The Boom of Social Media
By: Caitlyn Lewis
Social media is a global phenomenon that reaches almost the entire globe. Social networking is the norm in today’s society and it’s only growing more and more. Each social media site shrinks the gap between any given two individuals all over the world. Facebook is already the market leader in about 130 countries, conquering the entire west (“Countries Facebook has Left”). Social media isn’t just for personal use anymore. Businesses are using it to advertise and connect with customers. Social media isn’t something to ignore; it’s growing rapidly each day. Social media is changing the way people work, communicate, and live around the world.
More and more businesses are using social media within their companies. A study done reported that 96% of companies surveyed would be increasing their investments in social media (Arno, 2012). Businesses are using everything from Facebook to Pinterest to advertise. A study was done amongst 600 small businesses and 42% of owners say that 25% of new customers discovered them through sites such as Facebook and Foursquare (Herzog). It is crucial that businesses are online and using the most applicable sites for their costumers. Most surveys were done within the United States, but many other countries are also using social media for business. Companies are even using YouTube to create videos to advertise their products. Many businesses make videos in the hope that they will go viral, meaning reach a widespread audience in a short amount of time. One viral video shows German engineer Bruno Kammerl flying down a giant waterslide to land in a kiddie pool about a mile away. This video was actually an advertising campaign for Microsoft. There is even a local company out of Salt Lake that has made a few viral videos to advertise their clothing company, Vooray (YouTube). Large and small companies alike are using social media to grow their companies. Most of the world’s largest companies are using social media by now. “The Fortune Global 100 were mentioned a total of 10,400,132 times online in one month” (Sreenivasan, 2012). Companies like Ford, Sony, Samsung, and Wal-mart use their online presence to target costumers geographically, topically, and to engage with them. They are mainly using Facebook and Twitter because they are currently the two largest social media sites used. 79% of cooperate accounts on Twitter strive to interact and engage with their costumers (Sreenivasan, 2012). It’s more commonplace to Tweet at our even about a business and get a response in minutes or even seconds. Today’s world is moving at a faster pace. With online media, people expect responses and answers in real time. Needless to say the world of business has changed. Social media is quickly taking over the way businesses interact with their costumers worldwide.
Social media is not just taking over the workplace in marketing though. It is often used for recruitment. The social media site LinkedIn is often used to find employees. LinkedIn has over thirty-five million members in over 140 industries (“How to Change,” 2009). This is the professional side of the social networking community. This site can get you recommendations form co-workers and show you where people are getting jobs and how. It can show you if businesses are still hiring, and if so connect you to their hiring manager. LinkedIn does just that; it gets you linked into the business world. In 2011, 89% of businesses use social media as a recruitment tool. Out of those using social media for recruiting, 86% used LinkedIn, 60% used Facebook, and 50% used Twitter (“This is Why,” 2013). Employers are online looking at profiles and learning about their potential employees before they ever meet in person. In fact 1 in 3 employers reject candidates based on something they found about them online (“This is Why,” 2013). It’s critically important to know and monitor what’s going online. Social media is changing the game for companies. The Internet is the new job board, so it’s important what is posted. Profiles communicate a lot about someone in a very small space.
The way people communicate with one another has evolved over many years. In fact it is still evolving, especially with the Internet at hand. Communication is no longer restricted by geological distance. It evolved with technology. Think of a time when you found yourself in a crowded city or bus station. Did you think that the person next to you could possibly be a friend of a friend or a friend of a friend’s friend? The small world experiment done by Stanley Milgram and many other researches tested the idea that any two people in the world are only separated by a small number of connections. Their famous study clamed that there are only 6 degrees of separation between any two people, but that was in 1960s (Bosker, 2011). If it feels like a small world, it’s because it is. The distance between two individuals is shrinking. Researches at the University of Milan in Italy developed a set of algorithms to calculate the average distance between any two people by computing a number of paths among Facebook users. This analysis was done with 721 million active Facebook users and their 69 billion friendships online. The study showed that the “6 degrees of separation” has been shirked to an average 4.74 degrees by using social networking sites. The number shrinks even more if you limit your study to individual countries. The Facebook Data Team wrote, "When considering even the most distant Facebook user in the Siberian tundra or the Peruvian rainforest, a friend of your friend probably knows a friend of their friend" (Bosker, 2011). The world’s digital divide is shrinking when it comes to communication between individuals. With access to the Internet and social media sites, communication is easier than ever. But not all countries and cultures are blessed enough to have social media sites.
