How These Five Elements Of Social Media Evolved Into Today’s Norm
Facebook. Twitter. Instagram.
Almost everyone has heard at least one of these names. With a total of 2.307 billion active social media accounts as of January 2016, it comes as no surprise that what was once a passing trend is now a key part of the modern world that we can no longer live without.
A few decades back, internet was unheard of by many and that the only means of communication and news in those days were through television and phones. It was a relatively unchartered territory. The birth of modern social media can probably be dated back to 1997, when Six Degrees was first established. This site allowed users to create a profile and connect with friends online. There were many small social networks that came and went but the real surge happened in the early 2000’s, when MySpace, Friendster and LinkedIn made their debut. There was an increase in people who had access to internet and it became a trend, especially for younger generations, to utilize chat rooms, discuss topics and make friends. If you weren’t on Friendster or MySpace, you weren’t in the “in” crowd. A few years later, Facebook was launched. From small Harvard beginnings, Mark Zuckerberg’s social media platform has become the number one social media giant with a whopping 1.5 billion people using this worldwide.
The game has certainly changed.
Social media has become a worldwide phenomenon, integrating itself in the daily lives of people and helping them connect to long-lost friends, get up-to-date reports on current social and political events and even respond to “call to action” requests from different sectors of the world. Social media has played a big role in making interaction with other people, however far they may be, easier and quicker.
Even businesses have seen the massive potential that social media can give. Chris Bolivar, owner of FREE Branding & Digital shared that almost all companies have at least one social media platform. “Website owners use social media to boost the visibility of their websites as well as spread new market information.”
Social Media is everywhere.
It has irrevocably changed the way we see and hear things. The impact can be seen not only in people’s lives but in the way world events have turned out. It’s so ingrained in us, that 45% of users feel “worried or uncomfortable” when email and Facebook are inaccessible.
Here are five elements of social media that we watched evolve into today’s norms:
News and World Events
“If you want to liberate a country, give them the internet”
This was what Wael Ghonim, a young Google executive who helped spark and accelerate Egypt’s revolutionary fire said in a CNN interview. Peaceful protests propelled by social media, removed a 30-year dictatorship in Egypt.
With over 3 billion internet users all over the world, people have immediate access to different sources of information, even if the news is from a country that’s oceans and continents away. Back during Pre-internet days, news was hard to come by — without the newspaper, radio or television — people were stuck guessing what was happening around the world. As an indication of how much the news industry has changed, take the case of Osama Bin Laden’s death, where Akamai’s Net Usage Index measured approximately 4.1 million page views (per minute!) to top news sites alone. This doesn’t even include social media sites.
Even citizens have taken an active part in reporting information, with the emergence of the internet, regular people now have the ability to transmit news — news that was once reserved only to the very largest of media corporations — to people around the globe as soon as it happens.
On the downside, not all information that is on the internet or is shared on social media sites are real, factual or complete. Hence, general public is advised to read with caution.
The social media obsession does not stop with personal updates, pictures or videos. Social networking sites have become key battlegrounds for tech-savvy politicians wanting to secure a post in the government. It has threatened to overtake traditional ways of campaigning by providing a platform to gather voters, exchange ideas and challenge fellow rivals all in one place.
Advertising without having to pay has become fairly common for political campaigns. All they had to do was upload a political video on YouTube for free and let advertising and broadcasting do the rest. Social media tools have also allowed politicians to speak directly to voters. United States President Barack Obama was one of the first people to use the social media platform to his advantage and he was even able to raise hundreds of millions over the course of his presidential run just by posting and interacting with voters online.
Dan Pfeiffer, in an interview with the New Yorker magazine, said that “With the Internet, with YouTube, with TiVo, with cable TV, people are selective viewers now…People approach their news consumption the way they approach their iPod: You download the songs you like and listen to them when you want to listen to them.”
Communication and Interaction
Remember the days when all people had were old style phones with the rotary dial and no answering machines? People had to physically be at the end of each phone in order to communicate. In today’s setting, you can always leave a voicemail, send a text or go online and leave a message on one of their social media accounts. The convenience of being in this era is something that a lot of the Generation Y can relate to.
In an infographic done by InSites Consulting, sending direct messages is the top reason why people use social media. Staying in touch with friends and family and being able to interact with people who have similar interests is important to people especially for Millennials or the Gen-Y’ers. They are called “digital natives” because of their heavy use of social media. Just imagine, 90% of them use their smartphones to check their social media accounts even before getting out of bed!
As food for thought, anyone who has the desire to voice out their opinion can do that at the snap of a finger (or at the press of the submit button). You can get your point across by commenting on Facebook posts, typing in 140 characters on Twitter and even creating a 15-second video on Instagram — it’s that easy now.
Even the use of #hashtags have become a popular way to communicate with people. Although these have been around since the 1980’s, they only became hugely popular in 2009 when Twitter used this to categorize topics. Find a hashtag on a topic and you are presented with an array of information to choose from.
Marketing and Advertising
According to figures from eMarketer, social media advertising is said to hit $23.68 billion worldwide this year. This is a phenomenon that most businesses, big or small, are paying close attention to. Wise business owners know that going digitally will deliver the best (and sometimes the cheapest) results.
With the rise of social media, a buyer can be at the comforts of his own home and order anything that he or she wants. From something as small as a pair of earrings to something as big as cars, there really is no stopping the choosy consumer from taking a pick from the many choices online. In one study made, 46% of all users will use their social media tool of choice to make an online purchase. Even product and brand recommendations are easily found on social media, making and breaking companies in their wake. NewVoiceMedia also found that 27% of Millennials favored social media for customer service. Imagine an upset customer posting a review on a site.
There is no doubt that there is an emergence of creativity and inventiveness that businesses are leveraging onto in order to entice more people to heed their brands. It won’t come as a surprise if social media takes over the digital marketing platform in the coming years. We’ll all have to keep our eyes open for this.
Social media tools aren’t just for marketing or news, it is also an effective way to learn just about anything under the sun. From hashtags, podcasts, blogs and file swapping, there are so many ways that people can do their research and learn at the same time. Informal learning according to some, social media technology gives people the opportunity to study outside the normal classroom setting. If done correctly, Facebook can even be a great way to engage students in learning by creating a group to start new ideas. The options are endless. Start a discussion on Twitter and hashtag it, you’ll have people sharing their ideas and will be able to track the topic.
Since social media is already a huge part of people’s lives, integrating this in classrooms helps students learn best practices and also give an interesting twist to lessons that would have otherwise been a bore in the classroom.
For Better or For Worse?
Social media, as with any kind of communication, comes with its pros and cons. With the massive changes that it has brought along, we are all riding on that wave of transformation. It all boils down to how it is used. Remember that people in oppressed countries have found a way to build more awareness through social media. It’s the voice of the people. The empowering feeling of being able to change society with words is headier than any drug. No doubt social media will continue to impact everyone’s life and will become a driving force for many events to come.