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Missouri School of Journalism

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January 2013

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Journalism Alumni, Students Connect via Social Media

The Mizzou Mafia on Social Media
Missouri School of Journalism alumni, professors and students use a variety of social media platforms to network, brainstorm ideas, locate jobs and stay connected. Graphic: Kate McIntyre.

7,000-Plus Missouri Journalism Alumni Use LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook to Reconnect

By Kate McIntyre
Strategic Communication Student

Alex Zaccone, BJ '12, swapped career tips and shared memories with dozens of other Missouri School of Journalism students and alumni during the University of Missouri's 101st Homecoming weekend. She traveled two hours from Kansas City to be involved in the networking event organized by Jen Reeves, BJ '96, who invited Zaccone and nearly 100 others on Facebook.

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Connecting with alumni in-person at the Oct. 26 "Real-World Homecoming Lunch" was a welcome treat for the WDAF-TV news producer. Zaccone says she finds it difficult to fit in face-to-face or phone conversations with peers and former professors who are scattered worldwide.

"When you have a full-time job, staying in touch tends to get put on the back burner," Zaccone says. "With social media, it's easy to see what people are still up to, and it's less stressful to send someone a quick message. This way you don't have to commit to a long phone conversation when you only have a few moments."

Missouri School of Journalism alumni have the option to join a plethora of alumni-created social media groups on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter to network, brainstorm ideas, discuss industry trends, and locate jobs or business resources.

About 7,000 journalism alumni connect via five groups on LinkedIn. Approximately 2,000 turn to Twitter's @mizzoumafia and #mizzoumafia for news about the School. Jen and her husband, Associate Professor Randy Reeves, MA '96, have approved more than 800 requests to join the two Facebook groups they manage. The three platforms are open to all journalism alumni and are similar in their content. Most posts feature job openings and discussions about recent events in the media, but occasionally alumni ask questions about relocating and for referrals.

Zaccone reached out to staff at television stations via social media while job hunting. She received an offer from KMBC-TV in Kansas City through her social media connections, but ultimately found her current position at WDAF-TV after networking within Kappa Kappa Gamma and with help from a mentor.

Jen Reeves was an early adopter and among the first journalists to use social media for news production. From 2008-09, she created a multimedia, multiplatform hub for regional news by integrating multiple newsrooms as a Reynolds Fellow in the Reynolds Journalism Institute. As an associate professor, Reeves taught radio-television journalism students how to use social media as a professional and educational tool, using #jenclass for her "Advanced Internet Applications for Radio-TV" class discussions.

Alex Zaccone and Jen Reeves
Alex Zaccone, BJ '12, and Jen Reeves, BJ '96, pose for a photo during the "Real-World Homecoming Lunch" held at Shakespeare's Pizza in October. Reeves organizes the annual event. Photo courtesy of Alex Zaccone.

Reeves shares her thoughts on social media trends and resources with more than 51,000 subscribers on Facebook and 6,600 followers of @jenleereeves, and she discusses content, technology, ethics and business of journalism on the Web with weekly Twitter chats from @wjchat.

She used Facebook and Twitter to promote the Homecoming lunch and subsequent meet-and-greets for journalism alumni in Washington D.C., where Reeves now is the social media trainer for the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP).

Reeves says social media can expand the relationships available to those in the Missouri journalism family. Mentoring, professional advice, encouragement and help with day-to-day job needs and more are available to all, regardless of when one studied at the School.

"That's what social media has made possible: You can connect with people not just based on geography, but on similar interests or a commitment to helping each other," Reeves says. "It's made the Mafia bond more possible."

Transitioning from Students to Alumni

Bethany Welcher, BJ '12, turned to Missouri journalism alumni on social media for advice about finding a job as a freelance copywriter in Kansas City, St. Louis or Columbia.

"The problem is everyone wants you to have 3-5 years experience even for the junior positions. Anyone have advice on how to go about getting a job when you are fresh out of college and only have one internship under your belt?" Welcher posted.

Ten members of the "Mizzou Mafia" listserv offered tips to the recent graduate. Ellen Jaffe Jones, BJ '76, wrote, "Don't take no for an answer. Take a job that may not be high on your list, but is a stepping stone to another." Glen Callanan, BJ '82, encouraged, "Keep pushing. Send more follow up. Prove yourself by the way you interact with the potential employer."

J-School Alumni at Shakespeare's Pizza
Jen Reeves updates Missouri journalism alumni on events and activities at the School. The group gathered at Shakespeare's Pizza during Homecoming weekend. Photo courtesy of Alex Zaccone.

New graduates might find LinkedIn a useful resource for advice on their first jobs. Welcher says the responses made her realize that members of the "Mizzou Mafia" LinkedIn group are friendly and want to help.

