A few weeks ago, a member of the Shiny team, who shall remain nameless, asked a favor: Could I provide an education on social media? I laughed, thinking this was a good-natured joke at my expense. When I realized it was not, in fact, a jab at my relative youth I immediately agreed. After all, I’m a millennial, we can talk about social media for days without any research…right?
A few days after the initial conversation, I found myself suddenly in the midst of my own social media education. My eleven-year-old cousin was discussing the trends she knew from TikTok with my twenty-year-old sister. I listened, slack-jawed, as they spoke about hashtag challenges and influencers that sounded like a different language to me. I was incredulous! I work in marketing! I am only a few years older than them! I should not be this out of touch with a social network! With one quick conversation, I resolved to provide a good enough education to our team so that no one would find themselves in a situation like I had.
My colleague Rachael partnered with me on doing some research and creating a social media primer with a focus on how marketers can best leverage each platform. We covered off on six platforms in all: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest and TikTok. I will spare you some of the screen captures of my own feeds and instead focus on the data we uncovered about each option. This is not meant to be a comprehensive list of all the features of each of these six social networks. Nor is it a guidebook for advertising on the channels. My hope is that after reading these summaries, you will be able to speak to the uses (both personal and branded) of these networks, regardless of how much you use them day in and day out.
Let’s start where we’re all probably most familiar – Facebook. It is the most popular social network with 2.23 billion monthly active users and a wide variety of ad formats (Hootsuite, 2018).
Here are some of the most important stats to keep in mind:
Facebook’s bar for creativity of posts is pretty low. Branded content appears in your feed like what you see from your friends’ posts; there’s a ton of variety of posts you could see, like a regular image post to an immersive shopping experience that shows you products for sale within the Facebook window.
While Facebook’s ad applications are varied, and its audience is large, there has been a recent plateau in user growth. In the chart below, you can see how even though Facebook is the most popular app by usage, it has stagnated in recent years, while other networks continue to grow significantly. So certainly, make sure Facebook is a part of your social strategy, but don’t ignore the other networks available to you.
Twitter is another platform that most people seem to be familiar with. Best used for text-based content, the in-real-time network presents an interesting challenge for brands.
With 336 million monthly active users², and the highest average income and education level among users of the major social apps, Twitter provides a desirable audience for brands to reach. Some important statistics on Twitter usage:
It’s vitally important for brands to fully understand their voice before posting on Twitter. Most of the time, what works as a tweet for a brand would not work in other settings. Rachael outlined this phenomenon in a similar blog post last year.
While Twitter does provide the opportunity to sponsor tweets in a feed, brands are best served to establish their own voice and craft that for their followers. The most important thing for brands to remember is that Twitter is a real time application, so brands and users should be prepared to contribute to conversations or events in real time.
As the platform with the highest creative bar and a growing audience, Instagram provides brands exciting ways to present new visual content.
Some important statistics about Instagram:
Within your feed, you can follow other accounts (of users or brands) as well as hashtags to see related posts without following users you don’t know. At the top of the feed, users can click through stories that display in an ultra-vertical format. The act of clicking through stories is almost mindless for users, since once you watch one story, you are automatically prompted to watch all the remaining newly posted stories from those you follow, with ads sprinkled in. As a result, users might watch a story for a brand or content they might not otherwise engage with. The “autoplay” feature of the stories allows for great impressions for brands.
Instagram also provides a variety of ad formats for brands, from sponsored posts to sponsored stories. The biggest hurdle at the moment for brands is the inability to place a link in a caption for organic reach posts. However, Instagram just recently announced they are beta testing an in-app shopping experience to allow users to go straight to checkout from a brand’s post, which may open the door for increased engagement organically in the future.
In direct contrast to Instagram’s high creative bar, Snapchat has virtually no creative bar. The disappearing images app is used more for messaging than for showcasing creative content.
Some statistics about Snapchat:
In addition to the basic image sharing, users have the ability to add filters and lenses to their photos. Filters are added after an image is taken and can indicate anything from a time of day (“Is it time to go home yet?”) to an event (St. Patrick’s Day or the release of a new season of Queer Eye on Netflix) or a location. Lenses are added before a photo is taken and augment the face of the person in the photo or the area around them. One of the most popular is the Puppy Dog face that mimics a dog’s tongue when the user opens his or her mouth.
Unlike on most other social networks, a brand creating a Snapchat account is likely not the best way to engage with users on this network. Brands instead see more success when they sponsor content for users to interact with, such as lenses or filters, or create ads to be shown to users as sponsored stories or posts on the Discover page. These sponsored posts allow for swiping up to visit a link or click to download an app, making the experience of driving to a site seamless.
Snapchat provides an interesting challenge for brands looking to get engaged with the app, with little to no ability for organic reach. That said, skewing significantly younger in its user base, Snapchat can provide brands with a unique opportunity to engage with an audience that is very engaged and very active on the messaging app.
Pinterest is the least social of all the social networks we profiled. Serving as a “visual search engine” Pinterest allows users to search for any number of products or inspiration from a variety of sources. Some statistics about Pinterest:
Posts on Pinterest come from brands, individual users, blogs, and various other sources. Searches are generally unbranded, but specific. Users on Pinterest have strong intention and a knowledge of what they’re looking for, but they don’t usually associate brands with it. They want to know what is out there as an option for “boho weddings” but don’t want to be tied to a specific brand.
Pinterest is also a pioneer in visual search, allowing users to search from a photo for products similar. In other words, seeing someone with a cute pair of shoes on the street, all it takes is a photo to find a similar pair on Pinterest. While this is possible on other search engines, Pinterest has visual search built into their search bar, making it much easier for users to find at the moment of search.
Brands can benefit from hosting their own Pinterest boards as well as sponsoring posts in the feed. Brand Pinterest pages give users the option to follow brands they like to see the type of content they are curating. Sponsored posts, as on most other networks, provide the opportunity to get branded content in front of users in their target. The highly visual nature of Pinterest and the ability click directly from a Pin to a site makes the network appealing for many brands in the B2C space. One thing to note: if you are planning a seasonal campaign, you should plan to release much earlier than the actual season. Pinterest users plan early for many holidays, for example planning for Thanksgiving begins in June for Pinterest users.
Finally to TikTok – one of the most puzzling social networks out there today. A re-released version of the app Musical.ly, TikTok is owned by ByteDance, a Chinese company. The app allows users to post short-form video content or scroll through content posted by other users. Ask most millennials and you’ll hear that TikTok has only been successful because of its predecessor, Vine, the beloved video app. TikTok has taken off with Gen Z and is important to understand even if it’s not as big as some of the other networks I’ve covered already. Some stats regarding TikTok:
TikTok’s singular focus is to enable users to post 15 second videos attached to hashtags. What makes TikTok unique in the social media set is how it doesn’t care if you’re social on the platform. ByteDance, the parent company, bills itself as an Artificial Intelligence company rather than a creator of mission-driven social platforms. The goal is to create an algorithm that constantly shows users content they want to view and engage with, thereby spending more time in the app. Whether or not this content is from your friends or you contribute to the content is not of a concern to ByteDance.
A user’s default view is the “For You” tab, rather than the “Following” tab. The For You tab shows all the content TikTok’s algorithm has pulled for you. A New York Times article describes it as “an Instagram centered entirely around the Explore tab or Twitter built around trending topics or viral tweets. Or a Facebook that was able to fill your feed before you’d friended a single person.” Users are able to scroll endlessly through content and more content they like will constantly fill their feed.
Brands have yet to find a way to crack this network. Aside from engaging in the hashtag challenges created on TikTok, there is no real way to track KPIs or get your posts in front of a desired audience. Time will tell if the platform evolves in how brands can engage with the users.
Hopefully you now have a better understanding of the networks and how to best use them. If you’re looking for some help driving your social strategy, give us a call or slide into our DMs on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.
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