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The Power of Social Media with Ellen Graves-Part 1

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Wednesday, September 11, 2019 - 6:00am

Ellen Graves, Social Media Guru, spreads the word on the do's and don'ts of the social media world.


Announcer: This is 4-H-4-U-2, a podcast from the Mississippi state university extension service promoting 4-H programs and positive youth development. Here now your host, Dr. John Long and Cobie Rutherford.

John Long: And welcome to another edition of 4-H-4-U-2 podcast. I'm your host John Long.

Cobie Rutherford: And I'm Cobie Rutherford.

John Long: And Cobie, how are you doing?

Cobie Rutherford: Doing fine, John.

John Long: Great, great.

Cobie Rutherford: We have survived summer.

John Long: Yes we have. And we still got a ways to go as far as it getting cooler. But yeah, we have survived. So we're moving on, looking into next year and we are so excited to have our guest with us today. Miss Ellen Graves is with us. Hello Ellen.

Ellen Graves: Hey y'all.

John Long: We're just so proud to have her here. It's one of those things where we feel honored to have you here.

Ellen Graves: No, I'm honored. No, I'm honored, really.

Cobie Rutherford: I feel like we're in the midst of a celebrity because everyone knows-

Ellen Graves: No, no. This is a milestone in my career, honestly, to be here with y'all today. So.

John Long: So Ellen, tell us a little bit about yourself, where you're from, and how you got to where you are right now.

Ellen Graves: That's a great question. John.

John Long: Your stardom. You're a star dumb.

Ellen Graves: Yeah, right. Oh, so I was raised in Ackerman, Mississippi.

John Long: Whoop-whoop.

Ellen Graves: And I actually went to Ole Miss, which might be surprising to some people since I wound up at State.

John Long: Look, I'm not offended by that.

Ellen Graves: Thank God.

John Long: And I'll say that right now because there's some great doctors up there.

Ellen Graves: That's right. And lawyers, you know, we got them. So I went to Ole Miss, and I got my degree in journalism. I actually got it in print journalism, and after I graduated I was really interested in doing something with social media. So all throughout college social media was starting to become a real thing. And I could tell that businesses and organizations did not understand how to use it. They needed someone who did. And so I made, every chance I could, I made in college to actually incorporate social media, whether it was into my thesis for the Honors College, or into jobs, internships.

Ellen Graves: And so when I got out of school, this job came open, Social Media Strategist with Ag. Communications.

John Long: Wow, so right out-

Ellen Graves: Yes.

John Long: Off the bat. I didn't realize that.

Ellen Graves: So I graduated in May, 2013 and I started this job August, 2013, so I was just a baby.

John Long: Gosh, you've been here that long?

Ellen Graves: Yeah, six years.

John Long: Wow. It doesn't' seem like that.

Ellen Graves: I know. Time flies when you're having fun.

John Long: Yeah. We like that though.

Ellen Graves: So I applied for this job, and it's exactly what I wanted to do. I was surprised it was at Mississippi State because being an Ole Miss graduate. I wasn't necessarily looking for a job like this, but I said this is ... When I read the description, it's what I wanted to do. And so I applied, and went through a rigorous interview process, and here I am.

John Long: We're so glad to have you for sure. And Cobie, if you want to know where Ellen lived when she grew up. I think her house is the only one in Ackerman that has a cupola. However you pronounce it.

Ellen Graves: Yeah, some people think that it was going to be a KFC because it has a similar look.

John Long: It's an off the road KFC.

Ellen Graves: Right, right, right. No chickens, we have cows.

John Long: It's a beautiful place by the way.

Ellen Graves: Thank you.

John Long: No, I had to say that because it is a pretty cool house. So do you ever get up, go back to the school up North?

Ellen Graves: Oh yeah. Oh yeah. Every chance I get I try and get back up there. I tried to not be too overwhelmingly Rebel here at State because I know where I'm at. But yeah, I love where I came from.

John Long: It's all right to claim where you're from.

Ellen Graves: That's right. That's right.

John Long: Nothing wrong with that. Just like we do.

Ellen Graves: That's right.

Cobie Rutherford: Exactly.

Ellen Graves: That's right.

