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The first social networking site - Friendster

The Internet has revolutionised human communication. And, the most popular way in recent times has been social networking. However, social networking is not a new phenomenon. Sites like Hi-5, Friendster have existed from the turn of the millennium. In the early 2000s, MySpace proved to be the most popular social networking site. But, in those good old days, eight-ten years ago, there was nothing called “social media”. Orkut, MySpace, Hi-5 etc. were merely social networking sites where you met your friends. It was confined mostly to teenagers and the younger population (a fraction of the population). Moreover, these sites were mostly looked down upon by elders and nobody really bothered about them. The term called “social media” was non-existent.

Enter “Facebook”. Facebook turned this concept on its head and gave people something new. As it opened up to the public, more people wanted to be in it. It spread its reach beyond the youth. Slowly, from around 2008, the older population started to embrace it in the hope of finding old and forgotten friends. As more and more people joined and Facebook started generating revenue through advertising, businesses saw the opportunity. It was the birth of social media as we know today.

Facebook Pages was the turning point for social media

Businesses saw the numbers and with the roll-out of fan pages, a unique opportunity was recognised. Companies started to build their presence on social networking sites likes Facebook and Twitter. “Like” and “Follow” became the buzz-words. Competition ensued to get the most number of likes and followers. More social networking sites followed and as people joined more of them, companies too kept pace. Liking, following and circling are common terms today. But, what caused this madness to get likes and followers? So what if you have a million followers?

On the surface, it may look futile but you have to read between the lines.

Social media shows your personality. It is not about creating a fake profile online anymore. Businesses, schools, teachers, parents, relatives and family are all watching you. Social media is all about creating content and engaging in conversations with your followers, friends or whatever. It is about creating an image of yourself that you are such and such a person with so and so interests. It is a good way to illustrate how you can interact with various kinds of people. These days, employers are using social networking sites to peruse through the profile of potential employees. So, a small slip can prove costly!

There is another angle to this too. Social media is a powerful tool to meet people from various countries across the world. It is a great way to learn about the different cultures of the world from the people themselves. We realise the vast diversity of population on this planet. Of course, there is the possibility that you meet malicious people online but by going through the tweets and wall posts of people, it is possible in most cases (not all) to ascertain whether they are genuine or not.

Redefining social media

Social media is more recently being used to predict results of elections and even predict who will win sports tournaments. Companies use social media to reach out to fans, conduct contests and drive engagement. It is used by businesses to gauge the responses of people when they release a new product. For example, when Apple released the iPhone 4S, there were many complaints of poor battery life. This made Apple work on a software update to fix that issue. Whether the update worked or not is another debate but the point here is that the company noticed.

The Arab Spring is a good example of how social media can bring out the power of the people and topple governments. The revolutions in Egypt, Syria and Libya were all started on social networking sites before it went on the streets. In India too, social media played a large role in the anti-corruption movement spearheaded by Anna Hazare.

The Arab Spring - Fuelled by social media

Today, more and more companies are including social media specialists in their IT teams. They speak the voice of the company online and thus, are responsible for the image and reputation of the company. They are pretty much like “online HR managers”. Social media specialists are becoming increasingly important and vital in today’s connected world.

And, as always, skeptics are abound here too. They are harshly critical and say it is a complete waste of time. Well, it is upto the individual how he uses social networking sites. Just as the television or the computer can be used for good or bad, same applies with social media as well. Moreover, there is enough statistics to show the power of social media. It can’t be taken lightly anymore. Social media is here to stay.

I have spoken enough. It is time for you, the reader to voice your opinions and concerns. Sound off in the comments below. Or, shoot an email to reflectionspn@gmail.com. And, of course, don’t forget to like, follow and circle.


Comments on: "Leveraging The Power Of Social Media" (5)

  1. Pratyush, thanks for sharing this. I think many businesses are finally waking up to the fact they need to stake their claims in at least the major channels—in other words, definitely not a waste of time!

  2. The article was really good. Though I wanted you to focus much more on the social media, like the brands who didn’t usually participate in conversations with their consumers on their facebook pages and all. I also wanted you to focus a little more on the business strategies on the same. How large businesses have grown and how large they can in the future is another important aspect.
    All in all, a very good article.

    • Thanks for the tip Sanskar. I generally tend to keep articles short as I fear it will be too long. But with more people asking for more detail, I won’t shorten it too much next time!

      Thanks again!

      • Louis Frayser said:

        It was a good read, because I didn’t realize how important the Internet was to Arab Spring. It’s fine not to include too much in an article on such a big topic. You can write in multiple parts, covering differents aspects in more detail each time.

        Today I was surprised to see a Honda dealer on Twitter. I don’t usually look for merchants, so I don’t know what big companies are already on. I know the politicians are in social media, though. Did you know that a country, Maldives, has a real embassy in the Second Life game?! One can get official information just like visiting a real embassy.

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