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Joe Shmoe’s Guide to Social Media Image Dimensions

Social Media Image Dimensions Header

In social media, size does matter, especially when it comes to image dimensions. It’s definitely a challenge to keep up with all the networks and the various sizes they have for each component of an account. But, if you want to effectively represent your brand, you need to get it right.

We decided to take some of the burden off of you and create a cheat sheet of all the sizes needed for the most popular networks! If you need any further help building your social marketing strategy, we can help with that too!

Social Media Image Dimensions

How to Really Connect with Your Facebook & Twitter Audience

Connecting on SoMeAs social media has grown and evolved, the reasons people use it vary. In the past, many users would keep their Facebook accounts more personal and reserve LinkedIn for strictly business. Though some still try to stick by these rules, the lines have gotten blurred. I often hear people say they would like to delete their personal Facebook accounts but can’t because their attached to their business’s page or because that’s how they keep up with their family. What’s more, people seem to be going back to the idea of wanting a more private network such as Instagram. What do you prefer?

It’s actually a bit of a catch 22. We marketers wanted social media to grow. We wanted to draw consumers in and convince businesses that they should adopt marketing through their social channels. Yet, as this has happened, each network has become much more saturated making marketing much harder.

News & Social Media                                  

In a new study from the Pew Research Center and John S. and James L. Knight Foundation called “The Evolving Role of News on Twitter and Facebook,” 63 percent of the more than 2,000 U.S. adults surveyed said they viewed both Twitter and Facebook primarily for news. Understandably, Twitter is considered the best channel for breaking news with just 31 percent going to Facebook for news to break.

Pew & Twitter and Facebook's Impact on News

Other interesting findings from this study include:

  • The rise in the share of social media users getting news on Facebook or Twitter cuts across nearly every demographic group.
  • When it comes specifically to news and information about government and politics, Facebook users are more likely to post and respond to content, while Twitter users are more likely to follow news organizations.

Marketing Impact

Does this information matter to marketers? Yes! Marketers need to know the reasons their audience goes to each social channel. Now, most small-to-medium-sized businesses do not always relate to hard news, but since statistics show a large portion looking for news, marketers need to tailor their content accordingly. Here’s how:

1. Avoid Fluff Content

Audiences everywhere have gotten smarter, but this is especially true for social media audiences. No one has time for fluffy, salesy content. It doesn’t make people want to follow your page or buy your products or services. Instead, it turns people off.

2. Be Authentic

If people have their eyes opened for news, they don’t want to play games. This doesn’t mean that humor can’t be incorporated, but it does mean that every business should have a clear and direct strategy. In other words, don’t post just to be posting. Keep your goals in mind, watch audience trends, and honestly communicate with your audience. It’s really not difficult, but so often, marketers neglect being real, which can severely hurt them.

3. Piggyback on News Event (But Use Caution)                                                                                                                      

When possible, use a news event to your advantage. For instance, if a famous person passes away, use an inspirational quote from them and turn it into a meme. Another situation could be that your state or the government is passing legislation that could help your industry or businesses in general. Political involvement can be controversial, but if your business is passionate either way on an issue, you should let your voice be heard. If you have correctly identified your audience, they will likely support your stance as well.

It’s important to understand that the “when possible” mentioned above has to carefully be taken into consideration. It’s up to the business, but we would not recommend trying to piggyback on the recent SCOTUS ruling or Iran, for example. While these are no doubt very popular topics on Facebook and Twitter, these topics could alienate your business. Your posts could go viral, but not in the way you want. And, when it comes to social media, bad publicity is very real and brings a host of reputation management issues.

Doing this correctly is more about taking a tragedy and creating an online contest to give your audience an opportunity to contribute. Or, creating a meme as suggested above. It’s also about thinking on your feet like Arby’s did with Pharrell Williams during last year’s Grammy awards.

Ultimately, connecting with your Facebook and Twitter audiences depends on how well you know them. Studies like the one from Pew Research Foundation and John S. and James L. Knight Foundation help to show trends that may create opportunities for better engaging with your audience. But, it’s up to you as a marketer to do your research and see if it applies.

The Ever-Changing Social Media Landscape

With all the changes to social media, it can be very challenging to keep up. The big players like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest are always adding new features and abilities, and the newer, more niche networks are coming and going at an even faster rate. This challenge to stay on top of these happenings even hits marketers that are in and out of these sites on a daily basis.

To make life a little easier on all us, we want to provide a summary of some recent changes and updates that will impact your social media strategy.

Facebook

Apart from Facebook’s recent algorithm changes, namely the drop in organic reach for page owners, the largest social network has been relatively quiet. This is good news since businesses and marketers have had their hands full dealing with said reach issues. While these changes are no doubt frustrating, if Facebook is a really valuable channel for your company, the cost to improve content and/or take on paid advertising will be worth the investment.