John Long: So we're going to be talking today about the big time thing that it's just blown up, and that is social media, which is what you do. So what exactly, how do you define social media because it's just got so many different branches now than when ... I just remember, I can't remember what the first thing was. What was the first thing? Give us a little history of social media if you don't mind, because I don't really know a whole bunch myself.

Ellen Graves: Sure. So Myspace was probably one of the first platforms that was used by the mass public. And that was actually before my time. I was never on Myspace because I was too young. But Facebook, of course, was after that. Instagram.

John Long: And it had a similar platform, right?

Ellen Graves: Yes.

John Long: Myspace did?

Ellen Graves: Myspace did. I think Facebook probably figured out how to do it better than Myspace, and so of course they survived and Myspace did not. But I got Facebook when I was a 10th grader in high school, so that was back in about 2007. And so that was my first introduction to it. And I think what's really helped me, even though I'm technically one of like the younger employees in Extension, but in social media I've seen how it's grown, because I've been on Facebook since I was a 10th grader.

Ellen Graves: And so whenever I was on Facebook for the first time, I had to be invited by a friend. I still remember getting an email saying like, "Kristen has invited you to join Facebook." And so I've seen how it's progressed from like that to where it is today. And so I think just being able to observe that as a professional, it helps me make decisions about what platforms we use, and how we use it, and all that kind of stuff.

John Long: So you've got a great base for that?

Ellen Graves: Yeah. Yeah.

Cobie Rutherford: I think about when the way Facebook has evolved in my eyes. So I joined in 2004 when I was an undergrad at Auburn University. And then we were still using flip phones, and we would have to physically log into a computer. And if we wanted to upload pictures, we would have to get pictures from our disposable camera or our other type of camera, take them to Walmart, put them on a CD, put the CD in the computer, upload the pictures. Which in my mind, that was fantastic because it got us accustomed to social media before we learned how to use a smart phone or before smart phone technology became available, and before if there was instantaneous. So we had some decision making time incorporated into those decisions. But to me it's a great tool for young people but also can be a a risk as well. What do you think about that?

Ellen Graves: I agree with that. And I actually just did a workshop at co-op for, for 4-H-ers this summer. And that was one of our topics we talked about is that we have to be smart using social media. You need to be safe using social media. In my mind, there's right and wrong in this world and that still applies to social media. So it's all about making good decisions, whether it's on social media or just in day to day life. And so I really did encourage them to think before you post, because what you post now as a teenager can affect you the rest of your life.

Ellen Graves: And I think that's something, looking back, growing up I had to wait until I was a 10th grader, right? So I was at least a little bit more mature than some of these kids who are getting on social media when they're in junior high or even younger. So I think parents, even though they might not feel like they know as much about the platforms as they do, as the children do. The parents though are responsible for teaching kids right and wrong. And I think that still applies on social.

John Long: Yeah. Be smart with your smart phone.

Ellen Graves: That's right. I love that. Did you invent that?

John Long: You can take that.

Ellen Graves: That was good.

John Long: Right here. Right now.

Ellen Graves: Boom. Get that trademarked.

John Long: This is what happens right in here.

Ellen Graves: I can tell. This is where the magic happens.

John Long: This is where the magic happens. And I totally agree with you on that. I had a discussion with my nephew, not really a discussion, we were playing UNO, so I don't know what kind of discussion that was.

Ellen Graves: Serious discussion.

John Long: Really. To play with them. I mean it's just like ... Yeah, I don't know. It's very irritating. Sorry. Sorry, Mike and Patrick.

Ellen Graves: Did you lose?

John Long: Yeah. It's not that I lost. It's the way that they were like, every time they'd throw a card down-

Ellen Graves: You're not bitter, are you?

John Long: They were like, "Ohhhhh." I'm like, "Come on guys, just chill." But I'm not 11 anymore.

Ellen Graves: Right, right.

John Long: So anyway. But they were talking, do you know what, what clout is on on Instagram?

Ellen Graves: I've heard of that term.

John Long: It's talking about if you have a certain backpack, then you get so many clout points. I don't know. It was strange. I just said, "Back in my day..."

Ellen Graves: Yeah, right. I'm starting to reach the age where I have to Google some of the terms that people are using. They're real popular now.

John Long: And you have to stay up with that in your job for sure.

