157.240 Social Media Networks for Business

Q: When is a blog not a blog?
A: When it is an assignment.

Okay so the above statement may not be entirely correct because there is no avoiding the fact that this is indeed a blog. But as the answer alludes to, it is a blog with a specific purpose. That is to try, as best I can, to fulfil the requirements of the first assignment that is part of the paper 157.240, Social Media Networks for Business at Massey University in New Zealand.

First things first, who am I? Well if you want you can check out my LinkedIn page or read here which gives you a brief bit of a background. The even more abridged version is that I am a mature student currently studying while working full-time in Hong Kong. I am studying towards a Batchelor in Business Studies with a double major in Marketing and Business information Systems.

The unique nature of this paper and Massey’s approach to the subject is it is entirely taught online. To paraphrase from our lecturer “Over the next 12 weeks we will look at social networks being adopted by large and small businesses. How it is effecting the communications, relationships and opportunities of those business. Examining the current and emerging theories and strategies around building online communities, and explore the technologies that are driving our current Web 2.0 and then new 3.0 technologies that we will see in the very near future.”

Hopefully, I will be able to expand my knowledge and also collaborate with others through these weekly blogs targeted at answering the questions that arise from each week of the paper as I progress.

If you ended up here because you are also doing this paper, please comment, share, critique and get involved. If you stumbled upon this blog for any other reason, please feel free to do the same.

Who knows, with the help of you, the internet and my lecturer, I might even pass!

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Learnings So Far.

The first thing I need to say is SCROLL!

Sorry to shout, but this is the end (sort of) of this blogs officially graded part of the journey through 157.240 Social Media Networks for Business first 6 weeks of study. I will try to attempt to keep updating each week with what I learn and continue the conversation with you all.

To read through what it has all been about you need to scroll all the way back to the first question I looked to understand, explain and answer way down here.

I’ll assume you’ve done the above and have found your way back to here, Thanks! Thanks for taking the time to have a look at what I have learned and perhaps even feeding back some of your own thoughts.

To say that social media and therefore social media networks for businesses is an evolving field is probably the understatement of the century. To attempt to cover everything within this subject and maintain its relevance, with up to date terms and technologies is almost impossible. It just moves forward far to fast for any one piece of research or study to remain truly on point. What is not impossible to understand however, is social media and it’s networks profound effect on world. The way we interact personally at home and the way we interact professionally at work. The world we live in has moved beyond chatting with your neighbour across the fence, party lines for the rural community and fax machines. We now have the capability to be a truly globally connected planet.

From what I have learned so far the majority of businesses are looking to embrace and leverage these new abilities, with varying levels of success. As will all new technologies it has its risks and we have already seen one boom and bust in regards to the first internet bubble of web 1.0. However this is not going to stop businesses wanting to be social and companies forming to either facilitate or educate them with this. Whole industries are emerging based solely in the realm of social. For me there are parallels to be drawn with other technological breakthrough that changed the way businesses could operate. TV and radio changed advertising completely, but not every company you interacted with had a TV ad, the barriers to entry were just to high for some. Perhaps this is the greatest change that the social media explosion has brought forth so far. It has removed the barrier. Customers can be connected to you company and brand instantaneously through platforms that have zero financial coast to enter. Once there the reach and influence if done rightly can be huge!

So the conversation has begun and businesses all around the world are talking, listening and taking part.

So Your Business is Getting Social. Or…They Grow Up So Fast!

The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.

– Albert Einstein

A quote from Einstein may seem like a strange way to start talking about the idea of understanding the maturity of your business when it comes to jumping into the world of social networks for business. But unlike a child starting school or a teenager being old enough to get a driver’s license, businesses very seldom have a set of dates and times that indicate just where in the life of an organisation they are. With this in mind Einsteins quote starts to make more sense. No business does everything at once, organisations grow and change over time. Setting aside the obvious points of when a business is incorporated, yearly financial returns etc… we want to look at specifically how can an organisation access its maturity in its endeavours to be a social business?

The Industrial Revolution vs The Internet Revolution.

The Industrial Revolution vs The Internet Revolution.

