There is a short discussion on social networking in the Tech4Law forum and while typing my response I realised that it would be a good idea to write an article on social networking, maybe to educate everyone to begin wit and then at a later stage to report on some practical applications. (smiley face in social media communications)
What is Social Media and Social Networking?
Let me start by defining the two terms, Social Media is the application/software program/web portal we use to network and Social Networking is the taking part or communicating using these applications. There are other definitions, but this is the way I interpret these terms.
If you have never heard of social networking, then maybe you should ask me to go one step back and explain the question, "What is the Internet?" Being exposed to the internet must mean that you have come across the topic of social media or social networking.
If you have teenage children and seen them Mixit-ing (not sure that is a word) each other furiously on their cell phones - this is a type of social media. My only complaint is that when they have real live warm-blooded friends and family in front of them, they might desist from using it!
When you or the children, SMS each other, that is also in a way a form of social media. I think the best way to sum up what social networking really is, is to say that it is a shared online system to communicate openly with others who have similar interests.
Before I move on, let me give you an example of social communication offline, and then liken it to that on the online social networking.
You go to a business lunch and meet up with your clients. You chat about weather, children, the rugby and discuss a couple of business ideas in your area of interest. Although you are there having a social discussion, you still do business and share ideas through the social chatting.
Now in social networking, you do the same thing, but instead of speaking - you type and instead of meeting at your favourite restaurant, you are meeting in a shared online space (the social media) - be it Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, MySpace or Buzz to mention a few. A difference though will be that you don't say as much, or talk/write about trivial topics.
So why is this important to anybody, why should I care if people who have similar interests are communicating via a shared online portal? Let's just give this a little thought:
- If you are not there, another attorney is and will pick up any work that may come from the forum.
- When you communicate in these social media spaces, if you are talking sense people will start to see you as a guru in your specialised area and send business to you.
- You get to meet new people, in other words networking.
- It is a breeze to communicate your ideas/topics/news/status to hundreds, maybe thousands of people - normally through one post.
- Google and other search engines gather information of real-time communication social media - especially LinkedIn and Twitter. This will bring you business when people search online for specialist attorneys.
If you could communicate and promote your business to hundreds if not thousands of people each day at no cost, would you not jump at the chance?
According to Canadian research company Sysomos, South Africa is the 10th largest user of Twitter in the world and account for 0.85% of all the users. Based on Alexa research, Twitter gets 100 million visits per day - that is quite a lot! But let us assume that Alexa has exaggerated a little - for affect - so let's assume there are 70 million visits to Twitter per day. That gives us 595 000 visits per day for South Africa - we must assume it is quite popular and that there may just be somebody in there who will want to do business with you or your firm.
InsideFacebook.com has reported that through their Global Monitor of Facebook there are 2.4 million users of Facebook in South Africa and there were 37000 news users in February 2010. Facebook globally gets a little more visits per day than Twitter at 480 million. CheckFacebook.com reports that in the last week we were the 4th fastest growing country in the number of Facebook users.
Enough on stats, as we all know they can be swayed and interpreted in so many ways, depending on how you wish the outcome to be projected - but it does tell you something - social networking is large in South Africa and we are in the top few when it comes to growth of that segment. Surely there is then a very good reason to put yourself in that space to gather new business or at least to find out what is happening? You may wake up and find out that your client base has moved to the online space and left you wondering how fast you need to paddle to catch up to that perfect wave!
I hear you saying to yourself that you don't need to worry as the internet craze is only for the young and by the time they get to doing business with your firm, you will be happily retired. Well let's look at the age groups for Facebook users - 32.9% are aged between 18 and 24 (789600 users), 31.7% are aged between 25 and 34 (760800), 14.2% are aged between 35 and 44 (340800) and 7.1% are aged between 45 and 54 (340800). Also this means that 32.9% are between 18 and 25 and 53% are between 35 and 54! (thought I would share that stat with you to show you how stats can be moulded to reflect what you want)
However, that is a lot of people who are in a space that is free and waiting for good content. At least that is what I think and what makes it even better - not many people have decided to start utilising this great opportunity.
Next week, I would like to address the issue of choosing a social media which is best for you and your firm.
Source of stats: