New Study Answers the Question: “What Social Network Should I Use?”

When the topic of using social media to reach out to customers and prospects comes up, it’s inevitable that one of the first questions we get asked is “what social network should I use?” And it’s not an easy question to answer. While sometimes the choice is obvious – LinkedIn over Facebook for reaching B2B customers, for example—many times (especially when dealing with B2C clients or institutions interested in reaching out to prospective students or donors) the choice isn’t so cut and dried. Considering that nearly 75% of the Internet-using US population now has an account on one social network or another (73% are on Facebook, 24% are on Twitter, and 15% are on Pinterest, in case you’re wondering) it can be tough to target particular networks using criteria other than just simple demographics.

 

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But choosing the right social network isn’t just about picking the one with the “right” numbers. As you probably know by now after having experienced them yourself, each social network seems to have a different “feel” to it and those of us who regularly two (or more) of the different networking sites seem to intuitively turn to each for different things. Our gut feelings seem to tell us that Facebook is good for staying in touch with people and keeping up on events in our “friends’” lives; Twitter is a great place to stay on top of news, trends, and interesting sites; and Pinterest seems to be a great place to go when we’re in the mood to virtually “window shop” or need some inspiration.

 

But following your gut is one thing: when you’re putting significant resources (both time and money) reaching out to or cultivating new customers online, you probably want to have some hard data. It’s one thing to have an intuition about where to go based on your own behavior, it’s quite another thing justifying it to your boss.

 

Fortunately a new survey of 6,000 folks by Visioncritical  (download page) offers some new and incredibly useful insights on not only what social networks people are using but (more importantly) why they choose one over another.

 

The report is free and is packed with way more stuff than we can relate here and we encourage you to check it out in its entirety. Here are some of the highlights:

 

  • It turns out that your gut feelings about social networks was probably right: Pinterest users tend to use the site for “creative” reasons (inspiration, ideas, and information on things that interest them) while Facebook users are much more about connecting and communicating with their social networks. Interestingly enough, Twitter users seemed to be ambivalent, with survey results falling pretty much in the middle of the “creativity vs. communication” continuum.
  • When it comes to purchasing, Pinterest was the clear winner for driving impulse buys on consumer items while Facebook and Twitter were seen to be much more useful to survey respondents as networks to use when researching considered purchases.
  • People also seem to use the 3 different networks for different aspects of purchasing. Pinterest was the place to go to find more info on products they were already interested in buying, Facebook was the place to go to keep abreast of new deals, and Twitter was used to discover where to purchase products.
  • A large majority (68%) of Facebook users are “lurkers” who rarely post to the site.

 

While this is only one survey (we really hope there are others along the same lines soon), we believe that the finding seem to match a lot of what we’ve observed in our own social media lives. We also believe that the data has some interesting implications for marketers:

 

  1. People use different social networks for different things and the messaging and/or engagement activities we use on each network should match the reasons people are using the networks. Pinterest might be best for reaching out to more visually-oriented prospects who are in the early stages of a purchasing decision and may be looking for something new that grabs their attention. Facebook, on the other hand, is the place to go if you want to offer your customers and prospects an opportunity for engagement. Twitter may be the place to guide customers and prospects to landing pages where they can indicate their interest.
  2. While conventional wisdom holds that social media is all about engagement, a large number of users don’t actively engage by “talking back” through their own postings. With so many lurkers out there it may be time to re-think our “engagement” metrics.
  3. People seem to be turning increasingly towards social networks for information (and perhaps validation) when it comes to considered purchases. It’s vital to be aware of the “buzz” around your brand and be ready to respond if you need to. On the other hand, if you sell something that people tend to buy on a whim pretty pictures on Pinterest might be the way to drive response.
  4. Thinking about “social networking” or “social media” as a homogeneous category is wrong. While the different networks do share some similar “social” features, people really turn to different networks for different reasons. It’s important to understand not only who is on a particular network but why they’re there in the first place in order to get the most bang for your social media marketing bucks.

 

 

The 13% or: Why Everyone Should Be Investing in Paid Search and SEO

This morning, browsing through emails, this headline caught my attention - When You Search Google, Only 13% of the Screen Has Real Results. For some of us, this isn’t so much of a shock but a nasty realization of something we knew was true all along. I still believe you can get good, organic, results from Google through search and as a publisher you can do a lot to make sure your site is within that 13% and visible to customers without a large paid search campaign. But this still doesn’t change the fact that Google is moving to a more [Google] product focused search results page (SERP).

For us in-the-know this isn’t such a big deal but to the average user, not knowing this difference is a big deal. It can make a user believe that the top paid search results are better quality content than the organic links further down the page because in some way they may have earned it. That may be oversimplifying the problem but I think when all advertisers, SEO specialists, and their clients are focused on that number one position, a lot of headaches can arise, especially if they are not looking at other factors effecting the results.

