Final Thoughts: What Is Social Media, Anyway?

Screen shot 2013-12-02 at 6.02.08 PMI’ll be honest. I initially registered for this class naively believing that it would be easy. After all, I’m from the digital generation. I post, tweet, pin, filter, vine, and snap effortlessly. Social Media? I’m good at that. Unfortunately, I failed to read, or accept, the fact that the course title ended with “For Managers.” I quickly realized that no, this would not be a class comparing who could Pin or Instagram the best. My misconception of the class purpose became painfully obvious to me as I struggled to complete my first blog post. I spent hours staring at a blank screen searching for words that would adequately describe social media. At that moment, I did not understand why I was having such difficulty with the task, but it is crystal clear to me now. Prior to this class, I defined social media in simplistic terms. To me, my Facebook profile was social media. I had yet to realize that social media is not just a forum to post pictures and write wallposts with friends, but it can be so much more. This class has enlightened me on the fact that social media is much more extensive than my narrow application of it.

Here are some of my favorite takeaways on the various applications of social media:

Social Media is your business
Because this class is in fact “Social Media for Managers,” perhaps the most important lesson I’ve learned is how businesses and employees should use social media to their advantage. I used to wonder why a grocery store would ever need a Twitter account, but I have found the answer in this class. Screen shot 2013-12-02 at 5.47.18 PMWhen businesses use social networks, they create a channel of communication to their customers. At virtually no cost, businesses can hear both positive and negative feedback from their customers. By simply replying to one disgruntled customer, businesses can restore their image and keep this customer coming back. It is this type of communication that allows businesses to respond to feedback, and improve levels of customer satisfaction.
Businesses can also use social media to foster communication and collaboration among their employees. By granting employees the ability to text, tweet, IM, or share documents, information is spread as quickly and efficiently as possible. Most employees are already using these networks anyways, so why not use them for something productive?

Social Media is your career
For years, I have heard insistent nagging from my parents about my Facebook activity and its consequences in my job search. They argue that a picture of me holding a red solo cup could be the reason why I don’t get a job in the future. While I have heard their concerns and have made great efforts to keep my profile private, the truth is Screen shot 2013-12-02 at 6.09.12 PMthat content posted to the Internet will never truly be secure. Employers can find ways around these safeguards, and users must keep this in mind before posting anything. On the bright side, however, is that social network accounts can add color to a resume. My resume may display my G.P.A and previous work experience, but it doesn’t tell future employers who I really am. Posting (PG) pictures and updates about what I’m truly passionate about, like traveling, running, and cooking, will provide a voice to my resume. Twitter can also be used to enhance an online presence. While most of my peers are wasting their 140 characters complaining about #BCgirlproblems, this class has shown me the value in posting relevant and thoughtful tweets. Who knows, my online presence may set me apart from other candidates who aren’t using social networks to their advantage.

Social media is your news
People are turning to social networks to receive important information at a speed that television or newspapers cannot compare to. This is not news to me (pun intended)! Since I first activated my account, my Twitter has informed me of breaking news stories—minutes or even hours before the local news network can interrupt the following programming with ‘breaking news.’ This immediacy is crucial in preventing any (additional) harm or danger, as we all saw during the Boston Marathon bombing crisis.

Social media is your personal trainer and nutritionist
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As a health nut, this is one of my favorite uses of social media. No longer is the potential to live a healthy live dependent on ones financial ability to afford expert advice. Now, exercise and nutrition plans are just a click away, and many are reaping the benefits as they find success in their weight loss journeys.

Social media is your inspiration
Social media has received a lot of attention for its role in bullying, but people should be more aware how online networks have created an atmosphere that promotes doing good. The Internet is updated with pictures, videos, and stories that inspire us all into positive action. It is no wonder why posts from Buzzfeed like “21 Pictures That Will Restore Your Faith in Humanity” get so many clicks. We see these acts of kindness, and strive to be better people. Want proof? Prepare for the water works.

Social Media is your comedian
Another positive, yet less serious, way social media can be used is for comedic purposes. When I’m feeling sad, social media is a promising source for a quick pick me up. Blogs, Meme’s, Vines, and YouTube channels are all dedicated for the sole purpose of making you laugh. Need a laugh yourself? Click here.

