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Social Media: Changing the World of Business Communication
Donna Greenwald Bowling Green State University
Every day on the radio and television we hear about Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs, MySpace, and YouTube and are asked to “follow” organizations through social media to provide feedback or stay up to date on news events or product releases. It seems social media are a driving new force that is affecting the way people communicate, both personally and professionally. Businesses are finding social media a great way to communicate with customers and their own employees in a more cost effective way. As business communication educators we may wonder how many people are actually using these sites and, out of those who are accessing social media, are they just young college-age people and computer “techies”? Are businesses adopting these new communication tools or are social media sites just a fad that will pass in a year or two? As we know, communication within a business setting drives course content for business communication classes. So, if businesses are using social media, then are business communication educators teaching it in their classes? If they are not, then should it be part of the curriculum? Review of Literature A thorough review about social media began in order to find answers to the questions posed. The first journal to be investigated was Business Communication Quarterly, since this is one of the primary publications for business communication educators. After searching through the past several years of issues, no articles about social media were found. However, there was one article about what content is taught in U.S. business communication courses. This would help to answer one of the main questions posed – Is social media being taught in U.S. business communication courses? According to a study published by Travis Russ late last year, the category of social media was not mentioned as course content by those business communication educators surveyed (2009). Written communication was the most covered topic, but an increasing number of courses balanced oral communication with written compared to previous audits (Russ, 2009). Respondents also gave emphasis to résumé writing and effective email strategies (Russ, 2009). Less time was given to other technologies such as instant/text messaging and video conferencing (Russ, 2009). No reference to social media was found in his study. Russ (2009) speculates that one reason for the absence in his study of technologies that compete with email may be that these media have only recently been established in business settings. In addition, he states that instructors may be unfamiliar or uncomfortable with these media and do not believe they are competent enough to include them in their courses. This was helpful information, but more searching was needed to answer the other questions. Thus, the search was expanded to various communication and business-related databases using key search words

Proceedings of the 75th Annual Convention of the Association for Business Communication October 27-30, 2010 – Chicago, Illinois

such as “social media” and “social media in business.” However, few academic journals contained research on social media, either theoretical articles or published studies of their impact in the classroom or in a business setting. The next step was to conduct a general search using Google. This wider search brought up articles, mostly from mass-media types of publications, Web sites, and blogs that discussed who is using social networking sites and how they are being used, especially by businesses. Findings Thanks to the introduction of social media, the power of consumer-driven communication is transforming how businesses communicate. It is a revolution in communication that is shaking up the traditional one-way communication where a message is controlled by a business and delivered to its audience. Now the consumer determines the message and...
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