Is social media just another passing fad, like the dot-com boom at the turn of the century? Or is it the next biggest thing in mass communication since radio and television? Believe it or not, social media is much bigger than that… Much, much bigger…
There are those who thumb their nose up on social media. They probably think that it’s just a fad, nothing more than a mere channel for the youth to air their grouses. Yes, the young (and young at heart) do take to social media readily to express their views and opinions, sometimes rather vocally too. Much to the dismay of the more “cultured” members of “polite society”.
If you were to really think about it, social media is nothing more than just a channel of communication – mass communication. Just like how one would do the same with a hailer, standing on a soapbox. Yup, back in the 19th century, the powers-that-be also thought that soapboxing was also just another fad. It’ll probably go away by the turn of the 20th century. Not only did it not go away, it actually adapted itself to the Information Age rather well, in the form of blogs and social media.
The only difference is that social media has a much wider reach, thanks to the internet. What really matters is the content that is being conveyed. It can be as innocent as sharing your mother’s apple pie recipe, or as emotionally charged as voicing your political allegiance.
A Whole Lot Of Hot Air?
At the heart of it all, social media is nothing more than just a collection of people. People who congregate in groups of similar interests or topics. You can have a group for close friends, classmates, or even for orchid lovers too. There is literary no limit to what you can form a group based on. And the open communication among group members can be rather passionate too. Outsiders with little interest in that particular group may find themselves like fish out of water.
It doesn’t sound like there’s much practical use other than sharing information on hobbies, right? Well, not entirely. The beauty of social media is the speed of sharing information. The information that is shared is transmitted almost immediately. You can report on something that is literary unfolding at the time. And if the story is interesting and share worthy, the recipients can then retransmit to their own groups, spreading it exponentially. And when a hot piece of news spreads uncontrollably this way, it is known as being “viral”.
Just imagine, the news that you read in the morning newspaper is at least a-day old. Television and radio news will be at least half-a-day old when being broadcast. But the update you just received on social media is probably still happening as you read it.
Sounds Like A Whole Lot Of Fun, But Is There Any Practical Business Usage?
It is true that most social media transmission is nothing more than unimportant personal reports and opinions. But you can also make use of the same channel to disseminate newsworthy or information of commercial value too.
Sounds like a pretty good idea to advertise on social media, right? What with literary zero media cost, and a ready audience for your advertising message. However, advertising your product on social media will most definitely backfire, since nobody in their right mind likes consuming advertisement. Henceforth, never directly advertise on social media if you don’t want negative repercussions.
What you should do is actually to share useful information freely, openly and regularly with your audience. When you have built up a good reputation and amassed some followers, then your opinions will carry some weight. Just think of it as offering free services, and then earn a profit indirectly from your free services. Google anyone?…
Social Media Without An Anchor Is Like Flying A Kite Without Holding Onto The String
Social media is the means to an end of spreading information (mass media). By itself, sporadic and seemingly irrelevant information being peppered throughout is completely meaningless without a point of reference. It is like lifting a kite up to the sky, and then not holding onto the string. It will eventually falter helplessly down to the ground.
Announcing news and updates on social media channels without a reference point (usually an article in a blog) is like a whole lot of background noise. Social media turnaround usually last seconds, before something newer comes up to the top of the page, pushing your then latest news further and further to the bottom of the page. But that short time in the limelight is more than sufficient to attract the eye of the interested parties. It must then redirect them to a more permanent, and more detailed page. Henceforth, the anchor.
Understanding The Online Symbiotic Relationship
Without the anchor, the mass media is nothing more than mere noise. And without mass media, there’ll be nothing to apply tension onto the anchor. Likewise, nobody will know the existence of a detailed and comprehensive article if they didn’t hear about it on the social media. But social media announcements will be like passing noise if it doesn’t link to a meatier and detailed article.
But pair the two up and properly manage their relationship, you will have the most potent branding and advertising tool in your arsenal.
Still Think It’s Just Another Fad?
We have heard of corporations wanting to establish a relationship with their customers on social media. We have also heard of marketing managers wanting to make their messages to “go viral”. But maintaining an online presence isn’t as simple as raking up 500,000 followers, or getting 200,000 likes on your article or image.
For the lack of a better comparison, maintaining a web presence is journey, not a destination. You have to work very hard, and work continuously, if you want to achieve and maintain a good rapport with your audience and customers. It is not work very hard to hit your target number of followers and likes, then drop everything and rest on your laurels. You will find that all your positive reputation will slowly drop away, until you reach your initial starting point.
So to answer the original question – No, social media isn’t just a passing fad. It is here to stay.
Next Week: Branding Communication Via Online Presence
Next week, we’ll explore how you can build your social media empire, and then establish your online brand and persona.