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 15% of marketing budgets and is expected to increase to nearly 25% 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.

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 2.7 billion monthly users (1.8 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 722 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 2 billion users (1 billion active daily). Other popular messaging apps include WeChat with 1 billion month active users mostly  in the Chinese market. Slack is the business messaging service with 12.5 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 to 327 monthly visitors from a previous high of 642 million. Blogger is a simpler platform with less customize options and is owned by Google. Recent stats estimate 60 million monthly visitors to blogger.com down from 167 million in 2017. To find forums try search and directories like ProBoards.

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 353 million monthly active users (187 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 442 million monthly active users. TikTok has grown quickly to 689 million monthly active users. A new entrant in this category is the invite only, real-time, audio-chat app Clubhouse. Clubhouse has grown from 1,500 users in May 2020 to 10 million users in 2021.

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 2 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 283 million with 180 million active daily.

Live Streaming Video: Top live video channels are mainly built into other social platforms.  Periscope is integrated with the Twitter app 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 30 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.

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 463 million active monthly users and 730 million reviews. This social channel provides reviews of travel-related content and travel forums. Amazon attracts 138 million monthly visitors and has been reported as being the largest single source of Internet consumer reviews. Angi is a ratings and review site with crowdsourced reviews of local businesses is merger between Angie’s List and HomeAdvisor 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. 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 430 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 7 million visitors a month up from a low of 3 million several years ago. Buzzfeed is a content discovery platform with a monthly audience of 125 million on it’s website, but Buzzfeed also creates its own content with popular channels on Facebook, Snapchat, and YouTube and offers native advertising opportunities for brands generating 3.2 billion cross-platform content views 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 1.7 billion unique monthly visitors and over 71,000 active contributors to over 6.2 million articles in English. Brands cannot created their own pages, but should monitor for misinformation. Quora is the question and answer site that focuses on higher quality content and attracts 300 million unique visitors a month. Yahoo! Answers was a popular community question and answer site but shut down in 2021 after 16 years.

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 . Other social platforms to consider are SoundCloud, TuneIn, iHeartRadio, Audible and Spotify. For the video version of podcasts, called a vlog, YouTube is a top destination. A useful podcast directory is PodBean.

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? A good first step is to Perform A Social Media Audit and as social spending increases Ask These Questions To Ensure You Have The Right Strategy.

Voice Search Is Exploding: How This Changes Your Digital, Content And Social Media Marketing Strategies.

Apple’s launch of the iPhone 4s in 2011 introduced the world to Siri. Since then we’ve had Google Voice, Microsoft Cortana, and Amazon Echo Alexis, but now voice search is poised for rapid growth. 55% of teens and 41% of adults use voice search more than once a day. Click To Tweet ComScore predicts that by 2020, half of all searches will be voice searches. Businesses can benefit from understanding how this shift will disrupt current search (SEO), content marketing and social media marketing strategies.

Voice Search Digital Content Social Media Marketing Strategy Quesenberry

Keyword searching is decreasing so sites optimized to keywords will see a decrease in traffic and engagement. Voice search sifts behavior from typing in key words or phrases to finding something by asking questions. This goes beyond long tail search strategies where marketers have combined multiple search terms to narrow results on smaller niche audiences. Long tail was in response to people using longer search phrases looking for more specific products and services. In voice search people use their voices to ask questions in full sentences.

Consumers are now asking questions of the Internet the way they would a person. With the growth of voice search, which uses natural language, there is increase in questions as part of the search phrasing. In fact, Search Engine Watch reports the use of search queries starting with “who,” “what,” “where” and “how” has increased by 61% year over year. This makes sense because many people now can use their voice and ask their phones.

Marketers must adjust so their content appears as a good answer. How? Think less keyword stuffing and meta tags and more full sentences and conversational copy. Respond to more natural language questions with more natural language answers – the way you would answer someone in person. Voice search results emphasize quality so you should think less like a marketer with heavy sales messages and more like a publisher or journalist – answering the “W” questions is the basis of writing a good news story. Also, all words become important Purna Virji of Moz gives the example that if the search phrase is “What is the cost for gas in my location?”, the words “is,” “the,” “for”, “in” and “my” are filler words. The filler words have nothing to do with a specific product or service, but they increase the words that match a voice query and can improve search placement.

Google Voice search has doubled over the last year. Click To TweetHow can you take advantage of this trend? Follow the four steps below.

  1. Research the most common questions asked by your target audience. Search industry, interest and product forums. Search comments on ratings and industry appropriate review sites such as Yelp, Trip Advisor or even Amazon. Search questions and answer sites like Quora and your own Q&A page. Survey front line employees and sales people about most common questions and analyze your own social media accounts for common questions. If you don’t have a Q&A section on your website consider adding one.
  2. Search these common questions using voice search and see how the current answers are written. Use Siri, Google Voice, Cortana, Alexis to see what is currently appearing as the top results. This will help you identify current competition and provide a guideline for how to structure your own answers. Are there answers that are not being given? Concentrate there first, then work your way to trying to overtake competitor’s positions.
  3. Create website and social media content that directly answers those questions in simple clear sentences. Here remember the “who,” “what,” “where” and “how.” Provide clear and direct answers but fill out the information around the direct answers. Once you get the consumer on your site for the direct answer you can expand the topic. Also don’t forget to create content based on variations of the same questions such as how to fix, “how do I fix ____?,” “how do I stop ___?”, or who can fix ____?, “what do I do if ___?” Don’t forget all content that can be searched including blogs and press releases.
  4. Consider local voice search. If you are a business with a physical address you should consider a new element to potential customer questions. Here people may be asking questions based on geo-location such as “where is the nearest BBQ place?,” “where can I get an iPhone charger?”, Who has the closest free wi-fi?” Make sure your business is listed with physical locations in Google+ Local and other geo-location social media sites like Yelp, Foursquare and Facebook. Reviews on sites like Yelp and TripAdviser can also impact these search results.

Voice search for product research is increasing. Nearly 50% of people are now using voice search when researching products. If marketers want their products to be found they should start to consider new strategies that emphasize natural language over keywords.

Digital and content marketing benefits to voice search optimization: Optimizing your website, blog and press/media pages with new information in the right structure can help get your content noticed over competitors to drive more traffic from highly qualified leads.

Social media marketing benefits to voice search optimization: Voice search optimized content will draw more engagement because you will be providing answers addressing your target audience’s most common questions. A focus on discovering and answering your target’s questions leads to more valuable and relevant social content that will drive awareness views and shares.

Business benefits to voice search optimization: Adjusting to natural language search helps you think more like a consumer and less like a marketer. This improved understanding of what your customers are currently seeking can lead to new product and service ideas to improve your business offering.

Over time the better you get at answering natural language questions the better your results. Bill Slawski from Go Fish Digital says that sites frequently selected and ranked highly can be deemed more authoritative and thus appear in more top results and drive more traffic.

We are still early in this trend. If you start adjusting strategies now you could benefit from a competitive advantage over your slower competitors. Have you considered how voice search will change your digital strategies?

For more insights into the big picture in social media strategy consider Social Media Strategy: Marketing and Advertising in the Consumer Revolution.

To consider the bigger picture in measurement see Why You Need A Social Media Measurement Plan And How To Create One. To consider the bigger picture in social media marketing Ask These Questions To Ensure You Have The Right Strategy.

Behind Amazon’s Pay To Quit Program: Happy Employees + Social Media = Real Value

On Friday it felt like every news outlet was writing about Amazon.com’s Pay To Quit Program announced in the annual report. Besides this immediate earned media attention, there is real value behind the program when we consider the social media empowered employee. Some simple calculations can show us what a happy or unhappy employee can earn or cost a company on social media.

Jeff Bezos explains that Pay to Quit is simple. Once a year, Amazon will pay associates to quit if they are unhappy. The first year it’s $2,000 and it goes up $1,000 a year until $5,000. But the retail giant emphasizes “Please Don’t Take This Offer.” They hope associates will stay. Bezos explains, “In the long-run an employee staying somewhere they don’t want to be isn’t healthy for the employee or the company.” Bezos is famous for focusing on long-run returns over short term gain such as break even pricing on the Kindle, but when you calculate the value of employee social media use I believe there are some more immediate benefits.

Happy Employees + Social Media = Real Value

Amazon isn’t talking about front office employees here. As Techcrunch put it, “Developers wanting seed money as they run off to build their own startups are out of luck.” This is their fulfillment center employees. When most people talk about employee social media programs they might not have this in mind, but look at the latest social media use statistics from Pew Research. Some 73% of online adults now use a social networking site and 42% use multiple sites. Plus engagement is up with 63% of Facebook users visiting the site once a day and 40% visiting multiple times. The latest data also shows social media use cuts across a diverse range of demographics including age, education, and income. Front office or not, your employees are on social media and a full 40% of cell phone owners are accessing social networks on their phones.

Social Media Examiner predicted Employee Advocacy to be the #2 social media trend to watch in 2014. Each employee has influence through personal social media accounts on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook that can be tapped to share the company’s messages and broaden reach. SmarpShare is a company focused on developing employee advocacy programs and they have provided a simple calculation of the value of social employees.

Look at how much social media platforms charge for clicks. Then look at promoted content that appears in the same area as messages coming from people, and use that as a measure of value. This isn’t actual business value, but it helps estimate potential. For example, LinkedIn charges $3 per click on a sponsored post. Using that, SmarpShare calculates the earned media value (EMV) of employee advocacy. SmarpShare has been measuring this value for over a year and found that one employee share generates an average of 6 clicks. This number varies depending on content, culture, and advocacy tools, but with Amazon surpassing Microsoft and Google to 110,000 employees we can estimate:

110,000 (Amazon employees) x 5 (shares per employee) x 6 (clicks per share) x3 ($ value per click) = $9.9 million EMV (even 50% participation = $5 million EMV)

Pay to Quit isn’t really new. It was invented by Zappos, now an Amazon subsidiary. We all know the Zappos social media story. As early as 2010 Zappos was using Twitter to build brand equity. The company has nearly 500 employees Tweeting. CEO Tony Hsieh was an early adopter of Twitter and encouraged employees to engage online openly during work as detailed in his 2010 book Delivering Happiness. According to SocialMention, today Zappos is referenced every 2 minutes, and positive sentiment is 9:1. Zappos.com also has a 65% passion rating, which means people are repeatedly talking about the brand over and over.

Will social employee advocacy work for everyone? Not if you don’t have happy employees and unfortunately most do not. A recent Forbes article reports 70% of U.S. workers don’t like their job – they are disengaged with work. Forbes contributor Sylvia Vorhauser-Smith says, “Disengaged employees can drag down others and impact everything from customer service to sales, quality, productivity, retention and other critical business areas.” What if those unhappy “disengaged” employees are actively engaged in social media? Suddenly, Jeff Bezos Pay To Quit program looks like a bargain.

I remember when a previous boss told us we better learn social media or leave. Yet at the end of the same meeting he said if he caught us on Facebook at work we would be fired. SmarpShare says there needs to be mutual trust between the organization and employee. The days of controlling employee actions in social media are over. Obviously, Bezos doesn’t want fulfillment employees posting Facebook updates all day long instead of packing orders, but with the right guidelines and program in place the ROI on Pay To Quit can be huge.