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What is social media?

A social network can be described as a group that contains individuals or groups of people whom are connected through their interactions together. The term used to study and evaluate these networks is “Social Network Analysis”. As we all know, the biggest social networks include: Facebook, LinkedIn, Blackberry Messenger (BBM), and twitter.

Photo © amdandaw.blogspot.com

Research has shown that in South Africa, 80.7% of all internet users use Facebook and there are 3.3 million registered consumers that potentially use BBM! This means that, of all blackberry smartphone owners, 97% of them use BBM, according to Blackberry maker Research in motion (http://www.rim.com). According to Fuseware and World Wide Worx, Twitter and LinkedIn are currently sitting at 1.1 million registered users.

With South Africans gradually accepting the many social media channels, there still tends to be a small minority that have their doubts about these networks! Two of the main groups are businesses and students:

8 Myth’s of Social networks according to businesses:

1. “Social networks are unnecessarily time-consuming!”

Companies need to constantly be socially active by tweeting or blogging to get sufficient exposure regularly. This can been seen as ‘time wastage’ and is often the reason organizations either ignore or outsource their social media in order to totally ‘wash their hands’ of the situation.

2. “There’s such a hugh risk of fraud/ scams!”

People can pretend to be you and create negativity around you and your business. It’s vital to make sure that you are fully aware of who is overseeing your social network sites. Twitter is a perfect example of how easy if is to scam people. People are often creating fake ‘celebrity’ profiles and gaining followers unnecessarily.

social networks3. “Social networks don’t have the same impact as face-to-face interaction”

Clients may feel deserted if social networks aren’t being monitored correctly. In the generation we are living in now,     people enjoy regular interaction and, are therefore becoming more and more socially active. This is proven with the fact that very few people don’t have a Facebook account nowadays – I can possibly only think of five people!

4. “The risk of obscurity”

Giving out too much personal information is always scary as you never know who exactly see’s all of your information – and having random people contact you is never ideal! Another problem with this is the risk of being harassed by cyber stalkers as this can lead to threats, theft, fraud or damage to data etc.

5. “Social skills can be threatened”

This may occur as people get used to and become more comfortable interacting online with clients and suppliers rather than actual interaction. It’s always seen as an important aspect of any business to develop people skills.

6. “The risk of unethical marketing”

This is possible as marketers can create fictitious fan profiles to like their own products and get more followers in order to seem more popular to clients.

7. “Pictures on social sites may cause controversial assumptions”

It’s important to always appear professional especially if you want people to respect you and your business name.

8. “The Organisation’s social media is influenced by the person in charge of their social sites”

It is vital to ensure a well respected individual or social media team manages your social channels and keeps in mind the professionalism of yourself and your business; and knows what the image of the organization is.

8 Myth’s of Social networks according to Students:

1. “Social networking can become a source of bullying”

Because everyone has a total freedom to express themselves – and sometimes even remain anonymous – individuals can become more susceptible to bullying. It is important to only ‘friend’ or follow people that you know – and if necessary, block the people you don’t!

2. “Friends can put more pressure on you”

Friends now have the ability to watch you all the time, so you may feel pressurized by them in certain situations. For example, when friends want to borrow money from you, you won’t be able to say no because they probably know all about you and your ‘financial circumstances’.

social-networking-images

3. “Stalkers and Paedophiles can see your profile”

They can create fake accounts and profiles, and send you unnecessary messages and photo’s.

4. “Your personal information, thoughts, activities etc can be seen by everyone!”

Whatever you write has the ability to be seen by more people than you intended. Thats why its always important to think before you post!

5. “Photo’s on the sites, especially Facebook can be used against you.”

We either have personally experienced this one, or know of someone who has! For example, a photo of you drinking can be shown to parents, teachers, employers etc!

6. “Social networks can be a huge distraction when you are studying.”

This is true especially if you are studying on your computer as you constantly feel the urge to check your profile and see what’s happening.

7. “People become brave and make inappropriate comments.”

This occurs because it’s a lot easier on social networks than making those comments face to face! Eg. if you have a fall out with your best friend or your boyfriend breaks up with you, it feels like the whole world will eventually know!

8. “People can steal your identity!”

People can steal your photo’s and details and make up their own ‘fake’ accounts and fraudulently pretend to be you.

Light at the end of the Tunnel

Social work helped me climb back up the slippery slope

As we can see, both students and business’s have their own fears when it comes to social media. I just love student’s terminology; the importance of fulfilling their social needs; and how their fears differ completely compared to these of a business! For example, what may seem highly important to students – like bullying – is highly irrelevant to businesses. In today’s technological world, everyone – student, business or otherwise – may experience difficulty when using the different social media channels. What is important is that they are aware and understand social medias’ pros and cons; that they remain open to the social changes we are experiencing; and if they do use it for professional or other reasons, that they use an experienced individual or social media team who can manage their social media and gain good media for them and their business.

Considering that Facebook became open to the public in 2006, and has grown to 900 million active users as of May 2012. This comes to show that social media is constantly growing. It’s almost impossible to survive in 2012 and not be socially active. The trick is to acknowledge the difference between “people’s opinions” and myth’s and the real truth of social media.

“The most successful marketer becomes part of the lives of their followers. They follow back. They wish happy birthday. They handle problems their customers have with products or service. They grow their businesses and brands by involving themselves in their own communities.”

~ Marsha Collier