McCann’s new ‘Truth Central’ tries to reveal the secrets of social media

McCann Erickson has unveiled a new unit (new to us anyway) called ‘McCann Truth Central,’ which it describes as its global thought leadership unit.

This is pretty ambitious (truth? In marketing?) but of a piece with its efforts to take the lead in digital away from its marcoms rivals. Earlier this week we reported on its appointment of four ‘chief technology catalysts’ to bring media-like science into creative and account handling departments.

And the agency has clearly identified the massive Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas as the ideal opportunity to pitch its case to clients (see website). So McCann Truth Central has produced ’12 Truths about Social’ especially for the show. These are based on a number of research studies across 19 countries, including over 30 focus groups and more than 12,000 online studies. These truth or ‘universal insights’ are intended to illuminate the impact of the social media landscape on both consumers and brands.

And here they are (in McCann’s own words).

Truth 1: The Nature of What’s Private and Public Has Changed

The monumental rise of social networking has caused a huge shift in the nature of what people believe they should keep private versus what they should share. 75% globally agree, “People share far too much information online these days.” Driven by technology’s dominance, the types and quantity of personal information we’re expected to share socially is growing.

Truth 2: There’s no Shame in Being a ‘Stalker’

With the advent of Facebook, Foursquare, Twitter and other social media outlets, people’s walls have come down in the context of sharing personal information. According to McCann Truth Central research, 1 in 3 people have googled people they hardly know to find out about their personal life, and 1 in 4 have read a partner or friend’s text messages.

Truth 3: Consumers are Spending More Time Monitoring Their ‘Personal Brand’

Consumers around the world admitted to multiple online personalities, tailoring what they post online suitable for family and employers versus trying to impress friends and social acquaintances. As an example how important this phenomenon is in emerging markets, in India, 35% of people say that they monitor their online brand by Googling themselves more than once a month, compared with the global average of 17%.

Truth 4: Consumers Have a Growing and Complex Ecosystem of Friends

The definition of friendship for young people is being reinvented. Using social media, a typical teenager is likely to manage and maintain multiple, intersecting groups of friends. In this sense, ‘connecting’ to a broader network of friends has replaced the singular need to ‘belong’ to a tight-knit group of friends. McCann found that 47% of the youth globally want to be remembered for the quality and quantity of their connections.

Truth 5: Even within the Complex Online World of Friendships, Consumers Still Know What Makes a Real Friend

In these new, online spaces for people to be social, a lot of fake friends have cropped up along the way, referred to as “disposable friends” in Singapore or “obligation friends” in Australia. Yet our data indicates that the values that make a real friend are quite clear. Asked which values they seek in a best friend, young people globally opted for ‘truthful’, chosen by 42% and rated nearly twice as important as the next most important value (‘genuine’, chosen by 22%).

Truth 6: The Need to Broadcast Oneself Is Constant

Due to the increased importance of managing ones ‘personal brand’ online, the need to continue the conversation about oneself is constant and often requires an endless stream of consciousness, “I might be doing anything in life, but it doesn’t matter if no one talks about it,” observed a youth in India. Southern countries are embracing new technology and are even more keen to share about their lives. 80% of Chileans and 77% of Indians agree that they like sharing their thoughts and opinions with friends online, versus only 46% in the UK and 31% in Japan.

Truth 7: Everyone Now Has Some Type of Audience

The role for brands, consequently, is to create unique experiences, giving consumers a reason to post about it. Brands can win by helping their audience to look cool or fun in front of their friends and followers.

Truth 8: Everyone will become More Focused on Their Own Online Story

With the introduction of Facebook Timeline people will become even more focused on their own story. As one insightful British teenager remarked “We’ll be better parents than our parents because it will be easier for us to remember what it was like to be a teenager.”

Truth 9: Brands Should become part of Their Consumer’s Personal Stories

As brands offer more events and experiences to consumers, recognize that there is a lifecycle within the consumer timeline: anticipation, experience, aftermath, afterglow and reminiscence. Each stage will be reflected through social media.

Truth 10: Social Proof is a Powerful Force in Marketing

Social Proof is the human instinct to want to do things that other people do. Globally, over 90% of 16-30 year olds agree with the statement “if a company or brand impresses me in some way, I will make a point of telling my friends about it.” Since word of mouth and online product reviews are still some of the most trusted and influential factors in buying decisions, it’s important for brands to actively cultivate love communities of their fans and defenders.

Truth 11: If Brands Seeks Advocacy, Make it Worthwhile to The Consumer

Looking at consumers globally, we were able to identify five groups of consumers based on their attitudes towards privacy and sharing data with and about brands and businesses. The largest group, the Savvy Shoppers, understands the sharing equation. This group, 37% of the global population (also 37% of the US population), is willing to engage with and socialize with brands and businesses, but want to receive something tangible in return.

Truth 12: When it comes to socializing with brands, customers want value

Globally, 86% of consumers understand that there are major benefits associated with sharing data with businesses online. For the majority (65%) one of the top two benefits of sharing data and socializing with brands is better access to discounts and promotions (a very “Savvy Shopper” mentality). 49% also found it beneficial that companies can show them goods and services that are personalized to meet their individual requirements.

So now we have ‘disposable friends,’ ‘obligation friends,’ and ‘savvy shoppers,’ all of which seem to make sense. Will it help lure more clients to McCann? Well it should certainly get them through the door for a presentation, which is half the battle.

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