It seems that the social networking site, #Facebook, has done it again. Despite its many flaws and controversies, Mark Zuckerberg's creation continues to expand its user base. This time around, the site has hit 1 billion monthly active users (MAUs).
This is even higher than the 890 million MAUs it had last September. And yes, this staggering number does mean that more people are using the world's largest social network now than there are people in China (although not strictly true as some of them may be sharing cat pictures). As part of celebrating recent milestones like this one, Facebook released an updated set of statistics on how people engage with its service globally. One statistic stood out; 60% of all users access the site from a mobile device.
The question is, why did this particular statistic stand out? Well, it has to do with a recent announcement from one of Facebook's main competitors - Twitter. It announced that more than 65% of its users have accessed the site via a mobile device at least once in June this year. The rise of smartphones and tablet devices has facilitated many new software possibilities for businesses. According to SAP's Digital Consumer Survey 2012 "Mobile internet access has increased by 114% compared to the same quarter last year". These devices are now allowing people (customers) to engage with companies in ways never before possible; they give people everywhere instant 24/7 access to information about products, services and brands they're interested in, and they allow them to instantly communicate with brands too.
One interesting statistic released by the Digital Consumer Survey 2012 shows that over 40% of people use their smartphone for shopping-related activities; this figure is up from 30% in 2011's survey. This, along with the amazing growth rate of smartphones and tablets means that businesses now have an exciting new opportunity to engage with their customers on a more personal level than ever before (and thus build stronger relationships with them), but only if they act quickly. Companies need to ensure they are effectively leveraging these devices to turn interested parties into paying customers, which brings us back to Facebook vs Twitter.
As most readers will know, Facebook has its own messaging feature called "Messenger", which allows users to send messages to each other. Many businesses also use Facebook's Pages feature to advertise their products, but lack an effective way of communicating with interested parties if they've responded to a company's Page by making it clear they are now "Fans". All too often, communication is one-way - companies post updates on their Pages and hope people will read them or take some form of action, whereas customers receive messages from the company, but have no way of responding.
As stated earlier, Twitter recently released its own set of statistics relating to mobile usage. A key point in these statistics was that 70% of all Tweets originate from mobile devices – compared with 53% at the beginning of 2012. Mobile users can easily communicate with brands via tweets containing #hashtags (such as #lovetacos) and send messages to them via direct messages. Unlike Facebook, Twitter has two distinct functions – it's a social network where people can tweet about their lives and communicate with other like-minded individuals, but its also effectively become a customer service tool used by brands such as American Airlines and Domino's Pizza (who use the site to deal with questions from customers).
So for companies already using Facebook Pages to gain Fans, should they be utilising Facebook's Messenger too? There are pros and cons:
The Pros: + It may increase engagement rates. + Allows businesses to provide effective customer service.
The Cons: - It may prove costly if companies have thousands of people who like their Page. - Customers may feel bombarded with messages via the site.
Despite the cons, Messenger seems to be a much more customer-friendly option than Twitter's direct messaging function, and it could prove to be extremely useful for businesses if they utilise it correctly (i.e. using relevant #hashtags that customers would be likely to search for). Although both Facebook and Twitter offer great opportunities for companies to engage with their customers in ways previously impossible, only time will tell which platform proves more popular as an effective customer service medium. It also remains unclear whether catering to mobile devices actually does increase engagement rates – after all, if people haven't heard about you yet, they don know your brand exists so there would be no point trying to engage them. Of course, if people have heard of you already and are fans/followers, then utilising social media is a clear must – but the key is knowing which platforms your audience uses most often and how they interact with each one.
The Digital Consumer Survey 2012 was conducted by Opinion Matters between April 10th and May 9th 2012. The results were compiled from an online survey that received responses from 1,518 UK adults aged 18 or over
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