Thoughts on Social Media (circa 2010)

Recently, Lauren,  a student from Western Kentucky University contacted me about social media. She is doing a research brief for a class on Research in Advertising and Public Relations. Her assignment for this brief was to email bloggers with questions about their particular blog topic. Her topic was social media. She sent me a whole bunch of questions and I happily answered them. I wish I had the time to go into more detail with each question but she was under a time crunch and I did what I could.

Here are the questions she asked me and my answers:

1. How does social media change advertising for businesses?

Social media offers a much more dynamic and interactive method of communication. While traditional advertising is akin to shouting a message to a wide audience, social media is more like whispering to one select group at a time. This allows the opportunity to solicit relevant feedback and also to customize the message to the target market.

2. Do companies benefit more by advertising through social media? Why, or why not?

I wouldn’t necessarily call it advertising when dealing with social media. Engaging a market is a better way to understand the mechanism. In terms of cost social media can be a lot more inexpensive and offers a way to communicate specific messages to a select audience. The instantaneous feedback from the market can be very useful as well.

3. How have social media changed in the past five years?

There has been a sea change in the way social media is being used. While five years ago there were blogs, podcasts, chat rooms and review sites these were mostly isolated. With the explosion in different aggregation tools there has been an integration in the way social media is used. Also don’t forget the emergence of the mobile web, which feeds directly into social media and enriches the experience a lot more.

4. Can you predict the way social media will change in the next ten years?

I wish I could. I can’t. I do know that it will be much more mobile and ever present. I also think it will be much more segmented with markets, age groups, professions, interests coalescing in different pockets.

5. How have social media empowered consumers, and given them a voice?

Yes it has. This empowered feeling is really what keeps things moving. People can voice their opinion on websites, social networking sites and brands for the most part will take notice. This sense of being heard can really be used to the companies advantage if they can use it effectively too.

6. How does social media change the way people now communicate?

Well for one more young people are communicating through social networking sites than they are through email. that shows you that even email is evolving and communication through IM, text messaging and social networking sites is being more and more embraced.

7. Has social media become overly addicting? Why or why not?

It can be addicting because people want to connect with others. Its’ not that people are necessarily addicted to websites and tools, its that people are seeking connections to others and this medium offers an efficiency way of doing so.

8. Do social media change consumers’ purchasing decisions? Why or why not?

I think this does. Think of what a bad product review can do to your sales. Or, what a positive blog post can do to your sales. People believe what complete strangers say about a brand before they believe what the company says about it brand. That is just the way people are. So, yes social media does change the purchase decision of the consumer.

9. Twitter grew a lot faster than expected. Why is Twitter beneficial and effective?

Twitter is a great way to meet new people. I use it to connect and network with local business people in my field. These connections have been extremely useful and so I continue to use them. I know Twitter has also been used for customer support and driving revenue, so it all depends on how people use it. But it is a very beneficial tool if you embrace it and learn how to use it.

10. Can you predict that social media will always be free like most of it is now? Why or why not?

I think it will have to stay free. Companies will need to figure out a advertising model that works but consumers will certainly not pay too much since they’re so used to receiving things for free. Unless of course there is an advanced feature of functionality that can add significant value and people might be willing to pay for that.

11. What are some disadvantages of social media?

You certainly need to be conscious of your personal brand as you engage in social media. It might be for fun and games while you’re still young, but if you want to have a career than you need to keep that mind as you use these tools. You need to use common sense on what you say, what you say about others and the kind of reputation you develop online. Its not the wild west where you can do whatever you want to do. People take note of what you say and do on social media. So, everyone needs to keep that in mind.

12. What are the main advantages of social media?

The main advantage is that you can communicate to a wide audience at a relatively lower cost. Questions 1 and 2 answer this.

13. Is LinkedIn the best social network to communicate professionally? Why or why not? How does LinkedIn help consumers find jobs?

It’s one of the tools for professional communication. It has helped people network and find jobs – yes. You need to spend a lot of time on it engaging others, participating and connecting. But yes it is a very good tool.

Thanks Lauren. Good luck with your research project.

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