If you don't think I have one too many G's in the headline above, then you might be part of the plugged-in set that Universal McCann polled for the most recent phase of its social media research project. Called Wave 3, this initiative puts some numbers to the global explosion of social media.
By surveying 17,000 Internet users in 29 countries, Universal McCann determined that social media is no flash in the pan. The vast majority of participants are producing content, as well as consuming it. In particular, people are quickly moving to on-demand media, specifically video clips (83 percent) and podcasts (45 percent).
Even more intriguing is the rise of social networks. Universal McCann reports that about 57 percent of respondents have joined at least one social network; in the U.S., roughly 43 percent have done so, leading the agency to declare social networks the top platform for producing and sharing content.
In comparison, blogs seem ancient. But they have not lost their influence mojo. "The blogosphere is so large now that it is an accurate barometer of consumer opinion," says Tom Smith, research manager at Universal McCann and author of this report. Consider that 34 percent of Internet users post opinions about products and brands on blogs. And 36 percent think more positively about companies that have blogs.
The story here is one of opportunity. Marketers and brands have myriad options for connecting with prospects and customers, or even finding new audience segments. As one would expect of a company nicknamed "Big Blue," IBM is no shrinking violet in this space. Pamela A. Evans, Target Marketing's 2008 Direct Marketer of the Year, has been incorporating direct marketing tactics with social media approaches to surround the Software Group's audience. Blogs, IBM TV, e-mail newsletters, whitepapers and more form the basis for what IBM calls its "perpetual campaign," recognizing the need to be of service to prospects and customers at every hour, on every continent. The tech leader even has been dabbling in social media from an in-house perspective, providing its employees with home-grown versions of Twitter (Blue Twit), Facebook (Beehive) and Del.icio.us (Dogear).
While it's true that social media initiatives are hard to pin down in terms of ROI and are not easily compared to push channels like e-mail, it's also hard to ignore the role these platforms play in people's daily lives. Don't be too intimidated to explore these waters while the waves are smaller.
P.S. Speaking of being social, we can talk in person this month at DMA08. Feel free to stop by booth #516 or flag me down in the convention center hallways. I'd love to hear what's on your mind these days.