Like most kids born in the early 90’s, when I was growing up I never thought much about the potential power and complete uses of social media. Entering the early 2000’s, it was clear social media was booming from its establishment decades earlier with the reply all feature in email, but its superficial uses were my priority. I couldn’t wait to have a screen name on AIM and open a MySpace account behind my parents’ backs to stay connected with my friends and the latest gossip at school. I poured over my away statuses to make sure they accurately captured my mood knowing that anything I posted could be seen by anyone on my Buddy list. Over time, as more social media sites were created and gained prominence, my initial views that social media was just a fun, yet seemingly trivial, way to bring people together were further enhanced. I enjoyed using social media but I didn’t understand its potential. I was certain that Twitter was made for celebrities to brag about their lives to millions of people at once and Facebook was just a better version of MySpace.
However, as I entered college I realized that the full benefits of social media could not be ignored. With currently well over a billion active Facebook users and 93% of marketers using social media for business, it would be foolish to believe that the only use for social media is sharing pictures from Spring Break and posting status updates. The basic principle of social media, creating content to share within a network, has been extended to create enormous networks of people with similar interests and allows for businesses to reach and understand their consumers in ways never before realized.
Although my knowledge in the area of social media for businesses is fairly limited, I still notice business integration in social media and its benefits in my casual use of these platforms. (Given its popularity, I think you’d be hard pressed to find an active user who doesn’t notice any business presence) The most prominent use I see is in the use of social media as a customer service (or lack of service) tool. I see tweets from people I follow almost daily that are directed at a company either complaining about or praising its products. One of my friends is particularly active in this form of tweeting and will repeatedly tweet at a company she has a problem with until someone responds. If no one responds, she will tweet at its competitors to tell them how much better they are than the company that doesn’t respond. (Much to my surprise, she has had a lot of success using that method) Sending out tweets or posts like these has become so popular that the online treatment a company gives people has become a proxy in my mind for how they treat customers as a whole and how much they care. People don’t forget about how they were treated online and I definitely remember which companies will respond to my tweets and which ones won’t. In debating between two stores to purchase something from I have avoided the store my friend had complained to me about because it didn’t respond to a question she posted.
With such heavy importance placed on a company’s online presence for consumers, it seems as though having active and continuously monitored social media accounts is a complete necessity for businesses. People will talk about a company’s products or services whether they can directly message the company’s page or not. And being absent or negligent on social media allows consumers to have discussions about the brand without the brand’s input. I place a lot of weight on a company’s mentions on Twitter to find out how a new product is being received or to read reviews. And if a company isn’t present to do damage control when consumers aren’t happy or make sure the good mentions are highly visible, the business will definitely suffer.
As this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of social media’s importance for managers, I look forward to learning about various ways it can be used to help businesses. And despite social media’s extensive and ever growing uses, at the end of the day it’s still nice to know that the original benefits I received from using social media as a kid have remained intact. It’s still a place billions of people log on everyday so they can see a picture of a former classmate’s engagement ring or to catch up on the latest news, and I doubt that will ever change.