|Students at a primary school in Jinan, Shandong province, learn the dance made popular by South Korean online video sensation Gangnam Style. (CHINA DAILY/ Zheng Tao)|
A few years ago, if someone said Microsoft's popular MSN Messenger would shut down, that a smartphone could be used like a walkie-talkie or praised a 140-character online text called a micro blog, you would have thought they were out of their mind.
These are all part of the magic of social media, which is always confronted with challenges as well as opportunities. It's hard to overemphasize the influence of these new media on people, and the year 2012 witnessed a series of milestones in the industry.
Zhao Zizhong, head of the New Media Institute, Communication University of China, said social media reflects aspects of social life and the segmentation of these media is increasingly obvious.
"Social media vividly reflects social phenomena. For example, celebrities, always the favorites of newspapers and TV, have found a new stage in social media and compete with each other in the virtual world," he said.
Zhao said society's thinking is increasingly reflected in social media, such as anti-corruption campaigns online and government officials opening micro blog accounts to make their work more transparent.
According to Zhao, major social and business activities are interconnected in online media. For example, e-commerce providers communicate with consumers and run promotions online.
"Social media have special phenomena, such as virtual online celebrities and WeChat, which will keep popping up," he said.
Social media must be commercialized, he said, and the providers, such as micro blog platforms, should figure out a proper profit pattern.
"Social media may face big changes in the future. Their market is absolutely fierce and technology support is very important. Also, the attitudes of mainstream social media corporations play vital roles."
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