The State of Social Media and Social Media Marketing

Earlier in the month, Esteban Contreras published a terrific “State of Social Media” report with a particular focus on social media advertising (h/t to SocialFish).

Facebook remains the big giant with 900 million monthly active users. YouTube is in the same class with 800 million, but these two dwarf everyone else (Zynga, which itself has 40% more users than its next closest competitor, only has 232 million MAUs). Facebook, in other words, “has established itself as THE social platform,” and – unexceptional earnings reports notwithstanding – it is likely to hold that turf for some time to come as it improves and expands functionality like scheduling, post-level metrics, mobile-only ads, and the like.

Spending on social network advertising is growing fast (projected at 43% growth in 2012), and even though the rate of growth is expected to decline (dropping to 18% in 2014), that still amounts to massive increases, hitting $5.5 billion in 2014. One implication for nonprofits and everyone else: it’s increasingly difficult to get noticed, especially on Facebook. Spending on local social ads, as a component of overall social ad spending, is also growing quickly. But despite the spending trends, it’s still unclear how effective social network ads are. LinkedIn is a notable exception.

More than half of adult cell phone owners go online using their phones: “Mobile is becoming the first screen.” This is a HUGE ongoing shift that nonprofits ignore at their peril.

Google+ is still pretty far back in the pack in terms of users (only 150 million MAUs), but it hit those numbers in just one year of operation, and it enjoys really high engagement levels: “I still think Google+ is the dark horse here …” This robust engagement includes 50% of Google users signing in at least once a day and spending an average of 60 minutes a day on Google.

Some other noteworthy trends:

  • YouTube is seeing a drop in users but claims it’s making up for it with increasing engagement.
  • YouTube is investing $100 million on its own premium channels.
  • Daily Twitter use continues to grow, especially among 18-24 year olds.
  • Use of location-based services on smartphones continues to grow quickly as well, up 55% from just a year ago. One in five use “geosocial” apps.
  • With Klout at the front of the parade, we’re now seeing a bundle of startups rushing to measure influence among social network users.
  • Trending tactics in social media marketing include: social curation, frictionless sharing, visual experimentation, storytelling, fan-centric content.
  • “Good experiences are key to earned social media advocacy.”

More on Email for Mobile Devices

A few days ago we talked about helping your organization’s mobile strategy by focusing on email and how it works on/with mobile devices.

Not wanting to be left out (just kidding, guys), Vertical Response released a great little guide to email on mobile devices. Their “8 Rules for Creating Mobile Emails” are below. They track well with what we covered. Given the format of the pdf guide you may get more detail with it. Here’s their 8 rules:

  1. Simple is better.
  2. Subject line and pre-header are crucial.
  3. Use fewer, smaller images.
  4. Links are important.
  5. Call to action.
  6. Scrolling. (try to minimize the need for it)
  7. Remember the text backup.
  8. Think landing pages, email is just the start.
A great list. Key pieces:
  • You get little time to make an impression when a reader sees your subject line in their mobile email program. Make it clear, inviting, snappy. Enough to give the reader a reason to open it (or at least not delete it).
  • Clear text, link and call to action early in the message body. Make it easy for the reader to get the point, act and move toward conversion.
  • Landing pages should be mobile-friendly. This may take the most work for many nonprofits. If a form, think simple layout.
You can find this and other guides to email lists and marketing on the Vertical Response educational guides page. Also worth remembering that Vertical Response has solidly discounted prices for nonprofits, including up to 10,000 messages a month free – great for small organizations getting rolling with email.


Need a mobile strategy? Start with your email.

For most organizations, the heart and soul of communications is the email list. Email is the 800 pound gorilla, the elephant in the room, the big kahuna. Email goes direct to the inbox, our online strategy metrics are led by terms like open rate and clickthroughs, and online fundraising campaigns depend on email marketing.  Moreover, email is growing and generally has a strong return on investment.

Today, “mobile” is receiving lots of attention. And for good reason. It was recently reported that one in three Americans owns a smartphone.  Some sources are indicating that more people will own smartphones than traditional cellphones by 2012. Add tablets into the mix and its clear that people are quickly adopting mobile computing.

A recent post in the blog emailmonday provides a solidly thorough rundown of mobile email stats including this one: right now about 10% of email opens are happening on a mobile device.

As Gary Vaynerchuk put it the other day, you need a mobile strategy by 2012.

I’ll argue, though, that the quickest and most cost-effective place to focus your mobile strategy is your email.

Your email? What? That’s not mobile? Mobile is apps. Right? Angry Birds on your iPhone or getting people to read your Facebook page updates on their phone. Maybe mobile is a version of your website that looks good on mobile devices (which it is to some extent and we’ll get to that below but much or most mobile traffic is coming from your emails).

Continue reading “Need a mobile strategy? Start with your email.”

The Changing Face of News Media: Implications for Nonprofits

Photo by flickr user laffy4k.
The BuzzBin posted a great summary of a new Pew Research Center study on the rapidly changing face of news media and media relations. For nonprofits concerned about how their work is covered by the news media, the implications are important:

1) Traditional news releases and media relations still has value but it is diminishing quickly.

