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Corporate communications + Public Relations Adelaide

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June 2013

What the Facebook crowd needs to know about hashtags

Big news in the social media world today, is that Facebook will begin making hashtags clickable and searchable within Facebook (eg useful).

I’ve written about hashtags in a few previous posts (Hashtags can mean business and Hashtag champions to name two) and don’t want to rehash the detail of how they work now (geddit?)

For those Facebook users who have never ventured into Twitter, or used hashtags in another platform like Instagram or Tumblr, I want to point out one of the great side effects of hashtags that might blow your mind:

Hashtags unite you with people you didn’t even know existed.

That kind of flips Facebook on its head.

In Facebook, we generally connect with people we know – real life friends, family, colleagues. Granted, some FB users connect with thousands of people including some they have not met in real life, I know. But broadly, many Facebook users have between 200 and 300 friends and they’re people we actually have met.

Facebook hashtags are coming!
Facebook hashtags are coming!

Twitter is my favourite platform because it doesn’t work like that. You can meet new people. And one of the ways to find those new people is through hashtags.

For example, I found a cool coterie of people who were fans of The Good Wife like me, because they used #goodwife on Twitter to discuss the show while it was airing in Australia.

I can find people in South Australia who are into food by searching the hashtag #SAfood on Twitter.

I can find South Australians into political discussion by searching and reading the #Saparli hashtag on Twitter.

Again, hashtags unearth people you may not have known were online – people potentially interested in the same things you are, potentially your next best friend, customer, client or partner. And this is on its way to Facebook.

They’re pretty amazing and I’m looking forward to seeing how they appear in Facebook feeds and search. We won’t all have the hashtag capability tomorrow (in terms of being able to click them and be linked to search results) as they’re rolling out gradually. #buttheyreontheirway

Shrinking newsrooms: 4 stories this week

Stories about shrinking newsrooms and more people turning to social media to find breaking stories aren’t new.

But I came across four articles this week (via my social networks) which struck me as being a) a bit sad b) a bit alarming but c) not too surprising.

Those pieces began with More bad news for Fairfax as MMP axes seven titles. The article reported that “Thirty-two employees will lose their jobs at the part-Fairfax-owned Metro Media Publishing after the suburban newspaper company announced an unprecedented closure of seven Melbourne mastheads this morning.”

Crikey article, 4 June 2013
Crikey article, 4 June 2013

Then I read  Could iPhones replace news photographers? The Chicago Sun-Times thinks so which reported the following in relation to the Chicago Sun-Times:

“ … last week the paper did something unimaginable: it laid off its entire staff of 28 full-time photographers. While it’s no secret newspapers across the country are struggling to make ends meet, the move by Sun-Times goes beyond just budget cuts. Citing a need for more video content, the Sun-Times will utilize freelance photographers and require its reporters to shoot photos and videos for the stories they cover.”

The third piece –  this article yesterday via mumbrella: AAP restructure sees loss of 20-25 editorial jobs reported that “Newswire service the Australian Associated Press has announced a restructure that will see a 10 per cent cut across editorial and will result in the loss of 20-25 editorial jobs.”

The final article of my little reading collection was this post I read today:  When sources can go direct, do we need journalism less or do we need it more than ever?  It was a good piece, which discussed how people can use social media to obtain information ‘from the horse’s mouth’ and how politicians are using social networks as their broadcast tools.  The article said “ … politicians can now reach out to their supporters much more effectively by detouring around the traditional media”. However this may not be a disaster for journalism, according to the author:

“Looked at another way, however, this allows journalists of all kinds — both professional and amateur or “citizen” journalists — to move up the value chain”  because “it should free up a whole class of reporters to do more value-added journalism that explains what things mean, or questions the statements of politicians.”

What do you think?

Is it high time that we ditched traditional media outlets, knowing they have their own bias, weakness and drawbacks? Or do we need the Fourth Estate now more than ever, when misinformation, myth, ghost-tweeters and propaganda is so difficult to spot?

Lisa the Grate – social media and literacy

I had a girlhood crush on an older student called Lisa.

This was during my primary school years. Lisa seemed to have everything. She had lovely clothes and lots of ‘em. She changed her hairstyle regularly. She had many friends and was confident and happy and somewhat aggressive and loud. She had a cool big sister who went to high school.

But one day I had the chance to see a note that Lisa had handwritten. In it, she spelled ‘great’ as ‘grate’. And that was the end of my crush.

I was stunned. How could Lisa (a year older than me) have possibly spelt ‘great’ incorrectly?

Of course, I still see people – all sorts of people – misspelling words. I see poor grammar. (I know my grammar is not top notch and yet that doesn’t stop me from writing. I just cross fingers and hope my readers will bear it). I see misplaced apostrophes and lack of appropriate capitalisation and text speak and words run together like a long hashtag.

And I know, from my Lisa the Grate experience onwards, that it’s not social media’s fault.

Social media and reading aren't mutually exclusive
Social media and reading aren’t mutually exclusive

Yet I continue to hear others blame social media – and the internet age – for a decline in literacy standards and personal communication standards in general. To me, this seems like donning the perennial rose-coloured glasses. Were youngsters ever lauded for their spelling and speaking skills? (Not in the ‘children should be seen and not heard’ era, that’s for sure …)

To my mind, the popularity of social media supports the importance of literacy and spurs us on to communicate.

We’re encouraged to write, tweet, blog, share, post and read more than ever before.

You can’t turn on a TV or radio station without hearing someone ask for you to contribute your written opinion. “Tweet us”, “follow us” “tell us your thoughts and we’ll read them out on air”.

Emails are a more prevalent form of communication than an office catch up.

Many people would prefer to text rather than make a voice call.

This means we’re asked to write and to write and to write and to write. And we’re asked to read and to … you get the picture.

And no – that doesn’t mean we’re better spellers. But heck, we have more of a chance of absorbing sound writing conventions if we’re writing and reading more.

I was delighted, after doing an online search on this topic, to see Margaret Atwood support this concept. She’s one of my favourite authors. According to the article:

‘Thanks to the rise of the internet and of social media, “I would say that reading, as such, has increased. And reading and writing skills have probably increased because what all this texting and so forth replaced was the telephone conversation,” she continued. “People have to actually be able to read and write to use the internet, so it’s a great literacy driver if kids are given the tools and the incentive to learn the skills that allow them to access it”.’

Every day I’m served up thousands of tweets linking to thousands of articles. It actually gets a bit much. I know that I can read (and comment on) articles containing inspirational ideas, pondering the future, analysing news and just having some plain ol’ fun.

Ten years ago, I listened to a lot of music, read novels, watched free to air television, skimmed through the weekend newspapers and rented movies from the local Video Ezy. I certainly wasn’t fed a stream of content from around the world and many different voices. Today, I read and write more than ever before.

I’m also a member of  a Book Club that came together due to social media connections and thrives on social media. Our ‘Books in Pubs’ is made up of Twitter pals; we have a private Facebook Group where we discuss our reading; we use the #booksinpubs tag on Facebook and a lot of us use the Goodreads app to share our reading progress and reviews.

I can also follow some of my favourite authors – Margaret Atwood (again) on Twitter, and Lee Child on Facebook are two examples. Social media enables me to keep up with what they’re doing and interact and generates excitement for their new releases.

Meanwhile, I’m not sure how Lisa is faring.

Maybe her spelling has improved. I suspect it hasn’t. In which case, I’m glad I’m not her Facebook friend because I don’t think I would enjoy her status updates …

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