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The internet as a social media: Fundamentally Changing Business

Will the availability and use of social media on the Internet really induce businesses to change in fundamental ways? If so, how? If not, why not?

In July 2009, a musician named Dave Carroll was traveling with his band from Toronto Canada to Nebraska somewhere, much like many millions of other folks have done. Looking out the window the plane, however, Dave noticed that the United Airlines baggage handlers were, to put it mildly, failing to treat his rather expensive guitar and a number of other musical instruments belonging to the band with suitable care, preferring instead to sort of fling them through the air into the cargo hold. Dave pointed out to the UAL cabin attendants that this was not likely to be of significant benefit to the instruments' health, but was told that nothing could be done and he should simply sit down and be quiet.

Upon arriving in Chicago, Dave determined that in fact he had been right, and his $2400 guitar was now $2400 worth of rather expensive kindling. He pointed this out to the United Airlines staff at the time, and suggested that perhaps some compensation might be in order. United Airlines, in the best bureaucratic tradition, took almost a year to conclude that its folks certainly hadn't done anything wrong, that Dave was probably just being excessively picky, and that they weren't about to pony up anything. After all, weren't they a Fortune 25 company engaged in a conflict with one rather slender young musician? It seemed like a classic application of the business motto once attributed to the old monolithic AT&T: 'We're the phone company. We don't care. We don't have to.'

So what does this all mean? Is it just a cute little song that somehow made it big -- the proverbial flash in a pan -- or is it actually a vision of a new kind of relationship between companies and customers mediated by the larger world of social media? It could be either, or anything in between. One thing is clear, however -- this could not have happened even as recently as 2 to 3 years ago. It's probably equally clear that we're going to see a lot more of it -- and we're going to see a lot more things like this using tools and technologies that are today still barely on the drawing boards, if they've even gotten that far out of the heads of the smart 12-year-olds who are going to be billionaires before they need to shave.

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Will the availability and use of social media on the Internet really induce businesses to change in fundamental ways? If so, how? If not, why not?

The impact of Social Media in the form of Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and blogs and other websites on our society as a whole cannot be understated. Here are a few examples:

Justin Bieber was an unknown Canadian teen musician. He posted a video of himself on YouTube. It was discovered by Scooter Braun, a Talent Manager. Justin Bieber is now a household name and international star. "Justin Bieber Biography & Awards". Billboard. http://www.billboard.com/artist/justin-bieber/bio/1099520. Retrieved August 15th, 2011

During the recent upheaval in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, much of the news came not from major new organizations with camera crews in the streets, but individuals with cell phones, posting updates on Twitter and videos on YouTube. Researchers believe, that social media played a significant role in shaping the political debates surrounding the upheavals in Arab world, termed the Arab Spring. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110914161733.htm retrieved September 15, 2011.

"Our evidence suggests that social media carried a cascade of messages about freedom and democracy across North Africa and the Middle East, and helped raise expectations for the success of political uprising," said Philip Howard, the project lead and an associate professor in communication at the University of Washington. "People who shared interest in ...

Solution Summary

The Solution investigates the use of social media and its ability to influence businesses.