Social media have so deeply embed in the modern human experience that they have become an integral part of him. A person, having access to the World Wide Web, wanted to communicate with the same people like him. And social media satisfied his desire. We get news from there, browse photos, listen to music, watch videos, express our opinions and communicate with people, being separated by huge distances. Almost a third of humanity uses social networks – staggering figures. It is clear that online platforms affect society and our minds. And at the same time social networks have long ceased to be entertainment – they are used for professional purposes by specialists of various types of activities.
But what are social media anyway? A means of communication, a new stage in the development of social relations, a platform for advertising and promotion of goods and services, or global systems for manipulating and controlling people? There are both positive and negative aspects of the use of social networks. Another question is whether they can be prevented from having a negative impact.
Marketing and sales through social networks
“If you are not on the Internet, then you are not in business,” Bill Gates once said the prophetic phrase. Today, with a slight correction, you can say, “If your company is not on social media, you are unlikely to succeed.” Social networks give direct access to the buyer, and the way the company is represented in them is important for its success. Which social networks have the most influence on consumer choice? The most popular in the world are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn. The users of the first three are most likely to make purchases under the influence of advertising and the information received from them.
Social networks store and process data about millions of users. This helps marketers set up targeted advertising and helps businesses increase sales. And online platform revenues are also rising. To understand how seriously social networks earn on advertising, just look at how the profits of, for example, Facebook, are rising, with growing at 177% in 2017. In the second quarter of 2017 alone, the company’s advertising revenue in Europe increased by 43%.
How do social media track and sort potential customer data? Various information is collected in social networks: personal data, likes, reposts, photo and video uploads, joining groups and other activities. In addition, for example, Facebook collects information about the duration of sessions, cursor movement, smartphone charge level, camera use, conducts various tests (many are forbidden today after the scandal with the British company Cambridge Analytica, which collected data on the American electorate with their help) and a lot of additional information that helps marketers increase sales.
In turn, marketers use the information to develop and change the branding strategy on social platforms. Previously, such data could only be obtained from specialized companies that provided a small sample, and the definition of demography was completely impossible. Using thematic data, social networks can collect and group information for marketers in narrow areas, while removing personal user data (in accordance with the requirements of the Regulation on the General Protection of Personal Data of the European Union, which does not allow to identify a specific person).
The collected data about users is used to display personalized advertising: everyone sees that advertisement, which, based on social network analytics, allows you to correctly guess the interests of the target audience. In relation to business, such an approach to advertising is more useful and many times more effective than television advertising, where everyone is shown the same pads, toothpaste and diapers. Social networks allowed the business to go directly to a potential buyer – people reveal their secrets on these virtual sites, and a subtle analytical mechanism tracks their preferences.
Many users still find it difficult to believe that social networks are not just a tool of communication, but a powerful platform that not only collects data about preferences, but also forms the consumer’s opinion about goods and services. To do this, for example, viral advertising is launched, which increases the spending of users on goods that they may not have planned to purchase before they appeared in social networks.
Career and employee search
Someone sits on Facebook and/or Twitter for hours and days just for nothing. And someone uses them to establish business communications, finds work in companies, and ultimately works on social media. To come to understand the role of social networks in the professional sphere, you need to understand how they can affect career growth, how to help or hurt when applying for a job.
Over the past decade, the impact of social networks on recruiting has been quite serious. First, thanks to social networks, the possibility of remote hiring of employees and freelancers has appeared – the company team does not have to sit in the same office under the supervision of a manager. People can work on one project from different countries and time zones. This is especially popular in IT companies and Internet projects.
Second, the social networks formation has led to the emergence of new professions – SMM, blogger, Internet marketer who earn on such sites as Facebook, Instagram, Telegram, etc. Good money is paid for quality content and promotion, because promotion and advertising goods have moved from the real sector to the Internet and social networks. Also added new skills for existing professions – web developers, content creators, PR, for whom social networks have become a new springboard for their activities.
Social networks began to be actively used by hiring managers as a tool for finding the necessary specialists. According to the annual report of the US company Jobvite, 36% of job seekers have a LinkedIn profile (social networks for searching and establishing business contacts), 83% of them actively maintain their Facebook profiles. Average figures show that in developed countries, more than 80% of people aged 15-35 years prefer Facebook over other platforms. And this is the age that recruiters are most interested in when looking for specialists.
