Published By Janet Gershen-Siegel at December 2, 2017
Whether your small business has a presence on social media or not, and whether your presence is actually doing something for your business, these tidbits of information should at least make you sit up and take notice.
It’s not your imagination. We are a truly plugged-in nation, and the Pew Research Centerhas the data to prove it.
According to their study published in January of 2017, 76% of all American Facebook users were using that site every single day. An additional 15% were using it on a weekly basis, and another 7% were using it less frequently (numbers don’t add up to 100% because of rounding). Instagram also had a ton of user loyalty, with 51% using it daily, 26% using it weekly, and 22% using it less often. These stats make a lot of sense when you take both platforms’ social aspects into account.
Twitter usage told a different story, with 42% using it daily, 24% using it weekly, and 33% using it less often. Why such a disparity? It may be due to the nature of Twitter itself. Users seem to either ‘get’ it, or they don’t. Plus a lot of Twitter users are there more to read than to tweet.
Pinterest and LinkedIn (the only other platforms researched by Pew, so Snapchat, YouTube, Kik, Tumblr, and WhatsApp, for example, were excluded from the study) had similar numbers. Both had the fewest percentages of daily users (25% for Pinterest and 18% for LinkedIn) and the largest percentage of less than weekly users (43% for Pinterest and 51% for LinkedIn). Their weekly numbers were identical: 31%. For LinkedIn, these figures make a great deal of sense as a lot of users are only there to update their resumes or check job listings.
For Pinterest, however, the numbers might be a reflection of how that image-based platform seems to be losing ground to Instagram, at least when it comes to user interactions. Instagram allows more liking, following, and hashtagging, whereas Pinterest for a lot of users seems to feel more like a reference. Your vacation photos go on Instagram; your recipes go on Pinterest, or so it seems.
The above percentages would not really matter that much if there were only a few users, but such is not the case. Pew, again in January of 2017, looked at social media platform popularity among Americans. Again, the study was confined to just Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Twitter. That study looked at the differences in usage between August of 2012 and April of 2014 (the latest month for which there are data available).
Facebook, as would be expected, has been the most popular all along. In 2012, 54% of Americans were on it; in 2016, the number rose to 68%. The other four platforms all started with around 10% usage among Americans in 2012, and they all rose to about 25% usage in 2014. Instagram saw the biggest increase, going from 9% to 28%, and LinkedIn saw the smallest increase, going from 16% to 25%.
According to Statista, the June 2015 monthly traffic in the United States tells a fascinating tale. There were some 211 million Facebook users and 107.4 million Twitter users. LinkedIn was third, with 101.3 million. Instagram had 98.5 million users (and Google Plus, not covered in the Pew research, was ahead of it, with 98.8 million). Pinterest had 75.8 million users. Statista also looked at Tumblr, Snapchat, and Vine. The biggest of these was Tumblr, with 74.4 million users in the month of June, 2015.
The US News and World Reportsaid, in 2015, the US had 320 million people.
According to Pew, the percentage of Americans who use at least one social media platform has risen meteorically. In March of 2005, just 5% of Americans were using any social media platform. Then in 2006, Facebook opened to the general public (before that, it had just been for college students). The figure hit 50% in May of 2011. And for the most recent figures, from November of 2016, 69% of all Americans use at least one social media platform.
According to a 2015 article from Marketing Sherpa, the most common reason Americans follow a brand’s social media presence on any platform is for coupons and promotions. Nearly half of all millennials did so. The second most popular reason was an interest in purchasing a product. Third-most popular was incentivizing with sweepstakes, gift cards, and promotions.
It isn’t until the fourth and fifth reasons that anyone follows a brand for their content, and amusing pop culture-style content beat out useful and ‘how to’ style content.
The eighth and ninth reasons get into a need to contact a company directly, with complaints beating out praise for everyone aged 45 and up. For 35 to 44 year olds, the two purposes were neck and neck; for millennials aged 18 to 34, praise beat out complaints.
A 2015 article in Ad Age says that in 2013, television advertising was the strongest contender, but then social media recommendations caught up in May of 2014. For their most recent data, in December of 2014, television had gained the upper hand, but not by much. Even more intriguing is that internet advertising remained flat and wasn’t really a contender. Consumers were trusting and accepting influence from information social media discussions and comments, and took their peers’ recommendations to heart.
If your small business is not yet on social media, it’s time to change that, as you are missing out on sales and customer service opportunities.
Facebook dominates in every metric that counts. A good 2/3 of all Americans use it, and ¾ of them use it every day. With 320 million in our population, that means about 161 million Americans are on Facebook every single day. Facebook’s own Terms of Service require their users be at least 13 years old. The Atlantic, in a 2016 article, said about 7.5 million Facebook users are under 13 (and are thereby breaking the TOS).
That still leaves over 150 million people, in the United States alone, who are on Facebook every single day. If you put your business on only one social media platform, Facebook is a no-brainer.
Other social media platforms are important but pay attention to the demographics closely. Snapchat may not crack the top five overall, but for teens, it’s in a virtual tie for #1 with Instagram, and both of them are used by some ¾ of all teens in the US, according to a 2015 University of Chicago article. If you sell products marketed to teens, then your time and attention are best spent on Instagram and Snapchat, even to the exclusion of Facebook.
Social media usage continues to climb although the increases will probably be less dramatic in the future. As more and more non-users age out, social media will become even more dominant. It is already odd for someone to not have at least one social media account, and that will become rarer and rarer in the not too distant future.
Social media brand pages are followed for monetary reasons more than anything else, so offering coupons or other deals is vital. Content is helpful but it is of less interest to customers than you may think. Customer service, however, is still an important use of social media connecting between businesses and the purchasers of their goods and services.
Advertising dollars spent on television are probably not going to give a company a boost if they are shifted to the internet. But commenting and discussing will help – and those are both free. With the rise of live streaming, it may turn out that television advertising really takes a dive, but those days are not here yet.
Finally, having a killer social media presence is still no substitute for having an excellent product and stellar customer service. It’s a tool to get attention and drive sales, but it is not an end in itself.