Social strategy by the numbers

A few weeks back, Jason Falls posted a great article, “Why Social Media Purists Won’t Last“. Here’s the money quote:

As a result, the social media purists have laid down the law and, so, to participate in social media as a business, you must do things like, “participate in the conversation,” “engage your customers,” and “talk with us not to us.”

I’ve got news for you. In the world of business, all that talk will get you exactly nowhere. Conversations do not ring the cash register. Engagement does not sell more product. Talking with people just means you have to take time to listen which prevents you from spending valuable time selling more product.

My business partner, Sean O’Driscoll likes to tell the story about doing research while he was still at Microsoft about what “Joining the conversation” translated to. He found out that he would have to find a way to staff up. Way, way up. His research told him there were more than two billion conversations a year around Microsoft.

Social tools are, without a doubt, powerful in ways we’ve only began to discover. But we have to start thinking (and acting) differently, more considered. Here’s a few questions for you and your business, and some numbers that you should know as you consider your answers.

Are you paying attention to the right social tools?

4 billion – Photos hosted by Flickr (October 2009).

2.5 billion – Photos uploaded each month to Facebook.

Seriously, why aren’t you doing more with Facebook?

350 million – People on Facebook.

50% – Percentage of Facebook users that log in every day.

84% – Percent of social network sites with more women than men.

Are you still putting value in your email campaign?

90 trillion – The number of emails sent on the Internet in 2009.

247 billion – Average number of email messages per day.

27.3 million – Number of tweets on Twitter per day (November, 2009)

Why are you so scared of open source software?

46.6% Percentage of Web sites run by Apache (open source)

21.0% – Percentage of Web sites run by Apache’s closest competitor, Microsoft IIS

13.9% – The growth of Apache websites in 2009.

-22.1% – The growth of IIS websites in 2009.

Are you remembering the rest of the globe?

57% – Percentage of Twitter’s user base located in the United States.

Are you considering video, and the places people *actually* watch it?

1 billion – The total number of videos YouTube serves in one day.

182 – The number of online videos the average Internet user watches in a month (USA).

Are you properly contextualizing your opportunities?

83 million – The number of active monthly users playing Farmviille on Facebook

75 million – The total number of registered Twitter accounts

The point here is that there are no easy, obvious answers when engaging in social activity online. We may hear a lot about the latest hot new tool or Web site from the experts, but unless you’re fully researching all of your opportunities (not just the new, cool ones) and unless you’re comparing that activity against your business objectives, it doesn’t matter how cool Plancast or Foursquare or Chatroulette is. While I point out the numbers above about email, check out this chart Morgan Stanley Internet Trends report (via Fred Wilson). We’ve just recently seen social networking activity surpass email.


That said, the issue today isn’t whether or not to engage, it’s where and how. Keeping abreast of the trends is crucial to both growing your business and beating back competition. I doubt I have to convince any businessperson alive that social tools and activities are a big deal. But it is important to remember that this stuff isn’t easy, no matter what anyone tells you.

For more data on how companies are leveraging social media, check out this great infographic.