Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Which Communications Channel is Most Popular?

You may have noticed the headline on Marketing Charts about a week ago, “Social Nets and Blogs More Popular than Email.” As often happens, the headline oversimplifies a complex reality that deserves a closer look. According to Marketing Charts:

Social Networking has been the global consumer phenomenon of 2008. Two-thirds of the world’s Internet population(1) visit a social network or blogging site and the sector now accounts for almost 10% of all internettime. ‘Member Communities’(2) has overtaken personal Email to become the world’s fourth most popular online sector after search, portals and PC software applications.

Their metric is “global active reach” and communities did, in fact, slightly outdistance email in 2008. The chart clearly shows communities to be the fastest-growing sector, which is consistent with other data. The report shows differences in use and growth rate from one country to another. If you're a global marketer, it's must reading.

To put another piece in the puzzle I looked at the OPA’s Internet Activity chart for January 2009. It’s also Nielsen data, and I’ve always believed it to be US only, but I can’t find that specific statement. What it definitely is, though, is a “time spent on the Internet” metric. It shows Internet users spending almost half their time on content, about a fourth on communications and roughly 10% on community activities. Using this metric, community is also the fastest growing—no ambiguity there!

That encourages me to return to the Razorfish Digital Outlook report I discussed last week. The chapter on “Social Influence Marketing” (their concept; pp. 27-33) predicts that the impact of social media marketing and the importance of the influentials in that context will continue to grow. They also see the interconnectedness of the various social media platforms, and therefore of personal networks, growing. That could lead to greater importance of mere acquaintances as opposed to your closest friends, as they introduce new members and new ideas into personal networks.

While Razorfish is clearly promoting their own proprietary concept, it is also obvious that marketers can’t just dive into the social media pond and expect things to happen. Whether you are reaching out to bloggers or attracting fans to your Facebook page or encouraging followers on Twitter, there are people who are more connected, more vocal, more influential.

If you can engage them in your activities, they will attract others. If they do choose to become engaged, does that mean they like you? My answer is “probably.” Otherwise, why would they engage?

Think about it!

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