No Social Network is a Ghost Town

Every time I hear or read somebody talking about a social network as a ‘Ghost Town’ it raises a smile.  Usually, I dismiss these claims because the person making the statement has clearly failed to understand how social networks function, or how to measure their value. Today, however, when I clicked on a link to a piece proclaiming that Twitter is increasingly feeling like a ghost town, it was written by respected technology commentator Robert Scoble.  It would be difficult to dismiss this one so easily, surely.

The points that Scoble makes in a post on Google +, as reported by Business Insider, are basically these:

  • A lack of ‘noise’ controls means that as the volume of tweets is going up, people are not following new people.
  • Google +’s suggested user lists are sending more new followers to Scoble’s G+ account than Twitter [basically, he’s not getting as many new followers on Twitter as he is on Google +]
  • Facebook provides more ways to share information than Twitter.
  • Facebook adds followers from lists you’re added to to your overall follower number

Now, while Scoble measures the success of social networks by the number of new followers it sends him, this is not a good measure of how the majority of businesses should use it.  It’s also not a scientific measure of whether it’s a ghost town.  It’s a bit like saying that because one store [the store you happen to visit] is quiet that the entire shopping mall is in trouble.

If I’m honest, I have a problem with declaring any of the social networks ‘ghost towns’. To do so, in my opinion, is failing to understand how most people use them – certainly how most businesses should be using them.  Every ‘expert’ you hear talk about how to use social media makes the point that it’s not about broadcasting, but about engagement… the publishing industry – particularly within the technology space – seems to think differently.

A social network’s true measure isn’t in the number of people within it, but – like any other network, physical or digital – the quality of the people within it. I actively discourage clients from campaigns that are simply measured by the number of followers/likes/+1s received. Rather, I encourage them to opt for activity that actively engages with customers, prospects, influencers and the media. This approach  demonstrates why focusing on engagement with a small number of influencers delivers the communications and business results they seek.

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