MediaDesk blog

Utilizing Big Data

Utilizing Big Data

What is Big Data?

photo credit: infocux Technologies via photopin cc

photo credit: infocux Technologies via photopin cc

The world is full of data, and, with the invention of technology, almost any type of data can be recorded and quantified. Cars can detect your exact posture when you sit in the drivers seat, Google can track all of your online searches, and, even more uncanny, cell phones can track your location at all times. This means that there are mass quantities of data being stored and recorded all around the world. We know more about people and the world we inhabit than ever before and we have piles and piles of data being added to our store of knowledge every day.

The bad news: most of this data goes unused; the data we collect are left in storage and often never seen again.

The good news: there are many organizations (uncluding SHARE NM and MediaDesk NM) that can help you put data to good use, locally.

Big data is a huge resource; the idea behind big data is that we can collect and analyze information, find overarching patterns and predict behavior and events. Using big data, scientists have been able to predict the development of cancerous cells long before they become dangerous, and researchers in New Jersey have used it to create a survey that can accurately predict the likelihood of an arrested criminal recommitting a crime if released. But, you might be asking, “How can I use this ‘big data’ thing?”

Large amounts of data can help drive decision making processes. MediaDesk is here to help you make data-driven decisions around your outreach and organizational growth through employing big data and community data to better understand the local communities in which you work.

Using Big Data

Big data offers a new perspective on what is happening in the world, and it is more accessible than ever. And, yes, that means your organization should probably jump on the big data bandwagon, too.

There are a few things you need to get started to harness the potential of big data:

  • A Database: This might seem obvious, but before you can analyze data and find patterns, you must have access to data stored somewhere. MediaDesk provides the capability to store and collect data that can then be analyzed or shared with other organizations, partners and clients. The bigger and more complex the storage, the more opportunities for analyzing and interpretation.
  • A Goal: What is it that you’re trying to accomplish? Scientists might be looking for ways to predict the development of cancer, but MediaDesk looks at big data in order to target audiences that will respond best to a certain message. We use data patterns to find who would be most impacted by campaigns and send our message to the people who will really listen and respond.
  • Analysis: Mass quantities of data have no use unless they are analyzed and interpreted. Analysis of data identifies patterns and allows you to predict your audience’s behavior. At MediaDesk we target individuals, businesses, organizations, or even entire communities that are identified by our analysis as the most likely to benefit from your services or respond to your messages.
  • Feedback: It’s also important to track how you campaign is doing on social media and other mediums in case you message needs to be modified to be effective. Maybe a certain demographic isn’t responding the way you thought it would, and by tracking audience response you can know when tweak your message to better suit your audience, which will allow you to tell your story in a way that is impactful to the people that need to hear it.

MediaDesk analyzes big data for a number of clients, and we’re always working to broaden your outreach and strengthen the impact of your message. In the past, we have identified “hotspots” where a target audience tends to be and focused our message to that particular area, we have targeted individuals based on demographics found in our database and mailed information straight to their home, and we are working to create a database that can match individuals with the organizations that can best provide for their needs. The possible applications for big data are vast, and, while we’ve dabbled with many ways of using big data already, here at MediaDesk we’re excited to explore all the ways data can be implemented to benefit you!

Big data is an ever-growing collection of information just waiting to be investigated and interpreted. As Kenneth Cukier says in his TED talk, “More data allows us to see new. It allows us to see better. It allows us to see different.” Utilizing what we learn about the world from big data, we can make decisions that allow us to widen our impact upon our audience and the community as a whole.


Check out Cukier’s TED talk for more information on the exciting possibilities of big data:



Everything You Need to Know About Hashtags

Everything You Need to Know About Hashtags


photo credit: oggin via photopin cc

Hashtags are everywhere these days. Probably because they’re so useful. According to studies, social media posts using hashtags get an average twelve percent increase in audience engagement. This tool allows content on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google +, Tumblr, and Pinterest to be searchable, categorized, and connected. In this blog we focus on how they can be used to benefit your organization. And yes, hashtags can be #professional.

First things first, what the heck is a hashtag?

Hashtags are like a filing system; they are key words or phrases that follow a pound sign (#) and link words in a tweet/post/photo etc with other content using the same hashtag, or keywords, across the platform in which it is posted. If you search, for example, #education on Twitter, you will find a huge collection of tweets about education, and if you tweet something with #education you become a contributor to the #education conversation.

How to Use The Thing

Stay Informed – It is important to stay abreast of issues important to your organization, and following Twitter hashtags is an efficient way to do just that. You can do a simple search for the hashtag you desire, or use apps like TweetDeck and HootSuite to organize your hashtag searches for you.

