New research points to impact of social media and ‘digital natives’ on your brand.
Despite last Thursday’s stomach churning “flash crash” in the financial markets, most U.S. stock indices are clawing their way back to positive territory for the year. This resiliency, in the face of the European debt crisis, the Time Square Bombing, the Staten Island Ferry crash, the BP/Gulf of Mexico oil spill, flooding in the South and tornados in the Midwest, is encouraging.
U.S. payrolls rose by nearly 300,000 in April, the largest monthly jobs gain in over four years. Most experts are ignoring the fact that the squishy “official” unemployment rate rose to 9.9 percent from 9.7 percent. Experts say it’s a sign that once-discouraged Americans have returned to the job market – not a deluge of layoffs from corporate America.
The construction and manufacturing sectors also showed signs of life in the latest economic report, raising hopes of an improving job market. The Institute for Supply Management Monday said the manufacturing barometer had improved 60.4 percent in April, the highest level June 2004. A Commerce Department report said consumer spending rose 0.6 percent in March – the largest increase in five months and households saved less, socking away 2.7 percent of their income in March down from 3.0 percent in Feb. Again, we see the gradual reduction in consumer savings as a confidence indicator, not a return of the conspicuous consumption that marked the latter part of the previous decade.
Is the worst over?
“The worst of the economic impact on Internet advertising is over and the seeds of growth have been planted,” said PricewaterhouseCoopers’ David Silverman in a statement following the release of a new study his firm did in conjunction with the Interactive Advertising Bureau. Forrester Research, Zenith Optimedia and other media forecasting groups have generally revised their 2010 and 2011 ad spending projections favorably in recent months, with most of the upside going to growing sectors (Web, online video, social media, television, outdoor) with a modest slump to continue in out of favor sectors (newspapers, magazines and radio).
Social media and your brand
Though slightly more than 50 percent of regular users never post status updates on Twitter; 70 percent do so on social networking sites like Facebook. Experts say Twitter acts more like a broadcast medium than Facebook does, but users are more than three times as likely to follow brands and companies on Twitter as others users of social networks do, with over 40 percent using Twitter to learn about and provide opinions on brands, according to a recent Edison Research study.
So will social media deliver measurable results for marketers? Well, more than half of marketers surveyed by Datran Media in its fourth annual Marketing & Media Survey say they’re confident it will, and only one in eight (12%) say they’re confident it won’t deliver results. Researchers said social media continues to be a wildcard, but it’s getting easier to measure the impact of a tweet or an update on LinkedIn on the final conversation.
Social media is not as effective at building search engine rankings as it is for building brand awareness and reputation, says a recent Marketing Sherpa study of over 2,000 marketers.
Social media IS effective for:
• Increasing brand or product awareness 49% agree
• Increasing brand or product reputation 45%
• Increasing public relations 43%
• Increasing Web site traffic 41%
• Improving search engine rankings 35%
Anti social networking of teens, i.e. your future consumers
Last week, the Pew Research Center found that half of American teenagers — defined in the study as ages 12 through 17 — send 50 or more text messages a day and that one third send more than 100 a day. Two thirds of the texters surveyed by the center’s Internet and American Life Project said they were more likely to use their cell phones to text friends than to call them. Fifty-four percent said they text their friends once a day, but only 33 percent said they talk to their friends face-to-face on a daily basis. The findings came just a few months after the Kaiser Family Foundation reported that Americans between the ages of 8 and 18 spend on average 7.5 hours a day using some sort of electronic device, from smart phones to MP3 players to computers — a startling number,
The question on researchers’ minds is whether all that texting, instant messaging and online social networking allows children to become more connected and supportive of their friends — or whether the quality of their interactions is being diminished without the intimacy and emotional give and take of regular, extended face-to-face time.
Gary Small, a neuroscientist and professor of psychiatry at U.C.L.A. and an author of "iBrain: Surviving the Technological Alteration of the Modern Mind," said in a New York Times interview that so-called “digital natives,” a term for the generation that has grown up using computers, are already having a harder time reading social cues. “Even though young digital natives are very good with the tech skills, they are weak with the face-to-face human contact skills,” he said.
While many parents and educators fret that the ease of electronic communication may be making teens less interested in face-to-face communication with their friends, we think marketers and employers need to adjust their communications strategies for the crowdsourcing nature of today’s digital natives.
Will young people still be able to sell and communicate?
“Teaching new sales people how to ask good questions and how to listen and keep the intelligence gathering dialogue going in a face to face setting is an absolute ssential,” said Eric Wynne, President of Wynne Media Company in a recent panel discussion I moderated. “It doesn’t come naturally to many of them as they’ve been attuned to communicating by screen in a very truncated fashion.”
Molly Sargent, Principal of Professional Impressions Consulting concurred. “Younger sales people just haven’t been trained the right way. You can’t just do your due diligence on the Web. There’s more to researching a company than Google and Hoovers. They’re not trained in how to pick up the phone, how to ask those critical questions, how to find the internal champion, how to sleuth ahead of time before the call.
At the end of the day, people want to do business with people they like and trust. With all the new technology tools available for reaching, tracking and micro-targeting our prospects, let’s not forget the most important part of selling and marketing successfully -- human interaction.