It seems like there is a new social media platform every day that marketers deem “the next big thing.” Start-ups in Silicon Valley are banking on the fact that social media marketing will not always belong to Facebook and Twitter. Though these two platforms have the largest volume of daily active users, with 526 million and 140 million respectively (Q1 2012 figures), there are ample branding opportunities on other social networking platforms. In this post, we’re going to break down the big fish, the smaller fish and how to decide which platforms your business should be on.
The first myth we need to dispel is that your business does not necessarily have to be on every single available platform. In fact, Levelwing often recommends choosing only a few because it is important to have the time to manage and create fresh content instead of just being on them for the sake of mere presence. It is important that you do a little research and figure out the functionalities and audience demographics before launching into full-fledge campaigns.
Most notably, and first in the social media game, is Facebook. Facebook is great because it reaches a large audience; practically everyone in the United States in on Facebook. In fact, unless you’re marketing to China (the country uses other social media networks), it’s the largest social networking audience you can reach. With Facebook, you have two large-scale marketing options: paid and non-paid. Paid ads generate Facebook’s revenue and are constantly changing and being tested (and arguably) improved. Though they do not offer as much flexibility as Google ads visually, they do have decent targeting options like age, gender, sexual orientation, location, family status, broad or precise interests and more. The effectiveness of Facebook advertising has been questioned, but with the right optimization, we have found pretty good results if the proper measurement is put into place.
Non-paid Facebook is essentially brand page management, or cultivating an online community. Brand pages are gaining more and more flexibility and optimization on Facebook. Timeline, which has been available to brands for just under a year now, has created more opportunities for pages to be branded micro-sites. With the multitude of Facebook applications that can be created, additionally, it is becoming more of an interactive tool for fans now more than ever.
Twitter has also tried to leverage paid and non-paid with varying degrees of success. Non-paid consists of brand page management. Options include branding opportunities with the background and hashtags, tweeting content with photo and video attachments and more. Twitter has a slightly smaller audience, but the life of a tweet is significantly shorter than a Facebook post. Therefore, it is more “socially acceptable” to tweet multiple times a day. On Facebook, it’s best to keep to one update a day or perhaps even every other day. Since Twitter feeds move faster, it is recommended that tweets go out every few hours to stay up to date in the conversation and to stay in front of your audience.
Hashtags are another great piece of Twitter marketing that many often forget about. Hashtags are essentially an easy way to search Twitter for others discussing the same subject. For instance, if your brand is in the automotive industry, using hashtags like #cars, #automotive, #tires, #tuneup or #engine could help people find your tweet and information quicker (without following you). Additionally, Public tweets can also be indexed in search engines, so it’s important to maintain a professional but engaging voice; you never know who is reading your brand’s tweet. As social integration into search becomes more of a reality, it is important to keep your Twitter content fresh. So who is on Twitter? The highest-represented demographic, according to Pew Research Center, is 18-29 year olds. 15% of Internet users are active on Twitter, with 8% logging on every day. Minorities also have a high Twitter usage percentage—over 28% of Black, Non-Hispanic Internet users utilize Twitter.
Twitter offers a few options for brands that want to engage in paid advertisements. A promoted tweet (which appears at the top of a News Feed) is the easiest placement to purchase (and usually the more inexpensive). Promoted trends are considerably more expensive (the minimum is somewhere between $100-150k) and are only promoted for a 24 hour period. More Twitter advertisement opportunities are said to be rolling out soon, so this might be something to keep your eye on—especially if you’re targeted demographic is young.
YouTube is often forgotten as a social platform, but it is astounding the amount of sharing that happens on this channel. For instance, 72 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube every single minute. Beyond the branding opportunities with channels (customizable skins, tabs and landing pages, etc.), YouTube offers several paid options, including Promoted Videos and advertisements (before video, during video, banner ads, etc.). Targeting is especially great for YouTube ads because the user is already committed to watching a video involving the industry, brand or product. In other words, you know that your ad is showing to a captivated audience—not just appearing in the right hand column to be potentially ignored. YouTube is careful to not bombard the user with cumbersome ads, however, as the company does not want to interfere with the user experience too much.
