Australians love social networking

The latest Nielsen stats show that Australians spend more time on social networks than any other country. We’re spending nearly seven hours a month on sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, with the US and UK a distant second and third at just more than six hours. Nielsen reports that nearly 10 million Australians are now using social media.

Time Spent on Social Sites by Country, December 2009
Country Unique Audience (000) Time per Person (hh:mm:ss)
United States 142,052 6:09:13
Japan 46,558 2:50:21
Brazil 31,345 4:33:10
United Kingdom 29,129 6:07:54
Germany 28,057 4:11:45
France 26,786 4:04:39
Spain 19,456 5:30:55
Italy 18,256 6:00:07
Australia 9,895 6:52:28
Switzerland 2,451 3:54:34
Source: The Nielsen Company, 2009

Hope I get connected with my friends before I get old

Matt Thornhill writes on MediaPost this week that the fuss over the over-45s embracing social networking doesn’t stand up to statistical scrutiny.

He writes that “No doubt, Facebook’s growth among adults ages 45+ seems impressive — an increase of about 900,000 users in September alone (76% of whom are women). But Facebook also added over 1.7 million 18-34 years in same month (62% women), more than twice as many.”

He subscribes to Stanford psychologist Laura Carstensen’s hypothesis that “our motivations change as we grow older. When people are young, they perceive their future as open-ended, so they tend to focus on future-oriented/knowledge-related goals. When they grow older, gradually, over time, they feel that time is running out, so their focus tends to shift towards present-oriented/emotion-related goals.

“In other words, with the clock ticking, we don’t want to waste time with relationships that won’t feed us emotionally.”

I agree with his point about the lack of interest in boomer-specific social networks, but I think if he looked deeper and compared the numbers to the percentage of people in that age group who use computers and the Internet compared to the 18-34 crowd, he’d find that the numbers are more impressive. Anecdotally, I know an enormous and growing number of over-45s joining Facebook.

Skittles aftermath: Nothing to see here, mosey along now

Following on from yesterday’s post on the Skittles.com saga, the interest in this story in social media circles has been phenomenal, but now that Skittles has yanked the #skittles Twitter Search page from its home page (you can still find it if you go looking deeper on the site) like a spam Twitter account, the post-mortem has begun in earnest. It’s a bit like a digital version of the finger-pointing that goes on after disasters such as the recent Victorian bushfires.

Catherine Taylor writes today in Social Media Insider: “Now, it’s time to drown in social media clichés, like the following: The mere fact I’m writing about this means the campaign achieved some success. Awareness of Skittles on the Web probably hasn’t been this high, ever. The underpinning for the strategy for this campaign is in itself a social media cliché: The consumers own the brand.

“But I’d also like to offer that, in obsessing about this campaign, social media watchers are becoming their own cliché. What stood out to me in looking at the tweets about Skittles this morning wasn’t the naughty stuff, which seems to have run its course, but the whole meta phenomenon where people aren’t talking about Skittles per se, but what the Skittles campaign means for social media. Then there’s all the hand-wringing about the fact that some people said naughty things about Skittles and how that somehow mars the campaign (no pun intended, though Skittles is made by Mars). C’mon. Do you really think the agency and client were so naïve as to not know that would be part of it?

“It’s time to move on to something truly important. Kudos to Skittles and Agency.com for embracing the idea that it’s not the brand home page that defines the brand. That’s a good thing. But we knew that already.”

To quote from a couple of the comments on Catherine’s blog post:

 

“We have to be very careful about what strong thinkers we are and make sure not to over-intellectualize these new age approaches as marketing professionals. This wasn’t about us. This campaign or experiment thereof was about where we’re going. It wasn’t rocket science, but I’m sure it worked. Skittles displayed a direct interest in finding their consumers where they are likely to be found and used their consumers to communicate the brand however the consumer chose to in their very own language…and the consumers did just that!”

“I’m not sure what you need to know to wake up and be MORE IN TOUCH with your audience. They got trashed on Twitter because Twitters are about REAL, organic, testimonials and truth in real time. Spending the time, and $$$ with an agency that didn’t understand nor grasp that from the get go, shows that someone at the top of this, should have done more homework, or solicited better advice about using Twitter. Every agency in the world wants to jump on the bandwagon and utilize Social Media. If you don’t understand how to properly “engage” consumers using Web 2.0 technology, you need to be careful, for it’ll blow up it you face.”

