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.

Segment Your Target Audience For More Effective Digital And Social Media Marketing.

A recent Adobe survey of business leaders indicates “better use of data for more effective audience segmentation and targeting” as a top priority for marketing. What is it and how do you do it?

Qualtrics defines market segmentation as “the practice of dividing your market into approachable groups … subsets of a market based on demographics, needs, priorities, common interests, and other psychographic or behavioral criteria used to better understand the target audience.”

Segmentation provides real benefits as 81% of executives say it is crucial to growing their profits. Segmentation can increase response rates and lower acquisition costs with:

  • More specific messages that resonate with customer’s wants and needs.
  • More personal messages that help brands stand out from the competition.
  • More targeted advertising to those most likely to convert to customers.

Once a business defines their target market or the specific group of people they will focus their products and services on they establish various target audiences to focus their marketing messages. There are further benefits in segmenting the target audience.

How do you segment your audience?

Consider an amusement park promoting tickets sales for the upcoming season. Their core target market is most likely adults 25-45 will children living at home. They would be the group most likely to plan and purchase tickets for immediate and extended family trips to the park.

Segment your audience into groups to score better results with each message you send.

 

First determine your general message.

Most businesses need to create general awareness before consideration by customers. Brand ads do this well.

An amusement park builds overall brand awareness through traditional TV, radio, print and billboard ads. These ads have a general theme showing kids, adults, grandparents and teens having fun at the park. This would appeal to their core target audience of adults with children planning family trips and looking to make sure the park has something for everyone.

Mass media must have broad appeal in messaging and imagery. In digital and social media there is opportunity to customize messages, imagery and offers.

Brainstorm audience segments.

Based on your knowledge of the target audience consider possible differences in wants and needs within the group. The amusement park may want to look at stage of life and location.

People in different stages of life may want different experiences at the park:

  • Adults with young children (age 25-34)
  • Adults with pre-teens/tweens (age 35-45)
  • High school/college students (age 13-24)
  • Grandparents (age 55+)

People who live different distances from the park may plan different types of trips:

  • Multi-visit locals (Within 40 miles)
  • Day trippers (40 to 100 miles)
  • Over nighters (Over 100 miles)

Consider content for each segment.

Now see if your segments make a difference in content. Determine how the messages, imagery and offers could differ for each of the segment’s needs.

Parents with young children would probably respond to content focused on smaller rides. Parents with elementary and middle school kids would look for more exciting attractions. High school and college students hang out with friends and take on the big roller coasters. Grandparents want see their grandchildren on rides while being able to sit and rest enjoying shows and restaurants.

With the geographic segments messaging and offers could get more focused. People within 40 miles would be most interested in season passes whether talking to families, teens or grandparents. People 40 to 100 miles away are most likely interested in day trips. Those over 100 miles away may want to know about other area attractions and park plus hotel packages for a multi-day trip.

Plan out content combinations.

Now plan out a content segment grid. Link various segments together to determine how many content variations you need.

Based on the amusement park brainstorming we have identified 12 market segments (4 X 3 = 12). Four are based on age and family demographics and three are based geographic variables. In a social media or display advertising campaign each of these 12 segments could be targeted with a unique message, image and promotional offer.

How to segment your social media and digital media target audiences
Link audience segments together to determine possible content variations.

Consider your CRM data.

Most companies have customer relationship management (CRM) databases that could add another layer of segmentation. Look at that data for meaningful segments. This could help you rule out segments or find additional ones.

The amusement park could use their CRM to discover that the market for grandparents purchasing tickets is fairly small and decide not to target them. Their adult children tend to plan and purchase tickets for trips where the parents, younger children and grandparents come together. The data reveals parents purchase tickets for the high school and college students yet they often go to the park with friends. Thus, that audience may still be a worthwhile target as they influence the decision.

From these narrowed down segments the amusement park could send emails out to past customers with the segmented communications we’ve identified. Then from their email data they could create a remarketing campaign through custom audiences in social media and display advertising.

Unique remarketing messages could target email subscribers who:

  • Did not open the email
  • Opened the email but did not click
  • Clicked to the website but didn’t purchase

From the CRM database they also know how often people visit per year. They could target previous season ticket holders and people who visited three times on individual tickets with different season ticket messages.

They also know who has gone to concerts at the park amphitheater. They could target people who have been to concerts but not to the amusement park with a concert and park ticket package message, image and offer.

Additional possible segments from CRM data:

  • Previous season ticket holders
  • People who purchased 3 individual trips
  • People who purchased concert tickets

Look at your customer journey.

In any business their is a unique customer journey where customers move through various pre-purchase, purchase and post-purchase stages. People in these different stages tend to seek different information.

Consider additional segments to target people in each of these stages with different content. This could include brand awareness, product, sales promotion, customer service, loyalty and advocacy messages.

When creating online social, video and display ads services such as YouTube and Google Advertising allow intent targeting for more relevant messages. Tara Walpert-Levy of Brand Solutions at Google explains it this way:

Let’s take the example of someone interested in buying a winter coat. To date, if you wanted to target video ads for winter coats, you could guess a demographic that might be more likely to buy winter coats (say, women 18 to 34) or use psychographics to target people who might be particularly into preparing for winter (say, ski enthusiasts). Intent signals eliminate that guesswork. You can serve ads to people who searched for winter coat deals, spent a lot of time scouting nearby ski resorts, or scrolled through coats in a shopping app.

Mobile campaigns that used intent-based targeting were found to have 20% higher ad recall and 50% higher brand awareness lift versus demographic targeting alone.

Create your content for each segment.

Once you have your audience segments you are ready to create your unique content. As seen in the chart above some will require only one customization while other contact may require customizing message, image and offer. Cristina Caligiuri and Ben Jones of Google’s Unskippable Labs have run experiments in testing how much you should customize in video ads. Across all forms of content be sure to follow best practices for content writing and design. Then run with it!

Measure results and optimize.

Going through this process you will most likely end up with many possibilities. Keep in mind that it is probably not worth segmenting messages to them all. Not every additional segment you create will produce significant improvements.

That is why you must measure results and optimize along the way. If the segment doesn’t increase conversions, stop using it and try something else. But the fact is segmentation works. A recent brand loyalty study found 75% of emails opened most frequently contain segmentation.

The amusement park may discover conversion on targeting multi-day trips to high school/college students over 100 miles away is too low. Instead they might try targeting adults 25-34 without kids for overnight park and concert trips.

How can you segment your target audience for improved results?

Social Media Spending Reaches Record Highs: Ask These Questions To Ensure You Have The Right Strategy.

The Covid-19 pandemic has lead to businesses shutting down, declining revenue and economic recession. Many in the social media marketing field have been uncertain about how this would impact budgets. But according to the latest CMO Survey spending on social media marketing has grown to record levels with a 75% spike since February 2020.

How Covid-19 Influenced the Importance of Marketing in Companies
The CMO Survey (https://cmosurvey.org/)

Social media spending reaches highs predicted for years.

The percent of marketing budget spent on social media has hovered around 10%-13% since 2014 while marketers always predicted it would reach 20% or higher. With the pandemic spending has finally reached 23% and marketers expect it to stay that high for the next year. The CMO Survey reports this in the context of declining overall budgets and revenue, but as those declined the average percent of revenue spent on marketing increased as most perceived it to be more important during the pandemic.

Why such a sudden and dramatic jump?

Part of this jump is certainly people using social media more. After years of stalled gains eMarketer updated predictions indicating US adults will spend 7 more minutes per day on social networks in 2020 than in 2019. But according to the CMO Survey marketers have also become more confident in social media’s contribution to company performance. After remaining flat for years marketer confidence in social media performance increased 23% from February 2020.

How was social media used during the pandemic?

The CMO Survey reports marketers used social media the most for:

  • Brand awareness and brand building 84%
  • Retaining current customers 54%
  • Acquiring new customers 51%
  • Brand promotions 48%

What does this mean for your social media strategy?

As marketers reduce spending on traditional advertising, they are shifting resources to digital and social. With this increased spending comes higher expectations. Now is a good time to check your social strategy to ensure you are headed in the right direction. Make sure your social media is focused on the right objectives, on the right people, with the right message, and in the right places.

Do you have the right objectives?

Are your objectives focused on building business like the one’s above? Or are your objectives focused on building social media vanity metrics such as followers, likes, comments and shares which make social media an end unto itself? Ensure that your objectives connect to company performance not social media performance. Ensure that you have a solid Social Media Measurement Plan.

Are you reaching the right people?

Have you identified a target audience based on a well-defined target market for your product or service? Or are you casting a wide net hoping to catching anyone who could use the product or anyone on the social platform? Look at customer data to determine who actually buys your product not just follows your social account. Also consider The Customer Journey and Social Media Marketing Cycle as the old marketing funnels no longer apply in social.

Are you posting the right message?

Are you creating unique messages that speak to a well-defined audience with content customize to the social network? Or are messages more generic and content the same across social channels? Optimize content to increase performance. Consider Best Practices for Social Media Content Writing And Design.

Is your brand in the right places?

Are you on social media channels because you have been on them for years or because they are popular? Or have you evaluated social channels based on user demographics and engagement metrics of where your focused audience is most active? Take time to evaluate brand social platforms for wasted effort and missed opportunities. To get started consider Top Social Media Channels By Category.

Social media marketing has reached record highs and looks like it will remain there for at least the next year. As social media has matured and spending increases make sure your social media strategy will be as effective as possible.