Where Is Social Media Marketing Headed?

May 15, 2019

Facebook remains the most used social media platform among marketers again this year, but Instagram is gaining in popularity as companies plan to increase their activity on the platform, per the latest annual Social Media Marketing Industry Report [download page] from Social Media Examiner, based on a survey of more than 4,800 participants from around the globe.

Before continuing, it’s worth noting that the majority (60%) of respondents are from small businesses (1-10 employees), so this report is likely not a reflection of the activities of larger enterprise businesses.

One indicator of marketers shifting away from Facebook and towards Instagram is that for the first time in this report, Instagram (72%) jumped ahead of Facebook (69%) as the platform that the most marketers want to learn more about. Facebook’s decline in interest among marketers comes amid data illustrating decreasing consumer usage of Facebook along with privacy concerns regarding Zuckerberg’s original social network.

Social Media’s Benefits

Respondents are still finding that social media marketing – in particularly Facebook – has its benefits, despite the fact that algorithm changes to Facebook have made publisher and brand pages less visible. Indeed, more marketers are reporting benefits this year than last. The vast majority (93%) of respondents reported that their business benefited from increased exposure by using social media (up from 87% last year), while 87% saw increased traffic (up from 78%).

Secondary benefits also experienced some improvement this year. More respondents this year (57%) than last (48%) reported enjoying thought leadership exposure through social media, for example. But more notable is the number of businesses which saw increased sales through social media efforts. Last year a little more than half (53%) of businesses experienced increased sales, compared to 72% this year.

The level of experience respondents have with social media also plays a role. More experienced social media marketers (those who have been using social for more than 2 years) exhibit an above-average tendency to derive improved sales and increased exposure from their activities.

Most Popular Platforms

Sticking at the top as the most popular platform used by marketers, Facebook did not see any changes in adoption, remaining at a strong 94% for another year. Instagram use, on the other hand, has grown. Up from 66% last year, Instagram is now used by 73% of respondents, presumably spurred in part by marketers recognizing the benefits of Stories.

As the third-most popular social media platform, Twitter actually saw usage decline for the third consecutive year, dropping to 59% adoption this year. At the same time, LinkedIn experienced a slight increase to 58%. YouTube also increased in usage to 54% of respondents.

More experienced social media marketers (those with more than 5 years experience) are more apt to use a multitude of platforms, compared to those less experienced marketers (those with less than 1 year of experience), who put most of their efforts towards Facebook (89%) and Instagram (63%).

Facebook is the most used platform for both B2C (97%) and B2B (91%) marketers. Beyond this, B2B and B2C marketers vary in their use of social platforms. While B2C marketers use Instagram more than do their B2B counterparts (78% vs. 66%), B2B marketers favor LinkedIn to a greater degree than B2C marketers (80% and 46%, respectively). B2B marketers are also more likely to be using Twitter (67% vs. 57%) although both sectors have decreased their use of this platform in this year’s survey.

Those differences show up in marketers’ most important platforms, to some extent. More than two-thirds (69%) of B2C marketers name Facebook their most important platform (of 7 options provided), with Instagram (16%) trailing distantly in the second spot. Among B2B marketers in this study, Facebook (48%) retains its the lead over LinkedIn (30%) as the most important network, although its popularity with B2B marketers lags behind that of B2C marketers.

Platforms Gaining in Importance

Social Media Examiner found that 10% of marketers plan on reducing their organic marketing on Facebook. By contrast, about half (51%) of marketers report plans to increase their organic marketing on the network.

Showing its growing dominance as a marketing platform, nearly 7 in 10 (69%) marketers plan to increase their organic activity on Instagram, with only 2% saying they have plans to decrease their efforts on Instagram this year.

A majority also plan to up their organic efforts on YouTube (62%) and LinkedIn (52%), with a negligible portion planning to decrease usage on these platforms. The percentage planning to increase Twitter usage has fallen to 35%, while 7% of marketers say they plan to decrease usage.

Snapchat continues to be relatively marginal, as only 9% say they will increase their organic activities on the platform this year. While 3% say they plan on using Snapchat less, the percentage of marketers who say they will not use Snapchat at all has grown to 76% (up from 72% last year). This drop in usage could be in part due to the Snapchat’s recent fall in popularity among teens.

Paid Social Media Trends

Just as in past years, Facebook remains far ahead of other platforms for paid social media. Almost three-quarters (72%) of respondents said they regularly use Facebook ads, which is almost twice as much as the next-most-used platform for paid social, Instagram.

Recent data shows that Instagram now accounts for almost one-fifth (19%) of ad dollars spent across Facebook’s properties. Some 38% of respondents in this new report are using Instagram ads regularly (up from 31% in 2018).

Despite the bad press, marketers are still showing their faith in Facebook ads, with 3 in 5 (59%) saying they will increase their use of Facebook Ads this year, while only 3% plan to decrease their use. Marketers may be ignoring any personal misgivings about the platform: while concerns about data privacy and security have curtailed their personal use of social media, advertisers still believe it is a great way to get results for their clients, per a recent webinar presentation from Advertiser Perceptions.

Meanwhile, Instagram Ads will also see a boost in paid usage, with 55% of respondents planning an increase; only 1% say they will decrease their use of Instagram Ads.

While no other paid ad vehicle is expected to see an increase by a majority of respondents, more respondents expect to increase their use of YouTube ads than last year (40% vs. 35%).

    About the Data: The report’s results are based on a survey of 4,859 marketers, the majority of whom work for small businesses (1-10 employees). Two-thirds (64%) focus primarily on B2C marketing, with the remaining 36% on B2B. More than half (55%) of the respondents are based in the US.

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