Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter… The list goes on. There can be no denying the fact that social networking is a huge part of our lives these days. Wading through the sea of social networking sites can be daunting for some.
Facebook’s founder, Mark Zuckerberg, has been attributed with something people are now calling “Zuckerberg’s Law of Sharing”. He said that right now, people share, on average, twice as many things as they did last year; he goes on to postulate that next year, we will be sharing twice what we are now. Even if sharing numbers don’t actually double, as Zuckerberg thinks they will, we already know that social networks are a major repository of potential customers. Businesses of all types and sizes have begun to see the benefit of using social networking sites as a place to advertise to, engage, and pull in customers.
Facebook is the second most-visited website on the internet today (Google.com is first, not surprisingly). There are 845 million users on Facebook who actively participate on the site each month. That is a staggering number of users! Facebook content circulates with “Likes” and “Shares”; users can choose either option in response to a post, page, or outside website with the correct functionality. A like denotes the fact that the user enjoys the post or page, and a share is how a user reposts the content to their wall for their friends to see. You can share any outside web page by copying the URL in to a status update, but the functionality to like a page must be added in to it directly, however, users can still like the URL posting in the newsfeed.
Facebook recently launched a new profile interface they call “Timeline”. The Timeline interface has been controversial, as most changes to Facebook interfaces are. The Timeline features a banner, called “cover” by Facebook, photo as well as a profile picture when viewing someone’s profile. Information and photos are now accessible by clicking on links under the cover profile; the next section of content is a complete listing (which auto-populates as you scroll down the page) of all the public posts of the user, in order by date. Many people have had reservations over the privacy of this new format, and it is recommended that users adjust their privacy settings to adapt to the Timeline. Regardless of liking or disliking the new format, most users have, by now, been forced to adopt the new Timeline. Now, Facebook is pushing Timeline for business pages. Right now the change isn’t required, but I suspect that soon any business using Facebook as a platform for reaching customers will soon need to adapt to the new interface.
There have also been a few business-related developments for Facebook recently. On April 9, 2012, Facebook announced that they were purchasing Instagram for $1 billion in a combination of stocks and cash. Shortly after Facebook bought Instagram, on May 18, 2012, Facebook gave out its Initial Public Offering (IPO) of over 150 million stocks which opened at $38 a share. They sold 82 million shares in the first 30 seconds. The shares closed on the market at $38.23, not a huge jump in value. This was a big move for Facebook, and not everyone thinks this is a good thing; but I’ll leave that decision up to you. The Facebook stock (FB) is, at the time of writing, valued at $20.94 per share.
Twitter holds strong for its 465 million users as a place to post quick updates for others to see. The profiles are much less image-intensive; the emphasis is on the updates, or “Tweets” that a user posts during their day. Users can “Follow” other users, brands, or celebrities. Once you follow an account, you will see their updates in your newsfeed. Each Tweet can be reposted as a re-Tweet. This will repost a Tweet from a user’s newsfeed in to their updates, where their followers can see it; re-Tweeting even keeps a reference to the original user, so Tweets can easily be tracked to the source.
In recent news, Twitter is making changes in the way their Application Programming Interface (API) can be used by developers. One major change is that in the new version, there will be a cap on the number of user tokens an application may possess. Permission can be granted by Twitter for more tokens, but it seems unclear as to how. Twitter has also recently announced that they now support the “Do Not Track” option to their users. This is a browser setting the user can activate that tells sites that the user does not want their personal information tracked. This option is part of a larger movement to bring more control to the users over their information on the internet.
Google now has its own social network. Google + is much like Facebook, and it pioneered the idea of different groups (“circles”) of friends. Each post a user makes may be filtered to be shown to only certain circles, or filtered to be hidden from specific circles. This allows for much easier customization of post privacy. Google + has a “+1” button which basically has the functionality of Facebook’s like and share options. You +1 a page to say you like it, and then can share it to your chosen circles. A user’s +1’s get a special tab on their profile page, so that everything they have shared using +1 can be viewed, or not, as their settings allow.
Google + is yet another aspect of a Google account, joining with the rest of the Google suite of applications. The network is holding its own, and even expanding; with over 90 million users and counting, it looks like they may be able to hold their own against giants Facebook and Twitter. Being part of the Google brand gives the network a definite leg-up, but they’ve been able to keep their user base by constantly refining the interfaces and layouts to make them more appealing and easy to use. What started as a fairly convoluted process is now becoming more streamlined and intuitive.
Google has very recently made a move that will impact their social network in a big way. Recently, they purchased an online marketing company called Wildfire. Wildfire is a service for brands to centralize all their social network marketing in one place. Using Wildfire’s services, a company can simultaneously advertise to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google + and other. Brands such as Sony, Verizon, and Unilever all use Wildfire.
LinkedIn is a social networking site that is centered on professional networking. Profiles are based around education, work experience, and professional relationships rather than the personal lives of the user. LinkedIn is a great place to meet people in your field. LinkedIn has over 135 million members, in every imaginable field of experience, from students to CEOs. Companies can have profiles, as well as individuals. Many organizations use LinkedIn to help them recruit people in the correct field for employment positions.
LinkedIn has been steadily increasing their reach, recently rolling out many language options such as Czech, Polish, and Norwegian. They also recently bought SlideShare, a site based around giving professionals and students a place to upload presentations. Presentations can then be shared on several social networks. You can even set up meetings through the website. No doubt, the functionality of this website will be a boon to LinkedIn, whose target audience is professionals looking to network and collaborate.
Pinterest is a new network that lets users “pin” pages they like to a sort of virtual corkboard. Started in December of 2009, Pinterest has experienced immense growth, and now has over 10 million users. Pinterest links up with a Facebook account to share the board across both platforms; this has undoubtedly contributed to its success.
Instagram is a photo sharing app, and so much more. Users can snap photos with their mobile devices, add filters to the image, and post the images directly to Facebook, Twitter or email from their device. Instagram now has 10 million users, and is even younger than Pinterest. Expect to continue to see Instagram photos pop up in your favored social network soon, if they don’t already.
YouTube is everywhere. With over 24 hours of video being uploaded every minute, it would be impossible to ever watch them all. YouTube has over 2 billion views every day, and is the third most visited website on the internet. Old Spice recently ran a very engaging ad campaign on YouTube. This network doesn’t seem to change much, but when they do it is in small ways designed specifically for a better user experience. Layouts are constantly tweaked, and video views are tracked for each user so as to give better suggestions for future visits.
So right now, there is probably one question on your mind:
Why Should I Care?
Every business owner and web developer should be paying close attention here. Social networks are a great way to interact with your customers. Your brand can potentially reach the eyes of millions of consumers via social networks. Companies can create custom apps and pages in Facebook to engage customers, while they can post promotional updates in real-time to Twitter. With the huge potential reach of social networks, you can be sure that if your basic marketing strategy is good, the brand will be shared and re-tweeted and +1’d all over the internet.
“Fantastic!” I hear you say. “So all I have to do is set up some social networking functionality, and the customers will just roll in!”
Not so fast. There is so much more to this picture. Keep an eye out for my next post, which will an overview of marketing in social networks versus email lists.
Need help integrating social networking in to your website? We here at New Signature can help with that! Contact us for more information.