Social Media: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Updated: Mar 26

Over the past decade or so, we have all seen how much social media has grown, as well as how it plays a huge part in all of our lives. It is said that there are 3.5 billion social media users worldwide, which covers just under half the population of the human race. Social media is used on a daily basis, as 3 hours are spent per day per person on social networks and messaging. This daily usage differs between generations, with 90.4% of Millennials at the top, 77.5% of Generation X next and 48.2% of Baby Boomers last.

When it comes to social media, everyone has a different view. There are many pros and cons that come with different aspects of social media, as well as right and wrong ways that it can be used. On the other hand, with social media constantly growing, this can be an amazing way to promote your business, whatever the business maybe. In this article, I will be covering the growth of social media, as well as growing up with it, how to benefit from socials as a business, the ways in which social media can be used incorrectly and social media pros and cons.



Social Media Growth


As I have already said, over the past decade, social media has grown massively. With a multitude of social platforms, such as; Facebook, Youtube, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and the newest member Tik Tok, as well as many more, we have seen a huge increase of users over all these platforms. For example, with Facebook going from 100 million users in 2008 to a whopping 2.26 billion in 2018. Even for the newbie Tik Tok, which launched in September 2016 and by mid 2018 had already reached 500 million users.


Growing up with social media means it has played a massive part in my life. As well as using it to connect with friends and family, when I was younger I used it to play games, contact my mates and watch funny videos. Now I use it to find local restaurants, catch up on celebrities lives, find recommended businesses and to just keep me connected to the world. Without social media in my life, I would be lost, and for me that’s really sad. We live in a world now that revolves around social media. To not have Instagram or Snapchat is ‘uncool’ in todays society and users feel the need to show themselves at a certain standard that might not be in their true nature.



How to Benefit from Socials as a Business


When it comes to your business and social media, this can be one of the best, and cheapest way to promote your business. Having your business on social media allows you to be able to reach out to new customers without spending much, if any, money on advertising, whilst also being able to stay in touch with your current customers. Being able to connect to your current customer base through social media allows them to see anything new that comes from your business, as well as them being able to share any content with their own followers. As word-of-mouth is a good way to promote your business, this can be done on social media, just through something called ‘sharing’ and ‘stories’.


Some other points on how social media can help the growth of your business over time can include how it can increase website traffic. Regular posts on social media are key to driving traffic to your website. If you share your content from your website onto your social media platforms, such as blog posts, this is a great way to get readers interested as soon as you publish something new. Another point is that it can boost your sales, no matter what it is that you sell. It’s the process through getting new followers, then leads, to getting new customers. Also, having social accounts such as Instagram allows you be able to partner with influencers. As influencers have large followings on social media, this can draw attention to your brand. It will get people taking about your product or company and build up your brand awareness and credibility, which will lead to more sales.



Using Social Media Incorrectly


The majority of businesses do use social media platforms, whether that’s posting new products on their Instagram, sharing product reviews on Twitter, or posting article updates on Facebook. Whatever it may be, there are ways that businesses can use social media in a wrong and even negative way. Sometimes as a company, you have to be careful when posting online, because once it’s out there, whether the post has been misread or not, there is no going back, no erasing it from the internet. This could be a photo, video or comment that is offensive or discriminating against someone or a group of people causing huge backlash to your company and reputation. Another issue that might reflect badly on a company and could damage its reputation is if an employee posts something offensive or gives away any private information online. As a company, you should make sure that all your employees are aware of this and that it is frowned upon by your business, and that there is something in your staff contract that covers this possibility.


These points then lead to tackling hateful and negative comments. This is something that should be done in a professional way and the majority of the time it is best to just leave it and possibly delete the comment completely. However, some businesses react and respond to these negative comments but also in a negative way. This retaliation isn’t necessary and can cause a bad name for your company if you or a member of your team are being offensive to someone. It will show a lack of professionalism within your company.


Another way you could be using social media incorrectly is that you are using the wrong platform for your audience. When creating/building your brand, you must know who your target audience is. This will help you promote your business to people that would be interested in it. For example, if you were a trendy fashion company, your target audience would be the younger generation, however if you were a furniture company, you would be aiming at the older generation as well as new home-owners. When you’ve worked this out, then you can work out what socials may be better for you. So going back to the the fashion company, you’d probably promote your business on Instagram as that’s one of the most used social media platforms for that generation. If you were the furniture business, you may use Facebook. Most businesses do use multiple social platforms for their business, which is no harm. Spending time on all is a good way to increase revenue, but you may see your business flourish more on one compared to others and just work with that.


Lastly, I feel one of the biggest issues that we have in this day and age is influencers. Yes influencers can be amazing for promoting your business, but only if used in the correct way. If using influencers to promote your business is a path you want to go down, you should be using them in a natural way. For example, if you are using them to promote clothes they need to be real photos of them, or if it’s for a facial cleanser they need to be able to give real opinions on it. Social media nowadays can be faked and nothing you see is actually true. Influencers that are promoting laxatives tablets are photoshopping themselves skinny. Influencers that are promoting an acne treatment don’t actually use the product to get rid of their acne. This all causes such a negative affect on the younger generation that look up to these influencers and believe that what they are saying actually works.



