In the current digital age, social media has provided businesses with an outlet to interact with consumers in a way never before possible. Social media has helped to turn communications between organizations, communities, and individuals into interactive dialogues which bridge the communication gap that has long since existed between individuals and corporations. With the essentially free marketing provided by the social media forums, participation in the online realm has become a near necessity in today’s business world.
By using social media, brands can easily advertise to the huge audiences across sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram while also receiving consumer input. The market research that can be conducting with the investment of essentially zero funds allows businesses to locate and appeal to target audiences and exponentially better their relationship with their customers. By reaching out to the millions of people who use social media sites on a regular basis, companies are able to provide a multi-dimensional form of customer interaction that would be otherwise impossible.
In the current business world, three generations of workers occupy both the real workspace and the online workspace. These generations consist of the older generation of the baby boomers who are aged 50 years and above, the middle aged generation X which is in their 30s and 40s, and the young generation, generation Y, which is in their 20s and younger. Although social media use is prominent amongst the younger generations, the baby boomers have been known to have the most difficulty comprehending and making use of the social media outlets.
Avoiding embarrassing situations that could be incurred from inappropriate social media postings has demanded for a new level of etiquette with businesses communicating on social media. It is a well-known fact that the internet never forgets, and when a slip-up occurs on a twitter handle, a company or individual can irreversibly damage their reputation in 140 characters or less. One prominent example of the harm that can come from improper social media etiquette lies in the case of Justine Sacco, a former Public Relations executive at media company IAC, tweeted right before her plane trip; “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” (1).
Whereas before the flight Justine had her job and around 150 followers on Twitter, after landing her tweet had trended into the number 1 tweet in the world, she had gained thousands of followers, and she was fired from her job the following day. Even after apologizing for the tweet, there was no cure for the damage 64 characters had caused to Sacco’s personal and professional life. The old adage, “think before you speak” in an updated sense would urge others to “think before you post”.
Another example of the power in social media is shown through the stock market. When Netflix CEO, Reed Hastings, posted on his company Facebook page that Netflix monthly viewing had exceeded 1 billion hours for the first time ever, company stock rose over 20% within a day going from $67 a share to over $81 (2).This sudden rise of stock value prompted notices and a following investigation from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Although hoping to fine Hastings for a violation of public disclosure rules, the SEC ultimately discovered they did not have enough backings to indict Hastings for his Facebook post.
In the study of how some companies successfully use social media, I turned to the social media giant Starbucks. Boasting over 36 million Facebook fans, the Starbucks social team has little more to do than post a simple picture of their signature coffee to gather hundreds of thousands of likes and comments. After multiple posts on their walls and comments on their pictures, I wasn’t able to receive any interaction from the Starbucks page(3). This was expected though, out of the thousands of comments