Category Archives: Social Media

My Time at the ReStore

I haven’t posted anything for a while because I’ve been busy with my internship at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Mankato. It just ended last week, so finally I’m prepared to share everything I learned there.

Not familiar with the ReStore? That’s okay. Few people are. The ReStore is basically a fundraiser for Habitat for Humanity. So in Mankato, all of the profits we made go toward building homes in South Central Minnesota (after paying bills of course). The store sells gently used and new home improvement materials such as tile, doors, windows, paint, carpet, light fixtures, plumbing supplies, hardware supplies and even more. Everything sold in the store was donated by companies or private citizens. Basically, it’s a really good cause and you can find great stuff for dirt cheap because they mark down the prices by about 50%. While I was there we got in numerous shipments that were just overstock of perfectly brand new items from name brand home improvement stores.

Habitat for Humanity ReStore

Habitat for Humanity ReStore and affiliate in Mankato, Minn.

I did a couple of very different things at my time there. First off, I worked in the store helping customers, running the cash register, stocking and organizing. This was part of my daily routine. On top of that, I did the weekly update for the store. The update was emailed out to people who requested it each week, and it included the sales for the week along with new items in the store. Because what’s in stock in the store is completely dependent on what people donate, items are constantly changing. The store might look completely different by the end of the day than it did when I walked in that morning. I also created a survey for our donors to better understand what brought them to the store and how to get them to come back. My survey was ultimately made available for all of the ReStores in the country to use. Another small project I did was revamping the store’s Facebook page. When I got there is was a regular friend page, and after I was done it was a fan page in timeline format with tabs for people to get more information on donating, shopping and volunteering at the store. Some company came in and offered to do the same thing to our page for a few hundred dollars a tab, but I said I could save us a ton of money by figuring it out on my own, so I did.

The biggest project I had at the ReStore was planning a donation pickup in a smaller surrounding town. I had to do this completely on my own. I figured out the time, the place, created the flyers, handed out the flyers, contacted local businesses about it, wrote and sent out a news release for it, then actually went to it and took the donations and put them in the truck for us to take back to the store– I did it all. It was the first time the store tried its hand at a project like this, and it went pretty well. We didn’t lose any money on it, and that was the major goal. The best part of the project was figuring out what worked and what didn’t so we could make it better in the future, and the store has plans to continue doing it in other communities.

All in all it was one of the best internship opportunities I could have asked for. I learned a TON about marketing and branding, which was very exciting coming from a journalism background. I met a lot of great people and didn’t just run coffee and sort files– I actually worked! Now I’m happy to tell people anything they’d like to know about the ReStore and its cause.

So now that graduation is over, the next step is job searching in Los Angeles!

My VisualCV

My VisualCV is now available to view online.

Twitter: Not the fad I thought it was going to be

When Twitter first came out I thought it was going to be a fad. I thought it was all about telling people what you had for breakfast, what you bought at the grocery store and ranting about the weird woman you saw walking down the street. That was two years ago, but last year, I finally got an account to promote the stories from the Reporter at Minnesota State University, Mankato where I was working as the news editor. I used it to get word out about the stories in my section. It wasn’t until we started a blog though, that I realized how Twitter could help my career. It was more of a humorous blog, and when I would tweet links to my posts, people began actually coming up to me in person to talk to me about my post because they saw the link on Twitter and read it. People were really reading what I was tweeting, I just hadn’t realized it!

Fast forward to today. I’m using Twitter more through my mass media class, and I’ve started using it to communicate more with classmates about assignments and other topics that come up about the community. I’ve found that it’s easier to do this with Twitter than it is with Facebook even. I would go so far as to say that I have weaned myself off Facebook by using Twitter. Facebook is so massive that anything I post can easily be lost or passed over. With Twitter though, it’s more immediate. When I look at someone’s tweet I think, “I have to reply to this now before other tweets push it to the bottom of the page and I lose it.” So when there is something that even mildly interests me, I feel the need to reply or comment on it immediately before I lose it. With Facebook, I feel like I have more time to come back and reply to it, and I usually end up forgetting about what I even wanted to comment on in the first place.

What I’ve come to like most about Twitter is how news is communicated. I can get a really brief summary of an article, and if I’m interested the link is right there for me. It’s convenient and a lot of content can be posted this way. Photos can also be posted, which sometimes makes me more interested to learn more about the subject. It’s quick, it’s easy (it’s actually so easy that understanding the easiness of it becomes the hardest part of learning it), you get only the information you choose and it’s perfect for people with short attention spans. (That’s you America.)

Linking: legal or libel?

Most people of Generation Y are more than familiar with what links are on the internet. The reality is though, that most probably don’t even think about what links actually are and what they are doing let alone the legalities and ethics behind linking— they just click and go. But there are different types of linking that each have their own questions to consider, and James C. Foust explains them in his book Online Journalism: Principles and Practices of News for the Web.

Deep linking

Foust explains deep linking as linking to a page that is past the home page and farther into the website. For example, instead of linking to an online store’s home page, one might link directly to a specific product. He says this type of linking causes websites to lose clicks because instead of starting at the home page, then clicking a broad category, then a more specific category and finally clicking on what the user actually wants to look at, the user is taken directly to the page they wanted to go to. In my opinion, deep linking is more convenient for the user. For example, if I wanted the readers of this blog to know more about me and my background, it would be easier for me to link them directly to my “About” section than it would be to link them to my home page where they would have to navigate to it themselves.

