You need information to plan, and we’ve gathered it for you. The purpose of this post is to provide you with comprehensive data on all major social networks so that you can decide where to place your efforts.
A couple notes on the data before we get started:
- This is the most up-to-date data, and we will keep this up to date as new reports, studies, and statistics are released. Check back here when doing planning to make sure you have the information you need.
- We don’t have equivalent data across all social networks, as you’ll see, nor has all the data been reported from the same time period. Different networks release data in different ways on different schedules, and the same goes for our main sources, Pew Internet, Business Insider, and Social Media Examiner.
How Effective is Social Media?
If we talk about effectiveness in terms of sales, the answer is…it depends. More than half of marketers who have been using social media for at least 3 years, OR who spend more than 6 hours per week, report that it has helped increase sales. At the same time, 50% of marketers say that it has not helped.
It appears that there is a critical mass of experience and effort in social media that must be reached to be effective. Also keep in mind that it is a challenge for any marketer to connect social media efforts to end sales, so these numbers may be skewed. If so, it’s reasonable to expect that social media has actually helped more than indicated.
There are a slew of other benefits aside from sales that marketers reported:
Who is using Social Media?
Basically, everyone. Traditionally the user base has been younger and more female, but these age and gender gaps have been largely closed over time. Here’s age usage since 2005:
- Count: 1.35 Billion Active Monthly Users (reported Sept 2014)
- Date launched: February, 2004
- 68% of marketers view as most important network (giving it the #1 spot, by far)
- 69% plan to increase usage
- 50% feel their Facebook marketing is working
- 31% view it as most important network, putting it at #2 behind LinkedIn
- 54% plan to increase usage
- 34% feel Facebook marketing is working
Larger companies more likely to report that Facebook is working for them: 52% of companies with 1000 employees or more said yes, compared to 34% of the self-employed. This may be because Facebook has been decreasing organic reach of posts, which makes it more of a pay-to-play platform and therefore a better fit for larger budgets. Regardless of your budget, beware that Facebook is dropping the reach of purely promotional posts (e.g. “Buy my widgets!”). However, as I wrote in a previous post, this does not mean that Facebook is useless for marketing – it just means you have to have more engaging, contextual content that is valuable to your followers.
- Count: 1 Billion Active Monthly Users (reported March 2013)
- Date launched: May, 2005
Unfortunately, demographic information for YouTube is not available. We will add it here if and when it is released.
Marketer’s viewpoint (no difference reported between B2B and B2C):
- 2 – 3% of marketers view YouTube as their most important network
- 67% of all marketers plan to increase usage – more than for any other network
While we don’t have specific demographic info, we can anecdotally see that its use is very widespread. In fact, YouTube reaches more adults aged 18 to 34 than any single cable TV network. Couple that with the importance of video in general, and you’ll see that this is a very important network indeed.
- Count: 540 Million Active Monthly Users (reported October 2013; this number is for Google+ only and does not include Gmail or YouTube stats)
- Date launched: June, 2011
Unfortunately, demographic information for Google+ is not available. We will add it here if and when it is released.
- 2% view it as most important
- 58% plan to increase usage
- 3% view it as most important
- 66% plan to increase usage
Google+ was once seen as extremely important for reach and SEO because of authorship, and in fact we at Crosshatch were all about Google+ at one point. When Google ended authorship in June 2014, people thought it would peter out, but it has continued to stay a vibrant and active social network. Because it is the search giant’s product and yet has a precarious position in the social space, it’s not surprising that Google+ is the network marketers want to most learn more about.
- Count: 300 Million Active Monthly Users (reported Dec 2014)
- Date launched: October, 2010
Demographic information not complete, here is what we pulled from various graphs on Business Insider. The graph on the left represents the percentage of all internet users that have an Instagram account, broken out by age range. The graph on the right does the same with income brackets.
Not enough marketers thought of Instagram as their most important network for it to show up statistically, but companies do still plan to increase their usage:
49% plan to increase usage
32% plan to increase usage
The speed of growth is interesting, especially as Instagram just surpassed Twitter, and is expected to continue. Instagram also holds the title of most important social network according to teens, followed by Twitter and then Facebook. They also released an Explore tab in November 2014 to help users find other creators to follow, which could be a good way for brands to be discovered and build a following. In spite of this, marketers still have difficulty in connecting it with their KPIs as the platform posts do not lend themselves to generating traffic or leads.
- Count: 284 Million Active Monthly Users (reported Oct 2014)
- Date launched: March, 2006
10% view as most important network
16% view as most important network
67% of all marketers plan to increase usage (not distinguished between B2B/B2C)
Twitter has over 20 million fake users, so remember to use actual engagement as a measure of success, rather than followers. It is also suffering from the “unfiltered feed problem” in which users are hesitant to follow anyone new, because their feed is already so stuffed they consistently miss tweets from people they care about. Beware that building a following in this environment could be challenging.
- Count: 187 Million Active Monthly Users (reported April 2014)
- Date launched: May, 2003
- 6% view as most important network
- 54% plan to increase usage
- 33% view as most important network (#1 for B2B marketers)
- 77% plan to increase usage
LinkedIn came in second as most important network overall, behind Facebook. However, as you can see from the numbers above, if you are in the B2B space LinkedIn might just be your dream network. It offers all the information you could want on followers, and is the only social network to have higher penetration in the 50 – 64 age range than the 18 – 29 range. And it’s not just a sharing platform – LinkedIn allows you (as a person, not a brand) to publish full articles right on its network, which can be discovered as users are browsing.
- Count: 70 Million Registered Users (reported July 2013)
- Date launched: March, 2010
Like Instagram, the number of marketer’s who see Pinterest as a most important network is insignificant, but companies do still plan to increase their usage:
54% plan to increase usage
44% plan to increase usage
Between fall 2013 and spring 2014, the percentage of 18- to 29-year-olds using Pinterest rose from 25% to 33%, which is a greater adoption increase than the fast-growing Snapchat’s. While Pinterest is still on the rise, it also remains highly skewed towards affluent females.
The selection of social media networks depends on many factors including budget, skillset, industry, and more, so here we stick to principles that will serve you well regardless.
Start now – If you haven’t already , set up accounts on all major networks (and even some minor ones). Then pick 1 or 2 to focus on, based on your resources and target demographics, using the information above. Our focus is LinkedIn.
Schedule enough time to be effective – As indicated above, this is around 6 hours/week
Use depth and breadth – Tailor posts for each of your focus networks and engage users there. Post on other networks without worrying about tailoring or proactively engaging users (though if they talk to you, you should respond).
After that, we start getting more nitty gritty with strategy, which is a topic for another post. If you need help with that, let us know. Either way, good luck!