Why are some sites successful in using social media?

(From a short project I recently completed)

From what I’ve been able to discern, the difference between successful and unsuccessful use of social media depends on an organization’s understanding of what’s involved in using it.  I’ve noticed that unsuccessful sites use social media simply as another means of publishing – pushing their website posts onto other formats.  One organization, which I don’t want to mention because I’m affiliated with it, simply tweets their Facebook posts without editing, so only the first 140 characters are tweeted.

On the other hand, the sites that are successful users of social media (if success is measured in online presence and number of followers) do not address it as an IT  or publishing issue. They treat social media as a way of developing a community, and understand that it must be a two-way flow of information that should grow organically.   A successful site follows other media feeds as well as having its own followers.  Subscribers must be allowed to post content, and have it linked to their own social media feeds.

One success story is The Dodo.  It is a three-year-old startup that deals with animal welfare.  It invites users to post images via Snapchat, post tweets and upload other content.  The Dodo has 16 million followers on its Facebook page, and over 5 hundred thousand followers on Twitter – while also following over 3 thousand Twitter feeds.  It has 1.2 milion followers on Instagram while following over 3 thousand Instagram feeds.  It’s still a startup, and I have not been able to find a business plan for it, but it is attracting investors simply based on its social media presence.




Another good example, with a much different history, is the Skeptics Guide to the Universe.  This site is dedicated to the advancement of science and critical thinking, and began as a weekly podcast in 2005.  It has since expanded and added an active user forum, Facebook presence and Twitter feed.  The SGU has over a million Facebook followers and 50 thousand followers on Twitter, while actively following 3 thousand individual twitter feeds.

Part of the SGU’s success lies in the fact that they also actively network with other organizations in the skeptic movement, attend each other’s events and broadcasts, and thereby share listeners and subscribers.  This is impressive for a group of 5 people, with some part-time IT help and day jobs, who get together once a week to discuss science.



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