Thoughts on Using Social Media

The Center for Technology, Entertainment, and Media (CTEM) hosted its annual Industry Immersion Day on November 9. The event focused on social media in business and boasted an appealing who’s who from the burgeoning social media space. Speakers provided expertise and suggestions in this still nascent field. The event sought to identify current trends in the industry, and how today’s business (and business student) can take advantage of them.

As any good event would, it provided insights, ideas, and irrefutable truths about social media; but, additionally, as any good business student would desire, it prompted as many questions as it answered. That seems to be the conundrum facing users of social media: in some ways our generation, the first one to use social media en masse, isn’t even sure what to think of it, or what questions to ask about it. We collectively like the idea of using social media in business, but haven’t aggressively thought about how to apply it, or what it takes to get to a point where it’s actually useful.

So, in that spirit, I thought about the role that social media has played in my life, and how I see it affecting me in the future, and naturally, I have a few questions, some a little esoteric, that I hope to answer some day:

  1. Are we, our flesh and bone existences, destined to converge with our virtual personas? Ever since I got on Facebook at age 21, I’ve been warned and goaded into making sure that my profile is squeaky clean, and that it presents an image I want to share with the world, even if it’s a little deceptive. Each subsequent social media site has been crafted in the same image. Is this what I’m actually supposed to become? And, if so, what then for today’s children, who will know nothing other than social media?
  2. Is social media – purportedly the telephone of our generation – really making us more social? I find myself wondering this every time I get a friend request from someone I haven’t seen since freshman year of high school. Are we actually becoming more connected, or are these virtual connections serving as a substitute for real contact? And what implications does this have for business? If we abandon our old channels of contact in favor of social media, will anything be lost in the transition?
  3. Is more information better? The proliferation of technology to aid in business decision making has certainly inundated us with facts, opinions, and everything in between, but are we any wiser for it? Is there such a glut of information in our midst, and have our minds not evolved quickly enough, that we can make sense of it all? Or, alternatively, is solving this dilemma partially the role of social media? Is there so much information that only a crowd can whittle it down?
  4. Assuming it’s inevitable that this is what the business world is moving to, how do we prepare students to use social media to their advantage? Certainly, everyone in our class is well acquainted with Facebook and similar networking sites (perhaps too well acquainted with them). But transforming these vehicles into meaningful contributors to business is more art than science, and due to unfortunate timing, we may have to be the artisans. But events like Immersion Day help to provide some clarity.
  5. What are you doing now? That is the question we’re always asked when logging onto Facebook or Twitter. I hope, and our speakers seemed to suggest, that we’ve moved beyond this question. It’s too passive, in a way. That’s the type of question I’d expect to see back in 2004, when these technologies were first taking hold. It was as if Facebook was just some window into what was going on in our lives. Now, social media affects our lives, it doesn’t just display them. We’re a generation shaped by social media, so the better question might be, what are you and Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn/Foursquare doing now?