The Rise and Fall of Social Media Platforms

Turn the sound off and drop the speed, and watch as the companies bounce up and then disappear.

In 2003 everyone was on Friendster, and back then “everyone” meant 3,5 million people. Their membership peaked at around 50 million, but by then Facebook had 120 million members. The company is “on a break“, and has been since 2005.

By 2005 everyone was on MySpace, but they were overtaken by YouTube in 2007 and had a peak user number of about 73 million in 2008 by which time Facebook had also overtaken them. MySpace still exists, and has tried to position itself as a platform for artists, it still has 50 million monthly active users.

By 2011 Facebook had overtaken and has remained in the top position ever since.

It’s interesting to see how the companies go up and down the charts, but I’m not sure exactly what it tells us – I think a social media platform can be financially successful serving a smaller audience. Linkedin no longer ranks in the tables, and it was purchased by Microsoft in 2016, but it’s a revenue generator for them because of it’s bespoke business tools, and the high level of influence the members have in the business world. The biggest option might not always suit your purpose. Making a profitable business out of a social media channel needs to be about more than ad revenue.

This was compiled by TNV, and they’ve sort of explained how they did it in an article, nowhere on the graphic or the article does it say what the measure is, it seems to be monthly active users (I compared published data from Weibo and Facebook), but I suspect that the Google Buzz figure is not accurate – it plateaus at 170 million, and then is overtaken by other platforms.

Their conclusion was

One thing’s for certain, judging by how many times the top spot changed hands over the past 16 years, none of the social media giants should be resting on their laurels. Really, anything can happen.

Not really. Only three companies held the top spot in the first 8 years; Friendster, MySpace and YouTube. In the last 8 years the top spot has been held by Facebook, and I expect it will take the top spot again this year. Given that “everybody” is now on Facebook it enjoys a position of being an entrenched network, the more people are on it the less likely people are to leave – even if some of us are reluctant users.

If a challenger comes for the top spot I suspect it will be from China, Sina Weibo sits in 7th spot on the 2018 data. They started out as a Chinese only, but now produce a site in both traditional and simplified Chinese to capture much of the Chinese diaspora, and have started to support other languages. Tencent has a billion users already, but is China only so was not included in the data.

Meanwhile I suspect that groups disillusioned with Facebook’s privacy and data practices will start smaller interest-based sites. I’m curious to see where this goes.

Twitter Basics; Part Three

It’s time to talk about follower strategies and tips for building a solid following. I spoke about this briefly in Part Two, but I’m diving into detail here.

My goal with twitter is to discover new content and new expertise. I also want to share my own content through twitter, so I have tried to build a following of people who will be interested in what I write about. This means I look for people with interesting expertise in the fields I work in and follow them.

Six Ways to Gain and Maintain Followers

1 Follow People You Know

Twitter has been around since 2006, and now has 330 million users, so you do know people who are already there. People who already know you through work or professional connections are most likely to follow you back.

Search using the full name that they usually use, if someone is using twitter professionally they want to be found and their name will come up in the search results. Only one person can have the handle @JohnSmith, but an unlimited number can use the name in their profile and a search will find them all.

Click on “People” in the top bar to list accounts using that name. Twitter lists anything close to your spelling, which means that when I searched for John Smith, I got also got Nick Smith. You can refine your search with more terms, John Smith digital for example. But Twitter search engine seems to only look in profiles, so unless John Smith has added digital to his profile it won’t help.

2 Ask People to Follow You

You’ve probably already got an account on LinkedIn in or on Facebook, ask your friends, colleagues and connections to join you on Twitter.

Create a short post telling people you’re on Twitter, include your twitter handle, and invite them to follow you.

3 Follow the Followed

Search for industry experts or thought leaders in your field, follow them for their great content and then check who they follow. When you’re starting out look for people with followers in the hundreds or thousands rather than the hundreds of thousands – they’re more likely to follow back.

4 Hashtags

Search for a topic of interest and find relevant hashtags. If you’re interested in social media use by companies for example then #socbiz is a relevant hashtag, if you’re working on building leadership skills then #leadershipmatters has thoughtful content. Look for the hashtags associated with events, the Digital Workplace conference coming up in June will use #DW18 for conference related tweets.

By searching on the hashtag you can see who is actively tweeting on these subjects/events, and follow them.

5 Publish Your Twitter Handle

Include your twitter handle on your LinkedIn profile, you add it under your contact and personal info. Add it to your profile on your blog or website if you have one. Include it in any posts you publish, it’s common to see twitter handles included in footers on LinkedIn or Medium, sometimes as the author’s preferred method of contact.

6 Follow Back

This is so important to maintain a following, if someone follows you, follow them back.

I’ll follow anyone back on twitter who is vaguely relevant to my themes of digital, communication, innovation and leadership.

Follower Limits

Twitter has put in place some limits around follower numbers in an effort to stop “spammy” behaviour.

You can follow up to 5000 accounts, although only 1000 per day. After that you can only follow more accounts if your own following/follower ratio is close to 1 (the actual acceptable ratio is not published). If you want to follow every politician in the world (for example) you would hit the limit pretty quickly, but there is a way around it by using lists (more in the next post).

I regularly search for new people to follow, and unfollow inactive accounts, but only perhaps 20 at a time. On Twitter aggressively following and unfollowing behaviour on twitter can also result in a ban.

These limits are put in place to limit spamming, and in a normal management of your account you probably won’t encounter them but it’s good to know they exist.


Your third assignment is all about followers

1: Publish twitter handle

Add your twitter handle to your LinkedIn profile (under the contact information section). If your Facebook page is somewhat professional you can add it there as well. 

2: Hashtags

Search for hashtags in your field, just pick the keywords associated with your job and look for relevant content. Then see who is tweeting that content and follow them.

3: Follow the followed

Search for 10 people who absolute leaders in your field; influencers, thought leaders, and innovators who are active on twitter. Then look at who they follow, check the profile to find people whose interests match yours, and check their twitter account to make sure they’re active.

Aim to add 40-70 new people in total from tasks 2 and 3.


Image: Twitter via pixabay  |  CC0 1.0

Linkedin ads are designed not to annoy you

Screen Shot 2013-08-31 at 11.16.56 AMHave you been annoyed by ads on Facebook lately? You’re not alone. A while ago I was served an ad for a product to quit smoking. I’ve never smoked, and I’m pretty sure I’ve never talked about smoking.

Have you been annoyed by ads on Linkedin? It’s rarer, and after a meeting with some of the guys working for Linkedin I started thinking about why.

Internet advertising works by matching your online attributes to the target audience of the advertiser and serving you their advertisement.

What online attributes are used? Your search or viewing history and your IP address, any information you’ve given the website (those popups asking you to help them optimise the experience are part of this) all contribute to a profile that allows advertisers to target  you.

If it’s a login service then any information in your profile or that you’ve contributed online can be used to build a profile for advertisers. Both facebook and Linkedin are sites where you are logged in, you build a profile, and you make ongoing contributions. So why is there a big difference between the perception of ads on the two platforms? It could be a difference in how the match is calculated between the profile and the advertiser – but I’m guessing that both companies have smart mathematics behind their algorithms and enough data to validate them thoroughly.

There are a couple of differences in the data collected;

  • on Linkedin members contribute data in a very structured way, it is possible to scan a profile and find out seniority level, occupation, membership of a group, fields of expertise and location.
  • Linkedin is valuable to grow your business network, and if you’re job hunting so there’s a clear benefit to adding more data to your profile
  • since your colleagues are also on Linkedin and likely to be among your connections you’re likely to be honest about your background
  • it’s a platform for professionals, so not every advertiser wants to be there – weeding out the tackiest advertisers

Facebook can also target based on your demographic information when that information has been added – but facebook profiles are often not completed in detail. The will also target in a way that works on probabilities, they know that if you liked Heineken there’s a 4o% chance you will also like Renault (a completely invented example). So the more brands you like on Facebook the more information about you Facebook has to sell to advertisers. This is pretty sound, brands have overlapping target audiences, so are likely to appeal to similar groups of people, and the masses of data collected about likes on Facebook will make pretty good predictions.

