A Networked World
Posted by Gina
I found Howard Rheingold’s (2012) chapter on networks in Net Smart to be interesting and extremely applicable to the discussion of social media’s use in the professional world. While it seems obvious that social media (especially sites like LinkedIn) has been beneficial in extending and utilizing networks to obtain professional opportunities, what Rheingold makes clear is that social media can also be very effective in use by companies and organizations to communicate with their users/buyers.
Although he does not specifically mention the use of social media by organizations, his discussion of “social capital” clearly can be applied to such uses. Social capital is the trust and reliability one creates (in this case online) through acts of goodwill, reciprocity, compassion, etc. This could be an extremely useful tool for companies and organizations to use to improve their image and create a “network” of satisfied customers. By using social media to quickly and compassionately respond to concerns or criticisms, organizations can build “social capital” with the public, which will directly correlate to a better image and more revenue.
This has been my argument for the use of social media by businesses for a while; my paper for Rhetorical Theory last semester focused on utilizing social media in just this way. One way in which social media could become more of a hindrance for companies, however, is the idea of user-generated content. Some people are advocating for the ability of users to create their own documents “on behalf” of the company – much like a wiki. The danger of this was examined a bit in Rheingold’s discussion of Wikipedia; there is a distinct possibility and danger of “trolls” and those who would (either on purpose or unintentionally) post incorrect or damaging content. This possibility has poses a bigger risk when discussing the documents for an organization versus Wikipedia. The incorrect or misleading information could end up decreasing their social capital, as the reader may not know where the information came from.
There are probably many people out there who would still advocate for such content, but in my opinion, social media should be used by businesses to create a conversation with their users/customers, not to let the public create for them. By creating social capital for themselves by promptly responding to their consumer base and maintaining a positive ethos for themselves, businesses (especially big companies) can certainly benefit from utilizing social media.
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