The digital age and social media: private or public?

Generally speaking, from the moment we wake up, to the moment we go to sleep, we are frequently engaging with various forms of web-enabled media. Our days start with our smart phones, which are sometimes our alarm clocks, then we tend to check emails (I know I do this whilst I am still in bed), after that and on the journey to work or school we begin checking feeds; whether these be news related or social media, and that’s just the beginning of the day.

Not only are we receiving information, we are also engaging with it ourselves via social media. It’s a two-way street. This is the biggest difference with social media and traditional media. We make social media our own by contributing to it with ‘likes’ and photos and videos and posts and chats and the list goes on…

So, where does privacy come into this digital age? Are we still private? Were we ever private?

Let’s start with the internet in general. Unless you constantly browse using private windows, nothing you do online is private. Google knows what you do, when you do it and even where you are located when you do it. It’s frightening, but that is the reality. If you are worried about privacy, browse in private windows and don’t sign up to anything online, including email newsletters. Don’t buy anything online. Don’t use a smart phone for directions. Don’t agree to any terms and conditions, and if you do, make sure you read them. You may be surprised by what you see.

In general, people browse the internet openly, and by doing so, nothing they do online is private. So generally speaking in the digital age privacy does not exist. We are constantly being monitored, and often the data acquired on us is sold.

Social media is a different story. On social media, in my opinion, privacy is in our control. We should only share what we wish to be available for public consumption. Everything we post on social media will have a footprint of some description which means that it can be found. Therefore, if we wish to remain private people in a very public social media space, how should we behave to maintain our privacy?

Welcome to the social media stage

The choice of the word ‘stage’ is completely deliberate because what we do on social media is a performance of sorts. Unlike a ‘normal’ conversation i.e. when two or more people speaking face-to-face or even over the phone, and you say what you think or feel, the social media stage is where we present either the best side of our selves, or, what we think people want to see. Either way, our interactions with social media are not natural. They are scripted, photo-shopped and sometimes contrived. It is a performance for our social media audience.

So, how is this performance validated? There are no standing ovations on social media, but there are likes, comments and sometimes, additional people who want to be your ‘friend’ or follow you after seeing something you have posted online. We constantly seek validation for our behaviour and presence on social media. This is highlighted by phrases such as “I share therefore I am” and “I tweet therefore I become”. Very smart twists on very old thoughts (courtesy of Tim Rayner).

Is our behaviour within social media influenced by the fact we know people are watching? Is it a virtual Panopticon? Tim Rayner argues “that the awareness of being watched and implicitly judged by the material we post online (including likes, shares, and comments) leads us to unconsciously aspire to please and/or impress a certain crowd, and to select content accordingly.” (Source) Generally speaking, I agree with this statement.

“The virtual Panopticon idea explains why it is that people tend to be larger than life on social media. People, like Orenstein, who are able to channel and utilize the anxiety produced by the virtual Panopticon seize on the positive aspects of their identity and amplifying them to the nth degree. I call this ‘creative self-affirmation’. The humorist becomes a prankster. The e-activist becomes a social revolutionary. The middle manager becomes a business guru. The pessimist becomes a professional iconoclast. These kinds of experiments with the self wouldn’t happen without the psychological demands of the virtual Panopticon. The expectant crowd draw us out of ourself. By commanding performances from us, the crowd draws out our singularities, those unique features of our person that represent our leading potentials.” (Source)

This leads us to a much bigger issue; if our behaviour on social media is governed by the fact that we think someone is watching, then our social media selves are not our authentic selves. The question is how is this impacting us on a psychological level?

Without a doubt, we play roles in our lives. Our self with our families and children is different to our self at work, and that self is different to the self with friends (to name but a few), but the interactions we have with our families, colleagues and friends are not 100% virtual. Our interactions on social media often are.

Likening this to social media platforms is like comparing yourself on Facebook, LinkedIn and Tumblr. You wont be exactly the same on each of these platforms as they serve very different purposes/cater to very different audiences. But ask yourself the question; are you totally different people on each of these platforms, or a variation of your authentic self?

On social media, you can be whoever you want to be because your virtual audience does not know you (in an actual sense). In addition, you can control what you put onto the social media stage. You can look how you want to look. You can say what you want to say (after rewriting it 53 times). Does this mean that on social media, our actual authentic selves are not good enough? Is that the message we are giving our selves, our peers and perhaps our children? “Don’t post that, you don’t look pretty enough” or “If you post that someone may think that’s what you actually think or like”.

Is the real issue that social media is keeping our actual selves private, and that we are constantly conforming on social media to become what we think people want us to be on that stage? Most importantly, are we ok with that?

