Social Media is Marketers’ El Dorado: Hype or Reality?

Social Media is Marketers’ El Dorado: Hype or Reality?

I am sure you noticed that also: it seems that with this economy (check the recently published World Economic Report 2011 by Financial Times), while worldwide financial markets suggest to pursue a modern “gold rush”, it looks like companies are rather pursuing some kind of “social rush”. Never like in these months businesses are talking about social media, using them, investing in them, hiring people to manage them and launching new ones. And funny enough, social media are the most frequent news on the traditional press.

The debate is still open: some say social media are a tremendous business and an incredibly effective channel for marketing and invest more and more on them (revenues are expected to double for Facebook and go from $45M to $400M for Twitter) , hire people, web agencies, buy platforms and reinvent their business.

Some others consider social media just a waste of time, a hype on its way to a decline and proudly tell they are not on social networks and they don’t need to be there. Maybe they did not notice their audience is there. I wonder why struggle with sending marketing messages all over places where your clients may just walk by, instead of those where they spend their time.

I am currently running a Social Media survey (please take it here, it’s just 10 questions) and my results say it clearly: more than half the interviewed companies are planning to increase their marketing dollars on social media for 2012. Final results to be published soon on this blog.

So I am sure many still wonder: will social media last?

Breath and relief: according to a recently published study by InSites Consulting, with a population of over 7Billion and 2Billions today already connected to social networks, only half of them (about 1B) are already on social networks. So there is definitely room for an improvement!

Social media adoption is uneven across the globe: In Europe, people join on average 1,9 social networks. In USA it’s 2,1; Brazil 3,1 and India 3,9. Uneven is also the social media awareness: while Social Insites estimates that Facebook awareness is about 100% of total connected population, and about 75% used it (with over half connecting every day), Twitter is used by only 16% of those who are aware of it.

With Facebook being at around 750M and remembering about that other analysis I posted back in July about the social media adoption curve, drawing from the Rogers’ model on technology adoption, this is an additional confirmation of my thoughts: we are almost half the way on the social media technology adoption curve. And with 2B connected out of the 7B, the more time goes, the situation should not change that quickly.

So, to answer our question: are social media the new El Dorado? The short answer seems Yes.

Yes, because according to this study, people join more than 1 social network, with Asia driving the truck to up to 4 social networks per person (I wonder how much this may be influenced by languages). See this image to learn more:

Please don’t jump yet for your happyness: “No” could still be a possible answer. The study also reports – sorry Google+, bad news- that about 60% declare they don’t want any additional social network, and about 93% are either not planning to leave the SNs they are in, or not entering new ones.

Surely, results leave some room for all those startups launching new social networks in these months. And creative ideas or social networks around shared passions (shopping, travel, sports, food, business, etc) are still likely to attract members- you don’t need to abandon your favorite social network and join a new one. You can stay on both.

Nevertheless, with these numbers in mind, and the current penetration of existing social networks, the message is crystal clear: big existing social networks will get bigger; small social networks will get smaller. After all, it seems this rule applies to the entire economy in this global financial cycle.

You may had an idea of how big Facebook is willing to become if you remember Mark Zuckerberg’s speech at the f8 conference, where Facebook presented the latest news and future developments about the most crowded social networks. When talking about the apps and developers of Facebook apps, he said Facebook has been working with “over a thousand companies to develop new things on Facebook”.

To all those who are still quite sceptical about Social Media and Social Media marketing (according to the preliminary results from my survey, lack of support from execs is one of the top reasons for not having a social media strategy), I suggest they have a look at this image and see that not only their clients are on social media, their clients are also waiting for them and asking for something! Also those whose social media strategy equals to having banners placed on social networks or a facebook page with zero interaction should consider a proper social media strategy. Need help?

Lessons learned:

  • Social Media are today what IT has been in the past: not just a tool, but a nessessary component of every business strategy
  • Your clients are on social media. Why are you wasting your marketing budget somewhere else?
  • Your clients are on social media and are willing to talk to you.
  • Social media are the easiest and highest potenial for word of moouth: have your sales on social media and have them listen to your clients needs.
  • Different geographies have different social media penetration and potential. That potential also applies to your business.
  • Never underestimate the importance of the word “social” in social media / social networks.

Related posts and resources:

Social media around the world 2011 [slideshare id=9249498&w=425&h=355&sc=no]

View more presentations from steven van belleghem


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