Understanding social media users

Social media has revolutionized how people communicate with each other and how companies communicate with society. The most common social networks (SN) are Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Youtube and Google+. Understand how people use SN can guide us when attracting and communicating with customers. This article is based on research conducted by the associate professor (Harvard Business School) Mikolaj Jan Piskorski.

Why is social media so popular

According to Piskorski, "Online social networks are most useful when they address real failures in the operation of offline networks", meaning that a SN works best when it helps people interact in ways that would be very difficult without using that SN. For example, Facebook can be used to organize surprise birthday parties, post pictures of a product launch or LinkedIn can be used to identify customers or showcase your own background if passively looking for a new job. This section of research does not cover LinkedIn.


"People just love to look at pictures," says Piskorski as the research found that 70% of online SN activity was made up of users looking at each others pictures or posting their own. Piskorski believes that this is due to two factors; a  voyeuristic tendency in people and peoples desire to highlight what they are doing through photo. The research also finds that men look at pictures of women (they know or do not know) while women tend to look at pictures of other women.


The above finding do not hold true for Twitter, 90 percent of Twitter posts were created by only 10 percent of users. According to Piskorski “Only the people who are willing to put themselves out there publicly in words to people who they may not know will use Twitter. Some people will find this incredibly appealing, others will find this too scary."

There are more women on Twitter than men, women tweet about the same rate as men, but men's tweets are followed by both sexes. Earlier research by Piskorski suggests that women create fewer links in their tweets than men. "Women actually say things, guys give references to other things."

From Social Media to social strategy

Marketers are still struggling with how to use social networking sites to reach potential customers. According to Piskorski treat SN as another advertising channel to promote their products & service and that this is a flawed approach.

The research finds that findings show that people don't click through on advertising on social networks. Piskorski suggests that Suns are most effective when they improve the audience’s lifestyle or help people to interact more. This can be seen by companies organizing networking event, parties or other gatherings such as marathons.


By Robert Farrell.

For more information contact me via Linkedin ie.linkedin.com/in/robertfarrell1/



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