Future Implications

I have a cousin who deals with a chronic, debilitating illness and she has devoted her life for the past 5 years trying to work on advancing communication between patients and their doctors.  She has experienced the frustration of not being able to understand diagnoses and feeling like no one was there to explain them to her.  Forget the concept of anyone from the healthcare industry being there to empathize or counsel with her.  The healthcare system has simply grown too big, too busy, and too impersonal.  So, could social media ever play a role in healthcare?

According to this article,  healthcare practically seems like the last industry that would mesh well with the self-broadcasting nature of social media.  Afterall, if you have a medical problem like gonorrhea or AIDS, this is not something you’d flippantly post about on Facebook or Twitter.   However, as current and future generations demand more of a personal experience as consumers of everything, healthcare will inevitably need to step up to the social media plate.  There are many other ways besides broadcasting diagnoses on Facebook and Twitter that social media can be used by patients and healthcare practitioners alike to bridge the communication gap.  Here are some of those ways:

#1 Creating forums
A media group called the Health Care Marketing Group specializes in designing forums to be implemented on healthcare companies’ websites.  They’ve designed such forums for clients such as New York Fertility Services, Breast Thermography of Middle Tennessee, and Global Pain & Spine Clinic.  As  you can imagine, each of these specialty health care facilities treat patients who are all dealing with similar issues and could benefit from being able to talk to each other.  Introducing forums, in fact, has created a community of patients who have drawn strength from each other’s stories and health strategies.  And select health practitioners work with PR teams of these facilities to participate in and mediate conversations taking place on the forum so that forum members get sound advice and explanations of diagnoses and common treatments.  Forums of this type are catching on slowly, but as time goes on, perhaps each clinic will develop their own website and forums specific to the population of patients their treating.

#2 Creating videos
A number of uses for videos in the healthcare system immediately come to mind.  First of all, there is no doubt that informational and instruction videos could be put to use by health practitioners.  Often, when a person receives a serious diagnosis, everything they hear beyond “You have _____” sounds like static.  When doctors immediately go on to explain treatment options, patients don’t have the capacity to process all of this overwhelming information.  However, if doctors developed their own video series about different common diagnoses, they could upload those videos onto their own YouTube channel and direct their patients to refer to those videos as often and as much as they like for a clear explanation of what they face and their best options for treatment.  A benefit to this is that anyone around the world could access those videos and benefit from them as well.  Also, patient success stories from clinics can easily be turned into uplifting musical montage videos and placed on clinic YouTube channels as well.  This use of social media serves not only to uplift and inform patients, but to establish and enhance the brand image of that clinic.

#3 Clinic social media profiles
Finally, clinics can utilize social media profiles in much the same way that major corporations use them: to listen to their consumers, to address concerns, and to engage in other customer service-related tasks.  Imagine if patients felt uncomfortable in a particular clinic’s waiting room because it was always too cold, the music the front desk played was irritating, etc.  It would benefit the clinic to be able to monitor tweets or posts about how people felt during their waiting room stay and to tweak any recurring issues that arose.  The social media profiles wouldn’t only be used as complaint walls, though; they could also serve as a great place to gather inspiring stories and testimonials from patients who are eager to share.  Other users considering being treated at that clinic can view those testimonials and that will increase the likelihood that those users will choose that clinic for treatment.

Viral Marketing Initiatives

Image

Image from koozai.com

Getting a campaign to “go viral” is the shining prize in the sky that all social media marketers are aiming to obtain these days.  Many marketers think, “All I have to do is come up with the budget to have a funny or compelling enough video made, slap that thing online, and wait for the likes and shares to make it go viral.”  Yes, funny/shocking content is an ingredient found in most campaigns that go viral, but there are other identifiable and simple aspects to a viral campaign that many marketers, in their exuberance to create a YouTube masterpiece, might overlook.  I’ll talk about five of those aspects here and now.

#1 The campaign has to have “Social Currency”
Jonah Berger, an Assistant Professor of Social Media at University of Pennsylvania says that in addition to being just simply funny or shocking, the campaign has to have social currency.  Berger says all people want to be viewed by their friends in a certain way and the things they choose to post to their Facebook, Twitter, and other social media accounts are deliberately placed there with the message of, “Look at how cool I am for posting this,” not just simply, “I find this funny.”  The campaign has to offer to enhance the image of the person sharing it, or no one is going to feel compelled to share it.  This is the concept of social currency.

#2 The title of content must be pertinent and searchable
Everyone remembers the sneezing baby panda video posted 6 years ago to YouTube and that now has over 162 million views.  All one has to do to find the sneezing baby panda video on YouTube is to type “sneezing baby panda” into the search bar and bingo! The first video that pops up is the one and only sneezing baby panda video titled – you guessed it – “The Sneezing Baby Panda.”  Imagine if the person who originally uploaded the sneezing baby panda video entitled it something way too clever like “The sternutation of one infantile Ailuropoda melanoleuca.”  That’s cute and all, but when I tell my friend, “Hey you HAVE to watch the sneezing baby panda video; it’s hilarious,” and he types in “sneezing baby panda” and can’t find anything, that’s a missed opportunity on the part of the uploader.

#3 Get Tweeters with a large following to get your word out
I think we all remember sweet, innocent. teenage Rebecca Black and her debut music video “Friday,” but how did we all end up hearing about this one particular mediocre music video amongst a cornucopia of other mediocre music videos to be found on YouTube? All it took was one comment from revered artist, Lady Gaga, who touted the 13-year-old’s original song as “genius” at a Google Q&A session, and pretty soon everyone is wondering, “Who is this genius Lada Gaga is talking about?”  Not everyone can get someone with as much public visibility as Lady Gaga to tout their campaigns, of course, but mentioning someone you know to have a lot of followers that fit your target market in a Tweet while releasing a video clip from your campaign can have some seriously desired benefits if you can get that person to retweet it.

#4 Get creative with contests
Facebook, Twitter, and every other social media platform are inundated with giveaways as a part of companies’ attempts to get their campaign to go viral, but one tactic in particular stands out as a way to get some serious attention.  Bluehouse Ski Company of Salt Lake City, UT, decided to run a campaign through Facebook to get 5,000 likes to their business page.  They started this campaign with 2,000 likes, to put this into perspective.  They were offering to give away a pair of free skis to one lucky winner of their Facebook promotion, but the method of entering the promotion was unlike anything that had been done before.  Rather than simply asking for likes or followers from Facebook users, they required that entrants be nominated by someone else.  What they found was that each person who ran across their promotion recruited at least one other person to “help” them enter by offering to nominate their friend in return.  And in order to post to the wall where nominations were being gathered, a user was required to like the Bluehouse Ski Company’s business page.  This doubled the amount of likes they would have gotten had they just went with the traditional “like to win” method and they reached 5,500 likes in just 4 days.

#5 Let negative publicity work in your favor
I, personally, first saw the new K-Mart back to school “rap video” when I saw a news clip on my local NBC affiliate claiming that K-Mart’s new campaigns are “racist.”  Naturally, this piqued my curiosity, so I had to go see what about the video earned it this label. It appears many people out there had their curiosity piqued too because the video has only been up for 2 weeks and has garnered 219,000 plus watches to date on YouTube.  All too often, companies feel like they must go to extreme lengths to avoid negative publicity and, yes, in general it is a good practice to not offend others with your campaigns.  But, when offense is an unintended bi-product of your campaign, you can choose to make the best of it.  You can apologize where needed, and this may elevate you in the eyes of public.  Or you can just keep quiet, like K-Mart and just let the negative publicity run its course, all while racking up more and more viewers of your campaign.

