Why You Need Social Media

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    Do you have an account on social media? If not, you’re part of the rapidly declining 44 percent of Americans who have yet to join the social media revolution.

    Social networking giants such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Google+ have contributed to create a whole new world where individuals are free to express their opinions and share with their colleagues, friends and peers.

    For those holdouts that have yet to venture into the new world, Crystal Washington, a Houston social media expert and author of “The Social Media Why,” says they have to change their mindset.

    “If you’re trying to get anywhere in life, you need to have a viable network,” Washington. “Regarding ‘telling all your business,’ people can only see in your house to the extent that you open the blinds. So no one is forcing you to tell all your business; the problem is many people misuse social media and treat it like a diary.”

    Social media has brought changes to everyday living in a number of ways, including:

    Getting news. For many, social media has become an important source of news. While the credibility of some sources can questioned, even news outlets have joined the revolution, often making social media updates an integral part of their newscasts. Their availability on social networks makes news more accessible. News can also quickly get passed around the networks in ways never experienced before.

    Interaction. Social media has allowed people to keep in touch in a more consistent, and sometimes, more intimate, way. From re-establishing long lost connections to keeping in contact with new ones, people who are cities or continents apart can effortlessly keep in touch.

    Political landscapes. Social media has enabled greater political awareness and organization, which has in some cases rewritten entire political landscapes. Lawmakers and activists have been able to rally support for their causes simply from a Tweet or Facebook post.

    Marketing. Social media has changed the advertising landscape. The whole dynamics of marketing have changed, and rather than investing in mass channels ads, companies are becoming more consumer-centered through interactions made over social media.They are able to understand the needs of the market from the market itself, greatly altering the way marketing has been done in the past. And if something goes viral (i.e., the biracial Cheerios ad), it can garner results no marketing budget could ever imagine.

    African-Americans are among the top users of social media, Twitter and Instagram in particular. A recent survey released by Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project found that African-Americans are more heavily congregated on Twitter and Instagram than any other ethnic group.

    Researchers found that only 14 percent of Whites use Twitter versus the 26 percent of African-Americans who. Additionally, 23 percent of African-Americans are Instagram users, more than the 18 percent of Hispanics and 11 percent of Whites. On the flip side, Whites, specifically women, outnumber other ethnic groups when it comes to social media sites such as Pinterest and Tumblr.

    Another reason for Blacks’ gravitation toward social networking has to do with increased access through consumerism. According to a 2012 Nielsen study, Blacks and Hispanics are leading the way in the purchase of smartphones and tablets – with 54.4 percent of African-Americans and 57.3 percent of Hispanics owning smartphones versus 44.7 percent of Whites.

    Among smartphone owners age 18-44, making phone calls accounts for only 16 percent of the total time spent with their devices, whereas the remaining 84 percent of time is spent texting and interacting with email and social networks.

    Of the 44 percent of Americans who have yet to get on social media, in the rapidly changing society, many may have no choice but to get on board or get left behind.

    Washington says despite the enormity of social media, it’s actually doable if a person looks at the smaller picture.

    “If they look at social media as a tool to connect with people versus technology, most people will do fine,” she said. “You’re going on to build mass relationships. So, the same thing that works in person, works on line.”

    Washington says figure out ways to be of assistance or provide valuable information first, and people will line up to help you. And when trying to determine which social network to use, figure out your measurable goals.

    “People have to start off with figuring what their actual goals are,” Washington said. “So if they’re looking to find a job, they might use a different social network than if they’re looking to get more people into a nonprofit. Once they figure out their measurable goals, they should research the top three to see which ones best fit.”

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