Saturday, February 09, 2013

Social Media- The Power, Speed, and Reach

Photo by Larry Lebiecki
At the February 1st, 2013 Chancellor's Community Council at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, I spoke on the topic of social media, and illustrated its power, speed, and reach worldwide.  The audience was made up of faculty, administrators, politicians, business people, students, and community members.  The two-year long research study analyzed how social media can: motivate and engage, accelerate dissemination, distribute fact and fiction, affect attribution of the author, reinforce and influence opinion, and made messages more relevant and authentic.

Key statistics were discussed about Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.  According to current data, one in 13 people worldwide are daily active Facebook users.  There are 1 million Twitter accounts every day. More than 35 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube every minute.  All of these statistics are dazzling, however to effectively utilize these social media tools, we must develop a strategic method to form a cohesive, relevant, and sustainable message.

A wide variety of examples of citizen journalism on CNN iReports were highlighted and discussed. "When I started writing for iReports I was hoping for approximately 10,000 views.  Already in 2013, that number has jumped to over 875,000.  The current goal is 1 million."

One of the key strategies in obtaining such impressive numbers of readers is to tell digital stories that focus on some human element so that the viewer can more personally relate to the story.  A wide of variety of stories were highlighted including the Drought of 2012, A Professor with Two Hearts, a Presidential Visit, and a special on Homeless in America.  In each of these examples, the key to success was to a uncover a great story, adding excellent supporting images, and be willing to write the story even if it is difficult to capture it because of the time, location, or weather. "There are stories all around us. We just need to be passionate to capture them."  As I tell my audiences, the stories many times are right in our hands but they frequently fall right through our fingers.  As we use social media to disseminate these stories, as one blogger wrote, "Jim is documenting history in real time."

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