2012. It was the year I first starting working in communications. It also was the year I had a memorable conversation with someone outside of my office about how “social media didn’t belong in my industry.” As background, I worked in the aerospace and building systems industry. To the person’s point, it didn’t hold the media glamour of a “business to consumer” company. There weren’t any customer giveaways or product testimonials. “RT for a free jet engine” wasn’t likely to be approved by my manager or “tell us about your experience with a building’s sensors” might not go viral, but I knew that social media did belong in my industry and had great potential for a large commercial company. The mental list of pros began to stack up in my mind: many employees were volunteering at nonprofit organizations (that had national Twitter handles), STEM education was one of the company’s major focus areas with high school students (a target social audience), and college grads would eagerly begin searching their LinkedIn accounts for jobs (a large recruiting element).
2014. Two years later, I was about to attend a robotics competition that my company sponsored and knew that #STEM was a relevant hashtag and that we could be clever – our established tag line was “make things better.” I proposed to the social media team about the potential of advertising our sponsorship and employee-mentored robotics teams to use the hashtag #makethingsbetter on social media. It worked! High school students were posting photos with their robots and including our tagline. Parents and grandparents caught on and were using the hashtag in their Facebook posts. While it was a small effort, I was happy to see social does matter in our industry and we could have a place in the digital communications world. Perhaps, in the long term those same kids would remember our company in a few years after attending and graduating college.
2016. I’m currently working on social media 90 percent of my day in the aerospace industry and creating content for our Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and YouTube channels. It’s exciting to be in the same industry where I once heard negativity about social media and now solely work in a digital communications position where I’m interacting with employees from all over the world to post their social content. It’s been four years since the negative comment I once heard. Yet, I can smile knowing that social media is relevant in many different industries – it’s just a matter of finding out how to best create brand awareness.
Social media is a way we can express our creativity. I attended a friend’s wedding last weekend where the first conversation when I sat down at Table 22 was, “So, what’s their wedding hashtag?” Social media also keeps us informed about the world around us. Scrolling through Twitter is how I first found out about the Boston Marathon bombing. New opportunities can be found with social media. It’s a place to find out about the latest happenings – whether it’s a new job posting or a free concert in your city. Social media is also about giving – you can RT content to donate towards a charity or advertise a giveaway for prizes (though maybe not a jet engine…yet!) All in all, social media is a way to leave your mark on the world in 2016.
Megan Flanagan is a student in Purdue’s online Master of Science in Communication degree program. The program can be completed in just 20 months and covers numerous topics critical for advancement in the communication industry, including crisis communication, social media engagement, focus group planning and implementation, survey design and survey analysis, public relations theory, professional writing, and communication ethics.
*The views and opinions expressed are of the author and do not represent the Brian Lamb School of Communication.