Much has been said about the pace and volume of online activities. With over 3 billion people on social media, we expect activity volume to continue increasing. Lori Lewis and Chadd Callahan have illustrated what happens – on average – every 60 seconds on the internet. For instance, there are over 973,000 logins on Facebook and 3.7 million Google searches every 60 seconds! To put that into perspective, that’s 42 billion Facebook Logins and 159.84 billion Google Searches a month! I have analysed the growth trends of these platforms and what it implies for content marketing. In this blog, I will highlight some considerations for content marketing based on internet use in 60 seconds between 2016 and 2018.
Internet Use in 60 Seconds: Average Growth Rate, Activity Volume & User Accounts (2016-18) [INFOGRAPHIC]
Internet use in 60 seconds: High Growth-High Volume – Google Searches & YouTube Video Viewed
Google isn’t going anywhere. In fact, it guaranteed its position as the online search capital by buying YouTube for $1.65 billion in November 2006. Google searches and YouTube videos viewed had a 60-second usage growth rate of 26% between 2016 and 2018. Both platforms command over 3 million actions each (searches and videos viewed) in 60 seconds!
There is no ignoring the impact of search and video on content marketing. As a business, your content makes to be relevant and engaging. Organic search overtook social media for web traffic in 2015. The bottom line is people are looking for information. This includes how-to content, trends, in-depth knowledge of complex topics and entertainment.
If you don’t have a content marketing strategy, you’re missing out on the opportunity to engage a huge audience. With 56% of B2B marketers admitting that search is the most effective channel for driving early-stage engagement, relevant content is the anchor for building brand awareness.
Internet use in 60 seconds: Low Growth-High Volume – Emails Sent & Facebook Logins
Email and email marketing continue to be vital communication channels for business. Recent research by DMA reveals that email marketing receives more than 30 times ROI. As of 2018, there are over 5 billion email accounts! Email has been around a long time but its growth rate is the lowest (12%) of the internet channels reviewed here. The younger generation is less and less on email so consider your target market. However, emerging trends around email marketing could see future increased growth in usage.
It’s tricky mentioning Facebook (young and cool?) and emails (old tech, needing a refresh?) in the same breath. At 2.196 billion active users, Facebook has the highest number of users of any social media platform. But recent times has brought slowed growth for the social media giant. In the first quarter of 2018, Facebook grew by 3.14%, down from 3.39% of the prior quarter. The reasons for this slowed growth could be a range of recent changes such as modifications to its algorithm. In addition, the company has endured scandal after scandal in the last 18 months. With data showing new daily active users being its lowest quarter-over-quarter growth since early 2011, has Facebook’s user growth hit a wall as suggested by a recent Recode article?
Source: TechCrunch (2017)
Email marketing remains a key channel for reaching a known audience and it reaps significant ROI. Review and refine your email marketing strategy to include email-enhancing techniques such as basic segmentation, optimising for mobile devices and re-marketing to name a few. For Facebook, make a call on whether investing in advertising is worth it to reach your target audience. If it is, keep resourcing it. Remember it owns Instagram too so it probably won’t hurt to keep active on the platform.
Internet use in 60 seconds: High Growth-Low Volume – Instagram Scrolls
While Instagram has the smallest number of activities per 60 seconds, it’s had a massive usage growth over the last 3 years. The platform went from 38,194 to 174,000 scrolls per minute between 2016 and 2018. When Facebook bought it in 2012, it had around 50 million users and wasn’t making any money. Now, Instagram has risen to 1 billion active users per month!
As a result of Instagram’s development, it has become a crucial element of business-to-business marketing. Companies like Hubspot, Business Insider and Dell have thousands of followers by regularly engaging with target audiences. The launch of Instagram’s long-form video feature (IGTV) has added to its popularity among businesses. For instance, Hubspot often creates tutorial videos to educate its audience on topics such as Facebook audience targetting and SEO.
