The social networks explained.

Social Media Explained

Netiquette – it’s a thing now. How you conduct yourself in the digital realm has a real impact on the way you are seen by people in real life, and knowing the medium before you engage with it is vital – lest you accidently upload a photo of your junk to several thousand of your followers, as did the unfortunately named Anthony Weiner.

The unsettling thing about social media is that it’s easy for any of us to inadvertently end up bearing the brunt of our own Weinergate. I for one didn’t realise Instagram was a social network, and had used it to take a series of pensive selfies with various creative filters applied until people began following me and I realised that people could actually see what I was doing. A friend of mine had a similar experience – only she had been posting saucy photos of herself intended only for her boyfriend’s eyes. Suffices to say, he was not the only one who saw it.

I spend a lot of time at one of my current jobs fiddling around with social media and trying to connect companies to their customers in a way that isn’t completely geared around selling a product. Sure we like to do that too; but the idea is to create a meaningful connection with people so they will be more inclined to remember you and, say, purchase your products over a competitor’s. We want people to be informed; we want people to laugh; and we want people to feel like they have an affiliation with the brand, a sort of camaraderie if you will, through the connection that we’re creating – not to mention the boost to your website’s SEO a decent presence and following on social media can give.

I spend a lot of time off the clock playing around with social media too (a little too much some say) and know that the benefits of having a presence on social media greatly outweighs the benefits of abstaining from it for fear of unintentionally broadcasting personal information Charlie Sheen style. If you’re a business, it’s an opportunity to engage with your market directly and keep a finger on the pulse. If you’re an individual, not having Facebook means you will pretty much never get an invitation to anything ever again.

One thing you’ve got to realise is that each social network has its own set of rules; general guidelines it’s best to stick to for fear of social exclusion or of not being heard, particularly in terms of brand management. For those of us who are of the younger generations and are the so-termed ‘digital natives’, there aren’t going to be too many surprises in this post. However, judging by the shit that some of my Facebook ‘friends’ post in my newsfeed, I question the assumption that everyone under a certain age knows how to use social media. This is for you, oversharers and inappropriate ones! I write this with you in mind, so I no longer have to read about your multiple break ups in short periods of time, your snide complaints about your baby daddies and see an improper amount of nipple on my newsfeed! I hope you get something out of this, and learn just because you can share, doesn’t mean that you should.

Facebook: Explained

According to Digital Buzz, around one in 13 people on Earth are active Facebook users. One in 13! Almost two in three people in the world have trouble accessing clean water every day, yet one in 13 are on Facebook! My, my, my.

Just in case you have been living under a rock or happen to be my grandmother who is reading this, Facebook is a social networking platform designed to connect you with people that you already know. It enables you to share information and updates with your ‘friends’ – a very loose term in this context – and find out what your ‘friends’ are doing in return. To start with, there are certain rules when it comes to adding ‘friends’ on the network. While it’s perfectly legit to follow someone who you don’t know on Twitter; acceptable to do the same on Instagram; true to Facebook’s original purpose, it’s poor form to start adding strangers to boost your numbers.

There are a couple of common assumptions people make when using Facebook.

Common assumptions of Facebook 1). Facebook is a diary. I can’t even begin to tell you how very wrong you are. My best friend always says that ‘Knowledge is power’ and in this case, the less they know about you, the better. There are people that I’m friends with on Facebook that I cannot even look in the eye anymore on account of reading some of the stuff they post. I feel voyeuristic just thinking about it. Photos are cool. Witty observations about the world are cool. Multiple posts cataloguing your yo-yo dieting and layabout boyfriend are simply not.

Common assumptions of Facebook 2). People will see their friends liking my page and will like it too and then they will see everything I post! Sadly, it’s all lies.  You know those stories you hear of curious sharks that take a quick chomp at a surfer’s legs before moving onto a much tastier seal? That’s what Facebook users are like. We like to look, but unless what you are posting is hilarious, we don’t want to make the commitment to clicking that ‘like’ button. It’s too sudden; we’ve only just met you for Pete’s sake! And unless you’re damn delicious like those seals, we don’t want you spamming our news feed with uninteresting sales messages. A smarter way of approaching this communication conundrum is to look at the way Facebook actually determines who sees what. Facebook’s Edgerank algorithm uses three factors in determining what ends up in an individual’s newsfeed. The Affinity Score refers to how connected you are to a certain user or page. Facebook calculates affinity score by looking at explicit actions that users take, and factoring in the strength of the action, how close the person who took the action are to you and how long ago they took the action. Actions like tagging, posting and sharing are all accorded different weights and the timeliness of interactions is key in ranking on someone’s newsfeed. Edge Weight refers to the specific values an explicit action is accorded. For example, commenting on a fan page is worth more than liking it and is more likely to generate a news story in Facebook’s ticker box feature. The final consideration is Time Decay. Just as Delta and Darren’s split is so last week (, so is that photo you uploaded of your breakfast six hours ago. As a story gets older, it loses points, and our newsfeeds are only populated with edges that have the highest score at that very moment in time. Use and abuse my friends, use and abuse.

Common assumptions of Facebook 3). Facebook is an altruistic, philanthropic organisation whose only goal is to make sure I can readily keep up-to-date with the relationship statuses of people I haven’t seen in five years. Haha, I wish! Always remember, they are making money off you. Everything you post, everything you like is collated and sold off to advertisers so they can better target you with their campaigns. And they say Facebook is free…

The golden rules of Facebook.

If you’re a business, always:

Tailor your messages towards your demographic

Include pictures and links to rank better in Edgerank, Facebook’s algorithm

Interact with your followers on a regular basis

Respond to any requests immediately

Monitor actively what people are saying about you

Always remember to post regularly, mix it up every now and again, provide interesting and engaging content and use trial and error to determine the best approach.

If you’re an individual, for the love of God:

Keep it PG13

Avoid disclosing too much information about your personal life

Utilise the highest privacy settings

Select different audiences for your messages

Be wary of who can see what on your page

Don’t be afraid to delete! I’m talking posts, friends, anything you wouldn’t want your dad to see, and comment inappropriately on (that’s happened).

Social networks are an opportunity to control your image and determine how certain subsets of people perceive you. Just remember: the medium is the message. Use the unique qualities of each social network to send unique messages and connect with your friends or clientele in different, meaningful ways.

Next time we shall tackle Instagram! Until then, keep your clothes on and your nipples out of my newsfeed. Also, know that if you like pages that have ‘naked’ and ‘selfies’ anywhere in the headline, I will judge you. I will judge you harshly.

P.S. If you want to see great social media strategy and engagement in place, check out Black Milk Clothing’s Facebook page!

One response to “The social networks explained.

  1. Well written!

    Business understanding of social media is generally poor across the board, exception being those large enough to have a dedicated team. I think it is an area where small businesses really struggle.

    Until people realise that you have to provide engaging content, not just ‘messages’ they will fail on every platform, that’s what the essence of SM is.

    Look forward to the Instagram review.

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