Social media geography

We all know how much new social media has pretty much changed the way how we view the world. Before its advent, everyone seemed so far away, so disconnected. We were all limited to our relatively small networks. “Networking” seemed to be something a privilege that only the truly personable (or those who work in Public Relations) enjoy. Ever since social networking sites (SNS) took flight, everyone was given the chance to connect with people and the best part was that it’s free.

During the early years leading to the social media boom of today, there weren’t a lot of things to do: just plain blogging and social networking per se. Nowadays you have a plethora of choices ranging from video-blogging to micro-blogging, from SNS catering to professionals to SNS catering to consenting adults (you know what I mean by this). There’s really something for everyone. Given that, competition between like web services only made the reach of social media even more vast. In effect, there’s more than one site offering the same kind of service.

The 2010 Social Networking Map

The 2010 Social Networking Map

Just like how the world today churned out superpowers like the USA and the UK, the digital realm also has website equivalents who lead the pack. But unlike the global political landscape, the number of users of a particular social media site is directly proportional to the power that it wields on society as a whole. In fact, if we were to create an alternate map of the world according to the number of users of such websites, we’d find Facebook as the most populated with Habbo and Twitter coming in second and third respectively. It’s also interesting to note that there are some sites which have somehow lost their power in maintaining their netizens within their borders (yes, exoduses do happen and is best exemplified by the emigration from Friendster and MySpace over to Facebook). We can also see from the map some sites which are slowly gaining some foothold in the global social media environment. It won’t be long when they will eventually surpass existing SNS giants. Who knows how long the golden age of Facebook will last. We, the netizens, dictate what’s hot and what’s not, after all.

It’s amazing how many people are already wired but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Not everyone has access to the internet and thus what this represents is only a fraction of the entire human population. Just imagine how much bigger these redefined continents would be should everyone pick their social media ponies. An interesting paradox, however, is that no matter how big those continents could get, the power of the internet can make it feel just the opposite.


When plain old marketing just won’t cut it anymore…

It seems that relying solely on deep-seated customer loyalty will no longer guarantee the much-anticipated profit turnout. To survive in the cutthroat world of business, one must possess not only a thick leathery hide for criticism but also a very much good sense of the global economy. It is undeniable that the global financial crisis of 2007 has left a lot of casual casualties (in terms of businesses) in its wake and the ill effects of the initial downturn spiral of the world’s finances are still being felt today albeit some period of recovery. Even publicly listed industry juggernauts felt the pressure of cutting back spending and rethinking their already-laid-out strategies in keeping their target markets buying their wares. Such is the case of  certain luxury fashion houses.

Fashion used to be a bit of a technophobic industry. Kaiser Karl [Lagerfeld] himself admitted to being a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to using the internet, saying: “I don’t use a computer; I do research with my brain, And if I want or need to — I get people to do it for me.” Fashion (and celebrity blog) darling Marc Jacobs on the other hand has developed a rather steady relationship with the internet, being an avid commenter on blogs. Designers Nicolas Ghesquiere and Miuccia Prada, however, both are clueless in terms of using the internet.

Prada official website

Prada official website

Prada US online store

Prada US online store

Nowadays, more high-end brands are embracing the internet and if I’m not mistaken have made it into their new marketplace of sorts. Since the tangible markets (read: boutiques) are losing their potency in generating customer interest in brands, labels are now tapping the new democratic (if I do say so myself) medium which is social media. Of course, online shopping is not exactly a brand-spanking-new phenomenon, but it is only now that these fashion giants learn to utilize it (or rather milk it of its potential in raking in customers old and new). Of course, this will not replace the joy of actually going to a store and trying on clothes but it certainly helps in ensuring patrons of easy accessibility to their products. It must be effective since a lot of labels have already begun selling online or have plans to do so in the near future — Jimmy Choo, Hugo Boss, Lancôme, St. John, Theory, Donna Karan, La Perla, among others. Prada, most notably, launched their US online store last June 30th.

The implication here to corporate strategists is to be very receptive the changing needs and interests of the publics whom they serve. Rethinking a company’s marketing and communication strategies can certainly mean a lot especially with the volatile condition of the world’s economy. This goes very much hand-in-hand with one of our lectures in class wherein company websites are proving to be a very profitable venture that brands can rely on in promoting themselves. One simply cannot adhere to very rigid and traditional marketing styles. Like haute couture, one must try to customize their strategy according to the business environment. After all, the worst thing to happen if you’re in the fashion industry is to be out of style, both technologically and sartorially.

Paper is so ten years ago

I think it’s safe to say that not a lot of people appreciate books anymore. With most of the world being more fixated on their computer screens, it’s amazing how publishing houses still rake in money. The solution? Make books and magazines digital of course! It’s really amazing how the first published books in human history were only made available to those who have the sufficient funds, not to mention social status, to avail of these then-considered luxury items. Now, it seems, books, magazines, newspapers, and all other print media can be had almost anywhere. Lately, however, the rise of mass media translated into more people favoring these new developments. Some people no longer turn to print for their daily dose of news; instead they opt for Yahoo! News or other online news-providing bodies. Others don’t bother reading entire novels and instead rely on film or television adaptations of certain works. Let’s face it, not a lot of people are into reading things on paper because of the subconscious association of it to tediousness. We may not realize it, but we already give printed materials a negative connotation and that is “work.” Given these examples, one might think print is a dying medium. Well, not exactly.

