Social Media Is the New Mass Media

Social media and interactive consumers will take the lead in transforming the multi-screen media landscape in 2010.

Consumers of all ages who have made it a national pastime to text, Tweet and share their lives on Facebook have become the most powerful force in digital media today. Collectively, they are the new mass media -- one interactive consumer at a time.

This power of numbers has catapulted Facebook and Twitter to leadership status, propelling everything from television and movies to advertising and e-commerce. Facebook (half of whose domestic users are over 35) is now the third-most-popular video site behind Hulu and Google's top-ranked YouTube, according to the latest VideoCensus numbers from Nielsen. The amount of time Web users spent viewing videos on social-networking sites increased nearly 100% from a year ago, outpacing growth in the number of online video streams as a whole.



Led by Facebook and MySpace, online video has become central to the Web experience -- particularly on mobile devices -- in ways that will have far-reaching implications for television and film. That users primarily rely on connected mobile devices makes the smaller screen as important as the mega high-def monstrosity. A Facebook friend's advice or a YouTube video have become as potent as this week's top-rated TV show or popular movie trailer. "The fusion of mobile and social and the appetite for apps (among both consumers and brands) will continue unabated," observes eMarketer analyst Noah Elkin.

Within three years, 43% of global mobile Internet users (some 608 million people) and 45% in the U.S. (or 56 million people) will be accessing their social networks from their mobile devices, according to eMarketer.

Consumers are changing their behavior and expectations as a result. Nearly one-third of holiday shoppers surveyed say their purchases are being influenced by social-media interaction, catapulting social networks to a new "marketing channel," according to comScore. Viral marketing and word-of-mouth could pay off this sanguine holiday spending season for brand advertisers that already have a social network strategy and presence.

With mobile commerce set to pass the $1 billion mark in 2010, retailers are seriously capitalizing on and measuring social media's impact on sales. As interactive consumers increasingly consider their social networks as ways to access the information, products and services they want, places like Facebook and even Twitter will become magnets for content producers and advertisers.

Google gets this. Google's new real-time search incorporates Facebook posts, Twitter Tweets and updates from other micro-blogs. It will heighten social media's power to influence how consumers inform, entertain, communicate, shop and buy. Although Google commands 65% of the search universe and is the engine for much media advertising, the rapid adoption of its Android operating system in mobile devices brings social network search and applications to a whole new level.

Netflix's new online movie delivery service will increasingly integrate social media elements, such as friend recommendations and reviews, to build a virtual community and profits. Television networks and live events have started to follow music producers and performers to the social media trough.

For instance, Facebook's partnership with ABC Television to stream the American Music Awards to its 350 million users (in direct competition with MySpace's new music strategy) is part of a broader move to use its platform to showcase talent and content. YouTube is launching a sports hub -- and advertising magnet -- featuring events, athlete interviews and other content from SportsAccord, which represents international sports federations.

Opening their networks to developers and new applications has allowed Facebook and Twitter to morph this year beyond all expectation.

In the search for ways to generate revenue, the services could soon create paid user mentions for products and services and pay walls to access certain account information and content, much like the profitable LinkedIn does for its professional client base.

There also is a sweet spot in matching consumers with information and friend assessments about the products, services and people that most interest them, creating a pathway through the clutter to premium-priced targeted nirvana.

Consider: one-third of Americans say they would be receptive to having their Web habits and searches monitored in exchange for more relevant advertising and information, according to a new Synovate survey. Where better to execute such a swap than a trusted social media network?

Little wonder that the value of these private social networks is appreciating in an improving stock market. Facebook is valued at about $8 billion, Twitter about $1.13 billion and LinkedIn about $1.25 billion, according to The Wall Street Journal. Facebook and LinkedIn are candidates to go public in 2010, and Twitter is often mentioned as a takeover target by Google.

In fact, Google's self-proclaimed acquisition spree, which recently included AdMob and could include Craigslist, appears to be fixed on social media-related advertising. The world's most powerful media company, which has relatively little social media connection beyond YouTube, also sees the connected consumer tidal wave coming.

It all comes down to one fundamental value: individual consumer relevance. It will become the mantra for anyone who wants to thrive in the digital media world and the driving force behind many media deals (from mega mergers and cherry-picking start-ups, to launching new business ventures, such as TV Everywhere and e-reading services) over the next 18 months.

Next week: More 2010 media predictions

14 comments about "Social Media Is the New Mass Media".
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  1. Malcolm Rasala from Real Creatives Worldwide, December 14, 2009 at 11:09 a.m.

    What planet is Diane Mermigas living on. The total Global Ad Spend in 2007 was $454 billion (Zenith Optimedia). But she wants us to believe that $1.13 billion Twitter i.e. one four hundreth of just one years ad spend is big stuff. Ditto $8 billion Facebook. Work it out. The global spend in 2007
    is sixty times bigger than the supposed value of Facebook. The problem with scribblers and especially scribblers about the internet is they believe their own hype. Facebookers and Tweeters are not as she says the most powerful force in digital. She is living on a parallel planet spouting such nonsense. The biggest force in digital media is probably the mobile phone and the conversations that take between human beings. In a world approaching 9 billion people a tiny minority use Twitter or Facebook. Believe their propaganda if you wish. Its just to get their IPO share price up. Best to treat the divine Diana with a healthy scepticism. After all she is writing to make money one presumes!!!

  2. Bill Roth from NCCT, December 14, 2009 at 11:57 a.m.

    EXCELLENT article! Social Media is also the path for being used by companies to connect with the Awareness Customer searching for sustainable goods and services. Learn more at

  3. Kevin Murray from Hypefest, December 14, 2009 at 1:41 p.m.

    No more Cool Aid for Dianne!

  4. Jonathan Mirow from BroadbandVideo, Inc., December 14, 2009 at 5:18 p.m.

    Social networking sites are for people who have no real social life. This dreck is just the flash-in-the-pan for '09. Yeah, we USE them for the people that they can deliver - but spend time on this junk? Nah, I have a life and it takes more than 140 characters to express what's going on in my world. "A Facebook friend's advice or a YouTube video have become as potent as this week's top-rated TV show or popular movie trailer." Honey, you need to get out more often. Turn off the laptop, put the phone on silent and go out with some friends, OK?

  5. Jonathan Mirow from BroadbandVideo, Inc., December 14, 2009 at 8:29 p.m. Rap video about Twitter (starring two REALLY white guys) "She just gave a tweet, I don't give a sheet". Uh-huh.

  6. Jerry Foster from Energraphics, December 15, 2009 at 2:40 a.m.

    I cannot, for the life of me, find any Facebook page or Twitter account for the author of this post.

    There must be something wrong with the Facebook search function and the Twitter Find People function.

  7. Cara Breeden from Cara Breeden Copywriting, December 15, 2009 at 9:56 a.m.

    This is a great article with some real, quantified information. In social media, it is no longer a question of IF, it's a question of HOW. @Jonathan Mirow - I have a healthy social life, but I use social media every day as a BUSINESS tool. In fact, I have generated most of my clientele using social media.

  8. Doug Pruden from Customer Experience Partners, December 15, 2009 at 10:47 a.m.

    I couldn’t agree more that Tweets, Facebook pages, blog postings, YouTube and all the rest of online social-media have increased the communications bandwidth and the opportunity for consumers to voice their opinions to others. Surely it is giving the public a louder voice in the marketplace and greater influence on awareness, consideration and even final purchase decision making. But let's not be burying the impact of traditional mass media just yet.

    Diane’s statement that time spent by web users viewing videos on social-networking sites increased by “nearly 100%” in a year like all growth rates needs to be put into context with consideration of the size of the original base. Research telling us that “nearly one-third of holiday shoppers say that their purchases are being influenced by social-media interactions” shouldn’t be ignored either, but “influenced” comes is many shapes and sizes and such a research question can be open to considerable interpretation.

    Most of all lets also remember that in addition to mass media and social-media, there’s still the nearly forgotten power of personal media. The last research I read said that we still trust most what we hear from friends, neighbors, relatives and co-workers. In addition to face-to-face and wired line communications we’re all using our cell phones, texting and email messages to generate a whole lot more of those most influential messages.

  9. Aaron Clopton, December 15, 2009 at 2:58 p.m.

    I agree with earlier comment, Cara. At , we have seen the demand for social media as sole-news deliverer. It is only getting stronger, too . . . . .

  10. Kevin Horne from Verizon, December 15, 2009 at 11:58 p.m.

    "social media trough" (end of paragraph #9)

    the best, most on-target metaphor of 2009...

  11. Mike Einstein from the Brothers Einstein, December 16, 2009 at 9:51 a.m.

    I'm afraid to join a social network because I know that as soon as I build my friends list my computer will die and I'll have to throw the thing away and start over.

    I think I'll just go to the library instead.

  12. Jan Zlotnick from the zlotnick group, December 17, 2009 at 5:12 p.m.

    I think Diane is on this planet and so is Malcolm and Bill and's just tilting and moving a bit differently these days. To me, social networking is the best newest technology for the oldest most trusted way to sell or market and brand anything: word of mouth. The very nature of this blog and its responses show its power and ROI value. I've written more about this if you wanna go there....

  13. Jan Zlotnick from the zlotnick group, December 17, 2009 at 6:57 p.m.

    ...oops, hey, try this link instead of the i sent before, if you want to read more from my entry...

  14. Diane Mermigas from Mermigas on Media, March 25, 2010 at 10:30 p.m.

    Thanks for reading and for commenting.
    My objective, as always, is to keep the dialogue going.
    For the record, Jerry Foster, I have had Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts for quite some time.

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