Social Media Is Here to Stay (Just Look at History)
Wow: sometimes you come across a statistic that says it all. Recently I was impressed by the results of a survey of 1,022 Canadian business execs by Leger Marketing, which found that 90% of the businesses represented are using social media to communicate with the public. This strikes me as more evidence that social media is insinuating itself into every part of our world, rapidly becoming as commonplace as the telephone in the early 20th century or email and cell phones in more recent decades.
The list of social media used by Canadian businesses is dominated by the usual suspects, Facebook and Twitter, but the Leger survey (conducted on behalf of SAS Canada) also covers other channels like blogs and corporate Web sites with social functionality. What's really telling is the fact that one out of five execs in Ontario, Canada's largest province, said they now consider social media the "most important means for communicating with the public" -- beating out broadcast media, email, regular mail, and the telephone.
The Canadian survey results come not long after a U.S. survey by Regus found 35% of American businesses had used social media to attract new business -- which actually lags behind a global average of 40%. The U.S. results were further refined by the size of the enterprise in question, with more small companies (38%) attracting new customers through social media than their larger peers (27%). Meanwhile 51% of businesses worldwide said they maintain contact with customers via social media, according to Regus, and 58% of international execs said they used social media to stay in touch with their business contacts.
Sure, there are still plenty of skeptics out there -- including the 34% cohort of the Regus survey's international sample who say social networks will never become a significant way of communicating with consumers, and the 9% of Canadian execs in the Leger survey who said they consider social media a "passing fancy." I also try to make a habit of questioning "the wisdom of crowds": just because a lot of people do something doesn't mean it's going to last. But in this case, I think it's safe to say the numbers don't lie: social media is here to stay, transforming the way people and organizations interact with each other.
Although it's entirely new, the trend lines for social media adoption actually bear a close resemblance to previous communications revolutions. Just check out these graphs comparing the first decade of growth for telegraphs, telephones, and social networks (2005-2014, as projected by eMarketer).