The past few weeks some major developments on the social networking front emerged. LinkedInfollowed a successful IPO by surpassing Twitter as a traffic source for leading tech blog TechCrunch. The trend is largely credited to its new “LinkedIn Today” feature which displays the most shared business news at the top of users’ home page, effectively crowdsourcing what news is most important to its members and providing them with fodder to augment their individual professional brands.
Google+ allows you to add friends to designated “circles” which lets you parse out which friends see your conversations, photos, etc. For example, you may allot certain friends to a circle you title “Politics” and confine your rants about health care to that circle so your “Knitting” friends are spared the dialogue.
Google+ also has an interesting feature – “hangout” – which allows all users with a videocam to assemble a video party of sorts with the ease of one click. What makes this feature interesting is that within days of this launch, Facebook announced a major partnership with Skype to permit Facebook users to launch video chats from within the Facebook application. While Google’s hangout allows for group chats, Facebook’s is still confined to 1-to-1 at this time. Given the partnership is with Skype, which Microsoft is in the process of purchasing, it may take some time to build out new enhancements until the deal goes through.
While these developments have provided much media fodder, the jury of course is out on how useful they will actually be. Last month, Pew Internet Research released some insightful statistics. Of note is the fact that only 3% of users’ Facebook friends have never met in person. And 89% of all Facebook friends have met in person more than once. How likely, then, will people who already know each other feel compelled to use video?
Facebook has 750 million active users, who share 4 billion “things” on the site every day. But during the video chat announcement on Wednesday, even Zuck said that mobile usage and applications within Facebook are bigger drivers than actual sharing.
And, significantly for brands, Google issued a video telling businesses to pause before establishing a Google+ presence. In a writeup of the move, Mashable quoted Google product Manager Christian Oestlien as stating that “how users communicate with each other is different from how they communicate with brands.”
Does this mean that brands like Ford which almost immediately jumped on the Google+ bandwagon, creating 2 corporate accounts within days of the launch, made a mistake? Not necessarily. The best thing brands can do in the midst of this dynamic landscape is to monitor how their own customers want to connect so they can provide the best solutions that support and grow that engagement.