Influencers and the Body Pos Movement

If there is one main lesson I have learned from taking a class in social media theory it is the underrated importance of the influencers in sparking a social movement. I really do not know what activists did to motivate and gain support before the Internet, but I have to imagine it is very similar to what the influencers on social media are doing today. While there are many examples of influencers using their voice and platform to further the mission of a cause, I will focus primarily on the Body Pos Movement and the key influencers that got the movement off the ground.

Body positivity has been a social issue for as long as there has been a social pressure to fit into a certain body ideal as outlined by mainsteam media and Hollywood. You cannot go a single day in the Western world without seeing evidence of the problem of body discrimination everywhere. Whether you are fat, skinny, black, white, brown, tall, short, etc, no one fits perfectly into the unrealistic body ideals of Western society.

The early days of the Body Pos movement were centralized, even with the Internet, in major metropolitan cities like New York and Los Angeles. Quick to come onto the scene were bloggers who eventually became the movers and shakers (influencers) of the movement. Without these influencers taking the reigns of the movement, it is likely that it never would have made it to the forefront as it eventually did when it began challenging huge brands like Victoria Secret.

Jes Baker

The Militant Baker, as she was originally known, has been a driving force in social media and the Body Pos Movement. She bravely took on the unacceptable fat shaming comments of the Abercrombie and Fitch CEO, and in doing so won the hearts of all women of size. Jes quickly became the voice of the community, and has since gone on to found the Body Love Conference and write a powerful book entitled “Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls.” What Jes does best as an influencer is that she serves as a voice for the community of largely silenced women. She often posts about all of the messages she gets on a daily basis that solidify the reason she has made a career out of being an activist.

Tess Holliday

Tess Holliday was the first truly plus size model to be signed by a modeling agency. She has now been featured by a wide variety of publications and fashion lines. Even before she was signed by the agency, giving hope to plus-size model hopefuls across the globe, she was an activist and influencer on social media. She started a campaign “Eff Your Beauty Standards” before she was signed to the modeling agency, and the campaign has grown to really encompass the feelings of women around the world. It became so popular that other Body Pos bloggers have jumped on board to help maintain the community developed around the campaign. Unlike Jes, the community Tess is also a mother and therefore she often uses her platform to speak for mothers and pregnant woman of size.

Gabi Fresh

Gabi is considered more of a fashion blogger than a social movement activist, but it is through her plus-size fashion influence that she is a social movement influencer. Gabi has the poise of a woman that is not going to take disrespect from anyone and simply by the way she presents herself, she is an inspiration to women of size and color.

Final Thoughts

To sum all of this up, when I first thought of influencers I see on social media, I immediately went to the fashion bloggers that drive me to shop, but in reality social media influencers go much deeper than finding out what is in vogue this season. These three women, and many others have truly influenced how I feel not only about myself, but about all of the other women around me on a daily basis. They are a constant reminder that women must stick together to fight the good fight.

Influencers such as the ones listed above are key to the modern social movement, and I will certainly be more aware of their importance in future sparks of social movements.

 

Visual Storytelling and Kickstarter Campaigns

 

The What and Why of Visual Storytelling

Visual storytelling can help anyone get a complex message across in a more accessible format. According to NewsCred and Getty Images, the four principles to keep in mind when utilizing visual storytelling are authenticity, sensory, relevancy, and archetype.Of the four principles listed above, authenticity is key. With the power of the Internet also comes the quick ability to fact check anything that seems fishy. People are becoming more and more critical about what they see on the Internet, and that is keeping brands and organizations more honest.

According to an article posted on the the Non-Profit Mar Community website, the typical modern human attention span is down to 8 seconds. This means that we are not only looking to get the quick gist of a story when reading news articles, but it also means we are absorbing lots of information very quickly. This is where visual storytelling excels. A brand needs to convey not only their mission to the world, which is often a long-winded explanation, but it also must stay in the attention of the public. The average person is not going to seek out a company’s website and read through pages of legally worded documentation, but they will absorb the visual images the company posts on social media. It is through these images that the brand must plead their case for support and also demonstrate their successes as an organization.