In other much less noteworthy news for Facebook, the company has killed off the “Poke” feature and Facebook Camera. The “poke” has been around for some time and was apparently very rarely used anymore. The camera app has also been around for a while, but likely could not compete with its new cousin Instagram.

These moves are simply part of Facebook’s growth and development. We’ve seen it abandon and consolidate products before, and we’ll likely see it again as the company continues to gain knowledge of what its audience wants.

Twitter

Twitter has actually had quite a bit going on of late. Apart from its struggling stock price, the popular microblogging service has had its share of platform changes too. Last month, Twitter announced a new layout for user accounts. The new profiles are much more visual with larger imagery as well as the following features:

  • Best Tweets: Tweets that have received more engagement will appear slightly larger, so your best content is easy to find.
  • Pinned Tweet: Pin one of your Tweets to the top of your page, so it’s easy for your followers to see what you’re all about.
  • Filtered Tweets: Now you can choose which timeline to view when checking out other profiles. Select from these options: Tweets, Tweets with photos/videos, or Tweets and replies.

First Lady's Twitter Profile

The consensus is that the new look strongly resembles Facebook. Ironically, when Facebook rolled out user Timelines, many people remarked of its resemblance to Myspace. Regardless of user feelings, the new Twitter profiles will be active for everyone by May 28.

Twitter also recently announced a new “mute” feature that will allow users to essentially silence users within their feed. After these users are muted, their tweets won’t appear in your timeline anymore. Also, you won’t receive push notifications from them, but the @ replies and mentions will still show up. The feature is actually very similar to Facebook’s “hide” feature. While users may find this feature useful, it brings some concern to businesses.

Over on Marketing Land, Matt McGee spells out why some marketers aren’t fond of the new ability:

Until now, brands had some assurance that their Twitter activity could be seen by every Twitter follower. That was one of the differentiating factors between Twitter and Facebook; Twitter didn’t purposely show updates to only some of your followers the way Facebook does. And Twitter’s still not doing it algorithmically the way Facebook’s News Feed does — Twitter is putting it in the user’s control. But the point is that Twitter visibility isn’t a sure thing anymore. Some followers may not see your activity, and you have no way of knowing.

As this function rolls out over the next few weeks, marketers will be able to see the full impact.

LinkedIn

The professional network has been somewhat low-key of late. In April, the company did away with its Services tab on company pages and introduced Showcase Pages. In summary, Showcase Pages allow companies to segment the various divisions of their expertise. The idea is to deliver specific messages to distinct target audiences.

From what we’ve seen, these pages work well for large companies with multiple divisions. For instance, Microsoft can segment its Office products:

Microsoft LinkedIn Showcase Page

However, it’s harder for small-to-medium sized businesses to do this. Some marketers don’t feel that Showcase Pages are very useful, but since it’s still early, the verdict is still out on their value.

LinkedIn did also recently unveil a Content Marketing Score that measures unique and engaged members. In other words, the tool helps businesses determine what content works and doesn’t work. The functionality also allows users to publish content in various ways across the platform including through LinkedIn Groups, company updates, employee posts, writers’ posts, etc.

Again, this is very new, so time will tell what this really means for businesses.

Pinterest

Pinterest has had some excitement recently as the company announced a paid test of Promoted Pins. If you remember, last fall, the company said it would begin experimenting with ads with a select group of brands. In this week’s announcement, Pinterest is expanding this initiative. Some of the participating brands include: ABC Family, Banana Republic, Expedia, GAP, General Mills, Kraft, lululemon athletica, Nestle (select brands), Old Navy, among others.

This move is significant for two important reasons. First of all, it’s important that Pinterest is finding a way to monetize itself, and secondly, it’s creating more business opportunities for marketers.

The world’s favorite pinboard also recently launched Guided Search and Custom Categories. Through Guided Search, Pinterest is aiming to help pinners search better and discover pins. For instance, if a user begins searching, Pinterest will start pulling categories and keywords, much like Google search works.

Pinterest Guided Search Example

Pinterest Guided Search

In terms of its categories, the new Custom Categories allows users to go beyond the somewhat arbitrary 32 initial categories. Pinterest also made improvements to its Related Pins feature as part of this announcement.

With more than 70 million users, 30 billion pins and 750 million boards, Pinterest is evolving. To accommodate this rapid growth, we need to expect more changes to come.

And to avoid overwhelming you like we talked about at the beginning, we’ll stop here since this is more than enough to digest. J

The Problem, Err Challenge, with Facebook Marketing

For businesses and marketers, Facebook has been quite the challenging platform in recent months. In what is being called a “Reachpocalypse,” Facebook Pages have undergone a very obvious drop in organic reach since last fall, which has resulted in many panicked marketers.

As we have said before, Facebook has admitted to putting less emphasis on organic page posts in its News Feed. In a document entitled “Generating Business Results on Facebook,” the social networking giant cleverly highlights its advertising opportunities saying:

We expect organic distribution of an individual Page’s posts to gradually decline over time as we continually work to make sure people have a meaningful experience on the site… But to maximize delivery of your message in News Feed, your brand should consider using paid distribution, as it enables you to reach people beyond your fan base and move beyond the organic competition.

Small to large businesses are feeling the impact of Facebook’s recent actions. In fact, Facebook has actually made multiple tweaks to its algorithm over the past several months that resulted in auto-playing videos (ads too), larger photos, resurfaced content, and more branded content. All these changes were part of an effort to improve the quality of content in the News Feed.

As a result, Facebook also started showing fewer meme posts/photos and posts that had spammy links. Facebook also has cracked down on “Like-baiting.” For instance, if you ask users to “Like” or “comment,” Facebook considers this gaming its system.

If you’ve been in the Internet marketing space for very long, these actions will sound somewhat familiar. The reason is because Facebook’s changes are similar to Google’s changes to its algorithm. While the end result is better for individual users, it makes the job of marketing harder.

Changes like these are unpleasant, put lightly, especially for small businesses. What marketers are quickly finding out is how there really is no deciphering social networks. These platforms are still young and are going to be susceptible to change. Beyond this, Facebook, and some of the other social networks, are now public companies. Naturally, they have stepped up their efforts to ensure their profitability since they now answer to Wall Street.

Jay Baer over on Convince and Convert minces no words when it comes to this issue, saying:

Fundamentally, Facebook cares about THEIR business, not about YOUR business.

Social@Ogilvy also created a really interesting chart showing the correlation between organic reach dropping and Facebook’s stock price rising:

Facebook Chart

So, what’s a marketer to do? Facebook has 1.26 billion users – it’s hard to ignore. There are some ways to approach this issue that will help your brand in the long run.

Accept the problem

For starters, businesses must come to terms with what is happening. As much as we would all like things to be different, Facebook is not going to revert backward. Furthermore, even if we could go back, more and more brands are embracing the platform everyday vying for the same attention that we are. The value of social media is starting to be realized, which means that competition will only get tighter. We can complain about these changes all we want and call Facebook out, but in the end, we have to learn to deal with it.

Meet the challenge

If marketing were easy, we would all be bored. Marketing is known for being fast-paced, energetic and for having lots of unknowns. With this understanding, Facebook’s changes are really par for the course. But, there are some tips and tricks that can help you attack the challenge:

There’s more to social media than just Facebook. Because of Facebook’s size, many businesses have made this their central base. However, we never recommend this practice. Facebook can provide tremendous value, but it’s an outside platform. Some small businesses view Facebook as their website, but it’s cases like this that reinforce why this isn’t practical. It is possible that Facebook could go away. If this happens, all your work and effort into your page could be lost. At SugarSpun, we encourage people to have a home base on their website, such as their blog. This way, you’re dependent upon your own resources and not a third party.

Secondly, content still rules. Facebook is looking for the very best content, so provide it. Step up your game in producing original and relevant content that really stands out from the other noise. Utilize various forms of media such as images, videos, and infographics to make it compelling and unique. Also, re-think your basic marketing strategies such as timing, demographics, etc. because it does make a difference in performance.

Thirdly, invest some ad spend into Facebook. If Facebook truly provides value for your business, then there will be a budget for the platform. Fortunately, Facebook’s ad program is not too costly. If a brand is smart and selective, it can analyze both before and after a promotion to ensure effectiveness. And if its target audience is there, it will have a direct link to them with actionable data to back it up.

Facebook, like it or not, will continue to change. It’s inevitable. To continue to be successful on the platform, you must expect change and meet the challenges head on when they come. The roller coaster is taking off and you can either put your seatbelt on and enjoy the ride regardless of how bumpy it gets, or you can sit on the bench and miss out. It’s your choice.

 

The Growing Value of Pinterest & How You Can Capitalize on It

 

Pinterest Logo

In case you didn’t realize it, Pinterest is big deal. It’s currently one of the hottest social networks not only for pinning recipes, decorating ideas and more, but businesses are also finding tremendous value in the world’s greatest pinboard.

But, is it really just hype, or is there any real value behind the pinning? Check out the 5 following facts that should get some serious head turns:

–          Pinterest is the 2nd largest driver of traffic from social media sites. Facebook is the #1 driver, but Shareaholic found that Pinterest is now leading Twitter as the #2.

