If you are a web developer, you may have brushed off social networking as a phenomenon that is dominated by teenagers and people seeking relationships. If you talk to non-developers, however, you may have realized that social networking is pervasive, and noticed that most smart businesses have embraced the phenomenon as a way to attract potential customers and interact with their current customers. In this article we’ll look at the top 10 social networking sites that you should be aware of as a developer who cares about your clients’ businesses.
Top 10 Social Networking Sites
To get started, let’s break down the top 10 social networking sites today. In order of unique visitors, here’s the list*:
- Facebook – over 800 million active users
- Google+ over 40 million active users
- MySpace – 33 million active users
- Twitter – 23,573,178 unique visits *
- Linkedin – 15,475,890 unique visits *
- Classmates – 14,613,381 unique visits *
- MyLife – 8,736,352 unique visits *
- Ning – 6,120,667 unique visits *
- LiveJournal – 3,834,155 unique visits *
- Tagged – 3,800,325 unique visits *
* — stats provided from About.com as of 08/12/10.
Over the last year, Facebook has doubled its monthly visitors, while MySpace has experienced a 13% decrease. Some of the change is due to MySpace users growing up and wanting to interact with business acquaintances, school friends and more, but overall, social networking is dramatically increasing worldwide. Small businesses, corporations and grandparents everywhere are becoming socially active online at an exponential rate. The time is now to get your business or website’s presence on the social networks so your customers can reach and communicate with your business and other customers.
Your business or website’s social networking presence should not be a copy of your website, nor should it appear like a brochure designed to sell something. It should provide a more personal look at your business, the people who are involved, and the social networking sites should be a place where, although still done in a professional manner, your company can let its hair down, so to speak. Interesting aspects of your business, positive communications with your customers, new aspects of the business that you are working on or considering are all topics to be considered for posting on your social networking sites.
Another thing to keep in mind is that all of the social networking sites have their own rules about soliciting, advertising and what can and cannot be posted on their sites. You must adhere to their rules, or you will be banned and your site will be blacklisted. Most social networking sites enable their members to interact with each other, and your business’ social networking sites are no different. You can expect to receive both positive and negative feedback. While the positive feedback is great, the negative feedback allows you to focus on those aspects of your site or business that needs improvement. Your reactions to that negative feedback will be seen by all of your other customers, whether they are current customers or potential customers, so keep it professional, and whatever you do, do not allow yourself to get into a flame war or argument.
On some social networking sites you can use an RSS feed to display your most recent articles or content from your regular website. This is a great way to keep folks informed about changes to your site, and keeps the content on your social site fresh and appealing.
Some social networking sites, such as Google+, Twitter and Facebook, provide web developers with access to many features of their site through the use of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) or Software Developer’s Kits (SDKs). Developers can access bits of information from “friends” on their social networking site, and display that information on their regular website. Facebook’s now famous “Like” button is an example of the use of an API.
Here are a few social networking APIs and SDKs that you may find useful as you create or enhance your current website: