Social media have revolutionized the society of our times in a very significant way: they have changed the way we interact with people, present ourselves and get to know others. They have led us to spend more and more time online and this has also changed the way brands reach their consumers.
Let’s see in more detail what are the characteristics and changes of today’s society due to social media.
What are social media
Social media are all those technologies that allow you to create, share and collaborate on online content produced by users and which are characterized by sociability. There are different types of social media, such as social networks, weblogs, content communities, virtual social worlds and virtual game worlds, and each of them has its own functionality.
Before these technologies there were two main media that allowed communication: mass media, such as television, radio and newspapers, and those that allowed private communication between two people through one-to-one conversations, such as telephone conversations. Furthermore, what differentiates mass media from social media is the fact that the former do not allow any kind of interaction, the public is a passive spectator, while social media allow you to participate in the conversation by making a contribution since the users are all at the same time. same level.
Self-disclosure in social relationships
Until recently it was thought that the lack of non-verbal cues in online interactions made this type of communication less information-rich and less personal than a physical interaction. Today, however, images, emojis and gifs have partly replaced non-verbal signals and perform a very similar function by compensating for their lack. These signals are considered equally useful in revealing personal information and in getting to know others.
A very important topic is the relationship between the phenomenon of self-disclosure , or self-disclosure, and online interactions. It is argued that some features of social networks would facilitate and speed up the process of self-disclosure and knowledge of others. The ability to remain anonymous or to use nicknames allows the user to feel less exposed and to reveal more important information about himself. Furthermore, the asynchronicity and the absence of verbal cues allow you to carefully select the information you want to communicate and how to do it, giving a more positive image of yourself.
It is equally true that the viewer of a user’s profile has access to much more information than they would obtain during a physical meeting, but at the same time they are aware that this information may have been manipulated, or at least in part.
The images and photos of users are very important elements as they transmit information and stimulate social confrontation, that is, they are a basis for comparing with others.
What generally stimulates a person to publish photos of himself on social networks is precisely the tendency to compare his own body with that of others, combined with the positive perception of his own image. In particular it seems that women who perceive themselves as less attractive are more sensitive to comparison with other women based on photos, and this negatively affects their mood; furthermore, these women tend to retouch their photos more.
This dynamic is further reinforced by the fact that comments and reactions on social networks are often public and provide a benchmark in evaluating other people’s photos and comparing them with their own.
However, it would not be entirely correct to attribute the entire responsibility for this phenomenon to social networks: women have always been led to internalize the beauty standards dictated by society and social channels have only amplified this effect.
Fear of not being connected
While technology significantly increases our opportunities for interaction, on the other hand, when this frequent abundance of interactions is lacking, it can have a negative impact on a person’s psychological well-being. This situation can lead to the manifestation of a phenomenon called fear of missing out, that is, a constant and pervasive fear of being absent from the continuous flow of information that binds us to others and of missing out on rewarding experiences that others may be experiencing. phenomenon are more likely to use social networks and spend more time on these platforms.
Social media reduces distances
Social media have also brought various benefits in psychosocial terms since their use is motivated by the needs of the individual that they can satisfy.
We think of long-distance relationships, people forced to stay in bed for health reasons or people who move for medium-long periods for work reasons. Today these people have the ability to maintain their contacts almost unchanged and to create new social connections more easily. They can contact friends by phone or make the video call, they can stay up to date on what others are doing by checking social accounts and in this way reduce the perception of distance, or they can join online groups of people who have similar experiences, thus creating new relationships and getting more support.
All of these behaviors are a quick and easy way to satisfy the need for social connections and enhance psychosocial well-being. On the other hand, let’s think about the situation experienced during the coronavirus pandemic of 2020 and which we are still partially experiencing: physical contacts have been enormously reduced due to the social distancing imposed. In this case, social networks and the possibility of making video calls have played a fundamental role in feeling less alone and in reducing the negative effects of forced isolation.
Because we spend more and more time online
As human beings we are characterized by the need for communication and belonging and social media are certainly oriented to the satisfaction of this need. Beyond the need for social connections, however, there are other reasons why we spend more and more time online and, at least in part, these are due to the way social media is designed.
It is in fact in the interests of these technologies to let us spend as much time as possible within them and to do this they make use of different psychological mechanisms. Let’s take social networks as an example, which use the strategy of randomizing rewards: a certain action corresponds to a reward, so the action is repeated over time to receive other rewards. Once this concept has been learned by the user, the reward is given only a few times, in this way the user is encouraged to perform these actions more frequently. An example of such rewards are notifications, likes and messages that are seen by the user as rewarding stimuli as they make him feel appreciated and approved or provide information about something that interests him.
Social media and corporate communications
The last twenty years have been characterized by an important change in the relationship between the brand and the consumer. While in the past companies needed to focus their efforts on the production of internal content to promote and sell their products, today brands accumulate value mainly externally, taking advantage of the work done by consumers and the content they produce on a daily basis.
Within these dynamics, the role of the marketer has also changed: he no longer has to think only about the production of contents by the company, but above all he must stimulate their production externally, involving influencers, bloggers and consumers themselves. The goal is no longer just to create content, but this content must necessarily be authentic, interesting and engaging.
This task is certainly facilitated by the significant image improvement that brands have achieved in recent years. Today, admiration is no longer considered normal for a product but for an entire brand, of which you want to know everything and own everything. From this point of view, the role played by social networks has become decidedly precious: it is no coincidence that brands like Apple can count millions of fans on social networks.
With social media, the way of advertising has also changed. Google and Facebook, for example, know their users very well and allow brands not only to be able to reach the people who are really interested, but also promise to be able to determine the best time to send a certain advertising message and thus bring the person. to make a purchase.
The birth of new professions
These are just some of the changes that social media has brought to our lives, some of them are positive, while others are less so. However, there is no doubt that the importance of these technologies becomes increasingly greater with the passage of time: social media have become an integral part of our society, they have transformed the way we act and satisfy a significant part of our needs. Precisely for this reason it is essential to know how to make the most of the advantages deriving from this transformation.
The changes in corporate communication have also led to the birth of new professions such as, for example, social media managers, web content managers and community managers. To learn the theory related to this area and learn the basics to be able to work with digital tools, there are Social Media Marketing courses offered by training schools such as Digital Coach.