As a marketing columnist, my finger is supposed to be firmly pressed on the pulse of what is new on the Internet. With so much happening in the arena of social networking, itâ€™s hard to make complete sense of it all. Facebook, Bebo, LinkedIn, Stumble Upon, MySpace, Flickr, Friend Feed, Youtube, Digg, Slideshare. Then thereâ€™s blogs, podcasts, videos.
My last column highlighted Belizean tour operator Jimmy, successfully competing against the Goliaths of the cruise industry. One of his strategies was promoting and utilising favourable user-generated comments from travel sites. Anyone can understand the positive or negative impact on business from this type of social networking. Â However, though Iâ€™m a marketer, a huge advocate of the Internet and constantly bombarded by gotta be there hype, Iâ€™ve been pretty skeptical about the business value of social networking sites in relation to personal time put in.
Through late 2008 I viewed the arena as easy to make personal websites for the exceedingly ego-centric. Itâ€™s the place where people that have time on their hands go to post pictures about themselves, tell the world what theyâ€™re up to, write about themselves or ramble through their stream of consciousness. If you read blogs, youâ€™ll find the good, meaty educational ones are so rare. So let me put it this way. Who has the time? Who the heck cares?
I subscribe to the philosophy of spending your time and energy on activity that provides the most profitable return on your investment. Remember the famous Jerry McGuire line â€œshow me the moneyâ€?
If your market is the same as mine – mature business decision makers with money – they are not spending their time on social media sites â€“ at least not for business. They donâ€™t have the time!!!! If there, itâ€™s primarily to stay in touch, view photos and connect with children.
This bias of mine was borne out by a 19 January 2009 study by Pew and American International on the percentage of Internet users in the USA that have a profile on a social networking site by age. You can read the study here. http://www.pewinternet.org/pdfs/PIP_Adult_social_networking_.ata_memo_FINAL.pdf
The study found most adults use the sites for personal rather than professional use and about half were on MySpace., under a fourth on Facebook and only 6% on Linkedin:
- 89% to keep up with friends
- 57% to make plans with friends
- 49% to make new friends
Of all the social sites, the one I considered the most useless waste of time was Twitter. You send short messages (called a tweet) from the site to announce to your audience what you’re doing at that moment. It’s like a txt message – short, maximum 140 characters. One can download little programs like Twitterific or Twinkle so you get the tweets as txt messages on your cellphone, or through a window on your computer.
Your audience comprises friends and admirers whom you have persuaded to subscribe. Can you see why anyone with a family, mortgage, or busy job would consider this an unbelievable waste of time? Who cares who’s waiting for the handyman to arrive? Who has the time to continually tweet and read those of hundreds of others?
This was my argument during breakfast the other week in Manhattan. Over coffee and two inch thick crunchy French toast on 7th Ave and 57th, David Berkowitz and I were discussing Twitter. David is Director of Emerging Media and Client Strategy at 360i. With clients like NBC, MTV, American Express and Office Depot, I valued his point of view and was ready to listen.
“Debbie, where did you go for news about the plane that crashed on the Hudson River yesterday”? ” I was on Canal Street shopping and saw it on a TV, but I suppose I would go to the TV, or on the Internet a newspaper website or Google it.” I replied.
“I went to search.twitter.com. There were thousands of tweets, people sharing what was happening. Because the best links and information gets re-tweeted, it comes out higher in the rankings. I was able to immediately know and see exactly what was happening before the media sites”.
He also had a rebuttal for me about the handyman tweet. “Comcast (a cable tv company) wanted to improve their customer service reputation. So they would search through Twitter to find what their customers were saying about them. If they saw someone that said the Comcast cable repairman was one hour late, they would reply to the Tweet asking for an email address, then they’d get in contact with the individual to try to sort it out. This activity would work a double benefit of generating good word of mouth”.
Point taken. Twitter is good for real time information, research and monitoring what is being said about you or your company. I joined Linkedin in early December, started a blog http://blog.successis.co.nz/ and will now start putting up three years of one minute videos I produced on my YouTube account. I’ll keep you posted.