The future of Instagram is bright in the world of content marketing. To continue to grow, I foresee the platform enhancing its search capability to be similar to Google and YouTube. As far as I know, you can’t effectively search for specific content on IGTV. Adding this feature could further boost growth for Instagram. If you haven’t already so, get into IGTV and be one of the first few companies to use it. I’m having a blast with it!
Internet use in 60 seconds: Low Growth-Low Volume – Tweets Sent
Overall, the number of tweets sent on Twitter every 60 seconds has grown by 18% between 2016-18. This is a relatively low growth rate compared to Instagram, for instance. It also shows the general slow down of Twitter and its struggle to engage users on its platform. Recent stats show another struggle: Attracting new users.
In 2016, Twitter’s user growth rate almost halved from 7.8% to 4%. Growth is expected to slow down by 2% each year until 2020. Yet, Twitter is a widely used platform for B2B sectors with 77% of B2B marketers using it compared to 73% of B2C marketers.
There have been suggestions about what Twitter could improve to make its platform a more enjoyable experience. For an amusing list, check out this Mashable blog by Tyler Schmall where he offers improvement ideas such as automatically filtering out Hitler praise and labelling which trending topics are depressing.
The increase in character count is the most recent of its updates but in my opinion, it’s not significant enough. I’d call it a “tweak” rather than anything that changes the game. Twitter appears to be the only social platform yet to make video a core feature for users. Current video use seems to be mainly for GIFs rather than serious content. There’s also the passive, attention-deficit nature of the platform and how easy it is to target abuse at other users. I wonder if an additional video capability will aggravate these issues or improve professional use. What do you think?
There are many places you could be on the internet. For marketers and everyone else, it is often overwhelming. Below is a summary of how I believe each platform/internet use might impact your content marketing goals.
- Instagram is growing. Get involved with new features for engaging your market.
- Videos and search are the now and the future. Establish your brand with it to build your online presence.
- Facebook and email won’t disappear just yet so watch trends and technological advances. Don’t be left behind – keep active.
- Twitter is key for some industries but if you are short on time and resources (and your target audience isn’t even on Twitter), do the minimum if you do it at all.
What I suggest in this article is based on my take on what is happening on the internet and its likely impact on content marketing in general. However, aspects of this might not apply to certain industries such as retail and media/news. That said, I’d love to hear what you think about the future of content marketing on the internet. Tell me in the comments!
**% growth are CGR
My first digital marketing specialism is social media. After doing research and subsequently publishing my best-selling book, The Smart Sceptic’s Guide to Social Media, I’ve become more involved in developing frameworks and guides for social media in a B2B setting. Social media is probably the most powerful channel for sharing information and knowledge. Over 3 billion people are social media users – that’s 42% of the world! In this blog, I will tell you how I help my clients get started.
Social Media: Do You Really Want It?
I spent over a decade in corporate organisations. One thing I learned is if senior management does not wholly back an initiative, the chances of it succeeding are almost ZERO. This is the same with social media; it is generally a great channel for boosting a company’s brand and developing thought leadership. But the lack of support at a high level could make it unsuccessful.
That’s why I start the “Getting Started” process by establishing affirmation from senior leaders. I work with the MD/CEO to understand the business objectives and expectations from social media use.
Are these expectations realistic?
Also, do senior managers use social media themselves?
For instance, it’s a red flag if the C-suite executives are not on LinkedIn.
Brand surveys such as Brandfog consistently reveal that C-suite engagement on social media makes a brand more honest and trustworthy.
“Since 2013, we’ve seen a 15% increase in the number of respondents who believe that social media engagement makes CEOs more effective leaders. Regarding the changing nature of communications, an astounding 93% of survey respondents view socially engaged CEOs as a means to build better connections with customers, employees, and investors.” – Brandfog survey, 2016
I establish that senior management will genuinely support social media participation for business purposes.
More than once, I’ve had to walk away because the C-suite really weren’t onboard and it saved a headache for all involved.
