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Saturday, January 5, 2013

The power of Social Media

We live in an age of social media. All around us the buzz is all about social media and its impact on our world. It would not be wrong to label ourselves the social media generation with hundreds of millions of users worldwide for social media platforms and tools such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr Pinterest and Google plus. Though social media is not something that debuted in the last year or so, it has been around for over a decade. Even though Orkut back in the day was somewhat of a pioneer in Social Media, it wasn't until the advent of Twitter, YouTube (now owned by Google) and Facebook that the social media revolution really kicked off. Facebook has been the biggest player and the real game changer in the equation, from its humble beginnings in the Harvard dorm room of its founder Mark Zuckerburg, it has gone on to become not just the largest used social media site, but also one of the most visited websites of all time with over a billion users worldwide. These social media sites are effective tools for organizations, businesses, and professionals especially those in media.
Social media tools like Facebook provide an extremely cost effective means to reach out and engage with large audiences which are increasingly connected to the world around them through social media. Such is the importance of social media particularly as a marketing and public relations tool that courses in social media marketing are being made part of the degree at business schools around the world with proactive encouragement given to students for making use of social media tools in their projects. At the same time many other tertiary institutes are making provisions for workshops that are catered for bringing veteran professionals up to speed. Workshops are a useful way of bringing veteran graduates and employees up to par with changes in trends. At the same time workshops also provide insight on how best to optimize the use of social in order to achieve organizational goals and objectives. Through workshops focus can also be directed towards developing customized social media solutions as opposed to the use of standardized approaches.
Since social media provides its users with a platform through which to engage their audiences in a two way communication, it allows the generation of audience feedback and input which at times is obtained instantly. As a result of this social media is an excellent tool for managing customer service.  For example a PC manufacturer such as Dell and ASUS use their Twitter account to provide their customers with updates with respect to product releases or upcoming offers, on the other hand Facebook is used to assist customers by providing them with solutions to problems or questions that customers might have. On the other hand software manufacturers such as Microsoft are able to use the social media tool YouTube to provide Microsoft users with video tutorials on how to install, update and use their software package offerings. Such use of social media can also be found in the hospitality industry in Pakistan, where many restaurants and cafes are using Facebook to announce promotions, display images of the menu items, listen to customer complaints and take dinner reservations.
Among professionals that have benefited the most through the use of social media include Marketing and Public Relations professionals, educators as well as journalists along with others in the industry such as entertainers. For marketers it provides them with an effective tool to market their brands and engage with their ever so connected audiences. The use of social media for marketing activities also enables the opportunity to conduct mobile marketing as the number of internet enabled smart phones increases with access to these tools in the form of smartphone apps.
Broadcasters have also benefited a great deal with the use of social media and the success of many major television and news programmes may not have been possible in the absence of social media. Social media has played a significant role in the marketing, promotion as well as the replay broadcast of television dramas and sitcoms that have become an important part of modern day popular culture. A group among media professionals that one can argue has benefited a great deal from social media are journalists since social media provides a quick and effective platform to share or release a news story as it breaks and are able to achieve mass penetration Many major events and news stories including uprisings, revolutions and natural disasters were brought to the attention of the public through the use of social media.
Social media as a tool has also benefited students and the academic community a great deal as well.  Firstly as we have already mentioned it allows two way communications, it provides an efficient way for exchange between staff and students in the form of updates, alerts and course specific messages. It also permits live staff-student discussions. Through Facebook students can also share study material and discuss ideas with one another, while YouTube can be used for the purposes of relevant course specific video tutorials which can be replayed. It is due to this very social media revolution that many universities now proactively encourage their students to use social media  with respect to their course work and projects. 

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