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Social Media in 2014: Going Back to Basics. Users Want to Eliminate Noise, Relationships More Important Than Ever

Posted Jan 6, 2014

How the 72% of Americans Using Social Media Will Change Their Behavior in 2014

The countdown is over, the ball has dropped, and for many the first kiss of 2014 has been had.  Americans are now focused on their resolutions for a new and improved self, family, or business in the new year. Though more than half of Americans still default to health/diet/weight-related resolutions, most social media users also resolve to make multiple changes in how they engage with these sites.

According to a new poll conducted by Heart+Mind Strategies, the 72% of Americans using social media tell a clear story of how their social media use will be different this year, and it’s all about going back to basics, to the very concerns social media was developed to support: maintaining and building relationships. The top three things social media users want to do more of in 2014 include:

  • Stay in touch with family (56%)
  • Stay in touch with current friends (55%)
  • Connect with old friends they have lost touch with (32%)

From their earliest beginnings, the appeal of social networks was connection—connections to people you like, connections to people like you. Now, celebrities, companies, institutions, and politicians have entered the social media space giving audiences more to read, “like,” follow, and re-tweet than ever before. 

Heart+Mind Strategies’ expertise is human decision-making, and we know that one of the personal values that drive human decision-making is belonging. The sustained success of social media is due in part to this powerful human need to belong. Extend this need to the possibility of belonging to the virtual family of your favorite movie star or musician and it’s easy to see how social media has spawned so many self-proclaimed addicts (16%).

However, social media users also express a strong desire to eliminate or reduce the noise. The top five things that social media users want to do less of in the new year are:

  • Read comments by celebrities, athletes or politicians (38%)
  • Find potential romantic or dating partners (30%)
  • Pass time (27%)
  • Read comments by companies or brands (26%)
  • Gather surveillance/knowledge about others (22%)

The combination of activities social media users wish to do more of, juxtaposed against the activities they wish to do less of paints a clear picture. People want to build and preserve their inner circles while eliminating superfluous activities that do not enrich their lives or deliver the sense of belonging that first made social media such a great thing.

To be clear, social media users are not planning to use less social media overall.  In fact, a recent study from the Pew Research Center found that of the 73% of online adults now using a social networking site of some kind, 42% are using two or more of the five most popular social networks.  This represents increased usage for all of the five most popular social networks (Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram), illustrating the power of humans’ need to belong and connect with others.

As corporate America finalizes its to-do list for the New Year, here are some strategic imperatives to consider:

1. Concentrate on quality over quantity.  Social media users are clearly looking to eliminate noise, so make your post or tweet count. Gone are the days when an endless stream of information was helpful and/or necessary to build a loyal following.  Avoid adding to the noise—less is more.
2. Focus on relationships.  Help your patrons keep their social media resolutions.  Focus your posts/tweets on aspects of your products or services that can help them do the things they are aspiring to do this year: connecting with others.

Audience Differences

There are two audiences that have notable differences in their New Year social media plans compared to the rest of Americans: Millenials and self-proclaimed social media addicts.

Millenials are the generation of Americans born between 1980 and 2000, they are the generation that created some of the most successful social media platforms and the generation of loyal adopters that has propelled its success, so it’s not surprising that they have their own distinct vision for social media use in the New Year.

For starters, they are twice as likely (16% vs 8%) to have a New Year’s resolution specific to social media.  And while the top three things they want to do more of in the New Year on social media are the same, they place more importance on staying in touch with friends than they do with family.

Suzanne Martin, Ph.D, Millenial Expert and Senior Consultant at Heart+Mind Strategies is not surprised by the differences, “Millenials are so close to their family, social media would not be the place they would want the increased relationship focus—it would be face-to-face.  Also it makes sense they wouldn’t be trying to connect with old friends because they never would have lost touch.”

Similarly, the top 5 things Millenials are hoping to do less of on social media are the same overall, but the order is different—tied for top spot is passing time.

Self-proclaimed social media addicts also exhibit stark differences in social media behavior aspirations for the New Year compared to Americans in general.  Sixteen percent of social media users self-identify as addicts.  Social media addicts are defined as those answering 8,9,10 on a scale of one to ten to measure their dependence on social media where a 1 means they are not at all dependent—they rarely check/post/follow and can often go says without using it, and a ten means they may be addicted—they check/post/follow multiple times a day, they don’t know what they’d do without it.  Before looking at how addicts are different, it is helpful to understand who they are most likely to be.

Addicts show their differences in the top five activities they most want to do less of.  Interestingly they are much more inclined to decrease their engagement with companies and brands than they are with celebrities and other famous figures.  They are also less likely to give up on looking for love via the web.


 

Methodology

This report presents the findings of a survey conducted among a sample of 1,013 adults comprising 501 men and 512 women 18 years of age and older—including 734 social media users.

The online omnibus study is conducted twice a week among a demographically representative U.S. sample of 1,000 adults 18 years of age and older.  This survey was live on December 12-15, 2013.

Completed interviews are weighted by five variables:  age, sex, geographic region, race and education to ensure reliable and accurate representation of the total U.S. population, 18 years of age and older.  The raw data are weighted by a custom designed program, which automatically develops a weighting factor for each respondent.  Each respondent is assigned a single weight derived from the relationship between the actual proportion of the population based on US Census data with its specific combination of age, sex, geographic characteristics, race and education and the proportion in the sample. 

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have volunteered to participate in online surveys and polls. The data have been weighted to reflect the demographic composition of the 18+ population.  Because the sample is based on those who initially self-selected for participation, no estimates of sampling error can be calculated.  All sample surveys and polls may be subject to multiple sources of error, including, but not limited to sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments.