Facebook: What´s the Big Deal?
Six years ago, Harvard sophomore Mark Zuckerberg began Facebook—a website for Ivy League students to connect and interact online. Gradually, the site opened up to new groups of users until anyone over the age of 13 can have a profile. Now, the 1,400 employee company boasts 500 million active users, and suddenly “facebooking” and “friending” are verbs!
But the landscape is changing at the world´s largest social networking site: though youths are using facebook from their phones during classes, church services, and while driving, there are now more Facebook users over the age of 35 than under. In the age 65+ category, the number of users has doubled in the last 12 months. Facebook is growing up!
So what does this mean for the future of Facebook, and for businesses? Two things are very likely:
- Facebook will begin targeting their site more towards businesses and adults, because that is where more money is found. They have already started down this road by creating Facebook Places: whenever a Facebook user enters a location or business registerd as a Facebook Place, the user can instantly announce to all his or her friends where they are. Users can find friends while out on the town, and businesses get a free name-drop! Also, business “fan pages” are multiplying rapidly, and new applications are being developed that make company websites almost unnecessary. Imagine your business fan page with the tabs of your choice: Customer Reviews, Portfolios, Signup Forms, Surveys, and much more, all for free! As companies sign up, Facebook will increase its services that cater to businesses and consumers.
- For business and social reasons, adults are learning the language and mapping out the terrain of Facebook. As this trend grows, young users will begin looking for a new place where parents can´t monitor them so closely. I think it likely that the younger generation will begin to drift away from Facebook and back towards texting and instant messaging until a new company comes along with a social site just for teens or college students.
Who Gives a Tweet?
I commonly hear the complaints, “Argh! I hate Twitter! It is so annoying.” and “I just don´t get Twitter!” Yes, Twitter can be aggravating, but the site has gained 100 million users in four years, and it´s not likely to disappear. In fact, if you aren´t connecting with clients through Twitter, a competitor probably is.
Twitter is a site that lets users become “authors,” posting short messages that are automatically displayed to all of their “followers.” Casual users use it to find out what their friends are thinking and doing, as well as to post their own thoughts and doings. More strategic users, such as politicians, non-profit organizations, and businesses, use Twitter to grow a list of followers who enjoy reading their short updates.
Let´s look at a Hollywood example: The actor Ashton Kutcher currently has 5.7 million followers on Twitter, and a similar amount on Facebook. These fans read his updates to feel connected, and to “know the inside story.” Now imagine Kutcher is in a new movie, and it´s not one he´s really proud of—it´s a bit of a flop. If he mentions the movie on Twitter, even if only half of the people who read the post go to the movie, at $10 per ticket, it would make at least $28 million! On top of that, his Facebook users are an eager audience to his subtle advertisement, and any of these followers and fans might also end up bringing a date along! Clearly, the business potential is there.
It´s easy to look at those numbers and be discouraged, but you don´t need to be rich, famous, and handsome to make Twitter profitable. Research shows that 64% of Twitter users are over age 35, and the median user age is 39. With so many users out there, many of them would be interested in your business. Even if you just have five followers, that´s OK—just make those five followers love you! They´ll tell five of their friends about you, and you´ll be up to 25, and so it goes. Share expert tips, interesting articles, news updates, trends in your field, and anything new happening in your business.
Many followers look at Twitter the same way people scan the Highlight section on the front page of the Wall Street Journal. It gives a quick overview of the main content in the paper, and if something catches your eye, you open to it. An interesting Twitter post will draw visits to your site in the same way.
You don´t have to love Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, or whatever´s next, but you do have to know that these social networking sites are growing, and many of your customers are on them. Put away your shield and dagger, and ask your clients what they do online. Many clients are embarrassed to admit just how much time they spend on those sites—especially on Facebook. Some of your customers use Facebook religiously (some even in church!), while others hate it. Others are using Linkedin and still more visit Amazon.com, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, a community forum or even Grandparents.com to stay connected and research purchases. Once you find out how your clients are using social media sites, you can plan and budget the strategy you need to reach them.