The Core of Social Media

This sample research paper discusses the impact that social media has had on business in the last decade.

Social media is a term that we have all heard, and research shows that as of 2016, daily global use of social media by global internet users increased to 118 minutes per day. But what is social media? How is it categorized, how has it impacted business, and what future innovations should we expect and prepare for?

Wikipedia loosely defines social media as a technology that allows for the creation and sharing of information, ideas, interests and other forms of expression via virtual communities and networks. Social media users can connect to the various platforms via personal computers, laptops, smartphones, and tablet computers.

Although social media sites differ wildly, and change frequently, here are few a common factors which are common for all social media platforms:

  • Social media sites are interactive, Web 2.0 Internet-based applications.
  • Users generate content (in the form of text, comments, photos, videos, or other types of data).
  • Users create profiles that are specifically designed and maintained by the particular platform.
  • Social media facilitates the development of online social networks by connecting a user’s profile with those of other individuals and/or groups.

The first social media site was reportedly created in 1997, which led to the first blogging sites in 1999. The popularity of the online medium has led to a dramatic increase in social media platforms since then.

How Social Media Has Changed Business

Since the 1990s, social media has continued to grow and as a result, ushered in a new era for businesses. According to Jayson DeMers, a contributor to Forbes magazine, social media platforms offer several benefits to a business’s marketing activities including:

  • Increased brand recognition and brand loyalty
  • More opportunities to convert visitors into customers
  • Higher conversion rates
  • Higher brand authority
  • Increased inbound traffic
  • Decreased marketing costs
  • Better search engine rankings

Traditional media, such as newspapers, magazines, television and radio is often compared to social media and may be seen as its precursors. However, for as many similarities that can be found between the two, their functions are dramatically different. Traditional media, for the most part, has been viewed as unbiased, objective, and produced by an authority figure. The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) lists the following differences between traditional and social media:

  • It reaches a maximum audience, while traditional media’s audience is generally more targeted.
  • It is versatile (changes can be made once published), whereas traditional media is harder to retract.
  • It is immediate, while traditional is committed to deadlines and press times.
  • It is a two-way conversation, and traditional is one-way.
  • It often has unreliable demographic data, but traditional media’s is more accurate.

Traditional media certainly has a place in business, but neither social media platforms nor television, radio, and print should be substituted for the other; each offers a set of unique benefits to a marketer.

In fact, one of the most powerful and standalone aspects of social media is its ability to create a community around a business, a product or a service; a way that engages with a potential audience, and invites and encourages discussion and feedback.

[Tweet “There is a fine balanced line between informing or sharing and bombarding and overselling.”]

Social Media Platforms

Social media platforms are as diverse and varied as the people who use them and constantly changing.

Hootsuite categorizes social media sites into eight types of platforms including:

  1. Personal Networks (such as Facebook)
  2. Interest-based Networks (based on the primary type of media shared; video and photographs and not the text. Flickr, Instagram, YouTube, Vimeo, and apps such as Vine)
  3. E-commerce
  4. Media Sharing Networks
  5. Discussion Forums (such as Reddit, Quora, and Digg)
  6. Bookmarking Sites
  7. Social Publishing
  8. Online Reviews (services such as Yelp, Urbanspoon, Airbnb and Uber are based strongly on their online reviews)

Together, these eight social media platforms attract more than 100,000,000 registered users over the following sites: Facebook (including Facebook Messenger), WhatsApp, Tumblr, Instagram, Twitter, Baidu Tieba, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Gab, Google+, YouTube, Viber, Snapchat, Weibo, and WeChat.

The sheer number of platforms can be overwhelming to any entrepreneur; however, a business does not need to be on every social media site to reap its benefits, nor do they need to dedicate staff members to post repeatedly throughout the day.

How To Choose The Best Social Media Platform

Selecting the most important social media sites for a business to be showcased on has less to do with the overall number of users on the platform or its popularity, and more about the ideal customers the business wishes to attract.

Vertical Response, an email and social media marketing company, suggests working through the following questions when determining the most appropriate social media platform:

  • What is the unique purpose of this platform?
  • Do its attributes relate to my business’s needs?
  • Which target audience does this platform serve?
  • How much time on this network is necessary to have the best impact

Potential customers dictate a business’s social media use. Social media opens the door to creating a discussion between a business and a potential customer, allows the building of a community and helps to create raving fans.

As A. Michelle Blakeley reports in Women on Business, “There is a fine balanced line between informing or sharing and bombarding and overselling. You have to communicate often enough that you remain top of mind, and your message needs to be timely, informative and useful.”

As of 2016, Facebook is still the leading platform for marketers (93% of businesses use this platform), with many businesses looking to include multimedia in the future, including video. Of course, as we have seen, it is less important to follow trends and more important to follow the desires of an ideal customer. Social media after all is more about sociology and psychology than it is technology.

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