Tuesday, 25 January 2011


The world's gone Gaga!

Everyone seems to like numbers - statistical analysis, percentages, ratios, conversion rates, the price of cheese... so I've looked at a few more. Before discussing them, I'd like you to take a quick think about these popular websites - with Apps!

I don't really 'do' Facebook, as far as social media and business networking is concerned. I do find it extremely handy for keeping up to date with friends and family, arranging social events and, in general, doing anything except work. We can share photos, reminisce, poke fun at one another and pick up from wherever we left off, even if we haven't seen one another for years.

Facebook is fun, it's where we hang out with familiar faces, it's where we go to skive, or to sit down at the end of a frustrating day and relax. OK, so our photos have probably all been digitally scanned for facial recognition, profiled, logged and listed in some Government funded, global database but, on the whole, we don't care. It's Facebook

Making your way in the world today takes everything you've got.
Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot.
Wouldn't you like to get away?
Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name, and they're always glad you came.
You wanna be where you can see, our troubles are all the same
You wanna be where everybody knows your name.
You wanna go where people know, people are all the same,
You wanna go where everybody knows your name.

Theme song lyrics from 'Cheers'
"Where Everybody Knows Your Name"
by Gary Portnoy & Judy Hart Angelo

To me, that's Facebook!

Twitter, on the other hand, is about a hard and fast game. It's about the hard sell, the attention grabbing, the in your face, fast driven media. It's a digital revolution that combined the Internet with mobile phones on every level and is now threatening to outpace the national news networks and revolutionise the 'text all' facility on our mobile phones. On Twitter, there is no 10 second delay - it's out there for all to see and it's what's happening now.

In my opinion, the Twitter + Facebook combination doesn't work very well for the 'man on the street'. You just wouldn't take Wall Street, CNN and The Whitehouse staff to meet your friends at Cheers. Twitter is far too fast moving for such a cheerful, jaunty tune. Twitter, by comparison, is Rimsky-Korsakov's Flight of the Bumblebee!

Facebook's social network was launched around 2004, the brain child of college students. Within seven years, it reportedly welcomed 600 million active users worldwide. The there was a book about it's origins and now we have a film (due for release February 2011, here in UK, already released in USA).

Twitter appeared on the scene a couple of years later, in 2006. It's more of a micro-blogging site, based on the 140 characters allowed within a standard mobile phone text message. To date, it's said to have around 190 million users.

Curiously, individuals, companies, charities and other groups appear to be using Twitter as a source of gathering customers, members or participants in all manner of things, including using it as an introductory gateway to... you got it, Facebook! But the two, allegedly, have no affiliation to one another - unless you count the vested interests of Marc Andreessen. Indeed, it was reported that Twitter declined an offer worth around $500 million from Facebook. Astonishingly, the Twitter founders still don't sound sure of which direction their company is heading, other than up.

It's all very strange and beyond my comprehension. Everywhere we look we see signs, suggestions or hints of big names, but they are no longer those of tobacco, alcohol, drug or oil companies. Instead, they belong to the 21st Century World Wide Web - eBay, Amazon, YouTube, Facebook and now Twitter.

Many TV shows, including news programmes, flash up a Twitter username for audience interaction or participation. 'Tweet us @whatever!' In fact, I've even noticed a trend toward small print simply saying @whatever, without any reference to Twitter! Only those 'in the know' understand it, though.

Mobile phone networks seem to fit more comfortably with social networking than, say, retailers or service providers, although they are all begining to interact. URL shortening drives countless streams of traffic to countless websites and probably about 1% of those visitors convert to customers. But how do the numbers crunch for small players in this fast-flowing game of digital networking? Is success a dead cert or are the odds stacked against us?

With a UK population of almost 62 million, the BBC can reach over two thirds of us every week. Programmes like Eastenders can attract viewer figures far in excess of 10 million. A major event, like the funeral of Princess Diana, attracted over 30 million viewers. (So did the 1966 World Cup!) That's just UK.

Now let's go global, which is what WikiLeaks does when it hits the headlines throughout the International mass media network. I haven't looked at global figures, so I haven't a clue how many individuals on this planet have access to such things as TV, radio or Internet, but I do know that it's many, many millions and that the stakes are high when it comes to communicatioln with them all.

WikiLeaks has been mentioned several times over the past months. What fantastic publicity! Almost every newspaper, TV station and news broadcaster has uttered the name. Just like eBay, YouTube, Amazon, Google and Facebook, WikiLeaks momentarily became a household 'name'. So, how well are they doing in the publicity stakes compared to others? Keep in mind that there's no income generated just from seeing a name. (All figures correct at time of writing.)

How many people like eBay on Facebook? 411,320
How many usernames follow eBay on Twitter? 23,131

How many people like the main BBC World News on Facebook? 521,551
How many usernames follow BBC World News on Twitter? 448,671

How many people like Amazon on Facebook? 525,467
How many usernames follow Amazon on Twitter? 58,948

How many people like the WikiLeaks Facebook page? 1,557,588
How many usernames follow WikiLeaks on Twitter? 679,918

How many people like the main CNN on Facebook? 1,691,464
How many usernames follow CNN Breaking News on Twitter? 3,754,210

How many people like iPhone on Facebook? 1,872,655
How many usernames follow iPhone on Twitter? Can't find their official account!

How many people like Google on Facebook? 2,499,468
How many usernames follow Google on Twitter? 2,714,933 INTERESTING

How many people like iTunes on Facebook? 10,218,408
How many usernames follow iTunes on Twitter? They have several categories:
iTunes Trailers - 1,578, 784 : Music - 619,188 : Movies - 53,048 : TV - 45,312 : Pod casts - 43,725

How many people like YouTube on Facebook? 26,257,028
How many usernames follow YouTube on Twitter? 1,556,061

How many people like the Lady Gaga page on Facebook? 26,932,157
How many usernames follow Lady Gaga on Twitter? 7,869,076
How many like the Lady Gaga page on Amazon?

I think this tells us that virtual social networking, blogging and micro-blogging is more about negative escapism for the masses. We cannot accurately analyse the global reach of such platforms when they are subject to Government legislation, even banned in some countries, but we can begin to understand the enormity of the Internet and all the associated problems that brings with it. What I can see is that communication is key. Apple's iPhone, alone, boasts 62,949,864 monthly active users, so how many Internet users might there be?

Next, in this comedy sketch, come the big guns, those who profit from providing the masses with an assortment of negative escape routes from the harsh realities of their lives – whether they be virtual, actual, medical or psychological. Their wingmen are the financial institutions and the major drugs, food, drink, alcohol and tobacco industries.

Following them, there are the general money-makers, chasing along in an effort to entice the masses to part with their cash. Many don't care how, why, where or what for, it only matters that they succeed in generating wealth. The further down the line we go, the fewer stragglers there are with cash left over to spend. That's where we find the micro-loan companies springing up, in their hope of earning from those who have fallen by the wayside.

So what does this all mean for a budding entrepreneur, frugal or otherwise? Where, next, should our enterprising minds and spare investment capital be heading? What might be, the next 'big thing'?

Perhaps we should hold onto our hats, harness our dreams and be prepared for the ride of our lives. It could be fact, fiction and fantasy all rolled into one. It does not have to be within eyesight for us to see it, nor within earshot for us to hear it. Perhaps, even, the Mayans knew much more then than we do now.

Think about it…

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