disconnect between stated and actual behavior.
Start with. But use in totality. Two different things.
To me, social media is important. But, with all things new, we need to avoid getting caught up in the hype. If we are focused on those who use social media, then we obviously need to base our decisions on their tendencies / propensities. Where I have concern is when we make broad, market wide strategic statements based on research that applies to a specific tactic. As we dive down deeper into these specific tactics, particularly hot ones, we run the risk of magnifying research numbers beyond their true size.
A recent release from Nielsen, if not read carefully, can create just such a scenario. In part, it reads…
“… “search” as the dominant form of Internet navigation or, how we get to where we we’re going on the web. However, as with most forms of evolution, change is constant, and over the past two years search navigation has appeared to shift to social media…”
“We continue to see that social media has not only changed the way consumers communicate and gather on the Web, but also impacted content discovery and navigation in a big way.”
These are two very broad statements. Taken at face value, one might assume that we should shift a large share of resources away from search (for example) and into Social media. A more accurate depiction of the data would be to state that “for socializers (18% of those surveyed),…” 15% said that blogs are a trusted source of information online. Or, more accurately Socializers (the 18%) who think blogs are a trusted sources (15% of the 18%) make up 2.7% of those surveyed.
To be fair,Blogs were also sited as trusted sources of information for about 9% of portalist and 6% of searchers, or a total of 8% of those surveyed.
Take a look at the survey graphs, you can see that the number for “facebook and Twitter” as trusted sources is even lower… among all groups.
Okay, enough with the percentages of percentages, the bottom line is read the detail of any survey, research or statement… about any media.
My final take on this is about methodology. The survey method is a fine, valid way to get input from consumers. However, two points. First, the results that were quantified are based on the source the users “start” with. It does not speak to the overlap of source use. So, even among those 18% that are heavy socializers, there is nothing in the stated research results to suggest that they are not using other sources. Often, there is heavy overlap between primary and secondary source usage, but there is nothing here to let us know. Second, be leery of self reported behavior. Again, not invalid, but need to be backed by empirical data. A good, recent perspective from Vovici.
I am not trying to knock social. I believe in it as a way to keep up with the general perceptions of consumers, a way to provide feedback and develop more meaningful contact points. But, marketers need to engage social with their eyes wide open. Look at all numbers with a scrutinizing perspective.
Jon Gibs, VP Media Analytics
In the beginning there were ISPs, which then gave way to portals ― aggregators of content and links ― which then led to the rise of “search” as the dominant form of Internet navigation or, how we get to where we we’re going on the web. However, as with most forms of evolution, change is constant, and over the past two years search navigation has appeared to shift to social media.
We continue to see that social media has not only changed the way consumers communicate and gather on the Web, but also impacted content discovery and navigation in a big way. But how? Is social media taking the place of portals and search as the hub of online navigation?
These questions led to some in-depth research – including an online panel survey of 1,800 participants fielded in August 2009 – in which we looked at three main consumer segments using search (Searchers), portals (Portalists) or social media (Socializers) as their primary vehicle for content discovery.
What We Found
In a nutshell, there is a segment of the online population that uses social media as a core navigation and information discovery tool — roughly 18 percent of users see it as core to finding new information. While still a smaller percentage than those who use search engines or portals like Yahoo! or MSN, it is a significant figure. And as social media usage continues to increase (unique visitors to Twitter.com increased 959% YOY in August) I can only expect this figure to grow.
The appeal of Social Media
At the root of the changing nature of content discovery is the sheer amount of information that is available on the Web. If you want to learn more about the latest smartphone released into the market, your favorite search engine is sure to provide you with hundreds, if not thousands, of articles about the device. But with the increasing number of resources available, it’s difficult to know what you should believe or take at face value. Socializers – those who spend 10 percent or more of their online time on social media – feel this effect more than others do. When asked, 26 percent feel that there is too much information available on the Internet, compared to 18 percent of people who predominantly use portals and just 5 percent of people who primarily use search engines.
But why does too much information lead one to use social media as a navigation tool? The short answer: Socializers trust what their friends have to say and social media acts as an information filtration tool. This is key because Socializers gravitate towards and believe what is shared with friends and family. If your friend creates or links to the content, then you are more likely to believe it and like it. And this thought plays out in the data.
We saw the power of opinions posted online in our global study earlier this year about trust in advertising, and the point came up again in our recent findings. Social media is becoming a core product research channel. Almost 15 percent of Socializers most trusted information they found on blogs when researching new purchases online, while nearly 20 percent trusted most the information they found on message boards.
So are social networks replacing portals or search engines? Perhaps. Regardless, if we don’t understand and address people feeling increasingly alienated by the amount of information on the Internet, and the need for a human guide, yes, your favorite social network (or something like it) will become the next great content gateway.
For more, join me for our webinar The Evolution of Content Discovery on Tuesday, October 6 (2PM ET)