Engagement: A Keyword in a Technology-fueled Interactive World

Man holding banner with a tweet.Personal traits and psychological circumstances aside, it has become common knowledge that we, humans, are social creatures.  No matter how much we would rather stay quiet on our way to work on a cold and cloudy winter Monday morning, most of us would probably still respond to a “good morning” from the receptionist or security guard when entering the office building.  I recall one day, many years ago, when a friend of mine was telling me about how technology had been stopping people from interacting with others, and essentially turning us into anti-social creatures since the introduction of Sony’s Walkman, which he saw as a machine that isolated the individual using it into his or her own “bubble”.  Although I disagreed with him, I realize now that he was not completely wrong.  That is not to say I believe technology was killing social interactions, but rather that perhaps it was not considering our social needs as much as it should.  Nevertheless, we demanded interaction, and technology took note and served us a myriad of new tools that enable us to do just that, interact.  Today, not only do we interact with our colleagues, friends, and family, we also have interactions with mass media organizations.

It used to be we passively received one-way communications from mass media channels, such as radio, television, and even the early websites; now, we have new media, which enables us to do more than just receive information.  For example, today we can voice our opinions through comments in which we directly address organizations, and these comments have the potential of becoming viral.  Consequently, organizations now interact with audiences rather than just deliver one-way messages.  Today, we can play a role in the mass communication process, if we choose to.

Bozo the Clown on the phone.
Bozo The Clown on his TV show (Brazil)  answering calls from the audience.

You may wonder what was it, then—if not playing a role in the mass communication process—when people would call a TV or radio show and be on air to voice their opinions, all before social media even existed.  Those were exceptions, and anybody who tried to interact with mass media a few years ago would agree that it was extremely difficult to even have your call answered.  Believe me, I tried to call the Bozo Show so many times that my mother decided to put a padlock on the phone dial—which did not stop me from doing it, but that is another story.

Phone Padlock
Type of padlock my mother used to stop me from calling The Bozo Show.

The point is, new media takes into consideration our interactive nature, enabling people and organizations to interact more naturally.  On the other hand, it is important to note that while new media provides us with a multidimensional and interactive experience, it does not mean that traditional mass media (e.g.: radio and television) has not evolved to meet the modern audience’s expectations.  In fact, virtually every TV or radio show today includes calls to action encouraging the audience to voice their opinions via social media.  Such a trend comes to show that the notion that traditional media only addresses passive audiences is not sustainable.  A study conducted by the Hezikom research group concluded that the patterns of online interactivity among audiences of traditional and new media is rather multifaceted; people can generally use both types of media and make choices about whether to have an interaction with them, and at what level, according to their own needs and intentions (Agirre, Arrizabalaga, & Espilla, 2016).

From the perspective of mass media organizations, as Kevin Backhurst suggests in an article about the influence of social media on newsrooms, these interactions represent an excellent opportunity for journalists to engage their audiences and provide material that meet their expectations.  However, it is important to carefully analyze such interactions before making decisions based on them.  Although it is important in today’s interactive world to listen to the audience and address their concerns, taking a group of social media comments as the opinion of the entire audience can lead to poor editorial judgement (Bakhurst, 2011).

Whether we choose to use new media channels to directly address organizations, or prefer not to interact with them at all, we can rest assured that today we have the option to, which gives us more power to influence public opinion and makes engagement such an important concept in the daily life of professionals in the modern mass media industry.


Agirre, I. A., Arrizabalaga, A. P., & Espilla, A. Z. (2016). Active audience?: interaction of young people with television and online video content. Communication & Society, 29(3), 133-147. doi:10.15581/

Bakhurst, K. (2011). How has social media changed the way newsrooms work? Retrieved from http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/theeditors/2011/09/ibc_in_amsterdam.html

Boyd, B. (2011). New meaning to the word “engagement”. Retrieved from http://mediafirst.net/blog/new-meaning-word-engagement#sthash.lOOoniuV.W9fFg8H3.dpbs

The Realm of Dynamic Online Content

image of elephant with php logo

If at any time, you approach a few people on the street and ask them to describe the benefits of technology advancements in one word, there is a high probability that the majority will say “convenience”.  Technology advancements have driven much of the changes in society’s media consumption behavior as well as its expectations of mass media.  In the past, we expected to search for content of our interest whether it was on the radio, TV, newspaper, or magazine.  The Internet has made that process much simpler and faster, and so our new expectations were that mass media channels would make their content available on the Internet and searchable.  Nowadays, thanks to the rise of social media and mobile devices among many other technologies, we expect mass media content to be dynamic.  Not only do we want it to adapt itself to whichever device we decide to use to access it, we also want it to be tailored to our interests.

