2019 Social Media Update: Top Social Media Channels By Category

Multichannel social media strategy: Social media is no longer a small experimental part of marketing. Social media spending represents 12% of marketing budgets and is expected to increase to 20% in five years. Social media is also seen as an essential part of digital marketing which has surpassed traditional with digital ad spending reaching 54% of total ad sales. Today brands must go beyond the top three social platforms or simply continue to use current brand social platforms. As social media plans become more sophisticated with a combination of organic and paid content how do you decide among the over 200 social media platforms? To simplify this process the chart below lists social options in eight categories by key characteristics and top platforms per category.

soicla media marketing platform channels for social media strategyplanAudience Size and Engagement: Total audience size is important when selecting a social media platform within which to invest your time and money. Yet tradition measures of monthly active users or unique monthly visitors only tell part of the story. A user could visit a platform once a month and be included in audience size. Engagement is another important factor that looks at how active those users are on the platform. How many users are daily users and how much time are they spending per day or session?

Target Audience Demographics: How active is your target audience on each platform? Define  target audience by demographic characteristics such as gender, education, income, ethnicity and age. Look for social media platforms popular with your target age group. Be sure to look at both monthly active and daily active users by age. A high percent of Millennials may be monthly users of Facebook but if you look at daily usage they may be spending more time on Instagram. If your target is Gen Y, Snapchat may have the highest daily usage.

Target Audience Psychographics: Not all people in a generation have the same interests, therefore it is also important to define target audience with psychographic variables such as, values, beliefs and interests. People interested in crafts, fashion, the environment, or gaming may be active on other social media platforms where those interests are popular such as Reddit, Pinterest, Forums or Twitch.

Target Business Category: Not all purchase decisions are considered in the same social media channels. Therefore also consider type of business. Is the brand B2C or B2B? What industry is it in? Is it a local or national company? Does the brand offer online sales, in-person or a combination of both? The type of business could make other social media channels more relevant to a plan such as LinkedIn, TripAdvisor or Yelp.

Target Communication Objective: Finally, consider the communications objective. A plan to build brand awareness may work best with Facebook, YouTube and Buzzfeed. A plan to improve customer response may work better in Twitter and Messenger for customer support and Google My Business for customer reviews. A B2B lead generation plan may best leverage Blogs, Podcasts, LinkedIn and Slack. A direct sales plan for a multinational fashion brand could work best with Instagram, Pinterest, WhatsApp and WeChat.

Now that you know what to consider in selecting plans. What are the latest social media channels? Bellow is a list of the top three or more social media channels divided into eight key characteristic categories.

Social Networks: These are the websites and apps that connect people sharing personal or professional interests through profiles, groups, posts and updates. Facebook has 2.4 billion monthly users (1.6 billion active daily) and is by far the largest social media channel of any of the categories. LinkedIn is the dominate business/professional social network growing to 590 million users (260 million active monthly).

Social Messaging: Instant messaging platforms are chat applications created around social networks for communication on mobile phones with less limits and more features than traditional texting. Facebook Messenger has grown to 1.3 billion users but is still behind Facebook owned WhatsApp with 1.5 billion users (1 billion active daily). Other popular messaging apps include WeChat with 1 billion month active users mostly  in the Chinese market and Viber with 1 billion users popular in Eastern European countries. Slack is the business messaging service with 10 million daily active users providing opportunities for B2B.

Blogs and Forums: Blogs are websites that contain posts or articles in reverse chronological order that include hyperlinks and usually allow commenting. Forums are online discussion sites where people hold conversations via threads around common interests and topics. WordPress is the top blogging platform with 409 million users viewing over 20 billion blog pages a month. Tumblr (owned by Yahoo) is the short-form blog focused more on photos and video and less text with 463 million blog accounts but usage has dropped this year to 370 monthly visitors from a previous high of 642 million. Medium is a blogging platform focused on higher quality blog content with a subscription model that pays content creators. Medium has grown to 225 million monthly visitors. Blogger is a simpler platform with less customize options and is owned by Google. Recent stats estimate 85 million monthly visitors to blogger.com down from 167 million in 2017. To find forums try directories and search options including BoardReader, ProBoards, or Omgili.