As you can see above the internet has changed the game when it comes to customers and businesses. Let’s assume that as you have been following this journey of mine in learning and understanding about social networks for Business you have decided that you want to either make your business a social one, or you want to understand further just exactly how social your business already is. One of the major challenges in doing this is just what is it we are measuring and how to we measure? A 100 meter sprinters improvement along with success is measured in milliseconds, and it is the same for all. Where as each and every business is different and is trying to achieve it’s own individual goals in its own unique way. It’s obvious that assessing this is not going to be a simple number that can be applied to all. It’s require an organisation to apply critical thinking involving the mechanisms it is utilising to achieve its social business goals.

Unlike manufacturing process a company uses being ISO 9000 certified, currently there is no industry accepted standard on how a business is supposed to benchmark itself in regards to social networks or social media. It is an assessment that must be done under the guidance of a framework that the organisation agrees provides the best information possible and allows them act on it.   Looking at two different frameworks, one produced by Texavi and the other by Altimeter gives us examples of how these are defined. Although some terminology differs the ideas are very similar. There is however a growing body of opinion and research that points towards certain concepts as being necessary for a business to call itself social, these can be applied to understand where in the process a business is.

Texavi’s model sets itself 5 maturity levels that focus on both the internal and external aspects of a social business. Internally it looks business focus, process, delivery platforms and the social media activities that the business may already employ. Externally it looks at people (customers), content, business focus and messaging.

Texavi's 5 Stages of Social Business Maturity

Texavi’s 5 Stages of Social Business Maturity

Altimeter has a similar stage perspective in how it breaks down its framework. These being, planning , presence, engagement, formalised, strategic, converged. As with the previous framework these stages are set to look at processes both internal and external. A business using either one of these approaches would certainly end up with a much better understanding of where it was in achieving its ambition to be a social business.

Alitmeters 6 Stages of Social Business Maturity

Alitmeters 6 Stages of Social Business Maturity

Lets look at the commonalities across both these frameworks to help understand how a business can assess itself. I call it the ABC’s of social business.

  • Audit – Both of these frameworks and others all point towards the first step of any business being to listen and understand just where it is at the moment. Before attempting to launch into transforming its. This may seem to be obvious to some but so often organisations rush ahead to ‘reinvent the wheel’ when what the had may have been a perfectly appropriate starting point. Whether in this case it is Texavi’s “informed” stage or Alitmeter’s “planning,” knowing what you have and don’t have is crucial.
  • Build – This is by far the largest and riskiest part of the process. Businesses may find themselves in these stages for long periods of time and perhaps the end may seem like it will never be in sight. However, it is important to understand that there is no one size fits all solution for business in this area. As shown with the two frameworks given it involves the creation or adaptions of social channels and the establishing of base metrics on which to measure growth. Right through to the expanding of engagement through the business with social and the allocation of specific resources to begin to move from tactical to strategy decisions.
  • Complete – This final part takes all of the various components already implemented by a business and combines them into a company wide synergy of social networks and tools, facing both internal and external. It will have transformed the way employees interact with each other and how knowledge is share thorough networks. It will have also radically changed the way the business and customers connect. Collaboration, Cooperation and conversations and standard and open across and channels. It does not however stop here. A smart business will now return back to ‘A’ and audit where they are now against where they want to be in the future, starting the process again.
Just One example of what a Social Mature Business Could Look Like.

Just One example of what a Social Mature Business Could Look Like.

As you can see, there is never going to be a single track that each organisation can take to assure that they achieve the goal of being a social business. As technology changes and organisation evolves different plans will be needed. What is becoming more and more evident is that businesses that aren’t open to the idea of being social, run the risk of losing market share to those that do. Along with giving the appearance of an ostrich with its head in the sand while those around it enjoy the conversation.

The Four C’s of Social Networks…Or Know Your Snake Oil.

Hopefully by now if you have stayed with me on the journey of Social Media Networks for Businesses, you will have seen that the for a company to be involved it is so much more than just grabbing a twitter account and slapping together a Facebook page. The world of social media has become so much more involved than the first days of Web 1.0 and is always changing.

Social Media Networks are not just an outward facing phenomenon. Businesses are more than ever using various social media tools and technologies to add values to their operations. This is having a profound effect on how people work and businesses of knowledge management. However it’s very easy to become quickly overwhelmed with technical information and jingoistic hype when it
comes to established or emergent social networks. P2P streaming, API’s, Vines, Loops, Emojis
the list of terms and characteristics referring to each goes on and on.

One of the ways businesses can start to approach this problem strategically is to attempt to move away from this framework of jargon and hyperbole. A more measured approach is to evaluate options based on the pure functionality required to achieve the results you need. To put it another way. A tractor and a Lamborghini both have four wheels and can be described in equally positive terms. But you would only choose the tractor to work your fields if you wanted to get the job done right!

In recent times the concept of the Fours C’s, a concept create by Niall Cook, has been generally been regarded as an excellent guide to establishing the functionally of a social network. Cook defines his Four C’s as.

  • Communication
  • Cooperation
  • Collaboration
  • Connection

On first scan of these, it may seem that there is a reasonable amount of overlap in some of the areas each “C” looks at. I think in fairness this is a valid point. But there is also enough separation between each one, allowing a business to establish its strategy with either internal or external Social Media Networks. Looking  at each one in turn will help to explain this further.

Communication – Does the software allow people to communicate with each other and if so, how? Is it synchronously or asynchronously. What method does it use, text, pictures, video or perhaps only audio? A business may decide from this that a text-based instant messaging service might be something they want as an organisation.

Cooperation – This does have similarities with collaboration below. But there are key differences. For the platforms business will be looking into, cooperation is seen as informal (more on this later) and short-term. It is the tools and systems that allow sharing of content and the division of labour. Knowledge is shared and gained but perhaps not a common goal.

Collaboration – As above there are similarities, Collaboration however is far more formal and structures. It also tends to be long-term. The knowledge gained and shared is towards a common goal and in fact the point of the exercise is often the information gained by the process.

Connection – Probably the easiest to define. Connection will be the tools of platforms that allow social networking to occur. Be it people, content or both.

Running a companies goals through this series of Four C’s helps businesses understand whether or not the software or approach they are taking is right for them. However there is another part to this that was alluded to above. That is the idea of formal and informal, along with levels of interaction. Every one of the Four’ C’s above sits somewhere either high or low within these concepts of a strongly formal or informal approach and high levels of interactivity required
versus low. The easiest way to represent this is with the matrix diagram below.

The 4 C's Matrix

The 4 C’s Matrix

This classification of each individual networks functionality, strengths and weaknesses can help a business to understand where it’s culture and objective sits against the tools and platforms it maybe looking to deploy. The figure below further helps to define some of the technologies and software available and where the sit in relations to the Four C’s

4csapproachfiguresocialsoftware

Just Some Options for Businesses Charted Against the Matrix

It is crucial to remember though, that this is just one concept of how businesses can look to addresses understanding their needs. Their are of course differing opinions, Sean Nelson puts forward his own idea of the For C’s as he sees them. Also something to consider is, is it really possible to have collaborative tools that span huge global companies? There can be such huge cultural differences when it comes to implementation that the one tool that works for one country does not for  another. Business is operation more often though in multiple markets across multiple countries so this is an issue that will only become more relevant as outsourcing and global trade deals increase. Costs, culture, appropriateness, implementation are just some of the challenges that firms face, but obviously the benefits that these platforms and networks offer can be huge!

The challenges that truly global collaboration produces may not have a current solution. Perhaps whoever solves this problem is the next Steve Jobs!

Shut Up & Listen! Or…Can Social Media Be Risky Business?

Web 2.0 has been the foundation for the rapid expansion of social media and its global adoption. Businesses have seen new technology through the internet, along with mobile, reshape and even create whole new markets. There is no denying Pandora’s box is open but as platforms for social collaborating, communication and sharing expand worldwide should every business be using them? There are huge positives for business large and small and their brands being present in social media. However like anything there are also negatives attached to placing yourself or your business into the public arena in this manner. In fact there are real dangers that a business must consider before and when they get ‘social.’

Understanding Your Brand
Most business have spent a great deal of thought and time in developing their brand, in the case of a large multinational companies perhaps several brands. The intellectual capital invested in these brands can be worth a huge amount and connecting them to any and all social networks could have disastrous results. It’s key for businesses to understand that every social network has its own distinct mix of users, technology, and style which can appeal to certain demographics more than others. Is a microblogging site such as Twitter the right place for a funeral home to interact with its customers? Does it enhance its brand and create trust with potential clients? For example, according to a recent Business Insider report Twitter is beginning to skew towards male users. The same reports states the Facebook has remained predominantly female. If you were a cosmetic brand such as Revlon, understanding the dynamics of each social media network is paramount to having the right conversation with the right tone. This is not to say that organisations you would not normally expect to have a strong social media presence are not seeing and taking advantage of the potential reach that these platforms have. The NZ Police have 11 Twitter accounts currently and have a targeted social media approach that has given a new spin on the traditional country cop.

