I’m verified on Twitter.
I know this because of the blue verified badge that sits next to my profile, and because Twitter sent me a congratulatory email.
According to Twitter, this badge lets people know that my account is of public interest, and it’s authentic.
Verification on Twitter is the equivalent of a wedding band.
When I first got married, a good friend said the wedding band was as a seal of approval. “The wedding band makes you slightly more attractive because it shows that someone vouches for you,” he said.
My wife liked me enough to put a ring on it. So did Twitter.
The process of Twitter verification is not an automatic one. Case in point: the @Vindicator account. One would assume that Twitter would automatically verify our renowned, award-winning newspaper.
It wasn’t until a few weeks ago that the @Vindicator received the blue badge of approval, thanks to The Vindicator’s social media Sherpa, Sean Ferguson.
“The process was really easy and user-friendly,” Ferguson said. “Within two days, The Vindicator account was verified and there was a jump in followers, all due to that little blue (verified badge).”
Ferguson went to the verification form, entered some basic information, and voila, The Vindicator received Twitter legitimacy.
For media outlets, the process for verification is simple. For the rest of us, the process is a little more cumbersome, and it can take months. It took me a few shots before receiving verification, which really makes Twitter’s review process all the more genuine.
If Twitter denies your verification request, they require you to wait 30 days before submitting a new one.
To start the verification process, go to support.twitter.com and search “verify an account.” You’ll find a list of requirements for making your account verifiable.
Start with the basics. Your account must have a verified phone number, confirmed email address, bio, profile and header images, and website. You also need to set your tweets to “public” in the privacy settings.
If you’re verifying an individual account, have a copy of your government-issued photo ID ready to upload (e.g. license, passport).
That’s the easy part. The tough part is proving your account is of public interest. Regardless if you’re in music, acting, fashion, government, politics, religion, journalism, media, sports, business, or some other key interest area, you need to prove your worth.
Be ready to tell Twitter why your account should be verified. What is your impact on your field if interest? If you’re a company, what’s your mission? Next, find some URL’s that help express your newsworthiness or relevancy in your field.
Twitter also suggests the following:
Follow these steps and you’ll be on the path to that coveted blue badge.
Instagram is the over-achiever of the social media world.
Each week seems to bring new third-party applications for capturing, manipulating and sharing stunning images.
Last week, the photo-sharing platform introduced a new feature that gives users the option to upload multiple photos and videos in one post.
“With this update, you no longer have to choose the single best photo or video,” Instagram said in its announcement Wednesday.
“Now, you can combine up to 10 photos and videos in one post and swipe through to see them all.”
Adding multiple photos and videos is simple. To find the files you want to share, look for Instagram’s new icon. It resembles a picture of layered images, and at least for now, the icon reads “select multiple.”
“It’s easy to control exactly how your post will look,” Instagram said. “You can tap and hold to change the order, apply a filter to everything at once or edit one by one. These posts have a single caption and are square-only for now.”
Your followers will find it just as easy to navigate your multiple images. On the profile grid, the first photo or video of the new post will have a small icon, indicating there’s more to see.
Of course, this new tool is one of many to add to your Instagram arsenal.
Check out these additional tools for creating amazing images for your feed:
1. Font Studio (Android). If you’re looking to add quotes, artwork, and layers of different fonts, this app has it all. Font Studio has over 100 fonts, with more available for download. Rotate, enlarge, and shrink text to fit your image, or change the color of your text, alter the transparency, and add shadows.
Although the focus with Font Studio is on typography, you can adjust the brightness, contrast, saturation and blur of an image. When you’re masterpiece is complete, add one of more than a dozen filters.
It’s free in the Google Play store. Check out Font Candy for iOS devices for an app with similar features.
2. Slow Shutter Cam ($2.99, iOS). Before I pay for any app over 99 cents, I do my homework. This app is worth every penny. Slow Shutter Cam puts the power of a DSLR on your iPhone. For a free Android equivalent, check out Camera FV-5 Lite, or the pay $3.95 for the full version.
Slow Shutter Cam offers three capture modes. Motion Blur puts your camera in shutter priority mode for waterfall effects. Light Trail picks up on fast moving lights from cars and fireworks to create light stream effects. Low Light does just as the name suggests, picking up on every light source to create amazing images in the dark.
Other Slow Shutter Cam highlights include an unlimited shutter speed, real time image previews, freeze, blur strength and time-lapse controls.
I love a good science fiction book.
Thanks to e-readers and the Internet, it’s never been easier and cheaper to find a good book. My Kindle has a dozen or so books that cost a dollar each.
