The landscape of social media has seen many cultural shifts over its short but complex history. What started as cool and youthful forums for teenage self-expression have felt the grip of corporate monetization trying to capitalize on the trend’s popularity. This corporate monetization is felt more subtly on some platforms than others. The targeted Facebook ads and sponsored twitter content are obvious and bulky signs of this capitalization on popularity. While sponsored Snapchat content is meant to feel like more like news, and Buzzfeed style entertainment, rather than product endorsement. But nonetheless, our news feeds have transformed over the past 10 years. Companies are fighting for views and clicks. They are using these platforms to jumpstart their inbound marketing techniques. Instead of using a megaphone to attract the most viewers as possible social media allows them to use unique content to attract an audience that shares their interests. And it seems like the company, or personality, with the most entertaining content attracts the most followers. This behavior has created a unique culture of social media consumers and social media producers – with average users falling somewhere in the middle.
Social media consumers are people like myself. I am extremely active on social media. I look at Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and LinkedIn daily. I get most of my news, gossip, and entertainment from these platforms. However, I rarely post. I am a consumer, not a producer. My twitter feed is littered with Wall Street Journal articles, Fantasy Football tips, funny memes, and CNN politics. Twitter has become a way for me to stay connected to the world, not my friends. I use each of these platforms for a very specific role. Facebook is where I learn about events, Twitter is where I get my news, and Snapchat and Instagram are where I keep up with my friends.
Social media producers are exactly the opposite. They are the one’s creating the content. These are accounts run by businesses, magazines, TV shows, and more. The most obvious form of these producers is famous accounts that specialize is creating memes and sharing funny vines. They have enormous followings and maintain these fan bases with funny and entertaining content. Occasionally they will throw in a sponsored tweet to enjoy the monetary benefits of there following, but for the most part they are just trying to maintain their viral reputation.
In the midst of these two extremes are normal social media users. The average user who keeps this enormous culture alive. They are the perfect mix of an interactive consumer and producer. They absorb the content and interact with it through comments, likes, retweets, and shares. These are the people who push the content to their friends and family. Helping the viral nature of social media exist and thrive.
However you use social media I am sure it isn’t the same way that you used it 10 years ago. At the beginning of my social media career I was a producer. Obsessed with how many Facebook notifications I had and how many MySpace friends I could rack up. Now I find myself removing people from my friends list so I can filter the content in my news feeds to stuff that I actually care about. This evolution of social media has been extremely exciting. In my opinion it has been the most influential tool of the 21st century. Its ability to unite people and facilitate the spread of ideas is unparalleled. However, I don’t think that we have mastered social media just yet. I think the dramatic evolution of social media will continue. Trends will continue to emerge and these platforms will invent new ways to make money and grow their revenue streams. I’m looking forward to exploring these trends in Social Media and Digital Business throughout the semester.