Pew questions value of social networks again

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A Like’s Worth Less in 2013

Marketing executives, and finance directors, might want to pay attention to a new report from Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project before greenlighting the next investment in social networks. According to “Coming and Going on Facebook”, published 5th of February, 2013: 41% of all Facebook users don’t think the social network is a compelling part of their lives, 33% of users aged 18 – 50+ have already cut down the daily time they spend on it, 27% of all users will spend less time on it in 2013 and 20% of online adults have abandoned it altogether.|

The report says that 61% of current FB users have voluntarily taken a break from it for several weeks or more because:

  • 21% were too “too busy/didn’t have time for it”
  • 10% thought it a “waste of time/content was not relevant”
  • 10% “just wasn’t interested/just didn’t like it”


  • 42% of FB users aged 18-29, 34% of those aged 30-49 and 23% of those aged 50 or more say that they have decreased the time they spend on FB on a typical day
  • 27% of all FB users plan to spend less time on the site in the coming year.

Almost half the FB user base can be described as indifferent to it and time devoted to FB is declining across the board, which should say something about the overall value to a brand of Engagement on FB (and other social networks) and therefore about the value of interactions with individual FB users. It also speaks to the need to recalibrate measures of social media performance and return.

Our own analytics have long prioritised qualitative signals like activity over quantitative measures — our recent QS scorecard, introduced last year, pretty much discounts bulk measures altogether. Pew’s recent report, along with a stream of others from 2012 showing a low or declining level of interaction between FB users and brands (one study claims less than 1% of users who Like a brand ever visit its profile) should prompt brands to think about doing two things regarding their social media portfolio.

  1. Instead of counting numbers of Friends and Followers and trying to follow hundreds of verbatim conversations, start scoring the value of different types of interactions; differentiate between high involvement interactions and low involvement ones
  2. Look beyond the horizontal catch-all behemoths such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. It’s a certainty your topic and even your brand are being discussed more meaningfully elsewhere on the Internet, in more targeted vertical networks and niche communities. B2B brands should look beyond LinkedIn to other professional networks: many of them send signals to search engines, too. The 20% of adults who no longer use FB are talking elsewhere online.

Aaron Smith, a Pew researcher, told TechNewsWorld: “This is in line with what we’ve seen with a lot of other platforms and technologies. We would have seen similar numbers if we were asking about Twitter or smartphones or any number of other technologies.” [TechNewsWorld Feb 6th 2013.]

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