Looking back to the first blog post about my initial thoughts on social media, I find it funny that I was initially a little scared to take this class because of the constant flow of tweets, blog posts, and comments. In hindsight, I’m extremely happy that I broke away from the standard electives that are available to MSA students and took a class that explored the ever-evolving business environment and how the impact of social and digital media is stronger than ever. One of my favorite things about this course was its versatility. The weekly classes were rarely the same, and I loved how if there was an important news development going on in the world, Professor Kane provided the flexibility to factor that into our discussions. There were many focuses throughout the semester that I wouldn’t have been able to study in-depth without taking #IS6621, so I wanted to highlight several topics that really stood out to me.
One of the most engaging homework assignments and class discussions of the semester was Jon Ronson’s Ted Talk on virality and online shaming. He told the story of Justine Sacco, a senior director of a large company, who tweeted a tasteless, racist joke about Africa right before hopping on a plane. Before her flight landed, she was being ridiculed, insulted, and essentially torn apart over the internet. Her life would take a dramatic turn for the worse as she became the number one worldwide trending topic on Twitter, and she would end up losing her job for a foolish mistake because of the amazing social media phenomenon of virality. While it is nearly impossible to predict what goes viral, and there are certainly positive stories that go viral as well (such as the Gainesville Police Department playing basketball with kids who were “making too much noise”), it teaches a valuable lesson to present yourself in a proper and professional manner on social media because there is no limiting who may ultimately see what you post.
Another point I wanted to highlight is that I think I’m obsessed with the concept of virtual reality. While I’m not exactly sold that the positives outweigh the negatives (simply because I don’t want sitting at home with a VR headset to replace genuine, human interaction), I can’t deny that the technology is fascinating. Between VR companies partnering with LiveNation to bring concerts to your living room, or football coaches giving their quarterbacks the chance to study live defenses through a VR headset in a classroom, the opportunities are endless. The VR Experience exhibit at this year’s SXSW Festival and Conference really opened the eyes of consumers who may not have been entirely sold on the concept. The reality is that these devices will become a prominent part of the lives of many in the near future.
Throughout the last four months or so, it has been crystal-crystal clear how quickly the social media landscape is changing. Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat have all gone through substantial changes. For Instagram and Twitter, one word sums it up: algorithms. Love them or hate them, they have played a large role in your favorite social media platforms in the past and will continue to play a more predominant role heading into the future. While many do not like the updates, these two platforms are using advanced analytics to determine what people want to see, what they don’t want to see, and how to provide an optimal service. In terms of Snapchat, many believe that the company strayed away from a good thing in an attempt to make the app more integrated and functional. However, once again, many people are averse to change, so this may be a natural instinct instead of truly assessing the changes and then judging the product. All three of these companies have experienced immense levels of success in the past, so before we write these changes off as steps backwards (I’m included in the group of skeptics toward these changes), let’s give them a chance to prove that they truly know what the consumer wants.
One of the main reasons I took #IS6621 was to learn how to apply the advantages of social and digital media to a business setting in order to both enhance my professional career and help the people around me. This class has certainly exceeded expectations. It has also taught me to use the social media resources around me to my advantage. Instead of senselessly scrolling through my Twitter timeline out of boredom, I find myself actively searching for news stories and current events to share with classmates and peers. I definitely enjoyed this class, and would recommend both the course and Professor Kane to any student who plans on entering the business world, with its constantly evolving social and digital media presence.