With the rise of social media channels like Facebook, Twitter and countless others, everyone is working hard on social media marketing campaigns to maximize their followers, fans and members in these networks and spread their message as widely as possible. This is really nothing new. Marketing has always been about spreading the word and networking should always have been part of anyone’s business plan.
To maximize the opportunities afforded by this new way to network it is a good idea to have an understanding of how social networks work. Luckily sociologists, anthropologists and other social scientists including those in the field of marketing have been busy studying social networks for years, so we actually know quite a bit about how people organize themselves and how social behavior is spread. There is a great article on this in Wikipedia that describes it in detail.
One thing that I’ve always found fascinating about the way social networks work is the differing values of social network relationships. In dense social networks, people have lots of close connections between each other and regularly interact. Because of this, participants in dense social network connections tend to strongly influence each other. As a result, they are also usually very homogenous in their attitudes and behaviors, so much so that it can be difficult to get the group to change. However, when you do, they all change, which can be very valuable if this change involves the adoption of your product or service. For example, when I was in high school, we all had to have Lee jeans with the little leather brand label intact and alpaca sweaters. I have no idea why – everybody just did. Members with many connections in a group are said to have a lot of social capital in that they have great social influence within the group. However, at some point, somebody had to start the trend and that’s where understanding social networks is important. In particular, understanding which members of networks spread new ideas and behaviors is critical for a good social marketing campaign.
It might seem that the person with the most connections and therefore, the most social capital in the group would be the most influential in spreading change. The emphasis in social media marketing which is on getting lots of friends and followers would seem to follow that theory. However, it turns out that sheer numbers of connections does not necessarily signal the most valuable members of the network for spreading a message. In fact, it is the people with the most direct connections between groups that have the most influence on spreading change. These people have “bridging capital” in that they serve as bridges between groups.
What this means for using social networks to spread your message is that the best people to have in your network are those that have many direct connections to a number of dense social networks, not just lots of connections within a dense social network. These are the people who will be the innovators and will have the most value for spreading the message.
Both Twitter and Facebook have been gaining popularity with internet users over the last 12 months. While their growth rate is phenomenal, the question is whether their magnetism will be a fleeting presence or a permanent fixture with the online community.
By digging into Google Insights for Search, I spotted a few interesting quirks between these two search queries.
Although several approximations are employed to arrive at this data, Google’s tool is awesome for providing insights into “broad search patterns”. The popularity of search queries “facebook” and “twitter” over the last 12 months is illustrated below.
Google Insights – All Categories
When comparing the popularity of these single word queries against all other queries during the same timeframe, Facebook appears to be the clear winner. Twitter shows a slight bump in late 2008 but nothing close to the awareness of Facebook. Over time, Facebook has steadily increased in overall popularity with an impressive growth rate over Q1 of 2009.
In reviewing “Regional Interest” for the 2 queries, Facebook seemed to have a wider appeal globally.
Note that Twitter does not index well when compared to the popularity of Facebook. The United States does not even make the list of top 10 regions for Facebook; however it is #2 on the list for Twitter.
A deeper dive into specific categories (brand new feature) lets us look at the growth rate of each search query. Google suggests the most popular category classifications based on the keyword(s) you are researching in Google Insights.
To my surprise, Google suggested “Online Communities” as the top category for Facebook, but “Telecommunications” as the top category for Twitter. Aren’t they BOTH Online Communities AND Communication tools? Taking several steps back and looking at the core components of each channel, the categorization logic makes perfect sense.
While you can certainly communicate and socialize on both networks, each has distinct differences that make a direct comparison difficult if not impossible to make. We are not comparing apples to apples. Facebook looks like more of a portal and has a social/personal feel….people go there to “connect” with their friends and family, make new friends, socialize, etc. Twitter looks clean and simple and has a research/news characteristic.
Twitter has a user base of over 1,000,000 (company will not disclose actual numbers), in comparison to Facebook’s recent 200 million mark. Regardless of the number of users, both networks’ growth has been explosive over the last two years.
New features and applications, privacy policies, monetization tactics, and more will dictate the user base for these networks as well as others in the space. Users (zealots) are going to be loyal to 1 primary channel….but there is also a ton of crossover since each network offers distinguishing qualities. Only time will tell which will be THE 800 Pound Gorilla of the space. Who knows? It could even be MySpace.
With all due respect, you pretty much have to be living under a rock if you have not at least heard of one or more of the following Social Media sites: Facebook, MySpace or Twitter. There’s also Friendster, Multiply, etc. etc. The list is endless.
Social Media is literally all around us. Your elementary school boyfriend (or girlfriend) wants to be your friend on Facebook. You can log on to check your Yoga studio’s schedule, even view your kid’s baseball practice updates. The talk show host/comedian, Ellen Degeneres, is asking you to “follow her” on Twitter and became a “fan” of her Facebook page to win exclusive prizes. Milwaukee Bucks forward Charlie Villanueva recently got into trouble for Tweeting (making a post in Twitter) during half time of a tie game. Need I say more?
Social Media has not only caught the attention of celebrities, NBA stars, tweens, teens, twenty, thirty and forty something’s; even Senior Citizens have taken notice. That’s right; your very own grandma is getting social!
OK, so she may not be sending you a friend request on Facebook or asking you to follow her on Twitter, but she could very well be on sites specifically tailored for seniors and baby boomers alike. These channels are an easy way for seniors to be active participants in the online community without feeling like they do not belong there.
Some of these sites include: Genkvetch, Seniorocity, ThirdAge, Eons and SeniorPeopleMeet. Genkvetch just enjoyed some nice PR in the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel on March 23rd. Their home page targets seniors by asking, “Out of place at Facebook, MySpace, and Friendster? Then this is your space!”
I think it’s wonderful that elders have a myriad of choices with respect to social media networks especially targeted to them. They can read and discuss topics of interest with people of similar ages. If the desire is there to engage in social media, there are channels available to suit all ages and interests!