May 24, 2010

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4 Insights into Social Shopping & Sharing Retailers have always known that women are the principle buyers of everything. Without fanfare or acknowledgement women drive the economy. Now there’s a growing body of evidence that women in mature economies control more than 70 percent of household spending and will drive $5 trillion in incremental global spending over the next few years according to a new book titled, Women Want More , by the Boston Consulting Group. Add to that Maddy Dychwald’s new book titled, Influence, in which she marshals considerable research to argue that the emergence of women as an economic force is the biggest demographic change of our times which will transform business and be a positive force for social change. But as women exert their economic power, they are doing so in novel ways that combine online and offline channels and media. Anyone whose ever been to a mall on a Saturday knows that shopping is social and that girlfriends, mothers and daughters influence purchase behavior and each other in countless ways. Social sharing seems like a native female behavior so its not hard to imagine extending it from the real world into cyberspace and back again. Now new patterns of influence and interaction are emerging as women use a wide array of tools to get what they want. This has led to the regular invention of sharing tools on e-commerce sites and the emergence of tools that link shopping with social media like ShopSocially now in beta. Sharing sites, tips and bargains probably contributes to the rapid growth of social sharing sites like StumbleUpon, which doubled it membership from 5 to 10 million over the last two years. Scouting, planning, bargain hunting and social shopping are taking new forms each day. Some emerging shopping patterns are predictable by demographics, others not so much. In the Women and the Digital Purchase Path survey of 1581 US women conducted by iVillage and SheSpeaks, shopping emerges as a deliberate and planned activity. Fifty-three percent of respondents spend from half an hour to more than an hour preparing to shop by searching out coupons, talking to friends, reading circulars, clipping coupons or surfing web reviews and recommendations. The survey also documents a number of interesting changes in the way women approach their critical economic task -- shopping. Most women have favorite stores. The majority of survey responders (56%) shop 3-4 stores regularly, though 24% of the others are loyal to 5-7 stores. This translates into more than 50% visiting superstores, food, beverage, health or beauty brand sites and 50-60% signing up for brand and store promotional e-mails. This is an opportunity for hearty social media co-operative promotions between manufacturers, brand marketers and retailers. Women Want Deals. Part learned behavior, part recession-driven coupon shopping is huge online. Seventy-nine percent of responders said they frequently use coupons while 4 in 10 said they’d go to less convenient stores for better prices. More than half said their use of and interest in coupons had increased over the previous year; documenting the impact of the recession and perhaps implanting new shopping behaviors that will endure. Coupons are the number one purchase influencers; though the source and credibility of coupon offers differs by source (newspaper vs online vs e-mail or direct mail) and by age (younger women don’t read or clip newspapers). The number of coupon sites is growing and daily emails from coupon aggregation sites like Retail-Me-Not bring coupons to inboxes daily. Coupon shoppers mix online and offline channels seamlessly. They download coupons and take them to the store. They apply coupon codes from e-mail or postcard packs in online shopping carts. Coupons work like traditional and direct advertising. They reinforce brand preferences and stimulate purchase and they build awareness and insert new brands, products and stores into the consideration set. Reviews and Blogs Trump Twitter and Facebook. Online customer reviews and old-fashion word-of-mouth recommendations from family friends top the list of purchase influencers. A third of responders said that blog reviews, mentions and stories affected their brand, product or store choice. A well written, honest sounding detailed product review on a credible site has persuasive power. The content overcomes skepticism about not really knowing the author. And while 8 in 10 responders had visited Facebook in the last month and more than half of the women surveyed signed up to be Facebook fans of at least one food, health or household brand, only 19 percent cited social media as influential in their purchase decisions. This probably skews by age and represents...
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5 Ways Social Media Impacts Journalism Are bloggers, tweeters and friends journalists, commentators or just regular folks reacting to media? Social media seems to have broken traditional media and news organization’s exclusive lock on the news. In fact, an interesting interplay is developing between informal and formal news gatherers who seem to feed off each other, vie to set the news agenda, compete for scoops and regularly borrow, refer to or use the same data, images, videos or graphics. The Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism looked at 29 weeks worth of news stories across all channels and concluded “the stories and issues that gain traction in social media differ substantially from those in the mainstream press … and they also greatly differ from each other.” Here’s a top line summary of what they found: Story Overlap is Modest. Blogs, Twitter and YouTube only shared the same top story once – during the week of rioting following the Iranian elections. Most of the top stories in social media “differ dramatically from what is receiving attention in the traditional press. Only a quarter of the leading stories in any given week were the same as in the mainstream media. Evidently the choices made in daily editorial sessions is more predictable and expected than the choices made by bloggers and tweeters even though leading global news organizations are big players on Twitter and YouTube. News Topics Differ Dramatically. While there is shared coverage of national politics, economics and foreign affairs, social media has a much greater range. Stories about science, technology, education, green issues, consumerism, religion and off-beat stories get much more play than in traditional news channels. Ironically 99 percent of the stories linked to by bloggers came from traditional media outlets, led by BBC News and CNN. Social media is used to riff on and supplement traditional news. Social media activists see their role as expanding the news agenda and bringing to light topics not regularly or completely covered by the mainstream press. Story Cycles are Shorter. Stories that gain traction in social media often emerge out of nowhere within hours of an initial report or event and disappear almost as quickly. Just 5 percent of top stories on Twitter, 9 percent on YouTube and 13% of top stories across blogs were still top stories a week later. Compare that to 50 percent of top stories that were still in the mix a week alter in traditional media. This may reflect professional discipline, emphasis on further exploring stories and/or social media’s fleeting attention span where the act of posting is as important as the content. Social Media are Columnists. Bloggers and tweeters tend to “gravitate toward events that effect personal rights and cultural norms – issues like same-sex marriage, the rationing of health care or privacy settings on Facebook.” “A strong sense of purpose often accompanies the links in blogs,” which in many cases, voice strongly held and divisive opinions. The facts and the breaking news are launching pads for social media activists who seem to see their role as illuminating facets of the story or advocating interpretations or positions within on-going news subjects. Social media content is much more pointed and personal. Each Social Media has a Personality & Purpose. There is no common agenda or emphasis among social media channels. Twitter is heavily technology focused – 43 percent of the stories tracked during the 29 weeks covered tech topics. Similarly Twitter heavily addresses itself and its users. Users tweet as a way to pass along breaking information – Hamburger Helper for the mainstream media outlets active on the site and critical as source material for tweeters. YouTube has less overt commentary though users make editorial selections in the choice of which videos to post. The intention seems to be sharing unusual, eye-popping or unexpected content. “The most watched videos have a strong sense of serendipity. They pique interest and curiosity with a strong visual appeal.” Videos also span national and linguistic boundaries in ways that written commentary can’t. Blogs are like news bulletins or daily Op-Eds. Lead stories in a given week tend to last no more than 3 days. Content focuses less on additional reporting than in dissecting content, motivations or personalities in the news. Most of the lead stories differ from traditional press and overlap with Twitter at about the same ratio as with traditional media. “Bloggers also demonstrated over the year a tendency to weigh in heavily on stories involving changes in society ranging from the trivial to the...

Danny Flamberg

I am a veteran marketing consultant working with leading and emerging brands

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