Still, some of the best e-books are actually free, including a few on Amazon. Some of the best online free books are available to anyone with Internet access. No Kindle required.
Online storytelling communities have become all the rage among writing communities over the last few years. Authors can post writings that run the genre gamut, from fiction to non-fiction, suspense to self-help, it’s all there.
Writings appear as articles, stories, and poems, either through a website or app.
To be honest, I found one of my favorite storytelling communities, Wattpad, through my daughters.
“I want you to read my story,” daughter number one said.
“Great, print it out, and I’ll read it,” I said, like I was still reading books in the 20th century.
“No, it’s on Wattpad, and you have to vote on it,” she said. I’ll explain the voting thing in a second.
“What’s Wattpad?” I asked.
The beauty of Wattpad is less about free access to good (and some not-so-good) writing, and more about a community of readers and authors sharing their work, asking questions, and providing critiques.
My daughters have posted several stories and receive regular feedback from their readers, most of whom are friends from school. They offer suggestions on possible changes to a character, subplot ideas, and alternate endings.
The best stories rise to the top through votes. A vote simply suggests the reader likes the story. Getting a lot of votes improves the chances of having your work read by more community members.
Readers can share their favorite writings on other social media platforms, like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Tumbler. Or you can simply share it with a friend via email.
Don’t be fooled. Wattpad is not just for kids.
Some very famous authors have made their way to Wattpad in hopes of gaining new readers, to get feedback on works-in-progress, and to tease other work yet to be released.
One of Wattpad’s more famous champions is Margaret Atwood, author of best-selling books like “The Robber Bride,” “Onyx and Crake” and “The Handmaid’s Tale,” the latter of which will be released as a television series on Hulu in April.
Atwood’s work on Wattpad is impressive. The opening to her 2015 book, “The Heart Goes Last,” is available for community members.
After spending some time with Wattpad over the last year, reading work from Atwood and the Earnheardt girls, it’s clear there’s a little something for everyone – from the new novelist to the seasoned storyteller.
Note: Atwood will deliver the YSU Skeggs Lecture on April 21 at Stambaugh Auditorium. Tickets are free and available at the Stambaugh box office.
“I’m done with Facebook,” a close friend recently lamented to me over a cup of coffee at Youngstown State’s Dunkin’ Donuts.
“I just can’t take the negativity anymore,” she said. “The political posts are overwhelming. And what’s worse is I agree with what most of my friends are posting.”
She held up her pointer and middle fingers in the air to make quotes when she said “friends.”
“You can’t just drop in with rant after rant, and expect me to want to stick around,” she said.
“They haven’t engaged me on a personal level. “
She asked me to get coffee to vent, but also to find some strategies for dealing with the seemingly endless political posts and the sea of disruption the world has been floating on since November.
OK, OK. I know. This all started long before November.
Still, it left us to wonder what happened to civility on Facebook. When exactly did it turn from cute baby pictures, pithy memes and inspiring quotes to picket signs and bullhorns?
“When did everyone suddenly become a loudmouth on a soap box in the town square?” she asked.
A few years ago, I wrote about my resolution to be a better social media user.
In that column, I noted our penchant for being better social media users. To be better, I opined, meant being a more “positive” social media user.
A coffee in one hand, and smartphone in the other, she scrolled through her Facebook newsfeed methodically unfollowing or unfriending anyone who posted even the slightest hint of a political opinion.
“I’m done with them all,” she exclaimed (a little loudly, I might add).
Clearly, she’s frustrated. She’s not alone.
If you’ve recently scrolled through your newsfeed, you’ve likely read posts from friends who claim they’re unfriending friends. Those who post anything political or don’t ascribe to a specific political ideology get the boot.
The fact is, there are tried-and-true strategies for dealing with unwanted posts. We’ve just forgotten them.
The first one begins with you.
Are you mostly positive in your social media posts?
“Be the positive social media change you want to see in the social media world.” No. Gandhi didn’t really say that, but I like to think he would have.
“Try this,” I told my friend, “let the first thing you post each day be something positive.”
Rather than respond to political posts with your own perspectives that perpetuate negativity, offer a positive retort.
Say something positive about someone in your life, post an uplifting picture, or find an inspirational quote.
It doesn’t mean that every post has to be positive and inspiring, just the first one. Positive posts are infectious. You can inspire others to be upbeat.
And who knows? Your positive posts may lead you to cultivate new friendships and mend broken ones.
When the ratings for Sunday’s Super Bowl rolled in, they were likely met with some disappointment in the National Football League’s front office.
Conversely, media critics and researchers weren’t surprised. Ratings for NFL games have been down all year.
