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Social Media Questions From Today's Youth

  |  June 30, 2010   |  Comments

A look at what young people are curious to learn about in social media and how to apply these questions to your social media strategy.

Over the last few weeks, I've been fortunate to sit down with a bunch of graduate students from around the world who all shared one thing in common: they were writing a thesis on social media. To give a glimpse into what today's youth is interested in, I've listed a few of these questions with a short version of my answer. I hope you find it helpful.

What do you see in the near future?

It's all about the data aggregation. What have your friends purchased? What services or restaurants have they rated highly? You will see search and social media begin to merge, with the end result being we will no longer search for products and services via a search engine, rather they will find us via social media. That's one of the true powers of social media! A large part of "Socialnomics" is social commerce. Think word-of-mouth on steroids.

Do you think marketers are realizing the full potential of social media? What traditional company is doing it well?

The good companies know a sound social media strategy is much more than having a Facebook page or setting up a Twitter account. The good companies know that social media has to be integrated into everything that they do - it's a part of their overall strategy since it touches every facet of the business. I was fortunate to share the stage with Alan Mulally, CEO of Ford. Ford has used social media as a driver to help not only change the external perception of the brand, but has changed the internal culture. He was also a recent keynote speaker at CES (Consumer Electronics Show) - this spot is normally reserved for Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, etc., not the CEO of a car company - that's a radical change in a short period of time. Ford has shifted its spend from 10 percent digital to 25 percent digital. Historically, its competition spends less than 10 percent of their marketing dollars on digital initiatives. It's no coincidence that Ford hasn't had to take out a government loan and that its stock has increased from $1.5 to $11. Also, it has flowed downstream to production, where its cars are enabled with Wi-Fi, MP3 sync technology, the ability to tweet and status update via voice commands while driving, etc. More ROI (define) examples can be found here.

How should marketers be measuring the success of their social media efforts?

Some items can be measured myopically, almost like PPC (define) search or direct response. For example, if you run Facebook Ads with a direct action you can measure the ROI similar to the way you do for PPC search - it has its own nuances, but it's pretty close.

Many other social media activities affect your entire business, so it's really measured by the overall health of your business. It's hard for people to understand this right now, but in the future they will. This stuff is that big and that important. In fact, the Altimeter Group did a study that showed companies actively engaged in social media increased revenues by 18 percent while those least engaged saw a 6 percent decrease in revenues.

In Socialnomics, you share study results conducted by Jupiter Research in 2009, where they found that 50 percent of Internet users consulted a blog prior to making a purchase. Do you feel that it's imperative for non-profits to have a blog?

If you have something of relevance to say, and you enjoy saying it, then yes, you should have a blog. Blogs are one of the best ways to create inbound traffic. However, they're a lot of work to maintain. Make sure you're willing to put in the time and commitment before launching a blog. They're free from a tangible "hard" cost, but they're far from free - they're free like a puppy, not free like a beer.

You wrote about how Generation Y and Z is more creative and collaborative and young adults are more willing to promote brands online. Should marketers be focusing on this group in their social media campaigns?

Companies should only focus on this group if they provide a product or service that is of value to these generations. If you're selling denture cleaner, targeting this group isn't going to do you much good.

How do you think the marketer's role in the non-profit sector differs in comparison to the for-profit world?

Same constructs apply; sometimes non-profits have less resources, but that's the beauty of social media - it helps mitigate these disadvantages. It rewards those willing to work hard to develop relationships, not necessarily those with the most money.


Erik Qualman

Called a Digital Dale Carnegie, Erik Qualman is the author of best sellers Socialnomics (2009) and Digital Leader (2011). Socialnomics made the #1 Best Sellers List in seven countries and was a finalist for "Book of the Year." Fast Company Magazine lists Qualman as a Top 100 Digital Influencer. He is a frequently requested international speaker and has visited 42 countries. He produced the world's most viewed social media video series and it has been used by NASA to the National Guard.

He has been fortunate to share the stage with Julie Andrews, Al Gore, Tony Hawk, Sarah Palin, Jose Socrates (Prime Minister of Portugal), Alan Mulally, and many others. For the past 17 years Qualman has helped grow the digital capabilities of many companies including Cadillac, EarthLink, EF Education, Yahoo, Travelzoo, and AT&T. He is also an MBA Professor at the Hult International Business School. Qualman holds a BA from Michigan State University and an MBA from The University of Texas. He was Academic All-Big Ten in basketball at Michigan State University and recently gave the commencement address at the University of Texas. He lives in Boston with his wife and daughter.

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