Social media: the new reality?

Almost all aspects of the economy have been experiencing a recession, either a big or small contraction. The only exception has been the social media.

Much of the population is infatuated with social technologies. Witness the wild enthusiasm over Facebook’s stock offering. People are forming connections, linking together many individuals, ideas, and businesses of all sorts; transparency and “empowerment” have become new buzzwords, which does not mean much to most of us. Is that new reality worthwhile – or just nonsense?

That begs a question. Is social technology truly wonderful? In the business world it may break down barriers between customers and companies. Business, therefore, can gather huge amounts of information by monitoring social media, learn what customers are thinking about their products, and hence respond more rapidly to grievances.

While that information can be useful, it can be relied only if it is interpreted correctly. Already, most are overloaded with intelligence of one kind or another and are unable to know what to do with it.

The problem is that a great deal of this “noise” has been forthcoming from a lunatic fringe of activists, as the majority do not really tweet. As all of that material is forthcoming, and it is bound to increase by leaps and bounds, companies will concentrate excessively on what they hear.

Yet, there will be a “silent majority” that will be bypassed.

Businesses say that by using the social media, they can be effective in answering complaints. However, nowadays, when calling a company, it is virtually impossible to talk to a real person on the telephone. It is extremely annoying and not at all satisfactory to call a company and be confronted by a “voice.”

Large companies seem to believe that by using the social media they can adjust to the impact of marketing campaigns. Perhaps the social media can help entrepreneurs who then could discard old, unworkable themes and help to create new ones.

Clearly, that forgets an old truth that the value of anything (like paper currency, for instance,) depends on its rarity. Thus, the more people use the social media the less attention companies will pay to what is being transmitted. Hence, to take just one example, if one were to develop 150 “friends” on Facebook, are they truly more than names?

Without doubt the super-abundance of material that appears on social media will lead to the need for middle managers or someone in authority who then can filter out data that should be disregarded. Older managers are less keen on accepting what the social media offers.

Something may be lost as a result, but overall a lot of confusion will be dissipated.


Bruce Whitestone