Technology advancements that brought us server technologies, such as PHP, enabled organizations to create websites that provide a dynamic experience to the audience through pages that are put together as visitors navigate them, and content that is personalized to each visitor based on historical data and his or her engagement with the website as well as other online applications, such as search engines.  Such technology advancements represent benefits not only from the perspective of audiences, but also from that of organizations.  Dynamic content provides audiences with a better experience while serving as a method for communications, sales, and marketing teams to target audiences and leads, gain more exposure, and increase revenue (CDNetworks, 2016).

Check out the CDNetworks slides below, which contain examples of websites that successfully leverage dynamic content experiences to increase sales:

While dynamic content is typically associated with positive developments in the technology, communication, and marketing fields, it has been argued that from a societal stand point, dynamic content may be hindering important processes, such as the formation of shared knowledge.  Keith Hampton of Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ, explains that when the algorithms that create dynamic pages limit or privilege audiences’ access to content, they also restrict exposure to diversity, omit information, and, consequently, reduce the quality of opinion (Hampton, 2016).

Despite the opinions against dynamic content, it appears that audiences in general welcome the convenience of being provided content that reflects their interests while navigating the web, as long as that content is truly tailored to them.  A Janrai study revealed that 74% of Internet users experience frustration when navigating a website that displays dynamic content that is not closely related to them (Denenholz, 2013).  While the study does not seem to consider whether those users would prefer not to have dynamic content presented to them, it clearly shows that, along with technology advancements, our expectations of mass media are constantly evolving (i.e.: now that we can have dynamic content, we also want it to be personalized), which provides organizations with opportunities to create new business models that are more audience-centered than ever before.

Click here to learn more about how dynamic content works.


CDNetworks. (2016). 5 websites that successfully leverage dynamic content experiences to increase sales. Retrieved from http://www.slideshare.net/CDNetworks/5-websites-that-successfully-leverage-dynamic-content-experiences-to-increase-sales

Denenholz, J. (2013). Online consumers fed up with irrelevant content on favorite websites, according to Janrain study. Retrieved from http://www.janrain.com/about/newsroom/press-releases/online-consumers-fed-up-with-irrelevant-content-on-favorite-websites-according-to-janrain-study/

Hampton, K. N. (2016). Persistent and pervasive community: new communication technologies and the future of community. American Behavioral Scientist, 60(1), 101-124. doi:10.1177/0002764215601714

Newman, A. (2016). What is dynamic content? Retrieved from https://blog.stackpath.com/glossary/dynamic-content/

Technology and the “I-want-it-now” Audience

Graphic depicting the choice of now versus later

At the same time technology evolves to meet the new demands of the modern society, it facilitates the creation of yet newer demands.  It is a two-way cycle that both feeds on and promotes instant gratification.  In the communication industry, one of the effects of this process is that society’s expectations of mass media have become increasingly immediacy oriented.  Long gone are the days when most people would wait for the TV or radio newscast to start, the newspaper to be delivered, or the new volume of their favorite magazines to be issued to catch up with what is going on in the world.  The same technology advancements that brought us the Internet, dynamic web content, social media, and mobile devices, created a society that constantly seeks instant gratification; a society that instead of waiting for the newspaper to be delivered, turns to social media, for example, to see the latest news.

While taking advantage of newer technologies to have instant gratification is not necessarily a bad thing—I for one do it all the time—caution should be exercised.  Having an I-want-it-now attitude may be fine on social media, where data is transmitted and information is spread at fast speeds, but taking that kind of behavior to real-life situations may have undesirable effects.  For example, while the success of an organization’s blogger can be quickly measured based on the comments her audience leaves under her articles, the likes she receives, the amount of times her posts are shared, etc., a corporative recognition, such as a bonus, a promotion, or a salary increase based on her success may still take some extra time to happen due to other processes that are not as immediate as digital interactions, such as budget review, salary analysis, etc.

