Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Yahoos Facebooking: What's 1.5% of your life worth? (Reprise)

With Facebook's announcement today that they passed the 500-million user mark, I thought it might be worth revisiting a post on the value of time spent with social media outlets. 

Forget segmentation + stereotypes for a moment. Forget our differences. Where we are all absolutely the same is in the number of hours in our day. 24 of them at last count. Each of us granted about 44,000 minutes a month to do with what we can or must.

And while that is certainly where we are all equal, where we are different is how we choose to invest our time.

Which brings us to the question? What’s everyone doing with that time?

If you believe some of the headlines on Nielsen’s June (2009) report (here), then apparently, we are all Yahooing and Facebooking our lives away…and Googling and Microsofting too. Or not.

Using Neilsen’s numbers, I ran a quick calculation and found that the online user universe spent a mere 1.5% of their total hours of life visiting, viewing or otherwise engaged with the Top 10 online properties in June (*see math below). That’s good, right?

So What?

Even at only 1.5%, the top 10 online brands, as defined by Neilsen, capture an extraordinary amount of the total time available in a life…some claim time online is a waste of time, but that’s usually a statement about someone else’s time. Even allowing for the generalizations that come with averages and big numbers, a few questions stand out for marketers:
  • How important is an online brand in one’s life? The top online brands are insufficient descriptions of what people are actually doing with their time: information seeking, instant messaging, commerce, socializing and games are just a few of the long tail activities that marketers must manage when opting for online engagement…and as big as Google is, it still only captures 0.002 of it’s typical user’s life each month.
  • Is timeshare market share? Increasingly, the top online brand look to me like information utilities: aggregating ever greater numbers of services and properties, but maxing out the upper limit to the eyeballs they can captivate. Google gets 75% of the universe as an example. Monetizing time spent--rather than impressions or clicks--might encourage incumbents to carve up the online universe as part of a regulator-approved truce, not unlike energy and telecommunications. Still, if the biggest brands online together account for only 1.5% of our time, it’s no wonder some of them are struggling to monetize what they offer.
Figure: Timeshare by online brand (with apologies to E Tufte)

  • Is there an online-only marketing strategy? As in any endeavour, the 98.5% of time not currently captured by the top 10 online brands will be the source of highly fragmented interests…including those that have no apparent online component (for instance, eating dinner with your family). Marketing that misses the mark will include marketing that forgets there is a lot of life beyond the network AND the top 10.
  • What should we actually take from the numbers? Numbers on aggregated online usage should probably be viewed with healthy skepticism: it remains incumbent upon marketers (as humans) to question numbers that purport to describe how or why ‘people’ behave a certain way. Looking at Neilsen’s numbers for top 10 and eMarketer’s numbers for time spent online, the average active user is apparently spending 17.5% of their online time with the top 10 brands. The top 10 may be an easy media buy, but it isn't a majority understanding of what people do about anything.

In the end, it's incumbent upon all of us as marketers to remember that one's life is not merely a marketing void to be filled.

*The Math (All errors are mine)
  • Total active online universe: 195,974,309 (per Nielsen)
  • Total Monthly Hours Available: (30.41dx24hx195,974,309) = 14.3billion hours
  • Total Monthly Hours of time spent on Top 10 Online properties = SUM (Nielsen unique visitors per property x Nielsen hours per month per property) = 208.6million hours
  • Percent of life consumed by Top 10 brands: (14.3billion / 208.6million) = 1.5%
  • Percent of online life consumed by the Top 10 brands: (top 10 brands total time)/(2h per day x active online universe).

No comments:

Post a Comment