Shifting my job role due to a Pandemic.

Shifting my job role due to a Pandemic.

After completing a placement year in my third year of University in which I worked with a Boutique Wedding Fair company, Quirky Weddings as their lead Social Media Marketer, I secured a job as a Personal Stylist for Topshop. I decided to apply to differ from the last year of my degree as this role was multifaceted and encompassed many elements of my ideal career. The role was a sales-driven role that involved fashion promotion, events management and an opportunity to work with a leading UK fashion brand in their marketing. Unfortunately, after a somewhat successful first 8 months within in this position, the worldwide Coronavirus outbreak happened. Due to this, my new job role was unable to be fulfilled as all retail had to close for the nationwide lockdown, leaving me on furlough from March 2020 until the present.

While furlough meant that I had financial security, I didn’t want the pandemic to interrupt the progress I  had made in my career nor, did I want to waste my time off from work. So I sat down and mapped out what I could do to put the time to best use, how I could transfer my skills from both my work experience and university studies into something fruitful. I decided to take my digital and social media marketing knowledge and reach out to work with small businesses on promotion and sales while restricted by the lockdown. Primarily, I reached out to several businesses that had to pivot their whole business model due to the restrictions. I worked with hospitality and e-commerce businesses to utilise the likes of Instagram stories, newsletters and visual branding to define their brand message and increase sales. For example, restaurants that had to close but were now doing deliveries, new e-commerce brands that had recently launched online and many businesses in general that had realised that they wanted to expand into the marketing world of social media. 

Working with a variety of local and small businesses was a chance to expand my knowledge of marketing different content subjects and help these businesses flourish in the face of adversity. Digital and social media marketing can be such an intimidating whirlpool of information and requires an ever-shifting well of knowledge that some business owners do not have initially and often don’t have the time to learn once launched. Especially when it comes to influencer marketing, I had seen so many new and established businesses investing in influencers with no return. With the lockdown restrictions, this was a great time to explore this form of marketing with businesses as it was an excellent online tool to spread the word of new products and services. 

One example was when I worked with a well-known cafe based in Ards that are famous for their ice-cream and due to the restrictions were now offering deliveries of the ice-cream to your front door. As it was excellent weather for this product this was an ample time to get creative with the offer of this service. I helped the cafe select the most relevant influencer’s suited to their products and services, organising with them a PR package to send that incorporated the cafe’s value’s, key message’s and what they wanted to promote. This package was received and promoted on the influencer’s Instagram page resulting in an influx of sales and follower’s for the café. It prompted many customers in the local area to order similar package’s as they were not aware that the café was offering such services. This was an instance that really highlighted the fact that word of mouth and traditional marketing had not necessarily been enough in that circumstance. Which was an amazing result to achieve a through a simple shift in marketing strategy. 

Similarly, I had this experience with a few other of the small businesses that I worked with to enhance their digital presence. Simply looking at how brands could improve their visibility through engaging social media posts, engaging with their customers on a more personal level and building stronger relationships with these customers. As the lockdown restrictions were so hard on so many local businesses, it was great to use my skill set to help them in such unprecedented times. I found this experience encouraging and that the pandemic may have been a time for me to reevaluate what it was that I wanted to do within the PR and Marketing industry. 

Maria Macfarlane is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Instagram and Twitter.

Is All Press Still Good Press in an Era of ‘Cancel Culture’

Is All Press Still Good Press in an Era of ‘Cancel Culture’

I’ m sure we’ve all heard the phrase “All press is good press even bad press” before. And if not, it basically means as long as your name is in the press, your being spoken about.

But in the age of ‘Cancel Culture’ can this still be the case?

Cancel Culture seems to have taken over the internet, you never really know what who’s is getting cancelled next…

But let’s begin with what ‘Cancel Culture’ is; it is when those who are in the public eye are denounced by the society that follow them, for making racist, sexists or just generally offence remarks. We have entered a whole new era with ‘woke’ audiences, who have decided that they are not letting celebs and influencers get away with offensive remarks or actions scott free.

It can happen in an instance, one-minute people are using your song in every other tiktok the next it’s like it’s disappeared out of thin air, because your racist comments from online chat rooms where found. (Doja Cat).

But can Cancel Culture have a serious impacted on a person’s career?

Many celebrities have faced the raft of cancel culture between 2019-2020. As the internet continues to expand and our society becomes less tolerant towards racists and homophobe’s, there is no were left to hide. It seems celebrities past comments and mistakes are being found one by one. While some have made a recovery from their time in cancellation, others have lost job opportunities, followings and the publics respect.  

Kevin Hart

A great example of Cancel Culture damaging a person’s career is Kevin Hart. Kevin Hart made the decision to step down as the Oscars host in 2018, due to backlash from old tweets from 2011 making offensive homophobic jokes. Hart refused to make any more apologies about the topic but insisted that he would step down to avoid any distraction from the event. However, this is not worse a case scenario. While he may have to step down from his Oscars role, since the incident Kevin Hart has still managed to maintain a successful career and has appeared in many films.

Shane Dawson

If your looking for worst case scenario, look no further than YouTuber Shane Dawson. Dawson has participated in many YouTube drama and feuds over the years. But the nail in the coffin for Shane Dawson, was the old videos of him making inappropriate jokes towards a young 11-year-old Willow Smith and videos of him doing blackface. The online community decided that they were done with his actions, Shane lost a million subscribers in the two weeks following the controversy, according to Social Blade and YouTube demonetized three of Shane Dawson’s YouTube channels. From July 2020-Late October 2020, Shane Dawson wasn’t heard of and with his returned to YouTube video, Dawson decided not to speak about any of the previous controversary. So, for now there is no telling whether or not Dawson’s career will ever make a great recovery.

