The Theory Behind the 140 Characters – Twitter 101

This semester, we have explored multiple mediums of digital communication and social media. We have been given the opportunity not only to educate ourselves on mediums such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin, Pinterest and Parasite, but also actively engage with them through personal posts and interactions. However, when we sat as a class re-capping our experiences, we collectively discussed the distance and unfamiliarity we still felt from Twitter. Despite the fact that its 140-character limit platform appears to be sheepishly simple, there is a great deal of pressure that accompanies the average Tweet. So, I have taken the liberty of doing some research on what qualifies as a strong Twitter account.

Social Times, a sector of Adweek, is an online publication that covers the world of social media. A post titled “10 Habits of Great Tweeters” caught my attention, as it outlines what “the people who do Twitter best have in common.”  Providing a concise list of 10 of the best habits, writer Lauren Dugan equipes users ranging from “tech-savvy moms, adverture-loving 20-somethings or political pundits” with habits that will propel your tweeting to the next level.

Despite the fact that a Twitter post consists of only 140-characters, there is much to think about in order to take your tweeting to the next level.

Despite the fact that a Twitter post consists of only 140-characters, there is much to think about in order to take your tweeting to the next level.

  1. Consistency: Highlighting users who exhibit a strong use of consistency, such as @KatyPerry, @CNN and @copyblogger, regardless of the range of these users, each maintains consistency in their topic, which is key. Twitter users follow other users for specific reasons, and if “you change up your main topic of conversation regularly, you’ll scare them all away.” To back up this claim with some research, the article states that “the best tweeters typically stick to one or two topics for 80% of their tweets, and sprinkle in their interests in the other 20% or so.”
  2. Variety: Despite this sounding as though it contradicts the importance of consistency, what variety means in this context is variety of content, rather than variety of topic. For example, posting photos, links from various sources, individual thoughts and opinions, retweets, interactive conversations, podcasts, endorsing brands, asking questions, and so forth are just a few of the ways that individuals can create variety within their posts. This is pivotal in keeping one’s followers interested.
  3. Being helpful: “Whether you believe in karma or not, there is something to be said about putting positive energy out there, especially on Twitter.” There are accounts dedicated purely to offering helpful tips and advice to their followers, such as @TweetSmarter, who has an incredible platform and 358,000 followers. Whether one is walking someone through a problem or offering strategic advice, “by helping others, you’ll help yourself.”
  4. Endorsing others: In addition to helping others through advice and inspirational quotes, it is suggested to publicly endorse key members of one’s community. “By promoting a friend’s new book, sharing a colleague’s blog post or advertising an industry leader’s Twitter chat you’ll gain two benefits: one, if your endorsement is well thought out, you’ll be seen as a thought-leader and potential influencer by your followers; and two, you’ll land yourself on that person’s radar and they might return the favor.”
  5. Constantly checking @mentions: Monitoring Twitter regularly is important not only to stay up to date on what is being shared and discussed, but also to allow yourself to engage in social media conversations. Not only can you check in to see who is mentioning you, but in doing so you will find who wants to start a conversation with you and in turn, who you may want to start a conversation with. It is important not to let a full 24 hours pass from the time someone sends them an @mention to the time that they respond, “whether they’re an individual or a business running a customer service Twitter account.”
  6. Tweeting on the go: It is important to find a balance between becoming that person who tweets during a “romantic dinner” and knowing the right time and place to tweet. “The best tweets are those who don’t set aside 10 minutes to come up with tweets at their computer and then forget about the network: they have smartphones and the ability to tweet when the inspiration (or a particularly beautiful picture of a flower) strikes.”
  7. Refreshing their lists regularly: “Lists are a powerful way to build a network on Twitter, but they require maintenance. It’s a good idea to get into the habit of checking your lists every few weeks to clear out the dormant accounts, add new ones, and consider starting a new list or deleting one altogether. The best tweeters have a handful of up-to-date lists that they use to network or learn.”
  8. Updating who they follow: It is key to pay attention to who you follow, and to ensure that one is not simply following everyone who followed them. Helpful applications such as “Who Unfollowed ME” and “Manage Flitter” allow users to determine if they are losing followers or not and why, and in turn allows you to unfollow those who have unfollowed you. Check your “list” regularly to ensure that your followers are still relevant and that your ratio is balanced.
  9. Monitoring their links: As mentioned earlier, when maintaining variety on your Twitter account, a key component of that is regularly sharing links. However, one must ensure that the links are effective, and take users directly to where you want them to go. In order to stay within your 140 character count, you can use a service such as or HootSuite’s to shorten every single link that you send out. They crunch the links down as well as track them. This way, you can utilize these programs to monitor who is sharing your content, how frequently it’s being retweeted, the time of day that your content gets shared most, and more.
  10. Sparse hashtagging: “Hashtag stuffing is a big no-no.” One should only use a hashtag when it is relevant to the content of your tweet and especially when it will add additional meaning to your tweet, either through the hashtag itself or the tweets the hashtag will be linked to. The rule of thumb is to include only one or two per tweet.

