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During the last ten years, social networks have evolved from simple communication hubs to veritable agents of change; galvanizing thousands of people over political discourse, creating and changing industries, and all in all, transforming people’s lives.
Just couple of years back, many people dismissed Facebook as a place for kids to share their rants/pictures. Today, more than 600 million users worldwide are active on this website. Approximately 200 million people are active on twitter, another 100 million use LinkedIn. None of these social networks even excited at the beginning of the decade. While these figures may be mere numbers for many people, the impact of social network goes far and deep. Here are a few areas in which social networks have had lasting and arguably permanent effects.
Politics and public service
Just as personal computers changed the face of businesses forever, social networks have altered the operational model of politics and public service. Facebook has become the touchstone for how non-profit organizations, environmental activities, and political factions reach out to thousands of potential volunteers and donors. Twitter is being used by almost all progressive politicians to promote their causes. Thanks to the social networks, politics is no longer limited to the political elites; people voice their opinions, share their ideas, and even communicate with politicians on a one-on-one basis. It’s a technology lesson that progressive politicians have to learn or else, risk losing to the tech savvy youth of today.
Marketing and advertising
Marketing and advertising are transforming themselves from industries reliant on mass market channels to those that must embrace the power of the customer, and attempt to engage in conversations with them. Often, a “middle man” (such as news paper reporter) ultimately determined that what was written or said. The ability to bypass gatekeepers and facilitate direct interactions with consumers and communities is very important.
Today it is quick and easy for anyone to share links with a large number of people via Facebook or Twitter, without involving of a traditional media organization. Some news websites already present visitors with a list of stories recommended by their friends because they realize an endorsement from ‘someone you know’ carries extra weight.
On the other hand, social networks have also given unprecedented rise to citizen journalism. From traffic updates, to natural riots, anyone and everyone who has access to social networking sites can report his/her version of such events. Sifting through the humongous amount of news, speculations and analysis are abilities that a New Media user must now possess.
Business and recruitment
Almost every credible business has a social presence today. Not only that, emerging businesses have adopted social networking sites to promote their products, services, and gain insightful feedback. It is not uncommon to see small or home grow businesses that operate solely through their Facebook accounts. In fact, for businesses, interaction via social network has almost become a yardstick to test out their customer service.
On the other hand, LinkedIn has drastically changed how Human Resource professionals seek potential employees. While some argue about privacy violation, LinkedIn has undoubtedly helped career advancements, head hunting, recruitment and professional networking to large extent.
With Google+ being launched recently, it is clear that all technology giants have realized the critical role that social networks will lay in shaping our lives. It is no longer about implementing the latest, cutting edge technology; it is about how seamlessly and organically a social network merges in our lives, and affects every aspect of it. The lines between real and virtual lives have now blurred to the extent of becoming invisible.