The #socialmedia revolution is proving to be more than a fad – these figures show why brands need to jump on the band wagon – develop a strong social media presence, tapping into and joining the conversations of the upcoming generations (millennials) to promote world of mouth.
The ubiquity of the Internet and social media has created an interactive and dialogic forum. Having an online presence goes beyond having a website – a static point for information – it is about creating a presence.
An article in the Australian Financial Review (p.2!) today highlights the importance of businesses needing to have a strong social media profile to mitigate risk and manage the brand’s reputation.
Having a social media presence not only provides brands with opportunity to communicate with target audiences, control over their online image, increase traffic to their website, listen / participate in conversations for customer service and product improvement, it is also a means of validity and credibility.
Not having an online reputation via a social media presence can be detrimental for your brand because:
- It suggests you have something to hide, looking suspicious
- You are providing the opportunity for someone else to impersonate you
- It decreases your ability to monitor / rectify deceitful information
- Your competitors are there and you’re not
Social media consultant, Laurel Papworth rightfully points out in the AFR article, “it’s really risky for organisations to not have a voice in social media.”
If brands reject social media now, they are not only falling behind the eight-ball, they are also risking the reputation of their brand.
Facebook. Online genius. The Social Network. Billionaire. Who doesn’t know the name Mark Zuckerberg?
One of the first social networking platforms I started using as a teen was Facebook. I like to think of Zuckerberg as some sort of founding father of what social media is to me. Back then (timeline tells me 2007), I was (and still am) fascinated by the liberating social possibilities that Facebook offered. Getting a notification from a friend commenting on something I had written or taken a picture of was almost as exciting as receiving a letter in the mail. Making friends with people across the world was easier than making friends with my neighbour, AND we shared interests.
These days, I can ‘Like’ the brands I like, make complaints about those I don’t and discuss products and services with people before I buy. Bottom line? Social media allows me to engage with brands and businesses in ways that were previously inconceivable.
Drawing on my experiences in both PR and as a student of communications, social media is helping businesses and organisations practice ‘excellent communication practices’. Pioneered by James Grunig, two-way symmetrical communication is the essence of social media. Not only does it facilitate consumers’ ability to talk directly to each other, there is an open channel for communication between consumer and organisation.
Social media is emerging as a primary communication channel. It is magnifying the impact of consumer-to-consumer conversations (only 14% of consumers trust brand ads compared to 78% of consumers who trust peer recommendations – SEO optimise). Robert Young speaks of social media as shifting the balance of control for production and distribution of content between corporations and consumers. If consumers are gaining a more powerful voice, businesses need to change their communication approach.
Ignoring the power of online word of mouse is no longer an option in the digitally interconnected world where consumers are liberated from centralised / monopolised sources of information. Using social media is equally about brand reputation and risk management. Our use of social media today begs the question: “Can brands afford to forgo social media?”
A recent Facebook post by uni colleague, K. Hefti, included an infographic from Mashable that got me thinking about the impact of social media on the way we communicate.
The infographic included this comment:
Consider this: 24% of respondents to one survey said they’ve missed out on enjoying special moments in person because – ironically enough – they were too busy trying to document their experiences for online sharing. Many of us have had to remind ourselves to “live in the now” – instead of worrying about composing the perfect tweet or angling for just the right Instagram shot.
But all this ‘worrying’ about composing the perfect tweet or getting the best Instagram shot poses the question:
Is social media replacing the way we communicate or is it simply an extension of how we do it?
To me, social media is as it is defined: a tool that allows us to connect and share with each other.
Social media isn’t replacing the way we communicate but becoming an extension of it. It is introducing new levels of interaction that transcend geographic isolation and an easy way to stay regularly connected. It can supplement our ‘real-life’ friendships.
I was discussing this concept with Val, a work-friend, who came up with the analogy that social media is like a camera for words with a few added benefits:
- We can chronicle what we do in REAL TIME and communicate that to our networks immediately
- It is an album of words, pictures and sounds that can be shared infinitely – history is captured in new ways
- Our experiences are personalised by what we’re feeling and who we’re sharing it with
Critiquing social media as distracting us from experiencing moments is fair, but think of a host of other ‘things’ that distract us; taking pictures, going to the bathroom, blinking…
If anything, social media is allowing us to engage with the experience MORE, we’re not simply absorbing the experience but actively thinking about it as we tweet/pose.
What are your thoughts?
It’s undeniable that social media is taking (already taken) the world by storm.
Check out Craig Smith’s August tally of how many people are using some of the most popular social networks (shortened version below):
These figures grow exponentially every day so it seems only natural to think that social media is becoming a huge part of how we communicate and how we’re engaging in an ever-changing digital landscape. But in what ways is our use of social networks extending to the way we browse / surf the net?
Word of mouse
The little social media icons appearing in the side bars and footers of websites everywhere are a testament to our penchant for sharing content. As UTS lecturer Jim McNamara puts it – sharing is not so much “word of mouth” as it is “word of mouse” – since its only a click away. The underlying assumption of the icons is that users will make use of their social networking accounts to share content.
Social media is integrating our use of the net and allowing us to connect and share in ways that we couldn’t before both in terms of the speed at which we can do it and our reach. Here are some observations on why we like sharing online content:
- we can inform others about products and services we care about and potentially change attitudes / behaviour or encourage action
- define ourselves (self-presentation/self-disclosure) about who we are and what we care about
- helps us connect and stay connected with people with common interests
- supports causes we care about
- to feel more involved in the world
Why do you share online?
(On the subject of sharing, don’t forget to share this post via the menu of icons when you hit the comment box ;))
One of digital native’s fav sites, Wikipedia defines it:
Social media includes web- and mobile-based technologies which are used to turn communication into interactive dialogue among organizations, communities, and individuals.
A more scholarly definition of social media comes from Andreas M. Kaplan and Michael Haenlein in an article titled, “Users of the world, unite! The challenges and opportunities of Social Media”:
Social media is a group of Internet-based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0, and that allow the creation and exchange of user generated content.
Despite their similarities, it is clear that social media is all about interactivity, shared content and dialogue.