Fox’s broadcast of the big game drew 111.3 million viewers, according to Nielsen data released by the network on Monday. It was the smallest audience for the NFL’s championship in four years.
To be clear, garnering 111.3 viewers is an impressive feat when you consider our entertainment options. With counter programming such as Animal Planet’s annual Puppy Bowl or the Hallmark Channel’s Kitten Bowl, it’s easy to understand why some people simply turned the channel.
It may be hard to understand why so many chose not to watch the Super Bowl. After all, it was one of the greatest games in NFL history. It had an exciting finish. It had the first-ever overtime in championship history. The winning team came back from a huge deficit to win.
Why did so many people turn away?
Some claim the game was, well, boring. So, they may have turned away early. When you consider that most people tune in before the game kicks off to view the pomp and patriotism, they were probably watching with an expectation that the game would be exciting.
Instead, the first half was a blowout, probably leaving many people to lose interest.
Some claim the lower numbers are a reflection of the scandals that continue to plague the NFL. Whether it’s concussions or domestic violence, some viewers are turning away in protest.
But don’t blame social media. The fact is the social media ratings were worse than Nielsen’s TV ratings. Yes, users were actively posting updates about the big game on big platforms like Twitter and Facebook. But even those numbers were down from previous championships.
For example, some 60 million Facebook users created 200 million images, comments and reactions (i.e., Likes) during the Super Bowl, many of which were posted during the Pepsi Half Time Show with Lady Gaga. That’s down 25 percent from last year, when 65 million people created 265 million posts.
Twitter users were far less active than the previous year. According to Nielsen, about 3.8 million U.S.-based users created just under 17 million tweets during the game. That’s a drop of about 33% from last year’s championship, which generated a little more than 25 million tweets.
In fact, Twitter’s response to the lower numbers was interesting. They noted that users generated over 27 million “global” tweets about the game.
Rather than respond to the decline in activity, they simply posted the numbers with highlights from important moments during the game.
You can see more on those numbers and tweets at blog.twitter.com.
My wife claims that those who use WebMD can be classified into two camps: optimistic and pessimistic.
An optimist, she says, will search symptoms on WebMD and ultimately rule out the most serious of ailments based on the possible causes offered.
A pessimist will search the same symptoms and see only doom and gloom, and focus on the gravest of possible outcomes (e.g., long-term illness, death), let alone the most serious of causes.
Of course, my wife and I both use WebMD. When you have four kids, it’s not financially prudent to visit the urgent care at the sound of every sniffle.
Luckily, my wife and I tend to fall into the optimists’ camp when using health information sites.
“I actually recommend patients use [WebMD],” said Dr. Mike Sevilla, a family physician in Salem.
“It’s probably the most popular site that my patients mention to me during office visits.”
Aside from being an expert on connecting with patients online, Sevilla is a highly sought-after speaker, in part because of his use of social media and Internet. He’s my go-to-expert anytime I have questions about online health advice.
“Medical sites like WebMD are really good at specific questions like: What are the signs and symptoms of a heart attack? What are the signs and symptoms of a stroke? These sites cannot put symptoms together for you and give you a diagnosis,” Sevilla said.
In addition to WebMD, Sevilla recommends patients use the Cleveland Clinic and Mayo Clinic websites. But like anything you read online, he warns pessimists and others to proceed with caution.
“I tell my patients, sites like WebMD are like the World Book Encyclopedia,” Sevilla said.
“When I was growing up, my parents bought an entire set of [encyclopedias], and I remember going back and reading about a lot of topics, and eventually found myself reading more about health-related topics.”
“And just like the encyclopedia, you can learn about a disease using WebMD, but it can’t diagnose you,” Sevilla added. “And, obviously, you should never diagnose yourself.”
Working at the Family Practice Center of Salem and the Salem Regional Medical Center, he sees many patients who visit only after looking at WebMD and other health sites first.
“I have patients say, ‘In WebMD, I put in that I’m fatigued and I’ve had some abdominal pain and it told me I have cancer. Do I have cancer?’”
Sevilla is quick to remind both optimists and pessimists that only health professionals can paint the big picture.
“Trained medical experts are the only ones who can synthesize and integrate things like your symptoms, your previous health history, your family history, and other pieces of information to come up with a diagnosis.”
Check out Dr. Sevilla’s blog at drmikesevilla.com, and follow him on Twitter at @drmikesevilla.
The transfer of power on Friday from Obama to Trump went fairly smoothly. Lots of smiles, handshakes and hugs.
The one bump you probably didn’t see was the transfer that took place online. On Twitter, to be specific.
I tend to shy away from political material in this column. I also avoid talk of politics on my social media posts, holding true to the advice I offer readers.
