With constant innovation driven by platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, marketers have a great selection of social media tools at their disposal to reach and engage with their audience.
The billion-dollar question most marketers are asking themselves today is, “What social media channels should I be focusing on next?”
Yuval Ben-Itzhak, CEO of Socialbakers, a global social media analytics company, says while new platforms and formats will surely come along, like social gaming, AR & VR, marketers need to focus today on getting the most out of the existing platforms that offer them the reach and engagement they need for their business.
“Marketers not only need to keep up with new channels, they also need to keep up with the new features, content formats and tool launched by the existing channels,” he says. “Let’s take the recent launch of IGTV on Instagram, many brands haven’t yet experimented with the platform and are missing an opportunity to reach and grow their audience via highly engaging video content.”
Marketers have long known that video is the most engaging content type, so why are they waiting? Data has shown that new content formats inspire engagements and experimenting with such new format should be on the to-do list of every marketer.
Catching up to Facebook
Facebook did not become the dominant player it is overnight. It took the social media giant several years to reach its current scale, so any new platform, no matter how great, will lag behind in the near future.
Marketers need to be where their audience is active right now and for brands, Ben-Itzhak says that place is increasingly becoming Instagram.
“Instagram is a highly-visual platform that enables brands, especially in B2C businesses, to get great engagement,” he says. “Right now, looking at the performance data we see from working with some of the largest media and brands in the world, I would say that Instagram is the only platform that is anywhere close to rivaling Facebook in the ads market.”
Danica Kombol, CEO of Everywhere Agency, an Atlanta-based influencer marketing agency, believes more brands will divert their dollars away from Facebook to Pinterest in the near future.
“The reason is simple—Pinterest welcomes brands,” she says. “It actively works against the idea that it’s a social media platform and positions itself as a true visual discovery platform. Pinners are encouraged to go there and discover the brands they love.”
A recent Pinterest survey found 72% of Pinterest users say Pinterest inspires them to shop when they aren’t actually looking for anything – that’s a huge number that brands should tap into. Pinterest also drives more referral traffic to shopping sites than other social platforms; 33% more than Facebook, 71% more than Snapchat, and 200% more than Twitter.
Brian Wulfe, Founder and Chief Digital Strategist for Effective Spend, has seen recent successes through Reddit with products or services that require a longer consideration cycle.
“Consumers visit platforms like this to conduct research on their products,” he says. “Reddit users are highly engaged and are easy to target via subreddits where they are actively conversing about their interests. Creating effective advertising that aids in that process can be very successful at a relatively low cost. In other words, Reddit is a search marketer’s dream. Highly specific targeting and very low CPCs.”
Ray Higdon, author of “Freakishly Effective Social Media for Network Marketers,” cites YouTube as a smart choice for marketers as it’s the second biggest search engine in the U.S. and many other countries.
YouTube has integrated with Google Adwords in their platform, which enables one to market based on demographics and through specific channels. For example, if you just want to target women who have kids, you can now target only to customers from specific zip codes that match those criteria (this lets you hit by income) and really drive sales.
“Unlike Instagram and Facebook, it is not interruption marketing but actually fulfilling what people are looking for,” he says. “YouTube simply fulfills what they are actually searching for.”
Plus, though Facebook boasts high engagement rates for video advertisements, it’s hard to ignore the fact that an astounding 85% of users watch those videos with the sound turned off, whereas on YouTube, 96% watch with the sound turned on.
Twitter is another social media site that has a broad range of actively engaged users, making it a particularly versatile place to target. Thanks to a mixture of businesses and the general public using the platform, it’s useful if one has clients who straddle the B2B and B2C divide.
Ben-Itzhak notes the biggest threat to Facebook’s dominance is Facebook itself, either by slowing its innovation or by missing a big innovation cycle, as happened to Nokia when the iPhone was introduced.
To grow into a major player among the giants, a social media site needs to be relevant and engaging from day one and then learn and innovate every day going forward.
“A platform only grows when it manages to keep the attention and interest of its users and that is something that Facebook has managed to do since 2004,” Ben-Itzhak says. “Essentially, users will go where their friends, family and people they trust are, so by working each day to understand what matters to users and how to engage with them in an authentic, trustworthy manner, a platform has a shot at growing into a major player.”
Wulfe notes there are three main factors that make a social media website compelling for advertisers—a large active user base; solid, confident information on their users; and an effective ad delivery system.
“The algorithms that control ad delivery are critical to the overall success of your campaigns,” he says. “Ad delivery needs to ensure that the right consumers see the right ads at the right time, and that the ads are as beneficial as possible to the user’s experience. Otherwise, the user will not engage with the advertisements, and worse, might leave the social media platform altogether.”
For the others, he explains even if an advertiser sees a high ROI from a particular social media channel, if the user base is small it may not be worth their time to manage the platform and create unique ad creative for that channel.
Additionally, an advertiser needs to be able to target their consumers effectively on the platform in order to see a positive ROI. The more specific targeting options available, the more likely advertisers will feel comfortable testing the platform and scaling their ad budgets.