After this helpful 10-step lesson, I myself feel much better equipped to take on the Twitter scene. Watch out Twitter, here I come!






The Sound of Music – Empowering Freedom of Expression through Social Media

Pandora and Spotify, two Internet Radio programs, have incorporated social media sharing capabilities to allow for their users to connect and engage on a global scale over the common interest of music.

Pandora and Spotify, two Internet Radio programs, have incorporated social media sharing capabilities to allow for their users to connect and engage on a global scale over the common interest of music.

Digital communication and social media platforms have transformed the way that individuals around the globe converse, share information, and learn more about themselves and one another. Whether it be through Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Periscope, Tumblr, or Snapchat, communication mediums such as these have allowed for people of all ages, shapes and sizes to express themselves while engaging and sharing with others. Unlike these forums, which allow for a plethora of diverse opinions, expressions, dialogues, and interests to float freely, music platforms, such as Pandora Internet Radio and Spotify, focus solely on one passion that unites millions – music.

As unique as it is for the social media platforms mentioned above to act as unrestricted forums for really anything to be displayed, discussed, or analyzed, music programs such as Pandora bring people together over one common platform that spawns a plethora of variety. It brings people together over a shared passion for music, specifically personal musical taste, while also allowing for that passion to be shared with other like-minded users, both known and unknown. This social media and sharing component of music programs, particularly featured with Spotify and Pandora, is what has given them the competitive advantage needed in order to collaborate with rather than be outshone by their social media competitors.

To give a bit of background, Pandora, started in 2000, is the world’s most powerful music discovery platform with over 80 million active users. Spotify, launched in 2008, also allows its 60 million active users to play music directly from the cloud, and features more than 30 million tracks. One of the key differences between the two is their source of revenue-  while Spotify has about 20% of their 60 million users pay for the service, Pandora only has 3.5 million paying customers. This suggests that the benefits of Spotify’s Premium memberships outweigh the cost compared to Pandora’s offerings. The two programs have both joined forces with Facebook, allowing for users to share their playlists and music activity with their Facebook friends. Spotify also features a “Music Chat” component, which provides users with a free space to chat about anything music related. Much like how Pinterest, Tumblr and Instagram allow for individuals to express themselves through design, images and graphics, Spotify and Pandora allow for the same creative expression but through the art of music. In the case of Spotify, it allows for users to use their own creative discretion in creating playlists comprised of whatever musical tracks, artists and genre that they want. When adding in the social media aspect, this provides an outlet for users’ creations to be shared to the world, giving them a way to represent themselves through a collaboration of sounds that they themselves have designed. In the case of Pandora, their use of the Music Genome Project, which is the most comprehensive analysis of music ever undertaken, allows for users to be provided with the most personalized listening experience possible. By utilizing the wealth of musicological information stored in the Music Genome Project, Pandora recognizes and responds to each individual’s tastes. “The result is a much more personalized radio experience – stations that play music you’ll love – and nothing else.” This too allows for users to represent themselves via personalized music playlists.

In a world where reputation is something that takes a lifetime to create and yet can be lost in a matter of seconds, it is important for individuals to have creative outlets to represent themselves in a more personal and less serious manner. There is no right or wrong when it comes to personal taste in music, and with programs such as Spotify and Pandora, creative expression through music is celebrated rather than critiqued. It allows for personal representation that can be shared and result in strong connections made with like-minded users on a global scale. Most importantly, it allows for people to choose how they want to portray themselves through their personal taste in music, empowering individuals to practice freedom of expression in a safe and unrestricted forum.

A Storm’s a Brewin…Over Social Media and over Mexico’s Pacific Coast

As winds are blowing at over 200 mph towards Mexico’s Pacific coast, Hurricane Patricia is being projected as the “strongest hurricane ever recorded.” Not only is the storm brewing as it makes its way towards landfall, but it is also gaining headway in the digital communication and social media world. With communication mediums including e-mail, Twitter, Instagram and their website, just SMU alone has both notified and warned the community of the severe weather conditions approaching.

In addition, the SMU community has contributed to the frenzy of weather updates through personal communication methods such as Snapchats, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram posts. Cars floating along the Boulevard and Cox Business library being flooded are just some of the posts that have been circulating around campus, greatly contributing to the panic and fear of what is yet to come.

