As I begin this blog, the amazing potential of the combined information, talent and effort that people share on the Internet feels overwhelming. Groundswell has described social media as a revolution or “a social trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other, rather than from traditional institutions like corporations” (Li & Bernoff (2011), p. 9). This revolution has two parts, a commerce piece in which goods and services are exchanged, and a communications piece, in which individuals interact with each other. Technology facilitates both of these interactions. Early in the social media revolution, sites seemed to specialize in either the exchange of goods and services or the building of online communities. Think eBay. Originally an auction website, it grew into a way to connect people to each other through the selling and buying of goods. The virtual marketplace established by eBay, became what a traditional market in the ‘real’ world is, a place where people buy, sell, but also learn, gossip, and explore. According to the site, “eBay continues to passionately believe in the potential of technology to connect people around the world” (eBay).
The sites that bring together the exchange of goods and services with the establishment of communities of people through technologies are the ones that illustrate the potential of virtual worlds and social media. Four networks (described below) incorporate commerce and community into their essential workings.
Etsy is an artists’ marketplace that espouses a philosophy of making art a part of life, and challenges the cheap commodification of the goods and services people buy.
Twitter not only promotes conversations, but it promotes tertiary links between online communities and as such plays an extensive role in the viral nature of social media that is essential for maintaining communities (they need to exist in real-time).
You Tube, like Twitter, is a successful commercial and commercialized social media site with its own brand to promote and maintain. It is an interesting site, however, in that it allows film clips and commercials produced by the major studios and agencies to be posted next to videos uploaded by the average next-door neighbor. In between the commercial advertisers and amateurs, You Tube hosts video by news agencies, non-profits, educational institutions, and political campaigns, among other groups. Commerce meets the world on You Tube.
Finally, Skype uses new technologies to let people communicate in what may seem to be an ‘old fashioned’ way – through real-time voice and/or video communication. However, in a world market, it is essential that people have access to each other without crippling fees. Skype allows businesses and individuals to maintain personal relationships without pricy institutional intermediaries.
When we think of the internet as a marketplace, it is important to remember that markets are where people exchange goods, services, information, lifestyles, and shape communities. Although the internet moves at lightning speed in some ways, the goal should be more than efficient exchange of currency. It should also be the inefficient, pleasurable, creation of lasting connections.
|Network||Business or Consumer User||Primary Purpose or Focus||Presence of Blog/ user feedback?||Advertising Content||Information Content Source(s)||Single country or Global?|
|Etsy||Both||Handmade artwork sales; also sells vintage items and supplies, site states its mission is to be “anthropologists of commerce” and to help people learn more about being human.||Yes – the site encourages feedback, and states that “markets are conversations and we ask that you talk vigorously back to us.”||Yes – Etsy offers sellers the option to pay more for a Showcase listing or search ad keywords to increase traffic to their listings.||Sellers post their wares; designers and collectors also create blogs that link to multiple sellers; Etsy links also found on Pinterest, Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, etc.||Global – UK, French and German versions|
|Both||Quickly share something of interest real-time through short (140 character) tweets or messages||Yes – Twitter is created by user content and user activity. The site offers multiple ways to contribute and follow tweets from various platforms||Yes – Twitter offers Promoted Tweets, Trends, and accounts along with Analytics tools that let large and small businesses promote brands, products, and learn who is following them||Users post and follow tweets. There are two main types of content – tweets on what is happening to a person/ situation real-time or retweets of content available elsewhere on the web. Twitter is fast becoming the glue that connects sites to each other and therefore communities to each other||Global – 27 language options are available from the homepage in addition to English|
|You Tube||Both||Allow anyone to share video content with a world audience; amateurs and professionals share video on this site, all placed next to each other||Yes – You Tube’s popularity is that anyone can make a film and anyone can be a critic||Yes – Almost every major advertising campaign has a You Tube component||Video postings from professional, commercial, individual, and groups form the basis of the content. Additional commentary on the postings form the secondary content.||Global – 43 countries are listed as content locations|
|Skype||Both||Skype says its mission is to allow users “to bring their social networks to life” b providing voice and/or video communication in real-time; in a new campaign, Skype promotes the more personal connections created by voice and face-to-face communications||No, not directly. But Skype does connect via Facebook, and so extends the communities created there and elsewhere||Yes – Skype has a business tool that companies can use to make contacting them via Skype simple; Skype also offers online Display advertising||Skype’s online content consists of listings, locations, and contact information for businesses and individuals.||Global – 23 languages in addition to English are supported; calls place via the internet can reach many countries|
About Us, Etsy. (2012). Retrieved April 8, 2012 from http://www.etsy.com/blog/en/about/
Li, C. and Bernoff, J. (2011). Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies. Boston: Harvard Business Review.
Skype Challenges Impersonal Social Media in New Ad Campaign. (2012, April 6). The Think Tank Blog. Retrieved April 7, 2012 from http://thinktanklondonblog.com/2012/04/06/skype-challenges-impersonal-social-media-in-new-ad-campaign/
Skype. (2012). Retrieved April 8, 2012 from http://www.skype.com/intl/en-us/home?intcmp=wlogo
Start Advertising, Twitter. (2012). Retrieved April 8, 2012 from https://business.twitter.com/en/advertise/start/
Timeline, eBay. (2012). Retrieved April 7, 2012 from http://www.ebayinc.com/list/milestones#milestones_timeline_stage
You Tube. (2012). Retrieved April 7, 2012 from https://www.youtube.com/