The Purpose of Social Media

The Meaning of Social Media

Social Media is a fantastic buzzword. Just like “Web 2.0”, designed to make the “non-techies” scratch their heads . Granted however, most industry professionals have at least some idea what social media is.

The easiest approach is to break it down; social is the opposite of solitary. The social aspect by definition means more than one person’s involvement. But its far bigger than that. We’re talking communities of people quite possibly across multiple geographical and geopolitical boundaries. Furthermore it could cross religions in ways otherwise impossible, cross races and genders by their very nature of bringing together like minded people. The ‘social’ in social media is the most fascinating part of it all. Possibilities are endless.

And what of the term ‘media’ in social media? The term merely implies a platform from which to enable the social element.

Here’s a great definition:

“In communication, media is the storage and transmission tools used to store and deliver information or data. It is often referred to as synonymous with mass media or news media, but may refer to a single medium used to communicate any data for any purpose. (communication)

So its a means of storing and transmitting information. Combined with ‘social’ the end result is a means to share information within a community, or allowing a community itself to share information with others.

And there countless examples out there in cyberspace I’m sure I only need to name a few: Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, FlickR, Tripadvisor and Amazon.
Or perhaps you wouldn’t have classed Amazon or Tripadvisor under the social media banner? if not then consider the fact that Tripadvisor’s media model is based entirely on it’s ability to generate social interaction. And that a big part of Amazon’s success has been down to the ability to leverage the power of social reviews. Free marketing if you like… imagine that; customers selling your product because they have an opportunity to talk about it.

Social Reviews

There are huge risks in this. If 10 customers write glowing reports on your product and influence a number of people to buy, imagine what 10 negative reviews could do to your product? Even 5? In fact all it could take is 1 very negative review and those 10 positive reviews are completely ignored. This is a risk that many companies take due to the potential of social reviews. How do you mitigate this?

One simple way is to react in a positive way; “we’re sorry you had a bad experience with XYZ, we value your honest feedback and would like to discuss how we could better improve our products”. Social reviews then become a feedback mechanism for product research and improvement. Perhaps companies would rather 1 person complain and raise some pertinent issues with their products than wonder why their product is failing so badly?

Social Experiences

What’s that about? A social experience could be your holiday snaps shared in FlickR, your holiday reviews left on Tripadvisor or how about your take on a company you used to work for or what you think about bunjee jumping? The world is becoming smaller; we’re in the information age where any world event is at the tip of our fingers and we’re all in some way capable of becoming world-reknown. Social media is an opportunity for everyone; but is the pie big enough for everyone? What happens to Facebook when the next big social media application hits the internet? Is Myspace in real decline or has the market just become a bigger place? Are too many companies launching their own social media applications and soon we as consumers will have too many logins and passwords to care whether someone knows what you’re doing at any one time or whether you’ve managed to upload that home movie clip to Youtube or Vimeo.

One of the biggest issues that Social Media as a paradigm will face is in living up to real life socialising and information sharing, of circles of friends that would not necessarily interact in your real world social circle – the convergence of virtual and real social circles.

The future of social media is an interesting one and one likely to remain around for somet time yet…


2 thoughts on “The Purpose of Social Media

  1. Hi Depesh,

    Thanks for the article.

    I think a company’s risk of bad social reviews is less than you think if they initiated social media initiatives. To me the bigger risk is not knowing the extent of a customer disgruntlement.

    What I mean is this…people are already using social media out “there,” even if a company isn’t actively participating relative to its own corporate, product, or services brands.

    Thus, the more a company can do to participate in its own behalf, the more they can add value into the process. And the easier it will be for them to uncover issues so that they *can* take corrective action.

    • Kathy I completely agree. My only concerns from experience is of company’s wishing it away, ignoring like you say, what indeed is ‘out there’ somewhere in cyberspace. The big risk for companies is as more and more people become aware of and start using social networking to make informed decisions, those companies yet to respond will suffer without operational plans to embrace it. I agree initialising initiatives is a great start however many are actually being left behind and a response programme is the best they can hope for!
      Thanks, Depesh

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