Some countries are banned from social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and sometimes even Google. Bangladesh, Pakistan, Syria, North Korea, and China are a few countries that have had or do have these sites banned in their countries. When Iran’s ban was lifted in 2009, 150,000 Iranians were already members of Facebook. Citizens are finding ways around these bans. China has over 100,000 users on Facebook and it’s strictly banned in their country (Sawers, 2010). People find ways to get through cracks and firewalls. It’s important for countries to be involved online; they don’t want to be left out. They see what an impact social media has on the West and want to be involved. One comment to Sawers article stated, “I am one of those who "filters through the cracks"... along with so many others. I travel to China on business every few months, and compared to other countries where the ban is not persistent, in China it has been. Honestly, I don't like traveling to countries where you feel like you can get into trouble for the smallest thing (Facebook). However, I just hope they don’t find a way to find out about it through proxies” (Sawers, 2010). People are finding out ways to communicate with other countries. Social media is changing how and to who people are communicating. It’s growing so quickly, it’s hard to manage.
The Internet and social media are also changing how people learn and live. When countries have bans or censers on their media, online underground media flourishes. According to the Committee of Protected Journalist the top five most censored countries are: Eritrea, North Korea, Syria, Iran, and Equatorial Guinea (“10 most censored countries”). Without the Internet and social media, we would never find out the truth about some countries. Just last year an anti-Islam film created in the US caused deadly riots to break out around the world. The film, “Innocence of Muslims,” was posted on YouTube last June. From there it spread to an Egyptian television network. In Libya, protests led to attacks on the US consulate that left ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other American embassy staff dead (“Egypt Blocks”). This video spread to more than 20 countries and caused 50 killings. Cairo courts banned YouTube use for 30 days. YouTube and Google had not received any information from judges or government officials. Activists believe this is due to the lack of technical aspects of digital technology and lack of courtroom discussion (“The Big Story”). Technology is growing so quickly that certain courts and governments don’t know how to handle situations like these. The spread of information through the Internet happens so quick it is creating a social change. Before outlets like YouTube existed, this story probably wouldn’t have happened.
Social media has the power to impact so many aspects in people’s lives. In a recent study done it even showed the effects of social media on online shopping. People often relay on social media and mobile devices to give them information about products. The survey studied 3,5000 respondents in Asian and South American countries. The countries included: Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South America, India, Indonesia, and the Philippines. Every country in the study stated social media was the most useful tool for gathering insight on products to buy. There was even in overwhelming reply of “yes” when asked if social media impacted their mobile shopping experience. The study showed that social media impacted Kenya and Indonesia the most when it came to mobile shopping (Honigman, 2013). Not every country has access to mobile devices though. The only big exception in this study was the Philippians who said that social media had a 39% impact and 50% said they don't even shop on a mobile device. The Philippians is still developing and growing and social media still has a presence (Honigman, 2013). The impact of social media on something so simple as shopping shows its power in today’s society.
Social media is a powerful tool that is seen by people all over the world. The Internet is not just technology, but it is a tool used to inform and communicate. One of the fastest growing news pages on Facebook comes out of a Palestinian Territory. This site currently has 481, 561 fans with about 100,000 people talking about it (“Facebook Statistics”). Social media is often times a source of news all over the world whether it is local or worldwide. Social media has even changed to world of politics by the way candidates campaign. Social media is rapidly changing the way people discover what’s happening around them. Even though social media is powerful, it also has limitations. Co-founder of Vaynermedia even said, ““I don’t think people have recognized the kind of stories that can be told through social media platforms. In a Facebook and Twitter world, things have become so one-dimensional, with people just redistributing content. I think this is no different from the way that 99% of people are treating social media: people want to talk and not listen; people don’t care as much as they say they do” (“Global Agenda”). Social media is often one-sided. It can’t always be trusted to learn about accurate news or politics. Like with any source of information, judgments should be taken.
Social media can be a place of growth, interaction, and even business. Social media is a growing phenomenon that shows no signs of slowing down. It’s a place for businesses to market and recruit. It is also a home to cultivate conversation and networking. Mark Zuckerburg, the founder of Facebook even said, “the thing that we are trying to do at Facebook is just help people connect and communicate more efficiently” (BrainyQuotes). Social media sites are doing just that, whether they help friendships develop or inform about products to buy. Social media can even be a dangerous tool if not used carefully. Social media is changing the way the world works, communicates, and lives.