Snapchat at it again

Watch out Facebook, Snapchat is also expanding its services. While Facebook is incorporating a mobile pay service, Snapchat announced its plans to introduce a music label in which it would promote its artists through the app. This seems to be a trend among social media brands – are they catching on to something?

In order to be the most popular and most successful social platform is it not enough to only offer one type of service? We saw Snapchat incorporate messaging and then came the addition of Snapchat Discover, offering a variety of news sources. How much further can this app expand?

Now with the announcement of a music label, Snapchat users will have to wait and see. Although this seems to be the direction these apps are moving in, it honestly concerns me. I understand the concept of convenience but there is also a reason I use several different apps for different purposes. I trust Facebook to be my go-to picture source, Spotify to stream music, and Snapchat to send disappearing photos. Even if there was one app with all of my favorite features combined, would I actually use it? Take the introduction of Snapchat messager for example. I have yet to actually use it to communicate with my friends. Why would I when I have so many other options to contact them? I don’t use Snapchat’s Discover as my news source, I generally rely on Twitter. The “inconvenience” of switching from app to app is not worth the risk of trusting one source to provide all of this information in one.

Despite my preferences, I have to face the reality that this will likely not always be the case. There might be a day when I’m only using one app for all of my social media needs. For now I think I will stick with my variety.

Say farewell to freemium

Although I have to admit I am a fan of the “freemium” perks that Spotify offers, I have questioned the longevity of this service. My first concern was around the time when Taylor Swift pulled her music from Spotify. As a fan (okay, a big fan), I had already purchased the album the day it was released on iTunes, but I use Spotify in addition just out of convenience. Spotify’s ability to create a playlist at the touch of a finger with the ability to update new music as frequently as possible is much more convenient than purchasing a song on iTunes, creating a playlist on my computer and then syncing my phone to it. I do still purchase songs on iTunes, but generally after I have been listening to them on Spotify and decide I actually like them.

Others may not necessarily adopt this approach. Instead, many Spotify users pay absolutely nothing for music whatsoever. They never purchase songs on iTunes and instead, have the patience to sit through a few ads to listen to streaming music for free. Taylor Swift and several other artists have joined the fight against Spotify and other free streaming services. Taylor Swift explained her decision to pull her albums from Spotify by saying, “I think there should be an inherent value placed on art. I didn’t see that happening, perception-wise, when I put my music on Spotify.”

“While digital download services like iTunes helped boost music sales after programs like Napster provided an easy way to pirate music, some say Spotify is providing a solution to digital download sales declining as people listen to music for free on YouTube.” – Sasha Bogursky, Fox News.

Although I understand the perception of record labels and artists, I think they may be fighting a losing battle in a sense. Technology is constantly evolving and streaming music is the future of the industry. People’s demand for unlimited music in an efficient manner is wrapped into one in the form of Spotify. In order to meet the demands of artists I fully agree with eliminating the freemium option and providing the service for a $10/month fee (small compared to the 10 songs you would be able to purchase on iTunes for this price).  I would be willing to pay for Spotify’s services but as long as there is a free option, I will continue to benefit from the freemium perks.

Gofundme

After listening to Aaron’s success story with Gofundme, I decided to look deeper into the site and how much it relies on social media.  I was unfamiliar with the site and was honestly amazed at how quickly Aaron said he was able to raise $1,800. Lets be honest, for a college student, that’s a gold mine.

I found his original post and read the comments from the donators – each strongly encouraged him to pursue his dream and were happy to contribute to the cause. Besides Aaron’s page, there were many requests for contributions to medical bills, handicap accessible vans, and to support a local special Olympics. Just after class, I received an email from my sorority’s listserv with another link to a Gofundme page (check it out here).  It dawned on me how successful this site can be and how that success is owed to social media platforms that help spread it.

Whereas Aaron’s page is only a few days old and has already reached its goal, other pages are months old and have barely made a dent in their fundraising. As a student in the Journalism school, writing for the Daily Tarheel, and learning from mass communication experts, Aaron most likely had an advantage in spreading the word about his cause. Aaron said he reached his goal of $500 an hour after he originally created the page. Without the internet would any of this be possible? Not only would random strangers have no means of sending contributions but the process of spreading the word would take weeks.

While many people continue to shame our generation for its internet obsession, here is an example of it being put to good use. Gofundme.com provides a place where those in desperate need have the ability to reach a large audience in hopes of successfully reaching others willing to help. I applaud the site’s efforts and I urge the continuation of social media to be used to spread messages like these, showing the skeptics a more positive side to the “evils” of the internet.

Brand connections

Our generation is accustomed to seeing advertisements everywhere.  Beyond magazine pages and billboards, advertisements are now infiltrating our social media accounts and browser pages.  At times it can be annoying (no, I have no interest in a male enhancement drug), but then we contradict ourselves by choosing to follow certain brands, essentially signing up for their “advertisements” to mix in with our other posts.  Yesterday’s class discussion got me thinking – how important is it that brands have social media accounts? And also, what differentiates their posts from advertisements?

I have to admit, I have an online shopping addiction.  To me, it makes more sense to search through pages of clothing from the comfort of my home rather than tackle the messy racks in malls.  Due to this addiction, I follow many different brands on Instagram, or at least check up on them regularly.  I follow all of my favorite stores so that I can see the new arrivals they post daily and keep up with the sales.  However, I have never been annoyed in the sense that I am at advertisements.

In today’s digital age, it is not only beneficial, but essential for brands to manage several social media accounts in order to further establish relationships with consumers.  The posts go beyond the selling of merchandise by incorporating quotes, non-brand photos, etc. to the point that I feel a stronger tie to the brand, while simultaneously increasing my interest in the products themselves.

