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Understanding the true value of research and stats in social media

research buzz social media

(hint, it’s not to validate the tool your consultant has chosen as their favourite)

Recently a lot of research has come out that shows who and how people are using specific social networks, which is a great thing for any MarCom person. Reports have shown the average age of users of key networks such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, as well as where people are sharing information online. Not only is this information valuable on a pure: finally, some actual hard stats on the latest online usage, perspective. They also reinforce a key point in traditional marketing: Demographics and Psycographics are more than just “old” marketing buzz words.

Just as PR people shouldn’t target journalists who don’t cover a clients field, social media shouldn’t be looked at as needing to be omnipresent on every conceivable channel, or a “spray and pray” tactic.

Where your customers ARE and how they use those channels is vital to crafting a well thought out and meaningful strategy. Are they on Facebook? Twitter? MySpace? Email? Mobile? (to name a few). And what do they do when they are there? How can you reach them within their own comfort zone?

Advocating that you MUST be in a particular location without solid reasons why and a comprehensive strategy for what you will do when you get there is folly and a waste of time and resources. You may find that although the majority of your customers (and prospects) love Twitter, they despise interactions with brands within that channel. They may prefer to connect with *your* brand via email or, horrors, direct mail or your own website (which they found through search).

Being “social” on the web means truly embracing the methods the people you want to reach want you to reach them in. It doesn’t necessarily mean following hot on the heels of the latest tool to hit the tech-o-sphere and generate the greatest amount of buzz amongst the social media consultants – especially if they aren’t the people who buy your products or services.

The golden rule of marketing always applies: know who you are and who your customers are before choosing a medium to communicate within.

[photo credit: Plamen Stoev via Flickr]

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Is the social web about merit or is it morphing into the same old?

Spinning Web 2.0

As I browse my RSS feeds and listen in on conversations on Twitter I am seeing a theme emerge where what appears to be rewarded is the same old school connections, packaged in a new media ribbon. The social web was supposed to break down the gates and allow new voices (and genders or colours) to emerge based solely on merit, but if you look closely at conference line ups, those participating on certain blogs, and who gets responses to which conversations it is easy to see where this promise is failing. The same voices are dominant no matter what they are discussing and rarely are they seriously challenged by those outside their close knit circle lest one fall out of favour with the “in club”.

People clamor to be invited to the hip new launch and, as evidenced by the recent New York Times piece: Spinning the Web, it’s not necessarily about the value of a product but who your connections are and how big of a party you can throw, what clubs you belong to, how many names you can drop, or how many times you can send someone a gift to remain top-of-mind. Having been around the Web 1.0 bubble where money and good times were thrown around without regard to business model I fear for where this is all heading. Also having worked at an ad agency where it was forbidden to “buy your clients affection” I know business can be done without constantly throwing money around. There is nothing inherently classy about trying to secure business by attempting to purchase it vs. earning it based on your ideas. Of course people like getting the special treatment, it makes them feel good, and important. Although this is human nature, it’s nothing to be proud of in the grand scheme of things.

The beauty of the social sphere for me is precisely to find and cultivate genuine relationships with people who aren’t trying to buy their way in, but are sharing their ideas and their unique perspectives. I want to hear from people who disagree with me, regardless of how many (or who) follow me on Twitter and what my perceived influence is. Of course I like hearing from people who agree with me as well, but no one should feel they *have* to agree with me or host lavish parties to earn my respect. In fact there is no quicker way to lose my respect than to contribute nothing of substance or continuous empty platitudes.

How about you? What is the value of the social web to you? Is it about fame and fortune or bringing new perspectives into your life?

[photo credit: ViaMoi via Flickr]

Social Bookmarks: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages.
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