As social networking sites continue to grow and evolve, so do their users. Whether you use social media for business or personal reasons, knowing the “who, what, where, when and why” of the various platforms ensures you spend your time the most effectively. Being aware of changes and future developments within and among social media’s top platforms means you’ll be able to adapt and streamline your social presence.
Here, we’ll take a look at how the major social networks and their audiences are changing. Later this month, we’ll proudly debut a comprehensive social media toolkit that will go into more detail about how to get started and how to build your audience and brand.
The king of social networking platforms, Facebook boasts more than 900 million monthly active users. Between 2011 and 2012, the network gained 171.6 million more users.
Facebook’s emergence on the New York Stock Exchange, the largest initial public offering by a technology company, was a landmark moment for the consumer side of the Internet. But the social network’s real economic impact might be still to come.
To keep investors happy and continue to grow revenue, the platform will place more emphasis on its advertising options. New formats and targeting capabilities are expected.
General Motors made news recently and highlighted common concerns about Facebook ads’ effectiveness when the car company announced it would stop advertising on the social network.
According to a BusinessWeek column, Facebook made 85% of its $3.7 billion in revenue from the small, hardly noticeable ads on the right side of its pages. GM previously spent $10 million annually on Facebook ads. Facebook’s ultimate success depends on if the platform can create a successful advertising model.
A combination of blogging and instant messaging, Twitter allows users to post updates, follow and view updates from other users, and send a public reply or private direct message to connect with others. Founded in March 2006, the micro-blogging service now boasts 500 million registered users.
As with nearly all social media platforms, Twitter struggles to capitalize on advertising revenues. In an attempt to rectify that, the platform unveiled “brand pages” with 21 high-profile marketers: American Express, Best Buy, Coca-Cola, Disney, Nike, Verizon and more.
Brand pages let organizations use a large header image to display a logo and tagline more prominently, and also allow the brand to keep a particular tweet at the top of the page. The pages also filter a brand’s replies and mentions out of its Twitter feed, so the company’s messaging won’t become diluted. Brand pages are currently available only to Twitter advertisers, but might see a wider release later this year.
Recently, the network announced its support of “Do Not Track,” a privacy initiative developed by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and Mozilla, the non-profit developers of the Firefox web browser. In Firefox, Internet Explorer and Safari, the “Do Not Track” option “tells” websites is a user does not want to be tracked. Websites’ cooperation or compliance with these requests, however, are basically voluntary.
Twitter’s decision contrasts with competitors like Facebook and Google, which rely heavily on collecting user data. Facebook and Google earn billions of dollars annually by targeting ads based on users’ search habits and perceived interests.
The “non-sexy, sleeping giant” of social networks, LinkedIn carries considerable bang for its buck. What it misses with its low profile, LinkedIn makes up for it with professional clout.
Founded in 2002, the network’s 161 million users can find a job, network with professionals or brainstorm ideas within an industry. People and businesses alike can create profiles to connect with industry colleagues.
Unlike content shared on Facebook and Twitter, updates on LinkedIn tend to be professionally focused, industry related, and less frequent. In fact, the platform cautions businesses about excessive updating and might even delete pages that are too active.
That said, a recent Business Insider survey found that almost twice as many people shared links every day on LinkedIn than on Google+. The survey showed that 76% of readers used LinkedIn, compared to 55% who used Google+.
An alternative to Facebook, this network capitalizes on the advantages of being under Google’s umbrella — users can see better search rankings and seamless integration with apps such as Gmail and Google Docs.
Many expected Google+ to narrow the gap between Facebook and other social media, but it has not grown as much as anticipated. Google+ launched in June 2011 with a focus on targeted sharing. Connections are organized into “circles” such as friends, family, classmates and coworkers. Google+ features areas for viewing and editing photos as well as a place to “hangout,” or video group chat.
More than 90 million people have signed up, but numerous studies show very little interaction or engagement. The average person spends 3.3 minutes per month on Google+, compared to 7.5 hours on Facebook.
“There’s nothing that unique at Google+ to cause people to leave Facebook for it,” writes Robert X. Cringley, but its parent company is a compelling reason why people or organizations might use it. “They’ll help push it along, which means Google+ will continue to grow whether people actually use it or not.”