Calm Down. Facebook Isn't Dying.

If you work in social media, you've been hearing variations on a theme for the past week: Facebook is in trouble! It's lost young users! It's getting crushed by upstart social networks! Eighty percent of its users will disappear in the next few years!

But as was the case with Mark Twain, reports of Facebook's death are an exaggeration:

  • That Princeton report seriously misses the mark. Last week, two Princeton PhD students circulated a report predicting Facebook would lose 80% of its users by 2017. They used epidemiological models to predict that, like MySpace before it, both the rise and fall of Facebook would look like the spread of a virus. But the research wasn’t peer-reviewed, and wasn’t published in any journal, and you can perhaps see why. Facebook itself did a pretty good job of pointing out the limitations of the researchers’ methodology. And I see another problem with this study: The MySpace ‘virus’ hardly mutated in all the years it infected the world, but the Facebook ‘virus’ mutates frequently. One of Facebook’s greatest strengths is its practice of regularly adding new features and functionality to its site; this both ensures it infects new users and also makes sure existing users don’t become immune to its charms.
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Enter the 2014 Forrester Groundswell Awards!

We're now accepting entries for the 2014 Forrester Groundswell Awards — the deadline is February 28 — and we'd love to recognize your social marketing programs at our Marketing Leadership Forum this April. But in what category should you submit your program?

Just as in 2013, our award categories are based on Forrester’s marketing RaDaR research. Both our business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) awards will offer three categories:

  • Social reach. This category recognizes social programs that delivered marketing messages to new audiences. (After all, people can’t discover what you’re selling if they’re never exposed to it.) If your social program was designed to create awareness for your brand or product or promotion, it was probably an example of social reach marketing. If you focused your efforts on word-of-mouth marketing, paid social advertising, or thought leadership work, it also probably fits into this category.
  • Social depth. This category recognizes social programs that helped prospects explore your products in detail and make a purchase decision. If your social program was designed to close existing prospects or leads, it was probably an example of social depth marketing. If you focused your efforts on on-site social tools like blogs, ratings and reviews, or communities that help prospects get information from existing customers, it also probably fits into this category.
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Now Accepting Entries: The 2014 Forrester Groundswell Awards

Every year since 2007, Forrester has recognized the very best social marketing programs from around the world — and I’m thrilled to announce we’re now accepting entries for the eighth annual Forrester Groundswell Awards.

The rules are simple: Entries should represent the effective use of social technologies to advance an organizational goal. The more data you can offer to prove this, the better your chances of winning. You can enter using our online form. If you win, you get a nice shiny trophy, a winner’s badge for your website, and lots of recognition from Forrester.

And this year’s deadline is February 28, 2014. (We've changed our timeline this year so that we can give out the awards at our 2014 Marketing Leadership Forum in San Francisco in April.)

So which categories should you enter? See our video for more details:

Remember: The deadline is February 28. You’ve got eight weeks to prepare and submit your company’s best social work. We look forward to your entries!

The Dark Side of the Database of Affinity?

Last year we introduced a concept called the Database of Affinity — a catalogue of people's tastes and preferences collected by observing their social behaviors — and proposed that the greatest marketing value of social media won't come from marketing to people on social sites, but rather using this database of affinity to improve the marketing that happens everywhere else. And in 2013, several social networks started to pursue this opportunity: For instance, Facebook launched an artificial intelligence research team and Google started selling "affinity segments" targeting on its properties.

But are social sites going too far in their effort to build the database of affinity? Perhaps. Recently we've seen reports that some social networks are tracking not just the information that you choose to share, but even information you choose not to share. For instance, Facebook has admitted to studying "aborted posts" — the things people type into Facebook (as status updates, in comments, and on other people's timelines) but then choose not to post. Likewise, both Google and Foursquare apparently use their mobile apps track users' locations at all times, even when people aren't actively using those company's apps.

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Winners of the 2013 Forrester Groundswell Awards

Today at the Forrester eBusiness Forum in Chicago, I had the pleasure of announcing the winners of the 2013 Forrester Groundswell Awards. For the seventh edition of our awards we introduced all new categories, based on Forrester’s Marketing RaDaR model, and the way social programs can support the Marketing RaDaR. So our awards this year included the following categories:

  • Social reach marketing. This category recognizes social programs that effectively delivered marketing messages to new audiences — whether by word of mouth or by using paid social ads.
  • Social depth marketing. This category recognizes social programs that helped prospects explore products in detail and make a purchase decision — such as corporate blogs and communities, and marketers’ on-site ratings and reviews.
  • Social relationship marketing. This category recognizes social programs that engaged existing fans and customers in order to increase their loyalty and lifetime value — something that most commonly happens through branded profiles on social networks like Facebook and Twitter.
  • Mobile. Okay, we admit it: This one’s not necessarily social. But this category recognizes the great use of mobile tools and programs to reach business or marketing goals.
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Twitter Marketers Are Still Looking For Answers

Most of the large marketers we survey tell us their companies are active on Twitter. But just as marketers say they’re not getting enough value from Facebook, Twitter marketers are still looking for greater value as well. In fact, our new report today reveals that only 55% of companies that market on Twitter say they’re satisfied with the business value they achieve:

Why are Twitter marketers still looking for greater value?

  1. Marketers are using Twitter for the wrong objective. Marketers’ most common objective on Twitter is to build brand awareness. But consumers are most likely to become a fan or follower of a company in social media after they’ve already bought from that company. This means that marketers would have more luck using Twitter to engage their existing customers than to find new ones.
  2. Twitter must do more to support marketers. Twitter’s marketing business is still relatively young — its ads have been generally available for only about 3 years — but that business must mature quickly. Marketers say they need more guidance, education, service, and support if they’re going to use Twitter successfully. And just 44% of marketers say they’re satisfied with Twitter as a marketing partner today.
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Continuing The Conversation About Facebook

Our recent report on why Facebook is failing marketers has caused quite a bit of conversation — with some supporting our findings and others disputing them — and we think that’s healthy. We fully stand behind our data and our conclusions, and we welcome the chance to further discuss what’s working and what’s not working in social media. Conversations like these can only push the industry forward and help all social marketers and sites become more successful.

In particular, we wanted to address a few common questions people are asking about our research:

  1. Facebook’s score didn’t look that low. Are they really failing marketers? Facebook offers marketers access to the largest audience in media history and it knows a remarkable amount about each of its users and their affinities. By all rights, Facebook should be driving significantly more value for marketers than other sites and channels — but according to our survey, they’re not. Forrester’s Data Center of Excellence has looked at this data many different times, through many different lenses, and every view of the data supports this conclusion.
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An Open Letter To Mark Zuckerberg

Mr. Zuckerberg:

Facebook is failing marketers.

I know this statement sounds remarkable, perhaps even unbelievable. After all, you offer marketers access to the largest audience in media history and you know a remarkable amount about each of your users. As a result nearly every large company now markets on Facebook. Last year your company collected more than $4 billion in advertising revenues.

But while lots of marketers spend lots of money on Facebook today, relatively few find success. In August, Forrester surveyed 395 marketers and eBusiness executives at large companies across the US, Canada and the UK — and these executives told us that Facebook creates less business value than any other digital marketing opportunity.

 

Marketers say Facebook creates less business value than any other digital marketing opportunity

Why are business leaders less satisfied with Facebook than with any other digital tool? We believe there are two reasons.

First, your company focuses too little on the thing marketers want most: driving genuine engagement between companies and their customers. Your sales materials tease marketers with the promise that you’ll help them create such connections. But in reality, you rarely do. Everyone who clicks the like button on a brand’s Facebook page volunteers to receive that brand’s messages — but on average, you only show each brand’s posts to 16% of its fans. And while your company upgrades its advertising tools and offerings monthly or more, you’ve done little in the past 18 months to improve your unloved branded page format or the tools that marketers use to manage and measure those pages.

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Where in the Customer Life Cycle do your audiences use social media?

You know by now that studying your audience's social behaviors is the first step in building a great social strategy. But most models for evaluating audiences’ social usage simply tell marketers how much their customers are using social -- rather than examining how commercial those social behaviors are, or what marketers should do in response to those behaviors.

To succeed in social media, we think you should map your audience's behavior to the customer life cycle. Why? Find out in our video below:

Forrester Groundswell Awards Update

This week, our team finished judging the 2013 Forrester Groundswell Awards and notified the winners. If your entry was selected as a winner in any of our 11 B2C, B2B, or B2E categories, you've heard from us by now.

If not, I want to still thank you for entering this year's awards. We know the time and effort that companies put into their entries -- and we want you to know that gave every submission full consideration. We received more than 140 entries this year -- including many of excellent quality -- and it was often hard to choose the best in each category. You made the judges' job difficult, and for that we applaud you.

Want to know who won this year's awards? Stay tuned: We'll be announcing the awards both on this blog and at our 2013 Forrester eBusiness Forum on November 5.