Last month a Piper Jaffray survey asked 5,000 teenagers in the United States to identify their “most important social media sites.” Facebook was still the most important but it had declined steeply compared to Piper Jaffray surveys taken six months and 12 months earlier. Indeed, Facebook was barely ahead of YouTube.
Why did it happen? Well, teenagers are fickle. Additionally more and more old folks are invading the Facebook space, which may be driving the younger set away. Advertising may be partially to blame as well. As I learned with my brief foray into Facebook advertising, a lot of users react violently to the presence of ads in their news feeds.
Overall, however, I think the most cogent analysis comes from Cliff Watson’s blog on Medium. Watson essentially says that teens have better things to do and faster, simpler ways of doing it.
As the teens decamp, however, companies are rushing into social media. In March, McKinsey published its sixth annual survey on the business use of social media. The survey, conducted in 2012, received responses from 3,542 executives representing companies around the world. Some 83 percent of respondents say their companies are using at least one social medium (up from 72 percent in 2011) and 90 percent of those report measureable benefits.
Companies are using social media both internally and externally. The top benefits for internal use (in order) are: 1) faster access to knowledge; 2) reduced communication costs; 3) reduced travel costs. For external use, the top three benefits are: 1) increased marketing effectiveness; 2) increased customer satisfaction; 3) reduced marketing costs.
This also seemed to be the year that companies jumped on the mobile bandwagon. Sixty-five percent of the respondents said their companies were using at least one social medium on mobile technologies. As in previous surveys, the three primary uses for mobile were: 1) marketing; 2) sales; 3) IT.
While mobile is growing rapidly, the use of big data is more of a challenge. Indeed, executives don’t quite seem to know what to make of big data. According to McKinsey, “ … between 42 and 54 percent of respondents say either that they don’t know how their companies use the data or that these practices aren’t yet applicable to their companies.”
And the downside? A majority of respondents say that the major risk is that confidential information may be leaked. But 60 percent agree that the benefits outweigh the risks.
Teens seem to be moving away from “traditional” social technologies while companies are moving in. Coincidence? I think not. It’s like two animals competing for the same ecological niche. As one moves in, the other moves out. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Companies can still get a lot of benefits from social media. They just won’t get the teens.