Ello Ello Ello! The Many NZ Police Twitter Accounts

Ello Ello Ello! The Many NZ Police Twitter Accounts.

There is no doubt that most businesses see the instant allure of jumping in to the social network pool. But they need to be wary of the type of splash they are going to make. Businesses need to be aware of the trust they place on the line when they enter the social network arena, along with the brand reputation that goes with this. Researching and understanding the demographic and style of each network will allow your business to have the appropriate conversations with your customers, delivering the right message at the right time. Which leads us nicely into the next point.

Controlling The Conversation
Probably the biggest risk that most companies overlook  is that social media creates an ongoing conversation with the public, sometimes in real-time. This is not a call a response medium such as radio TV advertisement. To often businesses fail to recognize the two-way nature of these networks and the ability for the public flip an idea on its head. A great example of this, which shows the exact opposite of the experience for the NZ Police, was 2014 campaign across Twitter create by the New York Police dept.  The NYPD called for its followers to upload photographs of themselves and NYPD officers and attach the hashtag #myNYPD. The idea was to show New Yorker’s that the NYPD was a positive and community focused police force. What happened is completely the opposite. Due to bubbling tension between members of the public and some high-profile events involving alleged police brutally. The campaign was transformed into a deluge of poster uploading images of the NYPD using what they considered excessive force.

Not the sort of #myNYPD image they had hoped for.

Not the sort of #myNYPD image they had hoped for.

This is a real lesson for any business that it must carefully consider how or whether it can control the conversation. Not to mention what they will do if they cannot. Simply blocking users or removing post may not be the best policy as the US chain Applebees found out. But sometimes a negative can be turned into a positive. Many companies have used the social media disaster of one company to promote themselves. Recently rapper Iggy Azalea started a Twitter feud with Papa John’s pizza due to a driver giving out here phone number. Rival brand DiGiorno managed to use this PR storm to their advantaged and quickly swooped on the attention. As with all social media, business must remind themselves that these platforms are communities full of collaboration through content and context. Your business must understand this and prepare accordingly.

Governance (security, IP, Employees, legal, automation, hacks)
The last component of risk to cover is Governance, perhaps seen as the easiest. But again looks can be deceiving and many a business has fallen into the trap on not addressing these issues. For a large or even small business their social media presence is in the hands of individuals, sometimes a group or perhaps just one. Whatever the case, the complex areas of IT security, intellectual property protection, automation, free speech and company policies all need to be addressed to ensure that you handle your social media effectively. It is key that a business establishes what its social media policy is up front. This will mean a robust set of internal rules and guidance of who your social media presence is to be implemented. What can and cannot be posted and what the procedure is to deal with specific situations, from angry customers all the way to natural disasters and crisis situations. Along with this business need to understand that employees may well have their own social media presence and that this can place the business in the public eye by associating so policies need to address this too. This may seem like over kill but to often recently businesses have been pulled into social network meltdowns due to employees.

L'Oreal thought it was onto a social media winner.

L’Oreal thought it was onto a social media winner.

During the World Cup held in Brazil in 2014 Cosmetics company L’Oreal jumped aboard a viral piece of social media, as the image of an attractive Belgium fan went worldwide. A modelling contract was swiftly offered and social networks excitedly shared the good luck story. However things turned sore when the young woman posted pictures of herself on an African big game safari, to which the public turned on her for hunting endangered animals. L’Oreal had to move quickly to distance itself from the furore and ending up cancelling her contract and making donations to animal welfare organisations.

However one posted picture can change everything

However one posted picture can change everything

As well as these perhaps ‘unfortunate’ incidents. Businesses must be wary of risk of more premeditated problems. With both employee action and outside hacks being very real dangers that need to be covered of with IT security and internal practices.

In summary social networks offer both large and small business a real opportunity to engage in meaningful conversations with their customers and the general public. But in doing so they do open themselves up to the two-way nature of the platform, along with the exchange of control as people respond, share, collaborate and comment through social networks. Balancing the aspects of this and maintaining trust is crucial to an effective and successful social network strategy.

Web 2.0 to Web 3.0 Or…When Do I Get My Hoverboard?

