retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The Washington Post reports that “this may go down as the year that social networking trumped searching as America's favorite online pastime. In 2010, Facebook pushed past Google to become the most popular site on the Internet for the first time, according to two Web tracking firms.” The change “marks another milestone in the ongoing shift in the way Americans spend their time online, a social change that profoundly alters how people get news and interact with one another - and even the definition of the word ‘friend.’

“Since its inception, the service has evolved beyond a vehicle for sharing birthday photos and reconnecting with high school classmates to become a universe unto itself, one where users can watch videos, solicit restaurant recommendations and play games surrounded (at least virtually) by friends and family. Its rise suggests that the influence of search giants such as Google, which answer search queries with a complicated algorithm for ranking links, is giving way to something more personal: our network of friends and other connections.”

This is a remarkable thing - an innovation that is technological, commercial and cultural, all at the same time.

The story goes on: “A survey this summer by the Nielsen Co. found that Americans spent nearly 23 percent of their time online using social networks, up from about 16 percent in a 2009 poll. Social networking took up more time than any other activity, including e-mail, which experienced a decline. Searching took up just less than 4 percent of time online, according to the survey.”

Savvy marketers will understand that this shift sets up a kind of goalpost for 2011 efforts - that they need to find ways to use social networking to access the hearts and minds of their shoppers.

But really savvy marketers will understand that this is only the goalpost of the moment - that the real challenge will be to try to figure out what the next big thing will be.

In other words, what will be the technological/commercial/cultural innovation that will push past Facebook? We may not all be capable of inventing it ... but to be relevant, we absolutely have to be capable of recognizing it.

And that’s our Monday Eye-Opener, the first of many for 2011.
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