As we’ve learned from Sir Isaac Newton, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. The shift towards digital media definitely made publishing houses rethink their strategies. Rather than spend more on promoting their printed products, they simply offered an alternative approach in ensuring that their target audiences will read their publications. They resolved this by introducing the idea of the e-book or electronic book, which of course we know as the digital counterparts of houses’ inked and bound predecessors. Of course, they didn’t stop at just books. E-zines or electronic magazines soon flourished, so did online versions of newspapers and academic journals. Some of the very evident benefits to having a paperless method of information sharing is the reduced waste. Paper is certainly a commodity that diminishes as fast as any rainforest from which its raw materials are sourced from. Second, it ensues the readership of its target stakeholders. That being said, it also makes it even more accessible to a broader audience since almost everyone has an internet connection nowadays. I’ve mentioned earlier that we tend to avoid literature on paper, digital versions of these seem less intimidating by virtue of the thickness of the collective binding of pages. In short, PDFs are a lot less frightening. This paved the way for social publishing sites like Scribd and Issuu.

Vanity Teen 9

Vanity Teen 9

Vanity Teen 9

Vanity Teen 9

Vanity Teen 9

Vanity Teen 9

Just to add, e-zines are also growing more and more popular. At first, books and newspapers were gaining steady readership online but now so do magazines. Apart from the mainstream magazines dominating the market, the internet has given smaller, independent magazine houses a medium in which they can promote their publication and achieve momentum in terms of getting subscribers and advocates. Among my favorites are Vanity Teen and 160g. As you may have guessed, these are fashion magazines. E-magazines Publications like these have very specific niche markets and I guess that given their considerably small (but growing) fan-bases, it won’t be long that they reach mainstream success because of the internet. The best part about it is that they don’t have to spend as much for paper as big-name publishers do.

P.S. Do check out Vanity Teen Issue 9, featuring a 20-page editorial featuring Francisco Lachowski, photographed by Marley Kate.

Tumblr and then split (My case against excessive reblogging)

Each website has a unique way of obtaining its fair share of regular users and subscribers: be it through an innovative platform, a clever marketing strategy, or simply a fresh take on an old idea. We all know how Facebook suddenly took the Philippines by storm and in effect forced tech-savvy social butterflies (read: the middle class) to flee from the much maligned Friendster to migrate to their site. Most former users cite the overcrowding and the “lowering of standards” because of the prevalence of the so-called “jejemon” crowd. Facebook somehow gave the promise of an egalitarian society (free from outrageous custom HTML/CSS and a plethora of embedded YouTube videos and glitter graphics) that caters to those who believe that social networking should be done in a clean, streamlined, and user-friendly interface.

Lately it seems, that mass indeed followed class. Soon enough the everyone is jumping on the bandwagon, with the people whom the digital elite have ditched for Facebook slowly making their presence felt in the new “netizen” stronghold. And then came Tumblr. Tumblr was in many ways like Facebook except only a few people in the Philippines knew about. Once again, the upper classes came running to Tumblr, thinking “Sanctuary!” Whilst Facebook has yet to have its foundations crumble like Friendster and MySpace before it, Tumblr continues to be somewhat of an seemingly exclusive online community, despite the fact that it is very much open for all.

Why use Tumblr anyway? For one thing, Tumblr has the sharing features of Facebook (e.g. photos, links, videos, audio, etc.) minus the restrictive attitude it has regarding who can see what you post, much like unprotected Tweets are on Twitter. It is, for the most part, a great marriage between the two other sites I’ve mentioned but is actually a blog host site. Like Twitter, you can easily follow anyone you think is interesting enough so you can keep up with them. It takes away the awkwardness of having to ask permission to be someone’s friend, as with Facebook. Since it is a blogging platform in the first place, it is much like WordPress and Blogger in the sense that you can post whatever you want, when you want. In sum, Tumblr makes use of each website mentioned’s individual strength and condensing it into one.

An example of some people's cynical attitude towards the typical Tumblr post and aesthetic.

An example of some people's cynical attitude towards the typical Tumblr post and aesthetic

But if it’s all good, then why am I even writing this entry? As an old-school blogger, it somehow disappoints me that Tumblr is just being used to rehash other people’s general statements instead of actually bothering to write an actual entry on it. Since it is immensely popular nowadays in the country (which, I may add, has a relatively poor educational system), more Filipinos are opting for the easy way to blog. It basically has little or no effort required to convey an idea. One simply reblogs and reblogs without actually divulging anything substantial from their life experiences, which of course is the very core purpose of a blog. I, for one, believe that any blog, micro or not, should be an avenue wherein people can practice their communication skills. Tumblr, I think, is a fad that cultivates the disease of laziness that was inherited by Filipinos.

I really have nothing against people who use Tumblr but for those who just join for the sake of reblogging everything that they see, it really bothers me. It has somehow become a popularity contest wherein people share information not because they want other people to see it, but for them to be credited and be followed. I feel that if one has to reblog, one must also provide some insight as to why he or she decided to reblog it. I must admit that it is somewhat hypocritical of me because I am sometimes guilty of being an active over-sharer of things I find interesting but there should be some substance to the person behind all the things that he or she shares. I understand completely that not everyone will agree with me but I simply want blogs to be like blogs again. It’s either that or consider Tumblr as an altogether different kind of service. The whole concept of a blog is somehow lost since what one re-blogs is not necessarily one’s own thoughts but the thoughts (or photo representing said thought) of another person.

I must confess that it is hard to rationalize my jaded attitude towards Tumblr and put it into words. Maybe it is because of my preference for “traditional” blogging (which is based more on writing) or maybe it is because I haven’t tried it yet. Who knows? I might try it later on so I can finally put to rest my dissonant cognitions regarding this issue. However, probably by the time that I do decide to register an account, everyone else might have already tumbled and split to a new social networking site.

The power of (fashion) blogging

Two days ago, I was invited to a product launch party for Sally Hansen’s new Insta-Dri Fast Dry Nail Polish. During my on-the-job training over the summer, I learned that as a Public Relations practitioner, a good reputation should always come hand-in-hand with a good consumer relationship. That being said, our company invited the editors of the country’s most prestigious fashion glossies (Zo Aguila, Editor-in-Chief of Cosmopolitan Philippines and Cindy Go, Beauty Editor of Preview, among others) to try the product firsthand as well as cover the event, which included a mini-collection presented by renowned designer Tina Daniac. Needless to say, the event was a hit among the editors as well as to the distributor of Sally hansen products in the country, Unisell Corporation.

Sally Hansen

Sally Hansen: America's #1 Nail Expert

Now, how does blogging fit in to this picture you ask? Well, I had the privilege of being introduced to Miss Daniac at some point during the soirée and while we were having a little chit-chat about the evening’s activities, she mentioned that events like that should have more bloggers in the guest list. I was dumbstruck for a moment with her remark. At first I thought, “Us? seriously?” There has always been a long-standing hostility towards fashion bloggers in the Western world particularly because some can be relentless in their criticisms and given their fair share of regular readers, spell h-e-a-d-a-c-h-e to most designers, especially if they get scathing reviews. There are however, a fabulous few who actually have much respect in the industry in their blogging ventures, take Tavi Gevinson (The Style Rookie) for instance. Anyway there I was, conversing with a Philippine Fashion Week darling who was consequently disproving my earlier belief. Later I realized that, in the Philippine context, it made perfect sense.

It is common knowledge that the local fashion industry has yet to have the due recognition and loyal customer base it deserves from the Filipino people. In other countries, fashion is “big business.” Here, only those who know of the industry’s existence (beyond the mass-market brands like Bench, Penshoppe, and the like) are the ones who get to appreciate it and in turn buy from it. Given this dilemma, what better way to achieve sufficient publicity through a wide range of media? From the point-of-view of fashion designers, making money is necessary to strengthen their respective businesses. Publicity is a commodity for them as much as fabric and thread.

Sally Hansen Insta-Dri Fast Dry Nail Polish Press Launch.

Sally Hansen Insta-Dri Fast Dry Nail Polish Press Launch

With fashion bloggers (and blogging, in general), they are able to tap into their target market who do not make much use of print media. We know that a blogger can be a potential opinion leader and in turn can convince his or her readers to take into consideration whatever it is that he or she recommends or gives an opinion about. In short, blogs step in where mainstream journalism stops. They reinforce what big-name journalists say about a certain designer but at the same time, can go against them. Regardless of what the reader chooses to believe, the publicity generated is valuable to any designer who wants to make a lasting impression in the local fashion scene. Needless to say, fashion blogging is Public Relations at work. Granted that at least one blogger (with a sizable readership, that is) gives a positive response to a product (or in the case of Miss Daniac, a mini-collection), it can possibly lead to more potential consumers.

I realized that this is very much an application of what we were talking about last Saturday during our OrCom 152 class. Nowadays, the broadcast model of communication is no longer the most ideal structure of communication. The playing field has been leveled off because of the current preference towards a more interactive model. One now has the liberty to choose whose opinion to adhere to. Also, putting it in the perspective of the Social Media model, the more people who share this information, the more likely will an organization (Unisell Corporation, for one) can flourish with the products and services it provides. With this new way of information exchange, building lasting customer relations just got a whole lot easier.

P.S. Sally Hansen’s new line of nail polish did not disappoint. Also, Tina’s collection was amazing! *winks*