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Social Media Links

In today’s constantly-connected world, there’s no escaping social media. Companies are using social media to reach a new audience of consumers, schools are creating Twitter and Facebook accounts to connect with students and their families, and entertainment companies use social media to reward regular views of TV shows and movie fans. Social media is also being used by traditional media to enhance print publications and television shows.

But does all of this connectivity add up to any real benefit for the user? Does social media integration make a person more inclined to use online services—shopping, education and customer service— in place of more conventional options?  While people make decisions based on a whole host of factors, studies show that social media can influence more than just the way people communicate; social media can have a tangible impact on what people choose to buy, as well as levels of political and social engagement. Social media is affecting the way people communicate, but it’s also affecting the way people live their lives.


Colleges and universities were among the first institutions to introduce online elements like e-mail and websites to their students, faculty and staff. But as social media becomes an important tool for students and teachers alike, Facebook and Twitter are enhancing or even replacing some of the messaging and online collaborative programs from just a few years ago. The rise of online education has been both encouraged and supported by social media: most major colleges and universities now offer courses online, and others offer entire programs online for returning adults or students who want to finish a degree without traveling to a campus.

And online education is also becoming a useful tool for K-12 teachers and students— programs like Skype that connect students from different areas of the country or the world, online apps like Google Earth that gives students tours of far-flung locations, and programs like Grockit that help kids study for tests are all changing the educational landscape.

Social awareness and consumers

You might not think that shopping is an important part of life, but social media is helping consumers make informed decisions about what they buy and why. Whether it’s learning about the latest smartphone or how buying local can affect your town’s economy, social media sites are encouraging people to learn more about what and how they consume products.

Of course, marketing firms and companies have recognized that social media can influence buying decisions, but activists and non-profit organizations have also realized that providing consumers with information can affect how people view their regular purchases. And sites like Facebook have made it possible for people to learn more about various causes, and how they can contribute to improving society. Organizations like Feeding America and the Red Cross are using social media to make it easy for people to donate and offer other types of support. By making it easy for regular people to contribute to charities and other causes, people are becoming more politically and socially active—and small actions by millions of people can combine to create a larger impact.

The links that social media have helped create go far beyond messages to friends, family and classmates. The benefits to users can range from the minor to the miraculous—and as social media becomes a part of everyday life, it will change the way we interact with the world.

Social Media Day!

Social Media DayYesterday was Social Media Day! There were no parades. No floats. There were a few Mashable parties. But mainly it was a day to recognize the impact that social media has had on business and our lives.

Social media has changed the way that we interact with our technology. We text, IM, tweet and comment from our computer, our iPads, our phones. We have a bunch of new and interesting ways to keep in touch and communicate. Whether it is a way to send a video that says “Happy Birthday” or a news link to a streaming feed from a political debate. Social media has broadened and deepened the way we communicate.

In asking how social media has affected our lives I inevitably think about my profession as a social media director. When I was in high school, even when I was in college, this was not only a career I never envisioned but it was a career that did not exist. I went to my old high school (Sandia Prep) for a alumni college/career panel for the seniors. A number of reunioning alumni were up there and we were to speak about our college choices, our major and the resulting career.  I spoke about choosing a woman’s college (Smith College) where I majored in something that fascinated me but had no specific career path associated with it (American Studies, with a focus on 19th century race relation….yeah, seriously). Instead of teaching me about business or technology (I waited for my MBA for that line of study) it taught you how to think, analyze and research. It taught you how to look at the world critically and make connections between seemingly disconnected events and patterns.  I jokingly told them that I play on Facebook and Twitter professionally. However, in making connections I said, that my strange academic focus directly contributes to my success in social media.

I told them that I never thought I would work in this field, likely because it did not exist when I was think about what I wanted to do when I grew up. But I came into it and found that I had an affinity for it because I was able to see connections between seemingly disparate things and that is why I excel at strategy. My focus for the talk was their educational path but it did bring to light how much social media has integrated itself into so many aspects of our lives.

Social Media has worked its way into nearly every facet of our techno-communication based existence. Revolutionary.

Women are bad Entrepreneurs? Speak for yourself (part 1)

Going CrazyPenelope Trunk is an accomplished woman. She has had successful entrepreneurial ventures and has published extensively in publications like Boston Globe and Time Magazine. However if you read her recent article in Techcrunch, you would not be left with the impression that she is a successful entrepreneur and writer. Trunk begins her article stating that she hated what she did, despite being successful. As we all know success does not mean happiness. Instead of writing a post about finding her happiness outside of the entrepreneurial rat race to settle down with a new husband, kids, pigs, sheep and a panoply of furry farm animals. She essentially writes a post how women are horrible entrepreneurs and business people. She touches on the pressures and inequities of society. Yes women have harder times getting business funding. Yes women are still discriminated against in the work place, in competitive job positions and in salary ranges. Yes there is a traditional time in woman’s life when she is likely to have children. Gloria Steinem and Jane Fonda can expound on this for us all.

Trunk sites a New York Times report that describes entrepreneurs as being manic. However, we are not all Charlotte Gillman Perkins ripping-off-the-yellow-wallpaper crazy because we want to be successful or run our own business. She furthers this insult by saying that women are not committed or focused enough to be good entrepreneurs. That we are not willing to sacrifice our private lives to be the next big thing. She even claims that 20-something year old men are better at startups than basically any woman because they have unfettered drive. Honestly, speak for yourself. My drive is hardly fettered and I am not a 20-something or a man.

Women face an uphill battle that has been raging on for not just decades, but hundreds of years. We have a society where a stay-at-home dad is lauded for making such a sacrifice and women are common place, and looked down upon, for the same sacrifice. Trunk says that children are the reason women do not have startups is because of kid. I say that is a load of sheep pellets. We make our choices. Some women want to raise a family, and they should be lauded for that! Some women want careers, and they have worked hard for them. Some women want to have a family and a business, maybe even a family business! oooh!

Trunk is obviously speaking from her own experience and unfortunately for the rest of us she seems to feel that she is speaking for our entire gender. She made a choice to focus on her career and was very successful. She then made a choice to focus on her family, and feels successful in that. Good for her. But lets face it, her success in her career is what is allowing her to focus on her family in the manner that she is. She stepped out of the rat race because she didn’t like it and it is a sweeping generalization that her reason for not liking applies to the rest of us.

So simply, speak for yourself.

Since she chose to speak for all of us, as a proud and loud Smith College alumnae, I decided to ask some Smithies what they thought of her post. Needless to say, I got some great responses!

Penelope Phillips-Armand says, “At least Ms. Trunk seems to realize that she’s been putting too many of her eggs in one basket. As Gail Shee…hy pointed out as early as the 1970’s in her book “Passages, ” many women have trouble integrating professional, family, and personal values until age 35 or so, when they have lived enough to know what works for them as individuals. Been there, done that. Even after developing a strong sense of one’s deeper self, one has to be alert to the many centrifugal callings that compete for one’s available resources. Men are by no means exempt from that problem: I remember hearing once about a young architecture student who quit school because he was desperate to do his laundry.

The “Brazen Careerist” blog draws mostly on the author’s experience, and it sounds as though she pushes for extremes–both in her endeavors and in her conclusions. That title, setting up startups versus children, is outrageous–not only because it might yet be taken straight by some benighted souls, but also because there are so many ways to run startups as well as to raise children.

Let’s not be horrified; we need our wits about us. Let’s hope, instead, that the next phase of her life brings her further integration, moderation and wisdom.” (Visit Penelope’s website here or here or her newest site.)

Anne Gonnella writes, “From personal experience as a mom, I agree and disagree. There is NO WAY IN HELL I would try to run a startup as a new mom. Even if my husband were to stay home and raise the kids, I would have to be ok with not taking part in raising my kids myself, and I’m not. On the other hand, I had my first baby at 39. Married at 30. If I had wanted to, I would have had plenty of time in my 20’s to start a business and work crazy hours to get it going, without interfering with the rest of my life plans for a family. I know plenty of women who had children later in life, too – it’s not that unusual and there is no biological reason not to have a rich and time consuming career before kids, or after the kids are older.

I take real exception to her claim that boys and girls are genetically pre-disposed to different behaviors at the outset. She says she did her research, bu clearly she only read some of the material out there. There is plenty of evidence to the contrary she missed. For example, Cordelia Fine points out in her book (read about it here and here)  that a lot of theories of gender differences are based on bad science. Barbara Mackoff, in her book uncovers many of the hidden ways we create gender bias without realizing it, and then call the differences we see innate. I could go on. Saying that boys use guns because they are hardwired to and girls just want to nurture their dolls just provides convenient excuses for gender discrimination instead of embracing individual differences and open minded attitudes.” – (Email Anne, @annathema, or read her blog)

Tiffani St.Cloud writes, “I think she has some valid ideas to share. She hasn’t shared them in any way I can agree with, however. I’ve worked and continue to work with women who have children and are excellent managers.

I’ve also worked with a man who had the pattern of disorder she attributes to all women who have children. He was co-parenting (with his wife), but he still couldn’t pull it together and have a work-life balance.

It’s one thing to want to share your personal experience — I’m all for that. It’s quite another to take your personal experience, generalize it to all women, then close by saying that 20 something males are superior employees/managers. That’s a model that worked for her, she’s entitled to express it, but she’s has no background to state that it’s true for others.”

…so many Smithies wanted to share, I decided to break this up into two parts.  Part 2 will post Saturday October 16.