Posted by: pauditore | March 22, 2013

Social Media Anthropology & the Social Mind

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Social media networking is dynamically changing the face of human interaction and communications globally. The emergence of new social behaviors and interrelationships between individuals, organizations, thought leaders and influencers are evolving in new and previously unforeseen ways primarily because of social media networks and peer groups. This paradigm shift is a major communications innovation in all markets, which is radically changing the way people and organizations engage and behave online. There is also a strong link between social networking and what might be called “a new global anthropology” that is developing because of these new behaviors, interactions and interrelationships between cultures enabled through social media.

Over the past four years Don Bulmer, Vanessa DiMauro and myself, all Society for New Communications Research fellows, have embarked on a series of research studies to understand this new and evolving communications platform and its impact on social communications and influence.

The New Symbiosis of Professional Networks

The findings predictions from our most notable study, the New Symbiosis of Professional Networks research conducted four years ago, (2009), identified what we called a Social Media Peer Group, (SMPG) this is essentially a Web 2.0 community of interest around a specific topic and/or business in the course of this treatise we will refer to them as Social Media Networks (SMNs).  SMNs, are not always groups of peers, but are enabled by the new social media human computer interfaces and platforms that facilitate easier information sharing and collaboration. And the second New Symbiosis of Professional Networks study (2010) honed in on the changing role of the online influencer and formatively noted the rise of the “crescendo effect” where content creation and curation was being used as credibility builder in online environments.

The Social Mind

The Social Mind research project was designed to explore and understand interrelationships of global communications and how they impact the consumption of information across social media channels and influence flow. Social Mind findings will enable B2B, B2P, B2C or cause marketers to understand the importance and relevance of content – and – its ultimate impact and influence on behaviors, beliefs, decisions and actions. The Social Mind identifies key characteristics and insights into the engagement behaviors of influencers and individuals, and how organizations can maximize reach and influence to execute on what we call the new Principals of Engagement in the Millennium.

We surveyed more than 400 mostly professional and highly educated people in North America who actively participate in social media networks. And nearly 50% regularly create content through blogging, the other half engage and share/create content in social media networks.

Our findings show that social media networks have evolved into trusted expert networks that are testing the trust that people have in more traditional news and information sources. This is a huge shift in information and influence flow as nearly 65% of the sample base indicated that SMNs and professional networks are more trust worthy than traditional news and information aggregators (again remember that these are highly educated individuals.)

We found a significant shift in information flow:

  • The role of the expert is rising in importance on the social sphere
  • And the need for expert content is high among content consumers
  • Journalists are no longer considered authoritative sources, and traditional media is just a leader to let people know what they need to self-educate about on their own
  • Instead, content consumers find greater value in curated content from experts in order to discover the information they need

We found that professionals spend approximately 40% of their time online interacting in professional networks closely followed by friends (31%) and then family at (13%.)

  • Twitter and blogs are equally important as the company or organizational website which ranked 2nd in importance to Twitter. This in contrast to research from just three years ago where a majority of respondents indicated that websites were the most important source for information, followed in close second by social media channels.
  • Twitter emerged as the most important social network for professional interaction.
  • Facebook was the friend network.
  • Email was indicated and the preferred channel network for family.

Summary

The Social Mind research study clearly defines the characteristics and behavior of social media influencers within social media networks that impact the brand, reputation and potentially the sale of products. Organizations that are social media savvy will and are recognizing the value and enhancements that can be derived in the areas of customer service, CRM and customer experience through social media networks. This is becoming a significant competitive advantage for many companies and organizations as social media networks evolve and grow globally.

In a 2012 survey I conducted on the use of social media and business intelligence tools, I found that 50% of 700 companies in North American and Europe indicated they are monitoring open SMNs. And only 30% of those organizations are currently monitoring proprietary social media networks (SMNs), which means they have yet to build their own social media network. Most importantly, 75% of the overall sample base are not collecting data from proprietary and/or open social media networks. If you are in CRM this is where the gold is.

I also asked about business functions and to no surprise they align with the findings of the Social Mind, as business is monitoring experts and social media influencers.

Sales/marketing, PR-Communications and customer service are the top business functions employing SMN data monitoring, collection and business intelligence analysis.

Top Business Initiatives Supported

  1. Brand-Reputation Management
  2. Marketing Communications
  3. Customer Service
  4. Customer Experience Management
  5. Sales
  6. CRM

Top Metrics Employed

  1. Customer Satisfaction
  2. Overall Buzz
  3. Brand Experience
  4. Advertising Campaign Performance

In their blogs Vanessa and Don report on the insight gained in the Social Mind around expert communities and their educational aspects along with the characteristics of social media influencers. Until next time I wish you great selling and marketing in the millennium.

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