Recent developments in social networking sites indicate that this form of web communication is continuing to grow and expand. Social media provides a powerful way for people to connect and communicate in an online environment, but the platform has evolved into much more. Recent developments indicate that social media can be major economic players in the world market, as well as provide powerful ways for people to get involved in - and even bring about - political and social change.
Five Key Developments in Social Media
1. Facebook IPO
During the same week that Facebook celebrated its eighth birthday, CEO Mark Zuckerberg filed an initial public offering, or IPO. As of early 2012 Facebook contained over 845 million active users. Plus, it earned $3.7 billion in sales during 2011. Assuming the estimated valuation of $100 billion stated in the IPO was correct, Facebook was therefore worth 4 times as much as Google was worth when it went public in 2004. Zuckerberg still has not received a reply to the IPO as of March of 2012, but continues beefing up Facebook by launching the new Timeline feature, which effectively condenses one's life into a 'status update timeline' containing photos, friendships and personal milestones.
2. 100 Million Klout Scores
Launched in September, 2009, Klout reached a milestone of 100 million users with Klout scores in September, 2011. For clarification, Klout applies social media analytics to measure its users' social networking influence. Higher scores indicate more influence and strength, while lower scores indicate users need to engage their audience more. As Klout has grown, so has its own influence, as it now covers over 10 social networks, including but not limited to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. However, some critics question Klout's scoring mechanism, claiming it promotes social ranking over authentic online communication. Plus, they've noted the questionable statistic that President Obama has a lower Klout score than many bloggers.
3. Google+ Authorship
A few months after its launch in September, 2011, the Google+ social network established Google authorship. This service allowed website owners to link their content to their Google+ profiles, thus proving to Google that their Web content was real and not plagiarized. This had the serendipitous side effect of driving authored pages' ranks higher, which in turn irritated other networks like Facebook and Twitter. They claimed that Google was intentionally giving precedence to pages linked to its own network. Furthermore, some countries such as China and Iran immediately blocked Google+ from their networks, thus also blocking out those pages tied to Google+.
4. Twitter Revolution
According to CNN, social networks were "essential in the case of Egypt," as they played a pivotal role in the ability of citizens in Egypt to organize during the 2011-2012 Egyptian revolution. Numerous bloggers and citizen journalists utilized online networks like Facebook, Twitter and Flickr to report on events occurring in Egypt. This led to the Egyptian government shutting down Internet access on January 26, 2011 as a way to impede progress by protesters. Despite the government's efforts, however, the revolution eventually proved successful. Hosni Mubarak was ousted from power and efforts to and the country's first-ever parliamentary election was held.
5. Kony 2012
In March, 2012, the not-for-profit organization Invisible Children began an Internet video campaign known as Kony 2012. In particular, the organization created a video documentary and then used social media platforms like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter to spread it. Within a matter of days, over 70 million people had viewed the video. The event shocked the news media, as reporters had been trying for years to inform the general public about Joseph Kony, the head of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in Uganda. Though Invisible Children came under fire for some of its methodologies, their campaign at the very least displayed the awesome power of social networking -- especially when used for meaningful purposes.
The Power Of Social Media
The events of the past few years, from the IPO of Facebook to the release of the Kony video, demonstrate just how powerful social media has become in this day and age. Though it was originally formed simply to help family and friends stay in touch, social media has since evolved into an international force with the power to affect business, politics and world affairs. The question remains, though: how much more powerful can it yet still become? Unfortunately, only time will tell.