Social Media: What Do We Need To Do?
Let’s assume that all is well and your C-suite is game. Fantastic! This is when I put together a proposal that would include a policy, guidelines, training and ongoing support if required. The investment from the client will depend on:
- How extensively employees will participate in sharing on social media
- Existing social media policies and guidelines
- Size of organisation/ Employee number
- Availability of internal marketing resources
- Existing knowledge of social media marketing
As an example, I provide training for up to 8 employees with a limited understanding of using social media for business. This costs between £600-£800. More advanced training costs are a little higher.
If the company accepts my proposal, I work with the MD and/or a designated manager (usually a marketing or communications manager) to understand the current social media status in the company.
Are there existing social media accounts and if so, how well are they working at the moment?
Do employees use social media and are they engaging with their employer’s content?
If the company has an online presence, I analyse performance and highlight what’s working and what isn’t working.
I list the actions that will help close the gap between the current status and where the company wants to get to. These actions might include a policy refresh, basic and advanced training and developing strong personal brands for the leadership team.
Sales people using social media as part of their sales techniques outsell 78% of their peers (Source)
Now that we have figured out what we are going to do, are we done?
You’ve guessed it: We are not done. In many ways, we have only started. Many companies spend a lot of time analysing and planning, watching the list of actions and nice-to-haves get longer and longer. It could become difficult to move into action.
When I have a good understanding of actions that can make improvements to my client’s brand, I work on implementing their bespoke policy and delivering training that empowers employees to use social media effectively. This is crucial. I’ve come across policies that are heavily restrictive hence, demotivating employees from taking part in building an organisation’s brand.
Social Media: Smart Sceptic® Framework
I use my Smart Sceptic® Framework to ensure that my clients are getting the best start to social media. This framework summarises the essence of successful social media programs. The detail of this framework can be found in my book mentioned at the beginning of this blog. In summary, agreeing shared values with senior leaders and getting their support to embed those values is a key starting point. It ensures that employees feel affirmed and hence, they are more likely to be motivated to participate in social media for the business.
Content shared by employees receives 8 times more engagement than content shared by brand channels (Source)
The next step is to create a social media strategy that works for the business. The strategy should be based on the company’s values and it should support business goals. Research shows that experimentation is a big part of successful social media programs. Don’t be afraid to test your strategy with early adopters in your organisation. Experimentation can be controlled by using one social channel or a group of 5 employees, for instance. Having a group of early adopters that understand the policy and can guide others allows me to adequately handover social media participation to an in-house team when the time comes.
Finally, we move into action. Drumming up participation means resourcing the team. There must be a focal point for social media queries. It is important to equip the teams responsible for making social media a success. Train them, support them and recognise them.
Social Media: Taking Sustainable Action
Sometimes, companies want to keep me on a retainer basis. As part of a retainer service, I’d get monthly updates on social media progress and goals. Working closely with the MD and internal team, I would deliver refresher training on topics such as content creation and personal branding on social media. I am also part of the content creation team and available to be the focal point for employees when they have questions or require one-on-one support.
Retainers range from £350-£1,000 per month depending on support needs, contract length and the size of the company.
To make good progress, there needs to be sustained and deliberate efforts to build a participative culture. This takes time.
In research with companies like IBM, Dell and Cisco, marketing managers admitted that this could take as much as 18 months. So don’t give up too soon. Social media is worth getting right. Let me know if I can help.
Last week, Wetherspoons announced that it is shutting its social media accounts. The award-winning pub chain had over 44,000 followers on Twitter and 100,000 on Facebook. Was it a brave or a stupid move? Time will tell. In this article, I discuss the main reasons that Wetherspoons took this decision and what you can do if you decide to shut off your company’s social media presence.
Wetherspoons saw no real benefit from social media
In 2018, the average Wetherspoons Tweet received six retweets and four likes. When you consider that the chain serves three million pints a week, it hints that their customers are not really engaging with the chain on social media. Overall, Wetherspoons doesn’t believe that shutting down social media will have any business impact. Social media appears to be the wrong fit for Wetherspoons’ customers.
If you don’t have social media accounts for your business or you are thinking about shutting yours down, here are key things to consider:
Are your customers actively engaging with brands on social media?
First, analyse your target customers. Find out if they follow their favourite brands on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. If they do, dig deeper to uncover how they engage. Are they mainly making complaints, giving feedback or sharing content about their experience with the brands? Whatever you discover, ensure that your business is not missing out on valuable feedback and engagement. If you decide not to be on social media, implement other feedback processes e.g. through your website or a customer service centre.
Make Your Website A Hub of Activity
Your website should be the centre of all your activity. Even if you have a strong social presence, your content should lead visitors to your website to learn more and grow your lead generation activities. Create a hub of regular content and resources for your customers on your website. Develop a good understanding of the topics that customers want to read about. Then ensure that they know that it is available on your website.
Develop Robust Email & Direct Marketing Programmes
Following on from the last point, you must let customers know about the content on your website. If you have no social media accounts, distributing content could get tricky. Wetherspoons has a magazine that it uses to reach its customers. Customers can get the magazine through direct mail or via one of the pubs. Another way to reach customers is to develop a robust email marketing list. This can be done through contact forms on the website, contests and in the pubs (by asking customers to fill out a form).
Create A Referral Scheme
If you have good engagement with existing customers through direct mail, email marketing or in person (at the pubs), you could implement a referral programme to encourage them to recommend your business to others. You could tell your existing customers about the programme by direct mail, your website and email for instance.
Make PR Your Friend
Bill Gates famously said, “If I was down to my last dollar, I would spend it on PR.”
If you are not on social media, you need another channel to develop your brand story, make announcements about your business and to address the public in a crisis. Hire a good PR company that understands your industry and its influencers. Spend time developing a story that will engage your target market and push the story into the media as often as possible.
Do Events Well
Some customers just don’t do social media. But many will come to a great event. Events are a fantastic way to meet in person and give your customers an experience of your company culture and brand. Use events to bring partners, customers, employees and suppliers together. Or keep the different stakeholder groups separate. Whatever you do, do events well. Ensure that it is well-organised and relevant to the attendees. Follow up after the events. And don’t forget to ask for feedback!
Our organic traffic is more than twice that of social media. That has been true for the past year at YO! Marketing. It wasn’t the case when we first started; social media was our main platform to push our brand name into the public domain. It took time to get organic search to our website. Organic search keeps growing, and it shows that we create content that our target audience is actively searching for. Our experience matches recent research on the increasing role of search over social media for web traffic.
Data shows the shift towards organic traffic
Perhaps one of the most exciting things about digital marketing is the constantly changing environment. Since 2013, social media held the lead as a referrer of web traffic and many said that position was cemented for the next decade.
However, in 2017, there was a significant shift in traffic patterns. The top six search engines drove 34.8% of measured site visits, in comparison to 25.6% for the top 13 social networks. There is now an even stronger shift for web publishers to publish good quality content.
Unsurprisingly, the top search engine in terms of share of visits is still Google. Google accounted for more than 97% of search-referred visits during the second half of 2017.
A recent study from a Demand Gen Report showed that for the majority of B2B marketers, email (59%), search (56%) and websites (51%) are the most effective channels in driving early-stage engagement. Social Media (44%) was somewhat lower on the list. 50% of people said that direct search was the go-to channel for lead generation.
Therefore, it appears that search engines are now being used more to search for content directly. There has never been more important to create relevant content with SEO in mind.
The growing role of great content
The search for relevant content drives online users to websites. Picture this: a visitor lands on your website after searching for cybersecurity training. The crucial factor is whether they find what they need on your website. This is the role of content: To provide relevant information to your target customer in a timely manner.
