Brazil tops league of social media users


Brazilian Flag
Image by olivcris via Flickr

In Brazil 86% of internet users regularly use social networks and other social media sites. This places them top of the league of social media users globally, with Italy in second place (with 78% of internet users regularly using social media) and Spain in third place (77%). This data comes from the Nielsen’s study of the reach and usage of these social media sites by country which looks at the reach of social media sites in individual countries and the amount of time users spend on them.

Reach of social media in Brazil

The popularity and reach of social media in Brazil is due, in no small part, to the use of Orkut, a social network operated by Google that is incredibly popular in Brazil. In April, almost half of all users of Orkut came from Brazil and its popularity continues to grow in the country. This shows the rise of social networks beyond Facebook - which has a reach of just 26% in Brazil - and the importance for global brands of developing a social media strategy that takes into account these regional differences and the importance of different social media tools and patterns in different countries.

Social network and blog site reach by country - Top 10 (April 2010)

Rank Country % reach Time per person
1 Brazil 86% 5:03:37
2 Italy 78% 6:28:41
3 Spain 77% 5:11:44
4 Japan 75% 2:50:50
5 United States 74% 6:35:02
6 United Kingdom 74% 5:52:38
7 France 73% 4:10:27
8 Australia 72% 7:19:13
9 Germany 63% 4:13:05
10 Switzerland 59% 3:43:58

Source: The Nielsen Company

Social media accounts for 22% of time online

This data reveals not just the countries with the greatest reach of these social media sites, but also how long the typical user will spend on them. Overall, time on social networks and blog sites has reached 22% of all time spent on the internet. The same as one minute for every four and a half minutes spent online. Australia leads the pack here - with over seven hours per month spent on social media sites. And Japan is well below average at just less than three hours.

Time spent on sites is an interesting measure and one that needs further investigation to fully understand it. For example, in Japan people are very likely to be accessing sites on mobile devices and so are less likely to spend time browsing sites and more likely to achieve particular tasks that they are looking to do. And of course, spending a long time on a site may be an indicator of slow connections or poor design.

But even with these caveats, we are spending much more time on social networks and social media sites and the reach of these sites continues to grow. All over the world.

Are Fortune 100 CEOs social media slackers?


Image by Dan Dickinson via Flickr

There’s a misconception that everybody ‘gets’ social media. That everybody is taking part. And that business, in particular, are all developing social media strategies. This just isn’t true. Whilst we have witnessed a monumental rise in social media use over the last 18 months or so, there are still some who are significantly more innovative than others. In fact we often surprise our clients are FreshNetworks by telling them that they are among the most innovative companies in Europe in their use of social media, and online communities in particular.

In July we’re starting a series looking at Why Social Media Matters and in particular how you can convince a CEO that social media is the single most important thing that their business should embrace. That’s why it was great to see a presentation from the US that looks at social media use by Fortune 100 CEOs. The findings are not a huge surprise - most CEOs are not actively using social media themselves and those who are typically work in the tech industry.

I’d love to drill down further in this area and look at use by Fortune 100 companies - even if their CEOs are not personally making active use of social media, are the companies themselves? And if they are is there a correlation between social media active CEOs and the extent to which the organisation embraces social media.

However, it’s interesting to see the level of social media adoption among the people who run some of America’s biggest businesses and that’s why the presentation is our Required Reading for this week. Clearly some work to do here.

Fortune 100 CEOs Are Social Media Slackers
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Iran - a social media election


Iran Qom _DSC7574Image by youngrobv (Rob & Ale) via Flickr

There has been a lot of talk over the last year of Obama’s election as the first social media election. And it is certainly true that there is much we can all learn from how Obama used social media as a candidate during the election process. But over the last couple of days we’ve seen another use of social media in elections - reporting on the fallout from the election results in Iran.

The presidential election in Iran was held on the 12th June, between incumbent Ahmadinejad and rival Mousavi. The result was a landslide for Ahmadinejad, and opposition supporters have since been protesting the results. There has been mixed coverage of this in traditional media - with many criticising CNN for its coverage, and the BBC seemingly blocked in Iran as a result of its reports on what is happening.

It is in social media that the wealth and depth of information is to be found. And some of this is quite remarkable:

  • Twitter is perhaps the best place to follow what is happening in real time (#iranelection). And it is also the source of some particularly unique insights, such as the Tweet from Mousavi saying that he had been placed under house arrest.
  • Blogs allow coverage in more detailed form from bloggers both inside and outside Iran and from all parts of the political spectrum
  • YouTube is a source of video content from inside Iran, often in a raw and unfiltered manner.
  • Flickr is building a library of user-created images of riots and the aftermath of the election.

In all, the amount of information that is being shared about what happened, and is currently happening in Iran is huge. People are creating content and, thanks to efficient search, others are able to find it.

If Obama’s use of social media showed how candidates can harness it to support their own campaign, and to build their own brand, the case of the Iranian elections shows how the public can use social media to express their own opinion and to show what is happening.

One of the real developments that we are experiencing at the moment online is a exponential proliferation of information. Cases like the aftermath of the Iranian election are a great example of this. We can follow things in real-time thanks to services like Twitter, but we are also documenting the events for the future and doing so through the words, voices, eyes and ears of users themselves. Perhaps that is equally important.

3. Growth of a healthy online community


Sun CatcherImage by ecstaticist via Flickr

What constitutes a healthy community?

This is a big question. A really big question.

In short (although we’ll deal with the long version too), it depends on what you (or your client) wants the online community to be doing, how the community feel about that, how much churn and spam there is, how the numbers reflect the KPIs set and how ‘happy’ the membership is.

When we say ‘happy’, it’s important to say that we mean happy as members of the community (happy that they are safe, respected and encouraged) rather than happy as people, even the best community manager in the world can’t enforce that!

Perhaps it’s easier to look at what constitutes an ‘unhealthy’ community? Here’s what my vision of an ill, ailing community looks like:

  • Members’ questions and opening posts go unanswered, by both other members and the community manager
  • There is a visibly high amount thinly veiled spam (a loosely connect reply to a post that is stuffed with links) and a splattering of out-and-out ‘buy these diet pills now’ spamola
  • Feuds and fights have escalated, crowding out genuine discussion; with even mild-mannered members turning decidedly Lord of the Flies
  • People are leaving, loudly
  • The original purpose, theme or appeal is unclear, or lost, and the community is in the throes of a panic-stricken identity crisis
  • OR worst of all, it’s totally and utterly barren

Notice at no point did I mention quantities, traffic or ratios of active users.

Sure, your online community should have KPIs but one person’s page view target is another’s irrelevant number. The number of members a broad-interest lifestyle community has will - and should - differ from a special-interest, academic knowledge-sharing community.

That’s why it’s very important to work out - right at the very beginning of the planning stage, ideally before - why you want to launch a community and how you hope people will use it.

There is solid value in having numerical targets and understanding how many members need to be engaging to keep momentum, but there is no definitive ideal traffic goal any more than there is one topic area for all communities to be built around.

Tara Hunt, author of The Whuffie Factor, has a lovely bite-sized definition:

The health of a community is the gauge of where various qualitative and quantitative metrics lie in relation to the goals you set.

How to encourage engagement

It’s all very well promoting the community in all the right places and sweet-talking potential members into joining, but the real challenge (and the real trick) is making sure that they engage once they’re there.

Think open questions, talking points

If you want to get a conversation flowing, don’t ask “do you wish you were 21 again?” because the answers are all likely to be “yes!”.

Instead, ask, “if you could talk to your 21-year-old self, what advice would you give?” or “If you were 21 again, what would you do differently?”. The answers will be varied; they’ll contain talking points that will lead to more questions and more talking points.

Keep it simple

You don’t need to think up dazzling forum talking points that will show everyone how clever and well-read you are. In fact, the chances are this would frighten off all but the biggest show-offs. Keep it simple. Ask questions or start conversations that you would ask your friends over a drink, or like to know people’s thoughts on at a dinner party.

There’s more to engagement than posts

Don’t be led down the path of thinking posts are all that count. Sure, having a healthy number of bloggers and posters is fantastic, but there’s more to engagement than this. Have members rate each others’ posts, upload photos, comment on blogs or even respond to images with images.

Trust your own interests

Unless you know it’s a complete diversion from the interests of your community, start conversations and write blogs about topics that interest you. You won’t be the only one interested and because you’re speaking from your own experience, it will come across as far more authentic. Community managers are allowed to be real people too, your members will appreciate it.

