Social Media: Impact on How We Learn, Relate and Interact

By Dr. Cheryl Cottle

Social media has revolutionized how we communicate and has had a great impact on globalization and changed the way business is done with great implications to women in business in particular. It has also impacted how we learn, relate and interact with each other. It has changed our perceptions of each other. Essentially, social media has had a great impact on education. It has opened us up to global learning ― transcending nations and cultures. Women-owned businesses are now becoming the focus of discussion throughout the world. Leaders in collaboration with community-based organizations and women are creating greater hope through policies and legislations, to make women lives through entrepreneurship more meaningful.

The emergence of social media also saw the materialization of women in business in developed and developing nations thinking of ways to expand their businesses to reach a more international market. Fair Trade and the growing number of social media have also created opportunities for women in remote parts of the world to get their products to an international audience:  We are now seeing craft from remote villages in Africa and Latin America, on the market. People are now having access to these products, from a wholesale and retail perspective, working direct with the creators and producers of beautiful products.

Women in business in the United States are also reaching a wider market with their products and services. Women with skills and knowledge in areas of accounting, education, training and development, law, real estate, nursing, self empowerment, spirituality and other service industries are no longer confined to the States that they live in, but is able to access customers across the United States and globally. The same is occurring in other areas including craft, fashion design, photography, event planning, interior decorating, architect and other creative businesses. These creative entrepreneurs are now using social media to gain visibility and establish their brand with the hope of getting recognized and increasing their client base and profitability.  

Research shows that governments across the globe have started initiatives to facilitate women owned businesses, so that they can become sustainable ventures where they can contribute to their social, economic and political development and contribute to the development of nation-building overall. Entrepreneur training forms a great part of the training for women, to prepare them to succeed and to reduce the failure rate of women ― owned businesses. Training in computer technology to facilitate business management is another support provided. This together with language development, are now made available to women in countries who face language as a barrier to succeed in women entrepreneurship.

Finance for start-up and other development initiatives like participation in tradeshows, whole sale buying, accessing training and development opportunities, production and manufacturing, machinery and technology purchase, are also a concern for women entrepreneurs, and are making demands that these needs are met. Family support is another concern for women in business, particularly the need for child-care support for entrepreneurs that combines entrepreneurship with motherhood.

On social media platform like Facebook, we hear the voices of women and see their initiative in the many groups that they have formed, with the goal of empowering women. My personal group Women in Business was developed to reach women with an entrepreneurial venture; both the professional business woman and those involved in an entrepreneurial venture regardless of its size, sector or industries. Women not yet involved are also invited to participate, and to observe what other women are doing so that they too could take incentive if they so desire to become entrepreneurial.  

Since the inception of Facebook, one of the leading social media platform, over seven hundred million people from across the globe have joined. It has been very forward in its design and delivery, providing access to people for free to communicate at various levels  ― personal, social, cultural, business, political, and health to list some of the economic and social benefits.  Research also shows that the number of users on Twitter, a micro-blogging site has also grown comparably with Facebook. The world has become a global village with networking linkages formed by individuals, businesses, organizations and groups. Every institution in society is now using social media to communicate their messages and goals. People of all ages; from the very young to the over 60’s are using social media for connecting with friends, forging family connection, making friend connections, conducting research, collaborating with others in joint ventures, and empowering and supporting each other.

It is a global village where no one is discriminated. Social media sites are bedrock of resources, where every demography is represented. Regardless of race, class, political affiliation, sexual orientation, age and gender, everyone is represented and treated equally. Here everyone has access. Social media affords a space for the sharing of information. Here you can find information for any problem that you may have; or answers to questions that you might have. People are quick to provide you with empowering thoughts and positive information to build your knowledge overall.

Research shows that schools are using social media for teaching and learning with great success.  Students are learning and it has the capabilities to facilitate social interaction, social learning, and collaborative knowledge building and the potential to generate new ideas and create new knowledge. Computer Supported Intentional Learning Environments and computer mediated conferencing has been used to facilitate teaching and learning and research; and there has been earlier innovations used prior to the 1990’s to encourage the sharing of information, facilitating learning and fostering intercultural understanding.

Social media however has made communal and global learning more accessible to everyone. In addition it is also free. One only needs the communication medium ― a computer and Internet connection to make it possible to interact. In its earlier stage of development using web-based technology for teaching and learning was costly making its use very prohibitory. Even with Internet connection, and the availability of computers, the cost for the software and teacher training made it accessible to be integrated into classrooms across the globe.

Women have created groups that cover every interest and issues that are of interest for women’s empowerment and social and economical development and they are actively participating in their own growth. They are learning from each other by observing and emulating. Many have had the chance to make networking connection and are engaging in joint ventures. Many of these connections are transnational and trans-cultural, but they are working quite effectively and they are benefiting all those who dare to be actively involved.

Some of the features of social media sites make it easy for communication. Facebook is one such social media site. The “discussion board” a great feature in groups, as well as the “comment” section” together with the “News Feeds” and one’s status line, together with Face book’s collaboration with other developers makes it easier for the user to keep abreast with new information as well as provide opportunities to share information.

Facebook also affords the users with options to talk to each other through its “chat” forum. In addition, the flexibility that it provides its users to utilize a combination of media including videos, photographs, and links to websites and blog, has made it a truly interactive space, where learning and sharing occurs ― and not in a formal way but informally and at one’s own pace. Most groups on Facebook ask their members to introduce themselves to the group so that the other members can get to know them better. This activity provides an opportunity for each member to showcase who they are and what they do ― it is a branding of some sorts and it provide an opportunity for connecting with others who might also be interested in the product or services that you business promotes. 

While large organizations are thinking of how best to integrate social media into their technology and marketing plans, smaller businesses and women-owned businesses in particular are also adapting and adjusting to the technology changes and social media innovations that has emerged.

To business women, who are engaged in a creative business, retail, or affiliate business, it is recommended that you integrate Facebook and Twitter into your business marketing strategy. They have the capabilities to reach your target audience and niche market. Professional business women is best advised to used LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter; these allow you to connect with and network with other professionals in your field as well as make connection to a large customer-pool.

In summary, social media has been very revolutionary since its inception. There is opportunity for every type of business, both small and large to connect with their target audience to promote and grow a sustainable business. Social media does not discriminate in terms of who should be a part. However to get maximum benefit from it, one must engage in an analysis of the forum in terms of how it can be of benefit to you and your business goals and objective, the time and cost to effectively use it, and what strategies and techniques to apply to make the best use of the social media of your choice.

Written by Dr. Cheryl Cottle, Ed.D  
Education Specialist, ICT Expert and Coach and Mentor

Was first written: Wednesday, March 23, 2011

© Copyright 2011 by Dr. Cheryl Cottle of Cottle’s Professional Consulting. All Rights Reserved.