Social networking that counts...for now, at least

Social networking that counts...for now, at least

Social networking has been a compelling proposition since it came onto the radar near the start of the decade.

Facebook and MySpace were followed by Twitter in 2006, but Twitter had to offer a point of difference, being later out of the blocks.

The speed and efficiency resulting from the 140 character limit on each message quickly became Twitter’s unique factor, and has been a key driver in businesses increasingly using the site as a collaboration tool and promotional vehicle.

Fast forward to 2009 and questions over the future of Twitter and other social networking sites are coming to the fore. The exponential growth in these sites has made both consumers and business people more selective in the social networks they choose to use.

An April study by market research firm Nielsen gives credence to the view that Twitter is a fad. It revealed that about 40 percent of those who sign up to use the service become ‘Twitter quitters’, and don’t return to the site within a month of first use.

The Nielsen research also shows Twitter use increased by an astounding 3,712 percent to almost 300 million minutes users spent on the site this year and is the fifth most popular social networking site, although low retention rates have the potential to stifle the growth of the service long term.

LinkedIn has gained a strong following among those who want to keep in contact with current and former colleagues, while Facebook has held its own among social butterflies, retaining the top social networking spot with a stunning 700 percent increase in the number of minutes users spend using the site when compared with April last year, according to Nielsen.

I also like the look of Google Wave, an amalgam of social networking, email, wikis and IM. But in five years the tech industry may be questioning Wave’s future if, with an increase in users, it falters under low retention.

Because social networking is an immature phenomenon when compared with other technology, we’ll have to wait a few years to see if it’s a stayer or if users turn their backs.

Although I have a personal Twitter page and set one up for Reseller News some time ago, pros and cons remain over the extent to which it and other social networking media should be used to communicate with readers.

In spite of doubts over its long-term popularity, there are still a number of reasons we’ve chosen to use the service as part of our communication mix.

We know only a portion of Reseller News’ readers are Twitter users, but common sense dictates the number of users will be greater than those outside the industry.

Many of our readers access Twitter and other social networking sites on their smartphones and laptops while on the road for business, or in the office. With IT workers pressed to do more with less, the immediacy of the medium has the potential to make it even more valuable.

A number of IT companies were among the early business adopters of the service and have used it to provide enhanced customer service and communication, both internally and among potential new clients.

Social networking provides greater immediacy and this plays out locally at industry events and on a larger scale, for instance during internationally-significant newsworthy happenings.

So while a Twitter feed won’t appeal to our entire reader base, it’s a valuable way for us to communicate with those who do use it, and for businesses on the whole to capture a particular segment of their audience. The feed also has the potential to expand the number of Twitter users reading news about the channel.

The page provides daily updates from our website, and with it another way to get news quickly.

If it proves useful to even a small percentage of time-strapped readers, it will have done its job.

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