I know I am probably speaking to the converted in this article, but it still amazes me that there are companies who do not recognise the benefits of social media.

If anything, you will need to be living under a rock to ignore how differently people access information. It has evolved to such a point that there is a strong case for an extra option to be added to the base of the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs pyramid which puts wifi below physiological needs (which are the basic needs which we need to live).

**Access to success

Because information is accessed differently, it makes sense that the way that we communicate with each other also changes. Social Media has evolved from its basic function of connecting people to being a platform where people access news, interact with friends and at times conduct business deals.

What benefits does social media offer companies? I read a very interesting article on hootsuite.com which highlights the benefits social media can offer to companies.

  • Gain valuable customer insights. Social media generates a huge amount of data about your customers in real time. Every day there are over 500 million Tweets, 4.5 billion Likes on Facebook, and 95 million photos and videos uploaded to Instagram. Behind these staggering numbers is a wealth of information about your customers—who they are, what they like, and how they feel about your brand;
  • Increase brand awareness and loyalty. When you have a presence on social media, you make it easier for your customers to find and connect with you. And by connecting with your customers on social, you’re more likely to increase customer retention and brand loyalty. A study by The Social Habit shows that 53 percent of Americans who follow brands on social are more loyal to those brands;
  • Generate higher converting leads. Social media increases sales and customer retention through regular interaction and timely customer service. In the 2015 Sales Best Practices Study from research institute MHI Global, world-class companies rated social media as the most effective way to identify key decision makers and new business opportunities. In the State of Social Selling in 2015, nearly 75% of companies that engaged in selling on social media reported an increase in sales in 12 months; and
  • Provide rich customer experiences even if you aren’t on social media, most of your customers expect you to be. Over 67% of consumers now go to social media for customer service. They expect fast response times and 24/7 support—and companies that deliver win out. A study by Aberdeen Group shows that companies engaging in social customer service see much bigger annual financial gains (7.5% year-on-year growth) vs. those without (2.9%).

**Accessing information

Technology has really changed the way we relate to our world.

I still remember the days when if you needed to know something, you would need to look it up in an encyclopaedia. Now, there is no piece of information that Google, or Wikipedia, cannot find. This is now being felt in the television space. If you have DSTV, or any satellite television network for that matter, you will realise they are famous for something else other than bringing you quality entertainment. The repeats these networks are relentless.

Because of this, people are now starting to stream their television viewing over the internet. The way we access information in EVERY aspect of our lives is fundamentally changing. Therefore, the way we market our products, and the platforms we use to do this, also need to change.

An article on Forbes.com realises this and discusses the advantages of social media marketing in detail. I will only look at two of these advantages:

  • Increased Brand Recognition. Every opportunity you have to syndicate your content and increase your visibility is valuable. Your social media networks are just new channels for your brand’s voice and content. This is important because it simultaneously makes you easier and more accessible for new customers, and makes you more familiar and recognizable for existing customers; and
  • More Opportunities to Convert. Every post you make on a social media platform is an opportunity for customers to convert. When you build a following, you’ll simultaneously have access to new customers, recent customers, and old customers, and you’ll be able to interact with all of them. Every blog post, image, video, or comment you share is a chance for someone to react, and every reaction could lead to a site visit, and eventually a conversion.

**The other side

While the praises that we can sing about social media are many, disadvantages do exist and cannot be ignored. These were highlighted in an article on rootsofaction.com.

According to teenagers, the demographic that accesses social media the most, the following disadvantages of social media includes:

  • It lacks emotional connection;
  • It gives people a license to be hurtful;
  • It decreases face-to-face communication skills;
  • It conveys inauthentic expression of feelings;
  • It diminishes understanding and thoughtfulness;
  • It causes face-to-face interactions to feel disconnected; and
  • It facilitates laziness.

These are serious challenges. Business marketing relies a lot on emotion and feeling connected to the product that you are trying to sell. If social media lacks an emotional connection or causes face-to-face interactions to feel disconnected, then one must be careful on how much emphasis they place on social media marketing.

Most certainly, South Africans are very aware of how social media can be used for abuse and a platform to publicise vitriol. One most certainly does not want to become associated with that.

**Further concerns

There are some concerns that we need to be aware of, some of these are highlighted in an article on techmaish.com.

Hacking is a major concern when it comes to social media as there is a lot that is at stake. Personal data and privacy can easily be hacked and shared on the Internet. This can be detrimental to a company, especially those who handle sensitive client information. This can result in financial losses and losses to privacy.

Similarly, identity theft is another issue that can give financial losses to anyone by hacking personal accounts. Several personal twitter and Facebook accounts have been hacked in the past and the hacker had posted materials that have affected the individuals personal lives. This is one of the dangerous disadvantages of the social media and every user is advised to keep their personal data and accounts safe to avoid such accidents.

Fraud and Scams is the next concern to be dealt with. Several examples are available where individuals have scammed and commited fraud through social media. The perpetrators of this fraud are often untraceable and they can find a weak spot in most firewall, so even if security is tightened, the risk exists.

Security Issues is the last concern I will look at. In the age of technology, security agencies have access to peoples personal accounts. This makes privacy almost very compromised. You never know when you are visited by any investigation officer regarding any issue that you mistakenly or unknowingly discussed over the internet.

At the end of the day, the benefits to having a social media presence, and engaging in social media marketing far outweighs the disadvantages the medium has. At the end of the day, the world is changing. Klaus Schwab is not a deranged lunatic, he thought long and hard about the concept of the Fourth Industrial Revolution based on what he was witnessing unfolding before his very eyes.