Social media: a (R)evolution close

Karine Tonson la Tour
Karine Tonson la Tour
In Musings, Codegent College
11th November 2010
Social media: a (R)evolution

Facebook, Twitter, MySpace? They are all the most popular social media networks of the moment. But in the eyes of teenagers they have always existed… and to an extent that’s true. These networks for social interaction, which have the power to boost your business, are far from new.

A 50s Invention

It started illegally. One of the first social medias was “Phone Phreaking” which was born in the 50’s. I can’t imagine my grand parents using this early homemade electronic device called a “blue box”. You would plug it into a phone booth and hack landline systems to receive secret messages… awesome. This ancestor of Skype was the start of the movement.

But social media networks did not see any real progress until computers started to arrive in people’s homes. BBSs (Bulletin Board Systems) made the first steps in the 70’s by allowing users to log on and interact with one another. Have you heard of ICQ, the first instant messaging device? Or Prodigy, the discussion platform? Or 26000 Meetings, the first “tweetup” type social media events? I had no idea they existed but they really helped to amplify and expand the movement in the 90’s. Classmates.com proved instantly that the idea of a virtual reunion was a good one and in 2002 social networking really started to hit its stride with the launch of Friendster.

Why Social Media can improve your business

So Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook creator) didn’t invent anything after all, all he did was prove how much people like to talk about their experiences, their actualities, their lives. To keep in touch the world over and have a presence on the web by sharing.

There are now plenty of social media options for sharing almost everything: not just discussions, but also videos, images, ideas, passions for pets, shoes or trainspotting. They are all potential platforms to communicate on and create a marketing buzz according to your business. But why?

Social media raises the game to another level. Before, the information would go from a billboard to you, now, it goes from a billboard through you. People are becoming vectors but more precisely trusted vectors who will lead messages to a wider and like minded target. For example, I share the same interests of Matt, my Creative Director, about Design. Hence I follow his tweets, have a look at his blog when I have a minute, and watch his arty pictures through Instagram for inspiration. Now Matt saw a very interesting coffee place which presents temporary exhibitions. He liked the idea and decided to promote the place by sharing the information through his social media networks. All his contacts and friends will see it on his feeds (knowing Matt we are talking about hundreds of people). This information doesn’t come from a shiny brochure, it comes from a respected colleague and friend. Its importance is much higher. Now I have seen it, and inevitably like it too I have also decided to promote it through Twitter and Facebook. My own friends may like it and so on. Imagine how many people’s attention this little coffee place will command? Thousands.

This is why it appears crucial for you to have share buttons on your website. Twitter and Facebook can definitely make a strong difference to the traffic generated on your website. And whether you are creating a buzz for dance choregraphy or pumpkin carving, other social medias can be added such as Youtube or Flickr to amplify your weight on the web. Social media is an extraordinarily powerful medium and is set to remain the key call to action for your success.

WARNING: Do not abuse it

Now that you know how great social media is for your business, you will probably want to reach a maximum amount of people by pushing them to share your content through all possible social media networks. From the best known which has millions of users to the tiniest, which might have 20 members.

Quality must come before quantity. You won’t gain more impact by proposing 10 different social media sharing buttons on each of your webpages. The exact opposite will happen. Desperation is not appealing.

Recently I was talking with a friend who works for a business advisory company, specializing in social media. He kept saying that networks have to be strategically placed and be specifically linked to the company’s activity. Social media networks don’t all share the same functions and they do not operate in the same context: Facebook is mainly used by friends, Linkedin by professional contacts, Digg shares and rate links and is more about collective opinion… They can serve you and give you crediance if they are thoughtfully placed upon your webpage and carefuly selected depending on who the target audience is and how they engage online.

Finally, the wider world is slow. When I ask people what social media they know, I usually get Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and Myspace. Web people will add Delicious, Tumblr and Digg. Fundamentally only some people use Tumblr and a few others Myspace but there are two ubiquitous presences: Facebook and Twitter. In coming years, others may get more and more important and gain critical mass on the Net, but for the moment their curves are low, and won’t bring you much of an audience.