The Right Social Networks

It is clear nowadays that there is not one recommendation you can make about social media for all businesses.

Though Facebook launched in 2006, it was a niche for at least a year until it was opened to everyone in late 2007. At that time, it had 100,000 business pages (pages which allowed companies to promote themselves and attract customers).

At that time, clients would ask me “Shouldn’t we have a Facebook page?” though they weren’t sure why they needed one but it seemed to be the “thing to do.”

Today, every business probably needs a social media presence, but the question to ask is which networks do they need.

Caroline Gillan at Launch as Digital Content Specialist did this video on that question.

The 7 biggest networks have been relatively the same for the past few years.

  1. Facebook still has the widest penetration of any social network in the U.S. 68% of U.S. adults are on Facebook.
  2. Instagram – owned by Facebook – has come on strong the past few years and has now surpassed a billion monthly users. While younger people seem to be leaving Facebook for their parents, Instagram with its easy image-focused mobile interface has grabbed the 18-29-year-old share.
  3. And if the teen to young adult segment is important to your brand, then Snapchat is a network to use. It’s most popular with 13-24-year-olds, and especially with teenage girls.
  4. If the Millennial (arguably 18-29) users with their generally higher income bracket are your target, Twitter is a social network to use. It also has more of an even split between male and female users.
  5. The popular image-based network Pinterest bridges both the 18-29-year-olds and the 30-49-year-old markets and has a predominantly female user base. It also skews towards women with young children. But the women points out that 40% of new sign-ups are from men, so a shift is occurring.
  6. Many people still don’t think about YouTube as a social network but only as a place to find videos. Not only is one of the top social networks, but it is also the second-largest search engine. Why? Because people are very often looking for video results. That is certainly a major consideration for any brand.
  7. LinkedIn continues to be a popular network with higher income-level users, and for businesses to be more B2B, generate sales leads and find employment candidates. The fact that it is not popular for teens and the younger demographics is what makes it popular with another segment.

A topic for another post that jumps off for here concerns the many other social networks that are smaller and more niche but that might be more importance to some brands. Are you a restaurant? Then Yelp and other review sites are more important to you than other industries. Having a presence in the top 7 networks may be an important start to your SM strategy, but it certainly does not end there.

Advertisements

Gaming Social Media Algorithms

Social Media networks use algorithms. Recently, there was news about changes to the Facebook News Feed algorithm. Those algorithms – processes or sets of rules to be followed in calculations – are not made public and business users are always trying to figure them out.

If you knew the way Instagram or Facebook programs their feeds, you could “game the system” to have your content featured prominently.

Those networks would tell you that they are programming to get the best content in front of people. You can find articles that try to break down the factors that determine your content’s ranking, but remember that those algorithms are always being tweaked and often in ways to best display advertising.

I doubt that anyone but Instagram knows exactly how their algorithm works, but one post I saw listed these seven key factors.

  1. Engagement: How popular the post is
  2. Relevancy: The genres of content you are interested in and have interacted with
  3. Relationships: The accounts you regularly interact with
  4. Timeliness: How recent the posts are
  5. Profile Searches: The accounts you check out often
  6. Direct Shares: Whose posts you are sharing
  7. Time Spent: The duration spent viewing a post

Engagement is the obvious part of any social algorithm. Consideration of likes, comments, views, shares, saves, story views, and views of live and posted videos all drive content to the top of feeds.

Perhaps less obvious are things like profile searches, which are when you search multiple times for particular profiles. That interest in someone not in your feed would then rank those posts higher on your feed. Instagram says that when they experimented with this in a new algorithm, the number of searches went down, which they took as a sign that users no longer needed to search on their own.

Social Media and Democracy

pexels-photo-607812.jpeg

It seems clear now that social media is changing democracies around the world. When I was teaching social media courses in 2010 and 2011, there was a lot of discussion about the role of social media in the “Arab Spring.”  The Arab uprisings started a debate over the role and influence of social media. Did Facebook and Twitter power the ousting of Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and the imminent overthrow of Mubarak.

The perceived Facebook and Twitter revolutions seemed to be centered on young protesters mobilizing on their feet and on mobile devices. Some called this “citizen journalism.”

My students, like many critiques, felt social media was a democratizing tool. But in the years since, opinions on social media and democracy seem to have turned the other way towards it as hurting democracy.

For example, Facebook has had to look at its impact it has on the democratic process after receiving much criticism for content on the platform during the Clinton/Trump campaigns. Facebook actually said it could no longer guarantee that social media is beneficial to democracy. That is a surprising admission.

For example, Facebook has had to look at its impact it has on the democratic process after receiving much criticism for content on the platform during the Clinton/Trump campaigns.

Facebook actually said it could no longer guarantee that social media is beneficial to democracy. That is a surprising admission.

One critique of social media is the ability to create echo chambers — online spaces that only surround users with like-minded people and ideas.

