business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Michael Sansolo

Maybe it’s societal attention deficit disorder or simply the desire to keep up with the pace of change. The reality seems to be that too many companies give up on too many initiatives before finishing the work. It happens repeatedly and the risks can be huge.

Consider the issue of social media. Three years ago it was the greatest most important thing ever. Now, when I discuss the topics with some business groups, the response is essentially: “that’s so yesterday.”


Let’s consider two interesting statistics. First, the Washington Post had a front-page story Monday on how social media is altering love and marriage. Multiple studies say one-third of marriages in the US now begin with a social media relationship.

Second, think of the power of Facebook alone. Sure, there have been articles about Facebook’s fading power, especially among younger users, yet the numbers show the exact opposite.

Four years ago, Facebook had just hit 400 million users; today the number is 1.3 billion. That means Facebook now has a larger population than India, the second most populous country on the planet. Stated another way, Facebook has added 900 million users in the past four years or nearly three times the population of the US.

The power of the social web is only growing. So the question becomes, what are you doing about it?

The final section of the four-year study of social media by the Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council examines just how well the industry is doing in the world of Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, SnapChat and more. The study, which you can download here, is something you need read because the answer is unsettling. (Full disclosure: In case you’ve forgotten from past articles; I am the research director of the council and am directly involved in this study.)

In short, shoppers say they know you’ve got a Facebook page and they aren’t impressed. You’ve got lots more work to do.

The eighth part of the social web study included surveys and in-depth interviews with shoppers, plus interviews with social web executives in the industry and the results are both startling and disappointing.

Shoppers say they welcome social media as a tool to aid shopping, menu ideas and more, but most shoppers say supermarkets in particular aren’t rising to the level they want. In fact, many find the information on social networks is little more than the old circulars presented in a new format.

Since that’s all they are finding, their activity mirrors exactly what you’d expect.

Those deeper relationships or the sharing of information that are the hallmark of the social web still aren't happening for many retailers, even though that’s exactly what shoppers say they want and expect, certainly in the very near future.

The industry’s front line people working on social media aren’t surprised by these findings because many say their own companies continue to struggle with how to use the social web. That struggle is reflected in funding and cultural issues that handicap more aggressive use of social media sites.

Obviously, there is no simple answer to reacting to any of these findings, but Part 8 of the report is must reading for those who want to take the temperature of this new world. What more, those attending FMI this week can catch a council presentation on the findings, Thursday at 9 a.m. in room 102b.

Either way, keep this in mind: 1.3 billion people can’t be wrong and that’s just the population of Facebook. Social media is a huge opportunity, but only if you seize it.

Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available by clicking here .
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