“If I just met you one day on the street, I don’t need to know your kid’s birthday or anything like that,” he said. 

(Cover Christopher Street / Images bigstock.com)
  • Cover Christopher Street / Images bigstock.com

Expert Advice 

When digital marketer Allie Carrick conducts social media training, she advocates her clients stop before they ever click “post,” “tweet” or “publish.”

In that moment, the social media user — whether they are publishing on a personal, business or organization account — should ask one question: Does this bring value?

“That’s what it boils down to,” Carrick explained. “These platforms are for building connections, interacting with people you don’t see very often and others you might never meet. It requires positivity. You want to build connections rather than tear them down.”

In the era of hashtags, memes, clickbait, live streaming, fake news, cyber bullying and more, Carrick — who serves as the managing director of Smirk New Media — counsels on what initially led to the creation of social media: bringing people together. Despite the new risks, users should never forget how social media sites connect people in extraordinary ways, allowing for communication and sharing information like never before.

After all, social media is defined as “forms of electronic communication through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages and other content,” according to Merriam-Webster.

In the past decade, as social media has evolved, individuals, companies and other organizations created, shared or exchanged a range of things, including ideas, pictures, videos, interests, opinions, jokes, complaints, experiences and news. There is no denying social media has become a key part of the modern lifestyle. News outlets break big stories on Twitter. Businesses gain traction with clients through Facebook posts. Employers seek new hires through LinkedIn. Parents post photos of their children blowing out birthday candles on Instagram. As much as 65 percent of the American population has a social media profile connected to their name, according to Pew Research Center.

How does one achieve a well-rounded social media presence? Does that mean posting frequently, maintaining several accounts, engaging often with followers, working to build genuine relationships? Oklahoma Gazette reached out to local social media experts to find out what’s socially acceptable on social media.

click to enlarge Social media strategist Marek Cornett offers tips on how to find a purpose in every post. (Garett Fisbeck)
  • Garett Fisbeck
  • Social media strategist Marek Cornett offers tips on how to find a purpose in every post.

Personal brand

The advice and strategies Marek Cornett, a social media strategist for Koch Communications, offers clients often translate to the average person who enjoys scrolling through Facebook or logging on to other social media platforms. One piece of advice relevant to all, no matter the social media platform, is be authentic.

“Your personal brand is letting someone see you as you are,” Cornett said. “Is that sharing articles you find interesting? Is that you sharing little tidbits about yourself from time to time? Offer the whole picture of you, rather than sharing only accomplishments or your troubles.”

Equally important is for users to utilize the platforms as they were designed, Cornett said. For example, sharing recipes or photos of a family vacation earns likes and generates comments on Facebook but no attention from LinkedIn, a social network for business professionals, or Nextdoor, a popular social app for neighbors to post about their communities.

For people interested in making new connections based on similar interests, Twitter, which allows users to share quick bits of information, and Instagram, a photo-posting app, are best. Both sites generate lists of recommended accounts to follow.

“It’s an easy way to let yourself be known,” Cornett said, “engage with the audience and build your community.”

Balancing act

No matter the social media platform, users must walk a fine line when they post about their personal lives, advised Carrick.

Often, networks go beyond the initial family and friends and include more formal contacts like co-workers, bosses, neighbors and community leaders. The reality is some comments and posts can be a problem, from posting naked baby pictures to political criticism.

Not to mention there is a privacy concern when listing every action or thought in great detail.

“I tell people not to be too transparent,” Carrick asserted. “It is becoming standard practice to put everything and anything you can online. … Your online reputation can define your overall reputation. Some people don’t realize that until it goes wrong.”

Much like day-to-day life, manners matter. Tweets and posts need to have an object and a goal, Carrick said. If the content could bring harm or result in a difficult situation, a user should avoid hitting “post” or “tweet.”

“It is easy to be reactive to what’s happening in that moment,” Carrick said. “You want to get a thought out there. No one wants to be remembered by their first thoughts on any given subject. … You can delete posts, but screenshots last forever.”

— By Laura Eastes

click to enlarge Carlos Garcia (Provided)
  • Provided
  • Carlos Garcia

Closing windows 

In some ways, social media has played a role in broadening what it means to be friends with someone. Though it is not uncommon to come across a Facebook profile with a friend list exceeding 500 or even 1,000 people, there was once a time when social circles were confined to people who called, wrote or saw each other at least occasionally.

