iProspect recently partnered with JupiterResearch to understand how the U.S. online population is using social networking sites and search engines.
I'll spare you the details about the research methodology (but suggest to you, as with any research, you should always take into account how a survey was conducted as you interpret the results), which you can read about here
Meanwhile, the social survey SAYS (with liberal interpretation on my part):
- Focus on the Big 3. The three majors (Google, Yahoo!, and MSN) are still the heavyweights, in terms of percentage of the U.S. population who use their site on a daily/weekly basis. Make sure you're maximizing your paid and natural search efforts if you want to be exposed to the largest audiences.
- 1 in 4 get social regularly. The most frequently visited social networking sites are visited by ~ one out of every four Internet users at least once a month. Implication for marketers: Find those "communities" whose visitors most closely match the profile of your target customers and prospects.
- Find your social network niche. Many social search sites have been built to serve and attract a community defined by their affinity to a vertical or business model or interactive type (del.icio.us). Know your industry's social orbit and focus reaching your constituents there.
- Put out the link bait. Visitors arrive primarily through direct navigation and bookmarking, Google and Yahoo! search, and email links. Be sure to drop that link bait behind your Web boat via email...it encourages repeat visits.
- Know social's place in the buying cycle. Users who visit social networking sites don't necessarily go there with the intent to purchase...but what a great place for a product introduction.
- Don't give a ---- about your bad reputation? Think again. Bad news travels fast in the socialsphere -- do what you can to build positive WOM and also monitor your online rep to make sure it squares with what you want that rep to be...and be prepared for damage control for the inevitable negative user-generated input.
- Accentuate the negative. Negative feedback can be an opportunity for constructive dialogue with customers and foes alike. Responding to negatively demonstrates a willingness to listen (it's a conversation, not a monologue, remember?) Sand is for ostriches, not 21st century brands savvy to the ways of the socialsphere.
- 18-24 are particularly participatory in the socialsphere. This is the social site and search sweet (suite?) spot. They are ultra savvy and "ultra-interactive." Pay attention or they won't.
Social networking is important enough to pay attention to.
You don't control your brand anymore, but you can certainly participate in its influence in the market conversation.
Staying relevant means staying prominent means staying relevant: If they're not talking about your brand, it probably needs an oxygen boost...lest it start sucking down major doses of carbon dioxide.
Monitor the socialsphere for what they're saying about you -- it's real-time market intelligence.
Be thoughtful about how you leverage the socialsphere, and don't be afraid of criticism. Tough customer love can, and sometimes should, hurt. But it's all about getting better all the time.