Current Issue
This Month's Print Issue

Follow Fast Company

We’ll come to you.

Social Networks Are More Than Networking

Social networks, there's a lot of them out there and you're being invited to participate in new ones every day. There's MySpace, FaceBook, LinkedIn. There's eCademy, Plaxo, Ning, Bebo, Friendster. Jaiku, Orkut, Tumblr, and moore than I can mention here. The question is, which ones do you use? Which ones are the most important? It depends on who your demographic is and what's in you strategic social media plan. Start with MySpace, FaceBook, and LinkedIn.

social networkingLet's look at some of the numbers for the more popular social network sites. Facebook has more than 150 million members with more than 80 billion page views each month. Facebook is represented in 170 countries & territories, every continent, even Antarctica, and is available in 35 different languages. More than 1 in 5 people who access the Internet visit Facebook. If Facebook were it's own country, it would be the eighth most populated country in the world, just ahead of Japan, Russia, & Nigeria. Just put that in perspective for a second. And, it's not just kids, the average age in Facebook is 27 years old and that number is rising. Now, why is all that so important? As a marketing person, as a sales person, as a person who's responsible for the growth of his companies—if there's some place where I can have access to 150 million people and I may have something in common with them, I want to be there.

MySpace, on the other hand, has more than 76 million users in the U.S. and 120 million people worldwide with an average age of 26 years old. 88.1% of its members are between 18 and 55 years old and the 35 to 54 year old demographic is at 32%. It's no longer just teenagers using MySpace. I had a conversation with Angela Courtin, the Senior Vice President of Marketing Entertainment & Content For MySpace and she explained that MySpace is different things to different people. Angela clarified the misconception about MySpace being just for teenagers. Angela told me that 85% of MySpace users are over the age of 18 and that 40% of all moms online, are on MySpace. Angela explained how MySpace and Disney teamed up to launch High School Musical 3, engaged more than 4,000 schools and had an opening day box office of over $40 million. She also shared how small businesses are benefiting from MySpace MyAds and where one small business increased its revenues by 200%! Click here to listen to that audio interview:

linkedinAnd finally, LinkedIn is used as a professional directory and has more than 27 million users with an average household income over $110,000. The gender distribution weighs heavily toward males at 65% and 35% Female with an average age of 41 years old. When I spoke with Krista Canfield, Public Relations Manager for LinkedIn she told me about the many ways people are connecting with other professionals using LinkedIn. She explained about the not so obvious applications of LinkedIn and how a company was actually acquired by the Weather Channel. Click here to listen to this audio interview:

When you think of participating in any social network, you have to look at it as if you are at a party or networking event, an event or party with 150 million people attending. Now, is MySpace the right place for your business? Probably not. Certainly Facebook. I do like FastPitch, which is like a professional directory for your company. And absolutely LinkedIn! You have to be in LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a professional contact list. More than once, I relied on LinkedIn to make contacts during the research for writing The Social Media Bible. LinkedIn succeeded where all other marketing attempts failed.

You might be thinking, "I don't want to fill out all of those profiles on all of those sites. While it's true that filling out all of those profiles in all of those networking sites can be tedious, having your profiles completed is important. You can use OpenSocial to make it easier. I interviewed Kevin Marks, Technology Advocate, Google - OpenSocial who headed up this incredible multi-corporation, multi-language automated system for propagating information into your new profiles. Kevin explained how OpenSocial is changing the way "trusted networks", work. OpenSocial created a standard ov how personal profiles, data bases, and trusted networks share information while protecting 350 million users from repetition and password fraud. Click here to listen to that audio interview:

Have we completely figured out how to best utilize social networks to increase our company's bottom line? Not yet, but we are discovering new ways every day. One thing for sure, if you want to win, you have to be in the game.

Read more of Lon Safko's Social Media Bible blog

Lon Safko is the co-author of The Social Media Bible: Tactics, Tools, and Strategies For Business Success. He is also an innovator and professional speaker with over 20 years of experience in entrepreneurship, marketing, sales, strategic partnering, speaking, training, writing, and e-commerce. He is the founder of eight successful companies, including Paper Models, Inc.

Click here for your free Fast Company The Social Media Bible Ten Commandment Ball. Just print, cut, glue, and be inspired!