I love social media. I appreciate the way it's allowed me to stay close to family and friends, even though I live 2,200 miles from my hometown. I'm grateful for the constant flow of amusing, helpful and interesting information it provides. I am thankful for the many interesting people I've met and gotten to know via social media (including but not limited to Jeremiah, Steve, Anna, Amber, David, Ian, Ben, Stefano, Brian and others). I love the professional opportunities it has furnished to me, particularly my role here at Forrester. And I especially value the way social media is changing the world -- making it flatter and more transparent, challenging the ways we conduct business, elevating the importance of relationships and affinity and encouraging more listening and responsiveness.
But there are some things I'm sick of in social media. Do you share these dislikes? Any you'd care to add?
We’ve launched four specific areas of focus (although you can always suggest more). Will 2011 be . . .
The year location-based services go mainstream?Thus far, checking in from real-world locations has been an activity reserved for early adopters, but this behavior is growing, being spurred on by innovation from foursquare and Facebook. Will this be the “hockey stick” year for foursquare, where growth kicks into hyperdrive? Or will Facebook roll over foursquare as it did MySpace? And what will it take to hook the masses in the check-in craze?
The year of trust?Trust has always been an important brand attribute, but in 2011 it will become crucial for brands to earn followers, affinity and advocacy. How will brands earn trust in social media channels? How will trust be measured? What happens to brands that lose on trust? What steps will Facebook take to earn more trust as the social network continues to integrate itself into consumers’ surfing, social and mobile habits?
Six weeks ago, Forrester published a report some found shocking: "A Global Update Of Social Technographics®" noted that “social behaviors that require creating content have seen no substantial growth in adoption since 2009; in fact, some behaviors have experienced attrition.” After years of tracking demonstrable year-over-year growth in consumers' social behaviors, it seems the social train has ground to a halt. I created a blog post on the topic, but this didn’t seem nearly sufficient for such an important change in the most significant trend to hit marketing since the Internet went public in 1995. So today Forrester is publishing the report, “Fight Social Media Stagnation.”
The data speaks for itself — since 2007, every category of Social Technographic behavior (other than Inactives) demonstrated constant growth each year, but in 2010 that trend changed. Why? In part because we’re now reaching a point of social media saturation. With Joiners (those who maintain a profile on a social network) currently encompassing 59% of US online adults, it is inevitable that the growth of social behaviors would slow. The social media battle for the hearts and minds of US consumers has been fought and won!
The value of Facebook "Likes" is supposed to be clear: My friend likes something, and that is valuable and persuasive information for me. This is the idea behind Bing launching social search — if my friends have liked something for which I'm searching, that will be more relevant and helpful information than just another one-size-fits-all search engine results page. It's also the idea behind Facebook's Open Graph — if you visit a site and see that a friend has "Liked" it, you are more likely to pay attention, spend time, and complete a transaction.
But as we all know, a "Like" (with quotations) does not necessarily signify a like (without quotations). An interesting ExactTarget study demonstrated that people may "Like" a brand for a wide range of reasons: to learn about discounts, to earn freebies, for entertainment, to gain access to exclusive content, and — of course — to show support for the company to others. Just look at the list of companies you follow on Facebook — do you like them all equally? Are there any you've followed even though you really aren't a true fan of the organization or its products? The disconnection between “Like” and like will only grow greater in the coming year, as brands looking to expand their pool of Facebook friends reward new fans and followers (an activity I compared with the “black hat” tactic of buying links in the early days of search engine optimization.)
In a blog post a week ago, I stated that Auto Direct Messages (Auto DMs) on Twitter are unwelcome. Many agreed that these preprogrammed messages sent to all new followers are annoying, but others vehemently disagreed. To bring clarity to the topic, we conducted a survey that was completed by 336 individuals. The results are unequivocal: People hate to receive Auto DMs, think less of those who send them, and are quite likely to unfollow the senders or even report them as spam.
My recommendation based on the survey results is short and sweet: Don’t send Auto DMs. There may be exceptions to this rule, but they are few and far between. This is because the actions of many others have already destroyed people’s expectations of and attitudes toward the medium of Auto DMs. Auto DMs are the unsolicited email spam and telemarketing of the social media world; sometimes those discredited tactics work, but usually they spark response from very few recipients while damaging the senders’ reputation and influence among many, many more.
No matter how much you rationalize that your Auto DM is more welcome, personal, social, authentic, or helpful than everyone else’s, the data from this casual survey speaks for itself: By a margin of 40 to 1, survey respondents who have an opinion on Auto DMs indicate they find them unwelcome and usually do not get any information of value in the Auto DMs they receive. Almost three-quarters of respondents chose, “I find Auto DMs to be unwelcome because they usually do not contain information I find valuable,” versus 2% who said, “I find Auto DMs to be welcome because they often contain information I find valuable.”
Twitter watchers have long awaited (and some feared) this moment: Ads are coming to your Twitter timeline. Twitterers thus far have supported and shown little concern over Twitter’s Promoted Tweets program, so long as those paid tweets were easily differentiated from unpaid tweets and stayed within search results or at the top of the Trends list. But now Twitter is taking the next step that many expected and inserting promoted tweets into users’ Twitter streams (see image below), and that means comingling authentic, unpaid tweets with paid, advertising tweets.
This is the riskiest move Twitter has ever made. There is a big difference between displaying paid tweets at the top of search results and inserting them into the timeline — just ask search engines, which for a while in the early days of the Web struggled with their own monetization models. Search engines experimented with comingling paid search ads with organic search results, but the backlash from consumer advocates and users was sufficient to force a different model. Today, paid search ads are not just differentiated with words, colors and fonts but are substantially and consistently separated from organic results into special portions of the screen.