Social Networking High Among Internet Users

By Jeri Denniston, Denner Group International, November 11, 2013

Takeaways: Social networking is most popular among adult internet users. Those who use social networks are most likely to shop online. Facebook users have a high trust level. Social ties are stronger among social networking users than those who don’t use social networks.

A May 2013 research study by Pew Internet on Social Networking generated some interesting facts and implications for business. According to  the study, 72% of  all online adults use social networking and 18% use Twitter. This is split almost equally between men and women. While the large majority are between the ages of 18-29 (89%) and 30-49 (78%), 60% of internet users aged 50-64 also use social networking sites.

Most are college educated and earn more than $50,00 annually. 71% earn more than $75,000 a year.  Accessing social media sites via mobile phones is highest among the 18-49 age groups and also among Blacks and Hispanics. These individuals also tend to be college educated with annual household incomes of more than $50,000.

Most adults use social networking sites to keep up with close social ties. According to the study, they have more close ties and are half as likely to be socially isolated as the average American. So that debunks the idea that social media tends to isolate people. In reality, internet users, and social networking users in particular get more support from their social ties than non internet users, according to the study.This is especially true with those who use Facebook.

What does this mean for businesses?

The majority of online adults have the discretionary income to purchase products and services. Most do their shopping online….or at least their comparison shopping online. They also ask their friends on social networks for their input and check out online reviews on sites such as Yelp, Trip Advisor and Google+.

As a business owner or senior executive, you need to ensure all employees are trained in how to use social media for your company and what information is OK to share. Consumers want to talk to the people at the business who can answer their questions or solve their problems. So it’s more important that everyone in the organization be equipped to respond, rather than relegating social media to the IT or Marketing department. Customer service people need to be trained in how to respond to customer inquiries. Product managers should be responsive to customer suggestions and queries about products and services. CEOs and division heads need to be aware of what their staffs are saying on social networking sites. They also should be sharing with their peers about company innovations, promotions and successes to engage them and generate interest. Marketing and IT don’t have all the answers.

This means HR needs to include social media training as part of the new hire and ongoing employee training programs. Learning how to respond to consumer questions or complaints, understanding how consumers will interact with your brands and services, and creating effective marketing strategies that include social media promotions to engage the public are more important than ever.
And managers need to understand how social media can impact the bottom line – either positively or negatively.

Social media is evolving into a powerful tool that enables companies to get closer to their customer. The businesses that embrace social networking and create programs and policies to manage it smartly will be the winners in the new social networking age.

Measuring influence is a challenging affair

By Jeri Denniston, Chief Marketing Strategist, Denner Group International    July 8, 2013

Takeaways: Measuring influence is not as easy as it seems. It’s possible to game the system by being more active, but this doesn’t mean you have an influential voice. Audience engagement is a better measure, but that has its own set of challenges.

Are you an influential leader? Do people follow you and pay attention to what you say and write about?

Influence is right up there with reputation when it comes to your online profile. People check out a person or business online first before they decide to do business with them. What others say about you and your company, as well as who is following you are just two criteria people use to evaluate you.

Consumers Trust Online Reviews

According to a 2011 Nielsen Global Trust in Advertising survey, 70% of consumers trust online reviews almost as much as recommendations from people they know (92%). This is ahead of editorial content such as what’s written in local newspapers (58%). The world has changed.

This is especially true when companies are looking for job candidates or consultants or your customers are ready to buy. What others say about your products and services influences the decisions they make about whose product they buy.

So if influence and reputation are important, how do you measure those?

One way is through Klout.com. This site tracks your updates across several social media sites, as well as who follows you and how recently people engaged with you in the past 30 – 90 days.  Klout assigns your profile a score between 1 and 100 based on your level of online activity and engagement of others through likes, comments, new followers, and re-tweeting or re-sharing of your posts.

In his article, How Influential Are You? Measure it!, Bernard Marr offers examples of how some of his clients are using Klout. One company, for example, use Klout to evaluate potential job candidates. Since teens are their target market, they hire teens for their retail stores. Klout helps them choose the best and most influential candidates from the applicants. But Klout isn’t the only tool to use; in fact, there are a variety of tools such as Peerindex and Twitalyzer which attempt to rank your level of reach and influence.  

However, the flip side of this story is understanding just what influence is. According to A TechCrunch article by Dr. Michael Wu, Principal Scientist of Analytics at Lithium, influence measurement tools are not based on independent, third party evaluations, but rather on algorithms that measure how active you’ve been on social media. The more active you are, the higher your influence score. So it’s possible to “game” the system simply by being more active. Does that really mean you’re more influential than the next person?

Audience Engagement is Key

Audience engagement is really the key factor in social media. This is measured by how many and how frequently people respond to your posts, comment on them, and share them on their sites. We’re familiar with this term for traditional media like radio, TV and print; but social media brings another set of challenges for measuring influence and audience engagement depending on the specific tool – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and sites like Yelp and Foursquare – just to name a few.

The bottom line: social media offers multi-faceted, multi-directional communications that are continually evolving. Measurement systems come and go as the field continues to grow and change, and no one tool fits the bill for everyone. Staying abreast of these constant changes and using the tools that make sense for your situation, are the best ways to monitor and track your social media efforts.

Facebook’s Graph Search rolls out today

By Jeri Denniston, Chief Marketing Strategist, Denner Group International   July 8, 2013

Takeaways: The Facebook graph search tool is opened up to everyone today. If you aren’t familiar with it, it’s Facebook’s entry into the search arena. Change your privacy settings before you use the tool.

Facebook opens up its new graph search tool to everyone today, and this could mean another level of encroachment to your online privacy – unless you change key settings before you use the tool. The new graph search allows users to search every piece of data on Facebook – that means everything you’ve entered about your photos, your posts, your interests, etc. – could be available to those you don’t know unless you carefully change your privacy settings.

This Business Insider article by Kevin Smith walks you through the steps you should take to change your privacy settings before you use graph search.

Why should you care?

One reason is that your entire timeline is visible to everyone if you leave it public. That may not matter depending on what you’re posting and your reasons for being on Facebook. On the other hand, I know of people who have been “found” by people from their past whom they preferred not to re-connect with. So if you’re one of those, then review your privacy settings carefully.

Also review the photos and posts in which you’re tagged. Are you comfortable with those images being shown online? If not, then follow the steps to have them removed. Facebook has made it easier to do than in the past.

As always, remember that what you post online is there forever, so think carefully about the content you post before you share. This is especially important for young people who have their careers ahead of them. Future employers check out your Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn profiles before they hire you. Your past posts could be a reason you don’t get that job you really wanted. It’s a judgement call the employer makes when they consider job candidates. So think about he future consequences before you share that photo or dis someone or something. It could come back to bite you in the derriere!

Instagram Adds Video

By Jeri Denniston, Chief Marketing Strategist, Denner Group International   6/2013

Takeaways: Instagram, a photo sharing app available for iPhone and Android, recently rolled out the addition of video. No surprise. Since Facebook purchased the company last year for $1 billion, and already offers video uploads, it’s only natural that feature would be added to Instagram.

Old News: Facebook buys Instagram for $1 billion in April 2012
NEW: Whitehouse and Michelle Obama join Instagram

Instagram

Instagram is a social media smart phone app that lets you instantly upload photos, and now videos, to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and other social sites. Started in October 2010 by two Stanford grads, and quickly grew to more than 35 million users. That, among other things, brought it to the attention of Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, who purchased the company in April 2012 for $1 billion. Smart phone apps are the new frontier, and Facebook was falling behind in that area. With Instagram in the family, they have a leg up on social photo and video sharing. And now that the White House and First Lady have set up accounts, the rate of new users will likely increase.

This app lets you easily edit any image by applying filters to create unusual and interesting images before you upload, then just hit a few buttons, and bingo! It’s uploaded. Try it, and let me know what you think.

Social Networking Pros and Cons

 By Jeri T Denniston, Chief Marketing Strategist, Denner Group International    6-16-2011

Takeaways:  Social networking mini-breaks help relieve boredom, increase productivity, and encourage team building.

