Today, 70% of American adults use social media of some kind. In the tech industry, the idea of not using social media to market and promote is almost completely unthinkable. However, there are some drawbacks to using social media both personally and professionally. It pays to be mindful of how and why you’re using these tools.
The good news? Having a background in technology gives you an advantage when using any online tool. Here’s how you can utilize social media for better impact—while acknowledging how we need to be careful with it.
Social Media: A Modern Vehicle for Public Relations, Marketing, and More
Gone are the days when sites like Facebook were used solely to communicate with friends. Social media is big business. It harnesses one of the most powerful forces we have available to us—word of mouth promotion—and cranks it up to viral speeds. PR and communications have changed a lot since the 1830s and the invention of the telegraph. Although innovative PR legends like P.T. Barnum and Ivy Lee were able to create the concept of PR and then transform the industry, nothing compares to what Facebook has done to our society.
Today, the lines have blurred between marketing, PR and customer service, politics and propaganda. Many news outlets live entirely online and blogs sometimes have just as much authority as a major news outlet in the eyes of the public. Social media connects us, but just as it can spread truth in an instant, it can also spread lies and rumours.
Facebook’s Rise and Recent Stumbles
It’s a rare person who hasn’t had a Facebook account at some point, but the social media giant has experienced some stumbles lately. Facebook has been under fire recently, losing 20% of its stock value in a single day, amid a series of privacy issues and revelations about fake accounts.
As we all know by now, Russian interference in the 2016 election via social media had an enormous impact on our current political climate. Concerns about election influencing tactics continue. It has been noted that the suspected Russian accounts are being more careful to hide their affiliations, paying for ads in US and Canadian dollars and not using Russian IP addresses to set up accounts.
Is Social Media Good for Society?
With ongoing concerns about privacy and the impact these platforms can have on behaviour, it’s a valid time to ask: is social media even good for society? It’s made it easier than ever for people with different interests to connect, it keeps people in touch even from far away, and it has revolutionized digital marketing, customer service, and branding. With that said, it’s easy to waste time on social media. Some people intimately familiar with the world of social media have even bigger concerns. Chamath Palihapitiya, a former vice president of user growth at Facebook, was blunt about his feelings since leaving the company:
“The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops that we have created are destroying how society works. No civil discourse, no cooperation, misinformation, mistruth.”
Some parents share these sentiments and have chosen to keep their children off social media. Others continue to use the platforms while acknowledging that not everything we read can be trusted. Whether or not social media itself is bad for society, those who use it need to be ethical and mindful when posting and responding.
Adding Value on Social Media
Instead of just giving up on social media, it’s up to us to make it better. You can add value by being mindful of what you post and how you use your technical abilities. Be a good consumer and be sceptical of what you read on social media. Be a good content creator, especially if you’re in marketing, double and triple checking your facts.
The tech industry sometimes has a bad reputation, thanks to privacy scandals like the ones Facebook has been under fire for. That fact makes it all the more crucial to be a good representative of the industry, encouraging smart discourse and discouraging polarization and rumours. And if you can find an innovative way to use your tech skills to make social media better? That’s a great way to make the right kind of impact.
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