Room to Improve, No Matter What Age

Social media hit the scene at the end of the 1990s with a website called Six Degrees; a site where users could create a profile and then connect with others. The reason I mention this is to emphasize the little amount of time that social media has actually existed.

I constantly hear friends and family joke about how their parents and grandparents aren’t able to figure out how to perform simple tasks on their cell phones, email, social media profiles, etc. It’s hilarious, but I often forget that they didn’t grow up with this kind of technology. Tools like social media can appear very complex and confusing, making it intimidating for those who don’t consider themselves tech-savvy.

Nevertheless, as time has passed, older generations have begun to adapt to the technology leap. Today, we are witnessing various social media platforms experience a major shift in its user’s age demographic.

Believe it or not, the most widely-used social media platform in the United States is not Facebook. What? Yes. According to the Pew Research Center, a 2018 study revealed that YouTube holds the title for most popular platform. It’s used by 73% of U.S. adults and has broad consistency in usage across demographic groups.

As you can see from the chart above, without the competition of YouTube, Facebook experiences the most amount of usage among all age demographics. Although, another recent study from the Pew Research Center reported that teenagers have abandoned Facebook in favor of other social media platforms.

So, why exactly is the younger generation moving away from Facebook? Well, some users believe that “parents killed it,” while others just believe that a new and improved platform will eventually come along and take over.

This got me thinking, what might Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg be doing to prepare for such an event? Will the large membership loss sink his company? Let’s just say that all members 35 and younger chose to delete their Facebook accounts, would the middle to older generation be able to support the company enough to continue running? Zuckerberg must realize that most of the older generation created personal profiles primarily as a way to stay connected with their children and others.

If I were a part of Zuckerberg’s communications department, I would possibly recommend conducting multiple focus groups with a variety of younger generation social media user to gain a better idea of what Facebook could be doing better to improve their experience. Also, considering what was quoted earlier, I might brainstorm some ideas as to how Facebook as a platform could enhance its services (upgrade) so that it would be more difficult for another platform to “take over” Facebook.

It’s wonderful to see an enhanced social media/technology aptitude improvement in the older generation as time goes on. It also warms my heart when I see a younger member in the community actively and patiently assisting those who struggle, as I firmly believe that humans are meant to teach and help others improve no matter what age they are.


Be the Change You Want to See in the World: You Are Not Invisible

As you may have already discovered, a 16-year-old Swedish girl, Greta Thunberg, has taken climate change activism to a whole new level. Her journey to becoming a prominent figured began in August 2018 when she started the first school strike for climate change outside of her local Swedish parliament building.

Thunberg has made an appearance on TEDxStockholm, the United Nations Climate Change Conference and the World Economic Forum at Davos. Needless to say, she has built up quite a following and remains active and relevant. As of early March 2019, Thunberg has 233,000 followers on Twitter, 261,049 on Facebook and has developed a #FridaysforFuture movement.

This movement has inspired kids in dozens of countries to demand action on climate change. In result, thousands of young climate change activists around the world have refused to go to school in recent weeks, and more strikes are planned, including a worldwide strike on March 15.

Writer, Somini Sengupta recently published an article, Becoming Greta: “Invisible Girl” to Global Climate Activist, with Bumps Along the Way, in The New York Times detailing Thunberg’s journey to becoming one of the most well-known environmental child activists in the world.

Sengupta shares a quote by Thunberg offering an explanation to the title of the article. “All my life I’ve been invisible, the invisible girl in the back who doesn’t say anything. From one day to another, people listen to me. That’s a weird contrast. It’s hard.”

(Photo: Svante Thunberg/Twitter)

Although Thunberg experiences social anxiety, she has pushed through this fear and established an active appearance worldwide through social media and public appearances. Her ambition and passion for the environment has given her the attention and visibility she longed for.

Her personality is known for being quite wry, blunt and sometimes very sarcastic. This catches many people by surprise, but I believe it helps grab their attention and take her seriously. For example, Prime Minister Theresa May’s office dismissed school walkouts in Britain as a distraction that “wastes lesson time.” Thunberg was quick to strike back with a tweet saying, “But then again, political leaders have wasted 30 yrs of inaction. And that is slightly worse.”

