The Power of Social Media: who’s holding all the aces?

I think we can all agree that social media is a massive thing. In my online lifetime I have certainly experienced a whole range of changes, on a small scale – changing from Bebo to Facebook, and eventually giving in to Twitter. I have knowingly used social media more and started using it differently, it has moved away from a socialising tool, to a way of creating an online brand for myself, showcasing what work I can do and it enables me to send my work across the globe for very little or no cost at all. I am not the only one doing this. Astonishing figures show the huge increase in consumption of social media across the board, with massive percentage increases in the use of Facebook and Twitter.

But who has the real power?

Well, clearly, the consumer doesn’t.. as usual.

Actually, not entirely true. The hyperlocal community we have created globally does have the ultimate power, that is if all 500 million Facebook users decided to close their accounts simultaneously, sound likely? ‘Facebook is flourishing because we are addicted to self-promotion’ is the view of the blog Publicity Oxford, and I tend to agree, although I wouldn’t go as far as saying I looked for a certain amount of comments on Facebook for what I was thinking to be ‘news worthy’.

But ultimately, the power does of course lie in the hands of the corporations that manufacture social media to make it so appealing for us as consumers, and at the same time, somehow give us the impression that we are in charge of how it is run.

In a recent talk I received at my university from Real Radio Wales Managing Director Tony Dowling, he said that if you can sell to someone the idea that you know how to make money out of social media, then you can be very rich. As we have seen, social media corporations are making money from advertisers and businesses, but how can businesses make money from these services directly?

If only I knew.

However, the power of social media has been highlighted in Channel 4’s new addition to its services – 4seven. It is Channel 4’s first network addition since More4 in 2005 and is based around which of their shows are making the biggest noise on social media in the past seven days, another clever channel name, not only is it their 7thnetwork addition, but it plays into the channel showing programmes from the last seven days – someone at Channel 4 definitely got a bonus for that.

Clever new logo!

Anyway, surely this emphasises the huge impacts social media has had on society and the media industry, a brand new channel where all the network has to do is sit on Facebook and Twitter all week, hardly ground breaking, but this wouldn’t have been made possible without the tools we so readily use. I’m not sure how much variety this channel will offer its viewers though, as my Twitter feed is plastered with #BFGW (Big Fat Gypsy Wedding) every Tuesday evening.

I would say that Channel 4 will be making money from social media in an indirect way by introducing this new channel. Others may disagree, but I think I will be sticking to 4OD.

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