In the great social network race for supremacy, Facebook has always been ahead of the pack. After all, this was the world’s first introduction to social media – making it easy for millions of users to connect, share information and images and chat. As the market grew, additional social media sites began to grow too. Twitter soon became popular with users as well as online marketing experts, and the social media approach as we knew it began to change. Social media became the foremost way for users to share information online, and for many brands, it also opened up a way for businesses to connect to customers. Over the course of a few years, the number of users on Facebook, Twitter and other networking sites grew to a record sum – proving just how much social media has integrated into the way that we find information online.
So What Has Changed?
As often happens when a market begins to grow and saturate, the increased choice and options when it comes to social network services has had a small but evident impact on previous big players. This subtle change was highlighted recently when a study done by Inside Facebook reported a loss of nearly 6 million users in the United States, dropping to 149.4 million at the beginning of June from 155.2 million at the start of May. A loss of about 1.5 million users in Canada was also reported. The social media giant has denied this in a statement, stating that they are continuing to grow, but not everyone is convinced.
Some of the reasons that may have influenced a drop in users include privacy concerns, in particular the facial recognition aspect. This tool uses specialised software to identify users in photographs, to automatically tag them without consent. Along with previous privacy concerns that Facebook makes user information available for public search, this technology has caused much outrage for users. Removing facial recognition has to be done manually, by editing the ‘Suggest photos of me to friends’ setting in the ‘Things others share’ field. A message must then be sent to Facebook to request that this feature is turned off.
What Does this Mean for Online Marketers?
Despite a drop of numbers, which in the grand scheme of Facebook’s 700 million user scoop is minimal, the social giant continues to dominate. But as users begin to grow savvier in regards to what they expect from social media, online marketers need to be more tuned in to what users want. Social media campaigns that are riddled with excessive spam, continuous links with no conversation and other aggressive tactics may well find that users do not respond very well. The average person uses Facebook and other social platforms as a way to find information and connect. This means that businesses should be using social media to not only share company information, but also to engage in conversation.
You could think of social media as the online version of public relations people. While making a sale might be the ultimate goal, additional goals of helping customers, offering helpful tips, answering questions and building relationships with customers are every bit as important as making a hard sell. If companies strive to develop their online marketing campaigns effectively, they will be able to thrive online and reach millions of users who rely on social media on a day to day basis.
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