Social Media Study: What Will You Do About It?

GlacierIt’s likely you’ve already seen the Nielsen State of Social Media Report 2012. This social media study outlining how users are approaching social has really been making the rounds (that’s called good engagement), mostly among marketing types.

What the study doesn’t show is how brands are approaching social. It would be an interesting thing to hold beside the user study to see if companies are in tune with what their social fans and followers want and how they’re behaving. Let’s see what the Nielsen study says and ponder what brands should be doing about it.

For users, social isn’t new. It’s not still being figured out. But even though modern social’s been around 20 years, it’s perpetually growing and changing. Users have jumped in with both feet. More time is spent on social than any other kind of site. And evolutionary shifts to the platforms happen frequently and quickly. Mobile apps are driving even more social usage, wherever users may go. And they love that. When asked why they use social, the terms “connected” and “informed” came up most often.

However…after 20 years, too many brands still treat social as some green creature that just stepped out of a flying saucer. There are still discussions in C-suites about if, and how, to “deal” with social. As innovations to social, mobile, and app technology pop like lightning, corporate decisions, strategies and investments around social move glacially slow. And now, social is extending across the entire enterprise, meaning businesses must not only embrace social, but highly integrated social management systems.

The study covers which social networks are growing the most. The stunning player for 2012 was Pinterest, a network many brands have embraced reluctantly, if at all. On PCs, Pinterest grew 1,047%. On the mobile app, it grew 1,698%. On mobile web, Pinterest grew 4,225%. I’ll give you a moment to pick your chin up off the table. Frankly, Pinterest may not make sense for non-visual brands. It’s also very female, and very 25-34 if those aren’t your targets.

However…Pinterest’s success screams that people are busy, don’t have time to read copious amounts of text, are used to taking in information and entertainment visually, and want to consume social content quickly. Can you enthrall someone in 2 seconds? That may be all the time you get as users scroll down News Feeds, mostly taking in images and headlines. Companies could read about themselves all day and night. But that’s not what their customers want to do. Brands who aren’t serious about multimedia content production won’t be competing for eyeballs.

Why would a person want to be “friends” with a brand on a social network? They want to stay informed, but 47% do it to get social customer service. 1 in 3 already prefer using social rather than phone support. (Gee, how did that happen? Could it be companies made such a hopeless disaster of phone customer service that no customer wants to go near it?) If users have a question or comment about a product, they primarily go to the brand’s Facebook Page for satisfaction.

However…at far too many brands, nobody’s listening. Customers are left crying in the wilderness, getting an increasingly negative feeling about the company. It’s anti-relationship-building, the exact opposite of what should be happening on social.

Lastly, the Nielsen survey reveals 33% think ads on social networks are more annoying than other online ads. Is this fair? Remember, social users want to connect, share, be entertained, and see what’s going on. They don’t want to be “pitched.” If they go to your web site, they expect ads. But when desperate selling is injected into their News Feed or Twitter stream, it’s jarring because it doesn’t fit in with the other desired content that’s there.

However…far too many brands still believe, deep in their hearts, that their ads are “content.” It’s a deeply rooted philosophy that if a social post doesn’t sell a widget, it’s a waste of time and resources. The right thing to do is branded entertainment/information content that operates at the tippy top of the funnel. Any conviction brand affinity and customer relationships have no value will likely lead to a deleted or abandoned social presence. Let me know how that works out for you.

The study concludes, “Consumer decisions and behaviors are increasingly driven by the opinions, tastes and preferences of an exponentially larger, global pool of friends, peers and influencers.” That means brands don’t have the control they used to. That’s uncomfortable, and could be the real reason the social public is at full speed ahead while corporations dig their heels in behind them.

@mikestiles
Photo via stock.xchng

Comments:

Great points, Mike. Companies are still trying to figure out social media and what angles to work it. But many are going about it the wrong way, trying to use it as a sales pitch instead of connecting with people. I have always believed that social media should build your brand and be a means of connecting with people, not as a direct sales tool. That's what a website is for. But it amazes me how many companies in their ads beg people to like them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter and never even mention their website. Social media and a website, in my opinion, should have separate and distinct purposes. When a company uses social media for what their website is designed for is when the two lose their value and effectiveness.

Posted by guest on December 31, 2012 at 10:49 AM EST #

What is engagement? And what happens in that 2 seconds? The idea that corporations believe sales pitches are content is so wrong that it sets the clock back to the days before Web 2.0. Whatever that was. And the notion that social has been around for 20 years is a stretch. Is email social media? Maybe. That's what we had in 1993. So lets start again.

Engagement is based on permission. Permission-based exchange offers the person, not "user", something of value for paying attention. In the realm of media, any media, the offering is usually but not exclusively information, valuable information. Since the days of roasting buffalo on the plains and long before, story is the way all societies provide information of value. It is the most highly mnemonic format (memorable--aiding or designed to aid the memory) for communication. And communication, is the process by which thoughts are transmitted, received, and understood, not simply syndicated or broadcasted.

The way the story is told creates value for the person (not user) on the other end. Typically corporations have believed that their messaging, since careers depend on it, will be enough to compete for attention in a multicultural content saturated world. That is the erroneous concept. The idea that the person chooses blows up the notion of marketing altogether. Therefore what it IS about is framing the story in a way that is interesting to the widest possible group not the most narrow. Targeting applies, as does messaging but within a broader context. What is important is "The Aha moment." That is the moment at which the person, not "user", recognizes what is most important to them. The subsequent thought is who provided that experience. At that point affinity is recognized and a brand is built.

We used to say the lines between education entertainment and business are blurred. Today they are one. The expertise to deliver in this world of seamless, whole-cloth life, with all of its confusion and conflicts is what matters.

So we had all better get used to the idea that corporations need to become a lot more interesting that they often have been. All of life conveyed is documented experience. So field production of relevant media is brand building based on interest and context.

Posted by guest on January 02, 2013 at 01:15 PM EST #

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