Content marketing is highly valued in the digital marketing industry. It has grown significantly in the last 5 years. One study reveals that content marketing will be a $300 billion industry by 2019 if investment continues at the same level. This graph shows the increasing interest in content marketing as a search term. Its acceleration is most evident from 2012 onwards.
But how do you create great content?
First, focus on what you are writing about. The aim is to key to make your audience happy by providing content that they want to read. If you do this, you and your business will soon be regarded as authorities in your industry. Before you write, consider:
- What makes this story stand out from the rest
- How can I give this a positive message or angle
To nail this, you need a content strategy. Ask questions like:
- Who is this content for?
- What problem am I trying to solve?
- Which keywords and phrases do my audience use to find information?
- Which topics do I need to cover to create valuable content?
Assessing your content with six simple steps
The idea behind assessing your content is simple: Outline a set of steps for every blog post and tick them off as you go along. The aim is to do every step each time you publish a post to leverage organic traffic sources. Once you have a content strategy that details the topics and a content plan, take the following six steps:
- Find a keyword with high SEO potential: You want your audience to be able to search and find your content when they need it. The right keyword will assist in creating content optimised for search engines. Consider using tools such as Mozbar keyword explorer or Google Keyword Planner. It estimates the volume of search traffic for any keyword and offers suggestions.
- Research some of your top competitors’ posts for your keyword: Once you have decided on a keyword, head to Google to search for your term. Choose a few of the top 10 ranked posts. Look for similarities and gaps where your content can come out on top and add more value.
- Ensure your content motivates action: Create content that contains measurable data to back up your facts, step-by-step guidance and a path to action. After all, if your content helps the reader they are likely to come back for more!
- Create and share a content upgrade: Content upgrades can be downloadable Excel templates, PDFs, or e-books – simply anything that helps your audience put your content into work. Try upgrading your best performing content.
PRO TIP: To find your most popular content via Google analytics, go to Behaviour>Site Content>All Pages
Download our Content Strategy Workbook
- Craft a single call to action (CTA): Keep in mind that each piece of content should have one call to action which reveals a clear next step for your audience to follow. Whether it’s to sign up for your email list or a trial of your product, the key thing is to only have one call to action, as any more will confuse your readers and might cause them not to take any action at all!
- Design Compelling Visuals: High-quality visuals help differentiate your content from the competition and provide an opportunity to illustrate complex information in a simple and easy-to-understand visual. Tools like Canva are extremely useful – you don’t need to be a graphic designer!
Facebook changes are coming. These changes have a significant impact on business pages on Facebook. For small businesses, it could be frustrating. But it could also be a call to step up on valuable, relevant content.
Facebook Changes: Goals
Mark Zuckerberg says the Facebook changes will promote more local and relevant news. On his recent post on the subject, he summarised his motives for the changes as follows:
- Facebook wants to give users a more personalised experience
- Based on feedback from Facebook users. people see too many pieces of content from businesses
- Facebook wants to increase the quality of content on the platform
- There is a stronger focus on real engagement and interaction
This could mean less exposure for business pages as these pages move to a secondary news feed, first piloted in October last year. Facebook users will see news from family and friends in a primary newsfeed. The changes also mean that businesses might need to spend more on ads to be seen by their target audience. Small businesses without deep pockets will feel the pinch the most.
Facebook Changes: Don’t Give Up
But small businesses mustn’t give up. 62% of consumers on Facebook say that it is the most important platform for them. A bigger metric is the 80% of users who say that they are more inclined to buy from you if you have a credible, authentic Facebook page associated with your business. Business decision-makers are also keen Facebook users according to a recent article by HootSuite on Facebook Statistics. Therefore, the objective of small businesses should be safeguarding the top one or two spots on the secondary news feed in order to be seen by their target audience.
Facebook Changes: Live video
In this video, I discuss the changes to Facebook and how small businesses can still win the heart of their target audience by creating and publishing valuable content to the right people.
