In Kanter and Fine’s chapters on creating a social culture and using it to engage with others, they emphasize that companies shouldn’t be afraid of letting individuals’ personalities show through tweets, posts and comments. Instead of only trying to gain participation and money through their posts, companies should try to connect with people and build personal relationships with their followers online.
This idea of a “personal” side to a business really intrigued me. In my own professional social media work, I often find myself centering posts and tweets around a final goal of getting people to sign up for the programs the company I work for offers. Instead, according to Kanter and Fine, I should be using Facebook and Twitter to show the beliefs of the company and form connections with people who will then want to sign up for the programs willingly.
I think these ideas are also very applicable to Savor South Madison’s goal, especially when it comes to engaging with the student body. In order to get participation in the Taste Race, we will have to connect with people in an area in which we are comfortable communicating with them. Because our target audience is college students, I think there are a couple of unique social media platforms besides Twitter and Facebook where we could both show our personality and encourage people to participate in the Taste Race.
The first is Pinterest. While we have had a Pinterest for a couple of semesters now, it goes mostly unused. The links and pictures we have pinned are completely of food, separated onto different boards based on what kind of food it is. While food is always a good thing to gain repins on Pinterest, I think we are limiting ourselves by stopping there. In order to really use the medium, we should create boards that explain a little bit more about what Savor South Madison is and who the people running it are. We could make boards that show the events we are holding, experiences we’re having together and parts of the learning process. Taking advice from Kanter and Fine, I think one of these should be a “meet the students” or “Savor South Madison today” board that shows specifically what we as students are doing, both in South Madison and in the classroom.
To create synergy between our platforms, I think we should also be utilizing Pinterest to show off our website. We can pin items from the website to drive traffic there. All of these ventures will help our followers discover more about South Madison and more about us, creating bonds between all parties and encouraging them to participate in activities such as the Taste Race, or maybe just head down to South Madison to see what all these college kids are posting about.
Another social media technology that I think businesses often overlook is FourSquare. Although people are a little checked out of checking in, I think it would specifically be a great way for us to show where we are going and expand our brand. During the Culinary Crawl, we could check in on Four Square and all other social media platforms. If a restaurant doesn’t have a spot, we could make one for them so people can check in there in the future. This would help people know where we are and have a quick link to find out the exact location. I also this this would have been a really cool way to track where we went on the bus tour.
There are a lot of ways Savor South Madison could improve on social media. Form the Kanter and Fine reading, I specifically took away the idea that we need to make our posts more personal and engaging by expanding our current social media use and which platforms we use.
Now that I have learned a little more about South Madison, I can see obvious places where human motivations, skills and knowledge may pose challenges for us as we try to adopt new communication technologies in the area. As Stroud (2011) points out in the second chapter of his book Politics in News Choice, people are less likely to embrace mass communication media if the people around them aren’t using it. I think this idea is very telling when it comes to thinking through the technological limitations in knowledge, skills and motivations in South Madison.
Many people in South Madison don’t have knowledge of new technologies (such as social media) and therefore would never see advertisements for events such as our scavenger hunt on any of these platforms. Without the knowledge of these platforms as a base, they won’t be able to build the skills needed to maintain their own websites. I see this as being a major hurdle for many business owners. I find out about a lot of restaurant deals on Facebook and Twitter. Being in a college town and not having a presence on these two handles in particular would be very detrimental to sales. Finally, I see this lack of knowledge and skills as a direct link to having no motivation. In application of Stroud’s idea, if most people in the South Madison area aren’t interested in social media and other new technologies, there is no motivation for residents (such as these restaurant owners) to invest their time and energy in learning the skills to use the media.
Although I’m not sure how much direct improvement we can achieve in the areas of knowledge and skill, I think we could be incredibly influential on the motivation of the South Madison residents to use new technologies. College students love connecting to people online. If we can drive enough college students into these restaurants, it may motivate the restaurant owners to get involved with social media so they can interact with this group of customers. While we work with South Madison business owners, I think it will be important to talk to them about social media and even show them some of the work we are doing to promote ourselves and their businesses on our website and social media handles. While this may not be enough to give them new technology skills, it will at least give them some knowledge about the platforms and hopefully make them a little less intimidating.
In his 2010 study Digital Na(t)ives? Variation in Internet Skills and Uses among Members of the “Net Generation” Higgatai discovered that “Students of lower socioeconomic status, women, students of Hispanic origin, and African Americans exhibit lower levels of Web know-how than others.” Although his study was specifically on college students, these demographics fit many South Madison residents of all ages. While we encourage the residents to use social media, I think it will be important to advertise our events and ourselves in non-technological ways as well. If we are able to get their attention through posters and personal conversations, we may be able to use these methods of promotion to drive them to our site, therefore reaching all South Madison residents, including those who are less tech-savvy.
The Awkward Conversation Project is a campaign ran by Public Health England. The Project’s goal was to start an online conversation between 11-16 year olds about the dangers and realities of sex, drugs and alcohol. PHE wanted to encourage kids in the age group to make good decisions about what kind of life they wanted to live at a young age, but they discovered promotional and educational material wasn’t reaching them, and many said they felt awkward reaching out to their parents about these topics. The solution to this was a media campaign in while 10 of the most popular bloggers in the UK made videos about “awkward conversations” such as their first sips of alcohol, how to talk to their parents about sex, and some other stories about decisions they made in their younger years. After sharing, they encouraged kids to comment and start a general conversation about the “awkward conversation” topics.
The campaign was incredibly successful. Little money was spent, and a few weeks after the videos were put up in October 2012, they already had over five million views. Each video made YouTube’s “50 Best Videos of the Day” list and together inspired over 54,000 comments. Even though the campaign was released over a year ago, the views and comments on them are still raising. The key to this successful campaign was understanding the audience, what they wanted to hear and who they wanted to hear it from. With the right audience, an all-media campaign can have a big impression.