Ever wonder how you compare to the top brands in your use of Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks?
Forrester recently reviewed how the top 50 global brands market on social networks. We evaluated 11.8 million user interactions on 2,489 posts made by 249 branded profiles, and collected tons of great data -- including how many top brands use each social network, how many fans they've collected, how often they post, and how often users interact with their posts. We published our complete findings in our research brief "How Top Brands Are Using Facebook, Twitter, And Instagram" -- but I also wanted to highlight some key findings here.
First, follower counts for the big global brands have skyrocketed in the past year. Top brands now average 18.1 million Facebook fans each -- more than double their average in 2014. Their average number of Instagram followers is now over 1 million -- almost five times higher than last year. Follower counts have nearly doubled on Twitter and Google+ as well.
Second, marketers are posting more often than in pervious years. Top brands now post 18.3 times per week on Twitter and 6.5 times per week on Facebook -- both slight increases over 2014. They post 4.9 times per week on Instagram, an increase of more than 50% over last year.
In chaos theory, the butterfly effect posits that seemingly small changes at one moment in time can result in large, dramatic changes at another. The subtle flap of a butterfly’s wing can trigger a violent hurricane that occurs miles away or days later. Rationally, the idea may seem like a stretch, but in a digital sense, we are witnesses to – and victims of – the butterfly effect every day through social media. A few individuals’ posts online can escalate into a chorus of voices that mobilizes communities and creates new standards. We saw this last year after a homeless man in Boston turned in a backpack and, more recently, when Cecil the lion was killed in Zimbabwe.
Social media has always been a catalyst for bringing people together as well as an outlet where consumers can vent. But when a surge of voices results in change, social media posts are more than ephemeral cybertext. And, according to Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® data, consumers around the world leverage social media to generate buzz about current events, although members of some countries are more vocal than others:
Social marketers have worked for years to justify ad budgets—and that effort is finally paying off. But if you’re a social marketer, and you want your social advertising to succeed, you’d be better off giving that money to your media buying team instead.
We recently surveyed 173 of the most avid social marketers in the world and found that the large majority are buying ads on social sites like Facebook and Twitter. More than two-thirds said they would increase their social ad budget this year. And in most cases, they told us the social team or social agency was responsible for this social ad spending.
But it turns out social teams aren’t very good at spending social ad dollars. Sure, social practitioners claim they’re as good as media buyers at getting value from Facebook ads — a claim few can back up — but even the social marketers themselves they admit to lagging far behind their media-buying peers on other sites.
When social teams run the social ad budget, just 59% of marketers say they get value from Twitter ads; when media teams are in charge, Twitter delivers results 79% of the time. Likewise, social teams only get value from YouTube ads 64% of the time; media teams find success on YouTube 80% of the time.
So what should you do with your social ad budget? Take a lesson from some of the most successful social advertisers and give almost all of your social ad dollars to the media team, rather than to the social team:
Today we released an update to our Forrester Wave™ on social relationship platforms. Forrester defines social relationship platforms as technologies that help marketers publish organic posts to social networks as well as monitor and respond to customer posts on social networks.
We identified the 11 most significant vendors in the category — Adobe, Expion, Falcon Social, Hootsuite, Oracle, Percolate, Salesforce, Shoutlet, Spredfast, Sprinklr, and Sprout Social— and researched them, analyzed them, and scored them on 41 criteria. Clients can find the full report, including some very detailed product reviews and scores, here.
One of the things we looked for in our evaluation was vendors’ ability to automate key SRP functions. We know — automation remains a dirty word in social media. No brand wants to repeat the automation-driven mistakes of Coca-Cola or Bank of America. But marketers say one of their top social challenges is hiring and training enough qualified staff. In this environment, the greatest value that social relationship platforms can offer their clients is lightening their workload.
Every week I get calls from Forrester clients asking how they can measure engagement on Facebook and Twitter. And every time, I tell these marketers the same thing: You must stop measuring social engagement.
I understand that it’s hard to measure social success: Marketers tell us measurement is their single biggest social challenge. And I know that tracking engagement feels like an easy option. But the simple fact is, engagement is not a useful social marketing success metric.
We’ve spoken with scores of social vendors who measure engagement, and none has proven if — or how strongly — engagement correlates to business success metrics like loyalty or sales. Even Facebook itself says engagement doesn’t prove success: In its marketing collateral, Facebook warns that engagement metrics are “not a reliable indicator” of whether social marketing improved your business.
Some say that engagement matters because when people like or share your posts, they reach a broader audience. And your social posts’ reach will go up slightly if people engage. But engagement can’t overcome declining organic reach. Brands’ Facebook reach is already low, and heading lower still. And data from Socialbakers shows that even the Facebook posts that receive the highest level of engagement still get 99% of their reach from paid, not organic, impressions.
Are you ready for social media in 2015? Today we published Predictions 2015: Social Media Grows Up. This report details our four key predictions for the coming year in social media — and lists the nine things every marketing leader should do to get the most from social media next year.
The reality is, social media isn’t changing at the pace it once did. Sure, social data breaches and increased government regulation will change the landscape next year — but don’t expect 2015 to be a year of social transfiguration. Instead, as the industry matures, you’ll have a chance to catch your breath and focus on a few really important social initiatives.
My favorite prediction from the report? That as social media matures, branded communities will make a comeback. It makes sense: Marketing leaders report they’re significantly less satisfied with Facebook and Twitter marketing than with branded forums. But nearly twice as many marketers run Twitter and Facebook accounts as host their own communities. It’s time for marketers to focus their efforts on the social tactics that actually work. Plus, brand-hosted forums can help you all the way across the customer life cycle:
An inquiry call from a digital strategy agency advising a client of theirs on data commercialization generated a lively discussion on strategies for taking data to market. With few best practices out there, the emerging opportunity just might feel like space exploration – going boldly where no man has gone before. The question is increasingly common. "We know we have data that would be of use to others but how do we know? And, which use cases should we pursue?" In It's Time To Take Your Data To Market published earlier this fall, my colleagues and I provided some guideance on identifying and commercializing that "Picasso in the attic." But the ideas around how to go-to-market continue to evolve.
In answer to the inquiry questions asked the other day, my advice was pretty simple: Don’t try to anticipate all possible uses of the data. Get started by making selected data sets available for people to play with, see what it can do, and talk about it to spread the word. However, there are some specific use cases that can kick-start the process.
Look to your existing customers.
The grass is not always greener, and your existing clients might just provide some fertile ground. A couple thoughts on ways your existing customers could use new data sources:
[2015 UPDATE: Yes, Instagram is still the king of socail engagement. But top brands' Instagram engagement rates fell dramatically in 2015. Read more here.]
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.
In researching our recent report on Google Plus, I asked social listening and intelligence provider Converseon for some help. They agreed to review more than 2,500 direct user interactions with 20 leading brands on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus. (They tracked only direct user interactions, meaning posts directly onto brands' Facebook or Google Plus pages, comments on brands' Facebook or Google Plus posts, and @mentions of brands on Twitter. The brands were selected from among Interbrand's list of top global brands.) The goal? To determine whether those user interactions were mostly positive or mostly negative and to see whether the sentiment of user interactions varied by site.
In the end, that research didn't make it into the final report — but I thought you might like to see the data anyway, and the folks at Converseon agreed to let me share the results.
We expected there might be big differences in the tone of users' interactions with brands on each site. But it turns out about one-half of user interaction on each site was positive. And as for the question in the title of this blog post ("Do people complain more on Twitter or on Facebook?") — exactly one-fifth of user interaction on both Facebook and Twitter was negative.
Thanks again to Converseon for pulling this data and allowing us to share it here.