The Ghosts of Social Networks Past

As we move further into the Internet Age, it is exciting to speculate on the social networking (and social marketing!) possibilities that giants like Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Reddit will continue to offer down the road. However, it is also interesting to see just how far we, as a collective InterWebs-using community, have already come. You know, since Al Gore invented this thing. In honor of the journey so far, I’d take a stroll down memory lane to reflect on some fallen soldiers of social networks past.

 

In Memoriam

Myspace: (2003-2008)

 

myspace tom

No, Myspace is not technically dead; but it’s certainly on the cusp of breathing its last breath of digital air. The social networking site began in 2003, and after hitting its peak of 75.9 million unique monthly visitors, it is down to just 30 million monthly visitors. It has attempted to reposition itself as a “music discovery” site. In 2011, it was jointly purchased by Specific Media Group and Justin Timberlake, but even JT wasn’t able to bring Myspaces’ “sexy” back. Once Facebook began to really pick up steam in 2008, that was simply all she wrote for Myspace.

 

Digg: (2004-2011) digg logo 2

Slightly different than other social networks on this list, Digg is(/was) a news aggregator where users could submit links from various news sources into a common thread where they could upvote/downvote (or digg/bury) the submissions. At its peak in 2008, Digg had 236 million visitors on its website and was valued at $164 million dollars. However, after several unfavorable version updates and users feeling inundated by advertisements, the amount of monthly visitors began to decline steadily, ultimately ending up in Digg being sold to Betaworks for $500,000 (a mere fraction of its previous valuation). Many Digg users opted to jump ship and join Reddit, which boasted a simple-to-use interface and had the same voting system and many established sub-communities.

 

Xanga: (1999-2007) xanga logo

Xanga was one of the first blogging platforms. Launched in 1999, it allowed users to create a profile and then upload blog posts, music, and photos — all for the purpose of socially networking with others. In the same fashion that user preferences led people away from Myspace and over to Facebook, an entire generation of tweens chose MySpace over poor ol’ Xanga. The rise of blogging platforms WordPress and Blogger certainly didn’t help Xanga’s case either. While it still exists, it’s hanging by a thread, with usership declining massively since 2007.

 

GeoCities: (1995-2009) 

 

geocities ex.

GeoCities was a website comprised of many different interest communities, all named after real places. For example, “Augusta” was a community of golf lovers and “CapitolHill” was a place to discuss politics. In 1999, GeoCities was the third most visited website in the world. In the same year, GeoCities was acquired by Yahoo! for $3.57 billion in stock. The acquisition by Yahoo! caused changes in the GeoCities’ terms of service, which was not well received by the various communities within the site, and as a result, users began to exit in droves.

Foursquare (2009-2010) 

 

foursquare

Foursquare is a website and mobile device application that allows a user to “check-in” at various locations; it will then share this event over on Facebook and/or Twitter. Foursquare is not technically “dead” yet, as its creators continuously issue out new updates that promise to revolutionize the app. In 2011, a study of unfollowing behavior on Twitter found that users exhibited a distaste for “automatically generated bursts of Foursquare logs.” It seems as though Foursquare has become the equivalent to what a pager would be in a market where iPhones and Samsung Galaxys already exist.

Of course, there are many other social networks gone-wrong that could join the above list, such as Friendster, Bebo, and hey, who remembers Tribe and Vox? Yet, here at StrataBlue, we choose to relish in the present in terms of the social marketing we do for clients.

More important, the lesson we take away is that the social marketing landscape can change in the blink of an eye. Today, people spend countless hours tweeting, liking their friends’ Facebook posts or Instagram pics, and watching online video on YouTube and Vimeo… But just like that, tomorrow, a new social platform could swoop in to replace any or all of them. Brands and agencies that aren’t dedicating time to exploring new communities and technologies for the purpose of tapping into the exposure and engagement offered by social-networking sites are at risk of missing the digital boat.

How Mobile is Your Business?

Is your business mobile? I don’t mean literally, unless you own a food truck, but are you taking advantage of mobile marketing? According to eMarketer, U.S. adults spend an average of 2 hours and 20 minutes on non-voice mobile devices every day! Are you taking advantage of this? Better yet, are you reading this on a mobile device?

