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Social networks, social markets

Interesting data (for November 2009) from marketingcharts.com:

In “social media” consulting, there’s a tendency to want to standardize on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn (not on this list), and possibly YouTube if you have an ability and/or desire to incorporate video as part of your presence. Why Twitter? Given its relatively low adoption, especially compared to Facebook, I find myself wondering why it’s such a big deal to the social media marketing crowd. I get why it’s included – though it doesn’t have huge adoption, it has a lot of influencers. It can also work as a feed source for Facebook. I include it myself, when I do social media consulting.

I think it’s a big deal to some people because it was their introduction to online social interaction, and made it interesting for them when it hadn’t been before, and was both web and mobile – a very “smart mobs” scene, early on used for coordination as much as interaction. There are quite a few people who came to online social networking through Twitter, and didn’t have any experience of older online communities, like the WELL or Usenet Newsgroups, or the first appearance of journals and blogs and wikis in the nineties, or the evolution of social network platforms from Six Degrees to Ryze to Friendster to Orkut to Myspace and Facebook. They think “real” online social interaction started much later, and they think some of those older systems are dead media (even though systems like the WELL and Usenet are still rocking on).

Twitter seems to be losing ground, and I think it’s because Facebook has done a good job of incorporating Twitter’s best features (short messaging, activity streaming) and making a more robust technology (embedded rich media, no cap on message length, etc.) I’m still using both, but my Twitter messages are all incorporated in my Facebook stream, and that’s where the conversations are happening.

Facebook is probably a better marketing platform via pages and groups. You can only go so far with marketing on Twitter before it feels like spam, and I’m not sure any of these platforms is ideal for making sales happen, despite the successes of Zappos and Dell. Those may be exceptions to a rule that says “I don’t want to hear marketing messages at all.” Dave Evans has a good point, which he’s made subtly by saying that marketing and operations need to have better, closer relationships. The advertising/messaging part of marketing is not terribly effective anywhere anymore – people resist it. You have to figure out how to do great things and make them visible without the overt sales pitch. This requires a whole different kind of creative thinking… I don’t think it’s completely clear how to message a product in the new and evolving world of digital media. (I’d love to hear thoughts about what works – leave a comment!)

Comments

  1. At first I was shocked to see this discrepancy between facebook and twitter. I would have expected FB to have, say, twice the usage of Twitter. But then I realized that they were comparing *the number of visits* to the respective sites.

    The vast majority of FB users use FB via the web, while many/most Twitter users use Twitter via 3rd party clients. The lion’s share of Twitter usage is not (or cannot be?) counted. Which makes me question how meaningful the chart is.

  2. Good point, Scot. Wikipedia says “Although estimates of the number of daily users vary because the company does not release the number of active accounts, a February 2009 Compete.com blog entry ranked Twitter as the third most used social network based on their count of 6 million unique monthly visitors and 55 million monthly visits. In March 2009, a Nielsen.com blog ranked Twitter as the fastest-growing site in the Member Communities category for February 2009. Twitter had a monthly growth of 1,382 percent, Zimbio of 240 percent, followed by Facebook with an increase of 228 percent. However, only 40 percent of Twitter’s users are retained.” Those numbers don’t say how many accounts; Twitter evidently doesn’t release that information. The last number I heard was around ten million – it’s probably 15-20 million by now (compared to Facebook’s 350 million). In a way it’s a moot point – it’s not like talking about something like a magazine’s readership where you can assume a fairly consistent experience and exposure. Your experience of Twitter and Facebook both, and social network platforms in general, depends on who you follow. On Facebook, it also depends on what parts of the system you use – what fan pages you follow, what groups you join, what apps you use. Strategists coming from mass media backgrounds have to get their heads around the fact that these systems are collections of niche groups and communities, and not mass audiences.

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