The Nielsen-Community Engine 2011 Social Media Business Benchmarking Study finds that 35 percent of large companies have a stronger presence than medium-sized companies. Although smaller businesses could benefit the most, many of them do not have the time or funding to outsource labor intensive work.
At the same time, companies that are engaging in social media are social network focused. More than 21 percent are advertising on Facebook, 15 percent have a company blog, and 16 percent are using paid monitoring services. The study also showed that 43 percent of companies see social media as a way to communicate to customers, 25 percent see it as an opportunity to respond to customers, and 23 percent see it as a tool for research and insight.
Nielsen helps tie social media to the tablet e-reader market.
Part of the most recent surge in social media is clearly in the tablet market. Mobile owners use their tablets and smart phones to browse for immediate topic points, during commercials, and to make social connections to the programming they watch (friends who are watching the programs somewhere else in the country). Some highlights from the study:
• 70 percent of tablet owners and 68 percent of smart phone owners use their devices while watching television.
• 57 percent of tablet owners and 51 percent of smart phone owners take their devices to bed.
When cross referenced with another study by Google's AdMob, a picture starts to develop. According to the survey, 84 percent of people use their tablets for gaming (which has become increasingly social), 78 percent use it for research (searching), 61 percent use it to read news online (portable news), and (from a different study) about 52 percent use it to check social network accounts.
The study that hasn't been done yet is more qualitative, but the anecdotal evidence exists — how are people prompted to take any number of actions that lead them to a destination. It's the one more businesses would certainly appreciate.
The anecdotal evidence exists in that people search for news on their tablets when specific topics are being discussed like a new item or a new release from a band. They might follow a link of a news story from a friend on their social network (the propensity increases with every friend mention too). Or, conversely, they might ask their friends what they think of a particular news item.
The challenge that many businesses face in social media.
Businesses that take the time to have a better understanding of social media will win, but not in ways that are always directly measurable (short of benchmarking). This explains some of the results pulled from a recent Forrester and GSI Commerce study that, on the surface, takes social media to task.
Specifically, the study concluded that social media has almost no influence on online purchasing behavior. Some people mistook this study as Forrester becoming a social media contrarian. But that is not exactly what people ought to have pulled from the study.
To fully understand what is happening with consumers, businesses have to start seeing everything from their point of view. Take a fictional (but based on real life) composite of a consumer watching television with their tablet in hand. The news program flashes that a major terrorist has been killed.
Almost immediately, discontent with the linear timeline of network news, they start searching other news streams for content. And, once they have enough, they might share or see what their friends are saying on the social network.
During all of this, your company is talking about its underwear sale. What do you think about your chances to make a sale now?
Exactly right. To develop a successful social media program companies have to either know when to shut up, adjust to current events, or position themselves as part of the greater community they belong to.
Ergo, just because you represent a company with 10,000 employees doesn't mean much because your company is probably only one account. And just because it is the bigger underwear sale in the history of the company doesn't mean it's the biggest news of the day. It probably isn't. But even if it is, people are more likely to visit the store next week than immediately click and buy.
The point being that investing 10 percent of a marketing budget or more into social media is smart, especially if you want a presence where people are spending more and more time. But investing 10 percent in social media isn't so smart if the underlying strategy is because you think consumers are waiting to celebrate your brand. All they really want to do is connect.