I am not ok with that, but I think that is because the person I am on social media platforms is variations of my authentic self. I like to think that I do not conform to the audience I am ‘performing’ for. Social media is not a stage for me. It is a tool. A way that I can connect with people I want to connect with. It is not the focus of my life. I have an actual life and a virtual life. I would say I am 90% actual and 10% virtual. The longest relationship I have had is with myself, and that relationship has to be authentic and healthy for me to be happy. Actually happy. Not emoticon happy.


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My Social Media Journey so far…

Hootsuite Certified Professional

So, on the 5th of September 2014, I started my Graduate Certificate in Social Media at Seneca College. I can’t even begin to describe the thoughts, fears, excitement and apprehension that went through my head. Having graduated from a UK University 17 years prior to beginning my Program at Seneca, it had been a while since I had been in a classroom environment…

Before the beginning of September, we had all been introducing ourselves via Facebook (which was fine) and had also been asked to register our domains and set up WordPress (this is where my heart palpitations began!). The Facebook group was totally awesome (and remains a great source of strength and support to me).

The 5th of September arrived, and whilst I had met some colleagues during Orientation on the 2nd of September, I was feeling nervous and excited. Armed with my beautiful new Mac (thanks for your advice, Bhupesh), and a million teabags (no surprises there), I was ready to begin. We had pizza on the first day, which was a great way to network and put social media profiles, faces, voices and nationalities together. With a very happy tummy, I took my first steps into the brave new world of Social Media (‘brave’ because that was what I needed to be, and ‘new’ to me as I had a very traditional marketing background).

As soon as we began, I realised that this is it. This is where I am meant to be and this is the direction I want the rest of my career to take!

The generosity of the discussions, information, dynamics and knowledge shared has been nothing short of phenomenal. I learnt how to take what I know from life and work experience, and put it to use in the context of social media.

Within what felt like moments, I had an active Twitter account (yes, it had been dormant for a while), an profile (check it out here ) and a Diigo account. I was suddenly on Instagram , Tumblr (not my favourite thing in the world), and had a Klout score (I have mixed feeings about that one!)  In addition, I was using Kumu, Quadrigram and Piktochart, and completing my HTML Code Academy Training (which is now done). That was all in my spare time.

During class, I was being transported into the world of Social Media Strategy, learning all about SEO Techniques as well as practising and mastering Technical Skills in Social Media including Sprout Social, Sysomos, Optimizely, Balsamiq, Talkwalker and Social Mention. If that wasn’t enough, I had the privilege of opening my mind and contributing to insightful dialogue about Social Engagement in Public and Private. Then there was the ‘creative’ side…Whilst I had dabbled with Photoshop Elements, here I was learning all about Photoshop and Illustrator as well as the fundamentals of photography and logo creation. WOW!

So here I am, a few weeks later, now Code Academy and Hootsuite Certified, preparing for my Midterms and reflecting on my journey, the knowledge I have gained so far, and the amazing people I can now call my colleagues and friends…

Thank you for joining me on my journey.  Stay tuned!

Fresh and Kool?

When I think of anything fresh, I can’t get this song out of my head…

Thanks You Tube for a trip down memory lane.

The words even apply considering SEO Content Optimization – Freshness Update! Just change the she’s to it’s i.e. it’s so fresh fresh, exciting. It’s so exciting to me! Need I say more? Keeping content Fresh is just that; ensuring what you have is new, exciting, and well, fresh.

According to Moz the following things contribute to the content on a site being considered Fresh (by Google):

– Freshness by Inception Date
– Document Changes (How Much) Influences Freshness
– The Rate of Document Change (How Often) Impacts Freshness
– Freshness Influenced by New Page Creation
– Changes to Important Content Matter More
– Rate of New Link Growth Signals Freshness
– Links from Fresh Sites Pass Fresh Value
– Changes in Anchor Text Signals may Devalue Links
– User Behavior Indicates Freshness
– Older Documents Still Win Certain Queries

Remember to Be fresh. Be relevant. Most important, Be useful.

Let’s Talk about Variables…

There are many things to consider when thinking about a Social Media strategy. One of the most important elements is the audience itself; who are you targeting, how will you target them, where are they and why should they listen to you? Regardless of the type of organization you represent, answers to the above questions need to feature as a significant part of your Social Media plan.

When considering Government, Non-Profits and Businesses, these are three variables that need to be considered when identifying who their Social Media audiences are:

– Relationship/current level of Engagement
– Value – How important are this target group to your strategy?
– Demographic and Habits – Social Media and other

What kind of a relationship/level of engagement all organizations currently have with a target audience, and what kind of relationship/level of engagement do they want to have and how should organizations respond to this?

