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Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Sociology of Social Media

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The Sociology of Social Media
By Andrew Clough (c) 2008

While being hired on at StepForth Web Marketing our CEO, Ross Dunn, was interested in how someone with a background in sociology could benefit his company, specifically in understanding social media and how to market to it. Sociologists look at communities and try to dissect them as to what its participants have in common in addition to trends or commonalities within the communities.

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Sociologists study society and social action by examining the groups and social institutions people form, as well as various social, religious, political, and business organizations. In essence it is the study of social interactions of people and groups.

They like to watch groups of people and see how they interact and function. Understanding the group's values and ideas is the key because once you understand a group one can participate within it. Participation means that you have the ability to communicate to those within the groups and spread or gain information. The concept of a social media marketer is to gain understanding of a community and leverage it to increase awareness of their own or their client's expertise. Social media based communities are seen as the new web properties for marketing campaigns. Driving traffic and developing information users trust and use is the monetization of the social media world.

This article is a general understanding as to what social media is and its potential for reaching the public. In the future I will be covering more specific areas within social media and helping clients build campaigns that work for their specific situation in this emerging marketplace. If you have any questions please feel free to ask.

Why People Use Social Media

Social Media is a web based venue that shares ideas, values, and information. Social media sites are formed when groups of people want to share information. They are used to keep up with friends and colleagues, to exchange ideas, and get information from those who might have an answer. Social media sites create a community (a group of individuals) based around this shared information. Many of these sites have gained huge followings and therefore are seen as authorities in their particular area of expertise (news, technology, sports, etc.).

Your Vote Counts!

Social media creates a community where like minded people can interact, mingle, and explore. They provide information that's judged by those within the community to be deemed noteworthy. It is interesting to note that social media sites have the same basic format in how they propagate the content provided by their users. Individuals are able to vote on the content or respond to the content. In this way, social media sites seek to gain and direct viewers. Social media is about giving control over information back to the masses.

Information provided on these sites is judged on a combination of criteria; its relevance, its quality, and the uniqueness of its content. The information is seen as trustworthy and unbiased because it is peer filtered. The information within these communities will have influence on the people who view it and can determine what actions they take regarding this new found information. As social media sites prosper with large user bases of interconnected individuals they provide a new platform for finding web based information.

Social media is inherently personal. The users provide personal information and ideas, respond to them, share them, and create a social media personality. This is where social media marketing comes in. Marketers want to know who you are and what you like. With booming global communication and technologies social media sites are seen as important venues for exchange. They embrace ideas surrounding information like connectivity, word of mouth, promotion of quality, and trust of those deemed trustworthy. Social media sites are important because they contain information users find interesting, timely and informative.

Marketing is the sharing of information to influence a consumer to purchase a product or service. Social media marketers want to get their messages out across the many mediums (video, interactive, audio, etc.) on social media sites to the individuals spending time on them. Social media sites also provide a space for advertisers to promote and gain insight on their products. These sites are seen as a great venue for advertising because of their ability to reach individuals based on their demographics, like age, location, and search profiles.

Forget Expensive PPC Advertising - There is an Alternative!

In both social media and marketing a niche is a smaller more focused section of a broader market. Niche communities are able to congregate within social media sites and share ideas and fraternize on very specific topics. This idea is very important to marketers and social media because they want to be able to reach the appropriate market for their information. Niche marketing is the process of finding and serving these specific market segments and designing custom-made strategies to profit from them.

Currently social media sites hold huge amounts of information. Social media is a great tool for spreading information and adding to it. Do people want more personalized, up to date and high quality information? What kind of information do users actually get in a current search inquiry? Is there a better way of accessing all the information on the web? These are questions social media is trying to answer. Social media sites are giving the power back to the people for exchanging information; it is a tool that helps society communicate and connect. Society values unbiased, accurate information and access to it. Social media provides personalized information and the chance for your voice to be heard. Social media's ability to influence one's personal decisions will give it huge potential to shape the society we live in.

About The Author
Andrew Clough is StepForth's Social Media Specialist at StepForth Web Marketing Inc.; based in Victoria, BC, Canada and founded in 1997. You can read more of Andrew's articles and those of the StepForth team at or contact us at, Tel - 250-385-1190, Toll Free - 877-385-5526, Fax - 250-385-1198

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