This is Peter O’Neill and I had a very busy Forrester Marketing Forum last week in San Francisco: two presentations (well, two halves, I suppose, because I was the co-presenter) plus dozens of one-on-ones with Forrester clients. While I would have preferred to talk about differentiation in the customer lifecycle, the theme of my first Forum presentation and my most recent report, the incorporation of social media into the marketing mix continues to be the hottest topic for most tech marketers. It was exciting to be able to share our brand new Tech Buyer Social Technographics data which has just come in. BTW, the level of social media activity in European buyers is still ahead of American buyers – I will be presenting the European data in my planned Forrester teleconferences on May 9th: once in German for local clients, prospects and press; and once in English for other Forrester clients.
The Groundswell is now global. Social media has entered the mainstream in every single market Forrester regularly surveys — and in most of those markets, social media use is at 75% or higher. Australian, Japanese and Italian online users all show stronger adoption of social media than Americans do – and Chinese, Dutch and Swedish users have nearly pulled level with the Americans. And in 2010 Facebook reported that more than 70% of its active users were outside the US, while Twitter said more than 60% of its accounts come from outside the US.
The simple fact is that if your company has a social media program, that program is global — whether you want it to be or not. And this isn’t just a nuisance or a language issue. Failing to recognize the global nature of your social programs means you might be telling foreign users about products that aren’t available in their countries (for instance, Toyota UK reached more than 100 million people with a fantastic blogger outreach program for its iQ model; but it turns out that more than 95% of those people live in countries where the iQ isn’t for sale). Or you may be advertising discounts and promotions to which many users don’t have access (for instance, while Amazon’s Facebook page promoted a special price of $89 for the Kindle last November, a Kindle cost almost twice as much in the UK — and wasn’t available at all in most other markets). If you work in a regulated industry like financial services or pharmaceuticals, you risk running afoul of government regulators.
But saying that raises the question: If the number of fans or followers you have doesn’t tell us whether you’ve succeeded as a company, then what does it tell you? And if your CEO shouldn’t be worried about the number of wall posts you’ve generated, then who should be paying attention to this number?
Since last summer, I’ve been using a structured model to help my clients focus on delivering the right social media marketing data to various stakeholders inside their organization. Social media programs throw off so much data that the key to measuring and managing your programs well is focusing each stakeholder on just the pieces of data that are relevant to helping them do their jobs. If part of your job is measuring the success of your social media marketing programs, then you need to start segmenting the stakeholder groups you’re providing that data to and tailoring the type of metrics, the volume of metrics, and the frequency of reporting you provide them.
Something amazing has happened to social media in the past couple of years: Overall adoption of social technologies has effectively reached saturation. We're now at the point where more than 80% of US online users engage with social media - and although there's been some hand-wringing over the fact social media adoption has plateaued at that level, let's keep things in perspective: 80% engage with social media! That's as many people as own a DVD player or use SMS.
This kind of scale gives marketers the potential to generate reach through social media. Sure, it's a new and unfamiliar kind of reach for many marketers - rather than just shouting uniform messages at millions of people, they must engage directly with their audiences and then hope those audiences turn around and talk to and influence millions more users. But as we've proven, this new model of reach can also provide the same kind of massive scale that the old reach models did: Just a tiny handful of Mass Connectors will create 256 billion influence impressions in the US this year.
If you’ve ever talked to Forrester about social media, chances are you’ve heard of the Social Technographics® Ladder -- our tool for measuring how people use social technologies and for helping marketers (and product strategists and market researchers and others) understand how to engage with those people in the social Web.
Today we’ve released our new 2010 Social Technographics data worldwide (you can see the US data here), and you’ll notice that this year, for the first time since we introduced the ladder, we’ve added a new category of social engagement. The new category -- “Conversationalists” -- is designed to capture the short, rapid conversations that are now taking place on Twitter and through Facebook status updates. How many people are engaged in these behaviors? Almost one-third of European online adults participate in these rapid public conversations every week. In just over two years, this activity has come from nowhere to become one of the most popular social behaviors we track.
