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.

Best Practices For Social Media Content That’ll Improve Your Writing And Design

An analysis of job listings shows the most in demand skill for content marking is social media content creation. After social media strategy content creation is what social pros spend much of their time on. While results vary based on target, brand, and social platform there are best practices to follow when writing and designing any social media post that will lead to more interesting and engaging brand posts.

Social Media is the most Requested Skill in Content Marketing

Write in Active Voice and Second Person. 

Most experts agree active voice creates more engaging social media copy with clear, concise, action-oriented sentences. In active voice the subject performs an action by directly using a verb to show the action versus passive voice where the action verb or object is emphasized over its subject. For example, the second version of the following post copy would grab more attention with active voice.

  • Passive Voice: The 2 hour marathon barrier was broken by team Nike!
  • Active Voice: Team Nike broke the 2 hour marathon barrier!

These posts can be improved further with point of view and benefit. Instead of using first person “I” or “we,” or third person “he,” “she,” “it,” “they,” or “name” use second person “you.” Using “you” draws  attention focusing the message on the audience. Conveying the message as a benefit to them will also draw interest. The example post has now been written in first person, third person, then improved with second person written as a benefit to the audience.

  • First Person: We made the Vaporfly shoes that broke the 2 hour marathon!
  • Third Person: Nike Vaporfly shoes were used to break the 2 hour marathon!
  • Second Person: You can run in the Nike Vaporfly’s that broke the 2 hour marathon!

Consider Audience Interests, Brand Voice and Tone

Write messages your audience will want to share because it is something their friends will like, it shows appreciation, or it is about beliefs or causes they support. And don’t stop the message at the post. When sharing a link match post message and link destination. Sending them to a home page or unrelated page causes confusion and lost sales or leads. Keep interest going with a distinct landing page that delivers your message benefit and focuses on what you want them to do. The example post above should interest a target audience of runners and their running friends and then send them to a page about the shoes and the record attempt not the Nike home page.

  • Home Page Link: Nike.com
  • Landing Page Link: Nike.com/Sub2Vaporfly

Keep brand voice and tone in mind. What is the personality of your brand – bold rebellious, modern cool, or serious classic? Write like you talk as if the brand was a person talking out loud to another person. Skip jargon and avoid boastful claims such as “top,” “best,” or “only.” Be genuine fun and helpful. Be consistent but change tone with the situation. Even a fun, casual brand should take a more serious tone with an upset customer or in a crisis. For example, during the Boston Marathon bombing releasing a post celebrating a marathon record would come across as tone death as seen below.

  • Original Tone: You can run in the Nike Vaporfly’s that broke the 2 hour marathon!
  • Modified Tone: You can support Boston marathon victims. We’ll match your donation.

Create Good Brand Design and Aha Moments.

Keep text to a minimum ensuring it is large enough to view on mobile. Use unique fonts for emphasize but limit total fonts in a single post. Ensure good contrast with text over images so they can be seen. Don’t overcrowd the layout or image with too much text making it feel overwhelming and busy. Change individual messages but be consistent in overall message including brand keywords, taglines and hashtags. Follow brand standards for colors, logos and fonts. With the example post you would follow Nike brand guidelines not Wendy’s.

  • Wendy’s Brand Voice: Witty and Sassy.
  • Nike’s Brand Voice: Powerful and Inspiring.

It’s easy to grab a generic stock or product image, but a unique image that compliments the text draws interest. Creatively connect text and image inviting the viewer to fill a gap for an “aha” moment they’ll want to share. A simple image of running shoes would be the easy to include with the post text above. Instead consider something unexpected like a back of the pack amateur runner photoshopped into the finish line scene of Eliud Kipchoge’s record breaking run.

  • Generic Image: (Product Image of Nike’s new Vaporfly shoes) – You can run in the Nike Vaporfly’s that broke the 2 hour marathon!
  • “Aha” Image: (Kipchoge’s record finish with amateur runner) – Break your own records in Nike Vaporfly’s!

Follow Rule of Thirds and Rules of Social Platforms

Good images and layouts follow the rule of thirds. This principle divides a space into thirds horizontally and vertically to place elements in a more appealing balanced way. Research shows that people’s eyes focus on one of the intersection points rather than the center where most amateurs place the subject of their image or design. Instead place the subject in one of the intersecting points to create a more dynamic, natural, and interesting visual. Also leave room for white space or negative space. This is the area between design elements that helps them stand out.

Third-Rule Rule of Thirds for Good Social Media Post Design

Wide White Space Logo - Use white space and negative space for good social media post design

Each social media platform has different design standards and requirements. Refer to each size by pixels, file size, image type and other submission requirements. Many design tools include templates for the most popular platforms such as Canva or Adobe Spark and built in tools such as Facebook Creative Hub and Snapchat Instant Create. Most also have options to create mock ups for social media plans and presentations.

Social Media Post Template Created by FreepikBusiness psd created by freepik – www.freepik.com

Finally consider post schedule. The time of week and time of day matter and can vary increase or decrease engagement based on the social media platform. To plan your social media content calendar and schedule you posts Sprout Social provides a report on best times to post from their customer base.

Best practices are a great place to start, but keep in mind that the best content is created to be unique to each platform customized to the environment and brand community. Test posts times and variations in designs and copy to optimize as you go. This can be done with simple A/B split tests. This will keep posts fresh to avoid ad fatigue.

With this improved content do you have the right strategy?

For more insight to improve content performance ask These Questions To Ensure You Have The Right 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

To get started on your own social media campaign including Facebook Ask These Questions To Ensure You Have The Right Strategy and follow these additional Best Practices For Social Media Content That’ll Improve Your Writing And Design.