In the modern world, it is customary to demonstrate your opinion, lifestyle and interests on the pages of websites. All this affects the area of interest of recruiters. It is enough to look at the user’s history for half a year, a year, or even from the moment of creating the profile, to find out about obvious or hidden interests, habits, hobbies, a tendency to aggression or a depressed state of a future candidate for office work.
If you look at the social networks from the side of the applicant, then any serious company also has an online page in one or more platforms. Any information: from contacts to reviews about the leadership, salary level, team climate – can be found on the Web, including social networks.
Social media also serve as an information source for monitoring employees: large companies monitor their corporate reputation and will not suffer negative impact on their image from employees showing something contradictory on social networks. Or in a simpler situation, when, having asked for health reasons, the manager sees a photo of a “sick” employee from the beach or a party.
Banks monitor customer social networks
Banks, insurance companies and device sellers have long used the so-called scoring on social networks to decide on whether to approve a loan to a person or to carry out other operations for him. People are just being checked. Thus, lenders or insurers understand that you did not lie about work, income and marital status.
The Daily Mail wrote an entire article about the working methods of Western financiers. It notes that if a person agrees that the financial institution analyzes his activity in social networks, special companies, for example, FriendlyScore and Hello Soda, will collect all the information for such institutions. FriendlyScore’s CEO Labna Bazin says the analysis is done using machines, not a single person will see what you’re sharing on the web. At the same time, financial community representatives have already expressed dissatisfaction with the violation of privacy.
You can agree to the bank scoring your profile on the Internet by setting your account or by downloading a special application. The scoring process is used to ensure that financial institutions understand: can you repay the loan on time.
What exactly can they see? For example, on Twitter, the robot will look at who you follow and what you share in order to understand your interests. Gmail will track what emails you receive from online stores to understand how you spend your money. On LinkedIn, “pinkerton” will check if you told the truth about your employment history and qualifications. Using a mobile application, the bank or insurance will gain access to the places you visit, where you live and where you work. The application also gets access to the contacts on your phone and advises you to store data about creditworthy friends and family on your mobile.
This method of determining financial solvency is not always correct: a loan application can be rejected unfairly only on the basis of which show you like or in which supermarket you buy food or things. Accordingly, the same model works in the opposite direction.
Relations through the prism of social networks
With the development of social networks, the opportunities for people to communicate have lost their boundaries, the style of communication has changed not only among strangers, but also close ones. Ten years ago, to congratulate his friend on his birthday, a person would have dialed him by phone or personally congratulated him at a meeting. Today it’s enough to open your account on the social network and write a few words of congratulations on the wall of your friend, you can add a beautiful picture for a change.
This is the most striking example of how social networks have changed the style of communication, translating it from real life into virtual. This may upset someone: they say that real friendship disappears and we lose real friends. On the contrary, it is something to please someone: there is no need to say standard phrases, all the more the rhythm of life still leads people apart.
Of course, any phenomenon has both negative and positive sides. People began to communicate less in reality, but they had new friends on the Web who are closer to them in hobbies and outlooks on life. Often people join interest groups on social networks, and then begin to meet in reality: travel together, engage in one hobby, implement social projects, create a common business. Therefore, it cannot be said that social networks disconnect people and lead them into the virtual world.
The communication style, the manner of joining various communities simply changed: earlier it was circles, studios, courses, now social networks are the starting point for dating. You can’t get away from this, except to completely ignore virtual life and purposely communicate only in real life. Which also has a place to be, but it is rather difficult to resist the phenomenon.
If we consider the negative impact of using social networks, quite often it occurs when a person really has nothing to do, no interests in life, he does not realize what he is wasting his precious time on. At that moment, when there is boredom at work, interest in the business cools, when a person feels depressed and insecure, then there is a departure to social networks. Psychologists warn about the negative impact of virtual platforms on the human condition.