As a result of the storm, part of the SMU Cox Business library flooded, and was shared via social media with the student body.

As a result of the storm, part of the SMU Cox Business library flooded, and was shared via social media with the student body.

This SnapChat, provided by an SMU student, shows a car floating, rather than driving, down the SMU Boulevard.

This Snapchat, provided by an SMU student, shows a car floating, rather than driving, down the SMU Boulevard.













As a result, rather than focusing attention on the effects that Hurricane Patricia is having on its actual victims, social media is highlighting only the backlash effects that Dallas is experiencing. Although in this case social media is being beneficially utilized to get the word out about potential weather risks locally, equal media attention is not being given to where the storm is expected to devastate and destroy the lives of hundreds.


Bon Appetit – Yours Truly, Chef YouTube

Mothers may no longer scold their sons for being on their devices at the dinner table, thanks to the BBQ Pit Boys, and other culinary YouTube sensations alike. This group in particular specializes in BBQ, hence their name, ranging from pork, beef, and poultry, to wild game. The men upload one new recipe every week, streaming a hands on tutorial providing thorough explanation of each and every step from start to finish.

The internet, technology and digital communications have replaced the need for human labor in a plethora of professions across a wide range of industries, including cooking. Interactive online streaming platforms such as YouTube




Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy Loses Majority of America’s Trust – Bad Timing or Real Life House of Cards?

McCarthyWe hear that what is put on the Internet, stays on the Internet, from our parents, our friends, our teachers and our colleagues. However, our unrealistic sense of personal invincibility overshadows both the advice received and the plethora of online scandals witnessed. Putting things in writing allows for the opportunity of redistribution, reinterpretation, and in the case of the Republican Party, utter chaos. Today’s Speaker of the House election scandal proved that not even the government has immunity to online leaks.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a Republican from California, (shocking, right?) removed himself from the race to take the place of John Boehner as Speaker of the House, “a stunning move that threw a fractious Republican Party into chaos and further complicated an already tumultuous leadership contest.” Although McCarthy claimed to the media that his withdrawal was due to his belief that the party needs a “new face,” a leaked internal e-mail from Re. Walter Jones may suggest otherwise. The letter, which was intended only for the eyes of candidates for House leadership, asked anyone who had a “significant scandal in their closet” to remove themselves from the race. Just bad timing, or is this why McCartney withdrew from the race within minutes of receiving the e-mail?

Despite the fact that this surely could be a case of bad timing, due to the viral nature of digital communications, the emergence of this e-mail has thrown McCarthy into the hot seat, questioning his true reasoning for withdrawing from the race. Unfortunately, due to the re-tweets, re-posts and re-shares of the message, whether true or not, the influential world of digital communication has very easily convinced the public that Kevin McCarthy has “significant scandals in his closet,” which is why he is no longer running for Speaker of the House. This event portrays the mere power that digital communications can have, and that it can be used for both good and evil. If McCarthy does wrongly have a chest full of scandals, than the publicity of this e-mail has rightfully encouraged an undeserving candidate from removing himself from what is such a crucial race for the American government. However, if on the contrary McCarthy truthfully did remove himself from the race due to his compassion for the future of the Repubican party, than the usage of persuasive digital communications has wound him up in the wrong place at the wrong time, causing a major setback to both his political career as well as reputation.


Welcome to the Picture Book Generation, Where a Picture is Worth 400 Million Words

Although traditionally a picture is worth a thousand words, photo editing and sharing application, Instagram, has proven that a photo is actually worth 400 million words, or “followers,” as the site calls them.

Instagram is an online mobile photo-sharing, video-sharing and social networking service that now has over 400 million users worldwide.

Instagram is an online mobile photo-sharing, video-sharing and social networking service that now has over 400 million users worldwide.

This September, Instagram hit 400 million users, surpassing Twitter by a whopping 80 million. Although it has been around since 2010, Instagram’s numbers really skyrocketed over the last nine months, which is when over 100 million new members joined the platform. “So, not only is Instagram growing, it’s growing really, really quickly.” 

The same cannot be said for Twitter, though, whose number of monthly active users worldwide has barely increased over the last year. The online social networking service enticed the world in 2006 with their mission, “to give everyone the power to create and share ideas and information instantly, without barriers.” Instagram has not only fulfilled this mission, but also done so without barriers, or words. The application brings to users all that Twitter does, including news, recipes, and Kim Kardashian’s latest selfie, however without the clutter of 140 required characters. As the numbers show, this straightforward, pictures-only approach has triumphed in the social media world.

