Press Coverage

Social Media

Dean Wilson 03 Apr 2012

Social Media - a less interruptive disruptive communication

Dean Wilson, UK CEO and VP International at Active International, says if you can’t own the conversation be part of it ensuring you have a strong social listening strategy at the heart of what you do...

At last count - not mine - there were 87,000 Starbucks drink combinations; perhaps comparable to the number of digital media opportunities on offer to advertisers. Whilst all digital platforms from search and gaming to affiliates and mobile are enjoying rising revenues, it is social media that is dominating the news, views and restaurant table chatter. 54% of companies agreed that social media engagement was their top 2012 priority, a clear 16% gap between the second rated priority.

Less than 20 years after the birth of the world wide web (to those reading this of the Mark Zuckerberg generation the web was the brainchild of Sir Tim Berners Lee) over two thirds of the UK population are connected to a social network platform. If Facebook were a country it would be the third largest in the world, with its 845 million users.

Over the course of 24 hours 172 million of us visit Facebook, we send 294 billion e-mails, publish two million blog posts, upload 864,000 hours to You Tube, tweet 40 million times and an undisclosed number will visit the Angry Birds theme park in a truly bizarre brand extension or a mobile app.

It will come as no surprise that we spend more time with additional media. We are switched onto communication for over half our waking hours, squeezing in eight hours and 48 minutes of media into just seven hours.

This change in media consumption has led to a change in behaviour; we snack more on media, demand more and have to filter more. Social media is becoming our defence against the epidemic of “information indigestion”. Recent research highlights that while only 14% of us trust conventional advertising a staggering 90% trust peer recommendations as consumers turn to friends for product and service information reposting, retweeting and repining.

Social media is, no doubt, a game-changer. Whilst Google recognise this, evident in the launch of Google+, there is an argument to say its dominance is being threatened. With Google+ attracting 625,000 new users every day, with a forecast of 400 million by the end of 2012, there is no room for complacency.

Both as a marketing tool and a service social media has shifted communication to interactive dialogue. Its value lies in its ability to create conversations and develop reputations and identities in an engaging and powerful manner. Encompassing social networks, music, gaming, video, microblogging, bookmarking, photo, wikis, search, couponing and reviews the opportunities for advertisers within social is vast in a climate where communication is quick, agile and powerful.

So, who is harnessing the power of social? Heinz is an example of a brand that has created and executed a successful campaign, doubling its Facebook fan base. Customised cans with “Get Well” labels were created and delivered to recipients via Facebook, achieving over 72,000 views and 32,000 likes. This was not only engaging but provides crucial data generation, something that according to a recent study by IBM is something that only 25% of companies are using to deliver a competitive advantage.

Whilst Facebook is maintaining its position as leader of the social media pack there are a number of new platforms launching which are being tipped for greatness. It seems a new platform is being launched almost daily. Recently it is the virtual pinboard, Pinterest. In just six months its user base has increased by 866% from 1.68 million to 16.23 million. Whilst this may fall short of the over 800 million active Facebook users, there is no denying the rate of adoption is alarmingly quick.

Taking a Pinterest-eque approach Fancy and Gogobot are being touted as social networks to watch. Fancy allows users to create a personal catalogue and purchase their desired products, and Gogobot is a social travel site aiming to revolutionise travel planning through trusted friend recommendations.

We are also witnessing celebrities get in on the act recognising the way to develop their “brand” is to be aware and be involved in social. Currently in beta test mode Lady Gagas is soon to launch her social network, Littlemonsters. com, a natural extension to commercialising her 20 million followers she has amassed on Twitter. Success lies in engaging with the “tastemakers” (to use a Pinterest term) and harnessing the power of collaboration and “shareability”.

According to the futurologist, David A Smith: “Only companies that prepare for a different tomorrow will thrive.” Businesses and brands need to wise up to what has been coined Socialnomics, an environment where power, creativity and control is increasingly outside their control and sphere of influence, but of increasing importance.

The game may be changing, and there may be many more players, but the old communication rules still apply. Technology is important but people and expertise are crucial. Social media is the wor(l)d of mouth of the internet age and is an ideal communication tool that disrupts, but doesn’t interrupt.

If you can’t own the conversation be part of it ensuring you have a strong social listening strategy at the heart of what you do.

Source: IAB, Ofcom, Forbes, Fast Company, Economist, Mashable, Erik Qualman

Dean Wilson

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