LinkedIn is a Facebook for business professionals and with about 48 million active users (though we’re not positive on the daily amount), it definitely has great brand awareness potential. LinkedIn offers the same non-paid options as Facebook, but with a little less flexibility. It is possible to create multiple tabs to use as landing pages, but the possibilities for customization and branding are fewer. LinkedIn is comprised of professionals looking for business opportunities, job postings and information about companies. It is a great place to explore if your company is a B2B. Paid advertisements are very similar to Facebooks with targeting that includes job title—especially helpful when marketing B2B.
Google+ is Google’s venture into social media—after the death of Google Buzz and Wave. After gaining some heavy momentum during its launch, Google+ has leveled off in engagement. In fact, a study concluded recently that only 30% of Google+ accounts that have made a public post will ever make another public post again. This is measured against the social network “norm” of 70%. While 170 million users sounds promising, we wonder if people are actually interested in cultivating communities on the platform.
So why are we including it in the list, then? Well, Google+ is still on the radar for a number of reasons—most of them being its parent company. Google has plans to firmly entrench Google+ posts and stories into search engine results pages. We have seen this most recently with the integration of Google Local and Google+. Whether or not your brand wants to be on this platform could be irrelevant. To be shown in the results, you might have to adopt. To what extent Google will integrate Google+ remains to be seen, but we advise doing your homework about the platform anyway. Demographics skew male and popular stories often include technology and media.
Pinterest has become the favorite of most women in America at this point and has taken on some serious growth spurts in the last year. Though its audience is mostly women, Pinterest has a lot of functionalities that make it perfect for marketing. Firstly, it has a lot of engagement. Secondly, it sends a lot of referring traffic (more than Facebook). Thirdly, it’s all visual, which is great for brands with the power to create enticing creative. Though Pinterest is trying to fight the inevitable marketer takeover, it also has a reputation for coolness that is not to be disturbed. When creating a Pinterest account, brands must understand that it is not about selling, selling, selling. Instead, it is about sharing ideas with the audience and cultivating a community. Even moreso than other platforms, it’s important to stay away from self-serving content. Incorporating a product every now and then is fine as long as the user is gleaning useful information (Do-It-Yourself is a big subject here) and does not feel bombarded by sales tactics and images. Currently, Pinterest does not have any paid options for advertising. A few smart brands got in on the ground level—like Dwell Magazine, West Elm and Real Simple—but there is still plenty of opportunity to go around. A quick tip: before signing up for Pinterest, make sure your website has “pinnable” content. It’s easy—just try to pin an image from your website. If your website’s images are not pinnable, then it might not be the best platform for your brand.
Instagram is a newcomer to social media. This start-up is currently not even drawing a profit it’s so new. Instagram is very interesting, however, because it is a feed for photos. These photos can be uploaded and manipulated with various filters to make them more visually appealing. You can follow someone or a brand on Pinterest much like on Twitter. You receive all updates. Instagram is currently broadening functionality with hashtags as well. It is also very easy to share Instagram photos on Twitter or Facebook, which makes the platforms compatible. Brands that belong on Instagram could be anything from art galleries (post photos of new exhibits) to tourist destination visitors’ bureaus (post photos fun activities) to fashion designers (new collections, inspiration, models, raw materials, etc.). Inherently visual brands can take advantage of this platform better than others.
It’s important to stay abreast of the latest and greatest social networking platforms and the audiences they target. For instance, currently, there is a lot of discussion surrounding video-based social networks like Viddy and Social Cam. Brands have already begun leveraging these tools to expand their social media presence. While it is important to stay informed, it is even more important to decide what is best for your brand. As mentioned before, being everywhere isn’t necessarily the best answer. Devoting time and money to one or two platforms and assessing the benefits is always the best way to begin.