Social Media is… Yours
From our first blog posts and to this day, the class has not come up with a definition social media. Before taking this class, I defined social media in terms of my existing online networks, because that is how I was primarily utilizing it. I now describe social media in a much more complex nature that takes into account its functionality in a wide-range of ages, countries, industries, and hobbies. But, my definition of social media will never be the same as yours. The truth is that there is no universal definition that could fully define the extensive nature of social media. Users define it based on how they see it fit in their own lives. Whether it is corporate office with clearly defined objectives or a middle school girl sitting at her desktop computer updating her away message, social media is whatever you want from it. And the possibilities are endless.
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  1. Meghan, I love your post! I think that you do an amazing job of describing all the same things that I think and feel about social media… just more eloquently and better! I like how you say that no ones definition of social media will ever be the same because it is always going to serve different purposes in peoples lives. Social media is an extremely wide variety of things and helps people accomplish the most simple minded tasks like tweeting to some more difficult and thoughtful tasks like blogging.
    I am with you with all of this, I thought this class would be something totally different than it turned out to be and I am really happy that it is. It is a class that made me think about social media in a different way. Great post!

  2. Meghan, I love the way you outline your post into the different purposes of social media. You are so spot on with it all. Like you, I used to think social media was so much more limited than it truly is. I thought it was made up of Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and blogging. That’s it. I’ve come to realize through this class that it is SO much more. I never thought that Yelp was social media. That Wikipedia was social media. That email was social media (and turns out it was the first true social media out there!). Like you said, social media is our business, career, news, personal trainer/nutritionist, inspiration, comedian. It can really be a way of life, and yes, as we read this week and as you mentioned bullying, it has its downsides. But I believe the positives outweigh the negatives. Really well done final thoughts post. Great concluding thoughts.

  3. Hey Meghan- At first, I shared similar thoughts to you and @Taylor about what social media encompassed, believing that Facebook defined what social media was. However, as you learned I quickly realized it was much more than that. I like the point you make about Twitter being useful in every business. When done correctly, Twitter can be vital to the success of a company as it opens up a form of communication between seller and consumer.

    I also agree with your point about learning the effective ways to use social media to create a brand for yourself on the Internet. I like your line that social media could actually help you get a job, contrary to everything we have heard from our parents over the years. I thought this article related well to this topic.
    It discusses how social media is the perfect way to network and interact with potential future employers. It also emphasizes that, similar to everything we’ve learned this semester, no social media presence is effective without being complete. They encourage always having 100 percent completeness in all your profiles.

    I love the inspirational video you posted. I have seen that video produced at a few different hospitals and find it truly inspiring. Always happy to see the good social media can do!

  4. Meaghan, great post! I think you do a nice job of summarizing some of the key points from the semester. I would add that social media is not just yours or mine but ours (excuse the corniness). I think the coolest part of social media is that it’s co-created and evolves quickly, that’s why it makes it so challenging to define. All the same, I think you’re right, social media is what you make of it.

  5. Meghan, great post as always! First of all, I made the mistake of watching the Roar video in public and obviously started crying in the Rat…I guess that’s proof of how effective videos like that can be! I’ve seen a similar one with kids in the hospital singing Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger” and Sara Bareilles’ “Brave”…it makes me think that doing social media for a hospital and organizing videos like that would be such a fun job! Anyways, like everyone else has mentioned in their comments, I could definitely relate to your “social media journey.” You do a great job identifying key takeaways and finding ways that we, and businesses, can apply what we’ve learned to improving our social media presence. As Margo mentioned, you make a great point about creating a brand for yourself and using social media to your benefit when it comes to looking for a job. Resumes are great, but showing your true personality in positive ways on the internet can be really effective. I’m going to try to keep up my “professional Twitter” from class for that reason! I’ve loved all of your posts this semester – thanks for sharing!

  6. michaeladoyle0 · ·

    Great post Meghan! I really like how you organized your points into the different purposes that social media has in our lives. As previous commenters mentioned, I think the biggest takeaway everyone has from this course is just how wide social media spreads and how I never considered so many of the networks we talked about, as you described about yourself, I also came into this course thinking I was a pro at using social media based on my usage of instagram, twitter and pinterest but soon learned that there was much more to SM than I was aware of.

    Like Margo mentioned I like how when you applied SM to our career search, most people focus on the negative that employers or recruiters can search our profiles and stumble upon those embarrassing unprofessional photos that we wish could be deleted, but I don’t think many people have thought about the benefits that it can offer our career search as well. I think you make a great point of how we can use our SM profiles to portray the parts of our personalities that are not represented on our resume, as our resumes mainly focus on our education and experience, we can design our profiles to exemplify our personalities. I really like the way Margo described it as creating “our brand”.

    This is a great way of summarizing all the lessons we have learned this semester!

  7. Hi Meghan, this is a great outline of what social media is. I really agree with what Caroline said above, social media is ours. It creates a conversation open for anyone to join just like this! There is no longer directed conversations and that is what makes it so great. More communication just means more collaboration and diversifying opinions.

  8. Nice post. I’m glad your thinking has evolved over the semester. It’s very fun for me to see each semester how students not only evolve in their thinking about social media but also in their practice of social media. I still struggle with defining it, though, but I’ll take another crack at it tonight.

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