As a new or growing business, it’s easy to try and cast your online net as wide as you can by signing up for every platform available. However, be wary of biting off more than you can chew; having multiple social networking profiles for your business can create a huge amount of extra work – turning something that should make your marketing easier into a massive burden.
Google’s autocomplete tool is a great way to find out what people want to know about certain topics. It completes your words and sentences, based on what it thinks you’re going to type – and it makes these assumptions based on what other people around the world are searching on Google, and how frequently they’re searching for it (note: this works best if you’re logged out of your Google accounts and clear your browser history, as otherwise you’ll get autocomplete results tailored to you – rather than results ranked by worldwide popularity). Read more
At a glance, it might look like Facebook is your only option if you want to effectively incorporate social networking into your business’ online marketing strategy; but that’s simply not true. Here’s some facts and figures you should know about social media in 2015, and which might help show you just how relevant and profitable a niche, privately hosted social network could be. Read more
You have 8000 followers on Facebook, and need to post an important announcement about your business; maybe your office hours have changed, or you need beta testers for a new version of your product. How many people would you expect that post to reach, without paying for it to be boosted? According to a study done by Social@Ogilvy, you’re likely to reach 480 – a measly six percent. Larger pages (with followers in the hundreds of thousands) have their numbers slashed even more – to around 2 percent of their total followers. They anticipate that eventually, the average reach for most business pages will drop to zero. Read more
Social media roleplays are an online game in the same family as fanfiction and cosplay; users will create settings and characters, create social media accounts for them, and then play out relationships and events as those characters. Sometimes they play as established characters from television and film; other times, they extend existing fantasy universes. Where new characters have been invented, tradition dictates that they’ll choose a celebrity who fits their vision of what the character looks like, and use public domain photos of that celebrity where images are required or desired. These games have become so popular that players have to apply to take part; game organisers will ask a set of questions, and select the person they think will play best. For the most part, it’s harmless, creative fun; but recently, it’s taken a darker turn as people have started playing using photographs of “real” people, stolen from their social media profiles. It’s not quite catfishing, as players will usually make it clear that they’re role playing (by putting “RP account” in their description), but it can be equally distressing to the people whose photos are being used to represent a character they have no control over. Read more
If you run an international company, it’s worth remembering that Facebook is blocked and/or banned in some of the world’s biggest markets. While China technically lifted its ban on Facebook in 2013, it seems that access is still only available within the 17-square-mile free trade zone in Shanghai (to make foreign investors feel more at home). Access in Vietnam is hit-and-miss, and content is heavily censored thanks to an official decree passed in 2013 (so if you’re trying to get your post shared in the Vietnamese market, you might be out of luck). Pakistan will block any pages that seem to have blasphemous content; Bangladesh is the same. Even in countries where Facebook is available, it’s not always the social network of choice: VK is the most popular social network in Russia, and Japan’s social networking landscape is dominated by Mixi (which has 25 million Japanese users, where Facebook only has 16 million).
And that’s just taking into account location-based markets – Facebook isn’t always the most popular social networking site for particular employment, lifestyle or age demographics, either. Style bloggers dominate on Instagram; academics who don’t use Facebook can be found on Academia.edu.
If you have your own social network to connect with prospective clients or users in countries or demographics where Facebook isn’t going to reach them, you’re automatically ahead of the game; using Facebook is basic online marketing, using your own private social network to widen your reach beyond Facebook’s borders is smart marketing.
Facebook is, for the most part, not a particularly good representation of what people’s lives are really like; their profiles represent how they *want* to be perceived. A happy marriage, a busy social life, an image constructed through careful filtering of content.
But what happens when the image we want to portray to our personal connections doesn’t match up to what we want to send out to our professional ones? That profile picture of you and your partner at a festival covered in mud might make for a great anecdote and paint your life the way you want your friends to see it, but it’s not going to look so great to your customers or a prospective employer. You may be out and proud to your friends and family with your religion, sexuality, veganism etc, but don’t want your co-workers to judge you (or even worse, fire you) based on those attributes. If you work in the justice system, you probably don’t want people you’ve sent to jail knowing your daughter’s name or what suburb you live in.
People navigate these issues in a variety of ways; some will create two profiles, one for work and one for family and friends. Switching between accounts can be time consuming, and not everyone will get the message about which profile they should add. Some will carefully filter content and adjust their privacy settings to make sure that only certain people are seeing certain content; but this can be restrictive in terms of letting old friends find you, or letting people share content (eg, photos that they’re also in). Others decide it’s just too difficult, and the risks outweigh the benefits of belonging to a large social network.