“The only important question is will this cause people to buy more Skittles? I look forward to learning the answer.”

“I think the real value is less about the execution and more about the philosophy that drove it. If it means anything at all, it’s that this campaign is a recognition of the importance of the role social media plays in brand-building. The game has changed. It’s not 1999 anymore.”

It will be interesting to see how the campaign is viewed in the fullness of time. Brilliant tactic or big mistake? What do you think?

Skittles, Twitter Search and Facebook: a recipe for good publicity

From the Zazoo blog:

Skittles has conjured up a storm of controversy over its new un-website. The lolly-maker turned its home page into a glorified Twitter Search page on the weekend, and the company has been praised and pilloried ever since.

David Berkowitz wrote in Mediapost: “Today, when contacting a company, the first place I’d likely turn is its Web site. I’m saying that tentatively, as Skittles makes me wonder if corporate Web sites will be around much longer. The company’s new site seems to herald the fact that the corporate site is nearing its expiration date.

“…. Here’s the message Skittles is sending: What consumers say about the brand is more important than what the brand has to say to consumers.”

He asks: “Why would anyone care about what Skittles has to say? What, pray tell, could Skittles ever say that was so important, unless we woke up one day to find out that eating Skittles is the world’s tastiest cancer cure, or alternatively that Skittles lower men’s sperm count. Then, perhaps, the world will listen.”

On the positive side, Marketing Daily spoke to a range of marketers who thought the move was a great idea, quoting the head of eConsultancy as saying that: “Skittles has essentially turned its site into ‘a massive social media experiment. It is possibly the bravest move I have yet seen, in terms of a global brand getting into bed with social media and social networks … it appears to be an extension of the old adage about there being no such thing as bad PR. Everybody is talking about it.’

Marketing Daily also reported that: “‘Some will question whether it’s wise to give up control on the Web – whether this is a good use of social media,’ says Charlene Li, author of business best-seller Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies, consultant, speaker and blogger (altimeter.com). ‘But they are controlling content in the most important sense, which is that they’re getting people to talk about and engage with the brand. It’s hard to get people to engage with a candy, but this is generating incredible buzz and PR. This is a big brand pushing the envelope toward what a brand will be in the future.'”

MG Siegler on Venturebeat was bit more sanguine: “In what is either a sign of Twitter’s ongoing transition to the mainstream or of a candy company’s epic laziness, Skittles.com is now simply a Twitter Search result page for the candy.

“I’m a firm believer in the power of Twitter Search as perhaps the most compelling thing about the service, but the candy’s use of the feature just feels gimmicky. It would have been better as a part of the site, not as the homepage. My advice: I know times are tough, but hire a web designer.”

He presciently wrote: “Naturally, people are already spamming the hell out of this. One tweet being repeated over and over again unfortunately uses a racial slur. As such, I suspect this little experiment will end rather soon for Skittles.”

Meanwhile, Berkowitz suggested that Skittles should highlight its Facebook presence rather than Twitter Search, since its Facebook group has an astonishing 587,000 friends. And as of Tuesday US time, after a puerile Twitter campaign, that’s exactly what they did. The Twitter experiment ended, and the Twitter Search page was replaced by the Facebook page. But the debate goes on. Of course the big question is: what effect will it have on the brand and on sales? We’ll let you know.

Follow the story as it developed:

Skittles Converts its Home Page to Twitter Search

Marketers Praise Skittles Gutsy Site Move

Why Skittles Killed its Website

Skittles: tweet the rainbow (or racial slurs)

Skittles switches homepage from twitter to Facebook (what’s next?)

Bad Jokes Force Skittles to Retreat from Twitter Search to Facebook

Social network for health

Here’s a great example of social media used by the healthcare industry, from MediaPost: Health insurance company Humana has developed some social media tools, including a Facebook application, to help customers keep their New Year fitness resolutions.

“One game, the ‘Freewheelin’ Cycle Challenge,’ is inspired by the company’s bike-sharing program. In the online game, users race against virtual opponents–such as a cheerleader or Marine drill sergeant–in a bicycle race. Energy and speed are gained by capturing nutritious snacks while running over junk food.

