Shaa's blog: the rise and rise of social media

It's that time again … Social Media Week is back for its fourth year with events in twelve major cities around the world. Should you care? Should you join in?

Well, it's not hard to see why it's grown. 2011 was the year social media brought us the international movement Occupy and it was undoubtedly instrumental in galvanising nations to protest and in some cases it even helped bring about civil war.

Saudi princes were busy investing hundreds of millions of dollars in Twitter as it gave the world a place to mourn the deaths of Steve Jobs and Whitney Houston and celebrate the birth of Blue Ivy, the daughter of Beyonce and Jay Z.

Social media's branches have reached out into every aspect of our lives from the daily to commute, celebrity obsession, finding a local builder to playing a pivotal role in the downfall of governments. Not bad for a newcomer.

Social Media Week includes events, talks and seminars on the art of social media. It will dispel myths, share tips and inspire business strategies to make the most of the cheapest form of marketing ever seen.

With 30% of B2B marketers spending millions on social-marketing, and almost a third of those not even keeping track of the results, it's clear that businesses are willing to count on the industry to bring them results.

So is it still all about Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter? Yes, kind of.

Some people say the cracks in Facebook are starting to show while LinkedIn continues to grow and now has more users than the infamous MySpace, but will either of these networks follow the same fall from grace? Highly unlikely.

Google+ seemed to stall in challenging the market leaders; proving that being the biggest player doesn't guarantee you success in this space. In contrast, the relative newcomer (and my personal new addiction) Pinterest, the virtual pinboard, showed that new platforms for sharing can still have a huge impact as it broke the record for becoming the fastest site in history to reach 10 million unique users.

Pinterest, founded in March 2010, allows users to share images and links that appeal to them. Their biggest profit opportunity is referral traffic to retailers, which rose by 389% from July to December 2011.

However, as with any successful new industry, there's been a flood of social media sites targeted at specific groups. In such a saturated market, it's hard to build up a significant following without a new idea.

Foursquare has done well, with over one and a half million check-ins a day in America. However, it has failed to make a similar imprint on the UK market. I tried it for a while, but it just never really 'clicked' with me.

The big daddy of social media, Facebook, has held its dominant position for the last few years. This didn't change in 2011, but bad reviews of their newly introduced timeline feature (an attempt to compete head on with Twitter), a lower share of referral traffic and the loss of seven million US users in May last year suggested early signs of a decline. But don't mourn its demise just yet. My view is that Facebook has completely transformed the way we function and how our data is shared - just think of how often you are presented with the opportunity to 'log in' to a completely different site with your Facebook account. Genius or the work of Big Brother?

For those of you who follow me on Twitter (@shaawasmund) you'll know that Twitter is my favourite social media channel. I love it and always have. So naturally I've been interested to see how it has developed over the last few years, with its success being linked more to usage than pure user numbers. It was once true that over 50% of Twitter account holders said they rarely or never used it, but in the past two years, the actual number of tweets have increased by 252% while users have increased by only 26%.

We can't forget LinkedIn and for many of us in business it is simply the best way to make and maintain our connections. LinkedIn's growth of 138% in 2011 has been heavily influenced by company usage - 80% of businesses say they use social media for recruitment, and 95% of those are using LinkedIn.

Clearly, social media is still a growing industry with huge potential. Whether the market leaders will change over the years is uncertain but, as long as new ideas keep coming, our lives and business opportunities will be consistently improved and revolutionised.

Whatever happens, you can be sure Social Media Week will be back next year.

For more on Shaa, visit her website www.shaa.com and follow her on Twitter @shaawasmund

Social Media Blog

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