Microblogging: Microblogs are a form of traditional blogging where the posts are limited by content length or file size. The leader in Microblogging continues to be Twitter with 321 million monthly active users (126 million active daily), but this is down 9 million from last year. Pinterest is the social pin board dedicated to visual discovery, collection and sharing that limits posts to single images or video. Pinterest has grown to over 250 million monthly active users. TikTok is the new app with 15-second videos that has replaced now defunct Musical.ly. Estimates put TikTok at 130 million monthly active users. Many people miss Vine since Twitter shut the app down. The creators of Vine promise a new short form looping video app called Byte that will be launching soon.

Media Sharing: This category is for social media channels developed mainly for the sharing of image or video media. YouTube is the lead video sharing site with 1.9 billion monthly active users and an average 60 minutes spent per mobile viewing session. Instagram (owned by Facebook) is the quality photo sharing social channel that has grown to 1 billion active monthly users with 500 million active daily. Snapchat is a photo- and video-sharing messaging service in which media and messages are only available for a short time before disappearing. Snapchat’s monthly active users total 301 million with 190 million active daily. LinkedIn owned Slideshare has 80 million users focused on sharing business oriented content with 80% of traffic coming from search.

Live Streaming Video: Top live video channels include Periscope  with last reported numbers of 10 million users and 1.9 million daily active users. Facebook Live is a big competitor with Facebook emphasizing live video in the newsfeed. Facebook claims 8 billion video views per day or 100 million hours (includes all video). Instagram Live works in Instagram Stories which has 500 million daily active users. Instagram launched a new long form video platform IGTV, but reports indicate they have struggle to boost user numbers. For niche audiences Amazon owned Twitch is a live streaming platform attracting gamers with 140 million unique monthly users and 15 million active daily.

Geosocial: Geosocial is a type of social networking where user-submitted (GPS) location data connects users with local people, businesses and events. The innovator in this category is Foursquare, but the platform has dropped to 7 million monthly users for location discovery while its app Swarm has only 2.1 million monthly users for checking-in. However, Swarm users spend an average of ten times longer on the app versus Foursquare. Marketers can leverage Google geosocial features though Google My Business that adds businesses to Google location search and Google Maps and includes ratings and reviews. Facebook Check-Ins are the geosocial feature in Facebook that is good for increasing reach, generating awareness and has ratings and review features. Instagram Location has locations that integrates with Facebook Places. Snapchat offers geosocial features with Snapchat Geofilters. Another consideration in this category is Nextdoor, which is a private location-based social network that has 236,000 active neighborhoods.

Ratings and Reviews: Reviews are reports that give someone’s opinion about the quality of a product, service or performance. Ratings are a measurement of how good or bad something is expressed on a scale. Yelp is the innovator in crowdsourced ratings and reviews representing a broad range of interests. Yelp has 132 million active monthly users and over 184 million reviews. For travel related businesses TripAdvisor has 490 million active monthly users and 730 million reviews. This social channel provides reviews of travel-related content and travel forums. Amazon attracts 197 million monthly visitors and has been reported as being the largest single source of Internet consumer reviews. Angie’s List is the long time subscription based ratings and review site with crowdsourced reviews of local businesses that has merged with HomeAdvisor to create more than 22 million monthly users. Ratings and reviews should also be tracked on Google My Business. If you are in the human resources or the recruitment industry, company reviews on Glassdoor are important as it gets 60 million visits a month by perspective employees.

Social Bookmarking: Social bookmarking sites are online services that allow users to save, comment on, and share bookmarks of web documents or links. Social bookmarking sites have also expanded into content discovery and curation tools. Reddit is one of the top social bookmarking social platforms with 330 million users. Digg is the social news site that aggregates publisher’s streams via peer evaluation of voting up content for sharing. Digg has reached 12 million visitors a month up from a low of 3 million several years ago. StumbleUpon was a discovery engine that found web content based on user ratings. It shut down in 2018., but has emerged as part of the new platform Mix which adds curation of websites into collections to be found and shared. Buzzfeed is a content discovery platform with a monthly audience or over 650 million. Buzzfeed has become a cross-platform network creating its own content with popular channels on Facebook, Snapchat, and YouTube and offers native advertising opportunities for brands. NowThis creates video news to distribute to other social network feeds with 2.6 billion monthly video views. And Imgur focuses on sharing the most viral image and gif memes attracting 400 million visits a month.

