When social first began gaining popularity, it seemed inevitable that the marketing norms of the rest of the internet would make their way into social networks. Static display ads, impression counts, and brand-controlled, non-conversational advertising would soon rule social as they did the rest of the web – or so many thought.
Instead, social pushed its own norms outward. Consumers found they prefer being talked to over being talked at (they would have always told us that, but maybe we weren’t yet ready to hear it). Traditional, non-conversational advertising on social has failed, and marketing has shifted its focus: conversations instead of ads, influence and engagement rather than impressions. Nielsen’s recent effort, State of the Media: The Social Media Report, shows that social is now the dominant online activity for American internet users. As mobile access makes social less of a destination and more of a constant companion, this seeking and sharing of opinions continues to grow beyond social networks (and even the internet) as a basic consumer behavior.
Here are three key takeaways from the report.
Social is the new norm
Social use is now the most common online activity, making conversation the norm online. Social networks and blogs account for nearly a quarter (22.5%) of Americans’ total time spent on the internet – more than double the amount spent in the number two category, online gaming (9.8%). Nearly four in five active internet users visit social sites. Things that aren’t social will soon seem odd to Americans, including brands with no discoverable social presence.
Specifically, Americans spend more time on Facebook than on any other US website. The social network now reaches 70% of active US internet users, who spent 53.5 billion minutes on the network in May 2011.
Social users demand opinions and share theirs freely
Social users are more likely to share their opinions and influence others. Sixty percent of social networkers create product/service reviews, which are, for them, “the preferred source for information about product/service value, price and product quality.” They’re also more likely to share opinions on current events (26%) and television programs (33%). Over half (53%) of active social networkers follow a brand, so focus your social strategy on capturing the feedback these highly-vocal advocates share.
Use this feedback to influence other users – shoppers seeking opinions from people like them. Seventy percent of social users shop online, making them 12% more likely than the average adult internet user.
Mobile social is valued more than web browsing for social users
As mobile internet gives consumers increased access to the opinions they seek online, these opinions will influence even more decisions offline, as well. Social networking apps are the second most-valued apps among US smartphone owners, second most-owned, and third most-used. Social networking app usage is up 30% from this time last year, and 37% of social users access social content from their mobile phones. The mobile internet browser audience to social networking sites is also up 62% over last year. Be sure your mobile experience delivers the customer opinions shoppers seek in your aisles.
The spread of social is a domino effect. As consumers shared more on social networks, they began to expect the same freedom to share and find opinions across the internet. Now, they expect the same conversations they find online no matter where they shop. Encourage these conversations, and integrate them with your brand across channels to give consumers the opinions they want.