“The game is available at http://www.humanagames.com, a Web site set up in May by the health insurance company as a way to explore how to use games and technology to further messages of health. The game is being promoted through information and blogs on popular casual gaming sites, and can be emailed for maximum viral effect….

“The other application, available via Facebook, is called ‘The Battle of the Bulge.’ Through the social networking site, users answer a few questions and are assigned a virtual waistline. Through the Facebook network, other users can ‘fling fat’ at you, which would expand your waistline and lead to a possible online heart attack. Answering health-related questions correctly can shrink the size of the virtual waistline and enable you to throw fat at your friends.”

A Humana spokesperson said the application leveraged the competitive aspect of Facebook.

That’d be right – blame the parents

I remember my mother bemoaning the fact that my sister took a psychology course at college and announced that all her problems were due to the dysfunctional way she was brought up. “Sure, blame everything on me, don’t take any responsiblity for your own actions,” she grizzled. I thought to myself, “Hmmm, it’s all someone else’s fault – I’ve got to check out this caper!” When I went to university I minored in psychology so I could examine this theory in more detail. Sure enough, everyone from Freud on down had been blaming adult issues on mothers. It was a great way of excusing everything from relationship breakdowns to career frustrations over the next several years. Finally, while co-writing a book with a psychologist about men’s issues, we were talking about mothers and childhood and I had this great epiphany as the psychologist turned to me and said, “Ray, your mother is who she is, and she did the best she knew how to do. At your age, you need to start taking responsbility for your own actions!”

I’d like to say I completely changed my life that day, became a perfect husband, father and son and my career blossomed as I released my mother from her role as child-thwarter. Yeah, pull the other one… let’s just say I became more self-aware and have led a life with a bit more balance since then.

Anyway, to pull this huge digression from the topic of this blog back to the business at hand, I was reminded of my early studies in psychology by a new book about the Net Generation by futurist Don Tapscott, Grown Up Digital. A sequel to Growing Up Digital: The Rise of the Net Generation, Tapscott studies the generation of children who have grown up not knowing anything other than the Internet. While media reports decry the kids of today, accusing them of being unfit (well, that one is probably true) and brain dead through playing video games and Facebooking instead of dealing face to face with real people, Tapscott says that, in fact, “Net Geners” are, as he told a reporter for The Economist, the “smartest generation ever”. He says the experience of parents who grew up watching television is misleading when it comes to judging the 20,000 hours on the internet and 10,000 hours playing video games already spent by a typical 20-year-old today. “The Net Generation is in many ways the antithesis of the TV generation,” he argues. One-way broadcasting via television created passive couch potatoes, whereas the net is interactive, and, he says, stimulates and improves the brain.

The book sounds fascinating and I think I’ll buy a copy, if for no other reason than to get some insight into how my kids’ brains work. But I can’t believe how things have come around; now, any misunderstanding of my children and their contemporaries is being blamed on that generation of people who grew up frying their brains through too much television. So again, it is the parents’ fault. Wait a minute, who was it that let me watch too much “Gilligan’s Island”, “Get Smart” and “Lost in Space” when I was a lad?…

Help a Writer Australia

And now for a message from our sponsor:

Everybody is an expert in something; chances are when you read or see a story about nearly any topic in the media, your first thought is about someone you know in that situation – it may even be you!

Zazoo, a new Internet content business I have started up with Simon van Wyk, aims to facilitate the conversation between reporters/writers and their interview subjects, and I need your help. Inspired by Peter Shankman’s Help a Reporter Out service, Zazoo is starting a similar service for Australian writers and reporters. The idea is that writers contact us with a description of people they want to interview for a story (e.g., it could be “mothers who have had a bad experience at playgroup” or “people who have lost their job because of something they published on their Facebook page”), and we send it out to our network of contacts by a broadcast email, asking them to forward it on to anyone they know who might be able to help.

All you need to do is join our Facebook group, Help a Writer Australia, and agree to receive the emails and forward the requests to appropriate people you know. That’s all there is to it! You can sign up  here – even better, encourage your connections to sign up for the email themselves! Meanwhile, if you’re a reporter, you can send me questions at ray.welling@gmail.com. Thanks in advance for your help.