Friday, October 31, 2014

IST 686 Blog #3 - Social Media Messaging Analysis

Social Media and the Ladder of Engagement 

Reflecting on my last blog post, I really got to see how Zurb’s Foundation as well as Twitter’s Bootstrap were able to use their blog to keep developers updated on the latest developments on their respective frameworks. However these blogs do not necessarily give both Foundation and Bootstrap the ability to directly interact and engage their followers. As a result, I decided to take a closer look into Foundation’s (by now it should be pretty obvious that I prefer Foundation to Bootstrap!) Twitter profile to study their approach on social media and to get a feel for their social media strategy. As it turns out, Foundation is fairly active on Twitter (tweeting roughly 5 to 6 times a day) so there were quite a lot of tweets to go through. I particularly wanted to see how Foundation’s tweeting patterns fit into Li and Bernoff’s Ladder of Engagement.

Throughout the past week of studying Foundation’s tweets, I found that the majority of their tweets were promoting the Foundation framework itself. These tweets almost always contained a short catchy blurb followed by a promotion image or a short video. These tweets also contain a link to either the Foundation website or the latest blog post on the Foundation blog.

Going through all these similar tweets, I’d like to think that Foundation primarily uses these tweets as a way to raise awareness of their framework to developers across Twitter. Thinking in terms of Li and Bernoff’s Ladder of Engagement, I believe that Foundation approaches Twitter from a creator or a conversationalists perspective. These tweets are meant to inform followers by creating tweets that contain information on Foundation’s developments. Moreover Foundation also seeks to promote themselves to developers (especially using eye-catching promotion images and videos to attract to beginner and amateur developers) that are on Twitter.

I find it really interesting how followers of Foundation somehow prefer commenting an interacting through these tweets as compared to actually making comments on the blog posts. Now that I think about it more, it actually makes more sense for Foundation to take a more active approach to interact their blog posts through Twitter than on their blog, particularly since it allows them to reach a larger audience. Most importantly, they don't exactly have to put a lot of effort into promoting their blog posts because their followers can do that for them as they retweet and favorite the tweets that they send out so that other people that don't follow Foundation might come across these tweets.

Foundation also tries to take the conversationalist aspect further with tweets that just contain a simple statement or a question to stir the discussion amongst their followers. While it does take some time for followers to eventually respond to these tweets, Foundation does reply to their followers fairly quickly to answer any questions or concerns they might have. In addition to stirring up conversations, Foundation also replies to any tweet that mentions their framework in hopes of starting a conversation.

Taking a closer look at these tweets that utilize the conversationalist approach, I’ve discovered how these tweets are purposely worded so that they are search-engine friendly. Being a developer, I’ve lost count how many times I’ve turned to twitter solve any coding problem I might have run into. Utilizing this conversationalist approach while also making the content of their tweets search-engine friendly enables Foundation to efficiently engage developers across Twitter. It also gives developers the chance to connect with each other in hopes of solving each other’s problems. It most definitely is a faster way to get solutions than posting and waiting for replies on Stack Overflow ( or searching hopelessly on Google for solutions, at east that's based on my own experience. In that sense Foundation doesn’t necessarily have to become the provider of solutions but rather to facilitate the process of finding solutions while also promoting their own brand at the same time. Quite genius when you actually think about it, it most certainly makes for efficient online marketing.

I also found it interesting how Foundation promotes itself by tweeting about users and big-name companies that use the Foundation framework to build their websites and web-based applications. By doing this, these tweets by Foundation most certainly add a lot of emotional appeal to users that are new to the whole concept of responsive web design as well as developers that are trying to decide on a responsive framework.

While these tweets are a great way to generate conversations amongst Foundation and their followers, it also enables to fulfil the critic role as highlighted in Li and Bernoff’s Ladder of Engagement. By commenting and contributing on Twitter about the users that utilize the Foundation framework, they in turn are able to generate interest by highlight what they can potentially accomplish using the Foundation framework. These tweets also have the potential to generate conversations as well as the chance for Foundation to connect with their user base. Once again, these tweets also enable Foundation to promote their own brand at the same time.

