Until the advent of broadcasting, people communicated using entirely different means: books, meetings at coffee shops, and snail mail. Afterwards, radio waves enabled people to communicate on a much wider scale, serving to inform thousands of people at the same time. That was followed by terrestrial and satellite television. All of these means of communication were fascinating once they were first launched. However, what makes social media and online communication superb is the fact that they are interactive. The sender and the receiver of the message can respond right away.
What is social media?
Social media is defined as “forms of electronic communication (such as web sites for social networking and microblogging) through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages, and other content such as videos.”
What is social media used for?
Social media is used for a variety of reasons including personal, professional, and educational purposes. To begin with, most people create a social media presence to keep in contact with their network of friends and acquaintances. Companies use it to build brand awareness and stay in touch with their client bases. Teachers even use social media in creative ways to engage and educate their students.
Social media allows you to share all kinds of information:
- Updates about your life events including marriage, children, and even what you had for lunch.
- Sites like Blogger, Tumblr, and LiveJournal, allow users to create an online journal that can be shared world wide. Often readers of these blogs then form a quasi community by commenting frequently on the sites’ content. They interact with each other and the author in this manner.
- Share videos that you created or that you found elsewhere on the Internet. You might find these videos engaging, entertaining, or informative. They may also have educational value.
- Digital photographs of yourself, your family or your friends. You can also share pictures from friends or pictures that you found elsewhere on the Internet.
- Links to sites or stories that you want others to see. As with news stories, you can express your opinion about the content of the story to engage or influence other people.
- Your opinion on topics or other people’s posts so as to organize a movement, share information, or inform others.
- Links to current events stories that interest you. You also have the ability to express your opinion about the story’s content or engage with others in your community.
What is a social media network?
A social media network is a website that allows users to interact with each other and with the community of users. A social media network usually requires the users to log in, create user accounts, and passwords to protect their online identities. Once a user has established an online presence on a social media site, they are able to connect to people they know from all around the globe. Some users choose to connect with only the people they know in real life, while others choose to allow other acquaintances on their social networks as well.
The most popular social media sites
- Sina Weibo.
- Tencent Weibo.
Some even newer platforms such as Tinder are well known in some areas, but have yet to reach a monthly user count that would put them on this list.
What is social media management?
Businesses have learned that social media is an excellent way to advertise their business, service, and products for nearly free. For example, an automobile company can post a new picture of their latest model vehicle. People who have liked their page not only see it, but share it for even more people to see. All of that happens for the cost of simply taking a photograph and having someone manage the account.
It’s not just large automobile manufacturers who engage in social media use. Almost any business or organization can make good use of the venue to spread their message. In fact, about 57% of small businesses use social media to engage with their customers.
- Primary and secondary schools use social media to announce events, send messages about emergency closings, and promote special events
- Universities use social media to draw attention to their institution, rally support behind sports teams, and keep in touch with students.
- Pro athletes, celebrities, politicians, and charities use social media to build their public brand and awareness of important causes.
- Local businesses use various social media platforms to advertise specials and to draw the attention of customers.
- Large corporations craft creative advertisements that they hope will go viral on social media and build brand awareness.
Social media account management
The account management is where things can become tricky. With so many social media accounts available, how does a business keep track of them all? Who is in charge of it? Social media accounts are valuable assets to a company or organization. Having the account hacked or mismanaged would be detrimental to the company’s image and brand. Companies want to tightly control the management of their social media accounts and the messages posted to each of them.
The benefits of social media to a company also include creating a dialogue with their customers rather than a monologue. According to the BBC in the United Kingdom, 36% of people had used social media to get in touch with a large company, and 65% of those people said it was a better experience than using a call center to air the same grievance. Using social media, especially Twitter, to complain about a service grabs the attention of companies very quickly. They are able to reach out to the consumer in real time to solve the problem. If they don’t, then they run the risk of other users sharing that negative post over and over. Businesses want to maintain a positive image on social media, so they will work quickly to resolve issues that might negatively impact their business. These people used social media to resolve negative customer service experiences and problems with the company’s product or services:
- Hertz Rental Car is now using Twitter to resolve customer service complaints.
- GoDaddy saw complaints by customers on Twitter that they were offended by the Super Bowl commercial the company had aired that year. In order to turn this negative into a positive experience, the company offered to help the woman move her domains to a new company to ensure positive customer service. This allowed the company to publicly put a positive spin on an otherwise negative tweet.
- Keith Pape was irritated that his American Airlines ticket did not allow him to standby on an earlier flight. Pape took to Twitter and complained about this. Within six minutes, American Airlines reached out to him and within an hour the situation was resolved to his satisfaction.
The simple fact is that businesses must not only have a social media presence, but they must attend to it and nurture it. They cannot simply ignore giants like Facebook and Twitter. The truth is that their customers are on these sites, whether the company is or not, and you can bet the customers have something to say. Better for a business to be in on that conversation than to ignore it entirely.
Social Media: Buyer Beware
The benefit of limiting your interaction to those people who personally know is that you limit the amount of information that you share with the world. When you open your social networks up to a larger audience, you also expose yourself to possible problems. Identity theft can happen if you overshare on public social networks. Keep some information private, such as your birthday, your address, and other very personal information. Some individuals have even used social media to try to cover their tracks in cases of having committed crimes against individuals or to learn when homeowners are on vacation and vulnerable to being robbed.
Overall, the world of social media has way more benefits than drawbacks, as long as you remain mindful about how your information can be used against you.