For as long as “social media marketing” has been around, Facebook has held the title of most brands’ social media home base.
That is, Facebook is the place where they spend the most time, resources and money.
But, that tide is definitely turning.
First, just look at Instagram’s recent numbers.
- Instagram just surpassed 1 billion users. The only other platform not named Facebook to do it.
- 71% of U.S. business now use Instagram
- Instagram is THE platform for influencers–80% prefer the platform for brand collaborations
- 59% of 18-29 year-olds use Instagram
Meanwhile, over on Facebook…
- Facebook saw a 5.6 percent decline in users between 12 and 17 years old.
- They also saw a 5.8 percent decline in users between 18 and 24 years old. This is the first time Facebook has seen a decrease in users since its inception.
- Facebook usage dropped–for the first time ever–from 67% to 62% among Americans 12+ years of age.
Obviously, Facebook still has a ton of people using their site and app. It’s not going anywhere anytime soon. But, it is showing chinks in the proverbial armor for the first time. And, at the same time, Insta is gaining traction rapidly.
That’s the story the numbers tell.
But, as we all know, the numbers don’t tell the whole story.
What the numbers DON’T tell us is this:
- Facebook is an increasingly toxic place for many users. #DeleteFacebook is real. Anecdotally, I’m hearing more and more of it each day. People just don’t want to spend as much time there as they once did, for a variety of reasons.
- Facebook has taken a beating in the media over the last year. Mostly, for privacy issues. And each time Facebook is mentioned in a negative news story, that’s impacting how people feel about the social network.
- Facebook has lost it’s “cool” factor. Remember that movie “The Social Network?” The whole reason Zuck got the facebook off the ground was because it had that “it” factor–specifically with young people. It no longer has that. A certain other network does–and it’s starting to show.
So, the numbers aren’t painting a rosy picture.
The anecdotal evidence isn’t much better.
What are marketers and communicators saying?
That Instagram is a more fun and happy place for customers.
That they’re seeing higher engagement rates on Instagram.
That they’re actually driving traffic and selling on Instagram.
Yep, Instagram is slowly, but surely, eating Facebook’s lunch.
And, it is driving toward becoming brands’ number one social media platform.
In fact, for many brands, it already is.
Let’s look at a few:
Facebook: 105 engagements per post
Instagram: 10,713 engagements per post
Note: Averages reflect last 10 posts
Facebook: 445 engagement per post
Instagram: 4,866 engagements per post
Note: Averages reflect last 10 posts
Facebook: 707 engagements per post
Instagram: 23,255 engagements per post
Note: Averages reflect last 10 posts
That’s as much as a 300 PERCENT increase in engagements from Instagram to Facebook. And, those brands above are hardly alone. It’s a trend. And it’s hard to ignore.
The numbers tell the story.
The anecdotal evidence tells the story.
Marketers are telling the story.
And, results sure as heck tell the story.
Instagram is becoming brands’ social media home base.
Last week, I ran across this interesting article in the Atlantic. TLDR: Brands and customers can’t really be “friends” on social media.
Do you think that’s true?
This particular author told stories of a number of specific examples he’s been involved with, or heard of, in the last year. Randomly, his personal anecdote was a story in which he tweeted about wanting pizzas from Comcast, and a few days later they showed up at his door.
He talked about how brands do this kind of thing to, essentially, manipulate people into feeling guilty, hoping they’ll return the favor: “…it’s human nature to feel obligated when someone—even a company—does something for you. That can make the people on the receiving end of social-media marketing feel snared in corporate traps.”
He goes on to summarize his argument that brands can’t be friends with customers on social media: “Social media has made it easier than ever for companies to connect with people. These new, personal bonds between companies and customers feel uncanny—the brands are not real human friends, exactly, but neither are they faceless corporations anymore. Isn’t that the point, though? Branding’s purpose is to get under your skin, to make you remember an otherwise forgettable company or product. When the surprise wanes, that feels a lot less delightful.”
I’ve long felt that “surprise and delight” tactics have been vastly overblown. The majority of brands purely do them to drum up the hype machine, which ironically, is exactly what happened in this Atlantic story.
To me, these tactics feel forced and out of character–especially for brands like Comcast. After all, what is Comcast really known for? Horrendous customer service. Yet, here they are on social media sending some Atlantic author pizzas because he sent a random tweet talking about it. That doesn’t really align, does it?
