Social Media and the Power of Digital Technologies

U.S. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama in a photo posted to the president’s social media accounts on election night, Nov. 6, 2012.

By Lillian Williams

President Obama’s tweet on election night, featuring a photograph of the president embracing first lady Michelle Obama, is the most popular Twitter message ever.  As of November 8, this tweet had been retweeted more than 785,000 times, and the image had captured 3.9 million “likes” on Facebook.

It’s no secret that political campaigns skillfully utilize social media to reach supporters. Politicians understand the power of engaging audiences through these networking tools. Recent reports like this one described the essential role that social media played in the campaigns of President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney. Both campaigns shared images and messages with targeted audiences, via a bevy of social media accounts.

We know that the political field is far from alone in its usage of social media.  Companies worldwide employ social media to engage audiences and to build their brands. Check out this recent New York Times piece on how the entertainment industry is employing a start-up, theAudience, to build followers for A-list stars and other celebrities.

Ryan Holmes, CEO of HootSuite, noted the effect of social media on the U.S. jobs market.  Writing for Fortune, he pointed out:

 “While U.S. unemployment hovers around 8%, job postings requiring social media skills rose 87% from 2011 to 2012,  topping 13,000 in one month alone earlier this year.  

Among Fortune 500 companies, 73% now have company Twitter accounts and 66% have Facebook Pages (FB).  Corporate America is racing to apply social tools to everything from building customer relationships to connecting teams of employees around the world.  

Analysts estimate that $1.3 trillion in value stands to be unlocked by new social technologies.”

Read Holmes’ entire article here.

So, is your business or nonprofit group taking full advantage of social media tools?  Are workers, or students, in your industry aware of best practices for social media?

That’s a question posed by journalism researcher Augie Grant of the University of South CarolinaGrant suggests seven functions of social media for journalists.  Importantly, these best practices could be utilized by practitioners in other fields.

Grant admits that his list is not exhaustive, but rather a catalyst for discussion.  Among Grant’s points are the following:

  • “Sourcing : The potential for reporters goes well beyond finding out what sources are saying and doing (or say they are doing). The social network surrounding individuals and issues provides a wealth of sources that can be called on for comments and background information. Perhaps more than other sources, however, reporters should be careful to verify the credentials and identity of sources who are identified through social media. (Social media accounts related to the Federal government can be verified at”
  • “Defend: The final function of social media for journalists requires constant surveillance to determine where and when your organization, reports, and reporters are being mentioned. Good mentions and sharing of your content are a plus, but it is equally important to know when negative information is being circulated and then to know the social graph and influence of the complainer. Many times, the best solution is to ignore the negative content to avoid attracting more attention to it, but you must be prepared to respond to inaccuracies, misquoting, and other negative information.”
  • “Engage: Beyond sharing, social media offer the capability to engage users in a manner not available in traditional media. The key distinction between sharing and engaging is that the latter involves creating an online community where the agenda, focus, and content are as much the product of what readers bring to the site as what the organizer creates. An excellent example is Jim Romenesko‘s media news site, where a community of users responds to and interprets content – and sometimes supplies it by leaking internal memos that Romenesko posts – adding their own dimensions and encouraging users to return frequently to see how the story has grown and changed. Other examples include fan pages, review panels, and special events. Comments are the most common tool for engagement, but any tool that allows the development of a community of interested readers contributes to engagement.” 

Read Grant’s entire article here.

Also, if you represent a nonprofit group , social media strategist Allen Mireles offers suggestions to build your social networking strategies in a previous post at this site. Mireles spoke at a day-long conference earlier at Columbia College Chicago where I teach.

Among her suggestions for nonprofits are The 2012 Nonprofit Social Network Benchmark ReportCommunity;;  and  She also recommends a book, The Nimble Nonprofit, by Jacob Smith and Trey Beck.

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One Response to Social Media and the Power of Digital Technologies

  1. Pingback: Social Media and the Power of Digital Technologies | E-Learning (A Digital Education Forum)

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