Visual outperforms text when it comes to social media engagement

According to a new study from M Booth and  Simply Measured, visual content is not only taking over the digital and social media landscape, it’s also outperforming all other mediums when it comes to engagement!

  1. Videos are shared 12X more than links and text posts combined on Facebook
  2. Photos are liked 2X more than text posts on Facebook
  3. 48% of all Tumblr posts are photos.
  4. On YouTube, 100 million users are liking, sharing or commenting on videos every week.
  5. Pinterest refers more traffic than Twitter, StumbleUpon, LinkedIn, and Google+ combined
Graphics and videos drive engagement in social media

Social Media Marketers Must Provide Disclosure

Advertisers who make claims about their products on social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest need to be mindful of the fine print they use, or forget to use, in their postings and provide disclosure.

Last week, the National Advertising Division, an investigative unit of the Advertising Self-Regulatory Council, reviewed photographs that Nutrisystem had “pinned” on Pinterest boards and determined that the photos were testimonials requiring disclosures. The photographs in question showed people who said they had lost weight by using Nutrisystem, but there was no disclosure that the people had been paid or that the results of their weight loss were not typical. Instead, the photos simply said, for example, “Christine B. lost 46 lbs on Nutrisystem.”

The self-regulatory council conducts independent reviews of marketing and advertising on all platforms, including social media. The group often responds to complaints brought by competing marketers who accuse others of violating advertising guidelines, like making unsubstantiated claims. Following a review, marketers often comply with requests to modify or settle the claim. If they refuse, the claim can be sent to the Federal Trade Commission for further review.

Andrea Levine, the director of the National Advertising Division, said the organization tends to monitor advertising in categories like health and nutrition, dietary supplements and cosmetics closely. “Those are categories where companies are not watching each other as closely and bringing their own challenges,” Ms. Levine said.

In the Nutrisystem case, the company immediately agreed to add disclosure statements to its photographs, Ms. Levine said. “As long as their stories are truthful and as long as the advertiser discloses what is the normal weight loss range, which is 1 to 2 pounds a week, that lets the consumers put the success story in context,” Ms. Levine said.

Advertising on Twitter and Facebook is also monitored closely by the investigative units in the Advertising Self-Regulatory Council. In November 2011, for example, 1-800 Contacts challenged claims made on Facebook by a competitor, Coastal Contacts.

Coastal Contacts encouraged Facebook users to “like” its page and in doing so, promised them a free pair of glasses. It also promised discounts of 70 percent on contact lenses. The rival, 1-800 Contacts, said that Coastal Contacts did not disclose the shipping and handling fees associated with the offer for free glasses and that not all styles of glasses or lenses were available in the offer.

In addition, the company contended that users who “liked” the Coastal Contacts page in order to get the free glasses were inadvertently endorsing the company.

The National Advertising Division ruled that all claims for free merchandise must clearly disclose any hidden fees and conditions at the outset of the offer, including increasing the font size of the message that “conditions apply.” Facebook likes can be interpreted as “conveying a message of general social endorsement,” the ruling said.

“If what you are offering them in exchange for likes is not real, then those likes were obtained through deceptive advertising,” Ms. Levine said of the ruling.

One of the first social media cases taken up by a related organization, the Electronic Retailing Self-Regulation Program, involved Twitter. In July 2010, the program recommended that Liquid HCG Diet discontinue using testimonials that it made on Twitter — such as, “Becky and husband lost 14 lbs in 2 days!” — and claims on Facebook that said “Lose around a pound a day” and “Lose 30 lbs in a month, it’s easy and quick!”

Twitter now offers advertisers options like promoted tweets that make it more clear to users which posts are advertisements and which are authentic content.

“It’s kind of a reminder to advertisers that even though the medium changes the rules stay the same,” Ms, Levine said.

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Social Media In Fortune 100 Companies

The third annual Burson-Marsteller Global Social Media Check-Up analyzed the social media activity of Fortune Global 100 firms – which includes such luminaries as Ford, Sony, AT&T, Honda and Walmart – on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Pinterest in February 2012. The survey discovered that 87 percent of these companies are active on at least one social media channel, with Twitter leading the way.

