JAN 16 1978

This was the day that social networking was born. All of today's social networks are descendants of CBBS (Computerized Bulletin Board System), created in two weeks by Ward Christensen and Randy Suess. It enabled members of the Chicago Area Computer Hobbyists Exchange to post and view notices on an electronic bulletin board, effectively becoming the world's first on-line community.

Research study: "Social Network Hierarchies and their Impact on Business"
Sample: 2322 persons ages 6-54.

Key finding of the study: 

For the first time since social marketing has become a legitimate form of reaching consumers, Bridge Ratings has confirmed that not only does the strategy work, if done with field-tested tactics and messaging, the impact on corporate growth over-reaches and out-performs any other marketing strategy. 

Social Media Hierarcy: Women 18-24 

45% upload product-oriented content to the web. 

Traditional media sees a light at the end of the tunnel and to paraphrase an old joke, that light is a train of digital media heading through that tunnel non-stop.

Leading the way...social media and social marketing. And based on a just-completed study and analysis of findings, it is clear that the use and social aspect of media marketing is accelerating faster than previously forecast.

The study was conducted between January 15 and April 30, 2010. Data was accumulated through in-person interviews, telephone interviews, social media focus groups and web surveys. The sample consisted of 2322 persons ages 6-54.

The analysis confirmed heavy consumption among the sample in the following social entities: 

Click on image to enlarge.

  • Social Networks

  • News & Bookmarking

  • Blogs

  • Microblogging

  • Video Sharing

  • Photo Sharing

  • Message boards

  • Wikis

  • Virtual Reality

  • Social Gaming

  • Related:

  • Podcasts

  • Real Simple Syndication (RSS)

[ Click image to enlarge] 


Among the most interesting discoveries of this new study on social media consumption, is the hierarchy of social media that consumers progress through. The usage pattern is different for each demographic category and the pattern migrates based on consumption experience.

Young Girls: It's All About Friends 

Social Media Hierarchy: Girls 6-17 

As an example of targeted social media marketing, businesses whose message is reaching young girls, 6-17 years of age would target Social networks like Club Penguin, Poptropica and Stardoll.

This group of young people are turning their backs on sites such as Facebook and MySpace. Meanwhile, the number of 35 to 54-year-olds using such sites has rocketed by 25 per cent in the last year.

Our study found users of social media progress through a general path of social networking types or hierarchies.  

For example, we found that for the ease-of-use and preference for anonymity the social sites mentioned above are generally the introductory landing spots for young girls in this peer group. 

Over time, and with social networking experience, young girls graduate to more interactive sites such as Twitter or gaming sites such as Habbo.co.uk (135 million users).

Beyond these interactive sites, young girls move on to sites that cater to more specific interests. These microsites are focused on more specific hobbies or lifestyle behaviors.

The concept of social network hierachy behavior is evident through each demographic life group and, we found, serves as a more effective strategy for reaching consumer targets with brand messages. If messaging is done properly (short in length, keyed on strategic products or services with targeted creative) and with precision, response rates can accelerate. Repetition plays a factor as well.

Field tests with this concept for radio worked startling well. For example, over a period of three months, a Bridge Ratings CHR client station followed the "hierarchy pattern" of marketing described above. The station used frequent messaging on these sites to promote contests, on-air features and client-based promotions. In every area that was marketed, response and/or participation grew no less than 25%. Listening occasions increased, time-spent listening grew and with a viral marketing component, custom VIP databases swelled within 30 days.

Young Men: The Experts

76% have forwarded product information. 

Social Media Hierarchy: Men 18-28 

Encouragingly for marketers, young adults, especially men in this age group reveal an engaged and interested attitude toward brands. They see themselves as potential experts keen to share opinions and information online and are aware of their potential to influence others. One- third had talked about brands in forums and a similar percentage added brand-related content to Instant Messenger or social networking sites. 

Product information and links are frequently forwarded by 76 per cent of respondents in this age group, while almost half (45 per cent) regularly upload advertising or product review clips to social networking and video sites.
This appetite for brand engagement is further reflected in young adults’ declared response rates to online advertising: 54 per cent had clicked on an online ad within the last month and 38 per cent had watched an ad playing before video content.

Young adults’ confidence in the value of their opinions and their ability to influence others emerges as a key characteristic throughout the study, and it is apparent in their brand-related behavior. More than a third (35 per cent) had talked about a product or brand on internet forums or social networking sites during the past month. Almost 40% had reviewed a product online.


What are the implications of this study for media - especially all forms of media entertainment?

In every case we tested, an increase in participation is noted. The study confirmed six areas that require special attention:

  1. Target social sites to reach a specific consumer. Not all consumers use social networking sites in the same way.

  2. Laser-focused product messaging keyed to the lifestyle of the target is critical .

  3. Each consumer group and site will tolerate limited repetition of messaging.

  4. Appreciate the hierarchy through which each group travels as their social networking skills and experience increase and improve.

  5. Stagger hierarchy messaging to achieve the most effective response rates.

  6. Flight social networking campaigns.

The study confirmed the power and impact potential of consistent and well-executed social network marketing.

It is clear that any company - in any area of business - that wishes to engage more consumers, should invest in a social marketing department that will execute, analyze and maintain campaigns designed around micro product appeal.

Social Marketing Report Card - Case Studies

Bridge Ratings has conducted social media marketing analyses for multiple clients, but for the purposes of this report, there are four categories of business where the Hierarchy process of Social Marketing yielded note-worthy results: 

A. Digital Downloads Boosted 

Record label "X" compared its average weekly digital down load activity on four of its mainstream acts to a four-week social marketing campaign based on the Hierarchy marketing method. The following chart shows that typically, the recording artists in question experience inconsistent activity on a nationally known download store.

By way of capturing targeted consumers through the three most-common social media, promotions, social network conversations and other marketing techniques unrelated to file cost, boosted activity significantly. Over the course of the four week test downloads increased 34% compared to the average activity. The test was conducted on a proprietary download site.

B. Traditional Radio Listening Occasions Multiply 

A U.S. terrestrial radio company with stations in large and medium markets conducted a 4 week test of the social marketing Hierarchy process. The test was conducted with 4 of the company's market clusters. A total of 22 stations participated.

The chart below shows that the average number of listening occasions for this group of stations was 16 per week. After four weeks of the social marketing model presented in this study, the stations realized a 75% increase in listening occasions to 28 per week.

The social marketing included station music and non-music format approaches and targeted listeners 12-54. 


C. Financial Services Leads Surpass Expectations 

A financial services company with investment portfolios and stock to market averaged just under 475 leads per week with their standard marketing strategy of direct mail, print and electronic media advertising and cold calling.

For the purposes of this test, the company's standard strategies were placed on hold while they invested their time and same financial resources to the social marketing hierarchy model. The three financial products chosen for this test were the same as those marketed the two weeks prior to the test weeks. 

Leads more than doubled and the firm's closing percentage jumped to nearly 50%. Company management credits the highly targeted nature of social marketing for the significant closing percentage gain.

D. Internet Radio Benefits Too 

For Internet radio company "X" that offers consumers pure-play, i.e. available via the Internet and not tied to terrestrial radio simulcasts, marketing is very costly and therefore it depends mostly on word of mouth to achieve exposure and growth in users. 

The company does quite well with the number of Internet radio consumers who listen. This particular Internet radio company offers a variety of music streams and has averaged approximately 620,000 session starts per week. 

With an affordable social media marketing campaign flighted per the Hierarchy model, session starts over six weeks improved 20%.

One of Internet radio's greatest challenges has been brand awareness. Compared to its terrestrial simulcast brothers whose Internet brands are well-known to a good percentage of its AM/FM audience, pure play Internet radio can get lost in the mix of over 65,000 internet streams around the world. 

Smart marketing with social media changes all that. This new, but tested affordable marketing tool can target the right potential users of multiple internet streams and boost listening levels. 

Options & More Options 

As quickly as social media are being adopted by the public, the number of options facing today's social media marketing strategist expands. Because of the vast landscape of tools available, not all social media marketing is equal. 

This Bridge Ratings study has clarified for us that even at this early stage, demographics, lifestyle and personal interests direct which social media will have the best affect on accelerating consumer demand. 

Sample information:

Sample size: 2322 persons 6-54, Error +/- 2.0%
Persons ages 6-54, 55% male/45% female
Address-based sampling
Interviews were conducted via landline telephone, cell phone, on-line, focus groups and one-on-ones.