2) Mobile is big and growing bigger. At a minimum, nonprofits have to make sure their web sites work at least decently on mobile devices, and increasingly nonprofits would probably do well to actually optimize their sites for mobile.

3) Figuring out how to successfully feed stories into the new aggregators may matter more for getting traction than individual journalist relationships or any of the effective old media strategies. And those relationships will be tougher and tougher to maintain given the huge staffing cuts and staffing turmoil in the journalism industry (which nonprofits have been experiencing firsthand for a long time, as media lists grow stale more and more quickly).

Mobile Advertising: Jumping Off the Cliff

Photo by Flickr user 4ELEVEN Images.
A few weeks back we made the case for having a mobile strategy: at a minimum, nonprofits need to make sure their web site is mobile-friendly (if not mobile-optimized), and mobile apps might actually be worth the effort. Mobile apps can be useful as part of an engagement strategy, and mobile apps can be useful tools for creating ongoing revenue-producing transactional relationships (e.g., the type of functionality that Urban Airship offers), content subscriptions being the most obvious. But mobile advertising is another strategy that might be useful, and Gigaom thoughtfully posted a great overview of mobile advertising ins and outs.

Mobile advertising may not be an obvious choice for many nonprofits, but if you’ve got an audience, you may be able to incorporate an advertising element that offers relevant ads to your mobile app visitors but remains consistent with the vibe and feel of the app. Whereas web sites tend to be a foundational part of a nonprofit’s brand and presence, you have more latitude with mobile apps and more opportunity to to experiment. Some nonprofits have also experimented with affiliate marketing, an option marketer Chris Brogan has thoughtfully explored quite a bit.

Mobile advertising may not make sense for a lot of nonprofits, and it seems unlikely to offer any more than one more modest revenue stream, but nonprofits really do need to grapple with the limitations of the conventional holy trinity of fundraising – members, donors, and foundations – and this may be one more tool to keep in the toolbox.

If you’ve tried mobile advertising (heck, if you’ve tried a mobile strategy of any kind), we’d love to hear about it . . . what worked, what didn’t, what you would do differently?  And if you’ve thought about it but decided not to, we’d love to hear about that, too.

To App Or Not To App

Photo by flickr user AxsDeny.
This is the question Fast Company and many others are posing more generally, but of course the question applies to nonprofits as well. Social Fish lays out a thoughtful argument against associations creating mobile apps (which I think might agree reasonably extend to other nonprofits as well): too many barriers to the app being used, popular app types don’t track to what associations can offer, and not enough members use apps at all.

Sensible arguments all the way around. SocialFish is joined by Holly Ross on the Frogloop blog and others in making the case that organizations should focus on developing mobile-friendly versions of their sites before thinking about apps. This, too, seems like sensible advice given growth in the PDA market. Although market penetration by smartphones is still small, it is growing quickly. (SocialFish also argues for focusing on social network optimization before building apps, as well.)

Mobile-friendly probably should be a priority over apps, and I think SocialFish’s take is sensible enough, but I also think that mobile apps offer sustained engagement opportunities that might just be worth the investment. For one thing, as Wired Magazine argued in their provocatively-titled headliner last year (“The Web is Dead. Long Live the Internet!”): we are witnessing a real shift in how people access the web, away from conventional web browsers and toward mobile devices. An increasing proportion of mobile web-based activity simply bypasses the browser altogether. While making your site mobile-friendly (if not mobile-optimized) is almost certainly worthwhile, it only captures those people who are using mobile browsers in the first place. Companies like Urban Airship are doing really well (check out this Robert Scoble interview with their CEO, Scott Kveton) precisely because of this shift in how people interact with the Web. This argument is bolstered partly by the data on app-based financial transactions. As Kveton argues, the vast majority of mobile app-generated revenue results from ongoing transactions between a mobile phone customer and a specific app . . . users of that app continue to spend money on the app in order to access new value.

Well-designed apps also can offer high-value interactions that mobile phone users actually want. Obviously geolocation tools and gamification design elements are two (sometimes combined) approaches, but mobile apps can offer very engaging experiences and value that users don’t typically find through browsers. If you can build a really compelling app, maybe you should. Finally, apps also have a built-in mechanism for repeated interactions. Every time you publish an update or some other sort of push notification for your app, like Urban Airship does, everyone who’s got the app installed gets a fresh reminder about having it, and it gives you a chance to get them excited again about whatever value your app offers.

What you get with an app, as Fast Company suggests, is a self-contained experience, but it’s clear that without a real self-contained experience value proposition for potential users a mobile app strategy isn’t likely to do much for your organization. If you can offer high-value information, relevant deals, or a genuinely engaging experience through an app, on the other hand, it may be worth the effort. If you see mobile apps as an opportunity to deepen engagement, not just as a donation-making channel, I think they offer a lot of potential.

But all that said, most of this conversation about whether to app or not skips what I think is the more fundamental question: who is your audience, and how and why exactly do you want their engagement? MobileActive does a nice job of laying out some of the right questions to ask, but they all boil down to the same questions you should ask about any potential strategy: 1) who is your audience; 2) can you build an app in which they find value and through which can increase engagement; and 3) what are the costs of building and deploying an app compared to the benefits?