But a mistake such as the one that happened on Twitter on Friday requires a little unpacking, regardless of how political it appears on the surface.
The fact is it wasn’t political. Leave it to Twitter users to make it political.
In case you missed it, when Twitter transferred administrative power of Twitter accounts from Obama to Trump, several unsuspecting users started screaming, albeit in 140 characters or less.
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said that about 560,000 users were automatically transferred to the accounts now controlled by the Trump administration. This included the mother-of-all-world-leader-accounts, @POTUS.
@POTUS is the official Twitter handle of the president of the United States.
Twitter quickly corrected the transfer issues.
Dorsey noted in a tweet that users who followed Obama’s new account, @POTUS44, were automatically set to follow the @POTUS handle as well.
@jack: All: we investigated what happened here, and we made some mistakes (which have been corrected). Some context first.
Dorsey went on to say that the Obama administration had actually been working with Trump’s team on the best way to hand-off the accounts. In a way, the teams agreed that it was actually the “people” who owned the @POTUS account, not one individual.
As Dorsey put it:
@jack: Because @POTUS is an institutional account (not personal) they felt it only fair to transition accounts with followers intact, but 0 tweets.
The Trump @POTUS account has a little more than 14 million followers. By comparison, @POTUS44 has 14.6 million. Obama’s old @POTUS account is now nothing more than a collection of his posts as president, something akin to his presidential library of archived tweets.
If you go to @POTUS now, you’ll find only a few tweets, the first of which was posted on Friday at 2 p.m.
Dorsey went on to detail each step Twitter took to fix the transition problem:
@jack: 1. People who followed @POTUS44 (Obama Admin) after 12pET were mistakenly set to also follow @POTUS (Trump Admin)
@jack 2. Some people who unfollowed @POTUS in the past were mistakenly marked to now follow @POTUS
The switch also affected other official accounts such as @VP, @WhiteHouse, and @PressSec. Those who unfollowed those accounts in the past were mistakenly marked to now follow the new accounts.
Like any good leader, and in true Twitter fashion, Dorsey owned the mistake:
@jack: We believe we’ve corrected all accounts to reflect your follow/unfollow intent. We’re sorry for the mistakes made here, and thank you all.
Three-quarters of U.S. residents now own smartphones and nearly 90 percent are online, according to a report published last week by the Pew Research Center.
Smartphone adoption had the sharpest increase. The report shows 77 percent of Americans own smartphones, up from 35 percent in 2011.
Pew Research Center has chronicled this trend and others through more than 15 years of surveys on internet and technology use, according to report author, Aaron Smith.
It’s important to note the distinction in types of phones adopted. There’s a big difference in the terms “cellphone” and “smartphone.” Cellphones are mobile devices, but not all cellphones are “smart.”
According to the study, 95 percent of Americans report owning a cellphone of some type. One-hundred percent of the respondents in the 18-29 age group reported owning some type of cellphone.
The Pew study findings also showed a slight increase in home internet adoption in 2016. This followed a downward trend from 2013 to 2015, during which time home internet use dropped from 70 percent to 67 percent.
A drop of 3 percent may seem insignificant, and likely due to an increase in smartphone adoptions.
It’s a simple case of paying for the same thing twice. Look at it this way: if you have access to a super computer connected to a 4G network in the palm of your hand, do you need internet access at home?
Apparently some Americans still value their at home internet.
Or there could be another reason.
“Even as [internet] adoption has been on the rise, 12 percent of Americans say they are smartphone dependent when it comes to their online access,” Smith said. Smartphone dependents own a smartphone but don’t have home internet service.
“The share of Americans who are smartphone dependent has increased 4 percentage points since 2013,” Smith said. “Smartphone reliance is especially pronounced among young adults, nonwhites and those with relatively low household incomes.”
Those without high school diplomas are less likely than college grads to have internet access at home. Age, income, geographic location, race and ethnicity are all indicators of whether or not a home will have internet access.
“As of November 2016, [73 percent] of Americans indicate that they have broadband service at home,” Smith said. “But although [internet] adoption has increased to its highest level since the Center began tracking this topic in early 2000, not all Americans have shared in these gains.”
Accompanying the Pew report on connectivity is a new set of fact sheets focused on three primary research areas: internet, smartphones and social media. According to Smith, Pew plans to update the subject areas with new information as it’s collected.
The fact sheets are a “one-stop shop for anyone looking for information on key trends in digital technology,” Smith said.
Predictions are part educated guess, part soothsayer.
At the risk of shooting my credibility in the foot, I’ve never been very good at predicting anything.
Exhibit A: I once predicted that none of us would be driving our own cars in 2017. We’re still a few years from seeing that one play out.