Social Knowledge: Social knowledge channels are web-based information exchanges where users search topics or ask questions and get answers from real people. This includes social sites such as wikis and question and answer websites. Wikipedia is the big one with 374 million unique monthly visitors and over 71,000 active contributors to over 5.6 million articles in English. Brands cannot created their own pages, but should monitor for misinformation. Yahoo! Answers is a community question and answer site that attracts 145 million visitors a month. Quora is the question and answer site that focuses on higher quality content and attracts 300 million unique visitors a month. Ask.fm is a global social site based on user profiles and questions attracting 43 million monthly users. Question and answer sites are good for customers engagement, thought leadership and marketing research.

Podcasts: Podcasts are a series of episodes of digital audio or video content delivered automatically through subscription. Podcast consumption has grown in the US to 90 million monthly listeners. iTunes is the innovator in Podcasting and hosts over 550,000 active podcasts. Other social platforms to consider are SoundCloud, which is the global online audio platform that enables users to upload, record, promote, and share their original works. SoundCloud has 175 million monthly active listeners with a lot of Podcast content being produced and shared. Another option is TuneIn, which has 75 million users and 5.7 million podcasts. iHeartRadio, the internet radio platform owned by iHeartMedia features podcasts. Amazon owned Audible has also expanded beyond audio books to podcast distribution.

This is by far, not a comprehensive list of social channel options, but it does give an update on the top channels by category to choose the best for your social strategy. What social platforms have you found to be the most effective in your social media strategy?

Not A Creative Genius? Produce Engaging Social Media Ideas By Following the Creative Process.

There is a lot of content created on the internet each day. Jeff Schultz from Micro Focus estimated that everyday 656 million tweets are sent, 4 million hours of video are uploaded to YouTube, 67.3 million Instagram posts are created, and 4.3 billion Facebook messages are posted. How do you stand out so that your one in a billion piece of content gets noticed, liked, and shared?

Abigail Posner, head of Google’s Agency Strategic Planning team, began the Engagement Project with a team of anthropologists, psychologists and digital content creators to investigate this question. They were curious about memes and wondered what makes one idea more likely to be shared on a mass scale over the internet versus other pieces of content.

Posner’s research found that people are attracted to the fascinating familiar that sets off our imagination. The most compelling content is usually everyday moments framed in a different way or juxtaposed for a new perspective. That’s because our brains love synaptic play – when random components in our mind form a synapse. The ideas that engage bring unrelated facts or images together in a childlike way send us on a voyage of discovery.

For example, seeing a cat riding a surfboard produces creative joy. It is a remarkable story we want tell others. For Robert Dollwet it is also a relevant marketing message. His cat Didga’s surfing and skateboarding tricks have attracted nearly 14 million YouTube views advertising his pet training business. Now only do we enjoy Didga, but we want to share that feeling with others. The content becomes a little gift forming a bond between the sender and receiver.

When a company sends compelling content built around relevant brand messages a bond is formed with consumers that could lead to further action. This is valuable considering social media professionals spend most of their time (60%) on content development and most marketers consider engagement to be their top measurement of social media ROI. Constantly producing engaging content for the always-on social media consumer requires a lot of creativity. Can you regularly produce the fascinatingly familiar? Yes, follow the creative process.

I didn’t know there was a creative process for most of my career. But once I discovered it my ideas became more creative and more consistent. I first read about the creative process in the book A Technique for Producing Ideas, published in 1940 by James Young Webb. Webb was an advertising hall of fame copywriter who famously wrote an ad for women’s deodorant that was credited with increasing sales 112%.

