Social media is a double-edged sword. As a form of mass communication, social media opens the door of interaction to a much larger audience for the average person. Dainton and Zelly (2015) define mass communication as “a process in which professional communicators use technology to share messages over great distances to influence large audiences.” The word influence highlights the main purpose of social media, especially when used for a company’s agenda. Influencing others to become aware of the company, its services and its values can certainly be beneficial, however, the question becomes one of quality. What type of influence constitutes as beneficial? This question should be thoroughly considered before a company chooses to use any type of social media platform.
The question above lends itself to the idea of mediated communication. Keeping in mind the type of influence companies would like to send out, companies must consider the implications of their social media footprints. Using social media theory, companies can utilize this network to “uncover patterns of connections within a system” (Dainton & Zelly, 2015). When looked at through this lens, social media can greatly benefit a company, as the people in which the company hopes to influence can first be analyzed in order to create a mediated approach to their social media platform. Additionally, this approach brings a company’s social media research into play rather than just focusing on their output of messages. For example, if a company wants to determine the needs and wants of their cliental, the subjects for their study are simply provided in the likes of their Facebook page, followers on their Instagram, or any other way to measure connectivity on a social media platform.
On the other hand, if companies do not take a mediated approach before using any type of social media platform, the consequences can be detrimental. For example, if a company’s message communicated through social media is misinterpreted, their values can be put into question. This can also occur even if the message is communicated correctly, as some people may not agree with the content or the manner in which it is presented. For example, election seasons are often perilous for many social media users since political views can greatly vary from person to person. Companies take a risk of hurting their reputations if their social media conveys bias in any of its messages. Further, not only do companies need to carefully consider their social media use before every post, it is imperative that the person or people controlling the social media platform is well equipped with knowledge of effective communication. This goes back to the definition of mass communication in that communicators are professional. That said, not all users of social media are professional, therefore presenting a dilemma for a company that places their social media in the wrong hands.
In any case, a company’s social media will have influence and the nature of that influence can substantially impact the success of a company. For these reasons, social media should not be avoided but taken seriously and with a research-backed approach.
– Austin Kellner
Dainton, M., & Zelley, E. D. (2015). Applying communication theory for professional life: A
practical introduction (3rd ed.). California: SAGE Publications.