Facebook Changes: What Is A Promo Post?
Promotional posts are Facebook’s pet peeve. Avoid it as much as you can. Not sure if your posts are promotional? These three points just about cover it:
- The sole purpose of the post is to push people to buy a product
- You ask people to enter promos, giveaways or contests
- Your posts reuse the same content for Ads over and over
Facebook Changes: What’s the Solution?
Focus on knowing who to target, how to offer value to them and what you can do to stand out in the newsfeed.
To achieve these best practices when you create content for your Facebook business page:
- Create videos of min 30 secs, max 90s (longer videos rank higher)
- High completion rates (50%)
- Schedule posts on Facebook (instead of on 3rd party platforms like Buffer and HootSuite)
- No outbound links (e.g. YouTube, blog posts)
- Upload videos directly to Facebook
- Don’t boost posts (weak targeting and low conversion rates)
- Use Ads to target individuals on your business page (check out lookalike audiences)
- Create Facebook groups and engage there
- Use great images in posts (emotion, motion, colour)
- Spend time identifying your audience, grab their attention and build relationships
- Create motivational and inspirational posts
- Value offers (how-to videos, PDF cheat sheets, advice, demos)
- Promote local businesses
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GE Oil & Gas supercharges its social media presence
A few years ago, GE Oil & Gas, one of the world’s leading equipment and services’ providers in the oil and gas space, embarked on a series of online experiments. The oil equipment giant trained a cohort of 20-40 high potential leaders to engage online. Becky Edwards was Chief Communications Officer at GE Oil & Gas during this time. I spoke to Becky about GE’s approach to digital interactions. She explains:
“The GE team asked this question early on: what would it be like to take this cohort and supercharge them digitally?”
Becky started at GE in 2010 as Global Employee Communications Leader. She describes the internal environment she joined as ‘socially-enabling-digitally’ and employee-driven. Existing internal GE systems allowed employees to comment and even retract offensive comments. She remembers that in 2010, the ability to request a retraction was a progressive capability at that time.
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GE Oil & Gas empowers high potential staff
By 2012, GE had put together a robust set of guidelines for external social media activities. This set the scene for Becky and her team to develop a specific training programme for the high potential cohort. The programme focused on how they might use their influence in a digital world. As part of the training, Becky and her team prepared the cohort to showcase their digital know-how at the GE Oil & Gas Annual Meeting normally held in January/February of every year.
The team covered topics such as the importance of content marketing, how to create content for social media and where to publish the content once it is created. They also co-created content with the cohorts. The cohort, now digital ambassadors, applied their knowledge from the training on social channels such as Twitter. They could provide a glimpse of the annual meeting for those not present.
GE Oil & Gas enables more online conversations
Becky explains that having set guidelines isn’t enough. As a result of the experiment, Becky says the team realised they needed to visibly and deliberately give people permission. Contrary to the idea that only the most senior person in the team can have a voice, Becky says,
“We needed to tell employees that it’s OK to have a voice, own what you know and share it”
What would be a good outcome for GE Oil & Gas? Becky explains that social media is an enabler that allows the organisation to:
- Do more commercial transactions that stem from digital interactions
- Generate goodwill and positive mind share such that people looking for information can find positive information
- Position GE Oil & Gas employees as thought leaders in their field
- Draw potential and existing customers into a deeper conversation
Traditionally, technical experts share their knowledge through conferences for instance. At conferences, the conversation would be one to many people sitting inside a room somewhere. Becky says,
“Thanks to social media platforms, more people can now fit inside that room”
Check out other employee social media examples: Rackspace
Check out tips for starting a social media pilot: 20 tips
Photo credit: momoneymoproblemz, CC 3.0 license, 2014, General Electric Sign, Fort Wayne, Indiana
I interviewed Becky Edwards on September 2015. This is a modified version of a blog originally published on LinkedIn on December 15, 2015