Facebook friendships may improve real friendships, according to new research. Findings released in a Euro RSCG-commissioned white paper yesterday stated that 27.6 percent of American social media users said that their offline relationships are actually benefiting from online interaction via social media.
The study, in which MicroDialogue surveyed more than 1,200 U.S. social media users between the ages of 18 and 65-plus, revealed that social media tools now play a key role in keeping consumers connected. Almost half (48.7 percent) felt that online communication was more convenient than face-to-face, 39.9 percent said that online social groups were truly social and a quarter (25.6 percent) reported that they made no distinction between online and offline interaction.
"[Social media] has stopped being technology when it became social. I think that that is the important tipping point," said Marian Salzman, president of Euro RSCG Worldwide PR, North America. "The moment we cross over to 'what are groups doing?' that's where social media comes in. . . . It became a way for people to bring their social lives to a better place. As soon as it reverts to technology, nobody wants to discuss the dial tone."
Consumers also reported that social media and "cyberdisinhibition" -- a willingness to behave differently than usual online -- has allowed them to expand their social lives, with 48.7 percent claiming to have met new people. Almost a third (31.5 percent) said they felt empowered to do things they have been wanting to, while 20 percent took action to lash out against brands and companies.
Marketers looking to succeed in this self-empowered social medium will need to develop paralleled strategies to combine both the online and offline world and join in the conversation, according to Salzman.
"[Marketers] have to realize the conversation is social. . . . In other words, the conversation doesn't take place in the beginning like when you and I have it, but when you share it with the person you talk to next," she said. "We need to recognize that we need to get the story out there and participate in the storytelling, but that the story is going to be replayed again and again like a game of telephone."
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