Soledad O’Brien examined how social media is impacting democracy on her program Matter of Fact.

Harvard professor Cass Sunstein studies this effect in his new book Republic: Divided Democracy in the Age of Social Media. Sunstein talked with O’Brien to discuss the pros and cons of social media and why the ability to filter out opposing views is a threat to our democracy.

There’s another phenomenon at work: “group polarization” which says that when you are in an echo chamber, you can become more extreme and intolerant.


 

Timing Is (Almost) Everything

In comedy, they saying that timing is everything. In social media, if not everything, it is something that needs serious consideration.

You can find many recommendations for when to post online, but the problem is that they are generalizations. The real answers about when to post need to be specific to your audience.

In real estate, they say location matters. That is also true for social media.

A restaurant in almost any city draws its customers from the local area. If you are in Washington D.C., posting for that time zone and around the times when people are apt to be looking for dining suggestions (Are you a breakfast or dinner place?) is optimal. A restaurant in San Francisco needs other posting times.

If your business has wider national or international reach, you may need a strategy that includes multiple accounts, such as Twitter handles, for each region.

How well do you know your audience? Questions to consider: What time are people waking up? Are they accessing your resources during work hours, evenings or weekends?

There are many free and pay tools to help you find the best time to post, such as Audiense,  and using an auto-scheduler dashboard (such as Hootsuite) then allows you to schedule social media times based on when they have performed the best.

Hootsuite has recommended Best Times to Post on the big 3: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Facebook is interesting for timing. One thing you might not consider at first is that  75 percent of your Facebook post’s engagement will happen within the first five hours and 75 percent of your post’s lifetime impressions are reached after just two and a half hours. These posts do not have a long shelf life or “legs”

The “half-life” of a Tweet is said to be only 24 minutes and Tweets reach that 75 percent mark in less than three hours.

You will find online many recommendations for specific networks. For example, for The Huffington Post , the recommendations for maximum retweets is to post at 5 p.m. and 12 p.m., and the best days for business-to-business organizations is, not surprisingly, Monday through Friday, but for business-to-consumer it’s the weekends and Wednesdays.

Takeaway: Know your audience’s social media habits and customize to that profile for each network.

 

Infographic via Kissmetrics, a behavioral analytics and engagement platform
built for marketers and product teams.

When Following Someone Gets Creepy

creepy face pixa

LinkedIn tells you when someone has viewed your profile – or when you view someone’s profile.  The latter might seem useful. The former might make you feel a bit creepy.

I wrote earlier about how people are informed when you do a screenshot of someone’s Instagram photo.

And now, Facebook’s new “Stories” update also does notifications. When you watch a friend’s Story that friend will know you’re watching.  A “Story” exists for 24 hours and is comprised of one or more photos or short videos and Stories works this way on platforms that supports them like Snapchat and Instagram).

Facebook really wants you to be interactive with the database of photos, text and video you and your friends have uploaded. It has been copying some of Snapchat’s features. Snapchat is popular (but much smaller than Facebook) for its more private messaging.

Facebook’s algorithms aren’t smart enough to keep Stories (which are designed to be an unfiltered you  in the moment) away from everyone who is your “friend.”

I think most users of all these social services enjoy the relative anonymity that allows them to look through at least partial profiles without  “friending,” liking” or doing anything that reveals your identity or “creeping.”

I often see in my LinkedIn feed that someone looked at my profile (maybe a recruiter or friend of a friend). It piques my curiosity. Who is this?  I’d like to see their profile, but I don’t because my look will be communicated to that person.

Is it creepy to look at profiles of people you don’t know? Should people be notified when their content is view by someone they don’t follow or haven’t accepted as a friend?

Thoughts?

What Facebook Thinks You Like

I came across this Chrome browser extension that allows you to see how Facebook collects your data.

It can only use data on what categories Facebook has placed you in (not identifiable information or cookies, for example) but the name of the category, the I.D. number Facebook gives it internally, some other subcategories and your logged reaction to the category.

There are so many questions, rumors and concerns about social media and the Internet concerning privacy and data collection that this seems very relevant. I know that amongst my own friends and students there is a lack of knowledge about what is collected and how it is collected when you’re online, but there are a lot of negative feelings about it.

Most people know that sites want to determine your ad preferences and use data and tracking to figure out which ads might be relevant and useful to you. They don’t do it to be nice to you – although if I have to see an ad I would rather it have some relevance – but because advertisers want to know their ads are getting to the correct people.

Your Facebook profile information and interactions with friend and businesses influences the ads you see. It is not so different from targeting ads from before the Internet Age. Demographic information—such as age, gender and location have always been important. But we voluntarily give so much more information (even if unconsciously) by our thousands of clicks and activities online that targeting is much more refined.

 

fb-ad-prefs-11-16

 

When you use the “What Facebook Thinks You Like” app offered by propublicasocial, you’ll see how your interests in people, travel, news etc. help determine the ads you will see.