Apparently, there's no slowing down the social media frenzy. Remarkably, even after making huge inroads in the past year, social media will be even hotter in 2010. We're talking about increased investment, broader adoption footprint with greater corporate buy-in.
Here are a few evidences pointing to this trend -
More Users Spending More Time
All over the world, usage on social network sites is increasing. According to Nielsen, users spent significantly more time (approx 5.5 hours) on social network sites in 2009 than the preceding year with Facebook usage outpacing all other sites (6 hours). This represents an 82% jump in usage time and there's no reason to think that's going to slow down in 2010. Social media is also broadening its base from young, hip and urban to older, remote users.
Bigger Global Footprint
Part of that report also pointed out how usage is increasing globally. In fact, the country with the most time spent on social networks is not the USA, but Australia. Social media isn't just a North American phenomenon. European users have usage profiles very similar to North American users. The one negative data point - usage is lower in Japan.
Corporate Investment Increasing
Marketers will spend more on social media in 2010 and not simply in terms of human resource invested. According to eMarketer, ad spend on social media worldwide will be up 12% totaling $2.2B. Facebook ad spend is estimated to grow even faster at 39%.
CMOs Demanding Results, Not Stories
With increased spend, CMOs and other marketing executives are paying attention. They're demanding more than social media anecdotes, they expect measurable results.
MarketingProfs published a report indicating that marketing executives are looking beyond the hype. More than half of the executives are skeptical of the actual value that Twitter offers with 15% believing that there's no value at all.
With all the hype only getting louder, what are the issues for social media? I think there are three that come to mind -
1. ROI, ROI, ROI. Increased spend means increased accountability. You can expect social media ROI to be the big issue for the space in 2010. Although the path to ROI might not be as clear or direct as we might hope for, there are ways to quantify this indirectly. I'll save that for another post on another day.
2. Rationalizing Social Identity Silos. Companies are spending time cultivating Facebook fan pages, Twitter followers and Linkedin groups but each of these are silos of identities and profile information. And, they are typically unconnected to prospect or customer databases. If you're a business, how do you optimize value from this situation?
3. Efficacy of Social Media Ads. Not all online ad venues are created equal. While search ads have proven effective for marketers over the years, social network ads are still unproven. In particular, Facebook ads remain a puzzle to many. From my non-scientific analysis and informal polling of users, many have wondered about the relevance of Facebook ads. In the hit/miss world of online ads, it often appears to be more miss than hit. I'm not the only one raising questions - check out a more thoughtful analysis by Augustine Fou, Digital Marketing executive at Omnicom.