The Right Social Networks

It is clear nowadays that there is not one recommendation you can make about social media for all businesses.

Though Facebook launched in 2006, it was a niche for at least a year until it was opened to everyone in late 2007. At that time, it had 100,000 business pages (pages which allowed companies to promote themselves and attract customers).

At that time, clients would ask me “Shouldn’t we have a Facebook page?” though they weren’t sure why they needed one but it seemed to be the “thing to do.”

Today, every business probably needs a social media presence, but the question to ask is which networks do they need.

Caroline Gillan at Launch as Digital Content Specialist did this video on that question.

The 7 biggest networks have been relatively the same for the past few years.

  1. Facebook still has the widest penetration of any social network in the U.S. 68% of U.S. adults are on Facebook.
  2. Instagram – owned by Facebook – has come on strong the past few years and has now surpassed a billion monthly users. While younger people seem to be leaving Facebook for their parents, Instagram with its easy image-focused mobile interface has grabbed the 18-29-year-old share.
  3. And if the teen to young adult segment is important to your brand, then Snapchat is a network to use. It’s most popular with 13-24-year-olds, and especially with teenage girls.
  4. If the Millennial (arguably 18-29) users with their generally higher income bracket are your target, Twitter is a social network to use. It also has more of an even split between male and female users.
  5. The popular image-based network Pinterest bridges both the 18-29-year-olds and the 30-49-year-old markets and has a predominantly female user base. It also skews towards women with young children. But the women points out that 40% of new sign-ups are from men, so a shift is occurring.
  6. Many people still don’t think about YouTube as a social network but only as a place to find videos. Not only is one of the top social networks, but it is also the second-largest search engine. Why? Because people are very often looking for video results. That is certainly a major consideration for any brand.
  7. LinkedIn continues to be a popular network with higher income-level users, and for businesses to be more B2B, generate sales leads and find employment candidates. The fact that it is not popular for teens and the younger demographics is what makes it popular with another segment.

A topic for another post that jumps off for here concerns the many other social networks that are smaller and more niche but that might be more importance to some brands. Are you a restaurant? Then Yelp and other review sites are more important to you than other industries. Having a presence in the top 7 networks may be an important start to your SM strategy, but it certainly does not end there.

Social Media and Democracy

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It seems clear now that social media is changing democracies around the world. When I was teaching social media courses in 2010 and 2011, there was a lot of discussion about the role of social media in the “Arab Spring.”  The Arab uprisings started a debate over the role and influence of social media. Did Facebook and Twitter power the ousting of Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and the imminent overthrow of Mubarak.

The perceived Facebook and Twitter revolutions seemed to be centered on young protesters mobilizing on their feet and on mobile devices. Some called this “citizen journalism.”

My students, like many critiques, felt social media was a democratizing tool. But in the years since, opinions on social media and democracy seem to have turned the other way towards it as hurting democracy.

For example, Facebook has had to look at its impact it has on the democratic process after receiving much criticism for content on the platform during the Clinton/Trump campaigns. Facebook actually said it could no longer guarantee that social media is beneficial to democracy. That is a surprising admission.

For example, Facebook has had to look at its impact it has on the democratic process after receiving much criticism for content on the platform during the Clinton/Trump campaigns.

Facebook actually said it could no longer guarantee that social media is beneficial to democracy. That is a surprising admission.

One critique of social media is the ability to create echo chambers — online spaces that only surround users with like-minded people and ideas.

Soledad O’Brien examined how social media is impacting democracy on her program Matter of Fact.

Harvard professor Cass Sunstein studies this effect in his new book Republic: Divided Democracy in the Age of Social Media. Sunstein talked with O’Brien to discuss the pros and cons of social media and why the ability to filter out opposing views is a threat to our democracy.

There’s another phenomenon at work: “group polarization” which says that when you are in an echo chamber, you can become more extreme and intolerant.