Social Media Examiner can be aptly described as one of the heavyweights of the social media marketing world and so it’s always interesting to read one of its annual reports. This year is no exception and the 2014 report came out today and was immediately downloaded and hungrily consumed by myself.
Social media itself is constantly evolving and there’s no doubt that it’s now considered to be an important part of every digital marketer and SEO’s job. Indeed, it’s become a part of SEO, as the discipline is having to adapt and evolve itself in order to adhere to Google’s ever-changing algorithms.
The report is based on a survey carried out which questioned more than 2800 marketers in order to better understand how social is being used to promote businesses. One of the first questions posed was how important those asked thought social media was to their business. A huge 97% use social media (considering these are marketers, you would have thought 100%, but hey ho) and 92% said that they consider it to be important. This has risen from 86% in 2013, illustrating that more and more firms are realising the benefits that the medium has to offer.
As you can see from the figure above, most agreed that social is highly useful, with zero percent saying that they disagree and (strangely) 1% offering the opinion that they strongly disagree that it’s good for business.
Content Continues to Climb the Web Hierarchy
Once, content was king. Then, in the aftermath of Panda and Penguin, it was promoted to emperor. Now, it’s thought to be the most important thing that marketers will be concentrating on in 2014 (I’m not sure what’s above emperor), especially when it comes to blogging. 68% said that they will be increasing their blogging efforts this year and it was further found that:
“Original written content is most important for social media marketing: A significant 58% of marketers stated that original written content is the single most important form of content, followed by original visual assets (19%).”
This is no surprise to many of us. Good quality content, from written to video, is hugely important if you want to develop thought leadership and more importantly, want to engage your audience.
This is especially true in light of the ban on guest blogging for SEO, as it should mean that many companies will now look to investing in decent content to fill the SEO link chasing gap and attempt to attract links instead. Hopefully, we’ll begin to see less ‘fluff’ pieces, which have little in the way of true value, and more well-written blogs and article which are highly useful.
Marketers have also realised the importance of going mobile this year, it seems, with 45% stating that they now have a mobile optimised blog, a rise of 28% on 2013. Of those, B2B marketers were more likely than B2C to have mobile blogs.
Social Networks and Strategy
Marketers are spending more and more time on social media this year, with 64% using it for six hours or more each week and 37% using it for eleven or more. 19% said that they spend over 20 hours per week on social, but the figures haven’t risen much on the previous year.
It was also found that less experienced social media marketers spend less time on it, with those with less than six months experience spending fewer than five hours working on their campaigns. Those that had used social for more than two years were much more likely to spend more than six hours per week on social activity.
This signifies that the more experienced social media marketers knows that commitment is key, if it’s going to provide ROI. Time must be set aside not only for posting, but for replies, for targeting followers and for measuring success rates and adjusting ads in order for social to be really effective. It’s highly noticeable when you put that extra time in, especially when it comes to engagement levels and essentially, loyalty.
Make it So … Get Social and Engage
I have noted that the more time I take to engage with my Twitter followers in particular, the more retweets I gain as people like that you take the time to thank them, or say hello, offer advice, or even talk about inconsequential things (to business) such as the weather or sport.
This again highlights one of the most important and yet probably most neglected part of social media marketing. The clue is in the moniker, it’s social – in order to use social effectively, it’s necessary to be social, preferably in a genuine, sincere manner too – not just to gain followers. I’ve also found it to be an activity which prompts some great responses in people to my writing, which of course is good for the ego too.
However, it does seem that the younger generation are putting more experienced marketers to shame, as the under 40’s were much more likely to put the time in than their older counterparts. In fact, of those spending 40 hours a week on social, 68% of those were under the age where life begins again (or so we’re told).
Benefits of Social Media Marketing
So when it came to the crunch, what did the marketers surveyed think that the main benefits to business were when it comes to social? Well, coming in at the top was increased exposure at 92%, followed by:
- Increased traffic (80%)
- Developing loyal fans (72%)
- Providing marketplace insight (71%)
- Generating leads (68%)
- Improving search rankings (61%)
- Growing business partnerships (58%)
- Reducing marketing expenses (51%)
- Improving sales (50%)
Overall, it seems that at least half of all the marketers surveyed found social media to have numerous benefits. These all rose from the 2013 figures, especially when it came to attracting loyal fans and gaining market intelligence, but there was a marked increase on last year in every category.
Most Commonly Used Category
And the winner is … (drumroll) … Facebook! The social media site was the most used with 94% using it, compared to 83% using Twitter and 71% LinkedIn.
I found this to be slightly surprising, especially since earlier in the report it was found that many marketers doubt the effectiveness and value of their Facebook activity and presence. However, it could also be argued that we’re constantly told that YouTube is a highly effective channel and yet only 57% are using that the most, so it’s all relative to what you’re actually marketing.
The report sets out a lot more detail when it comes to how marketers are using social media and is a useful indicator when it comes to getting together your strategy and comparing to others. Perhaps you’re shocked that some people only spend six hours a week on social, or perhaps you’re amazed that others find the time to spend eleven hours on it. Whatever the case, it’s worth having a read through to understand how social is working for others and what it means to the industry in general.
In the interests of transparency, I do pen the odd article for Social Media Examiner. However, I have not been approached, asked or paid in any way shape or form to offer my thoughts and opinions on the discussed report.