The Nebraska Human Society is all about providing sanctuary, protection and adoption of animals. Walking into the main building on their campus off of Fort Street, one’s awed by all the things that are happening under one roof: animal education, training, healthcare and adoption. It’s very much a cat and dog (and apparently, rat) world. After you tour the kennels in the back of the building, you almost can’t leave without at least considering taking some critter home. But as much as it is about animals at the NHS office, its all about the bipedal animal–man–on the society’s social media pages.
When I looked at the NHS Facebook page last Wednesday, the organization had almost 45,000 followers. Elizabeth Hilpipre, the society’s social media guru, explained how the organization uses a combination of metrics, engagement and cute animals to promote the mission of the society. Society’s powerful presence online has grown over the course of four years because of Elizabeth’s tireless work. Elizabeth understands Facebook’s algorithm and how to promote her content through sharing and posting at specific times. She responds to questions, though the task is tiring. She knows what people want, and she delivers, using it to her advantage.
For example, Elizabeth knows people universally love puppies, so she posted a picture of puppies. The post was shared and liked a multitude of people. Then, taking advantage of the popularity of the society’s page, she posted a picture of a pitbull named “Boomer,” who was have trouble finding a home. The popularity of the puppies’ picture made the society’s posts more relevant and put the posts higher on followers’ newsfeeds. Within a day of posting about the homeless pitbull, Boomer had found a home.
The power of social media is awe-inspiring, and if one can harness its power, one can raise a lot of money and attention for good causes. In her time at NHS, Elizabeth has raised nearly $200,000 for the non-profit organization, which depends on donations. But, perhaps what’s most rewarding is that because of Elizabeth’s efforts, many animals have found a home.
How often do you hang around people with different views from your own? Be honest–not very often. Why is that? We’re always told to go out and talk to people with different opinions, different beliefs, different views. We call it “getting some perspective” or “hearing the other side.” But once we’ve found that perspective and come near to the end of our wits listening to that other side, we don’t continue the conversation. In fact, we drop the conversation entirely and move onto more agreeable topics. Only later do we pick up the conversation again with like-minded people to consider what we have learned from the other side.
As our lives have increasingly transitioned into the online world, these interactions have moved online too. The Pew Research Internet Project has mapped our conversations on Twitter (scary!) and found that the Polarized Crowd network structure, as described above, is only one of several types of crowds and conversations that take place on Twitter. Before the institute’s analysis sounds intrusive like the highly-criticized NSA surveillance program, consider their findings: “There are at least six distinctive structures of social media crowds which form depending on the subject being discussed, the information sources being cited, the social networks of the people talking about the subject, and the leaders of the conversation.”
The four conversational archetypes on Twitter that appear most in my Twitter feed are Tight Crowd, Community Clusters, Broadcast Network and Support Network. My Editing professor, Sara Ziegler, is attending the annual American Copy Editors Society (ACES) conference. As part of her tweets during the conference, she included #ACES2014, so her tweets are grouped with other tweets from the conference, which is a tight crowd of assuredly grammatical sticklers. The tweets of the whole ACES conference are swallowed by the number of tweets related to March Madness. As a follower of CBS and ESPN, I’ve noticed that the two sports news sources are using slightly different hashtags to group conversations about games. These different groupings are a prime example of community clusters. When I am too maddened by the madness (or the state of my bracket), I turn my attention back to real news, like the situation in Crimea. There again I find clusters of conversation surrounding different news sources from CNN to NPR. Though the news of the Russian annexation of Crimea is all the same, twitter users are grouped into different broadcast networks depending upon their source for news. Now, before you think I only use Twitter, I want to say that I do see Twitter as a social networking site. Amongst the tweets about Crimea and Creighton Basketball, I found a tweet from a friend complaining (and rightfully so) about Delta Airlines’ service. I was a little surprised but heartened that Delta responded to her complaint. This be an example of the support network Delta has built around its business.