Photo: Jeramey Jannene via Flickr
Many people wonder what the heck the big deal is with Twitter and Facebook. What’s the appeal?To find out, you need to first understand what people do on social media networks. Why do they visit the sites and what do they use them for?
One Harvard professor, Mikolah Jan Piskorski, studied Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, and their users. His findings reveal who’s using what network, and what all the fuss is about.
70% of all social network actions are related to viewing pictures or viewing other people's profiles
What would Facebook stalking be without pictures? Pictures show how people have grown and changed. They're ways for photo posters to show themselves being fun and popular without appearing boastful.
'People just love to look at pictures,' says Piskorski. 'That's the killer app of all online social networks. 70 per cent of all actions are related to viewing pictures or viewing other people's profiles,' Piskorski tells Harvard Business Review.
Men and women alike enjoy looking at pictures of women. According to Piskorski, women receive two-thirds of all picture pageviews.
Here's the breakdown:
- Men look at women they don't know the most.
- Then they look at the women they do know.
- That's all followed by women looking at other women they know.
Why? To make comparisons, of course. Women are looking at other women to see how they measure up. Men are looking at other women to see if there are better options.
The only people who use Twitter are the people who are willing to put themselves out there to people they don't know.
Some find the concept of strangers following them attractive while others find it intimidating. The people who find it scary don't use the network.
Also, men are more likely to be followed by people of both sexes on Twitter.
At the time of the study (Sept 2009), MySpace had 70 million monthly users. That was larger than Twitter's 20 million but smaller than Facebook's 90 million. So why does MySpace get no media love?
After studying 100,000 MySpace users, Piskorski found the bulk of MySpace users reside in small cities in the southern and central US.
'MySpace has a PR problem because its users are in places where they don't have much contact with people who create news that gets read by others. Other than that, there is really no difference between users of Facebook and MySpace, except they are poorer on MySpace.' Piskorski says.
Piskorski explains, 'I looked at the geography at the state level, and compared the percentage of log-ins from each state to the percentage of U.S. Internet users in that state. So, if Texas comprised only 8% of US internet population, but contributed 10% of MySpace log-ins, Texas would register as having a quarter more log-ins than expected. Using these data, I created the map , with red indicating 20% or more log-ins than expected, light red 10-20% more, green being in line with expectations (+/-10%), light blue is 10-20% less, and dark blue representing 20% or less than predicted.
'The map shows that the MySpace users are disproportionately represented in Alaska, Hawai'i, Upland South, Lower South, the Southeast, with Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi reporting over 50% more log-ins than expected. Parts of the Midwest as well as California and New York are in line with expectations. The Northeast is well below expectations with Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island reporting only half of expected log-ins. With this map, we are beginning to see that major concentrations of MySpace users are in states which are not traditionally considered as media centres (with one exception...).
When companies try to use social networks for marketing, it tends to blow up in their faces. Instead, they should be looking to the networks for social strategy, says Piskorski.
'A good analogy is to imagine sitting at a table with friends when a stranger pulls up a chair, sits down, and tries to sell you something while you are talking to your friends. You will not get far with a strategy like this. Instead, you should come to the table and say, 'Here is a product that I have designed for you that is going to make you all better friends.'
Don't push out links on social networks. Instead, make your products more social.
If you think about it, it makes sense. Stalking people on Facebook is fun because you can sneakily catch up with long lost contacts. It requires no address, email, or phone number. Checking an online profile is the easiest, fastest, most discrete way to catch up with people, both in your immediate network and outside of it.
Social networks can also show additional connections that offline networks can't. LinkedIn and Facebook reveal which people you have in common with strangers; they help people network by constantly broadening their social circles, a void that can't be filled by in-person conversations.
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