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Category Archives: Understanding Social Media

The Creative Side of SM

As social media gains popularity and businesses become more comfortable with the idea, the creative side of social media is emerging. I recently happened upon a couple unique ways of using social media. I’ll outline each of them for you here to see what you think of them, before I chime in with my thoughts in a couple days. Are these good ways of using social media? Are they using the appropriate tools? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each?

The ONC:

The ONC is actually a social networking site created for oncology nurses and other health care professionals working on cancer care teams. The ONC is meant to function as a forum where these groups can communicate and share ideas with one another. The site’s goal, as listed on their website, is “to support and connect oncology nurses, encourage knowledge sharing and optimize cancer care.” The site aims to get away from the top down mentality of gaining knowledge and encourage people to learn from their peers. This site includes blogs, message boards, videos, quizzes, a resource library, and a calendar of events.

KLM Royal Dutch Airline:



KLM Royal Dutch Airline, part of Air France KLM, will now allow airline passangers to choose their seatmate using their social networks. Still in the development process, this program will link to Facebook and LinkedIn. Opt in only, there is still a debate as to whether or not passangers would be required to accept seat pairings. This is not the first of the airlines to incorporate social networking sites into their travel experiences, but it is a bold proposal. The question is, is this something the airlines are doing to try to stay hip or is it something passangers actually want and will use?

So, what do you think? Are these productive uses of social media? Genious or overzealous? Let me know what you think!


I’ve Got Klout

It seems almost comical to claim to be able to understand the communication that occurs within an organization.  And to be honest, it probably is. The quantity and depth of communication that goes on within any organization and, even, in any single relationship is so vast that we have no hopes of understanding everything. However, we are able to use the tools of communication theories and metaphors to gain enough understanding to begin to impact the field. One such tool often used when studying organizational communication is metaphors which “operate at multiple levels of analysis to provide insights into how we understand organizational life” (Putnam, Phillips, & Chapman, 1996, p. 377).

One metaphor adopted by organizational communication scholars is the linkage metaphor. The linkage metaphor “treats organizations as networks or systems of interconnected individuals in which communication acts to connect by forming relational bonds; patterns of contacts and interconnectedness; global integration; and ties among work, home, and community” (Putnam et al., 1996, p. 379). As students looking to enter into the workplace, we’re most familiar with this idea in connection with the importance of networking. But this metaphor is also gaining a new spot of prominence in understanding social media, which embodies many of the characteristics of a linkage system as mentioned before.

Social media is an interesting phenomenon for communication scholars of today. One could argue that social media is drastically changing communication in a way that only few other things in history have ever done. For these other events in history that drastically changed communication, such as the invention of the printing press or mass media, communication studies was not an established academic discipline. Now, however, communication studies have gained a solid foothold on which to stand before social media began to shake that up. As social media evolves, communication scholars now have the unique ability to use theory, methods, a literature base, and metaphors to seek to understand this new addition to communication as it emerges and finds its place in our lives, both public and private.

The linkage metaphor, although created prior to the emergence of social media, is very helpful in understanding new communication media. The linkage metaphor can be used as a tool to gain understanding in how people gain participation and inclusion in a network. Putnam, Phillips, and Chapman  (1996) state that “the degree of participation or inclusion in networks stems from the presence or absence of a link, the amount of communication exchanged, the directionality of messages, and the kinds of content that flow through a link” (p. 382). I was recently introduced to a social media tool that, in essence, measures one’s degree of participation or inclusion using these various factors. This tool is called “Klout” and it uses social media to assign each person a dynamic “Klout Score”. Klout argues that this is important because social actions are a reflection of influence.

The Klout Score is a measure of influence based on one’s ability to drive action in social networks. The Klout Score is computed on a scale of one to 100, with the average score being around 20. Klout explains that influence is built over time, as it would be in person to person interactions. They also explain that being active is different than being influential, another concept that mirrors what would be true in person. In terms of the linkage network, one’s Klout score essentially shows their network role, or “the structural positions of individuals within a network” (Putnam et al., 1996, p. 382) and the density of the network, or the “ratio of actual contacts to the total number of possible linkages in the system” (Putnam et al., 1996, p. 383). The linkage network explains that density plays a key role in the likelihood of adopting new ideas or innovations.

The purpose of many businesses is to engage their customers in new ideas with them or to convince customers of the importance of new innovations. By understanding social media within the context of the linkage metaphor, we can begin to understand the importance of Klout. Although it may not be fair, with a Klout score of 46, what I have to say matters more than what most people have to say, considering the average Klout score. Therefore, an idea or innovation supported online by me has a higher likelihood to be adopted by others online than most people. That doesn’t mean I necessarily have better ideas or better innovations, I simply know how to use social media, which is an undeniably strong force in today’s market. Essentially, by gaining an understanding of social media, the possible size of my network grows immensely.

Although social media is a new and unfamiliar communication phenomenon, the linkage metaphor can aid us in gaining understanding about important elements of social media. One such element is that of influence, or Klout. Through social media, a prestigious network role can be established within a dense network, which allows for greater likelihood of interesting others in adopting new ideas or innovations. The shift in communication that social media has caused is no means to reinvent the wheel. Using the tools we have as communication scholars as applied to social media, we can begin to understand how to adapt to social media effectively.


Putnam, L. l., Phillips, N., & Chapman, P. (1996). Metaphors of communicationand organization. In S. R. Clegg, C. Hardy, & W. Nord (Eds.), Handbook of organization studies (pp. 375-408). London: Sage.

Duh. Pinning.

WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 1st, 2012, our #ADPR4300 class welcomed Marquette University Senior Communication Specialist, Tim Cigelske as a guest speaker in our classroom. Cigelske is the main guy behind Marquette’s Twitter account (@MarquetteU), which has become one of the top ten universities Twitter handles in the country. If that doesn’t convince you that this guy is worth listening to, he is also a Marathon/Half Marathon running coach for the American Cancer Society, a writer for DRAFT Magazine, the founder and web administrator of, and a freelance journalist/writer. If you ever thought you were busy, meeting @TeecycleTim will make you think twice about that notion.

Another thing this can make one think twice about is how to portray a multi-faceted person via social media. While social media is an important business tool, we often learn to use it by using it personally. For many of us who are looking for a job or will soon be looking for a job, this becomes something that requires careful attention. While Facebook and Twitter, two of the social media giants, do allow one to shape a personality using what they have to offer, that personality is often either very focused or very comprehensive, missing the middle, balanced category.

And someone noticed. Introducing, as deemed by Cigelske, the next big thing….Pinterest! Pinterest can be thought of as an online pin board or a visual bookmarking source. Members are able to create and name as many boards as they want. They can then pin pictures from other sites onto each board and the pictures will link to that website. So, if I have a “Recipes” board and I find a great recipe on, I can click on the toolbar “Pin It” button, select which picture I want to show up on Pinterest, leave a short caption, and pin it to my board. When I sign into Pinterest, I will be able to see that picture and click on it to take me back to that recipe.

As I mentioned, Pinterest is also a new social media giant where people (and businesses) are allowed to show a multi-faceted personality. By perusing my personal Pinterest boards, one can learn that I like to cook, what my decoration style is, that I am crafty, that I care about working out, my personal style, my career aspirations, and my beliefs. This allows people, especially potential employers, to get a more comprehensive view of who I am and what I stand for. By using Pinterest as a source of information for who I am, companies are able to make a more informed judgment of whether or not I am a good personality match for their organization. This is incredibly important in terms of reducing turnover. If I fit seamlessly into the organization, I am more likely to uphold the company’s values and mission and be happy working there. This cuts back on turnover costs, which include costs of recruiting and selection, training, vacant territories or accounts, skill differential and operating costs.*

Pinterest, the “next big thing”, clearly brings something to the table that hasn’t been there before. A visual representation of a multi-faceted personality for you or your company. Since its inception in January of 2011, Pinterest has gained over 7 million unique visitors. Maybe it is time to consider jumping on the bandwagon and showing future employers all sides of who you are.

* There’s research to support these claims. Just let me know if you want more information and we can get into it!

Build Engagement, Not Numbers

In pursuing my MA in Advertising and Public Relations at Marquette University, I am currently taking a class on Emerging Media (ADPR4300). This class is taught by Dennis Jenders, the Group Supervisor of Digital and Communication Strategy at Laughlin Constable in Milwaukee, WI. Dennis is concerned with giving us real time social media information and has approached this by asking some experts in the field to join our class as guest speakers.

Monday, we had the chance to introduce ourselves to social media expert Augie Ray, who entered our class via Skype. One of the themes of our conversation with Augie Ray was the affinity companies have for counting the number of followers, friends, likes, comments, etc. they are achieving on social media without actually counting the worthiness of what they are doing. Augie Ray argued that a smaller number of fans who care is better than millions who are uninterested. Which makes sense. Afterall, as he pointed out, the beauty of social media as a business tool is that it is interactive and allows the company to build a relationship with consumers. And relationships simply are not easy to measure.

There is a theory in communication studies, that states that most companies or groups work within a system or a set of constraints. Typically, this is discussed in terms of systems that already exist and the theory is used to understand the interconnectedness of these organizations and as a lens to attempt to make sense of an organization. With social media, however, communication scholars are given a unique opportunity to view the creation of these systems that are typically already in place when we study them. With social media being relatively new, especially as an important aspect of business, we are watching as we struggle to create a system for it to exist in. Everyone wants to know how this thing is suppose to work and what they have to do to work with it. That’s the purpose of having systems in the first place. What’s interesting is that the system that is being created, this one that hypes numbers rather than engagement, is a faulty system, built off a desire to quickly get in the game and to prove social media is worth it. It is a system built off trying to fit the circle of social media into the square of advertising, where numbers reached is a valuable measurement. The system that is being built says it’s important to consider ROI, where Augie Ray says ROI is a lousy measurement of social media and, furthermore, that ROI can be positive as brand is being hurt due to a lack of authenticity and engagement building.

So, how does one go about avoiding the faulty system that companies are trying to shove social media into and, instead, use social media effectively? Here’s some advice (courtesy of Dennis Jenders and Augie Ray):

  • Start your social media with a plan – objectives first, then strategy. What is your purpose of interacting with your customers? What is the image you want to promote? How do you want to educate your customers? Where do you want to direct your customers?
  • Remember that social media isn’t about numbers, it’s about engagement. Formulate engagement goals and a way of measuring them.
  • Benchmark where you are starting so you are able to keep track of what social media is doing (or not doing) for you the way you are using it.
  • Figure out what people are saying about you to start with and figure out how to get them where you want them.
  • Understand that each social media platform has it’s time and place. Twitter and Facebook do not have the same format, purpose, or capabilities and therefore, should not receive the same content from you.
  • Don’t approach social media as a campaign. Social media isn’t a one time thing, it is ongoing. Approach social media like kindergarten, where you meet friends and form relationships you will have for years to come.
  • Find out from the consumers what they want and listen to them.

Social media is still trying to figure out an effective, new, social media specific system for it to function within. Don’t simply follow the faulty system it is already setting for itself, but rather approach it systematically, like any other business venture, and allow social media to add a dimension to what your company is doing.

If you would like to follow along with more of the lessons we are learning from guest speakers, stay tuned! And follow our class as we live tweet using #ADPR4300.