Social media is so ubiquitous that, for some, it has become hard to imagine life without it. Even so, many still choose to live off the social networking grid. For some, a hiatus can be a refreshing change of pace.

Professional counselor Karen Mannix told Oklahoma Gazette that many New Year’s resolutions include coming to more peaceful terms with their online lives and relationships with others.

“It becomes an obsession to compare what is projected on social media with the reality of one’s own life, which, for all of us, is good and bad,” Mannix said.

While some post pictures of their well-dressed and well-behaved toddler, all parents know the “terrible twos” reality is often far removed from anything portrayed in professional photo shoots. Mannix said many social media profiles, intentionally or not, represent an ideal, one-dimensional version of life. She said it is important not to get lost in a competitive race for attention or “likes.”

Though cases of social media anxiety should be handled in individualized ways, Mannix said those who take short or extended breaks from social networking sites sometimes come away with an increased appreciation for maintaining offline relationships.

“The detox also gives them another opportunity to appreciate real life, instead of the cyber reality, in a more meaningful way,” she said.

Personal connections

From 2011 to 2012, Carlos Garcia regularly used Facebook while deployed in Afghanistan as a United States Army specialist. There was no better tool available to him for communication with family, friends and loved ones.

“We had a little bit of internet, and different places would have a satellite set up, so Facebook was great for chatting and keeping up with everybody,” he said.

However, after he returned to Oklahoma, what was once a cherished link to home lost its utility.

“I noticed I wasn’t really posting anything; I was just going on there when I was bored to look at stuff and snoop on people,” he said. “Half of the stuff was just game invites and spam.”

Garcia closed his Facebook profile in 2012 and has not created a profile on any other platform since then. He doesn’t miss it.

The decision was made from a businesslike perspective, he said. He was not getting any return (personal enjoyment) on his investment (time and energy), so he moved on.

There are some challenges to modern living without a social media account. Outside community connectivity and networking, it’s often presumed that everyone has at least a Facebook account. Garcia said he has not been able to participate in online services and contests because they require him to log in with Facebook or Twitter. He also misses out on some opportunities to keep up with his extended family in Mexico.

Despite some disadvantages, Garcia said he prefers focusing on select personal relationships to maintaining a generalized public persona. He said he does not need a social media profile to keep updated on the life events of the small circle of people he genuinely and deeply cares about. While there are people outside that circle he might still care about, he does not believe he needs an open window into their lives.

“If I just met you one day on the street, I don’t need to know your kid’s birthday or anything like that,” he said.

Garcia advised anyone who does not receive any benefit from social media to consider living life without it. Still, he recognizes Facebook and other forms of social media as potentially useful or fun. Even he once enjoyed participating.

“I’m not saying social media is bad or we should all stop using it,” he said. “It’s not a principle thing; it’s just not for me.”

— By Ben Luschen

click to enlarge Bryson Green uses professional photography and videos to post updates about his music to Instagram, which then post to Facebook and Twitter. (Provided)
  • Provided
  • Bryson Green uses professional photography and videos to post updates about his music to Instagram, which then post to Facebook and Twitter.

Generational divide 

Facebook started off as a social media platform for college students.

When it launched in 2004, the service created by Mark Zuckerberg was exclusive to Harvard University. Then it spread to other schools in Boston, throughout the Ivy League and across colleges in the U.S.

In 2005, it was opened to highschoolers. The next year, anyone with a registered email address could sign up.

A decade later, Facebook is still a social media juggernaut, but its user base is much older than originally envisioned.

According to a study by Pew Research Center, 71 percent of American adults who use the Internet used Facebook in 2014. Lots of those were younger people — 87 percent of respondents age 18-29 use Facebook — but older users are on there, too. Fifty-six percent of people 65 years and older who use the internet are on Facebook. That’s about 31 percent of all seniors.

click to enlarge Lin Gordy (at left) (Provided)
  • Provided
  • Lin Gordy (at left)

Family ties

Lin Gordy, 69, is a former adjunct professor of French and Spanish at the University of Central Oklahoma, which is how she ended up on Facebook a little earlier than some others her age.