Like anyone who may be in the public’s eye, Thunberg has had to become very careful about everything she does. She curates her social media carefully, highlighting all personal supportive environmental acts. Unfortunately, sometimes her public role brings unwelcomed attention. A picture surfaces of Thunberg on a train, eating a plastic-wrapped sandwich.

I personally think that Thunberg has initiated something really incredible, not only in a short period of time but at a very young age. She shows no sign of backing down from the fight between politicians and climate change improvements, and her following is growing more and more each day.

Let your voice be heard. The time to take action is now. Climate change is real, it’s a serious issue and it’ll only get worse if we don’t act now.

If you’re interested in joining the movement and participating in the March 15 strike, as well as future strikes, visit the official #FridaysforFuture website. Also, be sure to check out Thunberg’s active Twitter page for consistently updated information.

Students demonstrate during a ‘Youth For Climate’ strike urging pupils to skip classes to protest a lack of climate awareness in Lausanne, Switzerland, Friday, Jan. 18, 2019.

Coming to Terms with the New Terminology

For this week’s blog, I thought an interesting subject to write about would be the extensive glossary of social media terminology that exists today. I personally wouldn’t mind a refresher, and I’m certain that many newer social media users might appreciate the breakdown!

As social media evolved, the new communications tool has ultimately allowed users to create something of a new language over the years. Many new words, confusing acronyms, lots of jargons and of course the emoji. For those who grew up with social media, this terminology may feel very basic, but as I mentioned before, those who are new (or are actively learning the platforms) may find that this blog showcases words they’ve never heard of before!

There are hundreds, if not thousands of social media definitions in existence, so for the sake of maintaining this blog’s light-read consistency, I’m just going to list a few (25) must-know terms that I believe will assist in the confusing new language. The majority of the following list of terms and definitions were written by Meg Carpenter and can be found on the site talkwalker.

AIArtificial Intelligence refers to intelligence exhibited by machines, i.e., cognitive functions that we associate with human minds.

Alerts – Notifications that are sent to your device to alert/keep you up to date on

AMAAsk Me Anything

DM – A Direct Message is a message that is sent directly/privately to another user.

Emoji – A small digital image or icon used to express an idea, emotion, etc.

F2F or P2P – Face to Face / Person to Person

Feed/Gallery/Album – A collection of images posted in your profile.

Filters – A photo editing tool that allows you to either use standard, preexisting filters and/or adjust exposure, color balance, contrast, and different frames. There is also a manual editing feature.

Follower – Similar to a fan relationship or a Twitter follow, followers are allowed to see posts without having the relationship approved.

Friend – A connection between two personal profiles.

FOMOFear of Missing Out

Handle – Your @username on Twitter (e.g. @ElyssaDziwak)

Hashtag – (#) Hashtags are used in front of words or short phrases to provide context, and allows users to connect with others and find images based on a common word. Using hashtags to categorize information, makes it easier for users to find.

ICYMIIn Case You Missed It

Influencer – A social media user who has the potential to reach a relevant audience, large or small, and create awareness about a trend, topic, brand, or product.

Like – A button that users press to show that they like that particular piece of content.

News Feed – Updates influenced by your friends, groups, subscribed pages and activity.

Post/Tweet – On Twitter, the content you upload and share is called a “tweet.” Everywhere else it’s called a post. Reactions – An extension of the Like button for expressing emotions: Like, Love, Haha, Wow, Sad and Angry.

Share – This is your goal when you’re using social media – to spread your thoughts, message, products, brand awareness, and company voice with users.

Social Networking – Socializing in an online community.

Tag – Tagging is a social media functionality, most often used on Facebook and Instagram. It lets users link back to the profile of the person/organization shown in the photo or targeted by the update.

Thread – Beginning with an original post, a thread is the conversation and comments that follow.

Traffic – Visitors to your website.

Trending Topic (or just “Trending”) – The most talked about topics and hashtags on social media.

Viral – When a piece of content achieves noteworthy awareness and spreads like wildfire all over the internet.

There are so many more definitions related to social media that exist, but this lengthy list touches upon some of the most commonly used phrases and acronyms.

For personal use, knowing this type of terminology isn’t required but it sure does help clear some confusion when scrolling through feeds. For businesses, online self-image and professionality, staying up-to-date with information such as this is required in order to survive in a communications-based field.

How to Cut Back on Screen Time: Top 4 Recommendations

Illustration: Bryan Mayes for the Observer

There is not a formal clinical diagnosis for social media addiction, but I think it’s fair to say that many people spend way too much time on social media and may at the very least describe themselves as being “obsessed”, if not addicted.

The term Nomophobia or “NO MObile PHOne phoBIA,” however, can and has been diagnosed to hundreds if not thousands of people worldwide. The question is, why are cell phones so addicting? The short answer is that the addiction is fueled by the wave of notifications sent from social media platforms you’re involved with.

I would like to list a couple of key actions that I believe will significantly help cut back on your screen time and hopefully lead to a greater awareness of life without constant connection.

1. Turn off the notifications on your phone.

As I mentioned earlier, one of the biggest reasons why people are addicted to their phones in the first place is caused by the excessive amount of notifications that they are alerted with each day. By disabling this option, you are removing a significant distraction that will, therefore, allow you to live in the moment without interruption (well, at least phone interruptions).

2. Track your usage.

Seeing that you’ve spent almost 35 hours of your life staring at your phone in just one week can feel like a slap on the face. My iPhone has a built feature that tracks the amount of time I spend on my phone and gives me a weekly report.

This feature not only tells me the total hours I’ve spent looking on my phone, but also provides a breakdown of which apps I use the most (no surprise that Facebook’s number one), how much time I’ve spent on each app, how many times I picked up my phone each day, and how many notifications I’ve received per day. There are also apps you can download, like Moment, that will provide you with similar reports to the ones that Apple offers.

3. Create a no-phone sleeping arrangement.

I understand for many people their job sometimes revolves around their phone which makes it feel impossible to walk away for a couple of hours or even minutes. This suggestion is one of the more challenging tasks but it’s vital towards your health and you’ll be surprised how much more sleep you’ll get each night! If you use your phone as an alarm, it may be time to revert back to an old-fashioned alarm clock.

4. Check with purpose.

Most of us wander onto social media aimlessly especially when we’re bored. To cut back, set a higher bar for logging on. Ask yourself, “Do I have a specific, positive reason for this?” If you can’t come up with one, try to resist the urge and do something that will boost your mood, like diving into an engaging book or calling a friend! (I didn’t say you could spend any time on the phone!)

I believe that these four suggested tasks will allow anyone, with or without nomophobia, to improve their current state of screen time awareness and ultimately an improvement to their lifestyle! I invite you to watch the following video as Simon Sinek does a great job describing the effects of social media/phone over-usage (especially in millennials).

Top 5 Tips to Becoming a Successful Social Media Influencer

Have you ever considered becoming a social media influencer? What exactly is a social media influencer?

Pixlee defines social media influencers as a user on social media who has established credibility in a specific industry. A social media influencer has access to a large audience and can persuade others by virtue of their authenticity and reach. Do you fit within this category?

If not, that’s okay! You may not have that large fan-base quite yet but the social media influencer realm is right at your fingertips; literally! Keep in mind becoming a social media influencer doesn’t happen overnight. Entering the field requires a ton of patience, persistence and motivation, but once you break through the beginning barriers you will be well on your way to popularity and collecting a decent income!

According to Nicole Sellars from, there are five tips you need to achieve in order to become a successful social media influencer:

1. Pick a niche

Pick a topic you’re passionate about! If you’re someone like Marlene McCohen, an influencer known for her love of parrots, you can expect that she would consider parrot caretaking and pet ownership to be one of her number one passions! Also, besides finding a topic you’re passionate about, pick something unique. Like any talent, the best way to become noticed is to somehow set yourself apart from everyone else.

2. Produce valuable content

Content is key! There are two buckets that influencer content falls under: entertainment and utilitarian. Ask yourself, based on your topic and personality, if your followers would be more entertained by you or if they can learn something valuable from you.

Consider which platform you would like to dominate. Currently, YouTube and Instagram are the most popular social media platforms, and they generate the most interest from brands looking for influencers. This could change over time as the ever-changing world of social media platforms grows, but for now it’s suggested that you pick at least one major platform to flaunt your captivating content!