The way that our world accesses information has dwindled down from picking up a physical newspaper, to turning on a television and having the headlines read to you, to opening your laptop or iPhone to scan skimmed versions of various news outlets’ stories, to condensing breaking news into 140 characters, to simply looking at pictures. Is our generation proving that a picture truly is worth a thousand words, or is it that our multi-tasking, short attention-spanned generation simply prefers a picture over 140 characters?

Combative Communications 101 – Presidential Debate Style

The candidates of the Republican Presidential Debate stand together after a combative, confrontational 3 hour dialogue.

The candidates of the Republican Presidential Debate stand together after a combative, confrontational 3 hour dialogue.

Although titled the Republican Primary Debate, CNN’s lengthy Wednesday evening production was much more of a “he said, she said,” Real-Housewives catfight-esque, combative communications performance than a Presidential deliberation.

Taking place at California’s Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, CNN hosted a whopping 16 Republican candidates for what resulted in more of a confrontational therapy session between the “cool kids” rather than an evenly distributed discussion amongst all of the candidates. And yet, the prime time debate averaged 23.1 million viewers, making it the most-watched program in CNN’s history. Is this statistic telling of the type of communication that attracts a majority of our nation’s population?

CNN’s combative questioning technique was designed to spark conversation, typically controversial, between two candidates in regards to comments that one has said about the other and vise versa. As the inquiries and accusations were being responded to, the network would publish the responses via Twitter, which only elongated the “he said, she said” conversation via social media. On the contrary, professor and CNN Political Analyst during elections Dr. Rita Kirk, noted that although combative, the debate technique forced candidates to be confrontational in a public forum. By forcing candidates to face the criticism that was made both by them and against them, it acted as a “check” on held them and a catalyst for accountability, which may have been the appeal to the American public.



Everything Digital = Everything to Lose? How the Tech Generation May be Getting Set Up to Fail

When discussing with a peer his ambition to run for a position on his local School Board, the issue on the forefront of his campaign was to cut the funding for and requirement of purchasing iPads for all middle and high tech generation students. Plot twist- this perspective comes not from a technologically challenged, micro-managing parent, but rather from a tech-savvy, avid device user, sophomore at Southern Methodist University.

Unfortunately, a Pew Research Center study has confirmed our grandparent’s rants about the negative implications of staring at a screen all day. A whopping 87% of teachers in the study, joined by the College Board and the National Writing Project, reported that technology is creating an “easily distracted generation with short attention spans.” 64% of both middle and high school professors stated that today’s digital technologies “do more to distract students than to help them academically.” 

Students of the tech generation can't help but get distracted by the hundreds of non-educational purposes, such as Photo Booth, that the iPad initiative invites into the classroom.

Students getting distracted by their iPads in a Los Angeles classroom.

Director of the Pew Internet Project Lee Rainie hit the nail on the head when remarking that the tremendously overpowering influence of modern day technology may be attributed to the inability of students to understand how to master time management at such young ages.  “Multi-tasking” has become a casual phrase referring to how our brains should function in this day and age, with the expectation that humans are able to comprehend and retain information while receiving and sending text messages with various people, listening to lyric-stuffed music, with various online shopping windows up, and while regularly glancing at overflowing Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat feeds, etc. Why, and how, is it that the biggest culprit of distraction has become the turned to tool for educating the youth?

Loosely titled the “iPad Initiative,” the break up between school districts and textbooks has become an epidemic as tablet computers are being utilized as a tool to help implement the new Common Core state standards for math and reading. The separation has had its positives, though, such as financial savings, lighter backpacks, and providing students with technology and internet awareness. The iPad Initiative provides instant information at students’ fingertips, which is both a blessing and a curse. There is a difference between information and knowledge:

Information – facts provided or learned about something or someone.

Knowledge – facts, information, and skills acquired by a person through experience or education; the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject.

Although these nouns are used universally and interchangeably, it is pivotal that the tech generation is enlightened on the true difference between the two. The iPad initiative teaches only how to access information, without pushing students to both absorb and comprehend that information and make it knowledge.

@God – Wait, What?! How Social Media & Communications is Expanding the SMU Catholic Community


Being raised in a conservative Catholic family, one of the most important values instilled was tradition. This value quite frequently comes into conflict with the not-so traditional ideals of the millennial generation. The only form of church “social media” was the old-school stock-paper weekly newsletter that was distributed to churchgoers as they exited Mass. Unfortunately, the few newsletters that were accepted were in turn used as a plate to pile on as many of the warm, highly coveted end-of-mass donuts that were served by volunteers immediately after every Sunday morning service. Absolutely an incentive to get out of bed at 8:45 on a Sunday.

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