What does social media mean for business?

Last week we released a study (read it here) comparing the Facebook use patterns of Millennials versus that of other Canadians.  The results were interesting, and, I think, a little different than what many would expect.

Across all generations, a majority of Canadians responded that they have Facebook accounts, but the interesting data was how it’s used.  Facebook is the number one way in which Millennials inform their friends about noteworthy events.  Text messaging was a distant second, with ‘in person’, ‘phone call’, and ‘email’ trailing far behind.  Older generations were much more likely to use the phone or email.  But the critical point here is that older Canadians are not significantly less involved with technology and the internet than Millennials – they use email and Facebook quite a bit.  Millennials, however, have integrated Facebook communication into their lives, as just another means of interacting with others.

These divergent views on social media are interesting in their own right, but a more important question is what does this generational shift mean for marketers and businesses?

First, these results underscore the fact that social media like Facebook can’t be ignored when trying to reach Millennials.  But more importantly, brief, word-of-mouth communication reigns for the generation.  In our study, Facebook and text messaging account for nearly 70% of the spread of information within social circles.

Businesses need to communicate with potential customers in a way that’s natural to those customers.  To seize on the speed and reach of Facebook and other social media, marketers can create ways for individuals to share their experiences with products or services.  Allow for customer or user feedback to shape future offerings, and readily share how those inputs have affected the company.  In business-speak, this represents a shift away from push to pull marketing – giving the customer more control or power to guide the market.

While ceding some control to the customer can align a business with the fundamentals of social media communication, such a strategy dramatically increases the need for comprehensive brand and customer service management.  With online communication capable of reaching so many so quickly, and with millennials constantly engaging each other online, negative or damaging information can spread more quickly than advertisement messaging.

In a period of communication evolution, businesses can reap rewards by embracing the new standard; but they must also tread carefully, with the right information at their disposal to avoid critical blunders.

Alex Monk leads Abacus Data’s Business Strategy and Implementation practice and manages the development and testing of all online surveys and panels. He is also responsible for managing the day-to-day operations of Abacus Data and overseeing the company’s accounting department. Alex earned his BA (honours) in Political Science and Economics from Carleton University, and is currently a CMA Candidate with the Society of Management Accountants of Ontario.

Contact Alex Monk:

T: 613-232-2806 x.249

E: alex@abacusdata.ca

W: http://www.abacusdata.ca