Understanding the social network

Thu 8 March 2012 12:15, Tim Houtenbos

Understanding the social network

Social media is a hot topic the last couple of years. A lot of companies want to have online presence by means of profiles on social networks. This is a logical need they feel, but too often they do not know what they want to tell or more importantly why they want to tell it. Your social media campaign stands or falls, depending on your understanding of the media.

Social media, or more specific, social networks are all about socializing. People log in to a social network to share their experiences, keep track of friends and interact with them. Or to put it into other words; they seek social engagement.

It is imperative for a company to recognize the importance of this. The best way to convey a message through a social network is by either participating in the dialogue, or by starting a new dialogue. If people tweet about your campaign they are joining the dialogue and others might join them again.

Social media campaigns that people are talking about are almost always successful. Now the only trick is to find out what will start the dialogue within the target audience. The only generic rule I can provide you with concerning social engagement: People tend to join the dialogue only if something gets their attention, they will not when it does not interest them.

Social networks are about updates

‘In general people won’t go to your company’s website every day and hit the refresh button to see the latest updates; however, they log in to Facebook and can follow the news items you post on your company’s Facebook page.’ ~ Joris Poll | Producer | Media Monks

Social networks are an excellent tool to keep people up to date. The risk lies in the frequency of updates your company posts. You can either post too much or, maybe even worse, post too few. Whether you post too much or too few all depends on your specific audience, the way they want to engage with you and the importance of the message you want to convey. As a rule of thumb you should always ask yourself if the update is newsworthy enough for your audience. If this is not the case you risk killing the dialogue instead of starting it.

Social networks are about networks

The network effect is a theory that describes how a network gains in value when more people are connected to it. An often used example is the telephone. As you can see in figure 1 the number of connections increases exponentially when there are more telephones connected to the network.


Figure 1 - Source: wikipedia

The same theory that was used to describe a telephone network is also applicable to social networks. Though this is true on a technical level, on a social level no-one in the network is connected to everyone else. Everyone is connected only to a limited number of people. But these connections can intersect, overlap and loosely connect to other clusters. Figure 2 is a more realistic image of a social network - Source: wikipedia


In Figure 3 you see an even more detailed image of a social network. Here you can clearly see the loosely connected networks of people.

Because a social network is not ‘one big connected network’, but rather a network of loosely connected networks, you can’t target the network as a whole. This seems obvious, but you need to keep it in mind when planning a social media campaign. You can make use of this knowledge to target specific (sub)networks or influencers, who can help you engage with your target audience.

To have a successful social media campaign it is important that you understand the workings of the social network you want to use and the specific interests of your target audience.


Figure 3 - Source: Monitor institute

Top visual - Source: morbermarketing.com

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