In my travels, I find that this question or a version of it comes up frequently. Despite the very impressive array of statistics showing the growth of social media, I still find plenty of people and businesses that pose this question and have a passive and sometimes quite hostile position against social media. Some of this is related to demographics, but there is a wider span across many age groups and businesses that sit in the nonbeliever camp.
But things can go wrong
They very quickly cite the things that have gone wrong with social media and some of the challenges that do occur from time to time. An inappropriate comment or photo that goes viral on social media will often attract negative publicity, which tends to cloud the broader social media debate. Inappropriate activity on social media needs to be pounced on and offenders need to be dealt with appropriately. But a small number of problems should not be the determining factor in deciding whether social media is good or bad. Traffic accidents are a blight on developed societies, but we still build roads and bring in rules and other factors to mitigate the problems. Likewise, governments and organizations are taking steps to ensure that the right standards of behaviour and conduct are managed on social media.
People or businesses may choose not to be involved in social media for any number of reasons. The decisions on the use of social media depend on many factors, such as peer pressure, previous experience in this area, or uncertainty about the social media space generally. They are also influenced by experiences they hear about directly or indirectly. People who are reluctant to embrace social media often have a quick and ready recall of things that may have gone wrong, such as comments or photos going viral and having unintended consequences.
New opportunities abound
On the positive side, think of social media as a broader communication and content channel, both for business and personal application. Yes, it is different from other channels in so many ways, but the mistake is often made to ignore what social media can achieve rather than the tools to do it. For instance, a small business wanting to expand its offerings to an established customer base can use social media to drive a broader conversation and indeed start new ones. Powerful conversations and interaction can be unleashed via social media, and in real time. But the business needs to have a clear view of what it is trying to achieve with social media. Whether the business chooses Twitter or Facebook or another tool is important, but this is secondary to the question of what it is trying to achieve.
From a personal perspective, social media opens up new horizons in so many ways. It provides individuals with windows into knowledge and information like never before. People also need to have a view of what really interests them. Are they seeking to engage with family and friends or simply find items of interest? The available content on social media from magazines and organizations is enormous and growing all the time. It used to be that the only way to gain access to articles from good magazines was to subscribe to them or use the local library to look at back copies. But now much of this is readily available via social media. Information feeds on Twitter and Facebook are pushing this material to a global audience, and everyone can participate.
Key questions to consider –
- What opportunity would you like to pursue by using social media?
- What is holding you back?
The above is drawn from material contained in Matt English’s book Grasping Social Media available online at https://www.createspace.com/4678871