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The 2 Types of Social Network to Navigate for Social Listening

As of January 2015, more than 2 billion people spend a little over two hours on their social media accounts each day. Most brands have created a combination of accounts to engage with this social media-focused population, but having a presence is only half the battle.

How do brands decide who to target when there are so many users and networks to choose from?

Social conversations can help develop sales leads, improve customer service and highlight employees’ acts of kindness, but only if brands know how to listen closely to what their audiences are saying. And in order to connect to prospective customers, brands must know how to approach users based on the types of accounts these people are using to converse.

In this post, we’ll explore how social listening tactics differ based on which of the two major types of social networks target audiences are using.

Profile-centric social networks

Profiles

Profile-centric social networks attempt to separate businesses from the masses by limiting people to one user profile and directing businesses to set up company pages rather than profiles.

Conversations are more protected in profile-centric social networks. Privacy filters differ depending on each network, but pages are generally more restricted in regards to how they engage with fellow users.

For example, LinkedIn limits personal profiles from seeing anything but long-form blog posts in their accounts, whereas Google+ allows businesses to start a conversation like any personal profile user.

Facebook’s recent Search update, including personalized suggestions, highlighted trending topics and individual profile posts appearing in search results, hints at how this aspect of profile-centric social networks may continue to change in the future.

The majority of profile-centric social networks also have communities, public places that allow users to engage in discussions around broad or niche topics — examples range from a local cooking group to a general hockey fan group.

However, brands must take note of how each network differs in who can join versus listen to these groups’ discussions. Facebook and LinkedIn only permit individual users to join, whereas Google+ communities permit brands to join.

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Account-centric social networks

This second group includes networks like Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and Pinterest. Account-centric social networks permit anyone, anywhere to open an account. All users need is an email address.

Furthermore, there is no differentiating factor between types of accounts. People and companies have the same general features when they set up or log into an account.

While these networks do provide an opportunity to choose privacy over transparency. Instagram and Twitter allow users to make their accounts visible only to followers they approve, while Pinterest has Secret Boards to hide pins from others if users wish. Yet, the vast majority of conversations and accounts are public and accessible to anyone listening.

Consequently, engagement with other users is possible for all. Brands have a much easier time sending social signals – like retweeting or favoriting a user’s tweet – on these networks than on Facebook, Google or LinkedIn.

Twitter users can create lists to bunch other users together, but the need for the communities seen in profile-centric social networks is not nearly as essential when posts are already made public.

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About Katie Gaab

Katie Gaab is a content marketing specialist for Cision. Previously the senior editor for Help A Reporter Out (HARO), she enjoys connecting audiences to exciting, new content. She's a dancer, avid concert-goer, foreign language nerd and book worm. Find her on Twitter @kathryngaab.

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