for a person to defend themselves that don’t involve semi-automatic rifles. There are many, many other weapons that can be used for target shooting and hunting. Which makes me think that there must be another reason to keep these weapons around.

Maybe King George is coming back for his stamp money? If he is, then I suppose someone will have to try to do something about it. But what if King George isn’t coming? Then what? Do we keep certain weapons around just because we can?

I don’t really have any answers. America’s mass shooting problem is a cultural issue, which are tricky to deal with. I think this issue needs a mature discussion, which neither side seems interested in at times.

I can say that these mass shootings need to stop. Something needs to be done, or this will keep happening. I am tired of seeing this happen, and I am tired of this endless cycle. This has become a cycle in America. Right now we are in another lull, and it is time to do something before this happens again.

My Obsession with Obscure Media

Obscure media is great.

Genres, and the tropes within those genres, are created through years of evolving content trying to win over the public. This process creates a few memorable movies, and heaps of terrible ones.

I am cheap. Although it is difficult for me to draw the line between cheap and poor, I will say that I am one of the cheapest people around.

Studio bankruptcies, and overall ignorance of copyright law, has led to dozens of movies entering the glorious public domain. Thus, they invariably end up on YouTube. This allows me to watch heaps of movies for free.

Now, movies on YouTube are a mixed-bag. Some are amazing. Most are not. Yet, they satisfy me.

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White Zombie is a really bad movie. Still, I’m glad I watched White Zombie. It is one of those terrible movies I could see myself watching again—then immediately regretting it. For whatever reason, I was thoroughly entertained.

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Not every movie on YouTube is a waste of time. There are plenty of great and interesting movies, too. The Blood of Jesus is a good example of such a movie.  Nobody talks about race movies like The Blood of Jesus. I would never have watched this fascinating film if it was not on YouTube.

My fascination with obscure media actually comes from Moby Dick. When I first encountered Moby Dick, I really did not get it. I love some select parts of the novel but most of it did not strike me as being special. Basically, I couldn’t understand the book’s classic status. Eventually, I learned how books sometimes end up lodged in the curriculum for political reasons or bias. This has drawn me to pieces that do not get much attention.

In addition, tropes and genres do not just appear. They are made over a long process that leaves behind heaps of examples that can be horrible, entertaining, or even really good. You just have to dig, and I love to dig.

Project Mocha

Today is a good day. No longer must I write blog posts about social media. My brain was starting to melt at thought of reading more Heather Mansfield.

I am off the chain!

Also, I am off the rails.

This is OK—I think. I’m pretty sure I can pull myself out of the hole. I am so used to the pressure of being buried under assignments that it hardly affects me. I try to take everything one step at a time.

Besides, this presents an opportunity.

For the last few years I have been working my way through Herman Melville’s monstrosity Moby Dick. I am not a Moby Dick fan. Yet, Melville’s language fascinates me. During a momentary judgement lapse, I realized I could use Melville’s language as writing prompts.

 

I decided to take one line from each page of Moby Dick and turn it into a new piece of writing. I call it Project Mocha—after the story Mocha Dick that Herman Melville ripped off to write Moby Dick. Each day I try to do one prompt. Some days I do a couple, but I usually burn out after three.

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After doing this for a while I have heaps of content to share, so I might as well.

This is the first part of a story called “Fortune House.” It comes from the line, “It was unsafe to meddle with the corpses and ghosts of these creatures…” from page 338 of Moby Dick.

Smoke gushed from the dragon’s smoldering nostrils and curled into his black eyes. Moving like a mammoth snake, the dragon leisurely meandered through the clouds. Then, his malicious countenance encountered a village cuddled entirely by mountains.

Elizabeth froze. The colorful painting hanging on the wall behind the front counter of her favorite Chinese restaurant, Fortune House, was moving.

As Elizabeth watched, the dragon spewed flames across the village—which splintered dwellings into sparks and toothpicks, and reduced villagers to heaps of ash. As the inferno spread across the land, the black smoke rose into the sky and encircled Elizabeth. Smoke fingers tickled Elizabeth’s nose—when the dragon abruptly turned his interest to her.

