Is your Audience Through the Social Media Keyhole?

According to the latest Social Media Report by Neilsen (respected monitoring/research company) Americans are now spending more time on Facebook than they are on any other website. American internet users spent 53.5 billion minutes on Facebook during May 2011, far higher than the next most visited site – in fact more than the next four most popular sites combined. Commentators are pointing to these numbers and referring to the shrinking web, that to an increasing number of folks Facebook is the web.

Is it really? So what does this mean for content management professionals and content marketers?

I wonder what has all this Facebook time come at the expense of? One could ponder that the idea that the web is shrinking would need to be based on the assumption that the same amount of folks are spending the same amount of time online. The truth of course is that internet adoption, especially on mobile, is increasing.

When I refer to adoption I don’t just mean the number of people connected and have access, I mean that our engagement with the web is deeper and longer – it’s a more pervasive part of our lives

My guess is that the figures actually mean that the minutes that the US population are spending on Facebook is growing faster than the minutes spent on Yahoo, Google, AOL and MSN (the next top visited sites according to the research).

This further underlines the impact of the mainstream adoption of social media, these are “new online minutes”, new people that were not especially active online, (although they were physically connected or able to connect) are now on Facebook, spending time there and this is the stepping stone to the rest of their online activity. It’s a must do daily task. It’s email.And the people doing it are my Mum.

In my opinion having helped my Mum rip her first CD to her MP3 player a few weeks ago, she’s a pretty good yardstick of digital mainstreamness.

There have always been these gateways to the web, from AOL onwards, that have now become just homepages that people click through – Facebook offers something that we’ve banged on about for years – stickiness. (or what some folks call engagement today). AOL and MSN provided this through email, but Facebook has that trumped.

I guess that if you sell high end gadgets – you could argue that your audience has always been there – on the ‘early adopters social web’ of bulletin boards, discussion groups, Twitter and seeking you out with Google.

But, lets not get sniffy about “the mainstream”, assuming its just my Mum, teenagers or a bored housewife – your early social media adopters are also there – avidly checking it everyday. These time poor professionals slotting in a slither of their day to share something with their friends.

All the while we we are increasingly becoming consumers of prepared, curated and recommended content through these channels, rather than the content hunter gatherers riding the plains of Google. So will we soon be saying that if your content is not recommended through likes and Tweets – does it even exist?

Is the path through the keyhole the socializing of your content, not the platform itself? Could be an important distinction, do you need a Facebook page or just to be liked?

As usual, I’ve probably digressed – I started out with some questions:

So… is the web effectively shrinking? 

Possibly, there are some of us that have reached a saturation point of internet minutes, that earning a living and maintaining our relationships with our loved ones means that no amount of furtive tweeting during a meal when your partner is in the rest room or a sneaky email check during their favorite soap is going to extend that. Maybe Facebook and Twitter time is eating into channels we might have enjoyed, like our RSS Reader or a bit of Googling.  But, for everyone else this is just the start.

What does this mean for content management professionals?

This stickiness is driving the social web; engagement with a community is shaping our future websites – and therefore how we view content management and publishing. In his paper “Systems for Engagement” for AIIM the writer and commentator Geoffrey Moore writes that our content systems will move from systems of record focused on process and governance to collaborative community tools.

Not quite sure that’s all true, I’ve worked with organizations where governance is a serious business, but we certainly need to make our content easy to like,  easy to share and facilitate that conversation – the recommendation and the curation – to be seen through this keyhole.


Yes, our CMS tools (and the beautiful web applications we build on them) must be open,  friendly and very social.



Picture of the keyhole courtesy of katerha shared under Creative Commons License.

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One thought on “Is your Audience Through the Social Media Keyhole?

  1. You make some good points in this Ian. I find it somewhat ironic that the web users of the past couldn’t wait to break free of the walled gardens created by the big tech players eager to exploit knowledge of their interests. Today it seems that the mainstream apathetic consumer is more than happy to give away their personal data and privacy without getting very much in return. No doubt the mainstream will go through the same cycles of disillusionment at some point but at a much slower rate – so plenty of time for them to be exploited ruthlessly until they realise what’s happened 🙂

    BTW – It’s a shame SDL Tridion has dropped out of the CMS-Connected events – the last one turned out to be an excellent debate on proprietary versus open source and I was hoping the Adobe/SDL Tridion would be similarly enlightenning on areas such as multi-lingual customer engagement 🙁

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