On the 16th of November I was invited by Stuart Hepburn, doctor one of Scotland’s top scriptwriters and one of UWS’ Creative and Cultural Industries beloved Lecturer in Performance & Creative Screenwriting, to join his contemporary screen acting students for a day and talk to and with them about using social media to boost their careers. My talk followed an introductory lecture on social media given by my PhD colleague Jennifer Jones, lecture that explained to the students the basic concepts of new and social media and introduced them to blogging via Posterous. My meeting with them was therefore supposed to take them to the next level and challenge them even further.
In order to do so, I have focused on two main aspects:
- that of defining social media through the metaphor of a relationship (where listening needs to preceed talking – hence content creation and making buzz – and where networking needs to support the relationship formed giving the parties involved an opportunities to share their interests but also prove that they listened) and
- that of testing whether the technology influences the story or vice versa.
This enabled me to introduce students to concepts such as RSS and alerts (as options for them to keep up with the news and latest developments of their field) and take them through platforms like Blog Pulse, Who’sTalkin or Google Insights for Search to further explore these developments. This also enabled me to show them some successful and creative uses of social media by artists.
Then, working in teams the students had to create a story using Storify, Jaycut or Animoto. These are three radically different platforms – Storify is Twitter-centered, JayCut is a browser-based movie editor while Animoto is a slideshow alternative enabling almost instant creation of photo-audio slideshows – yet they have extensive sharing and embedding options. The challenge for the students was a multi-layered one and so was supposed to be lesson learned. The students had to create while discovering. They also had to assess whether they will use their own content or integrate and mash-up content already on the internet. Needles to say a discussion about content ownership emerged (both copyright and creative commons). Then they had to think of maximizing visibility thus thinking of their story, its strong points, its appealing points and a method to share their stories on the web. This led the students to discuss about the opportunities of social media but also about the need of assessing them carefully and deciding to use them with a clear purpose in mind. This also made them realize that content can be circulated (recycled) from a platform to another and therefore that social media presences need to be coherent and support each other (content-wise particularly).
I left them with the promise that they’ll continue to explore the platform they’ve discovered during class time and will create or revisit their stories. I also left them enthusiastic at the realization that there is a purpose in what they do online and most of all that there are solutions (rather inexpensive ones – yet sometimes time-consuming) for the technical hiccups of school software.
It’s been a great November morning! I wish the students and budding actors all their best in their careers and hope that Stuart Hepburn will continue to challenge them and future students as well to explore further than the traditional borders of their craft!