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the future of social media.

I always preface my responses with the fact that I come from a Communication Studies background; I feel this point gives people a greater understanding of the frame in which my responses come from. One of the first things we do in the Communication field when analyzing an article, theory or artifact, is identify definitions from which meaning is created, articulated and hopefully understood. Therefore, coming up with a definition for social media seemed like it would be one, a good starting point, and two, easy. Upon reflection of the three articles provided for this week,Social Media as the Next Web, The People Formerly Known as the Audience, Users Flee After Instagram Privacy Outcry defining social media was not quite as easy as it seems. Through this reflection, I would like to walk you through how I created my definition of social media with the hopes that if you disagree you can comment and we can engage in a conversation in which we both gain a greater perspective.

My Proposed Definition: A party’s use of the Internet through various devices and channels to connect with various audiences for various purposes.

Part One: “party”

The term “party” is used to mean an individual, a cause, a business, or any other organization that creates content to distribute through social media. Parties can now be anyone, anywhere with any motive. Social media has allowed the everyday individual to have a voice, and in many instances have a voice that now can be heard, shared through other people and/or challenged in a public forum. I believe that it is the party’s responsibility to consider which devices and channels to employ in order to connect most effectively with various audiences to achieve whatever the desired purpose may be.

One of my own thoughts while thinking through this analysis was do party’s really take the time to consider these factors? This is where the importance of separation between personal and professional comes to play. I do not feel that on my personal Twitter for instance that I truly consider who my audience consists of and I may not have a desired purpose. I sometimes Retweet a quote just because I like it without caring if the rest of my followers find it insightful or will even care. However, with my professional Twitter I would argue I do have a motive. I try to stimulate conversation about the professional world. Sometimes that is in the form of questions, in other instances I may post an article I found interesting, but I try to direct it towards communication, public relations, and other business professionals. If I am asking a question, it is because I truly do not know the answer and would like to engage in further communication of a topic. Small side tangent with self-analysis now let me get back to my examples of party’s influence on social media.

As I explored in my Edelman blog response, in many ways the voice of just one consumer is advantageous to many everyday consumers. For instance, many people now post reactions to restaurant experiences on social networking websites. If I search for a restaurant with horrible reviews, I could potentially be spared a negative experience. There are countless examples of how an everyday consumer’s voice can be amplified and create positive change within big business. Another example, I worked at a non-profit and we had horrible issues with fraudulent charges on our fundraising account. Our representative did not have time to take our calls, and our emails went unanswered. Not until we engaged this organization on Twitter was anyone willing to assist.  When we took our concerns to a public forum where other potential clients could witness was the problem addressed within 48 hours. Bottom line: social media has given everyone a voice and businesses want to ensure that this when aired, this voice represents their organization in the best possible manner.

Part Two: “through various devices and channels”

This segment has two interesting parts that have to be considered: devices and channels. Social Media As the Next Web does a phenomenal job explaining how social media use is on the rise, and per author Brian Solis, “social media along with mobile represent the greatest growth areas for Internet right now.” Throughout this entire article, Brian highlights important statistics that demonstrate the rise in social media use through various devices. We now connect not only on computers, but on our mobile devices, tablets, handheld music players, game consoles, Internet enabled televisions, and e-readers just to name a few (Solis, 2012). We are constantly interacting, and businesses are constantly giving us newer, more efficient devices and applications for us to stay connected.

The second part of this breakdown is channels. Currently, again according to Solis,  “Pinterest is pinning with 1, 047% growth.” According to Users Flee Instagram After Privacy Outcry, “Instagram counted 14.5 million active users on Thanksgiving. But those are only two of the social networking websites we reach for. We have Twitter, Facebook, Linked In, Google+, YouTube, Tumblr, and various Blog websites just to name a very few of the channels we can reach for to interact, which leads into the next exploration of this definition. This is where I run into more questions than I have answers. I think the notion of channels is interesting because it comes down to one question for me: are your followers, friends, connections (whatever word fits per whichever social website you are using) all the same on each social media channels? I know for myself, I use Facebook to connect mostly with my family. We don’t live that close to one another so we post pictures and content to keep each other up to date on our current happenings. I also noted on a previous response, that I am more conservative with the content I will post on Facebook for this reason.  However, on my personal Twitter sometimes I may post content I would not necessarily want my family to see. So are all social media websites intended for the same audience? This is a topic I would definitely like to further explore and learn more about. I would be curious to know how others manage all of their social media websites in regard to audience, which is the perfect segway into the next part of my definition.

Part Three: “audiences”

What is clear when reading all three of these articles is that power on social media is with the audience. This audience includes everyday individuals who are now a click away from business giants and one another. Everyday individuals now have the ability to utilize and master the use of social media as well as to influence how they would like to receive information from media giants hoping to capitalize on their business.

Instagram provides the most interesting example of audience has the ability to hault business. With the unclear terms of service announcement, Instagram users were under the impression that their photograph posts could be sold on behalf of the organization. There were outcries by many, some notable and others not, that did not wish for their pictures to be sold and either threatened to deactivate their accounts or went ahead and did so. This is a prime example of how audience can dominate business. I often wonder if Facebook will start charging users to have an account, this is something that has been buzzing for years. But seeing how Instagram users reacted, I’m not sure they would ever try to implement a system as such. The article The People Formerly Known as the Audience was absolutely a wonderful read. There were so many wonderful points and analysis of how media has transitioned over time, and it would seem we are in a transition again. However this time as the article points out, “We graduate from wanting media when we want it, to wanting it without the filler, to wanting media to be way better than it is, to publishing and broadcasting ourselves when it meets a need or sounds like fun.”

Audience is an interesting concept however, because being on the consumer side of things I am unclear about how businesses strategize to mobilize their audience in the most effective way through the use of social media. I look at President Obama and he has mastered the use of social media. So although I am sure that businesses have a strategy, many times an effective strategy, for motivating their audiences, I do not know a whole lot about what it consists of. I would certainly be curious to learn more about how businesses use social media to essentially drive sales. I hope that I can explore than more throughout this semester.

Part Four: “for various purposes”

Lastly, social media users have various purposes in which they create content. Some want to create a personal brand for themselves, some want to interact directly with their cliental, and others just wish to have a channel to interact with their friends; however, these purposes influence the way in which we use social media and how we create the messages we are sending out into the public sphere.

Now that I have explored how I created my definition of social media, let me state it again. Social media is a party’s use of the Internet through various devices and channels to connect with various audiences for various purposes. I am eager to hear and discuss reactions to my writing as well as to read other’s perspectives. I feel that I am still so new when it comes to understand social media and effective practices, but creating and explaining my definition really allowed me to think through this phenomenon in ways that I have yet to do.

I believe that social media is going to become more understood in the future and undoubtedly continue to grow. It would not surprise me if social media use begins to be integrated into the education system, whether that happens at a high school or collegiate level. Such a curriculum would allow students to walk through some of the core concepts we are now covering as we explore what social media is. Social media is now shaping communication, public relations, journalism, business, marketing, and many, many other fields and I would assume that young adults in the future will begin to be taught the skills they need to succeed in a social media atmosphere.  Whether that is through new applications, devices or channels, well we will all have to stay tuned to see!

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