This quarter I'll be writing a report on the rise of the digital brand -- focused on how interactive tools have changed the ways in which we convey the meaning of our brand to our customers, and how smart marketers can react to (and even take advantage of) those changes. I'm at the early stages of my research, and I'd love the community's help in shaping the direction of this 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:
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.
We've been saying for a while now -- based on the evidence we've seen in certain European markets -- that online video viewers are happy to watch a significant number of in-stream ads in exchange for access to high-quality content. Today, we found yet more evidence of the same from a study conducted by Turner Broadcasting. Today, many of Turner's TV shows only run two or three in-stream ads each (generally less than 2 minutes of advertising per episode); but the broadcaster found that if it increased the ad load to the same volumes the shows feature on TV (as much as 20 minutes per episode) the number of users who dropped off was shockingly low. The CW network found the same in its own tests.
The bottom line: Get ready for more online video ads. Inventory will grow, prices will fall (at least somewhat), and overall online video ad spending will grow dramatically.
(As a side note, The New York Times' article in which this research is published takes aim at Hulu for hoping to "lighten up" the amount of advertising users see and repeats Hulu's accurate claim that it has less than half as much advertising as the same shows on TV -- which is ironic, given that in my anecdotal experience Hulu has been more aggressive than any other US online video site in pushing more ads into its content; most of the ad breaks I see on Hulu these days contain two ads.)
Social media adoption has grown in leaps and bounds over the past few years, and not just in North America. Did you know that Italian and South Korean online users are more likely to engage with social media than American online users? Likewise, most of the European countries we study have a higher percentage of Conversationalists than we find in the US.
Despite this, most industry conversation around social media tends to focus on the US — and over the past few years nearly all of the entries we’ve received for the Forrester Groundswell Awards have talked about US-focused social media programs. To help recognize the companies that are pioneering the use of social media outside the US, this year we introduced an international category to the awards.
This week at Forrester's Marketing and Strategy Forum EMEA 2010, I was proud to present the winners of the inaugural Forrester International Groundswell Awards, which you’ll see listed below. I was thrilled with the entries we received. We saw dozens of quality entries from around the world, and in the end recognized finalists and winners from four continents, as well as a number of global efforts. I hope that other companies learn from — and rise to the standard of — the entries we saw this year; and I hope that our 2011 international category sees even more — and even better — entries.
Recently, Google changed its policies to allow European marketers to bid on other companies' trademarks — but surprisingly, the floodgates haven't opened yet. In fact, we're not seeing very much competitive keyword bidding at all in Europe — nor in the UK, where Google has allowed this type of bidding for several years. This got us thinking: What types of marketers should bid on their competitors' trademarked keywords — and which (if any) shouldn't? Is competitive bidding best used as a branding exercise or to generate leads and sales? When you bid competitively, how should you change your creative strategy and your landing page choices? And, critically, how should you respond if you find your competitors bidding on your keywords?
I'm working with my new colleague Lucilla De Sarlo on a report on these topics right now, and we would love to hear your opinions. Feel free to post thoughts in the comments below or to e-mail Lucilla at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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?
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?