Now's a Bad Time to Be "Antisocial"

NEW YORK — Almost half of all Internet users are going to social sites, according to a presenter at the recent Ad:Tech '09 conference here -- a hefty share, but a figure that most research firms seem to agree upon. Yet while participation in social network sites is high -- and growing -- spending on social media advertising might not be as high as many think, according to Geoff Ramsey, the chief executive officer and cofounder of eMarketer. 

As part of the Ad:Tech event, Ramsey revealed several of eMarketer's recent findings: 


  • Only 11 percent of Internet users are Twitter users.
  • 10 percent of Twitter users account for 90 percent of all Twitter activity. ("Some of us like to hear our voices out there," Ramsay said.)
  • Some users have sent only a single tweet.
  • More than 75 percent have fewer than 10 followers.
  • 60 percent of users quit after one month (according to an April 2009 report by Nielsen).

The way people use social media: 

  • 90 percent agree that their number-one use for social networks is for staying in touch with friends.
  • Consumers trust word of mouth twice as much as they do traditional media.
  • 92 percent trust recommendations from a friend or family member. 

Ramsey said there's a schizophrenic business attitude to this information. It's "we can't miss the boat" and it's "I'm nervous about advertising in these environments." There are some real concerns out there, he said, which may account for the reasons that marketers say they are investing in social media, but don't appear to be following through. 

  • About 54 percent of marketers are not using social media. "It's called 'antisocial'," Ramsey joked.
  • About 45 percent are doing something with social media, but not necessarily placing social ads.

Social media marketing spending:

  • In 2009, $1 billion was spent on social media advertising, according to eMarketer.
  • It's still less than 5 percent of online advertising, so it's a small number, Ramsey said.
  • Social ad spending will decline 3 percent next year, according to eMarketer. Social spending on sites will decline a bit -- especially on MySpace, Ramsey said -- which flies in the face of some other research sources. 

Although social spending is still a small fraction, Ramsey introduced an interesting customer case study that demonstrates how brands can have fun and be social. 


Cherry Park, Qualcomm's director of digital marketing talked about the challenge Qualcomm was facing two years ago: "We were getting beat up in the media due to legal challenges. We wanted to humanize the company." The company wanted to launch something in conjunction with the CTIA Wireless show, which just happened to fall on April 1. Qualcomm ceased the April Fool's Day spirit and created a fake microsite that spoofed a new product release

The HandSolo Mobile site cross linked to Qualcomm. The video and site surpassed the marketing team's goals in terms of traffic. To date, the video has had 161,000 YouTube views. Park said that if she had it to do again, she would spend more time on search engine optimization. One of the biggest benefits in the social media project was in employee morale. Employees took on a new view of the organization and began seeing it as fun and engaging. 

Ramsey gave attendees four strategic tips in moving forward with social media:

  • Look, listen, lounge, and learn. "Don't put your head in the sand," he said. You have the opportunity to correct misperceptions and patch up problems with customers. But also, you have a chance to get into the customer ethos, Ramsey said, and get a sense of how consumers view you and your brand. "But you have to measure it -- that is the key," he said.
  • Join the conversation. Pick the right relevant communications for your brand and make sure you're adding value. Assign senior-level staff to serve as a human face or voice behind your brand. It makes a difference.
  • Recruit from your core. Everyone has brand enthusiasts, Ramsey said. "Grab those people and shower them with good stuff," he said. "Provide them with the tools to share the love."
  • Beware that those people have megaphones. If they are upset -- like David Carroll -- and you (United) aren't listening, be prepared to pay a big price.

News relevant to the customer relationship management industry is posted several times a day on destinationCRM.com, in addition to the news section Insight that appears every month in the pages of CRM magazine. You may leave a public comment regarding this article by clicking on "Comments" at the top; to contact the editors, please email editor@destinationCRM.com.

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