With the recent surge in social media startups, it’s a crowded field with only a few real standouts. Considering the possible overhead costs, not all networks need the kind of user numbers that Facebook or Twitter have to stay alive. They do however need to have good value for clients before marketing firms start moving resources into them. Value comes in different forms, and user rates as well as statistics are more often than not misleading. Here are 5 things to consider when weighing the value of a potential social network to become active on.
1. User numbers are misleading
Facebook states on its Press Info page that there are over 800 million users who are currently active and over 50 percent log in every day. Twitter recently reach 200 million users, but a recent study in Popular Mechanics shows that 41 percent are fake accounts or tweet mostly spam. Up to 65 percent could be computer controlled in one way or another. Google + reach 20 million users at a record pace, but I wonder how many of those people also have Facebook accounts (I would bet that 95 percent had them at one time or still do), and which network are they more active on? Users mean very little if they never log on.
2. Traffic is not the only thing of Value
Twitter routinely brings my sites more traffic than either Facebook or Google+. Most of those hits come from the Twitter feed, so I’m only making an impression on those who click the link. 140 characters is limiting when you are trying to make an impression, and marketing is as much about getting on the consumers mind to make a sale later as it is about selling right this minute. Facebook and Google+ both offer the ability to practice SEO through Likes and +1s, but Twitter doesn’t have a partnership with a large search engine.
3. People Click Links Less on Facebook
I recently joined a startup called Chime.in. It is based on the premise of sharing relevant content across interests. Almost every contact you have that is online will click on your shared stories if they are enticing enough. Google+ also offers better CTR if you have built your network to any extent. Twitter has been the ultimate content sharing network because you connect with so many people and they must click a link to get more than 140 characters (If you plant enough seeds some are sure to grow). Facebook however is mostly used for sharing personal content, and less about sharing professional content. Even with its superior numbers, the majority of users will not get as many clicks as on other networks, everything else being equal.
4. Not Everything is intended to replace Facebook
Recent additions to the social stratosphere Connect.me and Xeeme are intended to supplement your use of other networks. LinkedIn is intended to focus on business and your career. Whatever your goals in life are, there are several networks that will help you reach them. Don’t let Facebook be a limiting factor because all your friends are there. I have expanded my network to include several important contacts on Empire Avenue, and it took less time and was more targeted than what I could have done on Twitter.
5. MySpace was the most used network years ago
Facebook played second fiddle for quite some time in the world of social networks. If you believe that Facebook will continue to hold a 400 percent lead over its closest competitors, you are likely being naïve. Don’t let anyone ever downplay the importance of adopting technology early and getting a head start on your competition. On Twitter you could have grown your network uninhibited before following restrictions were added. It was fairly obvious that Twitter was going to succeed, even before they came out of beta.
You could say the same for Google+, it was obvious that there was going to be enough success to make establishing yourself there worthwhile. Your time is valuable, but casting a wide social net makes it that much more likely of your success. It’s usually easier than not to pick the winners, so it’s not that big of a gamble. I know some people want Facebook to fail, and others hope that every other network will fail. Facebook isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, but its likely there will be better places to actively market in the future. Get in on the ground floor, and get your seat at the startup table before it’s full.