The people over at Nielsen recently released their 'State of the Media. The Social Media Report 2012' which makes very interesting reading indeed. It makes the point that the web is becoming much more about people than it is about websites, HTML and a bunch of formatted documents. We used to have what could easily be described as a destination web, in which we went to a search engine, got a series of links, visited as many as it took to get the information that we needed, and then we went away again. The web with all of the social media (or as I'm preferring to call it these days, real time media) has evolved into a people based web, in which the main value is not the websites that you know or that you find, but the people that you connect with. Also very importantly, it's not really desk based any longer, it's becoming more mobile than ever, and this is only going to increase in the future. I'd like to look at some of the statistics that they make available in order to see where it is that we're going, and almost as importantly, how we're going to get there. If you're not bothered by statistics (and there are a lot of them) just jump to the end, where I talk about the effect I think this has, or should have, on the world of information.
The Internet is becoming more and more popular as people spend longer online. The time spent on PCs and smartphones was up by more than 20% from July '11 to July '12. Access via the mobile web was up by 82%, and use of mobile apps up by 85%, while access via PC fell by 4%. However, PC access is still by far and away the preferred choice for access, with 204,721,000 Americans accessing via that method. (The figures are all US based I'm afraid, so take that into account.)
People are spending longer amounts of time on social networks than anywhere else - with 17% of consumers PC time spent on Facebook, which is the most popular US brand. Most of this social media time is experienced by mobile apps or the mobile web, with users becoming far more deeply engaged with their social media sites, friends and contacts. The top networks are Facebook, Blogger, Twitter, Wordpress, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Google+ among others. The biggest growth has been experienced by Pinterest, experiencing an astonishing 1,047% increase in visits, followed by Google+ with what would seem to be a rather paltry 80% growth. Facebook visits on the other hand have dropped by a tiny 4%. Pinterest has certainly been the single biggest success story of 2012, with the largest increase across PC, mobile web and apps. The US breakdown shows that the average user is female (70%), early middle age (31% of users are between 35-49) and white (86%). These figures are comparable across all platforms.
The use of tablet devices to connect to the internet is on the rise, from 3% in 2011 to 16% last year, with internet enabled television doubling (although that's only from 2% to 4%).
We tend to connect with people for (obviously) various reasons, but the main reasons seem to be because we know the person in real life, share mutual friends or are interested in keeping up with what is happening around us.
The report devotes some considerable time to talking about dual screening - that is to say, watching television at the same time as using social media, with Twitter being a key influencer here, with 33% of active Twitter users tweeting about television programmes in June of 2012, up from 26% in January. However, generally people are interacting with the internet while television watching - shopping, visitings social networking sites, looking up information related to TV programmes being watched, or checking product information from advertising.
Almost half of users (47%) are engaging with companies via social media, asking questions, raising issues and making complaints, with 33% of social media users preferring to get access that way, rather than picking up a telephone. Most of those users will try accessing the company Facebook page first, (29%), followed by a users personal page (28%), an official company blog (15%), Twitter (14%) and YouTube (12%). Other social experiences, or as Nielsen puts it 'The consumer decision journey' include hearing of others experiences (70%), learning about brands, products and services,(65%) complimenting brands (53%), and complaining about brands (50%).
The effect on the information world
It seems fairly clear, at least based on this evidence that information professionals ignore social media at their peril, but then - you knew I was going to say that anyway. The next iteration of the web is undoubtedly social, not site based. Consequently, we need to embrace real time media both as consumers of data, but also as creators of data. Real time media is increasingly going to be how our library members will expect to talk to us. They will expect to find a Facebook page, just as a few years ago they expected to find a website. They want to talk to us using apps and tablets. I was particularly interested in the figures regarding what people do on social media - listening to others experiences for example. Can you find a library 'champion' among your members, who is prepared to write about the information service and to engage across social media, dragging other people along with them?
What the report didn't show, which I thought was a shame, was social and search. For me, figures that shrieked out 'information professionals' were the ones that related to why people connect - because the know someone, are friends with the friends of someone, or want to keep up to date with the news. Shouldn't that be us? Shouldn't we be the ones with the Twitter handles, Facebook pages, Pinterest accounts and blogs? Of course, if you're reading this, you're probably one of the people who is doing just that, so I know that I'm very much in the echo chamber at this point, but if you're reading this at home, because you can't get access at work, keep up the pressure! Visit the article directly, and drag out a few more statistics about how people are engaging with organisations, using them to sort out buying decisions and so on. Should we also start to consider rather more how we can get involved with members by looking at what is on television? I was going to say 'with the exception of things like Eastenders' but why not? Soaps do have very important social stories about a wide variety of issues, and if the BBC puts in links saying things like 'if you have been affected by ...' then shouldn't we? With the recent awful news items about gun crime in the United States, is there no mileage in a library somewhere getting some facts and figures together, and tweeting them, or adding them to a Facebook page? This cannot hurt, and can surely only help to increase our visability, both in our own social circles, but also across the net generally. Wouldn't it have been great if, when people search for information about an event that's happening in the world, the first result that comes up is a reference to work that a British library has done to collate facts and figures together? And when people are searching for information in Google, they can see links and connections with their information staff, who are active on Google+? Or when they search on Facebook, up pops a library page? Or that they feel confident enough, empowered and expectant enough that they will consider going to a Facebook page of a library or a librarian, and asking a question there - AND getting a response?
Let's use 2013 to really hammer home to 'the powers that be' the importance of real time media, and the people in the organisation who should be using it and exploiting it to it's fullest potential are not the technical staff, not the Press department, but the people who understand exactly what information is all about - us!