What is social media? Every day more and more people are interested in what social media actually is and how does it work. This growing interest can be explained by the fact that Internet has started to conquer the world - each passing day the number of Internet users is growing. So what social media is? According to authors of The Social Media Bible Lon Safko and David K. Brave, Social media is about enabling conversation. It is also about the ways that this conversation can be prompted, promoted, and monetized. So Social Media is a set of online technologies that allows users to communicate with each other using conversational media. Conversational media is a Web-based application that makes it possible to create and easily transmit content of conversation. Communication can be in various shapes - users can share their views, experiences and knowledge, interact with each other, establish contacts and share news, information, videos, photos, music and links. When and how did everything around social networks start? When did we start living cyber life? When did Facebook or Twitter or some other social network started to have influence on our life? Looking back, we can see that it all started with electronic bulletin boards in the late 70s. That was the first type of website that allowed users to log in and communicate with each other, albeit very slowly in comparison with what we can do nowadays. After electronic bulletin boards on-line services such as CompuServe and Prodigy came to existence. They were the first really serious attempts to access the Internet. Then the world learned about ICQ and IRC (Internet Relay Chat). Next step on the way to social media was dating sites. They were the first actual social networks. They allowed and still allow users to create accounts (usually with photos) and communicate with other users. In 1999 LiveJournal was launched, which used a different approach to the concept of social networking. It was built as a network with constantly updating blogs. And just then, future major advances in social networking sites such as Friendster, LinkedIn, MySpace, Twitter and of course Facebook began to appear. (Chapman, 2009) Social media has come a long way from electronic bulletin boards to large social networks. And they continue to evolve every day. With large social networks and sites that change almost every day, this niche will develop further and all the following years. There are thousands of social media tools—and more on the way—that enable conversation among the masses of humanity with Internet access who may want to talk about you. (Safko & Brake, 2009)
Why is there even a need for social media?
In less than three years it became the most popular activity on the web, overcoming pornography for the first time in Internet history. Even search engines weren't powerful enough to do that. Why has social media's popularity been so meteoric? Its rapid ascent is due in large part to its ability to help people avoid information indigestion. At first glance, this would seem counterintuitive because, inherently, social media actually produces more content and information (e.g., status updates, tweets, social bookmarks, video sharing, and social media's photo commenting). Because of this increase in information, you would think that it would cause more confusion, not less. But, when we dive deeper, we can see why this is not the case. (Qualman, 2009) According to Qualman, investing time on social media actually makes you more productive. Well, can we agree or disagree with it? Everyone has his own history with social media usage. According to DeMers, author from Forbes magazine, the benefits of social media are many and they include: improved social signals (which are a factor in the search ranking algorithm), company branding, improved brand awareness, word-of-mouth advertising, increased customer loyalty and trust, improved audience reach and influence, Social media is also one of the three pillars of SEO.
The global count of active mobile subscriptions reached 6.7 Billion at the end of 2012 as the planet had totally 7.1 Billion people, from whom 60.1% of the true alive human population did have at least one mobile phone and 22% of all phones in use globally are 'smartphones'. In the same time statistics shows that the number of smartphone users continues to increase worldwide. In developed countries, this figure is an average of 25% per year (Rowinski, 2013;Ahonen & Moore, 2013). Therefore, the "mobilization" of users, and as a consequence, "mobilization" of social networks must make companies more actively offer their products and services among users of smartphones and tablets. At the same time specific statistics show that out of the 1.06 billion active Facebook users, 618 million visit the site daily and 157 million are doing so from their phones. (Rose, 2013) Web sites began to improve CMS (content management system) structure and its content. Importance was given to CMS website. They became more "flexible", even smaller companies began to have mobile versions of their web sites and some of them even started to have mobile applications. Number of Facebook users also continues to grow and by the end of 2013 there are about 1.19 billion monthly active users (Smith, 2013). Advertisements on Facebook have significantly increased to 3-6 % CTR (Click-Through Rate). Undoubtedly, Facebook will develop in this direction too. Likely advertisements themselves become better as the target becomes more subtle. While Facebook continues to lead the pack in terms of number of active monthly users (1.15 billion at last count), Google+ is quickly gaining steam, and in fact, now has the second highest number of monthly users (343 million) (DeMers, 2013).