Social Networking at WorkAccording to a 2010 study by Brent Coker, “Workplace Internet Leisure Browsing,” workers who social surf up to 20% of their total workweek actually increase their productivity 12%.  These mini-breaks from the mental challenges of work relieve the brain of tedium and help to clear the mind.

The above study was cited in the June 2011 Costco Connection magazine. According to the study. researchers found that participating in social networks online actually helps build additional knowledge to help further company growth.

The article also quoted a Costco member as saying, “Use of social media is essential to team building, well-being and a sense of collective purpose, especially in smaller companies where staff may be isolated at different sites.”

Social networks are also a quick way to get answers at work. I recall a technical computer problem I had that I spent hours trying to resolve, including support calls to Microsoft, with no success. I posed a question on LinkedIn and within minutes, received the right answers from several high level technical experts which helped me resolve my issue.

Some drawbacks

Allowing staff to openly use social media can lead to leaks of confidential information, poor brand image, and even customer service concerns. The article cites the example of Pro footballer Antonio Cromartie who was fined $2,500 for “breaching NFL rules for tweeting that the poor food served to players on Virgin Atlantic was linked to poor performance.”

According to the article, Deloitte’s 2009 Ethics & Workplace survey found that 74% of employed Americans say damaging a brand’s reputation like this is easy. Consequently, it’s important to have a social networking policy and ensure that all staff understand the parameters of that policy.  Check with your Legal Department before implementing it, though, since monitoring employee social networking activities raises legal questions about employee privacy vs. company rights.

Click here to read the full article.

Pinterest: Like Virtual Window Shopping

By Jeri T Denniston, Chief Marketing Strategist, Denner Group International   4-28-2012

Takeaways: Pinterest is equivalent to virtual window shopping. It’s the fastest-growing social media site on the web, driving more traffic than Facebook and YouTube combined.

A quote by Industrial designer Paavani Bishnoi in the article, Why Women are Pinterested, Daily News & Analysis, caught my attention: “I no longer feel like logging in to Facebook when I am bored. I do not want to know what others are doing this minute. Twitter is all about giving an opinion. Pinterest, on the other hand, is relaxing. It’s just about sharing good stuff. It’s like window shopping on the laptop.”

One of My PinboardsFor those unfamiliar with Pinterest, it’s the hottest new social sharing site on the internet allowing you to create virtual boards of pictures and videos around a particular theme.

My pinboards are eclectic because I have many interests – from gluten free cooking to personal growth and development, to art and spirituality.

Pinterest Users are Mostly women

Studies show that 80% of Pinterest users in the US are women between the ages of 25 and 54 (30% are between 25 and 34 years of age). Perhaps that’s because women tend to be more visual than men and are accustomed to creating “vision boards” of pictures and magazine clippings around a theme. 

Hubspot’s April 13, 2012 blog puts Pinterest as the 3rd most popular social networking site in the US in terms of traffic. As of February this year, the site had accumulated more than 10.4 million unique users.

Personally, I think it depends on what one “pins” to their virtual boards. I see more and more men re-pinning my pins and following me – so it definitely depends on the contents you’re sharing. Women may have started the trend, but I see men and businesses catching on quickly to this new traffic-generating site.

The latest statistics I’ve seen say that Pinterest is driving more traffic to websites than Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn combined. That’s huge!

There are no restrictions that prevent a business from putting up a corporate Pinterest site with pinboards of their products. The advantage is that you can not only display pictures of your products, you can create short how-to videos that demonstrate how to use them, put them together, etc., and a price. When you put a price in the caption, Pinterest slaps it diagonally across the upper left corner. It’s attention-getting. Add a link to your website or shopping cart, and you can generate sales right from Pinterest.

My prediction is that entrepreneurs have the rest of 2012 to take advantage of this before the big guns get on board. Afer that, we’ll see more and more corporate Pinterest sites using this to create revenue streams, advertise their products and drive traffic to their websites. And much of that will be driven by men, since men still occupy the bulk of the C-Suite offices.

So make rain while you can, ladies! Let’s have some fun with this and generate income, too!