Going forward, your marketing must be designed with both mobile and desktop in mind. Before you create that next email, ask yourself, “How will this look on a mobile device?” Internet traffic on mobile devices will soon exceed traffic from traditional desktops.

Use mobile marketing to create loyalty among your customers. If you are relying on loyalty “punch cards,” you might actually have the reverse effect in some cases! Let’s say you own a restaurant and pass out loyalty cards. A potential customer is out looking for a place to eat and passes by, but has forgotten their loyalty card so they probably won’t stop in. Even if they were in the mood for your food, they will go somewhere else and wait until they have their card to eat at your place. If you were to offer a deal for anyone who checks in on Foursquare (a location-based social network), you would never have to worry about that. People can also connect their Twitter or Facebook page to Foursquare so all their friends see they’re at your place. That is some great user-generated marketing right there.

If the weather is bad or you’re having a slow night, send out a quick tweet offering a special. For example, most people aren’t inclined to go out to dinner on a cold and snowy evening. As a restaurant, send out a tweet that you’ll give half priced bottles of wine to anyone who shows their server the tweet tonight. It’s a great, easy way to market on-the-go, and it also rewards your social media fans for following you.

Have you ever been into an Apple store? No matter how many people crowd their stores, you never see an angry line of people waiting to check out. Each employee can fulfill your purchase anywhere in the store with their mobile device. Imagine how much better your customer service would be if a customer walks in and finishes a transaction with one person without having to deal with multiple people or waiting in line to resolve their issues.

With mobile subscribers projected to reach 7.5 billion people by the end of 2014, can you afford not to use mobile marketing? Over the next few weeks, I will be discussing different tools and techniques for mobile marketing. Are you already using FourSquare for your business? What kind of promotions have you successfully ran? Leave a comment or connect with me on Twitter!

Paid Promotion & Social Media Strategy

If you know a musician, say the phrase “pay to play” to them. I guarantee they will groan, complain or roll their eyes. Pay to play means that an artist is paying the club or venue to perform, and the performer will (hopefully) earn their money back if enough fans come to see them. Of course, if no one shows up…

Last week, Instagram dropped the news that users will be seeing “an occasional ad” in their feeds. Their CEO has promised that these videos will be tasteful and light, and that they’ll only be coming from brands that have a lasting relationship with Instagram. It has been pointed out that Instagram’s video capabilities will offer advertisers commercials on 150 million screens—whether those viewers want them or not.

In a similar blog statement, Foursquare has opened up a self-service advertising platform for smaller businesses. This just seems to be the newest platform for Foursquare to try to jump into the pay to play market. Foursquare’s pitch is that small business owners will be able to tell if a customer “actually walks into their store” with simple analytics. I’m not sure how simple this approach will be, though.

Is the world of social media going to a paid promotion format? It’s no secret that promoting Facebook ads with cash helps. It gets your brand in front of more people, and even targets different demographics. It works. So, logically promoting your business with Foursquare or even Instagram (eventually) will help as well, right?

Paid Promotion is a tool. It’s just like scheduled Facebook posts and Google Analytics. Clients will come to you, frantically waving their smartphones and asking why you aren’t promoting their Foursquare presence. Keep it cool; you really need to do your homework before jumping right into pay to play. Ask yourself some questions.

  • What do I know about this? Have you researched paid promotion in the past? Have you dug into how it will help that particular brand? If not, you shouldn’t start spending money yet.
  • What am I trying to achieve with this? Paid promotions are great for getting your name in front of a lot of people. However, it won’t help you engage with your current fan-base. If you’re trying to get more engagement, consider another option.
  • How much should I pay for this? Facebook allows you to boost your posts at a variety of levels with different dollar commitments. These different levels are very important based on your fan following and size.

Make sure you also know if your client is even ready for paid ads. Are they, quite frankly, punching at that level? Theoretically, a boosted Facebook post or two could help a business at the beginning of their social media life. But once the initial flash is over, it’s time to get down to the real work of engaging with your new found followers. That means interesting, appropriate content aimed at the right people. Content marketing is heavily discussed and analyzed for a reason.

So what does this all mean?

Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom wants to see his app “on every platform, on every kind of phone and tablet and wearable…” I don’t know if all the marketing content on there will be paid for or organically created. In a world where you can see ads through your watch, it will be quite important that those ads are engaging and well-crafted either way.