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The social media explosion...

Social media has seen a meteoric rise in the last few years. It seems a long, long time ago that Facebook, MySpace and Bebo uttered mere whispers in the murky corners of the internet.

Today, social media is everywhere. Literally, you can’t go anywhere without seeing evidence of it.

Even if you stop scowling at the people glued to their phones and their Twitter timeline as they walk blindly down the street, when you move your eyes elsewhere you will see hashtags, pleas for “Follows” and “Likes.” Social media has taken over the world.

Of course, the problem for businesses is that it has evolved so quickly and become such an important tool for marketing and building relationships with customers/clients, that they haven’t had a chance to react to it. This is why there is a huge skill gap in the digital industry.

This is where people like myself come in. I have grown up around social media, and therefore without studying for a single second, I know more about it than some of the older generation.

You can still see it evolving, every month. It used to be a mainly text based sharing model. Now, you can share photos, videos, music, webpages, anything you like. With sites such as Snapchat, you even have the option of creating what is called “disappearing media.”

The simple fact is that we have become a society built around it. For better or worse, whenever something happens, we instantly think about social media. Can we post this on Facebook or Twitter? How can we make it so we can get more “likes” or “retweets?”

In essence, we have all become marketing agencies for ourselves. We all want the world to love what we share and we want as many people to see it as possible. Does it not seem crazy then, that 30% businesses don’t have social media in their marketing strategy?

I wish I knew the logic behind this. It is more cost effective, can reach a global audience and allows you to build relationships with both your customer and your competitor. (For an example of competitor relationships, check out the @ThreeUK and @tescomobile Twitter interaction).

What, then, is the reason for neglecting it? My opinion is that it is a lack of understanding of the huge benefits and, in fact, the sheer importance of the new marketing trends. It is such a new concept that there just isn't a widespread ability to be able to comprehend the potential.

I'll give you an example. On the train home from a session at The Juice Academy, I was speaking to a guy who was looking to set up a new business. We had exchanged pleasantries etc about what we do for a job, the usual for us polite Brits, and he wanted to know how he could incorporate social media into his advertising and marketing.

He saw sites such as Facebook and Twitter purely as sites to communicate with family and friends.

This, I think, is the ingrained view among entrepreneurs, or at least the 30% who don't intend to use it. This is something that as a Social Media Apprentice, I will in the future need to try and change. I offered him some advice as to the channels he should probably look into using, but impressed upon him the importance of having a purpose.

There can be no comparison of social media now, to even just five years ago. Where will it be in another five years? What will be the latest craze then? Wherever it is headed on the congested motorway that is the internet, it is clear that social media will be around for a long, long time.

By Craig Butler

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