Making Social Media More Social

My experience as a Social Media Fellow has been one of growth and discovery. I had the opportunity to learn from Jennifer Prince, my predecessor, about the multifaceted world of social media. To my surprise, I became aware of the many steps taken to provide the public with an informative and visually-pleasing experience. Once I met the team of Social Media Fellows I felt immediately welcomed. Needless to say, they all have a level of expertise and a willingness to help that I greatly appreciate. On our very first meeting, as we discussed our goals for the year, one of us mentioned the importance of making our role be understood and portrayed as “human”. Unaware of precisely what was meant, we asked for an explanation, which resonated with me once it was provided. Indeed, it seems that for those of us who manage an institution’s social media outlets there tends to be, ironically, little connection between ourselves and our audience. Meaning that while we successfully reach a general public, our audience does not get to see that every action taken on social media is made by a particular individual. Individuals who, like my predecessor, developed sites, attracted a following, and continuously developed content that would allow for growth and enthusiasm in site followers. It was at this moment when I realized that my presence, my efforts, and actions as a social media fellow, could be unacknowledged without direct contact with our audience. I, most importantly, could lose sense of my audience, unaware of their inevitably changing interests and expectations. Thus, I decided to speak directly to my audience. In our case, our public is composed of students and faculty members who belong to our corresponding academic departments. I engaged in a series of conversations with some of them to learn if there was something missing, something that had been unaccounted for, something that would make the audience’s experience more enjoyable and informative. A common suggestion arose: more communication for the purpose of sharing common interests. For example, there were many accomplishments made by the students and faculty that went unacknowledged on the academic department’s social media sites. At the same time, it became clear that the content provided by the department’s sites also slipped through the cracks of the ever-expanding feeds of our users. It was important to communicate directly with the students and faculty without, nevertheless, coming across as obnoxious and repetitive. With this in mind, I began to use pre-established sources of communication, such as group conversations in which most members of the department were already connected to. There, I was able to communicate more informally and directly, reaching my target audience immediately and amiably. A sense of community began to develop that allowed for content of interest and relevance to be exchanged in a social and friendly manner. Thus, while my presence became more apparent, our sites became more social. Our sites became more representative and thus more interesting. A true interest grew, not only within the academic department but the social media community as a whole. We began to gain followers and receive responses from unexpected yet significant sources. Our social media sites improved by becoming indeed more “human”, more social, more connected. We brought the “social” back into social media by engaging directly, in-person, with each other. In my experience, human contact showed to be the ultimate asset to develop social media sites. Behind our screens, whether those of our laptops or of our cell phones, we attempt to develop a social network. Yet, without developing a dialogue with our public, we can easily lose sight of who composes it and what they are expecting to see when visiting our sites. In return, my efforts were vocally appreciated. I felt less robotic and more connected to a community eager to share their interests, passions, and accomplishments.

Improving Accessibility in Social Media

As more information is made available via social media channels, in order to reach the largest audience and maximize reach and effectiveness, the content published must be as accessible as possible. About 20% of the population is estimated to have disabilities including visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive, language, learning, and neurological disabilities (www.digitalgov.gov/). The more accessible the content, the more people it can reach.

According to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), content should be made perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust. They define these four principles as follows;

  1. Perceivable – Information and user interface components must be presentable to users in ways they can perceive. This means that users must be able to perceive the information being presented (it can’t be invisible to all of their senses)
  2. Operable – User interface components and navigation must be operable. This means that users must be able to operate the interface (the interface cannot require interaction that a user cannot perform)
  3. Understandable – Information and the operation of user interface must be understandable. This means that users must be able to understand the information as well as the operation of the user interface (the content or operation cannot be beyond their understanding)
  4. Robust – Content must be robust enough that it can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies. This means that users must be able to access the content as technologies advance (as technologies and user agents evolve, the content should remain accessible)

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Collaborative Annotations You May Want to Join – From Chronicle of Higher Education

woman and 2 kids read on couch

While we usually think about social media in terms of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, some of the best work using social media in academia emphasizes the collaborative opportunities. In this post from The Chronicle of Higher Education, the author looks at using collaborative annotations in class and as examples of the ways scholars share knowledge. — The Social Mediums

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10 Things We Learned Producing a Podcast at a University – From Prof. Hacker

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This is a guest post by Carol Jackson, the digital content strategist at the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University and lead producer, with Alison Jones and Karen Kemp, of the school’s podcast_ Ways & Means Show. It was originally published over at the Chronicle of Higher Education’s Prof. Hacker Blog. It adds to some of the discussion Naomi started with her post about podcasting last week.  Continue reading

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Podcasting Part 1: What is it, and Why Consider it as an Academic or Research Tool?

Is it possible to utilize the podcast medium for academic purposes? Absolutely yes! In so many ways! In a series of posts on the Social Mediums blog this year, I plan to explore different questions and perspectives on podcasting in academia, and how the podcast medium can connect with online communities and public research. To start our exploration, today’s post is an introduction to the concept of podcasting and provides some initial ideas to consider when thinking through ways that podcasts can enhance our work as researchers, academics, and teachers.

The Oxford English Dictionary described the word “podcast” as “a digital audio file made available on the Internet for downloading to a computer or mobile device, typically available as a series, new installments of which can be received by subscribers automatically.” Like an on-demand radio channel dedicated to specific topics, podcasts have reinvigorated the medium of audio storytelling in the Internet age. The length of podcast episodes differs from one “show” to the next, though somewhere between 30 and 60 minutes tends to be where the majority of podcast episodes fall.

Utilizing the podcast as an updated version of the 1940s radio drama is the way in which many success podcasts have gained popularity – from Serial to The Nerdist, to Freakonomics Radio (all listed amongst the most popular podcasts by listenership numbers in 2015), entertaining audio storytelling is cited as a crucial element in the “podcast renaissance” over the past several years. People tend to listen to podcasts in places or situations they might also listen to music – while exercising, doing the dishes, on road trips, commuting, walking the dog, etc.

Having been heavily involved in podcasting for the Lecture and Community Engagement Department of The Metropolitan Opera Guild (I produce and host The Metropolitan Opera Guild Podcast as part of my work with the organization), I have longed believed that podcasts are a fantastic medium and platform to consider integrating into academic research and work, and could be an exciting platform for an academic institution to support. While academic podcasts may not garner subscriber numbers in the millions, they can be a way to foster community, dialogue, and collaboration between researchers in an online space while also producing content that is pedagogically valuable and digitally far-reaching.

As Kathryn Linder wrote in an interview about her work in academically oriented podcasting, working on her Research in Action podcast has created networking opportunities with other scholars in her field that otherwise would not have happened. She states: “A main benefit of hosting Research in Action is that I have a reason to cold-email pretty much any researcher, no matter how famous, and ask them to chat with me for 60 minutes…The show has also allowed me to build my own professional network of researcher contacts that I can reach out to if I have a question, [or] want to collaborate on a project.”

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