Let’s face it. Your grandma probably has a Facebook page. Everybody uses social media these days and it’s changed the way we live, and how we do business. We can connect with people all over the world in an instant, and get a strong message out. We can catch up for a beer with that guy from primary school who’s living in Bangkok, or play Candy Crush with the Brazilian dude from that Nepal trek. Just like the mobile phone rush of the noughties, in a few short years, suddenly we all need social media to stay connected. But is it turning us all into a bunch of hermit robots, or is it indeed, making us more “social”?
Seventy four percent of people living in Singapore regularly use social media, with Facebook and Twitter leading the pack right now. Sitting down to write this story, this Lion city-based writer is distracted by endless photo streams of squishy newborns, parties she wasn’t at and, wait – what?! – public airing and over-sharing galore.
Remember Justine Sacco, the PR-executive who, in December 2013, famously tweeted on take-off, “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just Kidding. I’m White!” On touchdown – surprise, surprise – Justine didn’t have a job, or presumably, many mates. Even her own Dad publicly called her “a f****** idiot.” Not much to “like” about some posts…
This is not “sharing” down at the pub after three drinks. It’s sharing to many, many people who, if they decide to, can share with a million more. You’re a few clicks away from fame, or from ridicule and social oblivion at all times. Some bad, some wonderful, and some hilarious situations over the last few years have taught us this.
Most people are getting smarter about social media, and starting to understand that potential employers might think twice about you after seeing that album of your crazy Jägerbomb night or some judgey comments you posted.
But it’s not always your fault, right? Others can be to blame, too. Most sane men understand, for example, that posting a badly angled bikini photo of your main woman is a terrible idea and that you may end up “paying” for it – but $100,000?! Social media prenups it seems, are now “a thing”, and digitally savvy couples are actually drawing up contracts about what they can and can’t post online.
A 2014 US study published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior found a strong link between social media use and reduced quality of marriage. Divorcing couples the world over are now citing “heavy or inappropriate use of social media” as a common reason for splitting.
It’s not just our personal lives though, where social media is changing things up. The business world too, is learning – and learning fast.
Social media has made it easier than ever to connect with customers – it’s free, it’s fast and it’s easy to use. What’s not to “like”? More opportunities, however, have also created more work, and not all businesses are equal in leveraging this. It can be tough. How does your business respond to all these new channels of communication? How do you make the most of this opportunity to engage with people? How do you know where to advertise? And how do you know if it’s even working??
“Brands want to go where the eyeballs are,” explains Simon Trilsbach, Vice President of SocialBakers, JAPAC. “We spend so much time on social which is why there’s been such massive growth in advertising here. Just think about the last time you watched a TV commercial compared to five years ago,” Trilsbach says. “Social media gives businesses an opportunity to have a conversation with the customer, rather than just broadcasting an ad. It can ‘humanise’ a brand and make a customer more loyal – and we know that they’re likely to tell their friends about their experiences.”
It can go wrong, too. Dutch airline KLM recently suffered a public relations disaster during the World Cup when they tweeted “Adios Amigos!”, mocking Mexico’s defeat to Holland. Twitter users voiced their displeasure with the offensive tweet, which quickly went viral.
Another doozy this year was from online clothing retailer, Black Milk, who gave businesses a lesson in how not to treat your customer. The Aussie-based brand had posted a meme about “geeky goddesses” which fashion fans felt mocked Ms Average. Okay, no great harm done – until the brand began replying to comments defensively, deleting and banning members of their own “community”. Major fail.
“Both businesses and individuals must remember,” warns Trilsbach, “that anything you post on social media is out there and it will stay out there forever.” Be aware of what channels like Facebook will share for you, too. If you want people to think you lead an interesting life, make sure your feed doesn’t include, “Ryan just unlocked two new cows on Farmville.” Social media has the ability to make everything a little better for all us, but we’d better make sure we live our best offline life, too.