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Social media, what is it good for?

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Social media marketing has been the hottest marketing concept for the past decade. And why not?

With just a little effort, the marketing machine complex has amazingly shifted the production and creativity to a workforce that does all the heavy-lifting for free.

Free.

Consumer generated content, for free.

Direct to consumer engagement, for free.

Friends and family telling what to buy, where to eat, what to watch, all for free.

But is social media marketing losing steam or are we at the pioneer stage of these tools?

This week Pew Research is out with their annual report on Social Media Use in the United States.

And to no one's surprise, a majority of Americans use Facebook and YouTube, and young adults are unusually heavy users of Snapchat and Instagram. The survey of US adults finds that the social media landscape in early 2018 is defined by a mix of long-standing trends and newly emerging narratives. 

As has been the case since the Pew began surveying about the use of different social media in 2012, Facebook remains the primary platform for most Americans. But the social media story extends well beyond Facebook. The video-sharing site YouTube is now used by nearly three-quarters of US adults and 94% of 18- to 24-year-olds.

But there are pronounced differences in the use of various social media platforms within the young adult population as well. Americans ages 18 to 24 are substantially more likely to use platforms such as Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter even when compared with those in their mid- to late-20s. 

As was true in previous surveys of social media use, there is a substantial amount of overlap between users of the various sites measured in this survey. Most notably, a significant majority of users of each of these social platforms also indicate that they use Facebook and YouTube. But this “reciprocity” extends to other sites as well. For instance, roughly three-quarters of both Twitter (73%) and Snapchat (77%) users also indicate that they use Instagram. 

This overlap is broadly indicative of the fact that many Americans use multiple social platforms. Roughly three-quarters of the public (73%) uses more than one of the eight platforms measured in this survey, and the typical (median) American uses three of these sites. 

As might be expected, younger adults tend to use a greater variety of social media platforms. The median 18- to 29-year-old uses four of these platforms, but that figure drops to three among 30- to 49-year-olds, to two among 50- to 64-year-olds and one among those 65 and older.

So is social media marketing still a thing?

Yes.

But what does this social media thing mean for marketers, communicators, and advocates?

A few ideas.

Americans might say in polite company they don't love social media, but their activity says otherwise as they use these tools and use them a lot. Second, social media users take advantage of multiple platforms and embrace their unique tweaks. Finally, it may be early days of social media, but there is a lot of content and distraction out there - and frankly, most of it is junk food for the brain.

For marketers, communicators, and advocates to take advantage of these tools they must think reinforce, reward, recognize, refresh, and research.

Also, your content must be outstanding because the consumer has multiple channels for distraction, others want your audience, and if the user doesn't feel special, someone else will give them a home.

And most importantly, more and more content is being produced daily. Just like this Ross Rant, content will be easily created and then placed on a minimum of six social media and digital platforms.

So keep on using social media marketing but make sure your content and engagement reinforces, rewards, recognizes, refreshes, and is well researched.

If you want more, you can access the full report here: https://goo.gl/rWdo9g

Marc A.Ross is the founder of Brigadoon and specializes in global communications and thought leader management at the intersection of politics, policy, and profits. Working with boardrooms and C-Suite executives from multinational corporations, trade associations, and disruptive startups, Marc helps leaders create compelling communications, focused content, and winning commerce.

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