Ellen Graves: I do. That's very true.

John Long: The readily availability of information is something that just is amazing to me and the "necessity" that we have to be connected. And the fact that I think, I don't want to say anonymity, but people seem to be more free with what they say or what they post on Facebook, and why do you think that is? Not Facebook, any social media for that matter. Why do you think that is?

Ellen Graves: Well, I think part of it is because the folks who are mostly doing that have grown up sharing about their lives and so it's not unnatural for them. Whereas for me and you and we have lived in a time where we didn't share stuff all the time on a website.

John Long: Didn't want people to know.

Ellen Graves: Right, right. It's a little bit more, I think, unnatural for us. But I think people in their heads are talking with their friends, right? It's just through a screen. And so they feel comfortable with that. They don't mind sharing about their lives, but I just still think that some people obviously need to take a step back sometimes and think about, "Did I need to share that? Did the world need to know that," because you might think you're sharing it with your friends and your family, but no telling who's looking at it. So, yeah.

Cobie Rutherford: So do you think this information that's posted and shared on these social media platforms ever really goes away regardless if you delete it yourself or...

Ellen Graves: I think it's always out there. And one of the reasons I told our 4-H-ers the other week at co-op is that people can take a screenshot of anything whether you choose to delete it. If they get a screenshot of it before you delete it, it's out there. And really, one of the things I encouraged our 4-H-ers to think about is when someone looks at your account for the first time, what kind of impression do you leave them with? And I feel like as people we should look at our own accounts ourselves and say what is this showing the outside world about myself. Is this an accurate portrait of myself? And I even encouraged them maybe every year around your birthday, go back through your accounts and just do a self cleanse and say, "Is this post, is that something I'm wanting to leave up here or should I delete it?"

Ellen Graves: Was that a post that was smart to make because eventually when you think about deleting stuff, you might start thinking about that when you're like applying for jobs, and you have decades of content to go through and pictures and videos that it's better to do it on a yearly basis. Just that self cleanse on your own social media posts.

John Long: I actually saw an employer post that yesterday. It was like, "Check your social media accounts before you come apply for a job for me."

Ellen Graves: Oh for sure. I mean, that's the first thing that we look at when someone applies for a job. I've been on several hiring committees, and I'm a Social Media Strategist so I can find some stuff about you if it's out there if I really want to, right? So.

John Long: Please don't.

Ellen Graves: Yeah, I know. I'll never look you up John. You're safe.

John Long: Thank you very much.

Cobie Rutherford: Yeah, I was thinking about that the other day. I had a former person that I'd run into that had applied for an internship with this company, and they got on her social media account, and she had posted something that was scientifically based but it didn't match his values as an employer. And he basically said, "I can't offer you this internship because our views don't align because you posted this on this date and this on this date." And to her that was a huge wake up call because she first of all didn't realize that he would even look at her social media account. And second she didn't see anything wrong with what she posted because it was science based, but had a political innuendo behind it, I guess.

Ellen Graves: Yeah, it can happen. I mean, I don't want to scare people out there because overall I do think social media is a force for good, and it's all about ... You can make the most of your own social media accounts by who you follow, right? So if you look at your newsfeed one day, and you're like, "Ugh, this is terrible." Well look at who you're following. Weed out the folks that are making your social media account not fun. But yeah, I mean you have to be careful about what you post about even with stuff that you think is not a problem at all. It might be a problem to somebody else.

John Long: Somebody else, yeah. For sure.

Ellen Graves: Yeah. And too, I mean honestly Cobie, the way I think about that is that, if that person, that employer didn't want her working for him because of that, but she still really believed what she posted about then that probably wasn't the best fit for her anyway.

Cobie Rutherford: Yeah. That's probably... Yeah. You're probably right, that definitely could have played both ways. One thing I also worry about as a parent, I will share pictures and things that my little boy does on Facebook and then all of a sudden I'm like, "What happens when he gets 14, 15 and then becomes aware of all this stuff that I've shared" or I could've shared. So I think about that, does he really won't a picture of himself in his diaper chasing his dog with a water hose?

John Long: Nobody does. But it always comes back to haunt you.

Cobie Rutherford: It always comes back.

John Long: They did that with Polaroids.

Ellen Graves: Right.

