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10 Years of Facebook & Its Influence on Social Media

“…People often ask if I always knew that Facebook would become what it is today. No way.

I remember getting pizza with my friends one night in college shortly after opening Facebook. I told them I was excited to help connect our school community, but one day someone needed to connect the whole world.

I always thought this was important — giving people the power to share and stay connected, empowering people to build their own communities themselves.

When I reflect on the last 10 years, one question I ask myself is: why were we the ones to build this? We were just students. We had way fewer resources than big companies. If they had focused on this problem, they could have done it.

The only answer I can think of is: we just cared more.

While some doubted that connecting the world was actually important, we were building. While others doubted that this would be sustainable, you were forming lasting connections.

We just cared more about connecting the world than anyone else. And we still do today.”

Above are the words of Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. It’s been 10 years since his dorm room project came to life. And what a decade it has been! We’ve witnessed tremendous growth, transformations, impact, business capabilities and even an IPO. But, as anyone knows that has even somewhat followed the social giant, the past decade hasn’t just been a bed of roses. There have been challenges and backlashes along the way including privacy concerns, competitors, legal issues, financial alarms and more.

Facebook CEO and Founder Mark Zuckerberg

But, 10 years in, Facebook is a successful, global company that has had a tremendous impact on all society. We would be here a very long time if we went back through all the Facebook milestones and the effect they have had on both the company and overall culture. But, we do want to take a little time to reflect on the big picture of Facebook in the past decade, and more importantly social media and the role it has played.

To do this, let’s back up. In 2004, when Facebook was built, what was your social media life like? At this point in time, MySpace was a big deal, forums were hot, instant messaging platforms such as ICQ were all the rave and Friendster was a means to connect with people online whom you already in the offline world. Other platforms such as Orkut, LinkedIn, and Classmates, among others, existed as well, but the social evolution that we now are familiar with was not present. It was then that blogging really started taking off too.

For me, I remember being in college and getting asked if I had Facebook from a few of my friends from other colleges and universities. I had no idea what it was. But, when it became available to my university, I readily signed up. Funny thing, I remember it blowing up across campus to the extent that there were rumors the president was going to ban it. I was part of the on campus news station, and in covering the event, the overall student response was: “My life would be over if they take Facebook away.” I wonder how many people view Facebook in this same way today…

As Facebook began to grow among the college crowd, it then expanded to include high schoolers, and shortly after, everyone. Although this move took the social network to the next level, Charlene Li from research firm Altimeter Group tells CNET it was “counter-intuitive.”

“If [Zuckerberg] had asked users, “What do you want?,” they would have never said “Add my parents,” she said.

She’s right, but we know now that it was successful for the company that now has more than 1.25 billion users and a reported $2.59 billion in revenue this past quarter. However, beyond this, I think it’s fair to say that social media would not be what it is today if Facebook were not a factor. Like it or not, Facebook has largely influenced the overall social media marketplace. Think about how social we are in everything we do from shopping to cooking to sharing opinions to conducting business and the list goes on and on. Though some would say, if Facebook hadn’t come around, something else would have. While this may be true, the circumstances would still be different. For instance, would MySpace have remained a leader? Whether it did or didn’t, would the road have still been paved for Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and others to enter the social space?

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Though history does not allow us to answer this question, it is clear that Facebook has been very formative in molding social media as we currently know it.

Now, the question becomes, where will it take us next?

“…I’m even more excited about the next ten years than the last. The first ten years were about bootstrapping this network. Now we have the resources to help people across the world solve even bigger and more important problems.

Today, only one-third of the world’s population has access to the internet. In the next decade, we have the opportunity and the responsibility to connect the other two-thirds.

Today, social networks are mostly about sharing moments. In the next decade, they’ll also help you answer questions and solve complex problems.

Today, we have only a few ways to share our experiences. In the next decade, technology will enable us to create many more ways to capture and communicate new kinds of experiences.”

Zuckerberg does not give us any exact information on the next 10 years of Facebook in his above post, but he does indicate that it will become smarter and create new experiences. Hopefully, the social network will continue to grow and transform the way consumers act and think. It’s already helped develop an industry that not only connects a large portion of the world and provides a very valuable tool for businesses, but it also has created a whole new job market.

There have been many headlines declaring that the younger generation was abandoning the site, but new research from Pew shows that 73 percent of children ages 12-17 are Facebook users. So, while Facebook doesn’t appear to be going anywhere but up, it is possible that it could diminish in value at some point. IF this were to happen, the impact is has will still be felt, which is an awesome concept. The way people communicate, react, think, and ultimately, live has been revolutionized in the last decade, all thanks to the influx of social media and led largely by Facebook. Will the next 10 years hold as many changes? We’ll see, but I, for one, am so excited to see where it takes us.

