Social media is a hot topic for businesses around the globe and has been for the last few years. It enables us connect in more interactive ways with our customers, clients, colleagues and of course our family and friends, in ways unlike traditional online media such as email and websites. Its fundamentally changed the way that we all engage with online content, letting us comment, share and interact, and this has been reflective in the ways that we now view our online presence and marketing.
Social media appears in many different guises, as blogs, micro-blogs, forums, message boards, social networks, wikis, virtual worlds, social bookmarking, tagging, digital storytelling, scrapbooking, data, content, image and video sharing, podcasts and collective intelligence. The most well-known sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, MySpace, Youtube, Flickr, WordPress, Blogger and Wikipedia have all enhanced our online experience and have become influential social forces in both the online and offline world. With people now using Facebook and Youtube as a search engines, some digital marketer’s argue that without a social presence your business reputation will suffer, as increasingly more people are looking for your business on Facebook or Twitter before they visit your website.
It was back in 1971 when the first ever email was sent, and seven years later two Chicago computer hobbyists invented the bulletin board system (BBS) to inform friends of meetings, make announcements and share information through postings, this can be seen as the rudimentary beginnings of virtual communities. But it wasn’t until 1997 that blogging first began and AOL Instant Messenger hit the screens letting users from around the globe chat with one another. In the following two years Google opened as a major internet search engine and index and Friends Reunited was founded in the UK. In the early Noughties (2002) Friendster, probably the first social networking site, was opened to the US public and in its first three months attracted 3 million users. The following year saw the birth of MySpace and LinkedIn set up as a professional social networking site. At this time there were about 3 million web pages indexed on the world wide web.
It wasn’t until 2004 that Facebook made its debut on the web, started by Mark Zuckerberg while studying at Harvard College, initially it was designed to be a closed college network, and we all know where it went from there. From then on there has been a proliferation of social media sites, with YouTube storing and retrieving its first videos in 2005, and Bebo (an acronym for Blog Early, Blog Often) was started as a rival to Facebook. At this time there were now 8 billion web pages. When Twitter launched in 2006 as a microblogging site Google indexed 25 billion web pages and 400 million queries (or searches) a day.
Now in 2013, only 9 years after the launch of Facebook at Harvard, the site has 1.11 billion users, and if it were a country it would be the third largest in the world, behind China and India. It overtook the US three years ago. YouTube topped the one billion monthly user mark and 4 billion views per day this year. Twitter has 500 million registered users with more than 200 million active users. LinkedIn has grown to amass 225 million accounts, while MySpace somewhat dawdles with 25 million users. Pinterest, one of the newest sites to hit the scene as a social scrapbooking network has approximately 49 million users, while WordPress now accounts for 16% of the worlds top websites with 74 million hosted blogs. Social media has become such an ingrained part of our daily lives that even Astronauts aboard the International Space Station regularly tweeted and posted videos to Youtube live from space!
Mobile is now playing a massive role in how we check up on our favourite social networks, with more than half of us regularly accessing Facebook and Twitter from our smart phones while on the move. People living in cities spend the most time on social media, and women tend to spend about 10% more time on social networking sites than men.
In the UK 33 million of us are on Facebook, this is up 3 million on the last year, that’s over half of the entire population, in fact proportionally there are more people using Facebook in the UK than in the US. Overall the highest proportion of users are between the ages of 25 and 34 (26%), with 18 to 24 years old’s the next largest group (23%), but the demographic for people over the age of 55 using social media has grown significantly in the last year.
As for Twitter, its estimated that around 34 million of us have live accounts in the UK, which is a huge jump from last years estimate of 26 million. It’s suggested that the heavy coverage and discussions around big events like the Olympics and Jubilee may have been the driver in recruiting new Twitter users. Twitter seems to attract a slightly older grouping of people with 60% being aged between 25 and 54 years old.
Then there’s LinkedIn, the total number of UK users passed the 10 million mark back in 2012, it is now around 11 million. This is about 11% of the population, for a niche networking site this is pretty astounding. Pinterest, although it’s one of the most talked about social networks this year there is only an estimated 200,000 of us using Pinterest here in the UK, and most of these are women.
And these are just the UK stats, when you begin to look at the global usage of social media, it can sometimes be difficult to imagine your message will be seen at all. Which is why it is becoming increasingly more important to really think about what you want your social media to do for you, who you want to be talking to, and how you want them to interact with you. As a marketer it comes relatively easy to me to talk about strategy planning, implementation and monitoring, but for people running small or medium businesses, when you have everything to consider from creating your products or services to running the financial and administration sides of your business, you’d be forgiven for not thinking too strategically about your use of social media. But as more and more people start to look to social networks, blogs and microblogs not only to talk to their friends and family but to get advice or seek out products and services they want and need, we have to think somewhat realistically about how social media fits into our overall marketing and promotion.
It was said to me a few years back that if a business didn’t have a Facebook or a Twitter account (or if they did and there were no postings or interaction on the profiles) that potential customers would be turned off the business all together. Although I can’t prove how accurate that statement is for every customer out there, it did make me think that I do prefer to see a business with a social side (whether done well or not) then none at all. Ultimately social media has helped put ‘people’ and ‘customer service’ back into business. So what are you doing to put the ‘social’ into your business?
And here’s a little something which makes me smile, and probably encapsulates why I genuinely do love how Social Media is changing the world;
Sian provides Social Media training, consultancy and strategy development for businesses across the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. If you’re interested in finding out what she can do for you then please get in touch with her via;
The fantastic online sources used to inform this piece: