Social Media – The Way Forward

Communication is an integral instinct of all human beings. The most important bearings of communication are best understood when there is a lack of it. Since the evolution of internet in 1960s and commercialisation by the 1990s, modes of communication have taken a quantum leap. World Wide Web, emails, social media platforms, and telecommunication tools have shown a way to keep in touch and achieved, what at one point was unthinkable.

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In his article Social media as the Next Web, Brian Solis points us to the much debated Web 2.0, which has made the web more open and interactive in the form of social networking sites. Social media no longer remains the forte of organisations and marketers. Today the impact and benefits of using social media is understood by common man. Social media has managed to connect people of different cultures and diversities to share their common interests. Social media has become a way of life. People have become the nodes of the network. As per statistics report by Nielsen and NM Incite, which was released in 2012, people spend a lot of time on social networks than any other websites. Facebook though still remains the most visited social network and home to about 12% of the world’s population. Other sites such as Twitter, Pinterest and Google+ have presented promising statistics over the last year. The race to remain at the top will be defined by the possibilities that can be explored and unlimited galore of activities that can be made available at the earliest to the nodes.

With the ever-expanding world of gadgets, connecting with friends is no longer limited to sitting in front of a PC. The mobile technology, though a generation younger than the PCs, has worked its way through in offering the same features, if not better as compared to any of the high-end PCs in the form of apps. Mobile web usage has gone up by 82% in 2012 over 2011 and mobile app usage has grown by 85%. Time spent on PCs is down by 4% during the same year. It is also pertinent to mention that as per Nielsen notes, while social audiences on PCs has declined by 5% since 2011; time spent has increased by 24%, which suggests that users are deeply engaged. 

Has social networking become such an obsession? We all love expressing, sharing experiences and connecting with people.  We also enjoy being appreciated and what other better means of doing so than social media. Mobile applications and PCs enable us to connect socially social media, which implies that social media is going to be the next web.

People Formerly Known as the Audience, written by Jay Rosen, a journalism professor at NYU,  takes our attention to the fact that social media has empowered the public to be more real and able. “Freedom of expression” is every individual’s right to express their opinions without interference. People are entitled to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. In practice, however, this fundamental human right was frequently restricted through tactics by the media. Formerly print media and later broadcast media. The common people formerly known as the audience were those who were on the receiving end of a media system that transmitted information one-way in a broadcasting pattern. 

The audience had very limited options available. They had no alternative but to listen or read in isolation. Today the situation is different, courtesy the Internet. Mediums like blogs, podcasting, and YouTube have provided the platform for these audiences to come alive and participate or express their views. The “former audience” is Dan Gilmor’s term for people. Dan refers to the owners and operators of tools, those were once exclusively used by media people to capture and hold their attention. This does not mean that people will stop listening to radio or stop watching movies in multiplexes. Mass media and entertainment industry will still be the source of information and pleasure. However, unlike before, people will not remain passive anymore and they were named “active audience” by Mark Thompson, director general of the BBC.

Tom Glocer, former CEO of Reuters feels that if media needs to attract audience, it needs to provide originality and quality. The idea of media “owning the eyeballs” is spurious. Media needs to understand the fact that people have many more options than what they had in the past. Disseminating information was the primary task of the media so that people around the globe are aware of what is happening in the world. Today, the “former audience” has stopped being submissive and passive. It is time for media to understand that there is a new balance of power between them and the people. New media has made this possible. The public have become more realistic, more able and less predictable, and they are going to decide the course of future action. Despite that, both print and broadcast media still remains the primary source of information, but people are going to set the platform on the basis of their prerequisite and contentment of matter being provided by the media. This “new media” by the people formerly known as the audience is going to be the prospect of any nation or the world as whole.

The article, Users Flee Instagram after Privacy Outcry, details the effects of a gaffe by Instagram. Ever since the evolution of social networking, the owners of these services have spent millions of dollars to make their product better than the rest. Though the race to be the best takes different shapes every day, one thing remains common – the user’s needs and ever-growing wish list. Caught in the web of social networking, people are offered new options every minute, though sharing and tagging photographs remains one of the common attributes of all these social network services. Instagram is one of the social networking services that enable its users to take a picture, apply a digital filter to it, and share it on a variety of social networking services, including its own and other leading sites such as Facebook or Twitter.

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Since the launch of Instagram in 2010, it gained popularity at a rapid rate whereby acquiring more than 100 million users in just two years. Within two years of its launch the company was estimated at a worth of $500 million. In April 2012, the leader in social networking, Facebook, acquired Instagram for approximately $1 billion. The company had its busiest 24 hours to date over Thanksgiving in 2012, that’s when users shared some 10 million photos — mostly of food.

 Instagram decided to review its policy on 17 December 2012. The new clause would allow the company to sell user’s photographs for advertising and promotions without compensating the user. This announcement garnered severe criticism from all the users including celebrities who were Instagram clients. After the announcement was made, Instagram that peaked at 16.4 million active daily users every week had fallen to 12.4 million.

Soon after the news went public and attained huge condemnation, Kevin Systrom, CEO and co-founder of Instagram tried to clarify the misunderstanding by stating that the company had no intention of selling its users’ photographs and the language used in the policy was confusing. However, the damage was done and statistics showed a steep decline in the usage. The controversy has definitely caused a huge dent in the reputation of Instagram and users might have switched to other networks offering almost the same benefits. Though the popularity of Instagram has not hit rock bottom but has definitely managed to create ripples amongst the trust of the users thereby providing undue advantage to other networks such as Twitter.

The above mentioned articles: Social Media as the Next Web, The People Formerly Known as the Audience, and Users Flee Instagram after Privacy Outcry, gives us a preview of what social media means to people today. People have become voracious internet users and by internet, I mean social media network. The People Formerly Known as the Audience, explains how there has been a decentralization of power from traditional media to social or new media. Social media has revolutionized the way people receive information. People are no longer passive. They have means available to express themselves. Social media in conjunction with mobile applications and latest technologies has made it possible for people to respond, reciprocate and express.

To conclude, social media is a very powerful tool. It empowers common man to express. However, the article titled Social Media is not Your Saving Grace by Brian Solis points out to a valid point. In his article, Brian said that connected consumers are spending a significant amount of their time on social media. However, social media is not the only secret ingredient that will make or break one’s business. Social media can be effective in understanding what people have to say about the company, products, or services. Social media is a means to design experience and a channel to express it. It is useful in building a relationship and taking it forward. Social media can do wonders to an organization, but for that to happen, the organization must provide quality service to its customers. Only then will social media be effective.