"The kids aren’t on Facebook anymore."
That's a common refrain I hear from my friends and co-workers hoping to find ways to market products and services to teens on social media.
The fact that teens are abandoning Facebook is only partially true. According to a 2014 iStrategyLabs report, about 3 million teens have left Facebook since 2011. That only accounts for about 25 percent of the U.S. teen demographic on Facebook.
Instead, teens likely consider Facebook to be one of many options for connecting with others and cultivating their social profiles.
Not all teens are leaving Facebook, because at the end of the day, Facebook is still a way to connect with family and older friends. When not self-absorbed, teens still find a need to connect with those who have graduated and moved on to college, jobs, marriage and children.
For these connections, Facebook is often the best option for teens to keep up with the evolving lives of family and friends.
Still, if Facebook is only one of several social media tools, what are the others tools you don’t know about, and likely don’t know how to use?
Here are two tools teens are probably using (and don’t want you to use):
Okay, you've probably heard of SnapChat, but how many of you use it? This mobile messaging app allows users to take quick pictures and videos, and set times (usually a few seconds) on how long the content can be viewed.
Most SnapChat users think that once time has expired, the content disappears. But do a quick search of "saving SnapChats" and you’ll find options for capturing that content. Kind of scary if someone is using SnapChat for sexting.
I started using YikYak in October after overhearing a student talk about it (thanks, Graig G.). YikYak is a location-based, anonymous social posting platform. If you're around any university in the U.S. (and some high schools), chances are students are using it to complain about a class, ask for advice, find love, "hook up," or just offer mundane and occasionally funny commentary on life.
YikYak's problem, however, is also its hallmark feature: anonymity. It's the equivalent of scribbling a threat on a bathroom wall. Comments related to violence, terrorism, and personal attacks have been posted to YikYak, anonymously of course, leading law enforcement to scratch their heads as to the best course of action.
In response to bullying posts, YikYak erected "geo fences" around some schools to shut down the app and eliminate threatening posts. Of course, this doesn’t stop teens from using it outside the fenced-in area.
Your options: Be diligent. If you’re concerned about how teens you know might be using social media, take a few minutes and search Google to learn more about the different options available to them.
Better yet, have open conversations with the kids in your life about safe, responsible social media use. Remember, they know more about social media than you probably do.
~ A version of this post appeared in the Sunday, January 25, 2015 issue of The Vindicator.
As social media hoaxes go, this one is fairly tame, and it’s not the first time we’ve seen it.
More importantly, this hoax might actually trick us into doing something positive: checking our privacy settings.
What’s the hoax? Essentially, it has to do with a poorly formed declaration of ownership of our Facebook posts:
"In response to the new Facebook guidelines, I hereby declare that my copyright is attached to all of my personal details, illustrations, comics, paintings, professional photos and videos …"
… and so on. You get the picture.
I’m not sure how it started, but the declaration doesn’t really protect you from anything. Furthermore, Facebook isn’t interested in owning your pictures, and they have no claim over a video of your kid singing "Itsy Bitsy Spider."
Still, one of my Facebook friends recently reposted this declaration with a "better safe than sorry" qualifier. In essence, she wasn't sure if a declaration of ownership would do any good, but there was no harm in claiming rights over her online materials.
From whom are you protecting your information?
It's one thing to be worried about how Facebook might be using your personal information, and with which companies Facebook might be sharing your data (with or without your consent). It's another thing entirely to be worried about other people who may be accessing your information for more devious purposes.
Your Facebook friends and others who have access to your posts may create a more dangerous scenario than the Facebook overlords sharing your information with a chain of pizza shops.
You should be more concerned with those who use your data to control your identity.
How much do you know about your online privacy?
A recent study published in Computers in Human Behavior examined how much people think they know about the privacy of their online posts.
Ricarda Moll (University of Munster, Germany) and her colleagues asked students about the kinds of information they posted to Facebook and where the information was posted (in which categories, profiles).
They also asked students which audiences (e.g., public, friends, etc.) could see their posts and personal information.
