The world is social media, and we’re just living in it. Gone are the days of Talkomatic in the 1970s where only five people at a time could chat and AOL that had an upwards of 17 million subscribers in its heyday. As of 2015, Alexa and U.S. Traffic Rank report that Facebook has over 900 million unique monthly visitors. Other social media platforms, such as Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, and Instagram, also have nine-digit unique monthly visitors. After cable and DSL modems debuted along with platforms like MySpace and Friendster in the 2000s, people had more larger and faster options for interacting with others on the Web, making the chat rooms that defined the 1990s Internet experience obsolete. Although the core concept of AOL and Yahoo chat rooms still lives on through applications like the group chat option in Facebook Messenger, today’s social media is a different experience altogether.
So what makes social media the titan it is today? What appeal does social media have that compels people to post pictures of their family?, a 13-year-old to post a funny video on Vine, or businesses to reach out to customers via Twitter? Sharing information with others is not a new phenomenon. However, the vastness of the Internet and hyper-speed of technology allows people to share more information with a greater amount of people faster than ever before. The New York Times Customer Insight Group has pinpointed five reasons people share things online. Although each reason is different, every reason revolves around a person’s relationship with others. These reasons, ordered biggest to smallest, are to:
– Support/not support brands and causes.
– Cultivate relationships.
– Feel self-validation.
– Define who they are.
– Give enriching information.
– Support/Not Support Brands and Causes
In the study conducted by the Customer Insight Group, 84 percent of people said one of the reasons they share information is to tell others that they like/support or dislike/do not support a certain brand or cause. Everyone has causes they support and brands they either like or do not like – the company that makes the most amazing pints of ice cream or that politician that they do not want elected to office. Before the Internet, people would share information about brands and causes via word of mouth, flyers, community boards in stores, and the telephone. While those methods are still used, social media and other Web avenues allow people to reach a wider, more diverse audience. Spreading the word invokes feelings of empowerment. When people share their opinion on brands and let others know about causes they want to see succeed, or not succeed, it makes people feel like their voice matters.