The social media are mainstream.
One can hardly dispute that, these days. In fact, the very term, “mainstream media” may be just about as ridiculous as the silliness of “lamestream media.” But, nonetheless, media is media and communication is communication and digital marketing is every bit as valid, useful and productive as any other form of marketing.
If one happens to need any further proof of the efficacy of social media, of the digital space in general one might direct one’s attention to the annual report on social media produced earlier this month by the Global Web Index:
“Across GWI’s 34 countries, it’s 97% of online adults aged 16-64 who say they have visited or used a social network within the last month,” reports the company. “In short, almost every internet user can now be reached via (these media), with the figure at almost 100% in some fast-growth markets.
“There’s little difference by gender or income here but, as we might expect, there is an age-based correlation to be seen: the younger someone is, the more likely they are to be visiting networks. Even so, arguably the most important takeaway here is the high figures seen across all age groups.”
Pretty astounding, really, given the fact that the social media are little more than 10 years old. It took 25 or more years for television to reach that level of market penetration in the U.S. Of course, the social media don’t require the enormous capital investment required by television, broadcasting or receiving.
So, okay, nearly all online adults are using the social networks to one degree or another. But for what? How are they using the social media?
“People are most likely to use social media in order to keep up with friends (43%) or
to fill time (39%),” reports GWI. “Tellingly, all of the top five motivations are rather passive in character and involve people looking at content posted by other users rather than contributing anything themselves. (One) in 3 follow their favorite brands on social media, with almost 30% following news/media organizations.”
Did you catch that part about “39 percent” using the social networks to “fill time”?
“It’s certainly not a coincidence that filling up spare time is the second most important reason for using (these media), and that all of the top five motivations are rather passive in nature (i.e. involve people looking or keeping up with things rather than contributing anything themselves),” suggests GWI.”
Okay, fine. Filling time is a legitimate use of any medium. Isn’t that why we have radios in cars? How many people fill time by having the TV on? Isn’t that why billboards exist?
But, we must point out, they are called the “social” media for a reason and unlike (almost) any medium before interaction and engagement are key features of the social media. (Okay, okay…one has to participate in two-way radio and, of course, telephones exist only to chat back and forth. As did the telegraph. The what?)
“It’s still a not insignificant third who are sharing photos/videos and around 3 in 10 who are sharing their opinions, but these are clearly not the most pressing reasons for people to engage,” points out GWI.
Participation, engagement is perhaps gaining on top reasons for using the social media. People are starting to catch on.
The social media are very useful for building community, engaging others of similar or even dissimilar minds in conversation for the greater overall good – however one wants to define, “the greater good.” Social media is a set of tools for building that community. Carpenters are still required to know how to use the tools.
One can’t be social without engaging others in the dialogue.