The Field Trip I Kind Of, Sort Of Played Hooky From

Last week in class, we were privileged to have the opportunity to visit the Nebraska Humane Society (NHS) to listen to Creighton JM&C alum Elizabeth Hilpipre speak about her work. Unfortunately, my 1999 GMC Jimmy decided to take a day off, leaving me stranded on campus. So you must forgive me if my comments on NHS’s social media engagement are distant, distorted, or quite possibly wrong in every way, shape, and form. But hopefully that is not the case.

NHS’s online presence is strong. With approximately 6,300 tweets and 7,300 followers on Twitter and over 50,000 likes on Facebook, it’s clear that Elizabeth is thorough and consistent in her work. There are two active Twitter accounts  (@NEHumaneSociety and @NHSCats) and a Facebook page. The first thing I noticed about its Twitter account was the little puppy peering through bars like a falsely convicted prisoner. This image alone is enough to make any animal-lover drop the task at hand, and drive like Ricky Bobby to retrieve his or her new best bud. As I proceeded to scroll through the account’s tweets and photos, there were three reoccurring themes that stuck out to me, all of which play off of each other.

(1) The cute factor

Dogs and cats are cute. Everyone knows it, and very few people are capable of rejecting the “puppy face” when it’s actually on a puppy. The cute factor makes the viewer say, “AWHHHHH, THAT’S THE CUTEST PUPPY I’VE EVER SEEN! I HAVE TO HAVE HIM/HER NOW.” This is the attention-grabber that hooks viewers. It’s powerful, yet simple eye-candy.

(2) The guilt trip

While most dogs and cats possess some degree of the cute factor, abandoned dogs and cats are cuter. A lot cuter. Furthermore, we as humans are inclined to feel guilty that a creature that cute and innocent looking could be so unfortunate as to not have a true home. Thus, it only makes sense that NHS would encourage people to adopt by carefully guilt tripping its viewers via social media. Pretty straightforward but here’s an example.

Screen Shot 2014-03-31 at 1.29.12 AM

Image from @NEHumaneSociety

(3) The follow-up

Lastly, I noticed that NHS likes to interact with people who have adopted from them using “Follow Up Friday”. People can get a shout-out from NHS by posting a picture of their NHS alumni with #FollowUpFriday. This is an excellent way to show that NHS cares not only about the animals it cares for, but also the people who adopt them.

All in all, Elizabeth’s approach to social media is spot-on. Although being guilted into adopting a pet might come off as annoying or desperate to some, it is essential to keep the mission of NHS in mind – to give abandoned animals a loving home. And for that, I commend Elizabeth and the rest of NHS for their work. For those who are still opposed to pet adoption, maybe this will help. Now excuse me while I go adopt a dog.

21st Century Cartography: Twitter Mapping

To reiterate myself from previous posts, Twitter is definitely my favorite social media site. Thus, I’m confident that I am able to pinpoint several, if not all, of the six Twitter conversation crowds that have been defined by the Pew Center (what a strange name) in its Internet Research Project. The six archetypes are divided, unified, fragmented, clustered, in-hub & spoke, and out-hub & spoke. “But, Jack, what in the world does that mean?” I’ll tell you. Of the aforementioned media structures, here are the four that rule my Twitter feed.

Unified: Tight Crowd

For the record, I’m not and will never be a Minnesota Vikings fan. But judging by the amount of Vikings fans in South Dakota, I might as well be from this mystical land of way too many lakes. Needless to say, my Twitter feed is packed with Vikings chatter. No matter how horrible the Vikings perform each year, the same diehards stay true to their beloved purple and gold. How they do it, I will never fathom. Sunday after Sunday, year after year, this tight-knit group of fans takes to Twitter to cheer for, rant about, and cuss out their doomed professional football team so everyone can witness their excruciating pain. Ultimately, the rest of us are left dumbfounded as to what mysterious personality trait or, quite possibly, birth defect fuels the fiery passion of this surprisingly loyal fan base that refuses to accept any outsiders. The Vikings faithful is the epitome of a tight-knit, unified crowd.

Fragmented: Brand Clusters

There are two brands that immediately come to mind when I think of Twitter brand clusters – Apple and Starbucks. For Apple, I am primarily referring to the rise of the iPhone. There was a period in time not that long ago when ditching your dinosaur of a flip phone called for an announcement on Twitter. This was done by simply tweeting “#TeamiPhone”. While I certainly did not use this ridiculous hashtag when I made the leap from the Stone Age to the 21st, plenty of people did. My guess would be they were trying to connect with their fellow iPhone “teammates”, but what do I know. Another example of a brand cluster on Twitter is Starbucks. I think it safe to say that the average female I follow has tweeted about her tall, half-caff, soy latte at 120 degrees (yes, that’s real) at some time or another. This just goes to show that social media truly has the power to unite complete strangers over something as simple as cup of coffee.

In-Hub & Spoke: Broadcast Network

It’s March. And with March, comes madness. The season finale of college basketball is finally here, which means avid fans of the game like myself are bound to tweet about the nonstop entertainment that comes from 68 teams with a common goal – winning a national championship. While I like to flatter myself by thinking I know a great deal about basketball, there are in fact individuals out there who analyze this sport for a living. This is their time to shine. Nowadays every major sporting event provides an opportunity for celebrated sports analysts like Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless, and sports media outlets like ESPN and Fox Sports 1 to release trusted information for all to consume. Because these famed Twitter identities receive higher levels of replies, retweets, and favorites, there is very little audience interaction. In essence, this Twitter crowd is composed of the most elite sports analysts who prefer to interact with one another.

Screen Shot 2014-03-26 at 1.17.13 AM

Image from @RealSkipBayless

Out-Hub & Spoke: Support Network

When you enter Creighton’s Brandeis Dining Hall, the TV in the entry way can often be seen flaunting this mediocre lunchroom’s social media shout-outs. The vast majority are comments about last night’s artery-clogging late night meal, or today’s macaroni and cheese. However, once in a blue moon, an especially unsatisfied and/or repulsed student calls out @CreightonDining for all to see. Whether it’s the undercooked omelets in Brandeis, the ridiculous meal exchange prices in Skutt, or the caterpillar in the Becker salad bar (my personal favorite), these confrontations are always awkward and amusing. However, @CreightonDining is usually pretty good about handling the issue at hand over social media. This characteristic classifies @CreightonDining as a support network structure, at least to some extent. In sum, a portion of its Twitter activity is comprised of customer satisfaction.

Screen Shot 2014-03-26 at 1.20.00 AM

Image from @DoubleGfor3

As you can now see, twitter mapping is important for several reasons. It allows us to recognize which types of users are inclined to interact with others outside of their crowds, and which ones are not. It allows companies to decide where they should promote their products and services, and where they should not. And lastly, it allows us to pinpoint trends and points of interest using social media demographics. Overall, this was an intriguing study that will likely be utilized for many years to come.