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.

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. 

Social Media Metrics – Comments

I’ve just finished reading this article:

Ask SMT: Are there too many social media metrics? Which do you find most valuable?

This was definitely an interesting read for me, because a lot of the baseline metrics that I I’ve looked at when reporting on social media just didn’t seem relevant, especially when reporting to senior staff.

One theme here is that level of interaction is important, and I think it’s more important than reach, even though reach numbers can look much more impressive. Rather than  the number of people that might have potentially looked at your content, it’s the number of people that read/watched stuff, shared it, talked about it, talked to you about it, that really count.

A number of the interviewed commenters in this had the point of metrics needing to be relevant to your specific goals and your organisation – this is a helpful comment in that you shouldn’t be exactly following other people’s plan, however there are some baselines that need to be followed – Return on Investment for paid media was one, and real bascis like number of followers is absolutely another.

Notes from the #Oiconf Feed

So the Online Influencers Conference was going on in Bristol a few days ago. Sadly, I wasn’t there, but fortunately it was being attended by a crowd of people who are sharing good stuff to the Twitter hashtag #OiConf, and the OiConf account itself was full of roundups etc.

I immediately made some phone notes with the best top tweets and made a few notes of my own, so I’m finally getting around to throwing them up here.

I’ve noticed this too, it’s why Facebook videos now only count views of 3 seconds or longer, any less than that and the ‘view’ wasn’t really a view at all.

Definitely one to bear of mind when working with brands – there’s a ‘day of’ for pretty much every day of the year now, (this post from Hootsuite is a good resource, but there’s no point in celebrating the

Influencers and ‘authenticity’ is such as fascinating topic. The internet is full of content creators who are making a living off balancing a carefully cultivated brand and being ‘real’ to their fans, especially when working with sponsored content (I wrote about this years ago in a blog post that barely scratches the surface, it might be time for some follow-up work.)

I’m a bit scared by this last one – but it’s something I’ve since been reading up more up. After all, with the rise of AI in retail, customer service etc., this starts to sound a bit less like hyperbole and actually pretty plausible. In fact, it’s been recently suggested that AI in customer service frontline could be quite beneficial in preventing burn-out in the workforce. On the other hand, if not handled it will remove a lot of lower-income jobs with no alternatives.

Hootsuite: Notes from the A to Z of Social Media Strategy

These notes are from this free course provided by Hootsuite, which I mentioned that I would be starting to work through in this previous post.

Companies are rushing to catch up on digital output, which means that digital and non-digital often aren’t in sync with each other as far as goals are concerned.

  • You need a unified and sound social media strategy.
  • A unified strategy will help a company achieve it’s goals better (see this post for notes on marketing goals.)

It needs to clarify and provide guidance, as well as adherence to best practice.

Personal Note: This has applied to all of the social media accounts that I have managed over the past few years:

  • To ensure that company staff changes over time won’t affect the social media platforms
  • To lay out roles and responsibilities
  • To outline policies and appropriate uses.
  • Also particular tone and style – not doing this can confuse followers and may make it obvious to the public when different people post.

Components of the Strategy

  • Do an audit of your accounts
  • Outline your objectives
  • Figure out your brand and voice – a style guide for social media is something that I’ve seen before, and may be a good idea
  • Also need to set up measurements and goals, and figure out what does and doesn’t work.

The analysis of your existing social media is the first thing. Your social platform engagement should be logged frequently to see clear growth/decline/changes over time.

  • Look closely at your competition!
  • What strategies work for them and how can you incorporate them into your own?

Important point – Be Honest! – or you won’t have the best answers to move forward.

That last point would be bolded more if I could, since it can be too easy to put a positive spin on your figures, especially if presenting them to senior colleagues or clients. But it’s important to remember, if they aren’t as social media savvy as you, they’re relying on you to provide them with clear guidance for their long-term ideas. And if they are, they’re likely to know what they’re looking at… even if it’s not the answers that they wanted, this is the first step to social media improvement, which is the most important point.

The impersonality of Twitter Moments

Twitter moments are impersonal.
I discovered that this weekend when my tweet of a political event was included in twitter’s news coverage. After a short while the number of notifications, while nowhere beat viral levels, was starting to annoy me, so I turned them off until this morning. When I finally turned them back on, I had a shed load of likes and retweets, but also a couple of replies. I braced myself for the likely rude comments. 
Instead, while the comments were people opposed to the event, they weren’t addressing those comments to me, just generally commenting. It struck me that while my account etc is still visible in the scrolling newsfeed, Twitter moments make it seem less like it’s coming from a personal account (unless it’s someone extremely famous) and people are more inclined to treat it that way. Some food for thought when using Twitter moments as a tool.