I was in the 8th grade when I took what I believe to be my first “official” step into the realm of social media. I was sitting next to my two grade school best friends around my family’s computer on one particularly exciting tween Friday night. It was toward the end of the school year, and my cousin had just returned from her first year at the University of Wisconsin. She mentioned Facebook, explaining it was a great way to meet other kids on campus. Some of my friends had already set up Facebook accounts and it was growing in my town’s high school. With high school around the corner and the fear of being out of the loop looming over our heads, that night, all three of us, under my cousin’s supervision, set up Facebook accounts. We took selfies on Photobooth to use as our profile pictures, wrote on each others “walls,” made what I am sure were embarrassing statuses, and immediately friend requested everyone we knew. Which, in all honesty, probably was less than 10 people collectively.
Shortly after creating this account, I remember feeling a knot of anxiety in my stomach. I was panicked at the thought of no longer being “off the map.” (I did not yet own a cell phone, and am sure this was an overwhelming first step into the world of instant communication). This feeling foreshadows my love/hate relationship with social media and digital communication. Throughout high school, I owned a flip phone that was so durable, it lasted almost the entire four years until it was catastrophically (accidentally) flushed down a toilet in the second semester of my senior year. The phone was so reliable and functional, that am confident it would still be alive today had this tragic event never occurred. Aside from unlimited texts, phone calls, and grainy photos, this phone offered no other social capabilities. Thus, my entry further into the realm of social media was stunted.
After suffering through too many phone-less months, the fact that I was moving from the Midwest to Boston was reason enough for my parents to gift me a new phone. Having “been there and done that” during the era of the flip phone, we decided it was time to get technically sophisticated. I soon became the proud owner of the iPhone 5. For those first subsequent weeks, I was an Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter wizard. However, consistent with my adjustment to Facebook four years prior, I gradually felt that odd and unsettling feeling that I was too connected to my peers. Thus marking the second coming of my love/hate relationship with social media. This relationship is cyclical. I delete almost every social media outlet during exam weeks yet check my Instagram feed multiple times on a typical Tuesday.
Throughout my undergraduate experience, my relationship with social media has matured. During my sophomore year, I was the head of marketing for one of the clubs in which I am involved. In this position, I Instagramed three times per week, tweeted throughout each day, promoted events through Facebook, launched a Pinterest board unique to the club, and crafted witty and engaging bi-weekly emails through MailChimp to our 1,000+ membership. Through this position, I learned the frustratingly superficial yet necessary quest to gain more followers for an organization’s survival. I realized that, though certain Instagram posts may not be as informative as others, the more we posted, the more followers we gained, and the deeper into our members’ retrieval sets we positioned ourselves.
A key moment in my time as a user of Social Media occurred during my second semester freshman year in which I was introduced to social media’s use professionally. My Computers in Management professor highlighted how modern company’s are utilizing social media outlets like Instagram to drive revenue. Similarly, during my Principles of Marketing course, Professor Akinc, highlighted how to the growing use of social media in digital business. This past summer, she shared with me this independent study conducted by one of her students (and current Professor Kane’s TA) which encapsulates my interest in how company’s can use social media to engage their customers and drive sales.
Like this study, I, too, follow companies on Instagram that I have never purchased anything from but may be more likely to in the future given my digital relationship with them. “Billabongwomen,” for examples, is an account depicting beautiful, tropical scenes with cute swimsuits. The account does an awesome job not only showcasing its merchandise, but also, it highlights aesthetically pleasing environments that give followers who may live in frigid places like Boston in February hope for warmer weather.
In addition to companies I have yet to purchase products from, I also follow businesses I have a consumer relationship with. I nostalgically follow a small, cute coffee shop from my hometown called “Collectivo Coffee” to keep up with its new drink inventions despite the fact that I visit it no more than twice a year. Regardless of the number of purchases I make from these type of businesses, their presence on social media fosters a genuine sense of loyalty in their consumers and almost guarantees future purchases. In my opinion, this is a critical, yet relatively easy way to grow its consumers’ lifetime values.
Currently, I think the most interesting aspect of social media in world of business is the use of blogging to make money through sponsored content and affiliates. Fashion blogger, Julia Hengel, the author, “Gal Meets Glam,” is a personal inspiration of mine. Every one of her Instagrams or posts take place in beautiful areas of the world and showcase fashionable clothing items from various designers who have requested she blog about their pieces. Can you say dream job?
As we spend the next 12 weeks studying the existence of and growth in social media and digital business, I look forward to furthering these and discovering new interests.