Differentiation

Sherwin Williams vs. Benjamin Moore

Sherwin Williams vs. Benjamin Moore

Two of the best known brands of commercial and residential paint include Benjamin Moore and Sherwin Williams.  When I speak with other fellow interior design enthusiasts, Benjamin Moore perhaps has slight the advantage over Sherwin Williams in terms of color choice and product quality; however, I know many interior designers who will speak up for Sherwin Williams as though they own stock in the company.  A quick look at each of their websites, though, points to the fact that when it comes to social media, Benjamin Moore and Sherwin Williams have very different levels of involvement and strategy.

When I typed in sherwin-williams.com, I expected to see at least the Facebook, Twitter, and RSS feed symbols that seem to be omnipresent in the top, right hand corners of most big companies’ websites nowadays.  However, I was surprised to find a very Web 1.0 site staring back at me when it was fully loaded.  No social media icons were anywhere to be found.  In fact, all Sherwin Williams’ website is good for, really, is looking at the different products they offer.  I didn’t immediately see a place where I could check out their color selection; although after some digging, I finally found it.  Clearly, Sherwin Williams doesn’t bother themselves very much with the idea that a community of their own color enthusiasts exists out there and they could capitalize greatly from creating a color forum where designers could share images of the rooms that they’ve painted using Sherwin Williams’ colors.  Upon checking out Facebook, I saw that Sherwin Williams does maintain a Facebook business page entitled “Sherwin Williams for Your Home.”  The social media team uses this page to advertise sales in stores, ask yes or no questions to its fans like “Would you like to have this color chair?,” and share inspirational quotes that may, or may not have anything to do with their mission or brand.  Their Twitter presence is much the same as Facebook.  Sherwin Williams would do well to get some sort of cohesive look and feel to their social media content and make the content far more engaging.

When I looked up Benjamin Moore’s homepage, I was not immediately convinced that their site linked viewers to their social media platforms either; however, when I scrolled all the way down to the bottom of the page, I saw the familiar line of icons: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, Google+, Tumblr, Flicker, and their own Color Chats blog.  Already this was a huge improvement over Sherwin Williams.  I have visited Benjamin Moore’s Color Chats blog before when they tweeted a few months ago that renowned interior designer, Candice Olsen, had released a list of her favorite Benjamin Moore “go-to” colors that work great in every lighting condition.  So, there’s evidence that heavily integrated social media platforms can direct your would-be consumers exactly where you want them to go.  I followed the link on the tweet, read the blog article, loved it, and was convinced that I would not use anything but those very Benjamin Moore colors if I were doing a neutral palette in the future.  Benjamin Moore places a disclaimer on their website that says if a consumer tries to color match one of their colors with another paint (in other words, take a Benjamin Moore paint chip to Lowes to have them match the color using far less expensive paint) the results are not guaranteed to be accurate.  Benjamin Moore paint, they further claim, has a dynamic formula that other paints don’t have to give the color the richness you see. Ok, ok, I’m not sure that’s the truth since I’ve color matched their colors before with great success, but I think it’s smart of them to funnel consumers to their website and convince them that in order to have the look they see in all of the Color Chat blog posts and articles, they must buy the Benjamin Moore brand only.

So, two heavy hitters in the paint world go about social media in two very different ways.  One lacks cohesion and any evidence of the company’s mission; the other really engages and makes consumers brand-loyal.  Have you had any experience with either of these paint companies’ social media content?  What are your thoughts on their strategies?

Where Will Social Media Go Next? The Answer is “Everywhere”

Charlene Li, author of Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies and revered expert in the world of social media, sat down with a Washington Times columnist earlier this year for an interview about the future of social media.  The columnist, Jeff Barrett, asked Li what she expected the social media landscape to look like just 12 months from now.  Li replied that she didn’t know; and if she did know, she certainly wouldn’t be sitting there in an interview.  Instead, she would be out inventing the next billion-dollar Zuckerberg-type application.  However, Li offered some insight into current social media use trends.  She said it is the user behavior that drives the technology, not the other way around.  Thus, it is worth looking at the social media behaviors of the upcoming generation to determine their demands that will shape the social media landscape.

According to Kotler and Keller (2012) there are four main generations of consumers: The Silent Generation (born between 1925-1945), Baby Boomers (born between 1946-1964), Generation X (born between 1964-1978), and Generation Y (also known as the Millennials; born between 1979 and 1994).  The emerging generation of teens and pre-teens has not officially received a generational name yet; however, researchers at Elon University in Elon, North Carolina, have tentatively termed this generation born after the turn of the 21st century as the “Always On Generation.”  Always On refers to the fact that this generation will have grown up completely entrenched in technology with instant access to information and virtual social contact available, 24/7.  This generation will demand for there to be a social component to every technological device they own.  They will use the ubiquitous presence of the Internet as their external brain and their instant access to friends as their “lifelines” in making all sorts of decisions.  Thus, the Elon University researchers fear that the Always On Generation will not be capable of long attention spans, developed memory capacity, or deep thinking.  The lines between their virtual and real life relationships will be blurred.

If the Always On Generation will want to be able to interact socially while doing just about any other task, then many products that do not currently have social media functionality will have to get it in order to compete for the Always On Generation’s dollars.  For instance, let’s say when some members of the Always On Generation get to high school, they will want to compete in track and field competitions.  They won’t be able to carry their smart phones with them while racing, so how will they be able to keep in touch with their friends during the 15 seconds that they’re sprinting down the track?  Adidas has already come up with the answer in the form of the first social shoe: the Social Media Barricade.  Now racers’ Twitter accounts will automatically update with news of the racers’ speeds and distances during their run, all made possible through the 2-line LCD screen social media sender and receiver built right into the side of the shoe.

It’s kind of scary to imagine that the next generation might never take their heads out of the social media cloud and experience a life, unplugged.  However, as social media applications and access to the Internet spread across the world more widely, interaction among diverse cultures will become more commonplace.  The next generation might be more tolerant and embrace differences among members of the human race more than any generation before it.  For all we know, the ubiquitous nature of future of social media applications may be the key to world peace!  But only time will tell.

Sources:

http://communities.washingtontimes.com/neighborhood/status-update/2012/may/9/charlene-li-future-social-media/

Kotler, P., & Keller, K.L. (2012). Marketing management. Essex, UK: Pearson Education Limited.

http://www.elon.edu/e-net/Note.aspx?id=958393

http://www.engadget.com/2012/08/10/adidas-social-media-barricade-shoe-concept-moves-tweets-to-the-track/

Photo courtesy of adidas.com

Color Gone Social: How Pantone Remains the Leading Color Expert

I am obsessed with the topic of color design, which is deliberately implemented in virtually all products ranging from interior décor to product packaging.  Consequently, I love to keep abreast of the latest color trends that are forecasted each year.  One of the most trusted color forecasters is a company called Pantone.  In 1963, Pantone’s founder, Lawrence Herbert, created a color indexing system making it easier for graphic designers to accurately match colors.  To this day, the Pantone Matching System color fan is still considered product and graphic designers’ “go to” color coordinating system for use in the design of their work.

Much of color design work has moved out of the tangible world and into the digital world.  Over the past few decades, graphic designers have increasingly turned their attention toward designing ads, websites, logos, etc. that would only be viewed on a monitor screen and not on a tangible item.  Colors naturally appear very different online than they do on a material item.  This movement towards virtual color design posed a threat to Pantone in compromising their tightly controlled color identification system.  However, they have embraced the digital color phenomenon, rather than just sticking with material item color identification, by creating a Color Cue device that accurately captures colors on tangible products and identifies the virtual equivalent.

Pantone’s major competitor is Color Marketing Group, founded roughly at the same time as Pantone, who invented their own standardized color identification system.  CMG’s brand possesses an air of exclusivity, with members-only contributions to its color trend palettes.  Although one can follow CMG’s news and press releases on social media sites like Twitter, the extent of their online social involvement does not go much beyond that.  However, Pantone has maintained its brand as one of creativity, freshness, innovation, and expertise and it has invited collaboration with graphic artists in creating new colors to add to the identification list.  This communication and collaboration has been made infinitely easier since the dawn of social media, which Pantone heartily embraced.  Pantone frequently updates its website to include breaking news on the most recent color trends.  It disseminates this news through Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Twitter as well.  It has also created a blog on which color experts give color enthusiasts and graphic artists, alike, some color inspiration and great ideas about creating color harmony.  Pantone’s website features interactive components for any visitor to use, such as “MyPantone” community, where users can make and display their own color palettes and Pantone’s moderators pick and feature their favorites.  It is costly to create a community of this nature, but Pantone weighed the costs versus the benefits and decided that enough of their fans would love to engage in such a community.  They were right.  In the end, these proactive and engaging online social features make the Pantone brand accessible and reinforce their status as the world’s leading color expert.

Sources:

http://www.pantone.com/pages/pantone/pantone.aspx?pg=19306&ca=10

http://www.colormarketing.org/Visitors.aspx?id=281&TierSlicer46_TSMenuTargetID=281&TierSlicer46_TSMenuTargetType=1&TierSlicer46_TSMenuID=46#purpose

Photo courtesy of pantone.com

LivingSocial: Bringing the Consumer & Producer Together

This week’s musing is about a mobile social media application that acts as sort of a referral system for customers to businesses; I’m talking about LivingSocial.  I’d first heard of LivingSocial a couple of years ago when I saw a fairly boring 30-second spot on television about it.  The most memorable thing about the commercial was that it touted up to 90% discounts on the things you love to do, like eat the cupcake you see in the photo featured in this post.  That sounded moderately interesting to me, but I was too lazy to go online and create yet another account with yet another password for me to forget.

Fast forward to just two weeks ago: I needed to find a CPR/AED class here in this city in which I’ve only been living for a month in order to keep my American Council on Exercise Personal Training certification current.  A Google search turned up a promising CPR class option in a neighboring city.  When I arrived at the checkout screen to pay for the course, I noticed the “Enter your coupon code here” prompt.  Any time I see that, I know there is a coupon code out there somewhere on the World Wide Web, just waiting for me to discover it and get a better deal.  So, I searched for “CPR course coupon Raleigh” and variations on that theme to try to find a discount code, but alas I couldn’t find any.  Oh well.  I bit the bullet and paid the full $55.  The day I attended the course, a fellow classmate said she paid just $35 for her spot in the class.  What!  A $20 discount? I acknowledged that she must be a superior bargain hunter and asked her for her secrets.  Where did she come across such a good deal?  LivingSocial.com, she said.  I was sold.  That day I signed up for an account of my own.

LivingSocial now conveniently offers daily deals tailored to your own city on their app, available in the iTunes store as a free download.  No more user ID and password to remember, which previously deterred me from signing up.  The idea behind LivingSocial, other than providing consumers the opportunity to have fun for cheap in their town, is to get a mass amount of consumers hooked on businesses’ services or products when they try them cheaply the first time and be willing to return and pay the regular price in the future.  Businesses are banking on these mass return visits. That’s why they’re willing to take a loss on customers’ first encounter with them and pay online coupon sites like LivingSocial or Groupon for a little online visibility.

The total online coupon market generated $1.97 billion in revenue in 2011 from the fees they charge companies to advertise for them; earnings are projected to top $4 billion by 2015.  Groupon dominated this market in 2011, bringing in $1.6 billion.  LivingSocial is considered to be #2 in the online coupon market; however, it saw hard times last year.  Its number of new users per month dropped from 7 million in September 2011 to just over 4.5 million in November 2011.  Backed by Amazon Inc, LivingSocial made an effort to acquire other hospitality sites like BuyYourFriendADrink.com, Urban Escapes, and Onosys in order to sweeten the deals they can offer to consumers.  Such efforts seem to be paying off.  New users per month topped 8 million in May of this year.  Although LivingSocial is still taking a loss each quarter compared to the amount of money they’re investing in acquiring other sites and running operations, they’ve narrowed the loss significantly.  Time will tell whether their efforts will help them take Groupon’s spot as the market leader.

The moral of the story is that bargain hunters like me will continue to exist and scour the Internet for good deals.  If they can energize their base and get more people like my CPR classmate advertising by word of mouth for them, they’ll greatly increase their chances of increasing their market share.

http://www.crunchbase.com/company/livingsocial

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-07-27/amazon-says-livingsocial-had-q2-loss-of-93-million.html

http://www.forbes.com/sites/tomiogeron/2012/02/08/groupon-shares-down-on-net-loss-in-first-public-earnings/

Photo courtesy of livingsocial.com

Social Media & the Athletic Shoe Industry: Who’s Hot & Who’s Not

I came across a fascinating academic article published by the University of Petroşani in 2008 on the state of viral marketing in various industries.  The authors of this article, entitled Viral Marketing, indicated that the athletic wear industry leads all industries in garnering the most attention through social media, especially through disseminating video clips through media sharing sites like YouTube or Vimeo.  When I refer to athletic wear industries, I am talking about those that are mostly known for their shoes: Nike, Adidas, Reebok, etc.  Why would these shoe companies reap the benefits of viral videos the most?  The answer lies in the history of advertising within this industry before the rise of social media.

Why Shoe Companies are Rocking It

Shoe companies have always advertised by recruiting the biggest names of the games to be the face of their products – we’ve seen the likes of Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, and LeBron James grace plenty of shoe boxes and television screens.  Now shoe companies are using those same faces and making short clips of our favorite athletes doing funny, inspirational, or just plain random antics and placing them on video sharing sites.  All it takes is a small initial group of viewers to share those clips with their friends; then those friends share them with their friends – you can see how exponential viewership can happen in such a short amount of time.  But not all shoe companies are created equal in the success of their viral marketing campaigns.  The authors of Viral Marketing indicated that the key ingredient for success on the viral marketing front lies in creating viral content.  In other words, a company can’t just slap together something, put it up on YouTube, and expect it to go viral overnight.  Good content touches on a nerve – it inspires, it provokes, it humors – and most of all it compels so much to the point of sharing with others.

Just Do-ing It

Nike and Adidas have mastered the creation of such content.  All you have to do is peruse the comments of Nike’s and Adidas’s clips on YouTube (many of which have view counts in the millions) and you’ll see what their clips have inspired people to feel.  For example, on a clip entitled “Nike Football: My Time is Now” a number of comments revolved around the same sentiment of “I don’t usually even care about football, but this clip made it look so cool!”  Nike has employed a vast social media team to read these comments and reward those that posted them with coupon codes for a percentage off at the Nike store online.  Cha ching!  Talk about immediate return on investment from viral clips!

Just Do-ing It, Wrong-Style

Then there is the shoe company who struggles to compete.  The viral media efforts of Reebok were described in Viral Marketing as creating clips that “people were just never going to forward on to their friends, they just don’t seem to get the viral ethos.” When Reebok first entered the social media scene, it designed social media campaigns around each and every brand.  Thus, it didn’t have a holistic sense of style or message from one media clip to the next.  According to social media blogger, Andy Sernovitz, Reebok has recently recognized that it needs to consolidate its social media accounts and image as a whole.  It is making an effort to find its niche of media viewers who will share their clips just as enthusiastically as Nike’s viewers share theirs.

