Designing Social Media

I have been using “social media” since the term was coined to describe the networks that were emerging online along with “Web 2.0.”  In a time when wikis, podcasts, blogs and social media were all seen as a new form of branding and marketing, I began doing consulting for companies that wanted to enter the social media world.

It reminded me of early web development. In the 1990s, companies started to sense that they “needed a website”, but they weren’t exactly clear about why they needed a site.  It seemed like what everyone else (i.e. their competitors) was doing.  The Return on Investment (ROI) was not exactly clear.

In 1997, the Web had one million sites. Blogging was just beginning.  SixDegrees.com let users create profiles and list friends and AOL Instant Messenger let users chat. Google was non-existent.

It wasn’t until 2001 that Wikipedia was started, and Apple started selling iPods. Friendster, a social networking website, was opened to the public in the U.S. in 2002 and grew to 3 million users in three months. The following year, MySpace. another social networking website, was launched as a clone of Friendster.

By them what company of any decent size would be without a website? None.  As with websites, social media began to be seen as “something our company needs to do” even if companies were not sure what the immediate return would be.

In 2006, MySpace was the most popular social networking site in the U.S. However, based on monthly unique visitors, Facebook would take away that lead in 2008. That was also the year that Twitter was launched as a social networking and microblogging site.

I started teaching about social media in my courses and by 2010 it became a course in itself.  “Designing Social Media” at NJIT, even at that time, seemed to some of my fellow educators to be a topic that was not worthy of an entire course. Interestingly, as other colleges also began to offer social media courses, a good number of the students who enrolled were equally from communications programs and from business programs.

That course requires a lot of preparation because it changes so rapidly that last year’s social media sites, the syllabus topics, and the readings (forget about a “textbook”) are largely useless except as historical content.

In 2013, I took on the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) as a social media client. The organization and its many affiliate groups realized that they needed to have a social media strategy and employees to implement it.

One of the big questions from the executive staff when I met with them at their headquarters in Indiana was still ROI – “How will we be able to measure the impact from using social media?” It is still the big concern and a very tricky question to answer. I would start by asking how you measure your brand without social media?

For NCTE, we offered these social media ways to share any page on their website

No one really disputes the significant role social media plays in the world – though they may debate its value.

Though social media use has fallen mostly over to the marketing side, I have kept my interest in non-profits and individual usage.

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