Social media is pervasive in the U.S. and is becoming increasingly integrated into the entire media landscape. From a consumer point of view, people use social networks in a few primary ways:
Connection: Facebook is far and away the most popular social platform; as it’s grown over the last 8 years, Facebook has gone from connecting college classmates to being the central social network. Facebook’s wide reach means many people are becoming more selective about what they share, and have higher standards for what they consider relevant or interesting on the platform.
Nicheworks: More active social users are turning to what we call “nicheworks” that have a more specialized interest or functionality and smaller circle of sharing. Sometimes this means sharing similar information, but more in-depth or with a different audience (for example, professional information on LinkedIn). Other platforms, like Instagram or Pinterest, are focused more on image sharing where users upload and post content based on certain topics – like recipes, crafts, travel, or other hobbies and interests.
Discovery & Sharing: Twitter is the most open information platform and has become a cascade of data consisting of personal updates, news and politics, and TV. But it also tends to be the sharing platform of choice for users of nicheworks: when those users create or find something cool, they share it more broadly on Twitter. As Twitter has grown both as a “pure-play” social medium and as a distributor for many smaller networks’ updates, it’s become a microcosm of what’s happening across nearly all of social – and traditional – media.
What do consumers think about brands using social media to reach them? What challenges do brands face in the U.S. when using social media?
Consumers are tolerant of brands but tend to be somewhat transactional in terms of what they want in exchange for their “likes” – they want something back for their attention. Ultimately, almost no one voluntarily wants to interact with ads, so it’s up to brands to change their messaging strategies to offer something genuinely interactive and interesting. This also means brands must have a much stronger arsenal of content at the ready, and they need to be limber and experimental in how they deploy it.