I still remember when I received the invitation to join “Thefacebook” on April 1, 2005 and my wonder and awe as I discovered a world of “Facebook stalking,” imagining what my college experience would look like, and being able to re-connect with friends that had already moved away from Puerto Rico (where I grew up). Facebook had recently expanded access to select universities beyond Harvard and despite my initial hesitation to join another social network (RIP MySpace) – my friend’s warning, “if you are not on Facebook, you won’t exist at Harvard” was quite compelling.
During my college years, Facebook became the medium to connect with friends and share typical college experiences – like this public rant because one of my suite mates would never take out the trash:
It was more of a distraction and a guilty pleasure – one that employers would ban from web browsers during summer internships and that I would de-activate during exam periods to minimize procrastination. Now, we don’t just use one medium – we use multiple, and we use each for a different purposes and often, audience (i.e. Twitter for news, Instagram to share #authentic artsy shots (a la Socality Barbie), and Facebook to share important announcements or experiences). We also often follow/friend different folks on these platforms to protect our privacy and set varying levels of reach for the type of content we create or that we want to be exposed to. Beyond connecting, social media platforms have given us the tools to, consciously or unconsciously, build our own personal brands and this trail will remain.
Then, Facebook was purely a social network and users were motivated by staying connected, satisfying their curiosity on what friends were up to, and seeking validation (or at least attention) on important decisions or event. Now, the motivations haven’t changed that much but social media has shifted from being a tool to a new way to connect. And for businesses – a new way to interact with consumers, influence their path to purchase and build brand loyalty.
It is not until I graduated that I realized the true power social media would gain –for businesses, marketing professionals and consumers, and I am sure this will continue to drastically change. At the early stages, companies would join all the latest platforms and send out consistent messages to “be active” on social. Then, they turned to metrics such as “Likes” and “Follows” to measure success and focused on driving these through contests and other types of incentives. Later, they would focus on customer engagement, and as they realized the level of investment required to manage each account successfully, many of these became inactive and companies became much more strategic about which platforms to be active on. We now know that when it comes to social, less can be more depending on the company’s priorities, who their target consumer is, and where/how they consume information. Still, it is amusing to see what users go through to liberate Twitter handle “squatters” that signed up and never sent out more than a few tweets.
Then, businesses, marketers and consumers had many questions – on privacy, on whether social media would be the next bubble and which platforms would last. Many of these questions remain, and as an aspiring brand manager these motivated me to take this course:
- Who should manage a company’s social/digital presence? Should it be a dedicated team that is focused on digital, or the brand managers, in charge of setting the strategy for a brand? This could require re-defining organizational relationships and roles.
- Which consumer touch points should be the priority and how can brands best leverage them?
- How can companies gather user-generated content (UGC) and repurpose it in ways that feel authentic to a company/brand?
- How can they make the product/package, retail, e-commerce, web, and social experience flow seamlessly?
- How can customer service be taken to the next level by leveraging social tools?
- What will be the next big platform and how can brands stand out early on?
As my social journey continues, my main expectations for the course are to be able to engage in these types of discussions and stay up to date on the latest tools and best practices. Most importantly – ensure that I remain a social “native” – not just in theory but in practice. I also hope to find a voice as a content creator. This is is my first attempt at blogging – let’s see how it goes.