It’s coming. I promise.
When I looked into my social media crystal ball at the beginning of 2016, I saw what the tech prophets saw: a move toward more video.
But not just any video. Streaming video.
Voila, 2016 was the year of video. From Facebook and Twitter to Instagram and Snapchat, everyone was getting into the streaming game. It was really more conjecture than seeing the future. We were already knee-deep in streaming our own content thanks, in part, to services like Periscope and Meerkat.
So while the prediction was accurate, it was akin to predicting snow for northeast Ohio in January.
There’s so much more to come with live streaming video in 2017. For example, in late 2016, Twitter introduced a 360-degree streaming service via Periscope. The ability to stream in 360-degree video capture is only available to select partners, but the service has great potential.
360 video is a chance for Twitter to avoid another “fail whale” of a year. That’s my weak attempt at saying Twitter had a lousy 2016. We used the term fail whale during the early years of Twitter when users overpowered their servers.
While Twitter is diving head first into streaming live sports with the NFL and now golf, the real growth will almost certainly be in their streaming services for users like you and me.
With this new technology, we can get a full picture of the streamer’s view. So, if the streamer is on a mountain top (with a strong 4G signal), we would get a complete view of the landscape. The best part: the viewer controls the view by simply tilting their mobile device or moving a cursor to a different part of the view.
Want to see 360 video? Check out the first-ever 360 degree video with Alex Pettitt at @Alexpettitt and Brandee Anthony at @Brandee_Anthony. Search for their “360 Sunset in Florida.” Pettit and Anthony provide great 360 video recordings, including a few from Pettitt at last week’s CES (formerly known as the Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas.
For more 360 videos, check out @ClemsonFB’s departure from their practice facility, a few days before the FBS Championship game, @Toyota’s introduction of their new concept car at CES, or chef @altonbrown in his test kitchen.
To find these and other 360 videos, search #Periscope360 on Twitter.
What’s up next in streaming media content? Your guess is as good as mine.
You can bet somebody’s working on something big for 2017.
Youngstown State University will play for the FCS championship this Saturday. I've worked at YSU for about 11 years and I'm a huge fan. Many students who have passed through my classes are also students, so I enjoy cheering them on. As a former student-athlete, I know the commitment many of them make to their studies and their teams.
Whether you’re headed to Frisco, Texas, for the game, watching it at Covelli Centre with other YSU fans, or watching at a sports bar or at home, you can watch it “together” with fans all over the world thanks to social media.
Sometimes that’s easier said than done.
Knowing the right social platforms, addresses and hashtags to use during the big game will be just as important as the content of your posts.
Case in point (and I’m a little embarrassed to admit this): Last year I posted a dozen tweets at a social media conference before I realized I was using the wrong hashtag.
It was an honest mistake. I inverted two letters. Ironically, I was tweeting out reactions to cool new social media skills. I don’t have a big ego, but I was really surprised no one was retweeting any of my posts. At the very least, someone should have been favoriting my witty one-liners.
And then I figured it out. It sounds silly, and maybe a little vain, but instead of connecting with other conference attendees, I was out on my own social media deserted island.
It was lonely.
Thanks to YSU’s sports information department, fans have a clear set of addresses and hashtags to use to connect with other fans.
“In athletics, we’re excited to use our social media platforms to give our fans information and images leading up to and at the title game,” said Trevor Parks, YSU’s sports information director.
YSU fans near and far are preparing for the big day, making travel plans, buying new clothes and memorabilia, planning parties.
Add “checking YSU’s social media platforms” to that list.
“We’ve seen a dramatic increase in our social media followers over the past month, and we hope to have a strong week to give them insight into the big game, our program, players, and coaches,” Parks added.
Parks also provided a rather comprehensive list of hashtags and platform addresses for following YSU.
For example, you can always use the tried-and-true hashtag #GoGuins (short for “Go Penguins”). Parks noted two more important hashtags:
I’m wondering how many YSU students will be using that last hashtag on the 22-hour bus ride to Texas.
On Twitter and Instagram, fans are encouraged to follow the @YSUsports and @YoungstownStFB and use those address when posting tweets and pictures.
Facebook users can like and follow pages for “Youngstown State Penguins” and “Youngstown State Football.”
Snapchat users should add ysusports.
Want to learn more about YSU’s opponent, James Madison University? Check out @JMUFootball on Twitter and follow them on Facebook at “JMU Football” and “JMU Sports.”
Dr. Adam C. Earnheardt is associate professor and chair of the department of communication at Youngstown State University in Youngstown, OH, USA. He researches and writes about social media and technology, sports and fans.