In my original blog post for #MI621 this semester, I spoke to the immovable power of Facebook and the enormous switching costs that one would incur when considering the vast amount of information (posts, pictures, videos and more) that would be lost if something new and better were to come along that did the exact same thing. While my viewpoint on this notion has not shifted completely, I do now recognize that social media – in any form – will have a vast impact on our lives from here on out, regardless of the platform being used.
Within this short semester, we’ve witnessed a number of formidable events in what I believe has led to the beginning of a new era within social media. In February, we saw what has now become fondly remembered as “the blackout;” a near hour-long lighting malfunction at the country’s biggest sporting event that led to the evolution of real-time marketing with the famous Oreo ad that – when put together in less than 30 minutes – almost immediately went viral. With this, Oreo showed that being ready for anything during live events like the Super Bowl has proven to be one of the smartest moves the company has made from a marketing perspective in years. From this point forward, all major brands will be ready and waiting for the next big event to capitalize on, something that I believe will cause a radical shift in the way that advertising is consumed in the near future.
I would also be remiss in not mentioning the tragic events that took place at the Boston Marathon this past month. While the details are still being investigated as I write this post, I think the prevalence and scope of social media during this crisis has surprised us all. Not only did social media become most people’s source for the most updated information (significantly beating traditional new sources like CNN to the punch) with up-to-the -second updates through sources like Twitter and Reddit, but the proliferation of rumors that swirled during the most intense moments of the events showed that social media within a crisis can be a double-edged sword. In this, we saw a radical shift away from traditional news sources towards a reliance on social media that, in some cases proved to be good (i.e. spreading awareness about the REAL suspects identified by the FBI) and bad (the condemnation of missing Brown student Sunil Tripathi by most of the internet without any real evidence to support the claim). Regardless of your feelings on social media during this tragic time, it is safe to say that these events illustrate a trend that has been developing for a number of years now, namely paradigm shift in the way that people consume news.
While the preceding paragraphs may seem like a detour from my original main idea, they illustrate one extremely important point: It is not the platform by which we consume the information that social media provides, but the information itself that makes social media what it is today. Yes, the switching costs from something like Facebook at this point remain high if something else were to come along, but events like these have showcased that the need for social media has entrenched itself into our collective conscience and will remain prevalent – regardless of whether or not the current players stick around – for years to come.