Making Social Media Social

imagesThis week, we’re excited to hear from Greg Josselyn over at the Boston Elderly Commission. We heard Greg speak at an event a few months ago about how the Elderly Commission is utilizing social media to reach more of Boston’s seniors as well as the greater Boston community. We were so impressed that we reached out to Greg and asked him to share with our readers some of his ideas on how advocates and organizations in the elder abuse field can effectively utilize social media to raise awareness about the issue. Today’s post is the first in a 2-part series. Today, Greg covers the basics, like how social media differs from the more traditional methods of communicating information and why nonprofits ought to look to social media in the first place. In Greg’s next post, we’ll hear lots of specifics about how an organization can go about creating a social media presence to further its mission.

With that, please welcome Greg to the Elder Justice GBLS blog!

New things are scary. In 1895, the Lumiere Brothers (pioneers of early cinema) produced a short movie depicting a train arriving at a station. Some of the initial audiences ran out of the theater thinking the train was real. They had never experienced a moving picture before. Similarly, the development of the household telephone was initially unpopular for fear of strangers eavesdropping on conversations. Early advertisements for the telephone were branded in a way to convince people that it was a safe way to connect to family and friends instantaneously. It was a hard sell. Obviously, in our lifetime, the invention of the internet and social networks has revived similar fears. Although 56% of older adults use Facebook, I have met many people who are hesitant to join the site. Some are afraid of identity theft (lucky for us, there are great privacy settings available), while others stay away on principal. I like to emphasize that social media does not replace traditional modes of sustaining relationships with our loved ones. It is just another way.

20-social-media-icons

But how is it different?

For one thing, starting your own social page for personal use is like starting your own newspaper column, where you can share opinions, ideas, or personal accomplishments. A study in the United Kingdom and Italy reported health benefits for older adults and vulnerable individuals who used Skype, Facebook, and other social media. The Care Technologist delivering the social media training to the participants of the study remarked: “I have seen people come of themselves and grow, I’ve seen people start to express themselves again.” Social media is an accessible way for us to share our stories and listen to others. A popular Scottish social media website PolaroidBlipfoto.com allows users to take and publish one photo a day, challenging them to save their lives in pictures. I learned about this website from my Aunt, who shared with me a vast amount of insight when I interviewed her and a Polaroid Blipfoto friend in 2012. They shared with me the website’s subversive ability to build relationships internationally that eventually blossom into “blip meets,” where users get together to share their lives.

While the majority uses social media to sustain relationships with family, non-profit organizations supporting older adults have also joined the conversation. Social media is a helpful tool to reach constituents who are looking to learn more about programs or opportunities in their area to save money, increase their health and safety, or develop creatively. Since social media was originally used as a tool to connect friends, I find the most successful organizational pages seek to build trust with subscribers who are genuinely invested in following them. Although an organizational social media account does not specifically fulfill the role of a friend, it should aim to be kind, respectful, and always listening. Good friends don’t aggressively self-promote or lecture.

{PolaroidBlipfoto.com defines social media as a lifesaving tool both literally and metaphorically.}

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Stay tuned for Part 2 of Greg’s social media series!

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