The digital sector – learning to be social

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So you’ve been caught looking at Twitter feeds, Facebook updates and Pinterest trends on your smartphone in class. This means trouble, right? Actually, no, it doesn’t. Quite the opposite in fact – you were simply immersed in the topic, because you’re a student on a Digital Marketing/Media course.

It may sound a bit strange, but all those hours spent on your phone, laptop and/or iPad using social media might well have gone some way to preparing you for third-level education. This is because college courses typically reflect industry needs and trends. And guess what? Big business is embracing social media big time.

Being Social

The popularity and widespread usage of social media tools is a major reason for this, as is the fact that such resources afford companies the chance to connect with their markets both immediately and directly. What’s more, because of the interactive nature of such sites, it is possible that users do as much legwork as businesses through ‘sharing’ or ‘liking’ stories so that others can avail of them too. To this end, the power of social media to generate a ‘buzz’ over a story or product is unassailable.

And it is not just business and marketing practices that are changing as a result of its growing popularity: social media is changing how we receive information about what is happening in the world. Sites such as Storyful – a resource for social newsgathering – show that social media is now being used to report on major world events as they are happening in real-time. Youtube is no longer just a place to waste hours looking at videos of dogs sleepwalking in to walls: it is a vast antechamber of documentary evidence, often recorded by active participants rather than impartial spectators. Major stories such as the conflict in Syria, the Boston bombings and the tornado that so devastatingly plundered parts of Oaklahoma have all essentially been relayed to us through the eyes of those living through them.

Improving your social media skills

Yet operating social media sites is not just a matter of logging in and doing what you like. There are legal, ethical and strategic considerations that need to be addressed by social media professionals (journalists using social media must learn about ethical issues, while students of advertising and marketing must learn how to develop a digital strategy). Those working with social media are also obliged to keep up to date with the unalterably protean social media environment. Using social media is a start, and being passionate about it is a huge plus; but truly learning how to harness its potential takes training from those that know it best.


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