You may like to think that you’ve got a grasp on social media.
You also might fool yourself into thinking you know how your audience feels and what it really likes, but how much do you really know about your Facebook fans or your Twitter followers?
The answer, according to a recent report from Vancouver-based customer intelligence software company, Vision Critical, is rather less than you might think. The company’s study found that whilst many businesses might like to think that they were social media-savvy, the truth was they didn’t really understand their audience at all and couldn’t really say for certain who their customers were or what they really liked.
Vision Critical’s report found that of a company’s customers who use social media, nearly 85% of all posts about the brand were generated by roughly 30% of the people. Of that group, an even smaller number – roughly 8% of users who are most active on social media – were responsible for over 50% of all posts on social media channels.
But what about the rest of the audience then: what are they up to?
Well, Vision Critical says they’re simply ‘lurking’. These ‘lurkers’ Vision Critical refers to are the ones who post updates roughly once a week or less. That particular group may account for only 5% of all social media updates, but they in fact represent the majority of the business’ total audience. So what does all this mean then? What conclusions can you draw form the study’s findings? Well, simply this – what a company hears on social media doesn’t necessarily or accurately reflect what its audience actually thinks.
One of the authors of the report, Alexandra Samuel, had this to say about the study’s findings:
“It’s one thing to think about social media [as a means of] customer relations and another to think about it as [a means of] customer intelligence. You really can’t treat social media analytics as a source of customer intelligence, except in very specific cases.”
The report’s findings will undoubtedly resonate with social media behemoths like Facebook and Twitter as well as companies and brands which rely on social media to interact with and learn about their customers. The problem is this: whilst billions of people may use sites like Facebook and Twitter to keep up with all manner of news and information, there’s growing evidence to suggest that only a minority of users actually generate that information:
“If that 30% [of users who are most active] was reasonably representative of social media as a whole, it wouldn’t be a problem,” Ms. Samuel said. “The problem comes up because they’re not representative.”
The report found that the users who talk most online tend to be younger and more likely to make online purchases, based on the content they share and like on social media. The more enthusiastic group of users were also more likely to visit big stores to purchase an item they shared or liked online.
However, the most enthusiastic – the influencers – were also more likely to talk to their friends and family about purchasing decisions and preferences, making them a target group for the growing number of companies that have started investing heavily in social media marketing and analytics. The problem is that by targeting such a small minority, companies run the risk of ignoring or even alienating the biggest section of their audience, and that could have significant financial implications.