David Hargreaves

Reflections on the reinvention of the PR industry

Has Social Media Reached A Tipping Point?

Over the past few weeks there have been a number of reports that have come out which point to the fact that no marketer, regardless of sector, can ignore the reach and level of engagement that social media offers brands. I am not sure what the specific scientific measure of a Tipping Point is, but social media certainly feels like it has got there.

Firstly, Nielsen came out with a report covered in Brandweek which confirmed that 65% of Internet users actively use email compared to 85% of Internet users who are active in social networks (this compares to 86% for search—the originally big daddy of the Internet). This does pose questions about the future of email and its role but that’s a separate subject all together.

While 85% is a high penetration, the big question for marketers is ‘what are they doing on these networks and in these communities?’ As someone who spends a good proportion of time marketing B2B brands, a recent Forrester report confirmed the importance of social networks and the broader social media landscape as part of the B2B decision making process. 69% of the sample of B2B buyers said that they were viewing blogs, watching user generated video, and participating in other social media for business purposes. A staggering 43% of the sample were not just ‘spectators’ but were ‘creators’ of content.

The data doesn’t lie. Social media is now mainstream regardless of whether you are trying to reach a B2B or B2C audience.

If we look at how brands should be using this, now mainstream channel, to reach their audience, I saw some interesting data on Scott Monty’s blog. It shows that 81% of the Gen Y audience think advertising in social media networks is irrelevant. Again, extrapolating is a dangerous game but would it be much different for a broader audience whether B2B or B2C?

There are three things I take away from this latest research:

  1. No brand can ignore social media. Not surprising, but certainly in the world of B2B, there are a lot of companies that still don’t think it is mainstream. It is.
  2. If you want to reach people through these channels, you need to think about the rewards people get from interacting with you. They need to get a sense that they are getting privileged access to information, or get an offer they can’t get anywhere else. Advertising is irrelevant.
  3. Brands need to mobilize their ambassadors or ‘creators’ to publish and propagate content on their behalf.

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