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A recent experience with a very successful event that was announced solely via social media prompted me to examine my social network usage. For me, social networks started as a way to keep in touch with friends and family that I’m geographically distanced from. Then I began using it more and more to communicate with individuals that I see on a regular basis. Our comments on social networks are just another part of our ongoing conversations.

Recently I’ve noticed that I actually utilize social media for much more than conversation. I hear about large stories via posts from friends. I read the articles that look interesting and don’t have to sift through multiple pages on news websites. I also find out about upcoming events: concerts, theater performances, new movies and books. The Facebook Clubs feature is quite handy for organizing events —I’m in a few of them now and they’re a great way for everyone to communicate and make plans. Some people use social networks for entertainment. They’re friends with famous individuals that intrigue them and have interesting things to say. How many Twitter followers is Ashton Kutcher up to these days anyway?

In the beginning, social networks were a way for people to connect and maintain long-distance relationships. Now it seems that they’re essential for staying up-to-date and informed. It’s expected that you’re aware not only of what your friends are doing, but what celebrities and politicians are up to, as well as what events and news stories are topping the popular interest charts. Awareness seems to be a primary function of social media today.

What’s more, advertisers know that social media usage is continually rising. Thus, they’re becoming more and more adept at utilizing social media technologies to increase brand recognition. Targeted ads provide individuals with a personalized touch. I’ve pretty much always ignored online ads (although if you do know the age-old secret for eliminating belly fat, please contact me). However, I actually click a Facebook ad from time to time and usually discover a great new site.

With so many possibilities for social media, advertising and connectedness, how do you think sites will continue to provide valuable content to users without becoming just another place where individuals are being barraged with ads?