The Era of Mass Social Communication:
Leveraging User-Generated Status Updates to Maximize ROI
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Published April 2010. © 2010 Interpret, LLC
The Era of Mass Social Communication: Leveraging User-Generated Status Updates to Maximize ROI
Catalyst: Real-time status updates are relatively new on the social network landscape, but who is best
positioned to use these updates in their social media strategy?
• What do social-networkers talk about in their status updates?
• How can companies leverage status updates more effectively in their social-media strategy?
Status updates are becoming a mainstream method for consumers to communicate their opinions, as
60 percent of social networkers now either update their own status or use status updates to keep up
with their friends. Interpret’s New Media Measure™ finds that the entertainment industry is
positioned to use this organic social communication, but movie studios, record companies, TV
networks and video game publishers need to incentivize consumers to promote their products
through these updates with highly interactive and rewarding media campaigns.
The Evolution of Social Communication
Social networks have evolved rapidly in the past five years. When websites like MySpace and
Facebook first emerged, they were simply networks of connected user profiles with very basic
communication features. Facebook was initially introduced to college campuses as a website where
students could connect and send messages to other students in their classes or dorms. Today,
Facebook barely resembles the website launched in January of 2004. Today’s social networking sites
now include more advanced features such as photo sharing, groups, event planning and games.
These new features deepened relationships and integrated social networks more profoundly into
consumers’ lives than ever before, but none of them fundamentally changed the way people
expressed and processed communication like real-time status updates would.
Although it started in 2006, Twitter exploded into the public consciousness in 2009 with its rapid
adoption among the tech community. Although its growth has since slowed, Twitter revolutionized
the way people think about social communication because the network was built around mass
communication status updates and placed less emphasis on individual relationships. It turned
Marshall McLuhan’s iconic phrase on its head by making the message the medium. Whether it was
personal insights, inspirational quotes or breaking news, Twitter demonstrated that users enjoyed
engaging with real-time information. After a failed attempt to acquire Twitter, Facebook decided to
take the blossoming social network head on when it introduced its own status update features in
2006. The introduction of status updates to the largest social network in the world solidified the
importance of real-time feeds in digital communications, providing a compelling alternative to RSS
(Really Simple Syndication).
State of the Status Update
Q: Which of the following activities have you done on a social networking site in the past month?
47% Kept Up with 41% 59%
Updated Status Kept Up With Friend's Status Updates
Source: Interpret New Media Measure, Wave 4 2009. n=5,780 Social Networkers
Facebook’s integration of status updates and message walls as the cornerstone of their user-interface
established the mass communication features pioneered by Twitter as an integral part of the social
networking experience. By the end of 2009, Interpret’s New Media Measure™ found that 47 percent
of social-networkers updated their status in the past month and 41 percent used status updates to
keep up with their friends (Fig 1). In total, 60 percent of all social-networkers, representing 82 million
people, had either updated their own status or used status updates to keep up with their friends.
Entertaining the Masses’ Communi