“On an emotional level, posting a Facebook status, a tweet, or an Instagram photo feeds on and reinforces our need for instant approving feedback. Becoming too used to instant gratification in the virtual world can lead to poor choices and major frustrations in the real world.”

–Liz Soltan

Our digital interactions—on social media, for example—contribute to an exacerbation of the temptation to seek short-term solutions.  Immediate digital interactions on social media through tweets, shares, +1s, likes, pins, comments, etc. generate immediate data that can be useful for mass media professionals to measure the success of their strategies and plan for future communications.  However, by its nature, such data is short-term.  Therefore, when using it, these professionals must be careful not to identify objectives and develop strategies that are equally short-term as a result (Weigel, 2013).

Additionally, as society’s desire for instant gratification increases, its focus tend to shift from the quality of communication to efficiency; that is to say, for example, that people nowadays are more inclined to forgive poor writing of messages from media organizations than in the past, as long as the messages keep coming, and keep coming fast.  Technology and modern communication devices, combined with the current instant gratification tendency of audiences, created a gap, in which the need for increasingly faster communication has resulted not only in ineffective communication, but also in changes in language and culture deriving from technological advances (McFarlane, 2010).  For example, mobile technology and social media helped create a culture in which we are constantly connected to other individuals as well as organizations.  Maintaining the communication flow between all these relationships often takes a toll on quality.  This becomes more evident when we start to use abbreviations in our messages, whether they are text messages or e-mails, in order to make the communication process faster.

Consider this:

Have you ever started a chat with a friend on Facebook and, when you least expected, you were trying to manage five other chat windows simultaneously?  Did you use abbreviations in those chats?

Independently of the potential technology advancements might have to turn us into immediacy-demanding monsters who also do not communicate well, it is still in our power to make the best use of technology while caring for our own behavior and proper use of language.  We can still take advantage of the Internet, mobile devices, social media, etc. without losing touch with our own essence, standards, and command of our language skills.

Learn more:

Watch this TEDx Talk by nationally recognized Internet Safety expert, speaker, and author, Jesse Weinberger, in which she discusses how the instant gratification that technology provides can become dangerous for children.


McFarlane, D. A. (2010). Social Communication in a Technology-Driven Society: A Philosophical Exploration of Factor-Impacts and Consequences. American Communication Journal, 12(1), 1-14.

Soltan, L. (2016). Technology and expectation of instant gratification. Retrieved from http://www.digitalresponsibility.org/technology-and-expectation-of-instant-gratification/

TEDx [TEDx Talks]. (2014). The danger of instant gratification | Jesse Weinberger | TEDxUrsulineCollege [Video file]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/HXy4eUlkLQQ

Weigel, M. (2013). The conflict between digital immediacy and effectiveness. Retrieved from https://martinweigel.org/2013/06/17/the-conflict-between-digital-immediacy-and-effectiveness/

Technology and The Modern Communicator’s Sources

Image representing modern sources of information.If you were in college in the mid-1990s, you will probably recall that the Internet was not the first, maybe not even the second, or third thing to come to mind when you needed sources for your school assignments.  Today, technology has changed that scenario completely.  The first thing most students do nowadays when looking for sources of information is to open a browser session and search for material based on key words from their assignment topic.  The same way students resort to the Internet to find sources nowadays, professional communicators often do as well.  Likewise, just as students must always verify the credibility of their sources, so must professional communicators.  The Internet has made it easy for just about anyone to create and share content online.  While many people do it responsibly and professionally, many others merely pose as experts and either copy others’ content or, even worse, fabricate it.  Obviously, this has made the work of professional communicators challenging because, at the same their audiences demand immediate communication and interaction through a variety of platforms while their timeframes seem to have become smaller, they have a much larger amount of sources to go through to verify their credibility.  Communicators nowadays must be constantly alert to false and misleading reports, as this could damage their own reputation by carelessly using them as sources.  But that can be a challenge in itself, as false and misleading reports may come even from reputable organizations, as a group of journalists at The New York Times found out while investigating reports from their colleague, Jayson Blair, who, as they uncovered, had been plagiarizing content and misleading audiences and colleagues.  The readers believed he was reporting from places where events were happening, while in reality he was in New York manipulating images and fabricating comments (Barry, Barstow, Glater, Liptak, & Steinberg, 2003).