Visual storytelling is not the new phenomenon, but is has certainly gained in popularity with the shortening attention span. A blog called Community Nation posted an article back in 2007 outlining the key components to an infographic, and these still hold true to the visual storytelling medium overall:

1. It’s a visual explanation that helps you more easily understand, find or do something.
2. It’s visual, and when necessary, integrates words and pictures in a fluid, dynamic way.
3. It stands alone and is completely self-explanatory.
4. It reveals information that was formerly hidden or submerged.
5. It makes possible faster, more consistent understanding.
6. It’s universally understandable.

Crowdsouring and Crowdfunding

I am a huge fan of crowdsourcing and crowdfunding through sites like Kickstarter.com. This enables pretty much anyone in the world to turn their idea into a reality. Before crowdfunding, it took a great deal of personal capital to get even the smallest company or idea off the ground, leaving much of the innovation to the elite. With crowdfunding the public are able to not only able to buy in to a product of service they believe in, but often those campaigns usually create crowdsourcing opportunities during the funding process. This means a great deal in the board game collectors community, because the worst thing is a beautifully made game that has a terrible play mechanic, or vise versa. Having the ability to contribute improvements or comments in the early stages of a product could mean a much higher quality product that better meets the needs of the market in the end.

Now that we have a better understanding of why visual storytelling is important and how to go about creating valuable visual content, let’s look at a couple examples of Kickstarter campaigns that have utilized this medium to varying degrees.

War and Pieces

War and Pieces has become a quick favorite on Kickstarter, more than doubling their goal of $50,000 in just 3 days. This is outstanding for a company’s first Kickstarter campaign, and it likely has a lot to do with the amount of visual data they included on the campaign page.

In line with the four principles cited above, the photos of the creator playing the game with their family gives authenticity to the campaign, and truly speaks volumes. It shows that this game is suitable for a wide age range and is fun to play with the family.

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Sensory can be seen throughout the campaign, but especially in their simplified version of the rules though hilarious gifs. These gifs are quick and eye-catching. Gifs are great for catching you attention and flashing a lot of information in a short amount of time. While it doesn’t fully explain the rules of the game, I get the idea and it drew my interest into reading further into the actual rules written out underneath.

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Relevancy is essential when you are trying to not only get the attention of potential backers, but also encourage them to invite their friends to support the campaign as well! This campaign utilizes a gamified visual to entice their backers to go above and beyond simply throwing money at the game. I have seen this same method used in other game campaigns, and it really shows that they know their audience. No gamer can shy away from a challenge. Even the quests in this challenge are relevant to the game, showing the campaign’s dedication to the theme/joke.

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Lastly, the archetype of the visual storytelling is not terribly obvious except in the background story about how the game came into fruition.  This image is all I need to understand the creators of this game. Shooting a flaming catapult is high up on my bucket list too, and since I don’t have a life-size catapult, this game will have to do.

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In the case of this Kickstarter campaign, the images have told a story that is compelling, entertaining, and worth an investment. This usage of visual storytelling is likely how this company was able to drastically surpass their goals so quickly in their their very first campaign.

OutLawed! 

OutLawed! from Ryan Cowler and Green Couch Games! also uses visual storytelling to a lesser extent, but and this could be impacting their backer stats. Even though the company has launched 8 successful Kickstarter campaigns already, building a name for themselves on the site, their backer numbers and rates are much lower and slower than those of War and Pieces.

The most impressive (and really only) use of visual storytelling this campaign uses is in the explanation of the rules and game play. This graphic is detailed, easy to read/follow, and sticks with the outlaw theme of the game.

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While this does have the sensory and relevancy appeal, the campaign page could really benefit from more of the personal touches as demonstrated through the images used throughout the War and Pieces campaign. The backers want to know who they are handing their hard earned money over to, and the simple bio is just not personable enough for a crowdfunding site.

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Conclusions

Until humans are able to plug into the Internet and absorb information instantly, the visual storytelling medium is the closest thing we are going to have to meeting the shortened attention span of the public. A Kickstarter campaign is a beautiful opportunity for anyone looking to launch their dream out into the world, but without reaching the market audience in the way that they see things. Whether that be through the gamification of the stretch goals or the personable touches of family photos, the images are key in selling the product and gaining support from backers. It can’t be said definitively, but a conclusion can be drawn from this analysis that authentic visual storytelling gives an edge to a crowdfunding campaign.

