KILTR’s Head of Research, Jillian Ney, shares her thoughts on the past, present and future of social media…
KILTR (K): Describe your typical working day…
Jillian Ney (JN): A typical day! What I’m supposed to be doing is writing up my PhD but I have a lot of other things on the go so every day is different! Some days I am working at KILTR HQ, I’m also working as a research assistant at the University of Strathclyde, and I take the occasional lecture. I’m in the process of designing digital marketing and online engagement courses (university/executive level), writing papers, blogging, researching, reading…
K: As Return On Investment (ROI) becomes increasingly important to any business employing a social media strategy in 2012, what should businesses be considering?
JN: Let’s look at ROI first. ROI may not always come in intended way – while you may only be looking to target end consumers the power of social media may open up new distribution channels, business partnerships or creating awareness without extra revenues. It’s also difficult to measure, as ROI in cash terms will not be overnight. The extrinsic value and the intrinsic value added to consumers and wider stakeholders should arise before increased revenues.
This is important to set social strategy in context and not get carried away with the ‘going viral’ holy grail. ‘Why do you want to pursue a social media strategy?’ and ‘what do you hope to achieve?’ are two of the most important questions. It’s funny because they also seem to be the most difficult questions for people to answer, and they also need to mirror how the stakeholders want to interact/engage with the business. This may mean that responsibility for social media lies with more than one department because social media success is lead by the consumers and other stakeholders. You can have the most fantastic strategy and engaging content in the world but if it is not how stakeholders wish to interact it will not provide ROI. The structure of the business should be reflexive enough to handle the information flows and external engagement, a social business.
Exploring the behaviours of the target consumers, who they are, their characteristics, information needs, drivers to engage [intrinsic and extrinsic], purchase behaviours, where they hang out are also important. The most influential and engaging content about brands are predominantly consumer generated and away from branded social spaces so a need exists to filter the noise out with from branded spaces too.
K: There are countless lists documenting trends for social media in 2012 one being the move towards niche networks. From a personal perspective, what would you like to see happen?
JN: Like social media in general the niche network is not a new phenomenon. Special interest groups and consumer run brand communities have been about for a long time, they really form the history of the niche network. With the flexibility Web 2.0 facilitated, more dynamic, complex and visually present networks started appearing and the power of the niche was forgotten a little. Now individuals are becoming savvier with their time and social networking choices, they know what they want to get out of it. The niche has risen again because of the noise on the general all encompassing networks.
I like niche networks, which is one of the reasons I got involved with KILTR. I think they are more powerful than general networks from the perspective of community membership and shared values. I’m looking forward to the developments at KILTR and watching the community grow – which is a treat for a social media researcher!
K: So, what about ‘Facebook fatigue’? Some commentators believe Facebook will continue to decline. Will they really make the same mistakes as MySpace through their new advertising strategy?
JN: This is an interesting one; there are a few things at play but I think they will be OK for now. It depends on the ‘herding behaviour’, how fast the first mass series of users desert, where they go to replace Facebook (MySpace users had Facebook), and the current levels of Facebook addiction in users.
Facebook was established for personal communication, a universal network for people to connect. The shift in society to connect and share online motivated individuals to join. The key point is that users were individuals; they wanted to connect on a personal level, away from brand messages. A ‘herding effect’ occurred and the users friends and relatives connected on the same space. Connecting into branded social space and brand generated content was up to the individual user, they controlled their own brand generated content information flows. Users got familiar with the interface and easily knew where the information they wanted was; they could ignore the branded advertisements. There is a theory that we only process the information that is relevant to us, so when we are familiar with an interface we are less likely to look at adverts – think about reading a magazine or newspaper and how you ignore adverts, it’s a similar thing here. With the proposed changes users will become unfamiliar with the interface and process more information (to begin with). After time the effects of the changes will reduce because users come familiar the interface and know what to ignore.
All the previous changes to Facebook have come with criticism from the community and all future ones will too. People do not like change, especially concerning computer-mediated environments. Facebook has morphed into a community to generally build and connect with strong-tied networks, to pulling brand content, to one where messages are again pushed to consumers. So it depends on how quickly the ‘new’ is accepted, if the format continues to change to increase the exposure for brands, and with those users who do leave how fast this happens to create the herding behaviour that got users onto Facebook in the first place.
K: Further to this, what would you like to see from KILTR this year?
JN: I’m looking forward to the version 1.0 roll out, the organisational profiles and the recruitment function. I think KILTR has a great opportunity to capitalise on the ‘community’ within Scottish diaspora; use innovation and technology to work with organisations and professionals alike to build a truly interactive and engaged community where business partnerships can grow. It makes sense that a platform like KILTR represents Scotland.
The one thing that I really want to overcome is the perception that KILTR is just for Scottish people and for events, organisations and activities inside Scotland. 18% of the users are from outside the UK but looking to make connections inside Scotland. What the network provides is access to Scottish industries and professionals where partnerships can be built upon, like a destination-marketing organisation (e.g. Visit Scotland) but for the professional world.