Social media continues to evolve as a means for participants to communicate, engage, and connect with their family, friends, and social media acquaintances. In the process, more people are spending more time on these platforms. From a marketing perspective, it's critical to understand their behavior to be able to effectively integrate social media into your plans.
7 Social Media Facts You Need Now
Here are seven recent social media research findings and what they mean for your marketing plans.
Want to find me online? Try social media. Social media networks and blogs account for more than one out of every five minutes spent online. The top three areas where Americans spend their time online are social media and blogs (22.5 percent), online games (9.8 percent), and email (7.6 percent) according to Nielsen data. Further, four out of five active Internet users have visited a social media network or blog. What this means for marketers: Social media must be integrated into your marketing strategies to reach your audience. You actually need to listen and participate, not just give lip service to social media.
Don't rule me out based on age. Roughly two-thirds of online adults use social media networks describing their experience in positive terms according to Pew Internet and American Life Project. Usage among older segments has increased.
What this means for marketers: Social media has become a mainstream means for communication and interaction. Therefore, consider your consumers and create tailored marketing personas to effectively reach them on social media platforms.
Don't think social media is only Facebook. While Facebook dominates online time (users spent 53.5 billion minutes there in May 2011 according to Nielsen), social media encompasses a variety of formats and platforms. With 9.1 billion minutes in May 2011, YouTube is the second largest search engine and doesn't require viewers to log in to view content on its site. What this means for marketers: Assess your social media marketing goals because a Facebook page by itself doesn't ensure results. Before you say social media doesn't work, examine why your strategies may not be as effective as they should be. To this end, you need business goals, understanding of your customers, marketing strategies, and goal-related metrics to track your results.
Can you reach me now? Social media's on-the-go. Two out of five users access social media via their mobile device according to Nielsen. Users also access social media platforms from gaming consoles, iPads, Internet-enabled television, e-readers, and handheld music players.
What this means for marketers: Your prospects and customers communicate with their social media circles wherever they are. Since they're engaging via mobile devices, you must provide a mobile presence so they can find you quickly when social media triggers a desire to search for your company.
Do you want to be in my social media circle?IBM research shows that 23 percent of consumers (or roughly one in five) go to social media sites to connect with brands. While this may not seem like a large percentage, no one says I want to watch some television ads. Of course, this relationship doesn't come without strings attached. Consumers want marketers to be honest and treat them well. They're concerned about privacy and spam. What this means for marketers: You have an opportunity to engage and interact with prospects and consumers on social media platforms but you must focus on your customers' needs, not yours. This translates to providing discounts and means to purchase without using social media as another promotional push channel.
Can you help me? Consumers turn to social media for help with purchase decisions. Cone Inc. research shows consumers seek product information and reviews; they're interested in both the good and the bad since 80 percent of respondents look at negative comments and 87 percent of respondents look at positive comments. The biggest growth area for purchase decision information was blogs.
What this means for marketers: Social media supports the purchase process with a variety of content formats, not just ratings and reviews. Since only 40 percent of companies have blogs, now's a good time to consider using this social media format to support your product offering and other social media marketing efforts.
Watch out for Tumblr. Under the radar for most marketers, Tumblr, a multimedia-focused microblogging platform, deserves attention. With 13.4 million visitors in July according to comScore, Tumblr has more than tripled in the past year. Wonder why you haven't heard of it? Roughly 30 percent of Tumblr's users are 18 to 24.
What this means for marketers: Get a Tumblr account and kick the tires to see how this platform works. If you're focused on the teen or 20-something market, explore how to integrate usage into your social media marketing mix. Need an example? Check out what MTV is doing on Tumblr.
The bottom line for marketers is that social media continues to capture more of users' time as a place to interact and communicate with people and businesses of their choosing. In the process, social media has become more mainstream in its demographics and its usage has spread across technology devices. To ensure your marketing effectively engages with your target market, understand how your prospects and customers use these platforms and what they want from your organization.
Is there anything else that you'd add to this list? If so, please include your comments in the comment section below.
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Heidi Cohen is the President of Riverside Marketing Strategies, an interactive marketing consultancy. She has over 20 years' experience helping clients increase profitability by developing innovative marketing programs to acquire and retain customers based on solid analytics. Clients include New York Times Digital, AccuWeather.com, CheapTickets, and the UJA. Additionally, Riverside Marketing Strategies has worked with numerous other online content/media companies and e-tailers.
Prior to starting Riverside Marketing Strategies, Heidi held a number of senior-level marketing positions at The Economist, the Bookspan/Doubleday Direct division of Bertelsmann, and Citibank.