Social networks don’t make students dumb

Apparently using social networks doesn’t cause students to suffer academically, and in fact, can eliminate the different in American GPA scores between students whose parents had differing levels of higher education, and for some demographics it had a positive relationship.

Researchers from Northwestern University have acknowledged that students will distract themselves and waste time but the positive effects outweigh the negativity for some, or at least cancel out for others. (h/t Ars Technica).

Information Hydrant by Will Lion (CC Licence)

Information Hydrant image by Will Lion on Flickr (CC Licence)

There’s been a lot of debate about the effects of the internet, particularly in the debate between Clay Shirky’s Cognitive Surplus and Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows – does the internet enable productive spare time, or rewire our brains to skim read without any proper thought (possibly the most lightweight and succinct summation!).

My own thoughts can be summed up in two bullet points:

  • The internet is the most amazingly comprehensive, searchable and shareable source of information that has ever existed, enabling the largest ever number of people to create, compile, curate and spread information
  • It’s all about how it’s used in conjunction with the other sources of information available from print to radio to television, and the outcomes it produces.

The internet is not inherently anything, despite the fact it was based on openness and sharing, or the fact it can be used for misinformation, criminal activity or censorship.

Until computers and networks become completely sentient, then it’s the human interaction with the internet which shapes what it can do, and what it becomes.

And as long as individuals, groups and companies continue to provide useful and valuable information for use by others, the net effects for those who learn the skills to use the internet effectively will be positive – social networking is an ever-more important part of that as it encompasses interaction, organisation and knowledge-sharing.

7 reasons why companies need social media managers

There has been a lot of debate recently about the need for companies and organisations to employ social media managers and specialists in a dedicated role – the main criticism appears to be that the role isn’t needed because employees already use social media.

That might be the case in a limited number of small organisations, but someone will end up as an unofficial social media expert. And as someone who performed the role for a large organisation, I know there are a number of good reasons for having one person as the focal point – even if every employee is actively representing the group or company.

1. Justification: Are employees going to use social media effectively when they have senior managers questioning whether it’s worthwhile?

2. Guidelines: Most people have a reasonable amount of common sense, but if you haven’t got clear guidelines for employees to refer to if needed, you’ve got no excuse when they get things wrong. And all it can take is one personal attack for even the most responsible employee to make a mistake. That’s assuming they even keep up to date with the latest legalities of using social media in addition to their day job.

3. Analysis: Do you know what’s working? And is a social network referring the most traffic because of scale, or because other social networks are being ignored or done badly?

4. Co-ordination: Do you trust independant employees to know where exclusive news should be revealed first? Or could a status message or tweet destroy your carefully planned campaign? Is the right content going online at the right time, to coincide with the right development work?

5. Research and Development: Is Facebook more relevant to your company than Bebo? Will you reach the right people on Twitter? And should you be improving the forum on your site, or developing a widget for social networks? The answers are different for every organisation, and indeed, every campaign

6. Coordinating external resources: Do you know enough to decide between a good and bad external agency when it comes to social media? And in a large company, are you sure other departments aren’t hiring other agencies at the same time?

7. Crisis management: When something does go wrong, you need a plan in place, and someone who can manage an effective response.

Whether or not social media is a specialist role, or part of a wider remit, there needs to be someone with the authority and accountability to ensure that the work feeds into the wider business effectively, with an effect on product development, customer service, SEO, and business strategy.

Do job titles matter any more?

This really is an open question, because I understand that outside my network, and even within it, my job title can influence how I’m perceived. And within large companies there can be a need for infrastructure.

Do titles matter?

Do job titles matter any more? (Pic: Russell Davies on Flickr)

But at the same time, in my formal paid career I’ve been a: Freelance writer, Editorial Assistant, Reporter, Products Editor, Web Producer, Webcast Presenter, Community Marketing Manager. In my informal career I’ve been a: Freelance Journalist, Contributor, Writer, DJ, Blogger, Publisher, Editor.

Does my role as Editor for an online magazine with a small readership mean more on face value than Web Producer on the leading title within a global marketplace? What about the period as Web Producer that I essentially ran the site, compared to the times as Editor when I was pretty much absent?

You could actually sum up all those roles in two lines:

  • I create content: text, audio, video.
  • I distribute content, mainly socially, but with some knowledge of SEO and traditional marketing.

But then you have the other things I contribute. I’m hugely interested in not only looking at emerging technology, but spreading that knowledge throughout my network, and spotting where there are opportunities to use it within whichever company I’m working for. And I seem to have developed an enjoyment and small skill at building networks of people who are incredibly knowledgeable and talented in various areas related to my work and interests.

  • Maven/Connector (Not keen on those terms, but two words for four lines!)

So how much do any of those titles on my CV matter then three lines, links to my work, and knowledge of me via my network can tell you a lot more? Does Community Marketing Manager (Strategy,Technology,Tactics across 9 brands) get confused with the now more common term of Community Manager (focused on managing one community)

So does someone’s title affect the way you look at them? Do they still have a place in small companies, or in larger infrastructures? Or is this a time when structures like Gore (makers of Gore-Tex etc) make sense? From the link:

‘There are no traditional organizational charts, no chains of command, nor predetermined channels of communication.

Instead, we communicate directly with each other and are accountable to fellow members of our multi-disciplined teams. We encourage hands-on innovation, involving those closest to a project in decision making. Teams organize around opportunities and leaders emerge. This unique kind of corporate structure has proven to be a significant contributor to associate satisfaction and retention.

Associates (not employees) are hired for general work areas. With the guidance of their sponsors (not bosses) and a growing understanding of opportunities and team objectives, associates commit to projects that match their skills. All of this takes place in an environment that combines freedom with cooperation and autonomy with synergy.”

Is that what all companies should be modeling themselves on?

Finding the work/life/web balance…

I’ve written in the past about internet schizophrenia resulting from signing up to too many sites.

But recently I’ve suffered the same problem from committing to too many projects, and a compulsion to be online, contactable, and working on all of them.

Recently I’ve worked on:
The relaunch of motorcyclenews.com.
The relaunch of disposablemedia.co.uk.
Becoming Editor of the Dipsosable Media PDF magazine (Issue 6 out now!)
Freelance writing for Strategy Informer.
Freelance writing for Gamestyle.
Freelance writing for Eurogamer.
Blogging here.
Blogging at BadgerGravling
Blogging at Updated Sayings

*phew*….I think that’s the lot. Oh, and there are plenty of things going on in my personal life, including one of the biggest and most stressful things people can ever experience (It involves putting things into cardboard boxes, then unpacking them again somewhere else)

So I’ve had to take some time to evaluate which of these gives the most pleasure, the most reward, and the most benefits to either myself or my career. It’s something I don’t do enough, because I want to get involved everywhere and do everything.

Step one is to file emails as soon as they arrive, and be honest to myself about which ones I’m never going to use/reply to.

Step two is to clear out bookmarks and particularly RSS feeds for sites I never read or use. I’m paranoid that one day someone will be discover the secret of wealth, happiness and eternal life and I’ll miss it, but if it’s truly an important story, it’ll end up on one of my other RSS feeds anyway.

So, anyone got any tech tips for step three in making me less stressed, and more organised?