“At the time, you needed a .edu address to sign up,” she said. “Some of my students thought it was funny that I was on there.”

She’s not an everyday user of the platform, but she likes to post pictures of her granddaughter for her other relatives to see.

“The main reason I’m on there is to keep up with former students,” Gordy said. “I get to see when they graduate from college or get married or have their own kids. That’s stuff I otherwise would never know.”

As a foreign language teacher at Edmond Public Schools, she would sometimes spend four years getting to know students. Without social media, their relationship would likely end after graduation.

Gordy said it’s also a good way to keep up with family members she doesn’t see often. But for close family members, like her daughters, she uses other methods.

“My younger daughter in Dallas doesn’t do Facebook. She does Instagram,” Gordy said.

They keep up through frequent texts and phone calls as well as Apple’s Find a Friend feature, which lets them see where the other is in real time.

The most useful social media for Gordy is the most direct: FaceTime. That’s how she keeps in touch with her granddaughter in North Carolina. Frequent and free video chats make her feel connected, and when they see each other in person, her granddaughter recognizes her.

click to enlarge The same image shows up across Green’s social media accounts, aggregating a larger audience for his music. (Provided)
  • Provided
  • The same image shows up across Green’s social media accounts, aggregating a larger audience for his music.

Finding followers

Getting known is precisely why Oklahoma City native Bryson Green spends so much time on social media. The 27-year-old musician is on Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat, but his most-used platform is Instagram.

Twenty-six percent of adult internet users were on Instagram in 2014, according to Pew Research Center, including 53 percent of users ages 18-29. The platform focuses on photos and videos, which suits Green perfectly.

“As a musician, social media is the best way to spread word of mouth,” he said from his home in Atlanta. “It puts a face to the sound.”

As he tries to gain more followers and transition those fans from digital to sales and shows, Instagram became his go-to application because it plays so well with other platforms.

“I’m very brand-oriented, so everything I put out, it’s about the brand,” Green said. “#GoGreen is on everything I put on Instagram, which then posts to Twitter and Facebook.”

That helps him draw more followers to his projects, including one in which he’s posting a new song online every week for a year.

“My following grows exponentially on there,” he said. “That’s the reason I use the hashtags and the explorer page — people can stumble upon your post and keep following from there.”

It’s also a format that allows him to translate professional works including songs, videos and photographs to Instagram’s platform.

“You can do a lot with it,” he said.

While Facebook (which owns Instagram) and Twitter help him project a professional face, Snapchat is for more personal interactions.

“Snap is on a 24-hour cycle, so if someone doesn’t watch it by then, it’s gone,” Green said. “Snap is more on a ‘need-to-know’ basis. They delete themselves after viewing.”

He said knowing that what he puts on Snapchat won’t be around forever is freeing.

“People get more wild, more daring,” he said.

click to enlarge Katie Sultuska Hurt (Provided)
  • Provided
  • Katie Sultuska Hurt

Disappearing act

Instagram is also a favorite for Katie Sultuska Hurt, 26, but she uses Snapchat all day.

According to The Motley Fool investing site, teens are flocking to Snapchat, which has about 100 million daily active users.

Everyone is still on Facebook, which reports 1.18 billion daily users, but Hurt and her friends are more circumspect about what goes out on social media platforms that live on after her posts are seen.

“If there’s something serious, that would go on Facebook,” she said. “If I am going to write something out and really think about it, that’s where I’d put it. It’s also where I share articles or funny stuff.”

Snapchat is more personal, though. In some ways, it replaces text messages because it’s so useful for one-on-one interactions. And unlike iMessage or Google Chat, there’s no problem sending messages to friends who are on a different brand of operating system.

“I have seven people I send at least one Snap a day to,” Hurt said. “It depends on the eventfulness of a day, but I use it a lot.”

Not only does Snapchat let friends know you were thinking of them in the moment, but it ensures that your friends are thinking of you when they watch it, too. While people might aimlessly scroll through other social media platforms while watching TV, using Snapchat demands attention. Once a video has been played, it is gone forever.

“The fact that it disappears makes it more special,” Hurt said. “Just like real moments, they go away.”

— By Greg Elwell

Print headline: Get social, Staff writers explore differing ideas of local experts and socials media users on how to use websites and apps to interact in myriad ways. 
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