FINRA, the independent financial industry regulatory authority, is investing in social media. It’s a tad indirect, but it’s for a good cause nonetheless. The organization, along with The American Library Association, is awarding $1.5 million in grants to grass roots public library systems, which intend to use the funds for social media and other education programs. The grant is a sign of good measure, with more companies looking towards social media for reasons beyond mere marketing.
The American Library Association is located in rural central Illinois, though the ultimate hope is that technological advancements will further the association’s mission to give information access to all. The library system is using its newly funded social media plans to target 13 to 35 year-olds, which is a typical demographic range for most social media efforts.
For FINRA, a primary objective with the grant is to push financial education for teens. Utilizing an aspect of our culture that has captured the attention of our youth, social media is considered a prime outlet for such a cause. Financial education is an important task, especially given the changes occurring in our economy. Programs that were set up decades ago for financial security are lapsing, and other options available to the public are unknown to the average consumer. Moving our economy forward will require an ability to truly educate people about their options and responsibilities, especially when it comes to being active consumers and investing in financial markets.
There are two gaps that the FINRA grant could help address in order to help all participating organizations reach their goals here: the technology gap for rural areas, and the generation gap that has played out in online environments. In order to maintain increased levels of access information, the rural areas of the nation will also need to be connected to the web via high speed Internet. Building out the infrastructure for this can be a massive undertaking in its own right, so bringing more advanced technology options to certain areas can solve part of the problem.
Additionally, social media through online networking has become another example of the generation gap in our culture. Finding a way to leverage social media for the purpose of education systems, especially those of a financial nature, may be more difficult than simply improving the infrastructure that delivers Internet access to rural areas. Social media is a great conduit for education programs, though targeting teens in this manner is another story in itself.
While social media is also a less expensive way to market and present educational tools to the masses, it’s also becoming a standard for large-scale communication. One the one hand, it’s a good way to utilize newer technology for the purpose of achieving the goal of spreading an education system to as many people as possible. On the other hand, organizations such as Peoria’s rural library system are gaining strong desires to go to where the people are, leveraging current trends to access their target demographic by appealing to their new online behavior.
Other archiving efforts have already been under way, with the Library of Congress making big moves to present a good portion of its content to be available in digital formats online. The digitization of things like books, and the creation of education programs to be accessible online is the next wave of information dissemination, making more people aware of the tools that are presented to them for free.
Certain technology companies, including Google, have also taken large measures to aid in the preservation of information through the use of online resources. Google has been behind multiple projects for digitizing and making books searchable in online formats. Additionally, there are other Google Apps that are designed for use within the education system, presenting free or discounted resources to the organizations that work towards similar goals.