Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Social Networks Transforming Consumer Behavior

A new study shows the way consumers interact is changing. Marketers and advertisers will need to adapt their strategies in order to target and better engage.

The impact of the social media phenomenon on Internet usage is now harder to miss. A new study, “Global Faces and Networked Places: A Nielsen report on Social Networking’s New Global Footprint” shows the extent of the change. Member communities, which include social networks and blogs, are now the fourth most popular online category worldwide. They lead personal e-mail and are growing at a rate more than twice that of the largest sectors—search, portals and software.

Time on social sites growing 3X faster than Internet
Two-thirds of all Internet users visit a social network and social networking now accounts for nearly 10% of all the time spent online. According to the study, between December of 2007 and 2008, the total time spent online globally rose 18%. Member community sites, on the other hand, jumped 63%to 45 billion minutes. Facebook, which is leading the way globally, jumped 566%, from 3.1 billion to 20.5 billion minutes in that same time period.

Audiences now broader
The study also shows that as these networks become more mainstream, their audience composition shifts—becoming broader and more mature as well. As a result, marketers can now consider social media for products and services that appeal to a broader audience.

Points to a need for strategic change
The “potentially transformational change” in the way consumers interact, calls for a strategic change in the way advertisers and advertising approach their audience.

Nielsen noted several key challenges posed by social media marketing.
  • Media dollars spent so far aren’t commensurate with the size and engagement level of the audience.
  • Members have a sense of ownership around the personal content they provide and may be less inclined to accept advertising around it.
  • Network members may see highly-targeted ads as invading their privacy.
Five Strategies
The report identifies five strategies marketers may need to adopt to ensure success.
  • Work more closely with the networks. Because the networks need advertisers to monetize their audience and advertisers need the networks to go where their consumers are spending more time, programs that benefit both parties will have a major advantage.
  • Change the advertising model. The social network experience is diverse and that means that standard ad models will need to be set aside in favor of trying and testing new approaches.
  • Be conversational. The social world is one in which participating in a two-way conversation is the rule. The old push advertising model will not be effective.
  • Be authentic. At a time when traditional advertising is losing trust, word of mouth, humility and honesty—coupled with conversation—will be the norm.
  • Add value through interaction and consultation. Social networks thrive because members add value to each other’s lives through interaction. Marketing efforts should follow suit. Continual investment in time and effort—as opposed to purely financial—is needed to be of value to both partners.
Download the full PDF report and compare it with your social marketing plans. Are you on target?

Blog content: ©2009 Paul J. Hydzik. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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Paul Hydzik grows brand value. As a brand marketer and award-winning creative leader, Paul has more than 15 years of experience driving business success from start-ups to blue chips. His strategic resume covers all aspects of B2B and B2C branding from go-to-market to consumer insight to identity development and all forms of marketing communication.

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