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The Online World is Good and Bad

Content Insider #838 – Social

By Andy Marken – andy@markencom.com

I am not going to hurt you. I am just going to learn about you for a little while.” – Leonard, “Knock at the Cabin,” Universal Pictures, 2023

Mark Twain once said that a lie will fly around the whole world while the truth is getting its boots on.

Just imagine how much faster that lie would travel in today’s Internet-based social media world.

So how can something that’s so good be so bad?  

It takes a lot of work to be great for marketing and bad for ordinary folks.

When it was first rolled out, the internet sounded so utopian … able to stay in touch with friends; make new ones; share information, photos/videos of interesting places/things; and you know, bring folks around the globe closer together.

Boy did we screw that up!

Sure, we’ve written our share of snarky, mean responses to articles, social media posts and emails. We read them with great satisfaction as to how witty, how cutting we were … then we hit delete–done, gone and boy, do we feel better.

 Abraham Lincoln was right, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”

That’s why you don’t read many of his online commentaries or Tweets.

Everyone, Everywhere – While 100 percent of the global population is not only connected but also participates in a number of social media sites, all of the connectivity can be good or bad, depending on how we treat each other.  

Of course, there are millions of folks out there very willing to step in to talk intelligently about someone/something, pass along meaningful information/ideas and compliment/support someone while there are others that are intent on showing their brilliance by shouting down, insulting, berating people.

Social media is both a rich opportunity and a minefield that organizations need to reach, educate, inform and persuade people who might be interested in their product, service or activity.

It can be both good and bad but it can also be extremely effective if approached and monitored properly.

Steady Growth – Whether it’s on a computer, tablet or smartphone; people increasingly turning to social media for their news, relationships.  

After all, the numbers continue to grow … daily.

Every business has its unique opportunities/challenges but let’s use the content creation/delivery industry as an example.

Since the middle of last year, movie theater owners have been congratulating themselves on what an excellent job they are doing delivering solid movie attendance.

Demand is so strong that AMC has taken a page from the airline industry telling folks that if you want the best seats in the house, you can have it … at a slight increase.

No more of this enter the theater, find a seat (after buying your popcorn/drink) and enjoy the show.

Of course, when there are no seats in seats, it’s all Hollywood’s fault.

Movie house owners point out that weak ticket sale numbers occur because the film industry isn’t delivering quality content, not giving them a large enough theatrical window.

Instead, they are catering to their streaming subscribers and their bottom lines.  

This pro and con discussion could continue for hours but let’s focus on marketing. Specifically, how business can leverage social media and for the example we’ll use the motion picture industry.

Doorbusters like Top Gun: Maverick and Avatar: The Way of Water, which required $170M and $400M respectively to produce, needed huge successes at the theater to turn a profit.

Studios began their online marketing campaigns the moment the sequel was produced. And they kept the buzz going, using every online outlet available to ensure everyone got the message and – hopefully – got excited to see the projects.

Paramount invested $125M +/- to market Top Gun while Disney spent an estimated $200M to market Avatar and get seats into seats–much of it was focused on social media to reach their audiences.

To promote Knock at the Cabin, director M. Night Shyalmalan; lead Dave Bautista; and others on the project kept busy up until the opening (and beyond) with special appearances and social media.

Personal Connection – Studios, streaming media and celebrities have found that social media is a very effective means of reaching, informing and connecting with their target audiences.  

Universal had a budget of  $20M plus a marketing budget of about $1.5M and  not only turned a decent profit but also opened up new project opportunities for Shyamalan and Bautista.

The results for all three projects produced positive viewer response and record ticket sales.

The reason for the focus on social media is that it has become the water cooler of the online generation where young and old gather to “talk” about the film, their experiences, what they liked/disliked about the project, what they would have done to improve the movie, etc.

In other words, become involved in the film’s success.

The second social media phase for many projects and participants is the statue push.

Studios and publicists highlight project and individuals’ qualities and “popularity” because for a movie can add $4-$20M in added ticket sales and keeps folks visible for future projects.

Social media is where people – audiences and prospective customers – go to connect, get updates on news/information, get new ideas/information and exchange data and moments so, it’s important to the content creation industry … and your organization.

Targeted – Not every social media product is right for every product/service message.  However, since the services do an excellent job of mining user data, organizations can improve their targeting of ads and messages.  

Social media marketing enables you to:

  Reach a large or very specific audience

  Create organic and focused content

  Measure and fine tune your message based on online response/feedback

  Build your brand

  Drive traffic to your website

  Quickly and accurately evaluate your performance

  •  Respond in near real time to correct problems, issues before they become major

The bottom line is that social media is awesome … except when it’s not!