A few days ago, Reginald Braithwaite posted an excellent piece titled “So Long, Reddit,” in which he stated that he would no longer contribute to a website that makes money off hate speech. Racist discussion threads (“sub-reddits”) like Chimpire might stand as a testament to just how far Reddit is willing to take its policy of free, virtually unmoderated discussion, but as Braithwaite correctly points out, Reddit is a business, and it’s making money off adverts placed in those threads. Essentially, as he puts it, they’re monetizing hate. While the majority of Reddit users may completely disagree with the sentiments expressed in these threads, they’re supporting their existence by supporting the website and its current policies.
This then begs the question: what are we complicit with, or could we consider ourselves to be complicit with, by continuing to be part of larger social networks? By giving Facebook money to post your adverts in people’s newsfeeds, are you supporting their “real name” policy and its negative implications for the transgender and drag community? By viewing sponsored photos on Instagram and contributing to their advertising revenue, are you supporting the deletion of breastfeeding photos as “obscene”?
If you create your own private social network, on your own website, you know exactly where every dollar is going. You can create policies and terms that you’re proud to announce. You can rest assured that everything you’re participating in sits well with your personal sense of right and wrong.
You’ve got mail…and new mentions…and new direct messages…
The way we communicate keeps evolving and changing. We’ve now got such a plethora of options at our fingertips that phrases like “I’m not a phone person” or “I don’t do text” have become necessary qualifiers when trying to express how we prefer to communicate.
All of these channels have their advantages, and disadvantages. Public business pages on Facebook allow you to reach a lot of people…including spambots and trolls. The phone forces you to think on your feet, which can induce serious anxiety – as much as it’s nice to hear someone’s voice, and have a conversation in real time. Email is quick, but messages can get lost in the pile if you’re someone who gets a lot of emails every day. Snail mail isn’t always more reliable. Twitter’s character restrictions can be well, restrictive. Skype lets you converse face to face with people all over the world, but you’ve got to have a strong internet connection (and a high data cap).
What I’d suggest this tells us is: we need to think about all of the options available to us, and make sure we’re using those channels as effectively as possible. Having your very own private social network, based on your own WordPress site, is an option that many people aren’t aware of, and one that can revolutionise your web presence; one that can give you a whole new way to communicate with customers (existing and potential). It’ll allow you to reach those who don’t want to join the “big boys” of social networking for privacy reasons, and those who get your posts filtered out of their newsfeed by default (thanks to Facebook’s algorithms).
It seems like everybody who works in communications is talking about Essena O’Neill at the moment; how she exposed the truth behind the photos she posted on Instagram, sharing what it took to get the perfect photo and how much she was paid for promoting certain products. She claims that social media is fake, and we’re all just seeking validation.
While many studies exist showing the negative effects of social media on self-esteem, most of the backlash against Essena has focused on three things: the fact that she’s still online and asking for money, that she’s manipulating information, and that there are many positives to social media.
I have a group of friends who I’ve known for ten years (we all met in 2005). One of them has made me and my partner godmothers to her son; another is planning to sign as a witness on my marriage certificate. Three of them live in my old hometown, and the first thing I do when I book a flight is send them a group text so we can arrange a girls’ night out. They’re my cheerleaders, my confidantes, people who I love dearly and who will drop everything just to call me on a bad day.
I met all of them online, because we joined the same private, niche interest social network.
Imagine if you were the only kid in your town who loved comic books. Imagine if you were the only person you knew with severe anxiety or depression. Imagine being transgender in the middle of the most conservative, religious city in your state. Imagine if everyone in your family just switched off when you started talking about your favorite book (again).
Maybe mass social networks are all about validation and popularity, but niche social networks are all about community. Technology isn’t inherently bad in itself; it’s how we use it.
There are several products which have been developed to try and create a more authentic social experience online. Casey Neistat created Beme, a video sharing app where you press to your chest to record, and the second you’re done, your video is uploaded (no opportunities for editing or withholding the information). Once the video has been watched, it’s gone. You can watch Neistat’s introduction to Beme below.
And of course, there’s PeepSo. Essentially, when you remove the mass market from the social networking experience, you remove the need to perform. When people join private, niche communities with a specific focus, there are no “celebrities”, there is nobody you have to impress. You’re simply there to connect with others, to have a shared experience.
The best thing Essena has done here is crack the door wide open, so we can start to have a real, informed conversation about what social media is, how it works, why we use it. We’re excited to be part of that conversation, and would love to hear your thoughts.