Social media is…

A lot of the questions we have been asked for the first week of this Social Media Networking for Business paper are based around the fundamentals of social media.

  • What is social media and what is it’s history?
  • What kinds of social media exist?
  • How does business use social media?
  • What is socio-technical theory and what does it try to explain?
  • What are some examples of socio-technical theory?

And me being a gen Y kid thought, “oh, easy – I grew up with social media – I’m sure I know the basics“. But looking into it further I realised I was very wrong, and that there is a lot more to learn about social media than I first thought.

So, the most basic of questions: What is social media?

Plainly speaking, social media can be described as “various electronic tools available to help accelerate and improve our ability to connect, communicate, and collaborate” (thank you Marr and Kassotakis). But if I were to describe it a little less technically, because of the various and irreplaceable electronic tools that have emerged, social media can also be described as a platform for people to express themselves, inform one another, showcase talent, discover new interests, make money, find entertainment, or even find the love of their life. And this brief description is the tip of the iceberg.

Social media as we know it today comes from very humble beginnings, in the form of blogging – a concept which originates from the term “weblog”, giving a hint to it’s purpose. From here social media progressed to instant messaging, where people could communicate in a “chat” kind of style, which was faster and less formal than emails. Friends Reunited was the first social networking site to emerge in 1999, but was soon followed by others, such as Friendster and MySpace. The new social networking sites were rapidly developing and adapting to their audience, leaving the original sites who could not keep up to be obsolete.

Varying types of social networking sites began to emerge, such as podcasts (digital audio files which can be downloaded from the internet by listeners), Flickr (a photo sharing site) and LinkedIn (a site for professionals to connect). In 2004, the now almighty Facebook emerged. Facebook encompasses many of the aspects and innovations of other popular social networking sites on the one platform, and this is one reason why I believe it has been so successful. Many different kinds of social media and social networking sites exist today, and the use of them day-to-day is a way of life for many people.

Many businesses have adopted the use of social networking in the workplace as a means of communication and promotion. A vast amount of people use social networking sites – for example, Facebook has over 1 billion users – which means the businesses who promote themselves on these sites are giving themselves major brand visibility, an important thing to have in the fast paced and competitive market of today.

Businesses are also using blogging within their business network which has become an effective tool for mass communication, learning and training, and all while providing a personal tone. Wikis are also in use in business – these are pages which can be edited by different members of a group – and has become an invaluable tool for employees who need to collaborate but are geographically separated. Forums have also become useful as a means to facilitate group discussion.

This idea of businesses and organisations working more effectively when technology is integrated into the work procedures ties in nicely to the next idea being investigated: The sociotechnical theory.

When looking to find out more about this theory, the information that appears the most seems to be about sociotechnical systems. Wikipedia tells me that sociotechnical systems (STS) regard the social aspects of people and society as well as technical aspects of organisational structure and processes. The interaction between people and the technical processes and organisational structure is highly significant. A STS has many layers, and can be described as a stack and relate to one another respectively:

  • Society
  • Organisation
  • Business processes
  • Application system
  • Communication and data management
  • Operation system
  • Equipment

As far as I can tell, STS only address the elements of the sociotechnical theory. Sociotechnical theory bears a difference to STS, as it proposes a number of different ways of achieving joint optimisation in regards to the interaction between people and technologies. I suppose this could include things such as the organisational design within a company, which guides the use of technological processes and application, to ensure the best outcome for the business as well as reduced efforts and stress for the employees.

This is my rough idea of the concept so far at least, as it is an idea I am only just learning about. I can, however, already see the importance of the sociotechnical theory when using it for business. Exciting!

 

Well there you have it, my first blog entry for my Social Media Networking for Business assignment. I hope that reading this has delivered new insights, if you have not learnt about social media before, and if you are my tutor, I hope this is along the right lines..!

Until next time folks… Which won’t be long. I have a few blogs to post in the next couple of weeks (naughty me)… I guess I’m running on Irish time!

Ciao for now! x

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