This is my mantra, and I’m sticking to it. The photo you see below is precisely this mantra tacked on the bulletin board behind me, forever overlooking what I do here at work.
I’ve been muttering it under my breath for a while now — every time a new change slams what I’m doing on any social platform (ahemfacebookahem), whenever I’m at a loss for something to post somewhere online, whenever we’re discussing a story idea and someone turns to me and asks, “Does this have a pIace on social media?” During our weekly editorial meetings, we talk through what’s possible with every pitch. We’re thinking about the story first, how and who and where we’re telling it second. When I started my position here, we added an additional “where” to the possible outlets — social media. That felt like a huge win for me at the time, but I’m beginning to wonder… is it enough?
What’s the angle for utilizing a social media outlet when telling a story? My criteria breaks down as follows:
The first and most important part is social.
- Why do people care?
- What actions can they take as a result of this story?
- Is it compelling enough that someone wants to pass it on?
The next part is media.
- What form does it take?
- Does this form define where it goes?
- Who we give it to (basically: who is our audience)?
- Do we need to do anything special to this story when it comes to telling it?
These questions are asked in regards to most everything we talk about in our editorial meeting but the intersection of them is the in-between space where my position lies. What I do is aligned to what is happening in this office every day, but why does what I’m doing in online space feel so different or so separate from what we’re trying to do overall? It’s not that what I do differs, but where I execute storytelling in the social space are in places that can not necessarily support the answers to all these questions at once. And at some point, change in a social platform isn’t going to make us more creative in content packaging, but rather, negatively affect us to the point that it’s not worth the return on our investment.
Here is where this mantra comes in, and here’s why it’s ringing in my ears: what if we proactively try and make our content that we create, host, and share more social? There’s a reason why social media is the hottest buzzword out there; even from our most basic understanding of the phrase, it works. It really really does. We’re hard-wired to connect with each other, to share things with folks close to us, and we’re dazzled by all the ways we can see and understand the world. It’s hard to not be social around something you enjoy. If it’s good, you want to share, and there’s very little than can stop that.
But not everything we make begs to be shared. The mantra “Make content more social.” means thinking about the human bent to what we’re doing as a high priority. It would change how we think, how we make, how we package, and how we disseminate. Is that the future? It means that thinking about social media, where it fits, and why we use it is going to throw us all for a loop as we change our model together, and it might be that 300 foot drop on Millenium Force when we realize that we have no choice but to make it ourselves.
Right now, I’m operating vertically in the social media space; it’s just another place we tell our story. But in riding this new wave of communications (yes, we all freaked out when the internet came into existence and yet, we’re still utilizing alternative non-online options when we communicate), making everything we do more social, more open to the elements, more transparent, where this will ultimately lead is across, not up. Moving horizontally will allow us to better integrate everything we do into a more social experience. The hub of Oberlin online is the common thread for all our audiences, but how we make those connections will be around the things we make and how we connect around them. Yep. That’s social, and that’s media — but more broadly, it’s an emphasis on the content. It’s stuff, the things we make so that we can share them with you, best suited to how we create the best story. We’re already making “social media,” and the major change is thinking about what it is and why we’re doing it — rather than where it goes — first.