–          Pinterest is the 4th largest source of organic traffic. In 2012, Pinterest beat out Yahoo as the 4th largest traffic driver in the world.

–          Pinterest is a proven sales driver. According to customer experience engine Monetate, Pinterest is the top referrer of high-value orders to e-commerce sites.

Monetate Chart on Pinterest

–          Pinterest generates 400 percent more revenue per click than Twitter and 27 percent more than Facebook. This incredible data came from QuickSprout.

–          Pinterest hosts at least 25 percent of accounts from Fortune 500 companies. Though this number is likely greater now, it’s still a significant finding in Burson-Marstellar’s 2012 Global Social Media Check-up.

These are just a handful of facts that prove what a powerful tool Pinterest is. In other words, if your business is not utilizing Pinterest, it would be a good time to embrace it. So, now the question becomes: what can you do to leverage it?

Realistically, we could talk all day about various ways to leverage Pinterest. But, for the sake of time, we’ve put together a few basic tips to help you as you begin your Pinterest strategy.

For starters, you need to optimize your images. It’s very important to incorporate text and information on your image, but it must be done strategically. Basically, you want to offer enough information to draw people in, but then you want them to go beyond the pinning action and land on your website for more information.

Secondly, understand that Pinterest is about the community. While this is true on other social platforms, it takes on an even bigger meaning on Pinterest. Yes, obtaining followers and getting pins repinned are important and help build credibility for brands, but you must reach out as well. Out of all the social platforms that you use, you may find Pinterest to have your strongest group of influencers. If you comment on pins, repin relevant content, and engage with other pinners, you will build your following and a strong community.

Thirdly, think outside the pin. When you’re creating content for Pinterest, obviously pin content related to your product or service, but take it one step further. Find or produce content and pins that impact the end user. For instance, if you have a line of fitness clothing, give examples of exercises or particular moves when your product shines. You could also build a board related to the best workout music, foods, etc. The idea is to essentially show the consumer that you care about their needs instead of shoving your product down their throat, which again, reinforces the concept of community.

Any good marketer knows that you should also conduct periodic evaluations of how your strategy is working, track analytics, and many other routine marketing tasks. But, hopefully, these steps will get you started thinking about how you can incorporate Pinterest and all its value into your marketing mix.

We also recommend reading Pinterest Marketing: An Hour a Day by SugarSpun Marketing’s own Jennifer Evans Cario. Yes, this is a shameless plug, but if you are looking to build a successful marketing strategy on Pinterest, the book offers a step-by-step guide to put you on the right track toward getting actionable results.

How Well Do You Really Know Your Audience?

 

One Size Tag

One size in social media does not fit everyone

Determining your target market is a process that should be familiar to all marketers. While your audience will likely not deviate too drastically unless you revamp your business, it is a good idea to evaluate who exactly you’re trying to reach before each campaign. It’s almost like conducting an audit to make sure you’re on the right track.

When you do this, you must question how you define your audience. If not, it’s like you’re driving somewhere without any navigation. In other words, you’re taking action, but it doesn’t tie back to a particular goal or strategy.

As a business, you are trying to reach and connect with people. This group is a specific crowd that has a particular set of needs and wants. For the most part, it will stay consistent. But, trends may influence them from time to time. For instance, if you’re serving B2B, the decision makers may change demographics periodically, which could influence how you market to your target. The same is true with B2C too as trends come and go and family dynamics alter.

With these thoughts in mind, can you really understand who your audience is? The short answer is yes. However, there is a “but” involved that means it takes constant babysitting.

Who’s out there?

Any business, new or old, has an idea of who it would like to reach. For some, it may be families, app developers, or any number of groups. From this, marketers need to hone in on families of a particular age group, what type of app developers, etc. This will help to dictate your customer personas. From here, you will obtain snippets about your audience, but it’s up to you to put the story together. There will likely be a few different stories, but they all come together through you.

What do they want or need?

As you begin to define customer personas, you’ll notice that there is a common denominator among them. Your audience may include people that are as opposite as day and night, but there will be something that ties them all together – this is your ticket in. It’s important to understand the different backgrounds so that you can better relate to why they want or need you.

When you gather this information, you will connect with your audience in a language that relates more directly to them, which is very effective. Furthermore, you’ll be able to identify where to connect with this group. For some, it may be your blog, and for others, it may be on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest. This will also guide you as to whether you should reach them through photos, videos, text, etc.

How can you show you’re not full of crap?

Everyone knows that there is a LOT of noise online and offline today, which poses a challenge for consumers and businesses alike. Everywhere we turn, there are advertisements and brand messages. As a result, society has become skeptical.

