To a lay man the term social media is a union of two concepts. One is being ‘social’ and the other is the ‘medium of internet’. Put the two together and you get the idea of ‘socialising through the medium of the internet’. Again, for a layman, this would, to a great extent, be limited to the use of the various social networking sites like Orkut, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and the likes. And at any cost, he would not think of going beyond the use of Picasa, flicker, and other such photo sharing sites etc., or sharing his life with the rest of the world by uploading videos on YouTube, or blogging, etc.
Then what is ‘Social Media’ to a media student? Actually it is pretty much the same thing that it is to any lay man. And yet it is much more. For, the difference lies not in the form, but in the matter. A lay man has a very limited use for the social media tools available to him. And this does not change for him till he begins to look at it from the bird’s eye point of view. Once he begins to do that, social media’s utility in his life has the potential to grow in leaps and bounds. On the other hand, it is the job of the media student to look at social media from the industry point of view to begin with. Hence the difference between the two is that of their approach to the subject. Therefore what a media students focus, while perusing and pursuing the subject of social media, should be on its optimum utilization, for social media if perhaps the only thing that can come close to his ‘renewable resource’ storehouse for they will exist so long as the internet does and we humans live under democratic conditions.
Now that we have some idea of what social media is about and how important it is to the media sudent, let us now move on to how a media student should use social media.
1. Let us begin with hard hitting but true basics first. User blogging and user generated comments are the best and the worst gift that the invention of social media has given to the rest of the corporate world, both at the same time. Worst because one unsatisfied or unhappy customer now suddenly has the power to turn many potential customers against you just by the click of a button. And best because despite the truth of the previous statement, another aspect of the same truth is that now companies have the power to discover exactly what about their product is not to the customers liking. Also, the social media itself provides them ample opportunity to make amends for their mistakes. Therefore it is imperative for the media student to study the possibilities where such interactions between the buyer and the seller, so to say, take place. And this would indeed be the ideal place for the media student to begin his industry centric approach to the subject of social media.
2. Social media also forms part of the unplanned portion of the Integrated Marketing Communication of the industries everywhere. Here too the CGM or Consumer Generated Media becomes important. Although the CGM is not necessarily negative, yet these are powerful marketing tools that lie in the hand s of the customers. And therefore the media students should be well versed with the Integrated Marketing Communications concepts and its possibilities associated with social media as well.
3. Another important aspect of social media is that of SMO or Social Media Optimization the aim of which is to attract unique visitors to website content with the aim of either website optimization or SEO i.e. Search Engine Optimization. Through these tools social media gets the technology that has the power to put your company or brand ahead of the others. Through its tools like the Search Engine Optimization you can come up with ways and means to ensure that no matter what an existing or potential customer might be looking for it is you (meaning your company or brand) that he will find first. Therefore it is the media students first and foremost task, when dealing with social media, is to become familiar with such tools and concepts as well as their knowhow and basics etc.
4. Ultimately, for a media student, social media is anything and everything that has the power to unite technology with the socializing nature of man in order to produce value of different sorts that is beneficial for the creator of the value as well as the receiver of the value. Its ultimate goal is therefore the interpretation of value perception into value creation for the benefit of all parties concerned. And it is this aspect of social media that indicates the huge potential for growth that it possesses.