Language is evolving; the written word is giving way to visual vocabulary.
Interpersonal communications are shifting from being text-based to image-based, and you don't have to look far for the evidence: We spell using the Emoji alphabet; we comment with photographs; we engage through pictures.
Therefore, it’s no surprise that consumer adoption of visual social networks is growing and that social chatter is becoming increasingly pictorial. Forrester's Consumer Technographics® data shows that US online consumers across generations are interacting with content on Instagram and Pinterest more than before:
As consumers become increasingly versed in the language of visual content, curated images become a powerful means of expressing opinions, conveying emotion, and recounting experiences. As a result, pure text analytics no longer suffice to interpret social chatter; instead, insights professionals have an opportunity to mine the wealth of media-rich data that increasingly pervades social networking sites.
Ever since Facebook CFO David Ebersman admitted last October that young teens were visiting the site slightly less frequently, most have accepted as fact that young people are fleeing Facebook en masse. Ivy League researchers have forecast that the service will be all but dead by 2017; President Obama recently claimed that young people “don’t use Facebook anymore”; and when comScore recently reported that fewer college students were using Facebook, media outlets ran stories on the “social platforms college kids now prefer.”
But if you take a closer look at the data it tells a very different story. Sure, many data sources show that Facebook’s usage among young people has declined slightly — but the drops are small, and the huge majority of this audience still uses the site. For instance, that comScore report only found a three-percentage-point drop in college-aged adults’ Facebook usage and reported that 89% of this audience still used Facebook — far more than used any other social site.
To investigate teens’ social behaviors further, we recently asked 4,517 US online youth (aged 12 to 17) not just whether they use social sites like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Tumblr — but if they use those sites “about once a day,” “at least a few times each day,” or even if they were on any of the sites “all the time.”
Recently, Forrester studied more than 3 million user interactions with more than 2,500 brand posts on seven social networks and confirmed what marketers have long suspected: People don’t engage with branded social content very often.
On six of the seven social networks, the brands we studied achieved an engagement rate of less than 0.1%. For every 1 million Facebook fans those brands had collected, each of their posts received only about 700 likes, comments, and shares. On Twitter, the ratio was about 300 interactions per 1 million followers.
But one social network absolutely blew the others away when it came to delivering engagement: Instagram. Our study found that top brands’ Instagram posts generated a per-follower engagement rate of 4.21%. That means Instagram delivered these brands 58 times more engagement per follower than Facebook, and 120 times more engagement per follower than Twitter.
What does this higher engagement rate look like in practice? Last month, Red Bull posted a video of a unique snowboarding half-pipe on both Facebook and Instagram. A few days later, we noted that the brand’s 43 million Facebook fans had liked the video just 2,600 times (a 0.006% likes-per-fan rate), while its 1.2 million Instagram followers had liked the video more than 36,000 times (a 3% likes-per-follower rate).
The vast majority of Facebook and Twitter usage is coming from mobile devices, and both companies generate a significant proportion of their revenues via mobile ads (53% for Facebook and more than 70% for Twitter end Q4 2013).
Facebook is splitting into a collection of apps (Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger, Paper, etc…) and likely to announce a mobile ad network at its F8 developer conference in San Francisco in a couple of days. While failing brand marketers, according to my colleague Nate Elliott, Facebook is increasingly powerful at driving app installs for gaming companies and performance-based marketers who have a clear mobile app business model.
Instagram’s ‘Instagram Direct’ announcement this morning left me speechless, as I followed the live feed (thank you CNET) from the West Coast. First, let me disclose that I am middle-aged. I’m 45 years of age. What does this mean? I remember AIM in the late nineties. I remember the days when chat sessions evaporated. I remember my first cell phone in 1997 and texting my friends – mostly in Europe at that time. The idea of communicating with people I know first and foremost is not new to me. It is very comfortable – more so than Tweeting or posting.
Bottom line: This is a “catch-up” move for Instagram.
1) Mobile phones have always been about communicating with friends and people we know. The magic of mobile phones early on was that a person’s phone number was their ID. It made it so easy to send SMS or MMS messages.
2) Instagram has 150M downloads, and half of their users are active daily. That is awesome. However, its competitors globally – Kakao Talk, WeChat, etc. – have two to three times that number. Apps like WeChat already allow users to share videos, photos, messages, cartoons, voice clips, etc. to individuals, groups, groups created around an event, etc.
3) Messaging will help them earn more mobile media minutes. I spoke with Chris Hill at Mobidia last week, and he shared some of their data on usage minutes. In their sample from mid-October, Kakao Talk had more than 200 minutes of usage per week, WhatsApp was just shy of 200, while Kik Messenger, LINE, and WeChat fell just below 100 minutes of use per week. If they were to post ads as a means of monetization, minutes spent is key.
Facebook now has 819 million mobile monthly active users. That’s a huge audience. That’s actually 71% of total active users.
Yesterday, Facebook reported they generated 41% of total ad revenues via mobile. That’s pretty impressive considering they generated nearly 0% end 2011 when they had already 432 million mobile monthly users. Since the launch of mobile ads in 2012, Facebook steadily increased the share of mobile in total ad revenues: it was 23% end 2012 and 30% in Q1 2013.
There is still a monetization gap in comparison to the share of their mobile audience, but that’s definitely impressive for a new product.
There are a couple of reasons for this sharp increase. Time spent on Facebook is meaningful. Facebook’s mobile ads integrate well in the natural flow of Facebook’s news feeds. They are quite visible and are increasingly successful at driving mobile app installs. According to our European Technographics Consumer Technology Online Survey, Q4 2012, 16% of online adult smartphone owners (ages 16-plus) who use apps report that they first learned about an app via social networking websites such as Facebook. No wonder why the likes of Fiksu and other app boosters spent a lot of money on Facebook mobile ads. Cost per click increased despite a lot more clicks and ads shown.
For this approach to be successful in the longer term, there are a couple of key questions to be answered:
It's that time of year again: Tomorrow, venture capitalists, entrepreneurs looking to raise funds, journalists, bloggers, geeks, and digital executives from all over the world will be gathering at LeWeb in Paris. For a couple of days, Paris will turn into the digital Mecca.
A lot of the media and investor attention will focus on the now-traditional startup competition, looking for the new Evernote, Instagram, Nest, or Withings. Here’s the list of the 16 semi-finalists. Emblematic of the entrepreneurial spirit of the conference, David Marcus, founder of startups like Punchd (acquired by Google) and Zong (acquired by eBay) and now CEO of PayPal, will be speaking at the event and will cross paths with a long list of digital visionaries and key executives, such as Pascal Cagni, former general manager and VP of Apple EMEA.
Here are some of my observations on this year's theme — The Internet of Things — as well as a summary of some of Forrester’s latest research on this quickly evolving space.