When I was a new college professor, an older professor told me, “They probably know more about some of this stuff than you do. The trick is to make them think you always know more than them.”
That advice never worked for me.
Last week during Youngstown State University’s annual Summer Honors Institute, I had the fortune of teaching some very smart high school students about social media communication.
“There’s no way I’m going to stand up here and pretend like I know everything about social media,” I said during the opening lecture. “In fact, I bet a lot of you use some cool apps and know some cool tricks that I don’t know.”
“I hope you teach me about them.”
Here are a few things I learned from these amazing honors students:
1. They still use Facebook.
For a long time, social media marketers have been downplaying the impact Facebook has on pre-teen and teen purchasing decisions. The truth is, teens are still using Facebook to connect with the world, just maybe not in droves.
Sure, not all of my students were using Facebook. But then not of all of my students were using Twitter, Instagram, or Snapchat either. The takeaway here is that we will probably never have a universally adopted social media platform, and that’s OK.
The trick is crafting messages for multiple platforms in hopes of meeting the audience where they are.
2. Tumblr is still rolling.
Tumblr is a micro-blogging social app for posting images, videos, text, links and other content from a browser or mobile device. According to Tumblr, the site hosts more than 300 million blogs and more than a 135 million blog posts.
Two of my students claimed to be active Tumblr users and said many of their friends were also on the platform. When pressed about why they used Tumblr, two answers emerged: Our parents aren’t on it, and it’s really easy to use.
One student noted the “Smash Cache” feature on Tumblr, which allows users to free up extra memory on their mobile devices, delete the cache, make it run faster and crash less.
3. MySpace is still a thing.
Remember MySpace? Between 2005 and 2008, it was the largest social media platform in the world. It pre-dated Facebook in popularity and growth, but quickly dropped in usage.
For some users, it’s still a relevant social media platform, so much so that a few weeks ago, MySpace made news when its usernames and passwords were hacked and put up for sale on a hacker forum.
Security breeches aside, my students use it to stay up on their favorite bands, comedians and other entertainment. One student said “You don’t have to be logged in to listen to music, so passwords aren’t even an issue for me.”
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Dr. Adam C. Earnheardt is special assistant to the provost and professor of communication in the department of communication at Youngstown State University in Youngstown, OH, USA where he also directs the graduate program in professional communication. He researches and writes on a variety of topics including communication technologies, relationships, and sports (with an emphasis on fandom). His work has appeared in Mahoning Matters as well as The Vindicator and Tribune-Chronicle newspapers.