Social Site Check-In: Which Network Should You Buy Into This Year?

With the social media advertising market in the U.S. expected to reach $15 billion by 2018, it’s fair to say that digital marketers will be scrutinizing their social site spends this year. Pew Research Internet Project recently released a new Social Media Update that offers new insight into social networking audiences. Among Pew’s findings are the following:

  • 52 percent of adults online now use two or more social sites, up from 42 percent in 2013.
  • Facebook is still the most popular social site with 71 percent share of all Internet users and a 56 percent share of adults over 65. Seventy percent of Facebook users engage with the site on a daily basis, while 45 percent use it several times each day.
  • While Facebook shows high levels of engagement, its user base has plateaued. LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter, however, have all experienced growth since 2012.

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  • More than half of all Internet users (56 percent) between the ages of 18 and 29 now use Instagram, with 49 percent visiting the site daily.
  • Engagement with Twitter has dropped in recent years; 36 percent of Twitter users visited the site in 2014, compared with 46 percent in 2013.

What does all of this mean for your social media strategy? That question requires a deeper look at what these sites have in store.

Facebook

An effort to define the near future of Facebook advertising would undoubtedly lead you to video. As reported late last year, Facebook is poised to challenge YouTube through partnerships with organizations like The National Football League.

While plans are still fuzzy – Facebook’s premium video product was introduced less than a year ago – the company’s director of product for video, news feeds, and mobile has said she’ll be making it easier for brands to buy and measure their video buys. Facebook’s acquisition of video ad seller LiveRail last year also stands to improve its video offering.

Twitter

As ClickZ reported earlier this week, Twitter has plans to expand its ads to Twitter apps on publisher sites. While previously Twitter advertisers were limited to Twitter’s audience of existing users, this adjustment will allow them to expand their reach beyond the site itself.

Twitter is also expected to introduce a new video ad product that, like Vine, Instagram, and Snapchat, lets users create and edit videos within the platform proper. Both of these add-ons will create new opportunities for brands to engage consumers through the social site. Twitter may have a more limited audience than Facebook, but it still boasts 284 million active monthly users, and its aggressive growth strategy for 2015 bodes well for a user resurgence.

Instagram

As the fastest growing major social network, Instagram has accumulated some 300 million users, making it larger than Twitter. Brands like Mercedes are finding value in working with the site’s social influencers, while Victoria’s Secret’s photo shoot images netted the company an average of 100,000 new followers daily over less than a week.

Instagram has become a go-to for the promotion of major cultural events as well. Sunday night’s Golden Globes included an Instagram photo booth that captured photos of the stars behind-the-scenes. Through an interactive program, pre-show viewers were asked to tag their own Instagram photos with questions that celebrities answered on the Golden Globes’ Instagram account. In short, this year Instagram will emerge as an integral part of many a marketing campaign – the more innovative, the better.

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LinkedIn

LinkedIn has been expanding from a B2B social site to a content marketing platform since last February, when it opened its publishing platform to select members. To date 100 million LinkedIn users are approved to publish content on the site, but LinkedIn has hinted that it will soon allow everyone to join these early participants and celebrity influencers. Given its status as the leading social network for professionals, publishing on LinkedIn has real appeal. It allows businesses to gain more visibility for thought leadership pieces that demonstrate their knowledge and expertise.

The site’s 18-month-old sponsored updates offering is also worth exploring. This approach ensures that your content makes it into your audience’s feed, but it can also drive leads, showcase a brand’s social good efforts and community involvement, and highlight your employees’ industry expertise.

Pinterest

In 2015, Pinterest will graduate from do-it-yourself marketing tool to ad platform worthy of a place within your social networking strategy. On the heels of its beta Promoted Pins program, Pinterest is now offering ads to all U.S. brands. Like sponsored posts on Tumblr, the ads are native in look and feel but labeled as paid content. They are, Pinterest says, capable of producing a “30 percent bump in earned media” over organic pins.

To help brands determine how best to promote themselves on the site, Pinterest is also launching an educational program called Pinstitute. While Pinstitute will be initiation-only to start, the social site hasn’t forgotten the little guys: a series of webinars are on the way, also designed to help brands heighten the exposure of their boards and posts.

In the business of social site marketing, many changes lie ahead. With a handle on audiences and ad offerings, though, we’re ready for whatever the year brings.

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