Thursday, 16 September 2010

From the top: Introducing Social Media

Due to its revolutionary potential, social media is still considered new. No matter where you are in the world, many people will still ask “What is social media?”. From the busy streets of London to the comparatively quiet city of Phnom Penh, you'll find people talking about it, but rarely knowing what it is, or what it can do. I'm going to try and answer that question, and what it pertains to, by starting at square 1. To begin with, “social” media is simply a new form of media, and it's on the internet. Just like TV and radio were once considered ground-breaking, social media is the latest platform for communicating, relating, creating, entertaining, advertising, marketing, and selling. Using blogs, forums, Facebook, Twitter, and so on, people are congregating and conversing online, but on a completely different scale to previous media. From a business perspective, here's the difference between it and all the other medias: it's accurately measurable and can be monitored and filtered effectively. That last sentence is pretty loaded, so what does that mean??

Let's use TV as a comparison. TV's brought families and friends together to pay attention to one thing; their screen. Statistics and popularity of TV shows were measurable through surveys whereby representatives of the TV station knocked on household doors, and checked neighbourhood demographics, for example. Because watching TV is a passive activity, companies created a marketing strategy called “one to many” marketing, meaning while viewers sat in front of their boxes passively, marketers would tell them what to buy, with little to no input being made by the potential consumer.

By comparison, social media brings thousands, even millions of people together to pay attention to one thing; their screen. Same principle, but here are the major differences. Firstly, each viewer chooses what appears on their screen by clicking on specific links. That right empowers people online by making their opinions and personal tastes matter, and forces companies to listen to what people want. Secondly, being online is a two-way channel. You can't tell your TV what you want to watch, but you can ask for what you want online! These days, that's pretty much called Googling.

Since social media empowers people to say what they want, do what they want, and go where they please online, companies now have to face a new way of communicating with consumers. It’s what we like to call the “many to many” marketing platform. Because the internet literally democratises consumers and their opinions, companies wanting to sell you something now can communicate directly with you to do so. In other words, social media cuts out the middleman. Instead of shouting at you “buy this!”, they should be standing right there with you, asking “what would you like? How can we make it happen for you?”. And doesn't that sound so much nicer...

Next post: How to start using social media as an individual. Of course, if you have any questions, or have suggestions for what I could write about social media, please do ask, thanks!

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