These posts don’t resemble an advertisement so they aren’t necessarily an eyesore on my newsfeed.  For example, on Instagram the brands I follow tend to blend in with similar posts to that of my friends.  Although the post may be marketing a specific clothing item, the account manager will make it visually appealing and not solely focused on the product itself.  While only a small percentage of the tens or hundreds of thousands of followers of each brand will actually go purchase something from the site that day, they still establish a connection with the company and are more willing to consider the brand in the future.

No matter what the product is, a brand’s social media presence is essential in order to keep up with the competition.  Account managers just need to understand the fine line between advertisements and social media posts and be careful not to cross it.

Checked out or tuned in?

While some say millennials have checked out from news sources altogether, I (and I’m sure many of my classmates) have to disagree.  Despite what this American Press Institute article says, the news content I see is not “lost” among hundreds of other posts, it is simply separated.  I specifically use Twitter as a news source – instantly bringing a variety of different sources and topics to my attention in a highly convenient manner.  Whereas in other instances the information could be lost among my friends’ tweets, I and other millennials have decided to separate our personal and professional accounts.  This is hardly classified as a disinterest in news, it exemplifies our ability to separate the matters and devote full attention to the news.

This behavior is clearly classified as that of a millennial, but it is not necessarily less intelligent or less informative than reading the daily newspaper.  Older generations don’t necessarily understand that what is different isn’t necessarily wrong.  This technologically advancing practice of turning to online sites and platforms for news doesn’t make us less intelligent, it coincides with our fast paced lifestyle  of wanting information at the tip of our fingers.

“Nonetheless, the reliance on nontraditional news outlets is still the exception rather than the norm. ” – Pew Research Center.

Although the older generations have not yet reached this realization, this is the understanding of millennials and is what we live by.  I still pick up a print copy of the Daily Tarheel on my way to class and will thumb through the pages of the News and Observer when I’m at home but the ease of opening an app in between classes or at the gym has overtaken the print industry.  We are not checking out from news sources, we are simply adapting to the digital age faster than those around us.

Timehop > New York Times?

After our assigned reading on the attraction of nostalgia, I decided to do a little further digging into Timehop.  I have the app, I love it.  But then again, I’m one of those people the article referred to who easily get a kick out of old photos.  I’m also one of those people who ritually checks the app every single day (even if I forget, the app sends me a notification that I haven’t yet checked today’s posts).  And on that note, I definitely do not check the New York Times or USA Today on a daily basis.  Timehop’s co-founder proudly states that of Timehop’s 14 million users, about half of them check the app every day – resulting in more people than the number who read the New York Times every day.

This got me thinking, does our society really value old memories over current news? What prompts us to open an app of old photos rather than a news source, often containing photos itself?  It all goes back to what the article said: nostalgia has made a comeback.

Although I have only been a Timehop user for a few years now, and don’t have all of my social media accounts synced to the app, I get genuinely excited at the prospect of finding an old photo from more than just a few years ago.  Now we can only go back so far; I haven’t had Facebook much longer than I’ve had Timehop, but the prospect of potentially still using the app in a decade makes users curious at the idea of what they will stumble upon.  Although the app is just depicting moments we experienced a few years prior, it simply reminds us of the great time we had (if we hadn’t, why would we have photographed it?).

In response to the Timehop versus New York Times statistic, I would like to think that our society isn’t simply avoiding the news, but using apps like these as a distraction from it.  Although it is the responsible thing to do, who wants to wake up first thing in the morning and read about the latest death toll in a war, or the latest company’s bankruptcy.  We would much rather open a lighthearted memory box to start our day off on a good note.  I support the millions of users who are die hard Timehop fans and hope that this app continues to be a success in the future.

Black and blue or white and gold? Beyond the colors of #TheDress

So blue and black or white and gold? Kidding… But this internet phenomenon did make me think.

What seemed to go viral among many of my group chats in a matter of 15 minutes broke the internet in a matter of hours.  My question is – where did this originate from and how many millions of people did it spread to?

I honestly would rather rip my hair out before I get into another debate about the actual color of The Dress (IT’S BLACK AND BLUE!!!) but I am extremely curious about how this photo managed to spread like wildfire.

Buzzfeed’s article “What Colors Are this Dress?” is on its way to becoming the site’s most viewed post, ever.  So how did this story manage to go viral within a matter of hours when normal posts take at least a few days? It even has its own hashtag, #TheDress. While internet viewers are determined for an end-all theory as to why they see the dress the way they do, journalists should take note of the incredible speed of this story and how it can be repeated in the future.

What was originally shared to a blog post made its way to Twitter with one of the highest trending hashtags, became a trending topic on Facebook, covered Buzzfeed’s homepage, and became a topic on Snapchat’s TGIF “my story.”  The more we are diving into the digital age, the more I tend to notice how quickly the internet is spreading even the simplest of stories.  The Chapel Hill shootings last month found their way across media outlets worldwide due to the tragic message that affected such a large group of people, but now a random dress is even surpassing that.  I realized the magnitude of the story, and the internet, when I opened my Snapchat Friday morning and discovered that Snapchat users in Sweden and Norway were making jokes about “The Dress.”

According to Buzzfeed editor in chief Ben Smith, 79% of Thursday’s views of “What Colors Are the Dress?” were from mobile devices.  We have heard marketers and advertisers stress the need to specifically target mobile users, but this statistic fully supports that.

The reason stories like this are becoming viral at an even faster rate is all thanks to our mobile phones.  With one click I can send a photo to a huge group of my friends, who then share it with another group of theirs.  Besides frustrating the hell out of millions of people, The Dress brought to light an excellent point – we, especially as journalists, need to take advantage of the efficiency of mobile sharing and accept that it will most likely be the future of communications.