Inline linking

From my understanding of Foust, inline linking is mostly associated with image linking. If you put an image on your page that is taken from another page it is called inline linking. The problem that it creates is that people can pull images directly from the originally web page (which is bad) instead of saving them and then posting them.  Here is an example:

I saved this image of the Empire State Buidling to my computer before uploading it. It has creative commons licensing.

Associative linking

Watch what kind of links you put on your page because according to Foust, associative linking can cause some issues. He says associative linking is when the types of links on one page can affect the reputation of other links on that page. For example, in a story about the price of tuition at Minnesota universities I might write, “Minnesota State University, Mankato has seen an increase in the cost of tuition. The chancellor of Minnesota State Colleges and Universities said the rise in tuition is due to the changing economy.” Readers are going to assume these two institutions are related, which in this case they are. But in other instances where a few different topics might be discussed, it’s important to pay attention to what relationships your links are creating.

Illegal linking

Linking to illegal sites or ones with questionable ethics or morals can cause big issues. Just don’t do it.

Links can further understanding

Linking to other web sites gives users the opportunity to get more information. This is useful when a writer is using terms or talking about historical events that many people might know, but some might not and others might like to be reminded of what they are. An example of this would be if I were writing an article about President Obama and the topics he said he planned to tackle when he gave his inaugural address, I could add in a link of the video of him giving the address so users could see for themselves what he actually said instead of me just listing things. Another example is something I’ve already done in this post. In my first sentence I mentioned Generation Y. Some people might already know what Generation Y is so they would be less interested to read a long explanation of what it is. By linking to a page with a definition of what it is, everyone is happy. Users who know what it is aren’t bogged down and users who don’t know what it is have easy access to a definition.

Do your research

The dangers are that a writer can link to anything. If a writer isn’t doing their research they can easily link to information that is inaccurate. If I wasn’t really paying attention to my research, my first sentence could have gone like this, “Most people of Generation Y are more than familiar with what links are on the internet.” That link is to a blog about people whose names start with Y. That would give users a completely different definition than what I intended. Links should be to reputable websites with information the writer has checked to make sure it is accurate. The link also shouldn’t pose any type of legal or ethical issues because that will draw attention away from the story and instead people will focus on the controversy of the link.

Advice for linking

My best advice when linking is to do a lot of research. Be sure that you are prepared to associate yourself with the web pages you are linking to. If you do a good job, most people won’t really think twice about how or why you chose a link, yet if you do a poor job you will be scrutinized for your choices. The more research you do the more respectable your story will be. Make sure to do research on both the content of the web page and the legalities of linking to that page. Also, be sure to ask yourself if what you’re linking to is an ethical choice. You want to remain neutral in your work, so don’t link to a page that’s going to put a certain spin on your story. In short— pay attention and be smart!

Social media and new technologies: keeping you instantly outdated

 

From an industry standpoint, the videos Did You Know 3.0 and Social Media Revolution 2011 proved that I’m likely to have job security, even if it isn’t necessarily at the same job. Social media is not going away, so if I’m able to keep up-to-date (somehow) with it, I’ll likely be an asset to any company. The downside is that it’s almost impossible to keep up-to-date. In Did You Know it said we are currently preparing students for jobs that don’t exist where they will be using technologies that haven’t been invented yet. It’s statements like those that make me wonder how anyone is supposed to stay on top of everything new that comes along. People are just like technology these days: instantly outdated.

 

I also realized the advantages I have over people who were starting their careers even just 15 years ago. I have an endless supply of information on the internet, and because I grew up with the internet around me I know how to use it to my advantage. Using a book to look something up doesn’t even register to me as an option unless I’ve exhausted all internet resources I can think of (or if something on Google tells me to check out a book). I’m positive that I can do more research with online tools in an hour than someone 15 years ago could do all day in a library or out in the field. And it’s easy. I don’t even have to get out of bed to do intense research if I don’t want to, which is something amazing that I will probably always take for granted.

The statistic I found most alarming was that because of the rapidly increasing amount of new technical information that is being created, half of what people earning a four-year degree learn in their first year will be outdated by their third year of study. I’m in my fifth year, so apparently many of the things I learned in my freshman and sophomore years are already outdated. That’s terrifying news when I’m edging so close to the “real world.” But what this information really told me is that I’ll be learning new things for the rest of my life. College can’t teach me the things I’ll need to know for my future job because those things probably haven’t even been invented yet. I think that’s a pretty wild thought.

 

Another point I wanted to look at was the mood difference between the two videos. The Did You Know presentation was accompanied with daunting music that made new technologies and social media seem like a burden that was ruining people and their connections with one another. The Social Media Revolution clip had a much more uplifting soundtrack that made me feel like social media was bringing hope and building better relationships in the world. I think it’s important to realize the impact those different messages could have one people. If someone watched one video and not the other they might choose to view new technologies in a bad light, which would ultimately impact their use of those tools in society. Just a simple YouTube video can make that big of an impact. And to think, 10 years ago I couldn’t even type 70 wpm.