Free Essay On The Commercialization Of Social Media
Social media is a platform that hosts networks of people online. Social media was the result of Web 2.0, an online platform that allows users to create and share content in the World Wide Web (WWW). Hence, social media may be defined as a network of applications or platforms through which individuals create and share content with one another (Code, 39). Social media stems from different platforms – blogs and microblogs, social networking platforms, feedback or review sites, and forums and discussion boards among others (Zarrela, 3) Examples of social media include online applications such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, MySpace, and LinkedIn. All these applications allow online users to create their own accounts and establish networks with family, friends, colleagues, and other people online.
Considering the structure of social media sites listed above, we may surmise that the main goal or objective of social media is to create networks for people to interact with other users and create or share content including photos, videos, ideas in the form of posts or updates, and documents. In recent years, however, commercialization transformed social media. This transformation is palpable in the way that social media takes advantage of advertisements to generate revenue as well as people’s use of social media to achieve the same objective. The said mechanisms brought about by the commercialization of social media will be explored in the succeeding discussion.
The Commercialization of Social Media: Marketing and Advertising
The integration of marketing in social media jumpstarted its commercialization. The number of social media users and the online population in general prompted brands and merchants to utilize social media to market, advertise, or promote their products and services. Businesses and organizations saw the opportunity to market and advertise to millions of people worldwide at real time (Sathi, 42). For commercial institutions, social media platforms constitute a stage through which they would be able to advertise online not only with the convenience of the Internet’s reach but also through creative and innovative advertising forms such as videos and animations, memes, blog posts, and page updates.
Businesses and organizations also saw the potential of using social media as a means to establish their brand image and reputation. Consequently, branding through social media allows the business or organization to communicate its brand vision to consumers (Zappavigna, 30) and to represent what the brand stands for. The Internet and social media create means through which brands and businesses may easily reach their target audience around the world all at once (Tsuzuki, 442).
Many brands have been using social media for marketing and promotions. Companies such as IBM and Dell take advantage of social media networks to advertise and promote existing and new products and deals. IBM, for instance, manages 100 blogs and as well as different Twitter accounts that serve various purposes. Public reports about the company are also available online via SlideShare or in video format in IBM’s YouTube account. Dell also uses different social media platforms. Dell uses IdeaStorm to post the company’s plans and ideas and engage with online users who may contribute to their own (Zarrela, 3).
Facebook and other social media applications monetize online users’ subscription by allowing brands to advertise to the company’s billions of users worldwide. In terms of social media market share, Facebook has the most number of subscribers compared to Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google. YouTube comes in second place following Facebook (Funk, 36). It is therefore not surprising that Facebook was one of the first social media networking platforms that adopted marketing and advertising schemes to monetize widespread subscription of Facebook services by millions of people around the world. Facebook monetize subscriptions in many ways. Facebook “collects information about its users from its social networks (clicks, likes, shares, posts, comments, check-ins, RSVPs, apps used, friend activity) and from data-brokers (offline information), creating aggregate profiles that enable advertisers to more accurately serve ads to members on the site” (Bodle, 134). Facebook then sells data to marketers and advertisers. Data helps marketers and advertisers identify their target market online and learn more about existing or potential markets so they would be able to create appropriate advertisements and promotional materials that would draw the markets’ attention. Facebook also monetizes subscription by allowing brands and merchants to create pages online. Aside from allowing banner advertisements on Facebook’s site, the company also works with various brands to create official pages through which brands post updates about their products and services, make announcements, and post advertisements (Maver & Popp).
In recent years, the rapid commercialization of social media led to the development of different businesses as well as business models. Social media transformed from a tool used to communicate and interact with other people to something that enabled individuals and companies to transact with consumers. An example of an online innovation brought about by commercialization of social media is CouchSurfing. CouchSurfing has revolutionized travel for travelers around the world. CouchSurfing is “a virtual community site that provides accommodation services for free and encourages a tourism experience rooted in lifeworld communicative practices, the sharing of personal information, interactivity with the local community, and establishment of a closer relationship between the host and the guest” (Munar, 46).
The development of CouchSurfing illustrates the potential of commercialized social media to establish new business models that serve the modern needs of consumers. In the past, the idea of CouchSurfing would not have worked without social media. Social media was essential in the concept of CouchSurfing’s business model, which was based on the mechanisms of communication facilitated by social media. Essentially, CouchSurfing was established because of how people interacted with one another online. One of the many reasons that people use social media is to share their travel experiences with family, friends, and followers. Increasing dialogue about travelling influenced the emergence of travel culture and consequently, the demand for information – in the form of tips, reviews, and feedbacks – about travel destinations.
Crowdfunding is another example that illustrates the commercialization of social media. Crowdfunding’s business model is utilizing the Internet to generate monetary support of a proposed start-up project. Online users then support the projects they support or believe in by sending funds. While collating funds for projects, crowdfunding is also a means to advertise or market the proposed project or service (Lipschultz, 132). Crowdfunding illustrates the commercialization of social media because it illustrates how online platforms may be used not only to generate funds from people to start a project or a business, but also to advertise or promote the project even before its completion to online users.
Other examples that illustrate the commercialization of social media is the presence of paid advertisements on social media sites. Online users see these banner advertisements daily while they use social media. In some instances, clicking the advertisements generate revenue for different sites. Blogging, as well as microblogging and video blogging, as well as review and feedback sites are also some of the best examples of marketing and advertising using social media. Personal users may write about their experiences about products and services in these sites, which is an indirect means of advertising them (Lee, 215).
The foregoing discussion illustrates the commercialization of social media in various forms. The main factors that drove commercialization was the growing number of online users and subscribers of social media applications. Millions of people are subscribed to Facebook, one of the most successful social media networking applications. Brands and merchants took advantage of this by establishing partnership with social media applications to market and promote their products and services. Marketing and advertising in social media largely depends on viewership, which is why businesses and brands use social media networks with large following such as Facebook. Advertising and marketing also exists online with the use of consumer data to guide marketing and advertising planning and decisions.
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