Facing Fears – The Promise & Peril of Social Media Today & Tomorrow

Imagine the overt fear a parent might feel upon the discovery of a stalker watching their child or perhaps the anger over learning of a con artist swindling grandma out of her life savings; it’s a harsh reality of modern day life. Public service campaigns have done a relatively good job educating children about the dangers of speaking to strangers but fail to measure up when the threat is virtual. Ditto for the elderly who are increasingly at risk of falling prey to online scam artists. But what about other types of fears? Fear of falling behind or being left in virtual oblivion? Fear of missing out on the next big thing because you don’t fit a specific  marketing niche?  Fear of the Future? Or Perhaps the biggest fear of all…fear of the unknown! Today we are going to delve into the seedy side of the Internet while tackling the tough topic of what to do when social media gets spooky. Whether real or imagined, there is a lot of anxiety when it comes to the use of social media; learning to manage that risk is a key aspect of every social media management firm.

Fear #1 – Social Media Might Invade My Privacy. This is a legitimate concern for small business owners and individuals alike. Every small business should have a written social media policy in place but it’s also a good idea for parents to sit down and talk about social media usage with children. Cyber-stalking, bullying, inappropriate content and downright dangerous situations such as children posting when they are home alone are just a few of the topics to be covered.  Establishing basic rules for home and business is just the start; business owners should also have a  comprehensive plan of action on how to identify, communication and respond to inappropriate content and/or different age groups.

Fear #2 – Lack of Social Identify. While there are still a few neo-luddites shunning the latest technology trends including the adoption of social media, the vast majority of people understand the inherent advantage made possible by virtual networking. Whether or not you believe the quality of interaction is inherently better or worse may be less of a concern than the far greater fear of losing one’s social identify. Indeed, with social media moving beyond the realm of mere marketing and into nearly every aspect of life; the ability to compete for a job, obtain credit or even grow a business is increasingly tied to one’s level of social influence. Without a strong social identity, everyone from sales staff to rising CEO’s are at a disadvantage. The solution? Personal and/or professional reputation management services! It’s one of the most rapidly growing niche areas of social media management in existence.

Fear #3 – Fear of Missing Out. The future of social media marketing is fast approaching and with it, a growing anxiety among many who recognize the imminent promise and peril of a new technology. For example, the recent decision by Facebook to sell user interests to advertisers in “real time”  is a game changer among social media marketing firms. It’s long been established that people tend to spend more when first becoming involved with a new purchase; whether buying a home, car or just a new hobby, the initial investment tends to be the greatest during a “buying phase”.  Of course, one of the limits of traditional marketing was the “after the fact” approach; for example, it was easy enough to find out someone has just purchased a new home and send a discount to furniture purchase in the mail…a month or two afterwards. But what if it were possible to reach that same consumer in the initial stages of the buying process…for example, during the research stage? Certainly it would be well worth the investment! Of course, that is now entirely possible and coming soon to a social site near you. With this exciting development comes the increased attention by savvy consumers who recognize the impact a random search or purchase might have on their immediate social history. For example, purchasing baby products for an upcoming baby shower might inadvertently create an algorithm flag which now sends baby related product offers   for months to come. Of potentially even greater concern, it could limit access to other desired offers such as that shiny red two-seater convertible due to a false conclusion by the filter. These are just a small sample of why it will become increasingly important to outsource social media marketing to a professional firm capable of recognizing the noise versus the nuggets when mining data.

Fear #4 – Loss of Control. Last but not least, one of the most pervasive fears associated with social media is the loss of control. As mobile marketing, social media and other new technologies like Facebook’s acquisition of Face.com all merge into a single continuum, there is growing recognition that social media isn’t something people participate in but rather operate within. For example, Face.com is able to recognize facial patterns both online…and theoretically…off line. But what does this mean in real life? Imagine a small business owner that runs a local fashion boutique…in the not so distant future it may be possible for that small business owner to immediately identify (via facial scanning of people who enter the store) whether or not the client is currently a “Facebook Friend” and correlate that with prior buying history, discounts or other interesting tidbits made publically available via the real-time advertising campaign mentioned above. Perhaps a new mother shopping for clothing after the birth of baby or an up-and-coming CEO searching for a new suit; either way, the shopkeeper has a small arsenal of information available to make the sale…but so does the client! Instant comparison shopping made possible by a quick scan of a barcode, reviews and alternative items could steal the sale right out from under the shop keepers nose. Real time advertisements combined with location based technology could allow competitors to engage in bidding wars especially for major items like automobiles etc..

Obviously, only those business owners with a thriving social media presence and robust adoption of the latest technology will be positioned to benefit from these emerging trends. Those that fail to build a significant presence could find it all but impossible to compete in the long term leading many to take a proactive position as early as possible.

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