By now, we all know that Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are the 800-pound
gorillas in the social media space. But if history is any guide, these
companies will face continual pressure from upstarts (and even big players)
with new ideas and unique business models. Consequently, association leaders
are taking notice. Social networking is fast, efficient and economical. Plus,
it’s based on many of the same principles that fostered the creation of
associations in the first place—bringing like-minded people together to share
experiences, best practices and referrals.
As our 2011 Association Communication Benchmarking study
revealed, nearly three in five (58.1 percent) association leaders who responded
to our comprehensive online survey are planning to invest more resources in
social media during the next 12 months. By comparison, only 16 percent of
association leaders plan to invest more resources in their print media, and
only 35 percent plan to invest more resources in their live events.
Here are a few of the new social network “darlings” on the block and what they
can offer you:
- Groupon is an online-based company that offers special deals to consumers in various
cities in the U.S. Groupon works with local businesses
to create discounts that are emailed to subscribers. The discounts are
generally greater than 50 percent, and consumers can buy up to two certificates
for themselves and up to two certificates as gifts for others. Groupon not only
works with restaurants but with businesses offering everything from beauty treatments
and massages to carpet cleaning, car services, admission to area attractions
and more. Each weekday, Groupon offers one special deal available for purchase for
24 hours. The Groupon purchase is not confirmed until a minimum number of
buyers have purchased the deal. If, at the end of 24 hours, the minimum buyer number
is not met, buyers’ credit cards are not charged. The theory here is that the
collective power of multiple buyers helps drive down the cost to consumers
while ensuring high volume (making up for the steep discount) for the business.
- LivingSocial is believed to be Groupon’s (and Facebook’s) closest rival in the “group coupon” arena. Like
Groupon, consumers sign up for LivingSocial and every morning receive an email
that features an attractive discount on a product or service from a local
business such as a restaurant, theater, sporting event, spa or salon. The deal
is valid for purchase that day only, though sometimes deals are available for
purchase during the course of a few days. Merchants participating in the program offer
a great deal of discounted vouchers—50 percent off or more.
Both LivingSocial and Groupon aim to save people money by
making it easy to share and earn coupons with friends. Both are well-funded
financially and are busy expanding to new cities. Experts say LivingSocial
and Groupon are making good use of social features and have similar
websites and comparable average deal prices. The differences?
- Since its founding in 2008, Chicago-based Groupon has always been a
“group coupon” company. Washington, DC-based LivingSocial was founded in 2007
as a social discovery and catalogue networking company.
- Groupon has 40 million subscribers in 35 countries and
335 cities. LivingSocial has 10 million members in five countries and 89
- Groupon receives nearly 80 percent of U.S. group purchasing traffic—about 10 times what LivingSocial
Other social-based resources:
- Quora is a continually improving collection of questions and answers created, edited and organized by
everyone who uses it. The network is sort of like Wikipedia but more
free-flowing. The goal of Quora is to have each question page become the best
possible resource for someone who wants to know about the question. Questions
range from technical to artistic to sports related, and there are a
number of influential people responding. It is quite trendy, with everyone from
Ashton Kutcher to Mark Cuban contributing to Quora’s collective body of
- Foursquare is a location-based mobile platform that makes cities easier to navigate and more
interesting to explore. By “checking in” via a smart phone app or SMS (short messaging service, or text), users share their location with friends while
collecting points and virtual badges. Foursquare guides real-world experiences
by allowing users to bookmark information about venues they want to visit and
surfacing relevant suggestions about nearby venues. Merchants and brands
leverage the Foursquare platform by utilizing tools such as giveaways or trivia to obtain, engage and retain customers and audiences.
Currently, Foursquare is extremely popular with the college-age crowd and other
demographics that frequent bars and restaurants. However, the application has
the ability to be very powerful for any small business or organization looking
to attract a crowd at any venue.
These underdogs have hit the market with new business models and, understandably, have caught
the eye of the big guys. Google, Facebook and other large companies have had (or
will soon have) competing offerings. As
consumers, we’ll benefit from greater choice and competition, which will
continue to drive innovation. These tools are still
in the experimental phase for many associations today, but they will certainly
evolve over time.
Consider: Who would have anticipated just two years ago that Facebook and Twitter would have
evolved so far beyond the one-trick-pony they each started off as? It will be
fun to watch how these new “media darlings” handle their evolution.
Marcus Underwood is vice president and general manager of
NaylorNet, the online media solutions division of Naylor, LLC.