Social Media and You


Social Media and You

A FEW months ago one of the most amazing events in the realm of technology industry occurred. In the week of March 16 we saw Google’s overall traffic being overtaken by Facebook, the six-year-old online social media company.

Now you may ask, what’s the big deal about it?

Over the past one-and-a-half decades, top web traffic spots have been occupied by search companies. Altavista, Yahoo!, Google and some. The reason to this is simple. Search has been pretty much the first port-of-call for Internet users every time they go online to seek information. There was no other destination having a more prominent online significance than an effective search engine. We, therefore, depended heavily on the help of search to shed light on where to get the information we want.

We still do. In our world where we are always bombarded with more information than we can absorb, search helps us to separate the wheat from the chaff. Hence the natural consequence for search engines to command such high traffic rankings.

How things have changed. For the first time, a new genre of business has completely turned the tables and search is no longer the only dominant king of traffic in the online world. Social media has now matured into the mainstreams. Not only Facebook. We also have Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, Digg, FourSquare, MySpace, and too many more attempting to steal time from us everyday. In fact, for many of us, some of these social applications are already closely knitted into our digital lifestyles.

My recent observations revealed that it can be a double-edged sword. How? BP’s recent oil spill news was vastly propagated by social media and ironically the company is also using it in an attempt to repair image wreckage; President Obama’s 2008 campaign garnered massive support via social media; YouTube and Twitter catapulted the 16-year-old Justin Bieber to stardom in less than a year and he now has a record label contract and is touring the world for concerts. The list is long but you get the gist of it.

All these point to one thing: Social media is not a fad. It is the next biggest phenomenon after search. The leadership expert, Robin Sharma mentioned in his book The Greatness Guide that “one of the deepest needs of human being is the need to belong. We are happiest when we feel connected to others.” Couple social media with the power of mobility and we end up with the most disruptive shift of paradigm in the Internet history.

In order for us to appreciate this pattern better we need to look at how the web has evolved and more importantly, how our behaviours have changed in the process of adapting to the everchanging web culture. Loosely speaking, the Internet is divided into three distinctive stages over a span of 20 years. In the 90s the web was growing up in its infancy. We saw it grew from virtually non-existent to about 5% of global population gaining access to it.

Next we entered the second era which we also called it Web 2.0, and currently the figure has ballooned to about 26% of global population having access to it. In this stage, we have seen tremendous progress in consumer IT, with innovations in both search and social media being especially evident.

The psychological behaviour of online population has also evolved from being defending to embracing change. A case in point: just a few years ago we refrained from buying online with credit cards but today we transfer funds and buy vacations using mobile phones. This is the era where innovative minds are given the power of leveraging: if you have a product people want, you can shoot for the moon overnight.

Let’s take a look at a few case studies in the second era of the web. A game-changer for the social media industry was when Facebook introduced the then-controversial Newsfeeds feature in September 2006, which we now depend on heavily to know what our friends are up to every day.

For the most of us, it is a simple yet uber-effective way of keeping in touch without much effort.

Starbucks is another story-of-the-decade to highlight: with more than 10 million fans on Facebook and close to 1 million followers on Twitter, one can only imagine how powerful a media position they hold. MyStarBucksIdea, a widely-acclaimed social media strategy Starbucks pioneered in March 2008, allows the company to listen to the grounds and respond to their customers in an agile manner.

Success stories of how social media has transformed not only private users but also how companies conduct their businesses continue to surface, and Forrester Research, a global independent technology and market research company, expects interactive marketing spend to exceed one-fifth of global marketing spend in 2014. That means an estimated US$55 billion will be moved from traditional advertising to online advertising, and social media is going to play a major role in that paradigm shift.

We are now in the third wave. Over the years, mobile communication technologies had evolved. We have gone from the SMS era to the video era and this has resulted in gradual migration of desktop applications to the mobile environment.

One of the key factors that has enhanced mobile desirability is instant gratification. You can social-network on-the-go now, check and transfer funds anytime you want on your mobile phone, receive news feeds of your choice as soon as they become available and it is exciting that we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg on the mobile front.

Some critics argue that the trend may bring adverse effects to our social lives; that physical facetime among individuals will dramatically reduce and that may not be healthy for the real world.

I don’t know if I can agree to that.

At the local Starbucks where I’m writing this article, the baristas have not stopped serving coffees in the past few hours. You see people hanging out and laughing with their friends here, some with laptops where you can see them googling and facebooking, and the scene depicts nothing unhealthy of our real world social activities.

What can we expect moving forward from here? Convergence of technologies, or in layman terms “everything coming together as one”, will continue to change our digital lifestyles with significant consequences. As our social connectedness expand like never before, our social behaviours evolve according to peer effects and advancements in our day-to-day life.

Welcome to the new age of social computing.

By Jimmy Yeoh

Jimmy Yeoh is the chairman and chief executive of, a company he founded in 2007. He is among the first to promote social CRM technologies for the real estate markets in Malaysia and Singapore. Contact him at both email and Facebook.

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