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The Internet and social media have changed how we live our lives and affected how nearly every industry does business. People use the Internet and social media to stay informed, compare and buy products, and keep in touch with family and friends. Businesses use these platforms to build their brands and market their products. Nonprofits and government agencies use them to spread information about their programs and services. The Internet and social media industry provides another great benefit: jobs for people with a variety of educational backgrounds and skill sets.
The Internet is a worldwide network of computer networks linked through high-speed, high-volume telephone lines and cables, as well as via Wi-Fi connections. It has come a long way from its start in the 1960s as a vast, indestructible U.S. military computer network that could communicate even when under enemy attack. Today, the Internet is open to everyone and a major destination for information, commerce, entertainment, and communication.
Social media refers to user-created content (audio, text, video, multimedia) that is published and shared online. It is also the online technology that allows users to share content and communicate with one another. In a general sense, social media has been around since the beginning of the Internet, but Six Degrees, the first social-networking site, launched in 1997. Marketing professors Andreas Kaplan and Michael Haenlein identify six different types of social media. In their Business Horizons article, “Users of the World, Unite! The Challenges and Opportunities of Social Media,” they named the following:
The Internet and social media are major forces in U.S. commerce. Many online stores, or e-tailers, do not have a physical location and only sell their products on the Web. Also, most large, traditional “brick and mortar” retailers use the Internet and social media to market and sell their products and communicate with customers. Online companies also provide personal services ranging from online content, to computer and Internet security software, to software applications for almost any need or hobby, to dating and networking sites.
Business-to-business services are another major sector. Companies and other organizations need help creating Web sites, designing software, developing Internet and social-media marketing campaigns, creating digital infrastructure to accept online payments, and much more. Other industries that work closely with the Internet and social-media industry include computer hardware, electronics, design, advertising, and marketing.
Internet and social media companies range from established industry giants, such as Google, IBM, Amazon, eBay, Facebook, and LinkedIn, to thousands of start-ups that are still seeking to capture the public’s interest or find venture capital funding to build their brands. Internet and social-media companies are located throughout the United States, but often are headquartered in California, the Pacific Northwest, and New York City. Typical departments at these companies include:
There are many rewarding careers in the industry. Software engineers and designers, computer programmers, and other computer scientists are in demand, but so are workers with creative backgrounds such as writers, graphic designers, and marketing professionals. Workers with no technical or creative background may find jobs in administration, finance, law, and other areas.
One thing is certain about the Internet and social media industry: the field is growing, and it will offer a wide range of career opportunities for years to come.