3. Be engaging

Would you agree that most online content is viewed by users in their free time primarily because it’s entertaining? Of course! First, if you’re producing content that appears unfinished and/or subpar to similar influencers, then you’re chances of keeping your audience engaged are slim. Secondly, most social media influencers create their success by going outside of the box. This relates back to number one. Finding a new innovative way of showcasing your work will keep your audience not only engaged but excited!

4. Be consistent

Find an angle, and if the majority response is positive, stick with it! Not everyone likes to admit it but people like consistency! The more consistent you are with your content, the better your chances are to keeping a consistent following.

5. Be a part of the conversation

You know how you often find influencers inviting other influencers to appear of their shows and vice versa? Well, there’s a reason for that. The two influencers may actually be acquainted in “real life,” but their invites don’t come without intention. Each influencer, often influencers sharing similar topics (or niches), agree to promote the other influencer in their content in some way. Ultimately, “being a part of the conversation” means getting your name and content out there. This could vary by scale depending on whether you’d like to be a micro or macro influencer, but either way, your name needs to be recognizable.

Social Media Today created a fantastic infographic that visually encapsulates the evolution of influencers!

Now that you know some key tips to become a successful social media influencer, do you feel like you’ve got what it takes? The tips are the road map. Patience, persistence and some serious self-driven motivation are what will get you to the finish line!

Why the Polar Vortex Split is causing Americans to feel #donewithwinter

No matter where you live right now in the United States, you’re most likely dealing with some pretty dramatic weather. Or at least more dramatic than you’re used to! Social media has been talking up a storm (there I go again with the puns) about the polar vortex fragmentation, causing intense weather shifts all over North America and other areas of the world. For the sake of this blog, I’m going to focus on the US.

As we all know, social media is an easy outlet to share our thoughts, opinions and events going on in our lives. The creation of hashtag (pound sign – #) has become a popular communications tool that social media users use to connect and create an inner circle of people interested in a particular topic/event. When Chris Messina, a social technology expert, first came up with the hashtag idea and made his first post on Twitter utilizing it back in August of 2007 he was uncertain whether or not hashtags would become popular.

Today, hashtags are used in millions of posts every single day, which leads me to a popular one going around right now. Due to the drastic climate changes, the hashtag “#donewithwinter” is very popular right now.

On AccuWeather, I found a recently posted news article based off of a WGN Morning News in Chicago story covered just a couple days earlier. The story titled, “Woman’s profane reaction to brutal winter leaves news anchors chuckling — and it probably will leave you laughing, too,” was created as a light-hearted story for viewers to relate to, which it does, but it also depicts the intense weather conditions that Americans in large parts of the US are experiencing.

And although this news story did not create #donewithwinter, as it has been used since before 2015, WGN Morning News in Chicago most likely chose to connect this popular hashtag to its news story due to its relevance, as well as, to reach a larger audience.

The following post was tweeted back in late March of 2018 by @capitalweather, which features a great visual representation of what a vortex split looks like:

Media coverage, such as Judy Ross’s story, is valuable news not only because it showcases a sweet story, but it also sheds light on a serious environmental topic. The cause of the polar vortex? Global warming.

According to Dr. Amy Butler, an atmospheric scientist specializing in stratospheric warming at the University of Colorado’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, “despite the magnitude of this warming, these events aren’t unusual, typically occurring at least once every other cold season.” Unfortunately, we have now experienced this vortex split two years in a row.

The ongoing global warming controversy continues to be debated between politicians and environmentalist, which drive the conversation to media channels; especially social media.

Paying it Forward, Paying it Back

On December 1, 2015, Mark Zuckerberg wrote a heartfelt letter to his newborn daughter, Max. His letter entailed an on-going initiative, pledging that he and his wife, Priscilla Chan, would donate 99 percent of their current Facebook shares (around $45 billion in total) to charity. This news sparked lots of attention and applause from the public, but the initiative also sparked some backlash.