“Don’t blink,” the dragon said, his words releasing mouthfuls of dark smoke. “Blink and you’re dead.”

Elizabeth looked to her roommate Becky who was piling up change on the counter to pay for their take-out. She apparently did not notice the devastation going on above their heads. Elizabeth turned back to the painting and kept her eyes open.

“Fortune will smile upon you—if you turn to me,” the dragon hissed. “But the cookies are the only way. Take the cookies—and fortune will be yours.”

There’s the first chunk. I will be posting more chunks, more pieces, and more details over the coming days.

Midterm #1 – Doom and Gloom

Social media is a great tool. My time in this class, and a couple other classes like it, have taught me that social media marketing—or shilling—is most effective when these diverse formats across a few carefully selected platforms work together to create a unified front with a unified voice. Social media pages need to have personality. The big idea of Heather Mansfield’s material is that an organization’s social media should tell a story. Whether you are making videos, posting photos or stories, or blogging, all of it is storytelling.  You can’t tell a story without personality. Heather Mansfield writes, “Every single status update that you send out should be the result of a couple of minutes of thought, preparation, and personality” (Eleven). Storytelling and personality are the two biggest things to insert into any social media strategy.

According to Mansfield, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram are essential for a nonprofit. Mansfield writes, “Referral traffic is high from Twitter and Facebook, and although referral traffic from Instagram isn’t possible…the high level of engagement and rapid growth…ensured its placement as a top priority” (4 signs). On Facebook, Mansfield recommends always sharing a link, photo, or video in a status update (Eleven). Basically, adding something to a post will make people care. My priority with a nonprofit would be adding stories to make people care.

I don’t think it would take much. The stories of people nonprofits work with and help are invaluable. Not only are they testaments to the organization’s work, but they are opportunities for outsiders to connect. Pictures are a good start. But if there is no context attached to that photo I am far less likely to become invested.

Creativity is needed, too. On Giving Hearts Day I got to see many organizations get creative in how to get people involved and interested. It seemed to pay off for them.

On Giving Hearts Day I noticed many organizations attaching promotional offers to donating. Mansfield writes, “The idea of promoting others to your fans is a hard concept for many traditional nonprofit communicators to wrap their heads around, but…you’ll begin to notice an obvious correlation between promoting others and reciprocity” (Eleven). The New American Consortium, which partnered with African Soul, American Heart, promoted the opportunity to win a piece of donated art with a certain donation. I believe there was a raffle.

Anyway, this is a good strategy because art is irresistible. Plus it allows the person who wins some art to really connect with both the artist and the organization. If I received some art, looked at it each day, thought about the person being assisted by my donation, I am both more likely to donate again and involve myself with other facets of the organization. I probably would end up at events.

That’s a specific example of an organization getting creative in one visual way. Blogging is another opportunity. Honest stories and experiences are incredibly valuable. I think that most of the time people do not see their experience as valuable—outside of when they are begging for a job. It is easy to overlook the stories of yourself or others, but they do mean something. Besides, they are free. Free is good when you’re a nonprofit.

Facebook users spend, on average, about 2.1 fewer minutes on the site per day, which is a 5% drop (Flynn). Facebook could lose double that and it still would not matter. Social media is inescapable. Nonprofits need to use social media because they do not have a choice. Organizations do, however, have a choice in getting the most out of it. Telling stories with pictures, posts, and videos across platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram is the best way to connect people to a cause and an organization.

Works Cited

Flynn, Kerry. “Facebook’s Traffic is down 50 Million Hours per Day as Zuckerberg Demands Fewer ‘Viral Videos’.” Mashable, 31 Jan. 2018.

Mansfield, Heather. “4 Signs Your Nonprofit Should Quit a Social Network.” Nonprofit Tech for Good, 2 Aug. 2017.

Mansfield, Heather. “Eleven Facebook Pages Best Practices for Nonprofits.” Charity Village, 24 Oct. 2011.