Because of Webb’s creative and business success people kept asking him where his ideas came from. He didn’t know, but he was curious enough to find out. Through self-reflection he uncovered a five-step process for creating ideas. Remarkably, aspects of this same process have been described by other creative people in vastly different fields of interest from fine artists and writers to researchers and engineers. To produce fascinating ideas follow these steps.

  1. Gather Raw Material: Gather specific knowledge or data about the product or service and consumer. Go deep. Any relationship between the two could lead to an idea. Also gather continuous general knowledge about the world around you from art to zombies. The more raw material the increased chance for novel ideas.
  2. Play Matchmaker: Take different bits of this raw information and view it from different angles. Then try to bring two facts together to see how they fit looking for a relationship. There is no wrong combination. Don’t ask “why?” Ask “why not?” Write every possibility down. When you get tired keep going. This is when you can move past expected ideas.
  3. Forget About It: Make no direct effort to work on the problem. This may be difficult, but you must build in time to drop the entire subject and work on something else or play a game. Go for a run, to the movies or a concert. Listen to music or cook. Put the problem out of your conscious mind so that your unconscious mind can get to work.
  4. Birth of the Idea: This stage happens when suddenly an unexpected realization of the solution comes to your conscious mind. Out of seemingly nowhere (your subconscious) the idea will appear. It could be in the middle of the night or in the shower. Be sure to write it down.
  5. Optimize the Idea: Now it is time to compare the idea to the facts of the problem or the conditions of the question. The idea will not be perfect. It takes an open mind and patience to refine it. Get feedback from others and adjust. Shape and develop the idea into practical usefulness.

This process applies across all disciplines from art and new product development to business generation and content creation. The process itself is simple, but it is hard to follow. That is why more people aren’t producing more creative ideas. Most adults have lost touch with their creative mindset. A lifetime of experiences from school to work have set up barriers to creativity. Unfortunately most of us have spent our lives learning how to be uncreative.

To understand creative potential Dr. George Land and Beth Jarman devised a test to measure creativity in NASA scientists. Wondering why some adults are creative and others are not, they gave the same test to 1,600 five-year-old children. The test challenged the kids to come up with different and innovative ideas to solve problems.

Amazingly, 98% were in the genius category of creative imagination. They retested the same children later and by the time they were 15, only 12% were at the same level. The same test given to adults results in only 2% scoring at the creative genius level. Reflecting on the results Land wrote, “What we have concluded is that non-creative behavior is learned.”

Innovation author and speaker Paul Stone explains that to a kid every problem can be solved. We grow up by learning what cannot be done through rules, laws, regulations and bosses who don’t want ideas, but only want us to get the job done on time. As adults we learn not to ask questions and only give the “right” answers. Yet when we tell our children they can’t do something they say, “Why not?”

I wasn’t involved in creating this example, but I imagine they followed the creative process I followed hundreds of times in my career. (1) They gathered specific knowledge of Evian water, their target audience’s generation, how drinking water keeps you young and general knowledge of the world from music and movies to trends and news. (2) They worked really hard trying different elements together and came up with a lot of “okay” ideas. (3) They got tired and stopped working on the project. They played pool, went to a movie or their kid’s soccer game. Perhaps they went to a park and saw people rolling skating. (4) It didn’t look like they were working on the important Evian project, but their subconscious mind was hard at work. Then, a day or two later the idea popped into their head of rolling skating babies. It was written down with other ideas and (5) a fascinatingly familiar idea was born and refined to deliver the right product benefit message with a nostalgic spin for the target audience and developed into one of the most viral ad videos of all time. Putting babies in adult situations under the tagline #LiveYoung sparked a 10 year campaign for Evian that only ended recently in favor of a new influencer campaign in the U.S.

The creative process is about unlearning everything that is not possible and exploring every possibility from every angle. It is about asking the “naïve” questions seemingly only kids are able to ask like why couldn’t a cat surf or why can’t babies roller skate? Thus, the secret to creating engaging one in a billion content is following the creative process. It forces you to be your creative genius five-year-old self again, if only for a while.