The Impact of Social Media

Posted by: Nesha Milicevic

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Social media is a term used to describe different types of online media sources that allow and encourage readers to participate in its use and creation. These media sources have quickly gained popularity over the last few years, to the point that they are starting to replace other means of communication like phone calls and e-mail.

Each form of social media has a slightly different application. Social network sites provide a way to market to specific groups of people.  For instance, a skydiving company in New Zealand could create a page on Facebook about skydiving with them and they could ask their current customers to add the new skydiving page to their Facebook.  Once the customers add the page, all of their friends will see it and be able to add it if it interests them.  Facebook users would also be able to search for skydiving pages, see this company’s page and add it as well.  All of the users around the world will then be able to access the New Zealand skydiving page and be able to share experiences or have discussions about skydiving.  They would also be alerted of any promotions the company wanted potential customers to know about.  Social Networks are a good way to communicate information to large groups of people who are interested in a product.

Photo and video sites can be used to show the experience a person had. Because the photos and videos used are taken and posted online by impartial people who had the experience, they are thought of being more real and accurate than photos and videos created by a marketing team. A couple may travel to Ireland and post photos and videos of their trip online of the sights they saw and the hotel they stayed in with captions about each one.  These photos and videos would then be able to be found through search on Google or other search engines.  Another way to make use of photos is for a hotel or other business to have a guest photo gallery, where the hotel takes the guest’s photos from sites like Flickr and put them on their own website to show what previous guest have experienced.

Bloggers can tell followers all about an event they went to in real time and expand on the information already known by adding in their first hand experience. An annual three day medical conference for doctors may look interesting, but there is limited information about it to be found.  A blog from a doctor who attended a previous year would be able to tell about the doctor’s own experience at the conference and answer any questions potential conference attendees may decide to post on the doctor’s blog.  This information will also seem more creditable to the readers of the blog than information found on the website promoting the conference because it is from a third party source.

Travel review sites can be very important for travel destinations.  These sites offer a single place where people can go to get good and bad opinions on hotels, restaurant and rentals at specific destinations. These sites often rank the most popular and well reviewed spots in an area, which can create much more business. Multiple negative reviews on a travel review site like TripAdvisor has the potential to hurt business because customers are more likely to trust and believe in the past experiences of others who have been there before them.

There are both pros and cons to using social media.  Social media makes it easier to target specific groups and it can create a large amount of exposure quite quickly. It can also boost sales and provide special deals for those following online, rewarding their loyalty.  However, since most of this information is user generated content, there is very little way to control it.  There is no way to stop someone from writing or posting something negative about a product.  It can be very hard to measure the effectiveness of social media too.  The results can be unpredictable, which means that is a business is not careful in how they use social media it could be more harmful than helpful.

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