Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Top Five Social Media Truths

Advertising Age's Taddy Hall has a great post about the essential rules for brand, law and otherwise when it comes to social media.

In the search for truth, sometimes social media is its own worst enemy. With a self-credentialed guru waiting at every click, finding actionable, fact-based insight is tricky.

So, in a modest attempt to bring a dose of sanity to this intellectual frat party, I've reined my impulse to lob more "personal picks" into the fray. Instead, I'll follow the wisdom of an august data mining colleague to just "let the data speak."

Our process was to query data from hundreds of our brand clients to see what testable truths emerged -- and here's what we found: 10 rules that hold up across category and time.

1. The 1% Rule
In category after category, our data show that a small fraction of site visitors are responsible for a substantial portion of total site traffic. On average, the percentage of influential users (defined for our purposes simply as a visitor who's subsequent sharing actions result in at least one additional site visitor) on a given site is 0.6% and rarely above 4%. However, these influencers regularly generate 20%-50% of total site traffic and an even higher share of conversion (defined however a site owner so decides). To make social media marketing effective, marketers have to identify and engage -- and better recognize and reward -- these super-influentials.

2. The 2-4X Rule
When it comes to conversion, visitors driven to a site by influencers are to to four times more likely to convert compared to visitors from other sources, such as display advertisements or paid search. That means your landing pages for people coming from shared links and social sites should reflect these visitors' interests and offer enticing deals that will encourage them not only to convert but to share the deals with others.

3. The New Media/New Pipes Rule
In today's socially driven internet, it matters far more what consumers do with your content than what you do with your content. What they say about your brand means more than what you say about your brand. Our data shows that content spread from consumer to consumer through word-of-mouth is far more powerful at driving brand preference and purchase intent than content distributed by the brand itself. This has profound implications in social media. To illustrate, if a brand puts content on its Facebook fan page, it is far less likely to go viral than if an influential consumer puts that very same piece of content on his or her page or posts it to a relevant community of enthusiasts.

4. The Martha Stewart Rule
Throw your own party; don't just cater someone else's! If you base your social campaigns in venues you don't control -- such as Facebook or YouTube -- you may get great "attendance," but data show it's hard to convert and retain these party-goers. If your goals are anything beyond building brand awareness, it's better to have a house of your own where friends can find you -- such as your own branded social site, contest site, or customer forum.

5. The Power of "Weak Links" Rule
Influentials generally do have many direct "friends" and "followers," but what makes them truly valuable is the number and relevance of their extended or indirect connections. As Albert-Laszlo Barabasi illustrated in "Linked," you are far more likely to find your next job through a friend-of-a-friend than through an intimate contact. These "weak links" matter in the "real world," and they matter even more online. A critical implication for marketers is the need to track the extended social graphs of their content if they are going to be able to understand and activate the dynamics of influence.

Five more essential rules tomorrow!

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