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Saturday, June 30, 2012

What is Social Media?

All web based applications which allow for creation / exchange of user generated content and enable interaction between the users can be classified as Social Media. These could be in the form of Social Networking Sites, Blogs, Internet forums, online community sites, Q & A sites etc.

The social media has some inherent properties which make it much more powerful than the traditional media.

Accessibility: The social media is easily accessible and takes minimal or no costs to use. Social media is easy to use and does not require any special skills, knowledge to use. It is absolutely simple to connect with others and be a part of communities. Therefore anyone with online access can use the Social Media to initiate or participate in the conversations. In a sense, everyone is now empowered to speak up.

Speed: The content that you create on the Social Media is available to everyone in your network/forum/community as soon as you publish it. You can communicate with your audience without any external factor affecting the delivery of your message. The responses are also near instantaneous and thus you can have a dialogue which is almost in real-time.

Interactivity: Social media affords a two way or multiple communication channels. Users can interact with each other; ask questions, discuss products / services, share opinions and anything else they might be interested in doing.

Longevity / volatility – Social media content remains accessible for a long time, maybe forever, because of the nature of the medium. In addition to this the content can be edited / updated anytime. So, if a user likes a particular product and says so in the social media, it is not a permanent positive vote for the product; the user can always go back and change his opinion anytime.

Reach: The internet offers an unlimited reach to all content available. Anyone can access it from anywhere and anyone can reach, potentially, everyone. Social media offers the same facility to all the users who can share anything with anyone they like.

Social media has opened up new avenues for people to engage with each other and with the content available on the internet. The social interaction of the yore, severely restricted by various boundaries, has now been taken online, opening up a world of new possibilities.

People are using the social media to stay connected with friends/family, find people with similar interests, discuss issues with others, share opinions, asking and answering questions, reading user reviews etc. We can surmise that, in addition to staying connected, the users want to acquire/enhance knowledge and gain insights into specific subjects to help them make better decisions. It is this consideration that makes social media an enticing opportunity for businesses, celebrities, politicians etc. Opportunities to help them gauge consumer sentiments, acquire new customers/fans, interact with the customers, enhance their brand and manage their online reputation.

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