Twitter launched advertisement platform. This enabled small businesses to get started with promotional accounts and promotional tweets. Now Twitter has quite a bit of advertising, and it is not annoying. Let's see if in process of making even more money Twitter will not lose popularity among ordinary users. But for right now the number of Twitter users is still growing steadily. The company may even come to the IPO (Initial Public Offering or stock market launch). Today, 70% of Twitter accounts are outside the U.S., and Twitter is now available in 33 languages. A platform for all conversations – global and local – Twitter is increasingly the pulse of the planet. As usage around the world increases so does demand from advertisers and agencies who want to connect with our global audience and participate in those conversations. (Rao, 2013) Manufacturers of mobile devices increased processor speed and amount of memory in smartphones and tablets. Mobile operators brings 4G LTE technology all over the world step by step, country by country. Every mobile technology is already prepared for video blogging, instagraming etc. In the near future we will possibly witness how social networks will even more actively improve mobile applications geolocation services and invent new ways to communicate with the mobile users. As for right now almost every mobile application already asks for permission to use geolocation service, even Goodreads application for example – why would application about books need user location and all Facebook available information? And if user won’t allow to use it, than he can’t use application at all. This is where we actually are with geolocation service right now. In 2012 and 2013 there was a peak of popularity in photos and pictures for Instagram, Pinterest and others, in future we will be experiencing a boom in video blogging, video posts and video content. And actually it did started on July 24th, 2013 when Instagram launched video recorder and opened possibility to upload videos. It can only be 35 second long, but you can personally choose filters, covers the same way like you did with pictures before. As it was claimed, on the launching day Instagram users could not wait to try out new feature. Facebook reported that one year’s worth of video was uploaded in the first eight hours after launch. Additionally, there was 5 million uploads within first 24 hours. (Lafferty, 2013) Pinterest, which had opened free registration in 2012, has already made quite a lot of good for brands, but did not earn anything on it. First, they will need to acquire a wider audience. However, a number of useful tools that social network provides can already be seen. Most likely, Pinterest will eventually even outstrip Instagram. It is worth bearing in mind the representatives of those companies whose business is not without visualization of goods or services: 41 % of Pinterest’s users places "branded" content, while in Instagram’s figure is 35%. 50% of the total number of users comes to the site Pinterest daily. Whereas in Instagram it’s around 31%. In addition, approximately 60 % of users Pinterest (vs. 40 % of users Instagram) plan to use the service more frequently in the near future. (Bellehem, Thijs & Ruyck, 2012) Foursquare, that was launched in March of 2009, now has reached total number of 40 million users and total number of check-ins as 3,5 billions. (Smith, 2013). So, to sum it up, global social networking stats: more than 7 out of 10 internet users are member of at least 1 social network. This implies that more than 1,5 billion people use social network sites. (Bellehem, Thijs & Ruyck, 2012)
From my point of view on all niche of social media, nowadays it’s much more difficult to create new social media startup – even if someone can create new social network, investors and business customers still prefer to use reliable partners from the number of social networking on market with established reputations. But it won’t stop progress from creating new social media trends, social networks - new venues to enable conversation. So if you have a brilliant idea – companies (investors) are happy to pay for it. As it was mentioned in a documentary “Startup Kids“ –of the hundreds ideas – startups, that were invested in, only one is profitable in the end. And it’s easy to say that already existing social networks will try developing even more and gaining more and more users. Thereby already developed popular social networks will be even more used by marketers to collect information about potential customers and in the same time to use it like advertisement channel.
