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.”
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:
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.
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.”
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.
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).
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.
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.
Recently the New York Times called Google Plus a ‘ghost town,’ and most marketers agree. I understand why. Even if you believe Google’s own user count (many don’t), Google Plus has only one-quarter as many global users as Facebook. Nielsen says that while Facebook users spend more than six hours per month on site, Plus users spend only seven minutes per month on site. Put simply, Google Plus isn’t the Facebook killer some hoped it would be.
But that doesn’t mean marketers should ignore Plus. Far from it: I believe every marketer should use Google Plus.
First, Google Plus has more users than you think. Yes, it pales in comparison to Facebook — but so do most other social sites. Rather than trust Google’s own user data, we decided to run our own survey. We asked more than 60,000 US online adults which social sites they used — and 22% told us they visited Google Plus each month. That’s the same number who told us they use Twitter, and more than told us they use LinkedIn, Pinterest, or Instagram. That means you can build a real follower base on Google Plus: On average, top brands have collected 90% as many fans on Plus as on Twitter. (In fact, the brands we studied have more followers on Google Plus than on YouTube, Pinterest and Instagram combined.)
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%.