As part of their self-training, communicators must apply safeguard techniques to avoid becoming victims of false reports, especially when communicating via social media, which has become one of the most popular channels of communication across the globe, so much so that the National Public Radio, for example, created ethics guidelines specifically for communicators using social media.  According to NPR, this code of ethics addresses new and unfamiliar challenges that journalists began to face with the advent of the Internet and social media.  It acknowledges the value of online sources to provide real-time reports on events worldwide—often posted by the very people experiencing them—and historical material.  At the same time, it recognizes that such value can be jeopardized (NPR, n.d.); while online sources can significantly help communicators convey their messages faster, the fast-paced environment that is the Internet can also amplify the effects of any ethical misjudgment.  Thus, the NPR social media ethics handbook serves as a guide for all professional communicators to ensure the highest level of professionalism while using social media as platform for their messages.

Learn More

Read the full investigative report about Jayson Blair’s trail of deception.

Access NPR’s complete Social Media Ethics Handbook.


Barry, D., Barstow, D., Glater, J. D., Liptak, A., & Steinberg, J. (2003). Correcting the record; Times reporter who resigned leaves long trail of deception. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2003/05/11/us/correcting-the-record-times-reporter-who-resigned-leaves-long-trail-of-deception.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm

NPR. (n.d.). NPR ethics handbook. Retrieved from http://ethics.npr.org/tag/social-media/

So Many Ways, So Little Time

Image of cover of Miquel Brown's album So Many Men So Little Time.
Cover of Miquel Brown’s album So Many Men So Little Time.

Miquel Brown probably never thought one of her most famous songs would inspire a grad student to write a blog post about the work of communicators.  For the millennials reading this post, Miquel Brown is a Canadian actress and singer who recorded So Many Men, So Little Time in… wait, what?  Oh, you have already found that out on your Wikiwand app.  Ok, you beat me.  Such is life.  Technology has introduced multitudes of platforms on which we can interact, learn things, share knowledge, etc. And that is a great thing!  We like to have new digital communication options to explore, don’t we?  If you are not sure, ask a millennial!  Whether or not you like to have all these options, the truth is that they are out there for everyone to use.  The other side of the coin is that as our number of choices become bigger, the time professional communicators have to reach their audience seems to be getting smaller.  Not only must communicators today work faster than ever to beat the competition, they also must be able to cover a myriad of platforms that are now available for digital communication.  Today’s communicators need to be good at the traditional skills they already have, but also continually use them in combination with new skills they need to learn as technology brings yet newer tools to work with.  For example, as Brian Reid of W2O Group explained in an article, even though communicators nowadays still need to have excellent reading and writing skills, the increasingly electronic and interactive nature of professional communications—think social networks—requires them to also strive to have skills in programming, engaging audiences though social media, creating and sharing content as events are still happening, and, perhaps most importantly, coming across as a human being with a sense of humor (Reid, 2012).

Image of person in the middle of a multitude of apps to choose from.All that said, how might communicators train themselves to keep up with so many skills to learn, things to consider, and platforms to use?  Well, many just don’t, and while this is fine—many communicators are not necessarily trying to be everywhere—if they are performing in a very competitive field, trying to increase online presence, stand out, or simply reach a wider audience, they must make sure their messages are loud and clear everywhere their target audience might happen to be; again, think social networks.  Of course, that includes a lot of learning the peculiarities of each social media platform.  I once thought all social networks basically worked the same way but, even though I still do not consider myself ahead of the game in that arena, I can at least now tell you with confidence, trust me, they don’t.  Therefore, in their training, modern communicators must learn the important characteristics of each platform that affect how they should write for it, such as what tone to use, how many characters, etc.  Once they learn all the peculiarities, if they find that there is not much time left to actually transmit their messages, they can help themselves by learning about tools that can help save time when managing multiple social media platforms, such as social media management apps (Moreau, 2016).  There are many of these apps available to assist communicators in taking their online presence to the next level and, Elise Moreau, who is a professional editor, copywriter, and blogger compiled a list of 10 of the best of these apps available today.  You can check the list for yourself by clicking the link below.  Now, go get social!