The public was made aware that the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative was formed as a Limited Liability Company (LLC) rather than a nonprofit, meaning that the organization is not subjected to the same spending restrictions that nonprofits are. On December 3, 2015 Zuckerberg made a post to reassure his critics that he had not founded the organization to give his own family a tax break:

Zuckerberg has made an effort to keep the public in-the-know about where the money is being donated. On Friday, August 19, 2016, Zuckerberg and Chan took the first step in making good on this promise by selling 767,905 shares of Facebook stock previously donated to the CZI. The shares were worth approximately $95 million.

On the Initiatives main website, under newsroom, the page showcases stories of where donations have been distributed. For example, in November 2018, CZI provided a 3 to 1 match for donations to the North Valley Community Foundation — up to a total initiative donation of $750,000. In a recent example (February 7, 2019), the initiative announced a $1.6 million grant to Valor Collegiate Academies based in Nashville, Tennessee.

I believe that Zuckerberg and Chan are ultimately doing something good for the community and the planet. Even though his organization is not a nonprofit organization, at least he is using his substantial wealth to invest in making the world a better place.

“I often say inside the company that my goal was never to just create a company. A lot of people have been misinterpreting that as if I don’t care about revenue or profit or any of those things. That’s not actually it at all. You need to do those things to succeed in any meaningful way. Building a good economic engine is what allows all these other platform companies and advertisers and other partners to exist, and be a part of this ecosystem. Ultimately what not being just a company means to me, is just not being just that—building something that actually makes a really big change in the world.” – Mark Zuckerberg

Ethics or Reckless? Are you monitoring what you post?

Transparency, anonymity and respecting others are the golden rules that public relations professionals like to emphasize when dealing with social media ethics. It’s very easy to get carried away and stretch the truth, or flat out lie, but like all things in life there are consequences to unethical behavior.

To really understand social media ethics, it’s important to understand what the term “ethics” actually means. Countless definitions exist, but the Oxford Dictionary defines it as “moral principles that govern a person’s behavior or the conducting of an activity.” How might this apply to social media? Well, a person’s behavior (and sometimes their morals) are consistently displayed on social media. Since social media is designed for users to voluntarily share their thoughts, feelings and personal lives to their followers, it’s difficult to find a case where some form of ethical conduct is not present.

According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), the ASHA Code of Ethics (2016) states that under some circumstances, inappropriate use of social media could lead to an ethical violation under this code. This code is not considered a civility code, but rather a guideline for professionals in support of day-to-day decision-making related to professional conduct. So, although this code may not be “official” in the sense of being written into law, it does provide legitimate precautionary advice that could result in avoiding legal misuse/mistakes. Two important professional proscriptions that are written into this code are: breach of confidentiality and avoiding misrepresentation.

Breaching confidentiality is not only unprofessional but, in the case of a business, it can damage an organization’s overall image. Posting personal details about a client, employee or anyone else online, no matter how seemingly insignificant, could result in legal ramifications and should be avoided, not only for legal reasons but because it is breaking an ethical obligation.

Avoiding misrepresentation, specifically in the promotion of services or products and listing of credentials, can be very tricky since some violate this code unintentionally. ASHA gives a great example of this: say “an audiologist in a metropolitan area ear, nose, and throat (ENT) practice promotes his practice by posting [on social media], ‘Highest qualified practitioner in the area!’ This post violates the code because no basis exists for the statement and it is misleading to the public.” Although this audiologist was simply trying to promote his practice by posting about it, he broke the code of ethics by making a suggestion which has no proof, and is therefore misleading and unethical.

Determining what is ethical and what isn’t can be really difficult, especially since not everyone always agrees on what is and isn’t ethical. A good ethical (and life) suggestion to consider, is that if you wouldn’t feel comfortable saying it to a person’s face, then it’s probably best not to post it.

Social Media for the Voiceless

I am a big animal lover. Not only to house pets but all animals. In the case of house pets, though, I have grown up and opened my heart and home to more pets than I can count on both of my hands. Having a pet in the house and a part of the family has always felt normal, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. That is why I am so grateful for nonprofit organizations such as The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) whose members work their tails off (see what I did there) to support and protect thousands of innocent lives.

The nonprofit was first founded in November 1954 and has been serving the nation for 65 years! Within those years, the organization has grown immensely, and its charitable work has gained a great deal of popularity. As society adjusted to the world of social media, the organization also began incorporating social media into its campaigns; this began in 2006. Now, nearly five percent of all online donations to HSUS are given through social media platforms. Since the nonprofit adapted early to social media, they have a very active following on Twitter, Instagram and other social media platforms, but Facebook has been its greatest benefactor. To give perspective, in 2013 it was reported that donations through Facebook alone averaged around $200,000 per year.

The HSUS mission statement was written with an emphasis on celebrating animals and confronting cruelty; it signifies everything that they believe in as a nonprofit organization. These are key points written in the mission statement defining what HSUS works to do:

  • Provide direct care, rescue and services for animals in crisis.
  • Pass local, state and federal laws to protect animals.
  • Make sure existing laws are properly enforced.
  • Help the biggest corporations reform their animal welfare policies.
  • Shape public opinion on animal cruelty through our awareness campaigns and investigations.

More than 100,000 animals are provided care each year because of HSUS and affiliates. Through sanctuaries, veterinary programs, emergency shelters and rescues, that all would not have been possible without the many organization workers, volunteers and donors. Cases like this shed great light on the impact that social media can have when helping an organization like HSUS receive the support it needs to flourish. Social media gave a voice to an organization who speaks for the voiceless.

The Top 7 Pieces to your Social Media Puzzle


What might be considered the number one thing a business needs in order to succeed? A consumer population. Fortunately for most businesses, there are many individuals out there that are happy and willing to consume all sorts of different products and services, but how might businesses enhance their outreach to a whole new generation of consumers? Social media is relatively new to the marketing scene, and business professionals are still learning to use it effectively. One thing is for certain, social media has proven to bring great benefits for businesses. According to Sendible Insights, here are the top seven social media benefits for any business:

  1. Social media is free to use

It’s free. What more needs to be said? But in all seriousness, saving money and utilizing a proven, effective tool is an absolute must when trying to run a business. Yes, social media can involve costs if you choose to run advertisement/promotions, but other than that, there’s not much of a financial obligation tied to social media platforms. You can drive and demonstrate success through social media organically, provided you know your tactics.

2. It helps shape the personality of a brand

Television commercials, print advertisements and so on can be so impersonal; social media is interactive. It gives people an array of media options to share their personality and purpose. You can post images or videos demonstrating effective use of said brand, or share comments, such as testimonials written by buyers who have thoroughly enjoyed your brand/service. A business could run statistical data through social media in order to figure what product/service they’re providing is actually meeting equilibrium vs. what isn’t doing much for the company or consumer. The options are endless.

3. It’s both, in the present and the future

The chances of social media platforms disappearing anytime soon aren’t unlikely. The growing number of users it receives on a daily basis is evidence enough that we will most likely see these platforms in the far future. Sure, they may take on a different appearance as technology grows, but the basis will still essentially be the same. There is simply no other medium that will enable you to reach this many people.

4. You can participate in two-way conversations

Effectively reaching and conversing with an audience that normally is not easily reachable is a great advantage to any business. Being present and active on social media gives you the perk of controlling conversations about your brand, to a degree, but reaching out and participating in the conversation.

5. It’s the softest conversion point you have

A soft conversion meaning that you can ask people on social media to engage in conversation without making them feel pressured to be completely involved, for example, signing up for a newsletter with their email address.

6. Search ranking and SEO boost

Search-Engine Optimization (SEO): the more involvement on the internet, such as using multiple social media platforms, the more likely someone will stumble upon your business when using search engines.

7. It will become a stable source of referral traffic

It may take time for your social media to grow, depending on how popular your business is and how often you create content, but as you gain produce more content and gain followers, you’ll experience more referral traffic coming to your website from social media.

Yes, staying up-to-date with social media can be a hefty responsibility, since there are so many pieces to this very large social media puzzle, but professionals like strategic PR teams are great tools when needing to cover all the bases. Monitoring conversations, creating content to lead the conversation, it’s all important. That’s why nearly all PR professionals now make social media a primary part of their communication plans.

The social media puzzle may seem complicated at times, but piece by piece it begins to come together and really make an effective difference. The more you add to it, the better it gets.