Sources:

Gîrboveanu, S. & Puiu, S. (2008). Viral marketing. Annals of the University of Petroşani, Economics, 8(1), 223-230.

http://mashable.com/2011/09/22/nike-social-media/

youtube.com/watch?v=QMv8g8CO4cQ

http://smartblogs.com/social-media/2012/10/05/andys-answers-how-reebok-consolidated-hundreds-social-media-accounts/

Newcomer’s Guide to Choosing Among Social Media Networks

If you’re a newcomer to the social media landscape, the plethora of options you have for joining this dizzying world of “tweets”, “status updates”, and “pins” may seem daunting.  On the surface, each of the social media networks seems to offer identical means to an end – to share yourself with others and keep in touch with what others are saying.   So, why are there so many different networks to join?  Let’s look at five of the biggest social media platforms – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Wikipedia (you may not have considered this a social media platform before, but we’ll discuss that), and Pinterest – to compare and contrast how social media networks go about accomplishing the task of connecting people in different ways.

Primary User of the Networks

Both businesses and consumers utilize each of the five social media platforms we’re discussing; however, in each case, the typical user is an adult consumer.  In fact, businesses are discouraged from updating their own Wikipedia articles.  The demographics of the typical adult consumer user vary among the five platforms, though.  Facebook and Pinterest appeal primarily to adult women in the prime of their careers, whereas Twitter and LinkedIn appeal directly to their male counterparts.  Wikipedia is accessed and updated equally by both genders, however the education and income level of its users tends to be higher than average.

Similar Way They’re Used

Each of the five social media platforms we’re discussing allow for user contributions.  This means that when you sign up for an account, you can start posting information onto the network for others to see.  Facebook and Twitter allow for users to post periodic updates to tell others what is on their minds or to pass along some intriguing piece of information the user noticed someone else share.  LinkedIn allows for users to post their resume and other work relevant information about themselves and connect with peers and professionals.  Pinterest allows the user to create boards with different themes such as “Great Quotes” or “Bucket List,” search the site for pictures representing the boards’ themes, and “pin” or share these pictures with followers.  And, finally, Wikipedia allows users (preferably experts in the field) contribute articles about any subject.

Ways They’re Uniquely Used

You may have noticed from the list above that the type of user contributions differs among the social platforms we’re talking about.  Facebook and Pinterest are the most expressive and conversation-enabling outlets for the user; this may account for the draw of females to such sites.  Twitter’s messages, however, are limited to 140 characters, excluding hyperlinks.  Although direct messages and responses can be sent through it, Twitter has been used more as a one-sided medium to share news and global updates; this attracts men to the platform.  Likewise, men gravitate toward LinkedIn because they view it as a professional place to meet and maintain business contacts rather than converse.  Wikipedia is not a conversation platform, so one may dismiss it as a social media network all together.  However, because anyone can sign up for an account to contribute articles in a field of expertise, the posting of this information (hopefully, accompanied by solid resources) by users is considered a social media activity.

Ability to Link with Other Networks

Most of the major social media platforms realize that their users maintain profiles on competing social media networks as well.  Rather than choose to operate in a vacuum, many of the social media networks have allowed easy links and sharing to the other major social media sites.  Wikipedia may be the only anomaly in this regard as it provides no way to share its articles to other social media outlets.  But, for instance, Facebook contains “apps” to link your profile to practically any other social media profile out there.  Likewise, Twitter links directly with many other social media platforms; however, it is especially easy to link together Facebook and Twitter accounts so that when a user posts to one, she automatically posts to the other.  LinkedIn once allowed for linking with a Twitter account so that one’s professional contacts can see his most recent tweets; however this relationship between the two was discontinued recently.  Finally, Pinterest allows for one’s Facebook and Twitter friends to be informed of her latest pins.

Now, sign up!

Hopefully, you have a better handle on which social media networks are used for which type of activity and you’re ready to plunge into the network that most closely resembles your desire for connection with others.  I’ve only listed five social media platforms, but the number of available platforms grows by the day.  Just do a little research as you hear about each new platform, focus on those that cater to your own communication style, and dive right in!

Sources: