As an avid Internet user who has been online way back when Altavista and AOL were the major players, I can tell you that there has always been a sense of connection for people online. I remember one of the things I loved to do when AOL first came out was chat. I would go into chat rooms all the time, and it was new and it was fun. Although the need for human interaction online has always been there, however, the realization of that need did not take place until 1995, with the launch of Classmates.com. Classmates.com did not provide the type of social networking that you and I do today but it did provide a way for classmates to reconnect, email and chat with each other. The evolution of online social networking has reached its realization with sites like Facebook, which is a much more in depth version of Classmates.com and even sites like MySpace.
Why do people flock to social networking sites? There are many answers to this questions. Here are a few:
1. The lack of time for busy people. This allows them to network on there free time.
2. The lack of face to face networking lowers ambitions and allows people to be more open.
3. Being able to share with people and learn from each other in a fast paced environment.
4. The culmination of social networks into sites that are user generated provides an entirely new way to find content.
This last reason is my favorite. Sites like StumbleUpon.com, del.icio.us, newsvine.com and digg.com provide us with some very unique content which, most likely, we would never find using Google.
These reasons have brought the need for connecting online directly to the end user/consumer. The fact that about 2/3 of the United States population uses social networks makes it clear why there is so much money being spent on social network advertising. Below is a graph from eMarketer, showing the spending on social network advertising.
The numbers above do cross over to mobile ad spending as many people utilize mobile devices to access these social networks. The people who belong to these sites have proven much harder to convert than visitors from other media. However, the advertising dollars spent on social networks are projected to increase over the next few years. In my next post on social network advertising I will talk about ways to help your campaigns and your conversions for social networking advertising.