Based on the week’s worth of tweets that I studied, it is pretty obvious that Foundation seeks to gain a more personal approach in a way their blog never could. The great thing about twitter when you think from the perspective of Foundation is that it gives them the opportunity to effectively connect with their user base. This instant interaction allows Foundation to truly understand the needs of their users so that they can tweak their product base to meet the demands. This is essentially the whole purpose of the Ladder of Engagement that Li and Bernoff discussed. 

The whole ladder concept is meant to allow users of social media to understand their users in order to meet their marketing goals. The Ladder of Engagement also enables users of social media to identify their target audience as well as to find ways to enter new markets. That could be why Foundation’s tweets cover such a broad mix of topics from the shortcuts of Foundation, general web programming tips, to even career advice in the field of web development. By being creators, critics, and conversationalists, Foundation is able to approach Twitter to accomplish their goal of keeping users updated by being directly connected to them. At the same time, these roles enable Foundation to find chances to grow their customer base.

While the Foundation blog and their Twitter platform do seem unique, I’d like to think that they actually work hand in hand. The Foundation blog gives followers a broad and general idea of what Foundation is all about. Twitter on the other hand makes up the blog’s shortcomings by giving Foundation the chance to connect individually with their users. In that sense, both Foundation’s blog and its Twitter profile help fulfil functions of the Ladder of Engagement.

Just something random that a realized as I was ending this blog post. While it was my supervisor at work that got me into learning and using the Foundation framework, I actually first learnt about the framework from a friend of mine back home that tweeted something about how he started to use the framework and how much he loved it. Even though this tweet wasn't from Foundation, I'd like to think that the community that they have built through Twitter has helped them reach larger crowds of people. I guess this really highlights how useful the Ladder of Engagement can be when used effectively.

Foundation's Twitter Profile:

Saturday, October 18, 2014

IST 686 Blog #2 - Assessing Corporate or Organization Blogging

Blogs: A Great Resource to Learn How to Code

Web development has been a passion of mine ever since I got into the iSchool three years ago. As I got my feet wet in the world of web development towards the end of my freshman year, I’ve been on the lookout out for resources to pick up the necessary skills needed to succeed in the web development industry. While the things I learnt in the classroom as well as the various web development books that I bought definitely helped get me started, I wanted to venture deeper into web development. I naturally turned to the Internet to look for more resources to learn from. Throughout this process, I stumbled across a myriad of tutorials and blogs that I follow even till this day. Now that I think about, I'm actually really surprised at how much I've learnt through web development blogs, especially when I started getting into backend development and responsive design (which is essentially web design/development for mobile devices such as smart phones and tablet computers). Online blogs are a great resource to learn how to code.

Bootstrap and Foundation: The leading responsive-development frameworks

Two of my favorite blogs are the Bootstrap by Twitter and Foundation by Zurb. Both Bootstrap and Foundation are Cascading Style Sheet (CSS) frameworks that utilize a “grid” system allow for a standardized and efficient manner of web development. Web developers like using either of these frameworks because the grid system shortens the time needed to develop web applications or websites while also providing instant responsive design. Both these frameworks also give a lot of flexibility in that it gives advanced developers the ability to really customize the framework and it also making it easy for beginner or novice developers to get around things.

The grid system responds to the screen size of your web-viewing device

Both these blogs serve similar purposes – to promote the various features each framework provides as well as to educate new developers on how the framework actually works. Written mostly by developers of the framework, these blogs feature examples of existing websites and applications that utilize these frameworks. For example Foundation might blog about a website that uses the Foundation framework while Bootstrap on the other hand might blog about a mobile application that is available on iOS or Android. These examples help showcase what developers can potentially accomplish with the framework. Both Bootstrap and Foundation blog very frequently (almost on a daily basis), so it provides developers with a great resource to learn from.

Foundation and Bootstrap also utilize their blog to inform users of the updates and patches they have released to their respective framework. These blog posts also contain a considerable amount of detail documentation to ensure that developers of all background understand the changes that have been made as well as how they can effectively utilize these upgrades to better enhance their websites or web applications. Most importantly, the majority of Foundation and Bootstrap's blog posts are about how their framework meets the demands of today's web development environment.

