Earlier this week, a Pew Internet survey revealed that the majority of Facebook users (61%) reported taking a voluntary multi-week break from the service. This has prompted some commentators to speculate that Facebook is in a tail spin, and its downfall is imminent and inevitable. While the numbers themselves are hard to counter, a deeper examination of the situation reveals that Facebook won’t be put out to pasture anytime soon – rather, Facebook will remain the dominant “social home” of most consumers.
First, the usage drop should be seen as a kind of normalization of Facebook activity. When Facebook hit the mainstream, there wasn’t anything quite like it on the market. Initial consumer reaction to the service was frenzied and positive, and users spent a significant amount of time on the service experimenting and figuring out the “shiny new thing”. As Facebook has matured, its place in consumers’ lives has also matured – some of the novelty has worn off, leading to less time spent on a ‘red hot’ product. But that doesn’t mean that users are forsaking Facebook altogether, simply that it’s become a routine part of their daily lives that doesn’t warrant an above-average investment of time.
Second, consumers are spending more time on services that complement – but do not replace – Facebook’s functionality. Instagram, for example, provides best-of-breed photo microblogging capabilities, and consumers love it. Instagram and other services (like Pinterest) are siphoning away some of the time that users formerly spent on Facebook. But they do not replace Facebook as the “home social network”. Indeed, many other social media services provide users with the option to sign-in via their Facebook accounts – Facebook is still the central part of the social hub. By contrast, let’s look at Google+, a social network that was designed to compete head-to-head with Facebook. By all accounts, Google+ has been a failure as a replacement for Facebook, with frequent usage limited to die-hard fans and a small number of certain verticals. Facebook still remains king as the go-to social network for your average consumer.
So while users may be spending less time on Facebook, the conclusion that a drop in overall usage rates is tantamount to a death sentence is erroneous. With a powerful network effect in play, and its role as a de facto single sign-on for most other social media services, Facebook will remain a critical player in the social landscape for the foreseeable future.
An amusing tidbit from struggling music retailer HMV provides an important lesson on incorporating social media accounts into your employee departure procedures: yesterday, the company laid off its social media team, who promptly took to Twitter to live-tweet their own firing. The results were amusing, to say the least, with the hash tag ”hmvXFactorFiring” going viral.
The novelty of the situation aside, the incident carries a valuable lesson for managers: make sure you have “revoke social media access privileges” as a check box for your employee off- boarding procedures. It’s critical that access is revoked prior to informing the employee of their termination, as it only takes a few minutes for disgruntled tweets to go viral to an audience of millions. Info-Tech recommends that companies invest in a social media management platform: most of these platforms have robust user sign-on capabilities that prevent employees from directly accessing the underlying social media service (like Twitter). This allows you to easily give out (or revoke) employee access to your social media portfolio. You can find more information on these solutions in our comprehensive vendor landscape.
With the proliferation of social media services and their explosive popularity with consumers, managing an integrated campaign can be a challenge. Fortunately, the market for social media management platforms (SMMPs) is rapidly coming of age. Companies of all sizes now have access to a full suite of tools for both listening (analytics) and customer engagement. We strongly recommend that any organization that’s serious about a world-class social media presence should deploy an SMMP. A rookie mistake is managing an enterprise social media program directly through the services (like Facebook or Twitter) themselves – this is an inefficient and time-consuming process compared to using an SMMP.
So what are the primary benefits of using an SMMP? First, they allow you to quickly aggregate and analyze content from multiple social media services (with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ being the most widely supported options). The analytics engine of an SMMP provides invaluable information around post timing and frequency, content, customer demographics and sentiment. The latter is particularly valuable – sentiment analysis reveals trends around the “tone” of what people are saying about your brand or organization. This information can be used to identify common customer pain points, or things that your customers love about you! Social analytics are invaluable to your brand managers, product development teams, and PR folks. The second major function of an SMMP is customer engagement. Most SMMPs allow you to create an ongoing queue of posts related to your products or company, and permit your employees to respond in-band to posts. These response capabilities are usually paired with ticketing, routing and escalation workflow features, making an SMMP critical for providing proactive customer service over social media. Finally, SMMPs allow for social campaign management. They permit you to post simultaneously to multiple networks or feeds (often with a delayed posting option), and some even provide advanced content management capabilities (i.e. the ability to create rich tabs on Facebook Pages).