Build a Brand – Joining in on a conversation has its benefits, but pioneering the way can also bring value to your organization. Organizational hashtags can serve to highlight a particular cause or campaign, and it allows you to encourage your followers to get involved and share photos, videos, ideas, and stories using the hashtag you created.

Living Conversations – Live tweeting enables you to be actively engaged in a conversation around an event. Use a special event hashtag to pull the audience in and draw attention to the important work that you’re doing. For example, if you’re hosting a forum or public meeting you can craft tweets about the event in real time. This allows your audience to follow the important ideas or happenings of an event if they are unable to attend themselves. Live tweeting can also be used to facilitate a question and answer session with higher ups in your organization. Inform your audience that they can ask questions using a particular hashtag and you can respond using that same hashtag. This is a great way to directly interact with the audience and showcase how much you care about the people involved with your organization.

Hashtags are one of many ways for your audience to get involved and spread the word.

Creating Your Own Hashtag

Hashtags should be simple, short and easy to remember. They should accurately reflect the goals of your hashtag campaign and showcase who you are as an organization. (To be safe, always invest in a little time and energy into searching your hashtag to ensure it doesn’t carry any baggage).

A few basic rules of hashtags:

  • Never use spaces. If your hashtag involves multiple words, use capital letters to differentiate between them. (#EducationReform)
  • Numbers and letters are fair game, but no punctuation marks or special symbols are allowed with hashtags.
  • Try to use between one and three hashtags per tweet/post/photo. Too many hashtags can be distracting.

A note of caution about hashtag campaigns: they are impossible to control. The point of hashtags is to allow the audience to share and build upon your message, and the danger with social media campaigns is that you have very little power over them once they’ve been shared with your audience. Take NYPD’s #myNYPD twitter campaign as an example. They asked followers to tweet photos of them with NYPD officers with the hashtag #myNYPD in the hopes that twitter feeds would be filled with photos of smiling officers and civilians. Twitter users had a different idea. The movement was almost immediately hijacked by users posting photos of police brutality and misconduct with the hashtag #myNYPD. While we’re not worried about something like this with any of our clients, this campaign serves as a reminder about the unpredictability of social media. When creating a hashtag, make sure to think it over fully and carefully before you let your audience take control of your message.

Creating and Tracking Your Hashtag Campaign

Once you’ve decided on a hashtag and campaign, create a unified campaign that spans all of your hashtag-friendly social media platforms.

You can track your progress and impact by using a simple Google search or using applications like Tagboard or Talkwalker. Watching the conversations and ideas that grow from your hashtag is a great way to track audience engagement to inform campaign direction and evolution.

We know the work you do is important to the communities of New Mexico. Hashtags are a way to make sure everyone else knows it, too.

Going Viral

photo credit: Mayo Clinic via photopin cc

photo credit: Mayo Clinic via photopin cc

Going Viral

Statistics tell us that out of Internet users, 99 percent have seen a video of somebody, or lots of somebodies, pouring ice water over their heads to support medical research. While absurd, it is in fact true.

The Ice Bucket Challenge, an effort to promote awareness about amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), went viral in July-August 2014. The Ice Bucket Challenge has been one of the most wildly successful philanthropic campaigns in Internet history. Since its inception in June, 2014 the campaign has raised over 100 million dollars for research and boasts that “everyone from Ethel Kennedy to Justin Timberlake” have participated.

The Ice Bucket Challenge is a prime example of a viral campaign. But why did it compel millions of people to participate, and not only participate but also give their money to a charitable cause?

To give a tiny background, the challenge essentially encourages nominated participants to be filmed as they pour a bucket of ice water over their heads and then egg their friends on to do the same. A common stipulation is that nominated participants have 24 hours to dump freezing water on their heads or forfeit by way of a charitable donation for ALS research.

This viral video campaign garnered massive amounts of attention and donations, and we’re here to track some of the conditions that created this perfect viral storm.

  1. Emotion – Viral content can be almost anything – a stunt, a wildly absurd music video, a cat video – but there’s a fundamental rule for viral content: it must provoke emotion. Rosana E. Guadagno, a social psychologist, recently did a study comparing how often videos were shared. She found that emotional videos were shared most often, and videos ranked as funny or cute were shared most compared to those that evoked negative emotions like sadness or anger.
  1. Irony – Audiences respond to videos that are surprising and sometimes a little strange. In a study of the top viral videos of 2011, researchers found that 90% of videos contained what they called “irony.” They defined irony as breaking social norms, and it often appeared in videos that also incorporated surprise. People like content when it’s different and exciting, and by offering something funny or unexpected you up the likelihood of people sharing your content with followers and friends.
  1. Quick Delivery – They get straight to the point. The same study cited above found that 75% of viral videos in 2011 had three words or less in the title, and the majority of viral content was under three minutes. Internet attention spans are short; content that doesn’t waste time wins.
  1. Participation – Another facet of viral campaigns, like the Ice Bucket Challenge, is that they encourage the audience to participate and become part of the movement themselves through creating their own content. Viral content encourages parodies, comments, or original videos as a way to get an audience invested in the campaign.

