I’m pretty sure everyone knows the answer to this, but to be safe here’s the definition. Social media is media designed to be disseminated through social interaction, created using highly accessible and scalable publishing techniques. It has become huge and is all the rage in the marketing world these days.
History of Social Media
The first site resembling Social Media as we know it today was SixDegrees.com, launched in 1997. Named after the concept “six degrees of separation”, it was the first site to combine features of AIM, dating services, and classmate sites – allowing users to create profiles and list their “friends.” Users could send messages and post bulletins to people in their “degrees”. The site lasted until 2000, when YouthStream Media Networks purchased it for $125 million.
Following SixDegrees.com we saw the launch of many Social Media sites. Most notable were LiveJournal, Fotolog, Friendster, Linkedin, and, of course, MySpace. MySpace was launched in 2003 and can be credited for launching social media into the mainstream. The service grew rapidly because of Friendster alienation and in 2004 the younger generation began joining in masses. MySpace began allowing minors to join the service, with lawsuits involving sexual predators quick to follow. In 2005, MySpace was bought for $580 million. While MySpace has lost some popularity in the past years, we are now seeing a surge of users on sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube.
Social media is no passing fad - it is the way of the future. Here are some facts to consider, as well as a really cool video that has undoubtedly been shown at every marketing event in the past year (socialnomics.net - The video gets a little cut off on the blog, so visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sIFYPQjYhv8 to watch):
- By 2010 Generation Y will outnumber Baby Boomers, and 96% of them have already joined a social network.
- In a comparison of how long it took to gain 50 million users, we see that radio took 38 years, TV 13 years, Internet 4 years, and yet Facebook was able to add 100 million users in just 9 months.
- Facebook is now reportedly hosting 300 million users on its site.
- 80% of companies are using LinkedIn as their primary source of recruiting
- There are over 200,000,000 blogs
- 24 of the 25 largest newspapers are experiencing record declines
- Hulu grew from 63 million total streams April 2008 to 373 million in April 2009
- 78% of consumers trust peer recommendation, while only 14% trust advertisements
So what does this mean for business? Social media cannot be ignored. There are millions of blogs, and while most are probably unrelated to you and your company, there are still 40,000 new ones popping up everyday that could be talking about your business. Take for example an employee at Google, a well-known, yet secretive company. This employee was blogging about Google’s health care plan being less generous than former employer Microsoft. Within two weeks, he was fired. He became an overnight celebrity when Google was accused of overreacting and received job offers from Amazon.com, Microsoft, and Yahoo!, finally settling on Plaxo. He is now in charge of coordinating the company’s blogging efforts.
Social media is the new marketing endeavor. With numbers of users in the hundreds of millions, businesses simply cannot afford to not be Tweeting about their brand. Social network users are 3 times more likely to trust peer opinions over advertising when making purchasing decisions and one word of mouth conversation has the same impact of 200 TV ads. Businesses must get into the conversation.
Facebook vs. Twitter: Who is the Better Marketing Tool?
Recently, Ibtrax, a SEO Social Media optimization firm, compared the marketing benefits of Facebook vs. Twitter for business. The goal was to determine which of these social media platforms provide the best results for online businesses. The results were based on user feedback and experience, monitoring trends, researching 3rd party platforms that support both services, and using several different accounts of each. Depending on what type of benefits your company is looking for, the results were as follows:
Traffic and User Metrics
Facebook has advantage due to its large size and traffic volume.
Viral Marketing Benefits
Twitter has slight advantage because it must have a large amount of followers to gain significant viral marketing results.
Social Media interactivity
Facebook had the advantage because the “wall” feature makes it naturally interactive.
Website Traffic Driving Platform
Facebook declared winner because the internal characteristics of the site act as a standalone website (i.e. users can post videos, links, etc)
Means of Market Research
Twitter has the advantage of allowing people to more efficiently search for information related to industry specific trends.
Direct Internet Communication from human resources, client contact, and a sales management perspective
Facebook has the advantage of Facebook chat, allowing instant messaging between users
Business to Business Marketing
Twitter has the advantage because it allows more viral marketing flexibility, which is core to B2B branding
Business to Consumer
Facebook facilitates the building of a large network of followers in a relatively short amount of time to help market a product or service.
The Future of Social Media
The Millennial Generation has become immune to traditional means of advertising. We don’t regard radio, print or banner ads, and are able to fast-forward through commercials on TV. This implies that future social media advertising will have to become part of the online experience, rather than distracting from it. Debra Aho Williamson, a senior analyst at eMarketer, has outlined several trends to look for in the future. She believes that the strongest business models will begin to incorporate analytics, and that TV and search will become more social. She states that:
“The voice of the consumer is only going to get louder and stronger. It will shape what social media is and what it will become. Not too long ago, a company might have made major changes to its products or services based on a few focus groups, some financial planning and a degree of gut instinct. Social media has already changed all that. And more changes will come.”
There are also new technologies being developed that will surely shape social media as we know it. For example, Arduino is a small circuit board that is low cost and easily implemented. It is capable of connecting real life to social media, allowing for automatic tweets when things happen in your everyday life. One man has used it to create a device that tweets when someone passes gas and a small bakery in London has created a system that tweets what is fresh out of the oven. While these seem rather irrelevant, the fact is that people are able to create these things in their spare rooms and garages, the systems aren’t being developed in R&D labs.
Another interesting innovation is Optical Pattern Recognition & Augmented Reality. 3 years ago, Google acquired NevenVision, a company that provides Biometric Face Recognition technology. It is now using that technology in Picasa in hopes of aiding users in organizing their photos without doing any work. Basically, it would be like posting an album on Facebook and having the computer go through recognize the faces of your friends and automatically tag everything for you.
Perhaps the most far-fetched concept in the workings is that of mind reading. It would be like instant tweeting, your thoughts straight to the computer, or being able to think “Facebook” and in your head you can see all of your friends updates. This technology is in an extremely experimental stage, but there are proofs-of-concept.