In a white paper he wrote for Forrester Research, Nate Elliott explains why the “old” rules for how to use social media are no longer working — and what to do about it.
Not that long ago, companies were told that all they needed to do to forge a relationship with their customers was to create a Facebook page or a Twitter account and post “something” regularly. Unfortunately, along the way, Facebook has made changes that altered how easily and frequently “fans” would see those posts and there are new platforms emerging that are competing for your customers’ attention.
According to Elliott, “Top brands’ Facebook and Twitter posts reach only about 2 percent of their fans and followers, and less than 0.1% of fans and followers interact with each post. Marketers need to rebuild their social relationship strategies around sites that work.”
Citing the statistics that “online adults who want to stay in touch with your company are almost three times more likely to visit your Web site than to engage you on Facebook,” Elliott observes that marketing leaders are turning to their own branded Web sites as the center of their social relationship strategies.
In addition, some of the smaller networks – such as Pinterest, Instagram, and Houzz – are becoming much more effective avenues for companies to engage with their target audience.
Facebook’s decade of dominance in social marketing is ending. Smart brands are finally deprioritizing Facebook and shifting their social resources to sites that deliver real customer engagement.
For its research, Forrester interviewed 13 vendor and user companies, including Adobe, Analog Devices, Code and Theory, Facebook, Hootsuite, Kenshoo, Livefyre, Life Technologies, Pinterest, REI, Sapient, Shoutlet, and Tyler Technologies.
With just over half (55%) of the survey participants stating they were “satisfied” with their social media efforts on Facebook and Twitter, that leaves almost as many who are unhappy with the amount of customer engagement they’ve been able to achieve.
Instead, marketers are considering changing up their game plan. One option that Elliott proposes is for companies to tweak their Web sites by adding a social component that will drive repeat visits. For example, Elliott relays this tidbit: Sony built a social microsite to better engage PlayStation loyalists and upsell its existing customers. How did they do it? By collaborating with Livefyre to build a social-focused microsite called GreatnessAwaits.com that features official blog posts, providing exclusive PlayStation 4 news and content, and aggregated social posts about the product from more than 75,000 loyalists.
According to the Forrester research, Play-Station fans ended up visiting the microsite 4.5 million times, engaging for 4 minutes per visit. The result was PlayStation 4 outselling its biggest competitor by almost a two-to-one margin.
In another example cited by Elliott, semiconductor manufacturer Analog Devices launched its EngineerZone community to help customers get more value from their purchases. Forrester research revealed that thousands of people use the site to share ideas, answer each other’s questions, and read blog posts and FAQs from Analog executives.
Compared to Facebook and Twitter, the Forrester research indicates that the surveyed brands’ Instagram posts generate a per-follower engagement rate 58 times higher than their Facebook posts and 120 times higher than their Twitter posts.
As an example, Elliott provides the experience of outdoor retailer REI, which collects user-generated Instagram posts to keep its customers engaged. Observing that its Facebook page was generating far less engagement than Instagram, REI executives created “the 1440 Project” as a key point in its social relationship strategy. The brand encourages its customers to post Instagram photos of their outdoor adventures with the #REI1440Project hashtag. Forrester research indicates more than 100,000 photos and more than 500,000 site visits have occurred since launching the Instagram strategy. According to the statistics provided by the Forrester report, REI’s Instagram photos deliver almost 3,000 times more engagement per follower than its Facebook posts.
Elliott’s Forrester report points out that there is not a one-size-fits-all strategy that will guarantee social media engagement for every company. Some brands might find one platform that resonates best with its customers over another. For example, research reveals that upscale retailer Nordstrom has amassed 55% more Pinterest followers than it had on Facebook. The retailer then tracks its Pinterest followers’ engagement to help devise its merchandising strategy.
Elliott concludes, “While we don’t expect Instagram’s phenomenal engagement rates to last, we believe other social networks will emerge to offer marketers similar relationship opportunities. The key for brands will be to quickly identify which emerging social networks offer greater engagement and which social networks are fading — and to just as quickly shift their efforts from one network to the next.”
It is important to note that the Forrester report is not anti-Facebook nor does it suggest that companies abandon Facebook altogether. “We’re not predicting the demise of Facebook. After all, the site offers about one-third of all the display ad impressions online,” Elliott opines, adding, “but Facebook’s decade of dominance in social marketing is ending. Smart brands are finally deprioritizing Facebook and shifting their social resources to sites that deliver real customer engagement.”
In examining its research results, Forrester’s data shows that brands that cross-post content between Facebook and Google+ generate about the same engagement rates as those who don’t.
Nothing will beat posting engaging content, but these days there is no “absolute must” when it comes to choosing a social media platform that will boost a brand’s interaction with customers. A better strategy is to experiment with the various options, cross-post content, and observe which social media entity yields the highest amount of engagement for your target audience.