So, how can we, as businesses, cut through the noise and stand out to our target market? It’s an ongoing challenge, but there are some steps that can be implemented to show that you have something valuable to offer. For starters, you must show that you have integrity. If you deliver your brand with honesty, consistency and a sense of value, you’ll become trusted.

It’s also important to identify the negative side of the noise, a.k.a. the crap, and be careful not to ever include anything similar in your messaging. For instance, weight loss ads have a tendency to not be trusted. If you are trying to promote a weight loss program, avoid using any of the same verbiage.

In addition, you need to have proof to show that what you are saying really works. This could be in the form of statistics, third-party studies, testimonials, and various other means. Businesses just really need to show that there is more than just empty words behind their content.

What’s more, as social networks specifically have grown, it has become increasingly harder to cut through the noise. Facebook has even openly admitted that organic reach is decreasing and has advised brand pages to utilize its advertising options. While this throws a kink in many marketing campaigns, it’s not surprising. Many of the popular social networks are public companies and are expected to make money, which means that we, in turn, need to embrace advertising on Facebook and other channels to stay relevant.

In the end, getting to know your customer takes a lot of time and effort. And just when you think you have a handle on it, I can guarantee that Google will introduce a new algorithm or a new trend will emerge to start the whole process again. But, it’s worth the time to get a valid understanding of your audience. It will improve your content, your strategies, product and service development, leads and even sales.

If you’d like more information on how you can effectively find and target your audience, check out how we can help.  Feel free to drop us a personal note too, as we’d love to tailor a response for you.

Image courtesy of teradatamagazine.com.

 

 

10 Years of Facebook & Its Influence on Social Media

“…People often ask if I always knew that Facebook would become what it is today. No way.

I remember getting pizza with my friends one night in college shortly after opening Facebook. I told them I was excited to help connect our school community, but one day someone needed to connect the whole world.

I always thought this was important — giving people the power to share and stay connected, empowering people to build their own communities themselves.

When I reflect on the last 10 years, one question I ask myself is: why were we the ones to build this? We were just students. We had way fewer resources than big companies. If they had focused on this problem, they could have done it.

The only answer I can think of is: we just cared more.

While some doubted that connecting the world was actually important, we were building. While others doubted that this would be sustainable, you were forming lasting connections.

We just cared more about connecting the world than anyone else. And we still do today.”

Above are the words of Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. It’s been 10 years since his dorm room project came to life. And what a decade it has been! We’ve witnessed tremendous growth, transformations, impact, business capabilities and even an IPO. But, as anyone knows that has even somewhat followed the social giant, the past decade hasn’t just been a bed of roses. There have been challenges and backlashes along the way including privacy concerns, competitors, legal issues, financial alarms and more.

Facebook CEO and Founder Mark Zuckerberg

But, 10 years in, Facebook is a successful, global company that has had a tremendous impact on all society. We would be here a very long time if we went back through all the Facebook milestones and the effect they have had on both the company and overall culture. But, we do want to take a little time to reflect on the big picture of Facebook in the past decade, and more importantly social media and the role it has played.

To do this, let’s back up. In 2004, when Facebook was built, what was your social media life like? At this point in time, MySpace was a big deal, forums were hot, instant messaging platforms such as ICQ were all the rave and Friendster was a means to connect with people online whom you already in the offline world. Other platforms such as Orkut, LinkedIn, and Classmates, among others, existed as well, but the social evolution that we now are familiar with was not present. It was then that blogging really started taking off too.

For me, I remember being in college and getting asked if I had Facebook from a few of my friends from other colleges and universities. I had no idea what it was. But, when it became available to my university, I readily signed up. Funny thing, I remember it blowing up across campus to the extent that there were rumors the president was going to ban it. I was part of the on campus news station, and in covering the event, the overall student response was: “My life would be over if they take Facebook away.” I wonder how many people view Facebook in this same way today…

As Facebook began to grow among the college crowd, it then expanded to include high schoolers, and shortly after, everyone. Although this move took the social network to the next level, Charlene Li from research firm Altimeter Group tells CNET it was “counter-intuitive.”

“If [Zuckerberg] had asked users, “What do you want?,” they would have never said “Add my parents,” she said.

She’s right, but we know now that it was successful for the company that now has more than 1.25 billion users and a reported $2.59 billion in revenue this past quarter. However, beyond this, I think it’s fair to say that social media would not be what it is today if Facebook were not a factor. Like it or not, Facebook has largely influenced the overall social media marketplace. Think about how social we are in everything we do from shopping to cooking to sharing opinions to conducting business and the list goes on and on. Though some would say, if Facebook hadn’t come around, something else would have. While this may be true, the circumstances would still be different. For instance, would MySpace have remained a leader? Whether it did or didn’t, would the road have still been paved for Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and others to enter the social space?

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Though history does not allow us to answer this question, it is clear that Facebook has been very formative in molding social media as we currently know it.

Now, the question becomes, where will it take us next?

“…I’m even more excited about the next ten years than the last. The first ten years were about bootstrapping this network. Now we have the resources to help people across the world solve even bigger and more important problems.

Today, only one-third of the world’s population has access to the internet. In the next decade, we have the opportunity and the responsibility to connect the other two-thirds.

Today, social networks are mostly about sharing moments. In the next decade, they’ll also help you answer questions and solve complex problems.

Today, we have only a few ways to share our experiences. In the next decade, technology will enable us to create many more ways to capture and communicate new kinds of experiences.”

Zuckerberg does not give us any exact information on the next 10 years of Facebook in his above post, but he does indicate that it will become smarter and create new experiences. Hopefully, the social network will continue to grow and transform the way consumers act and think. It’s already helped develop an industry that not only connects a large portion of the world and provides a very valuable tool for businesses, but it also has created a whole new job market.

There have been many headlines declaring that the younger generation was abandoning the site, but new research from Pew shows that 73 percent of children ages 12-17 are Facebook users. So, while Facebook doesn’t appear to be going anywhere but up, it is possible that it could diminish in value at some point. IF this were to happen, the impact is has will still be felt, which is an awesome concept. The way people communicate, react, think, and ultimately, live has been revolutionized in the last decade, all thanks to the influx of social media and led largely by Facebook. Will the next 10 years hold as many changes? We’ll see, but I, for one, am so excited to see where it takes us.

How has Facebook impacted you? Does it play a large role in your life? Has Facebook changed the way you communicate? Could you live without it? Is there a particular event in which Facebook changed your life for the better or worse?

Images courtesy of Facebook.

2013 Social Media Year in Review: Old & New Players Make Impact

 

Social Media WorldAs we reflect back on 2013, it’s clear that it has been a very full year. Social media has had another very big year. Digital Insights put together a fantastic infographic showing the growth and impact that social media has had. For starters, Facebook surpassed a new milestone with more than 1.15 billion users. On average, there are 400 million tweets sent out every day. Every second, 8,000 users like a photo they see on Instagram. A whopping 80 percent of Pinterest pins are repins. There are more than 3 million LinkedIn Company Pages and over 1 billion LinkedIn endorsements. Some 4.2 billion people use their mobile device to access social media.

These numbers are impressive. But, how did we get here? Let’s take a look at some of the events that took place and led to this growth.

Let’s start with what is now one of the older players – Facebook. 2013 proved to be a big year for the largest social network after it went public in 2012. Not only did Facebook grow in numbers and stock price, it also made several changes that impact marketing. For starters, it dramatically updated News Feed. Facebook rolled out “Story Bumping” that pushes older stories to the top of users’ feeds allowing them to see any they may have missed, a move that should help marketers.

Also with this update came the news that EdgeRank was dead. Though the term is no longer being used, Facebook still has an algorithm for News Feed in which affinity, weight and time decay continue to play a vital role.

Facebook additionally took a tip from Twitter and made the move add Verified Business Pages and to integrate #hashtags, the latter much to many users’ dismay. The company also added a 5-star rating system so users can rank business pages and updated Graph Search.

Lastly, Facebook made changes to its Promotion Guidelines making it easier for marketers to advertise and promote content through the network.

Moving on to Twitter, the microblogging service also had a number of noted events. In 2013, Twitter made the change to notify users when a tweet you have been mentioned in receives an additional action such as a retweet or mention. Twitter also added images to its timeline, so users don’t have to click elsewhere to view them.

For marketers, just last week, Twitter rolled out a retargeted ad program called tailored audiences to allow advertisers to target users based on their browsing history, which is a big win for marketers.

The biggest news for Twitter, however, has been its IPO. The company did not face the same drama that Facebook did when it went public, and so far, the stock has been high. Time will tell how the tech company will fare in a very volatile market.

The professional network of LinkedIn has also made headway this year for marketers in particular. LinkedIn unveiled Sponsored Updates as well as a robust analytics platform. Beyond this, it gave company page administrators the ability to act as their brand through posting updates, commenting and liking on their pages. All these developments help to position LinkedIn as a competitor among the other social networks.

We must also talk about Google+ in regards to social media happenings. For Google’s social network, 2013 has brought it growth, but it’s also brought some controversy. Earlier this year, Google began embedding Google+ into each of its products making it nearly impossible to use its services without adopting the social network. Many people feel that Google+ has been forced onto them for Google’s benefit and not their own. This is why Google+ numbers have been somewhat skewed in the past as well.

