The Pinterest Conundrum

I’ve been thinking a lot about Pinterest for the past year. I first planned to write a report about the social upstart last summer. When that deadline passed, I was certain I’d produce something in the autumn. Now here we are in the dead of winter, and at long last today we published our report on how marketing leaders should use Pinterest.

The reason it took so long? Pinterest is confusing. It’s a bundle of contradictions: at once it offers marketers huge potential and huge frustration.

On the one hand, there’s so much opportunity:

  • Pinterest boasts a fantastic audience. In fact, 21% of US online adults visit Pinterest at least monthly — nearly as many as use Twitter and more than use Instagram and Google+. Those users spend freely online, they’re willing to engage with brands in social media, and when they talk about products on Pinterest they drive vast amounts of traffic to brand sites.
  • Pinterest’s data has the potential to drive more sales than Facebook’s data. After all, Facebook users generate mostly affinity data: information about their tastes and preferences, based on their past experience with brands and products, that’s better suited to targeting brand advertising than direct marketing. But Pinterest users don’t only share historical affinities; they share the kind of purchase intent data that’s more commonly seen on search engines like Google. And just as ads targeted with Google’s data generate outstanding direct response, so will ads targeted with Pinterest’s data.
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Now Accepting Entries: The 2015 Forrester Groundswell Awards

Every year since 2007, Forrester has recognized the very best social marketing programs from around the world — and I’m thrilled to announce we’re now accepting entries for the ninth annual Forrester Groundswell Awards.

The rules are simple: Entries should represent the effective use of social technologies to advance an organizational goal. The more data you can offer to prove this, the better your chances of winning. You can enter using our online form. If you win, you get a nice shiny trophy,a winner's badge for your website, and lots of recognition from Forrester. (For much more information on rules, guidelines, and award categories, click here.)

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Want More Social Marketing Budget? Stop Measuring Social Engagement

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.

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Facebook Has Finally Killed Organic Reach. What Should Marketers Do Next?

After years of pushing brands’ reach lower with one hand (and opening marketers’ wallets with the other) Facebook has finally announced the end of organic social marketing on its site.

In a Friday night blog post the social giant warned brands that “Beginning in January 2015, people will see less of this type of content [promotional page posts] in their News Feeds,” and admitted that brands that post promotional content “will see a significant decrease in distribution.”

It’s not as if marketers could count on much organic reach or engagement anyway. Ogilvy reported that in February 2014 large brands’ Facebook posts reached just 2% of their fans (a number that was falling by .5% per month). And earlier this year a Forrester study showed that on average, only .07% of top brands’ Facebook fans interact with each of their posts. But Facebook’s latest announcement will certainly make matters worse.

What should marketers do now? Today we published a report called “Social Relationship Strategies That Work” that details several options. Two of the most important things brands can do are:

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As Social Media Matures, Branded Communities Will Make A Comeback In 2015

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:
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The Four Social Programs Every Marketer Should Study — A Free Webinar

Nearly all marketers say they use social media. But many aren’t getting much value from their investments. Despite marketers’ excitement about social media, many say the channel simply doesn’t offer enough return on their investment; for instance, barely one-half of those who buy Facebook ads say they’re satisfied with the business value those ads provide. The sobering reality is that a decade into the era of social media, many social marketers remain baffled by the channel.

The good news? There are success stories you can study to see how social media can work for companies like yours. In April 2014, Forrester announced the winners of the eighth annual Forrester Groundswell Awards. The awards recognize the very best in social marketing — focusing on programs that go beyond engagement metrics to deliver real business value to both B2C and B2B marketers in a range of industries.

Forrester clients can check out our report, The Four Social Programs Every Marketer Should Study. But even if you’re not a client, we’d like to offer you this content in a free Webinar on September 18 — just click here for details.

Facebook Still Dominates Teens’ Social Usage

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.”

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Facebook Begins Building The Database Of Affinity

It’s been clear for a while now that the greatest value of social media to marketers won’t come from placing ads on social sites — it’ll come from using social data to improve the ads marketers place everywhere else. We call this idea the database of affinity, and we believe it could be the Holy Grail for more-effective brand marketing. For nearly a year, Google has helped marketers use the database of affinity to improve the targeting of their online display ads. And today Facebook has finally started to build the database of affinity that has always been its birthright, launching a mobile ad network.

This move is fantastic, if long overdue, news for marketers. It has the potential to improve the performance of all mobile advertising. And if Facebook grows its ad targeting business into other channels and works to better analyze and utilize its data (something it’s lagged at in the past), it could revolutionize brand advertising.

For more analysis on what this means to the mobile ad ecosystem, read my colleague Jenny Wise' take here.

Instagram Is The King Of Social Engagement

[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.

Instagram offers brands 58 times more engagement per follower than Facebook

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).

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Winners Of The 2014 Forrester Groundswell Awards

Today at Forrester's Forum for Marketing Leaders in San Francisco, I had the pleasure of announcing the winners of the 2014 Forrester Groundswell Awards. This is the eighth edition of our awards and the first time we've had a chance to present them at our flagship marketing event — and I'm thrilled I had a chance to share these great stories of social success with the more than 700 people in attendance. Once again, this year our awards were based on Forrester’s Marketing RaDaR model and the way social programs can support the Marketing RaDaR. That means we presented awards in three categories:

  • Social reach marketing. This category recognizes social programs that effectively delivered marketing messages to new audiences — whether by word of mouth or by using paid social ads.
  • Social depth marketing. This category recognizes social programs that helped prospects explore products in detail and make a purchase decision — such as corporate blogs and communities and marketers’ on-site ratings and reviews.
  • Social relationship marketing. This category recognizes social programs that engaged existing fans and customers in order to increase their loyalty and lifetime value — something that most commonly happens through branded profiles on social networks like Facebook and Twitter.
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