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Saturday, 12 September 2015

Social Media, the Next Generation of Business Engagement.

For ages, business power has rested in Land, Capital, Labor and Entrepreneurship. The degree of effective acquisition and usage of these factors always put organizations ahead of the rest in their respective industries.  This kept consistent until the spell when the internet came into existence thereby making information another huge and relevant factor in business and industry operations.  A few companies and organizations that could afford setting up websites did so however many organizations were slow in adopting the use of websites. Year after year, companies slowly but steadily realized the role of information in operation of business and markets, they adopted to the usage of websites. 

Subsequently, the company websites all had information though limited in nature and Information Communication Technologies (ICT) had to come into play to enable the spread of the information through phones mainly land lines , email and fax machines. There arose the mobile phone technology basically for making & receiving calls with additional functions of sending text messages. Companies had now established easier ways to keep in touch with employees, suppliers, clients and other business partners.  Communication between companies and other stakeholders continuously gained more value which led to development of newer technologies to solve the challenges of sharing information.  Let’s also remember that marketing of company products and services way back from the 1960s to the early 1980s was by traditional media in addition to word of mouth marketing. The effective business usage of the internet for business sprung up from the 1980s to date. 

Due to the inefficiency of early information sharing between companies and their partners, the idea of delivering communication to social circles ascended. Many web geniuses that existed at the time started constructing websites that would let the communication get shared to a wide number of people and social circles. They really had the urge for creating a system that will not only encourage engagement of the product and service consumers, but also providing feedback to allow companies improve. CompuServe, was a service that began life in the 1970s as a business-oriented mainframe computer communication solution.  It then expanded into the public domain in the late 1980s. CompuServe allowed members to share files and access news and events. But it also offered something few had ever experienced – true interaction. Not only could you send a message to your friend via a newfangled technology dubbed “e-mail” (granted, the concept of e-mail wasn’t exactly newfangled at the time, though widespread public access to it was). You could also join any of CompuServe’s thousands of discussion forums to yap with thousands of other members on virtually any important subject of the day. Those forums proved tremendously popular and paved the way for the modern iterations we know today.
But if there is a true precursor to today’s social networking sites, it was likely spawned under the AOL (America Online) umbrella. In many ways, and for many people, AOL was the Internet before the Internet, and its member-created communities (complete with searchable “Member Profiles,” in which users would list pertinent details about themselves), were arguably the service’s most fascinating, forward-thinking feature.

Yet there was no stopping the real Internet, and by the mid-1990s it was moving full bore. Yahoo had just set up shop, Amazon had just begun selling books, and the race to get a PC in every household was on. And, by 1995, the site that may have been the first to fulfill the modern definition of social networking was born.  Social sites of the era opted solely for niche, demographic-driven markets. One was, founded in 1997. A product of Community Connect Inc., which itself was founded just one year prior in the New York apartment of former investment banker and the future Community Connect CEO, was followed by in 1999 and by the Hispanic-oriented in 2000. All three still exist today, with in particular still enjoying tremendous success with more than eight million visitors per month.

In 2002, social networking hit really its stride with the launch of Friendster. Friendster used a degree of separation concept similar to that of the now-defunct, refined it into a routine dubbed the “Circle of Friends,” and promoted the idea that a rich online community can exist only between people who truly have common bonds. And it ensured there were plenty of ways to discover those bonds. Introduced just a year later in 2003, LinkedIn took a decidedly more serious, sober approach to the social networking phenomenon. Rather than being a mere playground for former classmates, teenagers, and cyberspace Don Juans, LinkedIn was, and still is, a networking resource for business people who want to connect with other professionals. In fact, LinkedIn contacts are referred to as “connections.” Today, LinkedIn boasts more than 350 million members. MySpace also launched in 2003. Though, it no longer resides upon the social networking throne in many English-speaking countries. 

Founded, like many social networking sites, by university students who initially peddled their product to other university students, Facebook launched in 2004 as a Harvard-only exercise and remained a campus-oriented site for two full years before finally opening to the general public in 2006. Yet, even by that time, Facebook was considered big business. So much so that, by 2009, Silicon Valley bigwigs such as Paypal co-founder and billionaire Peter Thiel invested tens of millions of dollars just to see it flourish. Facebook currently boasts more than 1.3 billion active users. March 21, 2006, Twitter an online social networking service that enables users to send and read short 140-character messages called "tweets" was also launched. Twitter’s registered users can read and post tweets, but unregistered users can only read them. On realizing the power of social networking, Google decided to launch their own social network (Google+) in 2007. It differed from Facebook and Twitter in that it wasn’t necessarily a full-featured networking site, but rather a social “layer” of the overall Google experience.

With the coming of all the above Social Networking sites, it’s obvious that developed economies would not have invested their huge fortunes in investments that make no difference to companies and organizations. Over the course of the past 5 years, “Fourth screen” technology — smartphones, tablets, etc. — has changed social networking and the way we communicate with one another entirely. What used to sit on our desks now conveniently fits in the palm of our hands, allowing us to effortlessly utilize functionality once reserved for multiple devices wherever we go. This is where the gist opportunity for businesses is! Effective engagement, marketing, strong customer relationship building and direct customer feedback are some of the many opportunities that Social Media presents to businesses.
(To Be Continued)
By Mwebya Fred


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