Social media may be briefly defined as media used for social interaction. More particularly, social media is the utilization of Internet web technology and mobile technology to not just communicate, but also to attain interactive dialogue. While traditional media forms were used to communicate a message to an audience, social media not only communicates a message to an audience, but also facilitates a dialogue with the audience.
Social media takes a number of different forms. Internet forums or message boards, micro blogs, weblogs, social blogs, podcasts, video, photographs and pictures, wikis, rating and social bookmarking are all forms of social media. Social media has revolutionized the way people interact for social purposes and for commercial purposes. In terms of social interaction, social media has brought new meaning to the phrase “social networking.”
Sites, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and MySpace, have transformed social interaction. Friends and family members are able to connect with each other easily (frequently on Facebook). Long lost loves or acquaintances can overcome the obstacle of time and reconnect when they find each other on a social networking site. Strangers become friends by initially connecting through a social networking site. Photograph sharing sites, such as Flickr or Photobucket, enable people to share their pictures at any time of the day or night regardless of distance. Video sharing sites, such as YouTube, have created overnight media sensations out of previously unknown individuals performing dance routines or babies sleeping in car seats.
Moreover, what may have started as social networking has now been transformed into a major method of business networking and marketing. In addition to traditional means of reaching consumers, such as print, television, or radio advertising, increasing numbers of businesses are jumping onto the social media bandwagon.
New careers have been created in which employees spend their time creating and managing a social media presence for their employers. Today even small businesses, for example, have Facebook pages that enable them to interact with their customers. It is not uncommon for businesses to notify their patrons of sales or other promotions by sending them email “blasts” and then watching the revenues increase.
Consumers decide which products to purchase after reading product reviews on sites such as Epinions.com. They decide which restaurants to dine at by visiting Yelp.com. With the direct or indirect influence of social media marketers, today’s consumers are becoming increasingly likely to make their purchasing decisions based on information they gather through social media platforms rather than by relying on television or print communications.
Members of the public often perceive the information they gain through social media platforms as more trustworthy than that received from businesses because it is perceived as coming from people like themselves.
Thus, using social media as a marketing tool has presented new challenges as well as new opportunities. The development of social media has created a brave, new world of social interaction.