Was Social Media A Big Factor In Holiday Purchases? Reach Your Own Conclusion!

It's sometimes amazing (and disappointing) what you find when you scratch beneath the surface of headlines. Take this one from Mashable: "Social Media Not a Big Factor in Holiday Purchases." It’s a big, eye-catching, alarm-raising headline, but as I dug into the story beneath the headline, I found my impression changed considerably.

The article reports on a ForeSee study that, according to Mashable, demonstrates that "social media may be an underwhelming driver" of retail sales. Based on the Mashable article, I downloaded the report from the ForeSee site, expecting a thorough exploration of social media's role in holiday shopping purchases. I was surprised to find that the portion pertaining to social media was a mere two sentences in the 22-page report. (In fact, ForeSee notes that its report could not contain all of the findings of the study, so additional information relating to topics like social and mobile will be made available in future weeks by request.)

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Can Social Media Bring Peace On Earth In 2011?

Is it possible that in 2011 social media could help bring peace on earth, goodwill toward men (and women)? I’m enough of an optimist to hope so but enough of a realist to appreciate how naive that sounds. Still, I believe there are encouraging signs that social media can have a positive impact on the world — but only if it first has a positive impact on each of us.

If I predict that social media will bring peace to the world and am subsequently proven wrong, at least I’d be in good company. History is full of examples of technical advances that carried the promise of beneficial change but delivered something less. Alfred Nobel invented dynamite, a more stable version of nitroglycerin, to make mining safer; he eventually used his wealth to establish the Nobel Prizes after reading an erroneously printed obituary that called him “the merchant of death” for “finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before.” 

Cable television also once was seen as a force for positive change. A 1973 report from the National Science Foundation predicted cable television would “become a medium for local action instead of a distributor of prepackaged mass-consumption programs to a passive audience.” Alas, Bruce Springsteen accurately summed up cable television’s present and future when he sung almost 20 years ago that “There was fifty-seven channels and nothin' on.”

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My Holiday Wishes For Twitter, Facebook, Yahoo & Google

‘Tis the season for gifts and wishes. I have no presents for Twitter, Facebook, Yahoo and Google (and giving them gifts would violate Forrester rules), so instead I’ve dug deep into my bag of hopes to offer some wishes for these leading tech and social media companies:

  • For Twitter, the gift of distribution. I’ve argued plenty on this blog that Twitter has already become mainstream based on the impact it has on our culture, if not on the number of people who use the information network. It must be rewarding for Biz, Ev and the Twitter crew to see tweets become news on CNN and in Entertainment Weekly, but that doesn’t pay the bills. For Twitter to become an ad-serving powerhouse (without annoying its loyal user base), it needs more people consuming tweets — it won’t be the number of people who tweet that drives Twitter’s revenue but the number of people who read those tweets. If Twitter is to maximize the potential of its Promoted Tweets, trends and accounts, it needs as many eyeballs as possible, and so in 2011 I give Twitter the wish of wider distribution. If Twitter can succeed in being integrated in sites across the Web (as Facebook has) not just as a button but as content, the future will remain very bright for the ubiquitous blue bird.
     
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Mobile Augmented Reality: Beyond The Hype, A Glimpse Into The Mobile Future

Is mobile AR overhyped? Yes.

First of all, the technology is not new at all. It is simply moving from PC and industrial environments to a marketing and mobile context.

Let’s face the reality: for now it is primarily used by brands willing to launch innovative mobile services and in search of a “wow” effect.

Few consumers are currently holding up their smartphone to interact with their environment as a totally natural gesture. Whether you look at the installed base of Junaio or Layar’s mobile users, this is a niche market.

From a pure technology standpoint, AR requires object recognition and computerization on the mobile device itself, as well as 3D rendering to superimpose images on the real world. This is a technology that only a few companies such as Metaio and Total Immersion really master.

The information displayed must be ultra-accurate and delivered in a perfectly seamless way. This is still far from being the norm for many of the so-called mobile AR applications.

To put it succinctly, mobile AR is not yet delivering its promise. There are certainly more significant short-term opportunities to tap into with Web-based and kiosk-based AR solutions, in particular related to eCommerce.

However, Forrester believes consumer product strategists should not dismiss the technology. On the contrary, it is likely to trigger disruption in the years to come and to open up new opportunities.

Is this a key technology moving forward? Yes.

Think of mobile AR as: “A way to click on the real world with your phone the way computer users navigate their desktop with a mouse. Just point in the direction you want to search, or at a place you want more info about,” which is how GeoVector summed it up in promoting its World Surfer application.

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Need The Perfect Last-Minute Holiday Gift? DonorsChoose.Org Fits Everyone

If you’re in need of a last-minute holiday gift, how about giving the gift of charity and education? I had a series of experiences with DonorsChoose.org this year that exceeded every expectation.  Never have I been more appreciated for a contribution, nor have I felt and seen the impact of a donation more directly. The affirmative feelings I received from  DonorsChoose.org were so wonderful, I want to share them with you (and I’m giving gifts of DonorsChoose.org to people on my gift list this year).

I came to know DonorsChoose.org through Twitter, which distributed $50 gift cards to attendees of its Chirp Conference in April. (Classy move, Twitter!)  I was not familiar with DonorChoose.org and learned that it is a site where public school teachers in the US can post classroom project requests for which they need cash. Visitors can surf the site for projects based on topics or location and may give as little as $1. DonorsChoose.org vets each teacher’s request and purchases the requested classroom materials, shipping items directly to the school.

With Twitter’s gift card in hand, I surfed the site for a worthy school project in my home state of Wisconsin. I found a request from Mrs. D’s classroom in a high-poverty area of the state. Their need was simple: 16 current children's dictionaries and 16 current children's thesauruses.  Others had already donated, such as Kirsten from Santa Fe, NM, who had attended the school in the 1970s and Sharon from Bayside, WI, because "I’m a strong believer in Literacy education." I used my $50 Chirp gift for Mrs. D’s request and then chipped in another $25 of my own to help the classroom hit its necessary total.

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Further Proof That Social Media Is A Mass Medium: The 2010 European Peer Influence Analysis Report

Earlier this year, Josh  Bernoff and Augie Ray introduced a new way to look at influential consumers called Peer Influence Analysis -- and showed off some great data from the US market to support their analysis. I’m pleased to report that we now have this same data available in Western Europe as well.

Peer Influence Analysis introduces that idea that there are two distinct groups on influential consumers online: 1) the Mass Mavens who use blogs, forums, and review sites to share complete opinions about brands and products online (creating what we call "influence posts"), and 2) the Mass Connectors who use sites like Facebook and Twitter to connect their friends to influential content from companies and consumers (creating what we call "influence impressions"). Josh and Augie found that both types of influence were highly concentrated: In the US, only 13.8% of online consumers create 80% of influence posts, and just 6.2% of online consumers create 80% of all influence impressions.

Somewhat remarkably, in my new report on peer influence in Europe, we found that peer influence in Europe is further concentrated still. Across Western Europe, just 11.1% of online users create 80% of all influence posts -- and only 4% of online users are responsible for 80% of all influence impressions:

European Peer Influence Analysis Data

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Guest Post: James McDavid On How Smirnoff's "Nightlife Exchange" Brought Social Media Offline

I've always loved examples of the crossover between online and offline influence; my 2009 report The Analog Groundswell contains some of my favorite examples of that overlap. Our new London-based Interactive Marketing Research Associate James McDavid is here with the story of how Smirnoff brought social media into the real world -- and how it had a bit of fun in the process:

The weekend of November 27th saw the culmination of a multinational marketing campaign by Smirnoff that showed the extent to which a clear, well-executed social media strategy is able to drive engagement with a brand across multiple regions and interactive channels. 

Using Facebook pages and Twitter accounts, Smirnoff asked fans and followers in 14 cities (such as London, Rio, Miami and Bangalore) what made the nightlife in their city unique -- and then wrapped all the best elements from each city into shipping containers and delivered them to other host cities. Smirnoff posted a steady stream of Facebook status updates asking fans to say which city they’d like to exchange with. The company also made videos showing the shipping containers being filled -- as well as videos of the parties to celebrate the crates' departures -- and posted them to its YouTube channel. Once the crates arrived, Smirnoff threw the parties in its new locations, with its fans and attendees generating even more content and sharing it online.

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New Media Dominates For Interactive Marketing News & Information

We recently conducted a survey on the Forrester blog to learn about the news sources you use to get interactive marketing information and insight.  Among the responses we received, new media (online-only) news sources ranked high, which is no surprise since we asked on a blog dedicated to the needs of interactive marketing professionals. 

When it comes to news and information about interactive marketing, Mashable rules the roost for those who responded; 4 of 5 people listed Mashable as a media outlet they visit at least once a month.  Two other tech/media sites also ranked on top:  TechCrunch and ReadWriteWeb.  As for traditional media sources, The New York Times and Ad Age were tops for interactive marketing news among those who completed the survey.

79% read Mashable once per month, 61% read TechCrunch and 53% read ReadWriteWeb.

Another interesting finding is how many different sources for interactive marketing news are used by survey respondents.  Almost 4 in 10 people say they regularly visit a news site other than the 17 we listed in our survey.  Top answers in the “Other” category include:

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Four Signs Social Media Is Now A Mass Medium

One common complaint I hear from marketers is that social media is not (yet) a mass medium. For example, the circulation for Cosmopolitan is 3 million, while the magazine counts just 700,000 fans in Facebook. And while it seems (almost) everyone is creating, using or consuming social media today, it is a highly fractured channel. Thirty years ago, almost every person watching television was tuned into one of three networks; today, 550 million people use Facebook, and each and every one of them is their own network.

However, the fact that social media is fractured and personalized does not mean that it isn't a mass medium; it just means it is a challenging mass medium. Here is the evidence for social as a mass medium:

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I'm On A Social Media Horse!

Hello, marketers, I'm Social Media.  Look at your traditional marketing; now back to me; now back at your traditional marketing; now back to me. 

How's your traditional marketing looking?  Time spent watching TV at home rose just 0.6 percent in the first quarter and newspaper circulation is down 5% after a 10.6% plunge a year ago. Meanwhile, traffic to Facebook is up 60% this year.  

Now look at your television and print budgets. Better put on sunglasses or all those zeros and commas may blind you! Now look at your social media budget -- I'll wait while you find a magnifying glass. Now back to your television budget; now back to my budget.

Can your traditional advertising cut costs like me? Can it reach 150,000 with 98% positive sentiment at no cost like me? Can it cause 4.8M people to seek it out rather than be ignored as the DVR fast-forwards? Does it empower your employees?

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