Dependence on social networks leads to stress, depression, mood swings. Social networks can also cause panic attacks in those who take information too closely and do not control their own emotions. You need to understand that new technologies really affect the form of relationships, but people remain with the same internal problems and desires: to be understood, heard, successful and loved. And it depends only on them whether they can figure it out – without the help of likes, beautiful photos for show and endless communication on the Web with virtual friends.
Politics and influence on the masses
Everyone probably heard Rothschild’s famous phrase: “The one who owns the information, owns the world.” In the 21st century, information has become not only a tool, but also the main means of influence, for the possession of which corporations and governments are fighting. And social networks have gradually evolved from a means of communication into an instrument of mass impact on people’s choices and decisions. If earlier, before the beginning of the Internet era, this task lay mainly on television, then with the advent of social networks, opportunities have opened up for the influence of some countries on others, politicians on voters, a small handful of people on the broad masses.
What was invented 15 years ago as an interest club, as a place for communication and dating, today works in the hands of everyone who understands how to manage the desires and needs of people. The viral distribution of news and the possibility of using social networks to influence the course of the presidential election in various countries of the world made us take a closer look at the political role of these platforms.
The 2016 US presidential election showed how effective the use of social networks and Internet technologies can be. Hillary Clinton used old proven templates to draw celebrities to her campaign. Donald Trump’s team focused on studying the preferences and consumer behavior of millions of Americans using social networks. With accurate data on what the electorate wants, Trump’s campaign headquarters were able to use them effectively to achieve their goal. Of course, after that there were a lot of scandals, courts and trials. But the fact remains: the Americans themselves made their choice, and how they influenced it is the second question.
On the one hand, many are concerned that social networks have turned into platforms for disseminating misinformation, fake news, and targeted political advertising. But on the other hand, social networks would not exist if there were no democratic principles for the dissemination of information between people. According to research results, social networks make young people politically active – with the help of social networks, young people organize protests, hold social events and can directly contact politicians. It turns out a double-edged sword: having the right to free choice, we gain access to any information – truthful and not very, and our interest in different types of information makes it possible for a certain layer of people to manipulate our choice.
In 2018 Facebook’s director of political affairs, Katie Harbart, announced that social media are a direct threat to democracy. She admitted that during the preparation of the 2016 presidential election, Facebook did not react quickly enough to changes in the political situation, which led to the rise of false news and influenced the outcome of the election. Social networks influence people’s intentions, both good and bad. There is no guarantee that people are only told the truth through social networks.
To “clear” a social network so that it does not affect decisions made by people, even its developers are not yet able to. Thanks to the acknowledgment of its mistakes, Facebook has already headed for change. One of the company’s top priorities for 2020 was the development of mechanisms to prevent interference and misinformation in the elections. This was stated by its head Mark Zuckerberg, and he did this on his page. The new system will give preference to posts from real people, rather than from the media.
Should manipulation of techniques be expected to diminish influence over the electorate, as Facebook’s algorithms change? Most likely, it is necessary to be ready for the emergence of a new army of political experts, who will be able to recruit the necessary number of subscribers and convey to them the “necessary” information from candidates in the upcoming elections.
Is it worth it to temporarily abandon social networks?
Michael Harris, author of “The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We’ve Lost in a World of Constant Connection”, argues that technology should not be regarded as good or evil. The result of their use depends only on the person himself. “Technology has firmly entered our lives, and there is nothing we can do about it.” Harris recommends that anyone who has ever thought about how much social networks influence our lives try to refrain from using them for at least one month. “I took such a break in order to write a book. But most people will lose their jobs if they want to repeat my feat.” The author of the book is joking and at the same time right: we are all more or less dependent on social networks.
The number one problem is their information overload, an abundance of unnecessary information. It is difficult for an ordinary person to separate useful messages from the abundance of information off topic. Abstaining for some period from Internet technologies and social networks can be a good reboot and detox, in order to take a good look at things, put emphasis – which is more important: sticking in the news feed or real life with its colors, joys and tribulations.
And yet, regardless of whether a person refuses to use social networks, an increasing number of people will use them – this is a trend that should be accepted and recognized. And, of course, to understand that thoughtless use of social networks often does not lead to the best results, and a conscious look at Internet technologies will help to understand why they are necessary and prevent addiction from developing.