Viral campaigns are relevant in today’s interconnected world because social sharing has enabled information to reach vast audiences. If you key into that perfect viral storm the friends of friends of friends of people who follow you might just stumble upon your organization on their feed and become your most avid supporter. Viral content is a tool to reach out to a broader audience that would never connect with you in any other way.

If you can tell a story that matters and creates an emotional response, get people involved in an easy and social way, and make a simple ask, you can create a viral campaign. We all seek validation, after all.

If you want to further explore going viral, watch these TED talks about viral content:

The Interconnected World of Social Media

photo credit: Jason A. Howie via photopin cc

photo credit: Jason A. Howie via photopin cc

The Interconnected World of Social Media

The Internet has revolutionized the way we communicate. Accessing and sharing information has never been easier; the challenge is that this accessibility has made the Internet into a very, very big place. There are all kinds of platforms used to send messages, and it seems, as organizations, we’re expected to use almost every one of them.

An organization might have a Facebook, Twitter, Pintrest, LinkedIn, WordPress, Tumblr, and even a Google Plus account. There’s a lot to choose from. We’re here to help sift through these multiple platforms and provide a window into how each can be used to build relationships around your work.

Using multiple platforms allows your organization to communicate in a wide variety of ways with audiences seeking different kinds of information and ways to engage. Different online platforms show different facets of your organization’s personality. Websites are a more serious, straight-to-business face, while Twitter sheds light on a more chatty, social side. If coordinated correctly, different platforms can be woven together to tell your story and promote your organization by actively engaging targeted audiences in ways that build your presence and support.


Websites are your foundational starting point and are often the pivotal platform that unites all others. Websites are the most formal platform; they should provide all the information your supporters, “consumers,” funders or partners might need to understand the work you do. It is a great place to seek donations, and also a key location to provide links to any and all other platforms you’re using to share your work. Other platforms should link, in turn, to your website to ensure any curiosity about the foundation of your work is satiated within a few clicks.      Learn more about websites and social media in our Social Media Guide


If you do a blog correctly, you can shine light on more of your organizational personality than your website is designed for; website content is not typically updated very often, however, your blog creates a sustained, albeit formal, conversation, and keeps your audience coming back for more. Blogs are a great way to interact with those you are collaborating with because they showcase steady updates on what you are up to most currently.

Social Media:

Now that your organizational message has a foundation on your website and blog, it’s time to reach out to “the consumers”; social networking is a great way to do just that and Facebook is a good first stop. This platform is designed to build a community of people who share your goals and ideas, and best of all, on Facebook you can interact directly with your audience and engage folks (and partners) in conversation around the work you do – in real time. Social networking has the same goals as traditional networking, but now you have a wider pool of people right at your fingertips. The information you put up on Facebook notifies your friends about what you are up to and, most importantly, your Facebook page serves as a way for others involved or interested in similar work to find out about you and your organization.


Use microblogs (literally mini blogs), like Twitter, to put out small pieces of information on a regular basis. Microblogs are a way to share the essence of you message in small posts that are 140 characters or less. Users won’t often visit your profile page on a microblog like Twitter; instead the short message you send out will go straight to personal newsfeeds. Microblogs are a more individualized and real-time platform that is best used to directly interact with those interested in your work. This type of platform is quick and easy, and if you pique peoples’ interest enough (through your witty, relevant posts), they will take your lead and follow you to your website or other platforms (because you’re doing a pro job interconnecting all your organizational platforms, right?).

Sharing Visual Content:

The internet offers a wide variety of content options, so take advantage! Videos and photos are eye-catching ways to pull folks into learning more about you. Platforms like YouTube, Pintrest, and Instagram are great for collecting visual content. And they also make it possible for your audience to create content for you (this is great because not only does it diversify your content, but it also communicates you have folks that LOVE what you do)! Don’t forget, videos and photos should link to your other platforms, like your website, blog, social media, and your microblog.


Social media platforms are a way to branch out and pull a new audience into your website. Remember, your website is the beating heart of your online presence. It’s the source of the most important information for your audience and partners. Nothing functions without the website, and the whole point of all other social media platforms is to funnel users to it.

Think of your website as the hub of a wheel, and all of your social media platforms are spokes leading your audience back to the hub. Everything leads back to your website because Social Media, no matter the platform, is simply another way to get down to business and really impact the community.


For more information take a look at our social media guide:

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