Since 2011, the average number of followers for a corporate Twitter account has almost tripled, from 5,076 to 14,709.

Perhaps surprisingly, YouTube finished second in the poll, with 79 percent of Fortune Global 100 corporates now using a branded YouTube channel, compared to just 57 percent in 2010.

Facebook placed third, with 74 percent of companies having an active Facebook Page. 93 percent of corporate Facebook Pages are updated at least weekly, and the average number of Likes per Page has increased by a heady 275 percent since 2010 to 156,646.

A little under half (48 percent) of firms are now using Google+. A quarter (25 percent) of these companies have Pinterest accounts.

Overall, Fortune Global 100 organizations have an average of 10.1 Twitter accounts, 10.4 Facebook Pages, 8.1 YouTube channels, 2.6 Google+ pages and 2.0 Pinterest accounts.

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LinkedIn Adds New Targeting Options

Last October LinkedIn announced marketers would be able to post status updates to their company pages. Now the business-minded social network is adding the ability for marketers to pinpoint those posts at specific groups of followers.

Companies can target status updates based on seniority, job title, geography, company size, industry and employee tenure. “To now go out and be able to target vice-presidents of IT at companies with 500 employees and larger and send them a very specific message about enterprise software, that is a very specific message that those people have a high interest in receiving,” explained Jonathan Lister, LinkedIn’s vp of North America sales and marketing solutions.

LinkedIn has been beta-testing targeted status updates since April with 50 companies, and Lister said these posts have been broadly shared and commented upon to date, delivering more followers to the participating marketers. For instance, one of the beta customers, Salesforce, used the targeted updates to drive participation in offline events and saw a 30 percent increase in participation, Lister said.

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Savvy Social Media Users Influence Peer Purchases

For consumers, the golden rule is “buyer beware.” For marketers, it should perhaps be: “beware of socially adept consumers.” New research indicates that consumers who have used social media for service wield far greater influence among their peers.

Specifically, they tell significantly more people about their service experiences, and say they’ would spend 21% more with companies that deliver great service — compared to 13% on average, according to the 2012 American Express “Global Customer Service Barometer.”

This relatively small group of consumers is extremely engaged and vocal, according to Jim Bush, EVP of World Service at American Express.

“They … tell three times as many people about positive service experiences compared to the general population,” he said of social media users. “Ultimately, getting service right with these social media-savvy consumers can help a business grow.”

Unfortunately for many marketers, the survey — conducted in the U.S. and 10 other countries — also reveals a sorry state of service in general.

For Brands, Social Media Shows Returns but Measurement Hurdles Remain

Executives see improvements in marketing and sales efforts, and market share gains as a result of well-planned campaigns

C-suite executives are increasingly convinced of the benefits of engaging with their customers on social media platforms. A February 2012 survey of 329 senior executives in North America by management and digital consulting firm PulsePoint Group and the Economist Intelligence Unit found that the vast majority of companies who had invested in social media saw a positive shift in their bottom line as a result.

Executives who said their companies had established an extensive social media presence reported a return on investment that was more than four times that of companies with little or no social network engagement activity

Companies should use social media to create spaces for consumers to have meaningful conversations with employees and other stakeholders. Almost seven in 10 respondents said they had seen a spike in their sales by letting customers talk about their brands on social media platforms, even if some of that dialogue was negative. This kind of approach builds trust and credibility with consumers, potentially transforming them into brand advocates whose value is immense, if difficult to measure.

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LinkedIn Rolls Out New Targeted Follower Tools For Marketers

LinkedIn will launch two new functions for companies who have followers on LinkedIn, both of which will be of interest to marketers and advertisers: “Targeted Updates” and “Follower Statistics.”

Targeted Updates will allow companies to segment their followers by a range of variables such as industry, seniority, job function, company size, non-company employees, and geography. Companies will be able to send different status updates to different groups of followers,

Follower Statistics will essentially be an analytics dashboard that will allow companies to see how effective their updates have been.