Careful with current affairs

Legal matters are a whole other guide and there are many books on media law available if you want to brush up. But remember these top level rules:

  • Don’t play with fire. Reporting restrictions of current court cases or investigations includes message boards, blogs and forums. Do not encourage debate around ongoing court cases, except with extreme care, because once you have pulled the tiger’s tail, it’s very hard to get it to stop the tiger typing when it crosses a legal line.
  • Defamation laws still apply to community platforms. If a newspaper prints a story saying a named known celebrity is a love rat, and it’s untrue, they are subject to the same laws as if a blogger on your site claims that their named neighbour is cheating on his wife.
  • Naming and shaming. It is not acceptable for any community members to talk about a named person (that they know or do not know) and tell untruths, or give away that person’s private information.
  • Clamp down on risky behaviour. You are giving your members a platform to communicate, to chat and to engage. They do not need (and should not want) to give out their personal email addresses and mobile phone numbers. Perhaps they just don’t realise how open communities are, perhaps it’s a testament to how safe and friendly you have made your community feel. Either way, you need to give gentle but firm guidance on personal safety and personal information. Eventually your community champions will take on the baton themselves and report unsafe behaviour, and set examples of good behaviour, all by themselves.

A sobering example: In 2008, a record payout was made to a social housing firm in Sunderland after seriously defamatory comments were repeatedly posted and published on an ‘anonymous’ news and discussion site, called DadsPlace (sic). Eventually, the owners and administrators of the site were revealed through detailed investigation and they were found to be responsible and made to pay £100,000 to the victim of the defamation.

Online communities aren’t places to allow dubious behaviour to claim sanctuary.

More on this next week in the ‘Moderation and safety’ section of our Community Management series

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Customers sometimes do not know what they want


Image by Darren Hester via Flickr

The promise of co-creation is that getting customers involved in the innovation process, and letting them inform the design of new products, will mean that you develop a product that is better suited to their needs and will ultimately perform better in the market. Of course, it is not always this simple. Often customers don’t know what they want. They can’t necessarily articulate how they would design the ideal product, nor can they say what is wrong with the existing product. They may never have articulated what they like nor what they dislike, but this doesn’t mean that the product isn’t perfect.

Over the weekend, the New York Times looked at this very subject following revelations from ex-Google visual designer, Douglas Bowman. In an unusual move, Bowman explained on his blog the reason he had left Google. As the New York Times discussed, his description of the design process at Google raises a number of questions:

Can a company blunt its innovation edge if it listens to its customers too closely? Can its products become dull if they are tailored to match exactly what users say they want?

Bowman’s suggestion is that that answer to all of these questions is “yes”. That Google relies too much on data, as a proxy of customer input, and not enough on design skills alone. As the New York Times article report:

Mr. Bowman’s main complaint is that in Google’s engineering-driven culture, data trumps everything else. When he would come up with a design decision, no matter how minute, he was asked to back it up with data. Before he could decide whether a line on a Web page should be three, four or five pixels wide, for example, he had to put up test versions of all three pages on the Web. Different groups of users would see different versions, and their clicking behavior, or the amount of time they spent on a page, would help pick a winner.

This kind of user-input into the design process is what many think of when they think of working with their customers on new product development and design. They think of presenting a number of options to customers (or indeed to potential customers) and then asking them to evaluate each one and choose the one they prefer (or in this case to take their use of a particular design as a proxy for this choice). Of course, this is not necessarily the best way of co-creating with your customers.

Rather than asking people what they think about a particular set of designs they prefer (or which they use most), you can often get a more useful level of insight by engaging with them. Don’t ask them about solutions to a problem but observe what they discuss and say about the problems themselves.

Imagine you are a company designing kitchen equipment. You could involve your customers in the design and innovation process in one of three ways:

  1. Ask them what they want - ask what new equipment, tools or gadgets would make their life in the kitchen easier or allow them to do new things
  2. Ask them to choose between a set of prototypes - present a set of potential new products to them and ask them to choose which they want.
  3. Ask them to talk about what they do in the kitchen, what equipment they use and what problems they have

The last of these is most likely to produce the most insightful outcomes. Rather than asking people to get involved in the actual prototype products themselves, or to tell you what they want, get them involved further up the innovation funnel. Engage them and talk to them about what they use in the kitchen - what makes their lives easier, what would they like to be able to prepare and cook but can’t. Don’t talk to them about the equipment that, you hope, will solve their problems. Talk to them about their problems themselves.

By watching what people do you can then interpret this and begin a design process based on this information and this engagement. Then, rather than just presenting three options to people of potential new designs, you can approach them based on what they have discussed before: “there was a lot of discussion about x, here are some ways we think we could help with that. What do you think?”

This kind of engagement is where online communities really come to their fore. They let you engage your customer in a sustainable way. You can get to know them, their lives and the problems and challenges they face. It isn’t just a short-term process to “do some co-creation”, rather it is long-term engagement that fundamentally changes the way you innovate and develop new products.

Customers sometimes do not know what they want. It’s a fact. They do, however, know how they use what they have, the problems they face and the things they would like to be simplified. Understand what they do know rather than forcing themselves to make choices about things they don’t.

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