Close the gap

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What a waste of time. That’s what a newspaper managing editor told me when I started talking about going back to school for social media classes. Since when is education a waste of time? Why not be open to new media ideas? Isn’t your paper cutting editions to stay in print? He had no comeback for me and I went back to school in September.
I enrolled at the local community college. Night school, of course, because I make my living shooting video and stills during the day. I signed up for four classes, beginning with Social Media 101 and working my way up the sequence. The instructor recognized my name right away and sent me an e-mail wondering why I was taking her class when I’m a media professional with a website connected to Facebook, I’m linked in and I already know how to tweet. I laughed and told her, “I may know a lot, but I certainly don’t know everything and I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t.”
Being the overachiever that I am, I grabbed a front row seat on the first night of class. Bad idea. My website and Facebook page quickly turned into the teacher’s favorite example for the big screen. But I wasn’t there to play know-it-all and so I asked one question after another. I took notes (on paper, no laptop) as fast as she shared her theory for why social media is just another tool in your media kit.
“Utilizing traditional media as the sole platform to communicate with your customers and professional associates is shortsighted,” said Michelle Ziel, Eastern Idaho Technical College social media for business instructor.
“No matter the demographics of your target audience, social media should be an important part of any marketing strategy. It’s cost-effective, it’s easy and, most importantly, it can reach thousands of people in a way that is perceived less like advertising and more like a conversation.”
I quickly realized social media is another outlet for my multimedia way of moving stories as a journalist. Another channel on my TV, so to speak. I can use it to interact with viewers and readers. Talk with them rather than talk at them. I can use it to push promos, sending followers to my website for the latest outdoor stories. That will increase traffic to my site, which leads to an increase in the fee for ad space on my site, which pays the bills for what I love to do. I nearly jumped out of my seat when the business potential dawned on me, but I was alone in my eagerness as I looked around the room.
The generation gap in the class was painfully obvious. No one under 25 was there. That’s naturally a product of night school, but it may also be the result of those under 25 being born to knowing how to use social media. The bulk of the class was over 45, closer to 60. There were grandparents who had taken classes on how to use the Internet a few years ago, so they’re way passed being bothered by admitting to not know something. And then there was me,the only representative of the 30-40 age group because anyone else my age pretends social media isn’t effective or is afraid to admit they don’t know how to use it effectively.
“Even though millions of active users on social media sites are way beyond their college years, there is still a misperception that social media is for 20-somethings.” Ziel said. “Those who are just beyond that age range may be fearful to ask for help as if they’d be admitting that they’ve lost the ‘cool’ factor of their younger years. What they don’t realize is that education is the best way to utilize the full functionality of social media and oftentimes inspires new and creative ways to utilize online platforms.”
My new and creative ways are unfolding as I leave the last day of class, official certificate of completion in hand. Now I know how to use the @ symbol in a post. I know why it is taboo to use your personal page as a business page. I know how to increase the number of people who see my post.
Want to know? Close the generation gap. Take a social media class ♦
–Kris Millgate is a freelance multimedia journalist based in southeast Idaho. She has been a member of OWAA since 2009. Contact her at

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