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Spica Shares Student Social Media Utilization Findings

Laura Spica (BA ‘80, MBA ‘92) has written an informative article on student social media use based on her experiences as a lecturer for the College of Communication and Information.  View her Knox News reprinted article below.

Laura SpicaLaura Spica: A sampling of student social media

4:02 AM, Oct 5, 2014
12:22 PM, Oct 5, 2014

I have the pleasure of teaching a senior-level course in social media for the University of Tennessee’s College of Communication and Information this semester.
There are a dozen students, including four graduate students and two foreign nationals, in my class of crazy-smart millennials. It’s a marketing researcher’s dream focus group. Early on, I administered a social media survey to see what social networking platforms this microcosm uses on a regular basis.
The results may surprise you.
There were 14 different social networks cited in the survey, including Weibo and Renren, China’s answer to Twitter and Facebook, which are banned in the People’s Republic.
Tinder, the location-based matchmaking app, got a mention or two, but it’s more of a niche network. Mobile messaging apps like WhatsApp, WeChat and GroupMe are widely used — more about that in a moment.
social mediaSo — digital drumroll please — here are the big players among my sample group of students:
Instagram is the No. 1 site used by every single member of my class. It also ranks as the favorite social media site by just over a third of the students.
Instagram, launched in 2010 and famously acquired by Facebook for $1 billion in 2012, is the photo-sharing application that took selfies mainstream.
The name is a blend of “instant camera” and “telegram” (thanks, Austin Stuck, for sharing that tidbit). Instagram recently released its Hyperlapse video app to create time-lapse videos of “our accelerated lives.”
Twitter is the second most popular platform with this socially savvy group of advertising, PR and journalism majors. However, Twitter’s hint at adopting a Facebook-esque algorithm looms like a black cloud over the trademark little blue bird.
Facebook and Snapchat tie for third place, representing the past and the future of social media. Most students said they check Facebook with sense of nostalgia and to stay in touch with their parents and grandparents.
Snapchat, on the other hand, represents the new wave of mobile texting apps that are the now and tomorrow of social media. They’re as private as online communications can be, perfect for sharing pictures, video and text. These platforms have not yet been polluted by advertising, although, smart brands are playing on Snapchat.
LinkedIn came in fourth, with just over half of the students actively using the business-networking site. That was the first day of class. They all have a LinkedIn profile now and will come to see its value as they enter the job market.
YouTube ranks fifth with usage skewing male. Reddit, Vine and Yik Yak all outrank Pinterest, the digital pinboard, whose usage, in my class at least, is exclusively female. Reddit, the social networking service and news website, is a male-dominated platform. These gender biases are in line with national statistics.
Google+ is notably absent from our #UTADV490 social media roundup.
Not one of my students uses it, despite Google’s strong-arm tactics to force users to open accounts as a portal to other products. Google+ has been the walking dead of social media since its launch in 2011. There’s a tombstone waiting in the Google Graveyard where Google Reader, Google Wave and Google Buzz lie in virtual ignominy.
Foursquare, the scrappy little geolocation mobile app launched in 2009, was also a no-show in the survey.
The check-in search and discovery service never caught on among younger demos. And even core users were dismayed by Foursquare’s recent spinoff of its core app into a new idea called Swarm.
So what’s the takeaway from our informal social media straw poll?
The universe of social media platforms is in constant flux. Millennials, that coveted generational cohort born between 1978 and 1995, are a fickle group. The youngest are true digital natives, known for their independence, authenticity, thrift and balanced outlook on life. They are loyal to each other but not necessarily to their grandparents’ social media.
There’s a new social network called Ello that describes itself as “beautiful, simple and ad-free.” Ello’s manifesto proclaims its users are “not a product.”
I have a hunch this one might catch on with my students. Brands take note.
Laura Spica is the principal and founder of Spica Communications.