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Best Friends Forever: The Network Business

Contains:  Web 2.0 : Assessing the responsive network / Billion dollar business friendship: 3 facts about social media you did NOT know / 20 minutes on Facebook / And:  Virtual suicide – a testimony ——–> Read Me Now!

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 (I.) Best Friends Forever – The Rise  of Web 2.0

 

First, there was the internet in the 1960s. Then, with the invention of hypertext, the worldwide web became a graphical interface for internet content in 1991. Social media is where we are now, using the organized aggregation and delivery of integrated text, audio, and video.  (Gallagher, 2010, p.9)

 

 

Bird Icon of 200 million member network Twitter (2011)

 By 2012, the fruits of advertising have conquered our lives. Applied as vehicles “used to convey meaning” (Klein, 1999, p. 5),  digitized images of the brand touched, and ultimately transformed the ways we discern and consume on the market. The major movement towards a truly “branded sphere” is marked by the time of the late 90′s.  As a result of mass production, incessantly circulating advertising imagery had introduced a complex network of media messages to our lives: In emphatic manner, television campaign, city billboard, and magazine ad spoke to, and often found, the attention of buyers. The end of the story? Far from it! Hand in hand with the uprising of large-scale industries, increasingly smart, subliminal product marketing took a hold of western advertising. With the introduction and rise of social communication, this trend continues to grow- jump-starting the creation of a forceful, yet evermore subtle relationship with the consumer. 

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  • “The average Facebook user has 130 friends.” (Obizmedia, 2011)

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To be sure: Social media, in many aspects, turned upside down the world of communication. Traversing the boundary between time and places, profile avatar, Facebook chat, and instant messaging brought us together. Apparently close to those we care about, we write and exchange news – wherever we are, and whenever we feel like. Wired and connected, we feel at ease, save energy and travel expenses. Still sitting at your desk? No need to-  rumor has it the social enters outer sphere. Robotic cell phones, tablets and other connected devices over time adapted to, and jumped on the bandwagon of networking.  With various applications and specialized services on the offer, the virtual getaway (in form of mini-games, GPS, or style finders) appears but too simple to resist. Overwhelmed and dazzled by the innovations of the network, a new wondrous world had opened up to the user for sure. However – a flawless and genuine one, too? Throughout the essay, innovations and downsides of  the Web 2.0 will be assessed. More specifically, I lay focus on the contemporary network of communication channels, using social forum Facebook as a prime example. As such, my investigation is informed by two central claims: Not only has a growing number of internet users enabled the network to become evermore forceful over time. Touching upon private, as well as professional relationships, no sphere of life is neglected by the gaze of the social. Meanwhile, the network’s economic intentions, sneaky and beyond our knowledge, have grown vastly dependent upon our most intimate life details- willingly delivered and flaunted on the member profile. 

 

 (II.) Business Model Social Media:  How it works, and what it does to you

 

To this day, fifteen communication networks govern the social market, with Twitter and business-to-business platform LinkedIn among the leading three. On top of the game, however, remains Facebook. In 2011, the Californian Company recorded a total of 500,000,000 active users. Sharing the most intimate moments through “capstones” on their profiles, 48% of the 18 to 34 year old users leave traces in the network – daily, and from the moment they wake up onwards. You like? Then wait for this: In 2010, Facebook ranked first in the title for the number-one search term, thus accounting for 2.11% of all U. S. searches (Hepburn, 2012). Most likely, while digesting these figures, you are yourself on the forum- video chatting with a friend, exchanging last night’s party pictures, or completing surveys concerning your sister’s birthday event location. Book author and computer consultant Gallagher critically examines the history and development of new forms of media, specializing in the field of blog and social network. In her eyes, an interactive, highly responsive version of the internet marks the inevitable next step in the ways we exchange and digest information. In her writing, she notes that “new things come about because there’s room for them in society, because what we already have isn’t perfect, and because there’s big money to be made. Hence Web 2.0.” (Gallagher, 2010, p.8 )  As economically lucrative business model, the network has kept and captured its user base. Where did it all start to begin with?

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  • “If Facebook were a country, it would be the worlds 3rd largest.” (The Total Profit, 2011)*

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The story begins in February 2004. Mark Zuckerberg, Ivy graduate and poster boy of the American self-made man, establishes the network Facebook. Within his Harvard classroom, he lays the stepping stone for what was to become the linchpin for postmodern communication. 9 years later, the company celebrated its stock market debut in spring 2012, presenting the world a share sale value of $104 bn. (The Guardian, 2012) The principles at work, however simple, have transformed the model of communication – broadly extending the work-related, and informal exchange of information. As interdisciplinary affair, Facebook identifies and intersects the disciplines of contemporary culture: Local brands and cultural businesses are provided a public forum to engage with fans. On a larger scale, corporations, services, and industries profit from the immediate, cost-free feedback of potential clients. In between this crowded marketplace, private members nurture their profile, therein unveiling everything from food preferences, leisure activities, and repugnancies, through to sex interests and private contact information. As both a fan and holder of a unique friend-base, he represents the network’s most valuable subject.

Options are endless- and as they say, everything comes for a price to pay. In the online world of social network Facebook, these options are seemingly free and easily accessible to begin with- or are they? ‘Where’s the hook?’, media-savvy members had come to ask as market power of the portal sky-rocketed. In the following, I suggest three distinct reasons for, and the success behind social media marketing.  

 

  •  Reason 1 : Social Media moves the marketplace from the physical into the virtual world

Systematically shifting the place of market interaction, the social network captures some of the most valuable insights for brand executives. You play tennis? One click away the virtual invites you to the digitized camp of your playmates next door. Expect to graduate in 2013? Accept the request, join the class, and engage with those eventually hired by the same company you plan to apply at. Status updates and seemingly effortless company posts suggest what success author Klein labels a “branded world”: “Manufacturing products may require drills, furnaces, hammers and the like, but creating a brand calls for a completely different set of tools and materials. It requires and endless parade of brand extensions, continuously renewed imagery for marketing and, most of all, fresh new spaces to disseminate the brand’s idea of itself.” (Klein, 1999, p. 5) In other words: Not only has the brand settled for the representation and non-physical interaction in the environment of the social network. The Advertisement itself, once randomly distributed throughout newspaper, magazine, or television commercial, could now invade a formerly barred social community. Throughout the process, the physical product as final result of the production process makes place for its multi-medial substitute.

 

  • Reason 2: Advertising becomes immediate, and increasingly customized to consumer preferences

With the shift away from the physical store into the virtual landscape of user profiles had arrived unprecedented change in the way advertisers could meet the demands of customers. Once inflexible and costly in distribution, ads and shorter video sequences could be produced and distributed online – targeting a mass of  millions, and within seconds of time only. The surplus: An intimate forum for friend interaction and information exchange, the social media portal provides a trusted environment. Adapting a highly emotional language, marketers most accurately determine and capture a buying audience. Once liking a company page, the member subscribes to automatically distributed, frequently updated information on product novelties, examples of usage, or company promotions. Likewise, immediate brand interaction through private messaging allows for an authentic, highly interpersonal sales dialogue.

 

  •  Reason 3 :The network allows for a complex, subliminal suffusion of advertising messages

 Lastly, dimensions and opportunities to advertise exponentially grew with the popularity of the network. Chances of product exposure are various, spanning from the mere digitized block ad on the right corner of the start page to shorter paragraphs published on, and widely distributed through the business page. In unprecedented scale, consumer interaction flourished as discussion polls, online competitions, and exclusive product sample actions further developed the network business.

American songwriter Stefani Germanotta, famously known as Lady Gaga, ranks the upper scale for the future of the network. On Twitter, her private channel recently amassed 25 million followers, thereby setting the record for the highest sum of subscribers on any social network. Frequently providing readers with trivia about tour- and love life, she herself no longer partakes in the network. Curiously enough, function and force of the forum increasingly assumed the handwriting of its popular member. In 2012, she records the highest-selling numbers for a Pop album on the European market.

 

(III) Signed, Sealed, Delivered: The Future of the Network

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  • “34% of bloggers post opinions about products and brands.” *²

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The repercussions of multi-media advertising (political, social, or culturally-inspired) have branded the life spheres of a million- in real, as well as in virtual life. As a consequence, traditional industries were surpassed in their economic force by a landscape of social entertainment. As Erik Qualman, American book author puts it: “ We don’t have a choice on whether we DO social media- the question is how well we do it.”  Television commercial and magazine ad laid the foundation for the formation of, and increasing separation between the physical and the virtual marketplace. With the invention of the social network, languages of the advertisers changed. Once dramatized and large-scale in their hunt for winnings, the social media forum inspired product marketers in their approach towards a more subtle consumer relationship. You wanna to sell? Then meet them where they naturally are, do what they like, and provide better services than anyone else. Without reservations, users willingly entered the virtual, creating transfer pictures of a life more splendid, fun, and ideal than possibly found in reality. Little did they know to begin with- about the true worth of identity, its connection to the crafty advertisers of tomorrow and –most importantly- about themselves.

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  • “80% of all companies use social media for recruitment.” *³

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How, in fact, could we substitute the innate and physically present network of family and friends with the virtual worlds of computer media? Sherry Turkle, American Professor of MIT Studies at the Massachusetts Institute, draws an upfront conclusion. Her title ‘Alone Together’ (2011) conjoins fifteen years of theoretical research, and draws a considerably pessimistic image of the network and its repercussions on communicative culture. Supposedly democratic on the outside, the social media network opened up unprecedented opportunities for members. About the same time, and without us noticing, the economical interest took the scene, ruthlessly cumulating, assessing, and forwarding some of the most intimate details of our lives. No longer it appears necessary for us to reach out for products and services- as brands and businesses strategically find, and scan our interest using the social forum.

After 8 years of its establishment, a bright future for Zuckerberg seems to lie ahead: Within 20 minutes on Facebook, 1 million links are shared, two million friend requests accepted, and three million messages send (Socialnomics, 2012). Along the way, Turkle suggests, we stopped caring- about others, and about technology ruling over our lives. “Technology reshapes the landscape of our emotional lives, but is it offering us the lives we want to lead? And are we comfortable with virtual environments that propose themselves not as places for recreation but as new worlds to live in?” (Turkle, 2011, p.17)

Questions certainly worth pondering about – in theory, as well as on the practical level. Sarah*, 19, has committed suicide. After 5 years, she deleted her social Self. “It was weird”, she tells me. “After a while on the portal, you feel kind of addicted- to your friend lists, the satisfaction of messages, and the picture exchange.” Her affection towards Facebook abruptly ends when a larger medicine company would post an advert on her wall- fighting depression and anxiety. ”No one except my closest friends knew about my problems”, she says.  Her friend circle, consistent of some of the most frequent users of portal Facebook, had exchanged messages about the case. Sarah’s goodbye will be temporary. For two weeks after profile deletion, members must neither log in, nor ‘like’ any content provided through the network. Only then, and if truly wished, a second life has become past.

 

—> How Safe is your Data? Make the Facebook Test!

Hover the gallery for a 6- Step Guideline to protect your Profile 

 

 

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 Literature

 

- Gallagher, H. (2010).

Blog Power and Social Media Handbook. The Mysterious World of Web 2.0 .CreateSpace Publishers.

 

- Hepburn, A. (2012)

Facebook Statistics, Stats And Facts For 2011. Digital Buzz Blog.  Article retrieved on Monday, 28th of May, 2012, from http://www.digitalbuzzblog.com/facebook-statistics-stats-facts-2011/

 

- Klein, N.

(1999). No Logo: no space, no choice, no jobs: taking aim at the brand bullies. New York: Picador.

 

- McCarthy, T. (2012).

Facebook IPO: Social network makes stock market debut. The Guardian Technology Blog. Article retrieved on Wednesday, 6th of June, 2012, from http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2012/may/18/facebook-ipo-stock-market-live

 

ObizMedia (2011).

The World Without Facebook – 2011. YouTube. Figures retrieved on Thursday, 7th of June, 2012, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ocXX619kaPM&feature=related

 

- Socialnomics (2012).

Nathan Gilliat on the Latest in Social Media Analytics. Blog article retrieved on Thursday, 7th of June, 2012, from

 http://www.socialnomics.net/2012/05/29/nathan-gilliatt-on-the-latest-in-social-media-analytics/

 

- The Total profit (2011).

The Social Media Revolution 2012. YouTube. Figures retrieved on Thursday, 7th of June, 2012, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0eUeL3n7fDs&feature=related

 

-Turkle, S. (2011).

Alone Together: Why we expect more from technology and less from each other.  New York,N.Y.: Basic Books

 

WikiHow (2012).

How to protect your Private Information on Facebook. Article retrieved on Thursday, 7th of June, 2012, from http://www.wikihow.com/Protect-Your-Private-Information-on-Facebook

Permanent link to this article: http://www.fasos.org/logo1112/hihler/2012/05/27/signed-sealed-delivered-how-social-media-platform-facebook-shapes-your-identity/

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