Social networking has rapidly become one of the most important and popular functions of the internet today. The term loosely describes a number of different methods with which people communicate and share information with each other over the internet. All possible indicators suggest social networking as a phenomenon is only going to continue increasing from year to year.
An interesting research study recently conducted by retail consultants the J.C. Williams Group has indicated people who make purchases online are more likely to participate in social networking activities. Taken as a whole, the online community appears to be one of vast strength and intricacy. As websites begin playing a larger part in the every day life of the average person, the very way humanity thinks is changing.
Social Networking Options
To understand how social networking is so powerful, one must first learn more about the various methods of organizing it. There are several increasingly-popular formats that have taken off over the past several years, showing great potential for further growth:
· Blogs: The blog is a good example of the versatility of social networking. Short for “web log,” a blog is quite literally an online journal or diary. People join blogging sites to acquire a means of sharing their personal thoughts and opinions with the rest of the online community. These journals can be updated as frequently or infrequently as desired.
At first, blogging was seen as little more than a new fad aimed at bored people, but it was quickly realized the potential for change social networking presented was too great to ignore. A blog allows the average unknown person to become a personality online, sharing their creativity with an audience they would be unable to normally reach.
· Social Networking Sites: The two most popular social networking sites are MySpace and Facebook, both of which allow people to maintain an online profile for others to view. They can be considered as advanced blogs allowing the sharing of photos, audio and even video files. Users can maintain “friends” lists to keep in touch with all of their contacts.
Social networking sites have even gone so far as to allow people to exchange electronic versions of real-world gifts with each other as a sign of affection or message. For example, a young man could send his love interest a bouquet of virtual flowers. It is in this way social networking sites act in a complimentary manner to real-life interaction.
· Comments and Guest Books – Most applicable to online shoppers are comment sections and guest books. These allow people to rate, review and discuss the latest products and services listed on a website. One aspect of the study conducted by J.C. Williams Group indicated sixty percent of online shoppers use consumer reviews to influence their buying decision.
It is a natural behavior of humans to stick together and assist each other with projects and decisions. This shows more strongly than ever through the social networking scene, especially where comments and reviews are concerned.
Social Networking and Shoppers
After reviewing the above formats, it becomes easier to understand how powerful social networking can be when it comes to influencing consumer decisions. Rather than being forced to rely on advertisements or pure luck and fate to determine if something is worth buying, they can now find out what other people who have done so have to say about the product.
Online shopping is fast becoming a gigantic alternative to physically visiting retail outlets. It allows people to save money on gas, time required for the commute and the inconvenience of bringing large or awkward items back home from the store. It makes shopping possible for busy people who might only have five free minutes at home or work to devote to it.
Consider, for example, the idea of buying flowers as a gift for a friend. Originally, you’d have to head down to your local florist’s shop to find and place an order. Now, thanks to their online shop, you can do all of that from the comfort of your office chair. The entire process becomes available to you, from ordering to payment to arrangement of delivery.
Social networking ties directly into this process by helping influence decisions about what to buy. A large number of positive reviews will usually indicate a high-quality item, whereas the opposite is equally applicable. With the advancements in social networking technology that the online community is enjoying, it is feasible that this trend will only continue to grow.
Over the next few years it is projected we will continue to see the growth of social networking websites along with the resulting expanded cooperation between shoppers. Many businesses are taking advantage of the benefits of social networking to expand their level of customer service, suggesting social networking is not so much a trend as the way of the future.