Why you simply cant ignore it any more

Researchers say that the use of social media has now exceeded 1 billion users worldwide. As I write this book in 2013, indications are that the growth rate is accelerating. By 2020, it is estimated that there will be 5 billion users.

Facebook is still the most popular place online for users to get connected worldwide. According to a study conducted by the Global Web index, daily active users of Facebook have reached 665 million. Twitter, on the other hand, is still the fastest-growing social network by active users. More than 1 million accounts are being added to Twitter every day.

LinkedIn is now the undisputed largest professional business network on the planet and has been growing during the early part of 2013, though not as much as Twitter and Facebook. There are more than 200 million LinkedIn users, with two new users joining this business social website every second.

Another social website enjoying growing popularity is Google+, which has attracted the attention of 359 million monthly users and is currently the second-largest social network.

Social sites such as Instagram and Pinterest are also rapidly growing in popularity and have attracted huge online audiences due to the unique way they allow users to interact, write posts and upload amazing photographs to their platforms.

Mobile phone usage of the internet has grown by 60 per cent in the past two years, meaning that use of the internet will be even more easy and popular as the months go by, opening up social media rapidly to users in developing markets worldwide. While they may not have television sets in their homes, they increasingly do have mobile phones, which they use for everything from torchlight to telephony.

The argument that social media is for young people only is rapidly being debunked. Twitters fastest-growing age demographic is 55 to 64-year-olds, with 79 per cent growth. People over 45 are the fastest-growing demographics on both Facebook and Google+.

The fact that social media is now becoming universally popular is one of the reasons so many world leaders are adopting Twitter, with at last count more than 264 leaders from countries in the United Nations now active on it. These world leaders have sent more than 350,000 tweets to more than 52 million followers in 42 different languages. Of these leaders, research says that only 30 do their own tweeting. The most popular of them all is President Barack Obama in the United States with 15 million followers.

These are growth trends that leaders simply cannot ignore.

Perhaps my main point was best articulated by The Work Foundation, a leading independent, international authority on work and its future. It recently published a White Paper on harnessing social media to improve workforce effectiveness.

It concluded that too many organizations were running scared of social media, terrified that the Barbarians a ravenous hoard of reviewing, judgemental and vocally opinionated consumers were at the gates and about to overrun organizations. Those organizations were adopting a myriad of defensive strategies to keep the barbarians out.

The problem is that the barbarians are already through the gates because those social media savvy consumers are also the vast majority of organizations employees, who dont leave their social media capabilities at their front doors when they leave for work in the mornings.

Recently, our firms head of innovation, Amelia Torode, organized a unique day for me and all of our groups company MDs. We were taken to learn how to do coding on a digital training day. It was an eye-opening experience as we went from having no skills and little understanding to being able to code our own apps in just eight hours!

For a business that advises clients on their digital presence in the marketplace, it is essential we understand whats possible. Knowing how the web works, and understanding whats possible, opens up a whole new world of ideas and strategies, and we have all benefited from our coding day, even though I will likely never myself produce an app.

And, I guess, thats the real point. How can you begin to understand this new world of digital possibilities and maximize the opportunities if you dont engage with it yourself?

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