Social Media Marketing – Whither Facebook?

As a social media marketing tool, Facebook is the leader by a long stretch. But it is not the only game in town. And there are conflicting numbers out there about the site. Is it growing or stagnating? It depends on where you look. In 2007, Toronto had more users of the site than any other city. Now, Facebook growth seems to be more intense outside North America, although social media growth around the world certainly involves more players than Facebook.

So, is it worthwhile to look at social networking sites other than behemoth Facebook? Probably not, but the names Hi5 and Orkut keep popping up in my research, so I am curious.

And what of the Twitter influence? As a social media marketing tool, Twitter has certainly gained strength. Will it erode some of Facebook’s influence as a marketing tool? These are all interesting questions. Below, I have summarized some of the current (and often conflicting) chatter about Facebook and its competitors. Hopefully, it will help guide your next discussion with your social media marketing consultant, so you can stay ahead and maximize your online marketing strategy.

Social Networking – Is Facebook Fading or Gaining?

The answer to that question depends on who you ask. The people at Neilsen certainly believe that Facebook is maintaining its global dominance. Its studies show that the total amount of time spent on Facebook increased by 566% between 2007 and 2008. Facebook also leads in increases in global online reach, improving by 168% between 2007 and 2008. It is interesting to note that LinkedIn also realized a significant increase of 137% in the same time period.

A posting from the fall of 2008 on MaximumPC noted that Britain’s Facebook use is actually declining. In the US, Neilsen reports that Facebook is surpassed in popularity by MySpace, although it predicts the gap will soon close.

CNET has recently reported that developers – the people who create new applications for social media sites – are less enthralled with Facebook than they once were. They say that:

“The Facebook platform, once a revolutionary free-for-all, has been “suburbanized.” The roster of popular applications is dominated by corporations like Slide and RockYou with estimated valuations in the nine figures, and new rules and regulations have made it seem like less of an open playground where a kid with a cool idea and some spare time can start a new online fad or even make a few bucks.”

Although CNET is not predicting the demise of Facebook, the article notes that Facebook can’t be the centre of attention forever.

Savvy businesses who use Facebook but want to stay ahead of the curve on social media marketing might view some of these reports with alarm. If Facebook is beginning a slow and inevitable decline -and no one is sure that it is yet – where should these businesses go? Is Twitter the right option? What about other social networking sites? Google’s Orkut is certainly not turning heads, except in Brazil. A recent report in Forbes magazine noted that Facebook and MySpace will be keeping their eyes on Hi5, a social networking site that is immensely popular outside the US and that may have found an alternative to ad-based monetization. Is Hi5 the place to be?

Talk to Your SMM Consultant

As the saying goes, change is a constant. While change in the landscape of social media marketing may not be underway yet, many people believe there are some subtle shifts occurring. If you are like most businesses in Toronto that use social media, you probably have a presence on Facebook. And there is no reason to give it up yet. But it never hurts to be on the lookout for the next big thing, since we all know that giants in online marketing tend to fall.

As a business owner, your best course of action is to develop a relationship with a social media marketing consultant and solicit their expertise when planning your next foray in to social networking sites.

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