Social Media: Too Dynamic To Grasp… Too Powerful To Ignore

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Last week an article written by Tom Pick appeared on the Webbiquity | B2B Marketing Blog site that was called 87 More Vital Social Media Marketing Facts and Stats for 2012. The title is an immediate attention getter because it is obviously not somebody’s condensation of data into the usual David Letterman sized list. Also, the word “more” implies that the list may be a continuation from another list or lists. It also suggests that the list probably won’t end here. Such is the dilemma facing leaders who must decide on a company’s use of social media in a business setting. We concoct all kinds of methodologies to analyze data, consider the possibility of unknowns, and arrive at a business savvy direction. The problem with social media data is not so much that it is new, but because it is so changeable that it is difficult to measure in the first place. Ironically, this dynamic also creates a sense of urgency… maybe even panic… because the latecomers to the game will lose their competitive edge if someone else finds the secret.

The value of this list is immeasurable because it gives a very complete insight into the data that we need to make intelligent decisions. Every day there is some kind of addition to the public consciousness of social media blasted at us through social media. Learning which to accept and which to reject requires a sophisticated degree of crap detection and this has to evolve from a realistic view of the variables and an objective analysis.

Unfounded skepticism – The temptation is to look with bias toward data that we don’t understand. Most executives would balk at the term “We never did it that way before” because they have been conditioned by up-the-ladder mentality and training to be open to change. From the facts and stats reported we see that 71% of consumers say that CEO participation in social media leads to improved brand image. 70% of CEOs have no presence on any social network. The individual driving the company does not necessarily have to have hands-on experience in all aspects of the business, but must have a receptive understanding of everything or decisions will be uninformed and ineffective.

Unrealistic optimism – Rabid advocates of social media are often proponents without reality. Jumping to a positive conclusion based on personal bias is just as harmful as a negative one. It takes social media missionaries to move things forward, but inertia is a hard thing to overcome. The data shows that about 27% of consumer-facing Fortune 500 corporations do not list social media channels on their Web site home page, 89% do not list an e-mail address on their site, and 13% don’t list a phone number on their Contact Us page.

Underestimated complexity – A consistent problem in filtering information is the self-professed “expert” that has only a shallow knowledge of social media. One repeated theme is that somehow there is an age related capacity for understanding because younger generations have grown up with new technology. From the data, 56% of Americans have a profile on at least one social networking site. And it’s not just millenials; 55% of those aged 45-54 have at least one social network profile. The in-depth analysis must conclude that it is not merely use of social media but translating these skills to expertise in marketing, communications, human resources and other aspects of managing the business. I found it particularly interesting that 65% of Facebook users are over 35. This demographic is older than the perception that it is a college based medium… and is older than the founder and CEO of Facebook.

Unanticipated results – Plans are the definition of the paths to reach objectives. Variance from those intended goals may be favorable, unfavorable or just plain different. Marketers report that less than half of all the analytics data they collect is actually useful for decision-making and 34% say analytics are not integrated at all with their business plans. This could be a matter of perception, but it also indicates that calculating the return on investment in social media programs can be difficult to forecast and probably even more difficult to report.  

Unparalleled potential – The importance of compiling and analyzing all of this information on social media is necessary because of the impact that it will have now and in the future. Marrying the skepticism of naysayers and optimism of advocates, the report shows that social media accounts for only 16% of customer engagement today, but is expected to increase to 57%—the second-most used channel, behind only face to face interaction—within five years. Recent trends in niche areas verify these successes and predict areas where impact is almost certain. 92% of recruiters use social media to find new candidates, up from 82% in 2010. And 73% now say they have successfully hired through social media, up significantly from just 58% two years ago.

Compiling and filtering data, projecting trends and forecasting the results are all easy to understand conceptually but not easy to execute because of the variability of… everything! Just as the quarterback must throw the ball to the location where he anticipates the receiver will be, it is important to look beyond today’s hot trends and anticipate all the new ones that are possible. As innovators, we must not only advocate the use of social media for business but also explore unlikely and non-traditional methods of communication. YouTube is the third-most-visited site on the web, with two billion views per day. YouTube use accounts for 10% of all traffic on the Internet. Are we open to the use of video for business? Do we know how? It may become a question moving from “Can we afford it” toward one of “Can we afford not to?”


Reference: I have provided a trackback to the Webbiquity site. Italicized portions of this article are excerpted from that site, but I would highly recommend subscribing to this and others as an RSS feed in order to make comments add to the dialog and public use of the data.

Image credit: Puzzle of Social Media nasirkhan / 123RF Stock Photo