Businesses have been flocking to social media now for several years and some important trends are emerging. The research shows that not all social media is created equal. Some tools are better suited than others and now that social media is beginning to mature, it’s fairly clear where the market is moving.
In this year’s often-quoted survey of social media tools used by the Inc 500, shown in the graphic below, we see clearly that Facebook use by this group has fallen while LinkedIn use grew year over year. Blogging is up and YouTube is down. These are not mirages; they are really happening. Here are few reasons why these trends are happening and will continue to happen:
The use of Facebook is down 7%. Facebook is a sometimes uncomfortable mix of business and pleasure and its use by the Inc 500 group is down. Many Facebook users look upon the site as a place to interact with family and friends. The folks in your network are indeed called “friends.” Facebook is very sticky as we see what our friends are having for lunch or what exotic locale they are visiting today. It’s not a place, however, where we go for knowledge and enlightenment about the products we purchase.
LinkedIn use is up 8%. LinkedIn was designed from day one as a business tool and it shows, as it has become the most popular tool with 81% of the Inc 500 using it. As the online resume site, designed initially to replace your Rolodex and keep up with your contacts, LinkedIn is all about content and professional interests. If you follow the latest trend toward “content marketing” especially in the business to business world, LinkedIn is uniquely situated to segment and deliver content to groups that are interested in that content.
YouTube use is down 15%. Not all content translates well to video presentation, and YouTube experienced quite a drop in use. We are all users of video, but the built-in time it takes to download and watch a video often exceeds the time we want to spend on the topic. We can easily scan an article or blog and quickly get the information we want. We can’t do that with a video. While there is always that potential viral upside to a a well-done video on YouTube, more companies are bypassing it.
Blogging is up. Quite a few more companies in the study are now publishing a blog, adding 7% in this survey to 44%. It has been said that all companies need to be publishers; blogs are an easy and effective way to do that. Blogs are usually a shorter form format that can be easily digested by the audience. They are often written directly by subject matter experts and not product marketing committees.
Twitter remains steady. Twitter is popular with the Inc 500 businesses and gained a little momentum year over year, rising 4%. While celebrities remain the most followed group on Twitter, companies can also gain huge followings there and use this very powerful tool to communicate with that audience, take advantage of viral opportunities and receive feedback with their audience. It has become standard to Tweet out links to other forms of content making this a well used tool.
Social media will continue to evolve and change. Some of today’s tools may be replaced by new tools, others will stand the test of time. Our focus as marketers however, should be to use the most effective tools available and be aware of the changes taking place.