Friday, 9 September 2011

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn - how do YOU use yours?

I’ve noticed something lately. When I wake up, or on the route into work, I can’t help but pick up my phone and get on Facebook and Twitter. This is pretty normal behaviour to be honest. You know the drill, you get a bit of spare time at work you might have a quick Tweet, you take a seat on the train home and feel the urge to enjoy a bit of social networking, you know it’s somebody’s birthday so make sure you write on their ‘wall’.

However, although I’d still say I’m pretty much addicted to social media – not a day goes by when I don’t visit Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn – I am starting to use it differently.

It seems to suggest to me the power of social media. At first I thought perhaps my interest in said sites was starting to wane, but then I realised I wasn’t actually spending less time, in fact my usage was just changing.

I first joined Facebook years back after a friend suggested I join it because I always sent my holiday photos round for them to see, she explained how this site let you share pictures with friends easily and quickly. I thought I’d give it a go. Already on Friends Reunited, I already enjoyed finding out about school chums and their lives, but what you could see and do was limited.

With Facebook gradually I added colleagues to my network and as I noticed my friends started to learn of this site I built up my group of ‘friends’. From then on over the years I was hooked – at first having a quick nose to see what people from school were up to, to bombarding everyone with my array of photo albums, updating my status so that people soon knew pretty much everything I was up to and getting on chat to talk to friends far away.

Yet since joining the site 5 years ago I find I am using it differently. Although I still share far many more pictures than those around me, I am doing it less than I was and I used to religiously update my status every single day (at least), not any more. No of late I’ve found I’m mainly going on Facebook to catch up on what people have been doing and nosing at their pictures.

Take Twitter, at least half of their users don’t actually Tweet. To be honest I’ve gone the opposite way. I joined Twitter in line with some social media changes at work and wasn’t a huge fan, finding Facebook a much better option. However, I’m finding I’m more likely to Tweet these days than update my status. Why is that? What makes us change our habits on social media?

It seems rather than get tired of these sites after years of using them, we just find new ways to use them and with more features being offered constantly it seems we may never run out of new things to try – games, celebrity accounts, new photo tagging features, company pages, events, special Facebook related offers, access to breaking news, linking between accounts, targeted ads, the list goes on and on…

I feel the fact my Mum, my boyfriend’s parents and many of my friends parents are set up on Facebook now is evidence this is not just a fad for the younger generation. A relative of mine who turned 67 this year has expressed her craving to get a laptop, get online and what is one of her top priorities? Get on Facebook. A recent infographic highlighted just how widespread social media usage is – everybody is at it!

How did I end up getting a new job? On LinkedIn – a networking site. Social media is so big now, as part of your role in most online companies you’re expected to have at least one account and to help reflect your company positively keep your LinkedIn page up to date – because of course you’ll have one as a given.

I’ve banged on before about how important social media is, like most people out there. However, it’s pretty clear that as well as making sure they have a social media presence (and the ability to manage it in case of crisis), companies need to be aware of people’s changing habits on said sites and adapt accordingly. As someone recently said to me on Twitter - when I tweeted about Tweriod being a useful tool – if you don’t know yourself what time your followers are on then you don’t know them well enough. In turn, suggesting you won’t have many of them for much longer if you’re not delivering on why they originally started following you.

On starting this blog I found my usage also changed, most obviously with a lot of posts relating back to my blog. In turn I am also interested in how many Twitter followers I have and patterns and stats associated with this blog. A key example of this is the fact I’ve logged into/signed up for Twitter Counter whilst writing/researching this blog!

There is a lot more awareness in the user themselves too, with recent events such as the riots and high profile figures getting themselves into trouble making people think twice what they Tweet. You want to have more followers on Twitter, lots of friends on Facebook, more connections on LinkedIn and increasing numbers of fans of your blog. Rather than just using social media for fun I find – and I’m sure others feel the same – it is becoming a much more considered act.

So as the ever-growing number of users changes, so too must those people out there trying to benefit from its increasing popularity – bloggers, corporates, B2C companies, brands, entertainers – like most things online it is a never-ending road of discovery, change, development and opportunity, so make sure you’re keeping up!

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