"I have found that generally people love to give advice and help out a fellow Mizzou grad," she says. "Sometimes I feel like I will never get a job, then I see all of the Mizzou grads who already have jobs in my field and I think, 'If they could do it, so can I.'"

Juana Summers, BJ '09, says young alumni and students often follow many people on social media but are hesitant to engage. The POLITICO national political reporter has about 90,000 subscribers on Facebook and more than 5,500 Twitter followers.

"It's become clear that social media is a much bigger part of the bloodstream of working professionals, both within the journalism industry and outside it," Summers says. "It's important that both new alumni and those who have been away from the university setting for decades have some level of proficiency with social media."

Summers used social media primarily to share details from her coverage of the 2012 presidential campaign. She also noted her thoughts about MU's fall athletic season and her experiences as a frequent airline flyer.

She recommends graduates and students reach out to Missouri School of Journalism alumni who are affiliated with companies they're interested in.

"The worst thing that can happen is that someone doesn't respond to you," Summers says. "Most alumni are happy to give advice or constructive feedback."

Summers has been on the receiving end of many job-hunters' cold calls. The recent graduate recently helped at least four journalism alumni learn more about job openings at POLITICO.

"That's a smart way to get your resume past the stack that is inevitably coming in for a competitive position," she says.

Networking Online

After working in the publishing industry for a decade, Steve Gardberg, BJ '94, returned to school and earned his MBA from Rutgers Business School. He looked at new careers in education and pharma and asked his 300-plus LinkedIn connections for introductions where he was interviewing or interested in working.

Now the assistant business administrator at South Orange-Maplewood School District in Maplewood, N.J., Gardberg uses LinkedIn to stay in touch with former colleagues, alumni and industry peers, with whom he swaps ideas via a LinkedIn group he created.

Social media are what the Rolodex used to be and much easier to update, Gardberg says. He recommends building a profile by adding a few details and a few connections throughout the week rather than all at once.

It's important to build relationships slowly rather than immediately asking for favors of new connections, Gardberg says.

"Like in-person networking, don't ask too much, too fast of someone online," Gardberg says. "After you meet new people, look them up online, but don't request a connection right away. Be reasonably sure the connection will be mutually beneficial, and then personalize the request with information about when and how you met."

Thomas Blood, BJ '80, has worked as a creative director in the St. Louis advertising business for more than 30 years. He has developed print/TV/radio/video ads, e-marketing campaigns, posters, guerrilla marketing strategies and trade show efforts for a wide range of clients including Enterprise Rent-a-Car, AAA Insurance, the Missouri Division of Tourism and the U.S. Army.

Blood already had a strong networking base when he joined LinkedIn soon after it launched in 2003. He relied little on his connections until establishing his agency, BloodLines Creative, in St. Louis in November 2011. He turned to social media to expand his client base and promote his expertise.

BloodLines Creative Mailer
Thomas Blood, BJ '80, uses a creative direct mail piece to contact potential clients about his agency's capabilities. Photo: Thomas Blood.

He utilized his LinkedIn connections to form a list of potential key prospects and began selectively reaching out to them by sending an eye-catching direct mail piece with mailing labels that boldly state, "Careful! This package contains Blood samples." Inside was a case history portfolio and cover letter asking for a meeting to discuss how he could help with the prospect's advertising and marketing communications.

Of the first 20 mailers Blood sent out, he connected with all 20 of the recipients. Blood met with 14 of the prospects and secured business with four, making the overall cost of the LinkedIn mailing effort well worth the investment.

"People don't just hand you business the first time out," Blood says. "You have to doggedly pursue new accounts. I'd much rather spend my time creating, but if you want business, you've got to go out and get it. It's not going to come to you."

Blood now has more than 500 connections on LinkedIn and participates in about 15 different groups, most of which are advertising- or marketing-based or connected to St. Louis. He recommends being selective about what content users share on various platforms or with different audiences. It's important to try to be a thought leader in what you do, Blood says.

"In today's communication business, if you're not actively engaging in social media, you will be left behind," he says. "You need to be a lifelong student, constantly on the lookout for new changes. Creativity still rules; it's just how you use it that has changed."

In addition to the BloodLines Creative LinkedIn page, Blood also tweets from @TBloodlines, blogs and uses Facebook, Pinterest, Google+, Skype, YouTube, StumbleUpon, Digg and Reddit. He spends at least an hour a day on social media, offering his thoughts about the advertising industry, conference awards and political ads. However, Blood still considers himself a social media novice and says he plans to delve into social media more this year.

"I've dipped my toes into the world of social media," Blood says. "I've tried to dive in, but it can be overwhelming. There are too many ways you can connect with others."

Specializing in Social Media

Assistant Professor Jon Stemmle teaches a course called "Interactive Techniques" that focuses solely on strategic communicators' use of social media, an expertise he developed as co-director of the School's Health Communication Research Center.

Stemmle recently launched Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts to help facilitate communication among strategic communication alumni, faculty and students.

