A matter of reputation…

Photo credit: chachingdigitalmedia.com

Photo credit: chachingdigitalmedia.com

It’s amazing how one’s reputation is more of a public responsibility than a personal one in today’s world! There are innumerable examples to prove and illustrate this statement. It often makes me wonder if first impressions still hold the same value as they did a few years back, considering that they are now determined not on personal meetings but on their social media presence today.

The Stubenville Rape case is no breaking News to us now but had it not been for the Twitter updates that gave us an insight into that unfortunate incident, the Football heroes would have been celebrated for years to come. Explicit tweets from the offenders made it difficult to overlook the details of their gruesome deeds and made it possible for the public to see the truth behind the idolized faces.

Fawzia Koofi, Afghanistan’s first potential  woman president, was able to lend a voice to her aspirations and dreams because of Youtube! With her country being so harsh on women, she is still high-spirited as she knows she can reach the global population through social media and be heard worldwide. Once again, we learn how the virtual networking world enables individuals to transcend through the geographical shadows and lines of nations, thus earning oneself an international reputation.

Photo credit: davidmciveredwards.com

Photo credit: davidmciveredwards.com

Not only are individuals advocates of social media, instead, companies and organizations face similar issues too as it is more sensitive an issue for them to guard their reputation in the social media world…especially since the consumer market is huge and keeping each and every member happy in this group is next to impossible.

Companies such as Carnival Cruise Lines, Cadbury, Nestle and the like have faced the backlash of social media when they have not responded to crisis well. They have learnt the lesson in the hard way through negative comments and delirious allegations. On the other hand, Dominos, Toyota, Johnson&Johnson proved to be intelligent users of social media, which they proved through their timely response when crises hit them. This resulted in brand loyalty and the consolation within their target audience that these companies understood their responsibilities and therefore were worthy of being trusted in the future too.

We can therefore learn from the examples above that it is not easy to maintain one’s reputation as easily as it was in the earlier days through our actions. With so many external forces acting on us, it requires an intelligent user of social media to keep the reigns under control.

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Photo credit: cygnismedia.com

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Does social media have a nationality?

Credit: Social media for photographers

Credit: Social media for photographers

In this blog post, I try to do justice to this question by not only analyzing the international scope and reach of social media, but also the different methods in which this platform is adopted into the lives of people internationally. When we sit to ponder over the different events that have occurred in the recent history, it is hard to leave out the crucial role of social media from the scenario.

Arab Uprisings! Kony Campaign 2012! Japan Earthquake (2011)! Narendra Modi’s Political campaign (2012)! Hurricane Sandy (2012)! Ai Wei Wei’s Freedom Struggle!…All these globe trotting headlines have the common element of Social Media attached to them. It is not about Africa, India, Japan, America or China…it is about social media that has no boundaries and pervades across the globe.

To illustrate my stand, I would like to jog your memory back to the inception of the Arab Uprisings. The National, UAE’s trusted source of information reported that social media (Facebook and Twitter, in particular) were considered to have “played a critical role in mobilisation, empowerment, shaping opinions and influencing change.” Similarly, were it not for the advocacy group, Invisible Children, who exposed the atrocities through Youtube in 2006, the world would’ve been blind to the barbarism of Joseph Kony, the brutal warlord! Look at the relief efforts that took place alongside the calamities of the Japan Earthquake and the Hurricane Sandy in the same frame of time…not just in the countries that were affected…but all over the world!

Narendra Modi, who is the next potential Prime Minister of India (devoid of any personal political inclination and/or assertions) executed a brilliant political campaign, before the State elections, that was designed by a Public Relations practitioner in Washington DC! On similar lines is the strength and support provided by the United States of America to the Chinese artist and activist, Ai Wei Wei, to stand against all odds and brutalities showered upon him by his own country! With the cooperation of social media and the others from his clan worldwide, this artist has been able to find his voice and has had the courage to oppose the orthodoxy practiced by the Chinese Government. Such is the power of this wired world that we live in…a global village indeed, where each one is right next to each other in virtual space!

As much as a blessing in disguise, social media can be really horrid at times too. Like any coin that has two sides, social media has its own shares of negative outcomes. With so much power in the hands of humans, as to create and share, there ought to be carelessness and misuse of this resource. May it be the Domino’s or Applebee’s in America or the Russian International airline, Aeroflot, all the corporates are now sacking their employees left, right and center at the slightest hint of misconduct and violation of corporate policies on social media. Full-fledged case studies, conducted months or years later, seldom reveal that the accused employee was not guilty, and yet had to lose their jobs in order to safeguard the company’s reputation in the eye of its target publics. Social media is thus a constant element that lingers around each individual. Shashi Tharoor, for example, had to step down from the prestigious position of a Minister of State for External Affairs, because of a misconstrued comment on Twitter while traveling in the economy class of an airline—this was blown out of proportion by the media where the common public was equated to the “cattle class”, which, in turn, was translated and misunderstood as his political party’s taunt on the austerity of that class!

Not every social media user can be a genius like Anonymous who can have a total control of this technology. It is difficult to define social media, as it is multi-faceted and can easily make or break an individual. It is local, national and global at the same time, thus, putting on the same mask as the user to blend in easily.

In short, social media is everywhere, and there is no escape from it…yet!

Social Media, an everyday companion!

How do you start your day?…most of us in the ages of 15 and 45 would mention grabbing our phones to look for updates on emails and social media sites. It is not surprising that many of us are hooked onto this “habit” of social media. Shea Bennet mentions a study in her article, Smart Phones and Social Media – The Everyday Life of Today’s Connected Consumer, that aptly points out that:

                     “85 percent of women and 63 percent of men compulsively check their smartphones for text, emails or social media updates, and more than 40 percent of respondents would go through a “withdrawal” effect and “would feel anxious, like part of me was missing,”if they couldn’t check their smartphones constantly.”

It is indeed appalling to see how dependent one can be on social media to get through the day. News about friends and the world has assumed similar importance. On the one hand while one can feel virtually and technologically connected to those sitting across the globe, people have also started to avert socializing in person, on the other. How then are you supposed to know if you are speaking to a real person or just a persona?

Very few users of social media are able to determine its actual worth in life and accordingly let them interfere, and even fewer know how to use social media efficiently. Most of us end up communicating the same (or similar) message on all these platforms like this:

Photo Credit: Luna Turd

Photo Credit: Luna Turd

The Nation highlights the intrusion of social media in everyday life through the words of Sheryl Sandberg, chief operation officer of Facebook and co-chair of the World Economic Forum at the annual meeting in Davos, 2012. In accordance with the points of view presented in this conference, I would like to especially emphasize on how social media has assumed an independent role in employment, law, education, politics and every other fields that did not co-exist. With the consumer market heavily taken to social media to attract customers through their interactive apps, Facebook offers and Twitter updates, to name a few, it would be safe to say that social media have become the masters of the human race.

To illustrate my point further lastly, I would urge every reader to look closely at this analysis by Cisco and spare a few moments of thought to the rising dependence on social media.

Source: Cisco

Source: Cisco

Lastly, just a suggestion, from the experience of researching and reading so much about social media for this campaign…

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Source: TransPennine Express

little comment- big mistake

Source: TransPennine Express

Images OR Words?

Image

A picture is worth a thousand words” – Napoleon Bonaparte

 A very apt and concurrent thought, that struck the great French Emperor in the early nineteenth century, can easily be understood in the light of the communication practices employed today in the twenty first century. When was the last time that you read plain text without feeling that it lacked something?

Social Networking sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Pintrest, Tumblr and Flickr and the like have made it big into the market because of their pictorial appeal amongst people. This post is not place one form of media over the other, but instead to dig deeper into the trend of socially accepting images, pictures, colored font, animated messages, graphical representations of information over plain and descriptive narratives. Everyone’s busy lives only allow them to dedicate a certain fraction of their time to social media, in which they aspire to learn as much as they can within minutes…who then, would prefer reading a 500 word essay on the austere conditions of certain pockets in Africa over a poignant image of the same which speaks volumes for itself? – A brilliant point driven home by Matt Cunningham in his blog. He also strongly believes,

“It is the images that make reality real. Images leave very little room for interpretation. We see it, and it happened. Instantly, the situation that surrounds us becomes believable.”

 Facebook keeps changing every week! With more emphasis on pictures, through the cover page, profile picture, FB graph search, enhanced space dedicated to photo album grids, etc, it appears more cheerful and colorful to the human eye. These features attract attention to pictorial and graphic details. Every action of a Facebook user is represented through his/her icon rather than the name. Instagram, Pintrest, Tumblr and Flickr  have cashed in heavily on this recent change in preference.

Images speak for themselves with the cooperation of the viewer’s psychology. They look how the viewer wants to see them and hence transgress the boundaries of lexical communication. This is perhaps the underlying secret of social media being global and glocal at the same time. Imagery and colors have no language. They appear, as they are perceived. They can either be endlessly thought provoking or just a pedestrian and insignificant image…determined by individual discretion. To illustrate my point, here are some similarities and differences between images and plain text:

Image

On a similar note, some images in social media are universal, such as the one below.

Image

In conclusion, it would not be wrong to say that images have stepped up the trend of electronic communication in today’s date. Their ability to speak volumes and convey multiple messages is effectively facilitated by various social media platforms. Like every coin has two sides, images sans text on social media have their disadvantages which can be misused by a miscreant mind, but that is an whole another chapter in itself

Email Marketing versus Social Media Marketing

social-media-vs-email-300x190

photo credit: twochicago.com

There has been an ongoing debate about the role of email in this social media dominated world. It is true that the latter has taken over the world at a much faster rate than did the vogue of emails, but the bottom line of sending personal letters online via technology is undoubtedly still the preferred choice as against social media communication. As quoted by Tedd Wasserman, Keren Gottfried, the research Manager at Ipsos, strongly believes that, “…It shouldn’t be surprising that we’re using a digital version of sending a letter. But the fact that a majority of people are using [the Internet] for social networking is a paradigm shift; there’s no equivalent in the offline world.”

Shea Bennet pictographically and efficiently analyzes the pros and cons of social media and email marketing to further buttress Jonathan Bennet’s view that the latter has always been more popular and widely used than the former. To briefly summarize the main points of Bennet’s argument:

• Email provides a level of privacy and professionalism
• Email inboxes provide a one stop-hub for tasks and one-to-one communications
• There’s not the worry about privacy issues with email as there is with social media
• Email works across all platforms and applications
• Email has become more than just a two-way communication tool
• Social media does not provide a professional online space for business one-to-ones
• Social media has a major issue with ownership

It is thus not surprising that all the social media websites have realized the importance of personalization of messages and inculcated the email features within their design. To interact on a public platform may be a technological advancement and a step encouraging the global village system to bring people closer, but, each individual still likes his/her own personal space and privacy where they can have full control.