Posts Tagged Online

A Seat At The Big Kids’ Table

If you’ve been left debating whether online social networks and blogs are really here to stay or not, debate no longer and have a gander at Nielsen Online’s latest report: social networks and blogs are now more popular than email.

No more vinyl placemats and sippie-cups for this crowd – bring on the linen and fine china.

According to the “Global Faces and Networked Places” report, online social networking now accounts for 1 out of every 11 minutes spent online globally, and ranks fourth in time spent online behind search, portals and PC software. And it is, indeed, quite the global phenomenon.  Brazil boasted the highest market penetration for use of online social networking sites (80%), Germany saw the greatest relative  increase in penetration of site use (39%), and the number of people in the US who access social networking sites via their mobile handsets increased by a wacky 156% over the previous year.

But perhaps the most important statistic is that the biggest increase in visitors to these sites globally during 2008 was from 35-49 year olds.  That’s right, it’s not just college students and twenty-somethings anymore; the big kids have joined the party, too.

We’ve certainly seen the uptick (more of tidal wave, really) in interest:  LinkedIn’s questions and answer section has more and more technology professionals posing and responding to questions,  creating new PR opportunities and furthering relationships.  Twitter has become a favorite tool around the office, and now rumors are circulating that Google may buy them (another small step toward world domination). Many companies are embarking on full-scale social media PR campaigns, with a large focus put on actively participating in online communities, blogs and forums where they can offer insightful, expert opinion or advice.

If you’re now done debating their validity and feel like joining the social networking party (yes, cake will be served), though, it’s important to remember  that social networks and blogs are inherently active and personal things.  They reward participation and genuine interest in the themes of the particular community.  

Perhaps it is telling, then, that while the Nielsen report also included recommendations for how advertisers can best engage audiences through social networking, the word ‘false’ was the most commonly associated term with advertising in social networking circles online.

Just as social networks and blogs have come of age, so must the way companies approach and participate in these communities.  Passive forms of involvement, like advertising, have obvious shortfalls, but showing a genuine interest – answering and asking questions, posting ideas, responding to issues – will produce positive results.

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