Social Media Channel Decline by Users

We’re always doing research into how people are using Social Media, much of it for clients, much of it the result of the research we do for clients. One interesting trend we’ve noted over the past few months – people are turning off the garden hose. We’re learning to filter.

As humanity, we’ve suffered from “filter failure” ever since more books were printed than a human could read in their lifetime. All we’ve done is increase the volume, now more significantly.

When we do research for a client, we always look for the “power user” those engaged more than others. We also look at the Echo Ratio (our own stat based on the Solidarity Value of economics) and applying the Power Law Curve. I’m just stating our process here.

Up until 3 months ago, the average joe user of Social Media (i.e. engaged 5-10 hours per week in social media channels) had 5.4 channels they engaged in (that most often comprised in Canada, UK and USA of a social network, microblog, email, blog and one or two others.)

Over the past 3 months we’ve seen that decline quite significantly, down to an average of 3.25 apps per average user of social media channels.

Are we learning to apply filters? We’re now looking at heavier users. I like the posting recently from David Armano on a similar vein.

What do you think?

Social Media and Banks: An Emotional Place

We’ve done a fair amount of research into the financial sector in the past year, both Canada and the United States. Most of our data is of course, confidential to the client. But we can speak in “aggregate” terms of our findings. The broad strokes so to speak.

To put it bluntly, there is a lot of anger, frustration and distrust out there. No surprise given the tail end of 2008 and the subsequent spiral into a financial quagmire. Canada may have gotten off a little better, but it still saw a wallop at the banks in terms of consumer mistrust.

There’s lots of chatter going on, as might be expected. We found women tend to discuss bank services more than men (62% female overall) and that the most popular age group for discussion was 30-45. We looked at commentary in online newspapers, newsgroups and forums, blogs, microblogs and some social networking sites. Over 1.7M “conversations” in total across Canada and the U.S.

The topics that ranked the highest for consumer negativity towards the financial sector;

1. Mortgages

2. Fees and service charges

3. customer service

As might be expected, the larger the bank, the more negativity. Smaller, more localized banks in the U.S. had higher consumer sentiment while in Canada it was credit unions that saw the most positive sentiment. People are frustrated. Banks that used “trust” statements in their slogans were hit the worst with re-purposed content turning those slogans back on themselves.

So what does this all mean? As an industry sector, the financial world of businesses has a lot more trust building to do with consumers. It’s no small surprise, but banks and other financial institutions are likely addressing this issue. One wonders how consumer sentiment might be in a year or two from now. The volume of discussion is still rising across multiple social media channels as well. We expect to see a peak by May or June of this year, but that remains to be validated.

Why Email is Still the Killer App of Social Media

Because it’s boring. Email is boring.

But more people use email than Facebook or Twitter. Combined. Every day. Still.

Email spans a wider demographic range than any other social technology application. We’re already seeing (in our own research and others) that age groups are defining social technologies…more on that later.

Email is ridiculously simple and it’s boring. Across many age groups, we’ve mastered email, whether that’s via a Web interface like Gmail or Hotmail or if we have an email client like Mail or Entourage or Thunderbird. Most of us already have our various “groups” that we send stuff to. We don’t think about it, we just “forward”, “reply” or create new, copy/paste or drag/drop and hit “send.” And we’re done. Boring. That’s when social change comes about from a technology; when it becomes boring.

Jody Williams won a nobel peace prize for land mine activism – mostly using email and faxes. Two boring technologies.

The phone eventually enabled the ability to have 911 service, of which a TV show was created. Because it was boring and we all knew how to dial a phone. In the 1930’s phones were pretty much banned in offices.

Facebook is not an email “killer” because it’s still complicated and not boring yet. Same thing with Twitter.

A new social media technology that is now pretty much boring is SMS/txt messaging and perhaps the first instance of txt messaging benefiting society was Haiti – that most of the money raised in the US, Canada and UK was through SMS donations. In the 2005 Orange Revolution in the Ukraine, it was txt messaging that played the key role in gathering people to protest the election results and promoted democracy. It’s getting boring.

So, what do you think? Is email still the number one social technology?

Social Media & Political Action: When?

We haven’t really seen significant impact on politics in Canada, the USA or UK yet as a result of Social Media. You might be tempted to say “ah, but Obama used it well.” Yes, he did. But it was campaign stuff, slogans, videos, speeches. We’ve seen some effective use of Twitter in Egypt, Iran and attempts in Belorus.

In Canada the whole “prorogued” issue took off in Social Media and became a meme, and continues to thrive, albeit somewhat less so. But it didn’t result in the Prime Minister calling Parliament back. Discussions take place, there are plenty of political blogs, messages on Twitter and then there’s all those Facebook Groups; support this, protest that, save this. Nice. But still window dressing in the end.

I think there’s two factors at work here:

1) We’re still enamored with the capablities; making fun videos, sharing stuff, editing photo’s and such. I’d suggest we’re still in the “Honeymoon Phase” which I’ve suggested before. It’s all still new and fresh and fun. That will change.

2) It’s because it’s still in large part entertainment and to some degree, industrial media portrays it that way. Metrics to measure and understand Social Media are still in their infancy and there are no standards like there are with focus groups and polling mechanisms. That makes it hard for politicians and policy makers to take it seriously.

So if that’s the case, will Social Media become a serious contender for the attention of government policy makers and political parties? Absolutely.

One very important fact about Social Media: it enables the almost instantaneous formation of groups and the collaboration capabilities to enable consensus development.

We just haven’t seen real activism develop from a Facebook group that’s evolved into a determined political agenda resulting in regulatory, policy or legislative change.

That will happen. It’s starting. Some small groups are figuring that out. The US Government made a huge step with the Peer-To-Patent program. As government departments understand the collaborative and citizen-expert engagement advantages, Social Technologies will start to see deeper engagement between citizen and government. I give it 5-10 years. Look at how Innocentive is using such social technologies to solve problems.

What do you think?

(Author: G. Crouch)

Social Media: Where Are We Finding the Time?

It’s quite simple as to “where” we find the time. I wish I could claim I found that answer, but I can’t. With all the research we do into Social Media, I get asked this question a lot by agencies and clients alike.

In America alone, over 2 Billion hours of television are watched each year. Or about 2,000 hours per person…which translates into the fact we watch adverts all weekend on the telly.

All we’re doing is adjusting our free time. In Canada, StatsCan research has shown 64% of Canadians watch TV and are online at the same time. That was two years ago.

If we’re watching 2K+ hours of telly a year, then all we’re doing is re-aligning our time. And telly is a one-way medium, there’s no engagement. It’s like the first century of the industrial revolution – everyone drank gin because they had no idea what to do with their free time.

Then the 5 day work week came along and so did television; we suddenly had the sitcom to occupy our brain, since we just didn’t know what to do with ourselves.

Think of that on a grand human race scale; we went from hunting and gathering to still working crazy hours on the farms, to industrialization and modern commerce and we suddenly had, as a race, more free time than ever.

We’re simply adjusting from gin to telly to social media. And I suspect we’re still in the very early stage as many sociologists think. We’re tossing apps at the iPhone wall and waiting for them to stick; most aren’t, but some will.

Sound reasonable to you?

(Author: G. Crouch)