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European Social Media Trends

October 27th, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

Few days ago, Tom Smith, Managing Director of The Global Web Index, has presented  his company’s insights to the IAB Europe Social Media Research Showcase. The presentation focused on Social Media involvement across Europe, motivations to get online, the impact of social media and the evolution needed from companies and brands. The Global Web Index is a unique research service providing leading edge data, insights and thinking on web behaviour, social media, motivations and impact from 16 key markets and 32,000 consumer surveys.

Tom Smith looked at three big future trends:

The first big trend is that the passive impact of social media is bigger than the active one. By passive we mean the exposure and aggregation of opinions, reviews, ratings and recommendations to impact every web user, regardless of their personal social media involvement. In the short term this is through search; already in 2009, 85% have “searched last month” for information about specific products and 49% for “product recommendations”.  Increasingly these searches are dominated by consumer generated reviews or recommendations. Just try searching for a brand or specific product and you can see this impact. As the volume of consumer content continues to outpace professional, this trend will only increase.

Ultimately this means that consumers will increasingly define the first perception of a brand. In the future this will be dictated by social data being overlaid onto mobile devices through Social Augmented Reality, meaning every consumer getting geo relevant recommendations from their immediate network, distant network and people like them. Social will impact every decision we make.

The next big trends is that we increasingly consume content and information based on the consumer network of recommendation and consumer meta data rather than a professionally dictated decision. A consumer recommendation was the top ranked factor for consumers choosing music or videos. For news it was narrowly behind ‘professional’, ‘from a site I know’ and unsurprisingly along way behind ‘it’s recent’.

The future of content will not necessarily be ‘consumer’ created or ‘professionally’ created; it will however be dictated and controlled by the social environment. Take for example your current television service; the likelihood is that you access it via an Electronic Programme Guide. In ten years this EPG will have recommendations from consumers, top viewed programmes and programming tagged with key words. Viewing will be unpredictable and consumer driven. This will also happen with e-readers in the next 10-20 years, meaning that the “social” will eventually impact all aspects of media.

The last big trend we explored was how our digital networks are much now bigger than our face to face ones, for example in the US, the average face to face network is 21.4 and a Social Network one is 49.3. This changes the nature of our social groups and influences to include people we would have lost touch with, distant friends and people complete unknown to us in real life. This is a first in human history and has a significant impact by familiarising us with strangers and broad networks. This is important as we begin to build trust with other consumers and make big decisions based on what they say and we place less emphasis on what the traditional pillars of society say.

According to a report “Europeans Have Adopted Social Computing Differently” by Forrester Research, 60% of European online consumers are taking part in Social Computing activities such as reading or writing blogs, listening to podcasts, setting up RSS feeds, reading and writing online customer reviews, or taking part in social networking sites.

Highlights from the report include:

  • Reading peer reviews is the No. 1 Social Computing activity, with nearly 1/3 of European online consumers taking part in that activity.
  • Consumers in the UK and Sweden are embracing social networking sites, while users in Germany and France are far less impressed. More than 1/3 of UK consumers take part in social networking sites, double the European average.
  • 9% of all Europeans maintain blogs or publish Web pages. The Dutch are the most prolific, with 15% of users in the Netherlands taking part in this activity.
  • The Spanish actively comment on Web sites, while Germans are, by and large, reluctant to offer their opinions online.

There are many reasons for the differing behaviour in Social Computing, according to Forrester Research as countries are at different stages of internet adoption. Only 40% of Spanish consumers and 44% of Italians are online regularly.

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