Trying to keep up with the constant barrage of changes and news in social media makes up a significant portion of any digital professional’s life. Here at Lambert, our team is constantly monitoring the latest developments in social media. We thought others might be able to benefit from some of this information, so we’ve gathered some of the highlights here.
The Big Picture

  • – “Monthly Active Users” or “MAUs” has become the prevailing metric used to measure the popularity of social media platforms as it’s a better gauge of actual reach than the total number of users (which can include duplicate, spam, or inactive accounts).
  • – Social media has picked most of the low-hanging fruit in terms of bringing new users online. In response to slowing user growth, they’ve begun to focus on increasing the amount of time users spend on the sites (which is the other major way they can provide value to advertisers).
  • – This graphic illustrates the relative size of the dominant social media sites to each other:
Social Media Platforms (by Monthly Active Users) - 2015
Social Media Platforms (by Monthly Active Users) – 2015
  • – Another aspect to consider when selecting a social media channel is how much time users spend on that site. Having millions of users is great, but if they only spend a few minutes a week on the site it can be challenging to reach them. Several studies have found that Facebook is far and away the winner in how much time users spend on the site per day; 70 percent say they log in daily (Pew Research).
  • – At the moment, businesses tend to stick to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. A smaller portion of the business world has begun to invest time in Linkedin, Instagram and Pinterest. Beyond that, there is comparatively little activity for other social media sites.
  • – In recent years, social media platforms have backed away from trying to integrate every possible service/feature and have instead focused on single experience. This is, for example, why Facebook keeps Instagram as a stand-alone app (and why Facebook created a separate app for its instant messaging client). Google+, Linkedin, Twitter and Foursquare have also followed this trend with separate apps that focus on a particular experience.

What’s Up With Facebook?

  • – Facebook is the “default” platform with the largest and broadest user base
  • – In the past year, Facebook announced a series of changes to their newsfeed algorithm (called EdgeRank) that will ultimately result in “zero organic reach.” This basically means that users will continue to see less content from business pages – unless those businesses pay for advertising.
  • – Ad Quality Score: like Google Adwords, Facebook is now ranking ads with a “quality score” to reward advertisers who do a good job of targeting relevant audiences, and punish those who do a poor job.
  • – Monetization: Now a publicly-traded company, Facebook is focused on its earnings and plans to extract that money from advertisers.
  • – Facebook offers the best opportunities for digital advertising, bar none.
  • – In keeping with the trend of getting users to spend more time on social media sites, Facebook has begun prioritizing videos uploaded natively – while deprioritizing videos that are linked to elsewhere (such as on YouTube).
  • – Facebook has dumped Bing as its default search engine and is now building its own
  • – Facebook has closed more of its content off to search engines like Google

What’s Up With YouTube?

  • – YouTube remains the most popular place for sharing and watching video.
  • – It has become a destination for entertainment.
  • – Due to its integration with Google Adwords, YouTube has a rich set of advertising/targeting options that make it highly appealing.
  • – In February 2015, YouTube unveiled “YouTube Kids” which allows parents to moderate what children view as well as who is permitted to upload content.

What’s Up With Twitter?

  • – 2014 was a tough year for Twitter which had flat growth in MAUs.
  • – Twitter has a “stickiness” problem – users spend less time than they do on other social media.
  • – Attempts to control user experience by restricting developers has hurt innovation and growth.
  • – However, Twitter is poised for change with recent announcements that they would re-open the firehose of Twitter data to Google meaning tweets may start showing up in Google searches.

What’s Up With Instagram?

  • – Last year Instagram reached 300 million MAUs – surpassing Twitter’s audience.
  • – Facebook ownership has resulted in preferential treatment which has helped its growth.
  • – Recent updates (new filters, custom photo editing, vine video improvements etc.) have added functionality and improved the user experience.
  • – Recent enhancements to the advertiser experience (carousel ads, sponsored content in news feeds, etc.) have made the site much more attractive for brands.
  • – The site still has some challenges that limit engagement including:
    • – The minimalist experience makes conversation difficult.
    • – Users can’t add links to captions making it a challenge to drive traffic elsewhere
    • – The lack of a native “regram” option makes it difficult to share content
    • – Inability to upload media from a PC makes it cumbersome to use for brands and teams

What’s Up With LinkedIn?

  • – Growth of user base and time spent on site has plateaued.
  • – Though the platform delivers a desirable audience (educated, affluent and influential), much like Twitter, the site suffers from a “sticky” problem.
  • – Primary strength is in serving the recruiting needs of organizations
  • – LinkedIn recently released “LinkedIn Connected,” an app that combines a user’s calendar with its wealth of profile information which can help with meeting prep and networking.

What’s Up With Pinterest?

  • – While MAUs continue to grow – as well as engagement and funding – the site is suffering an identity crisis as many of its users see it as more of a book marking site than social media.
  • – More businesses are adopting Pinterest as a standard social media channel thanks to new features including sponsored pins (ads), and an open API
  • – Company leadership recently stated that they are focused on international growth, a deeper regional focus and making pins more “actionable.”
  • – To fight spammy content and preserve the quality of the user experience, Pinterest recently began blocking all “affiliate links”.

What’s Up with Google+?

  • – The original Google+ is officially dead according to its leadership, however the site continues to function and evolve.
  • – Although Google+ has 2.2 billion total users, largely due to Gmail and YouTube connected accounts, only 9% of those individuals are monthly active users (MAUs).
  • – Google+ plans to transition into three services:
    • – “Streams” a feed similar to Facebook, Twitter and the original G+
    • – “Photos” a photo –sharing/editing platform that has become popular due to its integration with the Android mobile operating system
    • – “Collections” a visual social bookmarking app intended to compete with Pinterest
  • – Contrary to common belief, the use of G+ does not significantly improve search rankings of websites due to the limited engagement that it generates.

What’s Up With Snapchat?

  • – Founded in 2011, Snapchat grew quickly by offering the unique feature of allowing users to send photos to one another that expire and disappear.
  • – Users have discovered, however, it’s possible to capture the image on the screen and save it – which caused a number of scandals over embarrassing content being republished.
  • – Snapchat features a young user base 45% are 18-24 (according to comScore).
  • – Several new features have recently been introduced including video montages (called “Stories”), video chat, and now “Snapcash” which allows users to send each other money.
  • – In 2015, Snapchat began to court brands by offering a “Discover” feature which allows users to consume content from various editorial teams such as CNN, Yahoo, the UK Daily Mail and ESPN.
  • – Snapchat does offer advertising, however the early reports indicate that it starts at $750k per day which puts it out of the reach of most brands.

What’s Up With Meerkat and Periscope?

  • – Meerkat and Periscope are the latest entry into the field of “livecasting” (instant video broadcasting) apps.
  • – Both apps were inspired by founders who saw the need to broadcast protests.
  • – Both are still niche apps, and are currently only available for the Apple iOS.
  • – Both raised piracy and intellectual property concerns due to their recent usage to broadcast footage of the Floyd Mayweather – Manny Pacquiao boxing match (to skirt pay-per-view fees).
  • – The challenge for brands using Meerkat/Periscope will be in identifying content that is so compelling it must be broadcast immediately, rather than taking the time to edit video.

Still with us?
The exercise of writing this post was a great reminder that the real value in digital experts is their ability to synthesize the constant barrage of new developments with their knowledge of best practices for communication. As this post also illustrates, it can be a challenge for organizations to devote enough time to using social media well. That’s where a firm like Lambert can help; either as strategic counsel, training support, or part of the bucket brigade that keeps your newsfeeds full of fresh content.

Derek DeVries is a digital strategist at Lambert