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:
In the mid- to late-90s, many business leaders observed the advent of the Web and asked the wrong question: “What will the Internet do for us?” Instead, they should have been asking, “What will the Internet do to us?”
The difference between these two questions is the difference between a false sense of security and a necessity for action. It’s the difference between Amazon organizing itself around the online channel in 1994 and Barnes & Noble opening an e-commerce site in 1997—today Amazon is worth $55.7B and Barnes & Noble has a $1.1B market cap. It’s also the difference between newspapers struggling with a 70% decline in classified advertising over the course of a decade and eBay seeing revenues increase over 1900% in the same period.
Today, many business leaders are again asking the wrong question: “What will social media do for us?” instead of “What will social media do to us?” The difference between those two questions will define the business winners and losers of the next decade. Let’s explore what social media already is doing to business and how organizations must adapt.
Recently, Forrester introduced a new way to consider influence in Social Media. We identified a group of social media participants we call Mass Influencers. While just 16% of the US population, Mass Influencers are responsible for 80% of the influence impressions and posts about products and services in social channels.
Mass Connectors, who create a great number of impressions about brands and services in social networks, like Twitter and Facebook, and
Mass Mavens, who create and share content about products and services in other social channels such as YouTube, blogs, forums, or ratings and review sites.
The fact that a minority of social media participants represent the lion’s share of buzz about products and services is probably not at all surprising, but what does this mean to marketers? How can brands develop programs that activate the potential of Mass Influencers to create awareness and consideration among their readers, friends, followers and others in social venues? The answer comes from Peer Influence Analysis (PIA), Forrester’s new framework to analyze influence within particular markets, demographics and industries.