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Made to measure

Made to measure

PHD’s Mike Cooper tells Communicate why markets such as Saudi Arabia will only become more important, and how to benchmark social media by Austyn Allison

August 2, 2011 3:47 by

world and went through absolutely everything we could find – we might have missed out on one or two things, but I think we got a really good whole in terms of what is out there – and it is staggering how little research there is about social media at the moment, how few really strong case studies.

I think in 12 months’ time or 24 months’ time, and in five years’ time, you will see an absolute explosion in terms of social media campaigns. So far we have just scratched the surface; I see the uptake of social media growing at a rate of something like 25 percent per annum at the
moment, which is absolutely extraordinary.

That’s basically the growth of people signing up to things such as Facebook and Twitter. The global population is around 6.5 billion, and we have slightly over 2 billion Internet users. Three quarters of those are on social networks. There is a huge amount of potential for growth in Internet usage. We are going to be at the point very shortly where if you are an Internet user you are pretty much automatically a user of social media.

But what about the two-thirds of people who are not on the Internet?
This takes us to our second major trend, which is mobile. I don’t think mobile has taken off as a medium in a way that it was expected to four or five years ago. But with the growth of 3G networks or 4G networks, what you will start to see is that markets that do not currently have great broadband penetration (look at India, where broadband penetration is very limited) will completely leapfrog the rest of the world. They will go straight to mobile, rapid, high-speed networks using smart phones and accessing Facebook and Twitter or whatever other localized social media vehicles emerge.

Mobile is a massive opportunity and it is very much an untapped opportunity at the moment. If you think about mobile advertising you think of interruptive texts, which people are quite resentful of. [For example,] there are a few commercial organisations that have my mobile phone number. I get a text that my optician has a special offer on this weekend so I can buy a second pair of glasses at 20 percent off. You don’t want that message and it is quite irritating.

That is a world away from social media, where you see an organic recommendation for a product. A friend of yours whose taste and outlook you trust – you may even regard him as a retail mentor because he has a better idea of what products are hot – and if you got a message that said he just liked the latest range of Levi’s jeans or Gap shirts or Rolex watches, that is so much more effective than a piece of unsolicited communication. That opportunity to then touch your smartphone to go to a link and see a special offer, that is a massively, exponentially more powerful piece of communication than what is currently available. It is just a colossal leap from where we are today.

Social has only just started getting going. If you are not strong in social, you are going to be a bit of a dinosaur in the very near future.

Is there room for localised versions of social networks?
You look at a market such as China where Facebook is banned, you have Baidu there, which is the localised version and has incredible penetration. I think it depends on the abilities of companies like Facebook or Twitter to meaningfully penetrate these markets, but I wouldn’t be very surprised if in some of the more far-flung markets, some of the more emerging markets, there were stronger local propositions that might offer a better understanding of the nuances and the peculiarities of that market. In the same way, Google today – or Apple or Microsoft – can’t be strong everywhere in the world.

How do you benchmark social media?
We work with some really big global advertisers, people such as Unilever, Kraft and GSK [GlaxoSmithKline]. The biggest question that they have at the moment is about

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