Foundation by Zurb

The difference between coding with Foundation or Bootstrap is essentially minimal so it all really boils down to personal preference. I myself like Foundation better and so I follow the Zurb Foundation blog a lot more closely than I do the Bootstrap blog. One of the biggest issues I have with learning to code from online resources is that they often intimidate me with sophisticated writing as well as confusing descriptions. This intimidation ultimately turns me off from reading the rest of the blog or tutorial. What I really love about the Foundation blog is that it comes across as your typical blog that you might come across on the web. While the target audience of the blog is web developers, it features graphic images as well as descriptive and uncomplicated write-ups. This makes understanding the purpose of the blog post much easier and it also encourages me to click on the follow-up links to the tutorials and templates that the bloggers attach to at the bottom of each blog post. I like to think that it is the simplistic style of writing used in the Foundation blog as the reason why I prefer using Foundation to Bootstrap.

The Foundation Blog – Nicely written and easy to understand

What I also love about the Foundation blog is that the blog posts aren’t just limited to the Foundation framework itself or the topic of responsive design. The blog also features topics such as web design concepts, web development tricks as well as shortcuts, career advice, and even eCommerce strategies. From time to time, Foundation might also blog about current affairs that affect the web development industry while also sharing their thoughts on the issue. So not only does Foundation provide me with a great resource to learn how to code, it also keeps me on the loop of things in regards to what’s happening around the world of web design and development.

Bootstrap by Twitter

The Bootstrap blog on the other hand comes across as a lot more technical resource. While the blog posts do read a lot like the Foundation blog in that it is rather informally feature and it also features images and videos, it also includes code snippets that developers can directly copy from to use in their own work so that they do not necessarily have to start from scratch. The blog posts are really long and even though it does use a rather informal writing style, it can come across as a bit intimidating for beginner and novice programmers, which is why I never really went through the Bootstrap blog when I first started getting into responsive web design a year ago. Despite all that, the writing on the Bootstrap blog is incredibly detailed and descriptive and I’ve found that spending some time to re-read the blog posts actually provides a great learning experience.

Code snippets developers can copy from and use in their own projects

Even though I personally prefer using Foundation, majority of websites that feature responsive design utilize Bootstrap. This comes as no surprise, especially since Twitter developed Bootstrap after all so it is easy to imagine how the Twitter brand name would naturally attract more users. The Bootstrap blog naturally uses this to their advantage as they constantly blog about big name companies that utilize the Bootstrap framework to build their websites and mobile applications. Reading these blog posts is a great way to find out the trends and developments of web design, especially checking out the websites of big-named corporations. 

The world of web development is constantly changing and so developers have to constantly keep their eyes open with the latest web development technologies. Under the advice of my professors and my supervisors at work, I've been following web development blogs to keep tabs on the development of the industry. While blogs like Foundation and Bootstrap are a great way to keep up with things, they also provide a solid learning resource to pick up and improve coding skills.

Throughout my time following blogs like Foundation and Bootstrap, I have learnt to challenge myself by crossing over and applying the lessons I’ve learnt from each blog. For example I might look at a template provided by the Bootstrap blog and I would try to replicate the template using the Foundation framework. In that sense reading these types of blogs fosters creativity by encourages developers to think outside of the box, which ultimately leads to learning.

Moreover, reading web development blogs has kept me up to date with the world of web development. Despite the fact that I consider myself more of a developer than a designer, going through the examples posted in these blogs gives me the chance to tap into my artistic side as it gives me inspiration and design ideas for future projects. Blog posts about current affairs on the web development industry are also great places to ensure that my coding skills are up to par with the industry’s demands. Most importantly these posts ensures that I am completely familiar with both Foundation and Bootstrap's features and how these features meet the demands of the world of web development.

All in all, blogs can make absolutely great learning resources to pick up web development skills while staying up to date with the ever-changing world of web design and development.

Foundation by Zurb Blog:
Bootstrap by Twitter: