Social media is certainly the flavour of the moment and forming a big focus of brands’ digital marketing budgets for 2012. Much has been reported and blogged over the last 12 months or so on the value of a Facebook ‘like’, or perhaps the lack of its value in monetary terms, but the figures quoted are wide-ranging and therefore not helpful. According to Facebook themselves, the average “liker” has over twice the amount of friends than a typical Facebook user and clicks on five times more external links, which can be beneficial to brands and their social engagement strategies. The issue of commercialisation is however still to be resolved.
But are we now reaching a tipping point for hyper-sociability? There are some early signs of declining consumer interest in Facebook. Is the novelty waning because brands are encroaching; or is it a case of people thinking I now have 1,000 ‘friends’ and now what? Some users are also becoming burdened by administration, or feeling threatened by privacy policies and treatment of their information online – the first signs of anti-social media behaviour perhaps?
Putting aside the potential legal minefield, for the research industry the challenge is to gain permission to access potential respondents’ social media space. The likes of Google+ and other 'closed' groups will pose even more of a challenge to research the typically hard to reach 15-34 age group via social media.
This takes me on to mobile, which I believe will be a key element of media research this year - even more so than before. The iPhone then Android mobile app revolution have considerably accelerated the adoption and usage of smartphones in an amazingly short period of time. Researchers have been quick to jump on this with e.g. passive mobile measurement and audio watermarking. The technology is already here and has been employed by Ipsos for mobile readership and radio audience measurement respectively. For the latter, this means inaudible signals broadcast on radio and a panellist carrying an electronic device that can detect this signal passively via a bespoke app. The same principle could be extended to TV, outdoor, internet audience measurement - i.e. one mobile device capturing multi-media usage.
But it’s a fast moving environment, which is tremendously challenging for researchers. Mobile and social media are buzzwords for this year, and they will be next year too but things will have moved on. Just as we think we’ve cracked it, the technology evolves or upgrades, so we have to refine our methods accordingly - forever playing catch-up.
As Einstein said, “We cannot solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Clever man that Albert.
John Carroll is Senior Director of Ipsos MediaCT and Chair of the Media Research Group.