When did your organization launch and why?
Social Assurity as a business came to me during the summer of 2013. As Chief Operating Officer for a holding company, I was using social media to vet new hires across our enterprise and was amazed by what I was finding. Younger candidates were amplifying a very small sliver of their lives on social media and much of what I found was hard to ignore. The content was mostly sophomoric, unthinking and often embarrassing. I am sure these individuals weren’t necessarily reflecting their true character but I felt that what they posted online would reflect poorly on our businesses. Intrigued, I started researching the issue and discovered that colleges and employers across the country were increasingly turning to social media to help identify, vet and select qualified applicants. Yet, the mainstream advice being delivered to this demographic was patronizing, overall very negative and fear based.
What does your organization do? What are it’s main goals and projects?
What I knew to be true was that colleges and employers are not looking at social media to find reasons to reject candidates, rather they are looking to learn more about their applicants in what can be called a virtual interview. It became apparent that we needed to proactively educate our high school and college students, as well as their parents, on social media fundamentals including permanence, discoverability and reach. With these tenets in place, students can learn to use social media platforms to create purposeful content to showcase their interests, community service, extracurricular activities, accomplishments and skills to a future audience in the form of a digital portfolio. They need to understand that social media is much more than a peer-to-peer communication platform that can be hidden from others. They need to learn how to engage with individuals, groups and communities to grow their digital presence in a smart and productive manner.
What makes your organization stand out? What would you say is the most unique thing about your organization?
We are educators and consultants. We are regularly retained to speak to parents, teachers and students at high schools, student organizations, colleges and fraternity events across the country. We speak about the positive powers of social media and its great potential to help students set themselves apart for college admissions, scholarship reviews, internships and employment. These groups can then gain access to our unique suite of interactive social media eCourses, which have been receiving rave reviews from students, parents and educators for their content and design. We also offer hands-on workshops where students can build their LinkedIn profiles, learn the networking essentials of Twitter, and techniques for effective social media engagement. We also offer concierge services for individual students who want hands-on assistance building their digital presence.
What are the connections between the work of your organization and media literacy?
Our children are being handed extremely powerful and connected devices at a very young age without requisite education nor role modeling of any kind. Perhaps we take comfort in believing we are only handing them a mobile phone for our own security. Yet the voice application will likely be the least used function of the device. A critical element of media literacy is understanding social media. We cannot reasonably expect teenagers to comprehend the complexities of a very connected and very public world without proactive and balanced education. Everything in life comes with risks. If we ignore the positives of social media to protect our children from the negatives then we are doing a them a huge disservice.
Why is media literacy important to you?
Our children are growing up in a rapidly changing digital world. They are being bombarded with information on a daily basis by way of their iPhones and iPads. They see what their friends and peers are up to 24/7 on Snapchat, they admire Instagram and YouTube teen celebrities and are being blitzed by advertisers from sources that most parents don’t even realize exist. Connected devices are impacting the way they learn, the way they judge and the way they act. Teaching media literacy throughout the K-12 spectrum will enable our children to thrive in the digital world.
Social media is a tool for life. Why not teach kids to use it wisely? By learning how to use social media properly, students may discover that the world is a wider place than they ever imagined.