The New Wave of Social Media

By Maribeth Neelis

When my dad begrudgingly set up a Facebook account “to keep track of what you kids are up to,” I thought, social media has finally reached critical mass.

According to The Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project, 72 percent of online adults now use social networking sites, like Facebook and Twitter. And those 65+ have tripled their use in the past four years—from 13 percent in 2009 to 43 percent in 2013.

But while we were figuring out how use hashtags, wrapping our heads around Facebook’s new timeline layout or asking the teens in our lives how to hide annoying status updates from our newsfeeds, they were moving on to new social media platforms.

TechCrunch reports, interest in Facebook is declining among teens. The new cool tools among the younger demog: Wanelo, Vine, SnapChat, Kik and 4chan.

This cohort not only has unprecedented online influence, they are generally the early adopters of trends and tools later embraced by the masses. (Remember when Facebook was exclusive to college students and recent alums?) So whether you want to be in the know for professional reasons or pick up some conversation fodder for your teenage niece, here’s the scoop on these emerging social apps and sites.

Wanelo, a portmanteau of Want, Need, Love, is a community for shoppers.

How It Works
It merges stores, products and people into a sort of giant internet mall curated by its users. Every item posted links back to the original product for easy purchasing. It’s kind of like an RSS feed of products the users you follow are buying.

Why It’s Cool
The site taps into the human desire to see what our friends and acquaintances are buying and where. Who hasn’t uttered the words, “Love that shirt. Where’d you get it?”

  • Over 8 million users as of May 2013
  • Over 6 million products saved 8 million times a day 
  • Products from over 200,000 stores, from major retailers to small independent shops 

Vine is Twitter’s video app that allows users to create looping videos and share them on Vine as well as Twitter and Facebook.

How It Works
Just download the app, create a profile, find something to record and start filming.

Why It’s Cool
Follow Editors Picks, spend a few minutes watching the videos, and you’ll see some impressive work and probably wonder where these people find the time. The skill level and content choices vary greatly, but it's a fun creative outlet and innovative way to share scenes from your day.

  • 14 million users in just six months 
  • Five Vine videos tweeted every second 

SnapChat is the digital equivalent of passing a note in class, explains the company's co-founder Bobby Murphy. Well, a note that self-destructs after a few seconds.

How It Works
Snap a picture with the app, add a caption and send it to a friend, or a group. After they view it for a few seconds, the message disappears…(as long as the recipient doesn’t take a screenshot.)

Why It’s Cool
My first thought: teenagers don't want their risqué shenanigans broadcast for all to see. But the app's co-founders assure (maybe concerned parents) of its more wholesome intent.

They say, younger social media users are growing tired of the uber-polished profiles and contrived images shared on many social media platforms. And SnapChat, in its ephemerality, is more akin to a real conversation. Either way, SnapChat is the antithesis to an online world where each photo, update and comment lives on in perpetuity.

  • More than 60 million photos or messages sent each day 
  • $13.5 million raised in venture capital funding 

Kik Messenger is an instant messenger app for smart phones.

How It Works
Like iMessage, Kik uses a smartphone’s data plan or Wi-Fi to send and receive messages, allowing users to avoid the text messaging rates set by service providers.

Why It’s Cool
In addition to free messaging across operating systems, users can share photos, sketches, voice messages, and other content. Kik Messenger requires users to register a username as form of identification.

  • Reached 1 million user registrations in 15 days 
  • 50 million unique users registered as of April 2013 

4chan makes me feel old, slightly confused and kind of grouchy.

How It Works
The website is just a simple, image-based bulletin board where people can post on various topics, like Japanese animation, music and photography. Browsing the forums feels like hanging out with a group of teenaged boys all laughing about an inside joke I don’t understand.

Why It’s Cool
It may look like a chat room from the mid-nineties, but it's one of the internet’s most trafficked image boards, according to the Los Angeles Times. And its users are behind some very popular Internet memes, like LOLcats, Rickrolling and Chocolate Rain, as well as countless others. I guess teenaged boys can be pretty funny sometimes.

  • Over 25,000,000 unique visitors per month 
  • One of the highest-trafficked US sites, according to Alexa

It's hard to see how this new wave of social media will be relevant to businesses or any of us born before 1995. But then again, I never thought I'd see my dad on Facebook.

Cowboy PR

Last month I had breakfast at the Holiday Inn in Cheyenne, Wyoming. The waitress suggested the breakfast buffet. I asked what was in the breakfast buffet. She said “Well, we’ve got ham, bacon, sausage…’’ “Hmm, I don’t eat those,” I said suspiciously.  “She said, “Well, we have fruit, cereal, eggs…” So I ordered the breakfast buffet.

The truth is, we all have to make adjustments sometimes. When things don’t go your way, when a client doesn’t agree with everything you recommend, and especially when people look at you like you must be from Mars because you don’t eat bacon, ham or sausage. That ability to adjust your saddle or even change horses in midstream when you need to find some common ground is a lost art these days. That’s one thing that really impressed me about the people who run Cheyenne Frontier Days.

The Cowboy Way is no bull. These people really practice the art of Cowboy PR. They are straight shootin’ communicators who say what they think and mean what they say. Their core values include honor, respect and courtesy. It might sound old fashioned, but that culture is fundamentally what PR is all about. You may not agree with them, but at least they will respect you enough to let you voice your opinion, as long as you do it in a respectful way. If you choose to be ornery about it, they’ll just get up and leave until you calm down. In Cowboy PR, there is no time for showboating. They are too busy rounding up the truth.

For too long, Cheyenne Frontier Days let other people tell the story of how animals are treated at rodeos.  Often that story has been negative. It’s been told by people who truly believe that their perspective is the only one that matters. They make a lot of noise and they fire a lot of cheap shots. Now, CFD tells its own story in its own words and lets whoever wants to decide which story they like best.

In just three years, CFD has built a loyal following on Facebook
with over 77,000 fans. They have dozens of their own videos on YouTube and over 6,000 people following them on Twitter. Instead of only negative attacks, the media coverage also includes features on CFD’s commitment to keeping rodeo livestock healthy and safe.  Most of all, the 2,500 volunteers who run the organization feel better because they are finally being listened to instead of just hollered at.

Honor. Respect. Courtesy. That’s straight shootin’ communications. That’s Cowboy PR.

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