Another day, another story about the growth of social media. We are constantly being told about the increasing influence of social media in the world – last month there was the story of the Egyptian man who named his child ‘Facebook’ in gratitude to the role that social networking played in his country’s recent democratic revolution – what better example of how ubiquitous these sites are becoming in our lives?

However, amidst all the hype it can be hard to get the facts and work out just how big social media really is. I was therefore interested to see this week Econsultancy.com putting together a set of statistics on user numbers of various social media platforms, and comparing them with the same figures from a year ago. The results are absolutely astonishing.

Social Media Usage Stats

According to their statistics, twelve months ago Twitter had 75m user accounts. It now claims to have 175m users worldwide. The average number of tweets written per day is now 95m, up 250% from the 27m a year ago.

Professional-orientated networking site LinkedIn has also seen its user numbers increase greatly in the last year. It is now up to 100m users, up 100% from the 50m who were using the site a year ago.

Meanwhile, Facebook’s membership has grown from 350m to an unbelievable 640m in the space of just one year. Given that the world’s population is thought to be around 7 billion, that’s not far off 10% of the entire world using Facebook!

When you read these kinds of statistics, it’s incredible to think there are many people out there who still think of sites like Facebook and Twitter as “just another passing fad” that everyone will get fed up with before too long.

It’s clear from the stats that social media is here to stay. When you look at Facebook’s over half a billion strong membership, it seems beyond doubt that it is now far too big to disappear any time soon.

The example always cited by the social media naysayers is Myspace, once the biggest, most active social network on the web, now the online equivalent of a ghost town. However, the important thing to remember with Myspace is that the reason its millions of users (myself included) abandoned the site was not because they had lost interest in social networking, but because there were other sites (namely Facebook and Twitter) ready to migrate to which did the same kind of thing, but better.

So if you accept that social media is with us for the foreseeable future, the question for businesses is how do you take advantage of it?

Putting the ‘Social’ in Social Media

As well as the huge numbers of users, one of the great things about social media from a business perspective is that people who use these sites (particularly Facebook) give away a great deal of insight into their personal behaviours, likes, dislikes etc. This provides businesses with a unique opportunity to target their marketing towards certain types of customers in a much more effective way than is possible with traditional forms of advertising.

However, the caveat here is that social media users don’t always respond well to direct advertising, so if you just blunder in firing off ads in all directions, you are likely to simply be ignored.
Instead, probably the best way to approach marketing on social media sites is to use them as they are intended – by engaging with people, and building relationships and communities around your brand.

It’s not just about selling – social media gives you the opportunity to put a personal face on your company, and show your fun and interesting side. Building a community takes time, but if done properly, it can improve your brand image, increase awareness and hopefully give a boost to your sales.

So if you’re not already making use of social media, there has never been a better time to start. We don’t recommend you name your child after Facebook, but we do encourage you to take full advantage of it as a tool to really reach out to your customers and show them what you’re all about!

If you’re interested in finding out how social media could benefit your business, why not give us a call on 01305 542000