A social network technology is an online platform, service, or site that aims at establishing and reflecting societal relations among persons with same interests or activities. Social networks mostly operate under the web. They have means of interactions between individuals to share events, activities, ideas and interests within networks. Some social networks allow instant messaging whereby persons send messages and receive feedback immediately. Online community services are social networks. A network society is a society where micro-electronic based information and communication technologies power its networks (Hoffmann, 2011). A social network is a group of interacting people with relationships amongst themselves.
Social networks are a hot topic for marketers because they present a number of opportunities for interacting with customers through fan pages and groups (Zarrella 2009). Before the introduction of the web, there were Bulletin Board Systems. These were internet forums that allowed groups of users to log onto a computer network and interact with one other. The users relied on phone lines and extremely slow modems to make the connection. They could upload and download software and data, exchange messages and read announcements. Bulletin Board Services emerged in the 1970s. Hobbyists and corporate systems operators operated Bulletin Board Systems and hosted users in their machines. These Bulletins covered a range of topics and interest areas that included games, politics and dating.
In the 1990s, the World Wide Web arrived, and the usage of Bulletin Board Services declined. Online service providers took over. Internet forums of people with matching interests accessed digital meeting places for discussions of a range of topics. The modern era of social networks began in 2002 with the introduction of Friendster site. Several employees from Intermix Media, a marketing company, launched MySpace in 2003. In the same year, Mark Zuckerberg hacked into Harvard University’s private dorm ID database and created Facemash. The site let students compare two ID photos to select the most attractive one. Soon after, Zuckerberg established Facebook which allowed other colleges to join, and in 2006, anyone with an email could join. Excellent examples of modern services providing access to groups are Google and Yahoo. Nowadays social media have advanced their services to users. These services include social networking, social bookmarking, photo sharing, video sharing, voice networking and product and service reviews. They include Facebook and Heyspace among others.
Technological trends have been changing day by day in the recent past. What appears sophisticated in terms of technology today might become obsolete in the next day. New appliances and software enter the market after every short period. This trend has led to considerable changes in the field of technology leading to a change in cultural, social and economic environments. An excellent example is the new trend of acquiring, analyzing and presenting statistics. Data plays a crucial role in the operations of business firms and educational institutions.
Business institutions seek information from the internet by conducting surveys in regard to developing new products to suit their customers. They also use collected data to plan and measure the achievement of their business goals. The information is rich in facts and up to date and business firms need data for various reasons. First, they need to plan and implement marketing strategies. Second, they need to forecast future expansion. This will be possible if they know the income and education levels of their prospective clients. This is because income will determine consumption among people. This will in turn determine the marketing strategies to use in different areas. Management requires data in making key decisions of the firm. Given the new trends of technology in data collection and presentation, businesses will have to change their ways of doing business. This has most effects the marketing departments. Businesses and institutions can acquire information from online sources and analyze it to make profitable decisions. They can also represent their data using the modern tools of data presentation.
Technology supports the functionality of social networks. Using social media services requires basic technical skills of operating a computer and surfing the web (Waters, 2010). This has led to the use of social networks by many people. People go to the internet to seek information, make friends and entertain themselves. Blogs and discussion forums have been in existence for a long time now. Although, citizens use blogs and forums basically for entertainment purposes, companies realize there is business value when they monitor them. This will enable companies gauge consumer opinions and preferences.
It has never been easy or cheap to develop global campaigns with promotional messages that can reach consumers all around the world. The internet has made all versions of advertisements to be only a few strokes away. Online social communities have grown drastically across the globe. This has led to changes in the world of communication. Many forms of social interaction have moved online leading to evolution of personal forms of communication in the online world. This has led to the start up of interactions between individuals, business people with others and organizations.
Most CEOs, Entrepreneurs and business owners want people to pay attention to their company. Similarly, advertisers, PR people, marketers and sales people want to generate attention (Scott, 2010). Companies receive attention by publishing something interesting online .This can be on a blog, Facebook fan page, Twitter stream or You Tube video. Social media allow many-to-many communication. Social media has broken the barriers for entry in that anybody may blog for free at present. An example of people who have used social media is Guy Kawasaki. Kawasaki is a venture capitalist who uses Twitter to keep people in touch with what he is doing (Poynter, 2010). Businesses and marketing people have used blogs as a research tool. A researcher who wants comprehensive data defines specific topic and recruits participants to blog about the topic during the course of the project. This aids in collecting qualitative information.
Social media has been a place to conduct market research. It has also become a place for market researchers to network and share ideas. They also look for jobs and simply have fun using social media. They form new and dynamic groups of friends and followers because they are active users of social networks. In Facebook, market researchers make fiends and use their status to talk about research topics. They also join specialist research groups. The marketers use their research findings to design marketing strategies and change business operations. Professionals use social networks such as LinkedIn to form contacts, to engage in market research groups to get information about job issues.
The role of marketing is bringing buyers and sellers together. This role has become faster and more efficient than ever before. This is possible through the internet which has revolutionized every aspect of life. Profit making and nonprofit seeking organizations make use of the internet to provide customers with the goods and services they want when they want to buy them. In most cases, people use social media to market their products. Surveys suggest that the web is the best medium for new product information (Kurtz, 2012). Using social media businesses can post their catalogues, print advertisements and organize trade shows. In fact, social networks allow vendors, retailers and consumers to exchange vital information. People get some of their news and information from blogs unlike traditional media.
Business firms use social networks such as Facebook, and others to organize discussion groups online. The discussion groups have involved employees of a given firm. The firm managers and supervisors have also arranged for workshops, seminars and professional development functions via social media. This is contrary to traditional methods where supervisors and managers arranged and organized seminars and workshops to take place in halls within the firm’s premises. Currently, an employee can follow the proceedings of workshop or seminar events from home or a train while travelling. It only needs one to have an internet connection. Similarly, social media are a source of information for research. Business firms have changed their research operation methods from traditional information gathering methods to use of social media. Users of social media are always communicating, providing valuable information that a firm can use to develop new technologies and marketing strategies.
Customers can use Google Maps to find direction of shopping malls or companies dealing with particular products, when they are lost with the help of the internet and a GPS enabled phones. Communication is made globally easy through technology and people can work anywhere and not necessarily be within the office walls. Someone can go on holiday with his/her family and at the same time, work from there, while being as productive as anyone else is.
In conclusion, Organizations should invest in social media. Making use of social networks will enable business firms gain attention from users. By creating blogs and fan pages, social networkers shift their attention to the businesses. Business firms should not overspend on traditional advertising and sales methods. They should channel considerable funds to investing in social media. Power and control in businesses is shifting increasingly from the company to the social networks that surround it. Given this shift, companies need to pay extra attention to the social networks, understand network dynamics and how to influence them to work with networks. Companies that fail to do this will lose control. Companies may never have the control they had previously in their new positions as network nodes. Superior understanding of the relationships that surround firms can enable them gain superior knowledge and extra control over social networks that will define their future.