Apparently, students knew if they had posted certain information (status updates, pictures, etc.), but they weren't clear about who could see their post. In essence, students may have been sharing personal information with the public when they intended for that information to be shared only with family and/or close friends.
How do you check Facebook privacy settings?
Be diligent about your posts and privacy settings. Yes, you own your cat pictures and cute videos. But cyber-criminals are more interested in the personal tidbits such as birth dates and email addresses that lead to identity theft.
To check your privacy settings in Facebook, click on the down arrow (top menu bar, far right). Select "settings," and then "privacy" from the left-hand menu. From there, you can choose from a variety of simple privacy settings.
You own your social media posts and personal information. Now it's time to be sure you're protecting them.
~ A version of this post appeared in the Sunday, January 18, 2015 issue of The Vindicator.
I am saddened that 12 people died at the hands of religious extremists Wednesday. And, like many others throughout the world, I will mourn and protest and ask for justice, albeit through social media.
Never before has the need to protect free expression been more personal. People who use social media have claimed their right to the mass distribution of ideas (or the right to support the ideas of someone else).
We stand behind the slain cartoonists and journalists, in part because the right to publish — the right to free expression — has become a basic human right.
The #JeSuisCharlie campaign is proof that citizens of "free" countries are not the only ones disgusted by the shootings, and what this means for freedom. I’ve seen some of the content published in Charlie Hebdo. Some of it is funny, some is not. In fact, some content was disturbing and insensitive.
One thing is for sure: Thanks to social media, most of the funny, not so funny, disturbing and insensitive material published by Charlie Hebdo has found new life in the deaths of these journalists.
Thanks to social media, millions of people are retweeting, reposting and sharing Charlie Hebdo cartoons and satire. Other cartoonists are drawing memorials to those who were slain, literally proving the point that the pen is mightier than the sword.
I realize that people will feel offended, even outraged, when their religion is mocked. I see a lot of this on social media. But I also realize that being offended is a fair price to pay to protect the marketplace of ideas.
Salman Rushdie, who famously penned The Satanic Verses in 1988 and was forced into hiding after Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini called for his assassination, said, "I stand with Charlie Hebdo, as we all must, to defend the art of satire, which has always been a force for liberty and against tyranny, dishonesty and stupidity."
To defend free expression, Rushdie uses social media as a platform for protecting that liberty.
But it’s not just the recognizable thinkers and leaders who use social media to announce their freedom.
People all over the globe are posting support messages. Their social media profiles now read "Je suis Charlie." They are posting Instagram selfies holding signs that read, "Je suis Charlie."
This global outpouring reminds me of support messages sent from people in other countries to the U.S. (through traditional media) in the wake of Sept. 11. Today, those kinds of messages are sent directly to the world through social media.
I am not in France. I never read Charlie Hebdo. But social media allows me to mourn with those who have.
I am someone who knows that the work of those slain satirists was important to the cause of freedom. I am someone who remembers the pain when your country is attacked. I am someone who believes in the power of social media to support those who have lost so much.
#JeSuisCharlie, and you are, too.
~ A version of this post appeared in the Sunday, January 11, 2015 edition of The Vindicator.
2014 was a great year for philanthropic, community service and activist campaigns in social media.
Stalwart nonprofit foundations and large corporations found ways to harness the connective power of social media to raise awareness and, in some cases, millions of dollars for research and treatment.
Other campaigns sprouted at the grass-roots level on social media bringing people together to address community issues and common causes.
Here is a brief look at some of the more successful campaigns of 2014.
ALS Ice Bucket Challenge
The biggest, positive social media campaign of 2014 took place last summer. People were very creative in staging their bucket dumps for the camera, almost as if to challenge others to not only raise money for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) research, but to create more entertaining videos.
Some videos were painful to watch, and some were downright hilarious, but in the end the ALS Foundation was the real winner, raising more than $114 million.
What made the fundraiser so successful was the use of video, social media networks and a desire among many to do something positive. People shared their experiences with friends on Facebook and other platforms, challenged others to do their own bucket dumps or donate money (apparently many did both), and, more importantly, showed the power of social media to rally people around a common cause.
