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How Does Social Media Fit in Digital?

Earlier, I mentioned that digital is versatile and can cover all aspects of advertising. Social media help take this even further because they provide users the tools to become publishers, often referred to as self-publishing. This ability enables the public to be publishers and advertisers. The new way of doing things enables organizations to outsource its content generation process to its customers, often referred to as user-generated content (UGC). A good example is YouTube.com. Users watch more than 12 billion videos on average each month. Most of these videos are produced by the public, using camcorders, mobile phones, and webcams. Social media platforms enable people to express themselves and generate useful content in the process. Increasingly, major social networking sites are providing revenue share deals for active members and users with major followings. So, content providers are remunerated for preparing engaging concepts. Social media are prime examples of power to the people. They are media generated by the people and for the people, although unfortunately not of the people; most of the content generated on social networking sites is available to share with others, although once the content is online it's generally fully owned by the social media site.

Social media are extensions of digital technology, where we the people control its direction. This section goes through some examples of social media and how they transform themselves into various forms of media, often referred to as rich media. It covers examples of media in the forms of video, photos, blogging, location-based applications, and real-time communication. As social media mature, some sites are establishing themselves as winners in their field. To best use social media, it's generally best to choose a leading platform, because these platforms generally are thought leaders in their space.

Video Social Media

Video is a fantastic way to communicate with people because it's expressive, interactive, and appealing. This is why television advertising has been so successful. Television advertising in the past has been limited to major organizations with large budgets, but since 2006, there has been a change in the way video advertisements connect with their audience. Increasingly, advertisers are creating user-generated style advertisements, either developed by the target audience or creative teams within the organization.

The change was initiated by YouTube, a video-sharing site that Google acquired for $1.2 billion in 2006. YouTube started a revolution; prior to its development, there was no easy way to share videos. Earlier, technical people uploaded videos to their website, whereas others sent them via email. Neither method was ideal. Uploading videos to a server and watching them required downloading software; emailing videos meant the file size was limited to what the email service would allow, and users needed to download software to view them.

Launching a video-sharing site wasn't easy. Taking the various technical formats of videos and showing them in a standard way is complicated. However, Adobe launched a new version of Flash (a form of software that enables users to view rich media) that made it possible to encode videos in a desirable format. Another major issue with developing a video site is that video often takes a lot of server space. In 2008, YouTube was paying $1 million a day for video storage and streaming videos.

Video is a fantastic tool for explaining concepts/techniques in an easy-to-understand format. It is more engaging than text, music, and photos, and in many ways, it encapsulates all of them. Videos are good for direct marketing, creating awareness, and demonstration. In a professional scenario, videos can explain services and products. This is why you will find a huge number of how-to videos—videos from how to make an egg to how to fly a helicopter. Increasingly, organizations are using YouTube for branding. For instance, companies have videos to showcase their company; these videos include testimonials for employees, customers, and suppliers. It's part of branding a company. Chapter 5, "Social Media for Talent Acquisition and Retention," discusses retention and development.

YouTube by no means is the only video social network, but in volume and functionality, it is absolutely massive. There is a large gap between YouTube and its nearest competing video-sharing site. According to Hitwise, YouTube has in excess of 65% market share. Its nearest competitor is Google Video. Apart from being a video site, YouTube is being called a search engine by more and more experts. Some reports suggest that after Google and Facebook, YouTube is the third largest search engine. People are realizing that sites that appear on the front pages of search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing (Microsoft) are highly optimized. These sites are generally large publishers who have spent a huge amount of money or produce content frequently to get their site to that position. For instance, if I was a graduate job seeker, requiring unedited advice on joining a company, would I prefer a corporate website that had to be careful about what it wrote or another graduate who had just talked about his experience of getting a job? YouTube tends to provide people's opinions and experiences. By the nature of social media, content that is accurate, engaging, relevant, or well delivered rises on social networks. This implies that good content gets more recognition and views by users sharing it with friends and family. We often refer to this as the viral nature of social media.

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