Midterm #2 – The Hand of Fate

I could summarize Strategic Social Media by L. Megan Mahoney and Tang Tang, but I do not want to. They summarize their purpose themselves, anyway. Mahony and Tang investigate “how individuals turn to social media as a space to create and recreate personal and perceived identities, thus helping social media marketers understand how social media tools are used by their audiences and how to inspire behavior change through social media content” (3). Mahoney and Tang are not interested in teaching someone how to use Facebook or what sort of content of post on social media. They believe that marketers should have a “strong understanding of how social media is able to inspire human behavior change than it is to know platform specific tools” (9). Basically, they want social media shills to know about people and how they think rather than what to post on Facebook. Mahoney and Tang present the technical first cousin to Heather Mansfield’s work that nobody wants to sit by on Thanksgiving.

That sounds good, doesn’t it? Well, sort of. The downside is that Strategic Social Media is nearly 400 pages long. Nobody wants to read a social media textbook that’s the size of Moby Dick. This thing can be whittled down to five greatest hits. Which is four more hits than Billy Ray Cyrus, Soft Cell, and Vanilla Ice—who is inexplicitly worth around $18 million. Apparently county fairs pay better than they used to.

  1. Communications is our friend

I’m a Communications minor. Yet, Communications has always been bizarro-world English to me. It is this place where nobody reads, and nobody wants to talk despite being in Communications.

Anyway, that doesn’t mean our first cousins in Communications should be locked up in a zoo. They are our friends. Plus, their ideas can be relevant for once when used for social media good, as opposed to Communications evil.

Mahoney and Tang go through a few different useful Communication theories. The Shannon-Weaver model of communication covers eight links in the communication change and provides an explanation for why miscommunication happens (10). Spoiler alert, it is external noise. Mahoney and Tang also cover the transactional model of communication, which emphasizes shared meaning within a cultural context. These theories are good to know before diving into social media for social good. They probably won’t come up every day but they will help you tailor your content.

Perhaps English and Communications are destined to always be apart—like North and South Dakota—but Mahoney and Tang show us that Comm ideas are ideas worth knowing.

  1. Active audience theories

It is good to get technical—sometimes. Communications people love to get technical, so I’m going to keep going that direction.

Anyway, active audience theories are interesting because they discard the notion that the audience is passively consuming content like a bunch of monkeys. Instead, they are seeking out content that “satisfies their needs and desires” (100). Audience members want to care. This makes sense. People may consume media passively, but when they visit and follow a new page they are doing so because they care. Perhaps viewing users as passive, lazy, good-for-nothing people who will never donate is the wrong idea.

If one prescribes to active audience theories—like #3 in this list—then the only thing separating you from hordes of invested social media followers is content that is well made with one’s English skills.

  1. Selective exposure theory

We’re done with Comm after this. Well, done is the wrong word. I wish I was done.

Selective exposure theory is simply that people tend to consume media that does not challenge their beliefs. This theory emphasizes that your content must take into consideration the opinions, attitudes, and values of your different audiences. If you ignore selective exposure theory too much you end up creating content for only yourself. If you are the only person donating to your own nonprofit, you will have a problem. Your audience wants to care, so make them care.

  1. User-generated content

One of Mahoney and Tang’s favorite things about Web 2.0 is user generated content. They see social media as a medium that maximizes “the opportunity for marketers to reach and interact with consumers” (239). This is accomplished through user generated content. Mahoney and Tang write, “We should allow for true participation where users…are able to reflect on their social situation and articulate their own discontent and action” (67). Instilling an attitude where people can share is essential for a nonprofit on social media. Users sharing their content within the community of a nonprofit will make the organization and its mission live.

  1. Goal directed media

This is the biggest takeaway from Mahoney and Tang. If one believes active audience theories, then goal directed media becomes even more important. With the knowledge of communication theories, one should create media that understands outside expectations while working towards a goal.

 

Works cited

Mahoney, L. Meghan, and Tang Tang. Strategic Social Media: from Marketing to Social Change. Wiley-Blackwell, 2017.

Giving Hearts Day 2018 – The Double Attack!

