Brian Solis has scoured the web and brought together a series of visual graphs, maps and statistics that seek to explain the “social web”. He calls it the State of Social Media Around the World 2010. I particularly like The Global Web Index by Trendstream which goes beyond the aggregated data points to show just exactly HOW people are using social technologies in each country. However, in reading this type of data – it often pays to cross-match data points and superimpose other frameworks to reveal more useful information. This is essential to helping you formulate a robust digital strategy. Let's see how.
Superimposing frameworks to reveal information
It is interesting to compare this against Forrester’s Ladder of Social Media Participation (or see the latest version incorporating “conversationalists”) which is more granular. Forums, in particular, are still a powerful way for people to participate in a community – and are extremely popular, well trafficked and often vibrant.
I love maps. They are a great way of contextualising our world. But it's also important to remember that they have a long history – and an important function in the sharing of knowledge. Whenever I see a map, I always think of navigation. I think of sea monsters, reefs and shipwrecks. So for all the great information that is shown on a map – it's just important to look for what is not shown, what is just below the surface.
For example, there are a couple of ways of looking at this map:
- Trends and tides: The colour coding helps to easily identify global and regional trends. Think of this in terms of a tide – what is coming in and what is going out. Clearly photo uploading is a global phenomenon with wide scale adoption. Is it at the high tide mark? Does that matter to your audience? Designing a strategy that incorporates photography, image sharing etc lowers the barrier to entry – but can also be seen as "old hat".
- Sea monsters: Take a close look at your country and region. The variations from global trend can indicate potential roadblocks. Think about what is happening in your country/region and determine the root causes? Not uploading video in your neck of the woods? Is there good (and cheap) bandwidth available? Are devices such as the Flip video readily available? Remember, ease of use drives consumption – that includes devices as well as websites.
- Shipwrecks: What can be learned from the lessons of others? This is where historical and trend data can be useful. Is there 2007 or 2008 data that you can draw upon to show shifts in patterns of behaviour? Are your audiences doing something more rather than less? What is it? What are the lessons from overseas that you can take into account in your own plans?
The Australian figures, for example are fascinating. We now know that Australians are the number one users of social media worldwide. But we are seeing particular usage patterns emerging – which would characterise us mostly as joiners and spectators. It is still a relatively small percentage who create content.
When it comes to developing a strategy for your brand, it’s important to understand the differences in the platforms and how it influences behaviour – because knowing who drives knowing how. We need to determine not just where our audiences lie (and the numbers), but also identify the most appropriate form of engagement. A joiner is not going to contribute a video to your competition, and a conversationalist is not an optimal target for a podcast. Think also about simple social media – it’s a great way to easily map what you currently do onto a more social framework (something I will be writing about later this week).
But above all – read statistics with a critical eye. Just because you read something on the web or in a report, doesn't mean it is true. It's an opinion. And when it comes to your brand's or client's strategy, your insight and your opinion also count.