According to Nielsen, consumers spent more than five and half hours living in the conversational streams of Facebook and Twitter in December 2009, an 82% increase from the same time last year when users were spending just over three hours. And, of course that was followed by an astronomical increase of unique visitors.
Ahh, so what is this conversational stream you ask? Well, given this growth in social networking, I wonder how often you check your Twitter stream and hit refresh? What about Facebook? Do you click back and forth between the “live feed” and “news feed” to see what your friends are talking about? I do quite often. Have you ever noticed people talking about a product, brand or maybe the outcome of an election? This is the conversational stream (some call it activity stream or just stream). Brian Solis refers to this as the attention dashboard; whereby all of our attention is deep rooted in the thoughts, ideas, opinions, and perceptions of the communities that we belong and subscribe to.
As a consumer, living in the attention dashboard is natural. I have a vested interest in what my community actually cares about. So when a friend posts a link to a review of product that he/she just bought and raves about its features; I am probably going to click on it to see what all the hype is about.
For a brand, this is a huge opportunity but it also presents a few challenges. Steve Rubel, a friend and colleague at Edelman sums it up here:
To mitigate this ongoing trend of streams, communicators will need to: 1) be as ubiquitous as possible, 2) adopt multiple messages, stories and formats and 3) make sure you allow your employees to get out there – in other words, use the force, don’t fight it.
Here is how I see it. Brands need to be relevant. Skip the marketing messages that go through rounds and rounds of approvals from the brand and legal teams. No one reads it anyway. Equip and empower your marketing/PR/product groups to become brand evangelists so they can participate on the social web starting within their own micro-communities. What you will find is relevant messages appearing in others’ streams. Participation means that “relevant branded content” will be omnipresent on the social web; from the Google search results, Delicious & Stumbleupon bookmarks, to links being shared in Twitter and Facebook.
Of course, I have a tendency of oversimplifying everything. There are many issues to consider about real time community engagement but you catch my drift, hopefully. If not, get with me on Twitter and I will clarify.