Since the beginning of the year, I’ve had a working theory that the social media buzz of last year is fundamentally changed. I’m not suggesting that social media is dead – no, it’s here to stay. Rather, there’s an evolution to its usage; it’s something of a maturing market. Over the past week, several news headlines have caught my attention:
MySpace looks to the past for its future. The social networking site plans to return to its roots by pushing entertainment content and jettisoning portal-like features. (3/10/10, LA Times)
Facebook and Twitter join the location wars. Facebook and Twitter are each rolling out geo-location services designed to link updates to users’ current locations. Twitter’s feature uses Google Map overlays to show users’ whereabouts, while Facebook plans to introduce a location-based service at next month’s f8 conference. (3/10/10, Smart Brief on Social Media)
At SXSWi, Twitter may finally have met its match. No question Twitter is still huge here, but Foursquare and Gowalla have to be considered a major part of people’s organizing principle. (3/16/10, CNET.com)
Surprised? It was only a matter of time before end-users started asking – and expecting answers to – the question: “what’s in it for me?” (We saw the same thing with Internet adoption in the mid-to-late 1990s.) The economic downturn of last year, in my opinion, helped fuel interest in social media (people had more time on their hands), which may have accelerated the questioning of social media’s value/investment.
A Barracuda Labs’ study of 19 million Twitter accounts supports this idea, at least in part. Interest in Twitter peaked during the first two-thirds of last year, the height of the economic downturn.
This study reported on in MediaMemo, also did an interesting analysis: they defined “True” Twitter users as those who had at least 10 followers, were following at least 10 people and had tweeted at least 10 times. Using that definition, only 21% of Twitter users were “True.”
Furthermore, “in terms of tweets, the report estimates that 34% of Twitter users hadn’t tweeted even once, while a whopping 73% of Twitter’s users tweeted less than 10 times. That means nearly all of the tweets on the social network were coming from about 1/4 of the user base. Power users dominate.”
If the 80-20 rule applies, that means that around the world, around 5% of Tweeters are generating the content. In all likelihood, that’s not very engaging or interactive for most people.
So the evolution in social media isn’t all that surprising. People want to be noticed for their efforts and geo-location services get them noticed.
If you’re a marketer who’s still wondering about social media and its payout, particularly if you have a retail presence, look into the geo-location services and design retention and promotional programs around them. (They will be especially effective with your younger target and should be eminently measurable.)
If you’re into social media, keep an eye out for the aggregation services (tweets posting to Facebook; the centralization of content). This way, if you decide to take a “short-cut” you don’t lose your reach with your audience.
Want to learn more? There’s a great piece from Mashable called “9 Killer Tips for Location-Based Marketing” which you can find by clicking here.