What do these terms, Web 2.0, Web 3.0 mean? What about Semantic Web to the Internet of Things?

Like any field the world of social media networks and the internet is littered with terms and slang that help define any discussion about the web. However finding your way through this murky world of “ROTFL” and “The internet of Things’ can be a little tough for even the most online savvy of people. Let’s look at a few crucial terms and ideas that you will no doubt see shaping the web that will come. But before we step into the future, let’s very jump to the past to help give us some reference point to where we are going as we decipherer this langauge.

Web 1.0 Was a One Way Conversation

Web 1.0 Was a One Way Conversation

WEB 1.0 SEARCH – It starts with what was defined as Web 1.0. The web as most people experienced in perhaps the 90’s would have been more than likely a Web 1.0 site. It would have been static mainly based around search. It may have had some useful information but it would rarely if ever be updated. You could imagine it as a single page of a book placed up on the web and then left there for people to read. It was also unresponsive in the sense it was purely a one way feed of information. There was no interactivity between the person who was visiting the site. No comments, no collaboration, no community.

Web 2.0 Created Two Way Connections

Web 2.0 Created Two Way Connections

WEB 2.0 SHARE – This sets the scene for us to look at the first term on our brief but important list, web 2.0. So what is web 2.0? Is it simply an upgrade on the web muck like the operating system of your computer goes from one version to the next. A lot of people have tried to explain exactly what web 2.0 is and when it happened (reference) and it has been hard to get an absolute consensus. But what we can see is that web 2.0 fundamentally changed the relationship we had with the internet. While web 2.0 saw the introduction of new technology and standards a lot of it was the evolution of how we made use of the tools we had. web 2.0 saw the internet turn Interactive. People could comment, add, collaborate and share the information and entertainment they found on the web. This created the ability for communities. This whole piece could be written simple about Web 1.0 to web 2.0 but if you want to skip to the notes or to use a bit of net slang TLDR (too long didn’t read). 1.0 was one way traffic, 2.0 was two-way. 1.0 was static. Web 2.0 opened the web up to the conversation and communication of sharing we see now.

Web 3.0 Moves Information Mobile and the Cloud Connects Everything

Web 3.0 Moves Information Mobile and the Cloud Connects Everything

WEB 3.0 SEMANTIC – But what comes next? If Web 2.0 moved us forwarded to we are now. What about the idea of web 3.0, a term that is already been thrown about to try to describe perhaps what the next evolution of the internet could be. As we have already seen if Web 2.0 was hard enough for the experts to define then surely 3.0 must be even harder! Of late more often than not when people are discussing the idea of web 3.0 they refer to it as the Semantic web. The idea of this is that if web 2.0 was the ability to share, create and collaborate with information. Then web 3,o or the semantic web is the ability for the software, databases and services of the web to use and understand that information in a much more intelligent way. It is also loosely connected to the idea of the ‘Internet of things.’ Leveraging the power of what the information that has already been built through web 1.0 and the data and expansion of sharing in 2.0. The web as it moves into 3.0 will be able to sort through all of this data and present and connect it in ways that had previously not been possible.The idea of the semantic web is that it will understand the when you talk about the capital of france you mean Paris. It also means that information can be shared with devices that. connect to the internet. You can switch on your AC from you smart phone or dim the lights from your PC at work. Web 3.0 moves from our understanding driving connections to that of the computers and internet understanding to.

Web 4.0 Can Understand and Give Context

Web 4.0 Can Understand and Give Context

WEB 4.0 SYMBIOTIC – So web 3.0 moves us to the next which would be 4.0. The idea a symbiotic relationship between yourself and the web. It brings constant connectivity and the power of Web 3.0 being brought to the fore with personalised and individual interactions between not two people but a person and the web, or software running on the internet. Your homes air conditioning will know you have been for a run and that’s its 30 degrees outside, so it will adjust your home temperate to ensure you cool off when you get back. Perhaps even your fridge will now that you are out of sports drink and let you know you should grab some before you head out. This is all powered through the extension of the webs abilities to make connections between pieces of information. And just black and white ideas to. The symbiotic web it will even know the location and business when some describes that restaurant at the end of main street.’ It will also know that you are late due to traffic and alert your friends along with the maitre de that you will be there in 15 minutes. In short web 4.0 does not necessarily need an action from us to impact our lives, it will run in the background or foreground of our day-to-day activities regardless of where we are and what we are doing. Able to anticipate needs, handle tasks and make decisions on our behalf based on its combined information of us and the power of the web.

Web 5.0 Can The Web Be Self Aware?

Web 5.0 Can The Web Be Self Aware?

SENTIENT – Lastly we make the huge step to web 5.0 or the sentient web. The internet is no longer a series of servers and connections it houses an infinite number of sentient systems. Perhaps even including the uploaded memories, personalities and emotions of people who now longer have a physical presence on earth. Sound far-fetched? Perhaps but when you look at the idea of virtual worlds like the popular 2nd life and you combine this with exponentially increasing computing power. Huge all-encompassing databases of human knowledge and thought along with the idea of advance artificial intelligence. Is it too far to think that in the future a person might only exist online? Or perhaps it is the next step one takes after their time in the physical world? obviously we have a long way to go and many things could change the way the evolution of the web happens. But for now so long as the plug is still in and the power switch on, there maybe no limits to what it might do or become.

What is Blogging? Or…I Blog Therefore I Am?

Some people would say it’s a fairly simple question to answer. What is a Blog? Is it a Bulgarian log? Perhaps it’s the next letter along from ‘A’log? What ever you thought it was at the start of reading this, hopefully by then you will know a bit more about what blogs and blogging is.

If we want to go right back to the very beginning of it all we have to head back to 1994 when it is widely accepted that the first bog was created by Swarthmore student Justin Hall, Links.net. It was a basic site where the author could post his thoughts to the world. In fact it has not changed much in the years since its inception and you can still visit Justin’s writings in its form today. Making Links.net the oldest blog in history to date. It wasn’t until 1997 that the term “Weblog” for “logging the Web,” was uttered by another online writer Jorn Barger. finally this was shortened to the term we all know today “blog” by the programmer Peter Merholz.

Justin Hall creator of the first blog in 1994. Image: Joi Ito (flickr)

Justin Hall creator of the first blog in 1994. Image: Joi Ito (flickr)

Blogging has become one of the most widely accepted and used internet presences of our time, with current estimates of up to  200 million blogs currently. One popular blogging platform WordPress, which is a service that allows people to create and host there now blogs (in fact just like this one!) states it has, “409 million people viewing more than 15.5 billion pages each month.” Just on those figures alone you can get an understanding of just how powerful a medium blogging has become in the fabric of social media networks.

Adwords

Adwords – Created a flood of new bloggers.

But where does this all fit in the world of business? Can a blog be a business and can blogs or blogging help businesses? To answer the first question first. Undoubtably a blog can be a business. From the inception of the internet and the rise of the ability to post ones thoughts on a blog. There has been people who have gained huge audiences for their writings, some have already been business people in the example of Seth Godin. While others have turned their blogs into their business and reinvented their lives completely, such as Leo Babauta. A massive step forward for all of this to be possible was Google’s creation of AdWords in 2003. This allowed anyone to place advertising on their site through Google’s platform and potentially monetize their writing and audience.

It was obvious by now that blogs could be a business and with this several new companies were formed. In 2002 Gizmodo is launched and later that year Gwaker becomes the internet blog of choice for gossip. And in 2005 we see the birth of the online news blog Huffington Post. All of these business have gone on to become more than just simple blogs and now spread themselves across technology, news and human interest. But what hasn’t changed is the post and comment style of blogging itself. It is this ability to connect to so many people in an intimate one to one nature that makes blogs an appealing outlet for businesses to give their voice into the world-wide web.

This leads us to the next question, should your business blog? Like all things in the world of social media networks and the internet, just because it is there does not necessarily mean that you should use it. As with all other businesses decisions there needs to be a strategy and a plan as to who to use a blog to help your business. A blog is really another part of your marketing mix. It may be functional and information. It might be personal and candid. It may even be offbeat and irreverent. But it should always reflect the values of your brand. Blogs like other forms of social media networks create a unique opportunity to connect with your customers, add to your profile to attract new business and influence others. The company Priceonomics consistently creates a stir with its blogs to its customers, with titles like “Are one star reviews for assholes.” Equally however a company can do itself real damage if it fails to understand the power of a business blog. Just posting press releases no longer cuts it in todays rampant social media world.

Maybe interesting to some?

Maybe interesting to some?

Hopefully now you know a little more about where blogs came from, what business can do with them and maybe even something you want to blog about yourself. So don’t just sit there…Blog!

Social Media Vs. Social Networks. Or…Everything is Social, Right?

Human beings are social animals, so it is probably no surprise that at the moment wherever you turn there seems to be social ‘this’ and social ‘that’ but what does it all really mean? The terms you probably hear the most are Social Media and Social Networks. Although they sound very similar it is important to know that the two terms are not interchangeable. They do have some shared characteristics but they are not the same thing.

Social Media is the content that we choose to share to those around us. In the times before the internet this may have been sharing a Polaroid of a holiday beach snap with your coworker. Now with the power of the internet and personal computing, coupled with devices such as laptops, mobile phones and digital camera’s. A person can post a pic, upload a song, change a status and write a blog. All of which is part of the concept of social media and the share of it with our friends and family and perhaps even strangers. Put simply social media  is communication + publishing. The internet has combined all of these aspects with networking platforms to give us a new way of engaging, with what we now referred to as ‘Social Media Networks.’

How Social Media Has Bridged The Gap Between P2P and Mass Communication

How Social Media Has Bridged The Gap Between P2P and Mass Communication

Social networks have been around for a long time in fact perhaps as far back as humanity itself. The internet did not invent the concept of social networks. Once humans began to group and those groups began to hold certain characteristics, hierarchies and exclusivity the idea of networking between or inside them came to the fore. Churches, sporting teams, business seminars can all be seen as an example of social networks well before the first PC ever rolled out. It is however the explosion of the internet that created the idea of an online social network and networking. But as people’s ability to move beyond just communicating with one another accelerated, pushing into publishing and media. These new networks have become the platforms for which social media has found its widest audience. So much so that we rarely now refer to them as such, generally we view everything user-generated online as social media regardless of where it came from.

Our Use of Each Term Has Changed Over Time (courtesy of Google Trends)

Our Use of Each Term Has Changed Over Time (courtesy of Google Trends)

Looking at the proliferation of social media it’s easy to see that our abilities to interact are changing rapidly as technologies improve. However even at this stage there are a certain type of social media and the social networks that it is shared though that can be sorted into categories. For social media probably the most common are:

  1. Blogging – Just like this site you are reading, where a user can post information, thoughts or opinions and others can read or comment e.g WordPress, Blogger
  2. Microblogging – Much like the above but the information is restricted as in 140 characters for twitter. e.g Twitter, Path
  3. Social bookmarking – This is where users can bookmark tag information on the web and share rank and collabroate.e.g. Digg, Reddit
  4. Media Sharing – Users can upload video for others to view and share e.g. Youtube, Hulu, Vimeo
  5. Broad Content Sharing – Used for the posting of a more wide source of content like presentation decks, graphics and journals e.g. Scribd, Slideshare
  6. Forums – Allow for groups to use a hive mind concept to offer solutions and advice e.g. Yahoo Answers, metafilter
  7. Social News – Services that allow people to post news items or links and then allows them to be ranked and voted on. e.g. Digg, Reddit.

As you can see already each of these types of social media already have several social networks to provide a platform for this interaction. They generally can be classified as Personal networks, which predominately lean towards interaction with friends and family. Content sharing networks which tend to move fluidly between the spaces of private and public, personal and professional. And finally shared interest communities, again both personal and professional but they tend to be tightly focussed on a particular niche interest that all participants will share. Just looking at the types of social media available and then the networks that it can be linked up with shows how vast this area has already become. Looking at the diagram below gives a snapshot of the every changing universe of social media networks.

The Multitude of Social Media and Their Networks.

The Multitude of Social Media and Their Networks.

All of these services, apps and sites hold varying amounts of people with very diverse characteristics. All of which will hold some value to a business or businesses somewhere. This is the appeal to companies not only launching and controlling these social media networks but also to those just wanting to benefit from the social media interactions that these groups of individuals and networks provide. The key for any user of business to understand is the distinction between the two. Social networks have and will also exist so long as people gravitate towards each other and the relationships this brings. The content we create as part of these links has found a new avenue to be shares not only with friends and family but with people all over the world, powered through the internet and Social Media Networks that continue to evolve, rise and fall. Just like the Radio, moved us forward, from print and Tv forward from radio. Social media networks and the internet will bring new opportunities for people to collaborate, businesses to reach customers and boundaries to be expanded. Understanding each’s subtle differences opens up each platforms unique audience.