Google+ Meme

Google+ has also recently faced scrutiny for integrating Google+ further into YouTube. The biggest area in this move is the fact that YouTube’s long criticized comment system has changed. Now, users comment using their Google+ profiles, a.k.a., their real names in most cases.

But, regardless of your feelings about Google+, we do have to keep in mind that its parent is the search and advertising giant Google, and therefore, it cannot be taken lightly.

Pinterest, though somewhat of a newbie compared to the others, had its share of happenings during 2013 as well. Last year, the company rolled out business pages, and earlier this year, it released an analytics platform to go along with it.

Pinterest Analytics

Everyone’s favorite pinboard also introduced Rich Pins to give users valuable information about a pin, thus improving the user experience. Going right along with this, Pinterest rolled out price-drop notifications on pinned items. This move greatly opens the door for brands to turn “pinners into shoppers.”

Pinterest also introduced Place Pins to allow pinners to create boards around vacations, restaurants, wish lists, and more.

Another trend that we’ve seen in 2013 is the rise of some new social networks such as Snapchat, Vine and others along with the continued growth of Instagram. Younger generations are gravitating toward these platforms for the visual appeal and quick, short messaging opportunities. Images and micro-video are driving the younger generation’s communication. It doesn’t stop there though, marketers have embraced these visual-driven networks as well.

One of the biggest drivers of these networks and short-form messaging is the accessibility on mobile devices. As we saw above, some 4.2 billion people use their mobile device to access social media. This trend is only going to grow. Mobile is quickly becoming one of the primary, if not the primary, channel with which people communicate and obtain information. Given this direction, marketers need to be mindful and accommodate.

Marketers also need to recognize that social’s influence on search is continuing to grow. In new search rankings factors released this year, it’s evident that search is evolving to accommodate a social-centric world, which indicates a thing or two about the future significance of social media.

What other changes did you notice with social media during 2013? Have any of these updates or developments made your life or business easier? And how do you think these changes will impact what we’ll see in 2014?

Images courtesy of EkaterinaWalter.com, Reddit and Pinterest respectively.

Facebook Ads: How Effective Are They?

 

Hootsuite Sponsored Facebook Ad

What do you think of Facebook ads? As businesses and marketers, do you find them useful? From the consumer perspective, are they annoying? Have your eyes already realized where they need to go to avoid them?

As you ponder these questions, let’s take a look at the Facebook advertising platform.  When Facebook became open to all users, advertising became inevitable as a monetization model. Since the ad platform was rolled out several years ago, it’s gone through many different phases and developments. Most would probably agree that these changes have been for the better.

The real question is: Are Facebook ads providing real value to businesses?

According to a couple of recent studies that were incidentally released just before Facebook’s Q3 earnings came out, they do. Kenshoo Social, a digital marketing technology company, released its quarterly review of Facebook’s advertising performance and found considerable improvements from Q2. Some notable improvements include:

  • Ad impressions:  Up 13%
  • Click Volume:  Up 14.4%
  • Cost Per Click (CPC):  Down 9%
  • Conversion Rate (CVR):  Up 2.36x
  • Conversion Volume:  Up 2.85x
  • Revenue:  Up 2.16x
  • Revenue Per Click (RPC):  Up 1.76x
  • Return on Investment (ROI):  Up 3.04x

Kenshoo Social believes that changes Facebook has made to its ad platform should largely be credited with these improved performances. For instance, Facebook has given advertisers greater targeting capabilities and more formatting options. Also, as Facebook continues to provide a better product for its advertisers, they, in turn, are becoming more experienced, a.k.a. better, with their approaches.

In a blog post about the study, Kenshoo Social’s Senior Director of Product Marketing Todd Herrold made a powerful statement regarding Facebook ads:

Facebook is a powerful direct response channel that drives significant sales, revenue and ROI… [and] Facebook continues to outperform with major brands driving more sales, more revenue and higher ROI from Facebook Ads.”

A second study from Adobe, which is the first annual Social Media Intelligence report, also found positive developments in Facebook ad performance. The study specifically looked at more than 131 billion ad impressions and 4.3 billion social engagements on Facebook. It found that, overall, Facebook’s ad clicks, ad impressions and the advertiser’s return on investment (ROI) increased in 2013 from 2012. Particularly speaking, Facebook ads were clicked 29 percent more in 2013, the volume of impressions was up 85 percent and the ROI was up 58 percent year over year.