A New Cancellation Platform?

These days, the press is not the younger generations main source of news, especially when hearing about the latest scandal. Social media is. Tiktok whilst mostly being a platform for funny videos and 60 second dances, has recently been took over by cancel culture. It’s no longer the public using this platform to call out and cancel influencers and celebrity. Famous TikToker’s and Youtubers, are using this platform to cancel out each other.

Charlie D’Amelio’s, a 16-year-old TikToker with a huge following of 95million as of November 2020, has recently been a target of a tiktok cancellation/call out. A short clip of D’Amelio was aired, where she was seemingly complaining about her food made by a private chef and not being at 100 million followers yet, spark angry amongst Tiktok users. However, this situation was then blown up by another huge TikToker Trisha Paytas decided to call D’Amelio out herself. This act resulted in Charlie D’Amelio getting tones of hate, death threats and 1 million followers. This has also led to what seems to be a cancellation war between the D’Amelio’s, Paytas and Youtuber James Charles, who called Trisha out for her actions.

So, is all press still good press?

Personally it’s a no from me. The public are now watching celebrities every move, it’s almost like people are waiting for them to trip up, say a word they shouldn’t, for the chance to take them down. And the crying apology videos are becoming less and less sympathetic as time goes on. Not to say there’ll never be a recovery from a public cancellation. But any Celebrity who may find themselves in the midst of a cancelling situation, is going to need to give their publicists one hell of a pay rise.

Keela Costello is a third year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at LinkedIn.

A STEP INTO THE REAL WORLD

A STEP INTO THE REAL WORLD

2 0 2 0 – What a year?

Apart from living throughout a pandemic, the second half of 2020 has been extremely positive. I think it has taught us all to be grateful to wake up on a Monday morning and be able to go into an office or visit family & friends.

I have completed my first six months as a Social Media Marketing intern with Elite Electronic Systems. It has been the CRAZIEST. FASTEST. But most REWARDING six months. To sum it up in four words… a huge learning curve.

Taking it back to June 1st, my very first day at Elite, I really didn’t know what to expect. Sitting in an office 8-5 was a completely new experience for me, but one I have now adapted to, and learnt to love.

I had a lot to prove as I was the first Marketing Placement student Elite had taken on. I think this gave me more motivation than ever to show I could do the role and, do it well.

The responsibility I was given from the very start, gave me the confidence to step out of my comfort zone, grasp everything with open arms and just try my best. It is thanks to this responsibility that I am, where I am, today.

I am immensely proud of where I have taken Elite in the last 6 months. From starting up Elite’s social media, to adobe designing, video campaigns, website development, analytical reviews, you name it – I have done it!

Within my first three weeks, I created a LinkedIn account and now roughly 5.5 months on we are sitting at 900 followers – pushing for that 1000 mark at Christmas (you can find our page here). From the timid girl that walked in on the 1st June, I never thought by the middle of the first month I would be in full control of social media, creating posts three times a week and learning about the Electronic Manufacturing World, which was complete brain fog to begin. But here I am, soaking up every second of it.

If you want to see some of the work I have been creating in my first six months, I released a promotional video on Elite’s LinkedIn last week (you will find it here). If you want more of an insight, check our YouTube channel where you will find all our latest videos from 2020.

For those of you currently seeking placement:

I want to tell you that, I was you this time last year, extremely apprehensive for what the next year ahead would bring. As stressful as getting a placement is, especially during a pandemic, I really couldn’t have gone to final year without it. The real life, day to day dilemmas are not something a lecture hall can prepare you for.

With already being over halfway through my placement year, I am excited for the next 6 months ahead, new goals, ambitions and one step closer to my final year studies – eeeekk.

My advice for you;

Get as much experience as you can during these strange times; freelance for that local restaurant who needs support during their closures, utilise free online training courses to build up your CV and network on LinkedIn. Most importantly DON’T GIVE UP!! – The skills you will be gain on your placement year are invaluable.

What I would tell my 2nd year self;

  • They understand that you won’t know everything, if not anything – they have been in the same position
  • Ask questions
  • Step out of your comfort zone
  • Its ok to get things wrong
  • Network
  • Challenge Yourself
  • E N J O Y I T! The year goes so quick.

I want to leave you with this;A year from now you’ll be glad you started today“. For me, after only six months, I can tell you I am very glad I took the leap and pursued a placement year.

P.S.

EXCITING ROLE ALERT FOR PLACMENT STUDENTS 2021-22;

Elite are hiring for next year’s Social Media Marketing Intern, a brilliant opportunity for you all. Check out our website – www.elitees.com and LinkedIn– for more details or feel free to message me!

Wishing you all lots of luck in your placement search.

Courtney McGoldrick is a third year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on LinkedIn, Instagram & Twitter.

Oh Polly? More like ‘Oh No Polly!’ How a customer service nightmare shamed the fashion giants…

Oh Polly? More like ‘Oh No Polly!’ How a customer service nightmare shamed the fashion giants…

Way back in April when public displays of NHS appreciation were in their prime, 20-year-old NHS student nurse Lara Harper, found herself at the forefront of PR disaster by taking to Twitter to publicly ‘cancel’ fashion retailers Oh Polly. Things went wrong when the brand ran an exclusive competition to celebrate NHS staff working on the frontline during the strife of Covid-19, then ironically refused to award the winner as she was too busy working…on the frontline…for the NHS?? Something didn’t quite add up!

When receiving the Instagram message to be notified of her prize, Lara also received an invitation to join a virtual Zoom event the following Friday at 4pm, but notified the page that she couldn’t actually attend the event due to having to work a 12 hour shift on the front line. The response to this message took twitter by storm when much to the Internet’s dismay, Oh Polly replied with an apology and informed Lara that she wasn’t eligible for the prize anymore. Users of all ages and genders rushed to the student nurse’s defence and called Oh Polly out for their contradictive behaviour – wanting to show appreciation for NHS workers but then not allowing them to claim the prize when they’re too busy working on the front line and saving lives???

Thousands of twitter users (more than 60,000 in fact) were quick to jump behind Lara and support her disgust in the fashion brand who claims they are, “FOR GIRLS. BY GIRLS”. Many users commented agreeing that the customer service handling in this situation was completely ridiculous with one outraged supporter expressing their dismay by tweeting, “Shocking from the marketing team @ohpolly Hope this gets the negative publicity it deserves.” Given the extreme lengths that the NHS worker’s tweet was able to reach, I don’t think this is something that will be forgotten in any hurry!

The ‘Oh Polly’ Twitter page had no choice other than to publicly address their error and admit that they had made a huge mistake with their handling of the NHS competition. A thread of three tweets was published to cover their backs and explain what they believed had happened. Despite reacting quickly to the backlash that was being received, offering a written apology and taking responsibility for incident  as well as attempting to offer a solution, the damage was already done. Again, other Twitter users came out in full force to criticise the fashion giants.

To add to the humiliation of the brand, huge competitors such as ‘Pretty Little Thing’ decided to get a piece of the action and use Oh Polly’s customer service crisis as a strong marketing strategy by gaining customer’s respect. They reached out on Twitter and wrote: “Lara, we want to celebrate YOU & all the incredible things you are doing right now. DM us for a pretty little parcel. You deserve it Love PLT.”

This was a clever way of using the opportunity to subtly throw shade at their competitors but also showing full support of the 20 year-old, who at the time of the ordeal had only just began working for the health service after completing her placement as a Glasgow Caledonian University student.

In addition to large retailers, many small and start up businesses utilised the situation by offering Lara free care packages and took this as an opportunity to get their name’s out there. These kinds of comments were also well received by the public and gained numerous comments of positive feedback during a time deep negativity and uncertainty. I’m just glad that some positivity was able to come from such a disastrous situation!

Post apology from the boujee fashion brand, Lara came to Twitter to inform her rally of supporters that she said she would, “Take the new outfit that they were offering but wouldn’t be shopping with Oh Polly again.”

To be honest, I really don’t blame you Lara after this real life fashion dilemma…

Eimear Delargy is a final year BSc Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on LinkedIn and Twitter

The impact of going Viral on Tiktok for a Small business

The impact of going Viral on Tiktok for a Small business

While Tiktok was launched in 2016, it has recently become extremely popular, and this popularity has allowed it to become a great advertising method for many small business who cannot afford to pay large amounts on advertising.

Time and time again, we see small businesses on Tiktok going from reaching an audience of sometimes less than a hundred people to reaching thousands of people and selling out their products. This has been an extremely successfully method for people who are selling art, clothes sellers, jewellery and makeup, including eyelashes and lipglosses. I have even bought jewellery of a seller after seeing their products advertised on Tiktok, as I liked the look of their handmade earrings, and I never would have purchased from that seller if I hadn’t seen the business on Tiktok.

Many of the small businesses who advertise on Tiktok focus on Customer Service and add an extra touch to their packages such as personalised thank you notes, packinging and treats such as scrunchies or sweets. This helps them stand out to consumers even if they are selling the same products as larger businesses, and usually at a higher price than those same businesses as their customer service allows them to charge that extra bit. Many businesses also show themselves packaging people’s parcels if requested and these videos alone are capable of reaching tens of thousands of people, and some people buy with the hopes of getting their product packaged on Tiktok, as they are interested in the experience of buying from these smaller businesses.  

A Small business I have seen apply these tactics is an American brand, is Beauty_holics who sells an assortment of products including  a bundle which is two pairs of eyelashes, and applicator, a spoolie and a scrunchie for $30.00. This item is regularly sold out despite being very expensive compared to competitors.

Examples of packaging brands like Beauty_holics use

This is mainly because of the packaging – the products are put into a miniature suitcase instead of a box which is fun and exciting to people and makes them want to buy the product. One of her videos has received 9.1M likes and has been viewed by 62.1M people which is an astonishing reach for someone running a small niched business out of their home, and immediately following this video going viral she completely sold out on her website.

Another reason a lot of Videos from small businesses go viral on Tiktok is because people are generally interested in a glimpse of other people’s lives and businesses and this is why brands that do ‘come to work with me’ or show people how they make some of their products are so successful.

A small business near me, XXI ice in Dundalk, reached an audience of 5.2 million people on one of their 1 minute long videos showing how they make their strawberry rolled ice cream, and has reached a similar audiences on more of their videos, and this advertising reaches places all over the world – not just in Ireland, and has left an impression on all of them from watching such a simple video. There is very few Social Medias which let you easily gain 5.2 million views, as easily as can be done from going TikTok viral.

Chicken Nugget ice Cream from XXI Ice Tiktok video

 The account also makes ice cream with other stranger items such as chicken nuggets which is controversial enough that it helps keep people intrigued as to what they will do next, and so people will be encouraged to follow them on Tiktok.

