This class was definitely a new experience for me as almost all of my courses in the MBA program have been accounting and finance based. As someone that had used Facebook and Instagram to occasionally post a photo or video, it was beneficial to learn about the business side of social media. Reflecting back on the readings, videos, and presentations has led me to the determination that social media (SM) results in a dichotomy between both building relationships and breaking them.
SM has the ability to bring people together in a way that wasn’t possible before. Applications allow us to meet people we never would have met offline and to talk to people thousands of miles away at no cost. Before this class, I had never heard of a Mukbang, where the host of the video eats large quantities of food while interacting with the viewers (and can also make up to $10,000 a month while doing so.)
Before YouTube, this wasn’t even a thing, and now someone in the United States can view a South Korean citizen eating their dinner. The presentation about SM at BC is another example. The videos and tweets give a glimpse to perspective and current students as well as alumni about what being a student at BC is all about, a perspective that couldn’t be as easily accessed before SM. With the videos, admissions can attract students to want to apply and join the BC community. AirBnB and Uber are also bringing people together in unexpected ways via the “Sharing Economy” (Nov 3 readings). With UberPool, multiple users going to a similar location can share a ride. AirBnB allows consumers to rent out someone’s apartments with or without the owner staying there at the same time. Both of these business plans build relationships based on trust. Consumers must have a level of trust to share a car ride with a stranger or stay in a stranger’s home in a foreign country.
Lindsay from Digitas’ presentation about the Fenty x Puma launch and giving an inside look to the fashion show is another example of social media bringing people together – in this case, a new fashion line and potential customers. By giving viewers a behind-the-scenes look at the show, it created a personal touch that made people feel more connected to the brand and more likely to buy it. This type of strategy gives companies the opportunity to connect with their audience through social media and get to know who their customers are. By building a relationship, brands are able to gain new customers and keep existing ones by consistent engagement.
Because SM has the power to bring people together, it also creates an opportunity to make people smarter. The Collective Intelligence readings (Sep 22), specifically “Where Good Ideas Come From”, says that innovation occurs by ideas building off of other ideas and evolving over time, e.g. GPS. GPS wasn’t invented overnight, it was a compilation of different ideas over a period of years. Now that SM allows people to connect and share ideas in new ways, innovation can happen at a much more rapid pace.
As wonderful as SM can be for society, it can also have consequences – both intended and unintended. Just as it can create and build relationships, it can also destroy them. Virality is a topic that was discussed Oct 13, specifically with the wedding video. That was an example of a good type of virality, but there are other times when images and words go viral for the wrong reasons. Offensive memes and tweets can quickly spiral out of control and make the original poster’s life a nightmare. Justine Sacco, senior director of corporate communications at IAC at the time, wrote a tweet in ill taste in December of 2013 to her 170 followers. The tweet received tens of thousands of responses within hours. A network effect like this can have terrible consequences if you don’t think before you post.
A more intentional consequence of SM is a result of online bullying and harassment, as presented by Professor Fichman (Oct 27). Online trolls find joy in making others feel terribly about themselves. Behavior like this can result in psychological and emotional issues for the recipient, and sadly death in some cases. Trolls looking to embarrass their peers drive the victim to suicide, as seen recently in the case of Brandy Vela. Cases like this are investigated for cyberbullying and some trolls are even charged. Hiding anonymously behind a computer can bring out the evil in people to cause harm to another person.
In conclusion, being a user of social media requires responsibility and common sense. Just like businesses have a strategy to make sure what they post is on message and relevant, personal users should think before they post anything to the internet. Cultivating relationships is a benefit that SM has brought to us, and it is our responsibility to use the tool with good judgment without ill intent.
“Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury, and remedying it.” – J.K Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows