It may have begun simply as a way for a group of friends to keep in touch, but over the past decade, the influence of social media has multiplied significantly, extending to all parts of the globe and across generations and cultural differences. It has gone from something used by individuals to a massively lucrative marketing tool that can be harnessed by businesses both large and small.
Social media – the umbrella term for sites such as Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter as well as bloggers both professional and amateur – is now used by billions of people worldwide, from teenage schoolchildren to pensioners and grandparents. To some, it is a way to keep in touch with people from school or college, while to others; it is a way to promote themselves or their product to a wider audience.
Serve a myriad of purposes and audiences
There are many different types of social media sites. If you want to catch up on what’s trending right now, get celebrity gossip or links to interesting sites, you might visit sites such as StumbleUpon and Twitter.
If you like to look at images or try everything from a new cupcake to a new nail design, sites such as Pinterest and Instagram are excellent places to visit. If you want to send a message to a friend you missed at last night’s party, you can always connect with them on Facebook.
People rarely send out applications for jobs anymore: jobs come to them, via professional networking sites such as LinkedIn. Individuals use social media to provide updates on their life without having to send out group mails. Images of the newborn baby, the proud graduate, or recently married couples are excellent examples of this.
Viral video sensations
The time when you waited to hear new music by waiting for it to come onto the radio are past and gone – now, you look it up on YouTube. YouTube sensations who’ve managed to “go viral” online include the unknown 12 year old Justin Bieber, who posted up his first YouTube video in 2007, which captured the attention of a marketing executive. His total video viewership is now around 2.3 billion.
Social media as marketing
Many businesses have discovered the power of social media and harnessed it to their own gain. Successful business people have managed to reach an audience of millions with their own blogs, Facebook or Twitter pages in a way that expensive corporate advertising campaigns have failed. Francesco Corallo is just one example of this, reaching out to the public through his Twitter account.
Influential people include Pete Cashmore, founder and CEO of Mashable, a hugely successful site on digital, technology, and social media news. Mari Smith, meanwhile, a social media trainer and passionate fan of Facebook, has around 50,000 followers on Facebook and more than double that on Twitter. She has a blog on Facebook marketing.
Advertising is often hard to recognize, as the big marketing companies have learned how to create paid content that hides its advertising. Companies now employ social media experts as part of their marketing department: there are now professional bloggers, brand influencers, and viral video producers, influential positions that were non-existent just a decade ago.
The key to using social media as a business is that marketing is not overt. Social media is about two-way communication: it’s a way for your potential audience to interact with “likes”, comments or through competitions. Social media can help a business by bringing it closer to its customers.
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