Many people who promote their business on Tiktok also offer a personal touch such as a mystery pack option. People like these products as it is exciting to get a package in your style but you don’t actually know what you’re getting. The business asks for a few of your likes or dislikes and works from there to personalise your product. One brand who does this well is ‘hissyfitclothing’ who has different kinds of mystery packs, such as pastel, dark, and rave themed ones, her brand is sold out of the mystery packs on a regular basis because they are so popular. The brand is also very responsive on tiktok so it is very popular for their customer service, and she is very open about how she sources and makes the clothing and so it popular for her ethical clothing. She was also able to turn a customer compliant into a viral video, she had a customer go viral by making a video complaining about how the 3 items in her mystery pack didn’t go with each other – which they hadn’t been marketed to do. In response to this she made a video called ‘styling that mystery pack’ where she styled the items from that pack in many different ways.

There is, however, is a downside to Tiktok as a marketing device as while you may get a lot of attention for a while after going viral, it is a very fast moving app and you need to work very hard to keep the attention as the spotlight is very quick to move onto the next viral videos and so it is very difficult to receive sustained attention, and you have to be prepared for the constant up and down of views and sales you receive from advertising through Tiktok.

Aoife McCreesh is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on: Twitter and LinkedIn.

MOLLY-MAE LEADS THE WAY

MOLLY-MAE LEADS THE WAY

Who runs the world? Influencers.

It is undeniable that social media has become an obligatory part of our everyday lives. According to wearesocial.com, more than 3.8 billion people use social media in 2020. *MIND-BLOWN*

A major element of modern social media is influencers. Influencers are individuals who build a following on social media, based on their opinions and expertise on a specific topic, most commonly fashion, fitness or beauty related. Influencers post regularly, generating huge exposure from their loyal followers.

Molly-Mae Hague, you either know everything about her, or nothing at all. That is the beauty of influencers; megastars to their interested audience but not quite A-Lister household names. Molly-Mae is a 21-year-old, Social Media Influencer from Hertfordshire, who rose to fame in 2019 as a contestant on the UK hit series, Love Island.

Love Island has been known as a ‘gateway’ for Social Media Influencers to gain a higher following, overpowering the shows initial goal of finding ‘love’. Molly-Mae did not shy away from this and has since openly admitted that initially Love Island was simply a “business venture” to further her career in Influencer Marketing.

Molly-Mae’s career has gone from strength to strength, making her the most successful contestant to leave the show. This however is no accident, it is a result of meticulous planning, content creating and professional endeavours.

Upon leaving the villa, Molly-Mae’s business venture had already proven extremely successful, with all of the UK top clothing brands aiming to secure a deal with her. After considering her options, Molly-Mae signed an incredible £500,000 deal with Manchester based fashion company, Pretty Little Thing. This was the highest brand deal a 2019 Love Island contestant generated.

As Molly-Mae’s Pretty Little Thing collaboration rolled out, the brand found their sales increase dramatically, with the range selling out immediately. This therefore resulted in Molly Mae receiving another six-figure deal to extend the collaboration for an extra six months.

Molly-Mae donated all profits from one of her Pretty Little Thing collections to the mental health charity MIND following the death of friend and Love Island host, Caroline Flack. MIND provide advice and support to empower anyone experiencing mental health problems. The charity campaigns to improve services, raise awareness and promote understanding surrounding mental health.

The decision to donate all profits to MIND was a personal decision for Molly-Mae, due to the death her close friend. Doing this allowed Molly-Mae to use her huge platform to promote the importance of mental health awareness and understanding. Molly-Mae engages with a lot of young people through her social media following, maintaining a positive reputation and a high level of influence. It is important to target her following with important issues, encouraging them to speak out about their mental health.

On the back of her partnership with Pretty Little Thing, it was clear that Molly-Mae was a big hit. To ensure she captured her success at a high point, Molly-Mae decided to embark on her very own business venture. With a target audience in mind, through commitment and dedication, she successfully launched her very own tanning brand, Filter by Molly-Mae.

Filter is a collection of tanning products. However, some eager eyed fans have noticed the brand is listed on Endole as a ‘wholesale of perfume and cosmetics’, which gives them the rights to expand the range into a cosmetic and beauty brand. This expansion has been successfully carried out by many brands. Local brand bPerfect Cosmetics did exactly this, expanding their tanning brand into a makeup cosmetics line and most recently, opening a Mega Store in Belfast City Centre. *No pressure Molly-Mae*

In September 2020, Molly-Mae hit the significant milestone of one million subscribers on her ever-growing Youtube channel, where she documents her life through daily vlogs, behind the scenes on business ventures as well as hair, makeup and fashion tutorials.

It could be argued that Youtube is an extremely vital part in Molly-Mae’s success. Her loyal followers were introduced to her through Love Island, a TV show that followed her daily life, every day, for over two months. Therefore, people may feel that they know Molly-Mae on a more personal level and her Youtube ensures this relationship is continued.

To celebrate this milestone, Molly-Mae launched a huge giveaway on her Instagram account. This giveaway boasted £8,000 worth of prizes, with Louis Vuitton bags, Apple gadgets, as well as her tanning products from Filter by Molly-Mae.

Giveaways are an immediate way to create engagement on social media, with many influencers participating in brand collaboration giveaways. Collaborations benefit both the brand and the influencer, with brand specific prizes and entry requirements that increase following and engagement for both.

Molly-Mae decided to cut out the ‘middle-man’ and set up the giveaway on her own. This allowed her to include authentic prizes that were directly related to her personality, her brand and her followers’ interests. Doing this also allowed Molly-Mae to stay clear of the typical, robotic perception that comes with giveaways. She ensured her caption was sincere, including a message of gratitude to existing followers.

Molly-Mae posing with her £8,000 giveaway prize on Instagram.

The entry requirements on the giveaway were as follows:

  • Like this post & tag a friend
  • Subscribe to my Youtube channel
  • Make sure you’re following @mollymaehague and @filterbymollymae
  • Share this post to your story for a bonus entry

These entry requirements ensured multi-networking which generated a high level of engagement, increasing social media following, as well as building brand awareness for Filter by Molly-Mae.

The giveaway also created headlines for the tabloids, keeping Molly-Mae in the public eye. It is very important that influencers show commitment and dedication to content creation in order to maintain their public image. This is especially important in 2020, with events, launches and media appearances being minimal due to COVID-19.

Molly-Mae’s vision for the future was impeccable and the aim of this giveaway was certainty achieved, with the total entry level reaching almost THREE MILLION, her personal Instagram gaining over 200,000 new followers and 300,000 new Youtube subscribers.

Both her personal Instagram and Youtube account will benefit greatly from this surge in followers through an increase of sponsored posts as well as an increase in earnings through social media insights and engagements.

The biggest success to come out of the giveaway has been the increase in Instagram followers for her tanning brand. Filter by Molly-Mae gained a mind-blowing 500,000 followers and counting. Yes, that is correct – 500,000!

Social media giveaways are an effective way to generate engagement with a loyal, existing audience, as well as a way to reach out to new people. Molly-Mae utilised people’s desire to participate in competitions to increase engagement for her new brand, Filter by Molly-Mae. She done this at a time where her fame and engagement were high, gaining public exposure at a time where this is limited.

To be sure she obtains the benefits of her giveaway and retains the increase in engagement, it is essential that Molly-Mae develops strategic communication tactics to build a relationship with new followers, as they are not required to continue following her once the competition has ended. It is important that she remains consistent, sharing user generated content, as well as asking for feedback and recommendations.

As soon as the winner of the giveaway was announced, Molly-Mae was already forward-planning, building excitement for the next one on social media. This is the perfect way to keep followers, old and new interested. However, if the next prize is anything like the first… who wouldn’t be interested?

I have a good feeling about the next one… if you see me out and about in the near future with a 4-piece Louis Vuitton luggage set or Apple gadget bundle… thanks Molly-Mae!

Ellen Turbett is a final year BSc Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Instagram and LinkedIn.

DRINKING ALCOHOL PROTECTS AGAINST COVID-19

DRINKING ALCOHOL PROTECTS AGAINST COVID-19

Sadly, it’s doesn’t. But the headline caught your eye didn’t it? 

You might have heard the term ‘Fake news’ being thrown around lately, or perhaps from Donald Trump, as it is one of his favourite phrases! Fake news is essentially misinformation that is spread online as real news. I suppose you could say its big news right now as there has been a significant amount of it during this pandemic, however with so much media circulating about COVID-19, how do we know what is true anymore?

According to a survey by Statista (2020), almost 64% of UK respondents came across a false story at least once a day in the space of a week during September. In my opinion, this is absolutely crazy, how is fabricated news allowed to be shared across platforms millions of us use? 

A new study by MIT in 2018 found that false news spreads more rapidly on the social platform Twitter than real news does and not because of any algorithms or technology, it’s all down to users retweeting it and sending it onto their pals. No doubt this has increased over the past two years!  

Spreading inaccurate information online is more dangerous than we think, throughout the pandemic I personally have stumbled across many fake news articles and seen plenty of users sharing it across networks like Facebook. In concerning and tough times like this, reading a headline such as “Coronavirus is a Hoax” (I WISH!!) can have a massive impact on someone’s mental health if they believe this, especially when they are being kept from seeing loved ones and being told to stay inside. 

We have seen the impact fake news has had on political campaigns in America back in 2016, where it has been used and abused to target vulnerable people and influence their political opinions, which is why I feel more needs to be done about how to combat it – If this comes as a surprise to you, I would advise watching The Great Hack on Netflix!

So, what are social media platforms doing about it?

We use Instagram, Facebook and Twitter every day, so surely these big tech companies have a part to play in stopping the spread of false news? Well, they have previously turned a blind eye to the matter however, recently many have been taking action.

Facebook has vowed that they will continue to use fact checkers to review misinformation and then remove the fake news or perhaps sometimes, conspiracy theories. For example, at the start of the year when coronavirus began to spread, Facebook focused on removing false stories surrounding cures and treatment for the virus including “Avoid spicy food to avoid infection”– which was obviously not true. They also blocked certain hashtags on their platform Instagram which were linked to the topic. 

YouTube also took it upon themselves to remove any videos that include misleading information about vaccines and that contradict local health authorities like the NHS or World Health Organisation (WHO). 

And like I mentioned before, fake news has become the centre of previous election campaigns, and recently Twitter banned accounts which had been tweeting spam in relation to Donald Trump, which is against Twitters rules. 

What can WE do?

  1. Do a quick search on Google or Twitter. By doing this you can see if it’s came from a trusted source or if anyone else has questioned it. For any stories regarding COVID-19, only listen to health organisations like the NHS or WHO.
  2. If you’re unsure if a social media post is fake news or not, don’t like, comment or share it – this can increase your chances of seeing more fake news as social media platforms like to show us more of what we interact with. The more engagement a post like this receives, the more likely it’s seen as something relevant. 
  3. If it does in fact turn out to be fake news, report it! You can do this on any social media site, the World Health Organisation has published a great guide on their website which can help you do this.
  4. And lastly, just think before you share! Sometimes it can be hard to resist a click bait headline but try get used to reading trusted sources instead of what Sandra might have shared to her 200 followers (No offence to any Sandra’s out there) …

To sum it up, I think it’s scary to see how fast false information spreads these days and, in my opinion, it’s ruining people’s opinions on real journalism as they jump to believe the false article they just read on Facebook rather than the actual facts. There is definitely more work to be done here by social media platforms to stop the spread of fake news but for now, we can only look out for the warning signs!

Shauna McKillop is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University. She spent her placement year at The Tomorrow Lab in Belfast, where she continues to work as a junior digital marketing executive. Shauna can be found on: LinkedIn and Twitter.

The Beauty of Social Media Activism

The Beauty of Social Media Activism

On the surface the beauty industry appears to simply arm customers with products to enhance their confidence, alter their appearance or provide a sense of glamour. But it has long been so much more than that. Dating back to the Suffragette movement, the use of red lipstick was a powerful political statement, arming women with the bold and powerful armour needed to stand up independently and fight in the face of inequality. Today, the beauty industry remains saturated in activism. Something which is extremely important in an era dominated by a turbulent political landscape. The consumer journey is now so much more than simply purchasing products; customers want to support businesses that are driven by a strong political message which aligns with their own.

“Aligning ourselves with beauty brands that are using their platforms to empower, embattle and break down boundaries, puts the power back in our hands,” says Cult Beauty founder, Alexia Inge

In May of this year, the world was spun into global unrest regarding the futile murder of George Floyd. Many large beauty companies were quick to utilise the reach their social media platforms have in supporting the Black Lives Matter movement; and in speaking out against these injustices. While these words of support are important for educating their consumers on such issues, it’s also important for these brands to act. American beauty giants, ColourPop, extended their condemnation of such inequalities by pledging to donate to organisations working to support black communities. To coincide with this, they stated that they were also committed to create change by promoting representation and inclusivity.

Beauty brand, Deciem, also showed support for the Black Lives Matter movement.

The beauty community’s relationship with inclusivity has not been observable throughout the decades. In 2018, Tarte received backlash as they debuted a new foundation with a range of only 15 shades, with only 2 of these accommodating darker complexions. These static beauty standards had once again neglected a huge proportion of its consumers by excluding those unable to find their match. It is surprising to learn that just a few months later, the Fenty Beauty brand burst onto the scene having an explosive impact later named #TheFentyEffect. The brand was launched with 40 foundation shades – a far cry from what Tarte had released just months earlier. It would be selling the Fenty brand short to label this effect as anything short of innovative, as this range of shades has now become the norm and consumers are refusing to accept anything short of this!

David Kirkpatrick, writing for MarketingDive, found that while social media has provided companies with many benefits, from growing consumer bases to engaging in fast communication with customers, the negative effects can prove detrimental to companies. He found that 81% of U.S. consumers believe social media has rapidly increased brand accountability. Q3 Sprout Social Index administered a study, which uncovered that consumers are prepared to call our brands on social media, with millennials being the most likely to do this. It is interesting to note, 56% of these millennials had admitted to having complained about or had called out brands on social media. This research indicates the emphasis brands must now put on reputation management to ensure they do not encounter the same hurdles Tarte did.

More recently, beauty brands have been exercising this political activism in emphasising the importance to their consumers in voting in the upcoming US election through various social media driven campaigns. While many companies have been forthcoming expressing their political opinions; history was made when a new brand appeared on the scene as “Biden Beauty”. Yes, you heard right, Biden Beauty is in fact a real beauty brand! The company is selling a blue, beauty makeup sponge and encouraging their consumers to use this to create a makeup look to wear to the polling station. All profits from the company are being contributed to the Biden Victory Fund in hopes that this will secure a win for the Democratic party.

Beauty brand, Alleyoop, was also in favour of encouraging their customers to vote. The brand has pledged to give away a free item with a value of up to $20 to everyone who makes the trip to the polling station. The first 50,000 people who vote will be able to avail of this. This product giveaway could potentially cost the company $1 million. Brand owner, Kashani, described how they must do something crazy to change the voting statistics. Well, it’s definitely crazy!

Sharon Chuter, founder of inclusive makeup brand, Uoma Beauty, stated that “Gen Z is putting their money where their values are…”. She believes consumers are more willing to shop with companies who use their platforms to spread awareness of political issues; and who share the same values as their consumer base. However, it is important for brands to navigate this uneasy landscape with care as consumers are becoming increasingly aware of performative activism. In which companies are aligning themselves with political activism simply to appeal to consumers and drive sales; but the heart of the company is not in creating change. Chuter again shared her opinion on this issue, depicting her worry that brands will now see activism as a marketing tool, which will quickly become more dangerous than helpful.

On the surface, the beauty industry appears to simply arm customers with products to enhance their confidence, alter their appearance or provide a sense of glamour. But it is and always has been, so much more than that.

Cheyenne Doyle is a final year BSc Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on: Linkedin – Cheyenne Doyle and Instagram – Ch.eyenne

Social Media – Is it the real Pandemic?

Social media is arguably one of the most powerful tools in our society today and I can’t deny throughout the pandemic it has done a lot of good as we all tried to make the best of a horrible year. It has given us a platform to voice our opinions and concerns and connect with loved ones from all over the world in the form of weekly zoom quizzes. Even just sending each other adorable puppy videos has brightened some of our darker days as we muddle through these unprecedented times. However, it is important to address how Instagram, Twitter and Facebook and the pressures that are associated with the overuse of these platforms can be all-consuming, draining, and impact our mental health negatively, particularly during lockdown when we are alone and forced to deal with our thoughts.