How has Facebook impacted you? Does it play a large role in your life? Has Facebook changed the way you communicate? Could you live without it? Is there a particular event in which Facebook changed your life for the better or worse?

Images courtesy of Facebook.

Getting on Board with the Future of Social Media, Mobile & Tech

 

What's the Future of Social Media and Tech?

During the holidays, Fisher-Price released a baby bouncy seat called the Newborn-to-Toddler Apptivity Seat for iPad that, yes, includes an iPad holder. Is this too much? Or, is it just a natural segue into where society is headed in terms of technology. Fisher Price has been widely scrutinized by children’s advocates amid cries of “babies need laps, not apps.”

Regardless about how you feel about this particular issue, the incident feeds to bigger speculation about where technology and social media will take the next generation. It’s an interesting thought to consider.

A recent study from Ooyala, a digital video provider, found that mobile and tablet video consumption grew 133 percent year-over-year. This is huge. We’ve known for a while now that “live” TV wasn’t what it once was with the ability to record shows for later viewing and download and watch them online. But, to see this kind of growth means that user behavior is changing rapidly.

The same is true for social media. We live in a society that accepts “selfie” as a word. Instead of communicating through a note or even a phone call or email, the new way of communication is through texting or services like Snapchat.

Last summer, the Huffington Post ran an article explaining why social media is a serious threat to the professional future of today’s children. Though the article has some good points, we at SugarSpun, do not believe that social media is a hazard (Duh!). Yes, there are things that teenagers and adults alike are posting and sharing across social media that could be detrimental to their future careers. But, social media isn’t to blame for this. We, as a society, do need to do a better job of educating the younger generation on the permanency of content, but this is no different than content posted anywhere else on the Internet.

The truth is that we are definitely going through a transitional period. Communication has and will continue to change. The hottest tool today may or may not be that cool tomorrow. But, this isn’t bad. While this could mean that we’ll soon find ourselves feeling like we’re living in real-life SCI-FI film or TV show like our SugarSpun president loves so much to watch, it also opens doors for new development and innovation.

Take us, for instance. The majority of our business involves social media. Since it has blown up – and is still continuing to – it has created an entire new marketplace for people like us to create vocations around. Also, similar to when the Internet and blogging first started to emerge and began to give introverts a voice, the same is true with social media.

Business Impact

What does this mean from a business and marketing standpoint? For one, it’s clear that the next generation could likely take us to, what we currently think, is a SCI-FI level. Kids today are growing up in a world where they virtually never have to watch commercials and can always watch Netflix while driving down the road. If my 2-year-old niece can clearly navigate an iPhone and iPad and thinks that a phone call is FaceTime or Skype, then her generation is going to go even beyond a touchscreen stove.

Next Generation Whirlpool Stove

But, all this also means that if social media and technology integration is not a big part of your plan, then you need to make adjustments. We’ve said it before, and we’ll continue to say it until we’re blue in the face – social media is not going away.

It’s a new year, but have you really made changes to the “way you’ve always done business”? Yes, there is a place for consistency, as we talked about last week, but beyond this, times are changing. Having a successful, modern business today is so much more than integrating social media. It’s all about the mentality. Are you breaking down the walls and being transparent? Are you being visual by utilizing tools such as video, infographics, Pinterest, Instagram, etc.? Are you becoming an information source and expert instead of just a destination spot when a customer needs something? All these things and more will help you come through this transition period on top.

Whirlpool image courtesy of Mashable.

Social Media & eCommerce: Why It’s the Future

As business is becoming more and more integrated into social media, translating “likes” and “follows” and “pins” into dollar signs becomes a much stronger priority. While we can go back and forth on social media ROI all day, the area we want to focus on is social media and its influence on commerce.

In a nutshell, commerce is big and ecommerce is continuing to grow by leaps and bounds. Social media is also big. As the two areas have come together, the results are, as you may already know, huge.

Ritu Pant over on Social Media Today summed it up beautifully in a post from earlier this year related to social media and commerce:

The big picture: the fastest growing marketplace on the planet is unfolding in the palms of our hands on smartphones exploding with the financial power of social media.

One very obvious way that social media has impacted commerce is through real-time feedback. Social media channels, of course, allow businesses and consumers to have instantaneous interaction. The added value on the business side is that the feedback is shared on the customer’s network. When it is positive, it serves as the best form of advertising.

For customers, the interaction provides a much better means for voicing a concern or problem as opposed to calling customer service. On the business side again, this serves as a valuable opportunity to solve a problem and potentially build a brand advocate if handled effectively.

