Tapping the Network – Business Implications of Social Media
Respondents to a recent survey published by Beresford Research ranked social networking as more important than reading books or watching TV. It is no secret that social networking is a popular use of our time. Respondents spend an average of 22 hours per week on social networking sites. Yet, some still remain skeptical of social networking’s value to commerce.
A free whitepaper, produced by a key partner behind many PhoCusWright projects, suggests that the social networking world is more than just a static hobby. The social nets created through Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn and other sites are actually complex support circles.
“Before making major decisions, younger people are far more likely to consult their social network,” says Julien Beresford, president, Beresford Research and PhoCusWright senior research analyst. “We see this as a fundamental generational change in how people make decisions. This includes decisions about where to go, where to stay and what to do while at a destination.”
The survey found that younger users (18-24) consult their social network significantly more than older adults (35-54) before making decisions. For these young people, an online social network mirrors the social groups established by older generations through offline activities. No matter the generation, we all rely on advice from people we trust to support our decision making. However, in the case of social networking, that advice comes via a tangible, traceable, ad-supported medium.
This has huge implications on the way travel companies reach consumers. Imagine if your friends’ advice on a unique destination came with advertising (something akin to sending a magazine ad clipping along with a friendly letter, or allowing a spokesman to voiceover your conversation). In fact, 38% of respondents said they clicked on paid advertising while using social networking sites.
Then consider the amount of time users spend kindling their networks. The only activity that ranked as more important among online activities was email - social networking even beat out Web browsing. Travel companies will realize the immense business value of social networking when they understand that someone has finally ‘tapped the consumer’s telephone’.