Endless, mind-numbing scrolling and switching from app to app on our smartphones has become an addiction for our generation and as we find ourselves planted in the middle of another lockdown, ask yourself this; could you spend a whole day without visiting either Instagram, Facebook or Twitter? Your answer is probably very much like mine; a no, but we aren’t alone. According to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Centre in 2018, 63% of the 743 young adults interviewed said they use social media every day, while 45% say they are on the internet “almost constantly”. Scary. Our smartphones have become an extension of our arms and at the touch of a button we have access to millions of tiny squares filled with pictures and videos of beautiful people in beautiful places, doing beautiful things, looking beautifully happy. Sometimes these tiny squares can make us compare our lives to others, belittle ourselves and even feel like less of a person but it is important to remember that we don’t see these people when they are sick or having a bad day. It is great to see people thriving and living their best lives but it is ok if you aren’t thriving and living YOUR best life right now.

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A post shared by The Power Of Positive Thinking (@the.power.of.positive.thinking) on

Thanks to social media and in particular Instagram, we have this warped unrealistic image engraved in our brain of what our lives should look like. Through the introduction of influencers and large social media personalities promoting all the latest garments and gadgets, it can be easy to inhabit an unhealthy ‘I want to be like them’ attitude. We think if we have a life like theirs then we’ll be happy – if we buy that overpriced designer item, we’ll be happy, if we go on that holiday, we’ll be happy, if we have a relationship like theirs, we’ll be happy, if we look like that influencer or work ourselves silly in the gym to have a body like theirs, we’ll be happy. There is SO much to think about today and trends are constantly changing so unfortunately there will always be another we may feel pressured to follow. However, it can be helpful to take a step back, put things into perspective and realise that the celebrities who appear to have the ‘perfect life’ are human too and the impact social media has on their mental health can be just as detrimental.

In 2017, Game of Thrones star Sophie Turner opened up to Dr. Phil McGraw about how her long-term depression worsened during her fourth year on the show just as the use of social media was on the rise. Describing social media as a ‘catalyst’, she stated that trolls would take to Instagram to make comments about her skin, weight and acting abilities which “impacted how she did her job and how she interacted with the world”. I know right? You may be scratching your head thinking ‘Why is this Queen feeling like this?’ Once again though, Sophie Turner isn’t alone. According to a survey carried out in 2017 by the Royal Society for Public Health, a lot of young adults who fall within the 14–24-year-old age bracket agree that their wellbeing is being damaged by social media, and platforms including Twitter and Instagram invoke anxiety, depression, and sleep deprivation. This may be because the days when we could live and let live are gone. When we post something on social media we almost invite opinions into our lives – everyone has an opinion on everything so it isn’t hard to see how social media has created this culture of anxiety which can often stop us from doing the things we want to do. (Side note: try not to let this be the case. You do you. We have a limited time on this earth so there is literally ZERO point wasting it worrying about the opinions of others – make that instagram page, write that blog post, share your talents with the world! Could you imagine if Sophie Turner had listened to all of those trolls who told her to stop acting? Game of Thrones simply just wouldn’t be the same!)

On the other hand, throughout the years I’ve seen celebrities use social media as a platform to address mental health issues. Little Mix band member Perrie Edwards took to Instagram to share her personal experience with anxiety and debilitating panic attacks and how restricting the time she spent on social media helped combat her mental health issues. For me, Perrie’s brave post only highlights further how from the outside looking in, someone can appear to ‘have it all’ and still struggle behind closed doors. Instagram is a highlight reel and the happiness we see is only a tiny glimpse into these peoples’ lives.

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I’d like to open up about something. Venting your feelings is healthy and I want to be honest with you all. Over the past few years I have suffered really badly with anxiety and panic attacks. When I first started to feel the effects of anxiety I thought I was losing my mind and it terrified me. I felt so alone and like I was the first person in the world to ever experience it. – The first panic attack was so intense and overwhelming I felt like I was having a heart attack, I was so scared and confused and had no idea what was happening to me. I’m not sure what triggered that first one but it soon spiralled & I found myself in a really dark place, feeling alone and scared. I had people around me but I couldn’t explain to them what was happening to me or why. It affected me so badly that I didn’t even want to leave the house. I would step foot out the door and feel the overwhelming need to go straight back inside. It completely took over my life. – I’m happy to say that the physical attacks have stopped but unfortunately the anxiety still lives on. The reality is it probably always will. – I’ve had a relationship with my mind for 25 years now, so to feel it working against me sometimes makes me feel like a prisoner in my own head. It feels like the most unnatural thing in the world but the thing that helped me the most was discovering I’m not alone. I’m not the only person going through this. There are people all over the world feeling the exact same way I do! As soon as I realised I wasn’t going insane I felt more eager to beat it. I had therapy and I surround myself with my loved ones. Talking to someone relieves you of SO MUCH STRESS. I worked out coping mechanism’s and learned what the triggers are so that I can fight the attacks before they take hold. I restricted my time on social media which often made me feel trapped and claustrophobic. I took control of my life and accepted what I couldn’t control. – I don’t want to hide it anymore. I suffer from anxiety and I want you to all know if you suffer from anxiety you’re not alone ♥️

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The reality is that life is not how it is portrayed on social media and as most of us have come to realise in 2020, it is not all highs, sunshine and rainbows and we don’t know what lies behind a screen. As my granny always says, “everyone has their own cross to bear” but now more than ever, it is so important to not only be kind to others, but also ourselves.

I could write a lot more on this topic, but for now I want to finish with one piece of advice for lockdown number two; if you begin to feel overwhelmed or claustrophobic by social media, seeing everyone using this time to better themselves and you feel you don’t have that same motivation or if you’re just sick of hearing about COVID-19 – turn it off, go for a walk, talk to someone you trust or do something that will make you feel relaxed.

I have listed a number of resources below if you or someone you know has been struggling recently. We are living through scary times and our thoughts can make them seem even scarier. Be kind to your mind and stay safe during this lockdown.

Anxiety UK
Mind
Rethink Mental Illness
Samaritans

YoungMinds
www.anxietyuk.org.uk
www.mind.org.uk
www.rethink.org
www.samaritans.org.uk
https://youngminds.org.uk

Katie McKeown is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ktmckeown_/ and LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/katie-mc-keown-89bb72189/

Celebrities, social opinion, and the political sphere.

Celebrities, social opinion, and the political sphere.

For added support, just chuck a ‘Rock’ at it.

Years ago, before the introduction of social media, we all relied on the information provided to us by media outlets like television, tabloid, newspapers, radio and the like to help us understand the world and form our opinions. In the present day, the reliance on these regulated forms of media may still be important in the formation of public opinion, particularly with the older generations, however it appears that social media has introduced an immediate two-way conversation between celebrities and their fans that never existed until recently; a type of democratisation of a fan club in real-time.

Celebrities crossing over from their usual world of popularity into the political sphere to use their huge fan-base to help influence the outcome of an upcoming election or even to simply make a political statement, is not uncommon.

Marlon Brando in 1973, was nominated for Best Actor for his performance in The Godfather. In his stead, he sent Native American activist Sacheen Littlefeather. In protest against the long-standing failure for the USA to honour the treaties it had made with Native American nations and as a proclamation against the stereotypical portrayal of Native Americans in TV and film, she refused the award on Marlon’s behalf. Before this, politics had been pretty much left out of the Oscars, and worryingly for The Academy, on the night, Sacheen’s words were met with a mixture of booing and applause.

This show of ‘political shenanigans’ prompted the Academy, who were fearing a PR disaster, to ban any future award recipients from sending proxies on their behalf. There have been many other occasions where outside politics have taken centre stage at the Oscars. Who can forget Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon in 1993, and the fine performance of Michael Moore in 2003. Yes, not exactly politics as such, but certainly showing how one human can have a strong influence on matters.

Meanwhile in politics

In 1966, an actor who starred in such films as ‘The Bad Man’ called Ronald Regan was elected Governor of California and later became the President of the United States. Moving through the years, in 2008, Oprah Winfrey and George Clooney openly and loudly endorsed Barack Obama’s presidential campaign; as of yet, neither of them have opted run for President, but who knows? During the same campaign, American musician Hank Williams Jr chose to write a song, endorsing Senator John McCain’s campaign.

Chucking A ‘Rock’ At The Election

Recently, on Sunday, Sept. 27 2020, The Rock, a man who certainly knows how to spin his own PR, decided to post a video on Instagram that was far different from anything he had posted before. In his own words, “it expressed a message near and dear to my heart”. He wanted his followers “to vote blue in the 2020 election”. So with an audience of 190 million, he officially endorsed former VP Joe Biden and his running mate, Senator Kamala Harris.  

His caption read “As a political independent and centrist for many years, I’ve voted for Democrats in the past and as well as Republican. In this critical election, I believe Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are the best to lead our country, and as my first ever (public) Presidential endorsement, I proudly endorse them for the presidential office of our United States.” At the time of the post, The Rock had 198 million followers on Instagram, and with him rumoured to earn up to $1 million per sponsored Instagram post, he has a lot sway in the world of social media.

“it expressed a message near and dear to my heart”

Prior to this post, when The Rock posted content, his millions of adoring fans would applaud him with nothing but kind words and platitudes, however this post changed everything.

A Rolling Rock Obviously Gathers No Moss

Many Trump fans took to his account to leave their comments of dislike, and to praise their man-child of a President. Did it harm his account?

Actually no. It has grown even more, to well over 200 million. So exactly how can we define that success? In votes? In followers? Just how influential was his message in shaping the political landscape? It is near impossible to measure. It’s not like there are statisticians standing outside each polling station waiting to ask every voter questions like “which celebrity influenced your vote”?

Public attitudes.

A recent study by the YouGov-Cambridge Centre concluded that only 14% of British voters think social media is good for society.

In the same study it shows clearly that many voters actually doubt the internet has been positive for political campaigning.

According to another recent study, the USA public attitudes toward political engagement on social media are equally as eye-opening. 42% get involved online with social or political issues that are important to them, while 37% feel that social media offers a place to express their political opinions.

I am not writing this with the suggestion that celebrities should be left out of all political discourse, however I do feel that in a world where celebrities with huge social media reach are role models and supposed policy experts, there is no limit to just much they can influence the shaping of public opinion; particularly with Generation Z.

What about the older citizens? Could older generations start using social media as an online activism tool?  Professor Jen Shradie suggests “Online activism was supposed to be a utopian dream. Rather than rely on big institutions, everyone’s voices were supposed to be heard,” she says. She goes on to suggest that online activism tends to attract the younger generations to engage, not to mention the better educated; and those with the technology and communication skills do tend to get their point across to win online arguments. After all, older generations obviously hold opinions, but many of these may not be getting captured online.

It’s voting time

So, could politically uneducated, yet powerfully influential PR astute celebrities like The Rock be seen as being a potentially dangerous combination in the overall process of forming social opinion within the political sphere? Perhaps, this is a conversation we should be engaging in more often.

Gary Gates is a final year BSc Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be found on: LinkedIn – Gary Gates