What’s interesting now is that we are starting to see specific commerce trends around social channels such as Twitter and Pinterest. According to a recent report from BI Intelligence called “The New Art of Social Commerce: How Brands and Retailers Are Converting Tweets, Pins, and Likes into Sales,” Pinterest brought in 23 percent of social-generated e-commerce sales, and Twitter brought in 22 percent. Facebook also generated a bit more coming in at 28 percent of social-generated e-commerce sales.

Even more interesting is the fact that these trends were NOT happening a year ago. Pinterest barely registered any sales, bringing in just 2 percent of sales. Facebook, however, was the dominant in this area generating 55 percent of social-related e-commerce sales.

Social Commerce Sales Chart

In a direct selling environment, these numbers don’t hold much weight. But, remember that social media is about indirect selling. Social media is about building relationships, providing a human voice to a brand, and creating brand awareness, among many other indirect approaches. So, for a supplemental channel, if you will, these numbers are actually quite noteworthy. Furthermore, as indicated by the current trends, these statistics will grow as social media grows and expands.

Another factor to think about in this regard is the fact that these social sites are still young. Just as many are still trying to figure out the evolving world of utilizing social media for business, the social networks themselves are still innovating and adapting to a changing business climate.

Facebook, for example, will likely do away with its gifts service as a source of monetization since its performance is lacking. But, Facebook Exchange (FBX), the company’s retargeting platform, appears to be providing value for online retailers. In fact, Google and Facebook actually announced recently that they are partnering in a joint advertising initiative.

According to the deal, Google’s online advertising arm DoubleClick will extend its services to include FBX. In other words, DoubleClick clients will be able to purchase ad inventory on FBX.

It’s rather ironic when competitors come together in deals such as this, but when it benefits both parties, I guess they put aside other differences. Facebook will benefit due to Google’s long-standing dominance of the online advertising market, and Google will benefit from Facebook’s proven retargeting platform. As a result, this partnership has the potential to project much more growth in Facebook and e-commerce.

Twitter is also showing that it is committed to growing retail activity on its platform since it hired its first commerce chief earlier this year.

Pinterest too cannot be forgotten in this regard. The company has made many moves including “promoted pins” recently, which show that it is a serious contender in the social commerce space.

Time will ultimately tell just how these initiatives will take off, but our bet is on growth within social commerce.

Images courtesy of AspirantSG.com and intelligence.businessinsider.com respectively.

 

Mobile: The Marketing Key in Reaching Your Audience

Collage of Mobile DevicesFor some time now, the power of mobile has been very evident. The past few years have been full of headlines boasting “Mobile Is the Future” and how “Mobile Is Taking Over the World.” Despite these catchy headlines, oftentimes the meaning behind them is perceived as simply media hype. In this case, it is anything but puff from the media.

Mobile is incredibly powerful and is growing. Think about your own personal use. For me, I use my mobile device constantly, for professional and personal reasons. In fact, be it good or bad, I almost develop a twitch when I don’t have it nearby. J

Beyond my own obsession with mobile, the whole mobile market – the hardware, software, apps, services, infrastructure, etc. – and its reach is absolutely mind-blowing. Mobile essentially connects the entire world in real time all the time. It’s actually quite amazing when you think about it. Not only is mobile impacting the tech space, but it is also affecting healthcare, finance, retail, and numerous other industries. In other words, mobile plays a critical role in the whole economy. The Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) conducted a study on the full correlation between mobile and the economy and found the following key points regarding the mobile marketing ecosystem:

  …exhibits remarkable levels of investment for an industry so young: $6.7 billion spent on it by client-side marketers and retailers across all industries in 2012, a figure likely to reach almost $20 billion by 2015;

  …contributes even more impressive levels of incremental output to the U.S. economy: $139 billion in 2012, and reaching $400 billion by 2015, with at least 85% of this sales impact taking place in “off-line”, “brick and mortar” locations;

  …currently sustains over a half million jobs in 2012, and will likely support upwards of a million and a half workers by 2015, including both direct and indirect employees; in fact, every single employee in a direct mobile marketing communications role will support over 23 workers in non-mobile occupations throughout all 50 states and the District of Columbia in that year.

Furthermore, Pew Internet and American Life Project recently released a report that shows how many people use cell phones and what they use them for. The usage, which include  texting, accessing the Internet, email, apps, maps and directions, music, video calls, and check-in and location sharing all showed year over year growth in recent years.

Pew Study on Phone Usage

Pew Graphs on Mobile ActivitiesFor businesses today and going forward, mobile is one of the most essential means, if not the primary resource that users utilize for email, social media, search, shopping, notes and more. When businesses do not accommodate these trends, they miss out.

While this may sound obvious, unfortunately, many businesses don’t seem to grasp that emails are still being sent that aren’t optimized for mobile. This lack of recognition or whatever you want to call it also carries over to social media as businesses seemingly ignore the fact that the majority of Facebook and Twitter users access these sites via mobile devices.