Cobie Rutherford: That's right.

Ellen Graves: See now it's really, I think of it as a digital scrapbook. Our moms and dads were doing pictures of us like that, but they were in a book in the shelf at the house. But now it's a digital way for people to put that together. And I think each parent just has to look at their own situation. Everyone has their own views about how comfortable they are with sharing certain aspects of their life. And I just think it pays off to be smart about it, but at the same time you want your friends and family to know about your kid. So it's just a balance. And I think maybe when that child gets old enough, hopefully they'll look back and appreciate maybe some of the fun memories, and that you were able to share it with friends and family. But any kid's going to be embarrassed by some pictures. Right?

Cobie Rutherford: Yeah absolutely. Absolutely.

John Long: I saw a Law and Order episode one time that talked about how readily available images were through that too. And of course there's always been people that are trying to do bad things, but the readily availability of images and things like that of young people, and that is always in the back of my mind. But then again, it's kind kind of hard to ... you want to share things with your family, but then you have to realize that that's a risk you run when you put it out there.

Ellen Graves: One of the things I talked about with our 4-H-ers the other week was just even when you think you've taken the precautions, like on Instagram for example, if you have a private account on Instagram and you're like, "Okay, I'm being safe with that." But in your bio section you have maybe that you're 16 years old, you're a cheerleader at West Jones high school. Then anybody could say, "Okay, well I know where she's at on a Friday night." So I try to bring up some of those points maybe that our 4-H-ers had not thought about, and that you have to keep in mind those nuances of the platforms where people from the outside that you don't think are actually following you can still see your information.

John Long: Right. And that brings up something too, because we just went on vacation. And well, it wasn't a vacation really, but it was a couple of days. But anyway, I never post any of my, where I am currently because I don't want people to know that I'm not at home.

Ellen Graves: They could rob you, right.

John Long: I want to keep them guessing.

Ellen Graves: Right. I understand that.

John Long: But then when you get back, of course, I always frame it from the standpoint had a great weekend.

Ellen Graves: Right. Right. Look at you being a social media strategist.

John Long: I'm just trying to be responsible, Ellen. Come on. I'm learning something.

Ellen Graves: You are.

John Long: So let me ask you this. In Ellen's opinion, is social media here to stay or is it something, do you think that will eventually fade away and become something else?

Ellen Graves: So that's a great question.

John Long: Well that's what I ask, is a great question, frankly.

Ellen Graves: You do. You do.

John Long: I'm kidding.

Ellen Graves: I know. You're doing good at this pod. You might take this thing full time. I don't know.

John Long: I'm telling you, we're taking it on the road.

Ellen Graves: Right?

John Long: Yeah.

Ellen Graves: That would be awesome. Do we have the budget for that?

John Long: No, no. We'll be taking nitro.

Ellen Graves: Right? Right. Pay for your own gas.

John Long: Right, right. We'll just put a clover on the side of it.

Ellen Graves: People can donate food.

John Long: Start a my fund me account, or something. Or fund me, whatever it is.

Ellen Graves: GoFundMe.

John Long: Yeah, GoFundMe, yeah, yeah.

Ellen Graves: But yeah, so to your question, in Ellen's opinion, it is around to stay. I think it will continue to evolve, and what is social media now might not be what social media is in 10 years.

John Long: Right, like you said earlier.

Ellen Graves: That's right. And so it will continue to evolve, but I think organizations like Extension and 4-H have a duty to be on social media because we need to meet our clients and our 4-H-ers where they are.

John Long: Absolutely.

Ellen Graves: So if they're on social media, we have to find a way to be there, and that's what they did when they hired me. They found a way to get us on there. So I think they were smart and very forward thinking to implement someone like me in our department.

John Long: And with Extension being what it is and why it served that purpose was to get information from the University out to the people. The quicker we can do that, the more ... And with reliable information on top of that, not just some Joe Blow out there.

Ellen Graves: That's right.

John Long: Spitting information out.

Ellen Graves: Let me take a point there too.

John Long: Go ahead.

Ellen Graves: That's one of the things that I've really been emphasizing with folks lately is that Extension and 4-H can fill a void on social media because I'll be the first to admit, so much content on social media is garbage. It is not true, it is not based in fact, it is opinion based, and what Extension has is the exact opposite. It is truthful, it is research based, it is information that you can trust to help your family.