Where does the time go? One minute you are drinking one of those toxic Rockstar energy drinks, feeling pretty good, then suddenly you realize ten days have gone by and you left the oven on.

I am lucky the blog does not have to eat. If it did, it would be dead by now. Rigor mortis would be established. The fourth or fifth generation of flies would be thriving on the remains.

Is less actually more? Probably. Still, why would I only analyze one non-profit when I can examine two? My feedback is not supposed to be harsh, but focused and level. That sounds fine. Now, was that included in the assignment just because of me? It may have been. The bookstore still wants to skin me for detailing how the industry screws people on textbooks.

Anyway, my goal here is to be a friend. Heather Mansfield has been invited to join me, but she is fussy and her book is expensive. I need to figure out how to get in on this textbook racket. If there isn’t a class for that yet there should be. English 3XX: Textbook Swindling. I would take it, but the book would probably be too expensive.

New American Consortium + African Soul, American Heart

Ah, once again I visit my old friends. Acquaintances? Neighbors? Whatever. This year they decided to partner with the group African Soul, American Heart. The two organizations have slightly different focuses but they share the same values, so partnering for Giving Hearts Day makes sense. A call to action is more powerful when it is coming from two sources.

The New American Consortium Facebook feed for Giving Hearts Day was impressive. Posts went up all day showing the different activities going on. In addition, they used Facebook to plug that if you donated a certain amount you got put in a drawing for some donated art. Who doesn’t like art? It also looked like it paid off.

Fargo Invaders

The last time I wrote about the Invaders I mentioned how I was unsure if the organization had another goal than to just play football. After Giving Hearts Day I realize that the Invaders are also in the slick graphics and pleasant visuals business.

I am impressed each time I check out the Invaders’ online material. These guys seem to be doing a good job of building a football team—or at least tricking me into thinking that they are. All of their media is nice. According to Heather Mansfield, appealing photos and compelling graphics receive up to 4X more engagement.

Like the New American Consortium, the Invaders attached a bonus to the donation. For Giving Hearts Day the Invaders offered a special package. $100 gets you 50 season tickets and 30-seconds of airtime during one of their games. I have no idea what I would do with 30-seconds of television time, but it would probably be the opposite of refreshing.

Adding bonuses add a layer of connectivity between the organization and the person donating. If you have 50 season tickets, you are going to be paying attention to the Invaders for a long time. If you receive some pleasant art to put on the wall you will be reminded of the person who made it and how you helped them, or a person in a comparable situation, have a textbook. You’ll probably think of that person and donate again.

Heather Mansfield’s insight came from à http://www.nptechforgood.com/2016/11/08/10-social-media-strategies-that-increase-engagement-and-inspire-donors/

The Carny Mentality

I have finally given in. After much deliberation—an entire ten or so minutes—I have decided that I need a Twitter.

So, I have a Twitter now. It is @onlycaleblaude. I’m not sure what I am going to post, but I think it is time I opened one.

I realize my efforts to construct some degree of online presence have thus far been deficient. This is due primarily to me thinking I have better things to do. Truthfully, I don’t. Much of my time is devoted to two things; Reading obstinate texts and watching wrestling. Not high-brow wrestling, either.

Millions of people watch wrestling, but nobody ever talks about it because it is considered low brow entertainment. I could lie and say that I like to sit down with a bottle of Dom Perignon and tie one on while I read The New Yorker and listen to people on NPR whisper into the microphone, but I won’t. Low brow entertainment happens to by my favorite form of entertainment. Also, while I do sometimes read short fiction from The New Yorker, I don’t drink—so I can’t tie on one, even if it is Dom Perignon.

Wrestling carnies look at things in the context of how over they are with other people. If someone is over, they draw money. If they aren’t over, then nobody cares.

Essentially, non-profits are trying to get over. They are competing for attention and donations. How do people view this organization? Do they do they want see more of it? Do they care?

The New American Consortium uses social media to get people to attend events and to get their pleasant mission over with the public. But Facebook is the only social media they use, so the Facebook feels a little bit like a deserted island. At least they aren’t PASE, which is like the bigfoot of social media—Is it really out there? A carny would never allow their organization’s existence to be questioned.

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Creative Plains Foundation is incredibly active on social media. They are getting their non-profit over with lots of posts that show the organization is active and exciting. I see this material and I want to be a part of what they do. Simply put, they have worked me into caring.

Once an organization is over their social media networks can become little communities. This seems to be the nirvana of social media marketing. Nurturing these communities starts with getting the organization over. Some organizations, like the New American Consortium, have a good start, but need to take the next step and allow people to connect to the cause in a personal way. If one can invoke a personal connection to the cause, then those interpersonal connections should naturally follow.

 

The Long Version of a Short Story

Apparently, Fargo has a non-profit semi-pro football team. Who would have guessed?

I’m not sure if the Invaders have a goal other than to play football—which they seem to do well based on their record.

I think charitable organizations can learn from the Invaders’ website. It is pretty easy to navigate and is packed with updates and news. I can’t imagine donating to a semi-pro football team, even one that appears to be competently run like the Invaders. Yet, if I was to donate I would know exactly where my money was going. The website is clear, and I can appreciate that.

The Invaders have a mix of content on their website. They have videos, audio, short articles, and longer pieces detailing their mission. They seem relatively active on social media and have a Facebook newsfeed built into the site. Instagram and Twitter are also somewhat active.

For the Invaders, short forms of social media act primarily as links to longer, comprehensive content found elsewhere. If they do tweet it is a link somewhere else. They do not tweet kickoff times or scores—which they really should. Instead they link to a preview video. It would be nice if there was more content. It is worth mentioning that the content they do have is well produced. The videos and graphics both look professional.

I checked out some other non-profits after I got tired of the Invaders. The New American Consortium—a pleasant organization that I was once on the fringes of—has a nice mission but they hide it on the about page. I wish it was shoved into my face a little more like a pie in a vaudeville act.

The Invaders would benefit from snackable social media and the New American Consortium could benefit from some longer forms. Jillean Kearney has a pleasing article on ScribbleLive.com that details the positives and negatives of both forms.

Speaking specifically of the New American Consortium, they should show off more. Kearney writes, “Long-form content gives you a chance to show off your company’s expertise.” The people in the photographs are all smiles. Everybody looks friendly and content. Why not brag about that?

Also, this organization’s goal is to do events with New Americans—who all happen to have interesting stories. Why not get some of those out there, too? It would help flesh out the group. One or two would go a long way. The loons of this country are afraid of refugees. Sharing New Americans’ stories in a clear format could help throw a big ugly wrench in that perception.

For the Invaders, and their fixation on long forms like videos, Kearney writes, “The rise of short-form content came out of…the fear that iPhone users (and the like) would only be interested in reading content as long as a tweet. However, the opposite is proving to be true and long-form is getting more shares across all social networks.” I sort of buy that. I still think the Invaders should get away from just sharing links and post some short things. Just by going off their social media feed I could not get a schedule of games, times, or even scores. It seems obvious to throw up a score on Twitter.

Kearney also writes, “Pro tip: An extensive study from medium.com found that 1,600 words – or about 7 minutes of reading time – is optimal.” This sounds like a lot to me—but what do I know? I guess when my teacher gives out about how beneficial it is to blog more rather than less, he is not lying like I may have anticipated. I suppose one wants their blog posts to be satisfying.

I hate Snapchat. My girlfriend is always trying to take my picture, so she can add to her—whatever it is called. I don’t even know. Somewhere in Southern California there is a Snapchat server that contains about two dozen photos of me flipping the bird, followed by an equal number of respectable photos that are taken after I catch hell. I don’t buy that the photos disappear. Those engineering types are always up to no good.

Anyway, it does not seem that many nonprofits are on board with Snapchat quite yet. I see the benefit if the organization has events all the time. Then it would be a terrific way to do a little promotion. But for seasonal things like the Invaders, I don’t see the point. There are other forms of social media that an organization can invest the time into and probably see more of a return.

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