Saturday, March 19, 2011

Social Networking - it’s the numbers that matter

This time last year I wrote a blog posting about the waste of time (from a marketing perspective) of having forums and other aspects of social networking on an age silo web site.

Today I had a comment that rather amazed me.

If this post is true could you explain why the Saga forum, whose social network you were rather scathing about too, is so huge and why not one of their forum threads has posts more than a few hours old, most a few minutes old.

Well I thought, maybe it is time I had another look at Sagazone. Firstly, it is much improved in design from the last time I looked – well done Saga.

But all of my reservations about the usefulness of such functionality as a means of generating marketing interest remain. If anything my views have hardened.

It is not true to say that most of the forum threads have posts more than a few hours old. Sure there are a few that meet this criteria but most are more like a few weeks or a few months old.

Since I last looked at the site, 20 months ago, the number of searchable profiles has increased from 63,000 to 80,000. Just for reference, Facebook as more than 600,000,000. In the last 44 months, Sagazone has less than doubled in size.

To be honest the absolute number of profiles is meaningless. If you look at the above graphic it shows the activity of these profiles. As you can see, the vast majority has not accessed the site in the last 90 days. You have about 5000 people who have access the site in the past 7 days.

Now if you go and have a look at the number of posts of some of these Sagazone fanatics it blows your socks off. There are people there who have posted over 90,000 times. Lots are in the 4,000 posts.

The same screen names keep appearing.

This behavior is how social networking sites work. A few people contribute the majority of the traffic.

From a marketer’s point of view, this is fine when you 600 million people with profiles. When you only have a handful then it is a total waste of time.

Don’t get me wrong. For the Sagazone fanatics I am sure it is great fun but this doesn’t mean marketers should give it a second thought.

I have one big caveat about these comments. They totally rely on the accuracy of the Sagazone search engine. If I am wrong then I am sure somebody from Saga will point out the mistake. Dick Stroud


Chris B said...

OK, this time I'll post identifiably. First, I am not defending their Forum. I am researching social networking for older people and it would be in the interests of my commission to find the facebook forum exactly where you said it should be. The data does not agree.

You make some good points about the very heavy users. But your statement that the forum shows posts weeks old seems odd.

I used a screen grab for presentation purposes a few days ago and not one forum showed posts over 22 hours old and every other thread was active within a couple of hours and seconds before. This was taken on a weekday, as well.

The sphere of your interest, though, might limit what we might usefully discuss. Our interest is social connection and the potential for relating online to actual networks of connection. It is a social more than a commercial interest. And in our view Forums have little potential for marketing interests anyway.

What I would be interested in discussing is if you think that the obviously slow progress of their network is in any way linked to the fact that this is a network based upon a commercial website, albeit a very good one. In other words is the appeal of the community limited by their customer base?

Dick Stroud said...

See next post