I do think surprising and delighting can be effective–but it needs to be “on brand” and specific. For example, sending some guy with 50,000 Twitter followers a Kit-Kat box for him to propose to his wife doesn’t feel very “on brand” or authentic (see Atlantic article).
On the other hand, sending a piece of exclusive company swag that employees have been asking for to a few employees who make Instagram posts about the brand on a regular basis feels VERY on brand and gets at a specific need (to recognize employees to keep them engaged and retained).
See the difference?
Unfortunately, we see far too much of the former, and not nearly enough of the latter.
The two big questions I’ve always had about these kinds of tactics is this:
1) Is it really worth it, and how are brands measuring success?
2) Can a brand really build long-term goodwill through these types of social media interactions?
For me, I think the answer is “no” to both. I’d rather spend my time in other areas of social media marketing where I can get more bang for my buck. But, I’m curious to hear others’ thoughts.
Can brands and customers really be friends on social media?
In case you’ve been on a desert island somewhere for the last week, you’ve undoubtedly heard about Nike’s “Dream Crazy” campaign featuring new front-man Colin Kaepernick.
— Colin Kaepernick (@Kaepernick7) September 3, 2018
Since the launch of that campaign, there’s been a non-stop stream of coverage of the campaign. Was it a success? Was is a mistake? Is Nike doing the right thing? Are they getting cocky? And, of course, will they make more money as a result of this campaign?
There’s been a lot of discussion about the, shall we say, societal impacts and consequences of this campaign. And, as well there should given Nike’s place in the retail, apparel and sports markets, and how it positions itself across the world.
But, what I want to talk about today is the PR/marketing results–so far. Because, if you look at this campaign objectively so far, I don’t know how on earth you can say it’s not a smashing success.
Consider the following numbers:
- 2.7 million. That’s the number of mentions of Nike (and counting) since last Monday–that’s a 1,400 percent increase from the previous day. Nike brand mentions increased by 135% compared to the previous week. (source: Talkwalker)
- $43 million. That’s the cash value of media exposure the campaign generated in less than 24 hours since it first revealed the spot on Twitter. And, most of that coverage was neutral to positive, according to Apex Marketing Group.
- 1,300 percent. That’s the jump Nike saw in mentions on Twitter between Sept. 2 and the day of the announcement (source: Brandwatch).
- 21,135,487. That’s the number of views the “Dream Crazy” ad has on YouTube (as of Sunday, Sept. 9). After releasing its campaign last week, Nike had the most single-day video views for its social media channels over the last 90 days. It’s also the most views for any Nike video on YouTube in many months–and it’s not close.
- 31 percent. After a quick dip in the stock price last Wed., Edison Trends is reporting online sales actually grew by almost a third from the Sunday of Labor Day weekend through last Tuesday (compared with a 17 percent gain for the same period in 2017).
If you think Nike isn’t THRILLED with these numbers, you are not living on the planet earth. From a business standpoint, Nike crushed this campaign launch.
Let’s recap the recap:
- $43 MILLION worth in media exposure. Keep in mind, a Super Bowl ad spot in 2018 ran $5.2 million. Nike just achieved the value of EIGHT Super Bowl ad spots.
- 1,300 percent increase in mentions on Twitter. The reason this one matters isn’t so much this number (although it is great), it’s more about WHO was tweeting and what they were saying. Of course, many NFL players stayed away for obvious reasons. But, sports icons like LeBron James and Serena Williams tweeted support for Kaep and the ad. People who have millions of followers on Twitter (it was also talked about on Instagram, Facebook and other social networks as well, obviously). It was a brilliant influencer marketing campaign baked in a fantastic ad campaign.
- 31 percent increase in online sales. This isn’t everything, of course. And, the biggest question is what does this mean for Nike in the long-term for sales and growth. But, when you’re analyzing campaigns, you’re also allowed to look at the short-term and see how sales were impacted. And 14 percent YOY growth ain’t too bad.
Obviously, politics played a big part in this campaign. But, politics aside, I don’t know how you can look at this campaign, so far, and say it was anything but a tremendous success for Nike.
Like my friend Sarah Ziehr said on Facebook, if there was an “eye roll” emoji, I would have used it when I saw this post on Hubspot’s blog last week.
Not so much because “Instagram pods” are an actual thing and they are (arguably) an effective tool used by influencers. But instead, because I’ve seen this movie before.
A number of times, actually.
You see, the “concept” of Instagram pods isn’t new. Not at all. It’s a concept almost as old as social media itself.
Let’s take a look back at social media history for a moment.
First, in the 2009-2012 period (roughly), you may recall mom and lifestyle bloggers forming these ‘blogger networks.’ These were really just a bunch of bloggers liking, sharing and commenting on each other’s content. Sounds familiar, right?
In roughly the same time period, similar things would happen on Twitter. A blogger friend would make a post, and I would soon receive a DM asking me to share it. Some people swore by this strategy.
And, in the last year or so, we’ve seen young people using “LRM” or “like my recent” on Instagram to ensure friends see, and more importantly, like/comment on said Instagram posts.
So forgive me for giving the Hubspot folks a big old eye roll when they claim that Instagram Pods are a new thing.
Nope, they aren’t. And I’m sure it won’t be the last time this “strategy” is used.
What’s happening here is simple: Influencers are gaming the system.
And, every time this kind of thing pops up, I can’t help but think: How much longer will that “influencer” be “influencing”? People have a way of catching on to these kinds of behaviors.
Think back to the mom blogger networks. How long was it before those mom bloggers started losing their “influence?” How long before people started figuring out that they had sold out and that there wasn’t much genuine communication going on?
Yep, people aren’t stupid.
And, people will figure this out, too. Count on it (in fact, it’s already happening).
My advice to brands: Stick to your strategy. Don’t fall victim to “get rich quick” schemes like this. Don’t mortgage your brand’s future for the sake of a few likes or comments.
It’s just not worth it.
These behaviors are spammy and definitely don’t reflect well on any brand that engages with influencers who practice it.
As usual, be careful which influencers you get in bed with. Add this to your list when researching influencers. Essentially, are they behaving ethically on social media platforms?
If not, you probably want to reconsider.
“Transparency” has been a buzzword of sorts the last year. It’s popping up in the news more. It’s a focal point for social platforms right now. And, most importantly, it’s top of mind with consumers.
That came out in spades in a recent Sprout Social report which found that millennials ranked brands–not politicians, surprisingly–as the number one group they’d like to see be more transparent. What’s more, the study found 55% of respondents said brands are only “somewhat transparent” on social channels.
What topics demonstrate a brand’s transparency on social? Admitting mistakes and honest responses to customer questions topped the list. On the other hand, what do brands do that demonstrates a LACK of transparency? Respondents noted withholding information and ignoring customer and employee questions were of primary concern.
Are you sensing a trend here? I am–and it centers on public relations.
PRs have a huge opportunity to jump back in to the social media fray and support their brand partners around this evolving transparency issue. Why do I say “jump back in”? Because marketing seems to have taken over a lot of social media brand accounts.
After all, isn’t what this report is hinting at? It’s certainly been what we’ve seen with social over the past few years. Social media has really become the best brand ad platform in the world. And marketers are steering the ship.
But, what consumers are really telling us in reports like this is they want more honesty.
They want more authenticity.
Essentially, they don’t want more advertising!
Back to PR and the opportunity at hand.
PR folks are in a unique position to address all those concerns by more actively teaming up with their marketing partners. PR is a discipline rooted in honesty, transparency and relationship-building. All things consumer want more of from brands. And, all things that social media was “designed” to help facilitate.
PR teams can help their marketing partners in several ways:
- Strategy – PR teams should be in the room when discussing social strategy. For starters, because there always needs to be a “bullshit” sensor in every room, and typically PR folks play this role (as in, “nope, that sounds like a horrible idea for a Facebook post!:).
- Content – We’ve read report after report on the deluge of hidous marketing-driven content being shared by brands on today’s social web. PRs can bring a richer content game to the fold by recommending and developing content that is helpful, interesting, or in some cases, entertains. It can’t ALWAYS be about selling, people.
- Influencer marketing – The marketers have gotten their fingers in this pie, too, recently. And, as a result, what’s happened? Instagram pods (haven’t heard of these lovely things–read this post). And, a complete lack of disclosure by influencers (hello, FCC!). Now, this isn’t always the marketing team’s fault, but any PR person worth their salt would be in every influencers ear about disclosing the moment those posts go live.