social media sales
social media sales

In January 2020, more than half the world’s population was using social media, according to data from Statista. That’s 3.8 billion users out of a total of 7 billion people! For the same period and in the U.S. alone, 79% of Americans had a social media profile. 

What began as a way for friends and relatives to communicate and connect virtually with one another exceeded all expectations. It’s no wonder that marketers have flocked to social media to attract new customers. According to Sprout Social, brands spent nearly $90 billion on social media advertising and marketing in 2019. But not all social media platforms are alike. What are the popular ones, and what are consumers seeking? 

Based on daily use, Facebook continues to reign as the most popular site among users, holding steady for the past two years with 74%. Instagram (63%), Snapchat (61%), YouTube (51%), and Twitter (42%) trailed. 

However, to better understand these numbers, it’s also helpful to know the demographics. Pew Research showed that the younger demographics prefer social media much more than older folks. 88% of users 18 to 29 years of age are on it compared to users 30 to 49 (78%), 50 to 65 (64%), and over 65 (37%). In addition, Pew found that Instagram is the preferred platform for younger people. It also noted that Twitter and Snapchat had seen small annual declines over the past few years. 

Sprout Social had a couple of interesting discoveries. First, it reported that such things as race, income, gender, and even community (city or suburb) didn’t make much of a difference in usage. It also found that college graduates had a higher degree of participation compared to high school graduates – 79% versus 60%. 

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The following should also be of interest to marketers. Unlike their personal reasons for being on social media, consumers were asked by Sprout Social what their social media expectations were of brands. 86% cited “honesty” as their top choice.

Close behind were “friendly” (83%), “helpful” (78%), and “funny” (72%). Rounding out the bottom three were “trendy” (43%), “snarky” (33%), and “politically correct (29%). The sharp difference between “funny” and “trendy” appears to suggest that most consumers strongly prefer friendly assistance over novelty. 

When it came to making a purchase on social media, consumers were asked what brands could do to enhance those chances.

Being responsive was the top vote-getter among 48% of respondents. Close behind were offering promotions (46%) and providing educational content (42%). Other options covered were the offer of exclusive content (35%), interesting visuals (28%), providing behind the scenes content (27%), and being funny (26%).

The big difference between the two funny responses appears to strongly suggest that being sarcastic, even in referring to the competition, could backfire and that any attempt at humor should be well thought out. 

Looking ahead, Facebook will likely hold the top position as the most popular social platform. However, don’t discount some of the others. Any decision to advertise on others should consider the brand’s target audience, where they frequent, and where they spend most.

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Ronn Torossian is the Founder & Chairman of 5W Public Relations, one of the largest independently owned PR firms in the United States. Since founding 5WPR in 2003, he has led the company's growth and vision, with the agency earning accolades including being named a Top 50 Global PR Agency by PRovoke Media, a top three NYC PR agency by O'Dwyers, one of Inc. Magazine's Best Workplaces and being awarded multiple American Business Awards, including a Stevie Award for PR Agency of the Year. With over 25 years of experience crafting and executing powerful narratives, Torossian is one of America's most prolific and well-respected public relations executives. Throughout his career he has advised leading and high-growth businesses, organizations, leaders and boards across corporate, technology and consumer industries. Torossian is known as one of the country's foremost experts on crisis communications. He has lectured on crisis PR at Harvard Business School, appears regularly in the media and has authored two editions of his book, "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results With Game-Changing Public Relations," which is an industry best-seller. Torossian's strategic, resourceful approach has been recognized with numerous awards including being named the Stevie American Business Awards Entrepreneur of the Year, the American Business Awards PR Executive of the Year, twice over, an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year semi-finalist, a Top Crisis Communications Professional by Business Insider, Metropolitan Magazine's Most Influential New Yorker, and a recipient of Crain's New York Most Notable in Marketing & PR. Outside of 5W, Torossian serves as a business advisor to and investor in multiple early stage businesses across the media, B2B and B2C landscape. Torossian is the proud father of two daughters. He is an active member of the Young Presidents Organization (YPO) and a board member of multiple not for profit organizations.