More than 2 billion of us use social media, changing the way we communicate, market, interact and involve ourselves in everyday society. Technology has come a long way in a short amount of time - but how has that development changed the way we get messages to one another?
Social media shifted our entire process of communication (whether personal or business related). These days we find ourselves switched on more than switched off, connecting and engaging through tools and apps and sharing our knowledge through posts, images and online content. Whether we see the shift as positive or negative - we can all agree that it’s a definite shift. Now the question is how to understand this constantly developing network, and how to use it to the advantage of our businesses and ourselves.
Social media offers a glimpse into a greater world
Whether we’re talking about marketing, sales, promotion, social activism, enlightenment, education, tourism, community, or personal reach social media has provided us with a larger audience and finger tip access to information and culture in distant lands. Through live feeds, reveals, personal stories, and images - today we can see life on a foreign university campus, hunger in a refugee camp, or follow a hiker as she journeys on the trail up close and personal and in real time.
For business purposes, this network expansion and broader global audience offers an opportunity to showcase benefits yet also quickly shines the light of the world stage on any blunders. With the gift of immediately knowing if surfers on Australia’s Bondi Beach are catching a sweet wave comes the curse of an airline’s squabble with a passenger being broadcast instantaneously. That glimpse provides results with both positive and negative impact.
Sharing those stories
In real life, sharing stories isn’t always easy - now, there's a new learning curve behind how to share (appropriately) in our digital ones. Whether your office be remote or brick and mortar, we now communicate through text, chat, and other software to provide instant contact. This has all but eliminated the need to walk to another office, slowed confidence development in face to face chats, and now speaking in public is more daunting than ever. Personalizing one's digital story is, today, a business in itself. Photos remove the need for prose, short blurbs of information often see the rules of grammar tossed aside and the word ‘filter’ no longer means don’t curse in front of your younger sibling.
While social media has been linked to the downfall of traditional journalism, it’s definitely created new ways to share the news and perhaps even made news interesting to an entire generation. We can watch a giraffe give birth on a live feed, follow hashtags for trending topics, and watch sports that only take place on the other side of the globe. A sense of urgency has shown up in social media - one that outside of the need for ‘breaking news’ might not have been there before. Although the ability for new opportunities for PR companies and brands has increased - they do come with their own share of challenges.
The endless noise
There’s a noise that comes with social media, like that ever present, underlying hum on an airplane. Unless you search for the location beyond mobile service or quite literally turn off every device you own, it’s always there. The pressure to have that perfectly crafted content ready to go at a moment’s notice is unnerving. Companies now exist with the sole purpose of handling messaging and marketing via social media - and it's incredibly useful to have those experts manage the noise. But positive blasts of that noise are the speedy dissemination of social campaigns and calls for full transparency from humans, brands, governments and corporations.
Loss of self, grammar, empathy and social graces
Had you ever heard of FOMO before social media? Was it even a thing? We’ve got new meanings for words like ‘friended/unfriended’, there’s a spike in ADHD and a decline in empathy, we share our feelings by way of emoticons and poor grammar is definitely more commonplace. It’s become far easier to be a lazy communicator. A 2017 Forbes article exclaimed that, ‘it is now socially acceptable to talk to seven other people while in real-life conversation with one’. An article on Thrive Global shared that ‘our need for rapid bits of information replaces our ability to clearly express thoughts and ideas when speaking to others’. Today we talk about digital detoxing, reminding people to get back to nature, and to look up from their phones. While the age of social media isn’t going anywhere, how much time we spend on it is up to us.
Awareness and Impact
Social media increases marketing abilities, has made it easier to quickly carve out that niche market and depending on how it’s used, and is often less expensive than the traditional forms of advertising. We can track and analyze the reach of brands and businesses and quickly use that data to amplify brand awareness on various platforms; social impact is even more powerful. Social media has an inherent ability to break down barriers that before would have taken years to implode. Consider how far the reach of a 15-year old European climate change activist is, how quickly our response can be to an international disaster, how you can live on a tiny island and instantly watch a live, inspiring political speech on the other side of the world, and how viral videos or tweets can boost - or raze - a company’s bottom line overnight.
Social media has fundamentally changed the face of human interaction, changing the way we do most everything. And while there are huge benefits to social media, are they all truly benefits? What do you think?