I think it’s safe to say that everyone has heard of social media and the various symbols across posters, TV and anywhere else that we can possibly fit them. However, do many of us really understand what it’s all about? Have we all lost sight of it’s meaning in the world of modern communication?
These days, social media is part of our daily lives. It’s no longer perceived as a method for young teenagers to check in with friends or catch up with the latest antics of Justin Bieber. Many older people are using social media to stay up to date with their family, friends and interest groups.
Social media supports two way conversation across the spectrum of age, wealth and education. That said, there are still many brands how fail to understand the user base of social media. These are invariable the same group that are using push messages to broadcast their brand, while failing to listen to the market.
So how can we define it?
Due to the wide ranging user base and various platforms, there will not be an easy blanket definition for social media. However, I think it’s clear that social media allows us to communicate with people we know and people we want to get to know better. Social Media will never act as an effective substitute for face to face relationships, but it’s a great alternative when barriers prevent the former.
It allows us to collaborate and create, rather than being a passive audience. It is a step closer to recognising Tim Berners-Lee vision of the internet as a a collaborative medium, “a place where we [could] all meet and read and write”. In essence, it’s a place to talk, listen and learn.
What is it all for?
From a business perspective, there are many different uses for social media – many of which have yet to be fully understood by many businesses. I have touched on a few uses below, but it is by no means a definitive list.
There are many uses for social media and not all are productive, which is something that prospective employees are finding out. Social media offers freedom to users, but it must be used with future job prospects in mind. A recent survey completed via Hays Recruitment Ireland, found that potential employers are reviewing a candidates social networking sites. The question of what information to share and what to keep private may puzzle some, but in short, if you’ve nothing to hide, it’s easier to manage your reputation. In addition to this, ensure your personal networking sites are private and use your professional profiles (e.g. LinkedIn), to put your best foot forward.
Social media not only allows you to research prospective employees, it also allows you to advertise vacancies at a minimal cost. LinkedIn is a great source of potential staff, but remember that it only has an average user base of 9% (420k unique visits), in Ireland. (*Barry Hand)
Customer Service & Sentiment
It can be used effectively for customer service, as highlighted by Mashable. In terms of an Irish example, it’s a little difficult to pin point one stellar example, but I do like the Twitter accounts from Meteor Mobile and the National Library of Ireland. In short, Irish consumer facing businesses have yet to take advantage of social media as an effective tool in business. KrisnaDe reviewed a study completed by Microsoft. “27% of Irish Businesses do not plan to use social media”, the headline is truly shocking, considering that the average Irish person spends 18 hours and 7 minutes online each month (*neworld blog)
Creating a Community
Allowing customers to communicate and share content, is a great was of building a community. Social Media is the most cost efficient method of doing this while enabling your organisation to monitor the results. The world of Xbox gaming was transformed in June when Microsoft enabled users to log into Facebook, Twitter and Last.fm via their system. “At least 2 million Xbox Live users have logged into Facebook, and that half a million Last.fm accounts were created in the first 24 hours of availability.” Xbox users can connect with each other, without being logged into the system (i.e. they can use Facebook, Twitter etc.), this enables further communication and closer relationships, all built on the foundation of gaming.
There are many other uses for social media and I’ll be outlining some of these via the blog, but if you want to learn more about your specific industry or business, contact me now for a free consultation – well, cup of tea and a chat!