In this study, The Social Consumer, we explored the factors that inform, impact and shape trust, loyalty and preferences of the digitally connected consumer. We tested the belief that brands which can tap into the emotions about and awareness of their values (human/social) are most likely to inspire positive action and loyalty from consumers.
Our view is that the super-connectedness of global communications has challenged how companies interact, engage and maintain relevance and trust with their key audiences and the public-at-large. Consumers are more discerning about the companies they choose to do business with and support. We are now in a “so what”, “show me” or “can I trust what you say” business, political and social economy.
The findings from The Social Consumer study reflect a number of surprising and validating insights, informed by surveys completed by 927 respondents mostly from the U.S. with about 10 percent from rest-of-world, with great distribution and balance across age and gender. The study explored:
The complete report can be found here. We encourage you to read, share and comment.
Here is a summary of our key findings:
Social business is dynamically changing the face of human interaction and communications globally. The emergence of new social behaviors and interrelationships between individuals, organizations, thought leaders and influencers are evolving in new and previously unforeseen ways primarily because of social media networks and peer groups.
A disruption is in the making, but this time, human behavior is the driver, not technology. People want and need to get the information they need at the time they desire it, especially from those they consider to be experts. We are returning to the “apple cart” of yesteryear. However, this time around we are armed with digital devices to extend our global ability to talk with the companies and people who inform our decisions.
This paradigm shift is a major communications innovation in all markets, which is radically changing the way people and organizations engage and behave online. There is also a strong link between social networking and what might be called “a new global anthropology” that is developing because of these new behaviors, interactions and interrelationships between cultures enabled through social business.
Over the past three years Vanessa DiMauro, Peter Auditore and myself, all Society for New Communications Research fellows, have embarked on a series of research studies to understand this new and evolving business platform and its impact on social communications and influence.
The New Symbiosis of Professional Networks
The findings and predictions from our most notable study, the New Symbiosis of Professional Networks research conducted three years ago, (2009), identified what we called a Social Media Peer Group, (SMPG) this is essentially a Web 2.0 community of interest around a specific topic and/or business in the course of this treatise we will refer to them as Social Media Networks (SMNs). SMNs, are not always groups of peers, but are enabled by the new social media human computer interfaces and platforms that facilitate easier information sharing and collaboration. And the second New Symbiosis of Professional Networks study (2010) honed in on the changing role of the online influencer and formatively noted the rise of the “crescendo effect” where content creation and curation was being used as credibility builder in online environments.
The Social Mind
The Social Mind research project was designed to explore and understand interrelationships of global communications and how they impact the consumption of information across social media channels and influence flow. Social Mind findings will enable B2B, B2P, B2C or cause marketers to understand the importance and relevance of content - and - its ultimate impact and influence on behaviors, beliefs, decisions and actions. The Social Mind identifies key characteristics and insights into the engagement behaviors of influencers and individuals, and how organizations can maximize reach and influence to execute on what we call the new "Principals of Engagement in the Millennium."
We surveyed more than 400 mostly professional and highly educated people in North America who actively participate in social media networks. And nearly 50% regularly create content through blogging, the other half engage and share/create content in social media networks.
Our findings show that social media networks have evolved into trusted expert communities that are testing the trust that people have in more traditional news and information sources. This is a huge shift in information and influence flow as nearly 65% of the sample base indicated that SMNs and professional networks are more trust worthy than traditional news and information aggregators (again remember that these are highly educated individuals.)
We found a significant shift in information flow:
We found that professionals spend approximately 40% of their time online interacting in peer -peer communities closely followed by friends (31%) and then family at (13%.)
The Social Mind research study clearly defines the characteristics and behavior of social media influencers within social media networks that impact the brand, reputation and potentially the sale of products. Organizations that are socially savvy will and are recognizing the value and enhancements that can be derived in the areas of customer service, CRM and customer experience through social media networks. This is becoming a significant competitive advantage for many companies and organizations as social business evolve and grow globally.
In the coming weeks, Vanessa, Peter and I will blog about the research specifics. We will each take the topics that inform our work practices, and together, this blog-ring will offer our perspectives on the outcomes and offer a platform for engagement. So please, follow-on, ask hard questions and discuss with us your ideas about The Social Mind. You can purchase the study here.
However, in business, many brands seek to build robust fan bases in both large and specialized on-line communities to support marketing, sales, advocacy and influence efforts.
Some companies use gimmicks and creative offers to attract "fans" - which is more about marketing tactics than a desire to build relationships or loyalty. Other companies use compelling information to add value to people based on issues, concerns or topics that they care about.
The latter is something that I relate to.
The value of communities like facebook (for me personally) is the ability to build and maintain relationships and stay informed about "what's happening" in the lives of friends, family, colleagues and even companies or causes that are important to me. It’s through these relationships that I learn, engage and share information about issues, news and events. It’s an important and influential channel for me.
Build it and they will come.
There's a very profound and fascinating notion that information (if important or relevant) will find you through your network.
I was exposed to this idea when my boss shared a conversation that he recently had with his teenage son where he suggested (to his son) that he should read more newspapers. The response that my boss received was "if information or news is important, it will find me." My bosses initial reaction was "well, that's arrogant" but then realized that it makes a lot of sense...and it does. His son has been brought up in an era where people are so connected (through devices and social media) that information and news is circulated, filtered and curated in a way that if relevant it will indeed "find" you.
This speaks to an important dimension of social media and trust that extends from our relationships. It's something that most people often forget in a business context when looking to adapt to managing communication and business in a new world. People are inherently influenced by others in their network and to information/things that they can relate to.
The Social Mind Research Study.
Without a doubt, interrelationships between individuals, organizations, thought leaders and influencers are evolving in new and previously unforeseen ways. This shift represents a major communications innovation in all markets, and is radically changing the way people and organizations engage and behave on-line.
In order to explore this topic Vanessa DiMauro, Peter Auditore and I are conducting a new study called The Social Mind as part of our fellowship with The Society of New Communications Research (SNCR) .
The Social Mind research project is designed to explore and understand these interrelationships and how they impact the consumption of information across social media channels and influence flow. Our hope is that the findings of the Social Mind research will enable B2B, B2P, B2C or Cause marketers to understand the importance and relevance of content - and - its ultimate impact and influence on behaviors, beliefs, decisions and actions.
To this end, we are endeavoring to identify key characteristics and insights into the engagement behaviors of individuals and how organizations can maximize reach and influence to execute on what we call the new Principals of Engagement In the Millennium.
We invite you to participate in this study by taking a brief survey. We will share the full results of the research with all who respond. We also invite you to forward the survey to a peer, retweet it, G+ it or share it however you see fit. This is an open study intended to bring full value back to all who respond.
Thank you very much for supporting The Social Mind research project!
Through The Society of New Communication Research (SNCR), we are endeavoring to contribute to the industry learning and best practices with much needed research data.
We are a group of researchers and practitioners who come together to help further the understanding and best practices of social media, social business and social influence. We volunteer our time to further the industry and help raise awareness of social media function in business and society.
I am proud to release the results of the 2nd annual New Symbiosis of Professional Networks research study by The Society for New Communications Research (SNCR); a benchmark on the impact of social media on enterprise decision-making.
The study is a result of collaboration between me and Vanessa DiMauro as part of our fellowship with SNCR. My colleague at SAP and Senior Fellow at SNCR, Peter Auditore, also contributed to the analysis.
In the first study we focused on professionals’ use of social media—and it all comes back to the strength of the relationship. Human relationships and peer-to-peer decision-making are inherently interrelated. Professional networks facilitate vast interactions, connections, and networks of people by enabling collaboration anywhere and at any time.
Communities of practice, professional networks, social media, email, and SMS are among the tools that enable multi-channel access for individuals (employees, customers, partners, and suppliers).
In this second study, we further examined the role of social media on decision-making among enterprise users and explored the dynamics of trust as well as the value of engagement and collaboration to support decision making and innovation across company operations for internal and external purposes.
Specifically, we sought to explore the following questions:
The study was supported by quantitative data gathered via online survey of 114 professionals to understand their perceptions and experiences with social media in support of their decision-making.
Key demographics of the research:
Below are key findings of the research. A presentation of the detailed findings can be found here.
Four key findings from the research include:
By the numbers, Facebook is well over 500 million members strong.
As a community, its members spend over 700 billion minutes a month and share over 30 billion pieces of content (per month) in the Facebook environment (via status updates, comments, videos, links, etc.).
If you compare Facebook to the populations of the largest countries around the world it would rank 3rd behind China and India.
Like China and India, Facebook is an ‘emerging’ economy that business professionals are trying to understand. It has its own social norms, privacy issues, cultural sensitivities and community rules that govern how business is done and how its members engage and derive value.
Unlike China and India, however, the ‘Facebook Nation’ has no borders (with amost 70% of members outside of the U.S.) and is growing at a rate that will likely eclipse China and India over the next 3-5 years - in terms of population.
The rise of Social Business.
Online social communities like Facebook have reached a level of maturity in that their value is more than just about ‘connecting people’ or helping people manage their relationships. The power and impact of communities like Facebook, Twitter (175 million members) and Yelp (33+ miilion members) have reached impressive milestones over the last 18 months on a number of socioeconomic, business, and political levels.
From a business perspective, just as business leaders are actively looking to emerging economies like China and India for opportunities to grow and expand their business; they must also take time understand the opportunities of doing business and managing their corporate presence in any of the growing number of powerful social communities (like Facebook) - beyond maintaining fan pages and advertising/sponsorship campaigns.
A Shift in Perspective.
Business leaders must shift their perspective on social media to think more in context of social business and how principles of social thinking can help them be successful and more competitive in this new environment.
As I have written before, I see that there are essentially three fundamental principles of social thinking that business leaders must align to, in order to be successful in a social business environment. You must:
We are pleased to announce the launch of the 2nd annual New Symbiosis of Professional Networks research study.
This annual study, explores how social media is impacting business by better understanding how business leaders use social media and social networks to support and inform their decisions.
When we understand how social media changes professional decision-making, organizations can be more efficient, timely and supportive in how they interact with customers- ultimately leading to better engagement and decision-making in business.
Participants in this year's study will receive a free copy of the results. A link to the survey and last year's findings can be found on the research website.
About the Research
The New Symbiosis of Professional Networks is an annual research study designed to benchmark the impact of social media on enterprise decision-making.
The social nature of decision-making has increased significantly, connecting generations of professionals to each other—changing the dynamics of customer relationship management, marketing, and communications – forever.
In the first study, we focused on professionals’ use of social media—and it all comes back to the strength of the relationship. Human relationships and peer-to-peer decision-making are inherently interrelated.
Professional networks facilitate vast interactions, connections, and networks of people by enabling collaboration anywhere and at any time.
Communities of practice, professional networks, social media, email, and SMS are among the tools that enable multi-channel access for individuals (employees, customers, partners, and suppliers).
In this second study (in the series) we will further examine the role of social media on decision-making among enterprise users and explore the dynamics of trust as well as the value of engagement and collaboration to support decision making and innovation across company operations for internal and external purposes.
The study explores the following questions:
Social media is a tremendous environment for B2B companies to establish competitive advantage through compelling thought leadership.
In a social environment, thought leadership allows companies to frame and stimulate conversation and collaboration around important and sometimes complex ideas and real-world business and socioeconomic problems – where their solutions are uniquely positioned to help address.
Through social media, companies can reach highly targeted audiences by role (CEOs, CIOs, developers, etc.), industry orientation and geography through any form of generic or specialized social network or community (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, MyVenturePad.com, YouTube, etc.).
If compelling, people will contribute, share and internalize the thought leadership – giving companies a tremendous opportunity to influence agendas and establish standards in the market.
As outlined in a recent post by Rob Leavitt, in order to make an impact - thought leadership requires focus, depth and continuity.
For many companies this represents a big challenge due to a lack of skilled and trained staff (in house) to produce good, deep and continuous thought leadership - on their own.
Where resources are limited (in-house) many companies rely on external 'thought leaders' and influencers such as high profile academics, analysts, consultants and industry experts to help shape industry conversations.
Every company is a media company
Tom Foremski has made a passionate and compelling case for why every company is now a media company - in the wake of a disrupted and distributed media industry.
The cascade of the strengthening forces behind the disruption of the media industry (that Tom outlines) has forever changed how corporations manage their communications, reputations, brands and execution of business strategies.On the positive side, companies now have the ability (and forced accountability) to communicate directly with its key audiences – giving them greater reach and more influence than traditional media has ever offered as a primary channel in the past.
Those companies that maximize and mobilize its employees and external stakeholders around important ideas and issues - will be successful.
This is where thought leadership can play a powerful role.
The topic for the panel was inspired by Susan Etlinger at the Horn Group who wanted to convene a group of practitioners, thought leaders and media professionals to discuss the convergence of media, social media and business and what it means for every company to be a media company. It was a provocative topic that made for a great discussion.
The three of us meet regularly to discuss industry trends and share experiences from our respective work in media, business and technology. Our discussions have sharpened our individual and collective views on social media and social business that have helped us (or at least me, anyway) become more effective in our 'day jobs.'
Through our collaboration, we have also identified a great opportunity to share our experiences and ideas through a new blog, intended to help business leaders and practitioners understand how to incorporate social strategies and social thinking into the heart of their business operations (beyond marketing and communications) - strengthening the competitive position and market leadership of their companies.
Today we launched the blog Every Company is a Media Company. This blog is intended to support rich discussion between marketing and communications practitioners, business and IT professionals, academics, consultant, etc.
Here are a few excerpts from the welcome post authored by Tom:
Every company is affected...
Every Company is a Media Company (EC=MC) is the most important business transformation of our times because every company is affected.
It is also a massive business opportunity for so many businesses.
Every company is a media company becomes the point of the spear for new business for many companies across many sectors.
- Companies need help in mastering the best practices of being a media company.
- Management needs help in implementing the new business processes and in measuring progress.
- Companies will need new IT equipment, new software, new types of services, and more...
There will be opportunities for vendors of all types, armies of consultants, experts of all stripes, media professionals, teachers, authors...
Beyond social media...
Every company is a media company moves beyond the current focus on social media. Social media is just one aspect of a company's media strategy.
Social media is not enough, companies have to focus on their entire media strategy, it becomes integral to their core business strategy.
You have to be involved...
2010, where have you gone?!
One of the great highlights for me so far in 2010 has been the opportunity to collaborate with two great industry friends and SNCR colleagues - Tom Foremski and Vanessa DiMauro.
Tom is a well known blogger who left the Financial Times about six years ago to be a full time journalist blogger. For the past six years he has built a loyal following of 60k+ people who subscribe to his popular blog Silicon Valley Watcher to read his keen observations and straight shooting analysis on the important trends in business, technology and media driving Silicon Valley. (Tom is also credited with defining the term “Every Company is a Media Company”)
Vanessa is a well known thought leader, researcher and accomplished business women. Through her company Leader Networks she has made quite a name for herself advising companies and developing high profile communities and social networks for businesses. Her efforts have helped to bring her client companies closer to customers, employees, partners and thought leaders - delivering great business value in return.
Through our collaboration, Tom, Vanessa and I meet regularly to discuss industry trends and share experiences from our respective work in media, business, and technology. The collaboration has (in part) formed a great foundation for thought leadership, education and insight about the impact of social media on business - with particular emphasis on how business leaders should incorporate social strategies and social thinking into the heart of their business operations (beyond marketing and communications).
Over the last two years much has been written about social media as a tool(s) for marketing and communications professionals to expand the reach and engagement with their key stakeholders (customers, partners, employees and influencers) to communicate messages, create and shape reputations and generate buzz around a company’s products and services.
The hype around social media in the context of marketing and communications has created a vibrant industry for consultants and technology companies to offer high value thought leadership, education (via events/workshops) and tools that have helped many ‘practitioners’ evolve and adapt to working in a world that is ‘all things social.’
Spending on social media projects is expected to reach $3.1B by 2014 up from $700M in 2009 according to Forrester. This is an amazing number and I am sure there are forecasts by other organizations that predict even higher spend and growth.
Coming out of ‘The Great Recession’ of 2008/2009 many business leaders see the benefits of social media from an operational perspective as a way to significantly reduce spend on high cost marketing activities (such as advertising and events) by using social media to extend a company’s reach and have a direct dialog with their customers. Social media has arguably been most disruptive to traditional corporate communication models due to its use by investors, consumers, partners, employees, governments and influencers (media, analysts, academia, etc) to share opinions and talk about companies that have had significant affect on reputation management.
Recent stats show that the adoption of social media by everyday people has reached impressive and eye opening numbers: