Monday, March 16, 2009

Facebook Gave Social Media A Challenge

Several recent studies have put the challenge that social media presents to marketers into stark relief: social media is huge. It's growing at an astounding rate. And most marketers still haven't figured out how to capitalize on it.

While there are some social media brand success stories, such as Blendtec and Starbucks on the B2C side, and Sun and IBM in B2B, most companies still struggle with optimizing their social media strategy and implementing tactics and measurement.

The model behind traditional, interruption-based advertising was that consumers were provided with entertaining or informative content for free, in exchange for viewing ads. In social media, where viewers are often creating the content, that bargain doesn't hold up. This forces brands to develop new approaches, such as producing entertaining content that is advertising (e.g. Blendtec, Mentos and Diet Coke); providing information that reflects a company's expertise without directly selling (most well-done corporate blogs); and/or participating in conversations in an authentic manner.

So how big is the opportunity? According to Global Faces and Networked Places, an eye-opening research report just released by Nielsen BuzzMetrics, "Two-thirds of the world’s Internet population visit a social network or blogging site and the sector now accounts for almost 10% of all internet time. ‘Member Communities’ has overtaken personal Email to become the world’s fourth most popular online sector after search, portals and PC software applications." Not only is this segment large, but use of member communities grew at twice the rate of email last year, and three times faster than the other top online activities. Among the report's other findings:
  • While the total amount of time spent online, globally, increased by 18% last year, the amount of time spent on member communities rose by 63%, and the time spent on one site—Facebook—rose an astounding 566%. Facebook is the ninth-most popular site on the web overall, and also among the "stickiest" with the highest average time per person spent on the site of the top 75 online brands.
  • The largest growth in Facebook traffic came from people in the 35-49 age bracket.
  • Traditional advertising plays poorly on social networks; the percentage of visitors who view advertising on social networks as an "intrusion" rose nearly a third last year to almost 40%, and the share saying they "didn't mind" seeing relevant ads also increased. As the Nielsen report puts it, "advertising should be about participating in a relevant conversation with consumers rather than simply pushing ads on them. After all, it is social media. Advertising shouldn’t be about interrupting or invading the social network experience, it should be part of this conversation...advertising should follow the same philosophy of adding value through interaction and consultation...and adding value – such as offers, sneak previews and co-creation of content."
  • Facebook is now used by one out of every three people online globally. It's used by 33% of the online population in the U.S., 38% in Australia, 44% in Italy, and almost half of all Internet users—47%—in the U.K.
  • Those in the U.K. are also the most likely to visit social networks through their mobile handsets, with 23% doing so compared to 19% in the U.S. The number of people accessing social networks through their cell phones and Blackberries jumped by 156% in the U.S. last year, and an amazing 249% in the U.K.
  • To succeed in marketing through social media, businesses of all types have to become publishers. Social media offers publishers "the opportunity to promote content to a wider audience across the web." A company's online presence is no longer limited to its website.
Another report, The Social Technographics® Of Business Buyers recently announced by Forrester, provides insights specifically into using social media for B2B PR and marketing. According to Forrester, 77% of business technology decision-makers use social media for business purposes—yet only about half feel that it plays an important role in the buying process. According to Forrester VP and principal analyst Laura Ramos, "B2B buying is fertile ground for emerging community sites, social networks, and user-contributed content. But most B2B marketers miss the nuances of their audience's preferences by jumping directly to deploying social technology without first profiling the social behavior of their customers. Knowing buyers' behavior lets marketers set the most effective social media strategy instead of blindly trying every new technology that comes along."

In B2B Buyers Dig Social Media, Jordan McCollum revealed a few more interesting stats from the Forrester report:
  • 91% of B2B decision-makers use social media in some context; 69% use it for business purposes.
  • 55% of B2B buyers have created profiles on social networks.
  • B2B buyers in IT roles are more likely than non-IT B2B buyers to use social media, but the gap is narrowing.
Finally, one easy way for B2B marketers to participate in social media—with no out-of-pocket investment and only a limited time commitment—is to use their expertise to answer relevant questions on sites like Yahoo Answers and

Contact Mike Bannan:

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