Facebook’s numbers will still grow in future. But will the number of user as well? Or even number of mobile users? According to Facebook’s Vice President of Partnerships Dan Rose number that will grow is the number of clicks Facebook sends to the App Store and Google Play Market. Currently, Facebook sends 180 million clicks per month to the two digital marketplaces, and it can become quite a profitable venture for the company, which has seen its stock fall on and off since its IPO almost a year ago. (Rose, 2013) Nothing will prevent "Vkontakte" holding the lead among social networks in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. February 5, 2013 social network’s two hundred millionth user registered. Therefore, progress in this social network will continue to be extremely effective. High interest in the visual content will continue to grow, so Instagram and Pinterest will be at the peak of popularity. Instagram will continue to add more filters every now and then, maybe they will expand video length so then it will grow into micro-blogging media and will be competing with Twitter’s Vine, which apparently will gain even more popularity too. Another future trend of social media is Lifelogging, what according to Wikipedia definition means, that Lifeloggers (also known as lifebloggers or lifegloggers) typically wear computers in order to capture their entire lives, or large portions of their lives. (Lifelog) Mentioning each event of life in social networks is one of the trends of the modern world. Did you bake some cookies? It’s online next minute and even if they look bad, your friends will Like it anyway. Bought new shoes? Escaped abroad? Went to Paris? Made check-in in application like Foursquare, clicked share on Facebook button and now every online friend of yours is informed where are you and what are you doing. Or even check-in at Starbucks in Hong-Kong airport, share it on Facebook and get your latte for free. This is how it works these days. Or you can just post picture on Instagram, share it on Facebook and Foursquare and in one movement all your friends can see where are you plus you still can get your free cup of “branded” coffee. So if Lifelogging will be actually trendy in near future, that means that social media like Instagram, Foursquare, Twitter and every other will be used as well. In my opinion it will gain momentum worldwide. Events in lives of millions of people will be on the internet at a glance. Of course, if it’s the palm of your hand, it will be a smartphone with unlimited access to social networks. The only limitation to the development of this trend can be the lack of good 3G-networks, which remains a matter of time. Existence of LTE technologies is showing it – there are almost no limits for Lifelogging anymore. If we talk about Google+, a resource which in 2013 celebrated its second anniversary, users already started to spend twice as much time as last year, but still so far it’s not enough to compare with Facebook. Then as I see it, this social network will eventually demonstrate for marketers certain advantages over Facebook. So far it doesn’t sound very convincing, but we'll see. Because of the fact that Google is using the platform to collect personal information – geolocation including, plus the fact that many marketers and social media professionals are tired of Facebook. Low brand engagement, the uselessness of large fan bases and the gaining of Facebook Edge Rank have left many marketing and communication pros weary of Facebook, Google+ will have his moment of glory (Ray, 2013). LinkedIn has changed quite subtle, but it seems that it’s going to be followed by further transformations. Advertising on LinkedIn will be a wonderful tool if social network will continue to move in the right direction. Plus it can be even cheaper than competitors price range, but it’s just another maybe. Another important trend is that worldwide mobile operators increasingly act as owners of the "pipeline" that carries traffic. After all, even SMS and MMS- messages subscribers send them more rarely, preferring to use popular instant messengers as Viber, Skype or iMessage. Plus you can always chat through Facebook account since now it’s already necessary to use Facebook messaging application with normal Facebook app.
Social networking is more powerful when focusing on a common theme. The basis on what people connect is changing. Instead of connecting only to people who we know, both professional and personal contacts, we now form networks based on shared themes, interests, passions, beliefs, and ideologies. (Gonzalo, 2013) Facebook and Twitter are on pick of their popularity right now and both of them has two ways – go forward with creating something entirely new or buying some new creative start-up and integrate it with their network (like Facebook did with Instagram). Second way is just to slow down and that will bring some new potential player on the market – new applications, new networks, new social media. Maybe it will happen tomorrow, maybe it will happen in ten years from now, but in my opinion it definitely will. But for today Facebook will stay the most popular. Tendency of sharing video and photos instead of text will bring media sites and applications like Slideshare, Pinterest, Vine, Instagram, Mobli etc. to an even higher interest from normal users as well as from marketers. LinkedIn is already number 1 social network for professionals, with it’s continuous growing it will attract even more users and will become an enormous playing ground for B2B marketers.
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