5 years ago, droves of advertisers started funneling newspaper and TV budgets into digital channels. Now the money is flowing to social.

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>> Spending on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook marketing continues to accelerate as mobile adoption and time spent with digital increases <<

It makes sense to shift your marketing dollars to where people are actually spending time. And more people are spending more time with social. A lot more time: 30% according to this study from March 2017.

Chart: Time Spent with Social Media per Day

Mary Meeker’s annual Internet Trends 2017 report has three very interesting charts:

Chart: Digital will overtake TV in 6 months
Source: KPBC Internet Trends 2017
Yes, Internet ad spending will surpass television. Wow, right?

Chart: Internet Use (Engagement) is Up

Source: KPBC Internet Trends 2017

Driving this growth in internet ad spend is the clear shift to mobile.

And finally:

Chart: Mobile Device Time is up per day

Source: KPBC Internet Trends 2017

Across almost every age bracket, time spent with digital is up on a relative percentage basis.

The shift to mobile and increased time spent with digital is having a major impact on social platforms

Forrester tweeted in February that it expects search marketing budgets to shift to social. They also predict that Social media advertising will increase faster than any other digital channel.

I’ve looked at Forrester’s past predictions and, after four years, their earlier forecasts turn out to be strangely accurate.

Check out Forrester’s tweet and the graph below. See how steep that social media curve is? That’s the social media business.

Chaert: Forrester Social Spending


Big Brands are Shifting to Social

I was at a social media event last month. I cornered Darwin Sauer, the VP of Marketing at VanCity. VanCity is doing great things with social. When I asked him about his budgets he said: “I just keep stealing from my television and newspaper budget.”

The thing is, if you’re VanCity or any other smallish business fighting behemoths, you can win the fight with social. For now, social media is a way to level the playing field.

By using all of the social platforms and being authentic (not easy) you can drive likeability ratings (yes this is important), new signups, new accounts or whatever measure of success you use.

Forrester Research

I do not work for Forrester! I just like their research.

Social as a Business

I’ve been managing social accounts for about a year. I love it. My clients see the difference in their businesses. It’s a lot of work and some clients are more successful than others — and in different ways. The bottom line is that from search engine results to business partnerships to credibility to new business, social media has a correlated, positive impact.

This is the reason I started writing a social media business plan last week.

I was blown away when I saw how much data from credible sources supports what I am seeing in real life: a lot of people are spending a lot more time with social.

Every day I get a report that tells me how many people have tweeted in Vancouver. I also get a full rundown of every tweet. This way I can monitor what’s going on in the Vancouver market in real-time.

In the last three months, I’ve seen a huge uptick with Twitter use. It could be that people are suddenly turning on location services (the service I use only tracks people who have opted in), but Twitter is a pretty good barometer for just about every subject.

The BC Election

Say what you want about the results of the recent BC Election, but as judged by social media I was not surprised at the result. It seemed to me at the time that a certain party was not nearly as active on social media as perhaps I expected they should have been.

The other parties that seemed to do surprisingly well in real life, were on social in force months ahead of the election.

From restaurant reviews to job postings, Twitter seems to be more popular than ever. If you are retail or service brand, Instagram is another fantastic service. Although maybe not for accounting. Accountants should stick to Twitter — it’s got a highly educated affluent audience.

The Proliferation of Posts

My own firm posts hundreds of tweets and images every day. We do this on behalf of many client accounts. The fact is, I’m stretched out! I need to get a lot bigger — fast — because everywhere I look I see companies complaining that their pay-per-click and SEO budgets aren’t working like they used to.

Social is the new solution. I’ll dive in here and explain why. Oh! So many reasons…

1. Social is Really, Really Social

Depending on your age, you will use anywhere from two to six social media platforms. The average user maintains five social accounts. That’s a lot of social!

A typical 23 year old will use Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram every day. 88% of teens check Twitter at least once per day. Aside from the odd Google search, a mobile game and generous amounts of instant messaging, a lot of time is spent on social. Also searching, playing games and instant messaging.

All of these social platforms contain many, many posts. But some of these posts actually translate to real world sales. Not many, but some.

Recent research from the University of Buffalo suggests that “social media posts with high engagement have the greatest impact on customer spending.” This explains the evolution of influencers, doesn’t it?

The study also found that:

A businesses’ social posts significantly strengthen the effect of traditional television and email marketing efforts.

If you’re already advertising or conducting an email marketing program, social is a great fit.

2. Social is the new search engine

With so many people using so many social platforms, more people are engaging with brands on social. And guess what? You can’t engage with an AdWords ad or YouTube video like you can with a follower on your Twitter channel.

Millions of Canadians use Twitter every day to search for the things they used to use Google for. While they’re reading Trump’s tweets they’re also searching for paleo recipes, pilates studios and weight loss pills. Sometimes in the same session!

Forrester Social Media Research Tweet 3

This recent trend for using social as a search engine is the reason why Twitter turns up in search results.

3. SEO is Social

Search Engine Optimization — the black box of the interweb — has always been the go-to service for organizations that can’t figure out how to get on the front page of Google.

Well, here’s something they don’t tell you: Twitter gets you on the front page of Google. It’s true. Social hits search engine results and it hits them hard. It’s a great secret and the best search firms are pivoting their businesses to include search now.

The other angle is that SEO can take time. And whoa Momma can it cost a lot of money! Social isn’t like that. At least not at my firm.

I see small companies in very competitive businesses (plumbing, handyman services, realtors) getting huge upticks in website traffic and phone calls immediately. Did you know the top eight social sites drive 30% of all web traffic?

The phone calls and emails usually start after two weeks of starting a Twitter and social SEO strategy (hint: you have to tie all of your networks together with Google business; if they haven’t sent you a PIN in the mail you haven’t done it right).

It works like a charm.

4. News is Social

If you’re a Twitter user, you know how indispensable Twitter is as a news source. TV is so out of date! That’s why CNN and other networks that have embraced social media have vastly improved viewership numbers.

A majority of U.S. adults — 62% — get their news on social media, and 18% do so often, according to a new survey by Pew Research Center. That’s more than double from four years ago.

Remember I told you about how social media is the new search engine? Well, when there’s a tragic event at an Ariana Grande concert, Twitter is the go-to place to find information about what happened. And there is never a shortage of information.

Pew Research Users Obtain News From Social

The availability of news on social media compels more people to use social for news…because it’s where you find the news! Not to mention the pervasive 24/7 availability of news has created news junkies as never before.

News on social is one of the best opportunities for brands.

Tweet Pew Research Social News Sources

Source: http://www.journalism.org/2016/05/26/news-use-across-social-media-platforms-2016/

News has emerged as one of the major uses of social media. For those that get news on both mobile and desktop, the majority prefer mobile.

5. The Path to Purchase is Social

Consumers who include social media as part of their shopping process are four times more likely to spend more money on purchases. According to another study by Deloitte, 47% of millennials say their purchase decisions are influenced by social media.

It makes sense because social is the new search engine. If you are looking for a new bridesmaid’s dress or Internet-of-Things Thing, the chances are you will search Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and Pinterest. If the brand that carries your bridesmaid dress or IoT product has a Facebook or Twitter account, yes — you will visit those properties.

Certain product categories are influenced more by social than others. But things are evolving quickly. I think it’s a matter of time before Kijiji and AutoTrader start leaking business to some enterprising son-of-a-gun with a killer Twitter API.

Matter. Of. Time.

Graphic: Google's Path to Purchase


6. Mobile is Social

Let’s say you launch a new brand. You spend a million bucks on this and that. You are clever enough to give away beautiful cups that the consumer will take home featuring your new brand.

Let’s say your promotion involving your new brand makes its way onto Twitter. An influential user with, say, 13K followers says something nice about your brand on social media.

What happens if you don’t respond? (consumers expect you to respond within an hour on social media).

Well. It was a compliment, so not much happens. A tree has fallen in the forest. At least 13K people heard it.

Tweet about Okanagan Cider

But what if someone had a complaint instead of a compliment? That’s another story. That’s a customer service issue. Customer service is the reason why 88% of companies with over 100 employees use Twitter.

For many people smartphones have become their primary internet access device. This is especially true for females 18–24 who use their phones as their only internet device. Twitter was built on 911 technology and is truly a “mobile first” platform. So is Snapchat. So is Instagram.

Mobile ad spending is expected to rise from $46 billion in 2016 to $87 billion in 2020. More than 23% — and over 64% of digital — will be spent to reach individuals on mobile devices.

Website traffic is way down. Do you know what traffic is up? Social apps. Twitter. Instagram. Snapchat.

But social is not as easy as running a $5,000 programmatic ad campaign. No. You have to actually do stuff on social. You have to be there to answer questions. Hit the ‘like’ button. Write clever copy. Run the odd ad. You’ve got to be there. It’s a lot of work.

But if you are there — every day — your brand will have a major advantage over the other brand that aren’t. And there are still a lot of brands that are not on social. Every day. With content. With ideas. With the will to engage.

A lot of brands have an opportunity right now to take a leadership position with a mobile audience that is active on social right now.

7. The Audience is on Social

More than half of marketers who’ve been using social for at least two years say it helped them improve sales. I’m surprised that number isn’t larger. Social media is good for business, especially if you’re a public company.

As a discourse channel, social is unrivalled. People have built empires and all that. But unless you have a stable of people with creative resources that resemble my agency, you won’t get the most out of social. Full stop.

The best combo is if you have a full-time social person and you hire an agency like mine to help with strategic and creative stuff and the platforms your person doesn’t work with. This is gold.

The Final Takeaway

My favourite quote is from Jhenifer Pabiliano at the City of Vancouver:

Absolutely Everyone is on Facebook. But all the important people are on Twitter.

This post originally appeared on LinkedIn.