Social Media Marketing Update: Preferred Platforms and Content Types in 2018

May 21, 2018

What’s trending in social media marketing? The latest annual Social Media Marketing Industry Report from Social Media Examiner, based on a survey of more than 5,700 participants around the world, offers some insights into marketers’ preferences surrounding social media platforms and content.

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

If there’s one takeaway, it’s that social media usage among the sample of respondents remains synonymous with Facebook. Not only is Facebook use virtually ubiquitous among survey respondents, but it’s also considered their most important social network and the one they want to most learn more about. No Cambridge Analytica problems here, it seems…

Still, there are some continuing concerns. With just 44% agreeing that they’re able to measure social ROI (a figure that’s even higher than reported by CMOs), slightly fewer than half (49%) agree that their Facebook marketing is effective.

Social Media’s Benefits

Despite questions about Facebook effectiveness, respondents seem enthusiastic about the benefits of social media marketing. Fully 87% say they’ve generated increased exposure for their business through the use of social media, while 78% have increased traffic.

There hasn’t been much improvement in secondary benefits, however. Fewer than half (46%) have increased their thought leadership through social media, down from 57% last year, and the percentage who have improved their sales via social has remained relatively flat, at 52%.

The report points out that B2B and B2C marketers differ in the benefits they derive from social media: for example, B2B marketers are more apt than their B2C counterparts to grow partnerships using social media (57% and 45%, respectively), and are more likely to be using social to gain insights on competitors (60% and 45%, respectively).

The level of experience the respondent has 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 leads from their activities.

Most Popular Platforms

Marketers continue to be active on a variety of social platforms, and their likelihood of relying on a multitude of platforms seems to increase with their experience. For example, although only one-third of those getting started with social media marketing (less than a year of experience) are marketing on YouTube, that figure almost doubles to 62% of those with more than 5 years’ experience with social media marketing. A similar pattern emerges with Twitter (40% and 77%, respectively) and Snapchat (6% and 11%, respectively), among others.

For now, the most popular platform overall is of course Facebook, used by 94% of the respondent sample. Instagram has risen to become the second-most used platform in this survey, as about two-thirds report activity on the platform, up from 54% last year and 44% the year prior.

Instagram leapfrogged Twitter – which declined for the second consecutive year (62%, down from 68% in 2017 and 76% in 2016) – and LinkedIn, which remained steady at 56% adoption.

Social platform use continues to vary among B2C and B2B marketers. As expected, B2B marketers continue to favor LinkedIn to a greater degree than B2C marketers (79% and 47% using, respectively), with B2B marketers also more likely to be using Twitter (72% vs. 62%). For their part, B2C marketers are more apt to be using Facebook (97% vs. 91%) and Instagram (72% vs. 57%).

Those differences show up in marketers’ most important platforms, to some extent. Fully three-quarters of B2C marketers name Facebook their most important platform (of 6 options provided), with Instagram (11%) trailing distantly in the second spot. Among B2B marketers, Facebook (54%) surprisingly extended its lead over LinkedIn (28%) as the most important network, though it doesn’t carry quite the same heft as it does with B2C marketers.

Platforms Gaining in Importance

Despite already being the platform with the broadest adoption among marketers, Facebook again emerges as one of the leading platforms in which marketeters will increase their efforts, as close to two-thirds (62%) plan to up their posting frequency on the platform over the next year. Half of respondents also said that they had increased their organic marketing activities on Facebook in the past year, although a slight majority (52%) reported that their organic reach had declined over the past year.

Beyond Facebook, almost half (48%) upped their Instagram organic activities over the past year, and two-thirds (66%) of respondents plan to increase their Instagram posting frequency over the next year, making it the platform with the broadest uptake in future use. The share of respondents who plan to hike their activities has risen since last year for Instagram and declined for Facebook.

YouTube (58%), LinkedIn (51%) and Twitter (44%) are next on the list in terms of planned increases, with Twitter enthusiasm continuing to die down from prior years.

As for Snapchat, just 16% plan to increase their activity on the platform in the coming year, a somewhat unexpected decline from 23% last year. In fact, just 6% said they had upped their organic activity on Snapchat last year, despite its continuing popularity with teens.

Snapchat also was last on the list of platforms that marketers want to learn more about, as just 28% said that was the case, down from 42% last year. By comparison, 74% want to learn more about Instagram; this year’s trends suggest that Instagram’s popularity with social media marketers is rising, while Snapchat’s is falling.

Paid Social Media Trends

As with the past couple of years’ reports, this latest edition of the survey demonstrates that there remains a single leader in paid social media: Facebook. Indeed, more than 7 in 10 respondents said they regularly use Facebook ads, more than twice as many as the next-most used platform for paid social.

That next platform? Instagram – with almost one-third (31%) regularly using ads on the platform. Interest in Instagram ads continues to rise, up from 24% last year, 12% in 2016, and just 4% in 2015. Once again, Instagram appears to be the platform that’s generating the largest increase in enthusiasm this year, and the results align with the platform’s own reporting: in September last year, Instagram revealed that it had grown to 2 million monthly advertisers, doubling its total from just 6 months earlier.

Meanwhile, Facebook and Instagram are also leading the way in past and present paid activity. Almost half (49%) of respondents said they had upped their use of Facebook ads last year, and two-thirds (67%) plan to do so in the coming year. While fewer (28%) had increased their use of Instagram ads, fully 53% expect to do so in the next year.

No other paid ad vehicle identified was expected to see an increase by a majority of respondents, as only around one-third envision increased spending on YouTube and LinkedIn ads, among others.

It is worth noting that fully 41% plan to hike their use of Facebook Messenger ads. And about 6 in 10 want to learn more about Facebook Messenger ads, putting this channel behind only Instagram ads (67%) and Facebook ads (81%) in terms of desired education.

Top Content Types

Turning to social media content types, marketers again pointed to visual (80%) content as their most commonly used. Video (63%) overtook blogging (60%) this year as they moved in opposite directions, while live video (35%, up from 28%) appears to have risen in popularity.

Visual images (32%) topped blogging (27%) as respondents’ most important type of content for the second consecutive year, though again there are differences by target audience. Those marketing to businesses still name blogging their most important content type, while for B2C marketers visual content is the most important.

There appears to be strong optimism surrounding the future of use of video in social media (as marketers opt to distribute videos on social more than on video platforms). Some 77% plan to increase their use of video content in the near future, while just 9% will avoid using video altogether.

Enthusiasm surrounding increased activities on video exceeds visuals (68%) to lead all content types in future efforts.

Finally, while only around one-third of respondents are using live video, 63% of marketers plan to increase their use of live video in the next year.

About the Data: The report’s results are based on a survey of 5,726 marketers, the majority of whom work for small businesses (1-10 employees). Two-thirds (66%) focus primarily on B2C marketing, with the remaining 33% on B2B. Half of the respondents are based in the US.

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