Viral Networking

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

What does social networking mean to you? There are many different answers to this question depending on how you use social networking websites. Many people around the world come together with common interests to use sites like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, whether these people are individuals, businesses, or entrepreneurs. What purposes do these different media services offer to the public? How do companies benefit from these services when it comes to marketing and the long tail distribution? We will take a look at a few of the popular sites available to people and how they are a democratizing tool for millions worldwide.

Twitter began as a micro-blogging service that later grew as a social media and news reporting website. People began to use this site to write about their daily life knowing that a mass anonymous audience would have access to read it. Even people who are suffering crisis within their country can post updates to provide the world with information and pictures. Aside from individuals using Twitter, 34,000 jobs were posted on TwitJobSearch in January proving that job recruiters and seekers are using Twitter (Miller). Why does Twitter work for employers and potential employees? Unlike e-mail, a company doesn’t have to come up with a list of people who will receive the "I'm hiring" message because anybody searching can see it and it's a cheaper, faster and easier way to recruit (Miller).  Starbucks' Twitter is an example of one of the many Fortune 100 companies using social networking sites. Starbucks uses Twitter to let people know about any new changes to the company, new gift cards available as well as new flavors for fans to test. Being a Starbucks addict myself, this site is a great way for me to find out new changes.

Facebook is a popular social networking site with 350 million users worldwide (Schroeder). People use this site to communicate, upload and view photos, videos, and other content. Small businesses are creating fan pages and groups for users to join in order to find new customers, build online communities of fans and dig into gold mines of demographic information on its users (Pattison). As the image on the left conveys, a user can see any updates posted by a business on their homepage (known to users as the 'news feed'). Just like Twitter, users and businesses can post updates and announcements, even something as simple as, "New Flip Ultra HD custom skins available on our website" Then other people who are connected to the business would read it and maybe post comments. The update from Flip drew me to visit their website and spend a few minutes drooling over the custom skins I can put on my Flip. If used effectively, companies can upload fresh content and updates regularly as niche marketing. This form of target marketing conducted by Flip worked on me. This also applies to the Long Tail distribution because they can provide information for free and promote products on an endless shelf space, hoping users will be willing to make purchases. Musicians and film makers use Facebook and MySpace to promote their music. Remember the 2008 election? Obama counted more than 2 million American supporters on Facebook, while McCain had just over 600,000 (Fraser).

On YouTube, Obama stole the show as his supporters uploaded more than 1,800 videos onto the channel (Fraser). His political campaign was promoted effectively via YouTube in terms of providing viewers with extra content about his promises of bringing about "change."

Universal Music and Hollywood Records are just two of the many companies that promote content online for viewers to enjoy. Through YouTube, companies can also keep track of ratings and how many people viewed videos. News organizations upload clips of news helping people stay updated. CNN is a prime example of this and such a YouTube link can be viewed here.

LinkedIn is a social networking website geared towards professionals trying to maintain contacts and information within the industry. This website standardizes information entered by users into predefined “Profile Headline”, “Summary”, “Education”, “Company”, etc. categories (Schaffer). People can use this site to find jobs as well. Google Buzz was created to compete with Twitter and Facebook, allowing users to have this social media site built directly into their Gmail. Here's a link to some success stories from businesses and individuals about their experiences using social networking sites. A new University of Maryland survey shows social media usage among small businesses increased to 24% in 2009, up from 12% in 2008 and 22% of those surveyed feel social networking is already helping them turn a profit, with 46% believing the marketing tool will help them make money within the next year ("ASI Central"). 

Below is a video that explains how businesses can use social networking sites as a business tool to connect with clients and build trust:

How do these social networking sites relate to the Long Tail distribution? Businesses can use these websites to promote their companies at a minimum or no cost. They can provide their content for free hoping to generate revenue. Individuals can exercise their freedom of speech by taking to Twitter and other sites to post their opinions and comments. Citizens unsatisfied with their government can post videos to raise awareness. Freedom of press allows journalists to convey their stories through social networking sites, especially on YouTube. The Internet is a democratizing tool and these social networking sites help provide people with a vast amount of information. Creative Commons allows people on these sites to protect their work via free licensing with "All Rights Reserved," "Some Rights Reserved," and so on. The video posted above was found on with a Creative Commons license.

Thus, social networking sites are changing the way people have access to information. People can view these sites through their computers, phones, and tablets. Companies like Starbucks have been smart enough to follow their consumers online and create social networking profiles to promote their own agenda and build trust in the community. Creative Commons allows these companies and individuals to copyright their content as they utilize the long tail distribution technique and niche marketing. So yes, social networking is a means to communicate with people and receive updates on friends, but it is also a form of viral networking and marketing that is benefiting millions of people worldwide.

Works Cited:
Images/Video found via Creative Commons Google Image (in order of appearance):
Twitter Feed: Web. 2 Mar 2010.

Tech Crunch Facebook: Web. 2 Mar 2010.

MySpace: Web. 3 Mar 2010.

YouTube Jennifer Hudson Performance: Web. 3 Mar 2010.

Video: Web. 3 Mar 2010." type="application/x-shockwave-flash

All Websites that were cited within the blog post:
"ASI Central." Social Networking Usage Doubles. 02 03 2010. Web. 2 Mar 2010.

Fraser, Mathew. "U.S. News and World Report." Barack Obama and the Facebook Election. 28 11 2008. Web. 3 Mar 2010.

Miller, Claire. "Twitter Could Become the Unemployed's Best Friend." The New York Times. 01 25 2010.
The New York Times Company, Web. 2 Mar 2010.

Pattison, Kermit. "The New York Times." How to Market Your Business With Facebook. 11 11 2009. The New York Times Company, Web. 2 Mar 2010.

Schroeder, Stan. "Mashable: The Social Media Guide." Facebook’s Road to 350 Million Users. 02 12 2009. Web. 2 Mar 2010.

Schaffer, Neal. "Windmill Networking." What is LinkedIn and Why Should You Join?. Web. 3 Mar 2010.


Neal Schaffer said...

Great article! And thanks for the mention!


Shahnaz K. said...

OHMYGOSH you landed on my post?!?!?! Such a small world online! To have someone I quoted land on my blog is Thank you!!!

Communication In Cyberspace said...

Great website, I liked how you explained things. I never thought of using myspace as an example, dont know why, but anyway. And ive never heard of linkedIn. I'll have to research that one! Obama has used social networking sites like crazy for his campaign, maybe thats one way he had a lead over McCain. It is amazing how fast these sites gained popularity and took off!!

Khan said...

Something you stressed in your blog was the usefulness of social media for businesses. I think that is the new wave of social media. Business and companies have caught onto the trend are utilizing it to not only attempt to increase profit, but it increase awareness and customer satisfaction. An important aspect of social media for companies to see what people are saying about them, the good and the bad. If people are tweeting about a bad experience they had with a company, a potential thousands of people can read it. But so is the same if they have a positive experience. Social media puts an entire new emphasis on the "word of mouth" approach.

Suzanne Wagner said...

Shanaaz, What a beautiful site and for a sophmore in college; this site is so polished and professional! I agree that the Long Tail of marketing on these social-networking sites are a great tool to reach a more niche audience without a lot of cost for advertisements to the organizations'. I wrote from the information I researched that instead of Twitter posted 34,000 jobs from December to January 2010 that there was 340,000 jobs posted; I will have to recheck my info and I like the fact that they have a software tool that can sort through the job postings and can place them into the search engine for the user to easily obtain. Excellent, Excellent Post!

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