As firms increase spending on digital marketing, understand the facts about digital marketing, and separating fact from fiction, are critical to optimizing market performance. Yet, separating fact from fiction is difficult, especially since many firms treat digital marketing as a unique tactic rather than another channel of communication they must integrate into existing communication channels and strategies.
According to Forrester, spending on digital marketing should reach $146 billion, growing at an annual rate of 9%. For several reasons (ie. fewer eyeballs on traditional as newspapers go by the wayside, TV viewing is less likely to include advertising due to streaming services, and, especially with millennials, radio is more likely Pandora or another service), this increased spending comes at the expense of traditional advertising, such as TV, radio, and print.
To help get your digital marketing off on the right foot, or improve strategies you’re already using to achieve digital marketing success, here’s a great infographic (see the end of this post) containing facts about digital marketing.
A brief history of digital marketing
Before we delve deeper, let’s look at a brief history of digital marketing. Once termed social media marketing, which means marketing on social platforms like Facebook and Twitter, the broader term of digital marketing replaces this narrow focus by extending past just marketing on social platforms to include all forms of marketing online, such as blogging, search engine marketing (SEM), and short message services (SMS). This move makes sense given the interconnectivity between digital marketing and social media, which is a subset of the whole, as well as the importance of integrating strategies within all of digital marketing in support of business goals.
The first part of the infographic shows the social media timeline of major developments in social media. The key takeaway from this part of the image is the rapid expansion of social media in terms of both the number of platforms and usage.
Most popular platforms
Worldwide, Facebook leads the pack with over 2.45 billion active users, a figure that more than doubles if you include all profiles on the site. Most Facebook active users access the platform every day and represent a cross-section of ages, nationalities (although this is skewed toward Western countries), and interests. Outside the US, alternate social media such as QQ, Renren, Odnoklassniki, and Orkut, vie for popularity with Facebook.
As displayed in the infographic and mentioned above, Facebook is the 600-pound gorilla in the room, with all other social media platforms falling far behind. Some platforms, however, are growing, including Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, YouTube, and TikTok. Other social media platforms are declining, especially Twitter, which has struggled with its identity and made significant changes that failed to increase popularity.
Segmenting users on digital media
But, all social platforms don’t attract the same users. For instance, as a social platform focused on business connections, LinkedIn tends toward male users while Pinterest and Instagram have a heavily female user base.
Teens and young adults use social media the most and are the most ubiquitous sharers, especially when it comes to sharing images, memes, and personal information, including recommendations. That’s not surprising considering these folks are digital natives and grew up with everything about their lives being shared online. For instance, many teens found their parents already shared much of the child’s private life with friends and family long before they were old enough to share about themselves.
The significance of this information for businesses is guidance on where to spend scarce resources of time and money since no business should try to do everything. Businesses should, instead, choose 3-5 platforms, depending on available resources, and spend all their efforts on these channels. Which platforms you choose rests on where your target market hangs out. More about this in later sections.
Nationality of users
The next section of the infographic shows where social media users live, with most in places you likely expect, such as North America and Western Europe. Because this infographic includes all social platforms, you find a significant percentage of those living in Asia, where those international social platforms listed earlier are king. Surprisingly, South American has a significant percentage of the population using social media.
To some extent, the nationality of users is influenced by the availability of the internet, but, as users increasingly access social media through mobile devices, that availability also contributes to social media usage.
When to reach users
Each platform has times when users are more active and the infographic lists the best times to post across each platform. Here’s a summary:
- Facebook best time to post is 3-4 on Wed thru Fri and 12-1 on Sat and Sun
- Twitter best time to post is 12-3 during the week
- LinkedIn best time to post is generally at the beginning or end of the day on Tue thru Thurs
- Instagram best time to post is Wed at 11 and Fri from 10-11
- There’s some variation across product type, ie. consumer versus business products. Here’s a great recap of best times to post across platforms and products.
What folks expect from social platforms
Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on your point of view, users increasingly use social media, especially Facebook and Reddit as sources of news. While it’s good that more folks are getting news as opposed to not having any awareness of events, getting news from social media is problematic. Among the problems are:
- No check for truth. In fact, many stories shared on social media are patently false and these fake claims have the same likelihood of spreading as true stories. And, most users don’t have the skill to separate truth from falsehood.
- Bias. At least in the US, TV news outlets are required by the Federal Communication Commission to have balanced reporting. This only applies to network broadcasts and cable operators often have a specific bias in their news reports. Sometimes having balance in reporting means giving equal time to fringe factions, such as white supremacists, which is its own problem.
- Tunnel vision. Users tend to congregate with others who share their views. This means they never see posts that contradict their worldview.
Another use of digital platforms is recruiting and job search. Here LinkedIn is king, providing a platform where companies, recruiters, and workers form a community around business activities. Thus, recruiters might search for users who fit their hiring profiles or job seekers might connect with companies in industries that fit their job skills. Before applying or interviewing with a company, job seekers use LinkedIn to learn more about the employer and get a taste for the company culture to determine their fit. Job seekers also find existing connections with a relationship to companies of interest so they might ask for recommendations.
How digital media influences purchase decisions
Now we come to the crux of the issue — facts about digital marketing influencing purchase decisions. However, note that influence of all times works the same way, whether you’re investigating influence on political or social beliefs, as we discussed in the earlier section, or purchase decisions.
When looking at the influence of social media content on purchase decisions, we need to separate sponsored content from businesses (advertising, including native advertising) versus crowdsourced content from users because content from businesses has much less impact on purchase intentions than recommendations from other consumers. That’s because we trust other consumers more than businesses touting their wares since we see their opinions as more objective. We also see other consumers, especially when we view them as “friends” as being similar to us and, thus, their recommendations seem likely to fit our needs as well as the product fits the recommender’s needs.
Unfortunately, the infographic doesn’t break this down into sponsored versus influencer content in looking at how content impacts purchase decisions, so let’s look beyond the image. Here are some things we know:
- Influence on purchase decisions comes in many forms from recommendations that drive more immediate purchase decisions to information and entertainment that create awareness and interest that might later drive a purchase. All of these are important so we need influence at every level along the conversion funnel (see image below).
- One of the facts about digital marketing we must consider is how content impacts purchase decisions. Search is a prime factor at the awareness stage, although users often discover new products when the community uses or recommends the brand. Here Pinterest shows its impact by organizing into boards where users go to find unique options. For instance, many brides visit boards on topics like cakes or decorations to get ideas they use in planning their weddings.
- Blogs are an important influence on purchase decisions. Blogs offer information, answer questions, help filter options, offer usage suggestions, and provide insights on the best product for a particular need.
- YouTube is particularly useful for demonstrating product use to ensure users purchase the right product for a task then use the product effectively to get desired results, which results in lower rates of return.
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