Two weeks ago an interesting opinion piece in the NY Times by Maureen Dowd suggested that “social media has become the cocktail party from hell… with the flood of information jeopardizing meaning”. It caught my attention when I first read it, but since I’ve heard it cited a few times since, I thought I’d add my 2 cents.
Let’s look at how social media has changed everyone’s lives:
- 1.1bn people are now on Facebook, with an average of 140 friends
- 665m Facebook users are active every day
- 189m Facebook users only use it on mobile (with some reports saying that users now check their mobile on average 150 times per day)
- 400m Tweets are sent every day
- 90% of the world’s data has been produced in the last 2 years
- The amount of data created every 48 hours is to the scale of all data collated from the beginning of time until 2003
Needless to say that is a lot of noise. If you’ve ever read Nate Silver’s fantastic book “The Signal and the Noise” (if you haven’t you should), then you may also agree that whilst the amount of noise being created on a daily basis is increasing exponentially, the amount of useful information is probably not.
Therein lies the root of the problem. The growth of all this data is also the reason why journalists suck, as Dowd suggests, and that social media may have become “the cocktail party from hell”.
It’s a great analogy because for a long time social marketers have been saying that social media is like a cocktail party and you need to work the room. In my opinion, the sentiment still rings as true as it ever has. Wouldn’t you rather talk to someone interesting, polite and takes the time to listen to you – rather than someone who is loud, obnoxious and tries to sell themselves? Brands are no different. They do need talk to their customers on their social media channels as if they are at a cocktail party.
The issue here isn’t that social media is losing all meaning; it’s simply that it is more difficult than ever to filter out what you actually want to hear from all the noise. Marketers have had this problem for years. I remember being in brand communications in the late 90s when journalists were saying advertising was becoming meaningless because we were exposed to over 10,000 advertising messages every day. The goalposts may have moved but the issues and the problems remain the same. Luckily there is a solution.
Adobe Social tracks over 10 million blogs, forums and social networks for many of the largest brands in the world (NFL, Disney, Levi’s) in order to help them make sense of all this noise. Brands that I regularly speak to may have millions of mentions of their brand each day, but only need to respond to a few thousand of the most relevant conversations. Hundreds of people may be talking about your brand, but only 50 may actually be driving sales or traffic to your website. It is important for brands – especially the ones with small teams and even smaller budgets – to be able to make sense of all this data in a meaningful way. They can then deliver data to the business in a way that is going to help them achieve their objectives.
Sales pitch over! But the ray of hope I offer to you is Duane Munn. You may never have heard of him, but he is the superstar social media manager of the NFL, and he uses Adobe Social. What is most impressive about Munn is that whilst he manages a huge global presence for the NFL and its 32 teams, he does it all on his own (without hundreds of community managers, social media execs or assistants). One man! He doesn’t wear his underpants outside his trousers or have any special super powers, but he does use some very smart software to help him make sense of everything happening in social media. When you can make sense of what everyone is saying amongst all that noise, it makes the cocktail party a pretty nice place to be.