Why We Post Week 2: Constructed Imagery

Week Two of my latest Future Learn course (details here) began with:

In this week we will concentrate upon social media as a significant change in human communication that makes images equal to text

– something that I looked at a lot back at university.

I’ve written before about how images (and increasingly, video) allow for a more universal form of communication, as well as conveying emotions that are absent or hard to interpret in plain text, especially with the character constraints of platforms like Twitter. Plus, I know from social media marketing that images = better engagement, and that applies to casual/personal posting as well as companies.

However this course takes things a little deeper by looking at how that changes in different communities around the world. For example, they looked at two places, Trinidad and Italy, where the culture expects people’s appearance to equal their social status, and social media posting reflects that, especially in selfies and photos with friends/family. But there were differences, as the course noted:

[In Italy] people expect social media to be consistent with their offline social status, while in Trinidad people may use social media to claim a higher social status online.

Also a thought from the course discussion of selfies and how many people view them as narcissistic – ‘selfies’ are more often thought of that way because the word sounds like ‘selfish’. 😲

It was also interesting to learn that this idea that placing a high worth on your outer image make you shallow doesn’t apply on certain parts of the world.

[People in Trinidad] consider that what lies deep inside a person to be more likely to be untrue because it is hidden.

This cultural difference is down to history – Trinidad, for example, is a place shaped by colonialism and slavery. In modern society, people there often don’t get their identity from class or upbringing, so how they present themselves in public is based on self-worth and aspiration. Therefore, how they show themselves on social media is cultivated to reflect how they think other should see them.

Interestingly, I think this is something that is starting to happen on social networks elsewhere in the world. As much as there is distain for the ‘selfie generation’, there is also a movement of encouraging that outer self-worth in carefully curated and created pictures.

Why We Post Week One: Social Media Anthropology

The next part of week one of this Future Learn course (my notes on the first part can be found here) focuses on how social media can be researched from an anthropological perspective – meaning that social media is placed within the context of the culture and society of the people using it. 

The course material asked:

Why might anthropology be particularly suited to the study of social media?

And my answering comment was:

The anthropological aspect means we understand that a person is more than what they post on social media, and there are decisions made and influences which we don’t see that influence how they use social networks.

At this point, we were asked to put a geographical marker on a map to show where everyone on the course is from – I love this!


The researchers who created this course described some of the changes that they had seen in social media between different locations and different areas. For example, email became the main method of communication for both work and personal time in older generations, but in younger people it is almost solely used for work and education – other ways are used for personal communication. 

They also noted that in some countries, social media has been massively beneficial in holding social structure together where mass migration for work is happening, for example in China and India. Parents, especially fathers, are often separated from their families for long periods of time while they work in other parts of the country. Social media is an easy to maintain familial bonds. Also, from a work perspective it is seen as an easy way for co-workers to get to know each other’s lives and socially integrate more quickly. 

The research in different parts of the world was carried out through interviews and questionnaires over a long period, giving large amounts of qualitative data which gave the researchers a detailed insight into the lives of the people they were studying and how social media usage both changed and changed them over time.

Why We Post (FutureLearn Social Media Course) Starting on Week 1 

It’s been a while since I’ve looked at social media from anything other than a marketing/advertising perspective, since that’s mostly what I’ve been working at for the past few years. So it was pretty exciting to be scrolling through FutureLearn courses and find this course, ‘Why we Post’ which focuses on the social media from an anthropological aspect. 

Social media has changed beyond reckoning on the few years since I left my University course. It is much more segmented, with more platforms (Snapchat and WhatsApp were still very much emerging at that point, the now defunct Vine was a major force, and livestreaming apps such as Periscope were some years off.) The demographics of users are becoming much clearer – increasingly the younger generations have rejected Facebook, for example, and there are geographical differences in who uses what. The course material acknowledges this – that many studies have focussed solely on social media on a Western setting, ignoring networks like QQ in East Aisa which is second only to Facebook in size. It also acknowledges that prior courses have tended to look at heavily open platforms such as Twitter. There’s a good reason for this – both quantitative and qualitative data are easily accessible and retrievable, but it ignores how much online communication and connecting goes on through increasingly private channels, or public/private situations such as Snapchat.

Global Inequality in Tech: Part Two

Earlier this year, I wrote what turned out to be a fairly depressing post on how jobs around the world and across many industries are slowly becoming automated, resulting in massive job losses and a resultant ever-increasing gaps in equality.

Much of the focus so far has tended to be on manual jobs, being replaced by robots, and causing a gap between those with digital skills and those without. Yet, while that’s absolutely true, a lot of digital and office jobs are slowly being replaced too. Front-line customer service is being replaced by chatbots. Last time, I mentioned an insurance firm using computers to automate customer quotes. There have been a lot of other examples in the past few months – it feels like we’re finally starting to reach that long-predicted AI point.

There are advantages to the rise of the computer.