Social Media Intelligence Report

Social Media Intelligence Chart

Interestingly enough, well-acclaimed research firm Forrester also just released an open letter to Mark Zuckerberg explaining why it thinks the social giant is “failing marketers.” The company conducted a survey as well that covered marketers and ebusiness executives across the U.S., Canada, and the UK. Based on this study, Facebook does NOT create business value:

Facebook Ad Failure

This news has raised quite a stir with outlets such as Venture Beat calling the report “an embarrassment” and “distasteful.”

Facebook too responded to the report saying it was “illogical and… irresponsible.”

So, which is it? Are Facebook ads doing great, or are they a failure?

Though the story is still developing, business leaders and marketers ultimately need to analyze this data and this news based on your own perspective. If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it a million times – there is no formula for social media. What works for one company does not necessarily work for another. Yes, it can in some cases, but if there were a secret formula for success on social media, all companies would be social media rock stars. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work this way.

In this particular matter, it does seem clear that Facebook is continually improving its ad platform. Also, advertising on Facebook has been around for a while, so marketers who embraced it early have likely become better at it as they have gained more experience with it.

However, as you consider if Facebook ads are the way to go for your business, think about your own company goals. While studies are great tools to see what the trends are, what you’re trying to achieve with your business needs to be the ultimate decision maker.

Images courtesy of Adobe and Forrester. 

 

Social Media & eCommerce: Why It’s the Future

As business is becoming more and more integrated into social media, translating “likes” and “follows” and “pins” into dollar signs becomes a much stronger priority. While we can go back and forth on social media ROI all day, the area we want to focus on is social media and its influence on commerce.

In a nutshell, commerce is big and ecommerce is continuing to grow by leaps and bounds. Social media is also big. As the two areas have come together, the results are, as you may already know, huge.

Ritu Pant over on Social Media Today summed it up beautifully in a post from earlier this year related to social media and commerce:

The big picture: the fastest growing marketplace on the planet is unfolding in the palms of our hands on smartphones exploding with the financial power of social media.

One very obvious way that social media has impacted commerce is through real-time feedback. Social media channels, of course, allow businesses and consumers to have instantaneous interaction. The added value on the business side is that the feedback is shared on the customer’s network. When it is positive, it serves as the best form of advertising.

For customers, the interaction provides a much better means for voicing a concern or problem as opposed to calling customer service. On the business side again, this serves as a valuable opportunity to solve a problem and potentially build a brand advocate if handled effectively.

What’s interesting now is that we are starting to see specific commerce trends around social channels such as Twitter and Pinterest. According to a recent report from BI Intelligence called “The New Art of Social Commerce: How Brands and Retailers Are Converting Tweets, Pins, and Likes into Sales,” Pinterest brought in 23 percent of social-generated e-commerce sales, and Twitter brought in 22 percent. Facebook also generated a bit more coming in at 28 percent of social-generated e-commerce sales.

Even more interesting is the fact that these trends were NOT happening a year ago. Pinterest barely registered any sales, bringing in just 2 percent of sales. Facebook, however, was the dominant in this area generating 55 percent of social-related e-commerce sales.

Social Commerce Sales Chart

In a direct selling environment, these numbers don’t hold much weight. But, remember that social media is about indirect selling. Social media is about building relationships, providing a human voice to a brand, and creating brand awareness, among many other indirect approaches. So, for a supplemental channel, if you will, these numbers are actually quite noteworthy. Furthermore, as indicated by the current trends, these statistics will grow as social media grows and expands.

Another factor to think about in this regard is the fact that these social sites are still young. Just as many are still trying to figure out the evolving world of utilizing social media for business, the social networks themselves are still innovating and adapting to a changing business climate.

Facebook, for example, will likely do away with its gifts service as a source of monetization since its performance is lacking. But, Facebook Exchange (FBX), the company’s retargeting platform, appears to be providing value for online retailers. In fact, Google and Facebook actually announced recently that they are partnering in a joint advertising initiative.

According to the deal, Google’s online advertising arm DoubleClick will extend its services to include FBX. In other words, DoubleClick clients will be able to purchase ad inventory on FBX.

It’s rather ironic when competitors come together in deals such as this, but when it benefits both parties, I guess they put aside other differences. Facebook will benefit due to Google’s long-standing dominance of the online advertising market, and Google will benefit from Facebook’s proven retargeting platform. As a result, this partnership has the potential to project much more growth in Facebook and e-commerce.

Twitter is also showing that it is committed to growing retail activity on its platform since it hired its first commerce chief earlier this year.

Pinterest too cannot be forgotten in this regard. The company has made many moves including “promoted pins” recently, which show that it is a serious contender in the social commerce space.

Time will ultimately tell just how these initiatives will take off, but our bet is on growth within social commerce.

Images courtesy of AspirantSG.com and intelligence.businessinsider.com respectively.