And that’s the biggest difference. Advertising is by far facebook‘s biggest revenue stream, at about 80% of revenue, so they need to keep advertisers happy as a priority. As the old saying goes if something is free it’s because you are the product. Whereas Linkedin has a range of revenue streams, most of which relate to services and professional subscription, so their need is to keep their members happy.

Or as the Linkedin guy said “we look at everything we do from a member first perspective.”

Which explains why their advertising is causing less interruption and irritation than Facebook advertising.

Image; push advertising / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Happy Birthday Linkedin

LinkedIn turned 10. They’ve produced a lovely timeline of their history to take you through the highlights.

The site has come along way from the early days when functionality was cranky and no-one was there.

In the last year the whole site has been re-designed; it looks sleek, functions well – on all platforms, and is increasingly content-rich. You can a look back at LinkedIn’s past homepages; interesting to see the annual changes that evolved into today’s design.

It’s a site with a future, providing a way for 225 million professionals to collaborate on any subject – I regularly use the groups function to get answers or feedback. And the platform has become a real threat to recruiters as companies can manage more of their recruiting themselves.

When I heard it was 10 I went to check how long I’d been a member (you can find this information under your account settings), and how many people had joined before me (you can find this by checking the number in the URL when you view  your own profile).

I was 1,097,773rd person to join LinkedIn, which seems a lot but puts me in the earliest 0.5% of members. I’ll be celebrating the 10th anniversary of my relationship with LinkedIn next year on 13 September. Bring on the champagne!

too early to celebrate

Change is Challenging

We’re making a very simple change at work; merging our personnel directory site with our enterprise social network.

What does this mean for the user? They’ll be able to search for people using a wider variety of search terms, by putting them all in one search box. The underlying data source is the same so the search results should be the close to the same.

What does this mean for the project team? Solving a myriad of technical issues – from increasing the capacity of the social network platform, to making sure both phone and mobile numbers display. And we’ve encountered a couple of issues that will have to be solved some other way – as they involve tasks that are not related to a social network.

The change will go into effect at the end of this month, given that the directory was the most visited site we started communicating about it back in September. First with key stakeholders and then more widely. The reactions have been interesting – ranging from “yes it’s better” through to “I’ll get used to it” through to “it will be much worse I’ll never find everything”.

We’ve just taken on an extra person as a conversation manager temporarily to help with the increase in questions. When I talked to her about the role I mentioned that some of the people asking questions might be grumpy. She laughed “grumpy people are my specialty”. She may turn out to be our secret weapon in helping people adapt to this change.

It’s a good reminder that in any IT project the challenges are not just technical. Change affects people, and it’s a challenge to help them adapt.

Image change

Men are Better Networkers (on Linkedin)

Linkedin boffins analysed their data and came to the conclusion that men are more network savvy than women.

Their measure of network savviness is a ratio of two other ratios.

It seems a fairly crude measure and they acknowledge that there are a number of other factors that could explain the results;

“In the case of our data, there are several things relating to gender that could explain the results: seniority, job function, desire for the minority gender to connect with the majority gender (or stay close to the minority gender), etc.”

I’d like to refute this, to argue that women are better at building relationships and therefore are stronger networkers. However I’ve observed that women are more fearful of making contact, and often don’t seem to understand how it’s done. What’s true in the real world often gets amplified online.

Recently I was contacted by someone looking for an introduction as part of her job search. So far so good. I heard via my network that someone else was hired, but I didn’t hear back from her on how her meeting went or the outcome. I feel a little less likely to help her next time.

A friend who works in a similar field to me was applying at my company, I offered her the chance to meet me and some of my team. She seemed nervous, worried that it would be “cheating” to get that much inside information.

At a social event I met a young woman for the first time. Within about 4 minutes she’d asked me for a job. Which is networking suicide, yet if she’d asked to meet me for coffee and find out more about what my team do I’d have said yes.

I know that anecdotes are not the same as data but I see it again and again; women struggle to build and use their network. Yes I do see men who struggle as well, but perhaps one for every five equally qualified woman.

But the Linkedin research offers some hope, those of both genders working in non traditional fields for their gender; so cosmetics for men and ranching for women, out-network the traditional gender.

(If you want to learn how to network the best, and simplest guide I’ve read to networking is chapter four of The Jelly Effect: How to Make Your Communication Stick.)