How Social Media is Changing the World

social mediaThis article is contributed by Matt Smith.

Social media has definitely influenced the way we work and live. With more than 90% of the population using the internet every day and a majority of them using some type of social media network, there’s no doubt that social media has the potential to change the world. But how, and in what specific ways?

In the days before the internet and “friending,” following, Liking and Digging, we got our news, current events and entertainment through newspapers, magazines, TV and radio. The content we saw was largely determined by the owners, editors and publishers of these resources. For the most part, traditional media is still run this way — a select few control what “the masses” get to see through those outlets.

Game Changer

However with the advent of the internet and social media in particular, the game has changed. Traditional media still covers the news, but fewer people than ever get their news through traditional media outlets. More than ever, people are influenced by the “buzz” and chatter around a news or entertainment item on social media. If it’s been “Liked” a lot or has a high number of “Diggs,” chances are others are going to look into it too and see what all the fuss is about. Popularity grows accordingly in a genuine way. If a product or company generates a lot of chatter and positive buzz on one of the social media networks and that business follows through with excellent quality and service, chances are it is going to translate into more sales going forward.

Power to the People

No longer does “the establishment” solely governs what’s news, what’s hot and what sells; more than ever, the masses are gaining some measure of control. Bloggers, Tweeters, Vloggers (video bloggers) and other everyday people now get to have their say, and for perhaps the first time in history they are contributing to the dialogue on a nearly-level playing field. If a user has a talent for self-expression and has something meaningful to say, their message could “go viral” — fast. Reaching the masses is far less about your “connections” and more about how the general public responds to you, whether “you’re” an individual, a business, a product, a movie, a news item or an idea.

How exactly is social media changing the world? Here are some examples:

The Marketplace

From clothes to cars to home furnishings, social media is changing the way we shop. Online marketplaces like Amazon and eBay have greatly influenced the way we buy the things we need. Business and restaurant rating sites like Yelp and Urbanspoon help consumers to find the best services and cuisine. In addition to their own rating systems for each product, many of these accounts will likely link into social media accounts to help consumers connect with the best of the best.

Politics

Sure, we already live in a democracy, but social media is taking “power to the people” to new levels. In the future, perhaps citizens will be allows to vote online on the bills and measures that our politicians currently vote for? At any rate, social media has already helped some candidates to win elections, and it is helping to hold politicians to an even higher standard of performance and integrity.

Work and Business

Social media is also democratizing the workplace. With sites like LinkedIn, people are able to post feedback about their experiences working for corporations or dealing with specific vendors or subcontractors. When everybody has a voice, the truth eventually comes out. There will likely be a lot more transparency and fairness in corporate structures, business relationships and workplaces going forward.

Entertainment

Music, television shows and movies, once controlled by corporations and available only through sanctioned outlets, are now readily accessible through peer-to-peer networks. Though it is technically illegal to do this, it would be impossible to catch and prosecute all who download their entertainment for free. The business structure of the entertainment industry must change and it is in the process of doing so. Meanwhile, it is the public who decides who and what’s best, with many people voicing their approval (or disapproval) via social networks. The next great sensation will be selected by the genuine “vote” of the people — not whoever has the backing of a giant media conglomerate.

The winds of change are blowing, and social media continues to influence just about every area of life. Businesses would be wise to take notice and adjust their strategies accordingly. It’s an exciting time; social media is here to stay, and who knows where it will take us!

Author Bio: Matt Smith is a Dell employee who writes to help raise awareness on the topic of Social Media and other network management subjects.

Photo credit: social media image courtesy of Photo Giddy via photopin cc