Ellen Graves: And so I think that's why it's important for us to be on there because we can combat all the other falsehoods that are out there with the truth. And so that's one of the things I think about with my job. Not that I'm Captain America or anything, but in our small way-

John Long: Captain Marvel. Are you saying that?

Ellen Graves: Yeah, that's such a good movie.

John Long: It was a great movie.

Ellen Graves: I loved it.

John Long: Shameless plug. Captain Marvel.

Ellen Graves: That's right. Maybe they could sponsor us.

John Long: That's right. We'll put Captain Marvel on the back of the truck.

Ellen Graves: That's right. But I think in our own small way, I'm hoping that we're helping that issue on social media about providing good information.

John Long: You did tell people that Google is not-

Ellen Graves: Right.

John Long: You mean, you wind up saying what is this insect? And a lot of times you can find it, but it's not necessarily a hundred percent on everything.

Ellen Graves: That's right. We're a free resource. Why not get it from Mississippi folks that you know and love, right?

John Long: And we have fact based information is what you're saying too.

Ellen Graves: That's right.

Cobie Rutherford: Good deal. I mean, another thing I think about it is that it increases brand awareness. And when I see our post on Extension Facebook page or Extension, whatever platform it is, it tells people what we're doing here at Mississippi State, whether it's through the 4-H, or through crops, or all those different platforms. So I think it helps spread the positive message as well.

Ellen Graves: Oh, for sure.

John Long: Yeah. I have a friend that says that, of course he floats this, that there's nothing new under the sun. And he and I often argue that really there's nothing has really changed. It's just the method in which we do it. There's always been travel, travel's just changed. Well, exchange of information has always been there, it's just ... So I agree with you. I think that in the future, it will not make the same as what we're seeing now. And it's just a steady progression and evolution that's going to continue and continue. And I don't know if it's going to get better or worse, but we hope it's for the better.

Ellen Graves: Hope so.

John Long: Like you said, it's a tool for good and great.

Ellen Graves: That's right.

John Long: The superhero.

Ellen Graves: That's right.

John Long: See, there you go.

Cobie Rutherford: Well, John, I think that's about time for our first episode-

John Long: Yes, Ellen-

Cobie Rutherford: ... on social media.

John Long: Part two. So-

Ellen Graves: I know.

John Long: The sequel. Let's hope the sequel's as good as the original.

Ellen Graves: I hope so. I feel the pressure.

John Long: It's always a struggle to do the sequel better, right?

Ellen Graves: It is. I agree.

John Long: Yeah.

Cobie Rutherford: So we'll do a to be continued?

John Long: Yes, to be continued. Now I'm going to let Ellen fill us in. Ellen you tell us ... Not tell us because we know. Tell those listening exactly where can we go to get more information about Mississippi State Extension and 4-H program because you do it all. So tell us about that.

Ellen Graves: So of course, I would not be doing my job if I didn't give a shameless plug to follow us on social media. So you can find the Mississippi State University Extension service on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and Pinterest. And you can follow Mississippi 4-H on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat as well. So we're pretty easy to find just look for the maroon logo or the Mississippi 4-H clover. We'd love to have you, because we do a pretty good job. I'm biased, but we do a pretty good job of posting consistently on those platforms.

John Long: Awesome. Awesome. And I'll go and do ... Did you say the webpage?

Ellen Graves: Oh

John Long: Yeah, that's what I thought. I don't do WWW anymore.

Ellen Graves: Yeah. Yeah. People just know it. Yeah, right.

John Long: It's automatically assumed.

Ellen Graves: Right, right.

John Long: Well with that, and we can't wait to have you back again, Ellen.

Ellen Graves: Thank you.

John Long: And we're going to ... Appreciate you coming in today. And with that, that is our 4-H-4-U-2 podcast for the week. I'm John Long.

Cobie Rutherford: And I'm Cobie.

John Long: And we'll talk to you next time.

Announcer: Thanks for joining us for 4-H-4-U-2. For more information, please visit and be sure to subscribe to our podcast. 4-H-4-U-2 is produced by the Mississippi State University Extension Service, Office of Agricultural Communications.

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