About the Author

Jason Falls is an author, speaker and CEO of Social Media Explorer. Find him on Twitter @JasonFalls.

Forums Outperform Blogs? Srsly?

Forums Outperform Blogs? Srsly?

While analyzing the sources of online conversations for the banking industry recently, I was stunned to find that 90% of the conversations about banks and bank products were coming from forums and message boards. Even if my methodology were imperfect, 90 percent is a baffling number. As I combed through the various conversations and looked deeper, I discovered the broad statistics weren’t lying. When people talk about banks and bank products, they do so more on old school social media platforms. From my gut-check analysis to date, forums are far more prevalent in online conversations for other industries, too, though at varying degrees.

For marketers, this poses an interesting problem. Forums have never been at the forefront of their social strategies because there are far too many of them, thus fracturing their focus. And forums are often protected by administrators and self-moderating users who shun marketing messages and toss around the “spam” accusation freely. But if these channels are hosting so many conversations — many of which are purchase decision-oriented — what are marketers to do?

In order to confirm or refute this notion that forums and message boards might be an untapped conversation point for marketers, we included several questions in The Social Habit that might better inform us. We started with usage.

Use of You Tube, Forums and Blogs - Last week

It turns out that nearly two-thirds of respondents (American social media users 12 and older) read online message boards, which is more than read blogs. We also asked the same question, though pointed at the last 24 hours rather than week.

YouTube Forums and Blog Use - Last 24 Hours

The numbers go down, but correlate to the weekly responses. More American social media users 12 and older read forums and message boards than blogs.

And yet, where is your forum strategy? What message boards are you participating on regularly to drive your business?

Certainly, there are demographic and even industry differences in these responses. Many of those cross-tabulations can be made with the full data set of The Social Habit (which you can access by purchasing the Premium Consulting Edition). But the results of both these questions and the other information we’ve seen recently with source of conversation investigation would lead us to believe forums and message boards should at least be considered and contemplated as a potential channel for your outreach, monitoring or marketing efforts.

So what say you? Are message boards important to your industry? If so, which ones? The comments are yours.

Why Email Marketing Is Alive And Thriving

Why Email Marketing Is Alive And Thriving

With the advent of any new, exciting or sexy way of doing anything, the advocates for it will proclaim the old methods to be dead. The Internet was supposed to kill print. It hasn’t. Television was supposed to kill radio. It didn’t.

Lately, social media has been said to be the next great “killer” driving things like email marketing to its death. That notion was largely behind my reason to pen The Rebel’s Guide To Email Marketing with DJ Waldow. Social will kill email? No, it won’t. Or at least that is our supposition. But why suppose? Why not ask? It’s kinda what we do here.

In the latest edition of The Social Habit, we asked a representative sample of over 3,000 American social media users 12 and older if they read email from brands products or companies. Of those who responded, 61 percent say that yes, they indeed do read emails from such entities. Email marketing is dead? We think not.

Further, we asked those who responded with a “yes” the question, “Why do you typically read email from a brand, product or company?” And the answers are rather interesting. The top response (and our subjects could pick more than one reason) was to get deals, discounts or coupons. But it wasn’t the only response and understanding all the others is pertinent for marketers wishing to dive into an email marketing program. Some 70 percent of those that read emails from companies do so for the deal. More than half (53%) say they do so to learn about new products and 41 percent want news and updates from the company.

 

Perhaps the content marketing mantra of “don’t talk about yourself” is less applicable than we have been led to believe? That question certainly cannot be answered by this set of data, but it’s interesting to consider.

Of course, we’ve also broken down the reasons by sex, age, ethnicity, income and a variety of other subsets in the tabular data, so investing in The Social Habit’s Option 3 product can help you get to more specific information on this front. But what do you think about the numbers for email marketing responses? Does 61 percent surprise you? How about the 70 percent that do so for the deal? The juxtaposition from the expectation is what normally intrigues me about looking through data. How different are these numbers from your expectations? Tell us in the comments.

 

The Dayparting Of Our Social Habit

The Social Habit survey is in the field for the first edition of our new, unified effort to improve the quality of social media consumer research available for you. In this first quarterly edition, we’re asking some custom questions, which you can ask in future editions, but we’ve built a far more in-depth range of questions about the habits of Americans 12 and up and their use of new and social media.

A series of questions we’re asking revolves around what social channels people use at various times of day during a typical weekday. Looking at the major social channels — in this iteration Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, Path, message boards, blogs and YouTube are identified as such — we’re asking if people typically check or participate in these networks right after they wake up in the mornings, while working, in the evenings and right before they go to sleep.

English: The face of a black windup alarm clock

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On the surface, it might seem that we’re simply trying to ascertain what time of day people typically participate in social media. But it’s far more leading than that. Dayparting, a broadcast media term, actually does far more than tell you when people do things. It also can tell you what they prioritize and depend on rather than just use. For instance, if you spend an hour on Facebook each day, but in the evenings when you have time to kill, it could be considered a “when I get to it” behavior. But if you check Facebook first thing each morning before you even shower and dress, there’s an implication of higher engagement, priority and even need.

While we know that we don’t know the answers yet, what if we discover:

  • Facebook users participate right before they go to bed and right after they wake up, but not during work hours
  • Pinterest users are far more engaged in the evening than other times of day
  • Twitter users typically Tweet while at work, but not in the evenings
  • Any other combination of these possibilities

The types of possible answers may be more revealing about just how addicted or dependent upon certain social activities we are. We are looking at the Habits of social users. Perhaps answering “Yes” to using a certain network in all four time frames indicates a far higher level of engagement for one network’s users or anthers than we ever anticipated.

Certainly, we can guess at the answers. But if we were to go to bat with our guesses we may as well swing blindly and without consideration of the type of pitch coming. Understanding not the time of day, though that may be relevant, but the stickiness — or lack thereof — of each individual network, gives marketers some revealing information with which to make decisions.

Fortunately, we’ll also be asking a lot of other questions that when cross-tabbing with this type of information will be even more discovery-ripe. So make sure you are subscribed to the research so your brand can get smarter about its understanding and use of social media.

What other insights do you think can be extracted from understanding when a person might engage with certain social networks? We’d love your thoughts in the comments.

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The Social Habit Research Now Available

Editor’s Note: This originally appeared on Social Media Explorer, the hub of activity for Jason Falls, one of our editorial advisors and Social Habit partners.

You’ve probably heard me complain before that the so-called “science” or research that you often find on blogs and websites for software companies, while useful and sometimes even insightful, is less than perfect. It’s “research” for content sake, not for insight’s sake.

Furthering frustration is the fact that few companies focus solely on social media or social networking market research yet. So we’re left with Pew Internet & American Life and a few other cursory surveys from a handful of companies that choose to share what they find.

The Social Habit… with the exception of Edison Research, Arbitron and their combined effort called The Social Habit. Since 1998, these two research powerhouses have been conducting representative sample research on new media and our use of it. Tom Webster, formerly a regular writer here at SME and Edison’s Vice President, Strategy and Marketing, oversees the study. While Tom is a friend and (for disclosure’s sake) Edison is a sponsor of SME’s Explore digital marketing events, I’ve always considered The Social Habit to be the most detailed and scientific of all user behavior studies around social media.

The newest version of The Social Habit is out now and was unveiled at Tom’s presentation at Blog World & New Media Expo in New York on Tuesday. I took notes, along with hundreds of others. But you can get the download of the research by simply going to The Social Habit website and signing up for it. The free download will include insights on social networkers and how they compare to the broad U.S. population. It will show you who is using sites like Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Groupon, YouTube and more and how they’re using it. The insights include lots of information about mobile marketing as well.

And yes, you’ll see that me, Mark Schaefer and Jay Baer are there, too. We’ll be taking part in building and analyzing future Social Habit research. More to come on that soon. For now, get the research. It’s what folks like me memorize to quote throughout the year. You should download your copy of the new Social Habit information now. Jump over and do so! You’ll learn something new, for certain.