Social media. To one person it’s an endless fountain of useless minutia and cat pictures, to another it is a vital communications channel and information resource.
Just like letters, postcards, and telephones in prior eras, the modern communications technologies are merely conduits for the people who use them. Some people will write doggerel, and some will write Shakespeare-worthy stuff.
Matt Shipman has a fantastic column about this on Scilogs, in which he offers the following:
There are people [who] think Twitter, Facebook, etc. are used solely to tell the world where you ate lunch. Or what cute things your cat has done recently. That is because there are lots of people who use Twitter, Facebook, etc. solely to tell the world where they ate lunch and what cute things their cats have done recently. To most scientists (and many non-scientists) this is a waste of time.
But — and this is important — no one can make you post trivial things on social media. And — this is even more important — no one can make you follow people who post things you don’t care about on social media.
Social media is a catch-all term used to refer to a variety of communication platforms. Those platforms do not control content. Users control content. You can use email to send someone a long list of knock-knock jokes. This is not useful. But most people have accepted the fact that email has practical utility. For example, you can use email to share information with colleagues and peers about grant opportunities, new research findings or job openings. The same is true for social media.
In short, Twitter (for example) is a tool. If you want it to be a stupid time-suck, it will be. But you can also use it to create meaningful networking opportunities.
This holds true for business- and brand-oriented users as well. The saying “content is king” may seem tired, but it is more accurate today than ever before. Companies need to ensure they are offering valuable content or they will simply fade into the noise of breakfast updates and photographed felines.
I cannot express how vital this is. Good thing the Brian Honigman has marshaled an astounding array of information in his collection of “100 Fascinating Social Media Statistics and Figures from 2012.” Here is a brief sampling of what he has collected on Twitter:
21. There are 175 million tweets sent from Twitter every day in 2012. (source: Infographics Labs)
22. The average Twitter user has tweeted 307 times. (source: Diego Basch’s Blog)
23. Since the dawn of Twitter, there’s been a total of 163 billion tweets. (source: Diego Basch’s Blog)
24. 56 percent of customer tweets to companies are being ignored. (source: AllTwitter)
25. Barack Obama’s victory tweet was the most retweeted tweet ever with over 800K retweets. (source: The Guardian)
26. Top 3 countries on Twitter are the USA at 107 million, Brazil 33 million and Japan at nearly 30 million. (source: Jeff Bullas)
27. The average user follows (or is followed by) 51 people. (source: Diego Basch’s Blog)
28. The 2012 election broke records with 31.7 million political tweets. Election Day was by far the most tweeted about event in US political history. (source: Marketing Land)
29. 32 percent of all Internet users are using Twitter. (source: Marketing Land)
30. Twitter is projected to make a total of $540 million in advertising revenue by 2014. (source: Web Analytics World)
31. 69 percent of follows on Twitter are suggested by friends. (source: Web Analytics World)
32. In 2012, 1 million accounts are added to Twitter everyday. (source: Infographics Labs)
33. Lady Gaga has 31 million followers, which is the most followed account on Twitter. (source: Socialbakers)
34. The most followed brand on Twitter is YouTube with 19 million followers. (source: All Twitter)
35. The USA’s 141.8 million accounts represents 27.4 percent of all Twitter users. (source: All Twitter)
36. The “Castle in the Sky” TV screening was the busiest time on Twitter ever with 25,088 tweets per second. (source: Sys-Con)
37. 11 accounts are created every second on Twitter. (source: Infographics Labs)
38. 50 percent of Twitter users are using the social network via mobile. (source: Microsoft tag)
39. 34 percent of marketers have generated leads using Twitter. (source: Digital Buzz Blog)
40. 26 percent of retweets are incited by a request to retweet. (source: Web Analytics World)
This weight of facts should be enough to light a fire under those who have yet to mobilize their online presence. The best way to be a part of the signal and not the noise is to add value to the conversation. This is true of blogs, Newsblogs, Twitter, Facebook, and any other platform you care to name.
George "Loki" Williams is the owner of SocialGumbo, LLC, an online consultancy specializing in Web content, community management and social media. Loki has produced content for clients including the Open Society Institute, National Association of Broadcasters and Kaiser Permanente. He is one of the organizers of the Rising Tide Conference in New Orleans, and his work has been seen or written about in The New York Times, The BBC, Air America, and NOLA.com, among others.