Social Media ….. A User’s Perspective

From the Crucibles of JPS Customer Value Academy
Just Plain & Simple
….. Helping Create Customer Value

I am no expert in social media and also, not a very heavy user/time spender on social media sites. Yes, I do have a presence and do frequently ‘participate’ on quite a few of them. More so, as a practising manager, my interaction is more from the practical business perspective rather than living and breathing in the digital/internet world as does today’s digital generation !!

Having said that, when Geetanjali suggested that I do a short piece on social media, my obvious first response was to google ‘social media’ and try to learn more about it. So much for the strength and power of and dependence on the internet and social media today. Wikipedia gives a description of social media as “a group of Internet-based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0, which allows the creation and exchange of user-generated content.” Businesses also refer to social media as consumer-generated media (CGM). A common thread running through all definitions of social media is a blending of technology and social interaction for the co-creation of value.

There is abundance of data about the tremendously high prevalence, reach, usage etc. of social media and hence, let me not delve into those details and numbers. However, at a macro level it is man’s inherent nature and ‘interconnectedness’ that propel such developments. The story of human evolution is more about co-existence, co-evolution and collaboration than about destruction and fights. There is definitely a social set up and a ‘collegiality’ about the whole domain and it is this ‘motivator’ that acts as the power engine behind the huge success of social media. Promos of the movie ‘The Social Network’ (about the founders of Facebook, including Mark Zukerberg) say “You don’t get to 500 Million Friends without making a few enemies” !! The second part maybe debatable, but the relevant part here is the creation of a huge base of ‘friends’.

Some quotes from the film :

Mark Zuckerberg : People wanna go online and check out their friends, so why not build a website that offers that. I’m talking about taking the entire social experience of college and putting it online.

Sean Parker : We lived in farms, then we lived in cities, and now we’re gonna live on the internet!

In my own personal life, as happens to most of us with nuclear families and work pressures, my contact with close cousins and friends from schools, college and early career, had dwindled drastically. But over the last few years, with Linked In, Facebook, Twitter and some other sites, I have been able to rediscover and reconnect with so many lost contacts and more importantly, have stayed connected due to ease of usability e.g. my cousin in Scotland with whom I touched base after 25 years and an old colleague now in Beijing, not to mention the business associate in Toronto with whom I am exploring opportunities.

The progression of society and social interaction through social media is blurring the boundaries of professional, social, personal and family space that used to be in so formally water tight compartments earlier. My own work timings are 24X7 with personal and professional time and space boundaries diffusing and the two spaces becoming more and more nebulous and closer in feel to the now commonly used term ….. ‘cloud’ ….. in a way reinforcing the quantum physics description of the true ‘wave’ nature of matter/existence. Non routine work formats, network like loosely bound collectives (teams), weak links (due to larger intermolecular distances in gaseous state) ….. all are becoming characteristics of the way we tend to feel and work and the direction towards which social media evolution is taking us. Organisational boundaries get blurred as well and networks and matrix like working environments emerge, each requiring very different skills.

There are certain other clear characteristics of this rather ‘nebulous’ state of affairs that is emerging. Let me use a few quotes from the same movie to demonstrate these.

Speed, Recency and Accessability :

Marylin Delpy : The site got twenty-two hundred hits within two hours?
Mark Zuckerberg : Thousand.
Marylin Delpy : I’m sorry?
Mark Zuckerberg : Twenty-two *thousand*.
Marylin Delpy : [to herself] Wow.

Permanence :

Erica Albright: The internet’s not written in pencil, Mark. It’s written in ink

Reach, Scalability and Usability :

Marylin Delpy : What are you doing?
Mark Zuckerberg : Checking in to see how it’s going in
Marylin Delpy :
Bosnia. They don’t have roads, but they have Facebook.

There was a similar feeling when electronic media went through a revolutionary phase in India in the early ‘90s. Overnight, speed and recency of CNN led to the print medium and other channels look archaic and becoming insecure.

At a more micro level, in terms of usage for marketing, it does provide a strong tool. In conventional direct marketing that I used quite a lot, the key factors were direct, focussed and two way communication. Social media allows great efficiencies and effectiveness to practitioners of this.

However, conventional marketing wisdom of Brand Positioning, Style, Tonality are still valid and cannot be overlooked. A marketer can use divergence to reach out and target specific potential customers (mass customised contact base and communication, respecting the tremendous diversity of tastes and interests that can also be captured very well) and inward convergence to get customers/stakeholders to reach back to the organisation, but the greatest benefit lies in the possibility of developing ‘stickiness’ of relationships if ‘trust’ & ‘confidence’ is built in the source as an authority/expert.

Needless to say, there has to be caution in certain areas too e.g. in handling complaints and negative comments that can also shoot out and spread with the same speed and reach. Says a recent newspaper report ‘within 48 hours of its launch, the facebook account of Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) got 1278 hits and over 400 comments, mostly complaints. Only that MCD didn’t want to know about the civic mess in such gory details’. Life sciences and pharma players have to be very cautious in sharing information with lay consumers, lest wrong/half information create problems.

Specific tools, techniques and knowhow for this medium are also evolving as learning builds up, like for any new profession. There are already short term (one/two month) courses on social media that are coming up, to build and share a base of ‘knowledge’ related to this field.

Hope the skills and mass of knowledge in this area develop and this is one technology application which is truly used in growing love and not hatred in humanity, staying true to its inherent characteristic of ‘hyperconnectedness’ !!


Justplainandsimple Consulting Pvt. Ltd.

JPS Consulting

Just Plain & Simple

….. Helping Realise Potential

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(An edited version of this article was published in Empowering Times, December 2010 Issue



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4 thoughts on “Social Media ….. A User’s Perspective

  1. Kannan N

    Dear JP,

    What has started as a communication tool is now used as an instantaneous spread of messages (mostly called “viral”). Most social sites and blogs have also adopted “sensational headlines” like newspapers do, so as to lure the members to visit them and many a times, the content is no way connected to the headlines.
    The ability to reconnect is the best thing to happen. But with broadband and 3G/4G, we are able to interact through video. The funny thing that I observed is “most times, people do not gossip within their office now, but with friends online”. So the earlier get together at the coffee vending machine has got replaced (with the advent of microphone, camera and broadband) by the online friends.
    Thanks for a good article as always.

  2. Raul

    Dear JP,

    Just heard a podcast, on the latest “facebook suicides”. This is erasing the facebook existence – people quit because they realize that there are a lot of contacts, they do not interact with at all. but guess what they do next – they go on to twitter – since it “really” tells you who your friends are, based on how many people followyou. So I guess Social networking sites are here to stay albeit we may not recognise them as a few years down the line.

  3. Krishna

    A very interesting read, this is a topic which has really intrigued me lately .There would be very few computer literate people who are not impacted by this ‘revolution’, if I can call it that.
    As astounded as many by the sustained success o this concept, the reasons of it success interests me more than the impacts. Read somewhere, two kinds of user’s exist in a social networking site –a voyeur and an exhibitionist. I guess, these popular platforms provide ample fodder for both, this combined with a rich repository of information and easy access is a deadly combination. The framework seems to thrive on certain specific traits of a human character – sloth & inquisitiveness and exhibitionism amongst many.
    Imagine from a consumer point of view, for any specific need in today’s day and time. You google your need, go to a linke in/Facebook/ Ryze or any other platform to get details, check the followers /Friend list to have an understanding of the user base, read the reviews on some other site and your are ready to go. You did it all in a matter of minutes or days in most of the cases. No need to makes calls, follow up.. nothing.. get all information you need by clicking a few button.. what more can ask for.. for the time being 🙂
    This platform is possibly one of the most powerful media one can imagine for any product, individual or organisation– Unadulterated, connected, transparent and most importantly easily accessible and dynamic. The ability and the power of any individual to contribute to this repository and make it more dynamic I guess is one reason for its sustained success.
    What’s scary in the entire gamut is the invasion of privacy for an individual, one seems to a be a click away from being famous/infamous whichever is ones destiny and that’s scary thought to live with. You never know when you get clicked at your ackward-est best and on the virtual world for all to see..
    While this revolution is promoting networking, communication and reach amongst many other things but somewhere at an individual level it is also creating a facade of a life to be lived on the virtual world.. where every experience, feeling needs to be shared.. a world where branding and packaging is what matters most..

  4. Srikanth Rajagopalan

    In the context of this article, which is building business relationships, it is also important to segregate our personal and professional links using Social Media tools. Do you really want your customer in Mumbai to know about your wild party in Kolkata? Probably not. As JP Singh says, social media is a tool, like the biblical fire and water: it can be a good servant but a bad master.


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