Social media: we’re not mad, just disappointed

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Social media held such promise. On these platforms, we could create and share content instantly. We could connect on unprecedented levels, entirely breaking down the conventional, lateral flow of information that once held sway. Micro-blogging platforms meant there was no longer a production hierarchy. Content was being made for people by other people, not just by men in suits with overly-gelled quaffs. It was going to be so amazing.

But now, all we get is pictures of people we didn’t even like in high school, taken on their iPhone with their arm stretched out. Pictures of some guy you think you met that one time you were in Amsterdam and his “amazing stir-fry”. Wild variations of that Call Me Maybe song, all contracted to within an inch of comprehension to fit into 140 characters.

Social media has become that kid in primary school, who played the violin and created much better ice-cream stick structures than you did. That kid everyone thought was the Next Big Deal. The same one who turned out to be the biggest ‘flake’ in your graduating year. So much potential squandered. You wonder where it all went wrong.

Social networking sites are meant to allow you to share your life with others, sure. Their global reach allows you to see your aunty in Australia’s new scrapbooking project, which you would never have been able to view so currently before Facebook came around. These opportunities are wonderful. But surely these networks should do more than just display the offspring of your third cousin twice removed?

Many businesses have managed to successfully harness the potential of the social network. Giant corporations are no longer inaccessible monoliths. They can respond in real-time, quelling a customer’s concerns or providing an explanation for their under-performance. Many companies now have a dedicated social media page, whereby they maintain a relationship with their consumers, manage their public image and make themselves accessible. If you have ever wondered what your favourite department store would be like if it was a person, its Facebook page may be a good indicator. Humanising Big Industry is one of the clever ways that people have used social media for more than taking a faux-retro picture of their coffee.

Your startup no longer has to be the annoying, flappy little pamphlet under windscreen wipers, but can be a creative, interactive web page that reaches global, appropriate target audiences through social media advertisements. Your business can be accessible and answerable to your customers, allowing you a greater level of reciprocity with the people who buy what you offer.

So many businesses have caught on to the potential of social networks, but even more seem unaware of the gaping void left by their failure to commit to having an online social presence. Virtually every possible target market is represented on social media platforms, and those too busy playing Farmville to notice will inevitably lose out on what could be a great opportunity for exposure.

Expanding your business, advertising, or simply responding to customer queries are just a few of the varied opportunities that lay in wait under shrouds of self-indulgent status updates.

Maybe that kid who played the violin was just going through a phase. He could still be the Next Big Deal.

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