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Untapped Market For Social Networking

2012-06-28


I was walking down the hallway when I spotted a horde of students entering the stairwell. As I walked by them, I wondered why they were tittering with excitement. A few seconds later I received a text from a friend. It read, ‚??facebook says coffee, etc. is @ school. coffee and doughnuts if u can find them.‚?Ě ‚?¶Found ‚??em!
I headed back. The news was true -- outfitted with a makeshift cart, Coffee, etc. was generously handing out coffee and doughnuts in the stairwell. It was packed with students; it was like a school-wide game of sardines, except it was better because there was food.
When I made it to their cart, I commended the gentlemen of Coffee, etc. on their avant-garde marketing strategy. They confessed that they weren‚??t sure it was going to work. Twenty minutes beforehand, they sent out a Facebook message saying that they would give coffee and doughnuts to anyone who could find them at school. The message went out to a few students and soon amplified to the entire student body. I thought it was brilliant ‚?? they had effectively reached an audience of 2,000 people in a matter of minutes for zero dollars.
This stint occurred a few years ago when networking sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube, first came to the forefront. For companies, the sites represented an untapped social network of millions of people. Once companies entered the ‚??conversation,‚?Ě they could effectively communicate with this vast audience in an unprecedented manner. Online platforms revolutionized the way in which companies reach their constituents.
Coffee, etc. had unwittingly participated in the new face of information and communication: ‚??social media,‚?Ě a hybrid of the terms ‚??social network‚?Ě and ‚??media.‚?Ě People increasingly interact socially online. Capitalizing on this fact, companies have shifted their efforts to the online world. It is now standard in the industry to not only have a website, but a Facebook page, Twitter account, and YouTube channel as well. Online platforms have become a necessity in information and communications.
Social media is aligned with our rapidly changing world, and offers many advantages over the traditional approach. In comparison, traditional methods are slow, socially isolated, and expensive. As Coffee, etc. demonstrated, online platforms can speak to a broad audience with the benefit of 1) immediate, real-time information, 2) social integration, and 3) low cost. The advantages of social media render it the greatest advancement in the information and communications technology industry over the last ten years.
The rate of information consumption (the rate at which we process and respond to information) has rapidly increased with the rise of the internet. Since people are able to consume information more quickly, they expect a continuous flow of updated information. Social media allows companies to answer this demand; companies can disseminate real-time information that is immediately relevant, such as Coffee, etc. announcing their presence at school. A status update or a Tweet, for example, can provide continuous, live updates to followers. This allows companies to remain ever-present in the consumers‚?? eye. Thus, online platforms function as a living, breathing extension of the company in the consumer‚??s daily life.
Social media also offers the advantage of social integration. When companies advertise using traditional methods, people may be quick to dismiss it. However when a company is socially integrated into a network, people are more likely to be engaged. They can interact, respond, and share with their social network. This allows the company to introduce itself in the context of a person‚??s social network which mitigates the overtness of advertising. In essence, the company becomes more personal to the consumer. Once a company has entered the social network, it has the potential to amass a following of people who are specifically and genuinely interested in the company. This occurs in a manner analogous to ‚??word-of-mouth‚?Ě where people share information with other people in their network, similar to the way in which students rapidly shared the news about Coffee, etc. with each other. This is more effective than traditional approaches such as commercials which are shown to a general audience. Social integration allows companies to influence the masses in the familiar context of a social network.
Social media‚??s final divergence from traditional marketing is its low cost approach. While traditional advertising campaigns can cost millions of dollars, social media is free. It seems almost counterintuitive that the most beneficial form of communication is the least costly. However, what social media lacks in cost, it must make up for in creativity. Social media thrives on creativity and companies which utilize online platforms creatively are able to effectively engage their constituents. For example, Coffee, etc. transformed their presence into a game. Their creativity generated a mass of excitement and interest around their product and they were able to win over 2,000 students. Social media provides low-cost solutions that are only limited by a company‚??s creativity.
The gentleman of Coffee, etc. had unassumingly tapped into the greatest advancement in the information and communications technology industry of the last ten years: social media. Social media represents the burgeoning future of information and communication. The industry has shifted from traditional methods to the web to address the world‚??s new ways of sharing information. Social media offers undeniable advantages: 1) Online platforms address people‚??s rapid consumption of information and allow companies to provide immediately relevant information, 2) Social integration allows companies to become a personal presence within social networks, and 3) Social media is a creative and low cost solution for company growth. Synergistically, these advantages render social media an invaluable technology for information and communication. Social media represents the industry‚??s greatest advancement and will come to define the future of information and communication.