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.

How to select social media platforms for a multichannel social media strategy plan for marketing, advertising and public relations.Audience 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. An another alternative to Musical.ly is the short video music oriented app Triller, which some estimate at 29 million users worldwide. 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. Ratings and Reviews are also important on the video sharing platform YouTube as many a Vlogger reviews products and services on their channels.

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. YouTube also comes under this category as a destination for How-To, DIY and Education videos.

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. For the video version of podcasts, called a vlog, YouTube is a top destination.

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?

What Makes Facebook Brand Posts Engaging? [Research]

Facebook has grown to 2.23 billion monthly active users worldwide. In the U.S. 74% of people visit Facebook daily and spend an average of 58 minutes on the platform. Over 80 million businesses use Facebook pages and 97% say it is a significant part of their content strategy. Research results recently published in the Journal of Current Issues & Research in Advertising give us insight into what types of posts could be more successful on Facebook.

Facebook’s Problem

Many academic studies and real life cases have linked Facebook to business results. Yet, achieving these results has become more of a challenge as Facebook organic reach (total number of unique people shown a page post through unpaid distribution) has declined significantly. For example, average organic reach dropped from 16% in 2012 to 6% by 2014. For large brand pages organic reach dropped to an average of 2%.

Infographic: Facebook Is Pushing Brands to Pay for Reach | Statista You will find more infographics at Statista

Since then, Facebook has increasingly said that brand page organic or viral reach is more dependent on people sharing posts. Facebook continues to tweak it’s algorithm to prioritize content based on whether Friends are engaging (sharing, liking, commenting) with a brand page’s post before putting it in people’s news feeds. What can help increase organic reach?

There has been plenty of research telling marketers to use videos and live video in Facebook posts to increase reach. Yet not every brand can produce video content or go live for every post. There has been little study of the words used in a post. My research colleague Michael Coolsen and I set out to discover if the text of a Facebook post alone can make a significant difference in performance. If so, what type of post text should marketers use in their Facebook posts to increase shares and engagement to boost organic reach?

The Research

We developed a content analysis of Facebook brand post text to determine which variables contributed to increased shares, likes and comments – key factors in obtaining organic reach with Facebook’s news feed algorithm. We partnered with social media metrics firm Unmetric to collect a random sample of 1,000 Facebook brand page posts. We wanted to know what type of text increases shares, likes, and comments. We also wanted to know if the number of brand page fans impacted those results.

Through a pretest and a main test we coded 18 variables including post type (link, photo, status update), number of characters, number of words, number of hashtags, number of links, number of brand mentions, new/now, promotion/price, contest/sweepstakes, social cause/corporate social responsibility (CSR), events, celebrity, question, exclamation point, call to action, fan content/user generated content (UGC), time/date, and education.

The Results

Our findings can be seen in the table below. What was most surprising to us is that promotion/contest, social cause/CSR, and education posts showed no significant results – content types that have been promoted as being best practices for increasing engagement. In fact, education posts had a significant negative impact on likes and comments. In all variables the number of page fans from thousands to millions did not change results.

Brand Facebook Posts by Text Content Type (number of fans did not impact results)

Type of Post Shares Likes Comments
New/now Increase No effect Increase
Time/date Increase No effect No effect
Education No effect Decrease Decrease
Promotion/contest No effect No effect No effect
Social cause/CSR No effect No effect No effect

What Does This Mean?

With these results it may be worth reconsidering your content marketing and social media marketing strategy. Marketers have been told to create content of value and educational posts seem to fit under that category. Promotions, contests and social cause messages have also been said to draw interest. What is happening? The difference here may be the specific channel.

Perhaps people are on Facebook to interact with friends and family and keep up to date on timely, new messages. To them Facebook is low-involvement distraction. They are not scrolling through their feed to learn. Educational posts may perform better on a channel like LinkedIn. This stresses the importance of having different strategies and content optimized not only for the target audience but also for the the social media channel.

Promotions and contests may draw one person’s interest to respond themselves, but not enough to share to get into other people’s newsfeeds organically. Similarly, corporate social responsibility messages may be important for a person to know, but unless it is a crisis, it may not be important enough to share for viral reach. These types of posts may need to be Facebook ads.

Summary of Findings

  • Facebook brand posts using words indicating something new (now, introducing, etc.) produce higher shares which can boost organic reach.
  • New/now Facebook brand posts produce higher comments increasing engagement which can boost organic reach.
  • Facebook brand posts that indicate a specific time, date or deadline produce higher shares which can boost organic reach.
  • Educational Facebook brand posts decrease likes and comments reducing engagement which could reduce organic reach.

What does this look like in real examples? Below are three brand posts from the study that included new/now, time/date, and educational messages. As you can see the PlayStation post had both a new/now and time/date  message and performed the best of the three. The M&M’s post had a time/date message and had significant shares. The XFINITY post was an educational post and received very limited engagement.

What Do You Think?

Do these results surprise you? How would you explain them and how might they change your thoughts on social media strategy? For details on the study including the background research and theories considered see the full  article published by Taylor & Francis in Journal of Current Issues & Research in Advertising on October 29, 2018, available at https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10641734.2018.1503113