Google Search Page Breakdowns

The image above shows how Aaron Harris, co-founder of Tutorspree, breaks down the segments of a typical Google SERPs page in their blog How Google is Killing Organic Search. The image shows 5 boxes wrapping around 4 different sections of the search results page.

  • Green Section (14%) – This is the Google search bar, links to your account and notifications, search alternatives (images, shopping, news, etc), and links to other products like Gmail, G+, Maps, Etc.
  • Blue Section (7%) – A map of related, local points of interested based on the search terms.
  • Yellow Sections (29%) – Ads generated by Adwords.
  • Red Section (13%) – Organic Search Results

With only 13% of the page dedicated to organic results its no wonder why SEO alone can be an uphill battle. You might be able to get some great results and occasionally get to the top of that search section or higher for long-tail and more obscure keywords but placing all your marketing dollars in one bucket alone is like only putting 13% of the effort. The infographic below illustrates how many factors go into deciding your position in organic search results. Some of those can be quickly fixed through updating the site’s content and focusing on keywords and body content, while others require long term growth of links, user usage data, and traffic and query data – not an overnight fix.

2013 Search Engine Ranking Factors Survey Results
The Moz Blog

Moz Breaks down Google's Algorithm

Click to Enlarge

To be truly effective in getting your site to rank higher publishers will need to work with their SEO and marketing teams to work on a multi-pronged approach to occupy more of a presence on each related SERP. Just starting an Adwords account and letting ads run won’t be enough either. Google has really made a push for Ad Extensions such as Sitelinks and Location Extensions which can help your ads occupy even more space on the page.

Putting all these scoring factors and strategies into a cohesive strategy can really help get your site found organically and through paid search. Driving more traffic to your site through paid search will help you build domain level authority, site usage data, query and traffic data which should all help increase your organic search rankings. We’re not entirely in a pay-to-play model yet, but Google seems to at least be giving the advantage to those who are spending money with them.

The Mobile Video Frontier – Vine vs Instagram

Last week Facebook launched a new feature on Instagram allowing users to take 15 second videos and share them using the already popular Instagram platform. With over 100M users, on it’s first day over 5M video clips were shared (CNET).

Facebook’s move to include video on Instagram is not only a logical progression but in away an attack at the other social video sharing service, Vine which launched earlier this year for iOS and then later on Android.

Vine, owned by Twitter, let’s users share 6 second clips own it’s own network, Twitter, or Facebook. The average number of tweets containing a Vine link had risen from five every second during April to nine every second during the first three weeks of June. Currently with more than 13M users, Vine seems to be growing quickly with increasing interest from social media users.

Unruly, a video technology company, has found that braned Vines are shared 4X more often than a video ad you might find on YouTube. Combine this with the expected rise of mobile data traffic over the next few years and you could have a virtual playground for socially driven, rich media campaigns that are shorter, simpler, and more genuine  than ever before.

But for right now, the battle for top billing in your newsfeed has two more players. Wether you’re watching your nephew make a few funny sounds as he learns to talk or a celeb do an a capella version of a “classic” Bieber song, mobile video is going to be a big part of things to come. It’s quicker and more easily digested than having to sit though the pre-roll ads on your favorite YouTube channel.

What’s your take? Which platform do you like better?

How will HarvardX affect higher education?

Elite universities’ introduction of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), such as those offered by category pioneers edX, Coursera and Udacity, is a game changer.

Managing an appropriate and productive role for technology is not a new challenge in the higher education landscape. But it’s suddenly becoming the most pressing one. The idea of online education has been debated and experimented with on and off college campuses for years. But now your financially strained, local public college will be competing with Harvard.

Last month, professors at San Jose State condemned using a HarvardX (an edX collaboration) MOOC course as part of their teaching curriculum. They argue that such practices will divide the higher education system in two groups: expensive institutions where students are taught by a “real professor” and low-cost institutions where students watch video lectures and the professor is little more than a “glorified teaching assistant.”

This is just one controversy surrounding the unintended consequences of online education that will undoubtedly continue to develop. “Cheap and accessible” can describe the beta version of MOOCs. As for the next iteration? No one can really predict.

Get SMACSS

Last month, I really made the effort to start creating more modular and scalable CSS. With the demand of responsive websites and the realization that won’t be the only one touching my code, I believe that modularity and scalability are two important principles to aim for when developing websites & web applications. I actually started this journey late last year after skimming through Jonathan Snook’s online book Scalable and Modular Architecture for CSS or SMACSS.  I’m a little embarrassed to say this but a couple of months ago, I just didn’t get it and I thought it irrelevant. It wasn’t until I started working on huge sites when I really started to understand the importance of modularity and scalability. With certain projects, I would look at my own code that I wrote months ago and tried to extend or edit what I created. I ran into some MAJOR issues. I found that a solution for avoiding this was aiming for scalability, modularity and consistency in my CSS & HTML. This was accomplished by simply changing my way of thinking and execution from a paged-based architecture  to a system-based architecture. This book showed me how.

If you handle CSS, I would really recommend reading SMACSS.