Sunday, September 8, 2013

Social Media? What's The Hype?

Social media websites like Facebook and Twitter are changing the way the world communicates with each other. Social networking sites are also changing the way companies advertise and the way people receive the news. For instance, companies are using Twitter and Facebook to market products to people who have a common interest in their products. For example, I list on my Facebook page that I go to college and that I like certain types of movies. All I see now on my feed page are ads for colleges and movies. Also, people log on to their social networking sites to get the latest news. I know that I have learned about several stories from logging onto my Facebook page. However, I always go to creditable news media sites to research the stories that I see on Facebook to make sure they are true stories. Sarita Yardi and Danah Boyd suggest that there were over 30,000 tweets about the shooting of a late-term abortion doctor, Dr. George Tiller in 2009. People from all over started to dispute the pro-choice/pro-life debate. (2010) Social media has a way of getting people involved with the news. Actually, as I have mentioned before, ordinary people can now distribute the news. We no longer have to wait to watch the news on television. We can see it happening in real-time by using social media and other sites. Clay Shirky mentions in his TED talk that people can upload real-time news as it is happening. He gives a great example of how citizens in China uploaded photos and videos of an earthquake before any news source or government officials had a chance to say anything about the earthquake. Because the Chinese government and the media could not contain the information, the Chinese government placed a firewall so Chinese citizens could not have access to sites such as Twitter. (2009) The Egyptian Government took similar action when political uprisings in that country were being coordinated through social media sites. This is a huge change in the way news is dispersed to the public. Before the internet and social media sites, people watched the news on the television or read the newspaper. Professional journalist were the ones researching and finding out what was going on locally and around the world to tell the public of their stories. People had to wait for the news to come on or go buy a newspaper. The news was not in real-time, and people could not read it instantly at any given time. In today’s society, as long as you have access to the internet, you can watch what is going on around you when something happens.
Social media is changing how companies look at marketing strategies. Some companies are laggards in the use of social media for their business; however, not using social media could harm their business. There are many good reasons why companies should use social media sites. Splash Media states the following on their web-site about the top 5 reasons why companies should use social media sites:


1.      The conversation is already out there, so a company is either in the conversation or left behind.

2.      Facebook has over 618 million daily active users. A company cannot afford to miss all those people.

3.      It is an easy and immediate way to connect to both fans and potential customers.

4.      It is a way for companies to support their traditional marketing ventures.

5.      There is a huge benefit to having access to real-time market feedback and intelligence. (www.splashmedia.com)

Companies should participate and socialize with their customers on social networking sites. This type of interaction allows for organizations to know exactly what customers like or dislike about their products. Todd Wasserman notes that organizations can use the following three strategies to market a brand to consumers:

1.      Passion: When companies connect their brand to the consumer’s passions and/or interests.

2.      Personalities: When companies entertain consumers with their personalities.

3.      Transparency: When companies provide interesting or important information to the consumers about the product/brand.
 
The organizations can use one or all of these strategies at the same time. Companies who use the passion approach can upload pictures or commercials to their social media sites of their brand associated with something their customers like. For example, the Nike Company uses pictures of athletes associated with Nike clothing. Companies that prefer to use the personality strategy use humor or witty comments to appeal and attract consumers. For example, Geico uses a funny gecko lizard and camel to appeal to their customers. The transparency approach informs the consumers on what makes the product the best of the best compared to all other like-minded products.  For example, IBM uploads several blogs informing the public of all the new innovations that IBM has to offer the world. (2013)
However, there are some risks involved in using social media. Communication specialists always need to be professional on their social media web-sites. If communication specialists are not professional, it can cost them their jobs. They also need to be sure their personal sites and blogs are professional as well. Like it or not, what you post online can cost you your job. One journalist, Shea Allen, lost her job with WAAY for posting her top ten confessions on her personal blog. Among some of Shea Allen’s confessions, she admits to sleeping on the job, going bra-less during live broadcasts, and stealing mail and putting it back. (Eck, 2013) Once communication professionals enter the digital world, they are constantly being watched by the public and by their employers. Also, unfriending someone from your social media circle has real-life consequences. David Mielach mentions that social media users who were unfriended had a lower self-esteem, they felt unwanted, and a sense of loss of control. They were actually in a worse mood after a social media break-up. (2013) People need to be considerate of this when using professional or personal sites. Communication specialists should take the same precautions when posting on their company or organization’s web pages. For better or worse, social media has become an inescapable part of most people’s daily lives.    

References:

Dynamic debates: An analysis of group polarization over time on Twitter
http://www.cc.gatech.edu/grads/y/yardi/pubs/Yardi_DynamicDebates.pdf

Facebook unfriending has consequences
http://www.businessnewsdaily.com/3890-unfriend-social-media.html

How social media can make history (This is a TED Talk video)
http://www.ted.com/talks/clay_shirky_how_cellphones_twitter_facebook_can_make_history.html
   
Steal three social marketing tricks from top brands
http://mashable.com/2013/02/22/social-media-marketing-strategy/        
WAAY (Huntsville) reporter fired after posting a list of confessions to her personal blog
http://www.mediabistro.com/tvspy/waay-reporter-fired-after-posting-list-of-confessions-to-personal-blog_b98996