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Don't Get Caught with Your Pants Down on Social Networks

Ever since a suggestive photo went live on the Twitter account of New York Representative Anthony Weiner, the congressman has been juggling the fallout non-stop. Was it hacking as Weiner alleged? Or one of those ill-timed breakdowns that ruins careers?

For business, the primary lesson in this story is not the danger of someone hacking your account (or your hacking your own career). Instead, it's the dynamics of social media. What many companies still see as experimental media are actually mainstream, according to the latest study from Edison Research and Arbitron. To consider social media as a secondary form of communications is rapidly becoming as ludicrous as thinking that cell phones are a fad. Here are some of the statistics from the study:

  • About 52 percent of Americans aged 12 or older have a profile on at least one social network.
  • More than half of Americans use Facebook.
  • Facebook has respectively a recognition rate of 93 percent among Americans.
  • Twitter has a 92 percent recognition rate, although only 8 percent of Americans use it.
  • Location services like Foursquare have a recognition rate of 30 percent.
  • About 15 percent of the total national population -- 46 million Americans 12 or older -- check social media services multiple times a day, while only 27 percent check once a week or less.
  • One in four social network users follows companies and products on those networks.
  • Almost 25 percent of social network users say that Facebook has the biggest influence on their purchasing decisions of any social network.
On one level, social networks are something that businesses can no longer safely ignore because there are too many consumers using them. For all those companies that don't have social strategies, time to create one. Quickly.

On another level, it is now vital to monitor and control social network interactions. How much imagination do you need to see the face -- or whatever -- of a CEO in Weiner's place?


Image: Flickr user bark, CC 2.0.
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