Social Media Career Crawl

This past Thursday I had the opportunity to attend a “Social Media Career Crawl,” put on by the wonderful people at the University of Michigan Career Center.  The event, which allowed small groups of students to interact with multiple social media professionals in a “speed networking event,” included Hillary Frazier, Social Media Director for the University of Michigan, Jordan Maleh, the Digital Marketing Director for the University of Michigan Athletic Department, Mike Brownfield, Social Media Director for Governor Rick Snyder, and Graham Davis, New Media Director, Truscott Rossman (and formerly Social Media Director for Jennifer Granholm).

Selfishly, I was very happy to see and receive the advice from so many social media and communications experts working directly in politics. Given the fact that not only am I a political junky, but also hoping to follow a similar career path, the ability to talk to guys like Graham Davis and Mike Brownfield was an invaluable experience.

To summarize, here a few points I took away from my conversations:

Education: A lot of students, when asking about the background required for a career in social media, were very curious about the possibility or necessity of pursuing a graduate degree or program. The resounding response from the experts? No. Every single one stated that direct work experiences,or a portfolio of previous digital communications, trumped a graduate degree every time. However, while this is certainly true, it actually came up that the University of Michigan is falling behind in teaching courses (save for this one) and providing an undergraduate concentration in digital media. Michigan State University already has a degree in new and social media, and most professionals praised that as a good move.

Email isn’t dead: Jordan Maleh spoke a lot about how Facebook and Twitter are only a small portion of his job. Given that his focus is to use digital media to sell tickets, he said he focuses his time on email. I asked him if he thought email was dead, or losing its efficacy. Given my absolutely nerdy obsession with email marketing, I was ecstatic to hear that he thought email was alive and well. He talked about how you can ignore a facebook status or a tweet, or even worse not even be aware of them at all, but with email you are at least forced to check and skim the message. He also talked about how once you are on an email list most subscribers will not bother unsubscribing, making it a great medium to direct your organizations message.

Future of social media professionals: The other point most echoed by all the professionals was that above all else, those trying to make their way in social media career need to be able to write and write well. They need to be language and communications experts. A lot of students, including myself, asked whether we were falling behind not knowing how to code or use computer design programs. While they all agreed those are incredibly marketable skills, they reaffirmed that the biggest job of a social media director is to craft language that is both engaging and effective.

I was also glad to see that many of their points were the exact same we are learning in class. Overall, it was a fantastic experience that I am so happy I was able to attend.

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Michigan Talent Agenda Website Launch

Incredibly exciting news here. After weeks of work, this past Friday, it was decided that the Michigan Talent Agenda website was finally ready for launch. Over the next few months, there will still definitely be edits and changes to make, as well as consistent updates, but I am so happy to see this project become a concrete reality. In a slightly embarrassing, but honest, confession, I have occasionally just been searching the URL on Google and then clicking on the site just to confirm that its real.

So what have I learned after this entire process? What very insightful words of wisdom do I have to offer now that I have contributed to the dynamic landscape of cyberspace? In the end, probably not a lot that hasn’t already been whispered, said, or yelled by web designers, but either way here it is. My list of lessons learned after publishing my first website:

1: Design for users

Throughout the semester, I feel like there is one, unbreakable, cardinal rule of web communications I have learned: design for your users. This is a corollary to the other very important rule of “know your audience.” Before reaching the final product, everyone involved in the project each had their vision and ideas for how the website should be structured. However, after going through different drafts, we had to keep on revising and editing, much like a paper, to make the site more easily readable for our audience. We thought a lot about what their behavior would be interacting with the site? Where would they want to go first? How can we direct them towards the information we want them to see most?

2: Copy is just as an important as pixels

A great quote I found while looking for web design help: “It’s time we designers stop thinking of ourselves as merely pixel people, and start thinking of ourselves as the creators of experiences. And when it comes to experience on the web, there’s no better way to create it than to write, and write well.” Derek Powazek. This quote is incredibly accurate. Every slideshow, drop-down menu, or nav-bar isn’t worth anything if the written words on the site aren’t engaging.

3. Simplicity

My last and final lesson in designing the site is: when in doubt keep it simple. Not only does simplicity make information more easily accessed for the user, but especially for a novice web designer like myself, it is important not try to do too much. It is always better to keep things simple, than risk any user finding the site confusing. This is especially true when considering “donate now” campaigns, or “get involved” pages. If any of these tasks prove to be too difficult for a user to preform, then the site is actively turning away supporters.

Make sure to check out www.mitalentagenda.com and let me know what you think!

The DoGooder Video Awards

Last night, in the midst of procrastinating on Facebook, I happened to  stumble upon “The DoGooder Awards,” a video competition for non-profits of all shapes and sizes that gives recognition to some of the best video storytelling in the non-profit industry. The winners from each category not only get featured on the Youtube’s highly viewed spotlight channel, but also receive $3,500 in prizes from Cisco, and free registration to the 2014 Non-Profit Technology Conference.

First off, before getting into any of the videos, I wanted to say how awesome it was just to see quality, artistic, and moving video storytelling in non-profits not only being encouraged, but actually rewarded with prizes in the “DoGooder Awards.”

I wanted to spotlight two of my favorite videos. First is “African Men, Hollywood Stereotypes.”

This video does an amazing job of not only addressing the problem the non-profit, Mama Hope, works for, but also humanizing and creating an emotional connection with the protagonists. The dialogue between the men is simple, but through their genuine sincerity, personable demeanor, and humor, you actively listen and engage to their message.

The second video, which I think does an absolutely spectacular job, is “Follow the Frog,” from the Rainforest Alliance.

The video, much like the one from MamaHope, not only uses humor as a way of calling attention to a serious issue, but what is most impressive is how they make it seem so solvable and tangible. By playing on the idea of becoming overly involved in a cause, or possibly desensitized to non-profit content, Rainforest Alliance shows use how we can continue on with our daily lives and still work to fight against the destruction of the rainforest.

So make sure to check out the links and let me know what you think! Also take a look at the finalist for other awards as well.