What makes a blog eye-catching?

One blog that I regularly follow is Makeup By Caitlyn Michelle. Caity is a good friend of mine, so when she started doing professional makeup, I was all for supporting her in every way possible. Her blog was one of the first platforms she used to talk about her business. She also used it to share makeup tips and tricks, her portfolio, opinion pieces, and more. I like following her blog because I never knew much about makeup, but her posts inspired me to learn more.

As I said, I wasn’t never a makeup guru, but the way Caity’s content is put together helps me learn easily. Through her blog I’ve learned how certain makeup items work, and how to look into different types of makeup. I like how she mixes up content, too. It isn’t always about makeup. Sometimes she will post about how to decorate your home or how to achieve your yearly goals. Mixing up the content helps keep the blog fresh.makeup2

makeup1The overall design of the blog is clean, concise, and eye-catching. I like how you can see her latest posts with a tidbit of information under each title and graphic, which then allows you to read more if you choose. Additionally, I like the photos she chooses to add to her posts. They help make the content stand out – it’s very professional looking!

Lastly, I like how the blog is integrated into her overall professional website caitlynmichelle.com. This allows the user to go back and learn more about her, her services, and portfolio. What I find amazing about the site is that I know Caity does more than makeup, and she displays it perfectly on her website under “about us”– allowing people to see what she can help them with (for example, she links to her Etsy shop). The social media icons and widgets on the site allow for more ways to connect with Caity, too.

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Knowing Caity personally, she is a rockstar! She does makeup on top of a full-time marketing job, and is also a graphic designer and does freelance work. She also touches on fashion by assisting others in shopping and cleaning out their closet. Caity is extremely busy, so it’s impressive how she is able to keep up with her blog regularly and still make it eye-catching! Her blog is a great example of what makes a blog stand out.

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Advertising in a Digital World

In this week’s Introduction to Digital Communications class we discussed how digital growth has most dramatically changed in the advertising industry. Advertisements have become more diverse as we continue to see changes in technology. Below are a couple examples of what we talked about in class.

  • Ads in Facebook videos. Facebook showing advertisements in their videos is now similar to how we see many videos on YouTube. Since Facebook always looks to be the most dominant social network out there, they continue to add features and limits to specific parts of the site – in this case, video. Facebook won’t allow you to share a YouTube video on their page and have it auto-play, mainly due to the fact that they want you to upload your video to their site (it shows up as a thumbnail when shared from YouTube. This also allows them to places ads in the video and make money that way. Users typically have to watch some or most of an ad before watching a video – a new, kind of forced, way of advertising. Facebook is also encouraging video advertisements for your business – read more here.
  • Snapchat geofilters. Snapchat geofilters (see samples below) are one of the more diverse out of the most recent digital advertisements created. Snapping a video or photo and then swiping left allows you to choose filters based on your location or a campaign that is going on. For example, as you can see below, most cities now have filters for you to use when you send your snaps to others – which, in turn, promotes the city. Many companies use this technique to spread awareness of their brand, campaign, or event. One example that comes to mind is the show Scream Queens. I remember seeing commercials for it on TV, but when the pilot show was about to come out, a Snapchat filter was created to promote the show. The geofilters usually are unique and entertaining, which leads to “snapchatters” to use the filter – without always realizing they’re helping promote a brand, campaign, or event.

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Other advertisements we see today include podcast ads, social influencers, personalized ads tailored to our Internet activity, and much more. All of these have impacted the advertising industry greatly – making it harder to keep up with all the different platforms to use, but also making it easier to reach the target audience. It’s funny to think about how radio, print, and TV were the most popular way to advertise – now there are almost too many!

Journalism during the 2016 Presidential Election

Journalism was either praised or criticized by many during the 2016 Presidential election. During this week’s class, we were asked what grade (A through F) would we give journalism during the 2016 presidential election race. I found it interesting that each of us graded differently, but majority were in the B to D range. Many of us shared the same points and reasons why we placed journalism in the “below average” category.

Read: How the 2016 campaign changed political journalism by Kristen Hare and Alexios Mantzarlis to see what 20 journalists graded the election coverage, as well as advice for the future. 

First, many agreed the night of the election coverage was off. I stayed up for the entire thing, flipping through a few different mainstream news channels, and all had different results. I actually noticed that Google had the most accurate results in terms of electoral votes coming in, and then Fox News was the second most precise (from my experience). This shouldn’t be the case – we should be able to see realtime results on all stations.

