Tag Archives: social media

More Adults Using Social Media. What it Means for Businesses.

30 Mar

Figure 1 - Adults Using Social Networking Sites

The research folks at Pew Internet have just given us more proof that the phenomena known as social media is not just a passing fad.  As Facebook has reached 483 million daily users, Pew latest data shows us that 66% of online adults now use social networking sites.   Not surprisingly women are leading the way. (Figure 1)

The latest Pew research mirrors trends I gathered in my own research of social media users in the Twin Cities.   Women tend to be power users.   Not only are they more heavily engaged in social media,  women were more likely to “friend” or “like” a business than men would.   Facebook is the channel of choice with 90% of Twin Cities respondents indicating use the site.  Pew’s new national data set from February of 2012 shows us that women are still in driver’s seat with 71% using social networking sites.

Figure 2

Pew also confirms that social media use is still in a growth phase.   Typical daily usage among adults has rocketed from 27% in April of 2009 to 48% in February of 2012. (Figure 2)

So what does this mean if you’re a business owner looking to reach out to your customers?

  • Conduct some customer research.  Are your customers using social media, and what channels?  What do they want from you—product news?  Help?
  • If women are your primary customers, you must be on Facebook.
  • Encourage customers to follow you on SNS to get exclusive content or discounts.
  • Respond to customer comments on a DAILY if not IMMEDIATE basis.

The last tip is vital.  Internet users who are accessing social media for customer service want immediate feedback.  I recently spoke with Brittney Madsen the online manager at The Wedding Shoppe in St. Paul who said that her customers are increasing turning to the store’s Facebook page to ask questions about designers, price, and inventory.   Madsen said that if she doesn’t respond within minutes, the customers will go to a competitor looking for answers.  In this store’s experience, social media has become just as important of a business tool as a phone.

The Wedding Shoppe’s experience along with Pew’s latest research shows adults are embracing social media.  While it is still a place for personal connections, by making your engagements personal to your customer, you can be a part of their lives.

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How Businesses and Consumers are using Social Media for Customer Support

25 Mar

As the internet becomes more ingrained as a 21st century communications channel, it should come as no surprise that consumers are using it to reach out to businesses to either connect or solve problems.

Current research from Pew shows how 59% of all adults use the internet.   Of those people, 43% use social networking sites.   But how are they using social media to connect with brands and business, and just as important, how are those brands responding?

Here is an extremely useful infograph from the folks at Zendesk that shows how those relationships are forming.

Pink Slime — Anatomy of a Contagion

23 Mar

The gooey mess known as Pink Slime has suddenly become a public relations mess too.  But, how did it go from a food additive to a food disaster in record time?  A large part of the answer lies in the power of social memes and the ability of key audiences to spread it like a contagion.

Figure 1 - Pink Slime

Let’s break it down.  In this case, the food additive included in some forms of processed beef came with a descriptive slang name and an iconic image: pink slime. (Figure 1)

In its basic form, pink slime a substance made from the rendered connective tissues and intestines of cows.  Because those tissues are susceptible to e-coli contamination, they are processed with ammonium nitrate to kill the bacteria and act as a preservative.   For years the FDA has approved the additive as a safe filler for meat products.  But when an image and video of the substance appeared in the news reports in early March about its presence in school lunch hamburgers, pink slime became a household word as fast as parents could hit the “send” button on their computers.   As a Google Trends analysis shows, pink slime went viral in a matter of 24-hours and has not let up since. (Figure 2)

Figure 2 - Google Trends

Three key factors are involved here.  First, the image itself of the pink slime became what social psychologist Jaap Van Genneken would call a strong replicator.  In other words, it’s an iconic image that developed and sealed an emotion in the minds of the viewer.  In this case, the image leads to the very human response of questioning what this substance is doing in our food—especially our children’s food at school.

Second, the image sealed itself in the minds of an important audience.   That audience is mainly women, in particular, the mothers of school children.

Third, these women not only saw the image of the pink slime included in stories in various news media, they spread the story to their friends and peer groups in social media.  My own audience research among social media users indicates that women are heavily invested in, and are heavy users of social channels.   They not only use social media as a way of discovering news from their friends, but to share news and issues that are important to them.   When this story broke, the image, the issue, and the salience to their children and families created its own perfect recipe for a modern-day social issue contagion. (Figure 3)

Figure 3 - Contagion Model

The result has been a sudden abandonment of meat products containing the so-called pink slime.  Several major grocery store chains have now said they have stopped ordering beef products containing the additive.   One of them is Twin Cities based SuperValue which owns and operates Cub Food stores throughout the Midwest.   Here’s its statement:

“We’ve heard concerns from many of our shoppers about the inclusion of finely textured beef in some of the ground beef products available at our stores. Effective today, we have made the decision to no longer purchase fresh ground beef products that contain finely textured beef.”  -SuperValue

            The power of the contagion lies in the statement’s first sentence.   Consumers spoke up.  SuperValue listened.  It’s a 21st century lesson in the speed of which issues closely tied to strong memes can spread, and the power of key audiences armed with a “send” button.

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