While there are still some people who prefer the telephone or a letter to stay in touch with family and friends, with the exponential increase of computer users an increasing number are turning to the Internet-based concept known as social networking.
Albany native Deidra Langstaff has worked in marketing and technology in New York and Atlanta and has seen first-hand how cybersites – particularly Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn – are changing how people keep in contact. Langstaff returned to Albany in the late 1990s and now owns and operates Langstaff Marketing Services. On March 21 she presented information and insights about social networking through a presentation to the Kiwanis Club of Dougherty County.
Langstaff focused on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, three major communication networks, to emphasize why social networking is important: because ”it’s where the people are.” Facebook, for instance, now has an estimated 600 million users and counting; LinkedIn, which is primarily business-oriented, has more than 40 million members; and Twitter has become ubiquitous as people “follow” not only friends and family but celebrities and other famous people.
Langstaff pointed out that the average social networker goes to social sites five days a week and checks in about four times daily, for a total of one hour a day. At least nine percent of users stay logged in all day, and some 52 percent have friended or become a fan of at least one brand of social networking.
Facebook, which had its profile raised even farther last year with the release of the film “The Social Network”, is a free access website by which users can join networks organized by city, workplace, school, and region to connect and interact with others. People can add friends, send them messages, and update personal profiles to notify friends about themselves. Groups are available for shared topics or interests, and companies and organizations can establish fan pages for promotional purposes.
Twitter is also a free site and is noted for its brevity, as it only allows text-based posts of up to 140 characters that subscribers can send or read on other users’ updates. Pages can be customized to enhance personal brands and allows users to follow news, promotions, humor, replies, and “retweets”. It is currently the fastest-growing social network, according to Langstaff.
LinkedIn is business-oriented and mainly used for professional networking. As of two years ago it had more than 40 million users spanning 170 industries. It allows registered users to maintain lists of contact details of people, described as “connections,” they know and trust in business. Through primary, second-, and third-degree connections, a user can gain introduction to someone they wish to know through a mutual, respected contact which can then be used to find jobs, people, and business opportunities recommended by someone in the contact network. Employers can also list jobs and search for potential hiring candidates, and job-seekers can review profiles of hiring managers and find existing contacts who can introduce them.
Some general points about social networking, Langstaff emphasized, are that on all social networks the conversations are taking place with or without your participation; every individual can influence your on-line reputation; you can reach further with your message; sales leads can be generated; customer satisfaction can be gauged; and brand recognition can be increased.
And, it would seem to go without saying, with the ever-increasing availability and use of technology in all areas of life social networking is not going away. It’s only going to expand.