According to Reuters, Japanese messaging app Line has filed for an IPO valued at over $10 billion.
No doubt the space is heating up. Competition is increasing. Facebook acquired WhatsApp for $19 billion. Japanese Internet giant Rakuten purchased Viber for $900 million. More recently, Kakao Corp (the maker of KakaoTalk, South Korea’s top messaging service and a direct competitor to Line) and Daum (one of South Korea’s largest Internet portals) announced they would merge through an equity swap, creating a company with about $2.9 billion market capitalization!
To put all this activity in perspective, I recently published a new piece of research explaining how messaging apps are morphing into new media portals and are becoming the new face of social.
WeChat is jockeying to become a global digital platform, thanks to the deep pockets of its parent company, the Chinese Internet giant Tencent. The other Chinese Internet giant, Alibaba, which recently invested $280 million in Tango, could also connect the dots between its commerce, payment, media, and social capabilities.
Soon to have 500 million registered online users, Line is definitely a key player in the space. The money to be raised will help in developing the already significant international expansion and further develop the positioning of Line as a “smartphone life platform.” The majority of the $335 million in revenue generated in 2013 came from games and about 20% from stickers — “emoticons on steroids,” as my colleague Julie Ask called them.
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).
Just four months later, the debate seems to be over. Is there any doubt now that Facebook has abandoned social marketing, and that its paid ad products aren’t delivering results for most marketers? Consider:
Marketers can now reach just 6% of their fans organically. When we published our research, some brands were surprised to find that Facebook only delivered posts to 16% of their fans. In December a leaked sales deck revealed that Facebook was telling marketers they should expect organic distribution of posts to decline further — but few could guess how far and how fast that distribution would fall. This month, Ogilvy released data showing that the brand pages they manage reach just 6% of fans. For pages with more than 500,000 fans, Ogilvy says reach stands at just 2%.
There are lots of reasons for this dissatisfaction, but the biggest is that most vendors just aren’t solving the problems that social relationship marketers face. Yesterday we published a new report detailing social relationship marketers' top challenges:
Measurement. Most just don't know what impact, if any, their Facebook pages and Twitter accounts have.
Content. Marketers struggle both to decide what type of content to publish, and then to find good content assets to use.
Staffing. Many say they just don't have enough human resources to handle the every tasks of social relationship marketing.
Scheduling. Marketers don't know when to post their content for maximum impact.
We evaluated established SRPs like Spredfast, Sprinklr, Shoutlet, Adobe Social, and salesforce.com’s Buddy Media, and found that none of them were good enough to fall into our “Leaders” category. Why? For one thing, most had significant gaps in their offerings.
But we also found that many of their customers weren’t terribly satisfied. Even though all the clients we spoke with were referred to us by the vendors themselves — and so presumably were amongst each SRP’s happiest customers — most had some reservations about the features, functionality, and service the vendors provided. In several cases, we were shocked by how little the reference clients thought of their technology partners.
One year later, we decided to check in on whether marketers had grown any more satisfied with their social relationship platforms. For a new report out today, we asked 56 marketers who used a variety of SRPs whether they’d recommend their vendor to a colleague — and found that overall, social relationship platforms have a Net Promoter Score of -16. Yes, that’s negative sixteen.
Most of the large marketers we survey tell us their companies are active on Twitter. But just as marketers say they’re not getting enough value from Facebook, Twitter marketers are still looking for greater value as well. In fact, our new report today reveals that only 55% of companies that market on Twitter say they’re satisfied with the business value they achieve:
Why are Twitter marketers still looking for greater value?
Marketers are using Twitter for the wrong objective. Marketers’ most common objective on Twitter is to build brand awareness. But consumers are most likely to become a fan or follower of a company in social media after they’ve already bought from that company. This means that marketers would have more luck using Twitter to engage their existing customers than to find new ones.
Twitter must do more to support marketers. Twitter’s marketing business is still relatively young — its ads have been generally available for only about 3 years — but that business must mature quickly. Marketers say they need more guidance, education, service, and support if they’re going to use Twitter successfully. And just 44% of marketers say they’re satisfied with Twitter as a marketing partner today.
Our recent report on why Facebook is failing marketers has caused quite a bit of conversation — with some supporting our findings and others disputing them — and we think that’s healthy. We fully stand behind our data and our conclusions, and we welcome the chance to further discuss what’s working and what’s not working in social media. Conversations like these can only push the industry forward and help all social marketers and sites become more successful.
In particular, we wanted to address a few common questions people are asking about our research:
Facebook’s score didn’t look that low. Are they really failing marketers? Facebook offers marketers access to the largest audience in media history and it knows a remarkable amount about each of its users and their affinities. By all rights, Facebook should be driving significantly more value for marketers than other sites and channels — but according to our survey, they’re not. Forrester’s Data Center of Excellence has looked at this data many different times, through many different lenses, and every view of the data supports this conclusion.
I know this statement sounds remarkable, perhaps even unbelievable. After all, you offer marketers access to the largest audience in media history and you know a remarkable amount about each of your users. As a result nearly every large company now markets on Facebook. Last year your company collected more than $4 billion in advertising revenues.
But while lots of marketers spend lots of money on Facebook today, relatively few find success. In August, Forrester surveyed 395 marketers and eBusiness executives at large companies across the US, Canada and the UK — and these executives told us that Facebook creates less business value than any other digital marketing opportunity.
Why are business leaders less satisfied with Facebook than with any other digital tool? We believe there are two reasons.
First, your company focuses too little on the thing marketers want most: driving genuine engagement between companies and their customers. Your sales materials tease marketers with the promise that you’ll help them create such connections. But in reality, you rarely do. Everyone who clicks the like button on a brand’s Facebook page volunteers to receive that brand’s messages — but on average, you only show each brand’s posts to 16% of its fans. And while your company upgrades its advertising tools and offerings monthly or more, you’ve done little in the past 18 months to improve your unloved branded page format or the tools that marketers use to manage and measure those pages.
We firmly believe that the first step in building a successful social program is to understand your audience’s social behaviors and preferences.
Since 2007, Forrester’s Social Technographics® ladder has helped marketers understand how social their audiences are, and in which social behaviors those audiences engage. But social media adoption has matured, and today the vast majority of online users engage with social tools. For marketers, the question is no longer whether their customers use social media, but rather how best to use social media to interact with those customers.
So we decided it was time to develop a new framework to help marketers analyze people’s evolving social behaviors and benefit from this evolution. Today, Forrester is introducing a new model — called the Social Technographics Score — that:
Focuses on commercial social behaviors. Many surveys reveal the social behaviors in which audiences engage but make no distinction between peoples’ social interactions with friends and their social interactions with companies. In contrast, our new Social Technographics Score is based on how audiences interact with and talk about companies, brands, and products.
Helps marketers choose among social strategies. Most models for evaluating audiences’ social usage tell marketers about their customers’ behaviors but don’t tell marketers what to do in response to those behaviors. In contrast, our new Social Technographics Score measures where in the customer life cycle audiences are most likely to use social tools.
[UPDATE, Sepember 2013: Entries for the 2013 Forrester Groundswell Awards are now closed. More than 100 companies entered more than 130 social programs this year, and we're looking forward to reviewing them and recognizing the best at our 2013 eBusiness Forum on November 5.]
The entry deadline for the 2013 Forrester Groundswell Awards is just one week away - August 30, 2013. These awards recognize programs that showcase the effective use of social media to advance an organizational goal. We've got new categories this year - check out our video for details - and over the past week, my colleagues have given their advice on how to win an award for 'social reach' and for 'social depth.' Today, I want to give some tips on how to win an award in our 'social relationship' category.