Social Networking – The new age

A long time ago , all we had on the web was HTML And SMTP (webpages and email) … and based on those two ‘free’ and ‘open’ platforms the first and oldest forms of e-discussion were created; namely, discussion boards and mailing lists. The key here, is once a person had a point of contact (his email), then asynchronous communication was allowed to take place all over the world through a series of messages linked to their owner by nothing more than an email address and a nickname. As the discussion continued to grow, the person would get an e-mail reminding them to check back and see what has come of their original thoughts. So here the e-mail was the ‘hook’… As of 2007, the hooks of the internet have changed…. a study presented by “AddThis” which is a button that can be embedded in any website to easily link and share content and news between multiple ‘news sharing’, ‘social bookmarking’ and ‘social networking’ sites, showed that in the period studied (the first 9 months or so of 2008) that e-mail was the #1 way that people shared things on the internet with a usage of around 50%, followed closely by facebook at around 20% and then trailing off dramatically…. The same study performed with later data (covering late 2008 to mid 2009) was very interesting…. in that short period of time facebook had grown from a 20% share to almost 60% … with email following closely with around 30% and the rest trailing off for other e-services. These numbers are astonishing for a few reasons: 1- The fact that people would rather use facebook than email to share things they like online means that most of the people that they’d like to share this with are already on facebook… If I had 10 friends, with 9 outside of facebook, then I’d probably share things by email… but if 9 out of 10 of my friends are on facebook then that’s more likely the platform that I’m going to use. 2- Facebook has worked hard at making content sharing a more pleasant experience, by including it in their search (when in the past you could only search for people and groups / business) and allowing you to like, unlike and comment on these things. The 1 feature that seems missing from Facebook sharing is rich responses such as responding to a video with a video… for at the moment any external link in your response is just represented as an off-page link unlike the primary posted content which CAN play within facebook. These responses are ‘communal’ in nature and can be seen by friends or friends of friends… whereas email sharing is more private and more threaded which does not promote healthy discussion. 3- That kind of internet wide growth for a platform, and to take down something as ‘rooted’ as e-mail is just astonishing (albeit expected) and goes to show that anyone not seriously interested in social media for their marketing efforts is seriously making a mistake. …. Now my most successful online project so far is Supercharger Performance which is present on both Facebook and Myspace (the world’s largest two social networks) with all of my blog posts automatically feeding into those pages via RSS. More interestingly I have also integrated those pages with twitter such that anything I post on either of those (or on my main blog) propagates over to my twitter account. This interlinked effort of networks allows me to post on one platform (my main blog) but to multiply that effort into 4 different networks (RSS, Facebook, Myspace & Twitter) and allows people that are interested in that niche to stay in touch without having to check my website on a regular basis. So when you think about marketing in the future… there are really two approaches to do this: 1- Follow the crowd: and the crowd is definitely using social networking to stay in touch, share, and recommend things to each other… decisions about a car used to be between you and your close friends… now a post about that car to your status gets your friends and their friends responses on the product … which can add great value to your decision making process if used wisely. It can also be a lead in to a sale for you as a company if you are present, active and engaged with your consumer base, and it can give you great insight into the kind of things that they like be pre-testing their responses to ideas, products and pitches before you spend a significant amount of money developing them. 2- Be intimate. Now that social networking is all the rage… if you look at your email box (like I do mine) you find that very rarely do I get anymore personal emails in my email. People that want to talk to me who are in my generation can talk to me on facebook, facebook chat, twitter or myspace… and email is left for spam, emails from people like my parents or uncles (who have not yet adopted social networking because they are comfortable with simple e-mail) and last but not least e-bills and credit statements and the likes. Now let’s say you have a really good spam filter, and let’s say you have automated most of your bill payments… what this does is it leaves your personal (non-work email) rather quiet and deserted. Think about this ? If your customer is constantly being bombarded by media and ideas and debate on facebook and myspace and what not… and then they come on e-mail to get away from it all and to see if they have a personal contact from their parents, distant friends or traveling friends who can’t get on facebook …etc How powerful do you think a personal contact letter from you (the small business owner) to your customers would be ? Do you think that if your letter were 1 of 6 e-mails they got today (vs 1 of 1000 interactions they had on facebook)… do you think that your message would be more likely to reach them through email ? or would facebook still be the weapon of choice? Summary: I’ve just kind of contradicted myself … telling you to move over to rich media, to ‘announce’ publicly everything that you’re doing, reading, and everything that you like, and are working on to your public through your FB, MS, and twitter status updates… at the same time I’m telling you that you can still reach your customers personally by e-mail. I don’t think there’s contradiction here… you just have to appropriate every medium for it’s proper use. A customer service request my better be placed and answered through email. A new upbeat video of the next unveiling of your latest product may be best served through facebook (to be shared and reviewed and communally critiqued). I think the change in e-mail and the lower ‘clutter’ in email is to our advantage as niche marketers trying to reach our readers. I also think the rich interaction provided by social sharing is great for delivering a ‘mental image’ or an impression to your prospects in a quick 2 to 3 minute video. I’d love to see where we get when both of those ideas merge with google wave… a new platform that mixes the one-to-0ne personal and intimate aspects of email, with the possibility for more expansive and branching out ‘waves’ in the internet.

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