Today, I turn 26 years old. Maybe you think I’m pretty young… or just maybe you’re thinking that’s the perfect age (and I’m hoping this is the case!). As I prepared for a simultaneous election and birth-day, I began reflecting on what it means to be 26 in a “social” world: how has my social media use changed over time; how do I use use social media differently from my parents, my older sister, and my co-workers; and most importantly for us at db&r, what does all this mean for social media marketers?
The truth is that we all use social networks differently. At least for now. But I wonder, as social media evolves beyond a “trend” and into a major element of our lives, what will determine how our usages continue to differ (or not) – our age? Our income? Our interests? Our job? And, will engagement with brands change too?
In 2010, Forrester developed a way to classify consumers based on how they use social media. These “social technographics“ delineate seven overlapping levels of participation. At the bottom level there are those who are completely inactive (“inactives”) and at the top are those who create and share their own content via social networks (“creators”). Based on these levels of participation, Forrester conducts surveys among various demographics to determine social media tendencies across age, geographic location, and gender. To get a sense of how it works, check out their consumer social technographics profile tool.
But as social media is further assimilated into our lives and society, it seems that usage across these categories should change at least a little bit. Or could it be that how we interact with social media is so wrapped up in how we interact with the world at large, that no matter how long you’ve been using it, we’ll continue to use it in the same ways?
Let’s take one type of user as an example: people at their jobs. The use of social media on the job is increasing every year. In fact, 6 in 10 employees access social media multiple times a day at work, according to research released today from SilkRoad Technology. Nearly half of those people are logging on to connect with coworkers, and 44% use it to connect with customers – so people are now using social media at work to actually do their jobs, not necessarily just for personal reasons. How about teens? On average about 80% of the time they spend online is spent on a social network. Considering this, it seems increasingly impossible that the “inactives” among us will continue to be so.
This is great news for brands, right? If we all were to shift up one rung on the social technograph “ladder,” – such that inactives become participants and those on the middle run become creators – it stands to reason that our engagement with brands via social media will deepen as well.
But here’s the catch: interaction via social media does not necessarily indicate an increase in the level of our engagement with brands, or even with social networking as a whole. Statistics reveal that over the past 50 years, our consumption of media has increased from 5 to 12 hours a day. And, in more recent history, internet users visit roughly 40 different websites a day while switching from one to the other, totaling 36 times within one hour.
So no matter how much we’re using social media - on average about 22.5% of our online time - we’re not necessarily engaging actively, let alone actively engaging with a brand.
What does this mean for brands? Stop trying to get all of your customers/potential customers to engage with your brand in the same way through the same social networks. Start to recognize that engagement comes at a variety of levels and intensities. There’s no standard amount of time or normalcy that will magically make your target audience participate more with your brand via social media.
Instead, work on creating content that stands out, and on developing relationships with all your customers no matter where they land on the social technographics ladder. Focus first on relationships and no matter how our interaction with social media changes with time, you’ll be successful.
How do you think our social media use will change over time? How could this affect social media marketing?