Check out Elise Moreau’s list of 10 of the best social media management apps available today: Best Social Media Management Applications


Moreau, E. (2016). Best social media management applications. Retrieved from https://www.lifewire.com/social-media-apps-for-managing-everything-3486302

Reid, B. (2012). The 10 skills modern communicators have (or need to get). Retrieved from http://blog.wcgworld.com/2012/05/the-10-skills-modern-communicators-have-or-need-to-get

The Modern, Omnipresent Journalist

Image of hands holding cellphone with news app open.As audience members, we can easily explain how technology has impacted the way we consume news.  While many of us still like to sit down with a nice cup of coffee and a crisp newspaper, and methodically read the news, flip the pages, fold and re-fold the newspaper, and so on—I can close my eyes right now and picture my uncle Virgilio in Brazil doing exactly that—others, such as myself, not so much.  I much rather prefer to look at my iPhone as my CNN, Reuters TV, or BuzzFeed app sends me news alerts, and then read the news as I walk to work, or between tasks, and move on.  Whether you prefer traditional newspapers or news apps, it is undeniable that today we have a myriad of options to choose from when it comes to news access; all thanks to the technological advances of the past few decades or years, which brought us the Internet, electronic newsletters, blogs, podcasts, social media, mobile devices, mobile apps, feeds, and the list goes on.  All these wonderful things made our news consumption a much easier process.  Today, we can access news wherever we want, whenever we want, in whichever way we want; but what about the work of those who provide us with news?  Well, also thanks to technology, their job now includes being wherever their audiences are, at the time they want to receive news, and able to offer news in whichever format the audience wants!  They now must be omnipresent and multi-skilled.

If you do not believe me, take it from the experts.  Kevin Bakhurst is the Group Director, Content and Media Policy at the UK-based communications regulator, Ofcom.  Per Bakhurst, new technologies have pushed news to become available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, on new platforms, immediate, mobile, and social, as major news organizations such as BBC are plunging into social networks and, not only leveraging their extraordinary potential as a source for news gathering, but also taking advantage of the opportunity to engage audiences that this kind of platform offers; all while distributing their news (Bakhurst, 2011).  Now, think about how this affects the learning process of journalists.  Multitasking!  For years, I believed multitasking was a bad thing.  I very well recall one of my former bosses complaining that “multitasking will not get any task done” whenever he saw me talking on the phone and filling out a form—yes, on the typewriter—at the same time.  Fast-forward to today and I find out—ok, maybe not just today—that it is exactly multitasking what allows the modern day’s journalist to be multi-skilled and able to produce news that will reach us wherever, whenever, and however we want.  In fact, Sue Wallace, Senior Lecturer, Programme Leader MA Multimedia Journalism at Bournemouth University, UK observed in her study about the complexities of convergence journalism that universities and colleges are increasingly offering journalism courses that include multi-skilling education (Wallace, n.d).  So, thank you, Senior Lecturer Wallace; your study not only enhanced my knowledge of convergence journalism, it also helped me work on a sub-conscious misconception I had of multitasking and multi-skilling.

To learn more, check out this great video that Journify Mapper put together to show exactly how modern newsrooms have been adapted to the digital age:


Bakhurst, K. (2011). How has social media changed the way newsrooms work? Retrieved from http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/theeditors/2011/09/ibc_in_amsterdam.html

Wallace, S. (n.d). The complexities of convergence: Multiskilled journalists working in BBC regional multimedia newsrooms. International Communication Gazette, 75(1), 99-117.

Emotional Connections Through Social Media, or how Ellen Degeneres Taught Me to be Authentic

Woman staring at people's faces in admiration on the computer screen.Social media create an atmosphere in which people can feel as though they share a big living space with other individuals they do not even know in person, yet feel a connection to – celebrities, authors, politicians, and even some of the un-famous they admire. “Who do I feel a connection with on social media?”, I was recently asked. Initially I thought I no connection of that nature to talk about, but after deeper thought, I realized I was mistaken.

Ellen DeGeneres
Ellen DeGeneres

I feel an emotional connection through social media to the TV host, comedian, actress, and author Ellen DeGeneres. I have never seen DeGeneres in person, nor have I ever tried to contact her via social media or any other channel, yet I feel connected to her. It’s a one-sided kinship built on the things we have in common, nourished by those characteristics of hers that I so much admire.


My connection with DeGeneres did not start on social media. One day in 2006, immediately upon my move from Brazil to the United States, understandably nervous about that huge step, I sat with a friend who was watching The Ellen DeGeneres Show. After a few minutes watching her warm and engaging banter, I realized that I was forgetting to feel anxious. I was calmer; I was feeling at home. Ellen DeGeneres welcomed me to my new country, and that is when I became interested in her story. Ultimately, I discovered that not only do we have a few important things in common in our lives, but also that I admire her and her brand. I would strive to be authentically branded, like Ellen DeGeneres. Step one: take my relationship with DeGeneres to the social media realm by, in 2011, creating my Twitter account.

DeGeneres’ social media content, whether business-related or simply a playful post to make her audience laugh, consistently represents her true brand and this is something I strive to emulate while building my own online presence.  How does she do it?

Famous Ellen DeGeneres selfie with A-list celebrities.
DeGeneres tweets a selfie with A-list celebrities during the 2014 Academy Awards.

During the Academy Awards in 2014, DeGeneres tweeted an “impromptu” selfie with a number of A-list celebrities using the latest model of the Samsung Galaxy smartphone. The stunt was, as many would have imagined, a Samsung marketing strategy, which DeGeneres brilliantly handled by bluntly informing the audience that she wanted to surpass the all-time record for re-tweets. She did not try to pretend it was truly an impromptu selfie without any underlying intentions. She was genuine, and the selfie was a tremendous success with over three million re-tweets in a matter of hours (Watkins, 2014, para. 1-5).

Ellen DeGeneres' Throwback Thursday tweet with digitally manipulated photo from Titanic.
DeGeneres tweets a digitally manipulated image from Titanic, in which Kate Winslet’s face was replaced with DeGeneres’.

Joining the Twitter conversation #ThrowbackThursday, in which Twitter users share images of themselves from the past, DeGeneres brilliantly tweeted a digitally manipulated photograph from the movie Titanic, except in the photograph Kate Winslet’s face has been replaced with DeGeneres’. Every Thursday, a new digitally manipulated version of a well-known image is posted.


On social media, DeGeneres is successful in continuously engendering an emotional response from me not only through her lighthearted comic appeal, but also her kindness, positive attitude, and ability to seize opportunities without losing touch with her true self. Some people, in the process of maintaining their personal brand, produce or curate content that fits the “branding” bill, yet does not truly represent themselves. These efforts end up looking forced, disconnected, or plain and simply ingenuine. This is never the case with DeGeneres’ online content.

If I want to brand like Ellen DeGeneres can brand, I would need to apply some of DeGeneres’ techniques to my own personal efforts. Following her, I set out to continuously ensure the content I create or curate online represents my most authentic opinions or feelings, and does not conflict with my true self.

I have also learned from DeGeneres’ online presence that I should not overthink my content. In the past, I frequently refrained from posting content online because I worried too much about whether or not it represented the true me, and anxiety about how it would be perceived by my audience. While a valid concern, observing Ellen DeGeneres made me realize I used to spend too much time in that worrisome process. How much less would I admire Ellen DeGeneres if she rejected her own gut feeling, or inspiration, and presented a censored content. I admire her precisely because her content is curated from a natural point of view. Following the logic of DeGeneres, if my truest self caused me to create or curate the potential content in the first place, then it only follows that said content is, indeed, a representation of my true self. And the representation of a true self can only help create an emotional connection with the audience. We feel, cry, giggle together.

DeGeneres’ Throwback Thursday series reminds me of some digitally manipulated images of my own, which I created years ago on Adobe Photoshop®, but had been too worried about public reaction to post. In the spirit of DeGeneres, I believe a first step in loosening my potentially-stifling overthought is to share one here, and then via social media. May I present my authentic self:

Image of Mona Lisa, digitally manipulated to show Yuri Lassiter's face.
Mona Lassiter


Watkins, R. (2014). What Ellen DeGeneres can teach us about social media. Retrieved from http://southernweb.com/2014/03/ellen-degeneress-tweet-can-teach-us-social-media/