Since Facebook launched ten years ago the way we communicate has changed beyond recognition. We are far more open with our thoughts, views and beliefs. Facebook allows us to share these thoughts with just our personal network but this all changed when Twitter launched in 2006. Twitter allowed our voices to be heard around the world and enabled us to open ourselves up to more individuals than ever before, it has brought with it new challenges in how businesses communicate their messages, deal with negative press and how we as individuals present ourselves.
Throughout the last ten years many have believed that social media is a ‘fad’ and on occasion the critics have been right. Platforms have launched and failed, people have swarmed to new networks and tired of them soon after, but what can be seen is that for every twenty platforms that fail one will surface and stay. Pinterest and SnapChat have been the latest to see a huge uptake in subscriptions in 2013 and have continued to rise in 2014, but it’s important to note that these platforms in particular have been around for a few years and have taken the time to invest in their projects and create something that offers its user something uniquely valuable.
The Online Individual
One thing that has become increasingly obvious in recent years is how people present themselves online. It’s very easy to create a ‘fake’ self, to become someone you’ve always wanted to be but are unable to do so in the ‘real’ world. The news has been filled with cyberbullying, stories of fake accounts attacking individuals for no reason other than to be cruel. Social Media platforms, although now looking at ways to clamp down on these spam accounts, have struggled to keep a lid on them and stop those infiltrating newsfeeds and people’s everyday life. Celebrities are the most commonly reported at being hit by vicious comments and spam but we have seen an increasing number of cyberbullying with ‘normal’ individuals, especially young teens.
It’s abundantly clear that social media is no longer a ‘fad’ and that it is here to stay but what we as individuals must do, is learn to safeguard ourselves online.
When looking at recruitment in business, it is unlikely that companies will actively not hire someone because they’ve seen drunken pictures of the candidate on Facebook. However it will shape their view of that individual and could lead them to ask difficult questions in interview or not give a further interview at all. We’ve all seen the news items of companies firing individuals for posting things that are quite obviously inappropriate for Facebook. Individuals argue that if it’s posted to a person’s private page it should be just that, but when we read stories of people tweeting about knocking over a cyclist and finding it funny, you’d be forgiven for thinking that perhaps a company wouldn’t want an individual like that representing them.
On the other hand, many individuals are becoming savvy social media users, who ensure each platform is used for their sole purpose, privatising those that they do not want others outside of their networks to see and ensuring that what they post reflects them in a positive light.
The way in which you conduct yourself online has taken many years to establish. No one was ready for the boom in platforms and use – recruiters, businesses and individuals alike. The way in which we communicate online continues to develop, keeping professionals on their toes and ready to adapt to the change.
What next for Social Media?
There has been a lot of discussion within the industry of social platforms becoming far more niche. The big players will still rule the market much like Google, Yahoo and Bing does for search, but we will see smaller platforms rise offering unique experiences that the big players may not, for example; the up and coming gift economy platform ‘Impossible’ or that of dating app ‘Tinder’. One thing is very certain, businesses need social media policies, it’s perfectly acceptable to say your company name shouldn’t be associated on an employee’s profile, status or image but if they don’t know about it, how can you protect yourself and them?
These niche platforms will continue to develop and will therefore continue to change how we conduct ourselves online. The prediction being that people will become far more private and restrictive in the information they share.
What this means for industry professionals, only time will tell.