Social Media’s Impact for the Business World
A moment recreated in Aaron Sorkin’s award winning movie, The Social Network, displays perfectly the reality that very few could see the potential for what Mark Zuckerberg had created in his Harvard dorm room in 2003. The Winklevoss brothers, march into the Harvard Presidents office to dispute that Zuckerberg had stolen their idea for Facebook (called the Harvard Connection at the time). Larry Summers, President of the most prestigious University in the World, dismisses the twins dispute as ‘pretty theft’. He laughs off their claim that the website idea is potentially worth millions of dollars with the statement ‘boys, I think you have let your imaginations run away with you’. Looking back now, this comment is quite laughable. At the time the young twins knew what they potentially had in front of them. Zuckerberg certainly knew, but even he had no way of knowing the monster his dorm room tech start up would become. 14 years later, Facebook has 1.86 billion active users with a $64 billion evaluation.
Today through social media, high speed internet and smart phones we are more connected now together than ever before. Websites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have given us the ability to share and peek into others’ lives. We broadcast every second where we are, what we are doing, who we are with. On the surface the benefits of social media are undeniable, especially in the business community. Companies now can brand themselves, advertise personally and more directly than ever before. A witty Instagram caption or catchy viral video has the potential to turn a brand into a household name overnight. On Twitter, we are now able to tweet directly at the company to express our satisfaction or displeasure with their service. In airports, travelers can always be seen typing out a passive aggressive 140 characters at whichever airline has caused them a delay. So much so that large companies such as airlines, have created whole sectors of their organizations devoted to answering peoples tweets! There has never been this ability for instant feedback from consumers to a business.
Another significant benefit for businesses is that of advertising, never before could a business put their brand directly under the eyes and on the phone screen of the very people who should be seeing it. For example, Facebook, Twitter and many other sites are able to generate advertisements specialized for each individual based on their google searches. Searching for a new car in the morning? By afternoon, you will have ads for cars on your Facebook feed. Looking for the best vacation spot for spring break? You will have ads for holiday spots and pictures of amazing beaches. This much more specific and direct tactic towards consumers has enabled businesses to completely change their marketing campaigns. Companies are now able to directly market onto the phone or computer screen of the very people who are the easiest sell, the ones who were already looking.
While social media has created many benefits, at the same time there are also significant disadvantages. The first that comes to mind is the aspect of individual privacy. Our social pages give anybody who clicks our profile a brief glimpse into our lives. Many people have significant amounts of personal information on their pages, things like their hometown, date of birth, where they live and work. All this information makes it very easy for a stranger to learn about you. So much so that we are now warned that before going into job interviews to clean up those sloppy college pictures on your profile. Recruiters will often look people up on LinkedIn and Facebook once receiving a resume. That picture from sophomore year of you bonging beers definitely shows the qualities a company is looking for in their new employee. Additionally, once working for a company we must now be very careful of what we post of social media. Many a horror story has been told of bosses seeing pictures and snapchats from company trips that often result in termination of employees. Broadcasting this on social media is a direct reflection on your employer.
Overall social media has impacted our lives in so many ways more than we could even imagine. The benefits are undeniable, its extremely addictive and human simple nature to want to share our thoughts, actions and latest news with the people close to us. At the same time, disadvantages are just as predominate. There is no question that social media is here to stay and with significant improvements in technology the potential is limitless.