VENTURES AFRICA – You’ve probably never heard of Bulletin Board System (BBS), or CompuServe; these were arguably the social media of the pre-internet era. AOL (America Online) is what most people however regard as the precursor to today’s social networking sites. Some even call it the internet before the internet.
Although the history of internet can be traced back to the late 1960’s, the World Wide Web came in 1990, but it was not until 1993 that it became accessible to basically everyone around the world.
From the highly successful Classmates.com and the not so successful SixDegrees.com, Hi5, BlackPlanet, down to the Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter era, the social media world has evolved to become integral part of our everyday lives, and we now celebrate it as one of the greatest gifts technology has given us.
Social Media Week (SMW), which takes place twice a year worldwide, explores the social, cultural and economic impact of social media.
Founded by Toby Daniels, CEO of Crowdcentric, SMW is arguably the largest social media event in the world. Cities of the world where strong local organisers can be gotten are chosen to host each event. Lagos, Nigeria has been chosen as one of the eight cities in the world to host the event this year.
The global theme for the event in 2014 is ‘The Future of Now: Always On, Always Connected.’ The first event of 2014 will hold from February 17 – 21.
This year’s team borders around some of those things we’d easily pick out as the ills or disadvantages of social media and how it has destroyed some social structures in our society.
It has reduced productivity and has led to loss of billions of dollars for many companies. Morse claimed that British companies lost 2.2 billion a year to the social phenomenon and Nucleus Research reported that Facebook shaves 1.5% off office productivity. These two studies posted by Wired.com highlight one of the effects of social media.
“How can we balance and preserve humanness — meaning the ability to listen, empathize, engage, focus and be present in the moment — despite the constant disruption that technology enables?” The question was posed on the SMW website with a promise to discuss it at the event.
Several other topics to be discussed will address virtually everything we’d identify as the ills of social media, with posers like; ‘What does it mean to be “more human” in an age of digital technology?’, ‘How can we find and embrace the technologies that lead us to have more time and focus, not less?’, ‘How can we facilitate meaningful conversations, practices for devoting time to creative thinking and mindful contemplation, and automation of technologies that create more time for you?’, etc.
Social media has made us more aware of the world we live in. It has also driven campaigns and spread news faster than any medium has ever done. The world can now know about breaking news in seconds, while media houses can grow faster with their social media activity.
This medium has also become a learning hub. People engage in intellectual discussions, tutorials, interviews and research via social media platforms.
Perhaps the industry to have fully harnessed the potentials of social media is the marketing industry. Several e-marketing/e-payment solutions have used the social media to push their brands. We now have folks whose day job is social media marketing, and believe me, they are doing fine.
Social media has also shaped political landscapes, i.e. Egypt revolution, US President Barrack Obama’s re-election and the Nigerian fuel subsidy protest, are some of the political matters wherein social media had a big influence.
The phenomenon has also created a platform where people can freely express opinions and share with our friends, peers, and even superiors. However, while social media networking sites provide us with opportunity to post what’s on our minds, we should be careful what we post as several users have suffered the backlash of inappropriate posts. Some have even lost their jobs – a la Justine Sacco.
Authorities have also clamped down on social media users whose posts are against the government. For instance, there are strict laws governing social media use in gulf countries like Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar, especially when it has to do with insulting the monarchy or activism.
In 2012, journalist experienced some of the worst conditions in Bahrain since King Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifa assumed power in 1999. According to Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), three journalists died, dozens were either detained or deported.
While no one would totally rule out the place of regulation, freedom of speech should also not be forgotten when making laws guiding social media use.
Scientists at the University of Rochester recently announced that online dating is now No.2 on the list of most popular ways for people to meet a romantic partner, second only to meeting through mutual friends.
The study, which would be published in the Psychological Science in the Public Interest journal, identifies online dating as the best chance for someone who is no longer in high school or college, to meet a partner.
Despite stalking, misrepresentation and fraud being reported as problems of online dating, researchers have insisted more people are opening up to the idea of meeting someone to date online.
Social media may have even taken over from online dating sites, with singles now finding love on social media sites like twitter and facebook.
A social media enthusiast in Kenya, who spoke anonymously agreed that more people are utilising the internet to end their loneliness.
“Have you ever heard of twitter crush?” he asks, adding, “it’s common these days for ardent twitter users to get emotionally attached to a follower”.
Several brands have grown using social media. The fact that social media helps businesses build reputation, loyalty, and also gives customers opportunity to relate with brands have endeared a lot of brands to social media use.
Leading online retailer in Africa, Jumia will tell its success story from the use of social media at the Lagos edition of the Social Media Week.
Nigeria’s Guaranty Trust Bank has won several awards on the effective use of social media, introducing new products to customers and responding to customers’ queries via their social media platforms.
Nigerian online entrepreneur, Kingsley Ezeani won The Future Awards Africa’s Best use of social media after his online news portal Information Nigeria became the first news facebook page to have a million likes.
No small business or big brand can be wrong having a great presence on social media platforms as they provide the opportunity of reaching millions who are potential users of their products and services.
Overall, as social media continues permeate all aspect of human life, it might just be the retweet that’ll link us with our future.