While ‘social media’ may not be a completely new term (see the recent Forbes Magazine article for examples of great social media campaigns that began in the 1990s), the fast development of what social media has now become in the past years is staggering.
The Influence of Twitter and Facebook
There are more people on Facebook worldwide than there are people in the entire United States, and TweeSpeed reports that there are about 60,000 tweets being made per minute.
This goes to show that the two most popular social networking websites today are Facebook and Twitter – the majority of Americans have heard of them and most have an account at at least one of them. But while it can be argued that these are the “core” social media websites online, they would be nothing without the plugins, extensions, APIs, and applications that have spawned out of them to create a reach that extends far beyond going to Facebook.com, logging in, and updating your status.
Sharing Content Online
APIs and other websites make it possible to update your social media profiles without going to the site at all. For instance, you can now ‘Like’ something on Facebook without going to Facebook or you can share a link on Twitter simply by clicking ‘Tweet This’ at the top of a blog post or news article you were reading and want to share.
Companies, bloggers, and news outlets have begun utilizing social media as a way for their content and information to be shared online with potential readers and customers. The partnership between the content producers, social media users (who are also consumers), and social media itself has created a world where anything can be shared. In fact, a majority of users are using social media multiple times a day. Because of this, Facebook and Twitter (and social media as a whole) have transformed into crucial online marketing tools that companies are making a mandatory part of their consumer outreach.
Changing Communication Habits
Besides impacting companies’ marketing plans, social media is also impacting how we communicate overall online. A recent survey by Nielson reports that “high social media consumers” use email more than a person who is a “low social media consumer”.
Avid social media users enjoy consuming more information, and therefore are more likely to communicate more online overall than those who don’t regularly use sites like Facebook and Twitter. It’s also more likely that “high social media consumers” will have a profile on several different social media sites and are sharing information on all of them.
Going Beyond Facebook and Twitter
Because social media is all about sharing, social media websites are far less competitive with one another when it comes to getting more traffic and users. This is what makes social media unique from other websites, products, or communication methods we have today. Other social media bigwigs – YouTube, Yelp, and FourSquare, just to name a few- embrace Facebook and Twitter. They don’t try to fight against them to make sure they are the number one ‘sharing’ site on the web. These sites (and hundreds of others) allow you to link your Facebook and Twitter accounts with accounts on their sites so you can share your activities with your friends and followers.
Social media sites rely on the core popularity of Facebook and Twitter in order to grow in online popularity themselves. For instance, a user may love to read, but doesn’t go online much. However, he or she has a Facebook account and notices a post from one of their friends which states that they have marked a book as “finished” on their GoodReads.com profile, along with a link to that user’s review of the book. The initial user probably would have never found out about GoodReads, had they not had a Facebook account. But Facebook has helped them discover a new site to join that directly relates to their personal interests.
Collaborative Communication Means More Sharing and More Traffic
This is why social media is so successful – the social media core works with other sites by allowing them to connect via APIs. In turn, more traffic is sent to both sites, without fear of competition or less revenue. Facebook and Twitter aren’t worried other sites will steal their traffic. Instead, they have chosen to focus on being the best social media sites they can be, which means constantly providing an enhanced user experience and overall web presence.
Whether this means introducing regular new features like Facebook Places and Auto Re-Tweet or helping other sites share their content, users will continue to visit Facebook, Twitter, and their other favorite websites online simply because it gives them a place to share and a place to feel that their voice is being heard.
Social media websites like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Digg, and others have realized that you can’t make someone visit your site. Instead of trying to ‘oust’ other sites, they have instead focused on making sure users can share whatever information they want across any medium they choose.
This sense of freedom is really what social media is all about, being a part of something and feeling like everyone in the world is just a ‘Follow’ or ‘Add as Friend’ button away.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.