Experian 2010 Social Networking Report

Forward thinking marketers leverage the power of social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and more to connect to consumers in a more personal and meaningful way. That’s why Experian Simmons is focusing on social networking in this issue of Consumer Insights, featuring the freshest insights available from the latest Simmons New Media Study.

The 2010 Social Networking Report provides the hard data behind this consumer revolution, including the fact that fully 66% of online Americans use social networking sites today, up from just 20% in 2007. Social networking is an increasingly addictive activity, with nearly half of those who access such sites (43%) reporting that they visit them multiple times per day. While users of social networking sites may have initially signed up to better keep in touch with friends, a growing number say they now use sites like Facebook to connect with family members. An astounding 70% of social networkers keep in touch with family via their various online networks, up from 61% a year ago.

Fully two-thirds of all online adults today have visited a social networking site in the last 30 days, up from 53% in 2008 and 20% in 2007. Social networks have most thoroughly penetrated the young adult market, as nearly 9-in-10 online 18-to 34-year-olds visit such sites today. But even older Americans are tapping into social networks, with 41% of online adults age 50 and older making monthly visits to sites like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter.

The rise of social networking tracks closely with that of Facebook. As of April 26, 2010, 46% of the U.S. online adult population reported having visited Facebook in the past 30 days.

While keeping in touch with others is an important part of social networking, the popularity of games like Farmville and Mafia Wars illustrate that fun is a big part of the appeal of social networking.

Whether it’s keeping in touch with others, playing games, debating politics or any of the other reasons people use social networking sites, it cannot be denied that there’s a sense of addictiveness to it all. Visiting social networking sites multiple times a day is up 28% over last year, while less frequent visits are down across the board.

As social networking sites extend their reach across generations, Americans are increasingly using such sites to connect with more than just their friends. Today, 17% of social networkers communicate with their parents via those sites and 22% connect with their kids, up from 9% and 15%, respectively, a year ago.

An astounding two-thirds of social networking site visitors (68%) say they have shown their support of a product, service, company or musical group by becoming a “fan” or a “friend” on a social networking site. One year earlier, only 57% of social networkers had publicly declared their “like” for a product, service, company or musical group.

Knowing that social networkers are comfortable connecting with products and brands they support, it’s important to understand which brands have the best opportunity to connect with this group. Top retail brands among Facebook users, for instance, include H&M, Hot Topc and Forever 21. Specifically, Facebook users are full twice as likely as the average American adult to shop at H&M. Twitter visitors are 3.7 times more likely to shop at Nordstrom.

Heavy users of social networking sites are primarily concentrated in the Northwest and markets that are heavily influenced by major colleges or universities.

Fantastic stuff.

The Two Most Important Skills Of The New Leaders.

LEGO Darth Pirate

Silos beget compliance. Silos are getting in our way and so is compliance. Things are changing but it’s changing slower than many of us would like. In the meantime we’re left with porous organizations with the semblance of vertical structures (and the illusion of control).

Consciously or subconsciously we do not like to give up power. As the fabric of business gets reworked, leaders are having to give up control to retain the ability to lead. This is causing friction from the top and the bottom. Both those at the top and the all important in-the-trenches-leader need to develop two skills that once were seen as weaknesses.

  1. The ability to take criticism
  2. The ability to admit you’re wrong

Taking Criticism

Think about our current leaders; political, corporate or any leader in a traditional command and control structure. How well does upper management take criticism from lower levels of the business or from the outside? Not well at all. In fact most leaders block out anything but immediate feedback from peers, those even higher and maybe if they’re a good manager those directly beneath them.

This is a fatal flaw. The best feedback often comes from those furthest away from you. Not to discredit the feedback from those around you but they’re often blind to the same things you are.

Even the trolls and the haters have a kernel of truth to their criticism. It doesn’t mean you should change your leadership style or your strategy just because someone #FAIL’s you on Twitter but it’s a data point to be considered. If enough #FAIL’s start racking up then you may want to do some navel gazing.

Being Wrong

In this agile world we live in now, knowing when you’re wrong is incredibly important. It can mean the difference from professional life or death. Often we make a decision, and it’s the right decision at the right time, but times change and the ability to abandon sunk costs and move on is tough and shouldn’t be taken lightly but shouldn’t be the reason not change course. It’s a tough balance and I highly recommend Seth Godin’s The Dip: When to Quit (and When to Stick)
for a quick read on how to assess the right way and time to move on.

Part of admitting to being wrong is the all challenging apology. If social media has taught me anything it’s that “I’m sorry” is incredibly powerful and we should be using it much more. Over the last five years I’ve been bordering on abusing it but not using it sucks. Two simple (heartfelt) words can often rebuild bridges once burned in the heat of the moment.

There are of course many more skills that you’ll need to acquire along the journey of leadership but without these two I don’t think you’ll ever get there.

What are your tips for not just developing these skills for yourself but helping upper management develop these skills?

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Photo credit by Balakov