Going into IS6621, I was incredibly excited for coursework that considered the intersection of the vastly growing world of social media and the role of traditional businesses. I have been active on social media platforms since approximately 2008, my freshman year of high school, when I created a Facebook account. While I did not realize it at the time, one of the major reasons behind my account creation was the fact that all of my new friends were active on the site and Facebook was becoming a huge trend for my demographic. Since then, I’ve tweeted almost 15,000 times across 5 different twitter accounts, posted upwards of 30,000 times on Tumblr across various blogs, shared upwards of 700 photos on Instagram, and various other social media statistics. Granted all of this is across a time period of almost 8 years, but I think it would be a fair assessment to say that I am currently very connected online and have been for years. However, my attitudes towards social media, my interest in it as a field of study, and my interest in taking this class did not come to be until the spring of 2013.
At the conclusion of my first semester of college, I wrote a paper for my freshman writing seminar about the DIY music community that I have been a part of since I was about 12 or 13 and the vital role that independent record labels have to play to keep the community alive and well. It was sometime during that winter break that I decided that I would give it a shot with starting my own record label. The rest of the story is far too long for a blog post like this one, but in short: I’ve run a record label called Too Far Gone Records since that spring, amassed over 4,000 Facebook likes, nearly 800 Twitter followers, 1,200 Tumblr followers, over 400 Instagram followers, as well as receiving, packing, and shipping over 4,000 orders by myself to countries as far away as Japan and Australia from the more than 55 albums that I’ve had a hand in releasing (toofargonerecords.com). What I want to focus on in this blog post is the aspect relevant of all of this that is relevant to our past semester of class: social media.
Up until that spring, I had no experience with platforms like Facebook and Twitter for any other usage than keeping tabs on my friends, sharing content that I found to be enjoyable, and communicating with those that I valued. Now, I had to figure out I could use this platforms as a business and communicate with consumers (whenever I managed to acquire them). I was, however, intuitive enough with social media to immediately scoop up all of the relevant handles and URLs that would be needed to have consistent social media access for the public. Within a few hours, I had secured accounts on all of the platforms that I had hoped to be active on and also secured an all-important email address.
The biggest immediate difference that I realized was that, while previously I was publishing content to an audience that I was not only friends with but also that was aware of my personality and general disposition, now I was forcing to seek out consumers or at least vaguely interested fans by establishing an enticing product offering and a dynamic, inviting personality to my brand. This required some thought about the type of brand that I wanted my record label to be known as. Contrary to a personal life, where I just published whatever I felt like and it was inherently consistent to my personal “identity”. Basically, using social media as a brand required an entirely different set of tools and perspectives than I had ever seen before.
Thankfully, I was able to piece things together through a lot of trial, error, and aimless guessing. One really strong tie-in with some of the discussions had throughout the semester becomes apparent when dealing with recent innovations in social media. During my past 3 years of operating Too Far Gone Records, I have seen new tools introduced left and right. I have watched as Facebook has continued to build out its analytics and business manager platform, offering business owners more tools than ever before to connect with their desired audiences. Much of class discussion was spent around the issue of how companies choose to engage with these types of new technologies and in what ways they can use social media tools to best better their business.
Another tie-in between class discussions and my own work experiences comes to light in the area of customer service. Obviously, we spent a good amount of time in class discussing the different ways that brands use their social media channels to communicate with consumers, alleviate concerns or problems, and encourage future interactions between the brand and the consumer. We discussed and read about some instances in which brands failed to act swiftly enough with their customer service and the result was disastrous. I consider it one of my biggest objectives with my business to remain approachable and responsive to any and all of customer inquiries. While I don’t think that a hypothetical missed email would cause a PR firestorm or a disastrous hit to my brand equity, it is something that I value highly and this class has continued to hit that point home for me.
Social media is an industry that is constantly changing and my time spent in IS6621 has introduced me to countless stories and case studies about the industry’s intersection with the world of business. All of the readings in the class have sparked me to reconsider the direction in which I think social media is trending, driven me to think about the ways in which I use my business’s social media channels to interact with consumers and fans and if I am acting tactfully, and strengthened my growing industry in studying the field as I continue on and graduate from college.