Understanding social media
Join the conversation
Do you listen to your customers… really listen to them? Do you take their opinions, ideas and criticisms on board, and allow them to inform your business decisions? If you do, you’re ahead of the game. Historically, marketers have focused on delivering a particular message, to a predefined target audience, with the aim of eliciting a specific response.
Consumers were sometimes consulted in the process, of course – through market research, consumer surveys, focus groups and the like – but by and large the marketing tended to be ‘show and tell’ in nature, the consumer’s role that of a passive recipient of information peddled by the marketer.
Now, thanks to the increasingly interactive nature of the internet, and a shift in the way that people are consuming media, all of that is changing. Consumers are talking, just as they always have, only now they are talking online to more extensive groups of their peers.
The conversations they are having seamlessly transcend geographical, temporal and cultural boundaries. The web is abuzz with a billion conversations, and that presents exciting opportunities for marketers who are brave enough to engage.
What is social media?
Social media is the umbrella term for web-based software and services that allow users to come together online and exchange, discuss, communicate and participate in any form of social interaction. That interaction can encompass text, audio, images, video and other media, individually or in any combination.
It can involve the generation of new content; the recommendation of and sharing of existing content; reviewing and rating products, services and brands; discussing the hot topics of the day; pursuing hobbies, interests and passions; sharing experience and expertise… in fact, almost anything that can be distributed and shared through digital channels is fair game.
Social media is nothing new
One of the biggest misconceptions about social media is that it is a new phenomenon. Online social interaction has been around since the very beginning. In its crudest form social media predates the web by some two decades. Primitive dial-in bulletin board services (BBSs) and online communities such as CompuServe and Prodigy allowed users to post messages online for other members to read and respond to, UseNet newsgroups allowed like-minded participants to exchange views about all sorts of topics ranging from brain surgery to budgerigars, while e-mail discussion lists did the same. Internet relay chat (IRC) introduced real-time chat into the mix, and browser-based forums and chat rooms brought the discussion on to the web. Social media, one and all.
Social media is naturally compelling
The proliferation of social media is a natural extension of increasing levels of internet usage and the penetration of always-on broadband access. As more people head online, and start weaving the internet seamlessly into the fabric of their daily lives, it is only natural that they bring with them the very human need to interact and belong.
We are biologically programmed to be social and gregarious creatures. The need to interact with other people is hard-coded into our DNA; it is part of who and what we are, and that is as true online as it is off. That’s one of the main reasons why so many of us find social media incredibly compelling