He advises others to carefully consider which platforms to join, because it takes time and effort to add new content and engage in conversations with the groups' stakeholders.

Statistics on social media show that 56 percent of Americans have a profile on a social networking site, and 22 percent of those log in multiple times daily.

"Social media is here to stay, but specific platforms come and go," Stemmle says. "You need to understand what you're trying to achieve and who your audience is."

"Social media is here to stay, but specific platforms come and go. You need to understand what you're trying to achieve and who your audience is."

Jon Stemmle
Assistant Professor
Missouri School of Journalism

Stemmle advises journalism students and alumni to start online networking with a LinkedIn account. He also recommends learning how to use the other three most common platforms - Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, which have more than 1 billion, 500 million and 40 million users, respectively.

Beth Carpenter, BJ '09, prefers using Twitter to connect with people because most people use their Twitter accounts a least a little, she says. She has generated 17,800 tweets and has more than 1,750 followers since creating @bethshanna in 2008.

Carpenter, the social media manager at AARP, shares advice about her work and best practices for blogs on the organization's custom YouTube page. She also connects followers with similar interests by tweeting their handles to make introductions.

Carpenter says the best networking advice she has received is to remember what people are interested in and what they're working on, then send them something - an article, video or a person they might want to connect with, along with a short note.

"In other words, make sure that you show genuine interest in someone's work, and keep finding ways to talk about the ways in which your interests and theirs collide," she says.

Whether someone follows her back isn't the point, Carpenter says. Rather, she uses social media to maintain relationships with more people than she could via email or phone.

"Every time I meet people in a professional setting, my first instinct isn't to ask them for a business card; it's to ask for their Twitter username," Carpenter says. "It's not about me, it's about you. I want to follow you, and I want to keep up on what you're doing."

Like Stemmle, Carpenter recommends people new to social media figure out where their publics are and then choose to participate on those platforms. Blog about experiences in classes or on projects, highlight pieces in an online portfolio, join conversations on Facebook or Twitter, ask or answer questions on LinkedIn, or share videos on YouTube, she recommends. Whatever platform alumni are using, Carpenter recommends they check their search engine optimization to ensure they're listed on the first page of Google.

"Go with the right-honorable state of Missouri and show me, baby," she says. "Having an online record that you shaped over years, projects, connections and results is better than any resume you could write."

Some people might be hesitant to follow or connect with strangers, but in the end, social media is just a tool Carpenter likens to cocktail parties and business lunches.

"Just remember that people are still people, and we connect as people," she says. "Our lives aren't really as divisible into personal and professional as we think they are."

"Social media can show [younger alumni] that there are still people at the university who want to help them. It can facilitate that relationship. You're still part of Mizzou, no matter where you are."

Ry Colman, BJ '11
Coordinator of e-Engagement
Mizzou Alumni Association

Ry Colman, BJ '11, is the coordinator of e-engagement for the Mizzou Alumni Association (MAA). He first learned about the position from another Tiger on, a Yahoo! Sports website, he contacted the poster through Facebook. In December 2011, Colman interviewed and scored the job, which entails coordinating the association's social networking platforms, website and email traffic.

Alumni are more engaged with MAA since the advent of social media, Colman says. The Mizzou Alumni LinkedIn group has more than 18,000 members, @MizzouAlumni has more than 8,000 followers, and the MAA's Facebook page has close to 10,000 likes.

Colman says he's noticed alumni over age 40 tend to amass more contacts on LinkedIn but post less frequently than their younger counterparts. On Facebook, however, Colman says the reverse is true. These alumni value their conversations with the university more and tend to comment on or share posts more often. Often they seek out their college pals through the network as well, he says.

"We have 80-year-olds using our social media more than 20-year-olds, sometimes," Colman says. "In general, though, our more seasoned alumni use our social media to connect to what's going on at Mizzou now and for nostalgic purposes. Many alumni can't make it back to campus easily, so things we post on Facebook make them feel like they're here for a minute."

Younger alumni, conversely, are more transactional and engage when they're offered something in return, such as a chance to win a giveaway or prove they know a piece of trivia. Colman says the MAA is trying to encourage upperclassmen and young alumni to connect with alumni-mentors in their fields via social media. He also hopes more graduates will post jobs and internships on MU-affiliated social media.

"Young alumni tend to experience a disconnect between when they graduate and when they begin to feel like alumni," Colman says. "Social media can show them that there are still people at the university who want to help them. It can facilitate that relationship. You're still part of Mizzou, no matter where you are."

Kate McIntyre Kate McIntyre is a master's student in the MU School of Journalism and the Master of Public Health Program. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo. McIntyre works at the MU News Bureau, serves as director of public relations for Mizzou Dance Marathon and interns with a Susan G. Komen Foundation grant. McIntyre intends to pursue a career in health promotion and education upon graduating in May.

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