Riding on disruptive technology platforms, social media was changing the rules of engagement, making its stakeholders face more challenges than opportunities in the virtual world, an expert said here Friday.
"Every major technology drives changes in societal structures. Though social media has been an integral part of society over the ages, beginning with word of mouth and extending through other forms of communication such as writing, radio and television in the 20th century, the advent of internet and the worldwide web have brought about a paradigm shift in the rules of engagement," said Jagdish N. Sheth, marketing and strategy professor at Emroy University in the US.
Addressing about 200 participants from management and marketing fields at a two-day international conference on "Social Media Marketing in Emerging Markets", Sheth said the digital economy had reversed the traditional approach of the industrial economy, which primarily serves the needs of manufacturers and enterprises than consumers.
"In the digital age, consumers are the direct target segment of businesses due to the sheer reach of the technology platform beyond borders, languages and cultures. In the digital economy, businesses deal more directly with consumers (B2C) than with other businesses (B2B), minimising overheads in promoting and marketing products and services, eliminating intermediaries like middlemen," Sheth asserted.
With volumes driving the digital economy, the cost of devices used as tools for promoting and marketing products and services directly or through social media platforms in the virtual world has been declining over the years, making them more affordable.
"In this digital age, paper is costly, while memory is cheaper. A pendrive can store an entire library. The power of CPU (central processing unit) has increased so much that everything can be recorded in videos of high-definition television quality," Sheth noted.
In tune with changing times, though the younger generation dominates the social media, as evident from 89 % of the traffic being driven by netizens in the 18-29 years age group, the ease of using various devices such as computers, laptops, tablets, smartphones and digital cameras has made even people of older generation step into the virtual world.
"Unlike the conventional media in the real world, which are passive and one-way, the virtual world has made communication two-way and interactive, leading to explosive growth of social media as a common platform for global citizens to stay connected," Sheth pointed out.
On the flip side, as every technology has side-effects with grave consequences, the former Columbia University don cautioned the stakeholders against increasing dependence on social media platforms for a living in the real world.
"We have to strike a balance between the virtual and real world. The use of social media has to be regulated and moderated lest it becomes an addiction and losing emotional bonding with our others. We should not allow artificial to become real and users should not be treated as products and promoters of brands," Sheth added.
Organised by L.N. Welingkar Institute of Management Development & Research in association with Academy of India Marketing and IDG Media, the conference is aimed at enhancing the participant understanding of social media and develop models to improve the effectiveness of marketing in emerging markets.
"Social media is considered one of the effective ways of generating new sales leads for business. Through this interactive meet, we are providing participants with the fundamentals of how to strategise on social media marketing initiatives and network with ease," institute group director Uday Salunkhe said on the occasion.