This year, prepare your business for significant shifts in social media strategy as Americans continue to adapt their personal and professional media use.
According to Pew Research Center, the most prevalent form of social media used by Americans is YouTube, with more than 70 percent of Americans responding in January 2018 that they use YouTube. This was followed closely by 68 percent of Americans who said they use Facebook.
After those two platform hogs, there is a significant drop to 35 percent of Americans who say they use Instagram and 29 percent who use Pinterest. Snapchat shows up at 27 percent, followed closely by 25 percent for LinkedIn, 24 percent for Twitter and 22 percent for WhatsApp.
This same Pew research study showed there is great “reciprocity” among social media platforms — meaning that most users on primary platforms also use others. For instance, even though just 25 percent of Americans use LinkedIn and it tends to be used by professionals for networking and showing their work acumen, of those folks, a whopping 90 percent said they also use Facebook.
Among the trends to watch is the continuing evolution of Facebook in its privacy rules and ever-changing algorithms. Businesses, public figures, and nonprofits will find it increasingly difficult to figure out how to work around those algorithms, which are specifically designed to make it harder to increase the organic reach of posts — and therefore more attractive to pay to place ads, instead.
Facebook use has been declining in the past year, as has Twitter usage. According to BuzzSumo, Facebook utilization hit an all-time high in January 2016 at nearly 350 million engagements, but usage had dropped to nearly 260 million in June 2017. Facebook use is predicted to continue to drop as younger, more savvy consumers seek other platforms and older users worry more about privacy breaches.
On the other hand, Instagram use is growing, particularly in the number of stories posted. As of August 2017, Instagram had 375 million users.
Another huge trend that all businesses should note is that consumers increasingly expect to resolve their customer service issues via social media. Sprout Social reports that 34.5 percent of people prefer to use social media for customer care issues, followed closely by 35 percent that prefer website or live chat features and 19.4 percent that prefer email. Customers who want to use phone calls account for only 16 percent, and less than 6 percent actually want to show up in your store to discuss and resolve an issue. So, if you are on social media, you best be checking platforms frequently because speedy and tactful responses are needed when customers air their dissatisfactions.
Sprout Social’s 2017 behavior study notes that “when shunned on social media, 30 percent of customers will go to a competitor” and another 26 percent will be less likely to use the company’s product or service. Yet, when companies do a good job of responding to complaints registered on social media, Sprout Social also reports that 70 percent are more likely to use those companies’ products or services and 75 percent are likely to share the good experiences on their own social media profiles and platforms. Clearly, doing a speedy and effective job of responding to customer issues, when voiced, goes a long way in building loyal customers — who then share that good message.
A third trend in social media is the gigantic reach of video in social media platforms. Posts with videos get 135 percent more reach than posts without them!
Livestream and New York Magazine Survey 2017 reports that 80 percent of consumers prefer watching video to reading blogs and 82 percent prefer live video of events to written summaries!
Livestreaming is another great tool for organizations to deploy. There was an 81 percent increase in livestream viewing from 2015 to 2016.
Increasingly, people are getting their news content from livestreaming, with 56 percent of survey respondents reporting that it is how they get their breaking news. If your organization is having a special event or concert, be sure to incorporate video into your promotional efforts, as 43 percent of respondents said they watch video summaries of events. Of those, 67 percent are more likely to purchase tickets after watching a video!
Among Facebook users, 78 percent of online audiences watch Facebook videos — mostly without sound — so don’t forget to add captions.
If you are doubting the power of video, take a look at these additional statistics:
When there is live video from an event, people watch three times longer and comment 10 times more! YouTube now has five BILLION video views per day, and 60 percent are views by people on mobile devices.
Facebook has 500 million users who watch Facebook videos per day; Snapchat generates 10 billion video views a day; and Instagram generates 800 million monthly video views! Whew!
So, given all that information, how do organizations make the best use of their social media strategies?
The great thing about social media is this fourth trend: the use of segmentation to buy specific reach to target audiences. Increasingly, organizations are spending money to target messages directly to the folks who tend to be matches for interest.
A successful strategy needs to be divided into mass messages and then by segmentation opportunities. For example, an animal welfare group might have mass messages about its philosophy of caring for animals and how animals provide health benefits for people. Segmented messages could target people by type of animal (dog, cat, bird, etc.); by issue (spay/neuter, training, shelter, or stray fosters); by call to action (volunteer, give, foster, or share); or by order of audience sequencing, which is always employees and board, volunteers, donors and the public.
After you determine the message type and target your audience, you really want to develop a keen story to create community, inform, persuade or correct misinformation.
In creating a story, visuals are very helpful, and video proves to hold people’s attention the most. Sharing other people’s messages about your organization is helpful as well.
With any message, starting with “why” is the most important element: Why is our purpose and our organization important to the audience? Then, move to “how”: How are we different? Then, lastly, get into the “what”: What do we do as an organization in our services or products?
Remember to mix your strategies. It is best to deploy paid strategies alongside earned, shared and owned media. Paid strategies (such as advertising or paid search) can support the others, so don’t be afraid to pay for ads and boost your important posts. Remember the word PESO (paid/earned/shared/owned) to balance strategies for your organization.
Finally, don’t be afraid to test and track across social media platforms. It takes a while to understand what will resonate with your audiences, so be bold and get out there. Social media is a great place to make a difference with a small budget and a highly creative effort.