Our amazing social media manager Holly has this map (left) hanging on her wall. It captures the membership sizes of the biggest online communities in the spring of 2007, but with a whimsical, Lord of the Rings-inspired flavor (or maybe it’s more like The Phantom Tollbooth). Click here for a bigger version.
How can you not love a map that features the Noob Sea, the Blogipeligo and puts AOL, Yahoo and Windows Live in the “Icy North?” But, to me, the most interesting aspect of this map is seeing how dramatically the landscape of the Internet has shifted in just a few years. Myspace dwarfs Facebook, Friendster and Classmates.com are huge, Second Life gets its own island and Twitter is nowhere to be found. It’s almost like picking up a high school yearbook and reminiscing about your friends. Some turned out to be losers and some were surprisingly successful.
To really grasp how quickly things have changed, check out the latest version of this map, which was made in 2010.
Only three years have passed and the landscape is completely different. Facebook dominates everything, even earning some areas of its own such as the all-too-common “Plains of Awkwardly Public Family Interactions” and the land which strikes fear into the heart of all PR pros, the “Northern Wasteland of Unread Updates.” Twitter and Skype have exploded, but you have to squint to find MySpace and Windows Live. China’s QQ occupies a massive space but is separated by the “Great Firewall.” And then there’s Farmville. Wow.
There’s no map for 2012, but if there was, you could expect to find LinkedIn and Pinterest taking up significant portions of the landscape. What do you think 2013 will look like? What about 2017? Will Facebook’s recent trouble on Wall Street affect its growth? Will another social media outlet rise as quickly as Pinterest did this year?
We are still in the early years of the Internet, at least relative to the broader marketplace. While we’ve evolved well past the age of dial-up modems, it still feels like the frontier in the digital world, where companies can rise and fall seemingly at the whim of a few college students.
So how do you maintain any consistency in your messaging with this constantly shifting landscape? It’s tough, but certain truths will remain regardless of the outlet you’re working on:
- Be honest and direct. Honesty and integrity will always be good policy when dealing with people, regardless of the platform.
- Create great content. Style and features may change, but great content will always draw attention. Communicate what you know and make it as interesting as you possibly can.
- Know your audience. While the websites may change, your target audience remains the same. Figure out who they are, find out where they are, and go engage them.
- You don’t have to join every dance. Don’t sign your brand up for every new social media site, or even all the established ones. Pick the sites that make the most sense for your brand and develop a strategy for each one that aligns with your overall goals.