And this Conversationalist activity has come along at just the right time, too -- because more “traditional” forms of online contribution have levelled off. The percentage of online Europeans who post their own blogs, videos, photos, or other media -- what we call “Creators” -- hasn’t grown in either of the past two years. And the percentage who participate in message boards and forums or who post comments on blogs or other social sites -- what we call “Critics” -- has grown just one percentage point in Europe each of the past two years.
Working in Europe, I'm constantly hearing about social media programs designed for one country accidentally reaching users in other countries -- especially when they're done in English. Toyota's excellent social media-focused iQ car launch in the UK attracted attention from the US, where the car isn't available. Yesterday a client told me that their Australian marketing team launched a Facebook page that they thought was just for their market -- but when they looked at the analytics, they found that only about 5% of the page's fans were Australian, with the rest coming from other big English-speaking markets.
As I see it, there are two big challenges when global companies use social media:
How do you best leverage social media resources from one country (be they staff, technologies, partnerships, or content) across other countries to improve your efficiency and effectiveness?
How do you keep social media messages that are appropriate for just one market (because product availability, or specifications, or pricing, or marketing message can vary from place to place) from "bleeding out" to reach users in other markets?
One of my favorite things to do here at Forrester is judge the Groundswell Awards. Started by Josh Bernoff as a way to drive increasingly practical discussion regarding the real benefits that derive from exploiting social media, judging these Awards is among the most collaborative things we do within Forrester's research community. Moreover, as we compare submissions across years, the Awards give us a chance to ask, "How is the state of the art changing in the world of social media?" Finally, each and every submission becomes a case that we can use over and over as we help clients navigate the turbulent waters of the social sphere. Very cool stuff.
Imagine the Forrester analysts that help role clients with social media -- Josh et al. -- sitting around a virtual table discussing the details of each individual submission. We consider all the POST attributes -- people, objective, strategy, and tools/tactics -- highlighting what's innovative, what's working, and what's generating returns. It reminds me a bit of being a kid and getting the Sears Catalog in the mail at the beginning of the holiday season. For those that weren't around before Lindsay Lohan was born, the Sears Catalog was the compendium of every toy, sporting good item, musical instrument, etc., that could possibly emerge from that big box from Grandma. Like me with my siblings, we analysts metaphorically sit on the sofa with the Groundswell Award submissions in our laps, pointing at the examples that we think are most cool and worthy. I say "like," of course, because I haven't yet found myself bouncing off the walls, screaming gibberish, like I did when I first saw the red bicycle I got when I was nine years old.
The deadline to submit your entry into the Forrester Groundswell Awards is on August 27, just two weeks away. The submissions we received last year, which we wrote up in this Forrester report, provided invaluable assistance to Forrester clients seeking ways to optimize Groundswell-related investments.
We hope you’ll participate this year as well. Josh Bernoff, one of the authors of Groundswell, just posted his advice on how to create a great entry. I have reposted it below for our technology industry clients:
If you haven't entered yet but plan to, this advice is for you. (If you just want to see other people's entries, click on the items at the left of the Awards site.)
As more marketers take to Facebook and Twitter -- and as users' friend lists on these networks continues to grow -- it strikes me that it may be getting ever harder for marketers to actually get a message through to their target customers. After all, if the average Twitter user follows several hundred people, and all those people post on average a few tweets per day, and then the average Twitter user checks in only a couple times per day and reads maybe 40 or 50 tweets per check-in . . . they're missing a lot of messages, right? If you assume that logic is right (though obviously the data points are all just ballpark guesses right now), it got me wondering: If a marketer has 100,000 followers on Twitter, or 100,000 fans on Facebook, and they post something, what percentage of those followers or fans ever actually see that marketing message?
I've collected the data around this and am in the process of building a model to find the answer to my question -- and I'll be writing a report about that topic this month. In the meantime, though, I'd love to get your thoughts on the topic.
- Do you feel as if it's getting harder or easier for marketers to get a message to users through social media?
- Which social networks do you feel are the most cluttered, and which are the least cluttered?