As part of my DICE module at DCU, I have read an article written by Jan H. Kietzmann, Kristopher Hermkens, Ian P. McCarthy and Bruno S. Silvestre, which gives an insight into the functions and importance of social media today, in particular regarding consumers and firms.
First and foremost, the article names many of the different types of social media available and identifies the main audience and function of each. For example, they mention the typical sites for the general public, such as Facebook and Friendster, media sharing sites, such as MySpace, Youtube and Flickr, professional sites, such as LinkedIn, and blog sites, for example the increasingly popular micro-blogging site, Twitter.
We are then introduced to this image of the honeycomb of seven functional building blocks as follows;
The identity block refers to the amount or extent to which users put forward their information on social media sites. This information consists of but is not limited to, name, age, date of birth, gender, profession, location, and also other pieces of personal information that paint a picture of who they are. For example, on Facebook users have the ability to like and dislike pages, such as musicians or hobbies, which gives other users a clearer image of their interests and personality. It is common for people to have a slightly different identity on different social media sites, ie. choosing to upload certain photos and statuses to Facebook, while selecting alternative photos and thoughts to tweet about. In the article, it is recommended that you strike a balance between sharing information and identities and protecting your own privacy, to avoid many unwanted outcomes such as cyber-bullying and off-colour comments.
The conversations block deals with the way and amount to which users choose to communicate among one another in a social media setting. There can be various ways that conversation is used on social media platforms. Some users choose to use them simply to make new friends, find love, discover similar and like minded people, while some users believe that they should be used to get their message across to others and to have an impact on society regarding issues that range in everything from environmental causes to political debates. Firms are also known to use conversations to involve themselves with their customers and attempt to engage with them on a more personal level. They also have the desire to promote their company/goods/services while doing so. This article refers to Dove’s 2004 campaign for Real Beauty, involving the company creating a blog that allowed their customers to read and discuss it, which resulted in people talking very positively about their campaign and company as a whole.
The sharing block is described as the way in which people exchange, distribute and receive content on the web, whether it be videos on Youtube, tweets on Twitter, or statuses on Facebook. Sharing is a very important way of interacting within a social media platform, but the chances of sharing leading to users conversing or even beginning to build a relationship will depend completely on what is described as the “functional objective of the social media platform”. This is then further explained by given examples, such as pictures being the objects of sociability for Flickr, and careers being the objects of sociability for LinkedIn.
The presence block regards the extent to which users can know if other users are accessible, for example on Facebook chat, users will display the words “online” or “offline”, which allows users to know whether or not they are available to converse and interact at that particular time. Similarly, on the instant messaging service MSN, users were also displayed as one of many options, including “offline”, “online” and “busy”. This gave an even more detailed description of whether users were available. An important part of the presence block, is for firms and companies that use social media, allowing them to target their customers in particular locations. A firm might also use the presence block to display certain offers and services to some users, but not to others, a tool that is very useful to them as a company.
The relationship block represents the amount that users can relate to and are related to other users. This is influenced by and comes as a result of the information that is provided by other users regarding their personal information, likes and dislikes, and allows them to potentially meet people that they would essentially like to meet. The relationship block is made up of different aspects of social media sites where relationships are essential, such as skype, that allows users to communicate with and talk to people that they already know, or sites like Twitter, where often users do not know each other, and relationships hardly matter.
The reputation block refers to the way in which users can identify the standing of other users. Reputation not only depends on the users themselves, but also on the content they share, post and make available to others. For example, on Youtube, the reputation of a video might be defined by “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” it receives, where as on Facebook the reputation pf a status might be defined by the amount of “likes” or “shares” it receives.
The groups block represents the users can form communities within social media platforms, and sub-communities. The more social a network becomes, the more friends, followers and viewers it will have. The article discusses the two major types of grouping, individual grouping, where users can group their friends and contacts together, and then groups that can contain many users and have administrators who can edit the privacy setting to make their group secret, or share it to the world.
In conclusion, I found this article to be extremely informative and I believe that its use of relatable examples allowed me to have a greater understanding of social media and the functional blocks within.