Over the past few years I’ve watched the way the Internet has gradually changed. The leap from old school websites where all the content and features were served up 100% themselves is so far gone that I can barely remember it existing. Almost every website has some form of external input or aggregation, whether to provide additional niche features or website content that can make the difference between websites/companies being successful or not.
The challenge is to make the correct decisions when adding social media features, it’s all too easy to add 20 ‘sharing’ buttons to a page when trying to cover all the bases and end up creating an awful user experience. The key is to know which social media services demographics best match the demographics and the type of info being shared by a company or organisation. Basically trying to find a best fit, if one exists.
Facebook over the past 2 years has grown to become a huge social platform. They have 500 million registered members, and 200+ million of those use it through mobile devices and both stats are growing steadily (see www.facebook.com/press/info.php?statistics). A wide variety of age groups use Facebook, although it is heavily slanted towards teenagers and ’20-somethings’, this is changing gradually though as Facebook becomes synonymous with using the Internet.
Age Range: All (13 y/o’s and over).
Location: Generally US, Europe and South America have very high use, although it is quickly spreading in Asia, Middle East and beyond.
Marketing with Facebook can be carried out via 2 main methods:
Fan Pages allow standard Facebook users to ‘Like’ them, which means that anything published to the Fan Page will be seen by everyone who has ‘Liked’ it. This creates a valuable communication stream which is best used with weekly/bi-weekly updates to ensure regular contact, although it’s important to make sure you don’t spam the user as you’ll likely dilute the usefulness of the tool and/or lose them as a ‘fan’. There is also a spin-off of this whereby users can allowed to ‘Share’ or ‘Like’ specific webpages, which is used to good effect on news items, video or other similar individual pieces of content. A good example of this is the ability to share a video on YouTube to your Facebook account.
Facebook Ads allow an advertiser to focus ads to Facebook users via specific demographics such as age, location and interests. Due to Facebook users supplying this information via their profiles this helps to make advertising as pin-point as is possible on the internet at the moment, which is much more accurate than almost all over alternatives.
Twitter is similar in some respects to Facebook, but has some key differences. Twitter is designed for much more verbose communication with a 140 character limit, and an emphasis on time sensitivity. Twitter has ~150 million registered users, although its churn rate (the number of users that sign up and don’t use their account again) is widely regarded as being far higher than Facebook. Twitter stats.
Age Range: All (13 y/o’s and over).
Location: Significant usage almost everywhere.
Marketing is generally best done via encouraging retweeting (which is the equivalent of repeating a specific piece of information, thus adding kudos). This is often described as something ‘going viral’ on the internet. Twitter is used to publicise pretty much anything, although it’s best used as bait (due to the limited number of characters) to link to breaking news or similar situations.
LinkedIn is primarily used for professional contacts to build a network of people they know via employment both past and present. There are 80 million users, although 40 million are based in the US which weaken its appeal outside of the US. LinkedIn stats.
Age Range: All (18 y/o’s and over).
Location: Significant usage US mostly, but still common in Europe.
Marketing can be carried out similarily to Facebook, by allowing people to share content to LinkedIn this content would then be visible to all of their contacts. Marketing aimed towards LinkedIn (due to the nature of LinkedIn) is best done for any information that is work related, thus is more niche than what you would share on Facebook.
Each service is significantly different, in some cases all 3 may be useful to visitors if a website has a wide range of content but is unlikely. Try not to clog a website with 100 ways to share content when only 2 are really popular as you’ll sacrifice a lot of page space and confuse some users, not to mention increase page loading times.