You may be familiar with some of the “freemium” solutions like Hootsuite or TweetDeck, but there are many, many SMMP vendors on the market to choose from. Big names like Salesforce and Adobe offer strong social media management suites (with Radian6 and Adobe Social), and pure-play vendors like Sprout Social and Sysomos also offer robust solutions. The pricing models for popular SMMP suites are highly scalable, putting them within the budgets of everyone from small businesses to Fortune 500 companies. The SMMP market is also SaaS-centric, making deployment a quick and easy task.
Info-Tech is currently refreshing our extremely popular vendor landscape on SMMPs, that covers the top-tier solutions. Keep your eyes open for this refresh in the next few weeks, and if you have any experiences (good or bad) with an SMMP vendor, drop us a line and let us know what you think!
Social juggernaut Facebook unveiled a new social search tool yesterday. Known as Graph Search, the new engine allows users to make natural language searches that surface relevant content from their social network. For example, a user can type in “photos my friends took in Toronto” and see all photos matching the query. Likewise, a user could type “what are my friend’s favorite movies?” and instantly see the results. While Graph Search is a prudent move for Facebook, and will provide users a new way to rapidly surface relevant social content, it’s not the game changer that some pundits are making it out to be. Graph Search isn’t a new feature per se, but rather an improved method for accessing existing content. Graph Search is still pulling from user-populated information like interest and current city (as well as some geotagged metadata on photos), so its usefulness is dependent on having a lot of people that are creating content relevant to your search query. The value proposition of Graph Search is allowing consumers to quickly find Facebook content with minimal effort, not as a full-fledged replacement for their current search habits.
Graph Search will allow much faster access to socially-generated content and recommendations, but speculation that it poses a serious threat to search giant Google are unfounded. First, Graph Search is far more limited in its scope than Google. Google currently indexes multiple social sites, while Graph Search is limited to Facebook. Granted, Graph Search does a much better job of surfacing social content on Facebook, but its scope excludes the myriad of other social networks out there. Second, Graph Search will have a major struggle ahead to position itself in the minds of consumers as a “destination” search feature. Despite massive investments, other search engines like Bing have failed to make a dent in Google’s market share. The search giant is so ingrained in the minds of consumers that its very name is used as a verb. Simply put, Graph Search will be a complement rather than a replacement for traditional search.
On the business side, most of the functionality that Graph Search provides can already be obtained by using a Social Media Management Platform (SMMP). These solutions provide high-level dashboards that report on demographics (including interests), frequency trends, and post sentiment. We recommend that any organization that’s serious about social use an SMMP, rather than relying on Graph Search for customer insights.
There’s also the question of monetization for Facebook – the role of sponsored results in Graph Search could provide the company with new revenue sources, but be off-putting to end users and discourage widespread adoption of Graph Search as a destination search engine.
All-in-all, Graph Search will make it easier to find interesting content and recommendations from your friends on Facebook, but the hype that it’s a credible threat to Google search is premature and inaccurate. Graph Search is more akin to a service like Yelp than it is to Google.
Avaya Evolutions was held recently in Toronto, and was a great look into the leading UC/contact center vendor’s direction. It’s clear that Avaya recognizes social media and mobile access as defining market trends, and they’re rapidly incorporating them into product offerings. Avaya’s Social Media Manager gives customer service representatives the ability to queue, prioritize, route and escalate inbound service inquiries from social channels such as Twitter. Social customer service capabilities are becoming increasingly important given consumer affinity for social media, and social media should be embedded as a key component of any multichannel service strategy. Info-Tech’s own research has consistently found that proactive customer service via social channels is the number one value driver for organizations (even surpassing more traditional marketing and PR use cases). However, Avaya’s major competitors are not standing still. Info-Tech has also seen robust social media integration into CSM products from Salesforce.com (i.e. Service Cloud and Desk.com) and Microsoft Dynamics CRM. Companies looking for social-enabled support now have a growing number of vendors to choose from! Mobile was another area of focus, with unified communications solutions like Avaya Flare providing full mobile support on smartphones and tablets. As knowledge workers are freed from the paradigm of corporate workstations, having a robust mobile solution is quickly becoming a table stakes selection criteria for UC vendors.
Another key focus in this conference was Avaya’s acquisition of the Radvision’s Scopia Video Conferencing solution. This acquisition promises to propel Avaya’s collaboration capabilities to a higher level with immersive telepresence, video conferencing capabilities on mobile devices, and HD resolution. It is only a matter of time until we see Scopia’s anticipated integration with Avaya’s IP telephony and unified communication solutions, Aura and Flare.