Essentially, there are three main types of relationships; Relationships with Influencers, Ambassadors and Others.  Regardless of the type of relationship you have with the Influencers, they are crucial to your success and any relationship must be nurtured and built up as this is where the money and clout is.  The Ambassadors are your biggest supporters.  They may not have funds, but they have clout and allies, and engaging this group is fundamental to your success.  Everyone else falls into the Others category.  This is where people who are somewhat engaged with your brand sit.  They may not seem valuable to you now, but your future success may lie here, so it is important to engage with, but not invest too much time with, this group.

As you will also see from the above infographic, engrained in this is the Value variable. The value that an organization places on a person or group will determine how much time, effort and marketing budget they allocate for this group in the Social Media plan. Value can be determined in a number of different ways for different organizations:

Value, for a Government could mean many things including:
– Financial value – how much could an individual or collective contribute to a campaign
– Influential value – is this person/organization one who influences others? Does their opinion count and can it be used for the benefit of a campaign?
– Future value – is this person or group one who may not been significant now, but will be in the future?
– Devalued – was this person or collective once a target audience and something has changed to alter the landscape?

For Non-Profits and Businesses, the Value proposition when considering target audiences is pretty similar. The main differential is on the Financial side. Non-Profits would be seeking donations, and Businesses may be seeking capital or sales.

Demographics and Habits are huge also considerations when thinking about who the Social Media audience is. “Who” they are is what constitutes their demographics. Knowing the answer to this question is crucial for all organizations. Coupled with the “Who,” is the “What”. In relation to Social Media, this is all about which Social Media platforms they currently use.

The “Who” is all about age, gender, ethnicity, marital status, whether they have children, where they live, their level of education, their profession. The list goes on and on. This is a huge variable that has to be considered and understood.

For Government knowing the “who” will allow them to tailor Social Media messages according to, for example, life stage. A potential outbreak of flu would be of particular interest to seniors and parents with young kids, but a high school student may be more interested in knowing about what support is available after a night of unprotected sex.

For Non-Profits, the “who” is pivotal in differentiating donors and supporters (they can, of course, be one in the same too). Looking at it broadly though, knowing whether someone earns and has a higher propensity to donate will change the tone of a Social Media message to this group, compared with targeting a group of teenagers who would be more interested in raising awareness by posting photos on Facebook or Instagram.

For Businesses, broadly speaking, the “who” will determine whether you are a purchaser or a pesterer i.e. do you have the means to buy something, or do you need to persuade someone else to purchase on your behalf.

In terms of Habits, regardless of the kind of organization you represent, you need to know the Social Media platform movements of your target users. There is no point creating an entire campaign on Facebook when the majority of your users use Twitter for example. This analysis needs to form a integral part of your groundwork before committing to any further steps. In addition, it’s also really useful to know about their lifestyle Habits; do they go to the gym? Do they eat out? By knowing these facts as well, you will be able to further engage your target audience.

By considering the above variables and identifying your target audiences your Social Media plan will become much stronger as it will be fueled by relevant information on who they are, what they do and what they currently mean to you (and you to them).  This level of detail will make for a stronger plan from which organizational objectives can be set.

Sugar and Spice and all things ‘Likes’…

Tonight, as I started to pack to move into my beautiful new home, I decided to begin by raiding my Mum’s stash of spices in order to fill my lovely new IKEA jars. As my senses were engulfed in the beautiful aroma of these delightful flavor-enhancers that are now so commonplace in our homes, I began to think about how valuable spices once were and how they were actually used as currencies, and even sometimes in the place of a salary. Arguably, the spice trade was, once upon a time, the biggest industry in the world

It seems so bizarre to me that what was once so valuable and precious, is now so common, but I guess that’s just the way that things go.

My mind then wandered to today, and the society we live in; especially in the West, and how ‘Likes’ are considered the new currency. We often judge ourselves by them (perhaps for that little bit of extra dopamine), our ‘friends’ look at them, and without a doubt, organizations determine our worth by the Likes and Followers we have. Whether we ‘like’ it or not, this is today’s reality.

I started to consider how real this currency is in both the virtual and actual world.

I wish I had an answer as to whether it is or isn’t real, but what I do know is that organizations are now defining elements of their success by the number of Likes etc they have. Does that make it real? Or is it only real when it translates into actual money? Or does it, like so many other things, depend on your organization’s strategy?

In the future, will, what we now consider to be so valuable, again be replaced by the next big thing? Without a doubt I know that will be the case. It’s just a matter of us all conforming to the next big thing as we watch our Likes and Followers become so commonplace that we no longer even acknowledge their value; very similarly to the full jars of spices that are now ready to enter my new home.

This post may have inspired you to learn more about spices or Likes. I hope you enjoy the links as well as the post.

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My source of Inspiration

“The right to hope is the most powerful human motivation I know.”

His Highness The Aga Khan IV

There are not too many people in the world that can captivate a crowd to the same degree as His Highness, The Aga Khan IV. Accompanied by his infectious philanthropic spirit, quick wit and undeniable charisma, His Highness has charmed nations and has been the force behind positively affecting the lives of millions of people worldwide.

