Young consumers are now almost always connected to media — which would rationally lead you to think that the more times and places they are connected, the more ways there are (and the easier it is) to interact with them. This is where market researchers need to step in and push their companies to dig deeper than just measuring the time spent on a media channel. They need to truly understand these consumers' core motivations for using it.
More than 90% of 12- to 17-year-olds who are active on social networks have an account on Facebook, which is their go-to social network, no doubt. But they haven't completely abandoned other networks: almost 40% have an account on both Facebook and Myspace.
With 78% of 12- to 17-year-olds having a social networking account, social networking’s power is undeniable. But it's not enough just to look at these channels to see what type of content or information 12- to 17-year-olds are consuming; it's how, why, and when they're consuming it. Without tapping into these deeper motivations, brands will never fully benefit from this social opportunity.
Most of the hype in advance of today’s Apple media event is rightly about a new iPad. Sarah Rotman Epps will post on her blog about the new iPad for consumer product strategists after the announcement. I’m focused on the published reports that Apple’s Mobile Me service will be upgraded. I cited Mobile Me as an example of emerging personal cloud services in a July 2009 report, and I’m working on a follow-on report now. Mobile Me is Apple’s horse in a contest with Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and others, to shift personal computing from being device-centric to user-centric, so that you and I don’t need to think about which gadget has the apps or data that we want. The vision of personal cloud is that a combination of local apps, cached data, and cloud-based services will put the right information in the right device at the right time, whether on personal or work devices. The strengths of Mobile Me today are:
Synced contacts, calendar, Safari bookmarks, and email account settings, as well as IMAP-based Mobile Me email accounts, for Web, Mac, Windows, and iOS devices.
Synced Mac preferences, including app and system preferences.
Mobile Me Gallery for easy uploading and sharing of photos and videos.
If you read this blog regularly, you know that I can be a Facebook supporter (some may say apologist), but today I have a bone to pick with it.
Where others frequently attribute shady intent to everything Facebook does, I see a company legitimately trying to balance the needs of users with the demands of advertisers who fund the free service. Consumers love Facebook, so much so that Facebook now accounts for one of every four page views in the United States, yet you and I pay nothing for it. Or it is more accurate to say that while we provide no cash to Facebook, we do, in fact, pay with our time, attention, data, permission, and clicks (which Facebook converts into cash).
But even Facebook supporters can and should question when the social network takes a step that pushes the envelope of best practices in permission marketing, and I believe it has done just that with Facebook's new Sponsored Stories product. What I find frustrating is how tantalizingly close to perfect the model is, yet the omission of a single feature makes all the difference.
Here's how Facebook Sponsored Stories work:
You post a status update about a brand, such as a check-in, like, or a piece of praise.
Because that signal of affinity is so ephemeral within the news feeds of your friends (or perhaps may never even be displayed there), the brand can now choose to pay Facebook to turn your status update into an ad.
Your friends (and only your friends) will then see your status update in the right gutter of Facebook.com, along with your name and profile picture.
There are blog posts that you can write without doing any prior work (he says, looking meaningfully at himself in the mirror), and then there are blog posts that require real work. This very interesting post about how the Facebook development organization operates is in the latter category. Instead of pointlessly summarizing the author's findings, compiled from sources who know Facebook from the inside, I'll add a few reactions:
If, as reported, the development team comprises about a quarter of the company's employees (and operations another quarter), that's an unusually high ratio for any tech vendor, whether or not it's in the software-as-a-service (SaaS) business. At salesforce.com, R&D comprises 15% of the company, which is high for the tech industry. Facebook's 25% R&D is staggeringly high.
Even though Facebook regularly confuses the heck out of the people with changes to security features, the company does pilot features before shipping them.
Facebook developers bear a lot of responsibility for their own code, across many dimensions of quality (design, testing, justification, etc.).
The ops team has a more gradual approach to deploying new code than it might appear.
Social media does not make marketing any easier. Although it is a powerful tool for marketers to reinforce their brands, energize advocates and strengthen relationships, it is also yet another marketing channel that requires attention, investment and innovation. And much like the Web 15 years earlier, this is a channel that challenges the status quo and defies easy metrics.
In 2011, social media marketing doesn’t get any easier. Although the medium is maturing, that maturity brings with it a host of new challenges for marketers. Primary among those challenges is that social media is becoming an awfully cluttered and noisy space. As more people adopt social behaviors and more marketers increase their social media budgets, it is tougher than ever to cut through the noise, reach an audience and make an impression. In addition, Forrester is seeing a marked increase in the number of people worried about privacy in social channels, and this concern is growing most significantly in boomers and seniors.
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.)
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.”
‘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.
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.
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: