The past few years have given rise to three major factors that have increased the impact of social networks: increasingly available Wi-Fi, smart mobile devices and the number of social network users. The combination of these three factors experiencing growth have made social networks more useful, ubiquitous and influential to consumers than ever.

More Useful
Social networks have given users the ability to get information from their trusted personal relationships with ease and speed. According to trend data from Compete, Facebook’s number of monthly visitors has grown by 248 percent to 122.6 million, while Twitter’s number of monthly unique visitors has grown by 1,164 percent to just under 23 million.

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Social networks have essentially become a microphone people can use and say, “Hey! I have a question” no matter where they are. This is at least part of the reason for the success of Yelp, a recommendation site where people can share reviews about businesses in their area and beyond. The site’s number of monthly unique visitors has grown from 16 million to 26 million over the past year.

People are looking to each other to help them make decisions, which social networks have made incredibly easy.

More Ubiquitous

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A new report from comScore reveals just how much social media has integrated into our daily lives and culture. According to the report, nine out of ten 25-34 year-olds in the U.K. visited a social networking site in May 2009, spending an average of 5.4 hours on social networks each month. The report reveals that this is a trend that bridges generations.

The trend is not isolated to the home either. A study from WorkPlace Media found that 43 percent of office Internet users reported accessing at least one social networking account, and 22 percent of the individuals accessing social networks did so for at least 30 minutes.

Lastly, people are no longer tethered to their computers when accessing social networks. In fact, many social network users are connecting through their mobile devices. According to eMarketer, 21 percent of mobile users check their email, 18 percent browse the Internet and 10 percent are visiting social networking sites.

Social networks have integrated themselves everywhere: at home, at work and while on-the-go.

More Influential
The conversations occurring in the online space carry influence as people tell each other about products and services. According to Forrester Research, 36 percent of people in the U.S. are online critics by leaving reviews and ratings and 68 percent are spectators, reading reviews and ratings.

WorkPlace Media found that 25 percent of office Internet users recommended businesses or products through social networks, 33 percent received recommendations and 18 percent actually acted on recommendations given to them through social networks.

Product or Brand Recommendations From Social Networking Sites
(Percent of Respondents)
Activity Yes No
Recommended business/product via social network site 25% 75%
Received a business/product recommendation via social network site 33 67
Acted upon business/product recommendation from social network site 18 82
Source: WorkPlaceMedia, May 2009

People love to talk about what they like and what they don’t like. Social networks have empowered them to shout it from the rooftops, leading to purchase makers or breakers.

Brands Using Social Networks
Marketers should be aware that consumers are talking — sometimes about their brands and sometimes not — with more people and more often. Being a part of the conversation, however, doesn’t always mean talking. In fact, it often means listening. What are people saying about your brand? What is bothering them? What can you do to help? Those are all questions that can be answered more easily now than in the past just by listening.

Social networks began as a way for people to connect and to stay connected, so the best way to approach them as a marketer is to be a person. Brands entering into social networks should first assess what value, support and enjoyment they can bring to the conversation. After all, being involved doesn’t just mean “showing up.” It means building relationships with the people that matter most: your customers.

:: By Taylor Wiegert, Social Marketing Associate

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