Social Media: What are we doing with it?

(Pulling in this one from my LinkedIn posts)

Search for ‘social media’ on Google returns 2,510,000,000 results in just over half a second – that’s how much is written about social media online – huge – PoVs, thoughts, learnings and so on. Incredible! Overwhelming, in fact!


That’s how big social media today is. When it comes to India, it gets bigger considering that social media in India is still coming together. Though the truth is India has hit social media before it could hit India. That’s how fast it has been. Tremendous, the YoY growth! As per comScore’s ‘Digital India Future in Focus’ report, 86% of Indian web users visit a social networking site with an average user spending 217 minutes on Facebook alone. A whopping 59,642,000 users visited Facebook on their PCs and there was a 28% growth in visits to Facebook YoY.

What Social Media has done is that it has quenched our thirst for the emotional – the need to belong, be heard, be spoken to and appreciated for what we are and what our views are. This in turn has led to creation of Exabytes of data every day. Twitter alone with more than 500 Million tweets a day, has such expansive set of data for whatever a tweet is worth – 140 characters! Marketers too without wanting to be left behind have not left any stone unturned and jumped into every opportunity of getting onto social media, accumulating numbers to the tune of millions of fans, followers and subscribers. In an effort to engage as many users as possible, every minute of the 217 minutes spent by an average user spends on Facebook, more content, data is created. With fan and follower numbers on our side and an ever growing pressure to achieve a ROI at some point of time, somewhere we are losing the battle. And in our eagerness to win each battle we are losing sight of the bigger picture, the bigger opportunity, to win the war!

What do we do? How do we do it? More importantly, how do we do it right? Let me first take you back to Steve Jobs and what he did best. He was of the opinion that market research stops us from being innovative. But if you get closer to what and how exactly he did it, the truth is that Steve Jobs knew the right way to go about researching.

There is this one quote that I like a lot that is talking about this:

“One should never conduct a research study that asks people what they want… First you must spend time understanding and gaining insights into consumers’ existing habits, beliefs, routines and unmet needs.” ~ Bob Gilbreath

Our job at any stage of innovation is to get into the shoes of our customer, understand her life, who she is and look for insights that give us ideas and direction for our products that we could create that would surprise and delight her. And this is exactly what Jobs was best at. He saw early that people were very much interested in using computers but were frustrated at their complexity. Another one – he saw that people loved music but there was obvious difficulty of loading a few dozen songs every time into the early MP3 players.

So, instead of interviews, surveys or focus groups what we need to do is listen. What people think about something, go into their natural environment – go out into Social Media and see what they are already talking about, what is already driving them, what they care about and use these insights to drive our products, our communication. When we understand our customers, we would be able to create products that:

1. are innovative,
2. suit their needs,
3. the ones that they do not think they need
4. Or the ones they are asking for.

Any trends developing will clearly inform us of the opportunity to make the shift. What people are complaining about, what they like or even what your competitors are doing and use it to make the shift.

Recently we saw an obvious nudge coming from the 2 social media giants, Facebook and Twitter towards utilizing the huge amounts of data for actionable insights. Facebook’s data scientists have been sharing insights from the data they hold, especially the one on Valentine’s day ‘The Formation of Love’ amongst others. Twitter on the other hand has opened up its stream of historical data for research institutions through a pilot project called the ‘Twitter Data Grants’. The program aims to change that by connecting research institutions and academics with the data they need.

There is a goldmine out there; it’s a calling! Are we ready?


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