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Will increasingly passive fans change your social media strategy and how you measure success?

September 13, 2012

Social marketers, raise your hand if you are frustrated with your social media program producing very mediocre engagement results despite your ongoing efforts to produce user-focused content and actively engage in relevant social communities. Are you scratching your head and beginning to doubt the validity of your social media marketing program design? Are you seeing your attention/traffic metrics growing, but your engagement/participation metrics plateauing or going down? GlobalWebIndex Trend report might have an explanation for this trend.

Remember when social media made its debut in late 1990s and early 2000s it was mostly about self-publishing and conversations between friends and peers. GlobalWebIndex Research shows that social media usage is changing from peer-to-peer conversations & sharing to more of a listening channel where large numbers of mainstream users configure their social media channels to hear from and only occasionally interact with public persona, organizations and companies whose products and services they use. Surprised? I am not since I have been seeing this trend in social media programs I administer.

If social users are becoming increasingly passive ( shown by 16% decline in users utilizing the messaging capabilities of social media between Q1 and Q2 of 2012) and users are focused on consuming information they find of value, the importance of using your company’s social media properties as a sustainable broadcasting channel should be at the forefront of your program’s strategy. This of course does not mean spamming everyone who subscribes to your channel with the same message, but segmenting your followers to deliver the right message to the right fan at the right time. That’s value.

Should this shift in social media usage have an impact on a way we are measuring our social media programs’ health? I think that if your audience is increasingly listening and consuming content and decreasingly commenting and engaging back you should re-visit and possibly re-align your social media metrics, but I would be cautious to make sudden and major changes to your measuring strategies based just on this report. I also think that it’s time to pay more attention to your “attitude” metrics. Let me explain. We’ve been conditioned to focus on the engagement metrics including # of comments & likes and the overall viral spread of information on the social web. These metrics alone my not adequately represent the health of our social program in the era of passive social consumer. It will be interesting to see if this trend affects the “action” metrics (measuring actions your user takes as a result of consuming your content, e.g. clicks on a link which results in a lead or a sale) and attitudinal metrics (measuring change in your users’ attitudes as a result of your social media engagement.

What do you think? How will the passive consumer trend affect your social media strategy?

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