After my article "Is Facebook Losing Small Business?" this question came in via Twitter: "What are your thoughts on alternate SM Networks? Google+?"
Here's an expanded version of my response:
I don’t think there are any true alternative social media networks to Facebook, at this time, including Google+. This is largely due to the numbers of fans in the Facebook network, how entrenched those fans are, the diversity of the fans in the network (demographics), etc.
That said, the one possible contender for the ‘alternative SM networks’ role is Pinterest.
Here's a few reasons:
A June article in Forbes magazine "Why Pinterest Could Be The Next Social Media Giant" included this information from "recently released data by Modea" about the demographics of Pinterest users.
68% of Pinterest users are women, and 28.1% of users have an average household income of over $100,000. Furthermore, about half of the users have children and more than 27% are between the ages of 25 and 34.
According to the CNBC article mentioned above, Pinterest's "rapid growth has drawn businesses, especially retailers, to expand their presence on the site."
In fact, in mid-November Pinterest announced Pinterest for business. Some small businesses, and many larger ones, had already discovered the benefits of having an active presence on Pinterest. Pinterest has now opened the doors wider by creating a Pinterest for Business option.
Many small business owners wonder how they can make it work on Pinterest, especially when what they are selling doesn't easily translate into a visual.
First, like most social networks it's not all about me or you. It's about our fans, followers, connections, clients, potential clients. Pinterest, as with other top networks, provides a way for you to build your brand and image as well as sell your products, by sharing content that others will find interesting, helpful, valuable and/or shareable - make that 'likable' or 'Repinnable'.
The best way to see this in action is to check out and get a sense for Pinterest before you get too far down the road. Check out a few of the brand pages already active on Pinterest: Martha Stewart, Starbucks, Lamborghini, Walmart, Amazon - there are many more!
Pinterest URLs are branded so if you have a name you really want, grab it now. Big brands like CocaCola, Pepsi, Mazda and Toyota don't seem to have gotten on the bandwagon soon enough as typing in these URLs brings up individuals not the brands. Ouch!
Pinterest users, according to the Forbes article mentioned above, spend more time on the network than on Facebook and Twitter. This is good news for business because Pinterest (at least right now) let's the user decide what they would like to view.
These are the options:
YOU choose - Pinterest doesn't choose for you. (Yes, that was a bit of a dig at Facebook.)
Anything that can be shared using a visually appealing image is ripe for Pinterest. And, you can add text too, up to 500 characters, and a clickable link (URL) back to your website, or your e-commerce site (to make a purchase), etc. You can also pin saleable products from your website to show up on Pinterest.
From a small business point of view, Facebook is losing some of its luster as a place to invest a lot of time and energy for meager results. Social networks like Pinterest are opening up new opportunities for them.
Pinterest is gaining traction with users and with businesses, assuming they don’t mess too much with the way things are, other than improvements of course.
Google+ is a different animal compared to Facebook and Pinterest. It doesn’t seem to have the huge buy-in, usage and time spend that Facebook does. It does have large fan numbers, considering the relatively short time it's been around, but the amount of time users spend on the network isn’t impressive.
An article in Search Engine Journal earlier this year, reported the average number of minutes users spent on Google+ was 3 minutes. I'm sure it's more now but not enough to make it any kind of a threat to Facebook or Pinterest, at least right now.