Social Media Pros


There are a multitude of pros and cons that come with using social media, as well as trying to promote your business from it. From a non-business point of view, social media can be used to keep you connected with friends and family, especially if they live far away or in another country. It can also be useful to keep you up-to-date with news and what’s going on in the world as well as bringing people together. Whether this is being able to make a long-distance relationship work with a partner, building connections with new people or bringing strangers together by sharing their own ways to get through difficult times such as Covid-19. It can also be used in a great way to start a conversation. Whether this conversation is to do with something happening locally to you, such as dog theft in your village, or something on a larger scale globally like mass shootings, discrimination, mental health or global disasters. It can be used to make noise as well as an impact on the planet, raising awareness on things that need changing.

Some of these pros can apply to businesses too. Maybe a business that sells eco-friendly, vegan, non-animal testing products wants to start a conversation about deforestation globally and how it is affecting the planet, as well as keeping in touch with other similar businesses in different countries. There are ways that small or large businesses can use their own social media platform to help and promote something that is important, whatever the size of it. Whether it is something that connects with your business, or it just means something to you personally and you want to use your platform in a positive way to promote the issues. Some other pros of social media for your business is that it creates loyalty between you and the customer as well as making referrals easy. If a customers was to purchase something from your business that they loved using, they might post it on their own social media, tagging you in the post. This will then bring more customers, and maybe sales to your websites. The last point I want to make is that it is simply just a low cost and effective way to promote your business and keeps new and current customers up-to-date on everything to do with you.



Social Media Cons


Unfortunately with all the pros of social media and what makes it great, there are many cons that come along with it. One of the biggest negative things that comes with social media is the bullying and online abuse people get. Affecting businesses, social influencers and celebrities that are in the public eye and blog their daily activities, as well as normal people like you and me. We’ve all seen first hand the consequences of online abuse and I personally am still in disbelief about how much of it is still happening. With celebrities, influencers and businesses trying to tackle mental health, promoting safe places for victims who are struggling, online trolls that are still around don’t help. Another large issue with social media is cat-fishing. You may have heard of this word relating mostly to online dating/dating apps. If you don’t know what cat-fishing is, it’s a ‘Deceptive activity where a person creates a fictional persona or fake identity on a social networking service’. On any social media platform, you must be careful who you share your accounts with as well as who you talk to that you may not actually know. From people sharing lots of details on social platforms, such as name, age, where they live, as well as tagging places and locations of where they go, stalkers and scammers can piece together a vast amount of information on an individual.

Another point is how social media can cause people to become insecure about their life and themselves. For me, everything I see on social media I now take with a pinch of salt, especially Instagram. You see lots of people living amazing lives abroad or travelling over Europe, posting amazing photos of places they’ve visited and delicious restaurants they have eaten at. This isn’t necessarily an issue if photos they post are genuine, but there is nothing to say that a bikini photo on the beach isn’t photoshopped. Social media causes the younger generation, especially females, to compare their own lives and themselves to celebrities and influencers. This is why I feel as an influencer you should be promoting healthy, organic, and natural photos. There are many influencers out there that do this, telling you not to compare yourself to others, that everyone is going through something. You might be looking at someone thinking “wow, their life is amazing”, but then there is maybe someone looking at you, thinking the exact same thing!

Onto more of a generic base of social media, there are a few issues that could happen to anyone. Firstly, being hacked. One way to try and avoid this is by changing your passwords regularly and not having the same, simple password for every platform you have. Once this happens, it can be quite difficult to recover from. Another con, which is becoming a real problem in todays society, is that it decreases face-to-face communication. As we are able to keep in touch with our friends, family and what’s happening around the world, as well as being able to order clothes, food and pretty much anything from the touch of a button, it does allow us to not need to leave the house. This means that we might not be getting the social connection we need, which is a growing problem specifically affecting the younger generation. This then leads to facilitating laziness. We don’t need to go shopping for our weekly food shop, we can do that from our phone at home. We don’t need to go out and see friends, we can do that from our phone at home. We don’t need to go and play outside, we can do that from our phone at home. As much as we don’t think about it, sitting on our phones all day, not going out, getting fresh air, socialising locally with friends, is bad for us physically and mentally.



Summary


There are many amazing qualities about social media and how it can be used in such a positive and uplifting way. However, there are lots of ways that it can be used incorrectly, and actually be very negative, affecting many people. Businesses can flourish if they use social media in the correct way, promoting their own products, as well as issues that they believe in, and starting conversations. It can all help their business grow, connecting with other social media users. There are issues with social media, no doubt about that, and there’s nothing to say you shouldn’t be on it at all, you just need to be able to recognise what is and isn’t real, as well as sometimes stepping away from your phone and taking in everything that’s happening in the world around you.

If you do want to use social media to promote your business or you feel like you aren’t using it in the correct ways, there are things you can do to fix that. Use your socials as a positive platform, helping to make people more aware of what’s going on in the world. Just because you may have a smaller following on your platform doesn’t mean that what you say and do isn’t as important. It’s just good to consider all possibilities on what you post on social media. Whether it’s a positive post and you’re trying to make a difference or it’s something that could be offensive, just consider all outcomes and eventualities.

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