Not All Good – If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  And that’s the case for people constantly using social media … it can do good and it can do harm.  Source – Digital Scholar

However, social media also has its drawbacks for addicted users–especially the younger crowd that doesn’t want to miss out … on anything:

  •  It can be a time eater
  • Enable cyberbullying
  • Spread of fake news
  • Social media addiction
  • Stress
  • Mental issues
  • Can be a source of distraction
  • Sleep disruptions
  • Overweight
  • Increasingly becoming a tool for radical groups
  • Privacy concerns
  • limited insight into what happens to your data
  • People often behave anti-social
  • Social isolation
  • Information overload
  • Social/peer pressure
  • May negatively affect grades

Everything, All the Time – People – especially teens and younger – often don’t realize that whatever they say or show on social media will be there forever.  It is almost impossible to delete harmful, negative material from sites around the globe.  

Perhaps the most damaging issue which few (young and old ) consider is the information, content, images, everything that is posted on social media is there … forever.

A friend once noted to us that, “With today’s analytics, we can analyze the personalities of people based on how they interact online, blacklist them from social media networks and online forums, and remove any chance they’ll work for our companies.”

Ooopppsss!

Today’s average workforce is made up of four generations of workers with totally different approaches to the technology they use and depend on. 

Diversity – With such a wide range of people working together – age, sex, race, experience – folks have to be more tolerant that not everyone uses the internet or social media the same way.  

By this time next year, that number will rise to five generations – with people across a wide age spectrum working side by side to keep their businesses and the economy moving forward.

Think there might be a digital technology gap?

It’s even worse when you go home in the evening and your son/daughter asks for some assistance with their new math or becoming proficient with their latest study tools.  

Again, you’re at a disadvantage because these are individuals who were born into the digital and smartphone age.  

Using the technology is just … natural.

Born Online – Gen Z and Alpha people – male/female – have never known a world where they couldn’t instantly be online and connected to almost everyone, everything, everywhere.  But the connected world is an untamed environment that can be great, good, bad, ugly.  

In addition, the World Economic Forum recently reported that more than 175,000 children will go online with computers and smartphones every day.

You may think you have a good grasp of the technologies and applications but it’s the younger crowd, that leads in shaping the social media landscape/

The challenge is they often aren’t fully aware of the benefits and risks involved.

Since the last Pew Research Center study in 2014, there has been a 22 percent increase in teens having a smartphone (95 percent vs. 73 percent) while their access to other technologies – computers, game consoles, etc. – has remained unchanged.

Younger Users – Children like to imitate what adults do and that often means that when they see their parents/elders constantly online they want to do the same.  It can be done but parents have to be aware of their activities to guide their growth and protect them.  

In addition younger children (5-13) have begun using the technology. One in five children younger than 12 have their own smartphone.  

According to the Pew study, four in ten parents say they are slightly concerned about the data gathered on the devices and social media sites kids visit.

Social Differences – While the younger crowd wouldn’t be caught dead using Facebook or Twitter, they are frequently follow YouTube and TikTok, even though the sites have age restrictions 

YouTube is the younger generation’s most popular “hang out” with 95 percent saying they visit the site frequently followed by TikTok. They visit Twitter, Twitch, WhatsApp, Reddit and Tumbler the least.

While sites will always ask if you are of a certain age before access is permitted, a few keystrokes will provide you entrance whether you’re five or 50. 

To counter FOMO (fear of missing out), 11 percent indicated they spend more than five hours a day on social media and 12 percent are online 3-5 hours while 50 percent limit their social media activity to less than two hours.

Frontal Attack – While people of any age might be reluctant to attack someone in person, it is way too easy to do it online.  It not only hurts the same but the individual knows everyone else can see – and spread – the same information/message.  

And they’re online despite the fact that nearly 50 percent have experienced harassment or cyberbullying, including false rumor spreading, constant online monitoring.  

It can get so bad or the volume of information coming at folks so great that they simply delete their account.

That’s one of the reasons parents of Gen Zers and younger are strongly encouraged to know what their emerging adults are doing online, when and with whom.

It’s for their good and your peace of mind since you’ll probably agree with people (young and old) who told Pew researchers that social media sites do a fair to poor job of protecting their users.  

Social media will increasingly be an efficient and effective way for you to connect with your audience.

If it’s used and monitored properly, we’re pretty sure you’ll even agree with Andrew in Knock at the Cabin when he said, “I get the sense it teaches empathy and tolerance, and that’s just lovely.”

Andy Markenandy@markencom.com – is an author of more than 800 articles on management, marketing, communications, industry trends in media & entertainment, consumer electronics, software and applications. An internationally recognized marketing/communications consultant with a broad range of technical and industry expertise especially in storage, storage management and film/video production fields; he has an extended range of relationships with business, industry trade press, online media and industry analysts/consultants.

Staff

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