Chevy and the American Cancer Society ‘Purple Your Profile’
People watch the Super Bowl, in part, for the commercials.
If your business is going to spend millions for both producing the commercial and acquiring airtime (it costs about $4.1 million per 30-second spot), tying in some free social media options is a good idea.
One of the best ads during the 2014 Super Bowl was Chevy’s “Life” commercial. It was a beautiful, 60-second launch to their “Purple Your Profile” campaign. People “purpled” their Facebook profiles and, in turn, Chevy donated $1 to the American Cancer Society for every profile change.
The campaign was a positive social media success, raising more than $1 million for cancer research. More importantly for some, the campaign encouraged others on social media to share cancer battle stories and messages of hope.
NBA Cares Program Social Media Growth
As sports fans, we go to social media to find stats on favorite teams and athletes, watch highlights and interact with like-minded fans. But when it comes to community service endeavors, most fans only hear about the good deeds of athletes and teams during commercials, advertisements and an occasional press release.
NBA Cares, the National Basketball Association’s community service program, went a step further in 2014. Thanks to well-orchestrated social and traditional media campaigns, NBA Cares reached millions of people around the world, encouraging fans to get involved in their local communities.
In turn, the NBA Cares social media platforms experienced incredible growth. For example, their YouTube channel views doubled (check out their “My Brothers Keeper” video), and they added more than 12,000 Twitter and 7,000 Instagram followers.
Thanks to social media, the NBA is now positioned to inspire even more fans to get involved with local hands-on service projects and other philanthropic activities.
Obamacare and the #GetCovered Campaign
Whether or not you’re a fan of Obamacare, the initial rollout was a resounding failure. If people were able to get on the healthcare.gov website (it was plagued with access problems), it was difficult to navigate and many claimed the coverage options were unattractive.
The site was fixed and Obama’s social media team refocused the #GetCovered campaign by primarily targeting younger Americans. Most efforts concentrated on getting the word out via social media using the #GetCovered hashtag.
Using the #GetCovered hashtag, the team communicated coverage options and deadlines in ways that were both educational and entertaining for the target group. One amusing, unconventional step was Obama’s faux-interview with Zach Galifianakis on “Between Two Ferns.”
McDonald’s and #CheersToSochi
The Winter Olympics were in Sochi last year, and like many large corporations, McDonald’s — a longtime Olympic sponsor — was looking for a cool way to engage their customers. McDonald’s opted for a path to connect fans with favorite athletes via social media while promoting its brand.
Using the hashtag #CheersToSochi, fans sent messages to Olympic athletes. These messages were displayed on the McDonald’s kiosk in the Olympic Village, the temporary home for athletes in Sochi.
According to McDonald’s, more than 5,500 “cheers” were sent via Twitter and athletes printed more than 2,800 message ribbons to display during the events. Many athletes connected directly with the fans by sending their own appreciation messages, shares and retweets, and images throughout the Olympics.
#HASHTAG Social Media Activism
Citizen activists launched some of the most recognizable social media campaigns on global and local stages. These campaigns raised awareness and rallied support of concerned citizens all over the world.
Whether or not you agree with the message, there’s no denying the power of social media to advance these movements. For example, #BlackLivesMatter provided grass-roots social media campaigns for generating conversations, both on- and offline, about strained relationships in the wake of the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown. In early December, the #ICantBreathe hashtag appeared on more than 300,000 Twitter and Instagram posts.
The hashtag #OccupyCentral was a form of social media activism set on ensuring electoral reforms in Hong Kong. The hashtag was used to provide information and organize protests (note: the movement is actually called “Occupy Central with Love and Peace” to emphasize the use of peaceful demonstrations).
#BringBackOurGirls focused attention on freeing 273 schoolgirls kidnapped from the Chibok secondary school in Nigeria by Boko Haram terrorists. The hashtag generated worldwide attention, and millions of tweets and Facebook posts, to get other countries and governments involved in the rescue effort (note: more than 220 girls are still missing).
~ A version of this post appeared in the Sunday, January 4, 2015 edition of The Vindicator.
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.