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Listen, Learn, and Leverage: Lessons from UC Social Media Week

Spend ten minutes on Tinder and you’ll get a great sampling of the variety of reasons for which people use social media. While some people are on Tinder looking for love, others are looking for something… a little more transient. The same is true of Facebook. If your feed looks anything like mine, it’s not uncommon to see an in depth post that explores a complex social or political issue, followed by a “6 ways to do this one thing better” type article… followed by a cat video. And while it’s difficult to argue whether any of these uses of social media is inherently right or wrong, they draw attention to the diverse nature of the subject matter that users feel inclined to post on social media.

So, what is the “right” way to use social media, then? The answer is a matter of opinion.  Just like Tinder, people use Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for a variety of reasons. While some people use Facebook strictly to keep in touch with friends, others use it to annotate important life events (or to document the minutia of their daily lives… “I just made toast, yum!”) Still others use social media as a tool for education and activism. The list goes on.

Still, while most of us use social media on a daily basis, many students lack awareness of its varied uses and potential. Sure, most of us know the basics (don’t post anything you wouldn’t want grandma to see), but what else do we need to know about social media?

(Image credit: UC Social Media Week)


That’s where UC Social Media Week comes in. Organized by fourth year student Alana Frew, UC Social Media Week was created as a local extension of global Social Media Week – a worldwide conference intended to share “the best ideas, innovations and insights into how social media and technology are changing business, society and culture around the world.” Touting the slogan: “Listen, Learn, and Leverage,” the purpose of UC Social Media Week was to encourage students to engage with social media in a positive way and to teach students how to leverage social media to make a greater impact. UC SMW featured over 25 events with titles like “Who Gives a Tweet? Social Media Basics,” “Get Social, Get Savvy, Get Hired” and “Influencing in 140 Characters.”

So, while Social Media Week may be over, it’s not too late to reap its benefits. Below, we’ve included seven important takeaways on how to make the most of social media.

1.       Know your purpose. The first step to using social media effectively is no know your purpose and to post intentionally. If you view social media as a forum for sharing funny GIF’s and clickbait, then by all means, keep posting those cat videos! But if you intend to use social media to create social awareness or to promote a certain personal brand, it would be wise to give careful consideration to what you’re posting and how it relates to your personal values.

2.       Pick a medium. Today there are more social media outlets than ever, and each of them serves a specific function. Want to showcase your creative talent? Try Instagram. Prefer words? Twitter might be the outlet for you. By carefully choosing where to post you content, you can better ensure that its meaning will resonate with your audience.

3.       Be authentic. According to Social Media Activism panelist and founder of Students Against Injustice, Alexander Shelton, your online presence should mirror who you are in real life. When it comes to social media, both what you post and how you post it are important. Although it’s tempting to acknowledge a post with a simple “like”, it’s much more powerful to write something meaningful about how the post affected you.

4.       Know your audience. According to UC Public Safety, 93% of employers review a candidate’s social media accounts when considering them for a job. So while you may have intended a post to be seen only by your friends, it is very possible that potential employers can see that post as well. Along these same lines, make sure to consistently update your privacy settings.

5.       Be respectful. Although many of us have friends that share our values, there are always going to be people on our friend list whose values differ from ours. It is important to keep this in mind while posting or sharing articles. While you have a right to an opinion, others also have a right to respect and fair treatment. So while I am not suggesting that you refrain from posting any strong opinions (although that may sometimes be advisable) I would challenge you to consider how your post or tweet will be perceived by an audience at large.

6.       Use the “Rule of Thirds.” According to Social Media Activism panel leader, Kara Driscoll, the best way to engage an audience via social media is to use the Rule or Thirds – meaning that you should rotate your activity between original content, shared content and engagement with content posted by others. By using this strategy, you can help ensure that your audience doesn’t get burnt out by a flood of similar posts.

7.       Know when to engage and when to disengage. Although it’s great to use social media to voice your opinions, you have to remember that not everyone is always going to agree with you. In the words of fourth year criminal justice major and Social Media Activism panelist,  David Schmutte, “You aren’t going to win every battle, so don’t try to.” If you are 130 comments deep in an argument about governmental fiscal policy, it’s likely that you’re not going to change that person’s mind. It is important to be able to discern when to step back from a situation and disengage.

Whether you are using it personally or professionally, social media can be a powerful tool. So whether you believe that social media should be a tool of social activism, or a tool for connectivity, hopefully these tips can allow you to use it more effectively.

For more information on UC Social Media Week, check out #UCSMW15. And of course, find them on Facebook!

Sources: About – Social Media Week. (2015, January 1). Retrieved February 27, 2015, from http://socialmediaweek.org/about/

Shannon is a fifth year studying Organizational Leadership at the University of Cincinnati.
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