Social Media Monitoring – AndoCon 2016

AndoCon is a gaming convention that, similarly to Gencon, was started out of someone’s home. After several years since its inception the convention has grown to be a public affair. What makes Andocon unique is that it is strictly board gaming. The fact that there are enough board game enthusiasts in Atlanta to warrant a whole weekend long convention is mind-blowing and wonderful.

For this social media monitoring report AndoCon 2016 will be evaluated from a variety of perspectives using advanced search mechanisms on Twitter. As mentioned above, AndoCon has been around for many years, but with this year being its biggest and most publicly attended, it would be appropriate to center the social media monitoring around the 2016 Convention which was held in mid-March. The keywords used for the search include: AndoCon, AndoCon2016, #AndoCon, #Ando. For the purposes of this research, ~50 tweets posted during and around AndoCon 2016 have been analyzed.

Ladies and Gentleman 

Gaming has so often been lauded as a boy’s pastime that giving attention to the number of women who were present both at the 2016 convention and participated in the conversation via social media says a lot about the underrepresented female gamer community. The graph below depicts the percentage of tweets about AndoCon 2016 by gender, companies, and Ando. Considering how beloved the convention is, it is obvious to say that all of these tweets were of the positive variety. With 4% of all tweets using #andocon originating from female gamers, it is fair to say that women have an, albeit smaller, investment in the board gaming enthusiasts community of Metro-Atlanta. It is also notable to mention that of all of the tweets searched, only one linked to a blog post about the experiences at AndoCon 2016, and that blogger just happens to be a woman. The author not only posts great photos of the event, but also goes on to review many of the new games she was introduced to at the con.

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Indie Board Gaming in Metro-Atlanta

Indie board game upstarts need all of the exposure they can get, and what better place than a board gaming convention. AndoCon makes a point to extend a welcoming hand to the Indie Board Gaming companies of Georgia. Many are not only highlighted throughout the convention, but they are also encouraged to bring their newest games to play-test with the attendees. These companies not only get to take advantage of the market being readily available to them, but they also give back a lot of exposure to AndoCon through social media shout outs. Of the percentages listed above 34% of tweets about AndoCon 2016 came from local companies representing at and supporting AndoCon. Of these companies many of them used photos to highlight their experiences at AndoCon 2016, engaging those attendees in the photos and likely reaching a broader audience as a result.

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Support for Ando

Unfortunately, the founder, Ando,  announced not long after this year’s convention that AndoCon would be taking a hiatus for a couple years. He cited many logical concerns as well as personal issues that brought him to this conclusion.

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Ando also ensured attendees that AndoCon would make a come-back in the next 1-2 years. While the board gaming community is sad to see the convention go for now, there was also a good amount of respect for his decision.

Conclusion

AndoCon is a small but loved gaming convention and the metro-Atlanta gaming community will be eagerly awaiting the return. Social media seems to be a good platform for female gamers to get in the game, so to speak. Being able to show/prove their devotion and experiences through photos, posts, and tweets will hopefully help the world take notice and respect the female gamer. As someone who attended AndoCon 2016, I can attest to the large female representation at the con. Maybe AndoCon could consider supporting the female gaming community further by creating a special hashtag such as #WomenofAndoCon to show the world that women are gamers too!

Indie gaming companies not only thrive on direct to the consumer experiences such as AndoCon, but it is clear they are also giving back through social media support that a small convention needs to continue growing. Ando doesn’t stop his support one the convention is over, he continues to support the Kickstarter campaigns of these companies throughout the year. This mutual dedication and partnership will benefit both parties in the long run.

It can be easily inferred that AndoCon could benefit greatly by further cultivating these relationships with the local gaming businesses.

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As for the support AndoCon receives from the community, Ando says it best when he says of AndoCon “I am Ando, and so can you!”

 

Social Media Theory and Concepts Blog Assignment 1

The three aspects of social media that I am most looking forward to learning more about in this course are:

  • How social media websites like Twitter and Snapchat can help advance my professional career in academia;
  • The true ethical repercussions of reckless social media use;
  • How to best utilize social media to gain reputation and attention for the Siegel Institute.

Social Media and the Academic Career

When it comes to social media, I have a hard time imagining it as a tool to further my career goals in academia. When I scroll through Twitter (rarely actually posting myself) I do not see how this fly by the second format of communication can help me build my professional academic reputation. I understand that many departments and offices on college campuses have been encouraged to engage students through the mediums by which they communicate most often, Twitter being one of many, but in terms of true career focused academia, I just don’t see it. Maybe I am too much of a traditionalist when it comes to how I believe academics should communicate, but 140 characters has never been enough for me to complete a coherent thought.

I actually have a very specific example of how social media is actually hurting an academic institution. I will not reveal the guilty in this situation, but a little over a year ago I was very interested in a particular PhD program who was also very interested in having me as a student. I had submitted all necessary documentation, and I was one essay away from submitting my full application. As the deadline for admission grew closer, I began getting e-mails on almost a daily basis from “students” in the program inviting me to apply as soon as possible. I say “students” because these were clearly form letter e-mails that were very spammy in content. I made plans to attend an Open House reception to meet the faculty a couple of weeks before the application deadline. I’ve been told over and over again that you need to be completely certain before leaping into a PhD program, so I was taking every precaution possible. A day before the Open House event I received an e-mail touting a special offer on discounted application fees, which already sounds like a red flag, but the e-mail went on to state that in order to get the discount I needed to come to the Open House event and “snap a selfie.” While I am one who loves taking photos of myself, the idea of “snapping a selfie” did not exactly scream upstanding PhD program. After thinking for a full day, and talking to many other academics about the situation, I decided not to complete my application to the program. This may sound outrageous to some, but I did not want to trust my PhD education to a department that was so desperate for applicants that they would sink to the level of “snapping selfies.” I can definitely see where this is a great marketing tactic for college freshman, but it seemed wholly out-of-place in a PhD program.

It is this exact situation that I think of every time I try to consider how social media could help my professional academic career. I am keeping an open mind as I advance through this course, but I’m still far from understanding the potential.

Social Media and Ethics

The second thing I hope to gain from this course is a better look of how social media is impacting the field of ethics. As an ethicist, I love case studies and I truly believe in learning from the mistakes of others. I know there are countless examples of ethical issues that have occurred through the magic of social media, and I can’t wait to learn more about them. In the ethics institute, we often “joke-on-the-square” about how ethics is constantly sprinting to keep up with technology, and social media is no exception. The Institute is often asked to give workshops on Ethical Decision Making Skills, and for these workshops we ask out Graduate Research Assistants to write case studies relevant to the workshop audience.

While our case studies are original, they are often based on true ethical issues. One such recent example of a real ethical issue that we have used as a basis for a case study involves how social media is utilized to garner support for the sick. An article posted in early August highlights how social media has become a source of pressure for healthcare providers to give preferential treatment to those who can gain the most support through social media outlets. We often see sad stories about sick children needing special treatments on social media, and those posts usually include an urgency to share, share, share, but in reality, should healthcare be divided up based on a popularity model instead of legitimate (paid) access, and who gets to decide?

The Siegel Institute for Leadership, Ethics and Character

Lastly, and really the true reason I am seeking the Graduate Certificate in Digital and Social Media, I need to learn how to best utilize internet presence to further enhance the visibility of The Siegel Institute for Leadership, Ethics and Character. In my role as the Programs Specialist, I wear a plethora of hats, one of which being marketing strategies. I do not want to make the same mistakes as my example above, but I do feel a pressure to increase the Institute’s online visibility. The Siegel Institute’s Graduate Certificate in Leadership and Ethics has recently been fashioned where it can be completed entirely online, increasing our reach greatly. Our certificate is still the only academically accredited graduate certificate of its kind in the Southeast United States. That said, there is so much marketing and reach potential that we at the Institute have a lot to learn and I look forward to gaining that knowledge in this course.