For years now Facebook and Twitter have been the two reliable social standbys, an oft-used, go-to social media marketing pairing equivalent to wine and cheese or beer and pizza (or in my case, wine, cheese, beer, and pizza). That said, about the only thing you can count on in this crazy world of digital is change, and, well, the times they are a changin'...again. Responding to market (and shareholder) demand, Facebook and Twitter have recently announced (or strongly hinted at, in the case of Twitter) the introduction of filtered feed algorithms that will control which content is displayed in user feeds. Ostensibly, this is said to be done in an effort to provide more relevant content to users. For its part, Facebook pledges that the changes to its News Feed (set to take place in January of 2015) will not increase the number of paid ads shown to users, but instead will reduce the number of blatantly promotional posts from brands. Detractors point out that lessening the viewability of organic brand posts will devalue their effectiveness and thus indirectly force brands into the arms of Facebook's paid advertising options as the only viable way to connect with users.
Members of the digital punditry have been making a lot of hay over these changes, with some offering harsh criticism of the social networks ( and Forrester supplying plenty of data-driven red meat in the form of a study outlining the inherent ineffectiveness of Facebook and Twitter as social engagement channels), roundly denouncing them as living case studies of the corruptive influence of the almighty dollar, as harbingers of doom that will surely sound the death knell of organic social engagement marketing, etc., etc.
To these impassioned digirati I borrow a page from Green Bay quarterback Aaron Roger's playbook when I say, just sit back and R-E-L-A-X.
Social Media Marketing: Either Or vs And And
Don't go overboard and pitch your Facebook profile or ditch your Twitter feed just yet. As I recently wrote, social media marketing is far too complicated to let a couple of algo updates spoil the inherent utility of two once (and still) dominant social platforms, organic or otherwise. Enough with the crazy talk; it does little to advance our collective understanding of today's highly complex (organic and paid) social media marketing landscape.
When people think of social media marketing for business, they too often apply an either ormentality when in reality an and and approach is the right one: for most brands today, social media marketing is more of an ever-growing buffet spread than a pre-selected table d'hôte.
It's from this perspective that I'd like to reintroduce the idea of incorporating visual social media platforms into the (hopefully) growing menu of organic social media marketing/social engagement options at your disposal. Two in particular come to mind: Pinterest and Instagram.
Social Engagement with Pinterest and Instagram
In March of 2013 (seems like only yesterday), I wrote how every business should be on Pinterest. I still stand behind this assertion; the general trajectory the social platform has taken since then, along with recent data, only serves to underscore my belief in Pinterest. According to research from GlobalWebIndex's Social Summary for Q3 2014, Pinterest (along with Tumblr) is among the fastest growing social platforms in 2014, with the social network seeing a 111% increase in active users. In addition, Pinterest has emerged as a social search mainstay, its content garnering top rankings in image search and regular mixed search results alike and driving high-quality, intent driven referral traffic - the kind that leads to higher social engagement rates. Writing for Marketing Land, GroupM's Benjamin Spiegel offers up some compelling evidence in support of this notion, at least in the CPG sector.
Instagram is seeing robust growth as well, its active user base up 64% since Q1 2014, according to the GWI report. Significantly, unlike Facebook, which is the only social network that has seen a slight drop in active usage among 16-24 year-olds in 2014 (even as all of the other social networks enjoy substantial increases amongst this "Millennial" demographic), Instagram and Tumbler have the youngest audiences, with more than 70% of users in the 16-34 year-old age range (Facebook, incidentally, has the oldest user base, with 25% of its active users aged 45+).
For those looking for social engagement data, the kind that makes even the stodgiest of C-suite execs see the value of social media, data from the aforementioned Forrester report relates how engagement rates on Instagram are 58X higher than Facebook and 120X higher than Twitter. A real-life example of this "Instagram effect" is REI's 1440 Project, which encourages the company's Instagram fans to share photos of their outdoor pursuits on the platform. The 1440 Project has generated over 100,000 photos and 500,000 visits to the brand's microsite. Moreover, REI's Instagram photos deliver nearly 3,000X more engagement per follower as its Facebook posts. Interestingly, this uber engagement has had a positive impact on the company's Facebook page: when REI shares 1440 Project content on Facebook, it earns 42% more likes than the brand's other Facebook posts.
Leave the Or; Embrace the And
Remember, social media marketing is a big tent, and is likely to only get bigger in coming years. A highly complex and expansive environment, social works best when it's highly integrated and inherently inclusive, which means you should leave behind the or and embrace the and: there's plenty of room for Facebook and Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram, organicand paid, digital punditry be damned.