Sunday, December 6, 2009

SAS Summer 2009 with Patty!

For my Interactive Digital media project, I decided to make a blog about my summer experience. I was on Semester At Sea, where I met amazing people and visited different countries around the Mediterranean. Using my passion of traveling to make my project blog seemed like the perfect way to re-live my summer and tell the world about my adventures. I called my blog “Sas Summer 2009.” My blog’s purpose was to let others know about the wonderful program I was on over the summer, and hopefully encourage many to go. I wanted my blog to be a place where future voyagers could ask questions and truly get a sneek peek into what life was like on the ship and past voyagers could reminisce about the good times they had. The problem was getting the word out there, and having past, current and future ‘SASers’ (another word for semester at sea students, or semesatsea-ers) to actually find out my blog existed and follow it. I came to find that ‘old’ ways of spreading information (word of mouth, or fliers) were not nearly as effective as the ‘new’ ways (using facebook, sending out mass messages, joining groups).

In order to let others know about my blog, I took the simplest and oldest way of spreading information, word of mouth. I talked to the Uva study abroad advisor, Stacey Hansen. Since I Have been abroad twice before, I know her pretty well, and I thought having her as a connection would be a great way to start spreading the word that I was beginning a blog about a program she was in charge of. She told me to leave fliers at the Study Abroad Office promoting my blog (which I did), and that she herself would keep one to remind students who came in to see her that it was available. She said she would also mention it at the pre-departure meeting they were having a couple of weeks later. After having told her, I felt that a person of authority was now aware of my blog’s existence, and that would make a big change in the number of viewers I received. Unfortunately, this was not the case. I realized that I had to take manners into my own hands and could not expect others to simply spread the word for me. Although a few people came in to visit my blog, it was still very few, and I realized I had to expand the range of people I was trying to reach. Being active at UVa would only get me to reach other UVa students that wanted to go abroad on semester at sea, but I needed something that could reach everyone around the globe. I myself already knew that out of 716 students on my summer voyage, only 33 were UVa students, very far from the majority.

The next step I took was to advertise my blog through my Facebook page, a very ‘new’ form of media. The fact that I was already friends with most of the people I met on semester at sea made it a lot easier for me to let them know I was making a blog. I sent all of my friends messages, in hope that they would become involved. I realized that already this was a way more effective way to get people to visit. The fact that I know all of my friends have access to the internet and they know they can just click on the link I send them to view it makes my chances of having them view my site triple, and also increases the chances of them spreading the word about it.

The wisest move I made when I tried to get others to view my blog was joining three semester at sea groups on facebook. These groups allow any facebook member to join, and it is solely a place to discuss anything related to semester at sea. I found an immense group of 1,076 students, all who have been or will be on semester at sea, another one of 7,567 fans, and a third one with 631 members. When I posted comments and updates about my blog, my google analytics demographics showed I got a lot more visits than ever in the past.

This in itself made me realize that how accessible you make your site to others highly affects if they go on or not. Simply giving friends your website won’t do nearly as much as already having the link available on a wall post. Although the difference of effort may be minimal, it makes lowers your chances of having people visit if people have to copy/paste or write out your website on a search engine, as opposed to having to click on a link that takes them straight to it. This also made me realize that the speed and ease with which you offer people access to your site can affect whether they visit your site at all or not.

Near the end of my project I made sure I updated twitter and facebook statuses to remind my friends of my project and hopefully lead them to either re-visit the site, or visit it for the first time, and I also made sure to re-post comments on the semester at sea groups I had joined on facebook. Once again, I saw results on my google analytics go up and came to the conclusion that new technologies that make information available the quickest are the most effective forms of advertisement. I also realized that the ‘old’ ways of advertising are dying down, and that things such as fliers do not compare to the amount of audiences you can reach through technology and new media.

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