There is much controversy surrounding social media and if it actually makes us as individuals more or less social.
As we can see here, there is a very ‘un-social’ element to social media. Individuals tend to interact less in person than in online communities and networks nowadays.
So what does it mean to be social?
Back in the day we would chat to the people next to us on the train, we would acknowledge the other person crossing the road and of course we would bump into people, talk with them and eventually fall in love, rather than through an app on your phone. Okay so social networking sites (SNS) have indeed allowed us to increase our social networks beyond those out of our physical reach, giving us the opportunity to keep in touch with those in different states, cities or countries, but at what cost? We barely look out of the window on the bus anymore and spend more time in an ‘immaterial presence’ than in the physical space (Fortunati 2002).
According to Hinton and Hjorth (2013) ‘social’ is a ‘general term used to describe the social world that constantly surrounds us and in which we live. The term reminds us that although we live in a physical world of things, we also live in a social world, which has very large influence on how we act and behave.’ We can see that particularly since the rise of Web 2.0, the focus of physical social interaction has moved away from the ‘physical’ world of things. The way in which we act and behave is influenced by our social world. This social world has also radically shifted into a virtual space (Fortunati 2002). Leo explains the scope individuals have to be both present and absent at the same time. It is through the use of SNS that we have the ability to behave and act in particular ways, involving interaction and communication with others through a virtual space as well as a physical one.
Let’s now turn to something larger than individual interaction by looking at businesses on social media. Are businesses being social through the use of social media? This post will be focussing on businesses in social media platforms and whether they are being social or generic in their engagement and interaction.
A large majority of companies are now using social media as a platform for marketing and engagement. It can be used to increase revenue, develop the brand and attract customers for instance (‘Benefits of Social Media’). The use of social media also allows businesses to create a ‘voice’ for their customers. A good example of a company that has created an engaging persona is Frank Body. Frank Body is a company which started business solely through the use of online channels, with a large focus on Instagram. The company began selling coffee body scrubs (from which it has expanded since then). Frank Body created a voice through witty posts and captions through the use of Instagram.
Here is one such example of the voice they have created through Instagram:
This company is one I have found to be quite social in their nature. Frank Body also engages directly with their audience by responding to comments and interacting with the users regularly. They even have a seperate account solely for feedback, where they interact with users questions and feedback of their products.
The rise of Web 2.0, is based on the characteristics of increased participation by users and the internet as a platform for user-generated content, in particular through social media. The rise of social media, along with the decline of traditional marketing methods (Lavinsky 2013) means that businesses initially turned to social media as a means of marketing, in order to move away from the mass marketing and traditional channel approaches. The idea behind this was to utilise user-created content to ‘create value for businesses’ (Hinton & Hjorth 2013). Engaging directly with the consumers is a perfect way to improve and relate the brand and company with the product or service. As such, I feel as though Frank Body is a great example of a company being social with their audience and utilising the original purpose of businesses marketing through SNS.
However it is easy for companies to lose sight of the initial purpose of social media marketing. In one regard, there are many companies who directly engage and interact with their users. These companies directly respond to their users, connect with others and respond actively to the current environment.
However there are also a large number of companies doing the complete opposite. Through my personal experience with the campaign (Assignment 2), it became clear to me as to how easy it was to be un-social with content being posted online. That is, creating engaging content but not being overly interactive with the audience. I used the scheduling system Hootsuite to schedule posts every day. Unlike other companies, I would do this daily instead of weekly or monthly. This was in order to improve the campaign and allow for flexibility in what was posted. Once the material was scheduled, little thought would go into how it is being received in social media spaces. However, I did make a point to go on the platforms throughout the day, to monitor activity and to personally engage with users and other small businesses both in and outside of my network.
Sure the easier method would be to schedule posts for the day, week or even month and not worry about it, however this could be potentially harmful to the brand. A clear example of a company taking this path and this going badly is with Malaysian Airlines, who posted a travel bucket list contest soon after the MH370 incident (the full story can be seen here). This could have been caused by using a scheduling program such as Hootsuite. It is clear that they weren’t being particularly social with their social media. Malaysian Airlines was not being particularly reactive or interactive to the environment and illustrates how companies can be very un-social when it comes to social media.
There are many companies that have not been caught out for this type of mistake, however it does not necessarily mean they are being social on SNS. Companies can have the tendency to become lazy by posting generic content to their audience, begging the question to investigate if they are treating SNS as a traditional marketing tool rather than a more personal, participatory avenue. Through the campaign, I can understand how it is easy for companies to fall into these ways, being more convenient and time effective, however to engage and interact directly would be the best way utilise these platforms. Businesses on social media today need to understand that actually being social on these platforms takes more than scheduling interesting content.
In conclusion, there is a fine line with businesses ‘being social’ on social media and or treating it as mass or traditional communication. Despite having the ability to be social, companies can easily fall into the trap of being too generic or lacking the ability to engage directly with their customers. Having said this, there are a vast majority of companies utilising these social network spaces to engage and tailor their marketing with their customers or followers.
Will the future of business marketing turn to something else?
‘Benefits of Social Media’, Australian Government: Business, viewed on 21 April 2016, http://www.business.gov.au/business-topics/business-planning/social-media/Pages/benefits-of-social-media.aspx
Graham, A 2014, How social media makes us unsocial | Allison Graham | TEDxSMU, online video, 10 November, viewed 19 April 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d5GecYjy9-Q
Hellmann, C 2014, Put social back in social media | Christian Heilmann | TEDxLinz, online video, 14 October, viewed 19 April 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gnbLLQwZxeA
Hinton, S. & Hjorth, L. 2013, Understanding social media, SAGE, London.
Lavinsky, D 2013, ‘Is Traditional Marketing Still Alive?’, Forbes: Entrepreneurs, viewed 20 April 2016, http://www.forbes.com/sites/davelavinsky/2013/03/08/is-traditional-marketing-still-alive/#6a8e0c092f38
Fortunati, L 2002, ‘The Mobile Phone: Towards New Categories and Social Relations,’ Information, Communication & Society, vol.5, no. 4, pp. 513-28.
O’Reilly, T 2005, ‘Design Patterns and Business Models for the Next Generation of Software’, O’Reilly Media Inc., viewed 20 April 2016, http://www.oreilly.com/pub/a/web2/archive/what-is-web-20.html
2014, ‘Malaysia Airlines Dumps ‘Macabre’ Bucket List Competition Name’, news.com.au: Travel Updates, viewed 21 April 2016, http://www.news.com.au/travel/travel-updates/malaysia-airlines-dumps-macabre-bucket-list-competition-name/news-story/1b614b2ff3ba2a6cac0a084dcc6a5282
Aditi Bhalla 21/04/16