The world is in the full throes of a revolution in communicative media, by virtue of the social media proliferation that continues to expand exponentially into the current year. The question has been raised as to whether or not this current proliferation of enthusiasm for social media, for all the extent to which it is pervading our everyday lives and our professional careers, is simply a fad, a temporary trend.
There are multiple angles of information suggesting that not only is it part of a growing meta-trend of digitized communication, but that the proliferation of social media is going to continue to grow into the future—a future that is increasingly dominated by the very type of young and innovative mind which seizes at the chance to communicate quickly and efficiently, at a raw and expressive level, with large audiences of customers and coworkers alike. More than half of the world's population falls within the “millennial” generation, being thirty years old or younger, and of those individuals, a staggering majority have joined at least one social media network—the figure stands at nearly ninety-eight percent.
Historical precedent tells us that social media is more than just a fad. In its first year, Facebook added more than 200 million users to its database. By contrast, after the introduction of radio, it took 38 years to reach one-quarter that many users. TV took thirteen years, and even the internet itself took four. For something still more recent, the iPod took 3 years to reach a total of fifty million users... but once it did, a total of over 1 billion app downloads was recorded in a span of time just short of nine months, much of this being directly related to social media and related advertisement. Many of the apps were themselves used to support social media on non-native platforms.
The question isn't whether or not to get involved in social media as a modern-day business marketing professional. The question is how well, and thoroughly, one is going to take advantage of it. Eighty percent of US corporations already employ social media directly—not just as a means of interacting with customers, but also as a means of maintaining a professional network of workplace communication between their employees. What was once frowned upon as an activity to be undertaken at work—interacting via social media—is now all but a requisite. Additionally, online college students in the US are statistically out-performing those who experience traditional, face-to-face lectures.
Multiple studies suggest that the most productive use of social media is in listening, rather than asserting information. In many cases, major corporate interests are underestimating the level of communication that exists back and forth across most major social media platforms. While the mindset is changing, as the digital technological revolution marches ever onward, there are many marketing professionals who still view social media as something of an electronic billboard—there mainly to display advertisements and to entice users directly with relevant information. In cases where social media has failed, from a marketing perspective, the problem isn't some imaginary transient or fickle nature. It's improper use of the medium. Like shouting slogans at people you're cold-calling on the phone, it is possible to use social media improperly—even abrasively.
You need to know your audience, which means listening, and taking into account their voices, their feedback. People want to feel like the social media platforms for the companies they patronize are a two-way street—a legitimate means of reaching those they're paying for their services with their feedback, their complaints, or even a simple conversation... the better to determine that it is, in fact, a human being they're interacting with, or at least an organization made up thereof. If you use social media effectively, your rate of return on social media investments made today will still be with your company in five years' time—the traditional amount of time it has long been understood to ascertain whether or not a traditional, brick-and-mortal business model would succeed or fail.