Born in 1936, His Highness became the Spiritual Leader (Imam) of the Ismaili Muslims in 1957 upon the passing of his grandfather, The Aga Khan III. Since 1957, His Highness followed very closely in the footsteps of his beloved grandfather by making it his life’s work to strive towards the betterment of all humanity. His passion for achieving his goal of making the World a better place for everyone fueled his activities from that point onwards.

His Highness has achieved so much in his life to date and is a living inspiration to all who know of him, his work and his achievements. In terms of his ‘formal’ achievements, in 1957, he was granted the title of His Highness, by Her Majesty the Queen of England and since then has had the privilege of achieving many awards, honours and accolades, for himself and his institutions, from all over the world.

But there is so much more to him than the prestige of the awards that he has deservedly won. From the day of his appointment, The Aga Khan, through his philanthropic nature, love for pluralism and ethos of giving back, worked towards presenting a different face of Islam to the World.

This is the ethos behind his creation of The Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN)

The Aga Khan Development Network works for the betterment of all, irrespective of religion, ethnicity, gender and financial situation. The establishment of institutions began with His Highness’ grandfather, but The Age Khan IV has taken these institutions to the next level by creating a group of international, private agencies whose sole purpose is to improve the lives and living conditions for people in parts of the developing world. It is impossible for this simple philosophy not to be inspiring.

The recent achievements of AKDN can be found here

The Age Khan III was responsible for the establishment of Aga Khan Education Services, Age Khan Fund for Development and Aga Khan Health Services. These institutions were primarily active in East Africa, India and Pakistan, which was where it was thought most of the Ismailis resided. In his early years as Imam, His Highness took these institutions to another level by building on their success and expanding their reach.

With the areas of Education, Health and Finance (established by Age Khan III and primarily active in East Africa, India and Pakistan) developing well, His Highness created additional institutions such as The Aga Khan Foundation. He then moved towards other areas of need and established specific institutions to deal with Culture, Further Education and Humanitarian Assistance. These institutions had a much broader reach and over his first few decades as Imam, His Highness had started to make an impact in other areas of the World by helping people in all aspects of their lives.

From beginning with Health, Education, and Finance, The Age Khan Development Network portfolio now includes Architecture, Civil Society, Culture, Planning & Building, Rural Development, Humanitarian Assistance and Music, and is active in 29 countries in the World and has 80,000 employees.

One man + One world + One hope = Millions of lives enhanced

For more information on The Aga Khan Development Network click here

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Is Social Media the right engagement strategy for all target audiences?

All Social Media strategies begin by defining goals/objectives. From the reading and anecdotal research undertaken, it is apparent that there are substantial differences between the target audiences social and web strategies for Businesses, Non-Profit and Government. The first graph is an indication of which ages should be targeted by Social Media strategies. The primary difference is when to target the different age groups. ‘Businesses’ have been broken down by sector type because depending on what your organization does will contribute to the strategy your organization aims to achieve.

It all comes down to who you want to engage, and at what point they become valuable as consumers. No organization should ignore Social Media as a platform because even if the users are not the target users today, getting their engagement early will pay dividends in the future

For Canadian usage stats and more information please click here

Moving onto the second graph. In terms of which Social Media platforms should be used, looking at the average of the above target audiences, Non-Profit should primarily use Facebook to engage in a fun, viral way and generate awareness. Government should tread with caution around platforms that are build on interaction e.g. Twitter and should not be on things like Google+ yet as this portal is too new and thereby has yet to have an established user base. Businesses should predominantly used LinkedIn as it remains the only professional Social Media platform. It is clear that each organization needs to define their strategy first before embarking on the execution of a Social Media plan

My network

This exercise showed me how in our lives we have clusters of people from various parts of our lives.  The interesting thing is that most of the people within the individual clusters actually start to link with each other as I am the constant.  Whether that be Nisha Sachdev-Patel meeting Alia Pirani and Fazilah Bhanji when she came to Toronto to see me, or Jamie Cullen connecting with Alia Pirani and Fazilah Bhanji over my Anniversary celebrations.

The exercise clearly demonstrates that no one exists in isolation. The network of influence is really strong. Regardless of the progress that the internet and Social Media make, people will still always be connected by people as trust is an important part of our being. Looking at the positive side of it, Social Media provides the perfect vehicle to enhance these connections and keep our network strong. Using professional tools liked LinkedIn gives us the opportunity to see each others networks and request introductions where applicable. On a more social level, it can be used to put together two of your friends who don’t know each other but have something in common, for example, they may be moving to the same place.

This is a very small map of my network and my life.  I can easily see how we rely on these connections for a multitude of things; friendship, learning, working for the greater good, career progression or whatever it may be.