By now everybody knows that social media marketing works, but whenever you deal with something this opaque, you are bound to start running into misconceptions and “best practices” that might be divorced from reality.
Today, we’re going to look at 4 scientific studies that will change your social media marketing approach by offering you the results of hard data analysis.
1. Sharad Goel Demonstrates That Viral Marketing Doesn’t Work
In a paper called The Structural Virality Of Online Diffusion, published in Management Science, Stanford’s Sharad Goel, along with his colleagues, demonstrated that the way we think about viral marketing doesn’t really apply.
After analyzing approximately 1 billion events on Twitter and how information spreads through the platform, they concluded: “structural virality is typically low, and remains so independent of size, suggesting that popularity is largely driven by the size of the largest broadcast.”
When we think about “viral marketing,” we typically imagine that a piece of content is so shareable that it spreads through a network of friends, friends of friends, friends of friends’ friends. But the paper concludes something very different. The popularity of a tweet has almost no correlation with how shareable it is. Highly shareable tweets can still end up going nowhere, and relatively unshareable tweets can end up very popular.
From the paper: “…essentially everything we observe, including the largest and rarest events, can be accounted for by a simple model operating entirely in the low infectiousness parameter regime.”
What this means is that even the most incredibly popular tweets fail to survive more than one “generation” on average before “dying off.” At most these tweets are making it to a friend of a friend, no further.
This should set off some alarm bells if you’ve been counting on producing “viral content” in order to reach people. The lesson here is to focus on getting your message in front of influential people who will enjoy it and want to share it with their audiences.
Strategically, we recommend:
- Using Google Alerts and Ahrefs Alerts to listen for influencers who are mentioning your brand and connect with these people
- Reach out to influencers with similar audiences offering mutually beneficial opportunities
- Mentioning influencers within your content
- Promoting influencers to start and maintain working relationships with them
To be clear, none of this is to say that you shouldn’t be aiming to make your content shareable. The paper estimates that a shareable tweet can pick up a 50% lift, roughly, on top of the original audience. This is valuable, to be sure. It’s simply not enough to get you anywhere if the initial audience isn’t large to begin with.
2. Sprout Social On The Best Times To Post To Social Networks
Sprout Social’s 2018 industry research comes to the following conclusions for each of the major networks (based on Central Time Zone):
- The highest engagement is on weekdays, from roughly 10 AM to 3 PM. The absolute highest engagement is on Wednesdays and Thursdays 12 AM to 3 PM.
- Thursday and Friday are the best days to post to Instagram. Times between 11 AM and 5 PM, Wednesday through Friday are all good times to post, and the absolute best times to post are Wednesday at 3 PM and Thursday at 11, 3, or 4 PM.
- The best times to post to Twitter are Thursday through Saturday between 9 AM and 2 PM. Friday from 9 to 11 AM is the time of highest engagement.
- Engagement on LinkedIn obeys a somewhat strange pattern. Wednesday from 3 to 5 PM is the best time to post. Tuesdays around 9 AM, Wednesdays around 11 AM, and Thursdays around 2 PM are also good times for engagement.
I recommend taking a look at the full paper to see the heatmaps for each platform, as well as some deeper dives for a few industries.
Publishing during times of higher engagement can give your content a boost, so we recommend using a social media management tool like SocialPilot to plan your posting schedule ahead of time in order to maximize your reach.
In addition to posting during times of highest engagement, you may also want to consider when certain influencers tend to be more active. Since, as we covered in point #1, influencers are the road to reaching a larger audience, timing your posts so that they are more likely to be seen by your target influencers is a good idea, particularly for posts that mention them by name.
3. The Journal Of Interactive Marketing Shows The Value Of Investing In Social CRM
Zhan Wang of Saint Louis University and Hyun Gon Kim of Rutgers Business School published a paper in which they analyzed 232 companies using Facebook to investigate the impact of their Customer Relationship Management (CRM) efforts on social media.
They found a remarkably high correlation between sales and social CRM capability: 92%. Customer engagement also had an 85% correlation with social media usage on behalf of the company.
After controlling for various factors, the researchers concluded that not only is social CRM “a leading factor in business performance,” but “social media usage [amplifies] the positive impact of social CRM capabilities on firm performance.”
In other words, investing in social CRM pays off, and those investments are more valuable the heavier that company’s overall social media usage is, outside of the strictly CRM realm.
Finally, the paper took things further than previous research by making it a cross-industry study. They found that the results were generalizable to the wide number of industries they looked at.
From a practical standpoint, this means that synergy between social media marketing and more direct social media interactions with customers exists. The more you invest in customer interactions, the better your content will do on social media, and vice versa.
If you have been focusing exclusively on promoting content, or exclusively on responding to customers, you are missing out on massive benefits that can result when you integrate these two approaches cohesively. Don’t miss out by getting narrow-minded with your social media approach.
4. Industrial Marketing Management Shows That The B2B Market Is Plenty Social
It’s widely believed in some circles that social media is for the consumer audience only and that the B2B sphere is not particularly interested in social media.
According to research by Kunal Swani and colleagues, these people aren’t just wrong, they are if anything backward.
The research investigated the impact of social media messages for Fortune 500 companies, comparing engagement for B2B companies and B2C companies. What they found might surprise some of you. B2B content viewers were more likely to “like” posts, more likely to “like” in response to both functional and emotional appeals, more likely to “like” and “comment” in response to informational cues and links, and more likely to respond to brand names.
In short, the B2B community is heavily involved in social media and more likely to be engaged with it than consumer audiences.
If your content marketing strategy within the B2B sector has been focused exclusively on more traditional methods like email marketing and direct sales, the data is telling you to change your approach. Take your content marketing game to the social networks. A thriving community is waiting for you there.
Gavin Choo is the Co-Founder South East Asia at The 20 Media, a content marketing agency that handles everything from strategy to production, outreach, and SEO. He is a certified digital marketer and an innovative thinker with a keen eye for “What’s Next” in the Marketing World. “Outside the Box” is his middle name. Connect with Gavin on LinkedIn.