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Facebook & twitter - a primer for the uninitiated


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  • 1. +SandraRiano Twitter and Facebook – A Primer for the Uninitiated Sandra Riano | | 416.606.904 | March 2011 1 Inception and Conception Jeff Bezos, CEO at once said “If you make customers unhappy in the physical world, they might each tell 6 friends. If you make customers unhappy on the Internet, they can each tell 6,000 friends”[1] and while this quote captures the potential impact of Social Media in the business world, companies have been slow to completely embrace the power of strong Social Media giants such as Twitter and Facebook. In this paper, I’ll discuss the similarities and differences between Facebook and Twitter and how they can be leveraged to yield profits and stay ahead in a market by observing market trends, and each medium’s strengths and weaknesses. Facebook and Twitter were created with two different purposes2,3: Facebook was created in March of 2004 for university students at Harvard as an online directory to keep in touch of school activities, friends and events and contact fellow students. It quickly grew to include several other universities and colleges until completely opening up for anyone, regardless of their status, to join. Twitter was created two years later to allow users to send private or public text-based messages to a group of ‘followers’; these messages were posted on the user’s profile page along with the messages of the users they themselves followed. These essential differences have shaped the type of interactions and potential monetary benefits each of these two services can yield, as it’ll be demonstrated later. An important factor that differentiates Facebook from Twitter is the set of features they possessed when they were initially introduced and the rate at which each introduces new features. Facebook users could create a personal profile with their basic information (name, age, relationship status, etc), add other users as friends by sending an email request, exchange messages through wall posts or private messages, join common interest user groups (which can be made private or public) and receive automatic notifications when they updated their profile; all these updates where shown on Facebook users’ reverse timeline. However, Facebook has introduced slow yearly improvements since they came into the market and taken an almost ‘if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” approach to their feature updates and upgrades [see chart above]. Some of the changes have been focused on developing the brand as a “meeting place”, i.e., photos, notes, chat, places, etc., while other changes have been introduced to attract corporate interest (fan pages, marketplace, ads, etc).
  • 2. +SandraRiano Twitter and Facebook – A Primer for the Uninitiated Sandra Riano | | 416.606.904 | March 2011 2 Twitter users, in the other hand, when the service was initially introduced were only able to exchange SMS limited to 140 characters in length, making them public or private to their followers (also known as tweeps which is a combination of the words twitter and peeps), and adding hashtags (#, pound sign) to their conversations if they desired in order to join their topics into groupings. This ‘conversations’ were shown on each Twitter user’s prolife as a progressive feed. Twitter has ramped up the improvements to their system to give them a complete overhaul in the last two years of their relatively short existence [see figure at right] with more projected changes on the way4. Similarly to Facebook, Twitter’s improvements have been two-fold, in one hand, they have been focused on creating an conversation hub where like-minded individuals can voice their ideas or happenings (trending topics, hashtags, twitpic, twitvid) while in the other hand, slowly opening the door for monetizing the exchange though paid ‘promoted tweets’. Twitter’s similar double-pronged approach, similarly to Facebook, creates branding and promoting opportunities for businesses. One of them is the recent proliferation of sponsored tweets; this is the practice where Hollywood celebrities are paid to promote a brand by either providing a link to said brand’s page or by simply gushing about the brand to their twitter followers; this has become one way to monetize the exchange and one that can be adopted by corporations to help promote their brand and benefit from the positive ‘halo effect’ celebrity endorsements have, that is, if the appropriate celebrity is chosen. Also, Twitter can be used to promote brand loyalty by answering questions, retweeting positive comments about the brands, address any negative feedback, redirecting users to the company’s website for promotional purposes and in general, humanizing the brand to help bridge the gap between what the does and what it stands for.
  • 3. +SandraRiano Twitter and Facebook – A Primer for the Uninitiated Sandra Riano | | 416.606.904 | March 2011 3 Factors in Brand Awareness One of the reasons businesses should adopt Facebook and Twitter as one of their promoting tools is due to the large exposure they can reach. Case in point, Facebook was able to quickly grow to over 50 million users in their initial four years and Twitter has been able to reach over 105 million registered users5 in their first four years (2006- 2010). Not surprisingly, and perhaps because of this quick growth, Twitter’s brand awareness6 has increased 61% for the 2009 to 2010’s period and while Facebook’s in the same period has only increased 13% - bringing both of brand awareness almost head to head. This brand awareness combined with actual growth of usage, translates on a large number of potential market demographic interacting online on a daily basis. For example, according to a 2010 study7 by, in a typical day’s 20-minute period, from an staggering 24,929,000 actions in Facebook, 41.24% of the usage corresponds to comments made to posts, 10.89% to uploading of photos (photo tagging not included) and 10.89% to sending messages while the left over 36.97% correspond to the remaining activities (wall post, links sharing, tagging photos, event invites, status updates and friend requests). Side-by-Side comparison of user demographics Source: Digital - Social demographics 2010: A fresh look at Facebook and Twitter, 10.08.2010 Link: 2010-a-fresh-look-at-facebook-and-twitter/ Side-by-Side comparison of Brand Awareness Source: Tom Webster, Edison Research - Twitter Usage In America: 2010, Edison Research/Arbitron Internet and Multimedia Study Link:
  • 4. +SandraRiano Twitter and Facebook – A Primer for the Uninitiated Sandra Riano | | 416.606.904 | March 2011 4 Types of Interactions A similar study from Sysomos Inc.8 looking into the types of interactions within Twitter, found that of 1.2 billion tweets examined in a two-month period, retweets (to repost another user's message) accounted for 19.3% of the activities and replies (to respond to another user’s message or mention or comment) amounted to 9.7%; this indicates 71% of the Twitter posts didn’t originated responses from other Twitter users. What all this means for business is the ability to reach a large market of users that are conditioned to quickly and actively participate in their virtual communities; these attitude can help businesses crowd sourcing efforts and provide immediate feedback to advertising efforts that can shape their campaign efforts almost immediately. In contrast, if the same campaigns are run in traditional media methods (TV, digital signing, printed media, etc) feedback and response time will be slow by comparison and change over, if needed, would be considerably longer. One interesting fact is the steady climb on adoption of these Social Media sites by corporations as found on a study by the University of Massachusetts Darmouth9. This study found that as of 2011, 298 (60%) of the Top 500 Fortune companies have corporate Twitter accounts updated on a regular basis. This number increased considerably from 35% as found in a similar study conducted on 200910. 35% of these companies (298) consistently responded with @replies or retweets within 72 hours or more often and have consistent interaction with other users and on-going discussions that are easy to follow. Strangely enough, even though Facebook has been in the Social Media sphere for a longer time, only 280 (56%) of the Top 500 Fortune companies are on Facebook; also, 147 companies (29%) have neither a Twitter account nor a Facebook presence.
  • 5. +SandraRiano Twitter and Facebook – A Primer for the Uninitiated Sandra Riano | | 416.606.904 | March 2011 5 What does all this mean to you? What all the above information this tells us is that while market saturation may happen soon, businesses still have time to become leaders on these social media sites by embracing the opportunities these two mediums can afford and turn them into financial gains. This aided with knowledge of user demographics from each11, an environmental review to define what their competitors are doing right and wrong in the same medium can help develop a value chain from positive network effects. Some of the opportunities for businesses in both Twitter and Facebook (with the best medium identified) are outlined in the chart below: Opportunity   Value  chain   Site(s)   As  more  companies  and  vendors  are  joining   Twitter,  business  can  build  credibility  with   their  clients  by  posting  industry  related  data   and  exchanging  relevant  information.   • Exposure  builds  credibility,  which  builds   recognition  =  more  business  opportunities.   • Retweets  can  increase  exposure  even   when  small  number  of  followers.   Twitter   Monitor  marketplace  and  what  people  are   saying  about  the  business  and  competitors.   • Market  research  builds  opportunities  to   stay  ahead  of  competition  by  applying   learnings  =  improving  product  and/or   service.     Twitter  and   Facebook   Communicate  directly  with  target   demographic  by  addressing  concerns   whether  via  public  views  or  private  messages     • Brand  credibility  builds  brand  loyalty  =   repeat  purchases   • Brand  accountability  builds  positive   discourse  =  followers  becoming  brand   stewards   Twitter  and   Facebook   Monitor  conversations  not  only  about  the   brand  but  also  about  what’s  new  and   creating  buzz   • Discovering  trends  builds  relevancy  in  fast   online  world  =  staying  ahead  of  the   competition   Twitter   Create  a  large  network  of  followers     • Followers  can  help  crowd  source  new   products  and  ideas  =  savings  developing   on-­‐target  products   Facebook   Identify  target  customers  to  aid  on  targeted   marketing     • Targeted  marketing  efforts  yields  best  use   of  marketing  dollars  =  long  term  savings     Facebook   Provide  location-­‐based  promotions  to  users   • Location  marketing  =  long  term  savings   Twitter  and   Facebook  
  • 6. +SandraRiano Twitter and Facebook – A Primer for the Uninitiated Sandra Riano | | 416.606.904 | March 2011 6 Based on the findings above and what Social Media stands for, the general thought would be that these sites would impair users’ abilities to interact in the real world but I believe what Social Media is able to do is to open up a world of knowledge and possibilities that can enrich the users’ life. The continue exposure to information and different points of view can only help expand people’s world views and aid connecting each other closely. I do believe that as with everything in life that we consume, whereas is food, drink, etc; the key is moderation and self-awareness. Moderation, because while online communication is easier than face-to-face interaction -- specially in today’s fast, time starved era -- efforts should be made to continue to maintain real life interactions as to not become socially inept and have the opportunity to share all the great information learned online. Self-awareness is needed to ensure users don’t become enclosed in their own world or too gullible of online information and are able to identify when the ‘online world’ is becoming their only world (or when they can only communicate on 140 characters or less!). It’s clear that society have changed in the last few years and we can expect more change to come as technology continues to evolve and shape communication and the way we interact with each other. The next couple of years will be interesting to see as the new generation who has grown posting their baby videos on YouTube and wanting to be a online superstar grows up and become part of society; who knows maybe by then, a new media will emerge and we will have to once again adapt and learn a new language. I believe the continuous changes are here to help us growth and become better human beings and I for one, welcome it. Sandra Riano 416.606.904