Gerald (Jerry) Kane, a professor in the Carroll School of Management, spoke about social media, its impacts on society and business today, and how social media will impact our future, at a seminar hosted by the Marketing Academy of Boston College on Thursday, Feb. 21. Kane teaches several classes including Computers and Management, and other classes focusing on social media and its impacts on the real world.
But what exactly does a professor have to offer on the subject of social media to students that grew up in the digital age? What can we learn from someone who grew up **gasp** without the Internet?
The assertion that someone from this generation has something to teach us about Facebook and Twitter appears especially shocking when you consider how much time college students spend on social media like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and other sites. Social media is the one thing that most every college student can comfortably navigate and talk about using personal experience.
Kane agrees that we have vast "procedural understanding" of social networking. However, Kane says that classes such as his delve into the "strategic understanding" of social media and give students a greater understanding of how social media is forever changing our lives. "Social media doesn't happen in a vacuum. It’s the interaction between real world, social media and traditional media that builds on each other and encourages the spread of information," he says.
In this social media seminar, Kane engaged in a discussion with students about the influence that social media has on our lives now and our plans for the future.
Here are Gavel Media's top five takeaways from his talk.
5. Power of social media: Arab Spring.
How many times do you check your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn or other social networking sites a day? Probably more than you remember. Or than you want to remember. The truth is that social media has a direct and powerful impact on your every day life. You discuss things on your feed with friends, you interact with people that you wouldn't normally talk to on a day-to-day basis, you share, like and judge everything that pops up in front you.
Social media has proven a powerful tool in many aspects of life, but most notably in its role in the Arab Spring in 2011. Had social media not been a factor in the equation, the Arab Spring may or may not still have occurred. Though this cannot be definitively said, Kane cites that Arab activists began using social media to communicate in 2008, which correlates with the events that led to the revolution. Bottom line is this: no matter where you are or what you do, social media is effecting or will effect you.
4. Social media means free advertising.
The saying 'time is money' will forever be changed as social media marketing expands and becomes more and more effective. The act of sending out a Tweet or updating a status is free. But effectively doing so requires round the clock watch on all incoming and outgoing posts, which does require money. Companies who aren't willing to pay the price of running a staff to man a social media department could end up paying a much greater price with the long-term development of their brands.
Kane says that a week on Twitter is like an entire geological age; information is coming and going faster than any one person can keep up with, so the only option is to have more people manning the computers for companies. He cites the recent “Burger King Takeover” on Twitter in which hackers took control of the fast food chain, tweeting obscenities and changing the featured image of the account to the classic McDonald’s golden arches.
Burger King was able to regain control of the account within the hour, and silence the hackers. The incident ended up giving more media coverage to Burger King than the company has had in months, prompting conspirator theorists to wonder if the entire “takeover” was a clever marketing ploy by the chain itself.
Along with the free advertising, companies are realizing that social media marketing gives them access to analytic-based research on their customers. “One of the really amazing things about social media is the amazing amount of data it generates. Facebook knows a creepy amount about you. But how do you measure that data? What is the value of a like? It's hard to know what they mean in terms of engagement and then how that transfers into ROI (return on investment)," says Kane.
While you may click the little thumbs up on a post because you genuinely like its contents, others may do so just to acknowledge that they read the post or to make it appear as though they did. These factors have to be taken into account when businesses attempt to market on social media platforms.
3. Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.
As mentioned before, manning the social media department is an arduous but necessary task. By opening the door to an interactive, online communication forum with customers, companies must be prepared for anything. Being prepared, as Kane says, means "an effective and timely response…you can't recreate the moment when you have the right response". A prime example of this would be the most popular ad in the 2013 Super Bowl.
The phrase "You can still dunk in the dark" exploded on Twitter after the power went out during the game. It set the stage for Oreo and allowed them to snatch the prize of most popular ad. But moments as good as this only come by once in a blue moon. Imagine Oreo Tweeting this little zinger a week later. It would do nothing. But by cutting through the red tape that companies put up for 20th century business, social media proves an extremely effective tool.
2. Customer connections.
Social media is the one form of communication that allows consumers to be in constant contact with their providers. But this communication must go both ways. In order for consumers to continue contributing in helpful ways, businesses need to communicate back. For example, Kane cites a particular Makers Mark Whiskey, a company that told its consumers it would be lowering the alcohol content in its product from 45 percent to 40 percent. Needless to say, all hell broke loose.
But because the company was listening and open to its consumers’ input, the company saw the possible ramifications of following through with such a measure and called the campaign off. Finding ways to integrate consumer input through social media in a constructive manner will undoubtedly be a major part of the business future.
1. What does social media hold for our future?
Social media has only just begun to change our lives. As advertising becomes less and less about broadcasting and more about communication, companies will develop more effective ways to measure social media activity so they can better manage it and, in turn, develop better products based on consumer opinion. Kane says to "start thinking about how social media will affect careers in the future, not today".
He also added, "I think if we can become more in tune to where the signals are today, as we appreciate [social media's] power, we can predict more and more about the future.”
"He left it up to the audience just like how social media…can't be controlled," says Kayla Dias, executive member of the Marketing Academy and CSOM '15. The organic flow of discussion reflected the unpredictable nature of business conducted over social media--which is exactly what the Marketing Academy was hoping to achieve with its event.
As college students, we are all in store for some serious social changes that will affect how we work, how we play and how we communicate. Take the speed of social media's evolution as a friendly reminder that staying tuned into the world around us isn't an option. It's a necessity.
Screenshots by Emily Akin/Gavel Media