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Bridge Ratings Industry Report - The New Influentials

 

For Immediate Release

Wednesday August 1, 2007

As the world around us changes and technology has its affect on just about everything we touch, media and those that want to reach those who consume it are finding greater challenges than ever before.

It is no longer a world of mass media but rather it is a world of communities of customers and consumers. In an attempt to keep up with the changing world that the Internet has brought, the media world has embraced such things as websites to reach their customers, but it isn't enough. Consumers have gravitated to social media and that is where Influence is finding a significant home.

Influencers or Influentials are a group of very active consumers involved in "conversation marketing" where word-of-mouth is becoming a significant power in spreading dialog with customers, listeners and viewers. It means creating a conversation with your consumers in which useful information is exchanged so that both parties benefit from the relationship.

Conversation marketing which keys in on these New Influentials requires a completely different set of sills than those which have dominated the marketing profession for the last two generations. It means throwing out the spreadsheets and mailing lists. It means that "reach", "frequency", "cume", "average quarter hour" and "impressions" no longer relate to the real world's consumer structure.

Conversation marketing is becoming more crucial to reaching young consumers and addressing changing customer preference. That's because traditional mass media is being replaced by networks of individual and small-group influentials. 93% of those questioned in a new Bridge Ratings report said they were moved to take some sort of action by word-of-mouth influence.

The value of peer networks - especially among the young - have become so important that this lifegroup will trust the advice of a total stranger over that of a professional marketer. Until a few years ago, technology limitations prevented these networks from forming. Now that dam has broken and the landscape for radio and its competitive media will look very different going forward.

Trusted sources of information and opinion among Americans has changed somewhat over time as the following chart attests to.

Comparing results from a study done in 1997 by the University of Massachusetts with a new Bridge Ratings study*, it becomes more clear as to the quality of input Americans receive. Both studies used the question, "Please rate on a scale of 1 to 10 the following as sources of information you most trust."

The Influentials in this chart based on these scores are:

1. Friends, Family an Acquaintances
2. Strangers with experience (in the subject area)
3. Teachers

Note that as Influentials, "Friends, Family and Acquaintances" maintained a consistent rating. "Strangers with Experience" improved significantly in the ten years between studies and "Teachers" trust level has slipped. Of particular interest is the drop in the Influencer value of "Religious Leaders", "Newspapers & Magazines" and "TV News Reporters".

 

The point of all this is that no matter what your business or product is today and in the foreseeable future the concept of marketing that service or product has been turned on its head.

In the face of technology and a changing consumer experience, the term "radio" now covers not only traditional radio (AM/FM) but also all those digital audio entertainment media that compete with terrestrial radio: Satellite radio, Internet radio, Podcasting, digital music players - even cell phones.

And because the landscape is changing so quickly and shifting in ways never before expected, radio of all colors and those that advertise on those platforms, must address the problem of audience "scatter" (See Bridge Ratings study #755), i.e. audiences are moving in multiple media dimensions and capturing their attention requires more skill than ever before.

This is where the Influentials come in. This is the subset of consumer experience which radio must attract.

In fact, each type of radio format has a different composition of New Influentials, i.e. the percentage of their audience that are influentials.

Based on a new study commissioned by one of the broadcast industry's most forward-thinking companies, 10.2% of all radio listeners are New Influentials - segments of the audience who are enthusiasts, who influence others to act on or consume products or services.

In this study, Satellite radio has nearly 13% of its listener base which we define as Influentials, nearly 30% more than all of traditional radio.

Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, satellite radio Influentials are ten times more passionate about their experience than their terrestrial radio counterparts. This is one defining reason satellite radio had the significant consumer impact it did between 2002 and 2006. Launching earlier than Sirius, XM Satellite radio created the industry in the minds of early adopter consumers and the enthusiasm XM's consumers had created a tidal wave of media exposure.

Bridge Ratings Media Consumer Passion Index (MCPI) is the first multi-dimensional measurement of media consumption. The index scores include more than just audience size, but rather additional factors measured through personal interviews including, but not limited to: social communication about and the influencing of others for a particular medium and the percentage use of a specific medium related to all media consumed in a typical week. Scores run on a scale of 1 to 100 where 1 equals extremely low passion and involvement with a particular medium or technology and 100 equals extreme or high dedication.

Owners of iPhones scored the highest in this study which was conducted between May and July, 2007. While it is possible the heavy marketing and consumer awareness of Apple's iPhone may have influenced responses, it is important to recall that position on the above chart is independent of consumer base or audience size. It takes into account the consumer group as a whole and their passion scores for the product or service.

Interesting to note in this analysis that the iPod has a much higher passion Index score than does the MP3 digital music player sector in total. An indicator of consumer social media associated with this product.

The Future

Influentials who listen to traditional radio (306 in the sample) were asked their opinion about the future value of a number of media and technologies. We wanted to know how important these were to themselves and their peers for the foreseeable future.

The Internet was considered by 65% of the Influentials to be "Very Important" as they consider their futures. When we add "Somewhat Important" the score becomes 87%.

Internet radio and Email are technologies that are not far behind with 55% and 51% respectively.

Among the questions, we asked about the role of traditional radio in their futures. 46% thought it was "Very important" for traditional radio to change with more relatable content. Adding "Somewhat Important" brought the score to 77%.

Only 11% thought it was "Very Important" for traditional radio to remain the same as it is today. An additional 18% thought it was "Somewhat Important". By this panel of Influentials of all ages, traditional radio has some work to do if it is to remain relevant in the near future.

Satellite radio and HD radio were not perceived by this group to be significant in their futures.

Final Thoughts

No matter what you're attempting to market in 2007 and beyond, it is imperative to know who the people are that use social media - the Influentials described in this report. For traditional radio, the imperative is even more critical.

Social communities such as MySpace and Facebook have heretofore been thought to be havens only for the young, but statistics from these companies and other point to a growing adult population using these sites, if only to be more aware of what their children are doing.

Some generalizations that pertain to Influentials:

  • They're very aware. They are responsive to their interests in ways that moves them to communicate about them to friends, family and acquaintances. They read and write blogs. Trust is a huge factor and Influentials' peers are an important component in their world of communication. When asked "When looking for product information, which do you trust most?" almost 63 percent cited "other bloggers" or "other consumers with product experience", while only 31 percent noted company websites or press releases.

    These results confirm the assumption that Influentials are a community bound together by trust. The affinity creates an environment in which Influentials are able to persuade many others.
  • They're well off. Influentials skew toward the high end economically with 26% of the people in our study have household incomes of $100,000 or more, 42% earn more than $70,000. More than two-thirds indicated that household income exceeded $60,000. With numbers like these it's understandable why Influentials capture the attention of marketers.
  • They're skeptical of marketing.    Asked to rate the trustworthiness of a message from a PR firm on a 1 to 10 scale, respondents averaged a 4.4 . Messages that come directly from a company averaged a 5.8. Part of the skepticism could be caused by the gulf that exists between marketers and Influentials. Many of the Influentials on our panels indicated they have been contacted by companies "rarely".

The truth is that without understanding and embracing the Influentials in your business - more so in the media business because of its intimate or personal nature - the ability to remain in touch with this important consumer group is greatly reduced - ultimately preventing media companies from slowing or even stopping audience attrition.

*Sample = 3400 consumers 13+

Sample error= +/- 1.5%

Methodology: Random digit dialing on a national footprint between May 2 - July 14, 2007.

 


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