To make sure that you don’t fall into this missed boat category, there are a few things you can do to get on board with mobile. First of all, you need to do some research. Test your site out on multiple mobile devices. Make sure everything is working how you want it to work. Tools such as Screenfly and iPad Peek, among others may help speed this testing process along.

It could also be helpful to have someone who is not familiar with your web properties to be involved in the testing to really check usability. Speed is another factor that should be tested in this process, as our society has grown incredibly impatient in this real-time world.

Secondly, to make the job of marketing visibility easier, businesses really need to consider implementing a responsive design. Late last year, Pete Cashmore over on Mashable wrote convincing piece on Why 2013 Is the Year for Responsive Web Design. In the report, he explained that a responsive web design “uses ‘media queries’ to figure out what resolution of device it’s being served on.”

Very simply put, such a design allows the content to automatically resize when the browser size changes. Responsive design has become wildly popular over the past year not because it’s the latest trend, but largely because it is very useful.

The third area that businesses need to think about is social media related to mobile. Now, while marketers can’t control speed or the backend of the apps, you can control the message you’re putting out. Basically, you have to make your message as accessible as possible.

Users aren’t interested in reading a dissertation only to be led to a link and another article. Instead, you need to produce content that catches their eye quickly and that doesn’t waste their time. In addition to making your message accessible, you need to be accessible. For instance, if someone comments to you on a Facebook post, you should not wait days to respond. Again, we are living in a society when people expect real-time results.

We say this a lot around here, but monitoring is absolutely critical in social media. And for marketers, the mobile capabilities are advancing right along with the user apps, making it difficult to find excuses not to react.

While the computer will not disappear any time in the near future, the value and convenience of mobile is only going to grow. There’s no turning back now. So, you can either jump on board, or fall behind. What’s it going to be?

Images courtesy of AskingSmarterQuestions.com and Pew respectively.

 

What LinkedIn Is Doing to Remain a Competitive Social Network

LinkedIn Logo

LinkedIn has been gradually making it easier for brands to utilize its professional network as a marketing tool. Its latest effort includes a redesigned and expanded analytics platform for Company Pages.

At first glance, it’s clear that LinkedIn has taken some tips from Facebook. The layout is similar in terms of what “insights” it offers. But, it does provide a wealth of information. For each post, the analytics show the impressions, clicks, interactions, whether or not followers were gained, and the percentage of engagement.

Beyond this, marketers can see their total reach, their follower demographics, their follower trends, and how they compare to their competitors. Some of these areas, such as follower demographics can be further adjusted according to seniority, industry, company size, function, and employee. The overall product defaults to show data from the past 15 days, but this can be adjusted as well.

Basically, LinkedIn has gone out of its way to try to fill the needs of marketers.

Just before LinkedIn announced its analytics platform, the company rolled out Sponsored Updates, again similar to that of Facebook. The two new products, however, work in conjunction with each other. On LinkedIn’s blog, Aviad Pinkovezky, the company’s Monetization Product Manager, wrote:

“The new LinkedIn Company Page analytics and the recently launched Sponsored Updates empower companies, organizations, and institutions to reach the world’s professionals and engage them in rich and meaningful conversations.”

LinkedIn has previously included analytics, but the company has never had such a robust platform as its most recent release.

Last month, LinkedIn also gave Company Page administrators the ability to act as a brand. For instance, this capability allows brands to like, comment, and share, although the feature is not available to all Company Pages yet.

The Impact

While all these new features are exciting, what is the real impact? For starters, LinkedIn is clearly showing that it belongs in the social marketing mix. No, it may not be as big as Facebook or Twitter, but it definitely doesn’t have all the noise the others have. Also, while Facebook and Twitter have both demonstrated maturity in recent years, LinkedIn has always been on a different level. Even with its IPO, the network never received the deafening press that Facebook did. And now, as a publicly traded company, it has demonstrated strength and stability in ways that other tech companies simply cannot do.

Meena Krishnamsetty, the Editor and Co-founder of Insider Monkey, expressed her confidence in the platform over on Market Watch saying LinkedIn would rule Web 3.0.

“It is positioned to be the dominant social-media investment over the next decade, when Web 3.0 — the next iteration of the Internet — finally takes hold,” she wrote.

According to her, one of the strongest indicators regarding LinkedIn is its revenue diversification. Unlike Facebook and Twitter, LinkedIn doesn’t depend on its ad revenue. In addition to its ad program, it has premium subscriptions and job listings with which to pull in revenue. Now, it has Sponsored Updates to include in its profitability pool as well.

Krishnamsetty makes a good case for LinkedIn. It’s almost as if the network has risen quietly in the shadows of Facebook and Twitter. The question is, do marketers recognize the value of it?