Wednesday, March 10

Defining Social Media: It's Different For Everyone

The recent Unity Marketing survey — that suggests few affluent consumers connect to brands on social networks, research purchases, or look for coupons — goes well beyond the single demographic. It underpins the problems with most platform strategies, program measurement, and the trappings of crowd-sourced connections.

Highlights From Unity Marking Surveys

• Only 26 percent feel the country is better now than three months ago.
• Affluent consumers spent 50 percent more on luxury items than one year ago.
• As many as 78 percent of affluent consumers have at least one network profile.
• As many as 70 percent of affluent consumer over 40 have at least one network profile.
• Approximately half of affluent consumers view brand pages at times, but do not "friend" them.
• 30 percent of young affluent consumers (under 45) have visited a shopping site in the past three months.
• Only 7 percent sign on to sites to look for special offers; only 6 percent share purchases with friends.

Even among the affluent consumers, Unity Marketing breaks out survey information in subsets, which demonstrate differences by wealth, age, and other social factors. A January 2010 Edelman report produced similar conclusions. Fewer than 25 percent of affluent consumers trust their friends' opinions on purchases. Smart marketers will segment their social marketing efforts, customizing their communications and offers based on the audience.

People are different. They interact differently. They use the Internet differently.

In 2007, we were fortunate in covering a fan-organized outcry over the cancellations of Jericho, Veronica Mars, and The Black Donnellys. It gave our firm evidence that different groups and demographics interact, organize, and share information differently across the Web.

These fan groups weren't the last. Every social media program we've worked on since, including a club for affluent consumers, uses various online technologies and outreach tactics differently. They focus on finite specifics, and not mass generalizations.

For example, volume traffic doesn't apply when a purchase includes a $2,500 to $5,000 membership. Ten thousand fans who cannot afford a membership can be beneficial but never produce outcomes. Even crowd-sourcing window shoppers could be dangerous as their input might not represent the customer, a detail some social media experts seem to forget.

"Social media seem to be experts at attracting each other," noted one of our agency clients. "We're more interested in attracting our customers."

The overanalyzed Motrin case study comes to mind. The majority of the public wasn't offended by the snarky online ad. However, that was a small consolation given that the majority of customers the ad targeted were offended.

The Reality Of Social Media Definitions.

When I present information about social media to classes at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, or any number of associations where I have spoken, I offer a working definition of social media. Mostly, I do it because the definition provides a context.

Social media describes online technologies that people use to share content, opinions, insights, experiences, perspectives, and media.

However, I also invest some time in breaking the definition down (it is people and technologies) and then breaking it into pieces. You see, nowadays, if you ask people to define social media, 80 million of them are just as likely to say social media is Farmville as they are to describe it as a "business" or some sort of "collective stream of consciousness." In short, even social media experts have about as much chance of defining what people do on the Internet as they do planet Earth. It's not scalable.

Fortunately, businesses do not have to understand what all people do within any given environment. They only need to know what their customers want (or don't know what they want). And then, they have to deliver it, online or offline.

After all, if every successful communication program could be defined by a list of bullet points, then traditional communication would have deciphered the right mix of bullet points a long time ago. Considering no one did, it might stand to reason that while we'll see an increasing number of cookie-cutter social media programs, we'll only find a few that are relatively tasty.

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