I read an interesting article the other day about how despite tough economic times, the cupcake industry is booming.
People can’t seem to get enough of these tasty treats. Cupcakeries, or cupcake cafes, are popping up everywhere – even in my hometown of Norfolk, Va. In fact, The Wall Street Journal credits cupcakes for helping to drive New York City’s economy
This got me to thinking. Cupcakes have a lot in common with social media.
They help drive economic growth. Like the cupcake industry, social media has played a major role in the helping the PR industry recover from last year’s recession. But it’s also changed the way organizations manage their reputations. It’s not enough to hold a press conference or issue a press release. Now, they want to understand what online communities are saying and take part in these conversations, or at the very least influence them.
They’re fun: The New York Times quotes a report from market research firm, Mintel, that says cupcake sales are expected to grow another 20 percent over the next five years, when other baked goods are projected to grow in the single digits. Clearly people are having fun on social media, which is why usage has exploded over the past couple of years. There are more than 500 million people using Facebook to check on the status of their friends and classmates. And while smaller in number, the 145 million Twitter users are a passionate group who send out 65 million tweets per day. And in one year, Foursquare has attracted 500,000 users, 1.4 million venues and 15.5 million check-ins. Who knew so many people would be interested in earning badges?
They provide bite-sized bits of information: Like a cupcake, social media allows organizations to provide information in bit-sized pieces that are portable and easy to digest. Whether it’s creating a mobile app, addressing service issues on Twitter or offering coupons on Foursquare, social media provides people information in a way that is easy for them to use.
They offer “inexpensive” luxury: One of the things that’s driving the popularity of cupcakes (besides the frosting) is that they’re an “affordable luxury.” Like chocolate, lipstick or a latte, they’re the little things we do to reward ourselves or help get us through the day. So too, social media is a cost-effective way to for organizations to talk directly to the people they’re trying to reach. And while it’s not inexpensive to hire a staff person to manage social media activities or to develop a mobile app, it’s a lot less expensive than developing a national TV ad and buying airtime in major markets.
So why not, to paraphrase Marie Antoinette, “let them eat cupcakes?”
People can’t live on cake alone: So too, it’s important for organizations not to put all of their eggs in the social media basket. While social media offers exciting new ways to reach out to people (particularly Gen Xer and Millennials), people still depend on good old e-mail for sharing information. According to a recent report from market research firm Chadwick Martin Bailey, the majority (86 percent) of people they surveyed said they share information via e-mail, while nearly 49 percent said they share information via Facebook. E-mail was most popular among those aged 25 and over, peaking at 97 percent for those ages 65+. Facebook is preferred by younger Internet users (76 percent), but it’s not so popular among those aged 35-44 (52 percent) and 65+ (24 percent).
Satisfy you social media sweet tooth, but don’t forget your veggies.