Initial Thoughts on Social Media

I unashamedly love social media. Ever since I made an AIM account in 7th grade I have been pretty addicted to most social platforms. Back then it was simpler – you could message your fellow 12-year old with an equally embarrassing screen name – and that was kind of it. Sure, MySpace existed and a few people used MSN, but social media definitely did not permeate our culture and society like it does now.

Today, nearly everything can be applied in a social context. From Spotify – which shares your music habits in a sidebar feed – to Venmo – where people can write witty descriptions for their payments to friends – social media is ubiquitous, and shows no signs of slowing down.

Prior to college I had never thought about social media in a business context. But businesses are some of the largest users of social media today. Viral campaigns consisting of clever hashtags can really bring a product into the limelight, and for the most part, this method is free for companies.

What’s more interesting is that individuals are capitalizing on extraordinary fame through social platforms (hence the phrases “Instagram Famous” or “Vine Famous”). For example, Chiara Ferragni, an Italian fashion blogger with 6.5 million followers on Instagram, recently re-launched her blog, The Blonde Salad. The blog now incorporates an e-commerce site featuring Ferragni’s own line of apparel, shoes and accessories, as well as items from her collaborations with various luxury brands. She has become not only a staple figure at Fashion Week but also a successful entrepreneur.

And she did this all through social media.

 

It blows my mind that people like this exist. It’s one thing for companies to expand their digital efforts and adopt social media into their marketing strategies – many media companies and retailers have amassed millions of followers across their social channels, and it’s been beneficial to their businesses. But it’s completely different to build up your name and brand through just Instagram, Youtube, or Snapchat – something that wasn’t even possible ten years ago. Through free platforms thousands of influencers are creating and posting original content – and fans are flocking to them in hoards, allowing these personalities to cash in on the fame.

Of course, as digital tools become inseparable from business, unforeseen problems will – and have already – caused headaches for a good number of users. Social media gaffes are so common these days – you won’t go a week without seeing a headline referencing a public figure’s supposed slip-up and maybe apology. It’s an area that professionals are still trying to figure out – and even some seasoned entertainers who are highly active on social media have had their share of awkward Internet screw-ups.

Is Ellen racist or did people overreact to a harmless meme? That’s up for debate, but this is not really the point. The point is that despite being public figures, individuals and businesses still are not completely cognizant of the different implications that a single post can convey to certain groups of people. And it is this delicate area that professionals will need to master if they want to leverage social media to their advantage.

There can also be more serious legal problems related to social media posts. Many influencers, or individuals who have large followings on social media, are being paid to endorse or share certain products and services on their various accounts. Examples include Khloe Kardashian touting the benefits of FitTea, an alleged weight loss beverage, on her Instagram account. Most figures will add a small but important hashtag in their caption – #ad, or #spon, indicating that they were paid to promote the product. But the Federal Trade Commission is cracking down on such posts, saying that even hashtags may not be enough – influencers must remain extremely transparent in their business deals, as certain posts may mislead followers about certain products.

I took this class because I have an inherent interest in the intersection of social media and business. As a student in CSOM, I’m curious about the ways in which business can utilize social media in new and innovative ways. I’m also aware that while I have essentially grown up with social media, I’m not familiar with the professional effects that social media can have on modern businesses – which is why I appreciated the article that my reading group was assigned, titled “Procedural Versus Strategic Approaches to Social Media.”

The article highlighted the differences between college students and older adults when it comes to utilizing social media. Younger people typically know how to use social media in a technical sense, but it takes both life and professional experience for someone to know how to use it in a successful business context. As a “young person,” I hope that the take-aways from this course will help bridge this gap.

I remember once talking to someone who ran social media for a company. He was complaining that his managers were trying to get him to adopt a strategy that a rival business had started using, but that the managers really didn’t know what they were doing. “Just because it worked for them, doesn’t mean it will for us,” he lamented. “Everyone thinks they can do social media, but it’s not that easy.”

I agree – which is why I truly hope that one day I’ll know how to properly “do” social media.

 

 

2 comments

  1. NIce post! The “blonde salad” picture seems to be messed up, but no big deal (and I appreciate that you are thinking to use it). I’m glad you liked the “procedural vs. strategic” article. I’ve learned that one definitely needs to be one of the first readings (it was later last semester and people didn’t really appreciate it). Sounds like you’re in the class for the right reasons, and we’ll talk about all sorts of those issues you’re interested in.

  2. I really liked your post. I especially liked your discussion around how people such as Chiara Ferragni are able to make successful careers through social media platforms. This is a pattern that I am seeing more and more frequently as well. For example, as embarrassing as this is to admit, I follow a number of old bachelor contestants on Instagram. So many of them had skyrocketed into other careers such as modeling, writing books, etc – namely through the success that they have had through Instagram and other social media platforms. They have their own endorsements, and sunglass lines, etc… the list goes on and on. It is amazing how social media can really open many doors to successful businesses if you are able to leverage these platforms in a successful and thoughtful manner.

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