The Explosion of Social Networking and Related Implications

Most of us don’t realize that social media has been around since the early 1990s. It arguably began with Steve Case and AOL’s “walled garden” approach to accessing the World Wide Web. Remember chat rooms and the different content groups that were available to AOL subscribers? AOL also utilized “community leaders” to monitor and moderate chat room activity. In my view, this was the advent of social media, all be it in a somewhat crude form when measured against today’s high standards.

Social Networking Today – Fast forward to 2011 and we have a mind boggling variety of social media venues that changes on literally a weekly basis. Within the category of communications-based social networking alone there are blogs such as blogger.com, micro-blogging forums such as Foursquare, Twitter, Tumblr and Google Buzz, location-based social networks such as Geoloqi, Facebook places and Foursquare. There are event-based forums such as Eventful, The Hotlist and others. Then there are other categories of social networking such as multimedia, collaboration, entertainment, reviews and opinions – each with its own subset of sites and applications.

How Big is Social Networking Today?

·         Social networking accounts for over 22% of all time spent online (source: Nielsen).

·         Twitter processed more than one billion tweets in December of 2009, averaging over 40 million tweets per day (source: venturebeat.com) and is handling more than 800 million search queries per day according to co-founder Biz Stone.

·         Facebook has over 500 million active users worldwide with 50% logging in on any given day. People spend 700 billion minutes per month on Facebook (source: Facebook.com)

·         Over 25% of U.S. internet page views occurred at one of the top social networking sites in 2009, up from 14% the prior year (source: venturebeat.com).

So What’s the Point? – The point is that with the mushrooming growth of social networking illustrated above, it cannot be ignored, even if you are only planning offline marketing and communications. Everything a company does or does not do, whether online or off-line, has the potential to be discussed via social networking and if you are not considering this while planning your marketing, communications or new product efforts, the results could be disastrous at worst or a complete shock at best.

A Great Opportunity and Risk – Social networking presents corporate communicators with a great opportunity, but not without some risk.  First you have to understand that your true audience extends well beyond your intended audience, so broaden your horizons and plan accordingly.

Once your message is picked up by and sucked into the social networking vortex, your audience will expand to include those who use your product/service, those who do not and never will, the media, current and potential investors, employees, legislators, the competition, regulatory agencies and various other influencers.

Forming an Intimate Relationship with Your Constituents – Through social networking we have a new and invaluable opportunity to allow various constituents to actively engage with our companies, our products and services and most importantly our respective brands. There is an opportunity to develop an “intimate” relationship with these constituents. We can listen to their concerns and praises, ask them what they think and want and allow them to engage with our companies at a level never before possible.

Let’s not waste this precious opportunity.

by Steven Copertino
Copyright 2011. All Rights Reserved

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