It’s probably safe to assume that one of the first reasons why companies are rushing to establish a presence in social networking sites is the increasing number of online users who are actively participating in these online domains. More importantly, these social networking sites are starting to attract an increasingly matured demographic whose age profile may be previously ignored as a possible online user of such sites.
Popular social networking sites like Facebook are beginning to see a more broad-based participation, signalling that such sites are evolving into a mainstream communication channel.
Indeed, Nielsen Online suggested in a March 2009 report that social networks and blogs are now the fourth most popular online activity, and ominously ahead of email which is the incumbent communication protocol since the evolution of the Internet. These sites collectively host online member communities which are visited by 74 percent of the global online population. In particular, Alexa reported that an average global Facebook user spends more than 30 minutes on the social networking site, representing the period where companies on these social networking platforms can potentially reach out to.
Not surprisingly, Facebook is the dominant social media platform in Asia that is accessed by more than 86 percent of online users in the region. Consider these stats from
Clearly, the social media platform is no longer an experimental customer engagement media, but a necessary channel to reach these users at their convenience. This convenience is extended beyond the confines of the PC/laptop/Netbook where major mobile platforms such as the iPhone, Android, Symbian, Windows Mobile, and even the BlackBerry now have customised applications and online sites designed and formatted for mobile handsets.
In fact, Facebook is one of the very few BlackBerry applications by RIM to have the necessary clearance to be installed on any BlackBerry device, despite the high enterprise security features associated with such business-oriented devices. Not surprisingly, the number of Facebook users worldwide accessing the social media platform on their mobile handsets increased by more than 700 percent to 200 million in the last 24 months, suggesting that mobile users today are increasingly comfortable to view, update, and share information on-the-move.
Thus, a proactive and well-thought through process to interact with these online communities will reinforce the brand positioning of these companies, and foster a situation where relationships with their target audience can be built over the long run.
As mobile users actively interact with their social media network through their handsets, uploading and sharing of photographs and discussions through dedicated group forums and bulletin boards, companies will get to experience a richer set of data about these users. As a result, the converging mobile social network is expected to increase the depth and breadth of customer engagement with brand owners. It is incumbent on the latter to remain agile and responsive to the desire of today’s social media users to interact on their increasingly sophisticated mobile handsets and devices.