This was my first reaction to the Venturebeat article linked above – that systems that can do calculations for me, sort emails, take notes etc. could potentially massive increase my productivity. In fact, in my current job much of the technology to do that certainly already exists, though not necessarily widely or cheaply (so we know that it soon will be.) This article from Digital Trends predicts that:

AI alone could double annual economic growth rates for some countries by 2035

However, the new technology simply doesn’t translate into new jobs. So not only will there be massive job loss, I wonder what will happen to the entry-level and graduate jobs of many positions. If there is no more need for the Marketing Assistant level-type roles, where is the traditional stepping stones, in my career area, at least, and many others? If people can’t gain  work experience in those low level roles, they may have to spend a lot longer in higher education to gain the skills necessary to actually advance, and even in the most developed nations that is a path increasingly only open to those with money and supportive families.

 

 

Power to the (Facebook) Pixel

The latest part of my current Highbrow course was about using Facebook Insights to track website traffic – essentially non-Facebook stuff, which was definitely something I wanted to write a bit more on.
I’ve used Facebook Pixels before to track return on investment for Facebook ads, but I hadn’t thought seriously about it’s use in tracking the demographics on standard website traffic and leads – I was sort of aware that this worked, but hadn’t considered the possibilities before.

While Google Analytics (the usual go-to for web stats) can give you a great deal of knowledge about your visitors, it has nothing on Facebook Insights, because Facebook was designed from the ground up to gather everything about an individual person. Plus, for those people it doesn’t have specific info on, it can extrapolate and profile based on the data it does have. (Basically, all those people who tell me ‘Oh, Facebook doesn’t know anything about me, I never told it my age/birthday/gender!’ And think they’ve been very clever – nope, I’m sorry, Facebook knows who you are.)

Once you’ve hit 1000 website views, Facebook Insights can start giving you way more info on the demographic of your website users than you’d likely be able to get otherwise. 

Studying Here and There

I started out just wanting to write a quick update, but this definitely turned into something more! Well, that’s what blogging is all about, I guess.


On the learning front, I’ve been working through Future Learn’s Social Business course. It’s been really informative in how to build a potential business, and also how to measure business success in ways other than financial gain, by measuring social impact.

This allows businesses to balance between the customers who provide more social impact but less money, and more commercial products/services/customers who provide the money that keeps the business ticking over. Their method of Social Return on Investment is to give activities and services an monetary unit, (m.u.) that it didn’t already have, using customer/client surveys to produce the relevant data.

Elsewhere, I’m still keeping up with Duolingo French. The further on trying to learn a language goes, the less it feels like I’m keeping up, but Duolingo is set up to send encouraging emails when I’m falling behind on my daily practice, which definitely gives me the push to keep it up. (Future Learn does this too, once you’ve not logged in for a set amount of time.) According to the site, I’ve progressed from 17% fluency to 43%, so whatever that means, I feel confident putting French on my LinkedIn profile at least!

Today I signed up for new Highbrow course, this time on ‘How to generate more leads through your website‘. It doesn’t come through until tomorrow lunchtime – specified times on Highbrow are now a premium feature, along with certain courses, which is how I thought they might monetise the site. I’ll get some notes and thoughts together on that course once I’ve had a few days on it.

Finally, I’ve been exploring another new way to get bite-sized marketing learning into my day with the Marketing School | Digital Marketing podcast, which is exactly long enough to fit into my walk from the railway station to my work.

 

Marketing Essentials Notes Part 3

I ended up writing two very short, but very different posts today, rather than one longer topic. The first one is here.

I’ve been making a few more short notes from the marketing textbook Marketing Essentials as I work through it – here’s part one and part two.

In this section, I was looking at Consumer Buyer behaviour.

Marketing Essentials outlines four different types of buyer: Routine Response Buyer, Limited Decision Maker, Extensive Decision Maker and Impulse Buyer.

Often, this has less to with with the buyers themselves than with the product. For example, you are more likely to put more thought, time and research into buying a new car (Extensive Decision Making) than into buying a pint of milk. Milk would be a Routine Response purchase, as you are likely to go to the same place (the supermarket) to buy your usual product, and if that wasn’t available (perhaps it’s not your usual brand, or there’s only semi-skimmed, not skimmed) then you would buy the next available similar product without really thinking about it.

Limited Decision Making covers both products that the consumer only buys occasionally, as well as when they need to research an unfamiliar product or brand.

Impulse buying, however, involves little or no research at all. Impulse buying is encouraged both in physical stores and online through more elaborate POS (point of sale) displays. Research has suggested that this is becoming more and more common as a form of buying behaviour, and as a result companies are much likely to use add-on items or prominent displays at check-outs etc. However, over time this can backfire somewhat for the company, because people are much more likely to regret their purchases and don’t develop loyalty to a company and brand. It generates better short-term income, but may not create repeat sales behaviour.