rubicon consulting says ignoring powers of social media equals peril During bizarre times like these, when entire browsers are programmed to integrate sites like MySpace, a relationship status change on Facebook is enough to spark crimes of passion, and the possibility that terrorists may use Twitter is at large, it’s even stranger to think of the number of companies that still feel social media sites aren’t influential enough. A recent study by Rubicon Consulting reports that 80-90% of the content on any given social media site is produced by less than 10% of its users. That percentage, however tiny, is also likely to carry more weight when it comes to influence over buyers’ decisions than anything else. Measly -- yes, powerless -- no.

All the Web’s a Stage, I CAN HAZ A SKRIPT?

It’s possible that the reason various companies choose not to participate in social media sites is because the sites do not help them in the way they expect them to. It’s true that online discussion is a poor way to communicate with the average customer, because the average customer doesn’t participate. But it’s an excellent way to communicate to them, because average customers watch and listen. It’s because of this that Rubicon claims most content and discussion sites should be viewed by companies as "online performances" (did anyone else think of the ridiculousness of YouTube comments just then?). The site’s organizers interact with a relatively small number of users; thereby educating, persuading and entertaining everyone else. This, of course, means it is critical that companies understand who the Most Frequent Contributors (MFCs) are, as they are the companies’ fellow actors in a theatrical online performance.

MFCs are Single and Ready to Mingle. Oh, and Influential.

According to Rubicon, MFCs are more ethnically diverse, more technically skilled, more likely to be single, generally Democrats, and, probably, 22 years old or younger. As they are mostly writers of online reviews, the words of these young people are second only to word of mouth as a purchase driver for all Web users. And as personal reviewers, they are understandably far more influential than official reviews or information from a manufacturer. Take the popular Web site Yelp, for example. If a review of a Chinese restaurant you’ve been meaning to try was poorly blocked, misspelled and had too many exclamation points, it would be hard to take it seriously. But upon further inspection, if it was clear that the author of the review stated that the food was bathed in oil, rancid and full of stray hairs, would you still feel inclined to see for yourself, or would you hit up the nearest Panda Express instead? Or, take into consideration the fact that the community-based Web site Wikipedia completely eclipses ESPN.com, CNN.com and NYTimes.com in Web value. That kind of thing definitely speaks volumes about where people are choosing to get their information, and who they trust to provide it. The report, though a little (a lot) on the obvious side for us, might be news for you and, in any case, is a pretty good read.