Second, a lot of the election mainly focused on now President Donald Trump. While he certainly put himself out there to gain the attention of voters and mass media, I think that journalists could have done a better job of highlighting the other candidates more. I felt that the whole election was full of attacks rather than the good of each candidate.

Third, all of the news headlines have become more about what small point in that article or news coverage captures a person’s attention, rather than what the story as a whole is about. I noticed a lot of news stories shared on social media would have a crazy headline, usually attacking Trump or another candidate, and then you open the story and it’s all about another issue, with one or two sentences about that headline. The changing of headlines can  be the journalist skewing what the person said or did to make a story interesting. As someone said in class, it’s like all the headlines these days are for tabloids. (I also found Column: Why click-bait will be the death of journalism by Jeffrey Dvorkin to be an interesting article!)

One final point I’ll make is that numerous mainstream news channels have turned their morning and other shows into talk shows, criticizing other journalists during them. It’s almost like a battle of the news stations – who can sound more truthful or more journalistic?

I’m sure we will continue to see changes in journalism in elections as the Internet keeps evolving. What would you grade journalism during the 2016 election?

Can Big Data Prevent Fake News?

In this week’s Introduction to Digital Communication class, we discussed “Big Data” and how it influences what we do in our daily lives. According to SAS Institute Inc., “Big data is a term that describes the large volume of data – both structured and unstructured – that inundates a business on a day-to-day basis. But it’s not the amount of data that’s important. It’s what organizations do with the data that matters. Big data can be analyzed for insights that lead to better decisions and strategic business moves.”

The bold part of the definition is important to consumers because it changes our buying experience. For example (a favorite example mentioned in class), if I am booking a flight on Expedia and it says “20 people are looking at this flight right now” or “2 spots left on this flight” – typically I would purchase the flight quickly so I don’t lose my spot. But, this is just marketing. Big Data is helping Expedia and other companies create tactics like the ones stated above to make consumers spend money.

Big Data changes how we shop, travel, eat and even how we interpret news stories. While their are tools to fight against fake news, sometimes it relies on the user to determine the validity of a story.

“The problem is that users are generally disinclined to take the extra effort to check. Even going to a website, tool, or app to verify a story before sharing it is more effort than most people will take,” Bernard Marr said in his Fake News: How Big Data And AI Can Help article. “Until big data, artificial intelligence and machine learning enabled tools become more sophisticated and reliable, we need to focus on educating people (starting as early as primary school) to be critical thinkers and not take every story at face value.”

While the above article mentions the tools that are helping fix this void of sharing or reporting fake news, I agree that the problem does rely on the user. We talked a couple weeks ago in our class about how the Internet has changed how we read, write, speak and listen – all of which definitely apply to social media. Our attention span is short; we want to read something short and know the point behind it immediately.

Many people don’t open an article before reading it – they just assume it is true. I believe this is how fake news is spread. Users see a headline of an article that sparks their interest, they share it, it keeps circulating, and before we know it – it’s everywhere (and it is fake). Most articles like this would be reported as “fake” if the users simply read it before sharing. I see this happen a lot on my personal feed.

Unless we educate users from the very beginning to be critical thinkers, will fake news ever stop being shared? Will users read more than just the headline? To that end, can Big Data really prevent fake news? I’m interested in your thoughts – leave your comments below!

P.S. Here is some other news about Big Data:

Digital Divide: The Global Difference

In this week’s Introduction to Digital Communications class, we discussed the digital divide on global, social and personal levels. The one I found most interesting was the global divide – the difference in technology between industrialized and less industrialized nations. Wealth, language, lack of reading ability/education, etc. are all factors that contribute to the industrialization of a location. The thought of life without Internet made me think of how lucky we are as a nation to have it.

It isn’t only not having the Internet that is crazy to me, but the lack of opportunity in some countries, such as Eritrea. In America, we are able to go to school and get a proper education to prepare us for our future beyond school. In addition, if that isn’t easy for some of us, there are usually plenty of options for us to obtain an education. It is expected of us to get an education.

Now, we have the Internet to give us even more opportunities. We can look for scholarships, apply to college, learn new languages, go to school, etc. – all online! We are SO incredibly lucky to be afforded these possibilities that sometimes we take them for granted. When we think of the global divide and the countries who aren’t offered the same things we are, we have to remember to be grateful for what we have and what we can do with our lives, because there are others out there wishing they could do what we can.

It’s imperative to help others when you can. That’s a big thing I do in life. It’s important to think of how you can make a difference in the world, and to act on it. So, how can we help other countries become industrialized enough to get Internet? I would love to hear your ideas! It would be great to all come together and be able to make someone’s life by giving the gift of the Internet.

Social media – How has it changed your social life?

Many say social media has made us more social, while others say the opposite. Social media allows us to connect more with others on new levels. On the contrast, we are able to hide behind social media when we are too nervous to speak to someone in person. It all depends on our personality and the social activity. According to Imtiaz Ali’s “Positive and Negative Effects of Social Media on Society” article, we can see the clear positive and negative effects of social media. While there are several points to list on the impacts of social media, I am going to highlight one positive impact from the Ali’s article, and a negative impact I view for myself.

One of the positive impacts mentioned says “social networking sites is to unite people on a huge platform for the achievement of some specific objective. This is very important to bring the positive change in society.”

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Toby was our first rescue dog as a couple. Read more about Toby here.

I believe the above statement is true. There are so many groups, events, etc. where people who share the same interests can come together to achieve an ultimate goal. For example, I have a passion for saving animals – so I’m part of many local and national pet groups on Facebook where I can share fundraisers, animals needing foster homes or advice. This has helped me make a difference in many lives – I know I wouldn’t have been able to save as many lives as I did without Facebook, Instagram, and other social media sites. Another positive note is I have made many animal rescue friends along the way! I know this has made me more social because I’m able to speak on my beliefs more freely than I have before.

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Sammy, Scrappy, Eli & Moe wouldn’t be alive if social media didn’t exist.

A negative aspect about social media is a person’s need to share content to make his or herself feel good. To me, this is not a healthy way of thinking. People share selfies, some over-the-top information on their relationships, where they are eating or where they are traveling to – there is no privacy. I understand if you are excited about something and want to share it, I do that as well; but everyone knows those particular friends who stick out and do a lot of it solely for the attention. What happened to just calling up a friend to tell them your happy news? These days, we are expected to broadcast our news on the internet – for people to like or dislike – then decipher that person’s motive. It somewhat makes us less social because we can’t just tell people news in person; we have to wait for their reactions, if any, on social media.

There are numerous other reasons why social media has made us more and less social. Social media has definitely impacted how are society acts and thinks compared to how it did previously. I do think, overall, social media has helped bring many people together for causes and other endeavors – this helps make a difference in the world – something I’m always a fan of.

How digital convergence has changed us

Digital convergence is coming together of multiple media entities over time. This combination of media platforms allows us to view content in many ways. For example, we no longer get the news just from the newspaper or television; we can get it on social media and mobile applications, too. The way we read or listen to the news is a combination of the five eras of communication: oral, written, print, electronic and digital (Campbell, Richard, Christopher R. Martin, and Bettina Fabos. Media & Culture: Mass Communication in a Digital Age (2016 Update), 10th ed.. Macmillan, 2016.). The way we define digital convergence focuses on one, some or all of these eras.

Along with the various ways we get our news, comes “fake news.” How do you know the difference between real and fake news? It can sometimes be obvious, and sometimes be hard to determine. People share articles without reading them (they just read the headline) and we may not know if they’re valid unless we do some investigating. Here are some ways I verify real news:

  • Check for grammatical errors.  Editing is key with breaking news! If there is an error, that means the person or organization is not paying close attention to how users will view the content.
  • Check other news-related websites to see if there is a similar story. If I don’t find another story that is related to the original article I saw, especially if it’s breaking news, I won’t believe it until multiple news channels push it out.
  • Check out the source who pushed out the news. With all the satire websites out there, it’s important to check where the news is coming from. I typically will trust the national organizations (CNN, Fox News, NBC, etc.) and some local channels.

The examples above were some of the verification procedures we discussed in my first “Introduction to Digital Communications” graduate class. While there are many other ways to determine fake news, I believe the three above are the most important. The way digital media has changed news, it’s more important than ever to fact check the article.

Digital media has completely changed the way we function in society – it truly amazes me how different the communications world is from when I was little and how it is now. My age group was probably the last group to experience childhood without cell phones and know what life without social media was like; however, I do see the advantages of social media and I embrace it! Social media has been very good to me. Here are some things that I was able to achieve with it:

  • My job. I was living in Columbus, Georgia and was trying so hard to find a job in Syracuse for when I knew my husband and I were moving back. I luckily was able to find my job, Web Specialist II at the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) at Syracuse University, through a LinkedIn post.
  • Maintain relationships. Digital media has helped me stay in touch with family and friends all over the country. Not only am I able to share updates with my Facebook friends on my life, but it’s another way to communicate via messenger, photos, status updates, etc. One great example is when my husband was deployed overseas. He had no access to a phone, but with the magic of Facebook, we were able to talk almost every day. Back when my mom deployed in 2002, I unfortunately did not have this advantage. I’d have to wait days to get a phone call from her.
  • Save lives. I am a huge advocate for animal rescue. When I lived in North Carolina, I learned how harsh animals are treated in certain states. Through the power of social media, I was able to connect with others at numerous shelters, especially Harnett County Animal Shelter, and join groups to help save lives. I can honestly say my family was able to save many lives all because of social media!
  • My dream of doing a flash mob! It was always been a goal of mine to participate in a flash mob dance, and I was able to successfully do this on our wedding day! It sounds crazy to include this as an example, but it really is crazy how it all came together with a group of girls scattered across the country – thanks to private Facebook groups and other social media outlets. You can read more about the flash mob here.

With that said, I think my age group had the best of both worlds – life with and without social media. I can truly say that I benefited greatly from both times in my life. While digital media has been around for many years now, it still continues to change. I’m excited for what the future holds!

V-WISE San Antonio

Earlier this month I had the opportunity of a lifetime to embrace my social media skills. I was asked to take the lead on social media support for the Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (V-WISE) Conference in San Antonio. V-WISE holds conferences in various locations across the U.S. where veteran women and military spouses come together to enhance their business ownership skills. The Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF – where I work) has many programs for veterans, service members and military families – V-WISE being one of the most popular ones. The Whitman School of Management created V-WISE as part of their entrepreneurship projects.

My supervisor told me V-WISE is an amazing experience because the women are so passionate and emotional about their business ideas. He was right – this was a very touching and motivational event and I know I learned a lot from it.

On the very first night, I met Rear Admiral Dawn Cutler, U.S. Navy Chief of Information – first woman to hold this position! She was acknowledged as the FIRST honoree for her outstanding accomplishments.

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The instructors were all well-known across the country and really knew how to motivate the women and provide them with the proper knowledge needed to run a successful business. It is great that they all take time out of their busy schedules to set aside a weekend and spend time discussing entrepreneurship with these incredible women.

Not only were the instructors inspiring, but so were the participants. The journeys these women have that led them to attend V-WISE is remarkable. I interviewed three featured participants – Tia Copes, a military spouse who became a grief counselor after her husband was killed in action; Lila Holley, a veteran writing books to share stories of military women in their own voices; and Tara Hutchinson, a wounded veteran who began her own jewelry business. Read more about these inspirational women here.

The last night ended with keynote speaker Nicole Baldwin, a V-WISE graduate, who had to overcome many obstacles, including tragedies, in life to get to where she is today with her business. She reminds us all to never give up on our dreams no matter what comes our way!

The final day of the conference ended mid-afternoon, so my colleagues and I went out exploring. The San Antonio River Walk is impressive! It was also great visiting the Alamo and learning more about it.

It was so fun to be part of this conference and run the social media channels! You can learn more about V-WISE at San Antonio by reading this news post, or by following the program on Facebook and Twitter.

Waterspouts at Hilton Head

My friend Kevin lives in Hilton Head and sent me this picture of two waterspouts on Hilton Head Island Beach. He said there about 25 waterspouts throughout the day! It would be so cool to see one of these in person!

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VA Secretary visits SU campus

So this is not related to the weather at all, but I had to blog about this moment! U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald visited the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF – where I work) and other places on campus. We had a staff photo taken with him and I had to make sure I was in the front :)!

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I always geek out when well-known or famous people are around me. My friend Kellie, who I worked with at Fort Benning, always got excited about people visiting too. We got to meet Capt. Kristen Griest together. I definitely miss her being around for events like this!

Before he came to IVMF, he spent time and talked business with the IVMF’s Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities-SU 2016 cohort at Dinosaur BBQ in Syracuse. He also received a “Real Veterans Wear Orange” shirt! (Side note: check out #EBVSU10 on Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram – it was EBV’s 10-year anniversary this year and we celebrated by featuring some veterans in the program. Very inspiring stuff! Glad to work at a place where I know I am helping others. Read more about the 10-year anniversary celebration here – be sure to watch the tribute and thank you videos – they are amazing and show the impact EBV has had on veterans and their families!)

After McDonald met the leadership team and got a photo with us at the IVMF, he did a presentation on “Values Based Leadership” at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at SU. Watch the video below to learn more about his presentation and visit.